My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

British AWI - Fire and Charge

I haven't played AWI for a while now, mostly because of my dissatisfaction with the various rules I have tried. I've read a few more - tried even less - and none of them strike me as being able to accomplish the style of combat I read of in With Zeal and With Bayonets Only, A Devil of a Whipping, and others. I guess it is because I have my own prejudices on how things should be and none of the rules seem to reflect that.

That can only mean one thing: I need to write my own rules!

It was while reading the ancients rules, Warrior Kings, once again that it struck me what was wrong. I believe that the British, if their morale holds, should advance quickly towards the enemy, only slowing down enough to dress the lines to recover from disorder of terrain and casualties, and when they get to 50 yards or so, deliver a volley, then close in for the charge. The Patriots then react to the fire and to the subsequent charge.

The problem with most rules is that the turn sequence does not typically support this sequence of events. The British move, fire, then charge. Most turn sequences are Declare Charges, Move, Fire, Morale, Melee, and Morale.

Warrior Kings solves this problem, as do most ancients rules, by combining fire that is a part of a charge, as a modifier to the subsequent melee. Think of the Romans throwing their pilum before impact or the Germans throwing their axes. It really is the same sequence: Move, Fire, and Charge.

I've always liked the concepts in Warrior Kings. So much so that I once wrote a set of rules for the horse and musket period using their concepts of a reaction chart. I think I will take them up again.

As it stands now, I am looking forward to hearing about Peter Pig's upcoming Warshington's Army rules. Although not grid-based like Square Bashing or Conqueror's and Kings, it does sound interesting.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ancient rules buying binge!

I've been on an ancients rules buying binge of late. I joined the Thracians Yahoo forum ( and an interesting comment was made that Fields of Glory did not simulate peltasts too well - in fact many rules did not. I asked what made up a "good peltast simulation" and one of the things that came out of the conversation was that the new Warrior rules simulate peltasts well and that basically they are an extension of the old WRG 7th Edition. So, I bought them.

One of the local club members has some rather large armies (large by DBA standards) and I found that it was so he could game Fields of Glory, which I tried once, and DBM or DBMM (although he no longer favors DBM). I promised to try another game of Fields of Glory, so I bought them too.

Every time I want to know about some oddball element in DBA, for example the simple Warband element in the New Kingdom Egyptian army, and ask what it represents, someone invariably says "according to the DBM army lists..." (or "DBMM army lists..."). So, seeing as I was buying the DBMM army lists from the UK, I thought "what the heck, let's get the rules too". Of course, DBMM is currently going through draft of version 2, so my timing is impeccable.

I was reading through the 2009 issues of Slingshot that I received last month and for the SoA Battle Day they wrote up all of these rules systems playing the same battle, each with their own twist. One of those rules was "Conquerors and Kings", which is a grid-based miniatures rules set, much like its sister rules "Square Bashing". So, I decided to pick them up in the same order as Warrior and DBMM.

I can't remember how I heard about Mr. Sabin's Strategos rules, but I heard that they too were grid-based, so I decided to give them a try. I found out that the last version was an appendix in the book "Lost Battles", so I decided to buy those rather than the second version from SoA.

Of course, I picked up a free copy of Hoplomachia from The Perfect Captain. As I have a fondness for Greek Hoplites, I had to see if I could try these rules.

Last, but not least, I decided to go back to the Warrior Kings Yahoo forum ( and pick up the last version of these rules (they are free). I have played both Warrior Kings and Warrior Heroes, the fantasy version, and liked them quite a bit. (At one point I even developed a set of AWI rules based upon the principles in these games with an eye towards having them published through Two Hour Wargames.)

So, I have been doing a lot of reading of ancients rules of late. Here are some very high-level impressions:

Warriors: Whew! I am too old for rules that thick. Maybe if I started playing them, my memories of WRG 7th would kick in and I might even like them. I did like the orders and the reactions. In fact, the reactions in Warrior Kings reminds me of a simplified version of the reactions in WRG 7th, so Warrior's may be pleasing also. If I can just get through it, Goes in the "Some Day" pile unless I run across someone who knows the rules well enough to lend me a hand.

Fields of Glory: To learn more about the rules - as I did not have a great impression of them after my first game - I joined the FoG Yahoo forum ( to get an idea of the discussions, tactics, and kinds of problems people encounter with the rules. The interesting tidbit that came out is that the game is apparently a lot faster to play once you get the hang of it, which was my complaint with my first game. Basically their design philosophy is to roll buckets of dice to even out the luck - a common design - and to make the game more weapon system oriented. (I would probably get hate comments to this post if enough people read my blog!) It doesn't seem like a bad rules set, only that it is different and takes longer to get to a conclusion than DBA. I do get a sense that all of the extra bases are just so you don't have to do bookkeeping. If you tracked losses, you might be able to use single element battle groups.

DBMM: Supposedly this was what Barker intended to progress to from DBA. When some people didn't, and they developed BBDBA and Giant DBA, I gather than DBM and DBMM just kept evolving on its own. Personally, I don't have a problem with Barker's English. You just have to be aware that he is precise and that you cannot gloss over his sentences. You must read every word, to the end. There are some complexities that, on face value, look like they might be hard to adjust to, but if you stick with the simple armies - like I did with DBA - until you get acclimatized, I am sure the games will probably be longer and richer. Doesn't go the route of FoG and replace single dice throws with buckets of dice. Rather, it replaces an element with buckets of elements, so your luck averages out by having more single-dice combats rather than fewer multi-dice combats. I could be wrong though.

Conquerors and Kings: These rules really need an editor and a new edition. For seemingly simple rules, they have certain concepts and explanations spread across the pages. The one review I read AFTER I bought the rules panned them as collapsing under a simple tactic of shoving all of your forces into a single square. Put another way, there are no tactics. I look forward to seeing whether this is true or not. One thing I noticed is that their basing requirements simply match DBA basing, but requires four bases per unit. This is unnecessary. You could just as easily use four single figures or four blocks per unit, or a single base and bookkeeping or markers and get the same effect. I look forward to trying them as I like the simplicity of grid-based games. No measuring rules!

Strategos: Just got the book Lost Battles and I really have not read enough to get an impression. Just joined the Yahoo forum too. These rules came up because someone mentioned them on the Fanaticus forum when someone else suggested playing DBA on a grid.

Hoplomachia: I had always wanted to play these rules in the past, due to my interest in Greek Hoplite warfare, but the first time I read them the (literal) use of Greek made it to hard to play. This time around I stuck to reading the rules (which have been updated) and it makes sense. I like the reaction system built in and look forward to trying Thracians against Hoplites.

Warrior Kings: This time I downloaded the highly expanded version, rather than the original first edition. They add quite a bit to the rules, but they do not become burdensome. I look forward to seeing how melee and missile works out, but I think there is still a missing rule that Ed T. clarified for Warrior Heroes. These rules are good for solo as once the troops start moving forward, they are largely driven by reaction.

Let me know about other ancients rules you may have and still play. (I just realized that I left out Command and Colors: Ancients...)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stop-motion DBA Battle

I decided to mount my camera on a tripod and snap a picture at the end of each bound. This gives the battle an interesting stop-motion effect. UPDATE: I have decided to provide a link to the battle as loading the picture is a nuisance while trying to read the blog. Here is the original animation showing the battle flow. Here is an enhanced version which provides a better understanding of what you are looking at.

This battle was to test out the latest ideas in the DBA Solus rules (rules for playing DBA solo). I have been playing a lot of games using Ancient Spanish and Polybian Romans, so I decided to try something different: Later Sparta versus Later Thessaly. As the Thessalians were the NPG army, this would allow me to test out scoring multiple moves as I would be using 3xLH in their army.

If you want to see it play again, you will have to refresh the page. I don't have the GIF looping endlessly (I find it distracting while trying to read).

As you can see, the Thessalians (on the left), succeed in flanking the Spartans with their Light Horse and Auxilia pouring out of the woods, but it is all for naught as a single Spartan Spears element holds them up turn after turn, surviving three rounds of combat when flanked and at 2-2 on the combat factors. That was one fierce fighting unit! The Spartans won 4-1.

Some really good data came from this battle for beefing up the Tactical Engine in DBAS. Expect to see a paper coming out on the Solo DBA Yahoo forum detailing the changes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Greek Mercenary Peltasts

Finished off two Greek Mercenary Peltasts elements (4Ax) using the Xyston Miniatures "Thracian Peltasts #4" pack.

The first one I painted was using the three-layer painting method. Although I don't dislike the results, it takes too long compared to the next technique, it also produces stronger contrasts unless you buy paints that are designed for the three-layer system, such as Foundry Triads. Not having those paints, I use a paint-and-wash system, mostly using GW washes. The figures below use that system.

I think the helmets in particular turn out better in the paint-and-wash system. Note that my metal colors are typically done using non-metallic paints.


Finally finished the basing for two new Spartan elements, morphing an Early Spartan army I purchased into a Later Spartan army.

The Cavalry:

These are Xyston Miniatures "Spartan Cavalry", except for the center figure, which is from the "Spartan Mounted Generals" pack. I realize that The Later Spartan army does not allow for a Cv (General) option, but other rules do. (I know, I know ... heresy!)

The tunics are GW Foundation Red with a GW Red Wash for the soldiers and GW Blood Red with a GW Red Wash for the officer. The cloaks are Polly S Signal Red with two coats of GW Red Wash for the soldiers and Testors Italian Red with two coats of GW Red Wash for the officer. As you can tell, I've been experimenting with other paint brands again!

The Hammipoi:

These are Xyston Miniatures "Spartan Hammipoi". To represent a poorer color quality to the tunics I went with GW Tanned Flesh with a GW Red Wash followed by a highlight with GW Dwarf Flesh with GW Red Wash. The base-wash-highlight-wash cycle seems to blend them better than I could ever do manually with a three-layer paint method.

I was originally going to mount these two elements together on a single base, 2 cavalry and 2 hammipoi, but I started reading a proposed Hoplite army for DBMM and it had the hammipoi as Ps that could provide rear support to Cv, so I decided to do that instead. Just in case...

On both of these elements I am using Litko 3mm plywood bases (what I am converting everything to). I glue some fine black volcanic gravel, paint the entire base Chocolate Brown (Americana acrylic craft paint), then dry-brush it with GW Foundation Light Brown Gray and GW Foundation Light Blue Gray. I then use GW Green Flock and GW Dry Grass to top it off. (I load up on GW flocks, paints, and grasses every year when the FLGS has its 50% off sale in the fall. Otherwise it is too expensive.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Testors and Polly S Paints

I went to Ace Hobby the other week and picked up two reds, just so I could test the covering power of Testors and Polly S paints, compared to Games Workshop. I must say, they both impressed me. I used Polly S and Floquil as a kid and I remember that its covering power was good, but GW had always impressed me as better, especially with white and red. It seems Polly S is better than I remember it, so they may have changed their formulas.

Testors Model Master acrylic paints are really something. The one I bought, Italian Red (which is supposed to be a Ferrari red), is bright and has great covering power, but is glossy like enamels. I have found that the GW wash, especially when I do it twice as indicated in my last blog post, takes the gloss away. Further, it makes really nice lines with a small liner brush,so I am getting good results making borders on tunics and patterns on cloaks. I've made a note to try the yellows and white next, as it may solve some painting problems for me.

More with Citadel Washes

I started with washing the flesh areas with Citadel washes over white, but I found recently a craft paint color called "Santa Flesh", which is a very pale flesh color. Washing over that produced a nice result (pictures to follow). I tried using a base of GW Bleached Bone, but that did not turn out all that well (well, it would for zombies), but not so horrible that I repainted the figure. I was going for an olive-skinned color.

I pretty much use Citadel washes for clothing now. Xyston makes some nice figures with good folds in the tunics and cloaks, so it is very conducive to washing. I paint a medium color, wash once, paint a highlight on the top of the folds then wash again. A good example is using the GW Foundation Red, washing with GW Red wash, highlighting with GW Blood Red, washing again wih GW Red wash. I'll try and post some pictures of that too. I just finished up some Spartan cavalry and this is the technique I used for them. I've also found using the GW Tanned Flesh, washed in GW Red, and highlighted with GW Dwarf Flesh works as a faded red - good for Spartan psiloi, hammipoi, and helots hordes. I'd still use the brighter reds for the peltasts, however.

So, washing has been working for me, better than the three-layer painting method, which I find tedious and produces starker contrasts - although that is probably the color combination that I am choosing.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Musings on DBA, DBM, DBMM ... and FOG

Geordie an Exiled FoG commented on my last blog entry where I was bemoaning the complexity of DBMM.

First, let me clear up any perception about my last post. I still like DBA, but I am a "tweaker"; a rules tweaker to be exact. I cannot leave well enough alone. Sometimes I see a good set of rules and I just have to "make it better". For me, I wanted just a little more period flavor and complexity.

I started in ancients with WRG 5th edition (I think - I did not own the rules). I later played 7th edition when I was older and could afford to build my own armies. I didn't really have a problem with those rules, I just happened to move away from where people were using those rules and it sort of petered out anyway.

For the longest time I never played ancients again. The closest I came was with fantasy role playing where we gamed out some big battles as part of the adventure. It wasn't until about one year ago that DBA was introduced to me. I can't even say that I was hooked when I first played it, but I could see that they were going to be "my kind of rules".

Eventually, I craved more detail and so I bought both DBM (rules only) and DBR (rules and lists) and I must say, I was disappointed. I knew I wasn't going to be able to "sell" anyone at the club on either of these rules due to their complexity. We like rules like Memoir '44, Command and Colors Ancients, ... and DBA. High on tactics and low on rules count.

Ira introduced me to Fields of Glory (FOG) and I must say, I was not impressed. I really should give it another go - Ira spent all that money on all those books - and we did not really play a decent match-up (Romans versus Maccabean Jews with no terrain). That said, I still think there are "too many" rules for my aging brain. Too many steps, too many nit noids. Everything DBA is not.

So, why did I turn to DBMM? Simply because I read an interesting review and some of the concepts sounded like something I wanted to try. But, in the end, where I wanted to be was somewhere between DBA and DBMM in complexity. Hey! Maybe I can tweak the DBA rules some more... !

Thanks Geordie for commenting. I agree largely with your comments except about DBX hell (I don't include DBA in that hell part) or leading me to FOG. I really should try it once again though... :)

New Draft of DBMM Version 2.0

Lately I have been considering using rules other than DBA for ancients gaming. It is not that I dislike DBA - quite the opposite - it is just that I think it works better for a-historical games than historical ones. For example, when we did a tournament recently and the match-up was New Kingdom Egyptians versus Later (Medieval) Polish. Basically all of the troop types were homogenized into common definitions so an "equivalence" could be created.

Ironically, this is where many people say DBA fails. That a chariot-era "knight" is not the equivalent of a classical period "knight" or a high medieval Knight. These are just ratings that work within their own period. But I sometimes feel that DBA fails in this regard because the homogeneity loses the "flavor" of some periods and I think this is where my dissatisfaction arises. For example, where are the Hammipoi during the Classical Greek period? I have these great figures and yet when I asked on the Fanaticus forum how to rate them in DBA the best answer was "as a cosmetic addition to a Cavalry element".

So, across my desk come a few articles about DBMM. I read a review or two and it sounds pretty good, so I explore more. I join the Yahoo group DBMMlist and within a few days Phil Barker publishes another draft of (what will one day be) DBMM version 2.0. So, I can actually read the rules and get a sense of it before actually committing to buy a copy. I download them, print them (44 pages withOUT any army lists) and my jaw drops.

Combat Factors: 1/3 of a page
Close Combat Rear Support Factors: 2/3 of a page
Tactical Factors: 2/3 of a page
Grading Factors: 1/3 of a page

That is two full pages just to calculate the number added to a D6 roll! The my jaw hits the floor again: two full pages for the Combat Outcomes "table". 2 1/3 pages to describe recoiling, fleeing, pursuing, etc.

Man, do I feel old. My mind just kept saying over and over "you'll never wrap your head around all of this".

There are some good ideas in there though. I like the idea of Psiloi (Hammipoi) providing rear support to Cavalry against enemy Cavalry and Knights. Maybe just taking that one rule and applying it as a period-specific, scenario special rule is all I need to do. Either that, or I need to try and wrap my head around Hoplomachia again. :)

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").