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Most Difficult DBA Army to Beat

Inquiring newbies want to know. What exactly is the most difficult DBA army to beat? Or put another way, what is the easiest DBA army to win with? Of course the "why" is also important to know. Is it because they're chock full of Knights or Blades? Is it the combined arms approach that makes them strong against a variety of opponents? Is it just that their list of historical opponents are notably weaker and easier to beat?

To submit your opinion, just drop a note to

Sea Peoples (#14a)

Nominated by Rick Wright: The list for Sea Peoples' is solid with 2 war wagons,1 light or heavy chariot,1 blade, 2 psiloi and 6 war bands. The blades are tough against most foot, the warbands quick kill blades and support each other, and the war wagons are really solid against everything, even elephants. Although elephants get the quick kill war wagons still have a higher bonus and can shoot 2.

Early Indian (#21a)

Nominated by Jason Ehlers: Among the toughest armies to beat from the list of Bronze Age/ Early Iron Age Armies (roughly army numbers 1 through 23): #21a EARLY INDIAN, with three elephants, two heavy chariots, two cavalry, and five bows. Their options include having Elephants troops substituted with Auxilia or more (!) Bows. Also they have a 1445 year span (900BC-545AD) and can have historical opponents from Alexander the Great to Early Shang Chinese. Although fearsome on the attack, the Early Indians have been accused of having a Porus defense.

Early Seleucid (#41a)

Nominated by Jeff Allison: They have a good balance of troop types, but it's mostly because I rarely lose with them, and those two elephants look really cool with the knights and pike.

Marian Romans (#59)

Nominated by Robert Sulentic: I agree certainly that blades are the best unit in the game. The Marian Roman army is very very hard to beat. A joke I have heard refers to Wars of the Roses English as "Marian English" (when you take all the blades you can). The early Swiss are very similar.

I started DBA with Burgundians vs. Swiss, and poor Charles has only won once, and he threw so many sixes we thought the dice were loaded. I also ran Low Countries, which is a pretty powerful army if attacked to its front, but it invariably has to watch its flanks very closely. Scots Common, which has 8! pike elements, I have seen shot up and chopped up so many times by various English Armies that I really think the army designers had it in for the Scots.

(Note: Clipped from the newsgroup)

Seconded by Jeffrey Allison: I would nominate any army that comprises mostly of Blade, but since the Marian Romans are the only one like that I have, they will have to do. In our current campaign, I have beaten opponents in three separate battles; 4-1 against the 100YW English, 4-0 against the Vikings, and 4-0 against those pesky English again. Not a plethora of opponents, but they are very tough armies in their own right.

The Marian Romans have 8 Blades, a respectable number of the best elements in DBA. They can roll over all foot, except for double-rank pikes, and then they can get the flank bonuses. They are not really afraid of bad going, since the penalty makes them as good as Auxilia, fighting them on an even die roll for the most part. No mounted, except elephants, can face them on anything but even terms, though I think I saw that Knights can quick-kill Blades in a version of the newer rules coming out. That may cause me to rethink some strategies.

Three cavalry help to keep the flanks pinned down, or to go after elements separated from the rest of the opponent's army. I even use them to swarm over elements of opposing bow, since Cav can not be quick-killed by bows, and can quick-kill them if they win the die roll. The single unit of psiloi that is at my disposal almost has no real place in my army, but I can use them to help flank or delay an enemy until I can get a couple of Blades over to stem the tide.

Endorsed by Paul Rice: I have to put in my vote for #59 Marian Romans. All in all they probably average around .800. I know for two years they never lost a single game under my command at our local field of valor, Eagle and Empire in Alexandria, VA. I'd conservatively estimate they won at least a dozen games there, and probably had a .750 record. Last fall I won a convention at Game Parlor in Chantilly, VA, where my Marians went 6-0.

Why are they so tough? Well, they pack a tremendous wallop with 8 Bl, and with 3 cav have just enough mobility to protect themselves. For the first year I usually ran them with the extra psiloi (8 Bl, 2 Cav, 2 Psi), but now generally run them with the extra cav (8 Bl, 3 Cav, 1 Psi).

Do they have a weakness? Yes, they have several, the primary one being they are slow as molasses against many more mobile armies. But in competent hands against almost any opponent, if the opponent can't win before that glorious gladius line gets into contact, he'd better learn to speak Latin.

Au contraire Says Paul Young: I'm not sure I agree with the Marian Romans as the toughest army to beat. The first two DBA armies I painted were Marian Romans and Parthians, and the Parthians have flattened them every time. All those light horse can keep the blades pinned without any risk of destruction to themselves and they are fast enough to start sneaking around flanks and start actually picking off some of the blades when they can't retreat. The cataphracts do a good job of keeping the outnumbered Roman cavalry from annoying the light horse and can go toe to toe with the blades on equal terms as well. If they bring in the new rule giving the cataphracts a quick kill on the blades it will really be no contest. I guess you could ask Crassus about how effective Marian Romans were against Parthians.

The Marian Romans problem is that they too one dimensional and if they run into the wrong kind of army they are toast. Of course the Parthians have that problem as well (God help them in rough terrain).

Medieval Hindu (#83a)

Nominated by Julie Stanoch ("one of the few teenage female DBA players"): Although I have only been playing DBA for about a year, I think that the Medival Hindu are the hardest to beat. They have 2 ps. which keep them moving through rough going; Three elephants that basically smash anything in their path, of course; One blade that isn't that harsh, but can be against foot considering the +5. They also make way for the 2 Cav that many people keep behind; 4 long bow that can kill anything after a while by just ganging up on any single element.

Anglo-Norman (#134)/Early Imperialist (#136)

Nominated by Douglas Barker: I've found that a balanced army with 3 or 4 element types with two or three light troop elements is pretty tough to beat in a tournament, provided that you have some type of killer element. The main advantage is that you don't have a one-shot wonder of all blade or all knights that someone with warbands and bow can wipe out. Anglo-Normans and Early Imperialists are both pretty good in this respect. Of course,historical match-ups tend to be more balanced than ahistorical ones regardless of the opponents (HYW English and Med. French excepted)

Early Crusader (#138)

Nominated by Wayne Melnick: How does Early Crusader stack up? Like the French it has the 6x3Kn/4Bd option, plus a 4x4Sp/3Ax option.

Medieval French (#170)

Nominated by David Kuijt: With Six dismounting Knights, two Crossbow, three Auxilia, and one either Blade or Artillery. Knights and Blades are the toughest units in DBA, and you get a choice at deployment time with these boys. You can fine-tune the Medieval French to your opponent by dismounting some, all, or none of the Chivalry of France. This army can become a powerful heavy foot army or a crushing knight army with the flick of a stirrup. Worse still, with three Auxilia the French have enough rough-terrain troops to crush their historical opponents in bad going, and interdict or contest a big stretch of bad going against armies with more rough-terrain troops.

Seconded by Ken Blackley: The toughest armies to beat are those which have a high number of Kn that can dismount as Bl. The mightest one is probably Medieval French. They have SIX Kn/Bd. plus bows, psiloi and an optional Art.

One of the probelms with the DBx family of games is it creates a terrible mis-match when facing Medieval French against 100 Year's War English. These opponents should be equal; but in reality it takes total incompetence to lose as the French. Of course, maybe that is historical.

Hussites (#176)

Nominated by David Kuijt: With four War-wagons, two Artillery, five Blades, one Light Horse. War-wagons have their weaknesses, but in practice this army is immensely tough. Against an elephant-heavy army, the Artillery will quickly blast those heffalumps away. Against an army with Artillery the Hussites have to be careful, but in an Artillery duel they can probably dish it out better than most opponents -- only two other armies have two Artillery.

What else can fight them? Not mounted -- the huge missile-combat factors of the War-wagons devastates Knights, Cavalry, and Light Horse. Auxilia, Bow, and Psiloi are similarly in serious trouble if they are in range. Warband? Pike? Again, the crushing missile-fire of the War-wagons can shatter a pike-block or warband, given enough time. Heavy foot, Spear or Blades, is your only good chance. But what are you fighting? Not only the War-wagons, but also a huge wad of five Blades. They don't even have a Camp, so you can't sneak behind them and win the bulk of the battle there. There is just no easy answer. The Hussites can be beaten, certainly. But it takes careful maneuver and timing on the part of their opposition.

Seconded by Martin Schmidt: I feel I must second David Kuijt's choice of the Hussites (#176) as the toughest army to beat. In three open tournaments that I have run this army has won 2 of the three. In the other they came in second, losing in the finals to a very skillfully used Early Indian (#21a).

Disputed by Doug Melville: I disagree with the assessment of the Hussites as the toughest army in DBA, agreed that the War Wagons are very very tough, but they are easily masked, and the rest of the army is vulnerable - take on the artillery with any decent foot, (Sp or Bd) - and attack that LH. The War Wagon and the Hussite Blade can then be out manouevered to obtain flanks very easily. I second the Marian Romans as one of the toughest DBA armies.

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Last Updated: April 5, 2000

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