Hello my old friend...

My local Wednesday-night club has had a bit of an ancients revival, spurred on by Warlord Games' SPQR. Several units of Romans and Celts have been painted and games played. So many have been painted in fact, there is talk of a club campaign based in the Imperial Roman period, and talk of larger scale battles.

We now have a good number of ancient players at the South Devon Games Club - Ben, James, Chris, Mal and myself - with the possibility of others joining in. That is a lot of people and a lot of growing armies, giving the potential for very large encounters. So what rules set should we use for our big battles? Should we stick to just one or use several? The answer is to try them out and see what people like. Hail Caesar and Swordpoint are obvious candidates but first on the list was my old friend... Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB).

I haven't played a game of WAB in several years. Despite being a little rusty, it all returned to me - the turn sequence, what specific weapons do (such as the odd rapid fire slings at short range) and all those little special rules (drilled, warband, etc). James and I are veteran players, so what I didn't remember rules wise, he did. The basic book contains army lists for the Imperial Romans and Celts, just what we wanted.

The game was great fun. Ben had played previous editions of Warhammer Fantasy, so picked up the mechanisms in the game quickly. The game does have its limitations, such as the ease of command and control and some imbalance in the army lists. The original Roman and Celt lists, however, are fairly well matched. All the photos in this blog were taken by Chris' daughter.

WAB will be the first of several games we'll try. It proved very popular, with two players scouting after the game on Ebay for copies of the original rulebook. So there will probably be more games of WAB in our future. The game may be out of print, but it is not forgotten and not unloved. I've missed playing it.

6 thoughts on “Hello my old friend...”

  • Jeff Jonas

    Glad you had fun with it! WAB has elements that make it great game in-period and among friends. It is nice to see folks dust it off. My mentor Allen Curtis was correct- WAB needed a real full time editor, and did not get one until revision two. By then the second version was so overblown and expensive and out of date that it kind of was sad to watch. I always felt the 1.5 version was the best- and could have been better, if they had not already envisioned a 2.0 redo. But that was/is how GW and their satellites operate.

    There is kind of a wierd formula in Wargames- the more popular they get, the worse the games can become. I remember the first tournaments where like minded folks brought what they had painted of their best version of their favorite period army. Later on as the events got bigger more players showed up with perverse armies tailored to winning- The Carthaginian army completely devoid of any cavalry, the Persian and Indians with the same lack of cavalry, even Macedonians eschewing cavalry in favor of a historical staff slingers.. All because they could jam in more tournament friendly troops. But the games looked weirder and weirder.

    Ultimately it was the structure of the army lists that lacked core units, and the myriads of special rules that buried the game- mea culpa.

  • Wesley Myers

    Great to hear!

    It always seems to me when I look at ancients' rules I'm comparing them to WAB.

    That's telling on how good something really is.

    Tell them to have a look at the Warhammer Historicals Facebook page, as well as various sites like The Miniatures Page (TMP) as sometimes extra copies of the WAB books get listed on there.

  • Wim

    It's been year since we played WAB! But was very popular here. I just never understood why a game could not be played because there was no "official" support no more. I would play it again of someone else in the local club would! (Version 1.5 that is)

  • Rohan Wilmott

    Wow, WAB...that takes me back. Guy, perhaps you could look at War & Conquest Rules...it seems to have a number of features in common with WAB, but most of the wrinkles ironed out. Has a good support website too.

    Mind you, since WAB and most large scale ancients rules were written, there has been a move away from the omniscient and guaranteed command and control.....chits/markers/dice drawn from bags, only a percentage of units activated, unit activation failure marking turn end, and card mechanisms (I especially love the "Tiffin" card of the Two Fat Ladies Rules) to name a few.

    Jeff J, I hear you! I always loved your historical army postings on various sites in the past, as well as pictures of your amazing figures. I printed them off, filed them carefully (unfortunately not electronically), and still use them as useful references.

    As a "jaded & burned out" ex-DBM & WAB competition player, my advice is to play "League of Gentleman" style games where fun (most important), nice figures and terrain, good sportsmanship and historical authenticity with like minded souls is the order of the day. Whether you win or lose, it should be a great way to have spent the time. Rules lawyers and list manipulators definitely to be declared persona non grata!

    Also linked battle scenario campaigns like those in books by Charles S Grant for the 18th century or mini-campaigns in rules like SAGA, etc can provide excellent entertainment.

    So Have Fun!! Cheers, Rohan.

  • Russell Heath

    Just rediscovered WAB and converted a friend to it. Now to convert others... That is not dead which can eternal lies Lovercraft wrote

  • Stefan-Georg Fuchs
    Stefan-Georg Fuchs February 15, 2021 at 9:23 pm

    Hi, same here. Rediscovered WAB playing a 14. century english army against a club comrade who's playing the french...hehe

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