Hyborian Ancients

William Banks' Ancients has proven to have enormous staying power in the wargaming community, having migrated from his Good Industries to 3W to One Small Step. Victory Point Games has done Ancient Battles Deluxe which is a massive upgrade of the original game. For a while, a free version rested on Mike Nagel's site and it is now available here. Like many simple games, Ancients spawned numerous variants and probably hundreds of new scenarios in the last few decades. The article proposes some rules for using Ancients to fight battles set in Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.

Hyborian Armies

Howard's armies tended to be Ancient and Medieval mixes. They normally had Norman-style knights, pikemen, and archers. His eastern countries had horse archer-type forces. The following chart was created from several sources, including the Lancer editions of Howard's stories and various Marvel comics. Also useful was James Daunhauer's article in Yaquinto Dispatch #2. He offered thirteen armies for Yaquinto's Battle. Some countries are based on the sample armies in Scenario 17 in the game's first edition.

Country Force Pool (plus special rules)
Aquilonia 5 KT, 5 HC, 3 PX, 6 HA
Argos 2 HC, 4 LC, 2 PX, 6 LI, 2 HA, 2 LA
Asgard 6 HI, 2 MM, Barbarian Charge
Black Kingdoms 4 HI, 4 LI, 2 LA, 2 MM, Barbarian Charge
Brythunia 6 HC, 3 HI, 2 LI, 2 LA, 2 MM
Cimmeria 5 HI, 5 LI, 2 MM, Barbarian Charge
Corinthia 2 HC, 2 LC, 4 PX, 2 MM
Hyperborea 2 LC, 2 CH, 3 HI, 4 LI, 4 MM
Hyrkania 5 HC, 10 LC ('B' Missile rating)
Iranistan 4 HC, 6 LC ('B' Missile rating), 5 HI, 5 LI
Khitai 3 HC, 3 LC ('B' Missile rating), 2 PX, 6 HI, 4 LI, 3 LA
Koth 2 HC, 2 LC, 2 CH, 3 HI, 2 LI, 2 HA, 4 LA
Kush 4 LC, 5 HI, 2 LA, 2 MM
Nemedia 3 KT, 12 HC, 4 HI, 3 HA
Ophir 3 KT, 4 PX, 2 HA, 3 LA
Picts 15 LI, 2 MM, Barbarian Charge
Shem 10 LC ('B' Missile rating), 4 LI, 4 LA
Stygia 5 LC ('B' Missile rating), 5 CH, 6 LI, 6 LA
Turan 5 HC, 10 LC ('B' Missile rating), 4 HI, 5 LI, 5 LA
Vanaheim 6 HI, 2 MM, Barbarian Charge
Vendhya 3 LC, 2 CH, 7 HI, 2 LA, 2 MM, 2 EL
Zamora 3 LC, 2 PX, 2 HI, 2 LA, 2 MM, 2 EL
Zingara 2 KT, 2 HC, 6 HI, 2 LA

Army size varies with the country. Less developed countries receive MMs instead of archers. Elephants and Chariots are used to give certain armies an exotic cast. Hyrkanian forces do not need to use a camp. Smaller armies can employ mercenaries for play balance if both players agree. If using the Dueling rule, rate Conan as a '6' and 'Offensive.' If using a leader counter to represent Conan, have him triple units.


Each player has one wizard /sorcerer/magic-user type who can cast various spells. Each spell costs a cetain number of Magic Points. Each player starts with ten Points. Spells are cast after leaders are placed. Spell targets must be within five hexes of the caster. A wizard may cast only one spell per turn.

Spell Cost Description
Counter Spell 2 Pins the enemy wizard in place for one turn. He cannot cast a spell during that turn
Creatures 2 Caster can raise a supernatural unit. It must start on either flank of the caster's army and head for the nearest enemy unit.
Demon Birds (2-10)
Giant (10-1)
Zombie (2-2). If it touches an enemy unit, that unit becomes a zombie unit friendly to no one. It attacks the nearest unit which in turn can become zombified and so forth.
Defense 1 Doubles a friendly unit's defense factor for one turn
Freeze 1 Immobilizes an enemy unit for one turn
Invisibility 1 A friendly unit becomes invisible to the enemy and cannot be attacked for one turn
Leader Kill 2 Roll a die. Leader dies on a roll of 5 or 6. A roll of 4 removes him for one turn
Mind Control 2 Control one enemy unit for one turn
Mirage 1 Place a blank counter three hexes from an enemy unit. On its turn, the enemy unit must head for the blank counter until it reaches the counter, which then disappears
Revival 1 Unit flips from its disordered side to full strength
Rise of the Dead 3 Return a friendly unti from the dead pile to game. It must start in a friendly camp
Speed 1 Doubles a friendly unit's speed for one turn
Storm 4 Place a storm marker (use a blank counter) two hexes from the Wizard. It then moves towards the enemy army. However, once a path is chosen for the storm, it cannot deviate from that path. Full strength units, both enemy and friendly, flip over. Already disordered units are removed from the board.
Wizard Kill 4 Roll a die. Wizard dies on a roll of 6 and is removed for a turn on a 4 or 5

The Valley of Lions

JagdPanther Publications's Bushwhacker #6 carried the Valley of the Lions (sic) minigame based on the battle in Conan the Conqueror. To play this using Ancients use Map C. Each sets up at one end of the valley (the area between the forests).

Aquilonia gets 5 HC, 4 LC, 5 HA, 8 HI, 1 Camp, 2 LDR. One leader is Conan who triples units.

Nemedia gets 8 HC, 5 LC, 5 LA, 6 HI, 1 Camp, 2 LDR, and 1 Sorcerer with 5 Magic Points.

Campaign Rules

There are plenty of maps of the Hyborian Age available. The books and comics have printed lots of these. In addition, one can use the gameboards from Hyborian Risk or Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game.

To play a campaign, simply attack a neighboring realm. Choose a battle map at random or have one player pick the map and the other gets to choose his starting location. If you win, you can replace one half of your lost units (round up) and incorporate half of the enemy's starting units into your army for subsequent campaigns. Countries not played by a player are neutral. If you invade one, have the other player command the neutral.

Portions of this maerial appeared in the Strategist 24 (November 1994) and on Mike Nagel's old web site.




Avalon Hill and the Civil War Centennial by Peter L. de Rosa