The Web is good at providing people with an outlet for their particular obsessions. Before the Internet, fans of the obscure pursued their interests in relative anonymity, perhaps using the occasional newsletter to link those following such things as the one-hit rock group, a defunct sporting league, the unknown poet, or even the wargame with a small, but passionate following. The net now allows these scattered, yet dedicated, experts to create web pages as both a shrine to, and the major information center for whatever caught their interest years ago. Wargaming has dozens of these now. Mike Nagel’s Ancients Web Site is a good example.
William Banks created Ancients in 1988 under his Good Industries imprint. It is a simple game of pregunpowder tactical warfare, with each of its sixteen scenarios using one 8.5 x 11 inch map, a small number of the nicely-done counters (which give an aerial view of the battle), and minimal rules, even with the optional ones thrown in. Banks included generic army lists and a scenario generator for design-your-own purposes. The game’s two editions sold well and Banks soon added King of Kings (Good Industries, 1990) as a strategic counterpart and scenario generator for Ancients. Wargame reviewers, who normally trash any game that has less than fifty pages of rules and is playable in under ten hours, decided that they actually liked this one, pausing only to criticize the box cover art just to keep in practice.
Eventually, Ancients and King of Kings migrated to 3W, which gave both an overhaul. Ancients was re-released in 1992 in two volumes with sixty-four scenarios. Naval rules, scenarios, and maps (mostly water) were added, along with new cover artwork. The two volumes were combined in a one-box fourth edition in 1994, shortly before 3W’s demise. King of Kings also was redone as Imperator, this time with areas instead of hexes.
Ancients also began appearing in Gamefix magazine in 1994, with the first issue featuring two new scenarios and maps. Subsequent issues have carried more scenarios, reprinted maps from the 3W edition, and offered more rules. One Small Step, which published the magazine as Competitive Edge for a while and now uses both titles, continues to support the game. Even better, they announced that they would issue the entire game as freeware over the Web, and then decided to let Nagel do it.
Besides offering the complete game, the nicely-done Ancients site offers fans all types of additional material. There is a survey of the game’s rules and history, answers to rules questions, comprehensive unit and scenario lists, as well as five Japanese and six tournament scenarios. Simple games tend to generate variants, and the site has an extensive collection of these. They include a method for using Empires of the Middle Ages (SPI) as a campaign game, an advanced rules system based on DBA/DBM, optional rules for varying game length and chariots, additional units and armies, Cyberboard information, and a three-player scenario. There is also a reprint of my November 1994 Strategist article featuring gunpowder rules, Hyborian armies, and methods for using Men-At-Arms maps and Prestags scenarios. (shameless plug)
Sites like this one should serve to enhance players’ enjoyment of the game, and the Ancients pages do it about as well as anyone else. Hopefully, Nagel will add materials on King of Kings and Imperator in the future. In the meantime, those thinking of doing tributes to their favorite games should visit.
Peter L. de Rosa
Note: The original version of this review appeared in Strategist 29 (February 1999):5 as "Ancients Sites." The Strategist is the newsletter of the Strategy Gaming Society.
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