Ancient Pub Battles Review

Ancient Pub Battles: Cannae

Ancient Pub Battles is now available from Command Post Games. It is available for the very economical price of $44.76, Get it here. This is possible because it needs no map, Ancient battles having been generally fought on level fields. Disclaimer: The faux leather playing mat is my own pimpware, purchased from a local fabric store. It looks cool, but is absolutely unnecessary.

Ancient Pub Battles is markedly different from its black powder era predecessors. Rather than command being dependent on subordination (Army>Corps>Division), it is dependent on proximity. The leaders move first and then measure command from their final position. Additionally, it does not matter if the unit has already moved. If you have three leaders, they could move the same unit 3 times! As powerful as this sounds, it means that the rest of your army is just stationary. That is a rare luxury to have. Usually, you are strapped trying to keep your army in one piece.

Instead of depending on units in range, a leader may move adjacent to a block of adjacent units and that whole block may move as one, even if parts of it are out of the leaders command range. In the early turns it is quite easy to move your entire army around, after the lines clash and the large blocks get broken up, you are left trying to manage disparate forces, some ready to press a defeated foe, others spent and fleeing.

The basic game comes with 4 kinds of infantry, 2 kinds of Cav, and elephants! I’m sure future scenarios will include even more.

True to Pub Battles nature, the focus is on a quick play, command focused, gaming experience. This is ideal for those with less time, or for taking along while traveling. If you want a more detailed and specific simulation experience, this may not be for you.

I say may because one of the best features of this system is how adaptable it is to personal preferences. Do you think Roman Legions should get a special bonus? Knock yourself out! The system plays well and is balanced as is. Once you start changing things, all bets are off.

In that spirit, here are the mods I am currently using, developed after a few games.

Cavalry gets +1. This replaces the official rule that cav gets -1 v. fresh units and +1 v. spent units. I feel this is a remnant from the black powder rules where units formed squares. The effect of the official rule is to make cavalry skittish and useless except when facing spent troops and this doesn’t quite feel right, to me.

The Historical scenarios are balanced as is and shouldn’t be changed. For DYO point buy battles, I make leaders work a little differently. For each pip on their leadership rating they get a command action. Each block (of one or more units) requires one pip to move. It also costs one pip to rally one unit. All such units must be within command range with blocks of units only requiring a part of the block within range. Each side gets 9-12 pips (each side equal).
Ex. For 12 points you could get a 5, a 4, and a 3 pip leader, or four 3 pip leaders, or any other combination adding up to 12.

Interestingly, If you play the historical scenarios using this rule, you will see how Hannibal managed to win so many battles. This may even be more historically accurate, but it certainly isn’t fun to play Rome!

12 thoughts on “Ancient Pub Battles Review

  1. Loving playing this so far. Still hammering out the mods that make the most sense to me. The mechanic of losing HQs is vicious and makes for great situations. It could be considered gamey, but also fun. At first thought the battlefield size seamed small, but now think it’s just right. Crazy how much can happen in the first turn if both sides play aggressively!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whats your take on alter turn by delaying in this version? I cannot see the benefit of it now that attacks happen after every activation. Seems like its always benificial to move first all the time.


      1. Thanks for the quick reply. Is there anytime a reason to let the enemy commit first?


  3. Also one things I have house ruled is that a unit may only flank if it ”start” its activation with its center point behind the extended line of the enemies front. Otherwise All attacks often end up being some kind of flank attack since movement rate is huge and even of penelized down to 1/3 you can basiclly move around units which dont seem very realistic aswell as making it much more dependent on luck. Whats your experience with constant flanking? (You seem very experienced with the system, hence all the questions;)). Love your blog by the way:)


  4. Johan, thanks for the kind words! I find that such a lax rule as exists in the Ancient Pub Battles rules is too much, as you have noted. I like your solution. My solution is to only apply the flanking penalty if more than one attacker is contacting a defender.


    1. Thanks a lot for your awnsers. Totally agree. And at its core I think the ancient version is fantastic! So many possibilities.


  5. May I ask? I have been looking into your command alternitive with 12 command points. First of I love it, its so genius and really adds a lot to hard choices. Makes me think that this should be standard. I just wonder if you still use jump a head and delay when using this? Im thinking of skipping it since everyone always try to jump ahead and instead just have a normal chit draw and players have to build there stratgey around that uncertenty. The second thing is when using your version do leaders still need to be adjecent to activate a block of units (group) and that is what they chose to activate instead of separate units within command range like in the original rules or can they activate all blocks of units (groups) within command range? The later might be too powerfull. Thanks a lot in advanced!


  6. I totally agree with you on altering turn order. Deciding whether to jump ahead or delay is critical in the black powder rules because combat isn’t resolved until after both armies have moved. In Ancients, you pretty much always want to go first.

    Maybe only allowing a roll to delay (no chance to jump ahead) would make more sense. Then, on the rare occasion when that was desired, you could roll for it.


  7. Recently purchased Ancient Pub Battles and working through the rules and looking at home rules to fill in gaps. I have the following questions:

    1) Based on this link (, one-mile equals 3.75-inches. Do you agree that for the APB, this should be a ROMAN MILE, which equals 2,000-paces or 5,000-feet?

    2) The rules equate DETACHMENT units with VELITES, which were javelin units used to skirmish enemy lines. However, it is not necessarily the case that Carthaginian or Gaulish skirmishers also used javelins. They were just as likely to be slingers or bowmen I think. The effective range of a javelin is roughly 20-yards. But the effective range of a sling or a bow is much further if arched. I wonder if you have given any thought to home-rules for skirmishers…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The advantage to Pub Battles is it is a very robust system, and you can “Salt to taste.” Also remember that Pub Battles is a command focused system, that smooths over a lot of combat detail. I think that PB:A is a very fun game, I do not rate it very highly as an ancients simulation.

      When I was playing ancients, I preferred the DBA and DBM system.

      I am still very happy to answer any rules questions re: Pub Battles: Ancients!


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