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""Ancients are samo-samo"" Topic

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1,949 hits since 16 Sep 2017
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earlofwessex Inactive Member17 Sep 2017 4:37 a.m. PST

When I first got into minis wargaming I played DBM and was really into it. I was talking to a guy in the club I'd just joined and he told me he doesn't like ancients because they are "samo-samo." The punchline: he said this while he was playing an 18th century game.

This has stuck with me for 20 years now.

Great War Ace Inactive Member17 Sep 2017 6:30 a.m. PST

Yes. I cannot see any appreciable difference between one army of silly hats and another army of silly hats. But to each his own nuances.

kodiakblair17 Sep 2017 6:39 a.m. PST

I can see the fella's point if his experience was with DBA.Yes it has it's die hard fans who'll tell you it's a great system. Great for tournaments or painting few figures but when Sumerian foot armed with bronze spears fight the same as Saxon Fyrd,the only colour is on the figures.

Everything else is ? I prefer beige to vanilla :-)

Sobieski Inactive Member17 Sep 2017 7:11 a.m. PST

He was wrong – very wrong – about ancients, but 18th century armies have marked and telling differences too.

coopman17 Sep 2017 7:50 a.m. PST

He couldn't be more wrong.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 8:56 a.m. PST

Agree – have to say, I certainly use a different approach with the chariots and medium infantry of my New Kingdom Egyptian army versus those rock-hard Early Imperial Roman heavy infantry legions

Thomas Thomas17 Sep 2017 9:34 a.m. PST

DBA divides troops based on tactical function not weapon technology. So Sumerian troops that foot as dense packed spearman function the same as Saxon's using the same tactic. If relying on weapon skill they would be classed as Blades. There are many troop types in DBA and they have very different functions. Trying to use them as samo samo will get you killed.

Because DBA covers 3000 years tech has to be neutralized -everyone fights with same tech level but not with same tactics.

Medeival warfare has a strong combined arms aspect with heavy foot, missile troops and heavy mounted all having roles to play and can be battle winning in the right circumstances. Differences in troop types are if anything much more pronounced in this period than 18th century firing squad battles.


Dave Crowell17 Sep 2017 1:04 p.m. PST

In DBA all troops classed as "Blades" perform exactly the same, as do all troops classed as "Psiloi" or "Spear". It makes no difference at all if the troops in question are Romans, Sumerians or Vikings.

To make the assumption that this is true in all Ancients rules is to make a false assumption. There are plenty of rule sets in which the nuances of different troops shine forth.

The real sillyness of Ancients is not that the troops are all same-samo. It is that so many games are pure fantasy! Look at the game matchups of the big Ancients tournaments, unless historical matchups are mandated by teh tournament format they can be few and far between. Vikings vs Samurai, Romans vs Sumerians and nobody blinks an eye.

MajorB17 Sep 2017 1:35 p.m. PST

Look at the game matchups of the big Ancients tournaments, unless historical matchups are mandated by teh tournament format they can be few and far between. Vikings vs Samurai, Romans vs Sumerians and nobody blinks an eye.

One of the many reasons that I gave up on tournaments nany years ago.

MajorB17 Sep 2017 1:36 p.m. PST

To make the assumption that this is true in all Ancients rules is to make a false assumption.

How do you know that it is a false assumption?

Dave Crowell17 Sep 2017 2:00 p.m. PST

Because I have played Ancients rules beyond DBA.

evilgong17 Sep 2017 3:09 p.m. PST

Variety of weapon systems is the strength of ancients.

You can have an army of light horse archers, or shield-wall infantry, or chariots, or elephants, or foot archers, or armoured charging lancers, etc, etc

David B

Sobieski Inactive Member17 Sep 2017 3:21 p.m. PST

Major B – was that question necessary?

Wargamer Dave17 Sep 2017 6:04 p.m. PST

So switching gears slightly – which Ancient rules give good games that also allow for historical accuracy and the flavor of the army in question?

Personal logo Dervel Supporting Member of TMP Fezian18 Sep 2017 4:42 a.m. PST

So switching gears slightly which Ancient rules give good games that also allow for historical accuracy and the flavor of the army in question?

You might try Triumph!

I used to play Warhammer Ancients, DBA, DBM, FOG Rules by Ral, and a lot of other systems… All decent systems in their own right but constant struggle between overload of charts and the feel/flow of the game or troop type interaction.

I find Triumph can capture the feel (at least feels about right to me, which is obviously just an opinion) of a large historical battle with minimal rules overhead. The addition of troop types and point balance has been a huge improvement over some of the other systems, but it still manages to avoid the rules overhead of a game like DBM or Warhammer Ancients.

Dexter Ward18 Sep 2017 5:34 a.m. PST

To the Strongest does an excellent job of giving a historical game which flows quickly, offers many interesting decisions, and complete in a couple of hours.

RudyNelson18 Sep 2017 6:34 a.m. PST

When I started playing WRG ancients back in the 1970s, the combat comparison of weapons to armor did not create the 'samo' feeling. Your personally generalship also seemed to play a more important role.

I miss the days of counting casualties which is one reason we did a revised version for Fantasy and Ancient/pre-gunpowder armies. For fantasy we did modify the hit tables for the use of race combat dice. Different dice for different races. We also did half casualties rather than counting individuals to cut down on paper work. Anyway the 'Supreme Warlord: Blood Lust' has played well and does not give the samo feel.

earlofwessex Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 7:01 a.m. PST

This happened back in '96, when DBM was pretty new. The World Championships in Derby were still mostly WRG 6th ed. (don't know if this is still the case or not, but it's evidence that 6th ed. was still pretty big).

I agree that DBA is vanilla; that's why I just don't like it. I love the variety of Ancients.

For you fans of 18th century gaming, I'm sure that there is nuance there, but it just doesn't look as diverse as ancients.

I mainly shared the story for the humor.

Olivero18 Sep 2017 8:44 a.m. PST

Earlofwessex, thanks for the Story, like it.
What I don't understand is why people complain about DBA when DBA does just What it was meant to do: Simplify. If you think it went too far, go for DBMM. And if you still want more, go back to WRG Rules by the same author. And if you think DBA is oversimplistic, try Neil Thomas One-Hour-Wargames. Just four troop types for each time period) and still many think the rules give a good ancients (or horse and musket) game.
I like the diversity and reasoning behind each of these rules.
Enjoy what's tasty for you!

MajorB18 Sep 2017 9:44 a.m. PST

How do you know that it is a false assumption?

Major B was that question necessary?

One person says A is true. Another says no it isn't. Who am I to believe unless eiher or both offer reasons for their assertions?

Thomas Thomas18 Sep 2017 10:34 a.m. PST

I have also played lots of medieval games dating back to WRG 4th edition and including WAB and its variants.

I have not found any system that approaches DBX for simulation value. Even in its simplest form DBA it produces a rich variety of armies with widely varying tactics. I still fee people misunderstand the DBX troop clasifiction system (which I admit is not its strongest feature – I dumped it for Knights and Knaves). In a nutshell troops that preformed the same tactical function be they Roman, Viking, dismounted men-at-arms are classied the same. If they had different tactical uses they get a different class.

You can vary them by using gradings (as in DBM – worked great until DBM 3.0). But these reflect quality not tactical use.

No game system comes close to DBX in showing the different uses say of Cav, Knights or Light Horse etc. There is a tremendous difference in how you use Spear and Blade etc. Not to mention the effect of terrain etc. It remains one of the great design breakthroughts in gaming (and this from someone who has re-designed the entire DBX system for Kniths and Knaves).

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

kodiakblair18 Sep 2017 11:18 a.m. PST

Thomas Thomas

I'm glad you like the DBX system.When I bought V 1 way back in 89/90 I thought it was a grand idea,couldn't get my head around PB's writing but still great idea.

Trouble was it's origins as a fast play tourney game robbed the fun for me.There was no way I could connect with 4 figures classed as blades the same as I could with 16 Gallolaich Irreg B MI 2HCW/JLS.

To this solo gamer it'll always be,perhaps unfairly,the speed dating form of wargaming.

Sobieski Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 3:14 p.m. PST

Major B He's obviously an experienced player making a statement based on having played a number of sets and noticed that they are not identical.

warhorse Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 5:31 p.m. PST

I must admit I find the concept of defining troops by tactical use as opposed to just equipment to be … appealing. HI is HI. How they are equipped from era to era would not fundamentally change their role as seen by the general: badass guys in heavy formation destined to take and hold ground…

I always interepreted DBx as a general's game, rather than a centurion's tactical puzzle on timing of formation changes. Would troop type A have differed profoundly from troop type B from the perspective of the generals (and Praetors?) involved…?

warhorse Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 8:36 p.m. PST

To further elaborate, how as a general would you deploy Roman or Viking HI that differently? If you want the subtleties of formation changes, you are acting way beyond scope as a commanding general, and are instead wearing the hat of a centurion or equivalent. Caesar and Aethelstan both assume their men do their jobs on the day, and the system as I understand it blocks micro management by design. As an executive officer in a financial institution, I appreciate what higher level abstract designs are attempting to show. I have neither the patience nor the inclination to micro-direct my "troops". I give them the outcome I desire, and I trust them to execute using their wits and the tools at their disposal, in the fashion they see fit… That is what command is….

Queen Catherine19 Sep 2017 6:26 a.m. PST

Gamer Dave,

I see where the dude is coming from, and altho it depends on just what he meant by it, I will say that I have now totally given up playing:
- commercial ancient sets,
- tournement type games,
- "ancients" that cover 4500 years,
- wargames where the table play takes longer than in the real life battle.
- wargames where poor design and mechanics lead to constant "discussion" of what should happen,
- historical fantasy where sumarians play Swiss Pikes at Bosworth, etc
Not that the occasional DBA style tournement isn't an interesting military mind exercise, but between the cost and the competitiveness, I find it unpalatable.

Here's our solution to the problem:
TMP link
We emphasize the mission/scenario [there are 30] and player decisions. Great system, and it actually fits into our lives.

goragrad19 Sep 2017 10:16 a.m. PST

Considering that the intent of DBA was to provide a quick play rules set that covered the span of history prior to the introduction of improved firearms during which battles consisted of bodies of infantry and mounted troops fighting in close combat with edged weapons supported by missile troops – ancients is rather samo-samo.

It has been stated on numerous occasions that the author of the rules intended the troop classification into their rules limited types to be appropriate only within their specific historical period and that he disapproves of the open tournament or any ahistorical matchups.

Considering the span of time covered by the rules though, it is not surprising that people who might be focused on Biblical armies, the Dark Ages, the Classical Period, etc. would want to be able to game with others whose focus is on a different period.

Frankly not a new or original desire. Back in the day one of the polls in S&T Magazine on what period and gaming level readers would like to see covered in a future game was the half in jest choice of a Battles at the End of Time Quad included in which was to be the WWI BEF assaulting the largest Roman legion marching camp ever built.

Not exactly a historical matchup…

Queen Catherine19 Sep 2017 6:48 p.m. PST

@ Earl of Wessex:
Interestingly, if you take a set of rules that covers the entire 4500 years and differentiates within it according to "reality", what you usually end up with is a set of modifiers that all cancel out, and ergo Chariot-era heavy infantry fights just like DBA HI within the period in question. So the DBA paradigm actually gets rid of needless complexity since we can argue weapons/armor were effective as needed within their period against historical opponents [which is what they were designed to fight, after all]. So War of Roses infantry slog it out against each other, just like Bronze age heavy infantry slog it out.

What is nuts is when your full plate foot knights fight "heavy infantry" from the bronze age. Now its just silly.

@ Olivero
One thing people often miss about Neal Thomas' "One-Hour Wargames" is that the troop types are limited to four per rules [altho you can steal additional types from adjacent era rules within the book], because the variety of play is that there are 30 scenarios and 6 random army compositions. This gives 36 different opposed forces, and therefore 1080 different games. Toss in the 9 different Wargame rules in the book, and you are pretty much done with variety for the rest of your life, at around 10,000 different forces/scenarios/eras.

DBA has one scenario, more or less, altho players can use terrain placement and a few other things for variety, the rules always have the same victory condition – kill 4+ bases of the enemy army, or 1/3.

So OHW doesn't need 8 troop types and 150 lists. The variety isn't in the lists or troop types, it's in the 30 scenarios. Having played the game 50+ times, I can definitively assert that with even just minor variations in the force composition you can have a totally different game, even solo. That doesn't even take into account the odd things opponents do when they are real people as opposed to solo.

Olivero20 Sep 2017 2:56 a.m. PST

Queen Catherine, you are of right of course, variety doesn't need 100 troop types. The discussion here moved partly away from the original posters point "is ancients samo-samo" to "is DBA samo-samo". Personally I don't think it is, at least not more so than any other rule system with focus on pitched battles. The variety that comes with scenario-driven games can make games more fun, I imagine. As a long-time follower of your Blog I am tempted to buy a small army of feudal time miniatures just so that I can use your rules!

earlofwessex Inactive Member20 Sep 2017 4:45 a.m. PST

@Queen Catherine
I understand the idea behind the DBX rules. You can like DBA, that's cool. A lot of people do. I just don't agree that the DBA paradigm gets rid of "needless" complexity. This depends on what your goal is in playing. I really like the diversity and miss this bit of complexity. I "need" the various sub-classifications for the armies to connect with my imagination. I'm playing for the sake of my imagination, not a desire to win and not curiosity to see what would have happened. So more power to you.

FatherOfAllLogic20 Sep 2017 5:57 a.m. PST

If you are not into the period, then any period is "samo-samo". WWII: tanks crushing useless infantry or good tanks crushing poor tanks. "Yawn". If you like the period then "the devil is in the details" and it is interesting.

Dexter Ward20 Sep 2017 7:45 a.m. PST

DBA doesn't have one scenario, any more than any other rules do – a scenario designer can specify whatever victory conditions he/she wants.
Look at Peter Sides' 'Ancient historical battles' books for literally dozens of good DBA scenarios.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP20 Sep 2017 7:09 p.m. PST

I've been playing DBA since it first came out. And played in many a DBA tournament for more than 20 years.

I think in all that time, I've only played in a single 'open' tournament of bring any army you like. And that one because it was 25mm and [correctly] presumed that most folks didn't have a broad scope of armies to choose from in that scale.

Otherwise, for games at home, the club, all the other tournaments I've played in, they have all been historical themes, and with loaner armies available for folks who didn't happen to have a theme one of their own.

catavar24 Sep 2017 1:57 p.m. PST

If it wasn't for DBA I would have never tried ancients. I found DBM to have even more variety. In both armies that rely on heavy foot behave completely different from an army that has mostly skirmishers and bow; as it should. I've stuck with both for this reason and prefer historical match-ups. I play other periods (WW2, Napoleonics, etc) and think ancients is much less samo-samo than the others.

Mr Medici 2 Inactive Member03 Oct 2017 4:58 p.m. PST

I mean, the guy reported in the OP was probably thinking of two Roman legions fighting each other, but …

I'll admit that the very first time I looked at DBAnything I was put off when I realised that all sorts of troop types were just going to end up classed as 'Knights', 'Psiloi', etc.

The thing is though that reading actual history books tends to challenge the wargamey idea that there would be wild differences between the same tactical type across cultures in real life. Differences in quality, yes. Mostly though tactical types would be good or bad in relation to the type they were fighting, rather than in an overall sense.

Some other historical systems perhaps differentiate so much that they become more like a fantasy, or really mythological, game. Which is fine – different systems, different entertainments.

freecloud04 Oct 2017 9:06 a.m. PST

IME ancient/medieval has more variety than any other period:

- Greater variety of weapons in any one army before WW2,
- Sheer variety of different armies with different compositions is unparallelled
- The unit quality differences of any period

But so many people start with Republican or Early Imperial Romans and their barbarian enemies, or Dark Age warband forces which are some of more samo-samo armies.

PS I love the 7YW but it's attractionn to me is that it is quite "samo samo" and so it really is General v General and maximising small differences in unit qualities.

But oh those lace uniforms in 28mm…. :)

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