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"Fast rules for very big battles?" Topic

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1,602 hits since 30 Jan 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Jan 2018 3:18 p.m. PST

Looking for a fast, fun game for ancients battles. These would be large affairs: 6x16 table, possibly bigger. As many as 8 players a side. Looking for a set of rules where (ideally):

  • Units are big, maybe 1-2 stands, not loads of small fiddly ones.
  • Grand tactical, obviously
  • Uses few markers if any. A hits die or 1 or 2 status markers (disordered, routed) is okay.
  • Straightforward turn sequence. IGOUGO preferred.
  • Uses only one kind of die, preferably d6 or d10.
  • Offers some unit differentiation beyond heavy infantry, light infantry and skirmishers. The troop types in Lion Rampant are a good model for the sort of thing we're looking for.
  • Rules have minimal die roll modifiers or special exception rules (i.e. units charged in the flank fight at half dice. Unless attacked by Bavarian Kettle drummers. Or unless they have yellow shields. Or unless it is Tuesday in an odd numbered month).
  • No hexes or squares or area movement.

Rejected already: Hail Caesar, DBA and variants. Clash of Empires. Command and Colors board game. To the strongest.

In the running: Impetus.

What else should we be looking at?

Bandolier30 Jan 2018 4:04 p.m. PST

You've covered most of the options I would have suggested.

Looks like you may have to write your own or see what home-brew sets are floating around.

Chris Palmer30 Jan 2018 4:06 p.m. PST

Bear Yourselves Valiantly?




corona66 Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2018 4:09 p.m. PST

Seems to me you described Big Battle DBA but that's been rejected, so good luck on the search.

dragon630 Jan 2018 4:38 p.m. PST

Big Bloody Battles?

McWong7330 Jan 2018 4:49 p.m. PST


Lucius30 Jan 2018 5:35 p.m. PST

Armati would work. The units can be as big as you want, and are stepped down with a die as casualty counter, from 1 to 4.

You can scale up the control ratings depending on how many players you have, and divy them up accordingly. That gives each commander on a side freedom to group his units as he sees fit, while keeping enough limitations on the army as a whole to keep it from being a free-for-all.

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Jan 2018 7:27 p.m. PST

Warmaster ancients is pretty good as long as you aren't playing with armies with lots of skirmishers.

Rakkasan30 Jan 2018 7:33 p.m. PST

Impetus, Basic Impetus, or Bear Yourselves Valiantly all seem to satisfy your requirements. Legio Wargames have some good sets too that may work for you as well. I dont have my copies with me to check but the web site is

Gonsalvo30 Jan 2018 7:38 p.m. PST

Although you state that you've already considered it nd rejected it, To the Strongest would easily seem to meet your criteria, *aside* from the grid, which can be all but invisible (and greatly speeds play and reduces arguments).

Here's a game I ran this past weekend with twelve middle- schoolers:



See the grid? Unless you look for it, it's all but invisible!

Here's another, from Historicon 2017


Where's that damned grid again? :-)


Eighteen by Six foot table, Sixteen players, game time less than 3 hours to a conclusion.

While my armies are based upon 60mm "element" stands, Simon himself uses (and sells) huge bases with many troops and one base per unit in most cases. Simon literally wrote these rules to exactly the parameters you have established (minus the grid). Since my introduction to Ancients wargaming was at the home of Charlie Sweet 45 years ago, I guess a gridded table and ancients has always made sense to me, especially considering the rather straightforward nature of maneuver in that era.

Anyway, in the end it of course comes down to what works for you, but in the many convention games i have run with TtS in the past 3 years, I have yet to have any player dislike the rules, even if they might not be their first choice.

My guess is that if you really, *really* can't tolerate a grid, Impetus is probably the next most likely to tick your boxes off, given the others that you've also already rejected. :-)

Good luck in the search regardless.


Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2018 7:44 p.m. PST

2nd warmaster ancients.

Marcus Brutus30 Jan 2018 8:04 p.m. PST

Impetus is an excellent game system. For a game that size I would simply skip the initiative system and make it an alternating IGOUGO game. Since Impetus allows troops to be put on opportunity the non phasing side will often have something to do during the turn.

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2018 9:26 p.m. PST

If it's _just_ the small fiddly bases of DBA that you don't like, pack elements 2-wide by 2-deep as de facto units and play with a larger ground scale but otherwise as per the rules.

(my gang played some games like that, with a few home brew rules, before BB-DBA was created).


David F Brown

greghallam30 Jan 2018 9:41 p.m. PST

Kings of War Historical?

It has most of the requirements you list …d6s only, fixed unit sizes, no figure removal, IGOUGO, few modifiers or special cases, rules are simple and clean … I don't know how much extra differentiation there is in troop types for the historical armies, but maybe worth a look

Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP30 Jan 2018 10:01 p.m. PST

I would strongly recommend Sword and Spear.

Nick B31 Jan 2018 1:14 a.m. PST

Impetus for certain

madcam2us31 Jan 2018 2:20 a.m. PST

Might of Arms…


Dexter Ward31 Jan 2018 2:48 a.m. PST

To the Strongest – if you can get over your aversion to grids, it meets all your other criteria.

advocate31 Jan 2018 3:10 a.m. PST

I like Sword & Spear but I'm not sure I'd use it for a big multi-player.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 3:18 a.m. PST

I have heard that some heretics play To the Strongest! without grids and without apparent ill effect (at least until I catch up with them! ;-) ).

JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 3:32 a.m. PST

Have a look at Veni Vedi Vici by Justin Taylor (he of the VVV shield transfers). Made for fast play warfare in the classical period, but easily adaptable for others. We played Bagradas and Carrhae in a day, a played Mangesia and Hydaspes on huge tables with 3 or 4 a side quite easily.

paul liddle31 Jan 2018 3:56 a.m. PST

Kings of War Historical would fit the bill and give a very entertaining game, but I think you may be missing out by rejecting To the Strongest.

Deserter31 Jan 2018 4:26 a.m. PST

Kings of War Historical for me too

Marcus Brutus31 Jan 2018 5:13 a.m. PST

To the Strongest games don't look right to my eyes (in spite of the beautiful figures in BRB's games.) The grid system arbitrarily separates units when, in fact, they probably advanced side by side in battle. One of the aspects of Impetus I like the most is that the rules encourage larger group formations that seem accurate from what I read in history. Armati does this too but uses a rigid mechanic. Impetus, instead, encourages players through bonuses to keep his formations together. It works well.

Two pictures from a game a few months ago. Notice the long line of early Scandinavian infantry with no breaks. A solid line. With a grid system you cannot get this look.

IMG_20160417_192001 by Eusebeia2002, on Flickr

The second picture is a line of Lancastrians with two battles, one large in the distance, the second smaller battle in the foreground.

IMG_20160417_192008 by Eusebeia2002, on Flickr

mad monkey 131 Jan 2018 6:35 a.m. PST


Days of Knights by Chipco.

Or Impetus.


Flower of Chivalry.

Personal logo aegiscg47 Supporting Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 6:48 a.m. PST

We've had Warmaster Ancients games with up to 6 players and 2500 points a side which were finished in around 3 hours. Kings of War Historical, while having issues with army lists, is a lot of fun for everyone involved.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 6:49 a.m. PST

"The grid system arbitrarily separates units when, in fact, they probably advanced side by side in battle."

Hmm Marcus, the TtS! grid system doesn't arbitrarily separate units. In To the Strongest! there's a group move so that an entire command can move together, as one. I'm playing in a tournament in three weeks, as Spartans, and there will be no gaps in my line if I can possibly help it! If an opponent doesn't maintain his line, I'll 'ave im. :-)

There's just as much logic in maintaining a line in TtS! as there is in any other good ancients rule system.

PS …and this is a line (well, two lines). :-)


Kenntak Inactive Member31 Jan 2018 7:19 a.m. PST

Not only does To the Strongest! have group moves, and units can be placed directly next to each other in lines, but the use of a grid actually facilitates this. There is no measuring, and in two other games I played that use measuring, it was not easy moving units together in lines, not to mention those anomalies that occur when one is dealing with fractions of inches or centimeters when facing or moving units.

Marcus Brutus31 Jan 2018 8:46 a.m. PST

I think you are misunderstanding my point. The game doesn't look right to me. It might play right but the use of grids arbitrarily detaches units so that they are not base to base. You can see the gaps between the units in Gonsalvo's pictures above. In your picture above BRB you can see small gaps between the units.

I posted two pictures from your blog that gives a better view of this feature of TtS. The first pictures is the gaps are obvious. In the second picture there are gaps between the different phalanxes. This is requirement of most grid games and personally I don't like the look it gives. In Impetus that gaps matter because the units are no longer functioning as a group. I think base to base blocks of figures looks better and conforms better to what I imagine ancient armies looking like in battle.



Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 9:14 a.m. PST

Oh I see. I like to have a gap between units and many of the TtS photos are of my armies.

Usually I employ a 20cm grid with 19-18cm wide units so there is a 1-2cm gap. There is no need for a gap, however, and one could use a 20cm-wide unit if one didn't want to have a gap. I think it likely that there were gaps between many (but by no means all) ancient units; between Roman maniples, for example, as above, or between cohorts.

The example you chose above shows Polybian Romans- I deliberately used small Roman units to make a point about the quincunx. The below photo of my Numidians, again, is more typical; 1cm gaps which I do not feel are visually obtrusive.


Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 9:39 a.m. PST

PS Sorry, ExtraCrispy did not intend to hijack your thread!

Marcus Brutus31 Jan 2018 9:50 a.m. PST

I did (mean to hijack the thread!) :)

I would be interested in knowing why ExtraCrispy rejected the rules systems above. With respect to TtS, was it the grid system and if so, why?

Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member31 Jan 2018 10:51 a.m. PST

Featherstonian homebrews?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 12:49 p.m. PST

We tried to TtS. We have a few zealots who feel squares are only for board games but that aside, the attrition in the game did not hit our sweet spot. It may be accurate/realistic or not, overall we thought it a bit abrupt. So no, it was not just the squares although that's part of it.

With regard to squares/hexes: we have several light horse armies and the areas tend to disrupt the look and feel of those swarms of horsemen. Mongols ended up in very regimented formations (not by design of course), so we want a game without that artificial constraint.

paul liddle31 Jan 2018 1:08 p.m. PST

In that case Kings of War might feel a bit abrupt to you when nerve tests suddenly take units out of the game, so might I suggest Ancient and Medieval Wargaming by Neil Thomas.
The rules are much more attritional and are available in his introduction book with a limited number of army lists.

Yellow Admiral31 Jan 2018 2:53 p.m. PST

Impetus is a one-unit-at-a-time move system, so is poorly suited to big multi-player games. There are probably ways to fix this with house rules, but I wasn't impressed enough with the system to bother coming up with any myself. (I would be interested to hear of any tweaks innovated by others to address this problem.)

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned L'Art de la Guerre. I can't recommend it (haven't actually tried it), but it is probably worth a look.

Lion Rampant was mentioned obliquely in the OP, but not whether it was rejected or even evaluated. I'm unaware of an official ancients version, but it's an amazingly easy ruleset to modify with house rules.

- Ix

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jan 2018 4:03 p.m. PST

LOL EC- TtS certainly can be, at times, a bit abrupt! :-)

I can't think of other games to suggest, except someone above mentioned the Legio rules, or Comitatus, by Simon MacDowall which hit most of your requirements. I've played that as a six player with the author, several times- we had fun- it might be slightly more complex than you are looking for, though.

Jeff of Chicago31 Jan 2018 11:02 p.m. PST

If you're looking for a very fast playing game with massive numbers of figures, A Fistfull of Miniatures might work for you. It's a very simple, old style game. Somebody put it back into print and you can get it here.

It's only $5 USD so not much risked. For a convention style setting, it will work well, probably better than anything mentioned above. You're not going to get much "historical" feeling, but you'll be able to play a fast game with enough figures to break your table…

10mm Wargaming Supporting Member of TMP01 Feb 2018 2:02 a.m. PST

I would recommend Hail Caesar Rules. Hope it helps.

As always, comments are appreciated.

Take care


Marcus Brutus01 Feb 2018 7:09 a.m. PST

Hey womble you often recommend Hail Caesar but never offer reasons why.

Yellow Admiral, Impetus promotes Group moves in the rules so one unit at a time isn't quite how it works. Yes, you can do it that way but you will lose out on the bonuses of group moves. In one on one games each player nominates a command to move and roles an initiative roll. The winning player generally moves first. That can slow the game down a lot in multi-player games. In super large game like the one that Extra Crispy is planning I'd simply ignore initiative and have each side move in predictable turn sequence.

With a smaller multi-player game we did the following.

Impetus Multi Player

Each side has a commander in chief. The commander and chiefs of both sides, at the beginning of the turn, take an initiative test as per the rules. Each side is allowed to reroll their initiative test once. The side with the higher initiative test wins the initiative and activates their commands first and the side with the lower initiative test loses the test and will activate their commands second with the following exception; all sub commanders on the losing side may attempt an initiative test and if they are to able to roll a higher number than the winning sides initiative they may activate their commands first. The sequence.

1. Losing sides sub commanders whose initiative test is higher than the winning sides initiative test activate their commands

2. All the commanders on the winning side activate their commands.

3. All the commanders on the losing who did not activate their commands in the step 1 may now activate their commands.

In every turn there will always be step 2 and step 3 but not always step 1.It gives a bit of drama to the game without slowing things down too much.

Nick B01 Feb 2018 7:48 a.m. PST

I thought the suggestion was that Group moves will be dropped in Impetus 2 (in line with Baroque)?

williamb01 Feb 2018 8:45 a.m. PST

Scutarii covers most of what is listed in the original post. However, as units take damage a marker is placed on a unit to keep rack of the losses. Games with 150+ units per side can be completed in 3 hours even if only one person per side is playing. A unit normally represents about 500 men, but units such as pike phalanx, hoplites, barbarian warriors, or cataphracts can be combined into larger formations representing 1000 or 2000 men.



The rules are designed to take into account Caesar's account of Gallic charges, smaller and better quality armies defeating larger forces, and to avoid making the victor have losses similar to Pyrrhus.

The rules are published by Hoplite Research link

There is also a Yahoo Group where QR sheets and other items can be downloaded for free

Marcus Brutus01 Feb 2018 9:21 a.m. PST

Nick B, I haven't heard anything about changes to group moves in Impetus. I certainly wouldn't assume changes to Impetus based on Baroque (Lorenzo has certainly made it clear in the past that while both rules sets use some common game engines they are different games.) What is to come is still a mystery. I can only speak to was is the current rules.

Saurocet01 Feb 2018 5:32 p.m. PST

I think you should look at Neil Thomas Ancients and Medieval Wargaming. It's not a perfect fit for you, but close.

Units are big, maybe 1-2 stands --Close, units in AMW are 4 stands, elephants and chariots are two

Grand tactical, obviously --Yes

Uses few markers if any. --Every 4th hit removes a stand, so you record 0, 1, 2, or 3 hits

Straightforward turn sequence. IGOUGO preferred. --Yes

Uses only one kind of die, preferably d6 or d10. --Yes, d6.

Offers some unit differentiation --Has heavy infantry, archers, light infantry, cataphracts, heavy cavalry, light cavalry, knights, elephants, warband, chariots, and artillery (I may have missed one)

Minimal die roll modifiers --Uses a table, look up attacker's unit type versus defender unit type to determine number of dice to throw for hits

No hexes or squares or area movement --Units rotate on center point, no wheeilng

I use these rules to teach statistics. For maps, I have green posters with a brown football shaped paper glued on. The "football" represents a hill. The defenders are Anglo army. Attackers are Normans. And the map is Hastings. For one battle, I reduced the AMW rules to one page front and back, and a spreadsheet for charts front and back. Students are playing within 20 minutes. The next class session I teach lots of statistics based on game situations. Students love it. Simple. Fun. Effective.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2018 6:08 p.m. PST

Reading your requirements, I think Warmaster Ancients is an excellent choice.
- A unit is typically 3 stands (artillery may be less).
- IGOUGO. Though the number of units that move will be affected by order rolls. (Units in close proximity to the enemy automatically react, unless ordered not to, so your units don't get caught doing nothing to enemies whose breath they can smell. You do get to choose the reaction, which is either charge or evade,)
- No grid, hex, or area movement. It's all about the ruler.
- Formation/line play is simply naturally encouraged by the rules, as contact (even at corners) draws more units into combat; a unit with gaps to its neighbor could get caught out "alone" in a fight.
- One die type (d6), and you roll a lot of 'em.
- Mods are typically straightforward, involving the addition or loss of dice in combat. Mods are for charging, pursuing, opponents in flank or rear, etc..
- Troop type is differentiated quite well, through very simple stats: Armor, Attack/Shooting, Hits. So light infantry will have low Armor and probably low Attack and Hits, while Heavies will have more.
- Hits are only tracked in combat or between shooting and combat in the same round. Once a combat round ends, excess hits (that is, hits that did not total enough to remove a stand) are dropped.

Plays fast enough in my experience, as the rules are easy to grasp and know "what to do." Plus, the command roll mechanic tends to prevent excessive moving of forces, as the ability of a unit to receive orders drops every time it receives one in a turn (and with distance from its commander, too). Once the general blows a command roll for any unit, he can't issue any more orders for that turn to any other units.
Combat can get lengthy as its a "rolling effect" deal (not meaning dice); if a unit wins, it can pursue the retreating enemy and trigger more combat (max of 3 melee combat actions in a row on a turn for any unit, so it doesn't get out of hand). I like that this can also result in a rapidly changing battle, and catch the unwary off guard if they don't watch out for dangerously extended pursuits. "We got 'em on the run… Hey, how did we get surrounded?"

For your 8 player game, there's a big advantage in the command rolls mechanic, as commands can be issued by both officers and the general. So for an 8 player game, if allied into 2 groups of 4 each, set up one player as the general and give each of the others officers to control. Or, you can have mixed forces, with each player having his own general and officers for his/her troops, but in this case you may have to come up with an alternative way to determine who goes first each turn.

So I think it's fun, easy to learn, plays fast (well, for a big battle game), and has a nice level of variety. Plus, it's easy to mesh with Warmaster (Fantasy)/ Battle of Five Armies, which are the same system, if you've an urge to slip some monsters and magic into the mix.

Yes, technically it's 10mm, but it's all about the bases, not the scale. Calls for 40mm X 20mm per stand, but a little tweaking of ranges/distances could accommodate larger rectangular bases, if needed. Otherwise, you can cram as many figs on a base as you think looks good, because the number of figs on each base isn't relevant to play.

Now, of course, your challenge is finding a copy of the rules…

dantheman Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 4:41 a.m. PST

Extra Crispy

You got a tough crowd. ADLG is fun but don't think it will run with more than four people.

You rejected every other rule set I would recommend, so I got nothin'.

Asterix Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2018 3:21 p.m. PST

Another vote for Neil Thomas' Ancient and Medieval Wargames, but To the Strongest is worth a try or two.

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