WARGAMES RESEARCH GROUP - Rules Ancient and Modern
and other periods in between.
by Sue Laflin-Barker

When the ANCIENT WAR GAMES RESEARCH GROUP was set up in 1969, it consisted of three people - "Bob" O'Brien, Phil Barker and Ed Smith (Bob and Phil are shown here). They produced the first set of Ancient Wargames Rules for the National Championships held in Worthing that summer and sufficient copies were printed for those taking part in the Championship. A copy of this first edition is included here in pdf-format and may be downloaded.

The rules were popular and in July 1969, after a few minor amendments, copies were printed and offered for sale. Amendment sheets were produced in the form of revised sections on sticky paper, which could be stuck into the rule book. The version of the second edition Ancients included here has the last set of amendments, dated February 1971, inserted in it. At about this time, Ed Smith dropped out and Phil and Bob continued as partners. They formed a company "REG GAMES Ltd" to produce and sell the sets of wargames rules.

The third edition Ancients was published in September 1971 and lasted for two years. During that time at least one set of amendments was produced and they have been inserted into the copy scanned and included here. It was the set used by Phil's wife Sue and some of the changes have been written in in her handwriting. Someone out there may have a pristine, never-used set but we do not and so can only supply a copy of much-used set with the latest amendments.

Meanwhile rules for other periods were also developed and published and the name was changed to "Wargames Research Group". These included the original set of rules for 1750-1850, the main wars in this period being those against Napoleon. The set included here are the orginal set published in January 1971 with the amendmends, issued in March 1972, inserted in them.

In June 1972, they produced a set for Infantry Action (1925-1975), which have continued in use for many years. The copy here may still be of interest to wargames today, but it has been largely superceded by "The Sharp End", a set currently being developed which may be seen on Phil's webpage.

The set of rules for Armour and Infantry 1925-1950 were first published in June 1973 and were intended for use with the 1/300 scale models which were just becoming available. The copy included here has Phil's amendments for the second edition (published in 1975) written in it. This was followed in June 1988 by the current edition, which has a number of army lists included in it and had been available from REG GAMES Ltd for many years.


The fourth edition of the Ancient rules was published in August 1973 and continued in use for the next two years. The version of fourth edition Ancients included here has had at least one set of amendments added and is the last version in use.

In 1975, Phil wrote the "AIRFIX guide to Ancient Wargaming" (usually known as the "purple primer") and this was published in September 1975. Although long out-of-print, it is still in demand and in 2010, John Curry reprinted it along with the sixth edition of the Ancients rules (see below). At the time it was written, the current edition of the Ancient rules was fourth edition and so the examples in the primer refer to this edition.

Coming to the "MODERN" rule sets, the period covered has always been slightly in advance of the publication date. The set for 1950 to 1975 was published in January 1974 while the next edition for Armour and Infantry 1950-1985 appeared in June 1979 - this is the set included here because we no longer have a copy of the first edition. Finally the current set for the period 1950-2000 was actually published in January 1993. Like the set for 1925-1950, this also differs from the earlier editions in having a number of army lists included in it and has been available from REG GAMES Ltd for many years. Copies may still be available from some suppliers and Paul Bailey still has a few shop-soiled copies. Contact him for details at keepwrg@talk21.com or telephone (in UK) on 01380-724-558.

The fifth edition of the Ancients rules was published in January 1976 and amendments were produced in November 1976 and November 1977. Once again the version of fifth edition Ancients included here is the latest version. This was accompanied by a book of Army Lists, published in April 1977.

In June 1976, a set of War Games Rules for the period 1490-1660 written by George Gush was published and this was followed in April 1978 by a slim book of 41 Army Lists. In 1979, the second edition was published and followed in March 1984 by a much thicker book of Army Lists which now included 90 armies. Since George now owns the copyright, no pdf version is included here.


In April 1977, the set of rules for the period 1685-1845 was published and they remained firm favourites for many years. In addition to the rules, the book also contained army lists for Malburian and Seven-Years-War armies as well as the campaigns in India which preceded the Napoleonic Wars. The delay in publishing the "Horse, Foot and Guns" set of rules has given this earlier set an even longer lifetime than was originally expected.

Sixth edition Ancients was published in August 1980 and was a major revision and simplification of the previous sets, which had gradually increased in complexity over the years. It proved so popular that it continued in use long after its replacement by seventh edition and other later sets. It has recently (2010) been reprinted by John Curry in his "History of Wargames" project, along with the "Purple Primer", and copies may be purchased from him (price £14.95, for details see his web page www.johncurryevents.co.uk).

These were followed by three volumes of Army Lists; Book One (3000BC-75AD) in August 1981; Book Two (55BC-1000AD) in January 1982; and Book Three (Originating after 1000AD) in November 1982.

Seventh edition Ancients was published in February 1986, followed by updated versions in November 1987 and August 1992. By now, new updated editions were being published rather than issuing amendment sheets.






With the next decade came a completely new approach and the first sign of this was the publication, in March 1990, of the first edition of DE BELLIS ANTIQUITATIS (usually known as "DBA). The title (inspired by Caesar's De Bello Gallico) may be variously translated as "Concerning Ancient Wars" or "About the wars of the Ancients" or other similar phrases. The copy of first edition DBA included here is well-worn copy with notes and amendments written in it, but it gives a good idea of this whole group of rules. The method has since been applied to many other periods and DBA itself has gone through several editions. Version 1.1 appeared in March 1995, Version 2.0 in February 2001, followed by Version 2.1 and the current version (Version 2.2 in January 2004). In addition to minor changes in the rules themselves, the later editions had greatly expanded army lists, with references to background reading, lists of enemies and allies and specification of the types allowed for the general's element. This trend will continue in Version 3.0, which is currently (2010) under development, but is unlikely to appear before the end of the year (2012).


The concepts of DBA were quickly applied to other areas. The next set (published in October 1991) was "Hordes of the Things" (or HOTT) a set for fantasy wargaming in which magic is not all-powerful but merely one part of the action. The army lists in these rules were based "mainsteam fantasy authors and current fantasy wargaming practice, myths, legends and traditional epics, and on fictional equivalents of historical armies". One unexpected result was the use of the "Napoleonic Semi-Historical" for light-hearted Napoleonic games. However there are some omissions - since the fantasy authors own the copyright on the characters in their books, it was only possible to include armies whose authors who gave permission. A second edition of HOTT, with minor changes to the rules and still more armies in the lists, was published in April 2002.

I am pleased to announce that HORDES OF THE THINGS Version 2.1 is now (2014) printed and may be ordered from Amazon.co.uk - Details may be seen among the WRG Publications.

Although the DBA rules were popular, many players had large collections of ancient troops and were reluctant to select the 12 elements used in DBA and leave all the rest unused. So in February 1993, DE BELLIS MULTITUDINIS (or DBM) appeared.
This was followed by four volumes of army lists (Book One 3000BC to 500BC and Book Two 500BC to 476AD in June 1993, Book Three 476AD to 1071 AD in February 1994 and Book Four 1071AD to 1500AD in June 1994) and Version 1.1 of DBM in June 1994. Latereditions of DBM followed (including Version 1.3 in March 1996, Version 2.0 in October 1997 and Version 3.0 in July 2000) as well as second editions of the Army Lists.
With the demise of Reg Games Ltd in 2010, DBM was no longer available. Copyright reverted to the authors (Phil Barker and Richard Bodley Scott) and in 2011 they agreed that a downloadable copy of DBM 3.0 should be made available and gave permission for anyone who wished to use these rules to print out a copy for his/her personal use, but not to produce copies for sale. Although Phil had moved on the DBMM which he saw as the successor to DBM, in 2007 Richard produced a set of amendments which updated version 3.0 to 3.1. In 2009, John Graham-Leigh (an organiser of DBM competitions in the UK) produced additional amendments to convert version 3.1 to 3.2. He also produced a single document for DBM 3.2 with both sets of amendements included in the text (neither 3.1 nor 3.2 have been published as a stand alone sets of rules) and at his request, the authors agreed to make DBM 3.2 available for personal use. Our thanks are due to John for his efforts.

In August 1995, the set for Renaissance Battles (De Bellis Renationis or DBR), covering the period 1494AD-1700AD, was published and this was followed by three books of army lists (Book One in August 1995, Book Two in September 1996 and Book Three in January 1997 and then Version 1.1 of the rules in July 1997. The latest edition was version 2.0 published in 2004. These are now out-of-print. Phil does intend to update these and print a new edition, but he has many other projects and it may be some time before he is able to do this.

This should have been followed by "Horse Foot and Guns", the set for 1700-1900, but unfortunately Reg Games Ltd was not able to publish these and they are still awaiting publication. Hopefully they will appear in due course.

With a new millenium came a new design of the Ancient rules. "Magister Militum" (meaning "Master of Soldiers") was the title given by the late Roman empire to its commanders-in-chief and from this was derived the title of the new sets of rules which laid much greater emphasis on the planning and command of the generals rather than the fine detail of the equipment and training of the troops. These ideas were aired on the international discussion group DBMMlist@yahoogroups.com and playtesting of many versions was carried out over the next few years. Reg Games Ltd continued to be unable to publish new rule sets and finally, in March 2007, DBMM was published by Partizan Press. It was followed by the first three books of Army Lists, also published by Partizan Press.

To bring the story up-to-date, in January 2010 a new company, Wargames Research Group Ltd, was formed and in June 2010 its first publication, DBMM Version 2.0 appeared. This was the result of further extensive testing by the discussion group and will be followed by other publications - the fourth book of army lists, the long-awaited "Horse, Foot and Guns", a modern set called "The Sharp End" and new editions of DBA, DBR and many others. Details of these publications may be seen in the section on "Wargames Research Group Ltd". However I would like to stress that there is only one Phil Barker and every minute he spends answering just one more email is a minute which he cannot use to develop the next sets of rules. Please allow him time to continue his work.

Page maintained by Susan Laflin-Barker. Last updated June 2012