Ab Initio Games & Software Simulations

Interactive Sports, Historical & Sci-Fi Games

Online & Postal Play - Running Since 1986

Barbarians at the Gate

When the Romans left Britain, they turned out the lights. This is what happened before…

Barbarians at the Gate is a game about the fall of the Roman Empire. At the start of the game the empire still stands although it’s already been divided in two and the entire effort of the Empire is devoted to holding the frontiers against the barbarian invaders beyond.

Barbarians at the Gate uses the same game system and software as Dark Age II and the same map as Medieval Empires, but it should play differently from either.

The Map

The Romans

The Barbarians

Non-Player Kingdoms

Game System

Kings & Kingdoms

Nations & Barbarians

Dropout Kingdoms

Non-Player Kingdoms

The Huns

Games and Turnfees

Writing Orders/Play by Email

How to Join

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The Map

The map for Barbarians at the Gate is below, a thumbnail, click on the map to expand it.

blankmap.jpg (81043 bytes)

The Romans

At the start of the game there are six Roman players. The Eastern and Western Emperors are based in Constantinople and Rome itself, and four Caesars (army commanders) control the armies in Britain, Syria, on the Rhine (Gaul) and Danube (Dalmatia – see note 1).

Huge lines of fortifications and garrisons extend the length of the Rhine and Danube and the frontier with the Persians.

The Barbarians

Beyond the northern borders are the reasons for the fortifications. There are eight German kingdoms. From west to east, they are the Franks, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, the Vandals, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, with the Angles to the north and the Lombards to the rear.

Far to the east are some important reasons why the German kings will not be remaining in their homelands, as the Huns are pouring over the eastern map edge.

You don’t want to get between some latter-day Attila and the riches of the empire, unless you fancy you can defeat him on the steppes before the hordes (see note 2) descend on Europe.

Non-Player Kingdoms

In addition to the sixteen start “kingdoms” there are eleven more that can be activated later in the game (players can swap to these the same way as in Dark Age). These are the Irish, Scots and Picts in Britain, the Norse, Danes, Swedes, Finns, Balts and Slavs in Northern Europe, the Berbers in North Africa and the Arabs in the Middle East.

Game System

Barbarians at the Gate uses the same game system and software as Dark Age II and the same map as Medieval Empires, but it should play differently from either.

Almost all areas on the map are controlled by someone at the start, so there’s no early expansion phase. You start with a mature kingdom and you’re right in the action on turn one. Armies and populations should move around the map at the same speed as Dark Age rather than the ebb and flow like Empires.

The German kingdoms are all small but they’re heavily populated and they have large reserves and households. The Roman kingdoms are large and their treasuries are full, but the economy of the empire is in ruin and income is barely enough to cover supply costs. Given time they’ll be able to rebuild their economies and increase their incomes, but will they be given time?

If the Romans work together, they may be able to hold the empire together. Six players? Work together? All through the game? Yeah, right, that’s going to happen. But group applications from players willing to give it a try are welcome (group applications for the German kingdoms are also welcome).

The two western army commanders (Britain & Gaul) are sub-kings to the western emperor and the two eastern army commanders (Dalmatia & Syria) are sub-kings to the eastern emperor

Note 1.

There’s a special rule for the commander of the armies on the Danube. The first player running this kingdom to form an army with a strength of 101 collects a penalty of 101 victory points… and we’ll have no “spotty dog” jokes either.

Note 2.

Yes, I know this is historically incorrect, that a “horde” is actually a term for a military unit employed by the Mongols (who came later) but it reads well and I’m keeping it. While we’re on the subject, the Angles are the same people as the Saxons (they’re both names for the English, in two different languages) and the Huns are not related to any sort of Germans.

Several rules have been modified from Dark Age to suit this game.

Kings & Kingdoms

The values of the “High King” and “Under King” bonuses have been increased (the total of household and treasury is divided by three instead of five) and the kingdoms now don’t have to be from the same nation.

Nations & Barbarians

All the kingdoms other than the Romans and Persians are barbarians and can use all the Gaelic & Viking rules (ARM, LAND, POP and SETTLE). The BUILD action is allowed only for the Romans and Persians, but there are no cities on the current map (we’ll probably add them for later games) so BUILD isn’t possible anyway,

Dropout Kingdoms

The routine for ordering dropout kingdoms has been changed so that they normally won’t attack other kingdoms of the same nation.

Non-Player Kingdoms

New rules apply for “Non Player Kingdoms”. In Barbarians at the Gate these can hold territory on the map and will build and defend themselves in a similar to way to the un-owned areas in Dark Age (but more aggressively). They’ll also keep coming back if they’re eliminated, and their homelands will rebel against anyone that controls them.

The Huns

The Huns get the best use of all the rules. Up to turn twenty they count as a Non-Player Kingdom (they get the benefit of extra troops and population at the end of every turn, at double the normal rate) even though there’s a player in charge and all through the game they get the same Victory Point bonus and extra reserves as the Vikings in Dark Age (except they get army reserves, not ships).

The Scandinavian kingdoms don’t get the Viking bonuses in this game.Logo

Games and Turnfees

You can start by waiting for a new game (there are always waiting lists open) or by taking over an existing “standby” position (where the previous player has dropped out). You may have to wait a while for a new game to start, but standby positions are normally available very quickly. One option is to take a standby position while you learn your way around the game while you wait for the next new game to fill. 

Once started, all run with two-weekly deadlines (so you've fourteen days between turns). Turnfees are £2.50 for one, £10.00 for four, £20.00 for ten and £36.00 for twenty. There are further discounts available if you play in more than one game. Bonuses can be carried over from other games in the series (Dark Age and Empires). Click here for more details of turnfees.

We welcome players from outside the UK. Click here for more details of overseas players.

Game Reports

Normally reports are sent to you by email, so you'll have your result within minutes of the game being played, but players can receive their results by post if they wish. For more details on play-by-email click here.

Sending Orders/Play by Email

Your instructions are normally sent through our active website, but can also be sent by post or fax if required. Click here for more details on play by email

How to Join

To join Barbarians at the Gate you'll need to send £5.00 (payable to Ab Initio Games) along with your name and address, which covers the cost of your rulebook, setup and first three turns (or five turns if a starting in a standby position). When you send in your application please give an empire name and indicate which version of the game you wish to play.

To join the game you need to click here to pay your startup fee by credit card via our secure server website, or you can print out the form below and post it to us along with payment. If you'd rather submit your application by post, please print off the form below and include payment when you send it to us.

Barbarians is run by Peter Calcraft of Software Simulations. Click here for details of waiting lists.

Please print, complete and return the details below:

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YES, I’d like to join a game of Barbarians at the Gate. I’ve enclosed a cheque/postal order for £5.00 (payable to Ab Initio Games).

Name: 

Address: 

Kingdom Preferences:

Where did you first hear about Barbarians?: 

Email Address if you're happy to be contacted this way:

Tick here if you're happy to start in a standby position (with two extra turns):

For more information please contact: Danny McConnell, 49 Westpoint, Shortlands Grove, Bromley, Kent, BR2 0ND, United Kingdom. Email: danny@pbmsports.com

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