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Unofficial Rules Variants

Big Battle DBA Rules

Introduction

DBA players who enjoy the fast-play ease of the DBA game mechanism may also occasionally wish to fight larger battles with a greater number of figures on the board. Larger battles also allow more than two players to participate in a game. The Big Battle DBA Variants provide a mechanism for expanding the number of troop elements in play and/or increasing the number of players.

Bob Beattie has collected various ideas and proposals for Big Battle DBA for an article in the Courier magazine.

The following are suggested rules for Big Battle DBA. In several instances, alternate rules are provided and gamers are encouraged to adapt these variants for their own purposes.



Variant One -- Big Battle DBA by Mike Demana, as edited and modified by Chris Brantley

Unless altered by the variant rules below, all the standard rules of DBA shall apply.

Army Composition

Armies used in the Big Battle DBA Variant can be selected in any of the following ways:

  • Double, triple, etc. the element distribution in a current DBA army list. (e.g., a 36 element Big Battle DBA Arab Conquest Army would be comprised of 9 x Cav, 6 x Light Horse, 18 x Warband, 3 x Bow/Psiloi).

  • Add historically appropriate armies as "allies" to an approved DBA army. (e.g., Early Spartan army fighting with an Early Hoplite Greek ally army)

  • Use a mutually agreed upon points system to purchase both an approved DBA core army and additional elements. A 200 point game will average approximately 24 elements, a 300 point game will average approximately 36 elements.

  • Use a historical scenario, determining the number and type of elements according to the actual order of battle based on a fixed scale (e.g. 1 element = 1000 men).

  • Agreement of the parties or by specification of a game umpire.

  • Any combination of the above.

Within the Big Battle army, one 12 element command/army shall be designed as the principal or core force, whose commander also serves as the "Commander-in-Chief." Other commands are then designated by the scenario, umpire, or players as either "subordinate" or "ally" under the command of their own General. Subordinate commands are typically of the same nationality/origin as the principal command and enjoy greater cohesion and loyalty as a result. Allied commands are typically armies of different nationality/origin who have joined forces to honor an obligation or treaty, to achieve common goals or resist a common foe, or as mercenaries.

Alternate: If an army is comprised of one or more subordinate (but not allied) commands, then elements can be regrouped between commands prior to the game as follows: All mounted troops can be collected in one command. All light troops (psiloi or auxilia) can be collected in one command. Certain close order troops (pike, spear, or blade) of the same type can be collected in one command. All elephant, war wagons and/or artillery can be collected in one command. When reorganizing an army, however, all generals should end up with an approximately equal number of elements in their commands.

Gaming Area

The standard DBA area is 24 inches square for 15mm figures. For Big Battle DBA, maintain a depth of 24 inches, but add 12 inches of width for every 12 elements added per side. For example, battles involving 24 elements aside would be played on a board 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep. Battles involving 36 elements aside would be played on a board 4 feet wide by 2 feet deep.

Deployment

The deployment rules are modified as follows to reflect the increased number of players and the widening of the playing area (e.g. 36 or 48 inches by 24 for 15mm).

All players dice. The low scorer chooses and places terrain according to the normal rules and then divides the two opposing base lines into three equal sections, numbered 1-3 and 4-6. The highest scorer then dices for his base line section and deploys his troops. The highest scorer's allies/subordinates then go in order of their initiative roll to deploy troops either behind a friendly deployed command or in a base line section either to the immediate left or right of friendly deployed troops. Once all troops and allies of the highest scorer are deployed, then the process is repeated for the lowest scorer and his allies/subordinates on the opposite base edge.

Alternate: Either commander-in-chief may elect to send one of his subordinate commanders on a flanking march. These troops are not deployed on the table, but are held in reserve until their specified time of arrival. The flank edge and the turn on which the flanking command is expected to arrive should be recorded secretly by the commanding general in writing, during initial deployment. The specified turn of arrival may be turn six or any later turn, but not earlier. When the specified turn is reached, the commanding general must roll 1d6 to determine whether the flank march arrives as planned. If the result is 1-3, the flank unit arrives as expected and may deploy. If the result is 4-6, the flank unit is delayed by an additional turn. The same check should be made each successive turn until the flank command successfully makes its appearance. Commands entering the gaming area via flank march may deploy within a 6 inch radius of the midpoint of the flank edge, but not within the immediate zone of control or recoil of any enemy element.

If the opposing commanders-in-chief have both designated subordinate commands for a flank march by the same flank, then the command which arrives first will deploy normally. The opposing flank command will counter-march, arriving at the nearest friendly base edge section no sooner than 5 turns after the first flank command successfully deploys. On the fifth turn, one 1d6 to determine if the returning unit has arrived. If the result is 1-3, the flank unit arrives and may deploy. If the result is 4-6, the returning unit is deplayed by an additional turn. This rule is adopted rather than fighting secondary battles between flanking forces who may meet off-board.

<Alternate: Either commanding general may elect to deploy one of his subordinate commands in or behind any available terrain concealment. All elements of a concealed command must be concentrated in or behind the concealing terrain (e.g. forest, hill, deep ravine, etc.) within a 12 inch radius and not disbersed across the board. The concealed command need not be placed on the table until one or more of its elements falls within the unobstructed line of sight of an opposing element.

Sequence of Play

The sequence of play is modified by adding an initiative roll each turn to determine the order that players/commands within each Big Battle army will conduct their movement and resolve combat. The player rolling the highest initiative on that side will move/fight his elements first, followed by the next highest, etc. The Commander-in-Chief may elect to defer initiative for his personal command until one or more allies/subordinates with lower initiative have moved and conducted combat, but may not "trade-up" to move/fight in lieu of a subordinate/allied command with higher initiative.

Tactical Movement

The normal Tactical Movement Rules are used with the following modifications and clarifications:

Each general with a 12 element command will roll 1d6 for movement pips. Generals whose direct commands exceed 12 elements may add +1 to the result for every 4 elements in excess of 12.

The Commander-in-Chief may allocate up to one-half of his movement pips per turn from his principal command to any element or group of a subordinate/allied command that is both within 12 inches of their commander and the commander-in-chief.

Subordinate/allied generals may not allocate their movement allowances to elements or groups within another command.

Units of different commands may not join together for a group move.

Victory Conditions

The first side to end a turn having lost either its commander in chief and/or one-third of its total elements, and also having lost more elements than the enemy, loses the battle.

The defeat of an allied or subordinate general does not trigger the victory conditions. However, when an ally or subordinate general's element is destroyed, the morale of that general's command must be checked. Roll 1d6 and apply the results indicated in the chart below:

1 Panicked All elements within the command move to the rear directly avoiding enemy elements by fastest possible speed each turn, until crossing board edge, when they are counted as lost elements.
2 Disheartened All elements retire their maximum move distance for one turn facing the enemy. Thereafter, elements will decline to move toward enemy elements for the balance of the game, and will fight with a -2 modifier in close combat if contacted.
3 Stunned All elements within the command will stand in place or voluntarily retire for 1d6 turns, but thereafter may move normally. They fight with a -1 close combat modifier for the balance of the game.
4 Uncertain All elements stand in place, declining to move toward enemy elements for 1d6 turns. Otherwise they fight normally.
5 Unaffected All elements within the command fight and move normally.
6 Vengeful All elements within the command move normally and fight with a +1 close combat modifier.


Encampments

In the case of an unified army with subordinate commands, there will only be one designated camp, and it's loss will effect all elements of the army as per normal rules.

In the case of an army comprised of a principal army and allied commands, there will be a seperate camp for the principal and each allied command. The loss of a camp requires that command to check its morale by the same procedure used in the case of the death of an allied general. The loss of an allied camp counts as one element lost in addition to the lost of its camp follower or other garrison.

Alternate: Allied units which are designated for flank march do not have to place a camp on the gaming area.

Alternate: Camps may be concealed by appropriate terrain, in which case their position along the baseline should be noted on paper prior to the start of the game. The camp must be placed on the game table once it falls within the unobstructed line of sight of any enemy element.


Variant Two -- Big Battle DBA by a member of the DBA Society of Western Pennsylvania

The club in my area uses mostly "double DBA", played on a 3'x2' board. The armies are each 2 12-element armies (each with its own subgeneral) plus one more stand representing the commander-in-chief ("C-in-C"), or 25 elements in all.

The normal command radius applies ("...an extra point is needed if...all of the element or group to be moved is more than 1,200p from the general's element, or is both more than 600p from it and also beyond obstacles....") except that the C-in-C can be used as a general for troops of either or both sub-armies. That is, an element within 1,200p of the C-in-C but more than 1,200p from its own general is still OK.

We haven't been playing with camps or camp followers, they just don't seem to work well with double-sized armies.

One of the nice things about this setup is that you can have up to 4 players in a game, although that gets a bit unwieldy.

Oh, and the other thing about double DBA is our deployment rule - both sides dice, and the high scorer places 6 elements, then the other side places 6, then the first side, etc until both armies are deployed. The army which had to deploy the first 6 elements gets to move first. This is a fairer system than that included in DBA 1.1. Unfortunately, it doesn't include a system for creating random terrain, so I'm working on that. My terrain system will eventually be put up on my wargaming web page and the house rules/articles from the newsletter/etc. from The DBA Society of Western Pennsylvania may also end up on my page.


Variant 3 -- Highly Irregular DBA by Paul Liddle

Highly Irregular DBA is a set of rules for expanded DBA battles based on 24 element armies published on-line by the DBA Society of Western Pennsylvania in their society newsletter. Highly Irregular DBA includes rules for variations in victory conditions, command quality (reflected in type of die used to roll PIPs), regular vs. irregular troops, and various ploys and strategems.


Variant 4 -- DBA 1.0 On Battles With Larger Armies

Before DBA Version 1.1 and DBM, there was DBA Version 1.0, which includes a brief section discussing how DBA could be used to fight battles between unequal armies and battles with larger armies. The crux of DBA 1.0's big battle variant was a slight modification of the victory conditions to keep them proportionale to the size of the force engaged:

"The first side that at the end of a bound has lost either its general or 1/3 rounded down of its original elements, and has also lost more than the enemy, loses the battle. A camp still occupied by enemy counts as a loss of 1/6 rounded down of the original number of elements extra to the loss of its camp follower or other garrison. Elements that recoil or flee from a camp or across a board edge are counted as lost, although they may reappear in the next turn of a campaign."

All other basic rules were applicable. Bob Beattie has reproduced this excised section of DBA 1.0 for reference.


Variant 5 -- David Kuijt's Big Battle DBA Rules

Latest version available at http://www.umiacs.umd.edu/~kuijt/dbaDocs/BigBattle.html.

These rules are intended to allow larger battles than the small,12-element affairs of standard DBA, without going to the additional complexity of DBM. In my gaming group we often have an odd number of players; we tend to prefer fighting two-on-one battles with one player playing two DBA armies facing two other players with a DBA army each.

Unless specifically altered by the variant rules below, rules are standard DBA 1.1.


Army Composition

Armies used in the Big Battle DBA Variant can be selected in any of the following ways:

  • Double, triple, etc. the element distribution in a current DBA army list. (e.g., a 36 element Big Battle DBA Arab Conquest Army would be comprised of 9 x Cav, 6 x Light Horse, 18 x Warband, 3 x Bow/Psiloi). Note that the choices don't have to be identical, so long as they are legal by DBA army standards. One HYW English Army might choose the Cv option and 7 archers; another might choose the Bd and only 6 archers plus an Arty.
  • Add historically appropriate armies as "allies" to an approved DBA army. For example, Early Spartan army fighting with an Early Hoplite Greek ally army; or Later Swiss as an ally to Italian Condotta
  • Use a historical scenario, determining the number and type of elements according to the actual order of battle based on a fixed scale (e.g. 1 element = 1000 men).
  • Agreement of the parties or by specification of a game umpire.
  • Any combination of the above.

The forces available may be split into various commands, so long as each command contains only forces available to one nationality. Commands may end up with more or less than 12 elements if desired, but both sides should have the same number of commands, based upon one command per 12 elements. Special scenarios may modify this and allow one side to have more or less commands than the other side, as mentioned in the optional rules

The Map

The standard DBA area is 24 inches square for 15mm figures. For Big Battle DBA, play with a mapboard that is 30" deep. Play with a width of 24" base but add 12 inches of width for every 12 elements extra after the first 12. For example, battles involving 24 elements aside would be played on a board 3 feet wide by 2.5 feet deep. Battles involving 36 elements per side would be played on a board 4 feet wide by 2.5 feet deep.

Fiddle with the size and amount of terrain until it feels right.

Deployment

The deployment rules are modified as follows to reflect the increased number of players and the widening of the playing area (e.g. 36 or 48 inches wide for 15mm).

All players dice. The low scorer chooses and places terrain according to the normal rules. The players flip a coin for sides. The loser places one command first, then they alternate placing a single command until done. The player who placed the first command moves first.

Each command has its own camp. The camp from a command should start within the command radius of the general of that command, and should be deployed approximately behind that command on the field. Like all camps, it must be on the friendly baseline.

An alternative deployment system is described in the optional rules section.

Command and Control: Pips

A command corresponds in most ways to an army in DBA. One element in each command is designated as the general. 1d6 is rolled for pips for each command on the shared allied turn. Pips may not be used for any other commands; command radius is calculated from the single general of that command only. Units from different commands may not be moved as a group. Otherwise movement as in DBA.

Demoralization Level (DL) for a Command

Each command has a Demoralization Level, set at 1/3 of its elements (ignoring camp followers, if any, and treating the General's element as a single element) and rounding off. For example, a command with 13 elements would have a DL of 4.33, round down to 4. A command with 14 elements would have a DL of 4.67, which rounds up to 5. If it loses 4 elements, it is not demoralized. If it loses 5 elements, it is demoralized.

The loss of a General counts as 2 elements lost towards demoralization. While a camp is occupied by the enemy it counts as two additional elements towards demoralization. The loss of a "camp follower" element, if any, counts as a single element towards demoralization.

Effects of Demoralization on a Command

Demoralized troops suffer a -1 to all combat factors. The general's element of a demoralized command does not suffer this penalty.

Any element of a demoralized command will move towards the board edge in the fastest and safest way unless pips are spent on it. It takes +1 pip to move a demoralized unit or group into contact with enemy forces. 1 pip (per group) suffices to hold a group in contact with the enemy. Note that troops that are engaged in combat may not withdraw unless they are faster than their opponents. This is still true even if no pips are spent on the units in question.

Demoralized troops that suffer a recoil result in combat treat it as a flee result, regardless of their troop type.

Rout Level for a Command

Once a command has taken losses of at least 1/2 its elements (determined in the same way as for Demoralization Level) it is considered Routed. All elements of that command are removed from play at the end of that turn.

Victory Conditions

If a turn ends and all the commands of one army are Demoralized or Routed, that army is defeated.


Optional Rules

Alternative Deployment

As an interesting alternative to normal deployment, have players roll to determine who is attacking and who defending. The attacking player must write an entry location for each entering command on his edge of the board (giving a distance from one edge of the map, or any other easily verified, unique location). Each command must have a different entry point. Once the attacker has written down his entry points the defending player deploys all his forces as normal. The attacker takes the first turn, and must move each command onto the map in a single column entering at its entry point.

Any troops that do not enter in the first turn must enter in the second turn (in a column entering at the entry point) or are lost (and count against that commands demoralization threshold). After all attacking troops have entered, place a camp at the entry point of each column.

March Moves

Big-battle DBA can start with forces quite far from each other; in some scenarios reinforcements may enter far from the enemy. To accelerate play when enemies are entirely out of contact, use the following optional rule for March Moves.

A march move represents the movement of forces out of contact with the enemy. To be eligible for a March Move, forces must meet the following criteria:

  • Must begin and end their move at least 8" from the nearest enemy unit, and be at least 8" from any enemy unit throughout the move.
  • All troops moving together in a March Move must be organized in a one-element-wide column.

March moves allow a column out of contact with the enemy to move into engagement range much more quickly than normal, as follows:

  • A group using a March Move moves twice as far as normal for the speed of the slowest unit in that column. For example, a column of Blades (normally 200 pace move) using a March Move would move 400 paces.
  • The cost of a March Move is one pip. If desired, a group that has used a March Move may make one more March Move (at an additional cost of one pip). Two March Moves is the maximum on any given turn. Each March Move is subject to the usual restrictions listed above.
  • Elements that make a March Move may not make a tactical move (a non-March move) in the same turn. Bonus Road Movement from being a group containing a General's element on a road is considered tactical movement, and cannot be used by any elements that make a March Move on the turn they March Move.

Time Limits on Battles

A turn represents 30 minutes (both sides taking their bound in sequence). There are normally 12 hours of daylight, which works out to 24 turns. Battles rarely started on time, and numerous factors could delay things. At the end of the last turn the game is over -- night falls. If this is a campaign game with seasons, use 12 + 2d6 turns for length of the battle for Spring and Fall battles; 18 + 2d6 turns for Summer battles.

Variable Number of Commands

Historical armies varied in how much control their commanders had, and how well they responded to commands. Some armies were tremendously well-drilled, capable of feigned flights, of major redeployment in the face of the enemy, and similar controlled efforts. Other armies were hugely unwieldy, ungainly, and responded poorly to any attempt to redeploy troops before battle.

For players who wish to experiment with some variability in army size and controllability, here is a simple mechanism. Remove three elements from an army (in some systematic fashion, so proportions are still in accordance with those in a normal 12-element DBA army as far as possible) and allow it to designate one of its elements as an additional commander, the same in all ways as its other commanders. Allow the more controlled force to split its elements between its greater number of commanders as desired. Alternatively, allow a commander with an ungainly force to field one less commander than normal, but gain an additional three elements.

As an example, a force of Mongols is facing the Polish in a 24-element (per side) game. The Polish were not particularly known for being more, or less, unwieldy than other armies, so they choose to take 2 commands as normal for 24 elements. The Mongols, on the other hand, were tremendously well-organized and drilled, and capable of very complicated maneuvers in the face of battle. So the Mongol commander takes 21 elements instead of 24.

Another example: in a 36-element game between Early Imperial Romans and Early Germans. The German commander adds another 3 elements of Warband (39 elements total) and only has two commands.


Variant 6 -- Ken Blackley's Medieval Big Battle DBA

Ken Blackey has collected a set of experimental rules for Medieval Big Battle DBA, which he describes as follows:

This version of Big-Battle DBA is really a combination of DBA and De Bellis Multitudinis (DBM), but several rules are also taken from Wim Oudshoorn's excellent "Warweyck" ruleset, which combines DBM/DBA with Avalon Hill's "Kingmaker", to produce a full-scale campaign based on the Wars of the Roses.

It includes a variety of provisions adapted from DBM including rash troops and halts, command breakpoints, ambushes and flank marches, and Hordes.


Variant 7 -- Craig Nichols (a.k.a. Ixanian) Big Battles Variant

According to Nichols, the main reason for these DBA Big Battles is to include all players in DBA campaign battles, so that the players who elect not to offer battle in a given turn are not punished by having to sit around while others play.


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Last Updated: Jan. 10, 2000

Comments and suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, c.brantley@ieee.org.