Square DBA


I’ve seen several attempts to add rules for playing DBA on a square grid.  The idea behind the square grid is to get rid of the micromanagement aspect that DBx games are famous for.  Using a 60cm board and a grid, you can play a game of DBA with out the use of a ruler.


This is the heart of the grid game.  Each unit will observe the command rules for the standard game.  Movement rates for each unit are also the same as the standard game.  The rates are expressed in paces with the following changes:

  1. Each square is 100 paces across
  2. Each unit must face a square edge
  3. A forward move costs 100 paces of movement
  4. A diagonal move costs 150 paces of movement
  5. Groups must wheel in increments of 90 degrees at the rate of the slowest unit.  For each 100 paces a group can move, one unit in the group can wheel.  Thus, a group that can wheel 200 paces could wheel a maximum of 2 units.   Groups with a 300 pace move could wheel a maximum of 3 unit.  And so forth.
  6. Units may turn at the cost of 100 paces.  They may, however, move about in any direction without changing facing as per the rules.

Zone of Control and Engagement Range

Units have a zone of engagement in the square directly in front of them.  An enemy occupying that square counts as being engaged with the friendly unit and a combat must be fought.  A unit that is in front but 2 squares distant counts as being pinned (or “Barkered”).  That pinned unit can either move into contact with the unit to the front, stay put or back away from the enemy.  Backing away may be in a diagonal direction but the move cannot be into another square that is an engagement zone or pin zone.

Command Range

Commanders have a command range of 800 paces or 400 paces if the line of sight is blocked by intervening terrain.


Bow and artillery ranges are expressed in units of squares.  Bows can shoot 2 squares away with the usual 1 square to the left or right.  Artillery can shoot 5 squares away.  Note that shooting units cannot shoot into the square directly in front of them as this is the engagement zone.


There are few changes to the melee rules. Recoils are done by squares.  2 infantry may occupy a square.  Only 1 of any other unit type may occupy a square.  All of the rules for overlapping, flanking and supporting still apply.


DBA plays very well on a square grid.  There is no room for ambiguity on a grid.  You either make contact or you don’t.  No rulers.  No micro-measuring.  Nothing.  I wasn’t sure if I would like the 90 degree wheeling rules.  After a few plays, I have learned to like them just fine.  I honestly think I like DBA on a grid better than I do on a free form board.   If you are a DBA player, you should give it a try.  You will find yourself more working on tactics and less on wondering how you will make contact with that Psiloi when the front is covered by 1/4″ from the spear unit to its front.


DBA on a grid plays very similar to DBA on a standard board with some subtle differences.  The first thing someone will notice is that pieces will be able to get across the board faster than they would in a standard game.  This is because that 100p equals 1 square (about 1.5″) and not 1″.  We are still playing on the same sized board so, naturally, it will take less time to get across the board.  This is not a bad thing really as players will have less time to do drill team maneuvers to get their units in just the right order.  A turning penalty of 100 paces was added to slow down the unit as it changed directions compensating for the fact that you measure from the farthest point in the standard game.  Consider that a Blade unit trying to close the door simply wheels on its corner in the standard game using all movement.  In the grid game, you advance 1 square (100p) and then turn (100p).  Basically works out.

I was not going to include any zone of control rules or “Barkering” but in the end, it was necessary.  I found in my first game that it was too easy to gain a flank on an enemy.  Allowing for flank covering ZOCs gives the same feel as the standard game.  Since the board is smaller and the ZOC covers a greater distance, I allow the withdrawing unit to move at an angle to get away if it needs to.

Shooting ranges are a bit farther too.  I was going to express shooting in terms of paces but I figured I had better make it squares since all of the units will be moving faster.  I wanted to give shooters the extra boost in range to match the extra boost in speed for melee troops.

Command range was reduced.  A general in the center of the field can give commands to almost the entire width and length of the field but not in the corners in the standard game.  I made the range 800 paces so that the command radius would be of a similar span.

These rules were adopted from Andy Watkins DBM amendments for the Classical period.  The rules are quite nice.  I took the liberty to use many of the ideas  here and filled in the blanks where he did not add any detail.

Andy Watkins DBM Classical and Medieval House Rules


10 Responses to Square DBA

  1. Sean says:

    Some images of how the grid looks with the miniatures on would be great! I do like the idea of squares much more than using the dreaded tape measure… all those troop shuffles and arguments and just out of range arguments!

  2. Tony says:

    Hello John. I’m going to try your square DBA rules. I have one question. You say

    “Note that shooting units cannot shoot into the square directly in front of them as this is the engagement zone.”

    Does thast mean
    (1) Shooting is into the two squares beyond the engagement zone;
    (2) Shooting is into the two squares in front of the shooter but the square immediately in front is out of bounds and only the one behind that may be shot into;

    plus the squares to the rightr and left in range

  3. acarhj says:

    Hi Tony,
    The shooting area is 3 wide by 2 deep with the unit centered on the 2nd square on the long side. The square directly in front of the unit counts as contact so a missile armed unit could not shoot into that square. So the actual shooting area should look something like a upside down horse shoe.

    If that isn’t clear, I can draw you a diagram. I probably won’t be able to get to it until Sunday though.


  4. Tony says:

    Thanks John. That is perfectly clear.

  5. Michael Goron says:

    Hi, just stumbled upon this. Are you still playing DBA with a grid? If so any thoughts/problems? I was thinking of doing the same thing – the usual micro measuring is annoying and off putting to my (only) possible opponent – so this is a very useful set of add-on’s. Thanks. With changes to movement re. DBA 3.0, I was thinking of having the squares in base width dimensions, rather than paces. This would seem doable…any thoughts?

  6. acarhj says:

    Hi Michael,

    My only problem with the rules was how to handle the actual rate of movement. Should squares be 150p or 100p. In the end I made them 100p which would make the units move 50% faster across the board. Now we have DBA 3.0, the base width movement system which correlates nicely with the sqare grid system since both are 40mm wide.

    The beauty of a system like this is that regulated movement is exact. You can either get there or you can’t. There is no geometric ploys. The game just plays so much nicer. A different experience really.

    One rule I want to try out is to be able to pay 1 extra pip to wheel a group 1 wider than allowed. for instance, a group that can move 200p may be wheeled if it is only 2 elements wide. For an extra pip, 3 elements wide may be wheeled.

    If you do try it out, let me know how it worked for you. I play solo when I can which has not been in a while.


  7. Michael Goron says:

    Hi John

    I intend to give this a go, so I’ll try your added wheeling rule.

    I’m playing 28 mm so the squares will be 6 cm. I need to mark out my board, so It might be a few days before I get to try it out. But I’ll report back…



  8. Michael Smith says:

    I wrote a book called Table Top Battles which uses a 2 inch grid for land games and a 4 inch grid for sea battles. They have been selling slowly for the last nine years. I have found that squares are ideal for the newbie or a non wargamer. People seem to relate to a grid. Also as stated, there are no fiddly movements to worry about.g

  9. acarhj says:

    Michael Smith,
    I have your book! It’s the one with the colorful cover right? I quite like it! I think Bob Cordery (Wargames Miscellany) has used it as inspiration for some of his games. It’s actually a really nice book and has a lot of excellent ideas. I am ashamed to say that until you mentioned it, I had forgotten I had it! A good one for my son (9) to enjoy I think. As you say, a good intro book.

  10. Tony says:

    Just ordered you book Michael.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: