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Most Pathetic DBA Army

For those of you who are considering a new DBA army and looking for a real challenge (and/or possess a strong streak of masochism), here are nominations of those armies that DBA gamers consider to be the most pathetic. Pathetic is defined as most likely to lose consistently against historical opponents. The responses are collected below. To submit your opinion, just drop a note to

Early Northern Barbarian (#7)

Nominated by Douglas Barker: Dave Kuijt wrote that the Prussians/Estonians with their warband horde are the most pathetic DBA army. A close second would have to be the Early Northern Barbarian (#7), with 8 Wb fighting with lots of mounted armies with either a healthy complement of HCh (#16b Chou Chinese and 16c Ch'in Chinese) or impossible to slay LH (#62 Chinese Border Nomad). The only historical opponents they stand a chance against are the bow-laden Shang dynasty Chinese (#6 and 16a), assuming the horde can get close enough to get into contact!

Illyrian (#26)

Nominated by Paul Owen: My candidate for pathetic armies (and it may not be the worst army, but I don't think I've ever won with them) is #26 Illyrian. Now for some odd reason, I'm fond of this army, but they just don't stack up against their traditional civilized opponents (Greeks, Macedonians, and Romans). I prefer to use the four-warband option against those spear-pike-blade armies, but I can never seem to deliver that killer blow with the Illyrian warbands. As for their traditional barbarian opponents (other Illyrians, Thracians, and Galls), I've never played against them, but I suspect I'd trade in the four warbands for two hoplite spears and two Spanish auxilia--certainly against Thracians, against whom warbands are almost worthless.

Later Hoplite Greek (#32)

Nominated by Ken Blackley: Well, they're undoubtedly not the MOST pathetic, but they give me a pain. Later Hoplite Greek. I've got 8xSp, 1xAux, 1xPs, 1xCV, and 1xPs. In our campaign they seem to be forever fighting Romans (Bd) to no avail, or getting quick-killed by knights. (one bad roll and two elements are toast). While I've won more than lost with this bunch, this army in this form lacks punch and is easily outflanked. I miss my medieval KN armies . . . (sniff).

Disputed by Paul Owen: Of the four armies I own, I have had the greatest successes with my later hoplite Greeks. My mix is slightly different from Ken's. Although I've tried a number of variations, my favorite is 9x4Sp, 1x3Cv, 1x2LH, 1x2Ps. A tried and true tactic against all but the most nimble-footed opponent is to engage the line with the phalanx and send the cavalry against the element on the end of the enemy's line with the psiloi on the inside (to prevent an overlap on the cavalry) and the light horse overlapping or flanking on the outside. I can't say it always works, but it has succeeded more often than not. I find it a nice mix of power on the inside and mobility on the outside.

Oddly, Ken even admits that he wins more than he loses with hoplites. I wonder if he's just bored by those Spartan grind-'em-into-the-dirt tactics. I also think one of Ken's problems is going up against non-historical opponents. The traditional enemies of later hoplite Greeks have at most one knight, and none have blades at all. As for non-historical match-ups, you might recall my response to your question on that topic some months ago: a non-historical game is rather like kissing your sister: it feels the same, but what's the point?

Early Frankish, Burgundian, Alamannic or Rugian (#74)

Nominated by Jeffrey Allison: The Most Pathetic DBA army that I own is probably my early Franks, Burgundians, et al. They have been beaten badly almost every time they have taken to the field, with a few exceptions (like their unbeaten streak vs. the Hussites). They are run over by Knights, and Elephants. The can not match up to Blades anymore, even though a lucky roll means a quick-kill. They are shot to pieces by Bow. They can not follow light troops into bad going without never being heard from again. The fact that they can use subsequent moves to get into close combat has made for some memorable matches (with a very high number of losses on both sides), but they still lack what it takes to make them a complete force. This also goes for any army comprised mostly of Warband. I try to stay away from using them anymore, if I can help it.

Prussian Estonian (#148a)

Nominated by David Kuijt: My vote for most pathetic army against historical opponents -- 148a Prussian/Estonian: 1x Cv and 1x Aux or 2x Wb, 8x Wb, 2x Ps. The last Warband army. How they stack up against historical opponents:

  • 31b Late Med. Scand: 2x Kn, 4x Cb, 1x Cv, 4x Bd (or other options). The Kn can kill anything in the Prussian army, as can the Cv. The Cb and Bd can combine very effectively against the Prussian Warband.

  • 148b Lithuanian. 1x Cv or Lh, 7x Lh, 2x Aux, 2x Ps. The Prussian 8x Wb haven't got a single thing they can kill or even threaten effectively.

  • 149 Later Polish. 4x Kn, 4x Cv, 2x Lh, 2x Cb. This may be the most laughable historical matchup ever: 8x Wb fighting an army of Kn/Cv/Lh.

  • 151 Teutonic Order. 4x Kn, 1x Cv, 2x Lh, 2x Cb, 1x Sp, 2x Aux. This army has exactly one element that the Prussian 8x Wb can threaten or kill (the Spear).

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Last Updated: April 2, 2000

Questions, comments, suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley,