Sunday, 28 April 2013

"Less is more" - Discuss.

My friend and regular gaming partner Keith managed to break his arm skiing recently. So with him being off work for some time we decided it would be a good opportunity to meet up for a game or two of something. Initially we had decided upon a bit of a 'what if?' game of BKC with the premise that Italian troops had taken part in 'Operation Sealion'. However Keith had caused a bit of shock in wargaming circles by moving onto another period, so we agreed to give DBA a run out.

Now this was a ruleset that I heard an awful lot about over the years, but had never had the opportunity to try. As with many games, it has its adherents and detractors, but I went in with an open mind. I must admit I was interested to see how it played as I really enjoyed the pared down simplicity of the Dux Bellorum game by Dan Mersey, both in terms of the rules and the visual look of it. 

So I turned up at Keith's and after negotiating a rather excited welcome by his dogs, we settled down at the table to give the game a go. The rules were incredibly easy to pick up, thanks in part to Keith's explanation as we went along and also to having played Dux Bellorum. I think after 15 minutes I had a good grasp of the basic game mechanics, which allowed me to concentrate on tactics rather than remembering the rules. Things flowed along nicely and in the end we managed to get in three very enjoyable games in less than two hours. I must admit I was extremely taken with the rules and decided to look into them in more detail when I got home.

To help get over the somewhat notorious 'Barkerese', Keith kindly pointed me towards the very useful The Unofficial GuideTo DBA and the very good Fanaticus website, both of which I found of great use. Fortunately the DBA 2.2 rulebook has recently be re-published by John Curry and his History of Wargaming Project. In the end I decided to buy the rules as I was so taken with the game, and also with a view to using the army lists as guides for Dux Bellorum variant games in the future. The campaign section both in the book and on the Fanaticus website will come in very useful, as I for one do enjoy playing a series of linked narrative games.

So what was it about the game that caught my eye to the extent that I bought the rules within a few days of playing the game? Well  a few thoughts can be found below:

  • Finding time to set up a 'traditional' 6'x4' game at home is not always easy these days. As with Dux Bellorum, being able to whip out a 2'x2' board and a few bits of scenery makes it very easy to get a game in without major disruption to family life.
  • The game requires 12 stands per 'army', so as with Dux Bellorum, you require relatively few figures to make your 'army'. This to me is a big bonus as storage space is minimal, outlay on figures less than £10 for said 'army' and even for a notoriously slow painter such as myself, I can get an 'army' painted up pretty quickly if I set my mind to it!
  • The game can be scaled up to bigger games if required, typically onto the standard 6'x4' table with the 12 stands increasing to 36. So if you fancy the odd bigger game this can be easily done as part of a multi-player battle.
  • With the command system 'pips', the game is emminently suitable to solo play, another bonus as finding time to meet up with friends is not easy these days.
  • The rules are nice and simple to pick up, yet provide for a fast, fun and challenging game. Not always do I or my friends have time to spend hours at the gaming table (If we talked less maybe our games would be quicker!). With the above guide the rules are explained very well and cover pretty much all situations that might arise. You do not need a massive tome of a rulebook with endless charts and examples to have a good, enjoyable and challenging game.
  • I can easily use my Dux Bellorum warbands for DBA games if required.
  • The rather 'old school' feel of the game and the look rather appeal to me. When I set up my Blitzkreig Commander games I can spend up to two hours getting the table set and looking right. With a good baseboard and a few bits of scenery, I can still have a nice game that still looks good, but in a different way. It shows that you do not need need masses of 28mm figures, 8'x5' tables full of scenery to creat a good game. Although such games are certainly stunning and wargames visual porn, they leave me rather cold I'm afraid.
  • The set-up of the game I found rather nice, with each side rolling off to see who would be attacker or defender, and then which side the attacker would deploy. Scenery placement becomes rather interesting as you cannot gaurantee which edge you will deploy from. I might use this in Dux Bellorum games as well
So there you have it. My personal view of an old game that many love and many hate. Each to their own. Personally I'm looking forward to many more games of both DBA and Dux Bellorum with my friends or on my own, with the case certainly being made that "Less is more".


  1. Couldn't agree more. And don't forget you can use 28mm figures and a 3' x 3' baseboard if you want a bit more visual appeal. I'm not sure I'd be satisfied to have DBA as my only wargaming activity, but it makes a great alternative when time, space and motivation for the big game are lacking.

    P.S. - hope the bite wounds are healing. Biffy says he's very sorry.

  2. "I'm not sure I'd be satisfied to have DBA as my only wargaming activity, but it makes a great alternative when time, space and motivation for the big game are lacking."

    Completely in agreement with you on this Keith. BKC is my favourite game by a country mile, but it is nice to be able to play something a bit different with minimal effort now and then.

  3. Ooops! Forgot to add that ankle all well and good.

  4. I think DBA is a great set, useful if you want a 30 minute game and no need to get out a horde of minis to do so.