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Vis Bellica

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TITLE:    Vis Bellica

AUTHOR:    Robert Avery

Vis Bellica Cover
PUBLISHER:    Ordered Flexibility (www.visbellica.com)


WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM: www.visbellica.com


PRICE (with date):   9.99/$19.00/€16.00 (current)

REVIEWED BY:   Robert Avery (author)

PERIOD COVERED:   Ancients & Medieval

THE BOOK: The VB rulebook is a staple-bound, 64-page A4 booklet with a colour front colour and mono interior.

SCOPE: Tactical: a typical evening pick-up game would involve two armies of 500 points each, representing about 10-15,000 men a side.

ARMY SIZE:    A 500 point army would be represented by about 100-150 figures.

BASE UNIT: Figures are based as chunky elements known as bases, with the number of figures per base dependent on the type of unit represented. Infantry are divided into close, open and skirmish order, with 12, 9 and 7 figures respectively. Horse are also divided into close, open and skirmish order, with 6, 5 and 4 figures respectively. Chariots, elephants, artillery are represented by one model per base.

Bases are grouped into brigades of four to six bases each, commanded by a Leader; brigades into divisions of two to four brigades each, commanded by a Sub-General; the very biggest games have more than one division present, commanded by a General.


  1. Ground scale is dependent on figures scale. For 10mm or less; one centimetre equals twenty yards. For 15mm, one centimetre equals ten yards. For 25mm or more, one centimetre equals five yards.
  2. Time scale is unspecified.
  3. A base represents a varying amount of men dependent on their order: close, open or skirmish. Infantry bases represent about 850 men; 650 men; or 500 men respectively. Cavalry bases represent 420 men; 350 men; or 280 men respectively. Chariots represent 30-40 vehicles; and elephants, 20-30 beasts.
  4. Recommended figure scale is 15mm.
  5. A table 4ft by 3ft is fine for a 500-point aside game.
  6. A typical 500-point aside game should take 1-2 hours to play.

BASING SIZES: Although the official VB base sizes are 60mm x 30mm at 15mm or 6” by 3” at 25mm; the system will work with any basing system provided both sides use the same one. For example, many VB players using Warmaster Ancients basing play with three Warmaster elements used as one VB base i.e. a frontage of 80mm. Officers are based individually.

TURN SEQUENCE: Each turn consists of three phases: a mandatory phase (routs, continuing melees and arrivals); a command phase (hidden movement, spotting and order issuing); and an action phase (charges, stationary shooting, movement, moving fires and officer casualties).

Within each phase, action is simultaneous i.e. players decide what they are going to do and perform their actions at the same time.

GAME MECHANICS: The key to VB is the command system. At the beginning of the game, each officer apart from the overall commander is issued with one of four orders: Attack, Forward, Hold or Retreat. In turn, that officer issues one of those four orders to each unit under his command, with at least half his units having the same order as he does. Attack orders means that the unit must move at least half its movement towards the enemy with the intention of getting into close combat. Forward orders means a unit must move into missile range as soon as possible. Hold and Retreat are what they say. Thus a brigade of five bases whose Leader has Attack orders might have three bases of heavy troops with Attack orders heading directly towards the enemy, with one base of skirmishers supporting them with Forward orders and a reserve of heavy troops with Hold orders.

Officers may issue new orders each turn, but only have a limited number of command points which they can use to do so. It takes extra command points to issue orders to troops further away from you; to troops not directly under your command; or to allied troops. This can lead, and often does, to players unable to make troops do exactly what they want them to: accurately representing the friction of war.

Combat involves comparing the strengths, armour and weapons of the troops in melee: reminiscent, some say, of WRG 6th. Each base has a strength that is noted on a roster sheet, and decreases as damage is taken. Thus even the best units get worn down in multiple melees.

Morale is also fairly standard: bases have either good, shaken or routed morale; and can be disordered (with negative consequences for morale and melee) by various battlefield phenomenon. It costs officers command points to reorder disordered units, or to rally troops with less than good morale.

Finally, at the end of each turn, officers must dice to see if they have become casualties themselves: with the chances of them doing so dependent on how close they have come to enemy troops during the turn. One quickly realises that if your CinC is killed, no subordinate orders can be changed!

ARMY LISTS/SCENARIOS: Army lists are provided in three additional supplements based, by the author’s own admission, on the WRG lists. There are three books of lists: Chariots to 1st BC (8.99/$18.00/€14.50); 1st to 10th AD (10.25/$20.00/€17.00); 10th AD to Guns (11.99/$23.00/€19.00).

The official website (www.visbellica.com) contains twenty-one free scenarios ranging from small affairs such as Adrianople and Barnet to huge battles such as Carrhae and Chaeronea.

REVIEWER’S COMMENTS: As author, I don’t really feel I should comment…but there are several full reviews on the www.visbellica.com site.

PLAYER’S COMMENTS: Likewise…but there are loads of battle reports from players on the www.visbellica.com site which give a really good idea of how the game plays.

To read other gamers’ comments or to leave one of your own click here.

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