Help support TMP

"DBM - A Subtle Set of Rules?" Topic

22 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Renaissance Discussion Message Board

Back to the Medieval Discussion Message Board

Back to the Ancients Discussion Message Board

Action Log

01 Feb 2019 11:37 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions boardCrossposted to Medieval Discussion boardCrossposted to Renaissance Discussion board

Areas of Interest


806 hits since 6 Jul 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian07 Jul 2018 8:16 p.m. PST

Some have described DBM as being a 'subtle' set of rules – would you agree?

kodiakblair08 Jul 2018 3:11 a.m. PST

No idea. In near 30 year I've never fathomed what PB meant. Every version of the DBX family remain on a shelf marked "Arcane Lore"

parrskool08 Jul 2018 3:35 a.m. PST

No idea…………ditto

David Manley08 Jul 2018 4:40 a.m. PST

What makes a set of rules "subtle"?

platypus01au08 Jul 2018 4:59 a.m. PST

What's 'subtle'?

My best reason for playing DBMM (DBM is OP now, you can download a Fan set from some sites) is that it gives a great narrative and is highly re-playable.

I also like the contested dice rolls. There is a lot of tension as you go down the line, rolling each pair and finding out what happens. Sometimes elation, sometimes despair. There is a relationship between you and your opponent that is almost physical as you roll off all the combats.

Not sure if having your line of Polish knights smash a line of light horse and then tear off to loot the baggage is subtle….


martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 5:07 a.m. PST

Phil creates intelligent games with excellent mechanisms. By using a small amount of modifiers and good mathematical understanding he is a leader in the hobby. Subtlety is created through results varying, depending on striker/target characteristics.. So, yes i agree that his rules are subtle.

crazycaptain08 Jul 2018 9:16 a.m. PST

Yes, DBx is subtle in my opinion as well. This makes most matchups challenging for both sides and does Hoplite warfare well for these reasons. I feel that both sides are both very involved in the game and even if it is a big game, nobody tends to grow tired/bored.

Tony S08 Jul 2018 10:35 a.m. PST

I think a subtle set of rules is one that seems – on the surface – to be a very simple set of rules, one that can fit into only a few sheets of paper. My rule of thumb for simple rules is if I can remember the entire ruleset in my head. (As my aging goes on, a constantly downwardly shifting target to be sure!)

But, when playing it, one discovers that the actual gameplay itself is quite complex, and multiple strategies emerge, and no one strategy is ever paramount. And the more one plays it, the more one finds new depths. It's like a subtle wine, or music or painting. At first blush it seems too simple and boring, but the more one tastes it, or listens to it, or stares at it, the more previously un-noticed shades and complexities emerge.

Simple rules don't necessarily mean simplistic play. And those simple rules are – by far – the hardest to write. (I acknowledge Martin Goddard for pointing out and amply illustrating that observation)!

As for DBM being subtle…in my opinion no. The gameplay is intensely complex, the game is fun and tense and interactive, but I needed to constantly refer to the QRF, and the rules. And we all know how arcane Barkerese is! I admit that might have been because I didn't play it often.

Its descendant DBMM is far worse. Gameplay might be better, but every and the kitchen sink has been thrown into the rules, making it impossible to hold the rules in ones memory.

On the other hand, DBA (especially 3rd edition) is, in my opinion, quite subtle. True, it has gotten more complicated, but I can still hold the rules in my aging brain, and focus on tactics, and not the rules. And yet, every battle is different, unpredictable, new and exciting. Not too many of my rules can say that after being played for 25 (is that right? Sheesh. I think it came out in '91?) years or so.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 1:35 p.m. PST

When you go through I don't know how many printed revisions, each immediately followed by amendment sheets….
No. That's not subtle.

platypus01au08 Jul 2018 3:31 p.m. PST

No amendment sheets for DBMM Winston. Nor for DBA.

Amendments sheets are ancient history.

Give the rules a try. You might like them!


evilgong Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2018 4:54 p.m. PST

I reckon DBM was the best set of rules ever created.

Firstly it had the superb lists back up and the games were one of the first / few that had a clear mechanism for game victory, and that was achievable in a reasonable time.

The inclusion of detailed terrain, visibility, weather and time of day rules meant you got games with a real story to them and each game could be quite different.

The expansion of DBA to a bigger scope that became DBM hit a sweet spot of detail and simplicity for a 3-4 hour game. PB was the ideas generator and RBS understood players and play-balance to help hold it together.

What I liked about DBM was that it (more or less) got the balance right between the vastly different troop types in ancients.

Its genius was the ability as a player to trade space and perhaps bodies for time – you could delay in one sector to win in another – perhaps by a significant outmanoeuvre.

I think PB put the detail in the wrong places for DBMM and a better route would have been to have a base set that was somewhere between BB-DBA and DBM but added more detail of the Stratagems. The system would have benefited from a published booklet of set ups for historical battles.

Having said that, I tend to play BBDBA these days as they are simpler and more of my club members know them.


David F Brown

catavar08 Jul 2018 5:07 p.m. PST

I think so. I still see games played at conventions. Back in the day I wouldn't have even tried ancients if it wasn't for DBA. I felt DBM added chrome for larger battles without being overly complex. I still haven't found a game I like better.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 2:16 a.m. PST

No amendment sheets for DBMM Winston. Nor for DBA.

Amendments sheets are ancient history.

Give the rules a try. You might like them!

What makes you think I haven't?
Read the thread title, by the way. It's specifically about DBM.
How many printed revisions has DBA had? Isn't it in version 3 now?

Excuse me. DBX (which is not what this is about!) is a religion. I fear I may be questioning dogma here.

platypus01au09 Jul 2018 2:44 a.m. PST

Yes, 3 versions of DBA. It's your statement that these rules are immediately followed by amendment sheets that is false.

I have no problem with someone liking or disliking a set of rules. I do have a problem with someone being disingenuous. What you say happens doesn't happen. It used to happen, but not now for many years. Things have changed.

And yes, the thread is about DBM. But DBM has been out of production for over a decade. There hasn't been an amendment sheet for over two. That is how outdated you are about these things.


aynsley683 Inactive Member09 Jul 2018 3:15 a.m. PST

Yes would agree, my only thing against DBM was you basically had to apprentice to someone to get the hang of it all. Then you start seeing how simple and subtle it is in places.

Also I beli3v3 you can still buy the rules and army lists on ebay from the original publishers, not bad for something that's been out of production for over a decade. The rules are available as a free download I think on some British site.

As it doesn't need amendment sheets why print them ? ADLG doesn't have an amendment sheet at all I believe. Having one or not doesn't mean how upto date something is I believe.

The Brits I see are still evolving it a bit with the odd few tweaks, in the US they stopped at 3.2 I think and it's still going in Lancaster Pa every year, FOG and MM and even DBA 3 has either gone to dwindled down to low single digits. I did see an MM game in the spring but that was with 2 Canadian players from the same club.

Anyway yes it can be very subtle but only once you have acquired the taste after your apprenticeship has completed shall we say.

earlofwessex Inactive Member09 Jul 2018 3:58 a.m. PST

DBM is definitely subtle. When I taught them to a friend (who is far more experienced in minis gaming than I am) he was particularly impressed by the subtlety, using the term elgant to describe them. This was the first time I'd heard this term to describe a game, although it has since become overused.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP09 Jul 2018 5:02 a.m. PST

This is my experience with DBM. I came back into The Hobby after a 10 year hiatus to find that the Ancients game that all the Cool Kids were playing was DBM.
So I bought the original version, and caught up with all the Amendment sheets. Of course only the one with the most recent date was valid.
Then I bought all the army lists.
Voila, another printed version came out, which I of course purchased. Who wants to be left out? And it WAS followed within weeks by yet another amendment sheet.
All in all I bought 3 different printed versions, some of which had up to 3 amendment sheets, and 2 different sets of army lists. Ironic thing is that my friends who had Ancients armies played WRG7 and then Warrior. They couldn't be bothered with DBM for all if the above reasons.
WRG7 was also going through the same.

Disingenuous? Is that a genteel way of calling me a liar? I am telling you EXACTLY what I went through just to keep up with the Cool Kids.

Chess is subtle. The rules haven't changed in hundreds of years. A game that is turned inside out every 4 years can never be. Unless by "subtle" you mean that some parts of the rules are so obscure a pro can ambush a newbie and crush him.

DBX? It's Calvin Ball.

catavar09 Jul 2018 9:55 a.m. PST

I've seen copies of Version 2.0 (1997), 3.0 (2000) and 3.2 (2011). I'd be interested in knowing what other versions are out there. As an example of the army lists, I've seen book four (1994) covering 1071-1500AD and the 2nd edition of book four (1999).

I don't believe any of the changes were earth shattering but will understand if others might disagree. I was less than thrilled with some of them. I did appreciate the updates to the army lists though.

aynsley683 Inactive Member09 Jul 2018 12:54 p.m. PST

I'm sure you've seen the 3.2 rules that are now a free download-

PDF link

The British players circuit made a 3.3 amendments-

In the US here or rather the NE area, Ohio and Canadian players , we just stuck with the 3.2 version, for a few reasons (founded or unfounded but it worked for us ) .

In 3.2 with the MM army lists we are allowed to field an army from either the M or MM versionof an army, as it made some armies a little better ( gave my Post Mongol Samurai a nice little block of upto 8 Bw(S) , otherwise was unchanged ).

Allowed some rear support options if the army list allowed it (mainly MM versions ) the Brit's specifically allowed this but specifically disallowed Spartan Sp(S) being able to be supported by Sp(O) even though the list itself said yes.

With 3.2 some troop costs changed as you saw I'm sure, mainly Bd so as to allow more Roman armies , then in 3.3 Sp(s) got cheaper, surprisingly the brits didn't want to have cheaper Lh(S) as it would only benefit Hun types.

We didn't use the 3.3 as with a smaller pool we didn't want to keep changing the version to confuse the a occasional player, and we liked them just they way they are.

Tony S09 Jul 2018 1:08 p.m. PST

Chess is subtle. The rules haven't changed in hundreds of years.

In my opinion, the length of time a set of rules have existed is moot, except for the fact that it is wonderful evidence that the game is indeed incredibly subtle. A game that is so simple, yet still has been played for hundreds of years by thousands people, to mind my mind defines the term "subtle".

A game that is turned inside out every 4 years can never be.

Not necessarily. It is a very, very rare game designer that actually simplifies the rules in successive editions. Usually, most designers "improve" the rules by adding more and more detail. That, my friends, is called "dirt". And dirt is not subtle. A few good designers come out with a second edition that is indeed an improvement on the first, by slightly modifying some odd bits, or clarifying sections by taking advantage of a lot more players playing a lot more games over a lot more time than the original small band of intrepid playtesters. Some even get rid of parts that never get used, or are just an unnecessary complication.

Sadly, I would not put DBM or DBMM in that category. I think successive editions came out largely to plug loopholes in the rules that tournament players exploited.

Unless by "subtle" you mean that some parts of the rules are so obscure a pro can ambush a newbie and crush him.

Exactly! Totally agree. As I mentioned in my post, a subtle set of rules must be simple enough to able to be memorized and held in one's head after only few plays, yet have such emergent complex gameplay that you never grow tired of it.

DBX? It's Calvin Ball.

Had to laugh at that phrase! Well put! I don't entirely agree with you, as I am firmly of the opinion that DBA 3 is quite subtle, quite simple and – I strongly hope – that it is indeed the final edition of that ruleset, and that Phil just leaves it alone.

But other DBx games I'd have difficulty in arguing the Calvin Ball label. And I had to admit I like playing DBR, although I've never claimed it to be subtle.

Marcus Brutus09 Jul 2018 7:00 p.m. PST

I play Impetus and I think Lorenzo has left it too long in updating and refining the system in a 2nd edition (which should come out in the fall this year.) I don't see a problem with a rules set being updated every 3 or 4 years with a new edition. In fact, I think it is a good thing as long as the changes are meant to refine the system rather than pad the rules writer's pocket (as GW seemed to often do.)

langobard Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2018 12:41 a.m. PST

DBA was subtle, innovative and the rules set that we needed at the time.

That said, the idea that 12 elements = an "army" never really felt right to me and didn't really help my suspension of disbelief.

So, while I was predisposed towards DBM as it allowed me to field the larger armies that I wanted, the game simply never seemed to flow in a way that I found enjoyable. Too often it seemed to bog down. My own feeling was that the PIP dice mechanism had simply been stretched too far, but there were probably other reasons that things simply didn't seem 'right'.

From memory DBA 2 introduced BBDBA, and this really hit the sweet spot as far as I was concerned. 36 elements looked like an army, and I didn't feel the PIP process was being overburdened.

I've pretty much stuck with BBDBA and Impetus since then and ignored the various DBM/DBMM iterations that have followed.

Marcus, interesting to see that a new version of Impetus is coming out, thanks for that. The basing system alone is something that helps with the feel of the game, and gives an insight into the many things that impact what we are looking for, and is a subtlety in its own right.

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.