About Me

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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Small, but perfectly formed?

On Friday I finally managed to get the Romans and Seleucids on the table for a first taste of DBA. OK, a couple of elements of the Seleucids weren't finished and I haven't made camps yet, but we just decided to get on with trying it out. Terrain was also a bit of a problem as I don't really have anything small enough, but we reckoned that was no bad thing as it allowed us to concentrate on the rules and learning them. Being the first attempt at DBA by either Carl, James or myself I'm pretty sure we probably did something wrong, but overall I think the games were decided by the right deployment and strategy rather than any quirks of the rules, so overall I was very pleased with how the battles 'felt'.

We laid a pretty flat table with a river and one hill and then diced for the invaders table edge (the Romans were the aggressors...who else?!). Below is the starting setups.

I played the Seluecids and set up with my pike block between the hill and river with the elephant and one psiloi on their left and the cataphracts on the right. The hill was held by the auxilia, warband and psiloi, with the scythed chariot on the far right. The Romans (Carl and James collaborated in playing them) started in two lines with the spears on their right and half the blades on the left of the first line. One cavalry element was on the right flank and the psiloi on the left. The General lurked behind the first line and the rest of the blades in the rear line (not in shot). I thought that having a full quarter of your army so far in the rear immediately put them at a disadvantage. I think they should have been a lot closer to the front line. Also, none of us realised how little effect a river has and we seemed to treat it as a real barrier, so the battlefield was a little more squashed than it should have been.

The first few turns saw the lines approaching each other cautiously. As neither of us really knew the rules I think none of us really knew what was going to happen. I decided to throw my chariot at his psiloi in the misunderstanding that they would mow them down, but all I got was a recoil before the chariots were destroyed. Afterthought showed that this is actaully the right outcome...what was I thinking? Chariots against loosely ordered men that can dodge out the way? At least I could be satisfied it didn't count for a lost element! :)

To even things up, though, the Romans pitted their cavalry against my elephant without realising the inevitable outcome and were quickly destroyed. This seemed to stall the Roman advance...I think the wall of pointy sticks coming at them was a bit intimidating. At this point I was reasonably confident the double ranked pikes were safe from the triarii spears so I looked towards pitting the cataphracts against his hastati. I moved the auxilia and psiloi to neutralise the Roman psiloi and split the warband off to joint the cataphracts to get into position to prevent an overlap.

Finally the battle lines clashed as the cataphracts went in with the phalanx and elephant trailing behind. One element of cataphracts was recoiled, but the general and the warband at the end of the line steamrolled the hastati and at that point victory seemed assured. On my right flank I lost a psiloi to the velites, but the Thracian auxilia held their own.

The coup de grace was delivered by the general and warband charging the principes in the second line and destroying the end element. In the meantime the phalanx and spears got into a shoving match with no outcome other than recoils, but that was expected. Thus the Roman invasion of the Seleucid Empire was snuffed out...! :)

I thoroughly enjoyed this game and the subsequent one where we reversed roles. We were so engrossed by then, though, that lack of photos means I won't recount it, safe to say that the deployment once again settled the engagement almost before the first pilum was chucked!! Did I like DBA after all the build up and painting effort? Yes, I did! I get that it's abstract, but much like Commands and Colours, it feels like a full blown ancients game. We sat and thought about the tactics and the matchups, rather than numbers and charts, so it really does live up to the quick play claim. We finished both these games in 2 and a quarter hours...not bad for a first go at a rule set. Also, the results were quite credible. In the first game the Roman flank crumbled leaving the Romans defeated and the second the game was won by the Roman cavalry riding down the Seleucid psiloi and the phalanx breaking ranks due to a threat on the flanks. this let the Roman gladius to get into a single rank of pike with only one outcome!

 But I feel I'm preaching to the converted! I'm reasonably sure that we're in a very small minority of wargamers that haven't played DBA before!


  1. Glad to hear you are enjoying DBA. It has been my favorite rule set for many years now and never gets old!

  2. Good to see them on the table, Ian!


  3. DBA has undergone a revival here in New Zealand over the last year or two. I look forward to reading more of your DBA experiences over the coming weeks.

  4. Keep up the DBAing and the battle reports. I myself have only recently started playing - 12 games under my belt so far - but I agree it is an engrossing game of surprising subtlety.

  5. Thanks for all the comments! I have arranged some more DBA at the club in a couple of weeks, so look out for some more reports soon! :)


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