Mark-of-Hesperiana was over from NZ last week, so I thought I’d show him DBA gaming in Melbourne by taking him along to the Fairfield Bowling Club on Friday. Kingo seems very keen to playtest the draft V3.0 of DBA so we were roped in. Mark and I were a bit apprehensive about that idea. We enjoyed playing using an earlier draft when I was over in NZ for Christmas, but since then the author has introduced changes that seem somewhat extreme, claiming that they make the game simpler and more fun. Since we were going to play DBA anyway, we played along.
The very first game of DBA Mark played was with my Bedouin and Philistine armies, so by way of a nostalgia trip I continued the ‘Chariot Wars’ theme by taking along my Assyrians, Lydians, Philistines, and enough troops to morph my Philistines into a fairly unattractive rendition of the Sea Peoples’ army (Kingo having previously said he was taking his Hittites).
Kingo’s new Hittites were sufficiently attractive for us to have the first game of the evening as Hittites vs Sea Peoples. Mark took the Hittites.
After setup I realised that the Hittite infantry, rated as Spearmen in DBA 2.2, become Auxilia in DBA 3.0, so neither of our setups were really appropriate. The armies raced towards each other, thanks to the faster movement rates. The two Psiloi in the woods to my left were feeling rather vulnerable as Mark closed in with his Auxilia, but rather than thinking about that I charged some Blades for to pick off a Psiloi he had as flank support. The Dice Gods were favouring the Hittites though and Mark managed a fairly unlikely ‘stick’.
In his turn, Mark used his PiPs to move his Auxilia in to deal to my Psiloi, and my Blades had another hack at his. The stars must have been in the right alignment for Psiloi that night because the worst result in that combat was a recoil to one of my Psiloi, which ended up passing through two of my blade to end a fair way back. Meanwhile my Blade recoiled Mark’s Psiloi.
In my next bound I moved a Blade in to help my isolated Psiloi but the most they could manage was a stick. Meanwhile Mark’s Psiloi managed to recoil the Blade I had attacking them. While embarrasing, this meant that my Blade was free to move in my next turn, rather than being locked in combat. But that was not to be.
Blades really aren’t so terribly good without Psiloi support. They turn from being vulnerable in DBA 2.2 to really having to hide in the shrubbery in 3.0. This is the second game I’ve played where a Blade has been stuck fighting a Psiloi that just kept on recoiling, luring the Blade along with it like a Will o’ the Wisp. That feels a bit weird, but I suppose Cannae worked that way.
The second game we thought we’d see what it was like playing Heavy Chariots against Spearmen. Spearmen used to be allowed rear support from Psiloi in DBA2.2. This has been removed in DBA 3.0, so their chance of being quick-killed has risen from
28% to 42% [EDIT: 17% to 28%]. To see this in action we played Neo Assyrians vs Philistines.
Mark, who enjoyed armies with lots of Spearmen in DBA 2.2, took the Philistines. Version 3’s random terrain generator deemed that the wood I chose should go in the same corner of the board as a gentle hill I’d placed earlier. It wouldn’t normally have fitted, so it would have been discarded but we took a small liberty with the rules and I substituted a smaller piece that I had. That highlighted a fairly obvious strategy to follow in DBA 3.0 – place the terrain that you really want first, and if you don’t really want a terrain piece, don’t choose it on aesthetic grounds as it may be in your way!
The game started with Mark moving into the small wood. I moved some troops up to contest it but they were flying solo and they were outmatched.
I lost an Auxilia but in the next turn I rolled a four for PiPs, and I was able to reform a line, including my other Auxilia and a Cavalry element to provide overlap support. Combat went well and the wood was mine.
In the next turn, I was able to put together an attack on the rest of Mark’s line.
The Dice Gods then dropped in to let me know that nothing is pre-ordained in DBA.
My luck was abysmal. Although I destroyed a spear, I lost two heavy chariots and a cavalry element, bringing us up to 4 losses each. So the game continued.
Mark destroyed a Horde and my last Heavy Chariot, bringing the game to a bloody 6-4 conclusion.
Although before the game we were confident that my Heavy Chariots would have ground the Philistines to a fine paste, Nature’s balance was restored by my rolling four 1s in a row. That’s a 1 in 1296 chance, though, so this game was something of a statistical outlier.