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"Historically Accurate Ancients Ruleset?" Topic

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20 Jun 2019 5:43 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian13 Sep 2018 6:57 p.m. PST

Writing in Slingshot 318, Dave Beatty remarked:

We used the Warrior rule set which I have found th provide the most historically accurate results of any ancients rules I've played in the past 50-odd years, despite its cumbersome and mind-numbing combat results process.

Which ruleset do you feel provides the most historically accurate results?

Ivan DBA13 Sep 2018 8:30 p.m. PST

DBA. To understand why, you have to be able to understand the difference between "detail" and "realism."

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2018 9:11 p.m. PST

Always enjoyed Tactica

platypus01au13 Sep 2018 9:47 p.m. PST

We used the Warrior rule set which <in my opinion provides> the most historically accurate results of any ancients rules I've played in the past 50-odd years

There, I've fixed it for him.

In _my_ opinion* it doesn't, but I agree with the cumbersome and mind-numbing results process.

*And given there is no way to test these opinions, that is all they will remain.

Winston Smith13 Sep 2018 10:54 p.m. PST

I've played Warrior, but always with a Virgil as my guide.
"What do I do now?"

I put up with many iterations of WRG Ancient rules, but I never deluded myself into thinking they were "accurate". They were a method of moving toy soldiers around, pretending there was a battle, and crowing over a victory.

I often make fun of Newbury Fast Play Ancients, deservedly so.
But they took WRG concepts and added even more chrome and >cough cough< realism.
DBA etc was a reaction against that kind of nonsense. More "accurate"? If you want to think so, then yes.

In my not so humble opinion, any rules set that goes through 3 or more Editions just because some bloke in the Canary Islands thinks that the Early Late Southern Byzanto-Parthians get a bum rap….
Finish that thought yourself.

Right now I like Neil Thomas rules, with home mods.

Martin Rapier13 Sep 2018 11:27 p.m. PST

Lost Battles.

But tbh we mainly play Command and Colours Ancients these days as it is fun and produces acceptable results.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Sep 2018 1:28 a.m. PST

It is the usual internet nonsense of "my opinion= fact". Usually linked to "who has best range of xxx".

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2018 2:42 a.m. PST

I like DBA.

advocate14 Sep 2018 2:44 a.m. PST

Well, the original quote does say "that I have found". It's not clear whether he is talking overall result of the battle (for which we normally have some evidence) or specific combat exchanges (for most of which we do not). And I assume he is discussing battles between contemporary (space AND time) armies – not what would happen if Early Samurai meet Later Aztecs.
For my vote I'd go with 'Lost Battles'. Though I haven't actually played it. It is set at a very high level of abstraction.
Although I can't speak about the 'historical accuracy' of the results, I enjoy 'Sword & Spear' and 'To the Strongest'.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2018 3:58 a.m. PST

Prior to say 18th centurt ( maybe 16th?) we have so little and conflicting info about battles to test the accuracy of a model. At least if it can provide similar casualties ( in a way we coukd effectively asssess them) / result , in the same time, it coukd be.
Most of the tile we have high variations as to numbers, time, and even where it was. What was written was by one side, years/ centuries later etc.
Not easy.
On the other hand humans are humans, same roughly psychology then than maybe 16-17th century when we start having multiple sources, space and speed too, so weird and utterly off results can be avoided.
And don't start the "fun- it is only a game " non argument, it is irrelevant to the question. Like better dark or milk ckocolate.

Whirlwind14 Sep 2018 4:10 a.m. PST

Lost Battles.

DBA has surprised me in a good way in this regard.

arsbelli14 Sep 2018 5:16 a.m. PST

To the Strongest!

Different troop types behave like their historical counterparts. Plus there is no need for micrometer measurements, geometric ploys, or arguments about flank attacks.

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2018 5:16 a.m. PST

Tactica – and yes, that's my opinion.

Lucius14 Sep 2018 6:42 a.m. PST

I'll agree with Joes Shop and go with a game I have not played in 20 years.


Some people disliked it because initial deployment is everything – mess that up, and you cannot recover, because there aren't any fancy tactical moves that can fix a bad initial plan. For the vast majority of ancient warfare, I think that's pretty accurate.

Dervel Fezian14 Sep 2018 7:56 a.m. PST

Historically accurate? Hard to say we know enough to specify that a game is particularly accurate as mentioned above. That said I like the quote from John the OFM if I am remembering / paraphrasing it correctly. "A rule set that does not hurt my head or insult my intelligence." Also, it should be fun to play, or why bother. Don't remember if he had that requirement or not, but I do.

So over the years I have played many different rulesets. Looking for something that gives me sensible results, in a reasonable time frame, without causing headaches or paper cuts (from continuous foraging through the rules and or charts) are visually appealing and fun play.

I have tried Tactica, and it might arguably be accurate in that once deployed the battle is pretty much out of your hands, but it fails on the fun to play category (at least for me).

I think that many of the WRG style games like DBM and DBMM and their derivatives (like Warrior or ADLG) do a good job representing a battle, but with a certain amount of "head hurting" rules overhead (IMHO). This makes them less useful for a GM presenting a walk up and play battle. In other words they are not that very suitable when players do not already know the rules or have some basic understanding.

DBA 2.2 did a good job of getting very similar overall battle results to DBM, but with significantly less rules overhead. The Basics where teachable in 10-15 minutes and new players could reasonably fight their way through a battle with little previous experience. However, it suffers a little on detail (minimal troop types) and with no points based system for building armies.

Now I am using Triumph which hits a very nice sweet spot between detail and playability and it checks the boxes in what I am looking for in an Ancients era game.

*Easy to play which also means reasonable timeframe to finish a game

*Overall battle results that make sense (+/- a little luck on the dice) which to me is the equivalent of "historically accurate"

*Teachable in a convention setting

*Fun to play

*Scalable in figure size and battle size

*Works for tournaments or scenarios

So in summary, I think there are lots of sets that might provide "historically accurate results", does not mean I want to play them.

mghFond14 Sep 2018 8:20 a.m. PST

I played Newbury rules once….nuff said.

Last few years I have been very happy with To the Strongest and am not looking for anything else now.

Winston Smith14 Sep 2018 9:59 a.m. PST

Dervel, the OFM has assured me that if you are praising him, you got it correct.

lkmjbc314 Sep 2018 10:28 a.m. PST

DBA 3 is the best I have played. The historical battle rules do a great job in recreating the great battles of history. I liked it so much that I wrote a book…along with a bunch of friends.


The book presents the scenarios along with a play-through of each battle.

Check it out.

Joe Collins

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2018 11:41 a.m. PST

You could have put it rather on wargames vault, earn the same if not more, in pdf and paper options….
No way I would end up paing like $50 USD with post for this! A pity.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2018 11:43 a.m. PST

DBA 3, to answer the original question. It is at a high level of abstraction, so not involving the nuances of man on man combat. It deals with large armies and large units in the armies. Gives me the feel of what a battle is like, from reading accounts of these.

Dervel Fezian14 Sep 2018 11:46 a.m. PST

Dervel, the OFM has assured me that if you are praising him, you got it correct.

Well I have to admit it was one of my favorite and most succinct summaries of what makes a good rule set and I use it often, just don't tell him that part or he will want royalties too :P

Desert Fox14 Sep 2018 1:41 p.m. PST

commands and colors combat resolution with DBA command dice

For all of the reasons people have said above about the ruleset they play.

Rottcodd14 Sep 2018 2:45 p.m. PST

I really like To the Strongest, rules are fairly simple and it is fun to play. But it probably allows too much freedom of movement. Tactica is probably more realistic, in that once the battle line is set, there you go. But not much fun as a game.

lkmjbc314 Sep 2018 3:02 p.m. PST

Regarding Great Battles of History for DBA 3..

It is $34.97 USD from Lulu… and Lulu usually has 20% off sales going on…

You can also download the PDF from here…



Joe Collins

corona66 Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2018 3:56 p.m. PST

A friend and I fought the campaign of 1066 with its three battles using L'Art de la Guerre. The result was three exciting, close run games with an historical result in each, including Harold dying at Hastings. Love these rules.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2018 1:56 a.m. PST


JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2018 3:02 a.m. PST

We liked Justin Taylors (Veni Vedi Vici decal producer) fast play Alea Iacta Est, whist, although designed for the classical period, can, with the addition of house rules, be successfully used from the biblical period to the advent of gunpowder.
They also give the best rendition of the Roman, 'triplex acies line replacement system.
He probably wouldn't recognise our version of his rules now, but they're good to play in their original form (we played Bagradas and Carrhae in a day, 3 players a side), but also a good start point for adding additional rules/periods.

Rich Bliss15 Sep 2018 7:02 a.m. PST

I like Lost Battles, but I find it tedious to play. Same with DBA. I'm currently experimenting with Frank Chadwick's Epic Glory rules and so far, they seem to work.

ancientsgamer15 Sep 2018 10:46 a.m. PST

I like Might of Arms. I do feel medium infantry is more fragile than it should be though. BUT command and control is extremely loose.

Playing Mortem Et Gloriam now. Most armies are more than viable. Command and control is more restrictive and dare I say more realistic? The scale takes a bit getting used to as 24 or 32 figures represent a Roman legion.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2018 1:39 p.m. PST

Downloaded your book. Brilliant and great job!
Thanks for sharing.

Itching to dig out those mix of ancients and medievals buried in boxes…no no no…we shall resist?

lkmjbc315 Sep 2018 7:49 p.m. PST

All the profit after the first 100 bucks was donated to the Society of Ancients (for the first two years).

I am working on volume 2.

Joe Collins

Diocletian28416 Sep 2018 1:35 p.m. PST

For an ancients rules set I look for a few things that I feel are important for me to get a good historical feel. I also get very specific on how my two main ancient armies are handled – Later Imperial Romans and Republican (Polybian) Romans. I judge a rules set based on how these two armies are handles, because I know the most about them and the battles they were in.

1. Commander and Control ratings of some sort. Commander abilities, command ranges, and command and control variability.
2. Troop quality and morale.
3. Some national characteristics or modifiers

I like DBA and enjoy playing it. Good for tournament games, but it fails at all three above in my opinion in terms of a historical rules set. It is too basic and general for me to think of a historical accurate rules. I play ADLG a lot and like it as well. It does a better job than DBA at the three above, but still not the best. I like both DBA and ADLG, but they are not my go to rules for historical battles. I place both of them in category of rules sets I play in tournament games where armies span 3000 BC to 1500 AD. With a time span this wide, I can agree rules need to get more general. You need a general set of rules for Hittites to fight Ottoman Turks.

For my Late Imperial Roman armies I feel Simon MacDowell's rules Comitatus are the best. Not too complicated, factors in my three points above, and is specific to the time period.

For my Republican (Polybian) Romans it is a more difficult effort to find the best rules. Finding a rules set that takes into account the Triplex Acies of the Hastatii, Pricipes, and Triarii. DBA and ADLG make no attempt at all, they both have all three as front line battle troops. Both Impetus and Hail Caesar make an attempt. Both work, but not the best. Better than DBA and ADLG just for making the effort.

I have yet to try the To the Strongest rules. I downloaded the army list for the Republican Romans to look at when I made a purchase of some Hasatii from Aventine Miniatures. Big Red Bat's description in the download is intriguing and does lay out the Triplex Acies where the Republican maniples layer out in the grid set up and there is a mechanism for line relief. I do not speak with any sort of experience, just based on what I read and understood from the download. I will probably buy the PDF and try some solo battles of Republican Romans versus Seleucids to see how the legion matches against the pike phalanx.

Maldini196608 Oct 2018 3:27 a.m. PST

WRG 6th

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Patrick Sexton Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2018 10:49 a.m. PST

I like Tactica and Warhammer Ancients.

wmyers12 Oct 2018 8:20 p.m. PST

I think Donald Featherstone helped address this topic/issue in relating that, as gamers, we all bring our own personal biases and prejudices to the game table.

We may THINK we know how a commander at the time thought, we think we believe how soldiers would behave and respond,.

We look for rules that support our own biases and prejudices.

Trying to achieve an historical response may not be the best or even an accurate way to assess rules.

I have no idea how many gamers try to learn the tactical methodologies of the troops they are commanding and use only those tactics. Even if we say we do and believe we do, do we?

I know historical results is one way to attempt assessment but there is more than just that aspect (especially given hindsight).

Personally, I think the best responses on here have been the ones that state why or why not they like each ruleset.

Toy Soldier Green17 Oct 2018 7:25 p.m. PST

DBA & Legio VIII

Maerkus01 Nov 2018 8:26 a.m. PST

I have switched from DBA to Triumph (see 18 months ago, and I am happy with it. For me it hits the spot of easy to learn yet hard to master and of historical accuracy.

Dexter Ward06 Nov 2018 7:15 a.m. PST

To the Strongest works for us.
You have some control, but it is limited. You can do some manoeuvering, but you may come to grief if you try anything fancy. The game plays fast; a battle with a table full of figures completes in a couple of hours.
The players have interesting tactical choices, and the flow of the game is exciting.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Nov 2018 9:40 a.m. PST

QILS. Realism is more in the unit selection and scenario design than in the rules.

coolyork Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2018 12:04 p.m. PST

Tell ya ! I still love " Classical Warfare" by Gary Gygax " !

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