Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Shaun’s 'Fully’ Justified Ancients House Rules


These are the Justified Ancients house rules (I call the combined set fully justified). I’ve been playing with for a while. In 2007, John Davis produced a great list of house rules for Justified Ancients.  Some of those house rules have made it into here.
I did originally change the game quite a bit but realised I was heading down the path of writing a very different game.   I’ve gone back to basics and just added or clarified some things to the original Justified Ancients.  A big thanks to Pete Blockley for writing Justified Ancients in the first place – the mechanics in the game work are simple but subtle and deliver a very good game.  Go buy them (available at  Even without any house rules, they are great.  It may seem like there are a lot of house rules but mostly it is clarifications, adding in omissions, and then lastly some tweaking.

The house rules can also be downloaded in PDF format (the link opens the pdf file) and there is also a 1 page QRS in PDF format too for the house rules too.
I play all my games on a 2’x2’ table with basing similar to DBx, rather than those suggested in the rules:
·         Cavalry 4cm width x 3cm depth
·         Foot 4cm width x 2cm depth
·         Chariots and Elephants 4cm width x 4cm depth.
Units: Classification
Units are either trained or untrained.  There are not three levels of training (which is implied by the example of play at the end of the rules).

Missile is a special trait, not a level of training as the rules may infer (but is not actually the case).  All skirmishers are missile units and any other units that are primarily archers and not trained for melee e.g. Egyptian archers.

Javelin special trait: change all skirmishers are armed with javelins to all skirmishers are armed with bow, sling or javelin.  Others, such as most LO foot and Roman legionaries, may be armed with Javelin.  Replace “Javelins may only be used to receive and fire” to Javelin armed skirmishers and LO may fire them when charged or charging or at 1”. CO may only fire then when charged or charging.
Skirmishers are armed with a bow (missile) or javelin.  Bows have the normal range of 3”.  A javelin armed skirmisher is slightly better in combat melee than a bow armed skirmisher.  In the rules, a javelin armed unit, skirmisher or otherwise, can only fire if charged – either receive and fire or an evade.  So skirmishers with javelins could never offensively use javelins, and neither could LO foot (who are mostly armed with javelins) or other javelin-armed units such as legionaries.  So I have included the fact that anyone armed with javelins can throw them in the first round of melee or at 1” range – to force the opponent to do something.
New trait: Bow. Bow units are non-missile units armed with a bow.  Both missile and melee capable e.g.  Persian Immortals, Byzantine Cavalry.
This allows differentiation in melee for those units that were primarily archers compared to those mixed unit or units trained for both missile and melee.
Treat slings as bows.
If you want rules for crossbow and longbows then use the following:
·         Crossbows ignore the -1 for heavy units when firing.
·         Longbows ignore all modifiers except the -1 for cover, and then use the modifer +1 against any target.

Elephants are untrained LO troops. Armour is medium.
This makes it clear what the melee modifiers and movement rate for elephants are.
For non-historical scenarios, I use a deployment of anywhere from your base edge to 8” from the base edge (i.e. there is a no man’s land of 8” in the centre).  Also, no unit can deploy closer than 2” from the side edges.
Terrain definitions did not appear much in the game.  Following is the quick guide to how I define terrain types:
  • Woods, towns, steep hills, rough ground, streams, fords and bridges are counted as difficult terrain.
  • Visibility in woods is 2”.  Units in front edge contact with woods and towns can see and fire normally outside the woods.
  • Gentle hills only block line of sight and do not count as difficult terrain but units can count as uphill for melee.
  • Rivers are impassable except at fords and bridges.
Sequence of Play
This is a bit of a change.  Each unit runs through the sequence of play before moving onto the next unit.  Once a player has finished ordering his units, the other player then runs through the sequence of play, one unit at a time.  Units that are charging are always done first before moving onto other units.
I found this speeds up the game trying to remember who charged etc for fatigue is easier when it the entire sequence is done unit by unit.  Also, Peter suggested it after I posted a replay using the rules

This does have implications when 2 units are in frontal contact with one unit.  If it is the single unit’s turn, then roll a die for that unit and for the two opposing units and apply the best results  If the two units charged as a group into contact, then roll a D3 for all three and pick the best result.  If a unit charges into contact with a unit that is already in contact with another friendly unit, do the melees separately.  If already in melee, do them all separately.

Single units are -1 to the orders roll. The -1 can be avoided by ordering a group.  A group is one or more units that are in edge to edge contact. Groups are defined when rolling for orders.  The order is given to the entire group that then moves.  If some units of the group fail the roll (for example, they may have different training), then only move the units that passed the orders roll.  The distance from the general is measured to the nearest unit of the group.  There is no requirement for units in edge to edge contact to be ordered as a group – they may be ordered as individual units, or smaller groups.
This helps force the player to keep the unit together a little bit rather than all of them going everywhere, without imposing too much of a restriction.

If the general is lost, replace with a new general at -2 to the command rating of the original general.  If you lose any more, just keep replacing with another general with a -3 command rating.
A move is either straight ahead or a wheel of up to 45 degrees and then a straight move.
If wheeling a group of units, the front units must all have their front edges aligned in a row - Groups not in corner to corner contact cannot wheel.

The flee action as defined is a reaction, not an action.  However, to allow for breakoffs, any unit can flee as an action, whether in melee or not.  A fleeing unit is disordered, depleted and fatigued.  Note a fleeing unit about faces at the start of the flee.  The order roll for the flee is 3+.
Skirmishers can evade as an action but must move away from enemy units.  The evade occurs just like the reaction.  Order roll for the evade is 1+.  Skirmishers maintain the same facing when evading.
Heavy CO foot do not get the -1 for being heavy.  Currently Heavy CO foot move 1” which slows the game down immensely.
The +1 for charging and fleeing also applies for pursuing (but still not for evading).  Similar units e.g. CO heavy foot Vs CO heavy foot should be able to pursue and catch the fleeing enemy.

Skirmishers may perform an about face (at no movement cost) as part of a move before or after wheeling.

Generals move 12”.  They do not have to remain attached to a unit. They may detach and reattach to a unit in a turn.  A general is dispersed if the unit it is attached to is dispersed. An unattached general cannot be targeted by missile fire or be charged.  If the centre of the general base is moved through by an enemy unit, then the moving player can place the general anywhere on the table.  A detached or detaching general moves either first or last in a turn.  If the general stays attached to the unit, it moves with that unit at anytime during the turn. A general may end up moving more than 12” if it moves and then attaches to a unit that then moves.  This is fine.

Every unit has a 4cm square “zone of control (ZOC)” that extends to its front, except skirmisher foot.  An enemy unit cannot enter and leave an enemy ZOC in the same move.  A unit in an enemy ZOC can only stay in place, charge the enemy or leave the ZOC.
Most games have a similar concept – it stops units moving across the front of an enemy – something they would not normally do.
Cataphracts are defined as any CO Heavy cavalry.
While Cataphracts are referred to, they are not defined.

Skirmishers and LO foot with javelins can fire at a range of 1”, or any unit with javelins that charged and is in contact with an enemy unit to its front.

A unit that charges but does not contact the target due to a push back from missile fire is not fatigued.  It is deemed not to have charged as it did not get into contact.  Non-pushed backed units that charge a unit that evades or flees are fatigued. 
I found in the games I played that cavalry would charge units that fired at them as a reaction, 30%-50% chance they were pushed back.  As they charged, they were fatigued.  Next turn, they were fired at again with a possible disorder and fatigue removed at the end of that turn.  It is only the turn after (2 turns later) they have a chance to charge again, with a 30%-50% chance of being pushed back again.  The change I am proposing means they can have another go at charging the turn after, rather than waiting another turn.

Missiles can only fire 1” (javelins only on contact) in difficult terrain.  This includes steep hills, rough, towns and woods.
Close Combat
Delete Enemy are Skirmishers or Missile only Troops 2

Add Enemy are Skirmishers 2

Add Enemy are Missile troops, not armed with javelin 1
Skirmishers are classed as missile troops (and so are generally attacked with a 3) while javelin-armed skirmishers will only be attacked with a 2. This makes skirmishers very fragile, as they should be.  Missile units are now only slightly worse off than their equivalent melee counterparts. And javelin armed skirmishers are better off than bow armed ones.

Change charging 1 to Non-skirmisher Horse or Chariot charging foot 2

Delete the Horse Vs Foot 1 modifier

Delete the Chariot charging formed foot 1 modifier
I have never liked the concept in rules of charges and countercharges.  At the level of the game, and in my interpretation of events, a unit adopts the best pose for it – infantry would receive or counter charge, depending on what was happening.  But Cavalry should have a first turn bonus when attacking foot troops, in the hope of running them down.

Change Berserkers charging 1 to Berserkers changing foot 2
Similar reasoning as above.

Add in uphill or defending stakes or in fortifications +1
Any terrain benefits like this were not in the rules.

Change Formed CO vs. LO: 1 to CO vs. LO: 1
Disordered CO units should still be able to hold their own against LO units.

Change Formed phalanx fighting to front vs. horse/chariotry/elephantry 2 to 1.
Change non-phalanx attacking Phalanx to front -1 to non-phalanx attacking formed Phalanx to front -1
This makes a phalanx better against other foot, and also makes them even better against mounted units.  Charging cavalry will normally be at -1 Vs a formed phalanx (+2 charging, -1 CO Vs LO, -1 formed phalanx to front Vs any, -1  horse Vs formed phalanx to front).

Delete Elephant vs. formed foot: 1
By defining elephants as LO, CO foot will get a +1 Vs elephants.  With their +3 base melee value, elephants are still very powerful against enemy foot.

Change Skirmishers in difficult terrain 1 to Foot Skirmishers and LO foot in difficult terrain 2
Only skirmisher and LO foot should receive a bonus for being in difficult terrain.  The increase is to account for the +2 received against skirmishers.

Flank attack clarification: A unit is on the enemy’s flank when the unit’s front edge contacts the enemy’s flank edge (not corner) at 90o or more from the enemy unit’s front edge. If the unit contacted at less than 90 o, it is counted as a normal frontal attack. Regardless, to conform, align the charging unit so the front edge corner is touching the enemy front edge corner.

Rear attack clarification: A unit is on the enemy’s rear when the unit’s front edge contacts any part of the enemy units’ rear edge (but not corner).

Fleeing distance clarification: For fleeing, I about face the unit and then measure the full move distance.  The turn is not counted as part of the move distance.


Skirmisher foot take only one depletion before being destroyed.
I like my skirmishers brittle, if you have not guessed by now.  Once they have done there initial job of harassing or screening, they should cease having a purpose.

Skirmishers are also depleted by interpenetration (like LO).
This means interpenetrated skirmishers will be dispersed.

CO units interpenetrated by elephants are also depleted.

Interpenetration applies to both the unit interpenetrating, and the unit being interpenetrated.
This is not clear in the rules, but is occurs in the example.

Any unit that is charging or pursuing and wins the melee by 2 or more must pursue, unless the general is attached to the unit.
In the rules, no unit is ever forced to pursue except berserkers.  This rule (from John Davis’s experimental rules) attempts to redress this fact.

Pushbacks are not in base depths.  In the rules, all base depths for 15mm are 2cm, except chariots that are 6cm.  So, all pushbacks are 1”, except Chariots and elephants that are 2”.

Ending the game
Ending is game is not defined in the rules. While there is no right answer, I use breakpoints.  When an army has lost units that add up to 50% or more of its breakpoint, it has lost.  The army breakpoint is worked out as follows:
Skirmisher Foot: 0
Other skirmishers: 1
Non-skirmisher cavalry and chariots: 2
LO foot: 1
CO foot: 2
Elephants: 2

Baggage, if present, is not included in working out the army breakpoint but counts as 2 lost for working out losses.  The general is the same – not included in working out the army breakpoint but counts as 2 lost for working out losses.  Each general lost counts as 2 lost.

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