DBA Resources

Tips and Guides

Roman Blades

The Pointed Truth About Blades

Blades in DBA represent close order infantry equipped with cutting and/or thrusting weapons. The classification encompasses elite troops from all historical periods, from the axe-equipped Shardana Guard of the Egyptian Kings, the indomitable Republican and Imperial Roman legionary, through the Dark Ages huscarl, all the way to the dismounted Knight, halberdier or billman of the medieval period.

Some consider Blades in DBA 2.0 (as in previous editions) to be the preeminent troop type, the veritable "Queen of Battle", and with good reason despite the fact that Blades do not enjoy a "quick-kill" against any element. That is because Blades have the highest unsupported close combat factor versus foot (+5), and although less effective against mounted (+3), they are eligible to receive a rear support against the same from Psiloi. They are hell on Artillery and ordinary Bow and are one of the few elements that can stand up to War Wagons long enough to inflict damage. With clever tactics designed to draw impetuous troops into overlaps, Blades fighting at +6 or +7 (with overlap bonuses) can be quite deadly.

But Blades are by no means invincible. They fight against Cavalry even up. Scythed chariots should inspire true fear in a solid line of Blades, since they enjoy a +4 to +3 close combat match-up and quick-kill Blades with a higher total. Knights especially should inspire a solid degree of apprehension in a line of Blades, since both fight even-up with Blades suffering the quick-kill. Warband, especially warband with support, can also provide a nasty surprise with good dice given their quick-kill against Blades.

Blades can also be beaten in the right circumstances by other troops; their weaknesses being:

  1. Unprotected flanks (potential +1 or +2 modifier for opponent can shift the odds).

  2. Facing bad terrain troops in bad terrain (Blades suffer a -2 combat modifer in bad terrain making them the equal of Auxilia and only a +1 advantage over Psiloi)

  3. A wall of supported Pikes. (A supported pike element at +6 versus foot has a slight statistical advantage over blades at +5 versus foot and should win if their flanks are secure).

  4. Having to chase light horse or any faster element in a 200 pace per turn dash to cover your unprotected camp.

  5. Unlucky die.

Match-Up Outcomes

The following chart provides outcomes for close-combat match-ups between Blades and other DBA elements. Match-ups assume no overlaps or support bonuses, and do not reflect Distance Shooting (where negative outcomes suffered by Distance Shooters are ignored).

Opponent

Blade
Destroyed

Blade
Recoils

Push

Opp.
Recoils

Opp.
Flees

Opp.
Destroyed

Camelry

2.8%

25.0%

13.9%

41.7%

 

16.6%

Cavalry

5.6%

36.1%

16.6%

36.1%

 

5.6%

Elephant

11.1%

47.2%

13.9%

27.8%

   

Knight

41.7%

 

16.6%

36.1%

 

5.6%

Knight
(Bd/Ps Support)

27.8%

 

13.9%

47.2%

 

11.1%

Light Horse

2.8%

25.0%

13.9%

41.7%

16.6%

 

Scythed Chariot

58.3%

       

41.7%

Artillery

 

27.8%

13.9%

   

58.3%

Auxilia

 

16.6%

11.1%

55.6%

 

16.6%

Blade

 

41.7%

16.6%

41.7%

   

Bow

 

8.3%

8.3%

50.0%

 

33.3%

Horde

 

16.6%

66.7%

   

16.6%

Pike

 

16.6%

11.1%

55.6%

 

16.6%

Pike
(2 ranked)

2.8%

55.6%

13.9%

27.8%

   

Psiloi

 

8.3%

8.3%

 

83.3%

 

Spear

 

27.8%

13.9%

52.8

 

5.5%

Warband

16.6%

 

11.1%

55.6%

 

16.6%

Warband
(2 ranked)

27.8%

 

13.9%

52.8%

 

5.5%

War Wagon

 

27.8%

66.7%

   

5.5%

Camp Followers Denizens

 

2.8%

5.5%

   

91.7%

Blade Tactics

Deploy your mounted and missile troops to keep enemy mounted (especially Knights) at bay, and close with the enemy infantry as quickly as possible. Use Psiloi to provide rear support against mounted. Gird your loins against the impetuous charge of Warbands and trust to the odds to see you through. Keep your Blades away from Scythed Chariots, supported Pike, and bad terrain. Project your flanks and your camp. And most of all, roll no worse than average.

Blades, like other heavy foot, are slow, moving only 200P per bound. A more mobile opponent will try to use this to advantage by out-maneuvering a Blade heavy army, threatening its flanks and/or concentrating on other weak points in the battle line, while the Blades are forced to play catch-up. The best counters are to close quickly with the enemy and/or use terrain to help protect the flanks.

The Classic Match-up: Blades vs. Warband

P>One of the classic historical match-ups in ancient wargaming is the charge of fanatical Warbands against a steady line of Blades. Just conjure up an image of Gauls, Dacians or Early Germans assailing Roman legionaries and you've got the idea. In DBA terms, however, it is a rather one-sided match-up, as Blades will prevail a great majority of the time barring bad tactics or bad dice.

Scots Isles & Highlands Blades

Blade Armies

If your goal is to win with reasonable consistency and the plodding but irresistible tread of a solid line of heavy infantry is how you derive tactical satisfaction, then a Blade army is for you. You should be able to give your opponents nightmares with the following DBA armies that boast five or more Blades:

12 Viking (III/40ab), Toltec (III/58), Scots Isles and Highlands (III/77), Maori (IV/12d)
10 Polynesian (IV/12a)
9 Sea Peoples (I/28), Marian Roman (II/49), Leidang (III/40c),
8 Leidang (III/40d), Early Swiss (IV/41)
7 Later Pre-Islamic Arab, Nomad (II/23a), Hawaiian (IV/12c), Post Mongol Samurai (IV/59a).
6 Philistine (I/29a), Lat Pre-Islamic Arab, City (II/23b), Polybian Roman (II/33), Medieval Scandinavian (IV/54d), Post Mongol Samurai (IV/59b), Medieval French (IV/64bc), Early Burgundian (IV/76)
5 Trojan (I/26b), Spartacus (II/45c), Mithradatic (II/48), Early Imperial Roman (II/56), Medieval Swedish (IV/54c), Free Company (IV/74), Hussite (IV/80), French Ordonnance (IV/82a), War of the Roses English (IV/83ab)

To achieve the maximums listed above, in several cases, you will have to dismount Knights and/or choose Blades from among several troop-type options.

Even if your army is not predominantly comprised of Blades, you can still use the Blade elements you may have at your disposal as the solid core of your battle line and/or as a potent striking force, with the goal of punching holes in your enemy's lines and following up with flank overlaps.

So in summary, the thrust of this essay is that by taking a stab at Blades, you can cut the odds by employing the DBA's strongest foot element to hack away at your opponent.


Last Updated: July 7, 2002

Comments, suggested additions, and/or critiques welcome. Direct them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.