Sword & Spear cover large

Sword & Spear – the Holy Grail of Ancients rules?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been 100% happy with many of the Ancients rulesets that I’ve played over the years, bearing in mind that I’m looking at rules in which you play with element based armies, as opposed to units comprised of individual models, so rules such as WAB, Clash of Empires and War & Conquest aren’t included in that statement (of these, WaC is probably my favourite of these). I was never a fan of DBA, DBM and FoG. Warmaster Ancients and Hail Caesar are OK – probably my favourites up until now were Augustus to Aurelian, Polemos: Ancients and Impetus.

Given my gaming criteria I found myself constantly returning to playing ancient battles using Commands & Colours: Ancients, as this scratched the appropriate itch in the given timescale.

Sword & Spear cover medHowever, a new set of rules have come along which, even after a single play, have immediately become the favourite to be my Ancients wargaming rules of choice for the future: Sword & Spear, written by Mark Lewis and published by Polkovnik Productions.

I tried them out with my regular gaming opponent, Dave Luff, last night. We played a simple meeting engagement on an open plain between Early Imperial Rome and Ancient Britons, just to try out the rules mechanics.

We had some initial issues with army creation (caused, as it turned out, because I’d failed to download a document which answered all the questions we were asking about the army lists!) and, as with all rules that you play, the first couple of turns were pretty slow as we were checking everything against the rules. However, by the end of the evening we thought that we’d pretty much got the hang of it. (Although, as what usually happens, I discovered that we’d got a couple of things slightly wrong – nothing too drastic, primarily just clarifications of some of the game events that occurred)

It really helps that the rules made sense, so when we hit a situation, we discussed what we would expect to happen, and 99% of the time, the rules did what we expected.

Whilst movement and combat works well (although some of the wording around combat bonuses could be better) the crowning glory of this game is the Command and Control system. which takes ideas from games such as Saga and Bolt Action, adds its own twists and produces a result which gives each player plenty to think about during the course of each turn.

Dave (who is notoriously fussy and hard to please when it comes to wargames rules) was very impressed. I think we’ve just found our Holy Grail, Ancients rules that are fast, fun, intuitive and interactive to play (definitely not I-go-U-go), whilst offering a number of challenges and decisions in every phase of play. I think we will be playing these rules an awful lot in the future.

In short – these are a great little set of rules!

The rules are available for £6 as a PDF, or £14 for a print copy.

You can buy the rules here

All the army lists are free to download, and are available here

At time of writing, there are 52 army lists to download, covering the periods of Biblical, Rome and her enemies, Greek and Macedonian Wars, The Middle East & Crusades, The Dark Ages and Medieval.

All being well, I’m hoping to give an in-depth review of these rules and interview Mark Lewis on a podcast in the not-too-distant future.

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17 thoughts on “Sword & Spear – the Holy Grail of Ancients rules?”

  1. Thanks for bringing this up by an ‘instant review’. Of course, one man’s Holy Grail might be the next man’s carpenter’s cup. But as described these rules look indeed quite interesting. Maybe material for another podcast episode? I’d also like to hear what people who share the views of Mr Clarke or Dr Hendry have to say about rules covering that large a time span. ;)

    Cheers,
    Tilman

  2. Thanks for the heads-up
    As a former and most frustrated WABer I’m also in the quest for the holy grail. I’ll buy the PDF for sure

  3. Like Neil, I also really like these rules and I can see them being used a lot in Cardiff (where I play)

    PS if you hadn’t guessed Mark is a regular contributor to the comments section on this site and I’m sure he’ll be along soon to comment on this post ;-)

  4. Glad to hear you like the rules, Neil. I thought they would be the kind of rules that would appeal to you. Thanks for posting the mini-review. Hopefully we’ll speak soon.

  5. I’ve no idea how that Tweeter business works (I think I sent you one) as I was just about to give you a nudge on Sword & Spear, but here you are with finger on the pulse! Look forward to hearing your further thoughts:-). We too were contemplating C&C Ancients variation but this set meets our requirements better.

  6. Daggerandbrush – each unit is 4 bases with a couple of exceptions. Large units (phalanx pikemen and gallic warbands for example) have 6 bases, for chariots and elephants we use just 2 bases. Frontages just need to be consistent, so any army already based for the likes of FoG will be fine. You can have as many figures as you like on a base really but visually 3 or 4 looks good with 2 per base for skirmishers to reflect their looser formation. We regularly game with 10-12 units per side, but you could certainly have more and it does support multiplayer.

  7. Hi Mark. I just ordered a PDF. Will you be doing any early dark lists for Romano-British and Early Saxons?
    Thanks
    Paul

  8. Hi Paul

    For Early Saxons, see the Germanic Tribes list under Rome & Enemies.
    I will be doing Romano-British, but not in the next couple of weeks, as I’m going on holiday tomorrow. I’ll make it first on the list when I get back.

    Mark

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