Let us consider an army, one which overthrew all of its opponents for a lengthy period, inflicting crushing defeats; an army that created the largest land empire yet seen in history. I speak, of course, of the Mongols. True, the Mongols had many advantages that are hard to show in a tactical game. They had always penetrated their intended targets with spies for years before they struck, they often invaded in the depth of winter, when their intended victims huddled around their hearths. Any ethnic or religious divisions in the target nation were exploited. Sheer terror was spread before Mongol armies as a policy to stifle opposition. They routinely covered 50 miles a day for days at a time when most armies considered 10 miles a good dayıs march and rested every two or three days. The Mongols also had a disciplined army that followed orders. Not bunches of high born knights all demanding to be in the front line. Not blue blooded peacocks who refused to follow orders from someone whose bloodlines did not trace back to Charlemagne. These are all things hard to show on a table. So we are left with a tough horse archer army, but not a killer.
Admittedly, the Mongols were truly unusual in history, and they had a surfeit of brilliant generals. But even lesser horse archer armies were very tough. The usual problem of the horse nomads was their lack of political unity. The sedentary societies were usually able to bribe one bunch of horse nomads to fight the next. The end of Mongol expansion occurred when the Khanate broke down into four independent empires, each equipped with its own Mongol army. Finally, an enemy worthy of their steel. But on those occasions when the horse nomads unified under one leader, then the sedentary folks were in for trouble. Attilaıs Huns were instrumental in bringing the Western Roman Empire down, by chasing the Goths and Vandals into the empire before them. The Avars terrorized the steppes for many years. The Khazars ruled a large piece of Southern Russia for centuries, as a sparse warrior elite ruling over a multitude of subjects. The Magyars were the scourge of Middle Europe for a good part of the middle ages. And the Seljuk Turks cowed Christian and Moslem armies alike. Horse nomad fans out there can point out others I have not listed who had their time in the sun.
I think that the horse nomad/composite bow combination was the ultimate weapons system of the ancient and classical eras, not to be outdone until the development of efficient firearms. The usual cause of horse nomadsı decline was internal division, rather than external aggression.
This is not an argument for a change in the rules. I do not think light horse should be upgraded to a killer element. I do want to point out that rules are created by people, and people tend to concentrate on certain periods and armies. D.B.A. is a set of rules that favors Roman Legionaries in particular, and heavy shock troops in general. Actually, these rules handle light troops in a very nice way. I just donıt think they show the true power of the nomadic horse archer armies.
Regarding possible D.B.A. house rules, the only easy way to represent the Mongols at their apogee is to always let them deploy second. And if campaigning, let them move twice as fast on the strategic map. A more extreme house rule would be to let horse archers carry out ranged combat within 100 paces. If you do any of these, let your opponents play the Mongols some of the time.
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Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2000My thanks to Vincent Tsao. Comments and suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, firstname.lastname@example.org.