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.
However, 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.
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.