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Campaign Scenarios and Rules

Ave Imperator: Struggle for Empire, C. 235CE
DBA Campaigns with Rules Variants

By Mark Cordone

The following are a set of campaign rules for a DBA campaign I have just started running. They contain a number of different ideas, hopefully they will prove entertaining. These rules are designed to handle the tasks and friction of Government for our Roman Civil War campaign. Play requires the use of a standard poker deck, and paper and pencil or tokens for keeping track of possessions, the locations of armies and fleets, and cash available.

Victory conditions

The first player who has accumulated more than two times the total prestige points of any other player (except his co-Emperor, if any), and has been acknowledged as Emperor by the Senate at the start of any winter turn wins the game. A player may have another player as co-emperer by simple agreement between the players, if either wins, than the other shares in his victory. Of course, this agreement can be voided by either player at any time.

Campaign Sequence

Play begins with the start of the Winter turn. Any outstanding military actions (Sieges or Invasions, etc.) should be resolved first, then play should proceed as follows:

  1. Collect Taxes: Players receive income (dollars) equal to the total of the levels of all of the provinces they have uncontested (no siege or battle this season) control of. Province levels must be set before the start of the campaign, and can be affected by game play. Wasteland Level 0, Devastated/undeveloped Level 1, Poor Level 2, Average Level 3, Fine Level 4, and Rich Level 5. All taxes are automatically available to the player at his location.

  2. Deal Cards: Each player receives one card, and one additional card for each uncontested province he controls. In addition, he receives one card for each province controlled by a non-played ally.

  3. Dice For Order of Play: Each player rolls a die, with the LOWEST roll going first and so on until the player with the highest roll, who goes last.

  4. Play Cards: Starting with the player with the lowest roll, each player plays and then discards any one of the cards in his hand. Once each player who still has at least one card that round has played his/her card play proceeds to the next round until all players have played all of their cards. A player attempting to counter another player's play must do so that round.

    Ace in the hole: A player may set aside any one card for use later in that game year (discarded if unused). At the start of any season that year a player with an ace in the hole may play it as indicated in these rules, provided it is an ace or joker. Any other card is kept only as a bluff to fool the other players. Unused aces in the hole are discarded at the end of the fall turn.

  5. Build/Pay Units: A player must now pay each of the elements in his armie(s) and squadrons in his fleet(s). The cost is $1 for an element, or $.50 for a squadron. Any unpaid units must be disbanded and transferred to his reserve. A player may choose which of his units to disband. Any leftover funds may then be spent as follows:

    • Build elements or squadrons (naval elements) at a cost of $2 each, regardless of type. The maximum number of new units that may be built in any one city is that provinces current level. (Example, average - 3 units). A player must also build a general for any army other than the one he is in command of, and an admiral for each fleet. The cost is $1 each, and they must be paid $1 each year to retain their services. An army or fleet which has no commander is automatically disbanded.
    • Build Baggage elements at a cost of $1 each. Baggage may be stockpiled in cities, or may be assigned to armies which it accompanies until captured or consumed. The maximum number of baggage units that may be built in any one location is that locations current level.

  6. Deployment: Players may then deploy their builds, and then their preexisting forces anywhere they see fit as long as they are in uncontested control of the province(s) in question. In addition, the player must note the location of any unused treasure. A player may never have more than one army in a province, nor fleet in a port, but may otherwise deploy his/her forces into as many armies/ fleets as desired. Each army and fleet must have a general/admiral. Deployments and build locations should be written down and be revealed simultaneously. The only fact that should be revealed to the other players is the location(s) of a players armies and/or fleets, not their strengths, composition or the location of baggage or treasuries until these are encountered.

    Reserve: For purposes of this game a player's reserve consists of the total of all elements available on his list (with all options). At the start of the game he selects his starting army from his list, the remaining elements are added to the reserve, (along with any elements later lost through play). A player starts with no fleet, but has squadrons equal to the total number of elements he could have in his army in reserve.

  7. Seasonal turns: Play then proceeds through the Spring, Summer and Fall turns. The game year then ends and the next begins with the start of another Winter turn.


Aces count as an 11, and Jokers count as an ace of the players choice. Players may buy, sell, trade or give away cards at anytime.

Clubs: A player may choose one of the following actions with a clubs card:

  • Hire a fleet: By paying the cards face value in dollars, a player may hire a merchant/pirate fleet with enough squadrons to transport all of the elements and baggage in any one of his armies. This fleet is only available for one season (of the player's choice) only and will meet his army there at the appointed time if the player rolls the cards face value or less with two dice. This roll should not be made until the meeting actually takes place. If the roll is higher than the cards value then the fleet's broker/commander has taken the money and will not deliver as promised. This fleet may only be used to transport the army in question, but will defend itself if attacked.
  • Hire mercenaries: By paying $2 a player may hire a mercenary unit (one element) for one year. The unit must be of a type available on his list, or the lists of any nations who may be allied to him. These troops will arrive at any of his controlled cities at the start of the spring turn.

Diamonds: A player may choose one of the following actions with a diamonds card:

  • Windfall: The player collects dollars equal to the cards face value as the result of extortion, tariffs or perhaps contributions by friends, allies and supporters.

  • Public works/entertainment's: By rolling the cards value or less with two dice a player commissions a successful public works project in a province, raising it one level to a maximum of five so long as the province is not successfully raided or pillaged that year. He gains one prestige point for doing so. Alternately he may stage games in Rome, and if he rolls less than the cards face value the mob are impressed and he gains two prestige points.

Hearts: A Player may choose one of the following actions with a hearts card:

  • Alliance: A player may make an alliance with the governor of an uncontrolled province, or with a Barbarian king by rolling the cards face value or less with two dice. If allied with a governor that province is now controlled by the player, the city is his and he receives that province's card and taxes as well as one prestige point for control of the province. If allied with Barbarians the player receives an allied contingent from that nation or the year and these will appear at the desired location at the start of the spring turn, provided they can reach it through that players territory or those of his allies (or those that permission has been granted to move through.) Barbarians go home at the end of the fall turn regardless of circumstances, and will fight to do so if necessary. At the start of each winter turn a player must test his alliances by rolling their strength (card value) vs. two dice if Romans, or three if Barbarians. It the roll is higher than the alliances value than it is severed by the other party. If not then the alliance holds for one more year.

    Barbarians and Governors will only be allied with one player at a time. A player may not have more than one alliance, plus one for each province he controls at the start of the winter turn. If he must lose one roll randomly to determine which alliance is broken. This should be done BEFORE testing his remaining alliances.

  • Intrigue: A player may intrigue with another players allies or generals. He selects his target and then rolls three dice vs. the cards value, if successful the other players alliance is broken (but not transferred), or his general defects and joins the player who played the card. A defecting general joins the player at the start of the next season, allied contingents immediately march home.

  • Bid for the Purple: A player may try to get himself elected Emperor by the Senate in Rome. To do so he must pay bribes in dollars equal to the card's face value. He then rolls three dice (two if his army is in possession of Rome), if his roll is less than or equal to the card's face value then the Senate proclaims him Emperor. The Senate will only acknowledge one Emperor at a time, and once acclaimed a player keeps the title until his is killed, dies or his prestige falls to 0 or below. If this happens the Senate revokes it's support and that general will never be acclaimed again. If the Praetorian Guard is with him at the time they will turn on him and slay him on the spot. The Emperor automatically gains control of the three Italian provinces, their taxes and cards unless these have been conquered by another player. He gains one prestige point for each, another for the city of Rome itself, and another for the support of the senate. In addition, he gains control of the Praetorian Guard, one element of blades, and one of knights each of which is elite (+1). If another player who is not Emperor controls Rome and opposes his bid, then four dice must be rolled instead of three.

Spades: A player may choose one of the following actions with a spades card:

  • Spy/Assassin: A player sends a spy or assassin to another players camp. To spy, roll the cards value or less with two dice. If successful the victim must show him all of his remaining cards, and after the card game he must present a copy of his builds and deployments to the spy's owner before he makes his own. An assassin may be sent to kill another players general or admiral, or the 'player' himself. To kill a subordinate leader the player rolls the cards value or less with two dice, for the player himself three dice.

    If successful the target is hit, roll one dice: (1) killed. All alliances are broken, prestige is lost and the player starts again with a son or brother who controls the army, and any provinces that were directly controlled by that player. He generates a new starting prestige. (2) Major Wound. 50% chance he will die, if not he is lost for 1-3 seasons and may not lead troops or give orders. (3) Wounded. As above but no chance of death and lost for only one season. (4-5) Minor wound, his body guards kill the assassin before he can finish the work, or the poison is detected. No effect. (6) Close Call. Somehow the plot fails and goes undetected.

  • Ferment Revolt: By rolling the cards value or less with two dice the player causes any one province controlled by another player to revolt and refuse to acknowledge his authority. The province then becomes neutral and is controlled by no one until conquered or allied with again. Alternately a player may encourage a Barbarian attack. He rolls vs. three dice and if successful the barbarians will attack any province adjacent to one they control or their homeland, so long as their army is not occupied elsewhere and the province is not controlled by a player they are allied to.

  • Counter Spy: This card must be played after another player has played a spades card to counter it. This is done at that moment, before dice are rolled. A counter spy adds to the difficulty of the attempt by adding the cards face value to the roll bade by the other player (e.g., A player is attempting to spy on another player with a 10 of spades. He declares his action and the target announces he is playing a counter-spy, in this case a three of spades. As a result the player must now roll two dice +3, and roll a total of 10 or less to succeed.).

  • Treachery: Must be played as an ace in the hole. Roll vs. four dice and if the roll is less than or equal to the cards face value any one enemy general (but not the player himself), admiral or allied contingent will change sides on the spot. Fleets which change sides while transporting an army will maroon the players army at the location of the other players choice, so long as it is within their normal movement that season. Alternately the card may be played to secure the surrender of a besieged enemy city that does not have an army defending it by rolling vs. two dice.

Seasonal Turns

Each season each player may write one order for each of his armies and fleets. These may be as follows:

Armies: May be ordered to do any of the following:

  • Move: From any one province controlled to any adjacent province controlled by that player, or to any province who's controlling player has granted permission to move into or through. Such a move is accomplished without difficulty or attrition.

  • Forced March: A player may move two or three provinces as above but rolls 1d3 for each province after the first that is moved through that season and loses that many elements of his choice to attrition as a result. If he expends one point of baggage he may eliminate one dice in attrition loses (but not a second one for that army by spending two points). Baggage and treasure may not move three provinces in one turn. A forced march MAY end in an invasion if the player so desires.

  • Invasion: A player may move his army into an enemy controlled province where it must stop and give battle to any defending army that chooses to offer it, or lay siege to the city. Both armies involved in a campaign in a province suffer 1d3 in attrition as a result before the battle. This can be avoided by expending one baggage point, or by Foraging. To forage a player must detach one non-elephant mounted unit, or two foot units for the purpose. These are not available for the battle. The player rolls one dice and if he rolls the province's level or less with 1 d6 he finds enough supplies to constitute a baggage unit which may be used to avoid attrition. A province which has been foraged must make a saving throw by rolling 1 d6 +1 for each time the province has been foraged that year. If it rolls it's level or less it is unaffected, if the roll is over then the province loses one level as a result of the depredations of the army. The defender may elect to implement a scorched earth policy. To do so he forages the province first and in so doing prevents the invader from foraging. He declares this AFTER the attacker detaches his units for foraging, and these are still lost for the battle as a result. A defender who resorts to scorched earth loses one prestige point. Any battle or siege is then fought normally.

  • Raid: A player may detach units from an army to raid an adjacent enemy province that is not defended by an enemy army. The number of units detached must be one non-elephant mounted or two foot units for each level of the target province. The raiding player gets $1 for each level of the target province raided, and the target must save as if foraged. The raiding army does not have the units dispatched for that season. Squadrons may be used to transport raiding forces so long as they have the movement to land them and take them home in one season.

Additional Attrition

Armies lose one extra d3 worth of elements to attrition for each of the following conditions that apply:

  1. Crossing Mountains in Spring and Fall, prohibited in winter.
  2. Crossing the desert in Spring, Summer or fall.
  3. Any operations except going into winter quarters in winter unless in a desert province.

Baggage may be used one a one point for one dice basis to alleviate these losses.


May be ordered to do any of the following:

  • Transport: One a one squadron for one element basis. Fleets may pick up and drop off units for free, but any movement in or through a sea zone costs one point each. The entire force must start in the same province, and be transported to the same destination province at the end of the move. Baggage and treasure may be transported at a two points/dollars for one squadron rate. All pick ups and landings take place at the provinces port for the purposes of these rules.

  • Patrol: A fleet may put to sea for the season in an attempt to intercept any hostile fleets entering the sea zone it is trying to protect. To do so is automatic if both parties desire it, if not both roll one dice, adding or subtracting the admiral's leadership score. If the patrolling fleet beats the evading fleets score they are caught and a sea battle is fought. If not then they slip by undetected.

  • Blockade: A fleet may be ordered to take station off of any port and in so doing will automatically intercept any fleet attempting to enter or leave that port, necessitating a sea battle. A fleet in a port that is trying to run a blockade does so by rolling off as indicated in Patrol, above. To succeed it must double the blockading fleets total otherwise a battle is fought.

Storms at Sea

Any fleet putting to sea must check for storms, with a 1 in 6 chance in summer, 2 in 6 in spring and fall, and 3 in 6 if in winter. That fleet must immediately turn back to the port from which it started if it encounters storms or lose 1d6 worth of squadrons and their cargo in the storm. See DBA for elements lost, with two points of baggage and or treasure, if any, being lost for each element, and counting as an element lost. (For example: A fleet must lose two elements, so it must lose one element then two baggage points, always in this order.)

Fast Play Sea Battles

Both sides roll one d6 for each squadron present. Any 6's rolled kill an enemy squadron, any 5's take a squadron as a prize. Prizes, and their cargoes are of the original players choice. The side which has killed or captured the most enemy squadrons wins the battle with the loser having to retreat back to the port they started from. The winner may pursue them there and then blockade them at the victors discretion. In case of a tie, total the value of all the dice rolled with victory going to the side with the highest total. If still tied, a second day's battle is fought with the survivors less prize crews. Prize crews: A fleet must detach one squadron for each squadron taken as a prize to tow it back to the nearest friendly port along with any prisoners taken from those squadrons. This detachment returns to the fleet next season. If the player does not want to salvage his prize(s) he may scuttle them on the spot, and drown any prisoners taken as a result that he does not have room for on his own ships. The loser must scuttle any prizes.

Battle deployment

Before a battle both sides roll 1d6 and add their leadership, and +1 for each light horse, two cavalry, psiloi, or auxilia units in their army. The defender gets an additional +2 bonus for familiarity with the land. The loser must deploy first and than move second. If the winner doubles the loser's score then he catches him strung out on the march. The loser must deploy all of his units in a single column with his rear element being a war wagon representing his baggage train and taking the place of his camp. They must enter along a road from his base edge if possible, or be all in good going if not. The winner may then deploy his army anywhere his wishes up to the mid point of the board and then moves first.


If an enemy army breaks the victor may elect to pursue. To do so he rolls for pips and this is the number of units he may use from those left to do so. They must all be mounted but not elephants. The loser may form a rearguard from his survivors. To do so he rolls for pips and divides the total by 2, rounding down. These may be selected from any of his survivors. He then places any one of these units on the table, the victor then counters with one of his and so on until one side or the other has no more units. These then fight a series of one round single combats that are considered to take place in terrain of the predominant type for that province. (Ex. bad going if Mts., forest etc., otherwise GG.) Any units lost are lost to the armies, and leaders hit suffer the results. The pursuer then may take one element prisoner for each of his that was uncontested, or destroyed it's foe during the rear guard action. If an army breaks or has it's camp captured all of it's baggage and treasure are captured as well.


Prisoners may be held in the nearest friendly city for exchange or ransom, the details of which are left to the players. Alternately they may be massacred or sold as slaves at a rate of $1 per element. The sale takes one season, and they may be liberated if they city they are held in is taken.


Players gain, and lose prestige as follows:

  • Victory in Battle: Gain points equal to the margin of victory in elements lost.
  • Defeat in battle: Lose points equal to the margin of defeat.
  • Successful Siege: Gain one point.
  • Army lost in siege: Lose points equal to the number of elements lost.
  • Conquest or lose of a province: +/- 1 point
  • Alliance with a governor: Gain one point.
  • Termination of an alliance with a Governor: Lose one point.
  • Confirmed as Emperor by the Senate, Control of Rome: One point each. (Lose Rome and lose one point.)
  • Successful games in Rome: Gain two points.
  • Successful Public Works: Gain one point.

Starting Package

Players begin with a 12 element army selected from their list which has been paid for the first year, control of three provinces totaling 10 levels, the income from them and 2d6 prestige points + 3 (for their provinces.) The 2-12 prestige points reflects their experience.

Rules for the Conduct of Seiges

Play proceeds in monthly bounds, with the start of a siege assumed to take place in the last month of the season. This is tacked on to the next season for purposes of dealing cards etc. (So the first season of a siege is 4 months long, then each season thereafter is 3 months (bounds) long.

At the start of a season both players a dealt a hand (standard poker deck) of five cards, +/- 1 for veteran generals and/or leadership ability. (A green general with poor leadership would only get 3 cards, a veteran one with good leadership would get 7.)

Each month both players roll 1D6 +/- their leadership and experience bonus/penalty. The player with the highest roll chooses whether to play his card first or second that month. In case of a tie follow the same order as last month unless the first turn of a siege, then the attacker plays first. To play a card state you intent, then roll the number of dice required, less than or equal to the cards value for success. (Aces count as 11). If playing a card to counter an opponent's play, it MUST be played that same month.

After the cards have been played, both sides lose one element to attrition* and check breakpoint exactly as if in a battle. If an army breaks the city falls, or the siege is lifted. By expending one baggage point attrition can be negated that month. If the city is not garrisoned by an army, it is assumed to have a garrison army of 12 camp follower elements instead.

* For purposes of attrition, the defender must roll a d6 each month, if he rolls under the number of months the siege has lasted he loses two elements instead of one.

At the end of a season all unused cards are discarded, and a new hand is dealt.

If a relieving army arrives during a siege the besieger may leave one element to maintain the siege IF HIS SIEGE LINES have been completed. If this happens the defender may still add an allied contingent to the relieving force on a successful SORTIE. If no siege lines have been completed then the siege is lifted, and the defender may contribute an allied contingent at his discretion.

Continue to Part Two

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Last Updated: May 19, 2002

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.