Help support TMP

"rules for ancients?" Topic

32 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Getting Started with Ancients Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Featured Ruleset

Featured Showcase Article

Grade My Gauls

At last! Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian finally paints the first of his Gauls...

Featured Profile Article

Dung Gate

For the time being, the last in our series of articles on the gates of Old Jerusalem.

Current Poll

2,385 hits since 10 Mar 2017
©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

fabambina10 Mar 2017 5:42 p.m. PST

Looking for some advice, thanks in advance for your help.

I'm looking to start ancient gaming. I would like a rules set that allows games from medium to large size armies.

I am looking mainly for the Roman era, but not exclusively.

I would like it to be relatively popular. I know DBA and DBM are not widely played anymore, but I think HC is gaining ground. I have reservations about it, hearing alot about its limitations.

So, what is appropriate and popular nowadays?

fabambina10 Mar 2017 5:48 p.m. PST

Sorry for the weird double and quadruple posts. I did not do this on purpose!

coopman10 Mar 2017 7:02 p.m. PST

Gripping Beast just published a set of rules called Spearpoint. You might check and see what the buzz is about them. I do not own them.

cj177610 Mar 2017 7:20 p.m. PST

To the Strongest is an excellent set of rules covering everything from ancients up to the middle ages.
Easy to learn and fast playing,check out the rules forum for more info.

lkmjbc310 Mar 2017 8:32 p.m. PST

DBA is the most widely played game around here. I've seen ADLG once or twice.

I recommend DBA. The Big Battle version is excellent.

I wrote a book about it.


Joe Collins

JimSelzer10 Mar 2017 8:49 p.m. PST

Ignore Tactica and Armanti they suck

Ivan DBA10 Mar 2017 11:11 p.m. PST

Find out what is popular in your area, and play that. The fact that lots of people are still playing FOG, for example, won't help you if none of them are local.

By the way, DBA is played quite a lot, world-wide. Is it the latest hotness? No. But it's endured and outlasted WRG, DBM, DBMM, Tactica, Warhammer Ancients, Warmaster Ancients, Armati, and Field of Glory. I expect it will still popular after Hail Caesar has ridden off into the sunset too.

All of the rules I just listed are worth a look, and can be a lot of fun.

platypus01au11 Mar 2017 12:09 a.m. PST

I'd have to say that DBA is probably the longest lasting and most widely played ancients game ever.

Last National convention here in Australia (CanCon) it had the most players.

For a beginner, I couldn't recommend it strongly enough.


Alcibiades11 Mar 2017 12:47 a.m. PST

Our group has been playing Mortem et Gloriam lately and have really enjoyed the games. The rules mechanisms are unique and keep both players fully occupied throughout the game. The army lists are well researched and are available for free on their website. The author is readily available to answer any rules questions and the forum is quite active.


sillypoint11 Mar 2017 5:06 a.m. PST

Might of Arms – free PDF 1st edition. 1996

arsbelli11 Mar 2017 5:24 a.m. PST

The new Ancients 'big battle' ruleset by Gripping Beast is called Swordpoint. Personally, I like it quite a lot. You can find more info about Swordpoint here:

YouTube link


princeman11 Mar 2017 6:38 a.m. PST

I would go with "To The Strongest" for a number of reasons.It has a wonderful system that allows games of any size. You can field as large or small numbers of figures in each unit so you are not forced to buy more figures than you want to paint just to have a good game. It is easy to learn yet provides challenging games. The table always looks great. You play to a definite conclusion and in a very reasonable amount of time.
Simon Miller aka Big Red Bat, is a wonderful person to work with for obtaining a set of rules and other tools to play the game with. After 20 plus years of playing Tactica this has become my go to set of rules for Ancients. Good luck and good gaming.

kodiakblair11 Mar 2017 8:04 a.m. PST

TMP member "MichaelCollinshimself" has a set coming out next month aimed at Roman Wars 100BC to 100AD.

Bella Contra Barbaros is the preposed name.

Nichts11 Mar 2017 10:03 a.m. PST

Another vote for To the Strongest. Handles battles of all sizes, simple and elegant mechanisms, fun and challenging at the same time. I like them so much I am working hard with the author to transfer them to the English Civil War, my favourite period!


Decebalus11 Mar 2017 10:47 a.m. PST

Wargaming should start with an army, not with a ruleset. So what you want to play? What scale? What table size?

I play DBA, different from everybody else (28mm, deeper bases). I have fun.


Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2017 11:24 a.m. PST

Nice Hoplites!

Craig Woodfield11 Mar 2017 1:46 p.m. PST

You will get as many suggestions as there are rules, but you haven't mentioned the scale you are playing, which is significant.

Personally I would recommend ADLG. It is complete in one book, quite popular, reasonably well designed and the basing system doesn't preclude using your figures for other games.

I would advise against Swordpoint, which is poorly designed, or the DBM stable of games, which are badly written.

Yankees Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2017 7:03 p.m. PST

Ignore Jim Selzer

Tactica is a great game

coopman11 Mar 2017 7:38 p.m. PST

Regarding "To the Strongest", start with this video and then watch the next ones in the series on command activations, movement and combat. He does some battle reports too. These are excellent.
YouTube link

Who asked this joker11 Mar 2017 9:44 p.m. PST

Armati and Tactica both are fine games. Really depends on what you want out of your game though. DBA is still played. You will see it played in various parts of the country and at conventions.

coopman12 Mar 2017 6:12 a.m. PST

I would start with DBA if I was in the OP's position. Only 12 stands of figures required for each army, so you can start playing games much sooner than with any of the other rules sets mentioned, and you can easily add more armies when you get the urge. It would be a good idea for him to see if there is a local gaming group of ancients players, and if so, what rules are they using. The rules for Armati and Tactica are not even for sale anymore, unless you can luck upon a used copy somewhere.

Sobieski12 Mar 2017 7:39 a.m. PST

I've frequently found DBA a great way to destroy early interest in ancients and medieval gaming. After a few games people not unreasonably get very bored sometimes.

wrgmr112 Mar 2017 9:55 a.m. PST

Our group plays Armani 2 regularly, it's a fun game.

arsbelli12 Mar 2017 10:38 a.m. PST

fabambina -

As you can see, there are a great many different Ancients rule sets currently being played, and people have very strong opinions about the ones they do and do not like. One way to approach this would be to ask yourself some basic questions.

1. Are you expecting to play the rules with one or more other players locally? If so, finding out what they already like and play could save you a lot of time and trouble. If not, see Question 2.

2. Are you hoping to play the rules in local, regional or national tournaments? If so, then finding out which sets are being played at the conventions you want to attend will at least help you narrow your range of choices. If not, see Question 3.

3. Are you the one choosing the rule set to play for your group? If so, then there are some additional questions about gaming mechanics that you can ask yourself to help cull through the large field of potential candidates:

How many figures do you plan to field for your "medium to large size armies?" Different Ancients rule sets for mass battles can call for armies as small as 24-48 figures on the low end, to as many as 200-450 figures on the high end.

Do you prefer rules in which each unit consists of a single base, or ones in which units are comprised of multiple bases?

Do you enjoy rules in which combat and other tactical processes are dealt with in a lot of detail (process oriented), or ones in which many of those details are abstracted into a few factors and/or die rolls (result oriented), or something in between.

Do you prefer to resolve combat and other issues with a single die roll with modifiers, by rolling multiple dice, or some other process? Do you prefer using D6 dice, D10, or multiple sizes?

Do you like to use cards to represent special events or other tactical decisions?

Are there other rules mechanics that are definite 'must haves' or 'no goes' for you and/or your fellow players?

These questions just scratch the surface, but you may find them useful in helping to narrow the field of potential candidates.

arsbelli12 Mar 2017 12:10 p.m. PST

Just a few more questions that you may wish to consider in your search for an "appropriate" Ancients rule set:

Do you want to be able to build your forces using a points system and army lists, or would you prefer to use historical scenarios as the basis for your armies?

Do you want your tabletop troops to follow your orders automatically at all times, or do you like to have somewhat less control through the use of limited command points, throwing dice to see if your orders are followed, or some other form of battlefield 'friction?'

Do you enjoy battles that tend to move fast and come to a resolution relatively quickly, or do you enjoy a game that may last for several hours or longer?

In your OP, you mentioned that you are interested mainly in the Roman era. Are you looking for a rule set representing legionary line exchange with 'concrete' rules that involve physically swapping units on the tabletop, or would you be content with a more 'abstract' representation of the net effect of line exchange, such as giving legionary units greater staying power in combat?

Just some additional food for thought as you mull over your many options. Best of luck in your search!

kodiakblair12 Mar 2017 3:01 p.m. PST

Just remembered another rule set targeting Roman Era battles. Simon MacDowall's Legio


They come in 3 flavours so pick the one to suit your era of interest. Don't let the fact they are free put you off as they are a well thought out set from a man who knows his onions.

williamb12 Mar 2017 11:12 p.m. PST

Another rule set to consider would be Scutarii. Large battles can be resolved in a few hours, even with only one player per side or with multiple players. link with over 150 units per side. Other battles also on blog. Can use any scale figures or base sizes. Units represent formations of 300 to 600 men with 500 (about a cohort) being the most common and can be either one or two bases per unit. Can also use oversized bases with multiple units per base. Available from link at a discount.

Marshal Mark13 Mar 2017 10:56 a.m. PST

Great advice above from arsbelli. Have a think about what you want, considering the questions he poses. Then you will be able to get much better advice about what rules you might like.
For me, the most important question is this one:

Do you want your tabletop troops to follow your orders automatically at all times, or do you like to have somewhat less control through the use of limited command points, throwing dice to see if your orders are followed, or some other form of battlefield 'friction?'

To see what is currently popular you can look at the TMP Rules Directory here:
TMP link
You can then sort by rating, and have more of a look at some of the higher rated rulesets that meet your requirements.

Asterix Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2017 7:41 p.m. PST

Some very good suggestions here. Let me add to the confusion.

I began with the Tony Bath rules found in Donald Featherstone's "War Games" book back in the early 1960's. Really the first set of rules I ever used. They were a lot of fun. Much has changed over the decades with "realism" vs "playability" contending with each other. But if you are just starting I would suggest DBA for many of the reasons given above and then when you want to use more units/figures go to Neil Thomas' "Ancient and Medieval Wargames." The latter has more going on and the games in my opinion are not as formulaic as DBA. After Neil you can graduate to more complex rules as suggested here.

But above all, have fun!

10mm Wargaming14 Mar 2017 2:55 a.m. PST

I would recommend Hail Caesar Rules. Hope it helps.

Take care


Gennorm17 Mar 2017 4:14 p.m. PST

+1 Alcibiades

fabambina22 Mar 2017 5:23 p.m. PST


whew. that's alot to think about. i guess i like 28mm, not interested in tourneys, looking for historical play, smaller engagements are ok because 28mm, but i could go in from bigger ones with smaller minis.

i guess the big one is i'm looking for rues to play mostly romans, late republic/early empire, and historically accurate tactics, with rules not too dense.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.