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"Bella Contra Barbaros Ancient Rules" Topic

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1,162 hits since 24 Feb 2017
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MichaelCollinsHimself25 Feb 2017 12:33 a.m. PST

OK, so I have something of a countdown to the Publication of these new rules… I`m aiming for mid-April this year.

The title will be Bella Contra Barbaros.
This has undergone some changes as I have had to seek some advice with the Latin!
Anyhow, it means; "Wars against the Barbarians".

They include Rome's wars with the barbarians from 100BC to 100AD; from the reforms of Marius to the Dacian War of Trajan.

I`ll post some test-game photos to remind you if you`ve seen my postings on this before!

Close order test game…


Watling Street…


battle array for a Roman army…

Testing stratagem cards…


Impetus rules test…


kodiakblair25 Feb 2017 8:13 a.m. PST

Avidly waiting on mid-April here Mike :-)

MichaelCollinsHimself25 Feb 2017 11:41 a.m. PST

Here`s some information about special features in Bella Contra Barbaros rules…

Firstly, the combat resolution:
The combat rules are not dice-heavy.
In Grand Manoeuvre rules, the modifiers that most dice systems use (for flanking, disordering, and other tactical advantages) are instead significant points in determining the combat results.
The dice play a less of an important part, usually only adding one point in the combat calcluation unless the combat element has impetus and then two dice are used.

Stratagem Cards:
There are some interesting ancient period flavours in this one.
I`ve included many of the stratagems mentioned by Frontinus and Polyeanus these stratagems are played with cards selected by players, or at random for the game set up and the game itself.

Inspirational Pre-Battle Speeches:
There are also pre-battle speeches which may give the player some game advantages.

Heroic Death Rules:
Added to the mix (and only if things are going badly for the player) is the possibility of an heroic death for both barbarians and Romans the Roman version of this being called the "devotio".

Scenario Booklet:
8 Historical Battle Scenarios.
Vercellae 101 BC
Mutina 72 BC
Histria 61 BC
Sabis River 56 BC
Arbalo 11 BC
Volcaean Marshes 7 AD
Mons Graupius 83 AD
First Tapae 86 AD

Army Lists:
Extensive Army Lists for most wars and campaigns with Barbarians
Providing for historical balanced armies but also with provision for points selections for Romans and Barbarians.

Photo: working on army lists in the scenario booklet…


Terrain Generation Rules Booklet:
A battlefield terrain generation rule booklet has specific terrain rules for each major war.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 12:28 p.m. PST

Interesting. I like that it is focused on a specific time frame and subject. Is it strictyl D6, or are many dice used?

MichaelCollinsHimself25 Feb 2017 12:32 p.m. PST

Hi Nick,
Yes, d.6 are used throughout the rules.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 12:41 p.m. PST

How many figures in an average Roman Army?

MichaelCollinsHimself25 Feb 2017 12:47 p.m. PST

An average, Roman army being a consular army these had 2 legions each had 4-5,000 men and would be represented by 8-10 bases/elements.
So heavy infantry are scaled at 500 per element.
How many figures per base is very much up to players.
I`ll be providing QRS`s for 3 base/element widths: 30,40, & 60mm.

nnascati Supporting Member of TMP25 Feb 2017 12:52 p.m. PST

Nice, so more tactical than say DBA.

MichaelCollinsHimself25 Feb 2017 1:05 p.m. PST

Yes, there are markers used for:
open and close order (open or being the default setting)
…and simple tests are used to change to these formations.

Elements become disordered but may rally from disorder
But the again, disorders may increase to reach morale levels and then at critical points whole lines of battle/commands are tested for their morale reactions.

MichaelCollinsHimself26 Feb 2017 12:56 p.m. PST

Right so, fairly busy today as I worked on…

Scenarios, (various points for umpires to note rearding special rules).

The army lists – numbers of scorpions per legion, legionary skirmishers, how different types of troops can be arranged into commands etc…
Some introductory notes for umpires and players too.

Made notes in the rules about wedge formations and how they work… shooting on the unshielded side of infantry targets, flank and rear attack conditons,… and working out what photos i need to illustrate these points in the rules.

I`ve been getting the stratagem cards rules edited and ready to print on to background images – there`ll be 34 stratagem cards plus two blanks. 19 in-game tactical ploys and deceptions and 15 major operational deceptions.


MichaelCollinsHimself09 Mar 2017 10:16 a.m. PST

We printed and laminated a couple of Bella Contra Barbaros stratagem cards yesterday a test to see if I had aligned the image boxes on the file pages correctly and if the type was good once laminated…. I was pleased with the results. I will add a double or triple line around the image box to help with the cutting of the paper with a guillotines. We used 80gsm, but if not laminating, a thin card would do as well, if maybe not quite so durable.


MichaelCollinsHimself14 Mar 2017 11:55 p.m. PST

About a month from now we should be set to go…

As you may just make out from above photo of the double envelopment stratagem card, I`ve added base widths and depths (BW`s & BD) to game measurements for the shorter distances; push-backs, intervals, and support distances.
Otherwise, measurements throughout the rule set are given in three options for 30/40/60mm base width sizes.
I`ll be providing 3 Quick Reference Booklets each with ranges and distances in one of those scales.
Players different base widths can select the closest approximation to these three scales.

These things will hopefully make the rule set more acceptable players with various basing styles.

Deuce03 Inactive Member15 Mar 2017 3:47 p.m. PST

Will you be at Salute! by any chance?

MichaelCollinsHimself15 Mar 2017 11:47 p.m. PST

No Tom,
I usually have to work on weekends.
Maybe I`ll arrange something later, but until then I`m pretty much limited to keeping you all posted via TMP or FB.

MichaelCollinsHimself16 Mar 2017 7:59 a.m. PST

Some skirmisher hit markers i`m supplying with the game…


They print out at 25x20mm and darker than they appear here
Along with these hit markers, there`ll be others provided for Roman and barbarian formations, and close order.

MichaelCollinsHimself21 Mar 2017 11:28 a.m. PST

A little update.

Much of the writing is finished and now it`s time to illustrate with photographs.

I`ll be starting these this week; examples of basing in different scales, Roman battle arrays, illustrating points in tactical advice given, flank and rear attacks and shooting on unshielded sides of medium and heavy infantry. These and a few photos to break up the text and to provide a little eye-candy perhaps?

Most of these illustrations will be omitted from the black and white, ink-saving copies of the rules.

There will also be 3 quick reference rule booklets in three base width scales – 30, 40 & 60mm base widths.

MichaelCollinsHimself24 Mar 2017 11:49 a.m. PST

Some photos showing battle arrays and figure basing…

Roman Legion in triplex acies (three lines):


A typical barbarian warband command:


A Spartacus Revolt "Unit" (warband, horde & missile skirmishers):


Roman & barbarian cavalry basing 15mm and 20mm scales:


Roman artillery basing for 15mm and 1/72nd scales:


Chariot basing 1/72nd scale.


MichaelCollinsHimself27 Mar 2017 3:32 a.m. PST

…and bringing the photos together with the text.

The rules on barbarian army organisation and command and control:


MichaelCollinsHimself29 Mar 2017 9:07 a.m. PST

disorder and morale markers for the game…

Latin for Romans:


Welsh/Celtic for Gauls/Britons:


The greek numbers; alpha, beta, gamma (1, 2, 3) are for the barbarians – seems that the Gauls used Greek letters in some inscriptions and apparently after Bibracte the Romans found records in the Helvetii camp written in Greek.

MichaelCollinsHimself02 Apr 2017 10:40 a.m. PST

No command radii, no activation cards, no PIP`s… Bella Contra Barbaros will have Regulation…

Legion in duplex acies. The Legate (legionary commander) is mounted and the Tribunes (line commanders) on foot and all are in position on the right of the lines.


…for the Romans that is!

MichaelCollinsHimself13 Apr 2017 8:55 a.m. PST

Romans line up against Spartacus…


MichaelCollinsHimself14 Apr 2017 10:43 a.m. PST

Next weekend I`ll make Bella Contra Barbaros rules available from the Grand Manoeuvre website shop…. so that`ll be on Friday evening (21st April) at about 7-8PM GMT

arsbelli14 Apr 2017 2:57 p.m. PST


Just curious why are the Early Imperial Roman legions 10 bases strong in your posts on 25 February and 24 March, but only 8 bases strong in your more recent posts on 2 and 14 April? Has something changed in the rules or army lists since March?

MichaelCollinsHimself14 Apr 2017 11:24 p.m. PST

No, nothing`s changed to the rules…. Roman legions in the army lists always have had a variable number of bases/cohorts; as on many occasions Roman legions were reduced in strength (to 3-4,000 or so) and half-legions were deployed also.

arsbelli15 Apr 2017 4:41 a.m. PST

Thanks for the clarification. It is my understanding that 'understrength' Roman legions had cohorts of reduced size, rather than a reduced number of full-sized cohorts. But I appreciate that all game designers have to make decisions on how to represent historical armies using tabletop miniatures, and the abstraction you have chose here makes perfect sense to me.

arsbelli15 Apr 2017 8:23 a.m. PST

Apologies for the typo, it should be "have chosen" in the post above.

MichaelCollinsHimself16 Apr 2017 1:59 a.m. PST

It`s OK, yes, I`m not entirely sure what method was used when legions were understrength.
I think reducing the number of cohorts may have been a possibility.

Actually watching the Rome TV series got me thinking on this originally…

YouTube link

In this short clip, faced with post-battle losses cohorts are reorganised by the Mark Anthony character.

It makes sense for cohort commanders in any future battle; in that they know that their commands will still occupy the same ground and have the same numerical strengths at least (not including morale effects) and so any local, tactical decisions made by them are unchanged.

Implied in all this would be an equalisation of the numbers in legion`s the centuries, which might othewise leave battle lines, ragged and uneven when reformed.

Half-legions were indeed deployed at the battle of the Weser River perhaps these were reduced strength legions in the first place, each with the odd cohort on rear-guard/garrison/camp duties?
I guess it`s all abstraction, or representation whichever way you call it, but there is some grounds for believing that reducing the numbers of tactical units (cohorts) and maintaining sub-units (maniples, centuries and so on) was done.

MichaelCollinsHimself19 Apr 2017 2:47 a.m. PST

Friday and publication draws near…
last minute checking and fiddling – mostly with the introduction to the period and the blurb about the rules…

Added this week – orders cards.
Cards that can be either hand-held, or placed on table besides commands (maybe if playing in larger scales/base widths).
These hopefully will limit the amount of writing necessary in issuing orders – I`ve purposefully made the fields on the card small, so that any order is short and to the point :)


kodiakblair19 Apr 2017 3:56 a.m. PST

56 hours and counting :-)

MichaelCollinsHimself19 Apr 2017 4:06 a.m. PST

Yep, on schedule…
I`ve converted files to pdfs today – game markers and game accessories like the stratagem and orders cards.
Just the main rule book and terrain generating rule booklet to check now…

MichaelCollinsHimself21 Apr 2017 10:36 p.m. PST

Rule Published…

Available now at:


Rules 111 pages, 66 ilustrations, scenario booklet…etc. …all the above and perhaps a little bit more only £15.00 GBP not including VAT !

MichaelCollinsHimself21 Apr 2017 10:37 p.m. PST

Thanks to everyone here who has given me encouragement on these pages!

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