Monday, May 4, 2015

Ancients Rules Update- To the Strongest!

Not long ago the club was having its' monthly DBA ancients game day. Readers may already be aware that DBA is an old and popular set of game rules for playing out ancient and medieval battles. During the games there were several tense and unpleasant moments, however, in which people had trouble agreeing on exactly how the small miniature figures could move on the table. At one point things almost grew ugly.

Let's ignore the implications regarding grown men who might get angry about a game involving toy soldiers. Each genre seems to have rules that cause arguments. World War 2 games break down when dealing with assaults and air support. Ancient battles games suffer when describing charging and movement. You may be playing on a six foot long table but a millimeter's difference in placement can have huge implications as to who wins a battle. This dynamic is one of the things that author Simon Miller attempted to address with his To The Strongest! rules.

To the Strongest! (TTS) is a set of rules that allow you to play out ancient and medieval battles on a tabletop. You need two armies made up of eight or more units. The play takes place on a board formed from a grid of squares measuring 8 x 12. The square grid removes any issues regarding placement on the battlefield. Units are clearly "here" and can clearly and unambiguously move "there."

TTS has other novel game mechanics. Anything involving chance is resolved using ordinary playing cards. Success at some task is accomplished by drawing a card, The harder the task, the higher a card you need. In our playtesting we found this speeds up the game more than you'd expect. Dice are fun. They also fall from the table, roll around, hit things, get stuck under terrain pieces and generally eat up a lot of time to use. Flipping a card is the same as rolling a ten sided die, just a lot quicker.

Warmaster 10mm Back on the Table!
TTS has several elements that will be familiar to miniature gamers. Units on the table can be represented in any fashion- the exact number of figures on a stand doesn't matter. You could use wooden tiles to represent units, or German flats, or even paper cutouts. For our playtest games we used my old 10mm Warmaster Ancients stands. There are also familiar damage saves, overall morale levels, and a need to use leaders for important moments in the battle.

My overall take on the game was very positive. The mechanics themselves practically fly along. I taught an eight year old how to play in a few minutes and rules checks were minimal. That being said, playing well demands some thought. You are rewarded to keeping a good battle line, for proper use of skirmishers, for having a second line and some reserves. You need to manage light troops as they are helpful but fragile. Leaders are given simple rules with some subtle implications that cause Roman armies to behave quite differently from Briton ones, for example. There is a push-your-luck mechanic to giving orders but you will always get to move your troops, unlike some turns of Hail Caeser or DBA for example. Finally, the game works one on one or with larger groups.

I've been looking lately for games that are fun, challenging, and drama free. For my World War 2 needs Chain of Command has hit the spot. To the Strongest! looks to be a playable and fun ancients rules set. It's simple enough to teach to kids but deep enough to give a challenging game to experienced players. The rules are well written, packed with great diagrams and photos, and absolutely priced to move. I'd recommend taking a look.


  1. Hi Mike, thanks for the kind words! I do love to see kids playing the rules. Best, Simon

  2. Hi Mike, thanks for the kind words! I do love to see kids playing the rules. Best, Simon