Stand by Larboard Battery!

“We’ll take him first! Stand by Larboard battery!” Captain Herrick noted Soames hurrying down his lines of guns as the gun captains crouched like athletes behind each breech, trigger lines taught as they peered through the open ports for a first sight of the Spanish Argonauta.

After a very busy week it was pleasing to finally be able to deploy some models on the table and last night it was a multiplayer Sails of Glory encounter. We opted for four ships per side with each player commanding two vessels. The French fleet comprised comprised the 1st Rater Commerce de Marseille and was supported by two French 3rd Raters the Aquilion and Le Berwick and reinforced by the Spanish Argonauta. On a converging course was the British fleet which comprised HMS Victory and supported by three 3rd Raters, HMS Imperteaux, HMS Spariate, HMS Bellona. Two of the British ships, Bellona and Imperteaux were classed as having “Well Trained Gunners” special rule.

Each squadron sailed in line astern the British due south while the French south west on a course which potentially had the led ships intercepting if each squadron held their bearing and speed. Further, both admirals determined retain their 1st Raters at the rear of the line. Soon the British squadron broke formation with HMS Spariate and HMS Bellona attempting to manoeuvre to a position that would cross the French line while HMS Imperteaux and HMS Victory would travel behind the stern of the French ships. However, the French ships had a faster turn of speed, due to their attitude. As a result who would cross the T first was in doubt for some time!

Above, the French squadron in line astern led by Aquilion.

However, we will look at the engagement against the rear of the French squadron first. As the British ships turned from their southerly bearing to an easterly bearing HMS Victory was masked by HMS Imperteaux. As a result Le Berwick and HMS Imperteaux alone exchanged broadsides, which was soon followed by another exchange by HMS Imperteaux and Commerce de Marseille. It was here that the well trained gunners of HMS Imperteaux delivering two broadsides in quick succession. At this point the ships of the rear section were travelling on divergent bearings and would therefore soon be out of range. However, HMS Victory was able to deliver one broadside, her only one, at long range. As a result Commerce de Marseille suffered a leak and broken mast, a result which kept her damage parties busy for some time and prevented her engaging the other British ships.

Below, HMS Imperteaux is engaged by Le Berwick and Commerce de Marseille. HMS Victory is on the left rear.

Above, HMS Imperteaux is engaged by Le Berwick and Commerce de Marseille. HMS Victory is on the left rear. Below, another view now including Argonauta.

Meanwhile the action at elsewhere had been dramatic. Aquilion and the Spanish Argonauta were set on a converged course with HMS Bellona and HMS Spariate. As you will recall who would cross the T of the other was in doubt for some time and the ships exchanged broadsides as they approached. Below, HMS Bellona moves to cut the T of the French squadron.

However, at the last moment and under full sail, HMS Bellona crossed in front of Aquilion and Argonauta. It was at this point both British ships unleashed devastating broadsides on Argonauta who suffered a series of leaks and lost three masts in a single turn. Crippled she was forced to strike her colours almost immediately.

The action now became a confusing melee between Aquilion and the two British ships HMS Bellona and HMS Spariate to which Le Berwick soon joined. Broadside and musket fire enveloped the vessels for some time. In due course casualties aMong the crew of HMS Spariate became crippling. Indeed, HMS Spariate struggled to manoeuvre the crew losses were so great. However the French Aquilion to was in trouble. Wit’s fires and leaks soon out of control another proud French ship was lost.

Now having lost two ships the French Admiral decided to disengage. The British it was true had had some considerable success, howe ver the French were resolved to bringing the enemy to battle again soon.

Envious of Glory

It’s been a while since I have posted here as I’ve been somewhat distracted getting a Macedonian and Punic Wars underway. You can find more on the Empire Campaign here if you are interested. In between playing rather a lot of Ancients games I’ve managed a few Renaissance encounters as well as a couple of Napoleonic battles using Volley & Bayonet. Clearly too much time playing games to post here, a real problem I’m sure. Tonight however, we managed a short Napoleonic naval game using Sails of Glory, it was long overdue.

I won’t try and write a detailed report but instead provide a couple of photos. Our game involved the British 1st Raters HMS Britannia and HMS Royal George engaged against the French Orient and Montagne, also 1st Raters.

Above, HMS Britannia follows the Royal George around. Both ships carry around 100 guns and have a respectable speed. In the distance the French Orient and Montagne can be seen. Below, another view now of the French squadron with the Orient in the foreground. Both French ships are from the Ocean class and carry around 120 guns. These vessels are difficult to manoeuvre, even compared to 3rd Raters.

The French vessels managed to secure an early concentrated firing position enabling a couple of solid broadsides where they gained a slight advantage before both squadrons passed each other. Now each squadron manoeuvred for the advantageous position.

The French ships managed to secure a position slightly upwind of the British squadron. Which found the French ships concentrating their fire again. At the end of this second determined exchange the British squadron broke off with the Royal George heavily damaged.

A very enjoyable evening illustrating the playability and challenges of Sails of Glory.

BBDBA Comparisons

Last night we managed another Big Battle DBA game. As I mentioned previously I was particularly interested as it came just two days after a 300 point game of DBMM creating an opportunity to compare the two rule sets. In addition, as we used similar armies, both based on Hellenic Successor states, comparing the two games was even easier.

As to the specific armies, for this latest encounter I deployed a Lysimachid Successor army while my opponent deployed Graeco-Indians. Both armies of course had a core of phalangites and similar mix of supporting troops to our MM game. That said there were some differences as the DBMM lists allow more army composition while DBA armies are generally more restrictive.


For BBDBA we used a table that was 1.2m wide by 0.6m in depth, which was of a similar width, though narrower, to that we used for DBMM. The most obvious difference was the deployment width of our troops. My phalanx for example while being only five stands wide in MM, though four deep, was now nine stands wide but only two deep. It’s worth noting that the figure scale had changed. While DBMM has a nominal troop scale of 250 men per stand DBA suggests a scale of around 500-600 men per stand. As a result my pike phalanx alone had grown from 5000 men to around 10,000 men. Now to the battle…

The Lysimachus was determined to be the invader, and invading Bactria. We used a slightly modified deployment system with the players recording the relationship of commands to each other after camps were placed but before any troops were placed. The armies deployed symmetrically with heavy foot in the centre and cavalry on each wing, but the Bactrians maintained an advantage in cavalry and elephants, the Lysimachid in heavy foot.

The battle started with the Bactrians, not surprisingly, sweeping forward against the Lysimachid right flank with their Iranian lancers destroying all before them. However, before they could exploit the success the centre and other wings were engaged.

On the Lysimachid left the advancing Thracians and Greek hoplites overcome the Bactrian foot and mounted breaking the Bactrian right flank. A factor here was the smaller Bactrian wing and the higher PIP allocation to the Lysimachid left flank.

Meanwhile the clash continued in the centre. Here, Graeco-Bactrian elephants caused much disorder to friends and foe alike while phalangites pressed forward, each army ebbing and flowing. It was in the centre that the second Graeco-Bactrian general fell, a casualty to the Lysimachid silver shields who surged forward. Yet it was too much, while both armies were nearing exhaustion the Lysimachid centre finally buckled. With it the Lysimachid army broke.

So how did the two games compare. DBMM, without doubt has much greater detail, but this detail comes at a cost of increased complexity. I feel the same aspects are modelled adequtely in DBA. Let’s consider some examples. The Graeco-Bactrian thureophoroi were still superior in combat to the Thracian auxilia and the Bactrian horse still outnumbered the Lysimachids with deadly results. Psiloi played an important part in front of the main phalanx. They disrupted enemy main line or attempted to counter elephants. Yet, they eventually retired through the lines as the phalangites pressed their attacks, just as in DBMM. Then there is the phalangites who swirled back and forth for some time each gaining an advantage, but nothing massive, with the possible exception of the loss of a Graeco-Bactrian general and on the flank of the Lysimachid phalanx which was eventually turned. As casualties mounted command break and demoralisation set in, just as with DBMM. As commands broke commanders struggled to find troops to exploiting success.

From my perspective it was an outstanding game. From turn one I was on the edge of my seat. Clearly out deployed, my army seemed doomed but the game evened out and soon the Graeco-Bactrian commander, who had victory in his grasp one moment was starting to consider defeat as a real possibility.

DBMM has some real strengths, certainly it has significant detail which can be ideal for players seeking this. I will occasionally play DBMM, but the rules are more complex. In contrast the larger DBA 3.0 games capture enough extra challenges and provide further visual spectacle for those players seeking that. I think BBDBA will work well in historical settings which is my main interest, but less well in a competition.

I don’t see BBDBA replacing standard DBA which remains my preferred Ancients game. However, I can see it supplementing it. Of course your requirements or preferences may be different. Either way, we are spoilt for choice.

DBMM Reflections

Last night we managed a 300 point game of DBMM using the latest version of the rules, v2.1. Given that it’s been a year since my last game of MM I expected to find the rules challenging. Indeed they were and while I can play DBR and DBA in the dark I felt as if I had a blindfold when playing DBMM such was, of course a combination of unfamiliarity and the level of additional complexity. Here are a few observations from the game for those interested in such things.

Firstly, and to set the scene, we deployed on a table 1.2m in width and 0.9m deep, which was ample. My Alexandrian Macedonian army of 300 points organised in three commands along with a baggage command. The Macedonians  comprised a large phalanx which was supported by Greek hoplites, a few Thracian and Greek Auxilia as well as a number of Psiloi. The mounted were few in number with Macedonian horse on the right and Greek on the left. Alexander was campaigning as he would have been to brilliant by far.

In opposition Jim deployed Graeco-Bactrian, but organised it into only two commands. His phalanx was considerably smaller and a mix of Hellenic pike and Indian Spearmen. This was however well supported by Indian archers, military settlor thureophoroi and cavalry, the latter being a mix of Iranian lancers and Bactrians.

The Macedonians deploying first, despite being the invader, which gave some advantage to the Graeco-Bactrians. It’s one of the little occasional extra bits to DBMM which adds flavour. The weather was uneventful. Aware of the massive advantage in mounted troops the Macedonian foot surged forward. The plan was simple. Defeat the enemy centre while delaying on the flanks as much as possible. Of course with all such plans it went off the rails almost immediately. The allocation of PIPs is like BBDBA, you allocate the highest die to a designated command, the next highest to another. So like BBDBA it’s important to have a plan.

The Thracian foot, tasked with securing the rough ground on the left was first to suffer devastating archery and then a counter charge by enemy thureophoroi. The disastrous situation was recovered, somewhat, by reformed Thracians and some Cretan archers. Fortunately on the Macedonian right things went slightly better where Greek peltasts held the advances of another body of enemy thureophoroi. I learnt two clear points from these encounters. Firstly, the value of troops rated as “superior” when attacking and secondly the power of archers. I’m not completely sure I understand Phil Barker’s thinking around the superior grade, especially in relation to Auxilia. I’ll ponder this interaction further.

On the Macedonian left the enemy cavalry swept towards forwards. Careful use the Macedonian light cavalry however broke up the Iranians who struggled to manoeuvre with low PIPs. In time they broke up into a spontaneous charge. This part of the engagement illustrated well the restrictions on complex manoeuvres by both foot and mounted troops well. It’s reasonably complex but generally makes sense.

In the centre of course the main lines soon clashed The Macedonian foot were proceeded by light troops whose javelins and archers broke up the Indian spearmen. As the light troops fell back the hoplites and phalangites pressed their attacks. In the resulting combats the opposing phalangites pushed and shoved each other with limited gain. The Indian spearmen were however mostly pushed back with casualties. In MM the attacking pike, in deep formations, gain considerable combat advantage. It’s an interesting addition and is not surprising, though it adds additional complexity. It seemed to work well. Yet I generally feel the situation was handled well enough in DBA and while the complexity of MM was interesting it didn’t add significantly to the feel of the pike clash. I’ll certainly think some more on this.

Unfortunately we made slow progress and we had to end the game before a result was determined. This slow progress is typical when playing a different rule set, indeed I always have the same problem when playing “Lost Battles” which I only play very infrequently. With practice speed will I’m sure be gained with DBMM, assuming I play it enough. Overall much of the complexity made sense and was intuitive which was, I thought, positive. 

Tomorrow evening another Successor clash is planned, this time with BBDBA. It will be interesting to contrast the two rule sets in games separated by as many days.

DBMM Revised

While my main Ancients wargaming these days revolves mostly around DBA I maintain an interest in Phil Barker’s other rule set DBMM. As such I have purchased each of the two previous versions of DBMM and played a handful of games. Today my copy of his latest version of DBMM was delivered, specificaly version 2.1.

Ancients of course is fragmented these days, which I don’t believe is a bad thing. So why do I still have an interest in DBMM, when I play a reasonable amount of DBA? Well, DBMM has some appealing features for me. Obviously it provides some additional depth. Now I don’t want to spend hours playing a single game some extra depth can be appealing on occasion. I see DBMM’s additional depth in its special rules for weather, ambushes and stratagems. Now, I have no plans to build large armies but rather expect any games I play to use smaller armies comprised of 200 to 300 points, much like my 300 point DBR games and BBDBA armies.

This latest version of DBMM, like DBA, is availiable as a hardback. It comprises 77 pages with a solid binding. The core rules run to around 40 pages. This is supported by around 17 pages of diagrams, which like DBA will add much to understanding of the rules. The most obvious change to the presentation, apart from the binding, is the increased font size.

Interestingly, and something new for DBMM, is the inclusion of a selection of sample army lists. These comprise four matched pairs, so eight lists in total, with one pair drawn from each of the old army list books. The format is that which DBM/DBMM players will be familiar with and runs to around 13 pages. The historical pairs included comprise:

  • Hittite Empire and New Kingdom Egyptian;
  • Alexandrian Macedonian and Later Achaemenid Persian;
  • Middle Anglo-Saxon and Viking;
  • Hundred Years War English and Feudal French.

Now, I don’t expect to play a large number of DBMM games but those I do will likely focus on more themed games between historical or near historical opponents. Therefore I rather like the concept matched pairs as way of an introduction and encouragement for the use of historical opponents. Before I can consider some games however I need to spend some time reading the rules…

DBMM 2.1 is on sale on Amazon in the UK and is priced at £17.99.