What Is De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA)?

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De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) is a set of fast-play rules for ancient and medieval wargaming using miniature figures. The rules are authored by Phil and Sue Barker and Richard Bodley Scott and published by the Wargames Research Group. In addition to the basic game, DBA includes 310 army lists covering over 800 popular historical armies from the period 3000 BC to 1500 AD that can be used in the game. The 52 page rule book also includes simple rules for conducting campaign games and alternative rules for Big Battle and Giant Battle games.

What makes DBA distinct from most rules systems is that all armies, regardless of their historical numbers, are fielded in battle with twelve elements of 2-4 figures. Rather than using a point system as in many rules sets, the types of elements available to an army are based on a ratio of the predominant troop types in that particular army during the historical period represented. There may be one or more optional elements that a player can select from in fielding the twelve total. Another major distinction is that DBA is designed for fast play, with typical games lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

With only 25-50 figures per army and with its quick play format, DBA provides an excellent introduction for newcomers to the hobby of miniature wargaming. The simplicity of the rules belies the opportunities for complex strategy and despite the rules abstractions there is a "historical feel" to the game. The low cost of fielding an army allows you to dabble in different periods and collect/paint a variety of colorful figures. The small size of the gaming area (2 by 2 feet with 15mm figures) means games can be played on a kitchen table. The short duration of the game allows you to enjoy the hobby without neglecting your family and other obligations. The DBA rules are also written so that players who want a more detailed and larger game can use their DBA elements with the De Bellis Multitudinus and other Wargame Research Group rules without rebasing.

The rules (e.g. basing and movement scales) are designed primarily for use with 15mm or 25mm figures; however, they are easily adapted for use with 2mm and 6mm figures as well by increasing the number of figures used on the standard sized element bases. The basic ground scale is 1" = 100 paces (15mm or smaller) and one turn equals 15 minutes.

As noted above, an army is fielded as 12 elements (stands). Miniatures are based one, two, three or four to an element according to their types. DBA divides troop elements into basic types that reflect common fighting tactics and/or equipment types. The basic element types represent classic foot (i.e. Auxilia, Blades, Bow, Horde, Pike, Psiloi, Spear, Warband), mounted troops (i.e. Camelry, Cavalry, Elephants, Light, Heavy or Scythed Chariots, Knights, Light Horse), and special troop types such as Artillery and War Wagons. There is no attempt to delineate elite from inferior units.

All aspects of the game (combat, movement, etc.) are resolved with a modified 6-sided die roll and by reference to the Rules book.

The latest published version of DBA (Version 2.2, published in January 2004 by the Wargames Research Group) is available in most well-stocked wargaming shops and/or can be purchased directly from WRG or by mail order to major gaming retailers/wholesalers.

DBA traces its history back to an two page experiment set of rules by Phil Barker dubbed "De Bellis Societatis Antiquorum" that was demonstrated at gaming conventions in 1998 and 1989. The rules were designed as a "tonic for the jaded" to provide a fun, fast and challenging game as an alternative to the WRG series of ancients rules. The basic DBA game mechanisms gave rise to the De Bellis Multitudinus (DBM), De Bellis Renationis (DBR), and Hordes of the Things (HOTT) rules. The first commercial edition of DBA (DBA 1.0) was published in 1990. It was followed by DBA 1.1 in March 1995. Two experimental versions (DBA 1.2 and 1.22) were released as amendment sheets to DBA 1.1 in 1998-1999. DBA 1.22 was adopted by the designors of DBA On-Line as the basis for that on-line gaming program. Playtesting feedback of the DBA 1.2/1.22 amendments was captured in the DBA 2.0 edition of the rules published in Feb. 2001. Further experimental revisions were playtested as DBA 2.1 in 2003, leading to publication of the current edition or DBA 2.2 in January 2004.

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Last Updated: May 28, 2004

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