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De Bellis Magistrorum Militum

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06 Jan 2017 7:55 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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HairyBeast12 Aug 2003 12:40 a.m. PST

I really don't understand this. I have played DBA,DBM and DBR and can't see the point. They are historical bunk, trash, AND rubbish. This is not to say that they don't give a good GAME but I expect more from my HISTORICAL WARGAMES RULES than the bland samishness of these 3. Surely different periods of warfare are supposed to be well ...different. Also it has to be said that I find the game mechanisms simplistic and tedious to a fault. What I want to find out is why this stuff has become so popular. It surly cannot be because of tis historical content......

Black Hat Miniatures12 Aug 2003 12:44 a.m. PST

They provide a complete game including terrain setup that can be played through with a result in 2-3 hours on a club evening or in a competition. They are widely used and you can get a game at most clubs if you play them.

I think that explains their popularity. I must admit I only play DBA and that only as light relief.


Project Vehemence12 Aug 2003 1:02 a.m. PST

Nice topic you HairyBeast. I have never actually played any of the DB systems, because I was always put off by the 'competion' aspect, it always seemed just like a game of chess but with different pieces. If I wanted that I would just stick to chess.
I for one will be following this thread to see where it goes, and am looking forward to hearing others opinions.

Paul A Hannah12 Aug 2003 1:20 a.m. PST

I love DBA, and I don't play in tournies. I enjoy it as a game, as a somewhat abstract historical simulation, and as a social pastime (our local group gets together every other week for a few hours of friendly DBA gaming).

DBA is not everybody's cup of tea. (Clearly, HairyBeast doesn't care for it.) That's perfectly fine, as there are several other good Ancients rules out there.

I like the quick-play and no record-keeping aspects of DBA. The small number of figures per army suits my slow, meticulous painting style; it allows me to dabble in several different periods, from Arabs to Aztecs. But, mostly, I find DBA games fun to play. :-)

//Paul in Seattle

quirkworthy12 Aug 2003 1:21 a.m. PST

Well Hairy, you think they're awful and ahistorical, but a large number of people disagree, myself included. Mike's point is a good one too.

I happen to think that they do provide both a good game and historical results. That's my opinion. I don't see why you seem so upset that other people like them. The world's full of things that some people like and others don't. That's what makes people different and interesting. Nobody has a monopoly on being right.

If you don't like the DBx games, don't play 'em :o)

a1companion12 Aug 2003 1:35 a.m. PST

DBx have a great system hidden in some unreadable prose. The group I played with had a "house" interpretation and didn't play any out of period match-ups and the rules work well, quickly and give semi-historical results. Steer clear of competitions and try to read the rules as little as possible.

Sudwind12 Aug 2003 1:44 a.m. PST

I guess it depends on what is important to you. I prefer to enjoy myself in my leisure time. I don't have lots of free time to spend on gaming, so DBA is perfect for me. A quick, satisfying game. Also, the game is very challenging against a good opponent and I think the subtleties of the system are its true strengths. I can paint up entire armies in a fraction of the time required to paint up the 500-700 figures other systems require. Also, the results of games featuring historically matched DBA opponents seem to be fairly historically accurate. DBA singlehandedly returned me to ancients after a 10 year hiatus. Prior to that, I played the WRG 6th and 7th edition rules. We never completed games, we argued about the rules, it took forever to paint short, that experience sucked (hard to believe the motive force behind those rules also created DBA!). Thank goodness for the DBA rules and the revolutionary (but often confusingly worded) system/concept of Phil Barker!

No Name0212 Aug 2003 2:11 a.m. PST

Ok I will chip in, firstly we play for fun - you cannot make a living from playing wargames, it does not improvce your love life nor does it make you a local hero. So first a set of rules must, must be fun.

Historical or not? Well I have to agree with you DBx ain't historical but hey so are many other rules (IHMO the majority) so are the DBx worse than other sets, I think not.

As to the same game system, it has the advantage that it is easy for palyers to move between the different rules.

John Watts12 Aug 2003 2:22 a.m. PST

I don't think that DBA has a problem. The benefits of DBA already set out are true - they give a short, reasonably entertaining game with a few figures. Those of us who want to play bigger games for longer have to look for something else, and I don't believe that DBM/R provide the answer. I started in ancients with WRG, but stopped playing at the 3rd edition because it all began to spread too much in time periods and became too complex in rule density and language - and that has continued into DBM/R. I started again with Shock of Impact, then stopped again and sold most of my armies when the local club adopted DBM. I now play DBM as a last resort - if there is nothing else going, I'll play it.

The popularity can be explained by what Mike says above. As to realism, that has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Phil Barker wrote that DBM gave a result that looked like an ancient battle. So now, DBM players will say of rulesets that give a different look from long lines of bases that it doesn't look like an ancient battle. Not so; it just doesn't look like a DBM battle.

Finally, the army lists. Because they try to give the opportunity for every army to fight every army on equal terms (bit of a fallacy, that) the lists are unbalanced in the proportions of the armies. For instance, if you have a nation with a small army that has a high proportion of, say, elephants, you get a high proportion of elephants. But a nation with a large army that has a smaller proportion of elephants but still many more in numbers than the small nation possessed, will have only one or two. Not realistic.

But let's be fair - I think that DBM gives a good representation of hoplite warfare. It's just a pity that it has tried to spread so far - up to WW1 with its latest adaptation, I believe.

Dave Crowell12 Aug 2003 2:57 a.m. PST

I enjoy DBA for quick light games. The small space and small armies are great. Where I live I play with a lot of non-historical gamers. DBA is about as much complexity as I can teach to the Clix-crowd and still have time for a game. (Not saying that Clix games don't have complexity, they o. Almost more than DBA. It's how many new rules you can teach and still get a game in.)

DBM and DBR leave me cold. I don't feel that the added complexity and fiddly rules add much value to the system.

As a general rule for anything morte than a quick bash to get my gaming fix I prefer rules that are tailored to teh period and armies fighting.

For a quick fix though DBA is great.

Paul A Hannah12 Aug 2003 3:02 a.m. PST

To the uninitiated, who might be reading this thread and are wondering what the heck "DBA" is... "DBA" is short for "De Bellis Antiquitatis", a set of quick-play ancients and medieval rules and army-lists.

Very briefly, each army is comprised of exactly 12 "elements" (stands), of varying type and function, based on their historical make-up. Typically, a player wins when he or she eliminates 4 of the opponent's 12 stands.

Check out Chris Brantley's "DBA Resource Page" at for loads more info about DBA, and some nifty pictures as well.

//Paul in Seattle

Jospee12 Aug 2003 3:21 a.m. PST

Why? its the best game of ancients i've played. When/if i find a better one i'll probably play that. Don't see the problem myself, once a player can handle the level of abstraction DBx uses then it makes some sort of sense and flows pretty well. Not historical, well sorry, but how would i know - truly?


Pyruse12 Aug 2003 3:31 a.m. PST

DBx give reasonably historical results when played between historical opponents.
They play reasonably fast, and require no record keeping.
However, the reason they are so popular is that they allow an excellent game to be played between arbitrary pairs of armies. This has nothing (IMO) to do with historical wargaming, but it can be a lot of fun, and thousands of gamers enjoy it, so more power to them.
So I don;t think the rules' popularity has anything to do with their historicity.
On the other hand, they are probably as accurate or inaccurate as any other set of rules when used for refights.

Personal logo Inari7 Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2003 4:42 a.m. PST

I play DBA, because it is the only historical miniatures game played here besides Battle Cry. I also like the fast play and small armies.

Now that I am older I donít have time to paint up a 300 piece 25/28mm army anymore and with DBA a 15mm army can be painted up in one day, and still look professionally painted.

If you are concerned about the historical results well who knows, maybe it is an accurate representation, maybe not.

I like the fast rules, no record keeping, and no counters or markers on the battle field; this is where the game excels to me. I donít like junk on the battle field or papers and markers cluttering up the table I am playing on, DBA is a clean looking game with the emphasis on game play not paperwork. DBA may not be the best game out there but itís not the worst.

Personal logo Inari7 Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2003 4:49 a.m. PST

I would also like to say I hope HairyBeast is not trolling for flames, I donít think he will get any here, most DBA players I have met are polite and intelligent, (and more then happy to teach you how to play DBX games) as you can tell from the above posts. If you want flames start a topic about Games Workshop LOL

Lucius12 Aug 2003 5:19 a.m. PST

I enjoyed playing DBA when it first came out, but it was only after I read a Spearpoint article telling me how to play.

I disliked DBM.

Both rules are just plain unreadable, and I really got tired of having apologists telling me that the problem is my poor grasp of English.

If there was a readable version of DBA, I'd buy a new copy, and play it. But we are in the year 2003 now - I just don't have to tolerate shoddy production, and writing that would get an "F" in any technical writing course in any community college in the U.S.

chriscoz12 Aug 2003 5:20 a.m. PST

DBA offers a good quick game, with a small amount of figures, enabling you to build lots of different armies. Remember some people enjoy the painting aspect of the game the best. There are historical trade offs, but its a fun game.

I don't like DBM. I agree it adds way too much complexity, with little added benefit. Its almost like every idea you have that might effect a battle, or tactic that you might want to use was globbed onto the rules. But thats just my opinion. For larger ancients games I play Armati (same basing so I can use parts of an Armati army for DBA). Armati is an elegant system that better captures the era.

georgem12 Aug 2003 5:37 a.m. PST

It seems to me that its a common critique of most ancients that they fail to conform to a particular view of what is and what is not hisorically accurate. To a certain extant it is arguuable that the problem lies in the fact that these rules try to cover too much history and end up with making gross generalisations. Saying that men armed with either swords, halbards, double handed weopns etc all faught the same is a bit of a fiction, but it seems to be a convenient fiction that allows the player to dispense with tedious book keeping ( cf Vis Bellica) or cluttering the table with a riduculos assortment of counters.

My main gripe is that the rules drafting is so difficult to read - tedious dull and convuluted

HoomanBean12 Aug 2003 7:07 a.m. PST

The DBx family also includes HORDES OF THE THINGS or HOTTs. HOTTs is - by far - the best game of the lot...and still has some serious problems. It does have the advantage of NOT being within Phil Barker's interest area and having been modified by Richard Bodley Scott (with extensive help from actual players). The prose and presentation is still rather turgid and poorly developed.

I also use HOTTs for representing historical games and really like the results.

doc mcb12 Aug 2003 7:07 a.m. PST

Isn't there a fundamental trade-off between playability/simplicity/fun versus realism/complexity? This is true of any game, of any simulation. Does anyone remember a huge boardgame of WWII in North Africa whose rules made provision for Italian units' greater water consumption due to pasta?

My home rules for the Alamo used to give Texians an advantage in hand-to-hand due to size (the average Texian in 1836 was 5'9", the average Mexican soldado was 5'2") while also giving an advantage to any fighter with a bayonet. It finally dawned on me that most Mexicans had bayonets and most Texians didn't so the factors offset each other and I could ignore both. The result was a slightly simpler rules set and a slightly faster game. DBx makes those sorts of trade-offs and compromises, as all rules do. You just have to choose where on the seesaw you want to be.

Coyote Fezian12 Aug 2003 7:07 a.m. PST

Basically, DBA is not historical, not meant to be overly historical, it's meant to be fun and easy to play.

Yes, the wording sucks.
I personally don't like it, because if I'm not concerned with accuracy I'll play fantasy.

What I don't like about DBA, is not it's historical inaccuracy, but rather the rules while go against common sense.

BTW Hairywhatshisface. What system would you propose? I am looking for an alternative, preferrably something that's in 10mm or 6mm scale.

WHY DO ALL YOU IDIOTS USE ANYTHING LARGER THEN 10mm. ITS so unrealistic! (fake hairyfairy rant)

Long live Baccus.

vtsaogames12 Aug 2003 7:21 a.m. PST

Realism is in the eye of the beholder. What one calls realism another calls hooey.

I play DBA, not the bigger versions DBM/R. I find it simulates some things better than other rules, some worse. It is fast and simple. Being married and middle-aged, I like a game that is over and done in a reasonable amount of time. I no longer have the time or the inclination to play games that go on many hours, and then still are called on time without a satisfactory conclusion. "Another three turns (at an hour each) and I'd capture that chicken coop!"

TodCreasey12 Aug 2003 7:32 a.m. PST

I'll start by admitting I am a pretty big DBM fan and although I am a tourney player I am kind of disappointed that it does not show up much in tournament games.

I have yet to find a ruleset that runs under 4 hours to a historical result. I agree the language is a challenge and I think in many ways we tourney players have forced that on Phil as he is trying to word things to avoid holes in the rules. Although it is complicated there is no cheeseball move that a very experienced player can pull that the rules cannot handle - and that is no mean feat.

But it does not satisfy a lot of things people are looking for - in 15mm or 25mm you do not get the idea that it is entire units you are fighting with although that is how the game is modelled.

Stick with DBA at first and then move to DBM later - preferably withan experienced friend. The problem DBM has is the guys that know the rules are frequently testing out a new tourney army and can be quite ruthless if they don't catch themselves( I am guilty of this myself if I am not careful).

BTW Coyote (Tyler I think) there are guys at OMG starting to collect 6mm Baccus Persians and Greeks if you are looking for a period to start in...

No Name0212 Aug 2003 7:53 a.m. PST

Pyruse wrote
"DBx give reasonably historical results when played between historical opponents."

I think I have only read two refights of historical battles using DBM; Hydaspedes and Zama. In Hydaspedes, Alexander was beaten in short order. In the Zama game the velites/hastati basically beat the entire Carthaginian army. So do you know something about DBM that I don't?

I would not fancy taking the part of the Parthians at Carrhae either, since the rules force light cavalry to contact their enemies to have any effect on them. Marcus Crassus would have thought that a gift from the gods.

unknown member12 Aug 2003 8:05 a.m. PST

I think I have only read two refights of historical battles using DBM; Hydaspedes and Zama. In Hydaspedes, Alexander was beaten in short order. In the Zama game the velites/hastati basically beat the entire Carthaginian army. So do you know something about DBM that I don't?

Yes...your friends were not Alexandre or Hannibal;-)


mikeah12 Aug 2003 8:23 a.m. PST

Because DBX is a game, it's simple, fast, and familiar. Any relevence to history is purely coincidental.

I'm not a fan of DBAnything, but it's a nice game and for it's intended purpose works fine.

For anything of a simulation value try Might of Arms, Ancient Warfare or Classic Hack. Heck, even Warhammer Ancient Battles is a vastly better simulation than DBAnything.

Yet for some reason, the DBX guys seem to be the most erudite about the history. Interesting.

unknown member12 Aug 2003 8:26 a.m. PST

always found them lacking any scope for tactics, Would often result in the 2 lines hitting head on. but I guess the games are fast and "easy", and thats what some people want. Personally I prefer realism, and 2 green foam hills dont do it for me. And I have often found them to cause the most arguments, millimetres really do seem to matter.

unknown member12 Aug 2003 8:58 a.m. PST

Yet for some reason, the DBX guys seem to be the most erudite about the history. Interesting.`

But for some reason they try to make history conform to DBx, rather then vice-versa

lugal hdan12 Aug 2003 8:59 a.m. PST

Well said, Gwindel! Didn't Napoleon say he'd rather have a lucky general than a good one? :-)

DBx games (with the notable exception of HFG) let the player be a good/bad general instead of forcing "super powers" on one side or the other.

Another thing often misunderstood about DBx - stand to stand contact does not mean melee, it means close combat, which includes all combat, melee and missile, except for long range massed bow fire and artillery. Skirmish troops in DBx can only be driven back by slower opponents, not destroyed. So your Light Horse can attack your legionaires all day long without getting killed, waiting for the lucky roll required to break the line. (And not even all THAT lucky, at +2 vs +3).

Back to the original comment - the "samishness" is due to the DBx model being fairly universally applicable to warfare involving mobs/formations of men and limited range and power missile weapons.

Abstractly, battle is just moving groups of men around and trying to drive off or kill the enemy's groups of men. DBx games try to focus on the difficulties of moving the men around (the PIPs mechanism), and then defining their interactions in an easy to compute, results-oriented way. (Recoil/flee/destroyed)

Out of curiosity, how do you feel about "Volley&Bayonet"? Maybe you just don't like high levels of abstraction.


jizbrand12 Aug 2003 9:34 a.m. PST

doc mcb wrote, "Isn't there a fundamental trade-off between playability/simplicity/fun versus realism/complexity?"

There IS a trade-off between simplicity and complexity that leads to playability, fun, and/or realism. I wouldn't equate playability to simplicity to fun just as I wouldn't equate realism to complexity. Further, I wouldn't place playability and realism at opposite extremes of the continuum. There are a number of games that are simple yet absolutely no fun or extremely unplayable. Similarly, there are games that are complex yet playable. And fun is in the eye of the beholder.

My all-time favorite still has to be StarGrunt which is extremely simple (because details have been abstracted to a higher level) yet produces very realistic results.

So, I don't buy the argument that DBx simplifies things to make them playable at the expense of accuracy/realism. Realism can, in fact, be achieved with very simple rules and mechanics (e.g., the Alamo bayonets/height abstraction).

Personal logo The Nigerian Lead Minister Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2003 9:43 a.m. PST

So any plans to issue new editions of DBx that have been written by someone who passed a technical writing class? I sort of liked DBA as a diversion, once I puzzled out what the few pages of rules might actually be trying to say about playing a game, but I can't even try DBM as I recoil from the obtuse writing.

CLDISME12 Aug 2003 9:53 a.m. PST

I like to play DBA because (to me) it plays like chess with a twist. I have also heard it refered to as an expanded version of "rock, paper, scissors."

I like the aspect of seeing the entire board up close and personal.

My personal favorite rule set for historic/colonial is TSATF because of the ablitity to add personality to the game which is not really possible with DBA

Mark Wals12 Aug 2003 9:57 a.m. PST

I've played DBA, it's a fast playing game, easy on the budget even in 25mm. Barkerese is difficult at best and the rules are rather vague (Camels are treated as KNIGHTS?). I've never played or owned DBM. THe plus side is that there is a STANDARDIZED basing system so that a large DBM army is also a DBA army and probably it least an Armati army as well as a WRG (whatever edition you play) army. You don't need to worry about rebasing in order to use you army for other systems. Perhaps another great rules system like Armati will come along using the DBx basing system. I've play tested a set of rules once called "Simplicimus Maximus" and they were great fun.

RockyRusso12 Aug 2003 10:23 a.m. PST


Remember the wisdom of the Ancients "Your mileage may vary!"

To me, these threads devolve into "I like this and you are idiots for not agreeing!". Your milage may vary! Look, you are right, 6mm, aka "bristle block" armies DO look more realistic than larger sizes. So? My hobby is not "Competition Wargaming", or "Fielding Realistic Looking Armies"; my hobby is "Scale Modeling" and I like building and painting models in the scale of 1"=6'.

As to the idea "If you dont like DBX, don't play them". Part of the hobby is Not Masturbation! If you are going to WARGAME you need an opponent and an agreed upon set of rules. In the late 70s, when I moved to Denver, if I wanted to wargame I HAD to play WRG 4th edition. I HATED WRG, 3ed, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th. But in that period, if I did not want to just play with myself, I had to. When "Armati" came out, and some locals got enthusiastic, I had NIGHTMARES that I would be forced to play. I read DBX when it came out and the whole element system put me off and I have never played.
Luckily for the last 20 years, I have been playing Merlin and mine's set "Art of War" which suits my prejudices. However, when we cannot game AOW, I am not passionate enough a gamer to just PLAY ANYTHING. Particularly the "flavor of the moment". However, I recognize that many people are not. I would plea with people that instead of insisting on one set, take turns with your friends trying out other systems.


Mark Wals12 Aug 2003 10:48 a.m. PST

well said R.R., THAT's where the standardized basing comes into play! NOthing is more frustraating than having people unwilling to try anything but THEIR preferred set of rules.

Paul A Hannah12 Aug 2003 11:37 a.m. PST

Tod's comments above explain some of the background for what many call "Barker-ese". His writing TRIES to eliminate as many ambiguities as possible, in as few words as possible. Of course, it doesn't quite achieve that. :-)

The DBA community has many enthusiastic proponents whose goal is not to convince folks that DBA is the only ancients game in town. (It isn't.) Rather, their goal is to help folks who are having trouble with the rules understand them better.

Foremost among such DBA mentors is Michigan's Own, Bob Beattie, whose "DBA Commentaries" contain a wealth of info and insight. Profusely illustrated with diagrams, his commentaries are flat out excellent. Link to it at:

Trying to make sense of the rules alone is hard. In person, I can (and often do) can teach the basics of DBA to a newbie in 10-15 minutes. But I owe much of what I know to Bob's commentaries. --Thanks, Bob!

//Paul in Seattle

aninias12 Aug 2003 12:40 p.m. PST

de gustibus e coloribus non est disputandum ...

Dave Crowell12 Aug 2003 1:15 p.m. PST

Posted for Bob Beatie

I wanted to point out that the game does not have to be just 12 elements on a small board, but you can go to big battle or even giant battle

I will second the recomendations for Bob's Comentaries, and add that on his pages are some nice pictures of Big Battle and Giant Battle games.

Also fo rthose who like the look of bigger units try 6mm figures on standard bases. I use 16 6mm Heavy Foot on a 40mm frontage instead of 4 15mm, looks great.

No Name 312 Aug 2003 1:40 p.m. PST

I play much more DBA than DBR. I have played a few DBM games.

DBA is a simple, enjoyable, quick game. I like it because I can have multiple games in an evening. In my experience battles between historical enemies often give suprisingly realistic results.

The much maligned DBR covers the 2 centuries after the end of the periods covered by DBA and DBM. I use it for English Civil War games because I found it easier, quicker and more fun than other rules that I tried for the period. When I try and refight historical battles of the ECW I get results in keeping with the historical battle more often than not. DBR used for ECW battles definately gives games with a different feel to DBA used for the ancients periods I play.

No set of wargames rules will please everyone. Recently there was a thread where several people said that they liked book keeping. I can assure you that I do not!

I LIKE simple mechanisms because you can concentrate on playing the general, not the mathematician, archivist or rule reader. I also happen to think that, particularly under field conditions, most military endeavours are subject to good or bad luck.

Hairybeast is entitled to his own opinion. I am entitled to mine.

TWhitley12 Aug 2003 1:55 p.m. PST

Much of it has already been said, but DBX does reproduce the major elements of realistic combat in abstract form (which is the best we can ask of anything short of actual combat).

Troops of varying types have differing speed and hitting power, impetuosity and reaction to adversity. Flank/rear support and flank/rear attack are simulated. Missile fire of various effectiveness and range is featured. The PIP system limits (in a random manner) what a general can do in a given turn. As the battle advances and chaos breaks out, friction increases. Finally, generals are given a wide latitude for composing, disposing, and maneuvering their troops (even within the bounds of the army lists, if you choose to use them, as most players do). In short, it is a simple, universal system that reproduces the experience of battle of an army general.

And I'm not a fan of the game! I have played many dozens of games and in a few tournaments. I have expounded on the rules and offered successful interpretations of Barkerese. (Barkerese is correctly stated above NOT to be excellent technical writing. It attempts to be precise, consistent, and unabgiuous. It fails. One can come to terms with it, but that does not make the writing itself good.) I will play many more dozens of games in my lifetime (unless it is mercifully cut short first!). I will enjoy my victories and bemoan my defeats. But I am not a fan of the game and its caretakers' tendency to fiddle with it endlessly and pointlessly. I also feel that the equalizing point system central to its army generation is false historically and less fun than scenario generation would be. [I want not to over-emphasize this last criticism, though. I've seen some grossly unequal--and fun--contests between equal-point armies!]

Buy a version of it and the associated army lists, unplug yourself from the many contentious newsgroups and websites (except for the excellent interpretive ones mentioned above), paint your armies (small for DBA, large for all others), find someone to walk you through your first few games, and enjoy them as GAMES. You'll only need one D6 (though more are more convenient)!

Signore Formaggio12 Aug 2003 2:08 p.m. PST

The DBx games are pretty good. The rules mechanisms are easy to grasp, but the language and grammar are, well, a bit tortured. I play and have played many games in the same genres covered by the various DBx games and their progeny. Once learned, they can be enjoyable.

As far as the design, I think Mr. Barker (the rules author for the uniniated) assumes that the various troop types or classifications operated the same throughout history. In other words, by "boiling down" troops into a few categories (e.g., blades, knights, light horse, etc., etc.), he removed the differences between how, for example, Macedonian Pike and Medieval Swiss Pike operated. They did not operate similarly. To me, that is a major design flaw.

It is a sure sign that a rules set has some major flaws when things are justified by reliance upon the phrase "It's an abstraction." The DBA system generally abstracts out most of the characterisitics of the various eras. It does not matter what your figures look like, a blade is a blade, is a blade, whether its ancient, medieval or martian. The only reason to obtain miniatures for different armies is so that one can have the right look. Substitute Assyrian Horse Archers with Swiss mounted crossbowmen and it would still be the same in game terms.

OK, done now.....


Peter Frost12 Aug 2003 2:24 p.m. PST

The DBX series filled a gap i wargaming rules, at a point in time where most other ancient and renaissance rules were utter crap (I personally own quite a few). They have detailing and complexity, but can still be played in an evening, but they lack historical flavour - and gameplay.
Not knowing what period rules you are looking for, I can only reccomend that you go to:

(I know my english isn't perfect, but these guys are)

fujiking12 Aug 2003 2:26 p.m. PST

DBA; quick, entertainig(from a tactical standpoint), impossible to play without at least one experienced player. DBx, not very historical but, equally as historical as many of it's competitors.

Whattisitgoodfor12 Aug 2003 2:59 p.m. PST

My personal opinion. DBX (through DBAOL) brought me back into the hobby after a 20 year gap.

I like the basic idea behind the rules. Basically, DBx is a statistical approach, breaking a battle down into its smallest practical subsets and deciding what happens when A meets/fires at/ fights B with the simplest possible mechanism - one dice each.

You can argue whether specific factors are 'right', but the approach is very smart.. And frankly WRG do more research than most rule writers so I'll stick with their verdicts.

The alternate moves and no written orders suits me too. And I'm impressed with clever stuff like the overlap rules, the PIP dice and group moves.

The wonderfully researched army lists are a boon to the whole hobby and I can always get a game with DBM. Works for me.

As to realism? Personally I am sceptical about any set of rules being 'realistic' but DBX seems to be no less realistic than any other set.

streetline12 Aug 2003 3:03 p.m. PST

I think of all the DBx games, hordes has the most realism. It's certainly reflected all Dr Who and UNIT vs aztecs or space crusader conflicts I've researched.

(Unless you're 2000 years old, it's tricky to prove this point for any ancient system, either.)

platypus12 Aug 2003 6:27 p.m. PST

"Why this stuff has become so popular?"

Interesting comment.

I play all the DBx systems. I don't play tournaments. It doesn't hurt my head to play them. They (at least DBM)looks like an ancient battle*. I can use my pretty lead men. I gather a lot of other people think the same.

I also use other systems. As I always say, if I find a better one, I will drop DBx like a hot potato. Not because I am disatisfied with DBx, but because I'm not stupid. I will use the best. I have yet to find anything better. I'm always looking.

I'm well aware that other people have different ideas of what is best. They may be right, they may be wrong ;-)


* having never seen an ancient battle I can only go on what I have read.

RememberTheAlamo12 Aug 2003 7:04 p.m. PST

I must go off for a moment.

About time I see something with some meat on it's bones and in CAPS TOO! Everything has been so bland lately. Thank you HairyBeast for being such a Beast with your opinion and saying it like it is instead of hiding behind a facade of phoney baloney.

Give me passion over political correctness anytime. I must constantly weed through tons of self important, conservative, pseudo intellectual blah, blah, blah postings that disect every phrase of a rant as if it were the ten commandments and try and reduce it to nonsense. Or that beat around the bush and go out of their way to avoid offending anyone's tastes in gaming. Why must everyone apologize before they speak?

Back to the subject- if you set it up they will come.
Long live DBX! Play it, enjoy it and live long and prosper.

HairyBeast13 Aug 2003 1:34 a.m. PST

Alamo I can do Rant.... Interesting stuff there from lots of folks. I accept that the various DBs are simple (despite the language) and convenient, but thats not what I'm after as simple games they are enjoyable provided you forget most of your historical knowledge-and I am burdened with a degree in history. Most of the "pros" concentrate on the easy game mechanics and the fact that the armies are small.I want more than this. My ,so far ,favorite Ancients set is TACTICA but the same outfits Medieval rules are about the worst for that period I've ever used. However I try not to compromise here I'll play and run the type of games I want adapting rules to suit my historical knowledge (or prejudices). Obviously different folks do it different which isas it should be. The thing I find most intriguing about this is that very few pros defend the DBs on historical grounds........perhaps because that particular ground is so shaky

Dave Crowell13 Aug 2003 2:17 a.m. PST

DBA is good history: Ancient British vs Marian (Caesarian)Roman, expected outcome: more often than not Roman victory.

Unless you are speaking of the paper tiger of "ahistorical match ups". That can be done with any historical game. WW@: Germans vs Japanese the California front. WW1: Americans vs French, the little studied war in Brazil. ACW: Lee and Grant vs Jackson and Longstreet, the Tag Team battle.

Are any of thse any different than Aztecs vs Assyrians?

Of course with the right rules set you can even have Vikings vs Victorians.

Pyruse13 Aug 2003 3:20 a.m. PST

Justin Taylor wrote:
I think I have only read two refights of historical battles using DBM; Hydaspedes and Zama. In Hydaspedes, Alexander was beaten in short order. In the Zama game the velites/hastati basically beat the entire Carthaginian army. So do you know something about DBM that I don't?

I would not fancy taking the part of the Parthians at Carrhae either, since the rules force light cavalry to contact their enemies to have any effect on them. Marcus Crassus would have thought that a gift from the gods.
Have you actually played any DBM historical scenarios, or are you going on hearsay? If so, then, yes, I do know something you don't,m because I've fought many refights with DBM.
We've refought Marathon, Thermoyplae, Plataea, Issus,
Ruspina, Pharsalus, Medway, Carrhae and Mark Antony in Parthia.
They all gave reasonably historical results.
If the refights you are referring to were written up in Slingshot, I'd say that both scenarios were very poorly designed. That's not the fault of the rules.
Yes, light cavalry have to move into contact - that's because they shot at very close range - but heavy infantry can't kill them unless they get on a flank. The end result is correct. Indeed there are frequent complaints that Light Horse are over-powered in DBM.

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