Saturday, October 9, 2010

Callinicum refight with DBA

DBA is the primary and worldwide leader in fast play ancient rules that plays on a 2'x2' board in under an hour.  I have played about 8 games over the last 15 years and it doesn't move me.  I don't hate it, don't love it, would just prefer to play something else.  One of the things I don't like is the lack of difference between good and poor troops (unlike its big brother DBM).  I am also not fond of the PIP system - a range of 1 to 6 per turn for unit/group activation is just too much for me to rationalise.  I don't mind rolling for commands, but maybe if it was a range of 3-5 or 2-4.  There are lots of ways to change the PIP system (2d6 and best roll, 2d6/2, average die, die modifiers etc) but for this replay I will leave it as a d6.  For for information of the Battle of Callinicum see my previous post.

On the lack of poor/superior, I think after the DBA replay, I will do a quick run through with the E-BBDBA modifications for inferior and superior.  I will also, if I have the energy do a game of DBM100.

There are a lot of resources for DBA on the Net, and a good place to start is Fanacitus.

Unlike other replays, I'm not going into to much detail on the dice that was rolled etc - there is enough out there on how DBA plays.

Lastly, my concern is that the game is unlikely to go historically, in fact, the historical Callinicum tactics such as the veteran Light Cavalry chasing down the unreliable Light Cavalry isn't going to happen (or at least, won't happen without the dice going the right way).  Straight BBDBA would cure this as you can tweak the number of forces on each side to bring out the differences, as can be shown with this BBDBA refight of Callinicum.  DBA shines as a game, but maybe not as 'historical' (and it is in quotes as it is all very subjective) as BBDBA is.

One thing about DBA, troops are easy to figure out!



Deployment is a bit harder.  Normally at the start of the game it seems to be good practice to only have a couple of groups in total so as to be able to move all units regardless of the PIP roll.  According to the scenario, there would be 4 distinct Persian groups and 6 distinct Byzantine groups.  Not great for DBA. With a minor compromise, I think there is a good case for smaller number of groups.  I have used this for deployment:

Deployment - Persians on the left, Byzantines on the right

The Persians are in two groups, from their right to left: 9xCv and 3xLH.
The Byzantines are in three groups, from their left to right: 1xSp and 6xCv+1Ax and 3xLH
Note: the Sp is by itself due to the way the original battle played out.
I have placed a general figure behind the stand with the general as a reminder.

The trick is to get some local superiority as all the Heavy Cavalry are the same.  The best place for the Persians is on their left flank where the Auxilia is a weak point.  For the Byzantines, it is their left flank with the Spear that provides the best bet.  So that will be my starting point for strategy.  Even though I said DBA didn't seem to lend itself to the historical battle, this is roughly how it went.  So much for my pre-game thoughts on standard DBA and historical scenarios!

Persian moves first.

Turn 1
Persians advance along the front and move the majority of the cavalry to the right flank.  The Byzantines roll 1 for PIPs and advances the spears.

Turn 2
Persians continue the advance.  The Byzantines get a decent PIP roll and move forwards.  It really is going to be a clash of battle lines for most of the board...

Byzantine battleline

Turn 3
Persian's advance with roughly the right half of their forces into contact - there are some slight advantages to overlaps, the Aux is a good target and some forces needs flank support.  The other half can wait - the Byzantine general hasn't been contacted yet - as can't get an advantage so did not do it.
Byzantines lose a LH, Persians lose a Cavalry (via a 1-6 roll).
Byzantines see the chance to destroy the general (it was the cavalry on the flank of the Persian general that was destroyed).  Rolled just enough PIPs to put two units on the Persian general, one on the flank.  Unbelievable - another 1-6,  but this time against the Byzantines.  Byzantine Cavalry destroyed, and now there is a Byzantine cavalry unit with a cavalry unit behind it, this seems like a target.

End of turn 3 carnage - left side shows the two Byzantine Cavalry at right angles

Turn 4
Low Pips for the Persian but manage to destroy a Cavalry.  But the LH combat, that has had 3 successive equal rolls, sees the Byzantine doubling the Persians. Each side has now lost 3 elements. (note that due the a number of stands hanging around the edge of the board from previous battles, I thought the Persians had lost 2 LHs when it was only one.  But I only realised this at the end of the game when I was setting up for the next one.)
Byzantines gets a high PIP roll and pick on the remaining Persian LH and also use the Byzantine General to get an advantage in the centre battle line...Persian LH destroyed.  Byzantine recoils in the centre.

End of game

Persians have lost 4 elements (really only lost 3 - see note for turn 3) and the Byzantines 3.  Games ends with a Byzantine victory.

A very clean game.  I liked playing it.  I can see why so many people play it. There is tactical depth to the game and the rules are very complete, tight and fit well together. It meets the requirements of playing under one hour and using a 2'x'2' (as expected as the rules are specifically designed for this!).  However, it just doesn't met what I am looking for in the feel of a historical game. I like to see a bit of missile fire rather than it abstracted.  Every unit in the Callinicum battle had bows or javelins, and yet not one die roll for long range fire. And how to represent the inferiority of the Ghassanid light cavalry?  In BBDBA is could be done by having less of them but not practicable at this level.  Don't gt me wrong.  I do like DBA and would play it again.  It just isn't in my top few ancient miniature games.  But I would recommend them to anyone to try them as if you like them, they are complete, comprehensive and fun.

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