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"DBx Community Balkanized?" Topic

De Bellis Magistrorum Militum

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06 Jan 2017 9:41 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Visceral Impact Studios11 Nov 2015 5:39 a.m. PST

Several years ago it felt like there was a soild DBx community that was fairly unified and vibrant. At one of our larger (and now closed) FLGS you would see DBA and DBM games on a routine basis.

Over time this community seems to have splintered. We now have segments devoted to DBM, DBMM, multiple editions of DBx (standard AND Big Battle DBx), and various flavors of HOTT (both stand alone and combined with DBA).

And since that Balkanization process started it seems that all flavors have become less popular over time. Besides our own little gaming group I don't see DBx being played at three of ATL's large, north side shops. I mean as in never, nada.

Even on these boards where I lurk for DBx info one finds threads referencing lots of DBx variations.

IMO this does not bode well for the community. DBx is, even when unified, divided by figure scale, generally 15mm vs 25mm. With DBA 2 something, DBA 3 something, Big Battle DBA of both versions, DBM, DBMM, etc., it seems that one of WRG/DBA's greatest strengths has been lost: it's harder to find opponents willing to play a single, widely accepted rules for a given period.

The good news is that basing is still close to standard, at least for width. That's light years ahead of other historical periods and I don't even like it (I've always thought stands of 4x heavy infantry in two ranks on 20mm x 25mm and 2 heavy cavalry in one rank on 25mm x 25mm looks better…in other words sort of like Napoleons Battles but with single rank cav stands).

What is driving this split? The authors or publishers?

Is there any hope of reversing this trend?

For those of us who game other, even more Balkanized periods it's a shame to see this spli and I truly hope it can be turned around.

vexillia11 Nov 2015 6:08 a.m. PST

See this for Northern UK angle:

It's that time of year again! Time to review the state of the Northern League the competition scene in the North of England.

If you want to read the background to this analysis have a look at this earlier post. In this article I said that "the Northern League is both stable and set fair for the future". This is no longer true as this chart shows:



And this for a UK/EU angle:

DBM however, because of it's success, became "played-out" for a lot (but not all) of the community, with most all jumping on the bandwagon of FoGAM – more I suspect on the basis that it allowed the community to stay together, socialising, drinking and pushing toy soldiers around together, but with a different set of intellectual challenges to underpin it after the challenges and puzzles inherent in DBM had all been all but overcome.

But, in the shift away from DBM, neither FoGAM (nor DBMM) ever seemed to quite capture the mass imagination of the community in the same way as the WRG to DBM transition did, and neither has proved to be the sweep-all-in-its-path behemoth that DBM was, nor have they developed the longevity, nor the enduring multi-national international appeal that DBM did in it's heyday either.

Looking back, I'm not sure this is the "fault" of either ruleset – it may just be a historical accident that we all happened to be shoving pikemen and legionaries around when the first "modern" ruleset – that focused on command and control, not kit, that graded troops by their effect rather than their weapons, and which understood that simplicity of design was absolutely something worth sacrificing whole mountains of details in the pursuit of when it came to game design and philosophy.


Martin Stephenson
The Waving Flag | Twitter | eBay

Who asked this joker11 Nov 2015 6:35 a.m. PST

What is driving this split? The authors or publishers?

If you are looking specifically at DBA, the Authors of DBA and of 2.2+ are at odds. That is driving the "split" in the DBA community.

If you look at Ancients as a whole, many people are not tournament players and are happy that there are plenty of other choices out there these days.

Finally, there are those that became dissatisfied with the DBx stable of games and went elsewhere for their tournament needs.

Is there any hope of reversing this trend?

No. Plenty of choice will ensure that there is no one rules set to rule them all. Ehem. So to speak.

For those of us who game other, even more Balkanized periods it's a shame to see this spli(t) and I truly hope it can be turned around.

Honestly, I don't think this "split" really matters a whole lot unless you are a tournament player. In the latter case, it only matters if you can't get enough players to run the tournament.

Yesthatphil11 Nov 2015 6:38 a.m. PST

For balkanisation read diversity.

Diversity is good. Choice is good.

DBx is, even when unified, divided by figure scale, generally 15mm vs 25mm. With DBA 2 something, DBA 3 something, Big Battle DBA of both versions, DBM, DBMM, etc., it seems that one of WRG/DBA's greatest strengths has been lost: it's harder to find opponents willing to play a single, widely accepted rules for a given period.

I suspect there are geographical issues, however – in the UK I don't think there is much division by scale (most DBX is 15mm) and I don't think there are difficulties finding opponents – indeed our issues a more 'so many opponents, so little time' – then again most of us don't wargame in shops*.

Ancients on the Move

*i.e. players tend to club together around their particular enthusiasms – so if you like 15mm DBA, join a club that plays a lot of DBA … if you like 28mm HC, join a club that plays a lot of HC …

aynsley68311 Nov 2015 6:42 a.m. PST

DBM used to be the only game in town, then the two authors deceided to go their separate ways ( which we all know about ) , and made their own rule sets, by the way FOG and MM were written we can see which direction they both wanted to go.

Some like one others liked the other and a few of us didn't like either basically. Then FOG split again into ancients, ren. , and Napolenics, then they made a bit of a mess with rolling out version 2 which killed it of over here in the US. So that's 4 sets with MM.

Then we have MM that hasn't even got a rule book or army lists in print for a while now ( I believe they are 'at the printers' for the last month or two) so will see how the changes effect their numbers, could go either way, time will tell.

Here in the north east US, FOG took off with no MM then someone tried to do some MM games at Lancaster, 2 games am and pm on one day for maybes 2 or 3 cons. The last con we had no MM or at all or even any FOG, we had our little friendly DBM 2 day thing with a dozen players and ADLG had 26 one day for 25's then half that for 15's the next. So that seems to be the new one at present.

The new french ADLG may get the large numbers again that used to happen with DBM in the US here as FOG is done and didn't see any MM.

As always we will have to see what happens over time but I believe ADLG will be the big scene here, at least at the Lancaster cons, not sure about elsewhere.

aynsley68311 Nov 2015 6:46 a.m. PST

By the way I am not saying which is better over others just what has heepened with numbers at the cons I've been to.

Who asked this joker11 Nov 2015 7:08 a.m. PST

Having a brain cramp here. What is "MM"?

MajorB11 Nov 2015 7:33 a.m. PST

Having a brain cramp here. What is "MM"?

Shorthand for DBMM:

De Bellis Magistrorum Militum

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2015 7:58 a.m. PST

Has "the split" resulted in people playing less games, or, rather, are people just playing games with the rules they want to play?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Nov 2015 8:25 a.m. PST

One thing I think is clear. On the historical side, these communities are more the exception than the norm. (By community I mean on a regional/national level).

In my experience you have DBA and Flames of War. There are other "fads" rules that come and go – are played intensely and then the community moves on. Bolt Action might fit that description now. Some of these might have staying power, but most do not.

There's also a flip side to that. You may have had a lot of ancients players playing DBA because it was that or nothing. I am that way about Bolt Action – I'll play if you're running it, but would never choose it myself.

So the split may feel like a breath of fresh air to those players who are glad to send DBA packing….

John the OFM11 Nov 2015 8:30 a.m. PST

The OP seems to be saying that it's tragic that not everybody plays his favorite set of rules.

Visceral Impact Studios11 Nov 2015 10:18 a.m. PST

John, you couldn't be more wrong. But nice attempt. In future, you might want to be a little more considerate in your posts and rather than making assumptions get the facts first.

For ancients and medieval I actually DISLIKE DBx. As I indicated in another thread I find it "anti-historical" in many ways. I prefer Might of Arms which is played frequently un DC but not here in ATL.

So quite the opposite, I play DBx because a very good friend enjoys it, I'm not that picky, and I place friendship and fun over differences about rule sets.

That being said, even though it's not might favorite rules and prefer to play lots of different systems (I have a huge collection of game dating to the 80s) I do see a benefit of a given period having a popular system, especially with respect to basing. I don't even like WRG/DBx basing but it's nice to know that if you use that basing convention a lot of games use it too as it has become a bit of a standard.

There's abother benefit to having popular systems: you see more pickup games at the FLGS.

BTW, I aee this same thing happening with fantasy. Since the release of Age of Sigmar I'm not seeing WHFB or AoS being played at our FLGS. Prior to AoS there were pickup games most weekends. Not anymore.

maverick290911 Nov 2015 10:23 a.m. PST

I think the split in rules is a terrible thing for he community. To say "oh well it adds diversification!" Is pretty asinine. It would add diversification if the community was much larger. As it is, the size of the community is pretty weak, and further fracturing what rules systems we chose to use only further drives the community to shrink.

It is very clear Phil is of one opinion on how to publish rules, but from the multiple rules I have seen come and go, and even taking a look at products outside of the gaming world, communities and products tend to do much better when you have a centralized set of standards that are packaged neatly, presented with nice illustrations, and easy enough for the average individual to understand.

It is a shame we can't get that kind of cohesion with ancients miniatures gaming. It's one of the big reasons I was so drawn in to FoW. I think it could be a possibility for ancients gaming, but it will take a manufacturer with a solid line of figures and a lot of capital to pull it off.

For the reccord, I don't play in tournaments. I am not a tournament player type. I just feel that if you want the game and community to grow, you need to offer a product that does it all, looks beautiful, and is easy to understand.

Visceral Impact Studios11 Nov 2015 10:27 a.m. PST

Well said Maverick, especially the bit on tournaments. I'm not a fan of tournaments either but I too see their value for the hobby at large.

If a guy is going to drop a few hundred bucks on figures he wants to make sure he gets use out of them. So when a community can provide that sort of confidence it's good for the entire hobby.

Who asked this joker11 Nov 2015 10:40 a.m. PST

So here's the rub. Several of the posters want to be part of a greater community. That's what I am reading. And that's fine. Me? I just want to play the rules that interest me. That sentiment is also shared by several of the posters above. I'm not really concerned that 1000s of people are playing the game or that I am the only one in the world playing the game. I'm just interested in playing a fun set of rules.

I suppose if you really want a sense of community, you could join the SOA. Not just gamers but plenty of people who enjoy Ancient history.

If you are looking for a single, generally accepted rules set, you are probably not going to get that. Those days of WRG Ancients are gone. Play DBA or whatever strikes your fancy and have fun.

maverick290911 Nov 2015 11:04 a.m. PST

Ah but that's the thing, if there is a set of rules that is hugely popular and everyone is playing it, you can still go out and play what ever set of rules you like. You can make up your own rules, you can play the same rules everyone else in the big community is playing, you can play Joe Blow's rules set from down the road.

However, the reverse isn't true. If the rules sets are fractured and killing the community, if is MUCH harder as an individual to start up a rules set and miniatures line that would appeal to the masses. IMO FoG is the closest we had come to that.

aynsley68311 Nov 2015 11:28 a.m. PST

I think the whole problem is or was the internet, as now you can get out your set very easily and quickly compared to the time DBM came out. We have choice now for good or bad because of the internet.
For example Big Red does his own set To The Strongest, without the internet I doubt he would of gotten it out into the world at large, not knocking it in any way I hasten to add, it's just one example where we now have a choice.
I saw someone mention a few posts ago that the DBA 2.2+ people are driving the split in DBA, I personally disagree with that statement. I play DBM 3.2 the authors only wrote up to 3.0 before going separate ways, the .2 bits are house rules that we the players added on. That's not splitting the hobby so how can someone playing DBA2.2+ , which is basically the original 2.2 but with some house rules be driving anything? The authors name is still there and it's explained they are house rules which is exactly the same as we have done with DBM 3.2, no ones said we can't call it DBM anymore have they?
People play what they want now gone are the days of the big DBM tournaments they are not coming back. At least DBM standardised the basing for some of the other rule sets, ADLG comes to mind.

maverick290911 Nov 2015 11:38 a.m. PST

Very true! The Internet has helped and hurt the hobby in different ways for sure. I think I'm going to pick up TTS btw because I have heard a lot about it and I feel the sector method is intriguing (as an aside though I wish he had done 12cm X 12cm as it would have for the 40mm bases better but that's here nor there).

My group also plays DBM 3.2. It's free, we know it, and we find its one of the more balanced rules sets we have played. We just got our 6th member to get into the game and are looking to do a fun type campaign. The group aspect is really what drives the hype and is part of the fun. I just don't get how some don't want that? /shrug

lkmjbc311 Nov 2015 12:41 p.m. PST


No doubt this will result in a firestorm. I wrote this in January of 2011. I quote myself…

"A replay of DBM 3.2 vs DBMM is the most likely outcome of your decision to promote 2.2. I don't have to remind you who won that battle… FOG.

To fracture our already small community is not a wise move. Complaints (not by you) on Phil's writing style and on-line personality have already prejudiced many folks against DBA. Further acrimony will magnify this.
Please reconsider your plans.

Joe Collins"

This is what happened.

The plan to reconsider was one of basing their rules on 2.2. I advised waiting for DBA 3 to be published and then producing amendments based on it.

Look, you can believe what you want. I went through the process.

Joe Collins

YogiBearMinis Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2015 12:43 p.m. PST

I don't see a "split" between DBA (any version) and Big Battle DBA (any version)--they are just differently-sized variants of the exact same rules.

The splits are between DBA 2.2+ on the one hand, and adopters of DBA 3.0 on the other. Our group started playing 2.2+ and liked it, but prefer 3.0 and have switched to it completely since publication. They are both solid improvements over version 2.2, and 2.2+ only arose because Barker was so darn slow to adopt any changes or put out a new edition.

DBM and DBMM are likewise split. Our group never adopted DBMM and just plays DBA now, though we have thought about returning to DBM or adopting DBMM for a few games in the future.

Thomas Thomas11 Nov 2015 3:06 p.m. PST

First DBA is hardly a passing fad – its been played all over the world for over a decade and a half and has just released easily the best edition yet. I can get into DBA games at all the major conventions I attend. I suspect it will long out last the current crop of games and my son and his friends will be still playing long after I'm mouldering away.

And no wonder – its easy to learn and play and actually gives a good representation of a medeival battle (my main interest). I also hear you can use it for tournaments…

The problem with "diversity" is that everyone ends up playing solitare. The DBX mechanics let tournament players and historical players speak a common language and so created a large of enough community to sustain gaming.

I don't think the 2.2+ thing is a big deal. The only place I've ever seen it played is at a couple of US conventions because they are run by the authors. DBA 3.0 seems to have caught on everywhere else. We have even upgraded HOTT to DBA 3.0 standards so that the two communities can combine. I think this will give us a solid player base so that you can get DBA games at most conventions and clubs.

Yes I do remember what happened to DBM – I was an avid player and former national champ. But DBM, starting with 3.0, starting shooting itself in the foot. While DBA has done the opposite and if anything improved on the basic DBX mechanics.

Yes I did note in the chart that UK players seem to be declining. Not sure why but I'm glad I don't play there as another poster suggested that DBX was only played in 15mm and you had to play Hail Caeser to use 28s. This would leave me out in the cold as I have few 15s and don't play Hail Caeaser. Such rigid division may explain the problem.

The DBX folks don't seem to be taking advantage of the flood of high quality low cost 28mm plastics – a technological innovation of the first order which has changed how historical figures are marketed (fantasy figured this out years ago).

Here in the US we have a healthy DBX community in both scales. Back in DBMs heyday we would get 12-16 for 25s and had enough for doubles tournaments. So plenty of potential players (and armies) to recruit for Big Battle.

Lots of stuff has actually come together that could launch a great era of historical medieval gaming – new figures, great rule set, media interest (there are 2 new TV shows based on medieval/dark age history) etc.

Opportunity knocks – but yeah we have to work together enough to answer.


aynsley68311 Nov 2015 3:13 p.m. PST

My intention wasn't for a reason on splits just that the DBA 2.2+ and DBA 3.0 is the same as the DBMM and DBM 3.2 , nothing more, neither is better than the other it's just who prefers what. And actually FOG has lost out at the cons I attend anyway.
I believe that ADLG will get the numbers now over FOG and DBMM, I could be wrong but I still think it's the internets fault for everything.

Yesthatphil11 Nov 2015 4:49 p.m. PST

To say "oh well it adds diversification!" Is pretty asinine. It would add diversification if the community was much larger. As it is, the size of the community is pretty weak, and further fracturing what rules systems we chose to use only further drives the community to shrink.

I trust you are suggesting my comment was 'pretty asinine', maverick2909, as I'd deem that a personal attack.

Indeed, I'm also not sure that the size of the community is pretty weak (if 'weak' applies to size) and I don't think there is evidence that it is shrinking (indeed the evidence I see suggests that participation in 'ancients' is currently expanding) …

But as I said above, some of this is geographical and the trends we see generally may not apply in your area.


Hagar the Horrible11 Nov 2015 4:53 p.m. PST

My 10c worth.

I think there is 2 opposing forces here.

It is true that "the DBX community" has split down into its components, but whether that is "balkanisation" or even a bad thing is debateable. As pointed out above, the internet has allowed so much freedom of choice that you can do pretty much what you want. The days of one ruleset ruling all is long over.

On the other hand, I think the term "balkanisation", with its connotations of conflict, aptly describes what has happened in the DBA community specifically. The level of vitriol and general nastiness that has gone on there has truly been astonishing to watch. All over a game of toy soldiers!


maverick290911 Nov 2015 5:00 p.m. PST

How is what I said a personal attack? I have nothing but respect for what you have done for the community for rules and expanding the game. However, I just highly disagree with your view of the community at present.

Nice to see I know how to get your attention now. :P While I'm at it, any chance of a DBMM reprint?

lkmjbc311 Nov 2015 5:35 p.m. PST


Wrong Phil I think.

Though the respect is due this one as well.

I have heard that a DBMM reprint is in the works as well as updated army books.

Joe Collins

maverick290911 Nov 2015 8:51 p.m. PST

Thanks Joe. Good to know DBMM is being reprinted. That has really been what has kept it out of our hands more so than us actually preferring DBM 3.2.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP11 Nov 2015 9:26 p.m. PST

Real DBA and the M and MM versions are different games with similar mechanisms. I see no reason to combine discussion of the two types, but will mention a couple of points.

First there were the WRG ancients for large games, then came DBA which took over the vast majority of those players (not all). The DBA games were small and many players had large armies they wanted on the table, so Phil came up with DBM to satisfy those folks, In the 1990's there were tri-ancients for a few years. People played a in a DBA, a WRG, and a DBM tournament. There was much cross over from DBM to DBA as the former players came into DBA mid-night and Sunday morning games, after the DBM games were over.

Many people wanted large games with DBA. The third game I ever played was 100 element per side Raphia in 25mm. I wrote an article for the Courier describing many of the the "Big Battle" ideas for DBA from players around the world. Phil caught on to this interest and added a Big Battle option for DBA 2. In the early 2000's there were 75 people playing DBA 2 across 10-12 events -- open tournament, double Big Battle, scenario games,and campaigns at Historians. See below.

Then in 2011 Phil began DBA 3. Many players were asked to help. Some declined because he was not accepting their ideas immediately and so the began their own version. During the development stage, the Eastern US cons used this home brew version, most of the rest of the world stuck to 2.2.

Once DBA 3 came out, just about a year ago, this game pretty much caught on around the world, except as Tom mentions above. Almost all the tournaments I see advertised are using 3. There are lots more ancients rules around today than in 1991. What ever happened to Tactica, Armati, Warmaster, WH Acients. All good games, as I understand, never played myself. Phil Barker's DBA is still going strong; indeed growing as the two big Chicago Conventions are picking it up. It will be coming back to the Eastern US Cons to some degree.

So no Balkanization of DBA. A little splinterization, but the Phil Barker official DBA community is now quite solid and growing :)


The Wargames Room11 Nov 2015 10:19 p.m. PST

I tend to agree with Phil that variety isn't all bad for Ancient Wargaming, it is just a different situation.

I suspect the diversity creates more issues for those players wishing to attend competitions. If large competitions are the aim of these players they may need to compromise more on their preferences to find opponents. Personally I suspect the lines drawn for competition gamers are deep. Too many fixed opinions.

I'm a little confused by the so called "split" between some house rules called 2.2+ and the current version of DBA which is 3.0. From my understanding these house rules are mostly used in a small part of the world. I don't see this as a split, just a few chaps playing some house rules.

Father Grigori12 Nov 2015 2:33 a.m. PST

Some interesting comments on this thread. I left the UK before FoG really took off, so my opinions of it are very personal and don't reflect the kind of experience I had playing DBM and DBA. However, after years of playing DBx, with the emphasis on command and troop function rather than the details of arms and armour, I felt that FoG was a retrograde step. Much of the rules felt like I'd gone back to 7th or 6th edition WRG rules – 'units' re-appeared, troop armament became more important again, and the importance of generals seemed to lessen. I can understand why many welcomed this, after all, these were points that many had criticised DBx for not having, but at the same time, it was the abandonment of these kinds of details that led to the massive popularity of DBA and DBM. With them back in mainstream competition, it is hardly surprising that the kind of ennui that characterised Ancient wargaming in the 1980's has, to judge from some comments above, re-entered the scene.

And now there is a new kid on the block – the Art de la Guerre. I must admit that I'm not likely to get it in the forseeable future; no regular opponents, and I'm quite happy with DBA, but I hope it takes off. To my mind, it has one great advantage over most other sets of rules – it comes from a non-English speaking background. That alone might broaden its, and the hobby's, appeal beyond what might be termed the traditional wargaming world, which has to date been overwhelmingly Anglocentric. If it gets a wider Francophone or Spanish/Hispanic involvement in the hobby, we can look forward to a much richer and more interesting hobby in future.

Visceral Impact Studios12 Nov 2015 4:59 a.m. PST

I agree that diversity is good in that it can drive innovation and this situation is a good example.

First off, the evolutionary line wasn't WRG – DBA – DBM – etc.

It was WRG – Tactica – DBA – etc.

When Tactica came on the scene the initial reaction from the WRG community was that it was too simple to be realistic. In the pages of MWAN we saw an early, analog version of flame wars between WRG and Tactica supporters. The 800 pound WRG gorrila had been xhallenged and started to lose adherents to Tactica.

In fact, if Tactica had a points system and nore flexible and smaller army lists it might be going strong today. Instead it was supplanted by DBA.

The Tactica guys tried to respond with Armati but it was too late. Armati was "too realistic" in how it limited deployment and maneuver and people enjoyed the small/cheap DBA armies and the system's dual scale (DBA adherents will never admit it and will vehemently deny it but DBA plays at a double scale: it starts as two grand battle lines but then it breaks down into a skirmish game…Armati was far more punishing of broken battle lines while DBA rewards it in some ways.)

Then we had a Golden DBA Era when the community was unified, tournaments were well attended, and, more importantly, pickup games at the FLGS were easy to find.

So here diversity drove innovation while consolidation drove standardization. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

I think the ideal for gamers, as Tom inidcates, is standardization so gamers can find opponents easily. But it's diversity that can drive innovation and improve gaming experiences.

Who asked this joker12 Nov 2015 6:17 a.m. PST

Armati was "too realistic" in how it limited deployment and maneuver

This was peculiar to that game by the Author. I didn't understand you would do that. My take has always been "You're the General. YOU figure out how you are going to deploy your troops!" Armati was otherwise a pretty good system. The maneuver thing was the Author's way of doing a command and control mechanism.

Visceral Impact Studios12 Nov 2015 6:18 a.m. PST

I'm a little confused by the so called "split" between some house rules called 2.2+ and the current version of DBA which is 3.0. From my understanding these house rules are mostly used in a small part of the world. I don't see this as a split, just a few chaps playing some house rules.

That situation is what inspired this thread. Over in the Bow and Blade support thread there's discussion of how various DBx flavors handle that situation.

Maybe someone else can clarify things but for now it looks like you have:

- DBA 2.2 (last official published version?)
- DBA 3.0 (published without support of one author?)
- DBM (3.2?)
- DBMM (version #?)
- HOTT (version #?)

Each appears to have its own supporters and varying levels of support from the publishers and authors.

The version we play with Tom is a combination of DBA 3.0 (I think) and a version of HOTT but I'm not sure which one. I like the HOTT DBA combo since I don't find DBA particularly historical anyway and it's fun to build any kind of army you want to (for GBU ATL I used a dragon and aerial hero/general for deep strike air support and solid bows as a base of fire/gun line).

maverick290912 Nov 2015 6:42 a.m. PST

Read the quick description of Art de la Guerre, they lost me at "between 20-30 stands", for the same reason I really despise DBA, it just doesn't feel historical. Why not just play a skirmish game like 40K at that point?

IDK maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'm not too highly interested in it unless I'm pushing around 50+ stands of men. (guess that's why I play Soviets in FoW come to think of it! :D)

Is my problem that I haven't played enough DBA games to enjoy it yet? Please TMP friends, tell me what I am missing. I want to like it, I want to get in on the hype, but the game just seems so 'meh'.

lkmjbc312 Nov 2015 7:52 a.m. PST

The last official DBA published is DBA 3.0.

You of course can believe what you want.

Joe Collins

Battle Cry Bill12 Nov 2015 10:17 a.m. PST

Thanks for all the commentary on this topic. This is the most substantive/least negative discussion on this topic on TMP to date. I would like to add 3 points.

First, those who have made the connection between DBA and FoW (and thus indirectly to GW) I think have hit on something important. DBA is an entry-level game to historical miniature wargames. I think the tournament aspects are also a unique aspect in that the short playing time of the game means you can have pretty big tournaments with lots of players in a half day or full day format. (And you can go to a tournament/event and learn more about the game and maybe find some new people to play with.) The game mechanics in DBA are also pretty useful in introducing players to wargaming in general. That being said, the ability to learn one game and to be able to game across all of pre-gunpowder history makes it not only an effective way to get into the hobby, but a great bridge to gaming with other historical related gamers. In our growing group, Big Battle DBA has proven popular as a learning tool as it decreases the ‘competition' aspects of a one on one game.

Second, from the standpoint of gamers being attracted by history, ancient and medieval history is very attractive to younger gamers. It matches up with their schooling. Being able to build armies and play games across 2000+ years of history is more attractive than being stuck in a 4-year period of history (usually building up 300 or more figure armies in longer than 4 years!) It also matches up with the social aspects of gaming and what the board game industry is finding in terms of gamers preferences and how to get more people into gaming.

Third, I agree with thoughts on standardization and innovation. I would suggest that there are lots of new games and gaming systems in the market and that this is indicative more of the gaming and hobby market in general than of ancients in particular. This includes the impact of the Internet as others have mentioned but also extends to Eurogames, gamificiation, kickstarter, etc. Let me put in a good word for another entry-level game system -the Command & Color system by Richard Borg. When you have a simple historical wargame system that has sold over a million copies in its various forms over the last 15 years, there is probably something there. I don't think there will be one game to rule them all, but the game designers are increasing being smart in how they are fit the games to our toy soldiers (e.g. using base-withs for measurement, or hexes or squares for area movement). Using our history toys over a variety of rules sets is probably a good thing and it may mean having the most fun we can have with our toys.

Bill Hupp

The Wargames Room12 Nov 2015 11:21 a.m. PST

With regard the authors of DBA Richard Bodley-Scott provided the campaign system which is not included in DBA 3.0. The DBA rules themselves are by Phil Barker.

Thomas Thomas13 Nov 2015 11:41 a.m. PST


DBA is not a skirmish game in any form. It is army v. army. If you want more figures on the table play Big Battle (36 element with about 70-80 figures) or Giant Battle with up to 100 elements with 3-400 figures).

The point of DBA was to create a system to fight ancient & medieval battles that used actual battle lines instead of mythical "units" drawn from false modern analogies. The intend was to get away from Napoleonics with Spears (the dominate pre DBX model). It modeled interactions between troop types on the known examples from 3000 years of history. It gave top down results. So you got history and ease of play (but not tactical simplicty) in one package.

Our hope and goal for DBA 3.0 was to create a version of DBX that statisfied historical nuts (like me) who spend otherwise useful time reading medieval sources, tournament players who want uber-balance, lets just have a fun game on a Saturday PM causal gamers and even fantasy gamers burned out on GW abuse. We also sought to appeal to those who wanted a small quick game and those who wanted to play with a table full of figures. (And yes to get the game to appeal more to historical and causal gamers we took some of the nitpicky stuff out and this did alienate some tournament players).

Finally I wanted the game to work for and fully support both major scales – 15 & 25.

If we could get all these groups speaking a common DBX lanaguage then players could meet up at game shops, cons and in basements to play a game that everyone at least knew the basic rules for.

I think we have come as close as possible and hope with the steady spread of DBA 3.0 to bring lots of people into historical gaming. Miniature gamers need fellow gamers to game with (unlike computer gamers). A common language helps alot.


Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2015 7:05 p.m. PST

Battle Field Bill: All good points but let me suggest that DBA is not just an "entry level game." It is a full game in itself. It is the only Ancients game I have played since 1991. A very long entry :)

Throughout the development process of DBA 3 many of the Helpers kept after Phil to not suggest that DBA was just an entry to the real game, to him, DBMM.

Yes, DBA 3 is a simple game to learn, so is Chess. It can be played for its own sake and fully enjoyed. Or it can be an introduction to basic aspects of wargaming. Many players keep playing DBA or return to it after trying out those other games.

sumerandakkad15 Nov 2015 5:07 a.m. PST

There is a commonality and, therefore, a community based on the DBX rule system. Each group of people may add or even take away parts of the rules as written as is their wont, but the base set is the common factor. From what I have seen the debates are ongoing and this indicates a community, a lively community at that. When the debates lessen to a marked degree the rule set is either perfect for all or dying/dead.

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