This is my first review here on the geek so please be gentle.
I will start off by saying that I am pretty new to the miniatures hobby. I have managed to collect a little bit of most of the latest and greatest fantasy lines (things like Confrontation, WarMachine, Warhammer Fantasy) but never really got further than painting up a few of them before the costs involved in building and army set in and the realization that I didn't have a solid opponent made me lose interest.
I recently moved back to the Ohio area and was talking with some of the local hobby store owners. I seen that one store in particular carried some 15mm historical miniatures. The owner said that there was a group of guys who played DBA at least once a month at the store. One thing led to another and after a post on The Miniatures Page, Mike Porter contacted me.
I had always been interested in Historical Miniatures. I come from a boardgame wargaming background and the fantasy stuff I had been looking at was visually appealing but the groups that played fantasy were typically a younger crowd and no one I ever talked to had any interest in history.
After talking with Mike off and on, this last Sunday I managed to get in a few games. With that said, I am going to cover the initial impression from a complete newbie to the genre.
The first thing I noticed about DBA was the fact that it required you to purchase your own miniatures and bases seperately. This is a bit different than most of the fantasy games that are out there. However, I understand that this is obviously a much more niche market and luckily there are many manufacturers that have DBA box sets available for purchase. I picked up an Essex Alexander Macedonian set at the Gamers Haven in Cleveland.
After that, the thing that struck me most was the verbage in the rulebook. The rules are purposely concise and the Unofficial Guide to DBA is almost a prerequisite if you do not have veteren players on hand to introduce you to the game. Luckily for me, I had plenty of people offer to show me the system. If you don't have that luxury, it will probably take you a few play throughs to work out all the intricasies of the rules.
I was impressed with the overall simplicity of the game. Once you understand the basic elements of an Army and how they should be used against enemy forces, it really becomes a slightly more complicated version of paper, scissors, rock. There is a high level of abstraction needed to be able to insure that every force is comprised of 12 elements (stands of miniatures). There is no set ground scale or specific number of troops each miniature represents. Some people say that the game feels like chess at times. I can see where the comparison comes from but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The game generalizes troop types by what type of weapon they used. Therefore every unit that used spears is for all intents and purposes exactly the same. The rules make the assumption that a spear is a spear and doesn't specifically account for better troop quality or training. This may come as a shock to veteran wargamers. However the end effect is actually one that works pretty well. There are basically a set number of different troop types. Spears, Blades, Pikes, Knights, etc etc. Each type does better against another type of troop but has limitations on effectiveness in certain terrain types.
In the rulebook there is a huge list (I think 250+) of different Armies that are available for play. With each Army is a list of historical opponents. The game is best balanced when you pit these forces against each other. Otherwise some of the barbarian type lists don't have much of a chance against ahistorical opponents.
The mechanics of the game have been covered before, so I won't bore everyone with the intricate details. The gist of things are that each turn plays out in "bounds". A six sided die is rolled and the number rolled is the amount of "pips" that the active player has to move elements. If the elements are in group contact, it's possible to move all of them using only one pip. Things get slightly more complicated when doing manuevers like wheeling or column but the end effect is pretty much the same.
When elements are not grouped, you are forced to move them individually. The obviously requires more pips and sometimes you don't have the number of moves that you need to complete the planned manuever. This leads to some tough choices. At times a simple manuever properly executed leads to better results than a complex manuever that doesn't get completed in time.
Close Combat is simple and most results are one side being pushed back one base depth or killed outright.
I never got into artillery or long range weapons so I can't comment on those.
The real question everyone wants to know is whether the game is enjoyable. I absolutely think so. The game is simply enough to pick up in a session and quick enough to play in under an hour. Perfect for those of us who don't have 6 hours to play out some of the larger miniatures games. The rules and an army will often cost you less than 50 dollars.
For anyone on the fence about DBA, I would encourage you to give it a shot. 50 bucks isn't much in the world of miniatures and if it turns out not to be your flavor, you can alway use the miniatures for another ancient battles system.
- Last edited Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:16 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Wed Sep 12, 2007 1:27 am