There quite a few “selling points” for ancient gaming, I’ll do my best to break them down individually.
This is my personal favorite. Ancient gaming can be played in 15mm. I would argue that the majority of people that game play in this scale. It takes up less space and allows for “rank and flank” style maneuvering . The largest table you would play on is 4X6 with most rulesets playing on smaller areas than that.
You might think it is more difficult to paint at this scale, but you won’t get caught up in details and the size is more forgiving.
I would argue that the majority of wargamer are also armchair historians. We watch movies, TV shows and read books on the subject. Some people are intimidated by the scope of other historical games, vehicles with different options, the correct Napoleonic uniform, or even the number of rivets a tank has. Ancients is much more approachable.
Ancients is very approachable. Damn near everyone fought everyone and we don’t have the records for every engagement and skirmish. So it translates well to a tabletop environment with hundreds of different armies to be fielded.
Most rulesyems are split up into two eras. Antiquity and Middle Ages and they are often subdivided into more eras.
Within each period the lists are grouped by geographical area. This classification allows tournaments to be easily organised, whether the choice of armies is unrestricted or it is limited to a theme, for example to armies connected in time and/or by geography. For example there are 283 army lists are included in the rulebook l’Art de la guerre.
Most ancient rulesets have been heavily playtested and are played with regularity. Most designers are gamers themselves and are active in the community. They answer questions and if a problem arises they move to fix it.
That being said, the rules are complex. You can do a lot of different things on the board and units interact with each other. This lends itself to some of the deepest gaming you can get nowadays.
Something missing for a lot of modern tabletop games, you can get figures from wherever you want and field them. They just need to be based the same as your opponent. Most ancient games have adopted a universal basing system because nobody wants to rebase their figures.
There are a TON of manufacturers. Unfortunately most seem to be located across the pond. You can still get them direct or there are several stores in the US that import them.
Many Rulesystems to choose from
Since your figures are “neutral” and basing is universal, you can try out as many rulesets as you want, with ease. You can try the more popular sets or a new flavor of the moment. The only drawback is, same as the figures, most rulesets are published across the pond. However there are PDFs to be had as well as stores that import them.
If competitive tabletop gaming is you thing, then you are in the right place. You can find regional and national events all over the place for a variety of systems. There are even worldwide rankings and championships. Also, tournament rounds are only 2.5 hours!
It will probably cost you less than $200 for everything you would need to play. One figure manufacturer I like is Essex and they sell complete armies for around $100 US. A non-PDF rulebook is likely to set you back around $50 US. The majority of rulebooks also contain every army list for the game.
One of the easiest ways to get into ancients gaming is a set of rules called: De Bellis Antiquitatis. It features everything I have listed above on a much smaller scale. It is played on a 2X2 area and each army is composed of only 12 bases. It is very tactical and has an active tournament scene.
In Conclusion, I hope your interest is piqued. I am by no means an expert and I rarely get to play, so I’m sure I made some factual errors. In fact, part of the reason for this post was to maybe get more people interested so an active scene might spring up in my area. I really want to play more in 2019 and I would love to travel to tournaments if anxiety/depression allows it. I personally own l’Art de la guerre, DBA 3.0 and “To the Strongest”.
Most of my armies are Roman…
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