The Blade vs Spear “fix”

August 25, 2012

I played out two battles with Mid Anglo-Saxon (b) vs Viking (b).  With the old rules, it seemed that the (a) version of Anglo Saxons had more of a chance since it had a few Wb which could Qk Bd.  Choosing the (b) versions of both armies, you get a near perfectly homogenise army of Sp vs Bd.  The Vikings took a Wb for their optional element.  The Saxons opted to not raise the Fyrd (no Hd) and took the lone Psiloi.  The Saxon was the defender and chose a woods and two gentle hills.  All landed on one side of the board in quadrant I and II.  The BUA was in quadrant III.  The Vikings chose to deprive the Saxons of the terrain and let them anchor their line on the Burgh (BUA).

The first game was simply to allow ties go to the Sp with the Bd having to recoil.  There were enough pips to allow the Saxon line to shuffle and anchor against the BUA while the Vikings advanced over the hills.  Both sides had reserves.  the Vikings kicked out a Wb on their right while the Saxon countered with a Ps to cover the flanking move.  A shoving match ensued, at first with the Sp gaining the upper hand with some good rolls.  The overlap from the bua helped and kept a Bd in check as the Viking did not want to fall victim to a sally from the garrisoning Sp.  It was not to be though.  A combination of poor pip rolls and the eventual 6-1 combination opened hles in the Saxon line.  The battle ended 4-0.

I felt that the Sp, despite being able to win ties against the Bd, could not muster enough combat power to kill the Bd reliably, even on a double overlap.  So for the second game, I allowed the Sp to Qk on a tie.  The battle focused this time on the area west of the BUA (Saxon Left) with the Vikings getting the upper hand early.  However, the Viking general did too well and the psiloi was able to swing back to the flank while a Sp fought to the front.  1 lucky roll and 1 dead Viking general.  under the new rules, this does not end the game but gives 1 extra victory point at games end.  So now the viking command structure was stunned.  Two of the next 3 turns, the Vikings could only move a single unit.  However, even though they were getting picked off here and there, they managed a late rally and did kill two Sp for the cost of a Wb and two Bd.  Only 1 Bd died as a result of a tie.  The other was a result of being flanked and killed.

That second game turned on a freak incident where the general outstripped his support and the light infantry swooping in to save the day.  So it got me thinking, what would happen on a flat plain with 6 Bd vs 6 Sp.  Each mini-army would have 1 general.  the game wuld be over after 2 kills.  I played 10 of these and the results were even.  Dead even.  The Sp jumped out to a 2-0 lead but the Vikings came back and took the lead 3 games to 2.  Then it was all Sp again for the next two games and then a trade back and forth until 10 games were played.  The total was 5-5.   Both sides won their share of laughers.  Each army won in a single bound once (scored the required 2 kills in 1 bound) and the Sp managed 3 kills once.  This seems to be a reasonable “fix” for Bd vs Sp though I have not seen what effects hills and woods have on it all.

A quick look at the moving parts.  Sp are at their best when the fight at even odds.  This will give you a 1 in 6 chance of a tie.  Any differential, positive or negative will result in a reduction in your chance to tie.  So when going against a blade army and you don’t know which combat to choose first, make it a Sp at even odds!

To recap, I would make Wb recoil against Sp on a tie.  I would make Sp Qk Bd on a tie.  Simpe.  Effective.  No need for fiddly side support and special rules.




Testing some modifications for DBA 3.0

August 24, 2012

Well, if I am going with 3.0, at least I am going to put it in to a form which I can live with.  Not being a fan of side support, I tested out some possible modifications of the rules.  The “battles” fought were 4 element armies of the same type.  All spear vs all blade and so forth.  The battle is over when 2 elements are lost on one side.  The modifications are as follows:

Bd ties Sp: recoil

Wb ties Sp: Recoil

The first matchup was Bd vs Sp.  I played 3 times.  In all three battles, the Bd army won.  The Sp were more resilient but against a 5 Cf, you need a double overlap to have a decent chance at doubling the enemy.  The most notable matchup is Middle Saxons with essentially all Sp vs Early Viking with essentially all Bd.  The Vikings do have an Aggression of 3 vs the Saxon Aggression of only 1.  So the Saxons get to choose the terrain type.  So this matchup really needs to be tested on something more than a flat battlefield.

The second matchup was Sp vs Wb.  I played this one out 7 times or more.  The first fight went to the Sp.  The second fight went to the Wb and the Sp were destroyed to the last man.  Not boding well.  the third fight went to the Wb as well but it was a closer match.  The rest of the fights went to the Sp.  Every one of them were close.  I think this might be a good balance for this matchup and no fiddly side support rules are required.

So what of the SOLID vs FAST thing?  All I can stay as is, if you want the detail, keep it in.  There will be some overlap of outcomes but oh well.

The last item is Kn vs Bd.  The answer is lots of terrain since most Kn armies are also high aggression armies.  It will be up to the defender to place enough terrain to help his army while hindering the opponents army. There is, in the current rules, that the Kn are Qk on a tie against Bd.  That might be enough to even the score on a flat battlefield.   I have not tried this matchup yet.



Thoughts on DBA 3.0 so far…

August 10, 2012

I like DBA.  I do.  I don’t play in competitions and many games I’ve played lately have been solo.  Most of what the author has done have been positive improvements in my opinion.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. The move to contact rules have been clarified.  Groups now simply conform to enemy groups.  Unit generally conform to other units.  There is a free move for sliding about to line up with the enemy.  There are also rules to kick blocking units aside so that you can properly line up.  Very nice.
  2. There have been some combat adjustments that are, for the most part, for the better.  El have lost much of their Qk abilities but the factors have been reversed from old El.  They now are +5 Foot +4 mounted.  Some are complaining about this but to my mind, this is fine.
  3. Others want more parity with Wb and Sp.  All Wb armies can wipe the floor with all Sp armies.  This much is true.  How they are going about balancing this is by introducing side support.  The idea is that if you are in full side contact and facing the same direction as another Sp or Bd, then you get a +1Cf.  Its a way to get support without reducing your frontage.  This is fine except now Sp seem to be extra tough against Wb with a near guaranteed +2 over the Wb.  I am not fond of this.  I think it is because extra factors are making Sp exceedingly tough against other units.
  4. Speaking of rear support, most has been removed.  That is fair except Pk now get +3 vs most infantry and +1 vs mounted.  The Wb rear support has also been re-introduced.  I’ve always found rear support to be a sucker bet in DBA.  Pike formations were usually only as deep and as wide as Roman formations.  Probably just like other formations if they deployed in two or more lines.  No general would ever shrink his line length without good reason.

Some time at the beginning of the summer, I did some test games with single stand Pk and giving them +5 +5 for Cf.  The games worked out reasonably well against their Roman opponents.  “yesthatphil” on the miniatures page has taken this idea a step further and made double based pike (spear really) for his armies and played out some Medieval battles with good results.  I think that this is a good change.

Another problem is the spear vs Wb matchup.  An idea I was kicking around was to do a sort of a side support but without adding +1.  Instead, when Sp or Pk are in side support with another Sp or Pk and are being attacked by Kn or Wb, they can negate the Qk and only have to recoil.  If the unit is isolated (that is, are not in full side contact and facing the same direction as a Sp or Pk) they are Qk.  Bd can get the same effect against Kn only.

Finally, to balance the Sp vs Bd interaction,  Bd lose ties and must recoil against any Sp.  These essentially brings the chance of victory for the Sp up from 28% to 42% with no chance of doubling.  If the Bd gets overlapped, the Sp would get a 58% chance of victory and a small chance of doubling.

None of my ideas have been tested yet.  I have such little time to paint, play and design so there it is.  I might be able to get a game in tonight.

I think the book will be well worth just for the army lists alone.  I like most of how the game plays and hope to find a better solution (to my mind!) to my points above for solo and friendly face to face games.



February 21, 2012

Here is my standard DBA 3.0 battle of Magnesia.  I have the Romans as the invader and the battlefield being a flat plane with a river on the Roman left.  The forces are as follows.


1xKn Gen 1xKn 1xLh 4xPk 2xPs 1xEl 1xWb 1xSch

Roman With allied Kn

1xCv Gen 1xKn 4xBd 2xSp 2xPs 2xAx

My play test rules are the same.  No supporting elements.  Pikes are changed to +5 (foot) +6 (mounted) +4 (against shooting, or in close combat against Ps, Bw, Cv or Lh).  They suffer a -4 penalty in bad going.

The situation at the beginning of the battle. Rome is in Red. The Seleucids have the first move.

The Seleucids get 6 for pips on the first turn but are content to advance at a slow pace and keep the line together.  The Romans get a 1 for pips on the second bound and elect to stay put.  The Seleucids get another 6 but continue their slow march.

The situation after 3 bounds of movement.

The Romans roll a 2 for pips and elect to kick out their cavalry to extend their flank a bit.

So far, no agressive moves from the Romans.

The Seleucids get a third 6 for pips and advance the main line across the front.   The Sch moves in in hopes of doubling the Roman general and forcing him to flee off the board.  They are supported by the Kn on their left.

The Seleucid attack on the Roman right gains momentum. The Sch and Kn drive the Roman Cv and Kn back.

The Romans get 3 pips, enough to do some maneuvering of their own.  They advance across the front.  The right gets some support from an Ax.

The Lh gets "Barkered", a Ps gets doubled and flees from the Triari, the Wb gets doubled by a blade, a Pk gets driven back by a Triari and the rest of the line locks up. The Sch is destroyed and the Seleucid Kn is forced back.

On bound 7, the Seleucid luck turns for the worst.  They roll a 1 for command points and are forced to use it to block the hole left in the line.  Hopefully they can slow the blades up.

The double overlapped Pk is destroyed, the El kills a Bd, and the rest of the Roman lmain line is driven back. The Kn pushed back the Seleucid Kn.

Rome has a chance to cause some real damage now but only rolls a 1 on their pip roll this turn.  To recap, Rome rolled a 1-2-3-1 for pips.  The General moves to support the Kn.

The El is destroyed by the Ps (2nd rank Ps!) and, quite unexpectedly, the Seleucid Kn is doubled, ending the game. Final score 4-1 (plus 1 for the Sch).

This particular game was pretty interesting.  The Romans were out manned on their right but made good progress against the lighter troops on their left.  The Galatian Wb was particularly disappointing.  The Pk cracked easily with a double overlap. Command failures occured on both sides but the Romans overcame adversity despite rolling less than 2 pips per turn on the average.  The Seleucids, on the other hand, probably could have made better use of their pips.  Their luck left them when they needed it most.  That is what lost the battle for them.

So, I am thoroughly convinced that movement does not break the game as some claim.  It is not any easier to gain a flank.  “Barkering” still works just fine.  Reserves work quite well for counter attacking (the El for instance!).

I settled in on Pikes being +5 because the relationship between Pk and Wb was +2 if the Wb were supported as well.  Since there is no support in this test, it made sense that Pk should be +5.  So what is going through your mind is that they enjoyed a 1 point advantage over Bd.  Well, they also had to attack on a narrow front.  So, I think it is a good compromise.  Sp will enjoy a boost in fire power over Pk  with only a 1 point deficit but again, Pk can attack across a broad front.  The extra verbiage for shooting and some unit types is necessary because Pk are weaker in the game against some types of troops.

Pyrrhus invades Italy!

February 16, 2012

This battle pitted a Pyrrhic army vs a Polybian Roman army.  For the battle, I had no support rules.   The only modification was to have Pike be +6 vs foot or mounted.  Pyrrhus invaded so Rome put out a terrain rich environment including a river.  The river would be a non-factor with the new setup rules and the fact that it was behind the Pyrrhic army.  Here is the line-up.

Polybian Roman

1xCv Gen 1xCv 6xBd 2xSp 2xPs


1xKn Gen 1xCv 1x Lh 4xPk 2xSp 1xPs 1xAx 1xEl

The Romans deployed the Bd in the middle with 1 Cv on the left and the Cv Gen in reserve.  The Ps and Sp started in the woods.  Pyrrhus deployed the Pk in the cnter flanked by 2 Sp.  The Kn Gen and Lh were on the left and the Ax, El and Ps were deployed in the woods on the Pyrrhic right.

The starting setup. This is going to be good.

The Romans got a 6 for pips and were able to advance everything in good style.  Pyrrhus, only rolled a 1.  They still were able to advance the better part of their army.  The El would have to wait.  Rome then rolled a 3 on bound 3 so they were not inclined to be so aggressive.  It was Pyrrhus who would drive the attack home on bound 4 with 5 pips.

Fighting is indecisive across the front though the Phalanx in the center is making good progress. The cavalry figt on the Pyrrhic left is deadlocked.

The Romans get 4 pips on bound 5 and are able to retaliate.  They use the Ps and Sp to drive back the Pyrrhic cavalry and managed to win a few fights in the center.

The pushing and shoving continue. No casualties yet but it looks like Rome won't go quietly.

Pyrrhus gets 3 pips and renews his attack, this time killing the center Sp but losing the Lh with an unlucky toss of the die. On the Pyrrhic right, the El can’t quite clear the woods but fight the Roman Cv anyway since the combat factors are close.  The El is doubled and destroyed.

Mixed results. Pyrrhus kills a Sp but loses an El and a Lh.

The Roman general hopes for the Pk to clear a good distance so he can flank them with his Cv Gen.   The shoving does continue but not to his liking.  He is obliged to move his Ps to the safety of the woods but is able to “Barker” the Pyrrhic Kn Gen.  He also concentrates on flanking the Pyrrhic Ax in the woods and destroys it with cavalry and a Ps.  However, in leaving his Sp double overlapped he loses that contest.

Rome destroys a Pyrrhic Ax but loses another spear. This one is going down to the wire.

The lines are thinning on both sides.  Pyrrhus does manage to double overlap a Bd in the center and destroy it.  He is not able to cause any further casualties.

Lucky damage for Pyrrhus. The score is tied again.

Rome rolls a 3 for pips.  This is enough for Rome to flank the Ps in the woods.  Pushing and shoving continue in the center but the Ps is destroyed ending the game with a Roman victory.

The end is here. Final score is 4-3.

I wasn’t sure how fun the game would be without support.  I have to tell you, I did not miss the support rules.  The game played fine.  It wasn’t boring.  The large amount of terrain kept the game interesting.  As for the pike modification, I think +6 across the board is a bit too much for pikes.  Whenever they were in dire straights with a double overlap, it felt like they were still indestructible at +4.  I think I will try pikes at +5/+6 (Foot/Mounted) next time.  I’ll keep the double penalty for bad going should it be needed.

The new setup rules require the infantry to be placed in the center half of the board.  This adds another tactical problem and forces the general to decide what he will place in reserve if he has an infantry heavy army.  Both armies started with some elements doubled up but it was less ofg a problem for Rome and they managed to get out of the woods (literally!) more quickly.

I have come to the conclusion that the greater movement rates are a good thing.  This allows the armies to come to grips quickly and prevents one side or another from shuffling about too much.  Flanking is a bit easier but not overly easy.  Barkering” is just as effective as in the previous versions of the game.  In all, I think that playing the game without the fiddlly support rules would work much better and…dare I says…the DBE rules actually would make a bit more sense!

DBA Without Supporting Ranks

February 14, 2012

The author has stated over and over again how DBA is a much more abstracted game than DBM(M).  Slowly, the supporting ranks have been dwindled down to just pikes at this point.  At this level, I suspect that even pikes could take a pass on supporting ranks.  Here are some mods worth trying to bring back balance to the game and get rid of supporting ranks once and for all.

1) No unit can support from the second rank anymore.  This includes pikes.

2) Since pikes no longer get a support bonus, the combat factor should be increased per unit.  Each pike unit now has +6 vs infantry or cavalry.  When fighting in bad going, they get a double penalty (-4!).  This will bring them in line with spears in bad going.

These two mods will actually make pike armies a bit more attractive as now they can deploy a line the same length as an enemy and enjoy a bit more firepower with the improved phalanx.

DBEs: I don’t like them for the extra functions and penalties in DBA 3.0.  However, those brand new pike units (heck any heavy unit!) might look a lot better as a DBE.  Just treat them as a normal unit.  They should recoil a half base depth rather than a full base depth.




Vikings Invade Normandy

February 4, 2012

This is an extreme case to show how powerful knights can be.  I used the 2.2 lists because I do not have a copy of 3.0 Book III lists.  The Vikings were the high roller with their AG 4 vs the Norman AG 2.  So the Normans had to put out terrain.  3 pieces in arable is all.  They opted for hills.  Small hills.  The Normans got to place one.  The Vikings placed another.  Then the Normans randomly placed the third.  Here is the line-up for the game.


1xBd Gen 10xBd 1xBw


1xKn Gen 7xKn 2xSp 2xBw

The Normans started things off with a pip roll of 1.  Luckily, it is the first turn of the game so they just moved their battle line forward 2 BW.  The Vikings rolled a 6.  So they were able to extend their line and then move forward about 1 BW.

The situation after 2 bounds. So far so good.

The Normans rolled a 4 for pips.  They decided to be aggressive on the right, charging the Vikings with 4 Kn.  They then brought up the rest of the line 2 BW to support the attack.  Going from right to left, the Normans won every combat, killing 3 Viking Bd.

After bound 3 and the Norman attack. 3-0 just like that.

The only chance for the Vikings was in the center.  The charged the Sp with the Bds and lined up the Bw on the overlapping Kn. The Norman Cb were also charged by Bds   In missile fire, the Bw destroyed the overlapping Kn.  The melees resulted in a the Gen Bd driving back the Sp and the other Sp driving back the Viking Bd.   One melee here resulted in a Bw being driven back and the other locking up with the Bd.  Finally, the last Bd on the Viking left was forced to conform to the Norman Kn, thus getting overlapped on one side.  The Viking won extending the game one more turn.

The last chance. The Vikings had to be lucky here. They were in shooting but not in melee.

The final turn had the Normans charging with their right and left to finish the game.  In the center, the Vikings killed another Bw but the Normans killed 2 Bd weakening the Viking right and completing the destruction of the Viking left.  The game ended 5-2.

The end. The Vikings went into full flight!

So, if a knight heavy army manages to be the defender, woe to the vanquished.  Blade heavy armies just won’t stand a chance.  This game was a laugher after the first contact.  The only chance to make it close was for the Vikings to attack in the middle.  If there is a lot of terrain (and maybe a waterway) I think the Vikings would have a chance.  I’m not sure if limiting the quick kill on some units to knights moving to contact would make a big difference.  In this situation, the knights are also faster.   They will be able to choose the first fights.

An interesting side effect of the new deployment rules is that infantry only armies can’t deploy as wide as armies with cavalry.  I had to stack up blades and deploy them wide as part of the Viking first move.   I never was able to fully extend my line before the Normans charged in.  I suppose deploying back some would have helped buy time.