Pikes, DBA, Campaigns…Does this count as a Grab Bag?

It’s been a while since I’ve said anything about DBA.  I own the v3 rules and like them quite well.  The one thing that bugs me is how Pikes are handled.  Pikes, by the reckoning of several primary sources is a direct offshoot of hoplites.  really, the only difference between the two is in the equipment.  Pikemen (aka phalangites in wargaming parlance) operate in a rigid formation (phalanx) with long spears that could be measured up to 24 feet long.  The phalangite had a round pelta instead of a metal aspis (hoplon) shield.  They both wore similar armor though during the time of reform, phalangites were said to have been wearing quilted armor.  That did not last long though since people back then, as they do today, like to enjoy as much protection as they can practically have.

With that in mind, in DBA the Pike element has a +3/+4 combat factor and enjoys +3 rear support.  I am not sure why the +3 against infantry as they were quite effective against all comers save maybe Gallic style warbands who could swarm the flanks.  Perhaps they should have a +4 all around just like spear/hoplite elements.  But then what do we do about support?  You could give them side support as with the spear. That would raise them to a +5 combat factor which pretty much gives them the same strength as spear.  You could also include a rear support which gives the a total combat factor, with side support, of +6.  Another idea would be to simply give them +2 for rear support only.  In either case, I would still make them pursue infantry after combat as per the rules.  Pike phalanx routinely became disjoint after prolonged combat and often this would lead to their downfall on the battlefield.

I was looking for a map of the ancient world online and found this one here for Web Diplomacy with an ancient theme.   I was thinking that this could be a good way to resolve ancient battles, especially for quick play games like DBA, Mighty Armies, Ancients D6 etc.  Each city you control would allow for 1 army in the field.  All battles are standard games.  If you are fighting more than one army at a time, you fight each one in turn but cannot replace your losses between battles if you have only 1 army.  If you outnumber your opponent, then you simply fight each battle with each separate army if needed.  Like in the DBA campaign, cities would not automatically fall.  Rather you roll each turn to see if they capitulate.  Roll a 1 after the first season and the city surrenders.  2 or less after the second, 3 after the third etc up to the sixth season which afterward they automatically surrender.  Breaking the siege automatically resets they siege level and you start over.

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4 Responses to Pikes, DBA, Campaigns…Does this count as a Grab Bag?

  1. Hello John.

    It counts as a Grab bag. Re: pikes and hoplites you know my stance already – treat them the same. At the level of DBA type games not sure if there is a difference at all.

  2. acarhj says:

    So based on that, do you think Bill Banks got pikes “wrong”? I mean, they are distinctively different from other heavy infantry etc. I feel a game design post coming on. 😉

  3. I think hoplites and phalangites should be lumped into the same category but one different from standard heavy infantry. I like the term phalanx which is what I use in my rules. I think BBA got it right with a 6 for combat value for phalanxes versus a 4 for heavy infantry (in the context of those rules anyway). I would make all BBA hoplites phalanxes if they are not already (cant remember if they are in BBA).. Some rules do differentiate pikes and hoplites for combat, some don’t, and even those that do or don’t vary between a lot and a little with factors for poor flanks or worse when disordered, push-backed etc.

  4. Olivero says:

    Hi, re. Pike/Spear thing. Might be that the idea is to force players making use of pikes in a different way. If fielding the same number of Men, pikes would historically cover less front line because of deeper units thus being harder to beat frontally but easier to flank compated to spear phalanx armies which results in different challenges for their tabletop generals.
    My 2 cents

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