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FAQ for Ancient Battles Deluxe: From Guts to Gunpowder

Info taken from various forum threads, consolidated into a Wiki page so that people can more easily find all the info in one place and update it.
List of game FAQs

Table of Contents

Based on Ancients

The game is by Mike Nagel, based on and intended to be highly scenario/unit-compatible with Ancients by William L. Banks. Various rule subsystems have been highly modified, e.g. alternating activation instead of one player activating all their units, then the other player activating all their units.

Generic rules/armies, but historical scenarios

The game comes with identical red armies and blue armies with various types of units (light infantry, phalanx, etc), but these are used for a variety of specific historical scenarios which come with the game (e.g. Kadesh, Leuctra, etc).

Chronological ordering of all published scenarios


Possibility of fancier VPG version with laser-cut counters?

Apparently there is a possibility of some newer version sometime from VPG with their newer laser-cut counter technology, but nothing concrete.

[2.0] Equipment Used

Yellow & red markers

At the start of the Activation phase, all units are unmarked. During the Activation phase, only unmarked units can be activated. Activated units then become marked with a yellow or red marker (depending on the type of action). Thus a unit can only be activated once in a given Activation phase. After both players are finished activating units and thus both players pass, all the yellow markers are removed, but red markers remain.

Then during the Melee Combat phase, only unmarked units can attack. After a unit attacks, both it and the target are marked with red markers. After both players are finished attacking and thus both players pass, all the markers are removed.

Leaders are marked A, B, C, D on the back

Note that leader markers have letters A, B, C, D on their backs; these letters are mentioned in scenario setups.

Combat Units

Strength in brown box? Cavalry-effective in melee.

Units with combat strength in a brown box are cavalry-effective; see [11.2] 4. Determine the Melee Value Modifiers.

Movement in black box? Disciplined after melee.

Units with movement in a black box are disciplined and don't have to advance into an emptied hex after attacking in melee combat; see [11.6.1] Disciplined troops.

Movement in green box? No disorder moving through friendly units, and light units may sometimes retreat before Melee.

Units with movement in a green box are light; see [8.3.2] Moving through Friendly Units and [11.2] 3. Retreat before Melee.

MA units (from Hell's Horsemen) should have green movement

Mounted Archer (MA) counters from the Hell's Horsemen kit are misprinted; they are considered light and should have green boxes on their movement.

[3.0] Sequence of Play

The game can end after 5 turns

Some earlier editions of the rules erroneously stated that the game lasts a minimum of 6 turns. But at the end of turn 5 you roll to see if the game ends (by rolling 1).

Reinforcement leaders don't give command points before they show up

Reinforcement leaders don't give command points before they show up on the map. (And they "show up" when they enter the map during movement in a turn, i.e. after CPs are calculated for that turn, so you would only get that new leader's CPs on the following turn.)

[6.0] Activation

Your number of actions depends on your CPs, not your leaders

Regardless of how many leaders you have (even zero!) you get as many actions as you have CPs.

A unit can only be activated once per activation phase

Only unmarked units can be activated. After a unit is activated, it receives a yellow or red marker (depending on the type of action). Therefore a unit can only be activated once per activation phase.

[6.2] Formations

Marked units cannot be used for connecting units in a formation

Note that all units in a formation must be unmarked.

Same facing is only required for activation to move

Several people mistakenly thought that all units in a formation have to be facing the same way. That is only true for units which you want to activate for movement. (Not for rallying or missile fire.)

An activated formation cannot extend across an impassible river

Question 4 at

[6.2.2] Not all units in a formation need to be activated

So unactivated units in a formation can be activated later in the current Activation phase.

[6.3] Action Marker Placement on formation leader too

Note that leaders also can only be activated once per Activation phase, since they get marked too.

[7.0] Rally

You only have to roll on the rally table when rallying formations

[7.0] 1. An individual combat unit automatically Rallies by simply spending 1 CP to do so.

[8.0] Movement

[8.4] A free rotation for each hex, not just each movement action

"A combat unit may freely rotate one hex side (60 degrees) within a hex whenever desired during its Move Action." This means that in each hex of its movement action, it may do one free 60-degree rotation, not just once during its entire movement action. (See action 2 in [16.0] Gameplay Example.)

[8.7] Reinforcements are a formation without a leader

Normally to activate several units in a single action a leader is required in the formation. But as an exception, reinforcements enter the map with a single movement action, even without a leader. Once they are on the map, on later turns they need a leader as usual to be activated as a formation.

[9.0] Panic Movement

Earlier editions did not mention that you move panicked units toward the nearest map edge or river without a bridge or ford.

Panicked units are stopped by enemy ZOC as usual, but must sometimes avoid them to move their maximum movement allowance (as they must do if possible).

[10.0] Ranged Combat

Leaders can be eliminated by ranged combat

[11.5.1] Shot Out From Under Me appears in the Melee Combat section, but if a leader is stacked with a combat unit eliminated by ranged combat, it also must make an 'Escape' die roll as per [11.5.1].

Units firing in a formation

Units firing in a formation can each make independent attacks at different targets, or at the same target, or combine in a single attack at a target (to get +1 for each supporting unit), as the owning player desires.

[11.0] Melee Combat

Alternate description of melee computation

The melee computation seems to confuse many people. Perhaps the following will help. Also read [16.0] Gameplay Example.

Each unit (attacker and defender) will roll a die and add a modifier to get a Final Melee Value. These 2 values are compared. The larger Final Melee Value wins. The bigger the ratio of the larger Final Melee Value to the smaller Final Melee Value, the better the result for the winner.

There are 3 modifers added to a unit's die roll:

  • Tactical Approach Vector: If the attacker is attacking a flank or rear hexside of the defender, then the attacker receives a +1, +2 or +4 modifier. (Note that the defender does not get such a modifier!)
  • Combat Strength Advantage: This is the one which most confuses many people.
    • Each side computes their unit's Modified Melee Strength from the Base Melee Strength:
      • Base Melee Strength = printed strength +1 for each +1 leader in the unit's hex.
    • This Base Melee Strength is then multiplied by the Base Strength Multiplier:
      • Base Strength Multiplier =
        • +1 for the unit itself
        • +1 for each x1 Leader in the unit's hex
        • +2 for each x2 Leader in the unit's hex
        • +1 if the unit is Cavalry-effective (strength in brown box) in melee with Cavalry
      • Modified Melee Strength = Base Melee Strength x Base Strength Modifier

E.g. a unit with strength 4 stacked with a +1 leader and a x2 leader ends up with a Modified Melee Strength of (4+1)x(1+2) = 5x3 = 15.

E.g. a Cavalry-effective unit with strength 6 stacked with a x1 leader fighting versus Cavalry ends up with a Modified Melee Strength of 6x(1+1+1) = 6x3 = 18.

If the attacker and defender have equal Modified Melee Strengths, then there is no Combat Strength Advantage for either one. (I.e. they both have Combat Strength Advantages of zero.)

Note that a unit's Final Melee Value cannot go below 1. (If it goes below 1 e.g. due to being in a -2 stream, then treat the Final Melee Value as 1.) This clarification was added to the rules:

Otherwise, divide the larger by the smaller, rounding down, to get a ratio like 1-to-1, 2-to-1, 3-to-1, etc (just like for computing odds on a traditional CRT). The larger unit receives that number (1, 2, 3, ...) as its Combat Strength Advantage which is added to its die roll. (Note exceptions for elephants and Combat Strength Advantage of 1 for a defender if the attacker is not in the defender's ZOC.)

Remember that if the Modified Melee Strengths are equal, then there is no Combat Strength Advantage for attacker or defender (even though there is of course a 1-to-1 ratio between them).

See also:

[11.2] 5.ii) Elephants do get a Combat Strength Advantage when attacking Cavalry

Rules 1.3 and earlier say "skip this step if an Elephant unit is attacking", but Mike intends Elephants to get the Combat Strength Advantage when attacking Cavalry. This is considered more historically accurate and in the spirit of the original Ancients rules.

Melee combat favors the defender

Note that the Melee Combat table is asymmetrical and favors the defender. If the Final Melee Values (die rolls plus modifiers) are equal, then the attacker is disordered. The defender only needs to exceed the attacker to get AD, and only needs to exceed 2x the attacker to get AE. The attacker needs to exceed 2x the defender to get DD, and needs to exceed 3x the defender to get DE.

[11.6.3] Cavalry advance and second attack

If non-light cavalry has advanced after winning a combat and decides to make a 2nd (final) melee attack, then if it wins this 2nd final melee attack, it must advance again. Note that after advancing after its first attack, it might not want to attack a 2nd time (e.g. if it became disordered from entering woods).

Presumably the cavalry must decide immediately whether to make its optional 2nd attack or not.

Camps & War Wagons may never initiate a Melee Combat

See [13.1.3]; remember that Camps & War Wagons may never initiate a Melee Combat. (But they defend as usual.)

[13.0] Camps & War Wagons

Camps & War Wagons are combat units and can be rallied

Disordered War Wagons can be moved via Panic Movement

If a panicked war wagon leaves the map, it "escapes" rather than being eliminated, so the enemy does not receive a VP for eliminating it.

[14.0] Victory

Panic can't occur from combat in the last game turn

Panic checks occur at the start of a turn, so killing an opponent's last leader or reducing their panic rating to 0 during the last turn will not trigger their panic, nor give you 1 VP for panic.

[17.0] Optional Rules

[17.4] Command Control

The Command Control rules evolved; for details see:


Scenario 1 Kadesh: Variant: give Hittites initiative on the first turn

To make the battle start out more like it historically did, a proposed variant is to give the Hittites the initiative on the first turn.

Scenario 5: Side A's camp also has combat strength 4 when disordered

Side A's camp has a combat strength of 4; this includes when it is disordered.

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