Home Forums Ancients Ancient Wargaming and Terrain (or lack of it) Reply To: Ancient Wargaming and Terrain (or lack of it)

A Lot of Gaul

That’s a bit like complaining that sea battles feature too much water, isn’t it?   

Seriously, the majority of large-scale ancient battles were fought on open plains, often anchored on one or both flanks by mountains, woods, rivers, or the sea. The types of close, massed formations used in most ancient armies tended to rapidly lose cohesion in anything other than relatively flat, featureless terrain. For that reason, choosing a battlefield with favorable terrain was actually enormously important to ancient commanders, particularly in regard to obtaining the high ground. Finding favorable terrain in which to deploy the army so as to make best use of its strengths (and exploit any weaknesses in the opponent’s forces) was a primary concern, and an ancient general would often refuse to do battle if possible, rather than fight on terrain that put his army at too great a disadvantage. Having said all that, terrain does feature prominently in a number of ancient battles – the Battle of Lake Trasimene during the Second Punic War being just one notable example.

Then there is the issue of scenario-based wargaming versus tournament play. In my experience, terrain features are often very important in historically-based and scenario-based ancients tabletop battles. Ancients tournament competitions, on the other hand, being concerned primarily with providing an even chance of victory – i.e. a ‘level playing field’ – for both sides, often do seem to be fought on tabletops featuring little or no terrain. This in turn could lead some players to assume that all ancient battles were done so.

Those are my thoughts as a long-time ancients wargamer, anyway.



"Ventosa viri restabit." ~ Harry Field