What You Think

Doug Melville (dougme@latrobe.vic.gov.au)

I have been playing DBM since late 1993/94 - having previously played earlier WRG Ancients Rules 5,6, & 7. It was exactly what I was looking for:

  • gives a simple game (I find that the rules are consulted once per game or less)
  • finishes in a reasonable time
  • looks right on the table

The various iterations of DBM are a serious attempt by the authors to improve the 'realism' of the game while cutting out some loopholes that had been exploited by unscrupulous players.

I don't think DBM is perfect. I, too, hate it when I set myself up in a winning position and then roll 1's, but many people exaggerate the die effect in the game. In the meantime, it may not be the best recreation of Ancient warfare - what is? which must be pure speculation in any case - but it is certainly the best game.

Scott Driscoll (trailape@one.net.au)

As a wargamer of over 20 years, I can say in all honesty that DBM has finaly given me a set of Ancient/Dark age/Medieval rules that at long last are simple and realistic.


I know many will argue that the rule updates only confuse the issue and have turned DBM into a nightmare, but I feel that generally the rules havn't changed that much from Version 1.0, and that the mechanics of the rules are quite simple. It was the simplicity of DBM that won over so many people.

Realistic? - Yes, I feel they are. OK, occasionally a stout element of Psiloi will smite the odd Knight, but that is one of the strengths of the system in my opinion. (And don't you just love it when that brave element of red-shirted skirmishers bring those Evil Serbian Knights crashing down!) No longer can you say, "I'll win this round of hand to hand!" - now it's a case of "I'll win this round of hand to hand... in all probability." All the time, your opponent is saying, "If only those guys can hold on just one more bound..."

DBM in my opinion is right on the money, as far as a set of wargame rules go. The game looks right on the table and feels right. WRG's 5th Edition sent me scurrying away from ancient wargames - now DBM has brought me back to the ancients fold, and ain't it great to be back home!

Friend of Firefall (philm@fire.org.nz)

I feel that I did everything right. I had the right troops facing the right people, my flank march arrived where I wanted it to. My deployment was fine. And my opponent was forced into desperate attacks against troops that, had I been in his position, I would have avoided. However my Archers got ploughed under by light horse, my Bow (O) got massacred by overlapped Bow (I), my Knights were killed by Albanian light horse suicide squads, and the rest of my knights having had their formation disrupted lost 2 out of three of their scraps usually when they were at +3 vs +2. Even given all this, the Albanian army spent the last four turns of the game being half an element from breaking, and they just wouldn't die.

This is the fourth game in a row where I've got screwed like this and has resulted in what the Taoists refer to as a moment of clarity (but which just might be interpreted as sour grapes).

My enlightenment was this. I don't actually like DBM anymore. I noticed that rather then going "cool. I've got a game tomorrow" I was instead going "oh god that's right I've got a DBM game tomorrow (groan)" Now given that my wargaming time is limited these days it occurred to me that I'd rather play something I enjoyed.

This being the case I'd prefer to give DBM a big miss. I really can't face playing this bloody silly dice game at the moment and I feel that I should quit before I really start to hate it (perhaps too late already).

Some of the reasons for this attitude shift are .....

  • 1/2 Terrain features. God they stink of cheddar. 1/2 size features do not have half the effect. Instead it doubles their effect as there's terrain all over the goddamn place . What were those chimps at WRG thinking?
  • I hate being Spontaneous. People have got very good at exploiting its weaknesses. Suicide attacks by light horse have become a popular, successful, and rewarding tactic. (Perhaps I should get a Regular Infantry Army)
  • I'm getting really sick of the excessively random element. I hate being killed when by rights it's the other person that should be doing the dying. But roll a 1 when they roll a 6 and you're toast.
  • I can't be bothered keeping up with the rules changes. Staying up to date with the current loop holes and figuring out what the current 'best' troop type is just bores me rigid.
  • And finally it irks me that quantity will win over quality any day. There's no such thing as a standup fight anymore, just fiddly arse skirmishes with hordes of break. Games seem to go to the army with the most elements (with the exception of Gauls it seems).
James Manto (mantofam@quadro.net)
  1. Phil Barker can't write. Has he ever heard of charts, tables, bulleted lists?
  2. In an age of desktop publishing it's appalling that a company as successful as WRG is still using 10-point Courier type and no graphics.
  3. WRG rules are too univerisal and DBxyz are getting so abstract we may as well play chess. Viking Huscarls and Roman Legionaires and Swiss Halberdiers are all very different and unique, to lump them all together as "Blades" really bugs me and they all end up fighting the same way on the table top.
  4. Nonhistorical matchups, encouraged by the WRG tournament phenomena, is making us look like fools to the rest of the wargaming world. You wouldn't see a "Horse & Musket" Tournament with 18th century Prussians competing against ACW Feds or a Mechanized WArfare Tournament with 1940 French going against 1990's Americans, but I go to conventions and see New Kingdom Egyptians fighting Normans etc. all the time.
  5. We've got to stop letting WRG dominate everything, and stop slavishly accepting everything Phil Barker tells us. WW2, Napoleonics and ACW all flourish with multiple rules, why can't the Ancient periods?
  6. Why don't we break it into smaller periods: Chariot Era, Greeks and Successors, Romans, Barbarian Invasions, Medieval, Samurai and Asia? These all have their own unique details to make them exciting - we should take advantage of them.
  7. At the convention I organize every year, to promote Ancient-era wargames, instead of a tournament I offered a prize for the best participation game. Got several very nice games put on as a result (all with historical opponents). The winner was Phil Viverito (whose Classical Hack rules subdivide into the first four sections I mention above). We gave him a 25mm painted Hoplite mounted as a trophy and a gift certificate. He liked it a lot and will come back next year.

Well that's enough ranting for now.

Bob Beattie (bob_beattie@aoce.itd.umich.edu)

As I was teaching a couple of newbies how to play later, I realized what it was for me, at least, that made DBM more interesting than Armati. Not a better or worse game, just more appealing to me. (I did play 5-6 Armati games last fall, so I can speak with some experience.)

Armati requires much attention to the initial set up, and later limits the gamer (as the game progresses) from having much control over the development of events. This might well be a very realistic way to recreate ancients warfare. But, I like to fiddle with the elements once things start to move along. I like to react to my opponents usually better setup and army selection. I get inspirations for good moves from good moves. I like to think about all the different types of troops and the various stands which I can direct as I see fit.

With DBM, I feel I am in more control in the middle and end game. That may not be a good simulation of ancient warfare, but there are some like me who want to be able to play with their toy soldiers.

Try them both, they are both easy to learn. (DBM is a bit harder to understand, but I think you can play without a tutor). Pick the one that suits your personality.

Boydicus Maximus (Jessie.McLaurin@SunBelt.Net)

I recently converted from WRG 7th edition to DBM. I have found that the lack of paperwork and the new and relatively easy combat system make DBM a far more entertaining game of ancient and medieval combat. DBM also achieves a higher level of simulated realism than 7th; the ground scale, the lack of arbitrary units, and the fact that the troops are categorized by function in combat rather than by the weapons used -- each of these factors makes DBM a superior product.

Richard Stubbs (100354.3144@compuserve.com)

I played WRG 7th for a long time with diminishing enjoyment returns. DBM was, for me, a breath of fresh air. Gone was the lengthy discussions over units' tiny subtle moves. In my humble opinion, DBM by its simplicity frees us to look at "the big picture" of our battles.

In my experience while anomalities exist, the overall feel is great. The rules produce a good game with armies behaving/reacting in accordance with our understanding of history.

Tom (TOMT@netserver.datacollect.com)

It's been said over and over that the competition side of DBM is ruining the game for casual players, but competition is only a catalyst. It's the nature of competition to exploit every possible means of winning. Unfortunately this, coupled with the willingness of the authors to tinker with the rules and solve problems with added complexity, has turned DBM into a moving target that gets more and more convoluted with every swing of the pendulum.

The real problem with DBM is that the authors are sacrificing playability for the sake of accuracy. Certainly every game designer faces the challenge of finding an appropriate balance between playability and the outcome they are trying to model. Further more, I don't deny that it is their decision to make. However their choices directly impact not only the attraction of new players to this game (and by extension this hobby, if you consider this is what we're using to attract new players) but the retention of existing players. How can we attract people to DBM if we can't even keep people who are already interested in historical wargaming and already have an investment in DBM playing it?

Focus on the problem - work on the playability of the game. It is a great system and it would be a shame to see it go the way of the many editions of WRG. Their niche in the wargaming community was replaced by DBM. What will replace DBM in this niche if something isn't done? It's only a matter of time.

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Last Updates
16 February 1999Scott's comments
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6 July 1998comments from Friend of Firefall
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