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Tips From DBA Masters

Eric Lindberg on Flank Attacks

It's easy to miss, but DBA 1.1 adds the rule that recoiling stands contacted both to front and FLANK or rear are destroyed. Suddenly, this means that outflanking your opponent makes any attack a potential quick-kill!

This is the chief advantage of psiloi and light horse, who can lurk on the enemy's flanks, hoping to turn a minor skirmish into a likely kill. Also remember that these nuisance attacks can be very useful even if unsupported by a frontal attack. A psiloi hitting two pike in the flank will force them to turn, thoroughly breaking up the opponent's line.

Wheeling into a Flank Attack

Note that no stand's CORNER may ever move more than the maximum distance allowed for that stand. If the stand is moving straight ahead, making this measurement is not difficult. If the stand is wheeling, the farthest moving corner will be the outside rear corner. For example, if the stand is wheeling to the left, the right rear corner will move the farthest.

Here's the best way to measure a wheel: Place a marker (such as a die) behind the moving element, clearly marking its outside rear corner. Now move the element and measure from this marker to the new position of the element's outside rear corner. This will avoid those situations where you accidentally measure movement from the front corner, try to re-measure, and then lose the original position of the element.

This all ends up being very important when an element in line finds itself with no enemy to its front and able to move to flank the enemy. (see ugly ascii graphic below)

                           |  |   <-   
           +------++------+|C'|       \
           |  1   ||  2   ||  |          Wheel
           +------++------++--+        | Into Flank
           |  A   ||  B   ||  C   |   /
           +------++------++------+ -

In the diagram, you should see two elements, 1 and 2, faced by three elements, A, B, and C, whose bound it is. Element C is unopposed and wants to move to position C' so that it can flank element 2.

Some troops are able to make this move in one bound, and others cannot. I don't know why people have difficulty seeing this, after all, it only requires determining the triangle described by the movement of the outer rear corner, taking the square root of the sum of the squares of the right angle lines and then converting the result to paces. Simple, right?

Well, OK, so it's not necessarily simple. If you do the math, you'll discover that for all elements, this move is over 200 paces. This means that spear, pike, blade, and warband cannot move from overlap to flank in one bound. All elements under 40mm deep (for 15mm figures) can make this move in under 300 paces, so psiloi, auxilia, and all mounted (except heavy chariots and elephants), can move from overlap to flank. The numbers are similar for 25mm figures.

Once again, another reason to love psiloi.


Bob Beattie developed the following diagram to illustrate the Eric Lindberg's point about flank attacks, but questions whether what works for 15mm will always work at 25mm scale:

I enjoyed "Eric Lindberg on Flank Attacks" but I think he forgot the differences in scale between15mm and 25mm. Check the math of heavy foot making a 90 degree turn. The ratio of inches for movement is 1 to 2 but the depth of a base is 3 to 4, and width is 2 to 3. I think the needed move is 100mm (i.e., the squareroot of 80squared plus 60squared), which is a tad short of 4 inches. This is a big difference between the two scales.

Doug Barker offered a slightly different take on the rules used by his gaming group:

Just taking a break from writing the thesis, and saw Eric's short piece on flank marches. We have also noticed that foot moving 200 paces per turn can't wheel to outflank enemy units in order to cut them off. However, we have been interpreting the rules as saying that, since (a) a unit can move in ANY direction (provided it uses a PIP), and (b) the attacker aligns himself with the defender, then a unit attacking the flank of an enemy already engaged would be able to move so that the middle of the attacking unit was next to the defender, and would then be realigned such that the front left (or right) corners of both attacker and defender were touching.
                                                 |   |
 _____                  _____  ___         _____ |At2|
| Def |           -->  | Def ||   |  -->  | Def ||   |
|_____|                |_____||At2|       |_____||___|
 _____  _____           _____ |   |        _____
| At1 || At2 |         | At1 ||___|       | At1 |
|_____||_____|         |_____|            |_____|

I would be interested to know what your views on this are, and whether the designers intended an interpretation like this or more along the lines of Eric.

Eric Lindberg's Response

I agree with all of the responses regarding wheeling. I entirely forgot that 100 paces = 100 mm in 25mm DBA, and used 100 paces = 80 mm, as in DBM. (The annoying subtle differences between DBA, DBM, and DBR is probably a topic best deferred for a Rant and Rave.)

Doug Barker's interpretation is something I hadn't considered, but would still result in a stand moving farther than it's maximum distance, which technically isn't allowed. On the other hand, DBM 2.0 does allow any stand to move from overlap to flanking, regardless of its maximum move. I can't speak for PB and RBS, but when this topic was discussed on the DBM mailing list, I recall that they had apparently always played using the DBM 2.0 interpretations, but conceded that there was nothing in the rules as written (prior to 2.0) to justify it.

In a friendly game, I'd probably prefer to use Doug Barker's interpretation, or add the DBM 2.0 ruling. Anyone who has sat through the tedium of an all-Hoplite (Sp vs. Sp) or all-Viking (Bd vs. Bd) battle would probably agree.

Bob Van Der Bloemen's Mathematical Reminder

Please consider that a wheel from overlap to flank is not a straight line move from corner to corner but rather a rotation of a quarter circle. Therefore, the distance moved is: one half Pi times the base width; or 2.474 inches for a 40mm base and 3.711 inches for a 60mm base. Scale does make a difference, heavy infantry can do it in 60mm it cannot in 40mm.

Eric Lindberg's "Final" Final Comments

(Bob Van Der Bloemaen) does describe the physical move the outside corner makes as the stand is swiveled around the front corner, but the rules are written so as to avoid having to pull out compasses and French curves when trying to measure distances on wheels. In other words, the rules do treat the move as a straight line path, even though it really isn't.

I'm not sure my reply here is even worth posting, since I kind of doubt that Bob's reminder is meant as a serious suggestion of how to measure movement in the game. Ultimately, we're trying to simulate large groups of men charging, often wildly, into battle, not rectangular formations of troops performing marching band like maneuvers. I think that Bob may be pointing out that getting overly concerned with the exact distance moved by one corner of the stand may be following the letter of the rules, but missing their intent. The introductory comments to the rules even point out that the stand might be 25mm deep, but that the real line of troops would be much narrower. (Or was that in DBM . . . ?)

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Last Updated: July 22, 1998

Thanks to Eric Lindberg for sharing these tips and to the others who responded for expanding the commentary.

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