Bloody Barons Sumerian Wars

This post will provide the rules adjustments I'll be making to use with Peter Pig's Bloody Barons rules - Bloody Barons Sumerian Wars (BBSW).

The rules below are not final as any further playtesting will inevitably cause a rethink or tweak if it is required, but they do form the basis upon which I'm going to adapt Bloody Barons (BB) to the Sumerian Wars period. A number of ideas are directly taken from DASAQ but many other ideas are my own or knicked from one or two other sources. I have included the pre game events tables here for completeness as they are used together with the other rules when preparing for play using BBSW.

Where appropriate I've expanded some notes on my ideas for the rules and the reason for them so you can see where it is I am coming from with the concepts involved. The following rules amend or add to the existing Bloody Barons rules. All adjustments are shown on the playsheet.

It is important to note that we do not know with confidence the tactical certainties of how the Sumerians commanded their troops in battle and the tactical interactions of the various troop types. To create what I believe is a plausible tactical model for use with BB I have used my knowledge of similar formations of later times which were equipped with similar weapons systems, along with what known information I have on the period - this is not a precise science. Other people may share a different view of how these battles were fought and it is hoped my ideas and suggestions provide food for thought when constructing their own tactical model at the very least - use what you like, discard the rest.

I've included an integrated quick reference sheet based on the original Bloody Barons playsheet for use during play specifically tailored for BBSW so no reference is required between BB and my rules during play. The rules and playsheet can be downloaded for convenience.



The following rules amend or add to the existing Bloody Barons rules. All adjustments are shown on the playsheet.
Troop Ratings
As per Bloody Barons troops may be taken at one grade lesser quality than that given – this is only allowed for Regular units by reducing the cost of a Regular base by (-2) points. The unit is now treated as being of Levy grade, its CV is unchanged. Veterans must be taken as veterans.
Critical distances
Any distance in BB that is given as a distance of 1” or 2” to conform to a spacing rule or such is termed a critical distance and remains unchanged for 28mm play.
Generals attaching to Units
When Leaders in Ass Carts attach to units (place behind and in touch with the unit) the player leaves the Ass-Cart model on-table if the general is designated as being in the back ranks. If he moves to the front rank, remove the model and replace with a General’s foot command base and place in the front rank as per the rules. When he leaves the unit replace his foot command base with his Ass-Cart model.
Skirmishers represent concentrations of men formed into units of 4 bases. They are treated as handgunners in the rules with the following exceptions. Units reduced to 1 base are removed from play at the end of the phase in which this occurs.
Movement - Skirmishers do not need motivating. They move 2d6”+1” per turn. When contacted by non-skirmisher types (ie those with a CV) the contacting unit rolls 1d6 to see if the Skirmishers disperse (on a roll of 6), adding +1 drm for every multiple of 4” the Skirmisher unit is distant from any main body unit (ie one with a CV) or a Leader, and a further +1 if the contacting unit is a Wheeled-Cart; subtract one from the die roll if the skirmishers are in terrain that has a disordering effect on the contacting unit. Example – a skirmisher unit that is 10” away from a friendly Spearman unit on a gentle hill has an enemy Spearman move into contact with it. The hill does not slow the Spearman so they roll a d6 with a +2 modifier. If the Skirmisher was in woods then the drm would be +2-1 =+1
Shooting - Shooting casualties inflicted on enemy units may only be taken from the front rank. When firing they have one range band, close range.
Fighting - Skirmishers may engage in combat with other Skirmishers (never units with a CV). Contact between Skirmishers is possible if a Skirmisher unit rolls sufficient distance (2D6+1) and moves into contact. If contact is made then pair up Skirmisher bases and roll an opposed ‘fighting’ die roll, with an equal score resulting in both bases being lost, else the lowest score is removed as lost.
[Design Note – Skirmishers are a bit different to the handgunner rules in BB. I wanted a little more skirmish interaction as they do or can comprise a reasonable part of a player's army. I also wanted to restrict their tactical flexibility somewhat more than handgunners are in BB. The rules provide for skirmisher combat to occur but not with formed units as per the BB rules - this seems appropriate. In addition the interaction with other unit on table is reflected by the modifiers when they are contacted by formed units in movement. This provides them a better degree of survivability if they are in suitable terrain and/or when they are located close to support troops or a leader. This will have the effect of making skirmishers on their own quite susceptible to scattering unless commanded or near friends which should limit their 'cleverness' during the game].
4-Wheeled Battle Carts
4-Wheel Battle Carts models are considered to be 4 bases strong (ie the same as the number of equids). Two such models form one unit being 8 bases strong – they are always this size. No rules are used for Captains with Battle Cart units as they are considered to be part of their intrinsic fighting ability – ignore them. 4-Wheeled Carts are considered cavalry for movement purposes, except it cost 2AP to make a facing change. Battle carts operate in ‘swarms’ so may shoot all round. Each 4-Wheel Battle Cart base rolls one shooting die per ‘base’ - so a fresh unit of 8 bases fires 8 shooting dice.
In combat they fight as one base per ass, with losses being marked on the unit until suffering 4 losses whereby the model is removed. Each ‘base’ rolls 1d6 in their first turn of fighting to determine their Combat Value as long as they have not suffered any casualties (so a fresh unit will roll eight D6), adding combat factors and re-rolling dice rolls as required by unit quality. If charging against Spear or Pike units that are not disordered then they roll D3 dice instead.  If they fail to break their foe or are marked with at least one base loss, they are much less effective and only roll 1D3 in combat.
2 Wheeled Platform Carts or Straddle Cars
2-Wheel Battle Carts models are considered to be 4 bases strong (ie the same as the number of equids). Two such models form one unit being 8 bases strong – they are always this size. No rules are used for Captains with Battle Cart units as they are considered to be part of their intrinsic fighting ability – ignore them. Platform Carts and Straddle Cars are considered cavalry for movement purposes. Battle carts operate in ‘swarms’ so may shoot all round. Each 2-Wheel Battle Cart base rolls one shooting die per two ‘bases’ - so a fresh unit of 8 bases fires 4 shooting dice.
In combat they fight as one base per ass, with losses being marked on the unit until suffering 4 losses whereby the model is removed. Each ‘base’ rolls 1d6 in their first turn of fighting to determine their Combat Value as long as they have not suffered any casualties (so a fresh unit will roll eight D6), adding combat factors and re-rolling dice rolls as required by unit quality one lower than their actual quality (ie if a veteran unit then re-roll as if regular quality). If charging against Spear or Pike units that are not disordered then they roll D3 dice instead.  If they fail to break their foe or are marked with at least one base loss, they are much less effective and only roll 1D3 in combat.

[Design Note - Battle carts are the major addition to the rules for the Sumerian period. Fundamentally they are treated as cavalry with a modest missile capability which operate in a swarm on the battlefield. Whilst they do need to close with the enemy battleline to use their javelins, they're still more mobile and faster than their enemies which provide them with the necessary 'agility' to make such tactics viable. Modern reconstructions have shown them to be far more 'nimble' than previously thought, with a turning circle similar to that of a modern automobile.  They can off course also charge into contact, but usually after their enemy is weakened or against dispersed or tactically disadvantaged opponents. The ability to allocate hits to enemy models provides for the abstract effect of reducing the combat capability of the 4-ass battle cart arrangement. Thus, when a wheeled cart unit is fired upon the normal rules for determining the allocation of hits is done. It will then be to the opposing side’s advantage to apportion losses to the two separate models in a wheeled cart unit as their fighting dice will now be reduced to d3 for all bases that will fight. It is worth pointing out that dice rolls can (and often will) produce extremes in combat capability – this is intended].

Command Vehicles
Leaders mounted on Straddle or Platform Carts can be used to influence control over skirmisher units. In this case, they may be considered a ‘main body unit’ and the skirmishers can roll for evasion measuring distance from this leader (see skirmisher rules above). Command vehicles are treated the same as Generals for movement (30.3) and loss (30.5) purposes. One command vehicles may be purchased for every 3 skirmisher units in an army. Cost 20pts.
[Design Note – commanders are given the ability to control skirmishers. Whilst we are not entirely sure of this battlefield function for leaders it seems reasonable in these organised armies with leaders of various levels of rank that such battlefield positions existed. It also adds texture to the battlefield utility of skirmisher elements in the game].
Wild Tribesmen
Wild tribesman that roll AP dice and have sufficient AP to close into contact with any enemy must spend 1 AP if they wish not to close into combat. However, when Wild Tribesman units wish to close into combat they only cost 1 AP to initiate contact (instead of the usual 2AP). Wild Tribesmen roll 1d6+1 (per base) in their first turn of close combat, in each melee to determine their Combat Value as long as they have not suffered any casualties (it’s easiest to add the face value scores of the dice and apply the total number of bases in the unit as a ‘+’ modifier). However, should they fail to break their foe or have taken losses, they are more likely to lose heart and only roll 1D6-1 for the second and subsequent round.
Armoured Cloak ‘Spearmen’
These troops may be taken equipped with Pikes as per rule 33A. No other troops may be ‘pike’ armed.
[Design Note – pike armed troops are not considered to be of the Classical Greek Macedonian style of pikemen. Rather, they are troops who have longer two handed weapons than the standard spearmen and are more akin to the long thrusting weapons of the Mycenaean Greek age. The existing BB rules account for pikes in a simple yet effective way and add a nice degree of tactical variation amongst troop types].
Massed Archers
Massed Archers may inflict causalities on any rank of troops.
Shielded, Protected and Unarmoured
A number of effects apply depending on whether a unit is Shielded, Protected or Unarmoured. They are shown on the playsheet and summarised as follows;
  • Shielded – they gain a +1 save when shot at and in combat if they do not lose the last round of combat. When leaving disordering terrain they fail on a roll of 3,4,5,6.
  • Protected – neither advantaged or disadvantaged in shooting or fighting – the default troop level of protection.
  • Unprotected – they suffer a -1 save when shot at. Regular or Veteran Unprotected troops do not suffer disordering terrain effects as per rule (33.E) in Bloody Barons.
[Design Note – the grades of protection are another significant change to best be able to portray different levels of protection. By making the standard protection level of Sumerian 'battleline infantry' the 'middle position' we can nicely show the effect of unarmoured infantry, mostly skirmishers, and the strengths and limitations of the iconic shielded formations so often seen in Sumerian army depictions. I have chosen to show the main benefit of the shields as being one of high protection from missile fire, slowness in rough terrain and with a combat advantage when successful in melee ie when shielded units lose a combat we are representing the enemy 'breaking in' to the shield frontline and pushing into the rear ranks negating their shielded formation benefit.
Troops within 6” of an army standard may re-roll all morale check die rolls in a turn.
Generals (4” or less to enemy)
When rolling to see the effect on a general when he is 4” or less from an enemy unit (but further from any friends) always count the +1 bodyguard modifier.

Unreliable Allies
An ally general is potentially unreliable. His reliability will not be established until his first motivation roll. Therefore, if his first unadjusted motivation roll is ‘double one’ or ‘double six’, he will not commit his command until the end of a turn in which either:
  • Enemy were seen to be closer than 8” to, or shot at, any of his units.
  • 4 more enemy than friendly bases were lost or became broken.
  • His Motivation dice is successful, in the turn following that in which the Army General motivates him successfully as his only motivation roll for the turn. This simulates delay while the situation becomes apparent, the sending of threats concerning the person of the general or hostages or promising bribes, temporizing, renewed appeals and so forth.
Until his reliability has been established or his command committed:
  • His troops cannot shoot, or move closer than 30” to any known enemy.
  • If any of his side’s commands were broken last turn and no enemy command is broken, his command will change sides and become a committed enemy command.

[Design Note – these ally rules are based on DBM's ally rules suitably adjusted for BBSW. They provide what to my mind seem entirely plausible behaviours for armies of the Sumerian age].

Victory Points
As normal except as modified for terrain and events above.


Each player should take one field system as part of their initial selection. Each player may decide if irrigation ditches surround it or not. The defender may place fields wherever he wishes on the table. The attacker may attempt to move fields but may not move them towards his own side closer than the half way line. Fields are treated as worth 4 victory points for either the attacker or defender at the end of the battle. A field without irrigation ditches is treated as open ground. A field with irrigation ditches does not provide cover from missiles, costs 1AP for a front rank to move across, does not slow but does provide a risk of disorder after crossing it on a 3,4,5,6. Generals in Ass Carts are carried across ditches suffering no ill effects.
An army may choose one flank as one of the Great Rivers, Tigris or Euphrates, effectively closing off one flank.
Hills do not give victory points to the defender.
Either side may choose a shrine. Shrines are initially placed by the defender, however it cannot be set up further than 6” from the centreline of the table between the two forces. In his scenery phase, the attacker may move it but again it must remain within that central 12” of the table. It is worth 5 VPs for whoever owns it at the end of the day.
The Palace Treasury
Instead of purses in Bloody Barons, the Patesi (ruler) of a city spends silver rings on securing pre battle advantage in a similar manner. Each army has 70 rings to spend on the following areas.
Total number of rings (dice) must equal 70.
Event Title
Number of rings (dice) allotted to the event
1. The Attacker
10-25 (with normal –1 for higher bidder)
2. Men of Tongues: spies
3. Bazahatum: provosts and police
4. The Temple
5. Scouting
6. The Palace
7. Loyalty
8. Weather
9. Route of March
10. Strong Leadership
11. Quest for the Nam.Lu.Gal
Total Number of rings (dice) must equal 70
Roll for each ring spent on an Event. Every 5-6 on a D6 is a success. Check the net number of success on the table below. Attacker/Defender is as per the rules.


Events Tables

Men of Tongues: spies

# Suc
Zimri Lim has come with information of great import.
Troublesome and greedy peasants with spurious information of little value beset you. You put them to work building irrigation channels and curse them for wasting your time.
I know that Eannatum has drunk strong himrum this day!
You may force an enemy to reroll any one successful arrival roll for a late unit. Himrum is an aniseed-flavoured ale.
I have stolen the enemy Rab Amur’s Anunitum! Even now he runs around in panic lest the gods desert him!
The enemy must deduct five rings off one event that has five or more rings. If no 5-ring events are available then a four-ring event is chosen. The anunitum is the personal statuette placed by a nobleman in front of the god in the temple to act as his proxy worshipper.
Thus spoke the Temple Ecstatic!
Any two pairs of enemy units can be swapped (not Rab Amurrim or Veterans). This includes on/off table units. Thus a flank citizen unit could be swapped with an off table levy unit of tribesmen. Then a second swap can be carried out.


Bazahatum: Police/ Provosts

# Suc
“The Beacons are lit! Nina asks for aid!”
“And Larsa will answer!”
Torch signals go up summoning allies and outer garrisons. You may reroll any one unsuccessful lateness roll. Cue stirring music and heroic poses by all players.
Bazahatum discover shirking nomads and thrash them, driving them forward to the glorious battle.
You may reroll any two unsuccessful lateness rolls. Bubba the Sutean scratches his belly and strolls down the road to victory.
We have made them take the assakum oath! Their hearts are ours!
Raise one levy unit to the rank of regulars. Breaking the assakum oath in which one ritually ate certain foods would guarantee the food would rise in your stomach against one’s wickedness.
Tell them that Babbar the sun god marches on our right!
Raise one unit to the rank of veteran. Best used on a levy unit. Troops always like to know that the gods are getting directly involved. It makes it more personal.

The Temple

# Suc
The enemy has neglected his kispum. See how his men tremble!
Move one enemy flank Rab Amur to the baseline as he wonders about the piety of his master. The kispum was the ritual meal in honour of the ancestors that a patesi was meant to stage.
Our barum priest has spoken most cryptically.
Win or lose, you can interpret the reading of the sacrifice’s liver in a favourable manner. Gain 1VP.
Our troops have sworn the tebibtum oath of purification.
You may reroll any one morale test during the battle, since the troops fear to break their oath of loyalty.

The Devouring of the God

Disease strikes your foe. The enemy picks any one flank unit. Roll 1d6 (+1 if levy –2 if veteran). That number of bases is removed.


# Suc

The god guided our troops through the darkness of the night!

Move one unit into an orchard, building, shrine or behind a hill anywhere on the table not in the Enemy’s deployment zone.
The Mari carts have swiftly conveyed our men to the enemy’s flank!
Move 1 or 2 units (plus a general if desired) off table. They roll for arrivals as if late units on a 4,5,6 and they will arrive all together on a flank edge not the baseline.
Hah! Our horseman has noticed a flaw in the enemy’s plan.
This new-fangled horse technology has its uses. Move any one piece of terrain to a flank sector. This can be used to move both shrines and fields out of the defender’s half of the table to near one of your own flank sector baselines.
The ancient shrine has been rediscovered. Let us rejoice that the enemy has not defiled it.
Place a shrine dedicated to your god by a previous patesi anywhere on the table. This is worth 3VP if you keep it uncaptured by the enemy by the end of the battle but it is worth 5VP to him if he captures it.

The Palace

# Suc
The Queen has sent a wondrous garment wrought by her own hand.
How nice. You may rest assured that your commander is the best-dressed warrior on the field.

Well fed donkeys

Kikkuli the Donkey Master has produced tip top, spanky new donkeys to pull your donkey cart. One of your generals gets +1 on his movement rolls.
The Palace Workshop staff has laboured through the night. These six shekel samrutum arrows are honeys. 
Gain five extra arrows markers allowing a 1AP volley. Let’s be generous, waspum (sling) users can also use these. Nice rocks?
Enki, Lord of the Deep has turned the enemy ale supply to a vile brew!
Select a flank. Roll for each unit: on a 5 or a 6 it is late as the troops grunt behind a nearby orchard and look for broad leaves and smooth stones.


# Suc
Your loyal subjects present you with a fine humbaba head brooch to drive away evil spirits.
How nice.
We have heard that Shamri –Adad was insulted by the enemy patesi.
Select one enemy flank general. He now suffers a 1-point penalty from any motivation rolls until another enemy general successfully motivates him.
Men of Dilmun have provided me with luxuries to open men’s hearts to your words.
Select one enemy flank general. Move him to the base line. Treat him as being late. Roll for his arrival as normal. Dilmun was a fabled Gulf trading centre possibly in the vicinity of Bahrain. The Mesopotamians always wanted foreign luxuries.

Your son has married the sugagum’s daughter. Huzzah!

Raise any one unit in the centre to veteran status as the wine sozzled troops celebrate the nuptials with weird ululations and a frenzy of violence (these days they just discharge AK47s into the sky). The sugagum was the sheikh of the non-urban troops on the periphery of civilisation.


# Suc
Dagan has allied with us! The sun shines again.
One unit must shuffle.
Dark mists linger on the lands.
Player rolls d6-2 shuffles.

Tears fall from the Tin Vaults of Heaven

Bad Weather. D6-1 shuffles. Any irrigation ditches count as swollen and cost double APs to cross. Roll twice for disorder. Arrow and sling range decreases by 2”. At the end of each turn, roll a D6: on a 1-2 the storm clears. No, I’ll be honest, I don’t know why they thought the vault of Heaven was made of tin. Any comments?

The Storm Bull of Ishkar strikes! What madness reigns?

Very bad weather. All rivers impassable. All irrigation ditches impassable. Arrow and sling range decrease by 4 inches. As the lightning bursts from the black vault and the Storm Bull roars, add +1D6 to any morale checks. Your opponent suffers a 2-point penalty on motivations and you suffer a 1-point penalty. Roll a D6 at the end of each turn. On a 1-2 the storm ends and drops to level 3.

Route of March

# Suc
Lazy Nomads. They lie like dogs and snore like pigs!
Choose one enemy levy unit and move it back to the baseline.
What does one torch beacon mean? Two beacons means ‘Come and help’. Maybe one beacon means ‘Everything’s fine, continue with breakfast’, yes, that’ll be it.
Confusion over the exact nature of beacon signals delays some of the enemy’s troops. Enemy chooses one unit to be taken off table as late.
Efficient Kigamlum administrator.
Buniya gets your troops on the right route with breakfast in their bellies and rations in their sacks. Roll for upto 3 units, which are classed as ‘late’ and on a roll of 5-6 restore them to the table. The kigamlum was the donkey park attached to every trading station.
No you idiot! I need a hallu wheel not a mallalu wheel! Are you stupid?
A broken wheel on a general’s battlewagon holds up the entire column. Pick an enemy general. The general’s quality decreases by one and his movement is penalised 2” per turn. 

Strong Leadership

# Suc
He would be Nam Lu.Gal before he has struck a blow.
All enemy generals are moved to the baseline after bickering about incautious comments by the patesi.
Oh Zimri Lim, swear that you will not neglect me and I will hover over you and deliver your enemies into your power.
Inspired by your piety all your generals can ignore one failed motivation roll in the first turn.
His weapons in the sea he washed. With the men of Umma he fought, all the fields he devastated, their city he subjugated and its wall he destroyed.
Pick one of your generals. Instead of a combat value of 5AP, this mighty man adds 7APs to any combat he joins.

Loyal Ensi comes to the rescue

Any one routed unit returns to the table as reinforcements on the roll of 3-6. The unit is treated as a late unit and placed in either the centre or either flank. An ensi is a provincial governor installed in a subjugated city.

Quest for the Nam.Lu.Gal

# Suc
King of Kish: let it be written in the lists.
Reroll one general’s quality. You must abide by the second roll.
Sargon, king of Agade, overseer of Ishtar, king of Kish, pashishu-priest of Anu, king of the land, the great vice-regent of Enlil
Improve one general’s quality by 1.
The Hand of Enlil a rival did not permit. 54,000 men ate in his presence.
Improve one general’s quality by 1 and add one base of Veteran Royal Guard (bodyguard base)
Enlil has given unto him the kingdom, Agade, exalted of the gods.
 You are the one, true NAM.LU.GAL. Gain 3 VPs win or lose. Your deeds shall be written in clay for the generations to come to look upon and wonder. When your Gidim wanders the underworld, men will still remember with awe your deeds.



  1. Gents,

    I have added the pre game setup sheet as an additional page to the quick reference sheet as per the standard BB rules reflecting the Sumerian Wars terminology. Both rules and playsheet are now up to date with each other.

  2. Happy Wanderer I've nominated your blog for the Liebster Award, hope you don't mind!

  3. Cyrus,

    You'r too kind! I'm not sure what that award is, but I'll take any award thanks!


    Happy Wanderer