Paul Hannah's Sapa Inca (Litter)

A Guide to Unique
Elements in DBA

By Chris Brantley and Richard Moriarity

Tips and Guides > DBA Resources > Fanaticus

One of the things that makes ancient and medieval wargaming attractive to many gamers is the availability of "unique" troops, often with their own distinctive clothing, armor, and/or weaponry. It is this uniqueness, and the challenge that comes with modelling a unique troop type, that makes one army stand out from the next on the wargames table.

So what then are the most unique troop elements in DBA? Here is my informal (and unranked) guide based on a survey of the DBA army lists. I make no attempt to suggest appropriate tactics for these unique elements; my purpose is only to intrigue you with the possibilities of putting something new and different on the gaming table.

So lets wheel in the first on the list of unique DBA elements. Chariots are, by their nature, colorful additions to the gaming table. In DBA, you get three different flavors of chariots to model: heavy, light, and scythed.
Heavy chariots were typically drawn by four or more horses, mules or onagers and carried at least two men into action. A noble and his attendants could fling or shoot missiles from their mobile platform or step down to engage in hand to hand combat. For heavy chariots, you can look to the Minoan & Early Mycenaean (I/18), Syro-Canaanite or Ugaritic (I/20a), Western Chou and Spring & Autumn Chinese (I/32c), Neo-Assyrian Empire (I/45) lists, with four heavy chariot elements each. The Hittite Empire (I/24b) fields three of these bronze age tanks. Honorable mention goes to the Early Sumerian (I/1cd), Kassite and Later Babylonian (I/21b), Middle Assyrian & Early Neo-Assyrian (I/25b), Western Chou again (I/32ab), Later Hebrew (I/34c), Cypriot & Phoenician (I/35bc), Neo-Babylonian (I/44), Kushite Egyptian (I/46b), Neo-Assyrian Later Sargonid (I/51), Early Carthaginian (I/61), Classical Indian (II/3), Warring States and Ch'in Chinese (II/4acde) with two heavies each.

Light chariots are fairly common prior to 500 BC, but assume significant proportions in the army of the Mitanni (I/19), with six light chariots, followed closely by Vedic Indian (I/23) and Kyrenean Greek (I/56) with five. Hyksos (I/17b), Syro-Canaanite or Ugaritic (I/20b), New Kingdom Egyptian (I/22), Hittite Empire (I/24a), Middle Assyrian & Early Neo-Assyrian (I/25a), Later Mycenaean & Trojan War (I/26), Ancient British (II/53) and Scots-Irish (II/54) field armies that are one third light chariot. Three-chariot armies are found in Minoan & Early Mycenaean (I/18), Libyan Egyptian (I/38), Neo-Elamite (I/42), Gallic (II/11), Galatian (II/30a), and the last Celt off the rank is Caledonian (II/60).

Scythed chariots may conjure up visions of Ben Hur's chariot race, however, these machines of war with long blades attached to their wheel hubs were designed primary to break up enemy formations through impetuous collisions and not as platforms for missile fire. If you like the idea of scythes on your chariots, then the following lists are for you: Early Archaemenid Persian (I/60b), Later Archaemenid Persian (II/7), Seleucid (II/19abc), Galatian (11/30a) or Mithridatic (II/48).

While certainly not "unique" in it's desert environment, the Camel is easily distinquishable from the ubitiquous horse. Whether your preference is one hump or two, if you like camels, then the Tuareg (III/69) with 12! camel elements wins by a mile. The silver medal goes to Later Pre-Islamic Arab Nomad (II/23a) with four camel elements. The Early Bedouin (I/6c) take the bronze with three. The also-rans are Makkan, Dilmun, Saba, Ma'in and Qataban (I/8bc), Nobades, Blemmye or Beja (II/55bc), Christian Nubian (III/12) and Fanatic Berber (III/74) with two. Neo-Babylonian (I/44), Early Archaemenid Persian (I/60b), Seleucid (II/19c) and Hatra (II/22c) with one camel element apiece pale in comparison.

Once the rarest element in DBA, light camelry (2Cm) can now be found in Early Bedouin (I/6c), Characene (II/22d), Later Pre-Islamic Arab (II/abc), Nobades, Blemmye or Beja (II/55b), Dynastic Bedouin (III/53) and (no prizes for guessing) Tuareg (III/69).

One of our own beliefs is that no ancient wargamer can be truly satisfied unless and until there is an Elephant somewhere in the collection. And fortunately, DBA provides several opportunities to field these pesky pachyderms in a competitive army. If sheer volume is what you crave, the Classical Indian (II/3), Tamil Indian (II/42ab), Burmese (III/9), Hindu Indian (III/10), and Ghaznavid (III/63) lists each field three elephant elements.

Of course you can play Hannibal crossing the Alps with the elephants of the Later Carthaginian (II/32) list. Two elephants are also found in a number of other lists, including Sinhalese (II/42cd) Khmer and Cham (III/23), Medieval Vietnamese (III/59), Later Muslim Indian (IV/36), Malay or Sumatran (IV/37a) and Siamese (IV/40).

If one is sufficient, in Section I there is Vedic Indian (#23b), Early Vietnamese (#49d) and Meroitic Kushite (#58), and in Section II: Mountain Indian (#2), Alexandrian Imperial (#15), Numidian or Early Moorish (#40), Kushan (#46), Abyssinian & Horn of Africa (#62), Sassanid Persian (#69), Chinese Northern & Southern Dynasties (#79) and Hunnic (#80). You'll only find the Samanids (#43c) and Buyids (#57c) in Section III, and in Section IV there is Kwarizmian (#24), Javanese (#37c), and the army of Tamerlane (#75).

And don't forget the armies modeled on Alexander's conquests! (all Section II). Two elephants can be found in the armies of Eumenes (#16d), Seleukos (#19a) and the Graeco-Indians (#36b). Antigonos, Demetrios (#16), Antipatros, Polyperchon, Kassandros and Antigonos Gonatas (#18) are all satisfied with one, as are the Later Seleucids, the Ptolemaic armies (#20abc) and the army of Pyrrhos of Epeiros (#27).

War wagons are a particularly different type of element, and the lists provide for several unique and somewhat "colorful" variations:
The Early Archaemenid Persian list (I/60b) includes a war wagon element modeling a siege tower of Cyrus the Great. Demetrios (II/16b) can field a mobile tower too. The Hussite (IV/80) list has five of John Huss' armoured war wagons with gun/arrow slits. Other armies with warwagons include the Pecheneg (III/47), Medieval German (IV/13) and Later Hungarian with two, and the Khazar (III/16), Communal Italian (III/72), Anglo-Norman (IV/3), Post-Mongol Russian (IV/44) and later Polish (IV/66) all with one.

Artillery, ranging from ballista, bolt-throwers and catapults to early cannon and rockets, can be found in a number of army lists. The Phokians (II/5f), and Sung (III/61) and Ming Chinese lists can field two apiece.

Horde elements, whether representing peasants with improvised weapons or a pressed levy of doubtful enthusiasm are an opportunity to model something a bit different. The DBA armies that feature the largest number of the downtrodden are Sui & Early T'ang (III/20), and Post-Mongol Samurai, both fielding four. Two elements of the great unwashed appear in the Early Sumerian (I/1), Neo-Babylonian (I/44), Neo-Assyrian Empire (I/45), Sassanid Persian (II/69), Central Asian Turkish (III/11), Khazar (III/16), Breton (III/18), Volga Bulgar (III/32), Khitan-Liao (III/35), Communal Italian (III/72), Feudal English (IV/23) and Teutonic Orders lists.

Of course, there are any number of "elite" elements found within various army lists, such as the "Myrmidon" warband element of the Later Mycenean & Trojan War (I/26) list, the Shardana blades of the Libyan Egyptian list (I/38), the Companion knights and Hypaspists of Alexander the Great's Macedonian (II/12) list, the Falxmen of the Dacian (II/52) list, the mysterious Palestinian clubmen of Aurelian's army (II/74a), Arthur and his knights of the Round Table (II/81c), Viking (III/40) berserkers, the Varangian Guards and the Pecheneg light horse of the Nikephorian Byzantines (II/64) list, the Janissaries of the Ottoman (IV/55) list, and the six Longbowmen elements of the 100 Years War English (IV/62) for example. In the DBA scheme of things, they are not "elite" in the sense that their fighting capabilities are superior to other, more ordinary troops, however, you can dream.

If you're tired of the household variety Roman legionary, you might be interested in "imitation" type found in the Seleucid (II/19d), Galatian (II/30c), Numidian (II/40), and Mithridatic (II/48) lists.

Finally, our vote for most unique goes to the Litter element of which there are four in existence; one each with the Early Egyptian (I/2a), Mound Builder American (IV/10), Chanca (IV/70) and Inca (IV/81) lists. Good luck finding a manufacturer of these rarities. You will likely have to go down the scratchbuilding road!

Got your own favorite "unique" DBA element?  Drop Chris Brantley a note and we'll add it here.

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Last Updated: 28 Feb. 2005

Original essay by Chris Brantley; updated for DBA 2.2 by Richard Moriarity.  Comments, suggested additions, and/or critiques welcome.
Direct them to Chris Brantley at