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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

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.

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