Marian Roman vs Gallic army…and this time I mean it!

February 2, 2012

For this fight I used the same setup as before.  In fact, Gaul had a winning setup so why change right?  The Romans pretty much copied their Polybian counterparts but with some noteable differences.  The Marians get a single Ax and single Ps to deal with the Gallic Ps.  Here is the line-up.

Marian Romans

1xCv Gen 1xCv 8xBd 1xAx 1xPs

Gallic you already know it but I will post it again.

1xWb Gen 2xCv 8xWb 1xPs

The setup is below.  The objectives seem to be the same.  Note, I forgot to place the camps!  Oh well.  It’s not like there will be enough time to storm them anyway!

At the start. Note the lesser amount of reserve Bd. They also form a separate battle.

The game started in a similar fashion though the Romans had no Triari to expand.  It would be a matter of luck and well, that’s about it. The situation after 2 bounds can be seen below.  The Romans are going for a cheap kill and are hoping for some good luck on their right.  The Gauls…well you know what they want!

Gallic warband makes a general advance. Roman Ax and Ps take off like a shot. The main line edges forward.

The Gallic line continues forward knowing well that they may end up on the short end of the stick.  The Roman line surges forward and inflicts a casualty but only locks up with the Ps on the right.  The Gallic Wbs manage a casualty on their own breaking through on their right.  Note: I forgot to move the reserves up!

The Roman line slams into the Gallic line. The situations after 2 more bounds. The Roman cavalry is making limited progress.

Finally, the Romans get the upper hand.  And inflict another casualty.  The Gallic army gets only 2 pips.  Not enough to react everywhere.  After an indecisive turn the Romans flank 2 units and end the game with 3 kills this turn.

The situation at the end of the game. The Gallic army managed one more kill but it was too little too late. The game ended 5-2.

This was largely a reverse of the Polybian game.  The Gallic army maybe should have matched the Roman line but that certainly would have cost them somewhere with the lowered combat factors from lack of support.  As demonstrated, a break through works both ways.    Reserves of some sort are very important.

This does show that blade heavy armies can still hold up to the Barbarian Horde.  The two games also showed that luck is still an important factor.  I think the outcomes were reasonable.  The movement system is still my main concern.  My next battle will pit Ptolomy vs Antiochus on a flat plain.  Call it the battle of mini-Raphia.  This should have some greater maneuvering.

Polybian vs Gallic DBA 3.0

February 2, 2012

This battle happen by accident.  I wanted to play Marian Roman vs Gallic but had a brain cramp at the critical moment and deployed Polybian Romans instead.  The line up was as follows:

Polybian Rome

1xCv Gen 1xCv 6xBd 2xSp 2xPs


1xWb Gen 2xCv 8xWb 1xPs

The game went sideto side this time. Rome was the attacker so the Gallic army setup first and moved first.

The Gallic army advanced across the board in 1 line.  The Romans responded by holding position and extending the Triari to cover their left against a possible flank attack.  The Gallic army inched closer but still did not commit on their next bound.  The Romans felt that they were better off attacking rather than sitting back because waiting might give the Gallic army time to maneuver into a better position. They had a chance to get a cheap kill and pin the Gallic army so this is what they did.

Rome advanced to hit the lone Ps and hoped to get a cheap kill. Note that the Gallic Ps will conform to the contacting group. They opted to move toward their own line to seal off the flank.

Combat had the Ps get recoiled.  Here is where luck turned on the Roman army.  The Gallic army advanced forward in hopes of the quick-kill on the blades.  The following result was completely unexpected.

The gallic line surged forward killing both cavalry including the Roman general. They lost 1 Wb in return against the blades. Score 3-1.

To add insult to injury, the Roman army received only 1 pip for their next bound.  There was an exchange of kills  and the game ended 4-2.

The Gallic army lost 1 Wb in the center while the Roman army lost 1 Bd to a Qk and the game ended there.

I think I did something wrong.  I am used to 2.2 where Wb pursue everything.  Now they only pursue foot.  Minor error.  I very much like things so far.  The fast speeds have shown that armies get into it quickly and there has been a minimum of flanking.  I will say that this particular scenario is not a true test as any Barbarian army is going to line up and charge.

A quick note about the Roman strategy.  I doubled up the blades just in case the Wb units got lucky.  They would have to advance and then would be in big trouble.  I did not anticipate them getting more than 1 kill this way anyway.

Up next: Gallic vs Marian Romans.  This time I mean it!  It’s already played.  I just have to write the report.

First Game of DBA 3.0

January 31, 2012

I managed to get a game in of DBA 3.0 last night.  The game pitted the Pyrrhic army vs the Polybian Roman army.


  • 1xKn Gen 1xCv 1xLh 1xAx 2xSp 4xPk 1xPs 1xEl

Polybian Roman

  • 1xCv Gen 1xCv 4xBd 2xAx 2xSp 2xPs

For the rules, I used the Jan 27th draft.  I went through the usual setup and placed both armies at 3BW from the center.  The Pyrrhic army was the defender so set out the terrain, setup first and went first.  Both armies initial deployment were in one big “battle”.  Pyrrhus advanced the cavalry quickly and the heavy infantry followed some distance behind.  The Romans moved to match the Pyrrhic advance but also boldly advanced a unit of Ps to take on the Pyrrhic Ps in the woods.  The Pyrrhic army moves to pin the Romans down in the center and right while the cavalry and elephant try to pin down the Roman cavalry and Triari.  The Romans make the first move to contact.

The armies lock and the melee begins.

Melees on  the flank are indecisive.   The center, however was where the fight was interesting.  The blades predictably pushed the spear back.  The phalanx, managed to push the blades back.  By rule heavy infantry must pursue other foot.  After 2 bounds, the flank blades were no longer providing overlap to the phalanx.  The Elephant defeated the spear it opposed while the Roman cavalry and Triari were making good progress against the lighter Pyrrhic cavalry.  On the other flank, the Pyrrhic Ax attacked the Velites and pushes them back and the Cretan archers attacked the other unit of Velites with indecisive results.  In the center, with the help of the Elephant, the phalanx manages to double a blade.

Blood starts to flow.

Finally, the Pyrrhic Ax (Samnites!) destroy the Velites they opposed and are then flanked by the Roman Ax.  The shoving match continues in the center.  On the cavalry flank, the Romans score there first kill by doubling the Lh.  The Elephants move in to engage the Roman general and manage to push him back.  The phalanx is now steadily driving back the Roman blades in the center and the flank blades are see sawing back and forth with the spears they oppose.  The game ended with the destruction of the Roman Ps in the woods and a 4-1 victory for Pyrrhus.

The armies at the end of the game.


  • I liked the way that the infantry interacted with the heavy infantry having to chase all foot.
  • The Elephants provided a way to reliably push the opponents around and disrupt the enemy line without causing lots of destruction.
  • I was not sure how to handle the flank rule and read through it carefully again only to find that I was doing it wrong.  As it turns out, you can flank pretty easily with the fast speeds.  Not sure if this is a good thing or not.   Certainly a longer line will have a much easier time of getting a round a flank.  Hellenistic vs Rome for instance where Pikes are obliged to support in order to be useful.
  • Ps no longer have rear support factors.  While I do think this is historically correct, I was not really sure how to use them!  In the end, they fought on the flanks.  They could provide support.
  • The armies were engaged by bound 3.  This is pretty cool since it keeps the other player from reshuffling their army.  Both generals were in reserve for the entire game.
  • Pyrrhus would have done well to get into the fight since the quick kill ability worked on just about everything in the Roman army!

DBA Strangeness

June 17, 2011

Going through the rules of DBA 2.2, I pondered some of the strangeness of the combat modifiers, trying to reconcile them in my mind. Here are some thoughts on what works and what is completely strange.

In melee double pikes get +3 and double warbands +1 vs all but cavalry, psiloi, light horse, scythed chariots and bows.  This is because these attackers all have some sort of missile weapons or are designed to crash through the ranks (scythed chariot) so the second rank could not actively help the front. That actually makes sense.

Double spears get +1 when fighting knights or other spears.  OK.  Huh?  This makes no sense.  If you are going to allow spears to support other spears, then one would think they would perform similarly to pikes with a +1 instead of a +3.  Not quite sure why the difference.

Psiloi supporting blades spear and auxilia confer a +1 bonus when attacking mounted, or forts or camps.  This is because 1) the target is vulnerable to missile fire or 2) the shooting overhead is making the defenders of the fort/camp keep their heads down.  This makes sense.

All of the tactical factors seem pretty straight forward.  As a whole, I think the support relationships are pretty well thought out save the Spear.  in the next iteration, I would love to see that standardized to behave like pikes do now.  Will it happen?  That remains to be seen.

Square DBA

January 23, 2011


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

A Better Kind of “Polybian” Army for DBA

January 20, 2011

The army for Polybian Romans (II/33) in DBA represents the Republican Roman army from 275BC-105BC.  It should include, not only Roman infantry but other Italian infantry as well.  The list, as it stands, is not very representative of a Republican Roman Army whether it existed in the Pyrrhic Wars, the Punic Wars or the Macedonian Wars.  According to Polybius, the Romans formed their armies in 4 legions, 2 Roman and 2 Allied.  1 army was led by a Consul or Proconsul.  In theory, at any time, their could be 4 consular armies in the field for a total of about 80,000 men.  Each Legion composed of Velites, Hastati, Princepes and Triari.  The first three lines were each of 1200 men and the last of only 600 men.  This left a total of about 4200 infantry.  To this were added about 300 cavalry.  In looking at the list, we have the following units.

6XBd, 2XSp, 2XPs 2XCv (1 general).

Proportionately, this does not work out well.  Part of the problem is, the Romans are creatures of habit.  They deployed the same way every time they fought.  The other part of the problem is that the list does not account for various other allies.  In Africa, they would have Numidians.  In Greece, they would have the Aetolian League.  Even in Italy, they would have Celts and other allied infantry that were not accustomed to the Roman ways.

So to work out this issue, first lets look at how the Roman part of the army should look.

4XBd Hastati and Princepes 1XSp Triari 2XPs Velites 1XCv Roman/Italian Cavalry

That’s 8 units leaving us with 4 units to form allied contingents for the army.

  1. In Sicily during the first Punic War, Rome could have Syracusian Allies.  3XSp 1XPs
  2. In Africa we have Numidian allies 2XLH 1XPs 1X(Hd or Ax).  This would be Masinissa’s hastily raised army for Zama or his army during the 3rd Punic War.
  3. In Greece we have the Aetolian league for allies 2XPk 1X(Ps or El) 1XCv.
  4. In Italy, not only are their loyal Italian subjects but there are newly conquered city states whose loyalty is questionable.  There are also the Celts from the North.  This list could also be used for Rome in Spain. Here we could have 2X(Ax or Wb) 1X(Cv or Lh) 1X(Ps or Ax).
  5. Finally, I should also include an army for the middle east.  These would be Pergamenid with 2XAx 1XCv and 1XEl.

Using any of these options will not only bring the Polybian Roman list a little closer to its historical counterpart but it will also make the list a little more interesting.

DBA Points System

January 15, 2011

One of the complaints about DBA is that of balance.  It is true that some armies are weaker than others.  A way to figure on how strong an army might be is by a points system.

The first thing to do is to determine how valuable a unit is based on combat factor.  At first, one might think that assigning a linear progression to the combat factors would be fair.  However, higher combat factors are harder to double than lower ones in a non-linear fashion.  So, I examined the natural break points.  Combat factors of 1 or 2 behaved similarly where stronger units could double them.  Combat factors 3 and 4 were also similar.  A 2 could double a 3 but a 4 could only be doubled by another 4 or more.  Finally, the 5 is very tough.  It takes a combat factor of 6 or more to double it.  In looking at percentage chances to double, the combat factors were in three groups.  Summing the numbers up, the low group costs +1 to go up by 1 number starting at 0.  Group 2 costs 2 points to go up one number starting at 3 and group 3 costs 3 points to go up to 5.  The actual costs are 1 costs 1, 2 costs 2, 3 costs 4, 4 costs 6 and 5 costs 9.  Simply figure out the costs vs infantry and cavalry and average the two if different.  Othersie, just use the value for infantry.

Next was movement.  I simply averaged movement for good going and bad going and then took the cost at 1 point per 100p.  Range was done in a similar fashion.

Next, I looked at support factors.  This was somewhat subjective but I generally added 1 per +1 factor.  So pikes would add, for instance +3 to the total cost for instance.   There was also a deduction -2 for rough going where it applied.

Finally, I had to determine the amount of bonuses or penalties for quick kills and either for or against.  The number of quick kills divided by 3 a unit could inflict was the number for an addition to the point total.  The number of quick kills divided by 3 a unit was vulnerable to was the number for a deduction from the point total.

The final results were as follows:

  • Elephants 9 (Originally 10 I reduced it to 9 because of the extra pip to control it.  Might even be worth only 8!)
  • Blades 8
  • Knights 8 (Heavy Chariots)
  • Cavalry 6 (Light Chariots)
  • Light Horse 6
  • Pike 6 (Originally 7 but I felt after a few plays that it loses some value because you are almost compelled to put them in support.)
  • Spear 6
  • Auxilia 6
  • Warband 6
  • Bow 6
  • Scythed Chariots 5 (This might be worth only 4)
  • Psiloi 4
  • Hordes 3

So how does one use a points system in a game where armies are a static 12 elements?  Tally up the total army points based on the schedule above.  Compare the two.  If one side is 3 or more points better, then they must try to eliminate one of their elements to bring the totals to parity or near parity.  For instance, A Pyrrhic army totals 75 points.  A Polybian army totals 80 points.  To bring everything down to parity, the Roman player should remove at least 3 points of units.  The lowest cost unit in the Roman army is a Psiloi at 4 points.  So, removing 1 would bring the total down to 76 points.  He could also opt to remove a spear instead bringing the total down to 74 points.

Like all points systems, this one is subject to debate.  However, I do feel it is a good gauging tool to determine how good/bad a given army is.   The system does not take into account good generalship.  But what points system does?