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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello and welcome to another little historical wargaming plog. I haven't started one of these in several months so I thought it was time again. This time I'm returning to 15mm Ancients (remember my Thebans plog?) with yet another DBA army - II/7. Later Achaemid Persian. 420BC-329BC.


DBA you probably are familiar with. It's that game which requires only relatively small tables and low numbers of figures. It's very abstract but fast and fun. Armies always consist of 12 elements (bases) and army lists sometimes give players a choice to choose between two different elements for one of the 12 "slots".



The initial plan was for my gaming nemesis and me to collect an army each and replay Alexander the Great's campaigns against Persia. I got to choose which side I would go for and decided to go with the Persian Empire.


Why would I do this? If confronted with the choice of two armies I will usually go for the more colourful and diverse army. I also tend to favour states/realms/formations who undeservedly get a lot of bad press. Alexander the Great pretty much is THE prototypical golden boy of western military history. For the past 2300 years, every ambitious military leader looked up to the ideal of Alexander and his amazing conquest of pretty much the known world. Or something like that. And of course there hardly is anything more annoying than the posterboy wunderkind who is beloved by everyone. ;) No, actually it was a tough choice. The Greek/Macedon army would have been a great project as well and a really good follow-up for my Thebans (whom Philipp II. got all these ideas about deep formations and long pikes from after all). And of course because Hoplites are cool. But then again, there of course were HUGE numbers of mercenary hoplites in Persian services as well at the time and of course many persian units in Alexander's army. It's all way less clean cut than the first impression might make us think it is.


This. Is. PERSIA!

So, let's have a look at the Persian Empire or the Achaemenid Empire to be more precise. About the Greek city states and ancient Macedonia we're all kind of informed about anyway. The ancient Persian empire was the largest empire the world had seen (and would see for centuries to come. I guess the Mongol empire was bigger because the Mongols were bigger than Jesus back when they were big). At its height the empire spanned three continents and approximately covered modern Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya, Turkey, Thrace and Macedonia, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, much of Central Asia, Afghanistan, China northern Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and parts of Oman and the UAE. According to the Guiness Book of Records the empire was home to over 40% of the world's population then, a number never achieved by any other empire in human history. So that's pretty big, especially if you compare it to the size of ..well, pretty much everything else around it.


Cyrus II., the Great. Most historians agree that this recreation of an original relief took some liberties. He probably didn't have wings.

As a general and very much simplified history the Persians - as one of many nomadic tribes - emerged in what is today south western Iran. Loose confederations of tribes and local powers were established, first of all the Medians. However, the Persians got somewhat established as a local power and along came Cyrus II, the Great. He was a cunning one indeed, overthrew the Median empire, grabbed the rest of asia minor and Babylonia. The new thing about Cyrus' reign though was that as long as everybody paid their taxes in time local traditions, structures (as far as they were tolerable) and religion remained untouched. The cults themselves that is. Public funding for the high temples were cut and they had to pay taxes and local commissars kept an eye on the activities of the high priests. Oh, and they all had to agree that the top god of all is Ahuramazda. Otherwise there pretty much was freedom of religion.


The symbol of Zoroastrianism, founded by Zarathustra. Not a depiction of the god-creator Ahuramazda himself but rather the dualism/struggle between him and who...?


Of course!


These principles were the main pillars of the Achaemenid Empire for centuries to come - a strong, centralized leadership taking care that everybody got to trade unharassed with everybody else, local rulers keeping things running on their level and keeping everybody more or less happy. At least happier than they would be as an enemy to the empire. A testament to Cyrus' smarts in dealing with the various stakeholders is that nobody really had anything bad to say about him. The Greeks, the old testament, least of all the Persians themseves. He was often cited as a peace-loving, sober-minded chap who after his death got stylized to be the perfect regent. Kinda like Arthur. Never played with unpainted miniatures either.

After Cyrus' son reigned a little (and not horribly at that but he got killed, same as his brother. It happens, I sppose. Actually, it's a pretty interesting story about people getting supposedly killed and replaced by look-alikes and such stuff), his former adjutant/pal/"lance holder" and advisor Dareios I. took over and made quite a name for himself by not only keeping the empire together but also getting wide reaching reforms done, having a canal dug to connect the Nile with the red sea, thus creating a neat shipping route between Egypt and Persia, had the Royal Roads built. All of that after clobbering down some insurgencies of course but that's to be expected right after a change of kings. All of this, especially the structural reforms which would remain until the end of the Achaemenid Empire, got Dareios I., king of kings, the title "the great" as well. The Achaemenid Persian Empire had the great historical luck of having two Greats reign in somewhat quick succession.


Dareios I., the Great

Dareios also started that thing with Greece but that's for another time. Yes, I'll get to miniatures then as well. ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
So, where were we.. ah right, Dareios. I forgot to mention that he ordered Persepolis to be built as a residence city for him. If you look around on the internet, there are several pretty amazing reconstruction pictures and videos around.


A reconstruction of the main palace in Persepolis by Charles Chipiez, 1884

Anyway, Dareios and the Greeks. Now to the Northern border of the empire lived the Saka, a mostly nomadic people with mad horse riding skills (the Persians actually differentiated between three tribes of Saka: "Saka behind the seas", "Saka with the pointy hats" and the third were named after a drug they were rather fond of [only for religious reasons of course]). At Dareios' times they were technically vassals of the Persian empire, sent auxiliary troops and money to the grand king, but still were always regarded as a kind of danger at the doorstep. So Dareios thought it was a good idea to traverse the Bosporus (via a bridge of almost 900m length made of ships), occupy Thrace and setting up a position to the flank of the Saka regions. This operation of course meant that the Persians entered the European mainland. They took Thrace, made Macedonia a vassal, travelled up the Danube river for a bit and then set up positions.


Saka cavalry armour. You can guess which of the three tribes this must have belonged to.

The Greek city states understandably didn't like that because they feared that they may get invaded next, but the one thing they disliked even less than getting occupied is seeing any of the other city states getting ahead of themselves. So Athens allied with the Persian empire. Only six years later the Athenians broke the alliance to send military help (only a small squadron of ships though) to the Ionian Greeks who started a revolt against the Persian empire. Cyrus the Great had already brought the Ionian Greeks into the Persian Empire and they'd gotten their own local government but they'd never been quite happy with that.


Rabble, rabble, rabble, rabble! This is very roughly the area where the Greek rebellion took place.

Before the revolt was finally quelled, the rebels took the local regent's city Sardis and desecrated Persian temples and whatnot. Which in the minds of pretty much every culture back then was a bad, bad thing. You can punch someone in the face but you do not key their car. That's not cool. I think that's a comparison based on similar levels of reason.

So, following the natural order of things it seems, the Persian army burned down one of the the Ionian Greek cities and Dareios launched a punitive expedition against Athens for supporting the rebellion but the Persian ships got cought in a storm and got mangled too badly to do anything. For now the dust was to settle but these were the starting moves in the legendary struggle between the Persian empire and the Greek city states.



Interestingly enough Dareios was mostly angry with Athens for supporting the rebels. The Ionian Greeks in asia minor got some concessions (like restoration of Greek democracy in their cities and other things). Them and Sardis were made to agree to various pacts to they would work together and trade to avoid either side retaliation moves for what happened during the rebellion and things seemed settled.

A second punitive strike against Greece was launched just a few years later. First came the envoys to all Greek states to ask for them to just join the Persian empire and avoid any bloodshed. Some of them agreed (like Thebes which would ruin their reputation with the other city states for ever), Athens and SCHPARTAA did not. The former tyrant of Athens had fled to the Persian court and was to be reinstated if the Persians took over the city state and Athenians liked their democracy. Sparta didn't want to lose control over their Peloponnesian subjects (who they treated really shoddy, especially so by ancient Greek standards). So a Persian expeditionary force was sent out, Eretria (another city state who had supported the Ionian rebellion) was seized, burned to the ground and the population was taken deep into the Persian homeland.

Then the relatively small Persian force landed right next to Athens who sent a runner to their allies in Sparta to let them know that everybody's getting ready for the battle of Marathon and that Athens would be really happy if the Spartans came too. However the Spartans were met on the 9 days a year they were not allowed to wage war due to a fertility god's festival so the Athenians were to face the Persian force on their own (plus a few minor allies). I think the Greek were outnumbered about 3:1. Still, the Greek went for a pitched battle to spare the city. Their leader, despite being of the conservative "party" of nobles, tried some unorthodox things: wide, thin formation on the centre and - to avoid the famously deadly Persian archers - the Hoplites in full armour, with helmets and shields sprinted into battle over a distance of about 300 yards.



Due to this, unfit ground and limited space usual Persian tactics of using archers and cavalry didn't work out so well and they were thrown back into the sea. The battle of Marathon was a victory for the Greeks but probably less of a huge historical event than it's often viewed as.

So things were basically back to normal. The Ionian Greeks were peaceful again, Thrace and Macedon was back in Persian hands. Four years later Dareios the Great was killed in battle in Egypt and his fourth son Xerxes I. took over as new king of kings.



Xerxes wasn't willing to put up with the Greeks any longer and this time it would be a proper campaign instead of a small expeditionary force. As every good Persian campaign into Europe they started with pontoon bridges. Xerxes went for two bridges to get his large (between 50.000 and 100.000 fighting mean at the most but with them were a lot of of civilians, logistics people, engineers and so on) force across. The bridges are estimated to have been about 2200m and 2500m in length. And guess what, just after they were finished a storm came up and destroyed them! It's like writing a really, really long and clever posting on Warseer (before the times of auto-saving the texts of course) and then hitting backspace or accidently closing the window or something. Infiriating. So was Xerxes and he, in a very well-known scene, had his guys punish the floods by giving them a good whipping.



He also had the head engineers of the bridges... well, beheaded (no pun intended, I couldn't think of the proper term for the main engineers) and two new head engineers started rebuilding the bridges. Anyway, things didn't go too bad from then on, King Leonidas was beaten at the battles of Thermopylae...


Battle of Thermopylae

...at the same time the Greeks were beat on sea and Delphi fell into Xerxes hands (but was not plundered). Athens was sacked too, and plundered. Important artifacts were brought to Persepolis.

At Salamis the Persian fleet, despite their numerical advantage, got mangled badly and retreated. The sizable land force still remained in Greece and was a big threat to Greek cities. Xerxes himself retired to Persepolis and contained the new rebellions of the Ionian Greeks and Babylonians (he also tore down the Marduk temple and the tower of Babylon. In general Xerxes was way less religiously tolerant than his predecessors. This has something to do with his mother's advice (not joking!) and the rise of the Magi (again, not a joke!). The Greek gathered a force to face the Persian army at the battle of Plataea. The terrain was much more suited for the Persian tactics to work and most of the Greek army was already retiring in quite a chaos when the Persian commander fell in close combat with some remaining steadfast Spartans and the Persian army retreated. In the very interesting Ancient Warfare Podcast I remember there's an episode on victory and defeat and how especially in the Ancient world this was never quite so clear cut as one would think. I definitely suggest giving it a listen some time.

With another defeat at Mykale (and the burning of the Persian fleet) the Persian army had to retreat and with the rebellion of the Ionian Greeks, backed up by the mainland Greek army ready for a counter-attack, the war had arrived back where it had begun. At this point though the allies started to have their own interests in mind again. The Spartans were less interested in the war to go on because they saw their interests in the Peloponnese as secure and didn't see much use in helping the Ionians whereas the Athenians saw much to be gained in forging a pact with the Ionians and freeing them. The war went back and forth a little but in 449 BC Xerxes' (who was killed by the commander of his lifeguard) son and new grand king (after killing his elder brother), Artaxerxes I. and the Greek made peace (or not, there isn't really too much evidence of an actual treaty). The Ionian cities had gotten independence for now, Persia got Cyprus. Parts of Thrace were retained by the Achemenid empire. Artaxerxes introduced a new strategy of instead of open warfare the Persian empire would financially support enemies of Athens. Otherwise the guy seems to have been "a good egg". Religiously tolerant and all.


Artaxerxes I., referred to by some sources as "Long Hand" because appearantly his right hand was much longer than his left (even visible in this relief)

In the meantime Alexander I. of Macedon (not THAT Alexander yet) had gotten his realm out of the Persian empire and had started expanding.

In the Achaemid empire things were rather quiet, the occasional regicide aside. After Artaxerxes' death Xerxes' II. took over but was killed by Sogdianos who himself got killed by Dareios II. shortly thereafter. Under his reign the empire supported the Spartans in their war against Athens (passively) in exchange for getting the Ionian Greek cities back. After the war the Spartans said "yeah but no.", resulting in war between Sparta and the Persian empire.

Dareios II.'s successor Artaxerxes II. was challenged by his half-brother who led "ten thousand" (probably less) greek mercenary hoplites into Persia to overthrow the regent but failed and was killed. All of a sudden multiple thousands of unemployed mercenary heavy infantry were sitting in the middle of nowhere, without any allies and nowhere to go really. None of the local regents wanted to employ them, their officers got taken hostage and were killed. In the end they found back to the sea and either assimilated into the local population or got home, but the situation had shown that a well drilled and equipped force in Persia from outside was a huge problem to deal with for the Persian officials.

In the east some regions around the Indus river also fell off the empire and the Egyptians proved to be as rebellious as ever. At this point Philipp II of Macedon had forged an alliance between his now bigger-than-ever Macedon and the Greek states with the only goal to march into Persia. But alas, he died and his son Alexander I. of Macedon took over.


Macedon when Alexander took over

In the may of 334 BC Alexander along with 35,000 Macedons and Greeks, crossed the Hellespond into the Persian Empire.


...and this is where we start. :p


So, as I said a long, long time ago at the beginning of the opening post I'm doing a Persian army. Instead of going for second-hand miniatures by Essex this time I got my models from Xyston, widely regarded as the go-to manufacturer for 15mm Ancient figures. They sell rather handy army sets for DBA. I went into my LGS where for at least 10 years they had an army box of Xyston Later Achaemenid Persians standing around, hidden away on the toppest of top shelves, under a layer of dust. I'd seen the box several times over the years, but never had a real reason to pick them up. Well, now the day had come. I really should have negotiated the price a little. If it hadn't been for me the box still would be there and would be there for te next 10 years to come, guaranteed. Anyway, I picked the minis up for a only slightly too high amount of moneez (supporting local traders and all). So I did get to throw some paint onto the infantry. It will be a bit late for a summer campaign I'm afraid but I want to get these minis done. Not only for DBA but also for Impetus and this new little set of rules called Spear and Sword.



Usually a DBA army consists of 12 elements/bases, each depicting a single unit. However, the army list offers some choices in terms of what units to bring.

.) For the general's unit I get the choice between Light Chariot or him, along with a guard of cavalry horsemen (the options are purely cosmetic I think, both do the same in-game)
.) 2 units of Cavalry
.) 2 units of Light Horse
.) a Scythed Chariot or a unit of Psiloi (light skirmishers)
.) 2 units of Psiloi
.) 4 units of Kadarkes Guards/Egyptian Spearmen (heavy spearmen) or 4 units of Takabara (light infantry).

All of these options are in the box. Spears sadly are not included (and surprisingly expensive. I ordered them through North Star Games and split them with Mr.Macedon.). I also ordered some shield decals from Little Big Men Studios. They make decals especially for these models (and many more). I'd love to give painting the shields by hand a go but I don't have the time I'm afraid. Bases aren't included either. For DBA they are all 40mm in the front but the depth varies depending on the troop type. From my TYW project I of course have a few 40x20mm bases left for the light infantry. For all others I have to cut bases from plasticard.

The models Xyston make are really beautiful. Great stuff, great detail. They are rather large (verging on huge) for the scale but oh well. My opponent's models are by Xyston as well so it's all good.


Takabara, unpainted, without spears or shields. It's always good to have seperate shields.

After cleaning the models I kept most of them apart. because they are mostly one part casts anyway, apart from spears and shields. The chariots require a little assmbly but I'll have to see how much of those I assemble before painting and/or basing.


Here's what's happened so far:


Light infantry (those will get some nice crescent-shaped shields):


A bunch of skirmishers:


Heavy infantry (spearmen). The kardaka in red will get hoplite style shields whilst the egyptians in the right will get huge shields:


Hope you like them so far. :)
 

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Liking your work here, Sigur. The persians were an amazing empire, especially for the time, and it's great to read that much history told from a not-particularly-greko-centric perspective. Thanks for taking the time to share all that!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
@Iraqiel: Thanks for reading.Took me a while but I'm somewhat proud of it and it's great to know some people actually read it too. :)

Well, I spent most of my time this weekend doing the write-up but I also did a little bit of painting. Some light cavalry (WIP):





Hope you like them. :)
 

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As I have participated in some rather large historical battles (tabletop mind you!) myself, I do enjoy seeing and reading your work! The 15mm models still have a surprising amount of detail and your paintwork makes them look great!
I am however, slightly disappointed in the lack of chariots and immortals in the list you posted. Perhaps me being cheesy, but they are some of the most iconic persian troops. I know Alexander develloped special tactics against the chariots, but I still think they'll look awesome on the table...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@Haskanael: Thanks very much. :)
@Tha Tall One: Cheers, much appreciated. As I said, Xyston minis do look amazingly pretty for 15mm. Somewhere between the history babbling and the miniature pictures I listed the models I will do for now and I'm sure you'll be happy to see that I indeed will do a general on a chariot and a scythed chariot. ;) No Immortals though. As far as I read they fell out of style at the time of Alexander's invasion, mostly because their wicker shields and axes/swords were ineffective against the tight formations of long spears or pikes Greeks used. They were replaced by Kardaka who were either institutionalized mercenary hoplites or original Persian units equipped and drilled in the style of the Greek hoplites (the difference I assume would be fluent) and who often were the lifeguard to Satraps (local regents). But there will be chariots! One of the reasons I choose the Persian side after all. I mean who doesn't like a chariot? That's like not liking elephants or war wagons! :)
 

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Yes I already thought the 'later' in your 'later achaemenid persians' would be too late for immortals. A relief on Alexanders Tomb would suggest his men fought against immortals however, so I thought maybe they'd be included in your army. I also thought they primarily used spears though, swords and axes are sidearms. They'd still be underequipped to fight against a well drilled block of men with sarissae, but who wouldn't be in those days? While I do know Kardaka are similarly equipped to hoplites, would this mean they have the sarrisa as well? Wouldn't be that hard to invent a longer stick...
On the chariots: Good! I'll be looking forward to the pictures!
 

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Great work as usual Sig, DBA is a game i haven't thought about in a while. My dad and some other historical gamers of his generation loved it and I know when I sift through his 15mm collection there are quite a number of armies that were based for that rule set.
 

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Excellent work yet again :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
@Tha Tall Man: Yeah, you seem to be right about Immortals. It seems like there were 10,000 Immortals at the battle of Issus. Forgot to mention the spears, but yeah, they weren't too effective against the pikes either. From what I know (not much, mind you, and the following is just speculation on my part :D ) Persians used "regular size sticks" ( ;) ), mostly because I think that spear and pike drill is quite different. A spear is a weapon you can handle as such on your own if need be with a little bit of training whereas a pike is the ultimate formation weapon and can only be used as such. With the Persians not having a standing army to speak of it would be really hard to get levy spearmen from the butt-end of the empire retrained to use pikes instead of the spears they're used to handling (possibly for hunting, for fighting bandits, etc.). However, Greek mercenary hoplites I think would be the most likely to use longer sticks? I mean Thebes (who basically came up with the long stick and the deeper formations before Philipp nicked the idea :p ) and Persia were quasi-allies for a while. On the other hand, hoplites probably were quite content with the regular sized spear for such a long time (because there barely were any "steppe horsemen" around in the endless struggles between the poleis) and I'm not sure if the Persians in Greece used cavalry to the extent they'd do later when fighting the invasion of their own turf so I guess the warfare was quite different to what most hoplites were used to. But as I said, all just speculation. You're raising some good points though.
@iamtheeviltwin: DBA is a very fun little game and very much alive, with 3.0 around the corner and all its different variants like HoTT, DBM/M/R/Napoleonics and whatnot. Of course it's also very popular with the tournament gamers. The cool thing about DBA is that you don't need a lot of models or a lot of space, it's pretty fast, yet tactical and gives you credible results. Also of course a very good starting point for Impetus (or IMPETVS if you prefer) armies.
@Tawa: Thanks, buddy!



First batch somewhat finished. Shields need some more work and I realized that I need to finish the javelin/spear heads on all the units:


Hope you like them. :)
 

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They look really nice with the shields! Very colourful.

I think it's more a question of not wanting to pay for pikes when your levys can bring their own arms. Pikes are really a thing for a standing army. They are the ultimate battlefield weapon, but useless for anything else, and quite a hassle to carry around. Raised levy's wouldn't have them. If they are trained to fight in formation however, I think they can fight with either spears or pikes. Whether a phalanx has one or the other makes not a huge difference I guess. Fighting in formation is completely different to single combat. In spear or pike formations, the fighting is not that difficult, it's the manouvring that's the hardest. I guess it's more managable with spears, but I don't think it would require terrible amount of retraining to convert spearmen to pikemen, especially not if they are well drilled or if you'll be using them defensively. At least, that's what I think.
Missile troopers are the pikeman's greatest adversary though, as he won't be able to carry a (large) shield. So you'd better bring a lot of archers. Or cannons. Preferably cannons. :grin:
By the way, I started a marathon game of Civilization V in your honour yesterday. Myself as Darius and my girlfriend as Alexander. I'll be conquering Babylon soon...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
@Tha Tall One: Oh yes, I absolutely agree. Whilst technically they're just longer sticks pike drill is quite different to spear drill and the whole matter of logistics, carrying them around and so on adds to the complications. Also - troops always tended to shorten their pikes as soon as there was a shortage of wood for camp fires or simply to make the march less annoying. ;) I'd love to bring archers and of course the Persians were pretty much renowned for their capable and numerous archers (as well as mixed formations and all of that) but somehow DBA doesn't represent that too much or rather reduces the archers to two elements of light skirmishers. As for Civ5 - very flattering. :D And I can't fault you on this either. It's a smashing game. I'll have to resist the temptation because I'd sink too many hours into it and I'm already doing that with Europa Universalis IV. :p

These are WIP:




Two elements of medium cavalry, one element of medium cavalry command. One of the guys on the command stand I think I have to bend to the left a little. In DBA one of your army's elements will contain the general of the army, adding a little to their combat abilities but when he's dead that's no good. Later Achaemenid Persians I think give you a choice of having him either with cavalry or sitting in a chariot. I'll do both because I got the models for it. Once these guys above are finished all that's left to do is the two chariots. :)
 

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Again, nice work! However, If you're almost finished already, isn't that a little few models, or am I mistaken? I'm unfamiliar with the ruleset you use, but does a single base represent an entire unit? I'd like to see the entire army together.
What is the difference between this cavalry and your light cavalry? The way they hold their spears it seems like they're just chucking javelins instead of shooting arrows. Or do you still need to add shields? The armour on the command base look really neat though, is that splinted bronze?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@Tha Tall One: Thanks. Yeah, as I said, DBA is a very fast and abstract game with a satisfying tactical challenge though. Each army consists of 12 elements, each base is one element. You are free to swap certain units for others but the number 12 always remains the same. As you can swap around quite a lot with the Persians I do something like almost 20 elements so I have all the options. As far as the medium cavalry goes: They are three models per base, the guys mostly wear some sort of armour and some of them wield axes and such. They also work quite differently in-game of course. Yus, the armour on the heavy cav is something bronze.

Just to illustrate the size of a DBA army, here are my speedpainted Theban Hoplites:



Quite a "boring" army but that's what Later Hoplite armies are like, especially so Thebans. :) Lotsa hoplites with some light infantry support and some cavalry. So far I fought Spartans, Athenians and Thracians. Against other Hoplite armies it usually boils down to a clash of battle lines in the middle and the actual decisions are made on the flanks. But that's Hoplite Warfare for ya. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Last night we had gaming night again and as I had just finished my Persians for De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) we decided to give this old girl a ride again. :p

Just a little reminder what DBA does and what it is:


(we played DBA 2.2. By now version 3 is out)

DBA is a highly abstracted miniatures wargame depicting battles from the biblical period up to medieval times by Phil Barker. Originally it was released in 1990 and since then revised and updated versions have been released every few years. DBA 2.2 (which we play) was released in 2004, in late 2014 DBA3 was released. The rulebook includes roughly 200 army lists, the game is 'scale agnostic' (that means you can use any scale you like. It's a standard thing with all wargames rules actually, but sometimes people have to be reminded of that ;) ) with 15mm or of course 28mm being popular choices. It only requires a few figures per side, from 22 to 100 (in extreme cases). Usually your army will have about 50 figures. Each army consists of 12 elements or units. Each player requires one six-sided die and a measure tape for playing. The gaming area for 15mm figures is 24" by 24" (some people prefer 30" by 30").


The facial expression on DBA Man is chosen wisely. This is what most people look like when trying to read the rules which are known for their peculiar and technical language. However, there are several guides and extra explanations available online which makes the game understandable pretty well.

It's an I-GO-YOU-GO system. At the beginning of their turn the player rolls a die. The number of pips rolled is the number of units he or she may activate (= move) this turn. In certain cases a move requires two pips, but this is a rare and usually avoidable thing. If your elements touch bases, they may be activated as a group using just one pip to activate, but groups are less flexible in movement.

Close combat is based on each player rolling one six-sided die, boni are added based on troop type and special circumstances. If one side ends up with a higher combat result the other unit usually is pushed back, if the combat score is double the other side's result they usually are destroyed. These results may vary based on troop type.

The side to first eliminate 4 enemy elements (1/3rd of the enemy army) or the enemy general element wins.

On to the games now! I fielded my Late Achaemenid Persians, my opponent brought Athenian (Late) Hoplites. A classic match-up.



Late Hoplites:
8 Spear elements (one of them is the general's element)
1 Cavalry element
1 Light Horse element
1 Auxiliaries* element
1 Psiloi** element

*light infantry, when fighting in rough terrain their combat value is comparable to the one of Tiger tanks
** pretty much farmers with slings or javelins


Late Achaemenid Persians:
3 Cavalry elements (one of them is the general's element)
2 Light Horse elements
4 Spear elements
1 Scythed Chariot
2 Psiloi elements


Game 1

I ended up as the defender, so I got to set up the terrain. Two roads, one forest shoved into a corner somewhere. Wouldn't want some pesky terrain to interfer with my horses running around. The attacker then rolls for which table edge he would set up on (he chooses one table edge,on a 3, 4 or 5 he gets to set up on that edge. Any other result means that he deploys on one of the other edges). The defender then deploys his force, then the attacker sets up his.

Early game:








[STUFF HAPPENED]

Most of the game took place on one flank, as one half of the Greek army advanced quite far and I did my dearest to throw stuff their way. concentrading almost all of my army in one quarter of the board led to some trouble for cavalry to maneuver though. Sorry for the lack of pictures of the mid-game. It was our first DBA game in a year or so, so we had to look up a lot of rules.

Anyway, in the end we had made up a neat little pile of people on the Persian left flank:




In short: I managed to kill 4 Greek units, Persians won. Woo-hoo!


Game 2
It wasn't too late yet, so we decided to have another game. Same terrain setup, the Greens got the opposed board edge this time.






This time I set up my spear fellas in two blocks rather than one with the Scythed Chariot in between. The cavalry too wasn't concentrated this time, but one Cav element went along with one light horse element on the left flank. The Psiloi were set up more defensively as a rear guard.




Early game:


The Greeks set up in a more linear fashion this time, to the left and right of the road and sent the Light Horse and Cavalry down the flank to harass my light troops.





The rest of the Greek force acted more defensively this time and it came to exactly the situation I would have preferred not to get into when fighting Greeks - the push and shove with a solid line of Hoplites. Including their reserve units being able to run up and down along the back of the line, popping up where required.



On the left flank my troops were at a disadvantage of numbers, especially after a daring attempt in which my Light horse got in the back of one of the Hoplites, but the whole situation amounted to very little despite it looking very promising. My Light horse got caught and destroyed. The only reason my left flank held as long as it did was due to pretty rubbish activation rolls on the Greek side (clearly representing the lack of flexibility when employing a static battle line strategy ;) ).

On the right flank I had a few more troops, but so did my opponent.


In this picture you can see a final attempt to break the Greek lines with a charge of my Egyptian Spearmen along with the General's cavalry. In the back you can see the rest of my cavalry (light and medium) in their own little skirmish against Greek light infantry which went on for most of the game and which I should not have pursued for so long. My guys were at a slight advantage and I just wanted to drive back the Greek light infantry far enough, but those pesky islandfolk refused to flee even once, just retiring slowly, effectively binding my right cavalry flank.

The only way I could have won this in the end was if I had launched my Scythed Chariot (peculiar creature that it is) into the Greek General, roll really, really well and maybe killing him. I was just ready to do so as my left flank collapsed and the Greeks had won. For funsies we rolled the charge of the scythed chariot against the Greek general's spear element, but failed and the chariot was killed.

DBA is much more playable than I had remembered it to be. We still weren't quite sure on some details (mainly which unit has to conform to which if being charged at weird angles), but got two credible, enjoyable games out of it, requiring very little space, comparatively little monetary investment and which looks rather pretty in its own abstracted way. Works well for Ancient battles for me though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Thanks for the comment!

The thing is - as you don't need many minis (or much space), you can pay more attention to the single figure. For proper big battle games with many figures I wouldn't go 15mm these days. :)

Well, the activation roll at the beginning of each turn models the command&control troubles a general sees himself confronted with and the whole friction thing. Never did all of an ancient army's arms or formations always do what the guy in charge were asked to do, it was impossible to keep an overview to even know who does what at any given moment and so on. I think that any wargame per definition has to model friction to some extent, otherwise it's purely mathematical. It's a big factor both players have to work against by using group movement instead of single element movement, prioritize activations and possibly think ahead. I think that DBA, in its abstracted ways, models that whole problem really well.

As far as combat goes, I would say that it's got an okay amount of chance vs. crunchy numbers. If you run say 1000 dudes with spears into another 1000 dudes with spears (assuming their drill, morale and leadership seem comparable) it will be a 50/50 game. Most probably one side will come up victorious and make the other side retire, but it probably won't be a massacre on either side. However, there is always a miniscule chance that things go REALLY good or REALLY bad depending on weather, "signs", the unit's officers having a trick up their sleeve which is new to the attackers, surprisingly muddy ground the attackers have to pass, one side's drill not being quite as good now in battle as it seemed on the training grounds and so on. There is always that possibility.

So there is an element of chance, but there is that element to everything in life. :) DBA is an abstract game modelling battles. Of course not everybody will like it, and that's good. The world would be a very sucky place if there was even one set of wargames rules everybody likes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Heyhey, for months I've had this guy stand on my table. It's a Persian general in chariot. In game terms he isn't that important or even required as you get the choice between him and the general with the cavalry unit, so I was under no pressure to get him painted. But still, I guess it's time to get some paint on this one:



Of course he's WIP. Hope to pull that white-purple off.
 
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