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"Sword and Spear Still Being Played?" Topic

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Marcus Brutus09 Dec 2021 9:27 p.m. PST

I am wondering if the rules set Sword and Spear is still being played much these days. I bought a copy a few weeks back so it is still available but when I go online it seems that the S&S Forum is pretty quiet these days. I don't see a lot of entries post 2018. A few of the guys I play with are interested in giving this set a try. I am more inclined to try a new set that has an active community. Any thoughts?

pfmodel09 Dec 2021 11:40 p.m. PST

S&S are very simple rules, so even if you start out and discover you need to flip to a new set of rules, I suspect its not a big issue. However I must admit not hearing much activity concerning these rules.

As far as I can work out the most popular, single set, of rules are ADLG. At least that is the case in the UK. After than you have the DBx series of rules. All are a lot more complex than S&S.

Other rules I am aware of active players are TTS, MeG and FoGAM.

This gives you are breakdown of rules being used in competitions.
TMP link

The only other set of rules which I know has an activity community is Lost battales and Legion. The forum is

Its reasonably academic, but i have to admit Lost battles is easy to learn and you can quickly start duplicating a historical battle with minimal effort. This video provides an overview of the rules;

The forum provides some example material about Legion.

Another simple option is to use the old SPI boardgame rules PRESTAGES with figures. The rules can be found here;

Rules for PRESTAGS Standard Rules
PDF link
PDF link

This shows an example game, in this case Cannae:

Marcus Brutus10 Dec 2021 6:19 a.m. PST

Thanks pfmodel for the run down. The two sets that interest me personally are ADLG and MeG. We have agreed to give S&S a try first to see what we think. I bought a copy of S&S and the lists are free so that is a good start.

We have been playing Impetus for the last 10+ years but I think we are looking at making a move. Impetus is a great game but it has a certain design philosophy that is becoming more difficult to agree with in my group so thus the look at other rule sets. One challenge we face is that we like the big dioramic bases in Impetus and don't want go back to smaller DBx bases. MeG at the Pacto scale sounds promising. I have played TtS but it didn't really grab me.

I am curious about your interest in Prestages. I saw you mention that in another thread and took a look at the games on BGG. Not sure exactly how easy it is to convert to miniatures plus, to be honest, game design has so much moved on the SPI 1970s board games. But still an interesting idea.

Stew art Supporting Member of TMP10 Dec 2021 9:09 a.m. PST

Sword and Spear is a fine game, I like it. I haven't played it in a long while but that's just because i was playing other genres and none of play as much as we like…

It's also a complete game, so once you have the rules and army lists then you're good to go, so there's no buzz about the newest expansion, which might contribute to it's lack of exposure as people are just quietly playing it.

the only thing about S&S that I don't like is that it's hard to have your units in line charge all together.

MajorB10 Dec 2021 10:09 a.m. PST

I am more inclined to try a new set that has an active community. Any thoughts?

Just because a set of rules doesn't have an "active community" doesn't mean they aren't being played.

Steamingdave210 Dec 2021 11:06 a.m. PST

There is a fairly active FB page for Sword and Spear. I used to play regularly when it was first published; I play occasionally, now using second edition, and still think it is a very good set. It is relatively inexpensive to buy the book and there is good online support in the form of army lists etc. It is easy to learn the basics quite quickly. I also like the flexibility re unit size, I have had great games using single DBA bases on a two foot square playing area as well as with "proper" units on an 8 x 5 table.
I certainly prefer it to ADLG, although that is very popular with those who like to participate in competitions perhaps one of the reasons why it doesn't attract me as much as Sword and Spear.

Marcus Brutus10 Dec 2021 11:27 a.m. PST

Just because a set of rules doesn't have an "active community" doesn't mean they aren't being played.

Agreed. It is helpful to go to Forum for the rules and ask questions. It is especially helpful when the rules writer is active on the Forum.

Thanks Dave for the heads up about the Facebook page. That might be where the action is at the moment.

pfmodel10 Dec 2021 1:20 p.m. PST

I am curious about your interest in Prestages.

I am a bit surprised as well, but I was looking for simple rules which I could use to encourage new players. The initial set of rules I select was Lost Battles, but after you have played a scenario a few times you quickly get bored. If you move to other scenarios you end up playing out the scenario much quicker. I also found games generally took 4 hours which considering how simple the rules were I was a bit surprised. It took a surprising amount of time to play a game-turn.

I ended up with PRESTAGES because after giving Lost Battles a try at my club I converted a SPI cold war game (Modern battles) into a hex less figure gaming format and it also worked really well. I then did the same with Napoleonic Last battles and it also worked well. The two benefits I found were the game system is so simple you can get through a game turn in a very short period of time and with 8-12 game-length was nice and short. The other was I was recreating historical battles, which I liked. I then remember buying PRESTAGES back in the 80's and gave it a go as well. Because I was not as familiar with the game system I started by using hexes, but am testing a hex less version and should have a proper game in a week or so. I will probably convert the unit types in a DBMM format and use DBMM army lists for points based games. I am not certain if it will work as a points based set of rules, but I will give it a go.

As for game-systems, while in the figure-gaming world there have been significant game-system changes which make playing older rules difficult, the same is not as pronounced in the board gaming world, at least for SPI board games.

The other big difference between board games and figure games is board games focus on reproducing historical battles, including the pre-battle manoeuvring. Figure gaming is typical competition points based. Both have their place but when you focus on a points based game you need a reasonable level of complexity to avoid players getting bored. The complexity can be good, but makes it hard for new players to get into the hobby. I normally use DBM and now DBMM, which are not simple game systems. Teaching those rules to a new player is hard, thus I need simple and quick rules. The guys at my club like ancients and did like Lost battles, but they are getting bored with it, so now I will try PRESTAGES. This video provided a description of the actual rules:

Dexter Ward11 Dec 2021 3:45 a.m. PST

Not sure why you think figure gaming is mainly points based competition games. Had many good historical refights with DBM and DBMM and To the Strongest and Sword and Spear

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP11 Dec 2021 6:39 p.m. PST

Pfmodel, I am sorry to say that you don't quite understand the nature of figure gaming. At conventions for example a vast majority of the games being played are scenario based many historically oriented compared to the few tournaments point based games. Likewise I suspect that in clubs the routine games are multi sided scenario-based historically oriented. Only on occasion do clubs have tournaments. Moreover mini tournament oriented games can be easily converted into scenario based games, as Dexter Ward points out. Indeed, I have played hundreds of Dba games in my life yet probably only 25% were in tournaments, the rest were scenario based games. I think it's only safe to say that the difference between board games and figure games is that the latter use figures, Instead of cardboard counters. Moreover it's possible, and I have done such, to play the rules of board games with miniatures.

pfmodel11 Dec 2021 6:44 p.m. PST

Had many good historical refights with DBM and DBMM and To the Strongest and Sword and Spear

Its more to do with sweet spot. I attempted to refight Marathon and a number of the smaller battles with DBM, and I got a reasonable game but I had to really play around the troop types in order to get a historical result. In the end the effort was too great, so these days I only focus on points based games using DBx army lists.

The reason is the DBx game system is really optimised for a points based game between equal forces. When a game system is designed in this manner players focus on troop type matching and element manoeuvring in order to win. Its part of the reason why skill is such a significant element in those rules. With this type of game system you really have to consider troop types carefully when creating a historical scenario.

Rules which tend to focus on recreating historical battles have a very different focus, and such rules fail when you try a point based game against even forces. It just becomes too boring because there is no tactical detail built into the game system. Rules such as Lost battles and PRESTAGES, good at reproducing history, are terrible when you try a point's based approach against equal forces.

pfmodel11 Dec 2021 9:49 p.m. PST

At conventions for example a vast majority of the games being played are scenario based many historically oriented compared to the few tournaments point based games.

True, few figure-games at clubs are competition based; a more accurate meaning may be points based games between equal forces. This is the format the DBx game-system was optimised for, although the change in scale when DBM came out offered the possibility of now recreating a historical battle.

Its also true board games v figure-gaming is primarily the difference between the medium, but board gaming tends to naturally fall into the "recreate historical battles" rather than an ad-hoc points based style of game. WRG Figure-gaming has a point focus based on its historical background.

Any game system can attempt to reproduce a historical battle, but they differ in ability to create a playable scenario. At a figure scale of 20:1 WRG 6th edition was not suitable for this purpose. DBM/DBMM, at 1:64 troop scale, is able to duplicate all but the larger battles. Marathon would require ~40 Greek elements and the Persians at ~60 elements, which is viable. If we tried to duplicate Cannae the Carthaginians would require ~200 elements and the Romans ~300 elements, which is only viable over several days of play. Creating the scenario is reasonable easy using the army list and points system, so in theory you can easily create a DBM/DBMM historical scenario.

On the other hand DBM/DBMM and DBA is highly optimised for a point's game between two equal force mixes, with a host of other factors embedded into the points system, such as terrain and special strategies.

Saying this there is nothing stopping players from playing out unequal force mixes, or scaling down the number of troops so you can game Cannae within a day. All things are possible.

sidley12 Dec 2021 3:33 p.m. PST

My club like S and S and we get in a fair few games. I would describe it as a "beard puller" because you need to take time and think. The activation system is unique and makes for both players being engaged at all times. For very large, multi player or quick games I would go with To The Strongest but for two players for an evening club game it really is the best.

Atheling13 Dec 2021 11:36 a.m. PST

Waiting to learn how the rules work at the club sometime. I've been waiting a while (yep, Covid) so we shall have to see how Omicron bears out on the UK.

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