WRG Ancients

The following article is reprinted (with permission) from the NASAMW archive (author uncredited)

This game is what is normally called "WRG." This is the current and probably final edition of a set of rules which has been the standard for ancient period minitiatures. They are quite involved and detailed. They are the most commonly used rules for ancient tournaments.

While they break down as a simulation in some areas, especially when used for battles between non-historical opponents, they do give believable results in many historical match ups. Due to the length of the rules and the poor organization and style, there are many ambiguities and potential areas for argument. This aspect of the rules can be a major problem especially in tournament play.

7th edition will be especially difficult to pick up and learn just from the rules book. You would do much better to find someone who knows the rules to introduce you to them before wading to read them.

The rules include a fairly complex command system using orders, and restrictions on command control. These place some restrictions on what units can do while still leaving substantial flexibility for the experienced player. The flexibility allowed by the command control in 7th edition allows for good tournament games, but may well be inaccurate as a simulation.

For what is worth, Phil Barker [the designer of WRG 7th] currently considers the 7th edition approach to ancient warfare to be a dead end. DBA/DBM is his newer approach to this period.

What You Think

Chris Tebo (
Let me preface my opinions on the fact that I prefer WRG 7th Edition rules. Having said this, I have also played DBA, DBM, Tactica, and Tactica Medieval. I also own and have read the following: Ancient Empires, Armati, Classical Hack, Might of Arms, Shock of Impact, and WRG 6th. I can honestly say that I like some facets of all the rules I have mentioned. Hopefully, this will be an honest opinion of how I feel about WRG 7th.

I have seen many opinions on Ancients rulesets over the past few years. I do agree that WRG 7th is not an easy rules set to learn, and arguments do still occasionally occur. It has been my experience that arguments have diminished to almost non-existence over the last few years. I base this on my tournament attendance over the years. The NASAMW interpretations have helped clarify the rules to a great extent.

I must agree that the rules are not well organized, and written in such a way that Americans have a difficult time deciphering them! I agree that the rules need to be read and then learned from an experienced player. This is because nuances of the game are not evident in reading the rules. This is just as true with most other rulesets. The learning curve is just longer with 7th.

Okay, enough of what the problems are with the rules. What is right with the rules, you ask? In my opinion, the rules allow the more talented tactician and strategist to win. In other rules systems, too much is left to the roll of the die or to predicted outcomes based on superiority of troop types. In WRG, it is possible that any troop type can win a combat if used effectively:

  • Skirmishers win by weakening the enemy
  • Shock troops win by avoiding missile fire and closing in
  • Close order foot wins by protecting its flanks and avoiding rough terrain
  • Light troops win by using maneuver and terrain to its best advantage

All of these tactics are historically accurate. The winner of a game is the player that can best combine these tactics with an overall strategy. It is the talent and experience of the player that can make the outcome inevitable - not the mechanics of the rules. It is very rare that the dice decide a game. Rather, it is the tactics that the players use that decide outcomes. Mistakes in tactics lead to losses. Deliberate tactics lead to wins. That simple. In so many other games, the outcome of the combat is left to assuring that the match-up favors the victor.

In WRG, you are not restricted to deploy your troops as they were historically. Remember, in the past, the most successful general was the one who broke with tradition to win battles. In many situations, historical deployment is best. Why should you be restricted to this if you feel you have a better strategy? To me, maneuver is the most important aspect in winning a battle. Everyone has heard "get there fastest with the mostest" or get on the flanks or rear of the enemy and you are assured of winning. WRG allows this type of maneuver. No other ruleset seems to allow this while balancing realism, in my opinion.

Frankly, I don't like a rules system that leaves the outcome of a combat solely to a troop type or to a die roll. While it is true that die rolls are used with WRG, the die roll itself is not the leading factor in the total battle. Tactics and strategy are.

In some rules systems, one side will always win because their troop types are superior to the enemies. In Tactica, Romans almost always defeat the Macedonians. This is because Romans are rated superior to the Macedonians in Tactica. Not because the Romans used superior tactics. No matter what you have read, it is not the pilum that beat the Macedonians - it was the superior tactics and maneuverability that made them win.

In DBM, realistically, you are forced to put your troops in large battle groups stand-to-stand. This is because maneuver is based on die rolls. This type of maneuver is restrictive and not realistic. It does simulate some historical battlelines. The problem, as I see it, is that it does not allow for the true maneuverability of the troop types. Granted, you can spit up your battle groups, but this is at the expense of using up "pips" and possibly not being able to maneuver other troops. Also, the spontaneous advance presumes that field-level commanders can't react to situations. The ability to freely move any unit on the table (within restrictions) makes WRG 7th a more tactical level and maneuver friendly game to me.

I am not out to say that WRG is the best set of rules ever written, and that everyone should use them. Rather, I believe it is important to examine why you play ancients/medievals and decide what level of realism is important for you.

  • If you want to have fun, have a short game and not worry about tactics as much, play DBA
  • If you want the complexities of command and control down to the tactical level, play Ancient Empires
  • If you like predictable outcomes and restricted maneuverability, play Tactica
  • If you like the luck of the die roll, somewhat predictable outcomes and restricted maneuverability, play DBM

Hey, it's your time, pick what you like. Personally, I am a student of history, and enjoy trying to be a strategist and tactician first and foremost. For me, no other ruleset gives me the balanced level between tactics/strategy, maneuverability and histrorical flavor like WRG 7th. To me, it is a more intellectual game.

Good luck, no matter what rules you like. Choose your own level of realism, and play the game that best fits it. Remember, in whatever game you play, there are no superior rules - just superior generals!

Larry Essick (
Just an observation about the WRG 7th Edition rules....

Games played using WRG 7th do not need to result in confrontations between players. The North American Society of Ancient and Medieval Wargamers (NASAMW) regularly sponsors tournaments featuring WRG 7th. In the last 2 years, conflict between players has been less than that found between players of DBM. This is because NASAMW has used a fairly uniform set of rules interpretations for the last 6 years. DBM, however, is still undergoing the growing pains common among new rules sets. Our experience is that aggressive players (read: antagonistic or argumentative players) tend to play confrontational games regardless of the rules being used.

Additionally, WRG 7th is not an overly complicated rules system. The complexity in Warhammer 40K, for example, is much higher. The difference is in the writing styles of the authors. All WRG products suffer from a certain obtuseness that is the result of Phil Barker's writing of English rather than American (apologies to non-US readers). The WRG 7th rules are not intended for lazy readers.

Lastly, WRG 7th is not a dead-end gaming system. While it is true that the current version (v. 7.5) is likely the last that WRG will produce, new material is still being produced to support the game. The latest product is a revision of army lists to replace the old WRG 6th edition lists that are commonly used. Additionally, several areas in the US continue to use WRG 7th edition in preference to any of the new rules systems (DBM, Armati, etc.).

Leon Wu (bad email address)
I consider myself a novice miniatures wargamer, but having tried WRG 7th several times, played a game of Classical Hack, and read the rules for DBM, I must say I still consider WRG to be the best rules set (at least in my opinion). I was taught by a veteran who trounced me several times (with unashamed glee) as I learned how an ancients battle could be fought. I found the other 2 rules sets to be too broad or widesweeping.

Then again, I still enjoy playing Star Fleet Battles, so I may be a masochist.

Dr. P.J.D. Lambshead (
WRG 7 has been completely abandoned by the club I play at in favour of WRG 6 and Ancient Empires. The problem is that I have never seen a game completed without a major rules row. The rules are complex and not well written. A definite no-no except for masochists.

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Online Resources

BHGS 1994 Rules Interpretations
The interpretations are available at the British Historical Games Society website.
NASAMW 1994 Rules Interpretations
The official rules clarifications, sanctioned by the designers, as determined by NASAMW.
Ewan's Wargames Page
Optimized armies and tournament reports. By Ewan McNay (
If you know of additional online resources, or if you have material you would like to make available to the Net, please let us know.

Last Updates
16 April 1999comments by Chris Tebo
comments by Larry Essick
19 September 1998added link to Ewan
NASAMW archive no longer online
3 July 1997Leon Wu's comments
20 June 1997link to BHGS interps
1 April 1997reorganized
Comments or corrections?