Category Archives: DBA

Empire Campaign

Campaigns are something I always have a inkling to run but past experience has made me nervous of too much complication. Regular readers of my blog may recall that early last year I posted my thoughts on the Empire boardgame, developed by Phil Sabin. After some tinkering with the basic rules I converted the mechanics to a system that would allow it to be used with DBA.

Now, those who follow my Ancient & Medieval blog will have seen that we have recently completed the fourth campaign turn. Trying to simplify things further I recently moved away from dedicated players controlling states to a system where the decision process is automated. A basic decision tree is used to determine campaign offensives which is supplemented by a die roll where multiple options of equal weight exist. Games are now resolved by a group of volunteers subject to availability. The most recent series of six battles have now been resolved by a group of five players.

I’m rather pleased how this has all worked out. The revised format seems to be providing a better balance between my time investment and the value created by linking a background to an individual tabletop game. Further, it allows me to play in a few games while others are able use different armies, rather than being restricted to that of their player state. Placing the campaign in context, and despite only four campaign turns, the system has generated around 24 battles all of which have been resolved on the table using DBA. Given there are many more campaign turns ahead it will be interesting to see the campaign history develop.

If you are interested in the most recent campaign turn, covering the period 290 BC to 281 BC, you can find it here. If you are interested in additional background, visit the Empire Campaign Page.

A Numidian Outing

Each year one of the locals organises the DBA Open over a couple of weekends. Now after a very busy few months I was really looking forward to a competition which I wasn’t organising. As part of my strategy of doing “something different” I opted for an army that was a little out of my regular selection. In particular I opted to use my Numidians.

The Numidians were originally formed as an ally for my old DBM Polybian Romans. But of course I long ago moved away the DBM and never adopted FOG – don’t get me started! Instead they were organised for DBA where they occasionally received an outing. With the DBA 3.0 army lists bringing in some minor changes a couple of additional stands needed to be painted. Recently, with the DBA Open coming up, I finally organised myself and a paint brush…

A couple of test games before the “Open” of course went terribly wrong so it was with a degree of trepidation that I headed to the local club on Sunday. If you are interested in reading of their stumbling performance I’ve posted a short summary of the Numidians at the DBA Open on my Ancients blog.

DBA Resurgent

I’m very fortunate to have a number of regular or semi regular opponents and between them I can satisfy my very disparate gaming interests. For the last couple of weeks there has been a bit of a DBA theme to my gaming.

Now I know that DBA is not for everyone. However, one of the real advantages, at least to me, is the ability to field a range of different armies and engage in games between historical or near historical opponents. What is even better is that even in a short evening gaming slot, sometimes only of two hours, defeat in the first game can be replaced with victory in the next. It all combines for a relaxed evening. Indeed, a series of four recent evenings, over the last couple of weeks, was a great reminder of these advantages.

Some of the games have been hilarious encounters, especially those involving my recently renovated Post-Mongol Samurai.

The army was originally built for DBR and portions occasionally used for DBA. However, with a serious lack of opponents locally for DBR I felt it time to rebase a portion of the army to make it more usable for DBA. This included some options that aren’t for me typical.

Above, a seated commander looks on as the town militia advances. These are one of several options in the list. It’s hard to take an army with a seated commander, who is actually unable to initiate combat, too seriously. The horde, often fielded in DBR as “filler” now even get to fight, sometimes with determination!

But of course it wasn’t all to do with things Japanese, as the photo of Andrew’s and Robin’s Early Mycenaeans below indicates. This was one of several armies being used recently.

Interested in some additional photos? A small selection, covering several of my recent DBA gaming evenings, can be found here. Of course you feel inclined to play some DBA drop me a note, or considering joining in one of the local DBA events coming up.

Conquest Thoughts

Over the weekend several locals and and four visitors gathered for a DBA competition held as part of the larger Conquest convention. As always I’m appreciative of all the organising that goes on behind the scene. Organising venues, gathering registration fees, organising prizes and the setup and take down of all the tables.

Generally the games being played at Conquest were the various fantasy and science fiction systems. I believe DBA was the only historical competition at the venue, attracting a number of visitors. Even more surprising was the lack of demonstration games, usually a feature of Conquest. Likely all a result of the change of venue and reduced space.

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From a DBA perspective the event was a success, at least based on player feedback. A solid ten players turned up for the first day competition that comprised six rounds of games. I must say I rather enjoy the splitting of the day into an Ancient theme followed by a Dark Age and Medieval theme as it encourages a greater mix of armies.

The second day comprised a three rounds Big Battle DBA competition. This too seemed successful though it attracted eight players rather than the previous ten. This format was a bit of an experiment, yet proved popular with all the participants.

A few photos of the DBA events, including some of the excellently presented armies can be found here.

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.

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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.