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Variant Rules

DBA Handicaps

Even if it can be chalked up to a learning experience, one-sided "competitive" games between two DBA gamers of widely disparate abilities and/or players at significantly different skill levels are seldom enjoyable. However, as in golf and other sports, it may be possible to provide an enjoyable and competitive game between players of different skill and/or experience levels through the use of handicaps. Handicaps can also be used to add color to games between players of equal skills, by allowing each player to employ one.

Two traditional DBA handicaps include allowing the less experienced/skilled player to add an extra PIP to the Initiative die roll and/or require the more experienced/skilled player to fight from a numerical disadvantage, such as spotting the opponent one or two elements against the victory conditions or fighting with 10 or 11 elements rather than the full 12. As another approach, attached is a list of proposed "handicaps," which can be diced for or selected from as agreed upon by the players:

  1. Lion Hearted* -- Handicapped player may assign a +1 to any single element within the handicapped army for the duration of the game. The bonus may be assigned to any element, but only applies if engaged in close combat or subject to distance shooting by the enemy (i.e., the +1 can not be used to modify distance shooting attacks on the opponent, since such attacks reflect archery skill, not enhanced morale). The bonus must be assigned to a specific element during the initial deployment phase.
  2. Resolve of Steel -- By invoking the handicap at the beginning of a bound, the handicapped army may ignore all recoil results for that bound. May only be used once per game.
  3. Battle Rage -- All elements in the handicapped player's army receive a +1 in close combat (only) during the bound in which the handicap is invoked. The handicapped play may invoke this one-time Battle Rage at the beginning of any bound in which one or more elements will engage in close combat.
  4. Good Omens -- All elements in the handicapped army receive a +1 during the first bound in which any element is engaged in close combat.
  5. Bad Omens -- All elements in the opponent's army receive a -1 during the first bound in which any element is engaged in close combat.
  6. Impetuous Leader -- Opponent's General becomes impetuous following a favorable close combat encounter, regardless of actual troop type, and remains so for the balance of the game. If Opponent's General is already a Knight or Warband, then reroll.
  7. Craven Leader -- If the opponent's command element is forced to recoil or flee, the opponent's General will abandon his army for the safety of the camp. The command element becomes an ordinary element of that type. The General does not count as lost unless/until the camp is captured, but all elements/groups require an additional pip to move after the general abandons his army
  8. Reenforcements -- The first element of the handicapped player's army that is lost is placed in the camp and may return to the army in the next bound as a reenforcement.
  9. Slack Guard -- Opponent's camp is poorly guarded (i.e. no +2 bonus to camp followers or other elements placed as a camp garrison).
  10. Treacherous Terrain -- At any point in the game, the handicapped player may place one normal sized piece of bad going terrain (representing soft boggy ground, or deep sand in arid climates) during his bound anywhere on the board that does not currently contain troops of either army.
  11. Fog of War* -- Command/control radius of opponent's general is reduced by half (600p/300p).
  12. Changing Winds of War -- Handicapped player may reroll any one initiative, distance shooting or close combat die. May be done only once per game.
  13. Ambush* -- Handicapped player sets terrain, deploys last, and moves first.
  14. Feet of Clay -- When invoked by the handicapped player at the beginning of an opponent's bound, the opponent's army may not move into close combat or enter a zone of control during that bound. May be used only once per game.
  15. Faithless Ally -- Handicapped player may designate any one element (except the general's element) in the opponent's army as a faithless ally at any point in the game. A faithless ally fights at -1, and will flee rather than recoiling as a result of close combat.
  16. Treacherous Ally -- Handicapped player may designate any one element (except the general's element) in the opponent's army as a treacherous ally on paper at the beginning of the game. If/when the opponent has lost at least one element and has suffered losses greater than the handicapped player, the handicapped player may declare the traitor, who will switch sides and fight normally for the handicapped player.
  17. Tide of Battle -- Handicapped player receives +1 modifier to the PIP roll for every opponent element lost in excess of his own losses. This modifier is not permanently gained, but may be lost as the balance of losses shifts.
  18. Strength in Numbers* -- Any element within the handicapped player's army may provide a +1 support bonus to any other (regardless of respective element types) when it is contiguous behind and facing the same direction. This bonus is not cumulative with other support bonuses.
  19. Uncertain Advance* -- Opponent subtracts 100p from the movement allowance for all elements during the initial five bounds of the game, and may not utilize second or subsequent movements.
  20. Struggle to the Death*-- Handicapped player must announce possession of this handicap at the beginning of the game, but may invoke it at any time thereafter. The handicap is invoked by declaring that a single close combat (in either player's bound) has become a "struggle to the death." At that point, both sides will remain loced in combat, treating any recoil result as a "push." A flee or destroyed result results in the immediate destruction of both elements.

The player claiming a handicap should roll on the above list and either announce the result if indicated (*) at the beginning of the game or record the result on a slip of paper, which is shared with the opponent when the handicap is invoked. Unless the handicap must be immediately announced, it need not be revealed to the opponent until it is invoked, triggered by the specified condition, or is otherwise made applicable.

Refinements to the above and ideas for alternative handicaps are welcome and can be sent to Chris Brantley at

Additional Handicaps

  • Marksman: One element of Bows can be designated as +1 for all distant shooting (but not close combat or non-shooting defense against enemy shooting). Suggested by Bob Beattie.

Other Forms of Handicaps

Bob Beattie: In some games we play there can be advantages to one player or certain troops are available but the player must bid PIPs. A bid of 6 PIPs means that no tactical moves can be made until the player has rolled 6 total on the PIP die. A 6 in one bound clears the debt. 6 bounds of a 1 puts the enemy in a strong position.

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Last Updated: Dec. 7, 2000

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