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Subject: A great gateway wargame rss

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Ancients (in all its incarnations) is an excellent hex-and-counter game of pre-gunpowder warfare. It includes a vast array of balanced scenarios, spanning from the beginning of civilization to the early European Renaissance. Though it is long out of print, it is now available for free at www.relativerange.com/ancients.

Armies are 10-30 chits each, with about a dozen different unit types. These closely mirror the unit classes of the popular miniatures game DBA, with multiple types of infantry and cavalry. Unlike DBA, a number of units are capable of ranged attacks: light archers are fast, accurate, and hopelessly fragile; heavy archers (perhaps Assyrians or crossbowmen) are more powerful in close combat, but slower and somewhat less accurate. Mixed missile troops are essentially weak light infantry with weak missile attacks.

Victory in each scenario is decided after six rounds of play; whichever side has more victory points wins. Three points are available: one for making the enemy panic (killing half his strength points of units or all his leaders), one for sacking the enemy's camp, and one for having the most non-panicking strength points of units left on the map at the end. Victories are generally clear by turn 5, but there is much room for a clever player to move from defeat to victory in the midgame.

Ancients also includes MANY optional rules, some of which are recommended in certain scenarios. Most important are Zone of Control rules, a common feature of many wargames, and command control rules for barbarians and knights. Also included is an army-building list for those who wish to dream up their own armies or use Ancients to fight battles in a wider campaign. The scenarios, though, are where the game really shines.

I have played this one for about ten years, ever since playing with my dad while in elementary school. Its combination of simple rules and interesting strategic and tactical possibilities makes it a great intro wargame--on par with Ogre in my mind.
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