What Wargaming Rules to use for the Fall of Rome and Dark Ages?

What wargaming rules to use for the Fall of Rome and the Barbarian Kingdoms? I’ve considered DBA, HOTT, FOG, and Commititus.


Actually DBA is okay for this period. As is HOTT. Now I’m playing Big Base DBA and Big Base HOTT.

Example Battle Reports:


I was using DBM for all my ancients for years. But abandoned it about the time everybody did. It isn’t great for this period. Barbarians were too uncontrollable under DBM before 3.0 – in particular combining mounted generals and spontaneous foot hordes was historical but impossible under the rules. And the small bases gave too much control to a general.

Field of Glory (FoG)

I’ve tried Field of Glory for this period including writing up an Alan versus Roman battle. Okay, one battle isn’t too conclusive but it seemed alright. But by the time I played this game I’d gone off FoG because it is rubbish at the Punic Wars.

Example Battle Reports:

Dux Bellorum

Source: Dux Bellorum: Arthurian Wargaming Rules AD367–793

Lots of people like Dux Bellorum for the Dark Ages. I tried it once and wasn’t too impressed. My big issue with the rules is that I couldn’t distinguish the various troop types. All of the units seemed to operate like heavy infantry. Some of them were brittle heavy infantry (skirmishers) and some where hard as nails heavy infantry (mounted companions and cataphracts) and the rest were just normal heavy infantry (warriors, shield wall). Okay they all had different factors but the net effect was that some were normal, some brittle and some hard as nails. The skirmishers didn’t / couldn’t skirmish in the rules. And my impression of cavalry combat is that it is more volatile than the foot but in this game the cavalry was as solid as the infantry – and in some cases more so.

Because everything behaved like heavy infantry the game was quite grindy. It took a long time with a lot of dice rolling but without much happening on the table.

I didn’t like all the factors as well. I was forever looking up the factors in the rule book. And to make it worse different types of factors were on tables on different pages. Very annoying. And slow.

Chris objected to the number of markers on table. The Leadership Point gems. The casualty dice. All got characterised as “table clutter” by my opponent.

On the plus side it was nice to break the “all armies have 12 elements” aspect of DBA.

Example Battle Reports:

Red Spear, Black Crow

Source: None yet.

Red Spear, Black Crow are a very draft set of Dark Age rules from Morningstar Productions. The introduction says “Red Spear, Black Crow is a set of rules for large, fast­playing Dark Ages wargames, set between 378 and 1071AD”.

We played one game. We enjoyed the game and the rules. We’d be happy to continue to play test them. Here are a few of the specific aspects that appealed:

  • the unusual terrain set up i.e. the stream
  • the focus on the commanders
  • the pre-battle appeal to the fates – it is pretty simple but adds flavour
  • the use of Fate points in general – in a sense they are a structured way to break the rules
  • the easy scenario generation so it wasn’t just a line ’em up game
  • the decisive result of each combat and of the game
  • We did feel the rules were slightly too complicated. This is a reflection of that fact there are lots of bits – some of them I listed in the “aspects that appealed” but they all come with different rule mechanisms.

One example of complication that didn’t seem to add value was the combat outcome results table. We found most fights resulted in a kill, usually a Noble Cavalry killing a Warband. Only twice did we have to refer to the chart used to give a non-kill result. Seems too much complication for something that hardly came up.

The big dislike is that the combat was very one-sided. Noble Cavalry hunting down and killing Warband. The Warband has zero chance of retaliation. We thought the cavalry factors should be reduced.

And, of course, there is the thing about boars head and shieldwall. Personally I’d like both changed. Boars head to a deep column and shieldwall to a formation.

Example Battle Reports:

One Hour Wargames

One Hour Wargames are another popular set of rules for the Fall of Rome and Dark Ages. We played a couple of games.

The One Hour Wargames rules are okay. Two big stodgy armies grinding away at each other. Yup. That feels kind of Dark Age. So, the rules score alright there. Where they fail is on, well, excitement. Dice rolling grind, because it takes a long time to kill things. Having said that flank attacks are relatively potent and only take a couple of turns to eliminate the target.

Mind you, what can you expect from a set of rules that only stretches to 3 pages.

And the rules could do with elaboration so we didn’t have to make rules in an ad hoc manner. For example, the argument about what was on a hill was distracting from the game.

The game is quick. Probably within the promised 1 hour time limit.

Example Battle Reports:

Simon McDowell’s Commititus

Source: Legio Wargames

To quote Simon:

Comitatus is a complete set of wargames rules designed to simulate warfare in Europe and the Mediterranean from about AD 200 to 1100. They have been primarily designed with Barbarian Migrations period in mind but the rules cover warfare from Imperial Rome through to the First Crusade. Comitatus is a fast moving game that is relatively easy to master. Full- scale battles representing tens of thousands of troops on each side can easily be fought to a conclusion in 3-4 hours.

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