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Xenophon's Ghost covers military history and wargaming from the ancient period to modern times.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Spartan's Prevail - DBA 3.0 Playtest

Today, we tried out DBA 3.0, pitting the early Spartans (1/52b) against Galatians (II/30b). Ryan played the Spartans, choosing 12 Spear elements. 
Once again, the dice roll placed me in the position of the defender with the Galatians.  I chose a road, two small woods, and one gentle hill as the terrain pieces.  Based on our last game, I went with smaller terrain pieces in case the dice required placement of multiple pieces in the same quadrant.  I also benefited from a comment, learning that a roll of six results in the attacker choosing only the quadrant for placement, not in the attacker placing the terrain. I had missed the distinction in the rules.
For the Galatians, I fielded 1x General in Chariot (LCh), 2 x Cavalry, 8 x Warband, and 1 Psiloi.  I initially tried to field the mounted forces on the right flank, in front of a small wood.  However, the measuring stick proved that this wouldn't be possible, it placed my forces to close to the center of the board.  So, I settled for placing the force in reserve.  My Warbands and Psiloi formed a large group, deployed in the center of the board.

Ryan deployed his Spartans in three groups, with one dispatched to his left flank in column, near a forest.

The dice didn't favor me again today.  I rolled very few PIPs in the first turns, resulting in my Psiloi being isolated.  Trying a new tactic, I moved them twice in the first turn, finishing the move in the wood between two Spartan groups.  I intended to advance the Warband group forward in order to engage the Spartan force on my left. I also started moving my mounted group to the right flank. 

Before my plan developed, Ryan advanced and flanked the Psiloi. After a few successful melee rounds, with the terrain advantage saving its skin, the Psiloi was destroyed.

When playing DBA 2.2, I had used a rule and tape measure, since movement distances were in inches.  I created a measuring stick, seen on the table, for DBA 3.0.

As the battle progressed, we ended up with two engagements.  One fight occurred between a Spartan group, four Galatian warbands and the Galatian mounted forces.  The other fight involved six Spartan spear elements in two groups and four Warbands.  After six rounds of melee between these groups, with numerous recoils and pursuits, Ryan won the game 4 -3.


We had to carefully review the rules on several points.

Pursuit - We were unsure if supporting Warband elements pursue along with the unit in combat.  I interpreted the following statement on page 12 as meaning "yes." 

"An element of any of ........Warbands (or that could provide rear support to any element of these even if not providing such support against current opponents) that is fighting foot,..."

Effect of destroyed unit on rear support- If a Warband element that is being supported is destroyed, what happens to the Warband element providing rear support?   If both elements have been flanked when the element in combat is destroyed, is the rear support unit also destroyed? 

Since the paragraph on destroyed elements doesn't address the effect on a rear support unit, we didn't destroy rear support units.

A Puzzler

During the last turn, Ryan flanked a Warband element that had rear support.  While another Spartan element is engaged with a neighboring unit, the Warband element had no enemy to its front.  I rotated both the flanked element and its rear support element to face the Spartan.  I remain unsure if we maneuvered the forces correctly.   The game ended before this melee occurred.   Thoughts?

I have made numerous notes on the 3.0 rules.  We are playing one more game - Kappadokians versus Galatians - before I submit my comments to the Yahoo DBA Group. 

I'm busy painting elements for a Hellenistic Army Morph plan using the 3.0 draft Army lists. When those units are ready, we will take another run at the rules with some Pikes in the action. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kappadokian Time Warp - a DBA 3.0 Test

Ryan and I decided to test out the new version of DBA, version 3.0, using my freshly painted 15mm Kappadokians (II/14) and the early Spartan Hoplites Army (I/52b).  This game is our seventh or eighth game of DBA ever, so I am hopeful that our input into the playtest will bring a newcomer's perspective to the rules testing.

Ryan chose to have a go with the hillsmen.  The Kappadokians have an aggression of 0 and hilly terrain, while the Spartans hold an aggression level of 2 and prefer arable lands.  The dice favored (or disadvantaged) me - the Spartans were on the defensive. 

I chose to use a road, one difficult hills, and two woods as terrain.  We followed the new rules, placing the road, hill, and one wood piece in quadrants based on the dice roll.  The final roll was a 6, so Ryan chose the placement of the last wood.
While I had read the rules several times, there is nothing like playing a ruleset in order to learn them.  DBA 3.0 testers will note the placement of our camps, (the yellow squares) and the road.
When it came time to deploy our forces, we reviewed the deployment rules, learning that most unit types must be deployed 400 paces away from the game edge.  We realized that the road was essentially out of play, and the camps were not optimally placed.  However, we decided to surge forward.

We used the posted 3.0 army lists for both forces.  Ryan deployed the following elements for the Kappadokians: 1 x Cv (Gen), 2 x Kn, 2 x LH, 5 x Ax, and 2 x Ps.  He deployed his foot on the difficult hill, backed by cavalry.  The Light Horse were posted on the right flank.
I still haven't decided if the Horde choice is worthwhile with the early Spartans, but I went with 11 x Sp and 1 x Hd, using the Hd to protect my camp.  I grouped all by two spear elements together, placing the remain two spear on the right flank.

When the game began, both of us were favored with lots of PIPs in the first turns.  However, Ryan decided to play very conservatively, keeping his forces in the rough going.  I took the bait, moving my first file of Spartans forward. 

I knew that I would suffer penalties fighting in the rough, but I didn't appreciate the cumulative effect of terrain and support modifications until it was too late.  (I also made an error in the rear support factor adjustments, which I first noticed writing this blog post!)  I moved into the rough, and Ryan advanced and made contact in his turn.  The auxilia gained a terrain advantage being uphill (+1), and errantly received Psiloi support factor of +1.  (The auxilia shouldn't have received this support factor, since the opposing force was not mounted or warbands).  The Spartan spears suffered negative modifiers due to fighting in rough going (-2) and due to overlapping enemy units (-1).  I lost two Spear elements on my right flank, and expected worse results to follow.  I was not disappointed. 

I tried to move two Spear elements toward the Kappadokian camp in an act of desperation.  The Light Horse circled back, threatening to end the game right away, and Kappadokian auxilia threatened my flank. Surprisingly, I fought off the Light Horse on one round, but the end was near when the Auxilia attacked my Spear line again, and Ryan committed his two Knight elements to the battle.
While the Spartan General looked for reserves, it was too late.  In the next round of melee, I lost two more Spear elements, ending the game.

 All in all, Ryan and I enjoyed the terrain set-up rules.  I found the old rules a bit frustrating, since we seemed to end up with a road running across the battlefield in many games.  Obviously, our sample size of DBA games is small, but I do find it more realistic that the armies will approach along a road, instead of duking it out across a road.  The need to deploy units closer together also changed the game dynamics somewhat.  For a newcomer, the terse wording and nonstandard grammatical structures used in the DBA rules is daunting.  I remain confused on the meaning of several sections in the rules.  I'll cover those sections in my next posting.  If any DBA veterans notice mistakes that we made in this game, please post comments!

Getting Started in DBA

I took up De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) in May of this year.  After two years of painting American War of Independence and Napoleonic miniatures, but rarely having the time, or opponents, for long games, I stumbled upon www.fanaticus.org, a fan site dedicated to the game.  DBA was appealing due to the short play time and small army size.  I was also attracted to the abstract nature of the rules which capture the essence of Ancients battles while using a small number of miniatures.  My son Ryan, age 11, is my principal opponent in gaming, and he found the game appealing, too. I started with paper miniatures as a test before committing  to buying and painting figures.  We tested out DBA playing a Macedonian Imperial army, Marian Romans, and Late Spartans.  I first taught myself the rules while on a business trip, and we then had a go at several games with the paper figures.

My timing was not great.  I couldn't find any copies of DBA 2.2 for sale. When I joined the yahoo group for DBA (DBA@yahoogroups.com), I found that the authors, Phil and Sue Barker, had posted the 2.2 version of the rules on the group site during the interlude between publication of 2.2 and the latest version 3.0.  Sue also posted draft army lists for 3.0, allowing me to get into the game.

When it came time to buy some Armies, I went with my heart and available internet bargains, picking up Essex 15mm early Spartan (I/52b), Galatian (II/30b), and Ariarathid Kappadokian (II/14) armies, from Wargames LLC (www.wargamesminis.com.) The service was great.  In fact, my Spartan DBA army pack was one command figure short, and Baxter at Wargames LLC threw in another figure for me when I ordered some more miniatures a month later. 

I chose the Galatians and Kappadokians based on two factors: the types of units in each army and the fact that the armies were listed as enemies.  The Galatians are primarily a Warband army.  The Kappadokians represent a light, combined arms force with an emphasis on Auxilia. 

On the other hand, the choice of Early Spartan is not an obvious fit with the other two armies.  However, can any reader of Herodotus and Xenophon not want a Spartan army for DBA?  While the monothematic force proved easy to paint, I have found it difficult to win with the Spartans against their anachronistic foes.

Phil and Sue Barker have made progress on the new version of DBA, version 3.0, with the help of numerous playtesters.  The rules are now posted in the yahoo group, and DBA players have been asked to test them out.  Based on the detailed and passionate feedback on the yahoo group site, active testers appears to have much experience playing the game, and very strong opinions as to the pros and cons of the game versions.  I've decided to do my part, playtesting the rules as a bonafide newby with Ryan.
I just finished painting my third army, the Kappadokians, but the bases are not completed yet.  However, we tried out the new rules first with the Kappadokians fighting the Spartans.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The First Charge

Are you ready to explore military history and historical miniatures wargaming? If so, Xenophon's Ghost aims to help you. 

I started miniatures wargaming about two years ago, and I have wondered about its future. The games can be brilliant artforms, reflecting hours of work at painting miniatures, creating terrain, and designing rules. Most importantly, wargaming is fun and a nice change from cyber-oriented activities that dominate popular culture. However, I have pondered about the hobby's ability to thrive.  Will the next generation take up the hobby? What are the barriers to entry? How is the hobby being influenced by the internet? Can we use wargaming to increase knowledge of military history among youth and adults alike? What game mechanics will appeal to youth? Those are the questions that I plan to tackle on this blog and through my gaming.  I am developing rules for the American War of Independence (AWI) meant to incorporate game concepts that may be more appealing to the next generation of gamers.  I will also be documenting my war games with my pre-teen children.

Right now, I am playing De Bellis Antiquatis, an ancients wargame also known as D.B.A.  I am also playing games in the horse and musket period using my AWI rules.  My third project is painting Napoleonic miniatures for LaSalle, a tactical Napoleonic rule set.