Monday, 7 March 2011

De Bellis Paininthearsesus

De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) has been an immensely popular set of rules for the Ancient/ Medieval period since it's initial release in 1995. It's unofficial fan site - Fanaticus  has a healthy online community, there is DBA Online, an online version of the game and has spawned a number of variants, some official as in De Bellis Renationis (DBR) (Renaissance  period) Hordes of the Things (HoTT) (a fantasy version) and it's big brother variations De Bellis Multitudinis (DBM) and De Bellis Magistrorum Militum (DBMM) and some unofficial versions such as Napoleonic DBA and Solo DBA.

There are a number of plus points to DBA :-

1. It's a short set of rules (of the 52 pages in the Version 2.2 rulebook only 10 pages are actual rules);

2. Very little is required in the way of figures, you require a total of 12 bases, or elements, which depending on the army list you are using can vary from 24 figures (Early Libyan) to 116 figures for the Medieval French Army (source "The Unofficial Guide to DBA" produced by the Washington Area De Bellis Antiquitatis Gamers (WADBAG) );

3. It requires very little space to play the game  - a 2' x 2' area;

4. It requires very little in the way of terrain;

5. It plays very quickly and a number of games can be played very quickly in a night's gaming.

Some people question it's historical accuracy and it's stylistic combat resolution but to be honest the only negative point that I can think of about DBA is that I am CRAP at it.

And so it was last night when the boys and I got the figs out for a series of games.

As those of you who have been following Ruarork's blog  Minis, musings and a midget will know that after much much delay he finally finished his 15mm Gaullish DBA army that he had purchased from Museum Miniatures so was keen to get them on the table. Cammie has been slowly working on a Polybian Roman army Tales of Toy Soldiers and had also just recently bought from Gordon a Carthaginian army. I have numerous armies based around my Nikephorian Byzantines and also a box of Macedonians from which a variety of DBA armies can be built.

So for the first game the Romans lined up against the Gauls in a classic confrontation
And due to the inability of either General to roll more than a 2 on their "Player Initiative Point" or PIP die the armies slowly rumbled forwards toward each other to eventually and almost simultaneously the 2 extreme flanks contacted each other

The Gaulish Chariots and Roman Cavalry in the bottom of the picture  bounced off each other over several bounds with no one getting the upper hand. As usual, it was left to the Roman Legionnaire to win the battle for his General and so it was on this occasion where although the 2 battle lines swayed back and forwards, eventually the Romans made the decisive breakthrough and won the game. First blood to Cammie.

So next up was myself, and I decided to play with the Carthaginians. I was the defender and for a bit of variety laid out the following battlefield

The water feature on the left was actually a waterway as required in set up rules for a Littoral battlefield which as the Defender, I was required to set up, but it meant no forces could be deployed to the left of it unless there was to be a landing. In numbering the sides of the battlefield for deployment, Cammie had actually numbered the right hand side of the battlefield the "4,5,6" side and then proceeded to roll a 2 which resulted in the armies being deployed as above, not what I was intending and already putting my forces at a disadvantage in splitting my army in 2. To make matters worse when my cavalry element attempted to cross the right hand river to help support the Light Horse elements, I rolled a 6 which meant that the river aided defence and any element attempting to cross had to roll a 3 or more to be able to continue.

As Cammie's Romans, neatly filled the gap between the 2 water features I knew my battle line would be outnumbered so I sent the Cavalry on a sweep down the right flank to hopefully get behind the Roman battle line
The 2 battle lines continued to roll forward and when the Light horse where in a position to contact the Roman battle line in the flank, the Carthaginian battle line on the right flank, led by the General element charged

The Roman Cavalry moved to counter the threat of the Light Horse, the Roman General staying on his side of the river for fear of being cut off from the rest of the battle line but disaster struck the Romans when the Cavalry were routed by the Light Horse (Romans rolled a 1 adding their combat factor (CF) of +3 for a total of 4, the Light Horse a 6, adding their CF of +2 for a total of 8, bye bye Romans) and on the Battle Line the Roman General was recoiled in his attempt to achieve an overlap on the Carthiginian General

But then it was my turn to have an epic fail on the dice rolling and the Roman Legionaries, supported by an element of Psiloi (or as we pronounce them "Pissoils") which gave the Legionaries a +1 CF against mounted troops, it was their turn to roll a 6 and the Carthaginian General rolled a 1

Game over and Cammie's second win.

So I tried again, but this time brought out my Macedonians for their first appearance on a DBA battlefield for a long long time - the figures were mainly Mikes Models (remember that range Dear Reader) with the General element being Minifigs.

The Macedonians long stay in their box had clearly dulled their wits as I had no sooner deployed and started to move the battle line forward when I realised that Cammies' cavalry moving down their left flank, would quickly get behind me and threaten my camp . The only troop that could counter this threat quickly enough was my General (the Macedonian Light Horse was itself trying an outflanking manoeuvre from my left flank.) The General moved to counter this threat with the inevitable consequence that the Macedonian General was killed, Game over and Cammie's third win of the night.

Determined to get 1 victory on the night I challenged Ruarok's Gauls with the Macedonians. Again I was the defender and with the resultant table edge roll, the initial deployment looked like this

On reflection, I should have swapped over the Psiloi with the 2 elements of Auxilia (4Ax) on the right hand flank of the Macedonian line - the hills had been declared as being steep and therefore counted as bad going so the Auxilia could have easily defended the left hand hill and not worried about the Gaullish Chariots - but I didn't.

The Macedonian Pike Block filled the gap between the 2 hills but I soon realised that the Gauls were not going to be foolish enough to try and force a result there, again the battles would be decided on the flanks

The Macedonian General moved to his left to help support the Light Horse there but once more in the decisive combat again the kingsleypark dice demons struck again

And the Macedonian General was no more, so Ruarok's game and my third straight loss.

In a game where you only have 12 elements to look after you would think it would be a relatively straightforward thing to keep them doing what you want them to. But the PIP dice ensures that you can never be sure what your forces will be able to do from 1 bound to the next.

Maybe, also, I am overly aggressive at using my general to charge home attacks, but sometimes, as in the 2nd game I had with Cammie, sometimes there isn't anyone else available to do the job.

And of course, you just can't legislate when the dice are just going to bite you on the back side. Clearly, though despite it's appearance as short set of rules, there is a lot to be learnt about the tactics of the game and so no battle will ever fight the same way twice.

So despite my total inability to be successful at the game, the boys and I will no doubt try again and maybe in a future post I will be able to say that DBA is no longer De Bellis Paininthearsesus but De Bellis Kingsleyparkusvictorious


  1. De Bellis Kingsleyparkusvictorious

    Hmmm, I am dubious, after all, you do have to roll dice.

  2. I know Gordon, but I guess I have to be optimistic rather than a realist otherwise I may as well back up my toys and sell them on ebay

  3. Apologies to Dave and Julie at Museum Miniatures who, were, of course, the company who supplied Ruarok with his Gauls.

    Post and link corrected accordingly.

  4. You make several mentions of the two lines rolling and rumbling foreward, not so with my romans, maby for a move or two then stop and wait for the other guy, every game I was fairly luck with my deployment.

    You also forgot to mention that in the 18 months or so i have had them my Romans have never lost. . .

    Call that throwing down the gauntlet if you will but the last time you did the bold Alexander took a gladius in the eye :P

    Museum also supplied the Romans and Carthys. Wonderful models.