Much Ado About Knights
Mounted warriers who are apt to charge "at first instance without shooting" with the intention of "destroying enemy as much by weight and impetus as their weapons." That defines Knights in DBA; a definition which encompasses everything from the ancient Sarmatian cataphract and Alexander the Great's Companion Cavalry to the arch-typical medieval "tin-can" knight. For convenience, the Knights category also includes Heavy Chariots.
Knights are a much feared element in DBA, largely more for their large number of quick kill opportunities than their actual +3 vs. foot/+4 vs. mounted modifier in Close Combat. With a favorable result (i.e., a modified Close Combat die roll higher than their foeman) in good terrain, Knights destroy Artillery, Auxilia, Bows, Hordes, Pikes, Psiloi, Scythed Chariots, Spear, and Warband. Their 300P movement rate in good going makes them slower than other mounted troops; they can just keep pace with Auxilia or Psiloi moving off-road; but still more mobility than the more heavily armed foot elements. They are classed as "impetuous" troops, meaning they must follow-up a victory by moving forward one base width into the area vacated by the enemy they have destroyed or forced to recoil or flee.
According to DBA authors Phil Barker et. al. , Knights and their valuable horse flesh were subject to being shot down by massed bows and their charge could be brought up short by a solid array of spear or pike points. Knights, however, were likely to ride down other foot and get the better of normal cavalry. Light Horse that could skirmish and retire was another type of threat to Knights, who could drive off the elusive Light Horse temporary but only at risk of becoming isolated and breaking their army's battle formation. Knights, or more particularly their horses, had the common aversion to Elephants and had trouble evading the dangerous Scythed Chariots.
Are Knights as effective in DBA as they are usually perceived to be? Maybe and maybe not. The Knight's quick kill capabilties certainly creates a potential for decisive combats, but their relatively low Close Combat modifers make it surprisingly difficult for them to win against "regular" foot, especially if the foot benefit from Psiloi rear support.
Stay away from Bow, Elephants, Scythed Chariots and supported Pike or Spear whenever possible. Attacking War-Wagons is a futile proposition. Attempt to ride down Auxilia, Psiloi and Warband by choice, but stay out of rough terrain. Unless they have rear Psiloi support, Blades are a more tempting target than they were under DBA 1.1 since the odds are even and Knight enjoy a quick-kill. A Knight against Knight scrum will typically sway back and forth for several bounds before a high-low dice combination proves decisive. You have little to fear from other mounted troops one-on-one and don't let the quick kill capability of Light Horse discourage you from charging home since the odds are greatly in your favor. The bain of Knights, however, is that they seldom get to fight one-on-one, but are drawn by their impetuous nature into overlaps.
In sum, Knights are a powerful element in DBA, but the reality doesn't necessarily match up well with the perception of their overall dominance on the table top. Knights face long odds against regular troops in most match-ups and their chances for quick kills are frequently slim. And their impetuous nature often leaves them vulnerable. So why so much ado about Knights?
Well there is always Knight's historical reputation that colors many gamer's expectations. My own theory, however, relates to size. Quite simply, a Knight element usually carries the greatest mass of any DBA element (next to Elephants and Warwagons) and with their lances or spears, they are also usually the tallest DBA element. They are visually imposing on the game table as in real life and hence likely to cause apprehension in a foe, in the same way that the British Napoleonic commander of the "Thin Red Line" must always feel some degree of apprehension when a French cuirassier or lancer regiment comes charging down upon his formed square, or the modern infantry platoon leader feels uneasy when in close proximity to enemy tanks despite having a wide array of effective anti-tank weapons at his disposal.
Picking a Knight Army
If you enjoy the Knight life, here are several DBA army lists you may wish to consider. Several of the armies allow you to dismount Knights as Blades and/or allow a choice of Knights or other elements. I have not listed armies with fewer than four Knight or three Heavy Chariot elements, although there are quite a few, including the armies of Alexander the Great and his successors, the Knights of St. Johns on Rhodes and Cyprus, and the English Army of the Wars of the Roses.
If you like the "shock" tactics of Knights, but want something a bit different or perhaps more "ancient", then you might try these Heavy Chariot armies:
And with that, I bid you a good Knight.
See David Kuijt's essay, "I Love the Knight Life" for additional thoughts on the Knights.
Last Updated: July 21, 2002
My math is always suspect and I may well have missed a key point here or there that merits further discussion. Accordingly, comments, suggested additions, and/or critiques are welcome. Direct them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.
Credits: Teutonic Bruder Knights (top) by David Green. Hittite chariots by Vince Salvato.