DBA: De Bellis Antiquitatis
for "about the wars of antiquity," De Bellis Antiquitatis
is an historical miniatures wargame. DBA is easy to learn, fast paced, affordable, and continually challenging.
Two armies, each with 12 stands of miniature warriors, face off.
The first to destroy four stands takes the field!
Choose an army
As its title suggests, DBA deals with
warfare before the widespread use of gunpowder. This is an
enormously large span of history, 3000 BC to 1500 AD. The game
thus offers players many different options when deciding on an army or historical era
in which to play. The newest revision of the
rules, DBA 2.0, contains lists for over 310 separate armies, not
including historical variations within each list. Regardless of
era, each army list also has variants from which to choose. Do
you want to field an extra unit of knights, or should you
replace it with your catapult for this battle? My advice
is simply to pick an historical era in which you're interested
and you will have more than enough choices to make the decision
a difficult one.
Paint and Base your army
DBA is half game and half hobby. While it is
possible to purchase pre-painted and assembled armies in some
cases, the more typical method is to buy the miniatures and
paint them yourself. The miniatures are metal and widely
available in 15 or 25mm scale. DBA will accomodate either scale,
but 15mm seems to be the most popular by far. These miniatures
are , indeed, quite small, but they are not difficult to paint.
Trust me, it just takes a little patience! And I actually find
painting them relaxing. The metal, once primed will accept
acrylic paint easily without obscuring the details on each
figure. As a matter of historical interest, you can spend time
researching actual color schemes or shield designs used by your
army, or you can simply strike out on your own and paint them in
a way that is pleasing to your eye. The point is, it's your
army. You can make it look however you want! Once painted, each
figure is then placed with its unit to create your army. The
army lists in the rule book indicate what type and how many
miniatures make up an individual stand of soldiers. The one
steadfast rule is every army is comprised of 12 separate stands
of soldiers, be they mounted or on foot.
Have at it!
Now that you have your beautiful army, it's time to get them
a little bloody. All you need is an opponent. Again, the object
of the game is to be the first to destroy four of your
pieces. The game is played with a single six sided die. The
first phase of the game is setting up the board. The low die
roller at the onset of the game is the defender. It is assumed,
then, that the battle is taking place somewhere on the
defender's home turf. Therefore, the defender is responsible for
setting up the game board. The board must measure two feet by
two feet. It can be as fancy as the beautiful pre-made terrain
boards built by my friend Rick (picture above), or it can be as simple as your
kitchen table. Really. I've played many games of DBA on a table,
using books as hills and salt shakers as trees. There are
guidelines for how much and what types of terrain are legal for
each game board. In some cases, an army whose troops fight well
in rough terrain might break up the board with several swamps or
forests. In others cases, the defender may choose to place only
a winding river in hopes of riding his or her opponent down in
the open field.
Once more into the breach!
During battle, the two generals alternate turns. A turn
consists of three phases. Moving troops, resolving ranged
combat, and resolving close combat. A roll of the die determines
how many stands you will be able to move each turn. Put simply
each turn (or bound as the British authors of DBA call it)
breaks down like this: move, shoot, hack. After resolving each
phase, your opponent will take his or her bound.
Units in the game are broken into five basic classifications.
There are mounted units and there are units on foot. Within each
category, there are units who are skilled in close combat and
units who are unskilled in close combat. So, that's four of the
five categories. The fifth category are units with ranged
attacks. So, for instance, a stand of knights would be a mounted
unit that is skilled in close combat. Each specific type of unit
has a movement factor (the number of inches it can move in a
turn) and two combat modifiers (one for fighting versus mounted
and one for fighting versus foot).
When your armies collide, combat occurs. Each player simply
rolls a die and adds that troop types' modifier to the roll.
Compare results. If your result is double your opponent's (after
adding all relevant modifiers), then his piece is destroyed and
removed from the game. If your result is higher, but not double,
then that piece must recoil, moving back from the stand it was
And that, believe it or not is 90% of the game. There are
slightly more involved rules for terrain (certain troops benefit
from it, while others are weakened) and supporting troops
(multiple units attacking a single target give your opponent
negative modifiers to his or her combat roll), but above all, DBA is a
game that places strong emphasis on tactics. Having played
for over five years, I can honestly say each game I play is
different and presents its own set of unique challenges.
New army = new game
Because each army has its own unique mixture of troop
types, what you learn mastering your Marian Roman army may not
apply to playing the Knights of St. John on Rhodes. When I
first started playing my Medieval Welsh army, I struggled
mightily, losing over ten games in a row at one point. Having
now mastered certain key tactics with my Welshies, I can now
hold my own against all comers. Put me on the battlefield with a
new army, though, and it can be like learning a whole new game.
We often have fun switching armies after a pitched battle, just
to see how different and challenging it is to fight in another
general's shoes. There is no one DBA, really. Each army you
learn to play gives you a new perspective on the game.
DBA Resource Page
The DBA Resource
Page is, hands down, the best and most comprehensive site
devoted to DBA on the web. For the rank amateur or the seasoned
veteran, the site is a veritable font of knowledge. Much of what
I know about DBA, I owe to Chris Brantley and his excellent