Making an Impact With Warband
"Warband give me the freedom to focus on my die rolling without the need to consider the tactical situation."
"Wild irregular foot that relied more on a ferocious charge than on mutual cohesion, individual skills, or missiles." The phrase brings to mind the Celtic gestaeti fanatics with their woad tattooes, mouth-foaming Viking berserkers, and the quick rush of Ancient Brit, Gallic or Dacian warriors against Caesar's Roman legions.
"Wild irregular foot" is also how DBA describes Warband, which in addition to Vikings and Celts, includes such diverse types as Scots and Picts, Prussians, Nubians, Goths, Chinese barbarians, Arabs, Jewish revolutionaries, and even Saxon huscarles. At first glance, they might be considered an inferior subset of Blades and Spear. What makes them different in DBA terms? Quite simply, Warband have the ability to overwhelm or "quick-kill" their more "regular" opponents on foot. Blades, Spear, and Pike are all at risk of being destroyed if their close combat total is even one die pip less than Warband.
This ability is deadly, but not altogether inevitable, since Warband have only a +3 combat modifier compared to +5 versus foot for Blades and +4 for Spear. Using a second rank of Warband in support can improve the odds by +1, but this shortens your battlelines and exposes your flanks. It also puts two elements at risk of destruction, rather than just one (or 1/2 of the victory conditions). Also, Warband are impetuous, which means they must follow-up their victories by moving forward after their recoiled foes. This also results in exposed flanks and makes Warband vulnerable to counterattacks with support.
In short, Warband are perfect for the player who likes decisive battles fought against long odds, who turns his nose up a complicated strategems, and who is willing to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of victory or death.
How Warband Matches Up
The following tables provides a percentage breakdown of the outcomes from close combat match-ups between single-ranked Warband and other DBA elements in good going. The second table demonstrates Warband's improved lethality when attacking with a second rank in support:
Selected Matchups With Double-Ranked Warband (+1 Support)
How do these numbers translate into tabletop tactics? Here are some notes on using Warband effectively against various DBA element types.
Warband vs. Artillery: Despite enjoying a better than 2-1 advantage in the critical "risk of destruction" ratio (11% versus 28%), Warband doesn't particularly like being a target of Artillery, recoiling 47% of the time.
Warband vs. Auxilia: Auxilia can absorb a Warband's charge on fairly equal terms, with one or the other recoiling 72% of the time. Auxilia gain the upper hand in bad going. All-in-all, Warband should be sent after more lucrative targets when possible.
Warband vs. Blades: Sending single-ranked Warbands against Blades is a losing proposition although lucky dice can produce some spectacular victories. The better tactic is to form your Warband in two ranks, where the odds of destroying your Blade foe rise to 28% against a mortality risk of 6%. Although you'll recoil over 50% of the time, that's not a problem if you adopt the philosophy "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." And the risk of being killed one in four encounters is enough to put a bead of sweat even on Caesar's brow.
Warband vs. Bow: Bow don't do particularly well against Warband, inflicting destruction only 3% of the time, while Warband will kill them 1 chance in 6 or force them to recoil 42% of the time. That makes Bow an attractive target for Warband.
Warband vs. Cavalry: As with most mounted troops, the best bet for Warband is to try and stay out of the way. Warband is ridden down in 1 of 6 encounters and recoils in 42% of collisions. Their odds of inflicting permanent damage on Cavalry is only 3%. Even if double-ranked, Warband at best hold their own against Cavalry, both having a 36% of forcing a recoil and a 6% risk of destruction.
Warband vs. Elephants: Apparently ferocious barbarians have this thing about pacyderms. Warband can't kill an Elephant and will only force it to recoil 28% of the time (presumably by yelling and banging their shields?). Whereas, Warband is trampled 50% of the time. I guess you could say that Warband's offensive potential versus Elephants is peanuts.
Warband vs. Knights: Knights use Warband for lance practice, destroying them 58% of the time while risking destruction only 1 chance in 36. Double ranked Warband are only slightly less vulnerable. Knights will ride over and destroy supported Warband 42% of the time; while Warband returns the favor only 6% of the time. Not a compelling match-up in either case if you are Warband.
Warband vs. Light Horse: Warband can't kill Light Horse, a good enough reason to avoid them, and will force them to recoil or flee only 42% of the time. Conversely, Light Horse will kill Warband 11% of the time and force a recoil 31% of the time. Hardly a productive match-up, unless you are just trying to keep the Light Horse occupied and out of your rear.
Warband vs. Pikes: If you see a single rank of Pikes within striking distance, charge!!! You'll destroy it 42% of the time in a heads-up battle or 58% of the time if you have 2nd rank support. If the Pike is also double-ranked, the odds reverse dramatically making Pike a prickly opponent.
Warband vs. Psiloi: Psiloi can be annoying since they can kill (3%) or force Warband to recoil (25%) with no risk of being destroyed. Meet them in rough terrain, and they can totally ruin your day. There is no percentage in tackling Psiloi, even double-ranked, since the worst they will do is flee.
Warband vs. Scythed Chariots: Warband are perhaps the reason scythed chariots exist, being cut up by them 72% of the time, whereas they are able to totally wreck the Chariot's plans only 28% of the time. No recoils here, it is slice and dice or crash only, in what is possibly the most decisive match-up in DBA, since both elements essentially have quick-kills against the other.
Warband vs. Spear: Spear are not well-suited to absorbing Warband charges. A single rank of spear will be overwhelmed 28% of the time by a single rank of Warband. Double-ranked Warband will walk over Spear 42% of time and risk a measly 3% chance of death. See Spear to your front? Charge!!!
Warband vs. Warband: Mano-a-mano. As you might expect from this even match-up, Warband vs. Warband is a shoving match with a decisive result only 4% of the time. In this particular case, it may actually be to your advantage to be recoiled, since your impetuous foe will follow and expose both flanks to overlaps.
Warband vs. War Wagons: A complete exercise in futility. The best that Warband can hope for it not to be forced to recoil when attacking these wagon fortresses. The only time Warband might consider attacking War Wagons is to keep them preoccupied and away from other more vulnerable parts of your army, but that carries a 4 in 36 (11%) chance of self-destruction.
The Classic Match-Up
The irresistable force meets the immovable object. That is the classic Warband match-up. And it most clearly expressed by the pairing of Warband and Blade; or more particularly Gallic, Galatian, German, Dacian, Pict, Scot, or Jewish Revolt Warband versus Roman Blades. Even Dark Ages warband such as the Franks or Goths gave late Roman and Patrician Blades the fits.
What Do Warband Fear?
If you are a true believer in Warband, then the correct answer is "death from old age." You can avoid realizing that worst fear by matching your Warband up against Knights, Scythed Chariots, Elephants, War Wagons, and high-rolling Blades, Cavalry, and other mounted troops.
The Morale of the Story:
If there is enemy a foot in good terrain, charge and charge again (preferrably in two ranks) unless it is double-ranked Pikes or Psiloi. Keep out of bad terrain. And avoid anything on four legs or wheels; the results are indecisive at best and at worst, quite fatal.
As for tactics, remember the shortest distance between point A and Z is a straight line and that if you move quickly enough, the battle will be over before the enemy can exploit your flanks. If you "bounce," keep trying. The best tactical advice, however, is provided by Ed Allen with his enjoinder to "roll sixes." And it doesn't hurt to dye your face blue, slap the tabletop loudly with your ruler several times for no apparent reason, and lean in menacingly towards your opponent, ruler in hand, whenever he or she reaches for the dice. Foaming at the mouth is also an option.
Picking a Warband Army
Warband are surprisingly underpresented in the DBA army lists. Only 52 armies have one or more elements, and only 16 have a majority of Warband elements. But never fear, all the classic warband armies are represented (Gauls, Early Germans, Dacians, Picts, Franks, etc.) if you get a rush from commanding Warband:
Gamers Comments and Feedback
Last Updated: August 31, 1999
Comments, suggested additions, and/or critiques are welcome. Direct them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.