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Army Notes

The Armies of Burma
DBA Army Lists & Support Data

By Rudy Scott Nelson
Reprinted from Time Portal Passages (Fall 2002)

This article includes De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) armies based on my research of the region. Additional comments are also provides as to the suitability of the region for DBA/DBM campaigns. With the greater variety in troop classifications found in De Bellis Multitudinus (DBM) rules as compared to DBA, the various ethnic armies of the region can be better reflected using the DBM system. However as stated in previous issues, while I have DBM armies designed, it is a waste of effort to release them as most players use only official lists for tournament play.

Needless to say, it is my opinion that the Burmese Army list III-9B is suitable only for the PAGAN dynasty of the Burmans 1050-1287 AD. Sources clearly indicate that certain ethnic groups were better known for certain fighting skills. The PAGAN dynasty introduced the use of War Elephants thus implies earlier PYU dynasty armies would have been mainly foot with some supporting cavalry. The Shan tribes were regarded as having better elephants with few elephants being located in the Lower Burma Talaing region. The Talaings were regarded as superior boatmen, but not seamen, and made extensive use of war canoes. Arakan troops were heavily influenced by the tactics and equipment dominant in Southern India Most Dynastic armies contained a core of full time guards often containing mercenaries. The bulk of the troops would be tribal levies with some only armed with a hammer and nails. Armies on campaign made extensive use of palisades and often constructed them on the march and prior to a battle.

A Tribal army includes forces from small towns whose armies consisted of mainly one ethnic group. It also includes towns which are rebelling from a dynastic power. A chief's bodyguard would have been better armored and armed than other troops thus giving them a Blade rating. Some sources indicate that crossbows were mainly dynastic guard/elite weapons and not used by levies. Some have been rated as 3Wb because of they nature for a rushed attack. More timid or subject troops should be rated as 3Aux or 7Hd or 2Ps. Shan receive SP ratings because of several notations about providing superior spearmen.

Army Lists

TALAING- MON TRIBAL ARMY Pre-1000AD: 1 x 2LH or 3Bld (Gen), 2 x 3Wb, 4 x 3Ax or 3Wb, 3 x 3Bw or 2Ps, 2 x 7Hd or 2Ps Post-1000AD: 1 x EL or 3Cav (Gen), 4 x 3Aux or 3Wb, 2 x 2LH or 2Ps, 4 x 3Bw or 2Ps, 1 x 7Hd

BURMAN TRIBAL ARMY 1 x EL or 3Cav (Gen), 4 x 3Aux, 2 x 3Cav or 2LH, 2 x 3Bw or 2Ps, 1 x 7Hd, 2 x 2Ps

SHAN TRIBAL ARMY including the Shan successor Armies of Pinya and Sagaing (1312-1364) 1 x EL or 3Cav (Gen), 4 x 3/4SP or 4Wb, 2 x 2LH, 2 x 3Bw or 2Ps, 1 x 7Hd, 2 x 3Wb

ARAKAN TRIBAL ARMY ( notes also refer to the Arakan Dynastic armies.) Under such a heavy Indian influence that some sources refer to them as being an Indian area rather than Burmese. This could result in a preference over the bamboo longbow over the crossbow. Pre-1200AD: 1 x EL or 2LCh or 3Cav (Gen), 2 x 4SP or 3Aux, 2 x 2LH or 3Cav or 2LCh, 2 x 3Bw or 2Ps, 2 x 7Hd or 2Ps, 2 x 3Wb 1200-1500: 1200AD 1 x EL or 3Cav (Gen), 1 x 4Sp or 4Bld (Guard), 2 x 4SP or 3Aux, 2 x 2LH or 3Cav, 2 x 3Bw or 2Ps, 2 x 2Ps, 2 x 3Wb

A Dynastic army would include a core of a dominant ethnic group, which were reinforced by vassal and subject tribes from other groups. The arty elements are only if fighting other Burmese-Siam armies. If fighting other opponents, then the arty should be rated as a Handgunner/2Ps.

PYU-VIKRAMA DYNASTIC ARMY Pre-800 AD Official list by WRG and the DBA rules. III-9A 500-1043 AD. 1 x EL (Gen), 1 x 3Cav, 6 x 3Ax, 4 x 3Cb Burmese sources indicate that until 1000 generals rode horses and elephants were not used in mass. Mersey implies that pre-elephant armies may have relied on chariots that were brought with them from India. Likewise Indian style bows or longbows would still have been in use. As later Pagan rulers still used Indian bodyguards, the Pyu may have also used them 1 x Cav or HCh (GEN), 2 x 3Cv or 2LH, 1 x 4Bld, 3 x 3LB/Bw, 2 x Ps or 3Wb or 7Hd, 3 x 3Wb or 3Ax

The official DBA Burmese Army list III-9 is intended to reflect all dynastic Burmese armies from 1044-1526 AD regardless of compositions or changes in weapons. 1 x EL (Gen) , 2 x EL, 1 x 3Cv, 5 x 3Ax, 3 x 3Cb

PAGAN-BURMAN DYNASTIC ARMY 1000-1300 1 x Cav pre-1100 or 1 EL Later (Gen), 1 x 4Bld (Gde/Merc), 2 x 4SP or 4Ax or 4Cb (Veteran Core Reg), 1 x 7Hd or 2Ps or 3 Ax (subject levies), 1 x 3Cv, 2 x EL, (Burman levy) 2 x 3Ax, 2 x 3Cb or 3Ax

HONSWADI-PEGU TALAING/ MON DYNASTIC ARMY (1287-1539) 1 x EL (Gen), 1 x 4Sp or 4Bd, 2 x 3Cv or 2LH, 1 x EL, 1 x El or Arty or 2Ps, 2 x 3Ax, 2 x 3Bw, 2 x 2Ps or 7Hd

MROHAUNG-ARAKAN DYNASTIC ARMY. Later Arakan dynasties which controlled Chittagong in in India are noted as rotating garrison troops every year which would have not only provided them them with time to train but also provided a core of trained troops for the Arakan homeland. 1 x EL or 3Cav (Gen), 2 x 4SP, 2 x 2LH or 3Cav, 2 x 4Bw, 2 x 7Hd or 2Ps, 2 x 3Ax or 2Ps. 1 x 4Bw or 2Ps (handgunners) or 4Bld (early merc/gde)

AVA- SHAN DYNASTIC ARMY (1364-1426, 1527-1555) 1 x EL or 3Cav (Gen), 1 x EL, 1 x 3Cv or 2LH, 3 x 3/4SP or 3Wb, 1 x EL or 3/4SP or Arty or 2Ps, 2 x 7Hde or 2Ps, 2 x3/4Bw, 1 x 2Ps

AVA-BURMAN DYNASTY ARMY (1426-1527) TOUNGOO BURMAN DYNASTIC ARMY (1486-post 1600) 1 x EL or 3Cav (Gen), 1 x EL, 2 x 3Cv or 2LH, 2 x 3/4Ax or 3Wb, 1 x EL or 3/4Ax or Arty or 2Ps, 2 x 7Hde or 2Ps, 2 x3/4Bw, 1 x 4Bld(Merc)

Outside Enemies of the Burmese according to the official DBA list II-79B Southern Chinese Dynastic Armies III-10C Hindu India an IV-36 Muslim India (Ceylon and Bengal) III-15. Tibetan (fought while allies of the Nan Chao III-23. Khymer-Cham III-36 Nan Chao III-59 Vietnamese and Tokinese IV-40 Siam IV-48 Yuan-Mongol China IV-73 Ming China

Note:  The preceding article is excerpted from the Fall 2002 issue of Time Portal Passages, which features related articles providing a brief military history of Burma, a chronology of military conflicts, and information on the Burma-Siam Wars of 1412-1599, and is reprinted here with the author's permission.

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Thanks to Rudy Scott Nelson for sharing his research
Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page
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Last Updated: Jan. 22, 2004