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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The Roman World – Playing the Period

For the Senate and People of Rome! 

Rules Set of Choice: To the Strongest!

“Ancients” was never really my thing. I’d dabbled in it though. At university I had a 15mm Early Republican Roman army. However, I soon abandoned ancients for other eras – mainly the Second World War and Horse & Musket. The problem was, t I never really liked the rules on offer. WRG  5th, 6th or 7th editions  seemed to suck the fun out of the period. Phil Barker’s rules were written in impenetrable legalese. Next came DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) and DBM (De Bellis Multitudinis).  When I worked at the Royal Armouries  we curators sometimes played 15mm DBA games at lunchtime, but I found the rules very “formulaic”. DBM was worse – while some people love it I found it fiddly, quirky and dull. It didn’t help that players were always arguing over interpreting the badly written rules.Anc-08I sort of missed out on the whole Warhammer Ancient Battles . Sure, I played a game or two using them, but I found them a little too clunky for my liking. Like any Warhammer offerings these involved rolling buckets of dice, and after all those “to hit” rolls, saving throws and armour rolls I  felt there must be an easier way of reaching the same result. The guys in my Edinburgh club then embraced Impetus, but as I didn’t have an ancient army at the time I left them to it. Others tried the Osprey set Fields of Glory, but most eventually opted for  Hail Caesar.

Hail Caesar, was based on Black Powder – a rules set I use a lot and know well. However,  Hail Caesar  have their own  subtleties. This led to another development. I started painting up a Roman army. Romans of this era are really easy to paint – apart from the shields. I used shield transfers, but made a real hash of them. Fortunately my pal Jack Glanville finished them for me, and he did a splendid job. My Marian Romans, Caesar’s Romans – call them what you will – these Foundry figures really look the part.


My Ancient bug dimmed a bit, but it was soon revived when a new rules set appeared. To the Strongest came as a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t rely on tape measures or dice. Instead a barely – perceptible grid covers the table, and you use it for movement. Everything else is resolved using cards. For the purist this probably wouldn’t work, but for me it was just what I was looking for. It was fast, simple, and above all great fun.

I’ve got the bug back.  I expanded my collection to include a Gallic army (a hassle to paint but we’ll worth the effort), which allows me to stage Gallic War games. Now all I need are Germans, Parthians, Britons and more Romans!

Before I finish I just want to plug two authors. What inspired me to paint up Late Republican Romans in the first place were the Roman historic novels of Coleen McCullough. They cover the careers of Gaius Marius, Sulla, Pompey and Caesar, plus dozens of others. If you haven’t read these novels then you’ve got a treat in store. Then there’s Tom Holland’s brilliant Rubicon – a history of the decline of the Roman Republic. It really is a page turner, and really gives you an insight into the political and military world of the Roman Republic at its fractious height. Read it and before you know it you’ll be ordering Marian Roman figures!


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