De Bellis Renationis (DBR)

Brief Description Renaissance-era rules from the DBx series, which includes DBA (introductory rules for ancient/medieval), DBM (advanced form of DBA), and HOTT (fantasy version of DBA).
Period Renaissance (1492-1700)
Publisher Version 1.1 was published by Wargames Research Group (WRG).

Supplements Available

Army Lists, Book I
Army Lists, Book II
Army Lists, Book III
De Bellis Civile
DBR Measuring Sticks

Army Lists, Book III

This book covers a total of 46 armies:

Measuring Sticks

DBR Measuring Sticks are made by M.E.O.W. (Mid-East Ontario Wargamers), and are available throught Pharaoh's Arms. (They also do measuring sticks for DBA and DBM.)

What You Think

D J Brattan (
I have played many rules in both ancient (including mediaeval) and renaissance periods, and find DBR to have problems - especially the strength of pikes (a problem in common with DBM) - but playable and enjoyable overall.

I did not appreciate the comment that you could user-trial with plastic figures. Almost my entire army is made up of plastic figures from various manufacturers, and they fight as well as metal. I like my little 20mm figures creaming out those oversized 30mm monstrosities.

Quahog25 (

DBR is strange. It's hard to say whether its numerous oddities are actually well crafted deep subtleties or just, well, oddities:

  • Pike are much too weak, worse than useless.
  • Pistols are too good.
  • Point values bear little relation to effectiveness.

(The 'cheap pistols' problem is largely rectified at Normal scale. In Condensed scale, 1 pistol, at 10 points, is far better than a 12 pt lancer. In regular scale you need 2 elements, and 20 pts, to have the same effect.)

Still, given the right armies, it can make a good game.

Play only in regular scale. Muskets actually have decent range, and movement rates make sense. Don't just play condensed scale and be put off.

David Heading (

My initial feeling was that DBR is far better than any other Renaissance rules I own (and that's quite a few!). A year later, this is still true, but I am not entirely happy with it. I think there are a couple of basic flaws:

  1. The troop ratings (I,O,S) seem to be defined across the whole period, rather than within a sub-period. Thus the standard early shot is rated Sh(I), and the standard later shot is rated Sh(S). This shows the progression of technology, but is coarse within the sub-period, and also causes me some problems with ECW cavalry definitions.
  2. Shot seem to be able to totally dominate a battlefield. In one condensed scale French Wars of Religion game recently, the Hugenot Sh (8EE) completely dominated the game, blowing away pike left, right and centre. This is a bit unbalanced, particularly as the early Hugenot lost practically every battle.
  3. I find the odd/even variation in results tricky, but perhaps that's my short term memory.

On the plus side, DBR handles some things very well, such as the mutual support of pike, shot, pistols, and light guns. I have a feeling that some of the non-historical results I get may be due to lack of familiararity with the rules. Historical tactics usually do seem to pay off, which has to be a big plus.

So what changes need to be made? The only real problem I have is that I use 6 mm ('cos I don't have much space), and you get no advantage for that under the rules (i.e., the move distances are the same).

[David's comments are based on v1.0 of the rules, but he feels his major points still apply. - Editor]

Jeff Bolton (

I think that DBR is terribly flawed for what it is attempting to depict. I do not like the feel of the game for Pike & Shot battles. I am particularly dissatisfied with the Shot troop type - particularly making all those equipped with arquebuses Shot(I).

What's a guy to do? Write his own rules?

Bob Beattie (

I have tried many ECW sets over the years (for Thirty Years War and related ones too), but most were just too complicated - too many factors to consider or difficult mechanics - especailly for group games. Phil Barker's new De Bellis Renationis is one I would now swear by. It takes a little bit of concentration to read thru but with a cheat sheet in hand, it is very easy to play. I did a game at Historicon (US national convention) with kids as young as 10 playing along.

The rules cover the entire 200 year (plus) period of 1492 to 1700 and armies around the world. If you want to do only ECW, you can ignore all the rules for elephants and rockets and Lancers and such. Just the other day, our group did Moghul Indians vs. Rajputs with all that strange stuff and it was great fun. We have done many ECW games in 25mm using the "normal" scale option, and all have enjoyed the events.

(Note that you can get by with minimal figures. A pike stand has 4 figures, musketeers have 3, cavalry generally 3, but Royalists are mostly 2. Light horse and skirmishers are 1 per stand. You could make a complete army with about 40 mounted and 60 foot figures plus a couple of guns.)

Some people have tested the rules for themselves with just cut-out bases or even plastic Esci TYW figures. Then if you like the system you can choose between the large 25mm (35mm) figures of Redoubt or the small 25mm (30mm) figures of Wargames Foundry. Both make hundreds of figures in many variations - all you would ever need.

Fred Askew (

We looked forward to playing DBR, painted up some renaissance armies, played a few games, and gave it up.

It wasn't just the usual problems with WRG products (we like DBM). It's that DBR doesn't play like the renaissance period. Not only is it difficult to recreate historical tactics, but the rules actually reward you for playing unhistorically. (And then there's those completely wrong bits, like saying that there were no regular/irregular distinctions during the period, or that no one used flank marches. Pretty scary stuff.)

Maybe DBR works better for English Civil War, but our armies are Dutch, Lowlands Spanish, French, etc., and the games just look and feel wrong.

Awkward rules writing, unhistorical feel, DBR deserves to die.

We've talked about using the DBM rules and just adding DBR troop types and a few DBR rules, but I'm not sure it's worth trying to fix. Since we have all these nice renaissance armies painted up, we're playing Armati with them, but Armati is just not as much fun as DBM. What we really want from WRG is DBM rules for the renaissance. Anybody from WRG listening?

Rob Smith (

I will relate the decision of a few of us here in Austin, TX who have played DBM for years and enjoyed it.

When DBR came out, we were all excited about putting some armies on the table for Ren/Refor period gaming. I was a little suspicious of the rules after a read through, but reserved judgement.

We played several games of DBR. At first it seemed ok, if a bit obtuse (as usual for WRG). But over the course of several games, we began to learn that historical tactics were not optimal. For example, our Spanish player never runs troops in tercio because it is a sub-optimal formation. Actually, it is f-ing useless. The lack of units in DBR begins to cause rather bizzare-looking and -feeling games. There are many other valid criticisms that one can find elsewhere.

A couple of us decided to try Armati. Overall, we were satisfied with the results, but didn't like the restrictive nature of the lists. Advanced Armati has largely addressed this issue, although there are still some problems with the lists.

The bottom line is this: several of us have decided to abandon DBR because, in our opinions, it is neither a good simulation of the period nor is it a very good game. Armati (especially with the supplement) I feel is both a better game and better simulation (albeit a relatively simple one).

I make no particular recommendation, I just recount my experience.

Update: After having let DBR sit for several months, and continuing to play DBM, we went back for another try at DBR. This time with Scots Common versus Early Tudor English. The battles were fun and exciting; DBR seemed to capture the flavor of these early 15th century armies well. (There were no Pi or Si or any other of the more complex troop types that are killed on an odd roll, on the opponent's bound, on Tuesday's, under a full moon, in a month with no R.) So, it looks like we may use DBR for our early renaissance games, but I'm not convinced that DBR does a good job for the period 1540 to 1640. I'm still waiting for someone to enlighten me on simulating the tercio in DBR. As a result, I am left with the question, "If DBR is a model of early modern warfare, how the hell did the tercio ever develop?"

Craig Collings (

First, let me say that I have not plyed DBR and so cannot comment on the rules.

Rather, I wish to point out that people may be labouring under a few misapprehensions regarding the structure and use of the the Spanish Tercio as it evolved during the wars in the Low Countries.

It is true that the Tercio started life as resembling a Swiss keil, that is, an extremely large, self-sufficient pike block to which was added the novelty of organic fire-support.

Over the next 100 years however, Tercios were at the forefront of developments in military theory and practice, becoming smaller and handier, with the proportion of shot rising considerably. This was not merely "battlefield" ad-hocery. The organisational tables of the many Tercios raised during this time clearly reflect these changes.

Although Maurice of Nassau is credited (at least among Protestant historians) with the invention of the early modern regimental system, he almost certainly copied it from contemporary Spanish practice.

It is impossible to do justice to this topic in one email, so for those interested in this topic I can only recommend an excellent site devoted to Tercio research:

Online Resources

Ed Allen's DBR Web Page
Includes rules clarifications, unofficial army lists, and battle reports.
Amendments Page
List of the official WRG amendments, updating DBR to version 1.1 - February 1997
DBx Page
Nunawading Wargames Association's page for DBR-related rules.
The DBM Mailing List
The DBM mailing list is one of the best resources on the Internet, and provides support to all of the DBM family of games. To subscribe, send an email to The body of the email should contain only this line:
subscribe dbm-list
This mailing list is very active, with dozens of posts per day. According to Ed Allen (, the list's maintainer:

The list grew out of an e-mail discussion of DBM, mostly among players in the San Francisco Bay area, where the CC: list we were building up was getting too big and the CC: lines were getting out of sync so people were starting to get left out of conversational threads. It has now grown in a month and a half or so since its inception to just over 60 members from all over.

Tournament announcements, rules discussions, army discussions, tactics, modelling info, figure sources and reviews, comparisons to other rules like Armati, historical sources, and probably a few things I haven't thought of just now are all appropriate topics here. Some of our members are in contact with Phil Barker and carry to him the thornier questions.

If you know of additional online resources, or if you have material you would like to make available to the Net, please let us know.

Last Updates
13 January 2003Craig Collings' comments
18 October 1999comments by D J Brattan
23 July 1998added DBx link
14 March 1998back in print
26 December 1997Quahog's comments
measuring sticks
amendments link
Comments or corrections?