Friday, June 16, 2023

The Ancient Art of War: Making changes


Ok, one more post about The Ancient Art of War. I had mentioned before the scenario editor as a novel feature, and while War would have been a good game and a complete package without it, its inclusion tremendously increases its value as a product. Nowadays, getting lots of value from a product isn't such a big deal - in fact, I find the idea of playing new War scenarios in perpetuity disagreeable. But being limited to what was available in 1984, the ability to craft your own levels, with access to nearly every building block used in the base game, this was certainly a big deal, and it would be remiss of me not to explore it at least a little.

Scribe and I did some scenario exchange, and you can download them here:

To play, you'll need DOSBox-X (vanilla DOSBox will not load the data disk properly). You may need to edit the included file "dosbox-warcga.bat" to point to your dosbox-x.exe location, but after that you should be able to just run said file, play the game, and load the new scenarios from the ingame menu.

Our scenarios are:

  • Stirling Bridge - A Braveheart-inspired slaughtermap made by myself. It's mindless and honestly not very good, but it's my first real effort. Commanding the infantry trapped between the River Forth and several companies of Scottish spearmen, can you bring in enough cavalry reinforcements before they gain control of the bridge - or withdraw enough to defend the west encampment?
  • The Spanish Ulcer - Napoleon invades the Iberian peninsula, made by Scribe. Above average in difficulty compared to the official campaigns, and without relying on a huge numbers disadvantage, but victory through flag capture is a challenge.
  • The Swedish Deluge - Divide and conquer a fractured Poland in Scribe's second scenario, but hurry before their encampments regain their esprit de corps, or the Russian armies mobilize to divide and conquer you.
  • 100 Bandits - My second effort, inspired by Seven Samurai in broad strokes. Defend your village from the bandit raids from the north, or counter-attack on their turf while they're weak and hungry. Scribe did a short AAR for this one.


There's not a huge amount to say on the subject of the map editor. It works, and it's pretty elegant - the first step is placing terrain on a grid of 10x20 tiles - every terrain tile used in the main game is available to you here.

The second step is to place flags and units.

Stirling Bridge

100 Bandits

Bandits should be lean. Units' starting formations and marching speed can be customized too.

Finally, after setting default map rules and AI opponent, you write a scenario intro, just like in the official campaigns.

Ok, so this intro is a bit on the nose.

I spent a good amount of time playtesting and tweaking 100 Bandits, mostly for balancing the difficulty. The AI opponent you pick can make a big difference here and not just on a linear difficulty scale; they'll do different things on the same map, and I wish the manual went into some more detail about how they think. Genghis Khan proved my most interesting opponent, and actually did things that surprised me! Stirling Bridge didn't seem to have enough potential to be worth the effort, but I left it in for posterity.

I didn't write AAR's for Scribe's scenarios or my own - this is technically all-new content, and I figured that readers still following this particular DDG series may just as soon play for themselves as read about them, but I did record some a video of successful completion of Scribes' for anyone who would rather watch.


  1. Update:

    Scribe sent me a second scenario, The Swedish Deluge, and made some improvements to my initial scenario Stirling Bridge. Both are merged into the download, and I've added a Youtube playthrough. Scribe also did a short AAR for my second scenario which is viewable here:

  2. Ah ! Apologies for the two "45 minutes" scenarios. You played the Spanish Ulcer as I expected, but for the Swedish Deluge you went in a totally different direction. Oh well ! At least the fact that your strategy works shows that it was not a gimmick scenario.

    Thanks for "hosting" the save and the emulation support. The scenario editor really shines IMO - there were few "replayable" scenarios by default but I remember spending almost as much time on the editor anyway.


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