The Free Move – Timed Move War Game

I’ve been wanting to try these rules for quite some time now and thought that you too may wish to give them a try.

Should you prefer a printed copy of these rules, we have them on hand priced at $5.00 plus postage…



For Ancient War Games

The idea for the Free Move-Timed Move War Game is not original, and is based on ideas garnered years ago from Arnold I Mead of Connecticut, and from the Greensboro Liberal Move Game. This is the first time we have incorporated these various ideas into a war game and the results – at least to us in Visalia- have been so outstanding, that it was felt many players interested in Ancient War Games, would like to give it a whirl.

It should be understood that these rules as here outlined, are intended for use in UNIT WAR GAMES. By this, I mean, all model soldiers are mounted on moving trays, and are not moved as individual soldiers. It should also be understood that these rules are based on using the MORSCHAUSER ROSTER SYSTEM, wherein each unit mounted on moving trays represent a body of men, and each such unit is “valued” in combat points, according to the type of infantry it represents (Heavy infantry, light infantry, archers. etc.)

The Ancient armies that David Rusk and I use for this Free Move-Timed Move Game are 2Omm in scale, and are mounted on a 1 3/4 by 2 inch moving tray, and each tray roughly represents a cohort (our TIO is based on the Roman army) – As an example, a cohort of heavy infantry is valued at 8 points – when in the fighting it has suffered 8 “kills” (or casualties), it is wiped out and removed from the battle. A unit of Light Infantry is valued at 4 points – a unit of Archers the same value. Heavy Cavalry units are valued at 8 points, and Light Cavalry (mounted bowmen) are valued at 4 points. A ROSTER SHEET is kept by each player, and as casualties are assessed, these are marked down against each unit as it suffers. Thus, at any particular moment of combat during the game, one needs only to look at the number of the unit (which is painted on the small flags attached to each moving tray), and mark the casualty down against the unit on the Roster Sheet. And a quick glance at the Roster Sheet will tell the player how much any particular unit’s value is worth in combat.

Thus, in our game, under normal conditions, a cohort of heavy infantry meleeing a cohort of light infantry would be an 8 to 4 value. However, due to casualties, it would be possible that a cohort of heavy infantry would be valued at 4 points (having taken 4 “casualties” prior to this) and would be up against a full strength light infantry unit – at which time the combat values would be 4 to 4.

All the above information should be kept in mind, in order that you can understand how our Free Move- Timed Move War Game works.


There are actually three basics to the Free Move Game. By combining these three factors, the idea for the game was arrived at. We shall have to discuss each factor separately however, and then attempt to bring them all together so that you can under­stand them.

THE TIME FACTOR – A definite limit to movement is desired, and as casualties are removed during the game, this time limit must be cut down in proportion. The best way to determine the amount of time required is to move all the soldiers in your army one move, and see how long it takes. If, it takes you 4 minutes for this movement, you should set your primary moving time at 2 minutes.

At the point in the battle where you have lost about half your army, this time should be cut to one minute, and in the later stages of the battle, it can be cut down to 30 seconds, and even perhaps 15 seconds.

We use a small timing device (obtainable at most hardware stores) to time our moves. Once each player is ready to make his move one player sets the time, pushes down the handle and activates it. Right up until the bell rings ending the timed move, each player may move any – or all – of his troops without limit. The moment the bell rings, ending the timed move – all movement ceases immediately.

Basically then, the TIME MOVE is set so that generally you can only move about half of your troops on any given game move. And this proportion is maintained throughout the game as casualties cut down the number of soldiers on each side.

THE MOVE FACTOR – During the “timed” period, each player may move any – or all ­of the troops that he is able. You might take one unit (moving tray), or a dozen, and move them as fast as you can- AND AS FAR AS YOU CAN – until the bell rings ending the game move. HOWEVER, YOU MUST MEASURE EACH SUCH MOVE AS YOU WOULD NORMALLY DO IN A REGULATION WAR GAME. In other words, you lay your measur­ing stick down, move the unit, then measure the next move, move the unit, etc. You cannot pick up a unit and place it half a table length away. Each unit move MUST BE MEASURED; AND MOVE EXACTLY AS YOU WOULD IN A NORMAL WAR GAME. (Actually, if one had a table marked off in grids, it would be ideal for the Timed Move Game, as it would eliminate having to measure each move).

Basically then the Move Factor means that you can have “free movement” of your soldiers during the timed move, with no limits to the distance they can be moved ­provided only that you make such a move one move length at a time. Naturally during this free movement, you can form into columns, deploy into lines, march down roads, across hills, etc. exactly as you do in a normal move war game, taking advantage of extra bonus movement allowed for road moves, etc.

THE COUNTER-MOVE FACTOR – Since all movement is made on a simultaneous basis by both players, there is a counter-move factor available. This means that until two (or more) opposing units come together in melee (by direct contact) the players are free to counter-move against each other. As an example, if Player A is advancing several units of heavy infantry against Player B’s archers, Player B can retire ahead of Player A’s troops so that they cannot be meleed. The second the bell rings on the timing device, ending the move, the movement of the troops cease, and then the combat will be judged. Naturally, in this counter-moving against your opponent, the actual length of moves allowed to a particular type of soldier (cavalry, infantry, light infantry, etc) will have a lot to do whether counter movement is possible; For it is certain that cavalry would catch infantry since they have a longer move length.

IN SUMMARY – As you can see now, the Basic Factors of the Free Move – Timed Move game in combination gives each player an entirely free movement of troops, limited only by the time factor and by the rule that you must measure each move, and cannot move your troops farther than they legally can be moved at a time. At the same time, if you can spot your opponent threatening you, you may be able to pullout of the way, by counter-moving your troops against him. As you can no doubt see by now, the Timed Move makes for tremendously fast game of wild movement, and excitement that I have never seen matched before in war games. In this type of a game, there is no deliberate and careful movement of troops and woe betide the man that left something exposed to the enemy!


During the Timed Move, the following basic rules must be observed:

  1. The minute two opposing units make “contact” (i.e. the stands touch one another) they cannot be moved, as this is a “melee contact”, and they must be left in this position until the melee is fought out (see the Melee Rule later). This rule applies only to each stand, and other stands that might be behind this contact are still free to move.

  2. All missile fire is ignored during the timed move until the move is completed, at which time it will be judged.

  3. Movement ceases also if one player counter-moves a unit into melee. (Thus it is possible at times to stop an attack, by a counter attack against it).

  4. 0nce the Timed Move ends, the players are allowed to rearrange the formations of all units who are not in melee, or within missile range of opposing troops.

    1. Such rearrangement does not allow of any forward movement of these units, but allows sideway and backward movement to straighten out lines, or squares or columns that might have been broken during the excitement of the timed move.

  5. Troops that end up in melee or within missile fire range, must fight in the positions (and formations) they are in when the timing device ends the timed move.

  6. During the Timed Move, and providing a player spots something wrong, he may call “Time”, and the move is halted and the situation is cleared up. If this occurs, there will be NO COMBAT ALLOWED until another timed move has taken place. This is so that no player may stop a move deliberately because he might be caught at a disadvantage.


The following move lengths and combat values are based on using 20mm figures mounted on moving trays, and using the Morschauser Roster System:


In column or on roads

Heavy Infantry

4 inches

6 inches

Light Infantry

6 inches

8 inches

Heavy cavalry

6 inches

8 inches

Light Cavalry

8 inches

10 inches


1 Unit (stand) of Heavy Infantry

8 points

1 Unit of Light Infantry (and archers)

4 points

1 Unit of Heavy cavalry

8 points

1 Unit of Light cavalry (archers)

4 points

In Defensive positions or in Square, add 1/2 point per point in a unit to its combat value. (A defensive position would be behind rock walls, on hills, in houses)

Missile Range


8 inches


12 inches

Missile Fire Killing Power


1 – Automatically kills one light infantry point

2 – Roll 1-3-6 on dice against heavy infantry, unless have flanking or fire from rear- then automatically kills one point.

Arrow fire

Same as for javelins.

Missile Fire Killing Power when missile men are forced into melee

Each unit of missile men are allowed one automatic kill when directly attacked and forced into a melee. We assume this fire is made at close range as the enemy is charging forward, and therefore does not miss. This means, that should a heavy or light infantry unit attack a missile unit during the timed move that before the melee is judged, the attacker must deduct one point from his unit. The attacking unit is not allowed missile fire in making his charge, as we assume his men are too busy charging forward into melee to fire an arrow or toss a javelin.

(A variation of this rule, which we use occasionally, is that the missile men who are attacked must roll a single dice. If it is a “1”, they are allowed no missile fire upon the attackers. It is also true, that any missile unit which has been defeated in melee, which has retired due to bad “morale”, and is attacked, cannot have missile fire if attacked again).


7 – Morale and Missile Fire.

There is no morale factor after missile fire, unless it was combat between opposing bowmen. The morale is figured out by counting up the number of points each player has, throwing one dice, then multiplying the dice roll times the combat values. The man with the lowest total must retreat 3 moves.

8 – Morale

Once any unit is forced to retire due to losing the morale factor (after melee or missile fire) the unit is retired 3 moves. On the next timed move, it cannot be moved at all, and must stay in the position (with its back turned to the enemy) that was forced to retire to. Should this unit come under melee attack, it cannot discharge its missiles (if a missile unit), but is allowed full combat value in melee.

On the second timed move (after it was defeated and driven back), it may be moved under the following conditions:

  1. You must roll one dice for each such unit. If you roll a “1”, its morale is still bad, and it retires another move, and you must roll the dice again on the next move before it can return to action.

  2. If you roll a “2” or “3”, the unit may turn and fight, or can retire, but it cannot move forward into combat. (If a missile unit, could discharge its missiles however)

  3. If a “4, 5 or 6” rolled on the dice, the unit may be moved back into combat as desired, and its morale is at full value again.

9 – The Fire and Charge Move

This move applies only to heavy infantry, and the player using this move must call for it BEFORE he uses it, and must follow through with it once called for.

  1. Heavy infantry may not throw their javelins, unless the Fire and Charge move is called for.

  2. Range and firepower for javelins are used, and the heavy infantry are allowed one javelin throw, and then are immediately put into melee position with the opposing force.

  3. If the opposing force is missile units, they are allowed to return the missile fire, and before the melee is judged, these casualties are deducted from the units involved.

  4. The ensuing melee is judged immediately, and the results and effects are taken care of (See rule for Melee).

10 – Shock Power

Only Heavy Cavalry are allowed any shock power, and this is rated at 1 kill” for every 6 points the cavalry are valued at in the melee. Casualties made by such shock power are deducted from the defending unit before the melee is judged.

  1. No shock power is allowed heavy cavalry if they charge up a hill, or if they charge a square.

11 – Squares

Squares are formed by infantry, and if attacked by melee add 1/2 point for each point a unit is worth in the square. (Defensive combat value)

  1. All points of the square are counted in melee, even if only one side of the square is attacked.

  2. A square gives no immunity from missile fire, or from cavalry attacks.

  3. Once formed, a square can only move 1/2 an infantry move at a time.

  4. Once one unit of the square is killed or driven back (by morale) the square is broken, and its defensive combat value is annulled.

  5. Squares cannot move up hills, or through broken terrain of any kind, and if formed on a hill, cannot move at all.

  6. If a square is being moved during a Timed Move, and it becomes broken, the player is allowed to reform it at the end of the move, even if the square is under attack, as we find it almost impossible to move a square as a unit. However, before the timed move, the player should announce to his opponent that his square is remaining through the move as a square, and is not being broken up.

  7. All troops contained within the square (as reserves to take the place of a front line unit that might be annihilated) will be counted in the combat value of the entire square.


Since this is the single most effective means of combat in the Free Move-Timed Move game, we have saved this for last and intend to detail it out carefully. For we have found out that in the Free Move-Timed Move game, missile fire is NOT the pre-dominant factor of combat, as it is under a normal war game (and which is what we objected to in our ancient battles before we devised the Free Move Game). The melee is the most important factor of the combat of this Game, and is so decisive that it must be a good rule in which both “chance”, “morale” and strength are combined in equal balance. We believe our rules take all this into consideration.

In most cases, the Melee is fought out during 2 game moves. During the combat sequence of the first game move, the melee is limited to front line units directly facing one another. However, all units within the melee contact circle must remain “frozen” during the second game move and cannot be moved out of the melee. As we shall see, reinforcements can be rushed into this melee however, during the second game move.

There are some exceptions to the “Two Game Move Melee” as follows:

  1. Any melee against a defensive position (such as walls, houses, squares) must be fought out in one game move, and in this melee all men who stand 2 ranks deep are counted in the melee.. This rule does not apply to hills. (The fire and Charge melee is fought out in one move also)

12 – The Two Game Move Melee

  1. At the end of the first timed move, all units touching one another, or which touch one another standing two deep (i.e. two units stand to stand, one behind the other) are considered to be in the melee. (Thus, there could be two lines facing one another, two deep on each side – a total of 4 lines of units)

  2. These troops are considered to be in hand to hand action against one another, but on the first timed move combats ONLY THE FRONT RANKS OPPOSING ONE ANOTHER ARE COUNTED.

  3. Each player now checks his Roster Sheet, and totals up the number of combat values these opposing ranks are worth. He then rolls one dice. He multiplies this dice times the number of combat values he has. (All shock power and missile fire casualties are previously deducted) The man with the highest total will win this first melee.

    1. The loser loses one-half the number of points he had in this melees and the remnants of his front line retires to the rear three moves. ( For what happens to these defeated men, re-read Rule 8 )

    2. The winner of the melee loses 1/2 the number of points that his opponent lost, and his men stay in the melee

  4. At the end of this First Move Melee, both forces which are “frozen” in the original melee are now placed facing one another. At this point, under normal conditions, the winner of the First Move Melee would probably have 2 lines of troops facing ones since the loser was forced to retire his front line.

  5. Now the second Timed Move is played out, during which the melee may be reinforced by both players if they desire. At the end of the Timed Move, once again, the melee is assessed – only two ranks being eligible to fight in the melee (i.e. two ranks per side- making a potential of 4 ranks in the combat)

  6. The judging of the melee combat is carried out exactly as in Rule C above, with the exception that ALL MEN IN THE MELEE AREA are counted in the fight. Again the Morale Factor is judged, the loser being forced to retire from the area (as under Rule 8).

  7. Thus, at the end of the second Game Move, the melee has been judged completely, and one side is a winner of the melee. The winner of this second game move melee is now allowed a bonus move of one normal move (depending on the type of troops involved) to reform, to’ attack someone else if he can, or to retire and reform.

  8. If this bonus move forces another melee, it is fought out immediately among all troops involved, and must be settled before the Timed Move begins again. In such a bonus move, no shock power or missile fire is allowed.

(In summary, except in the fighting for a defensive position, each melee will last two full moves. During the first move, only front ranks opposing one another can be counted. In the second move, all troops involved in the original melee (except the defeated troops) and those that can be brought in to reinforce the melee ­provided they are within the “melee area”-are counted. In the first melee, shock power and return missile fire are counted, but they are not counted in the second game move melee. Once this second melee has been settled, the winner has a bonus move coming to him, and if this should end in another melee, it is settled right then, but again no shock power or missile fire is allowed. It is conceivable that on a bonus move – or a series of them – one player could move right down a line of enemy troops destroying them as he goes)

(Our idea for the 2 game move melee, plus the bonus move for winning the melee, is that once troops in ancient times locked themes elves in combat, it was fought out to the bitter end for one side or the other. At the same time, because of the potential deadliness of the melee, it should cause the players to consider carefully first whether they wish to force a melee except under good circumstances. We feel this thought keeps the battles from becoming one huge continuous melee from start to finish!)

(At the same time, we allow some melees to be settled on the first game move – i.e. fights for defensive positions. We feel a fight for such a position (or against a square) must be settled without a chance for reinforcing, as the gain or loss of a defensive position gives extra combat value to the troops, and thus gives an immediate advantage to one side or the other who holds, or gains it (or destroys a square)

  1. There is one Contingency by which a 2 game move Melee may be ended at the end of the first game move, and it works as follows:

    1. At the end of the first melee (between the front ranks) one player or the other can decide to pullout of the melee entirely. He then notifies his opponent that he is retiring, and must retire 4 moves to the rear, and his troops cannot be moved on the next succeeding Timed Move, and must follow all rules as outlined in Rule 8 (Morale).

    2. As a penalty for pulling out of the melee, he will lose 20% of the combat value points his troops are worth, while his opponent loses nothing. 3-Under these circumstances the “victor” is not allowed a bonus move, but may reform his men into any formation he desires on the spot of the victory.

(By including Rule I, we give the players some freedom in saving men if they are in a really tough spot – provided they want to pay the penalty for doing this.)

13 – Missile Fire against Defensive Positions (and against men on hills)

In all cases, missile men must throw one dice per unit that is capable of missile fire. Against light infantry, a throw of 1-3-6 scores a hit. Against heavy infantry a throw of 3-6- scores a hit. All others are misses. (Only bowmen are allowed to fire from – or against- houses. Javelins have no effect from a house, or against men who are inside a house) (No fire and charge move is allowed against a defensive position, EXCEPT AGAINST MEN ON A HILL, and you must roll the dice to see if your fire hits anything).