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"Looking for Ancients to Medieval Wargaming Rules (Take 2)" Topic

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Mark6812 Mar 2016 12:02 a.m. PST

(The initial thread got deleted due to the glitch/bug)

I'd like to start wargaming in the period ancients to medieval, and though I wouldn't mind using DBA, the book is out of print and I can't find it anywhere (I don't really want the Sue Barker intro to DBA).

In the last thread there were a good few reommendations, some of which were:

Sword and Spear
To the Strong
Hail Caesar
A few others I can't recall.

Sword and Spear -I'm not sure I like how the dice mechanic works
Impetus not sure if this will be too complicated for me
To the Strong I'm not sold on using a grid on the battlefield
Hail Caeser – I don't know if this will cover other periods

Are there any other suggestions out there?

Thanks all

Whirlwind12 Mar 2016 12:07 a.m. PST

Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargaming: link

Mako1112 Mar 2016 12:43 a.m. PST

Maximilian is DBA-ish, though with rules written much more clearly, and uses armies twice the size of DBA, e.g. 24 stands.

I haven't played them yet, but in looking them over, they seem to be a decent set of well written rules, and army lists are included for them as well, for the Medieval and early Renaissance periods.

Impetus seems to get a lot of support, and last time I checked the rules were still free for the basic version, so you can try them out ahead of time. They're going up to $2.99 USD, or something like that soon, for a PDF, if they haven't already. Army lists are still available for them too, for free.

Can't beat a chance to try out a new set of rules for little to no cost.

Piquet/Band of Brothers as well, if you like card-driven rules. Some people love them, and others don't, but worth considering as well, especially for solo play.

Mark6812 Mar 2016 1:09 a.m. PST

Thanks very much Mako11 – much appreciated

McWong7312 Mar 2016 1:09 a.m. PST

DBA 3.0 is available, or at worst being reprinted. Mind you, the other rules mentioned are all good.

MajorB12 Mar 2016 2:39 a.m. PST

Hail Caeser I don't know if this will cover other periods

Not sure what you mean by "other periods"?

Zippee12 Mar 2016 3:18 a.m. PST

Impetus has a less complicated introductory "Basic Impetus" but the full rules are no more complex in nature than the others listed. They are certainly my favourite, however there is a second edition due out 'soon' probably next year which may put you off purchasing it now.

If you don't like the dice mechanic of Sword & Spear, there's not a lot to recommend them as they are basically that activation system bolted onto rather basic (and in my opinion shaky) combat and movement rules.

The grid sounds like it'll get in the way – but trust me it doesn't once you play Too the Strongest but I can understand why you hesitate.

Hail Caesar covers the full spectrum of 'Ancients and Medieval' (as do Impetus and S&S) and is probably the most generic game in your list. That's a pro and con, it's easier to get to grips with as a base game but you have to work a bit harder to impose the period flavour for particular eras within the broad church of 'Ancients'

parrskool12 Mar 2016 3:40 a.m. PST

Second Neil Thomas's rules

Mark6812 Mar 2016 4:26 a.m. PST

@MajorB – Sorry, I meant not only the ancients period, but also the medieval and renaissance periods

@Zippee – Thanks for the information. To be fair I don't have much issue with the grid other than I don't know how to place on my 6'x4 table.

@parrskool – Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval product does interest me as it's similar to DBA and it's been recommended a couple of times

Mark6812 Mar 2016 4:47 a.m. PST

@Zippee Can I ask what you find shaky about the combat and movement rules in Sword & Spear?

blacksmith12 Mar 2016 4:57 a.m. PST

15.20 gbp for a kindle edition is a bit expensive. Is there any review and BATREPS of Neil Thomas's somewhere?

Consul Paulus12 Mar 2016 5:03 a.m. PST

Sword and Spear – If by the "dice mechanic" you are referring to the use of dice drawn from a bag to activate, it is to restrict the ability of players to move, shoot and fight with units (maximum of 7 dice drawn each time) and to introduce a random element to who moves first in each phase (drawing from a bag means both players move in a turn, but cannot predict whether they will do most of their moving at the start, middle or end of a turn). As Zippee suggests, if you do not like the sound of dice activation, you may find it hard to like the set.

I second having a look at the free "Basic Impetus" and deciding if you like it before trying Impetus.

Other suggestions:

Art De La Guerre – often shorted in TMP postings to ADLG.

Aurelian – Not strictly an Ancients and Medieval set, as it is designed around playing the Crisis of the Third Century with four armies (Late Roman, Parthian, Sarmatian, German). However, there's nothing to stop you trying to adapt the mechanics for other armies.

MajorB12 Mar 2016 5:14 a.m. PST

@MajorB Sorry, I meant not only the ancients period, but also the medieval and renaissance periods

Hail Caesar is designed for the ancient and medieval periods. You could probably tweak it for Renaissance by adding rules for gunpowder weapons, or alternatively use "Pike and Shotte" from the same stable. I have heard though that P&S is not very good for the ECW.

MajorB12 Mar 2016 5:15 a.m. PST

@parrskool Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval product does interest me as it's similar to DBA and it's been recommended a couple of times

I don't think Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval product is at all similar to DBA.

coopman12 Mar 2016 5:43 a.m. PST
JSears12 Mar 2016 6:51 a.m. PST

I've played Hail Caesar and To the Strongest.

I really enjoy Hail Caesar, and despite my initial misgivings at using a grid for TtS it gave a really tense and exciting game when we tried it.

I didn't want to mark up my ground cloth with a grid, so I created some "border stones" to mark the grid. It worked well and let us try the rules out without having to commit to a dedicated gridded terrain cloth. Check out my thoughts on my blog.

Looking forward to trying To the Strongest again.

Zippee12 Mar 2016 8:12 a.m. PST

@Mark68 [S&S] – It's not so much the mechanic, the combat rules rely on comparing a sequence of dice in order, adjusted for weapon and armour and situation. Nothing inherently wrong with that, it's an unusual mechanic but not entirely original.

In the games I tried I found that the results didn't add up to my expectations / knowledge / prejudices. On top of which I found the process fiddly and intrusive to the game narrative and the results lacking in credibility.

That doesn't mean that others don't find the process fascinating and fun, nor that the results aren't the correct ones.

For me this was compounded by some pretty major disagreement with several of the troop type categorisations which also impacted on how certain armies performed – it rather ruined the enjoyment for me.

I'll still play the rules when others want to set up a game but when I'm setting up the game, they don't get used.

Mostly it just means that my views differ from the author's – probably we're both wrong anyway :)

You however may completely agree with his take on things, this is why recommendations are pretty worthless once you've deleted the rule sets that are just plain broke.

Mark6812 Mar 2016 9:02 a.m. PST

@Consul Paulus – I quite like the activation dice process, it's the combat and shooting I have a bit of an issue with.

@JSears – that looks like a good way of creating a grid

@Zippee – thanks for clarifying

Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2016 9:57 a.m. PST

In the initial thread that disappeared you mentioned you wanted something "crunchy". You might consider looking into Might of Arms.
There should be plenty of comments on this ruleset if you search TMP.
They are old school and I do own a copy, if I hadn't have come across Sword and Spear this would have been the rules I went with.
Insofar as Impetus is concerned, it is not too complicated. Impetus and Sword and Spear have similar basing schemes so an army used in one can certainly be used in the other. My group has plans to use both sets for the same battle to be able to contrast/compare the two. So far we have only done Sword and Spear as everyone really likes it.

steamingdave4712 Mar 2016 12:25 p.m. PST

@ MajorB. Pike and Shotte is our little groups favourite set of rules for ECW. We play larger battles with 15mm and the smaller ones with 28mm. It may not satisfy the purists, but it gives a fun game and results do not seem too outlandish. The only thing I have an issue with is the possibility of units charging through other friends when they get a double or triple move.

As far as OP is concerned, all of the games you listed are good. DBA is a very different game, can easily play it in 30 to 40 minutes, whereas the others give a game of 2 to 4 hours. I would suggest you follow the advice totry out Basic Impetus, it plays quite quickly If you do play it, incorporate the evade rule for light cavalry, otherwise they are pretty useless.

kodiakblair12 Mar 2016 12:41 p.m. PST

Rally Round The King for me. It's unit based,isn't scale dependent and was written with solo play in mind.

The historical supplement is now free and Ed the rules author is very active on the 2 Hour Wargames forum so you never have to wait long for any questions to be answered.

It also lends itself to campaign play,rules are included in the historical supplement,and it's rules are similar to those in Swordplay or Captains & Kings ( small scale skirmish ).

Mako1112 Mar 2016 1:54 p.m. PST

I've seen Pike and Shotte mentioned for the Italian Wars as well, on the link just a few postings down, to pics of Gendarmes, Pikemen, and others from the period.

There are also army lists, and special rules for P&S included on some of the postings there as well, so it's worth looking into also, I suspect.

uglyfatbloke12 Mar 2016 2:47 p.m. PST

If you find something good, let us know.

MajorB12 Mar 2016 3:08 p.m. PST

Pike and Shotte is our little group's favourite set of rules for ECW.

That's interesting. I understand that the problems seem to be be to do with the way P&S allows the Shotte to act independently of the Pike? Is this your experience?

Yesthatphil12 Mar 2016 4:54 p.m. PST

DBA, Neil Thomas, Basic Impetus and L'Art de la Guerre for me for conventional ancient battle games …

Ancients on the Move

Mark6813 Mar 2016 6:05 a.m. PST

Is Neil Thomas Ancient & Medieval Wargaming fought with 15mm figures on a 4'x 3' table?

VicCina Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2016 6:31 a.m. PST

I would suggest Bear Yourselves Valiantly for Ancients to Medieval gaming. Excellent set of rules and provides a fun game.
Also I like Piquet's Archon and Band of Brothers for these time periods.

coopman13 Mar 2016 7:21 a.m. PST

Neil Thomas's AMW rules have units that are 4 bases each, if I recall correctly, and about 8 units per side. That could be played out on a 4' wide space easily, I believe. It's a system that can be modified to suit your situation. However, there is not a lot of meat & potatoes to this game. It is pretty basic.

Whirlwind13 Mar 2016 9:18 a.m. PST

15.20 gbp for a kindle edition is a bit expensive. Is there any review and BATREPS of Neil Thomas's somewhere?

Plenty of AARs and thoughts on the rules here: link

coopman13 Mar 2016 10:03 a.m. PST

And here:

Mark6813 Mar 2016 11:56 a.m. PST

@coopman – thanks for the info

Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Mar 2016 12:42 p.m. PST


Someone has already posted a link to my blog entries on AMW, so only a brief explanation as to why I'd go with AMW.

AMW is written like wargames books of old (Featherstone, Grant etc) but through a modern lens. Each section has historical background, rules, army lists and a battle report showing how the game is played. Once you've bought the book there's no supplements you have to buy, so it's a cheap way in to the hobby. Most of the other systems (bas DBA 3) require you to buy other books to get extra armies. It's a complete starters book.

It's a simple system supposedly played with 8 units a side (hence why some might say it's like DBA).

It is very, very, easy to learn and teach. The rules have issues, but then doesn't every set? It's intended to be played by sensible human beings who don't need to be told everything. It can't be used for competitions. The armies are NOT balanced, though some might argue that's realistic.

Once you've played AMW you'll find it easy to put down and pick up after a break without having to re-learn the rules. If you want to move on to something more
"sophisticated" that'll take a while longer to learn then that isn't a problem, – the basing system is standard DBx, pretty much.

Finally there's a Yahoo group where any questions will be willingly answered.

Oh, and I should say I have no personal axe to grind here. Never met Neil Thomas, never spoken to him or played a game with him. No financial interest in the product either.



Mark6813 Mar 2016 1:05 p.m. PST

Thanks for the info Trebian

blacksmith13 Mar 2016 3:12 p.m. PST

Thank you Whirlwind and Coopman

CATenWolde14 Mar 2016 2:56 p.m. PST

Trebian (or others) – how well does AMW scale up to larger games? 12 units per side? 24? From what I have seen, it would seem to just be an issue of table space and time, as there are no C&C or formation morale rules etc. to consider (although it also seems they could easily be bolted on).



CATenWolde14 Mar 2016 2:57 p.m. PST

Also, more specifically, my son *really* wants to play various Romans versus various barbarians – any opinion on how AMW handles legions vs warbands?

cae5ar14 Mar 2016 3:06 p.m. PST

Not sure about AMW, but have you looked at Aurelian yet? These rules are specifically designed for legions versus warbands and give a very tense game.

Mark6814 Mar 2016 11:27 p.m. PST

I've settled on Basic Impetus for now. It's easy to get into, and I quite like the rules

Thanks all for the recommendations

Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Mar 2016 1:30 p.m. PST


AMW scales up really well. Have a look at these refights from my blog:

Sentium: link

Metaurus: link

Paraitekene: link

There's a load of others on there as well, – Hydaspes and Cannae, I think. They should all have tags on them.

As you read the reports you'll see when I've added rules to give more flavour (I have simple C-in-C rules for example).

If you son wants to clobber warbands with Romans, then he'll certainly be able to do that with AMW.


Mark6815 Mar 2016 2:27 p.m. PST

@Trebian – those tables looks brilliant

Please someone tell me Impetus can cater for armies of that size too!

Trebian Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Mar 2016 3:44 p.m. PST


I told you. They're simple and quick. They're ideal for handling a lot of units on a big table in a manageable time (although deploy the units close together, – the move/shooting distances are in cms).

In our group we play AMW, Armati, DBA & Basic Impetus, depending on what we want to do. They all have things going for them. My honest recommendation is to start with AMW and move on to BI once you're ready. The point about those games is that people who don't know the rules can just turn up and play. They'll know the system in 5 minutes.


Marcus Brutus15 Mar 2016 5:26 p.m. PST

Here are a few pictures from my Impetus Magnesia game played at Cold Wars a few years back. 1200+ figures, 8 players with 7 first time. Played the game to completion in under 4 hours.

7B by Eusebeia2002, on Flickr

6 by Eusebeia2002, on Flickr

32 by Eusebeia2002, on Flickr

Mark6815 Mar 2016 11:06 p.m. PST

Pretty much sold on Impetus now

Thanks all

I hear Basic Impetus 2nd edition is due out soon but unless mistaken, there are no plans for an Advanced Impetus 2nd edition just yet

I'll stick to Basic for the time being; it'll be a nice segue into the main game when I'm ready. Hopefully 2nd ed will be out by then

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