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Unofficial Rules Variants

Variable Effective Missile Range

By Daniel Duffy

Been doing some reading on-line and at the local library on pre-gunpowder missile ranges (pilum, javelin, sling, bow, crossbow and long bow). For the purposes of gaming - and accuracy - DBA has wisely chosen to ignore maximum possible ranges and use only battlefield effective ranges.

For example, long bows and equivalent composite bows could shoot light flight arrows to about 400 yards (480 paces, nearly 5 inches). That the game limits distance shooting for bowmen and war wagons to only 200 paces (500 feet or 167 yards) reflects reality.

So does DBA's apparently odd refusal to give psiloi distance shooting capabilities. Individual sharp shooting (direct "fire") performed by skirmishers ranged only about 50 yards (150 feet, 60 paces = 15 mm) which is included in the base depth for psiloi.

Additionally, other troops which used short range throwing weapons like pila, assegai, francisca and javelin (i.e warbands, blades, and auxilia) had effective ranges less than 100 feet (40 paces = 10 mm) which is also included in the unit's base depth.

So far so good.

However, "effective range" depended in large part on the vulnerability of the target. A long range missile weapon (sling, composite bow, cross bow and long bow) appear to all be effective against cavalry at a distance up to 200 yards (600 feet or 240 paces = 60 mm). However, they were effective against infantry only up to ranges of 100 yards (300 feet or 120 paces = 30 mm). For example, Warry describes Parthian horse archers riding to with in 100 yards of Roman legions before shooting and scooting. Yet evenly heavily armored French knights were vulnerable to longbow arrows at least out to 200 yards. The effective ranges of long bows, crossbows, sling and composite bows (whether on foot or on horseback ) were similar.

That horsemen are more vulnerable at greater ranges than infantry makes sense when you consider that horses are larger targets, more easily panicked, harder to protect, etc. DBA close combat modifiers already depend on whether a unit is attacking infantry or cavalry. Perhaps distance shooting should also reflect the type of target. Therefore I am recommending that bowmen and warwagons have distance shooting capabilities of 200 paces against cavalry and 100 paces against infantry targets.

Furthermore, I have previously suggested dividing cavalry and light horse into those armed with javelins (equites and genitours respectively) and those armed with bows (cataphracts and horse archers). Cataphracts and horse archers should also have variable distance shooting of 200 paces against mounted and 100 paces against foot.

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Last Updated: August 17, 2002

Comments and suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.