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Unofficial Rules Variants

Knight vs. Blades Close Combat Variants

Editor's Note: There is some feeling among many DBA regulars that Blades are too strong in close combat with Knights, primarily because Blades are not subject to a quick-kill like other foot when facing Knights. To correct this perceived imbalance, many players adopt a variant rule, such as the following:

David Kuijt outlines what seems to be the most popular variant rule, which provides DBA Knights with a basic quick-kill capability over Blades, as in DBM.

Stan Olson: To make Blades elements respect Knights--and they must have, as Romans adopted Knights and over Blades, eventually--here is my proposed DBA rule for Knights versus Blades:

Do not change the Combat Outcome for Blades. Instead, forbid Blades from causing overlaps of any kind to Knight elements. Legal flanking attacks by Blades will still be effective against Knights (in every way).

I think this will make DBA Knights effective as they must have historically been.

Chris Brantley: Through discussions in the DBA Resource Page and Fanaticus, I have compiled the following short list of DBA Knights versus Blades Close Combat Variants:

  • Knights Quick-Kill Blades (per David Kuijt's rule above)
  • Medieval Knights Quick-Kill Blades (rationale: only impetuous medieval knights after 300 AD were historically able to ride-down foot with regularity).
  • 3Kn Quick-Kill Blades (rationale: this is another way of expressing the Medieval Knights variant. Knights designed at 4Kn tend to be ancient cataphracts, such as Parthians, who were seldom successful in riding down formed Roman infantry)
  • Knights Quick-Kill Blades when attacking only (rationale: Knights should only have quick-kill capability when engaged in an impetuous charge, and not when on the defensive. This rule also reflects historical instances where Roman Legions on foot successfully advanced to drive off mounted Parthian cataphracts.).
  • Knights Quick-Kill Blades, But Blades Can Form Second Rank With +1 Support Bonus (rationale: this mirrors the relationship of Knights versus Blades in the DBM rules)

Paul Rice: I consider the best option:

Don't give knights quick kill against blade, and remove the knights' quick kill against pike and spear.

Many gamers have pointed out the dubiousness of giving knights quick kill over spear and pike (and we've all seen Braveheart...), but most then advocate giving knights quick kill ability over blade as well, rather than taking it away in the presence of spear and pike. My proposal leaves knights with the ability to quick kill psiloi, auxilia, warband, and bow. That is, they could quick kill the light and medium infantries, but not the heavies.

I've often wondered if Phil Barker didn't give knights quick kill against blade because of the inability of the Parthian cataphracts to punch through the Roman square at Carrhae? I recently witnessed a game of Warhammer Ancients where Parthian knights (cataphract) made a nice charge into the Roman lines, routing all the skirmishers in front. When they got to the organized legionary, a heavy volley of pila shattered the cataphracts and put them out of the game. Wonder if this is what Barker had in mind?

Jim Davis: Keep Kn combat rule against Blades as is, end QK against against Spear and Pike, but disallow these units the ablility to turn and face Kn attacking their flanks and rear. This would allow these units to stand up historically well against frontal charges and would show how these formations of heavy infantry are vunerable to flank and rear charges by heavy horse.

David Kuijt responds: Paul Rice and Jim Davis have suggested removing the Kn QK versus pike and spear. While this answers one concern with the current rules (Blade being more effective than spear or single-ranked pike when defending against Knights), it totally changes the dynamic of Knights vs. Pike and Spear, and makes all heavy foot immune to Knights. In the Medieval period this is totally incorrect. Pike and Spear were very wary of knights in the medieval period, and without deep formations were at great risk.

John Meunier: I think David's comments on the problems with taking away the QK vs. spear and pike are good ones. I also see the concern of Blade being too knight resistant (or rather that knights are not more effective against blades than cavalry), but think the QK vs. Blade is too harsh a solution. How about instead making the Knight +4 vs. Blades. It would make the Knights a real threat to blades, but not an automatic one, particularly against those who back their Blades with Psiloi, which was the Roman response to the emergence of Knight armies.

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Last Updated: May 7, 1999

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