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06 Jan 2017 6:55 p.m. PST
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quirkworthy13 Aug 2003 3:07 a.m. PST

I think DBA is very deceptive in its simplicity. Once you've waded past the complex language the rules are indeed fairly simple, but the tactical ramifications of the system are far from it. I've played many different rule sets and DBA is the most likely to produce historical results that I've found. Of course, that's just my opinion and you're welcome to yours. Like most games, players that are unfamiliar with the rules will tend to play in a basic fashion. The nice thing about DBA is ytou can play 8 games in an evening and evolve your tactics as you go.

WAB was mentioned as being more historical, which I personally find rather amusing.

TodCreasey13 Aug 2003 4:23 a.m. PST

ALso the Light Cavalry in DBM is useful for harassing advances, pinning enemies, exploiting flanks etc. I play a lot of Turkish armies with hordes of it and in DBM they have a lot of uses.

I think the issue with a lot of troop types is getting good with them - how to prevent your knights going mad, how to use terrain and light troops, how to mess up your opponent with light cavalry are all things that take a while to get good at in any ruleset.

DB(X) allows for this skillset to develop but it takes time - which I suppose is why it is so popular in tournies...

TWhitley13 Aug 2003 10:30 a.m. PST

Signore Formaggio said:

'In other words, by "boiling down" troops into a few categories (e.g., blades, knights, light horse, etc., etc.), he [Barker, one of the authors of DBX] 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.'

This is an often-stated critique, but I don't feel it holds water. The 'operations' of troop types are 'boiled down' so that their 'stats' fit into a system of being vulnerable/beatable with each opponent rolling a D6. This naturally limits adjustments to a maximum difference of +5 (or -5). Any greater, and one of them is unbeatable (except in certain overlapped or disadvantaged positions). That's a large part of the logic of the limits set on the combat adjustments.

As far as the 'operation' of movement goes, given the high figure-to-troop scale of DBX, all units throughout history of a given type did move alike. Forward, wheel, fall back.... The only difference is how much time (how many PIPs) it might the scale of DBX.

So, given those two design decisions--'use D6's' and 'troop movement differs only in its distance and duration' (including command cost, PIPs)--and the fact that the player represents an ARMY GENERAL, the designers really have no more variables to adjust. And they don't need to have any more, given that interesting battle at any point in history involves opponents who are at least aware of the capabilities of one another.

Gamers are not going to generate an 'interesting' battle (nor one that deserves the name 'battle') between one nation armed with stone knives and another armed with atomic bombs. In general, the relative abilities of opponents (in proper battle, not in massacre) exist on a sliding scale which is more or less available to both historical opponents. Capabilities of attack are matched to those of defense in most 'interesting' battles at a given moment in history.

[True, you'll throw Zulus, etc., at me as a counter-example, but it's an exception that proves the rule. The Zulus marshalled superior numbers to counter the mismatch in technology they knew existed. That (including tactical surprise, which is always available to either contestant) is all they could do to even the odds. In order to generate an 'interesting' battle, the Zulus HAD to do something to equalize the odds.]

So, if Macedonian Pike is +5, that is against opponents they might have met in their time. If Swiss Pikemen are +5, that is against their own proper opponents. The (combat factor) scale has potentially slid with advancements in technology and tactical doctrine. It is not an absolute scale but a relative one with respect to time.

On the other hand, if gamers want to fight Macedonian Pike against Swiss Pike, they are engaging in fantasy and are free to criticize the DBX system as not supporting the 'known' differences in these troops. But they leave themselves open to criticism as 'loonies' for proposing that ANY system could reproduce an untestable hypothesis such as the one behind a question like 'What is the result of pitting against each other opponents separated by nearly two millenia?'.

agplumer13 Aug 2003 12:04 p.m. PST

I really tried to like DBA, but just couldn't. A little background after my son was born two years ago, my "playtime" was cut drastically. I had heard quite a bit about DBA over the years: fast play, small numbers of figures, simple mechanics, etc. So I purchased a used copy, got together some Late Romans and some Franks and went at it. Both my friend and I were novices to this set of rules but have been gaming for almost two decades together. The games were fast, but something was missing. It didn't feel that the rules reflected the armies’ individual characteristics. The "rock-paper- scissor” approach to combat resolution got a bit tiring. The small size of the armies made it seem more like a skirmish rather than a battle. Most of all the rules are with out a doubt the worst set ever written that is still in production. I work in international public health and have to read documents by individuals for whom English is a second language. Some of the materials from developing countries are better reads than this set of rules. I think a complete re-write is in order, with clear examples and good forbid an illustration or two would improve their appeal. These could be a great set for new gamers. I haven’t tried DBM nor DBR, but then again, I don’t play in tournaments.

Tarzan13 Aug 2003 4:32 p.m. PST

I never got into DBA much, althuogh I do play a lot of DBAOL - the game is jsut fun, albeit small.

Waht I like about het DB* systems is

1/ simplicity - although Phil's writing style does seem to minimise this they're actually all relatively simple mechanisms.

2/ when I first started playing I was struck by how much the game tables looked like tehe battle maps in all the books, as compared to the "explosion of units" that every other set of rules produced.

3/ Subtlety - there are depths to the games that are simply not obvious at a casual look or even a game or 2 - nothing that stops you playing well, but the interactions between combat factors and results can be quite sublime.

I play tournaments but mostly "friendlies".

Tarzan13 Aug 2003 4:44 p.m. PST

Oh goodie - I jsut noticed a couple of posts lamenting the lack of historical accuracy in DB*......

Firstly to Justin Taylor - if you've only seen 2 refights then do you think that's a vgood sample to be making judgements on? Was the Macedonian player at Hydaspes as much of a genius as Alex? And if the Velites truly beat up the Carthaginian army at Zama then I'll put gold coins against donuts that the Carthaginian commander there wasn't too clever either!!

Yes I suspect that lots of people here know things about DB* than you do!!

The Lh vs Bd interaction of Parthians at Carrhae is also not a problem - since the Roman infantry can't actually kill the Lh!!

Here's some DBM scenarios you might like to have a look at to broaden your horizons:

I've played in several "historical" refights at local clubs - invariably they come out as great games.

HairyBeast - I say DB* is historical because I have played a lot of refights and have gotten very good results from them (historical, or well within the bounds of possibility).

Since you have mentioned your qualifications, I also have a history degree - majoring in military history, and I like the way that DB* portrays things - it seems the best of the bunch at the momen.

What's your evidence to the contrary?

Spectralwraith13 Aug 2003 8:25 p.m. PST

HairyBeast, It appears that you are comparing DBx rules with that of Tactica.

Tactica's multitude of movement restrictions is not at all realistic.

Tactica is a an old style, slow, take off one figure at a time system which is simply not as fun to play as DBx which is why damb few people are playing it any more as compared to the folks who have evolved to DBx.

I must admit that I do like many of the ideas in Tactica though.

The Beast Rampant13 Aug 2003 10:01 p.m. PST

A thousand pardons to all of you taking part in this thoroughly interesting discussion, but I have to say that not only are the rules poorly constructed from the standpoint of readability, BUT THE COVER ART IS GODAWFUL! Geez, rip off some public domain historical piece, or clip-art or something! I stuck a decal I got out of a cereal box over the cover 'illustration' when I could bear it no longer. I could draw better in kindergarten! Wake up and smell the new millenium...the days of dot-matrix-printed wargames rules are over! Evolve already!


HairyBeast14 Aug 2003 12:08 a.m. PST

I'm with those of you who feel that the DB systems boil down troop typre into a few simple categories for me this is poor history on the grounds that Swiss pikes are not macedonians as stated. I'm not comparing DBM directly with tactica but for "Classical Ancients" prefer them- they simply look and feel better. The "Battleline" rule stops unit explosion and the movement restictions impose thought on the commander whether he likes it or not. However I don't use ANY set of rules uncritically so I accept that Tactica isfar from perfect. Likewise the various DBs Another of my major criticisms of the whole DB system is simply that the rules give you no idea what period you are playing. I have so far found no meaningful difference between DBM and DBR. Frankly I save my worst venom for DBR becouse of its total lack of period specifics. In an age where military organisation was evolving you get the same jargon encrusted crap as DBA. Isimply do not accept that you can water down military history this way. Once again I do not criticise an game grounds but none of the DBs and DBR especially have that elusive historical feel I am searching for. As a quick burger and fries they are OK ISH but I rather have a gourmet meal

HairyBeast14 Aug 2003 3:04 a.m. PST

Another thought Most of the DB games I have played in or seen LOOK AWFUL. I use minis for their aethetic appeal the DBs do nothing to enhance this. Indeed the unit free element approach works activly against a good looking layout. The armies don't look right-no historical formations or unit structure-especially in DBR. Excusing the system by saying its abstract won't do for me.

ArchDuck Chuck14 Aug 2003 3:04 a.m. PST

OK, being ancients-challenged I'll bite: What is the difference between Macedonian and Swiss pikes, and how would you suggest depicting that difference in a game where four figures on a base represents several hundred soldiers?

Pyruse14 Aug 2003 4:43 a.m. PST

But would 'unit structure' actually have been visible when looking at the whole battle?
With every element representing 256 men in DBM, each element probably *is* a unit. This is a 'big battle' rules set - you wouldn't expect to see details of formation and units. Nor would you expect to see details of combat - that's all below the level the rules operate at.
DBR Normal scale - well, I agree with you, but I think Normal scale is horribly broken.
DBR Condensed (much better game, IMO), see the above comments on DBM.
The system isn't exactly abstract, but it is operating at a high level, looking at the big picture of the whole battle.
To do that, it has to omit a lot of detail to remain playable.
What do you think of Vis Bellica, or Strategos, which are both also Grand Tactical?

Condottiere14 Aug 2003 5:02 a.m. PST

TWhitley wrote:
[Signore Formaggio said:

'In other words, by "boiling down" troops into a few categories (e.g., blades, knights, light horse, etc., etc.), he [Barker, one of the authors of DBX] 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.'

This is an often-stated critique, but I don't feel it holds water. The 'operations' of troop types are 'boiled down' so that their 'stats' fit into a system of being vulnerable/beatable with each opponent rolling a D6. This naturally limits adjustments to a maximum difference of +5 (or -5). Any greater, and one of them is unbeatable (except in certain overlapped or disadvantaged positions). That's a large part of the logic of the limits set on the combat adjustments.]

So in other words, make history fit the rules. Eliminate any differences that did exist, for example, between Macedonian pike and Medieval Swiss pike, and presto history conforms to Barker's vision. In actuality, the mechanisms do not allow much room for variation. I would hesitate to suggest that Roman legions fought in an identical fashion to dismounted men-at-arms in the middle ages. Both are "blades" in DBA, but both hardly fought in the same manner.

As far as movement, DBx systems seem to allow too much flexibility. Any troop type can move about freely if moved by individual element, which in DBA can represent thousands of troops. Maneuver for a group of spear armed medieval militia was far more difficult than it probably was for trained Roman legions. To allow both to wheel, fall back, turn about and such is stretching the limit of reasonableness. I do like the PIP system. Easy and has subtleties that are rather nice. I disagree with some of the mechanics of movement.

The comment on Tactica is a bit misplaced. Tactica was not popular because, even though a solid game, it restricted movement of units especially with regard to flexibility in maneuver. The "ancients" gaming community had been used to WRG flexibility. Tactica offered, in my opinion, a more realistic approach to the problems facing commanders when attempting to maneuver large quantities of troops. Let's face it, most descritpion of battles throughout the ancient and medieval period demonstrate that most movement for large bodies of troops was either straight ahead or running away. Little could be done to reposition large bodies of heavy infantry once deployed for battle. Even as late as the Renaissance, we find that large formations did little if any maneuvering. That was left to the rather more flexible cavalry.



mikeah14 Aug 2003 5:48 a.m. PST

There is also the level at which a game operates. A skirmish game needs to take in different factors and considerations than a game designed as a "whole battle" game. There will be a different level of abstraction at each level of command. Games that attempt to work across the entire spectrum and add "out of scope" detail are failures. That scope really has to be stated up front.

DBWhatever are fast play competition rules (usually one on one). Anything that gets in the way of that is discarded and a high level of abstraction results. This makes for a good game, WHICH IS THE INTENDED RESULT, but will not satisfy those who game differently for different reasons. If DBAnything were the only thing out there, I wouldn't do ancients. Yet, for those who like that kind of game, it's a godsend.

Abstraction is NOT a bad thing in game design. It's dead necessary to wind up with something playable. If you are running the entire Roman army of 8 legions - and the rules have you giving orders to individual cohorts - something is seriously wrong. More complicated IS NOT more realistic! Unfocused out of scope detail does not result in a historical, realistic, or playable game.

THe first question any game needs to answer is "Who am I?". "What role do I play on the battlefield?". If I am both Ceaser and the clerk of the 1st Century of the 3 Cohort of the X Legion, perhaps I need to find a different game. Way to many games try to make me fill both roles. These I avoid. At most, I need to be 1 guy and the Generals he controls.

brevior est vita14 Aug 2003 10:40 a.m. PST

mikeah makes a very good point, and I also prefer rules which place me more clearly in the role of army commander. On the other hand, I always wince when the 'usually gives historical results' argument gets trotted out, because it usually appears to mean simply that the 'correct' side won the tabletop battle, without saying anything about *how* the battle may have evolved tactically. To me it is far less important that the Romans usually defeat the Carthaginians at Zama (which of course assumes that the Romans *should* usually win at Zama, but that it another argument for another day), than that the Roman and Carthaginian commanders be given troops that accurately represent their historical counterparts, so that they have similar tactical options to those faced by Scipio and Hannibal.

However, if a rule set inadvertantly distorts the capabilites of some or all troop types, it follows that the player/commander's view of the battle will also be distorted. To cite just one example, if javelin-armed skirmishers can 'fire missiles' on the tabletop, then they have a chance of filling the same tactical role as their historical counterparts. But, on the other hand, if a rule set like DBx 'subsumes' javelins into melee, then troops armed with javelins are not being represented with anything like their historical capabilities. Eventually players can even be misled into thinking that, for example, Numidian horsemen of the 2nd Punic War were nothing more than the below-average melee troops the rules make them appear to be, rather than the highly effective skirmishers described in the historical literature.

For me, a rule set can truly be said to give 'historical results' only if the various armies and their component troop types have been designed to accurately reflect the significant capabilites and behaviors of their historical counterparts. Then tactics which were successful historically will also naturally tend to be rewarded on the tabletop, and the players can have a better sense of the sorts of decisions faced by historical commanders.

Just my two denarii's worth.

brevior est vita14 Aug 2003 10:45 a.m. PST

Oooops. The line in paragraph one should read: "(which of course assumes that the Romans *should* usually win at Zama, but that is another argument for another day)". Sorry for any confusion!

HairyBeast14 Aug 2003 11:25 a.m. PST

Right here goes... The results aren't everything somtimes the path to those results and HOW we get there is more important-at least to me. Find myself agreeing with Condottieri whole heartedly Medieval men at arms are Not Roman legionaries. As for units 256 men is not a huge unit yet is is the only one you seem to get in the DBs, However thats by the way if the unit does not and cannot act like its historical prototype. The DBs are simply too abstract to give any kind of period feel at bottom thats my big gripe. I might swallow this in an Ancients game where my knowledge is somtimes shaky, but for anything after say 1000 AD where my degree stars to kick in not a hope.

companycmd14 Aug 2003 11:33 a.m. PST


I agree-- DB anything is GREAT if you like it and AWFUL if you don't.

RockyRusso14 Aug 2003 11:58 a.m. PST

Notice how this thread has gone astray?
"Why are the DB Systems popular when they are so awful".

So, asked and answered, we start getting endless posts of "but you are wrong, DB is wonderful. It is my new religion, it is the saviing of my hobby". THAT WAS NOT THE QUESTION.
1)Macedonian pike versus Swiss: I agree, fantasy EXCEPT...the idea is that historically they did muster Differently, drill differently and move differently no matter how big the game scale. It does not matter if they faced each other, it matters that they should LOOK DIFFERENT when run.

2)"One Size Does Not Fit All". No set of rules will be the perfect set for everyone. However, for some people, DBX is not realistic or acceptable is a game. NOT LIKING DBX does not make you a bad person. It is OK. So, you DBx Apologists should just accept this. Seems like a lot of foolishness to say "No you dont understand, see the light." Sounds like religion. Instead, why not listen to why we don't like it and, perhaps, come up with ideas for improving YOUR DBx? I know this is an odd concept, however, there is a difference between going to a tournament and playing with friends.
In, I think, 81 there was a bit WRG convention/tournament in San Antonio, Texas. Phil was in attendence, and I had the previlage of meeting him. At that time WRG 4th or 5th was THE PERFECT GAMING SYSTEM. From the usual suspects. My "buy in" was him overhearing me talking about martiobarbuli. I had built and tested same. He was an amatuer archeologist who had been the first to find one in England. We had a GREAT TIME...not talking about rules, but talking about playing with weapons. It seemed, from his standpoint, that there were a lot of theoretical conversations about the tool, but I had thrown them against armor! OK, during the course of the conversation, he allowed that WRG had outgrown his intent. Seems the story was that in the 60s, clubs in England would host contests and always win because they knew their own rules. WRG became the convention rules because Phil was NOT a member of any of the clubs. But he never intended on people playing the "ONE TRUE RULES SET". To my regret, I have not maintained that contact(frankly he was THEN always besieged, and I did not feel like adding to his burden). However, I doubt that even now, Phil figures that there is Only One Ancients set.
Long way back to the top of this post. It is OK to want other things from your rules. It is inappropriate for WRG DBX "True Believers" to just insist that you HAVE to love them.
I don't, I play what pleases me. I am GLAD, liking Phil, that the rules sell well and, presumeably, make him some money. But that is the end of it.


Spectralwraith14 Aug 2003 1:51 p.m. PST

I have no problem with rules tampering.

In the example of Swiss Pike vs "Alexanders" Macedonian Pike, I would consider the Macedonian Pike superior in most ways.

The Macedonians were long time veterans being led by a man who they had the utmost confidence in. They were not as compact as the Swiss so could probably move faster. They could side step, back step, turn and face any direction although they would rather not have to turn to the rear as the rear guys were the younger less experienced part of the formation and with typically less armour protection.

So allow the Macedonian Pike an extra plus one in combat and keep their movement speed the same or as an alternative reduce the Swiss movement speed by some amount. Give the Macedonian Pike a minus one in combat if they have to turn and face.

Increase the Point Value costs of the Macedonian Pikes by an appropriate amount.

Pretty simple Huh.

Dave Crowell14 Aug 2003 2:33 p.m. PST

I like DBA, DBR leaves me fairly cold, and I have not yet been tempted to pick up DBM. Many of the things I like about DBA (and HotT) simply would not work for me in a larger more complex game.

I do not feel that everyone should just play DBx. I will attempt to correct what I see as misperceptions about DBA (it is bad history, javelin armed troops are only melee troops, all Pikes are the same, etc) but others are free to disagree with me, or to decide that they still don't like DBA.

Why is GW so popular when it is so awful?

Why is Tactica/Armati/AMWarfare/Warrior Kings/Vis Bellica/Moderns/28mm/15mm/etc so popular when it is so awful?

To me DBA is popular because it does what it sets out to do very well, and I enjoy what it does.

The best chocolate ice cream in the world will not impress you much if you don't like chocolate ice cream.

Dave Crowell14 Aug 2003 2:36 p.m. PST

When I want a game that really captures the unique flavour of a particular period I do not however turn to DBA.

There are other games out there that capture Hoplite Greek, or Crusades, or Border Reivers much better and more flavorfully.

DBA is a quick snack game, not a gourmet meal.

Spectralwraith14 Aug 2003 3:30 p.m. PST

So far we have been told that their are better games out there that capture the flavor better that DBx, but only Hairy Beast has named one (Tactica).

So please let me in on the secret rules set so I too can capture the flavor.

No Name0214 Aug 2003 4:21 p.m. PST

Try mine, Alea Iacta Est (the Die is Cast). Designed to simulate ancient warfare around the rise of the Roman empire.

Download at - its in the dropdown menu.

Vis Bellica14 Aug 2003 4:28 p.m. PST

Or mine: Vis Bellica.

See for details.

SirG aka Robert Avery, Author Vis Bellica
(now putting hard hat on and crouching in foxhole)

Tarzan14 Aug 2003 7:44 p.m. PST

Archduke Chuck - the main differences between the Macedonians and Swiss were that the Macedonians had shields and used their like underarm, whereas the Swiss didn't have shield and used their pikes from the shoulder.

the fact that DB* rates tehm both as "pike" and so they would be "equal" facing each other is irrelevant.

Both are rated as "pike" because of the effects they had/suffered from their contemporary opponents ONLY.

The DB* system is based solely upon such effects - put the question of whetherr macedonian ans Swiss pike are "equal" to the author and he'll probably tell you of course they are, and so what - they never fought so he's not going to bother with any sort of comparison.

This is the major point of difference that DB* introduced to "mainstream" wargaming - elements, single factors, etc had all been doen before. But grading troops by their effect on enemy rather than by weapons, armour and morale was the big innovation, and IMO it's yet to be bettered.

Spectralwraith15 Aug 2003 12:42 a.m. PST

Well... I perused the Alea Iacta Est rules.

I had flashbacks of the old Chivalry and Sorcery rules system with its overwelming detail and countless combat and movement modifiers.

I will admit that these systems are probably more realistic overall, but how long would it take to conclude a battle?

If DBM with 200 figures takes 3 hours than Alea Iacta Est with the same amount of figures would take about how long?

The Vis Bellica system looks interesting but a cant really comment on the rules without owning a copy.

But how long does it take for a battle to be completed with Vis Bellica rules with the same criteria as above?

I think what it all comes down to is the length of time it takes to complete the battle.

(Change Name)15 Aug 2003 1:11 a.m. PST

I am not a fan of DBx. It is not because they are awful games. I am boycotting DBx until its proponents learn to behave. The English DBM players, in particular, tend to be extremely arrogant. Even in the U.S., it is difficult to be around the dedicated DBMers for any period of time. In most cases, this arrogance is entirely uncalled for.

Why is it popular? Probably for many of the same reasons that other games are more popular than superior alternatives: it was here first. The same could be said about D&D for roleplaying and Warhammer for fantasy. Gamers started playing these rules when they were the only game in town - so to speak. And these gamers continue to play them out of habit and laziness. In fact, many of these gamers are extremely conservative and unwilling to try any other set of rules.

That being said, at the time it was introduced, DBA was a breath of fresh air, especially when one considers what preceded it. It is a simple and fast game to play (once one gets beyond the unintelligible prose). It had straightfoward game mechanics requiring virtually no record keeping. IMHO, DBM just messed up everything which was good about DBA.

However, if DBA were being introduced today as a new game, rather than as an established system, I really suspect that it would not do particularly well against some of the other rules which have been published in the last decade. It is living off of its past glory.

Vis Bellica15 Aug 2003 1:35 a.m. PST

spectralwraith: we usually complete a game of Vis Bellica that size in 2˝-3 hours.


Spectralwraith15 Aug 2003 2:57 a.m. PST

Sir Garnet.... Vis Bellica is looking pretty good so far.

It looks like I can keep my figures on their DBA bases which was very important to me. I might be able to get them on the 6cm by 3cm using a strip of magnetic sheet?

Im liking the idea of simultaneous movement. Im not clear about the order wrighting but as long as it dosnt slow down the game too much.

The fog of war part is very attractive. Really the part that might sell me these rules.

Officers of varying abilities optional rule #1 is also a welcome addition.

And last, Im more of a fantasy miniatures guy so I am more interested in Vis Magica. Is it available yet?

HairyBeast15 Aug 2003 3:06 a.m. PST

Spectralwraith The rules I like for the various periods I play, and bear in mind ALL of these have homegrown modifications. classiacl Ancients-Tactica, Dark ages-I've tried Warhammer +shieldwall but need to think about this. High Medieval I still Have a soft spot for Revenge-a few years ago I played lots of games with this set and despite its flaws,over complexity in parts its still pretty medieval.
ECW Has to be Forlorn Hope by a streetlength but warhammer ECW has its points for lower level games BUT lots of mods here. 18th century- Heavily modified Warfare in the Age of Reason- we have local mods for various sub-periods. Since I don't do tournaments and our group have umpire controlled games we tend to be pretty loose about written rules.
Probably one of the reasons why the DB isn't popular. Also I've run into DB Arrogance myself they seem to HAVE to talk to you in dbese and are aghast when you don't get it. Since I've never published a rule set I can't say "TRY MINE". I think that perhaps the DBs do live off past glory and understand why the "games players "like 'em but one size does NOT fit all and the rules should try to fit the history NOT history being made to fit the rules.

Vis Bellica15 Aug 2003 6:59 a.m. PST

Spectralwraith: Vis Magica is written and playtested, now needs design and layout.

I'm hoping to get it out before the end of the year, but can't at this stage promise.

As for order writing: there are only 4 common orders in VB. They are Attack (A), Forward (F), Hold (H) and Retreat (R). Bodyguard units also have Guard (G). They don't take much time to write!


dapeters15 Aug 2003 9:08 a.m. PST

I don’t like DBA and do not play it, but I think it has a lot going for it:

-Allows one to fairly cheaply and quickly have many armies.
-No paper work
-Very playable
-Games only go into the late hours because you started in the late hours.
-It enables tournaments – just bring any old army.

These things have help the hobby and particularly historic ancients, such as standardization of base size (editorial comment: but Phil you need to change 25mm size to accommodate today’s figures.) Sure all the above-mentioned qualities come at a price. But all rules sets employ abstractions and conventions. Some people use the expression “beer and pretzels” game. Show me a rule set that is not and I’ll show you a tedious bore.

RockyRusso15 Aug 2003 9:35 a.m. PST


Like Merlin, I play our "Art Of War" rules.

However, these rules suit my Prejudices and may not suit yours! I applaud people like "Hairy Beast" who cheerfully takes rules he likes and tweeks them to his taste. I wish gamers were more flexible in this regard.

The danger is, of course, if you travel to a convention or visit from out of town having "surprises" sprung on you. Mean spirited types will love this. In our own games, when someone starts to "step in in", we always stop and ask if they understand how this could be bad. In my own games, if someone ever says "I didnt realize this rule could hurt me" I always say "Take it back!"

On the other hand, for conventions and the like, I understand the need for agreed upon rules like WRG/DBX etc. On the other hand, convention tourney's dont appeal to me.


(Change Name)15 Aug 2003 10:35 a.m. PST

I would agree with dapeters that basing is a real problem for DBx. Back in the "good old days" when it was introduced, 25mm figures were smaller. Most of the companies which produced those figures are now bankrupt or soon will be. The future is with the larger figures, but DBx refuses to change. Can anyone say buggy whips?

This will slowly but surely kill DBx as a viable gaming system. When players buy the larger figures (which is 99% of the market) and discover they are not useable with DBx, they will quickly move on to other games. The people who will be playing DBx will be those with the smaller 25s or 15mm figures, i.e. old timers who are still playing with figures from the 1970s. Most of the newer gamers with the newer figures will look at DBx's basing and say "no thank you."

It is interesting to note that the designers of Warrior have seen which way the wind is blowing and have tried to accomodate the larger figures. But DBx seems to be stuck in a time warp...

mikeah15 Aug 2003 10:41 a.m. PST

Might of Arms is popular at conventions. It is an ARMY level game, excellent for 15's and 25's although it uses a good number of figures (way more than DBA). Typically 200 figures. It abstracts at the Army level, is complete with army lists, is well illustrated, inexpensive, complete, excellent for scenario type gaming, well supported. It is the reason that I've built a dozen armies and is the reason that I am in ancient wargaming today.

Oh yes, the baseing is WRG standard.

(Change Name)15 Aug 2003 7:41 p.m. PST


Thanks for warning me about Might of Arms. I probably have over 10,000 figures mounted to WAB standards. I could have wasted a lot of time learning the MOA rules, only to find out that I would be required to remount my figures. You just saved me a lot of time and brain damage. Thanks.

Capt John Miller16 Aug 2003 6:15 a.m. PST

Played DBA, good concept. I have not played any of the other DBx games. My complaint: Every time I read the rules it is a painful experience due to prose. That has gotten to the point where I do not have the desire to play. Here is my suggestion: Spend the extra time, paper/ production and write the rules out with examples that people like myself do not get turned off to it.

As for the previous post regarding WAB as a fantasy rules set at best, let me point out that there are a number of WAB tournments and a sizeable discussion group at Yahoo (I do belong to both groups myself and the numbers are obvious).
WAB may be fantasy to you, but it is bringing in other players into Ancients gaming who would have otherwise not done so.


(Change Name)16 Aug 2003 9:58 a.m. PST

In responding to Bombastic Bombard: I have been playing ancients games for quite a few years and really have amassed a huge collection of figures, all of them 25mm.

I really don't care what rules the 15mm gamers are using.

With respect to 25mm, you can stick your figures in your ears and go "la la la la la," but it won't change the reality. That reality is 25mm figures are larger than they were even 10 years ago, and dramatically so. This has caused problems in basing. Ignoring this fact betrays an ignorance of what has actually been happening in gaming.

As for WAB, while it is not my favorite game at the moment, it does do a reasonable job in producing historical results. Not perfect. And there are "Warhammer" moments. But nothing that really causes me to jump out of my chair. But then, since I guess, that you have actually never played the rules, you would not recognize this.

Now lets compare this with the fantasy aspects of DBx. Take the PIP system for example. On turn one, a 6 six is rolled. Your general is now Ceasar Alexander, the scourge of the ancient world. On the next turn, a one is rolled; what has happened? One of Ceasar Alexanders aides have just hit him on the back of the head with an axe, and his poor brains are now flopping around on the ground. On the next turn, a three is rolled. I guess Ceasar Alexander has picked up his brains and put them back in his head, but things are not quite working right...

The point is that DBx is just as much a fantasy game as WAB is. I would suggest Mr. Bombast, that you stop living in the past, see where gaming is going, and stop worring about where it has been.

Jakar Nilson16 Aug 2003 10:31 a.m. PST

Old timers play with 15mm? What in the name of...? Everywhere I go, I see games played in 15, not 25. Of all the people playing DBx at my club, only one is older than 50, most being in their early twenties to thirties. We leave 25mm for WAB.

Spectralwraith16 Aug 2003 12:09 p.m. PST

Using an average die for the pip roll in DBx might work more realisticly I think and yes, introducing some pip modifiers for guys like Alexander and Ceasar seems to be quite necessary to get a more accurate historical battle too.

If it dosnt slow down the game than why not do it?

Bombard16 Aug 2003 1:36 p.m. PST

Zarquon How long is quite a while when it comes to gaming.I have been gaming since WRG 5th Ed. and have seen rules sets come and go. The DBX rules sets have a wide following and there is a reason for that. DBX while not perfect is enjoyable to play and army size is not to large as to hurt ones pocketbook. Your blanket attacks on the age of people who play certain ancient rules is counterproductive. Ancient gaming is a small segment in Historical gaming which itself has a very small following. Rather than attacking other players and the rules they use you should thank the Gaming Gods for the choices available.Your attitude towards other gamers shows how litle you care about the hobby and how much you have to learn about life.

Bombard16 Aug 2003 1:45 p.m. PST

saloop I was trying to illustrate how blanket statements on a subject is often not accurate. WAB has its place in the ancient gaming world, just like DBX, Attacking each other in counterproductive for ancient gamers. It hurts the hobby and in the long run makes little sense. In reality there so little of us who play ancients.

(Change Name)16 Aug 2003 4:58 p.m. PST

Well Mr. Bombard, it is fairly obvious that you have been using the same figures and rules for a considerable period of time, and that you have failed to observe the changes which have occurred in the past decade. However, things have changed since mini-figs was the grand poohbah of miniature manufacturers. I really don't care to count gray hairs, but will admit that I avoided ancient gaming like the plague as long as they were totally dominated by the WRG style of play. (I played everything but Ancients until there was a real alternative to Barker's rules.)

And I agree with Nilson's comments that 25mm should be left for WAB. (WAB does not work as well with 15mm, although from another thread here, it apparently is being done by a few gamers.) I guess this will allow the WAB players to have all of the new figures, while the DBM'ers get to play with figures from the 1970's and 80's.

As far as being divisive, my comments were fairly benign and controlled, until you decided to launch a personal and insulting attack on me. I also don't know what prompted the obligatory digs at WAB. This was completely uncalled for and out of line. I don't know what prompted you to do this. Perhaps it is DBArrogance?

Quite frankly, I am sick and tired of the attitude that DBx is some sort of sacred cow that no one can criticize, while the DBMer's get to blast any and all competing rules. If you can criticize WAB for being a fantasy game, you really need to show how DBx is any improvement. In nearly 100 posts on this thread, noone has attempted to argue that DBx has any historical validity - especially as it is commonly played.

But I am in agreement that we are fortunate to have different alternatives. Without these alternatives, I would still be playing ACW, Napoleonics, WWII and (gasp!) fantasy. I can continue to boycot DBx while playing other rules, and you can continue to play DBx while boycotting everything else. And never the twain shall meet.

I also agree that this sniping is incredibly stupid, counterproductive and ugly. It's why most of my WAB playing friends will not associate with the DBx crowd, and refuse to join or quit clubs where they are present. So why do you do it?

No Name 317 Aug 2003 10:47 a.m. PST

Isn't it funny how wargamers seem to fall into 2 catagories? On the one hand there are those who spend most of their time and energy doing positive things, on the other there are those who seem to spend their time being obnoxious to anyone who wargames slightly differently to them.

Dave Crowell17 Aug 2003 12:08 p.m. PST

Better Flavour than DBx:

Forlorn Hope for ECW

The Perfect Captain's rules for Crusade, Hoplite Greeks, Rennaissance

Better Basing than DBx for new larger figures (fight scale creep it sucks): Warhammer, Warrior, any DBx player with teh mental flexibility to base on 80mm frontage and make the 25mm game a 30mm game at 2x 15mm.

More gentlemanly players than DBx: Any other game you care to name

Less gentlemanly players than DBx: any other game you care to name

@Zarquon: actually a few of us have argued that DBx games have historical validity. I cited Marian Roman vs Ancient Brittish as a prime example. Hittite Empire vs New Kingdom Egyptian is another.

I agree that it is nice to have alternatives in gaming. Sometimes I want a game that feels like Warhammer, sometimes I want a game that feels like DBA.

Sometimes I don't care what rules are used I just want to push an army across the table top, and have some fun.

John GrahamLeigh Supporting Member of TMP17 Aug 2003 12:59 p.m. PST

Mr Zarquon - I've just got back from a convention at which there were competitions in DBM (15mm and 25mm), Armati, WAB, Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40K, DBR, Napoleonics and 19th Century. So far as I know nobody sniped, nobody complained about others' choice of rules, there were just hundreds of players enjoying their games. I was playing in the DBM 25mm competition which included armies of 1970s figures (such as mine,) mostly pretty well refurbished, at least one of 20mm plastics and quite a few brilliantly painted new Foundry etc figures. The latter seemed to fit the 60mm element bases without difficulty. Oh, and of the 22 players in that section 3 were under 17 - one of them won the overall convention Sportsmanship award.

I really don't know where you get the idea that DBM players are hell-bent on "blasting" other rules. It just ain't so, and it really is wearisome seeing you popping up all over the place to have a crack at DBM and DBMers. You don't like DBM or other WRG rules. Fine. We know that now. Stop going on about it. Get out more - try a convention or two, with an open mind. You might even find that DBM players have the same mix of friendly and unfriendly, amiable and abrasive, modest and arrogant people as every other group!

As to historical validity, DBM can model historical battles very well - especially those of the Classical period, but I've also been impressed by some medieval refights. See the forthcoming November Slingshot for accounts of the same historical battle refought under five different rules sets.


John GL

(Change Name)17 Aug 2003 3:44 p.m. PST


Still smarting from my comments about the SOA?

Where do I get the idea about DBMers bashing other games? From the Slingshot, of course!

(Like the reviews along the lines of "I have not played WAB/Armati/Vis Bellica/ etc., but I think it sucks." Well, I have not read KHR's review of Chariot Wars, but based on reputation, I think it sucks.)

And from AncMed, where it seems to be a constant problem. (Solution: get rid of all the non-DBM players)

And from The Miniatures Page.

And from my local club, where I can name at least a half dozen ancient gamers who have either quit or won't join because of the attitude of the DBM crowd.

I know that many other gamers have the same perception and that I am not suffering from some paranoid delusion. Most of them, just bite their toungue, and try to ignore DBArrogance. I am tired of biting my tongue. No one should have to put up with that cr*p.

I just attended Historicon. It's sort of a funny thing. Most of the ancient gamers seem to stick with their own crowd. The Warrior guys seem to play the Warrior tournaments. The DBM guys seem to play DBM. The WAB guys seem to spend the convention playing WAB. Etc., etc. Maybe, I'm missing something, but there doesn't seem to be much "cross pollination." Not good.

I know the DBM crowd does not like my comments. But they sound like the little kid who cried "It all started when he hit me back!" Most of my comments have been in direct response from something from the DBM crowd. When they knock it off, so will I.

HairyBeast18 Aug 2003 12:26 a.m. PST

Didn't want this to descend into a brawl but it has. Mr leigh and Mr Zarquon -hold down the noise to a dull roar willya!! Despite all the above I'm little wiser. None of the DBX ers have convinced me except insofar as the system plays well. All the comments about how cheap it is are for cheapskates. My own convention findings -I attend about 15 a year is that the DBs are dominated by 15mm with often smaller armies than I see on 25mm tables. While there are exceptions to this I find it wierd that many 15mm players now appear to use fewer minis than 25/28mm players. I wonder if the small armies the DB s require has partly caused this. They are not the only tiny armies rulsets out there but they do seem to be the most popular. I simply can't get my brain round this. Its as if a part of the gaming population just didn't like minis but thats got to be crap !!We're on the cminiatures page after all.

John GrahamLeigh Supporting Member of TMP18 Aug 2003 1:43 a.m. PST

Not sure what you mean about army size, HairyBeast. The Vikings I took to Britcon, in 25mm at 350 points had about 200 figures plus 5 longboats. A typical 500 point army, normal for 15mm doubles, has about 300 figures - some are much larger. DBA is cheap, with small armies - DBM isn't.

Difficult to see how the discussion could have "descended" any further than your extremely provocative thread title and first message. I'm sure you're little the wiser, but possibly better informed.

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