Sunday, June 24, 2012

DBA 3.0 - Even Less DBA - And That's . . . Now That's Just Weird

So more DBA 3.0 playtesting, and things are beginning to feel a little silly. I don't mind trying out new ideas. I think that every rule set needs some experimentation, but I don't get the feeling as though these rules are settling down yet.

Things I've noticed so far:

"Solid" and "Fast" 

Yes, these are silly choices for names. No, in no universe is "Solid" the opposite of "Fast". I found myself referring to them as "Heavy" and "Medium", which begins to sound like WRG 6, which may be why Phil didn't use those terms, but does at least sound understandable. "Close Order" and "Open Order" would work as well, with identical objections.

All that said, the concept is intriguing. It brings back a distinction between deep-based elements and shallow-based elements that was otherwise ignored when 3.0 was first proposed. It makes the distinction much more noticeable, but I'm willing to give it a try.

Fast Pike Are Awesome (But Silly)

Needs to be remodeled with roller-skates and jet-packs
My Ghurid Fast Pike had a field day, mostly because my opponent clearly thought "auxilia" when looking at them, so opposed them with his own auxilia in the open. Even so, the way that fast pike can exploit a hole is something that would make most modern armored units envious. Welsh and Later Samurai now have deep pike formations that can fly into contact and then keep moving if they destroy what's in front of them. That's not as good news for those armies that get a single element of fast pike. It also doesn't strike me as being at all historically accurate.

Offhand, I think it would look a little better if the Fast Pike went back to the 2.0 concept of being Fast Spear, which would still make them effective against mounted while being only so-so against foot. Of course, I get the feeling Phil is trying to get all DBA troop types to be identical to the type in DBMM, so there may be resistance to that.

Another minor point is that pike now get depth bonus against psiloi and bow, which doesn't feel right, even with bow's longer range and psiloi's ability to avoid overlaps, but I'll need to playtest those matchups a bit more to see whether that's a legitimate concern. I'm not certain how I would put together an Ipsus scenario, in which peltasts managed to grind down pike.

Let Us Mourn For Spartacus

Also hosed by this change are all armies using 5Wb, which have now become Fast Horde. Spartacus Rebellion and Aztecs don't look as fun as they used to. Sure, Aztecs can replace their deep-based elements with Auxilia, but then they just look like any other Mesoamerican army. I admit this is just a personal peeve. I always liked the ability to field massed warband armies with Spartacus Revolt, Aztecs, or French Jacquerie, but precisely because these were so incongruous. Now they cost an extra pip to move, fear bowfire and artillery, and have no reason to deploy in awe-inspiring ten-figure deep formations that seem to scream "Fear me!" to any opposing line of blade.

So Where's DBA 3.0 Going?

As fun as all the playtesting has been, I don't see where this is leading. In any design process, there has to be a point where you stop brainstorming and start cutting away everything to the essentials. So far, for every cut, such as removing extra moves for warband or psiloi rear support, I see many more new ideas that need a lot of playtesting and consideration.

This isn't done yet. It isn't even close. But I'm having fun playing it for now, so I'll try not to complain too much.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DBA 3.0 - It's Not DBA - And That's Good ... Maybe

This Friday, we played several games of DBA using the latest 3.0 playtest rules downloaded from the DBA Yahoo! group. I have given up following most of the forum discussion there or on Fanaticus, even before the debates became overheated. For the most part, I felt unqualified to comment since I hadn't played more than a few games using earlier drafts of the 3.0 rules.

As someone who regularly takes the contrarian view, my chief complaint about the 3.0 rules was that they don't change enough. This is not because I think that 2.2 is broken. Far from it. It's just that I see the rules as a way to try new and interesting models of what went on in a battle. There is no one way to view history, so there should be no one perfect set of rules. With that in mind, a full version change in the DBA rules should, in my admittedly odd view, provide a fresh perspective on the historical model.
Why are the auxilia smiling?

So like many other people, I looked at the rules and realized that they are basically the old rules with some changes sprinkled through them. Or so it at first seemed. In this latest version, people were debating the change to remove psiloi support of heavier infantry and increasing auxilia combat strength against cavalry.

I could go through all of the major changes, but the one change everyone was arguing over the most when I stopped following the forums was changing movement to base-widths instead of inches. I'm still not sure this change works, but after three games on Friday, I came away with an important insight into 3.0. It intrigues me enough to make me want to follow the forums again. Because it now looks as though 3.0 may be the type of change I was hoping for. In short, this is not DBA.

DBA as I know it is a game of maneuver. On a 2 foot square board, you have twenty-four by twenty-four movement units overall. Armies start no closer than twelve movement units from each other. Two lines of heavy infantry moving toward each other over open ground will take at least three turns or six bounds to make contact. Most games I have played have a chess-like quality of threatening an attack without necessarily making it, waiting for the right moment to commit everything.

In 3.0, I am unable to do this. The board is now about sixteen movement units square. Armies start six movement units from each other and heavy infantry can contact each other within three bounds or one and a half turns. There is no time to threaten an attack, because your opponent will almost certainly move to counter that threat in one turn. Perhaps I'm over-analyzing. Maybe after playing it a little more, the opportunity for subtle play will return, but I feel as though my options are much more constrained.

This is not necessarily bad. Perhaps more work will go into terrain selection and set-up than to maneuver. Perhaps DBA 3.0 will inspire ploys that don't normally work in 2.2, such as deploying in depth. Perhaps games will be guaranteed to be much quicker. I don't know. The rules still need work, even after all the design that went into them so far, but I think I might just enjoy trying out more of 3.0 as it evolves.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

More DBA Painting

An army I picked up at the local gaming store (Game Kastle) has something of a Holiday theme, or did once I got done with it:

Early Slav - Bohemians (III/1b)
 The holiday theme comes from this being the army of Svatý Václav, aka Good King Wenceslaus.

I was kind of forced into this rather fanciful vision of the 10th century Bohemian duke by the fact that Essex chose to make the command stand a group of knights. The stand is supposed to be cavalry. As a result, I went with the iconography of St. Wenceslaus, giving him a shield bearing the Premysl arms (heraldry being about one hundred years later than the real Wenceslaus), a similar banner on his lance (the real Wenceslaus probably used spear and sword), and a dagger and crown (the real Wenceslaus was a duke, and only made a king postumously). It does make for a nice stand, though, and obviously, the snow was almost essential.

Spear, spear, and more spear
Bow or Psiloi for some variety
 Eight spear make up the bulk of this whole army, supported by two stands of bow or psiloi. If the shields are a little more colorful than they probably would have been in real life, well, it's Christmasy that way.

 The remaining cavalry consists of either some traditional Bohemian cavalry (well, Essex provided early Russian cavalry, but in a pinch it will do), or else Swabian knights.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

DBA painting

Well this has certainly been a long delay in postings.

Here's my latest painting project, consisting of a collection of generally unrelated DBA armies.

First up, the
Commagene (III/44)
The entire army in array
 Commagene broke off from the Seleucid Empire in 163 BC, holding territory in modern eastern Turkey. At times paying tribute to the Parthians, the Armenians, the Pontic Empire, and Rome, they remained independent through a combination of diplomacy and an isolated location. It was a generally Hellenized society, but with a strongly Parthian/Persian background.

I chose to paint up this army because it provides a nice link between my Successor armies and my Marian Romans, and because it was on sale from Wargames, who have been selling off all their Essex lead.

Persian-influence slingers
Hellenistic slingers
Actually, there are only supposed to be two stands of psiloi in the army, but Essex provided both Persian and Greek style slingers, so I based them both. Another Hellenistic influence - mercenary peltasts:

The pike are really the remnants of the Seleucid pike. Being bored with the Macedonian sun symbols I've painted on most of my Successor pike, I chose to go with some Zoroastrian symbols on these, notably the Faravahar on the captain, and the flames on the rest of the pike. This has absolutely no basis in history, but it looks cool.

Tarantine light horse
Similarly, the Tarantine light horse carry shields with Sol Invictus on it, which may have some connection to eastern religions. Again, no historical reason for this, but it looks nice.

The cataphracts and commander are basically variants of the later Seleucid cavalry.

Finally, the majority of the infantry is made up of hillmen archers. In DBA, this is not a bad pike and bow army, though in DBMM, all of the pike and bow are inferior, making it a rather poor match against Roman blades!

Next: A DBA army with a belated Christmas theme!