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Variant Rules

Guerilla Warfare in DBA Campaigns

By Konstantine Trtiambelas

I'll start with an idea that arose a while ago, on how to best recreate guerilla tactics for the Welsh. Every time I pitted them against their Anglo Norman opponents they would loose to the walls of Sp and dismounted Kn (Bd). I am currently preping the Early Serbians who are going to have exactly the same problem against the heavier Byzantines and Early Hungarians. How can these two nations (and perhaps others) best use their traditional hit-and-run tactics within the boundaries of a DBA campaign?

This campaign variant only applies when the defender (Welsh or Early Serbian) is invaded; if they attack outside their boundaries, normal DBA campaign rules apply. For the purpose of the game and due to the pastoral/tribal nature of the people Wales and Serbia do not have towns. They are considered one area that gets invaded from the nearest base of the opponent (Nissa or Belgrade if the Byz. are invading Serbia, Shrewsbury or Chester for the Anglo Normans), and is conquered if the invader brings the defender out to a pitched battle and wins it.


The invader takes first turn; the idea is that he has to defeat his opponent in a pitched battle in order to conquer the region.

On a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6 both armies will face each other off and normal deployment and terrain DBA rules apply. If the invader wins, the region is conquered and the campaign is over.

If the die roll of the invader is other than 1 or 2, the defender takes his turn. He can do nothing, choose to offer battle, or take his Ambush roll; on a d6, a 1 or 2 indicates that the invading army has fallen to an ambush. A further roll on a d4 is taken to determine the number of elements lost.

Regardless of casualties from ambushes or battles, the invader will always lose one element of his choice at the end of each round, as if he were besieging a city (attrition in a hostile territory).


Invader again tries to bring his opponent to check. This time battle will occur on a roll of 1,2, or 3.

Defender also has increased chances for an ambush, if he chooses not to offer battle (1,2 or 3 on a d6).

Role attrition again (using 1D4) for the ambushed invader.


Invader rolls a d6. 1,2, 3, or 4 will give him his battle.

If no battle, then Defender rolls and has his ambush on the same results (1-4).

Atrition is taken (using 1D4), and the invading army has to retreat to Winter quarters.

The invading army can at any point choose to return to its base but that ends the campaign for that year, i.e. if the Normans retreat to Chester in Summer, they cannot reinvade in Fall.

The terrain changes according to how the battle is initiated. If the battle is a result of the invader's roll, the terrain is set as in normal DBA rules. Here it is assumed that with clever manouveuring he cornered his opponent who doesn't have time to respond. This is also the only chance for winning the campaign, the invader HAS to win a battle he brought about.

If the defender, on his turn, chooses to offer battle, things change. He will not loose his territory if he loses the battle and the terrain will mostly be bad going of his own choice (forest and slopes) in order to take advantage of his light troops. This situation is ideal when a successful ambush weakened his opponent the previous turn and this turn (if the invader remained in the area or failed to roll the required battle roll) he is moving in to finish him off.

At any point that the invader looses a battle (either one he initiated or one determined by the defender) he has to leave the region and the invasion is assumed to be over for that year.

I am fine-tuning these rules but so far seem to be working. The invader might fail to bring his opponent to face, take severe casualties after 1 or 2 ambushes (casualties always on a d4), and have to retreat before the year is out. Even if he rolls 1,2,3,4 in the Fall turn he might be too exhausted by attrition and ambushes so that the defender still stands a chance, even with neutral terrain placement. I am trying to simulate the time consuming and difficult proccess an invader would have to go through when attacking mountainous, remote, and forested regions such as Wales or Serbia. Comments and amendments always welcome.

Gamer Feedback

Vincent Tsao: I think the guerilla warfare ideas are great. Simple, like the main DBA campaign rules, with flavor. I have a couple of ideas to augment these. They are untested, off the top of my head, so beware.

Attrition in sieges only affects attackers, which seems right, since the defenders are protected by fortifications. Attrition in guerilla campaigns might not be so one-sided. Perhaps the attacker and defender should roll a die each turn. If the results are even, each loses a randomly determined element. Otherwise, the loser of the roll loses an element. The die roll might be modified by the terrain in the area.

And for the ambush, instead a D4, perhaps have a battle using rules like Lake Trasimeno or Arminius' ambush of Varus. The defender should plot exactly where the ambush forces are, and the attacker should march in road column across the board, escorting an element of baggage. Perhaps a die roll each tactical turn, modified by number of scouting (light) troops to see if the attackers detect the ambush. Otherwise, the defender springs it at will. Both sides should be allowed to voluntarily flee the field. The defender might want to flee if the attacker detects the ambush, or if the ambush miscarries some other way. The attacker may wish to flee if the ambush is successful. So elements that escape the board on their own bound do not count as lost in the battle or the campaign. No camp for the ambusher, otherwise standard DBA victory conditions. If one side succeeds in fleeing before losing four elements or the commander, that side also succeeds in avoiding a defeat. The battle is inconclusive. Standard guerilla warfare.

Hopefully, this will lead to ambushes being planned as much for an escape route as for the potential kill zone. And similar concerns for the attacker's march order.

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Last Updated: March 3, 2000

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