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Unofficial Rules Variants

Victory Conditions

Rich Kurtin has observed: "Ever watch the game boil down to the enemy risking the minimum to kill off the one last element he needs to break you. Or gamble like mad until he has lost 2 or 3 elements then start thinking because he knows the army won't leave until he loses 4?"

Unlike DBA's victory conditions, which mandate that an army breaks when it has lost four elements (if more than enemy loses) and/or a general, historical commanders didn't know exactly if and when their enemy would break and were therefore forced to adopt and execute a more consistent battle plan.

Moreover, historically, there were times when armies fled the field having suffered only minimal casualties and other occasions when they fought on to the bitter end despite horrendous losses.

To reflect this, as an alternative to the current DBA victory conductions, try the following variants:

Variant One--Cumulative Loses

By Rich Kurtin

During every bound that you lose an element roll 2D6 at the end of the bound to see if the army breaks. If the modified result is higher than 10, then you've lost the battle. To reflect the negative morale effects of cumulative loses, the die roll is modified as follows:

Each Element Lost +1
Lost CnC/General +3
Lost Camp/Baggage +2
Lost Camp Follower +1
Superior/Inferior Commander (Opt.) -1/+2

During any bound in which both attacker and defender have lost an element, defender must roll first. If the defender passes the break check, the attacker must then roll.

For example, King Harold's beleaguered Anglo-Danish lose a Spear element in their bound of turn seven. They are now down three elements (+3) and King Harold has fallen to a Norman arrow (+3). Thus, the beleaguered Saxon huscarls and fyrd will call it a day unless you roll a 2-4 on 2D6.

Similarly, the Roman Legate Stupidicus and his Middle Imperial legion approaches the Gothic laager in column and sends forward a lone Psiloi element to determine their strength. The unsupported Psiloi are ridden down by Visigoth and Alan cavalry lying in ambush (+1). Stupidicus must check at the end of his bound and rolls 2D6 with a result of 10 (+1)=11. Realizing that discretion is the better part of valor, Stupidicus decides to withdraw from the field before he gets in over his head.

Finally, contending Macedonian and Hellenist Greek pike phalanxes have spent the better part of the day in a pushing and shoving match. Gradually the Macedonians have gotten the upper hand, inflicting four casualties (+4) on the Greek line through effective use of their cavalry. At the end of the bound in which they suffered their latest casualty, the Greek command would have to roll 2-7 to stand their ground.

Variant Two - Comparative Morale

By Rich Kurtin

After each bound in which an element is lost (by either side), each player rolls 2D6. The player who has suffered the larger number of lost elements modifies his die roll by -1 for each element of difference. (e.g., -1 if you have lost 3 elements to the opponents 2). Each player also subtracts 5 for a lost general/CnC, 2 for a lost camp, and 1 for lost camp followers. If your modified total is 1/2 that of your opponent, your army has lost heart and you have been defeated. If your modified total is double that of your opponent, you are the victor. Otherwise the fighting continues.

For example, Army A has suffered four elements lost to the enemy's two, and will roll 2D6-2. The opponent, Army B has lost it's General/CNC, and therefore rolls 2D6-3. A rolls 5-2=3. B rolls 7-5=2. Neither opponent has doubled the other's result, so the fighting continues.

One obvious drawback to this method is that it could result in a battle of mutual annihilation if both sides suffer similar loses and roll similar morale die. Of course, as the numbers of loses mount, the opportunies for a modified result that can be easily doubled increases.

Random Army Breaks

By Tony Stapells

In DBA virtually nothing is guaranteed. Your knights will almost certainly ride down those pesky psiloi standing in the open...but it still is possible that you'll roll a one and they'll roll a six. Distressing, but obviously your knights discovered a small patch of boggy ground. (Which is why I completely and utterly disagree with players who remove this fog of war element by using D4 or average dice for combat orcommand pips. You want certainties? Go play chess - not DBA).

So why then is the army breakpoint always 4? This leads to unrealistic desperation maneuvers to kill that last element. Admittedly there is no guarantee that the last element will be destroyed, but should a general know that the enemy will break at exactly 25% losses?

So, amend the break rule to a die roll. After the end of a player's bound, the player will roll an average die. If the die is less than the number of losses he has suffered, then his army has broken and he has lost the game. I think this nicely simulates the uncertainty that a general would face when commanding an army. How much punishment can the take? It would also simulate battle weariness. The longer a battle goes on, the greater the chance that you will eventually roll low.

Gamer Feedback

Alex Aimette: We did try the random end variant proposed by Tony Stapells, and really enjoyed it. Briefly, at the end of your bound, you roll an average die vs the number of elements lost, and if it is lower, your army flees. So starting on the turn when I'd lost three elements, I began to roll, and managed to pass it until I lost 5 elements worth of troops. It removed a 'gamey' aspect of the game without any real complexity, and it made each bound very tense!

Variable Victory For DBA

By Harry Dudrow

I wrote this little heresy shortly after DBA first came out. The idea is to portray those ancient battles where, on the one hand, armies ran away early, and in others fought almost to the last man. It is primarily intended for campaigns, but can also be used for tournaments and fun games. To date, in about twenty five playtests the side that would have lost under the basic rules has come back to win twice. However, in several cases it has resulted in very Pyrric victories for the winners. The only drawback so far is that it can sometimes lead to longer games.

Run or Fight?

If at the end of any bound, one side has lost either its General or 3 elements, and has also lost more elements or equivalents than the enemy, he must test to continue. To do so he must make a modified die roll that exeeds the number of elements lost; the loss of a General counting as four elements, a camp two. If the die roll suceeds the game continues, and he does not have to check again until he suffers another loss. If the die roll fails, the game is over.

Add or subtract from the die roll for each of the following that applies:

  • +1 for each enemy element destroyed this bound.
  • +1 if counting a lost camp, and that camp is either 1,200 paces from any element of your army, or is both 600 paces from any element of your army and also beyond a hill, a wood, a built area, or fortification.
  • +2 if in a campaign, and half or more of the remaining elements of your army have no clear path of retreat to their own or a neutral table edge.
  • -1 if testor has not destroyed any enemy elements.

In a game involving larger armies, determine one third as stated in DBA 1.0 rules and divide by six. Every time the sum of that number is reached, a test will be required.

The loss of a General does not automatically end the game. However, since his loss counts as four elements it will be hard to survive. The loss of the General element of an allied contingent does not cause a variable victory roll; instead it is dealt with as per the campaign rules.

Example A: At the end of a bound player A has lost 3 elements and destroyed none. He must now make a modified die roll of 4 or better. He roll a 4, modified by -1 for no enemy destroyed. The modified roll is 3, the game is over.

Example B: At the end of a bound player B has lost 4 elements, but destoyed 2 this bound. He he must now make a modified roll of 5 or better. He rolls 3 modified by +2 for 2 enemy destroyed this bound for a modified roll of 5. The game goes on.

This variant was previously printed in the "Messenger", the newsletter of the HMGS/PSW region.

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Last Updated: Sept. 8, 1999

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