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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Battle of Broken Stick - DBA 3.0 Play Test

Ryan and I completed our third test of the DBA 3.0 rules.  The Kappadokians faced the Galatians.
Kappadokian Light Horse

Unlike the first two tests, these armies represent historical foes.  I played the Kappadokians (II/14), and Ryan commanded the Galatians (II/30b).  In terms of army element options, we both chose Cavalry Generals.
Kappadokian General Element

In this game, the Kappadokians played as defender in hilly terrain.  This was the first playtest game that involved terrain without a road.  I chose relatively small pieces of terrain, including hills, woods, and a patch of rough (rocky ground).

Terrain and Deployment Rules
Ryan and I agree after three games that the new terrain placement rules work fine.  However, the only drawback is the constraints placed on terrain distance from the end of the board edge, when combined with the limited deployment area for the armies. 

In all three games, I have found myself stymied by the deployment area rules.  Terrain must be placed at last one base width from the board edge.  If rough going terrain ends up in your deployment area, it can force choices that do not appear to represent historical situations - either bunch your forces in a narrow area or deploy forces that extend into bad going.

As a newby, I have struggled with the logic on the terrain placement rules regarding the board edges.  My review of ancient battles shows examples of generals using hills and other rough terrain to protect a flank.  Rough terrain often define the battle side edges, so I don't appreciate why DBA requires positioning of terrain away from the edge.  I can only surmise that this rule is meant to address practices observed in competitions.  I struggle to find a good reason for the restriction, particularly considering the constrained deployment area.

On to the battle!

Given the terrain constraints, I decided to try a Light Horse run toward the Galatian Camp, understanding the risks related to being cut off.  Taking the risk paid off.  Not only did the Light Horse advance quickly to the camp, the move pulled Galatian Warband units off the main group in a futile attempt to counter these light forces.

Two turns in, the Galatian general plans his next move - dealing with a LH run at his camp.

Light Horse elements move fast, but they lack punch.  Once the two LH elements reached the camp, one element protected the rear of the attack.  The Galatian camp followers were resilient; the camp didn't fall for four turns.

While A few Galatian Warbands tried to address theKappadokian Light Horse charge on their camp, the main battle developed with a cavalry duel - Three on Three.

Galatian Psiloi later moved out of the rough to provide support in the form of an overlap. The Galatians gained the upper hand, flanking and destroying a Kappadokian cavalry unit. 

Kappadokian Auxilia support Cavalry
Kappadokian auxilia moved forward to fill the gap on the cavalry's left flank.

On the Galatian left flank, the dice gods favored the Light Horse, resulting in a lost warband unit.

The main Kappadokian auxilia force engaged the Galatian Warband main body, defeating one

In a nice change from the norm, I actually won a game; 4 to 1.  The Galatians lost their camp and three elements.

Hot Wash

Overall, we have made the transition to 3.0 with few problems.  My main concern is the limited deployment area, in terms of the limitations to use the sides of the board for deployment.  I am tempted to use a larger board instead of the 24 inch board if this rule stays the same.

Following the discussion on the Yahoo Group, we have not tested aspects of the 3.0 rules that appear most controversial - namely the introduction of double elements and Blades-vs-Warband face-offs.

As a new player, I still wrestle with the terse, complex sentences in the rules.  DBA rates at the top of the scale in terms of potential to encourage the next generation of wargamers to get involved in historical games.  However, the rules rank at the very bottom in terms of clarity and utility.  I would have never considered DBA if I hadn't stumbled upon the Unofficial Guide on the Fanaticus webpage.  The structure and editing of the rules is a major barrier of entry.  When my son demonstrates DBA to his 11-to-12 year old friends, they unequivocally are fascinated by the game and love playing.  I hope that the Barker family works with the DBA community, and a good editor, to address shortcomings of the writing of these rules.

One of my goals for this blog is to review wargames rules with my kids, and their friends, to understand why game design features are valued by young gamers.  DBA features that appeal to younger people include the rapid play, balance between unit types, and the impressive list of Army options.  The low figure count needed to assemble an Army is a huge plus.  However, the rule's dense writing style is a major entry barrier.  Using tables and examples would make the rules more accessible.

After my business trip, I'll return to painting my Hellenistic Morph Army, so we will try out 3.0 with a Pike-heavy force later this month.

The Battle's Name

With the change in pace measurement from inches to base width, I made a measuring stick that marked off 40mm paces and 1/2 BW measurements before our Game 2 test.  The stick was a casualty of the game, proving too weak to be sat on.  A little blue masking tape held it together!

Writing from Waikiki...