Category Archives: Medieval

A Letter from Malacca

Last night we deployed some armies for a fascinating game of BBDBA. With my regular opponent keen to use his Post Mongol Samurai (IV/59b) I opted to use my Sumatrans or Malay (IV/37a). My Sumatrans were built for DBR and comprise considerably more troops than BBDBA requires. However, given the period covered by the late medieval period and DBA I thought it more appropriate they were used to represent the Sultanate of Malacca than the Sumatrans.

Despite having the army I’ve not used it in DBA or BBDBA. Primarily due to the warband being based three figures per base, as required for DBR, rather than the DBA requirement of four per base. One of the appealing aspects is the combination of elephants and warband which is, in my view, rather fascinating. So with some differences between this army under the two rule sets it would likely be an experiment at best, a disaster at worse.

I opted for two commands each with 13 stands and one of 10 stands. The centre, which would be allocated the highest PIP die, would contain the majority of elephants and a significant number of warriors (4Wb). One wing would contain the remaining elephants, a number of warriors and light horse, visible below in a staged photo before the game.

The combination of two elephants, six stands of warriors, a couple stands of archers all supported by the light horse, which can also be seen below, was complex. The combination of figures required at very least the second highest PIP die.

Finally the remaining wing, which would have the lowest PIP die, would contain the remaining warriors and the bulk of the archers who could at least fire even when movement was restricted. The allocation of PIP dice before the battle, as well as the role each command will play, is an important dynamic to consider in BBDBA. All part of having a plan, even when it’s not particularly cunning!

Now, to the battle. The Japanese, as defender, had selected and placed terrain. They deployed cavalry on the wings with massed dismounted Samurai in the centre. Ashigaru and Sohei monks extending the centre to left and right. Clearly the Japanese commander intended to hold in the centre while attacking on the wings. 

For this particular game the Malay massed their elephants and warriors in the centre and left with the warriors interspersed by elephants. The concept was the elephants would breakup the enemy lines which the warriors would then exploit. The extreme left was held by archers and light horse. The Malay right wing was somewhat separated from the centre by a couple of steep hills. 

In due course the Japanese were unleashed. The first attack was against the Malay right. 

Here the Japanese foot, including warrior monks (3Bd), was partially bogged down by a combination of steep hills and Malay skirmishers. However, the Japanese mounted pressed the extreme flank. The Japanese mounted (6Cv) suffered heavy casualties as the Malay archers took a heavy toll. 

Meanwhile the Malay left and centre, shown above, advanced to attack Japanese opposite. However, a diversion of troops to support the battle on the right caused a temporary halt. Now, the Japanese, having reorganised their right, surged forward to attack the Malay left. Soon the fighting was general with only a portion of the centres of both armies engaged. Below, a view from the Japanese centre with a small village, a hamlet in DBA terms, separating the centre of both armies.

As casualties mounted the first to break was the Japanese left. A result of both casualties to the mounted and isolated warrior monks. Meanwhile, on the Malay left, the Japanese we’re gaining the advantage despite several attacks being thrown back with heavy casualties. Eventually the Malay left would became demoralised. Desperate to break the Japanese the Malay centre pressed forward in one final effort. Warriors and elephants smashed into the disrupted ranks with elephants leading the attacks and hardened warriors charging in support. While several parts of the Japanese line held others disintegrated in the onslaught. A hard fought but decisive victory had been secured for the Malay.

From an effectiveness perspective the elephants had proven difficult to manoeuvre using, as expected, many PIPs. The warriors (4Wb), while frustratingly slow, had proven generally resilient against Japanese ashigaru (3Pk) and in many cases deadly against Samurai (4Bd) and Sohei monks (3Bd). In many ways their effectiveness on the day was a result of the elephant and warband combination. The archers had proven invaluable on the Malay right, despite my less than optimal deployment. That said, a few different die rolls and the Malay right could have easily unraveled.

Interestingly the army played rather differently than it does in DBR, where enemy firearms often are seen. In this situation the elephants are held in reserve rather than risk being unnerved by the sound of these weapons. I now think it’s time I take the plunge and paint some additional warriors so I can field the army with the legal requirement of solid warband, rather than reminding myself throughout the game that the warriors were actually “solid”. It will be good to have a different army on the DBA and BBDBA battlefield.

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A Korean Expedition

One of my preferences is to fight historical, or near historical, opponents. Having recently played a number of games between Japanese armies of the Sengoku Jidai period it was with anticipation I prepared to face another players well painted Yi Dynasty Koreans (IV/78) army. While I’ve had my Japanese for many years I’ve never used them against the Koreans. Historically the Japanese invasion of Korea occurred in 1592, and therefore is officially outside the period of the DBA rules. However, the later armies are effectively the same as those covered by the rules, excluding an increasing number of arquebus from 1542. As a result only a little historical license must be taken to accommodate an earlier invasion of Korea.

The Koreans in this period have a mix of foot including many armed with long spear. Those of better quality are rated as pikemen while the militia, who are of lesser quality, are rated as horde. These are supported by massed archers, artillery and light troops. The mounted component is numerically significant and comprises both heavy and light cavalry. My own Japanese have a range of options but I selected the ashigaru derivative providing an army whose foot were mostly armed with yari (3Pk), a few archers and of course a solid mass of dismounted samurai. In contrast to the Koreans only a few samurai opted to fight mounted.

The Koreans deployed their army on a plain bordered by two rocky hills which restricted their deployment initially. As expected the infantry was on the centre and right and their mounted concentrated on their left. The Japanese centre comprised the dismounted samurai and the centre was extended on both flanks by ashigaru. Finally, on the Japanese right the token mounted samurai were deployed, their rear ranks bolstered by followers on foot.

The battle began with a rapid Japanese advance which was clearly designed to restrict the Korean mounted deployment. The Koreans ignored this pushing their mounted to their left, arguably dangerously, as can be seen above. On the Korean right a rocky hill was secured by archers and light infantry, as can be seen below.

Soon, the Korean light troops were thrown even further forward, unwisely, to pin the Japanese left. While the Korean light infantry were quickly overcome the Korean archers, some on the hill and others on the flat, were more resolute. Indeed, Korean archery continually harassed the Japanese ashigaru who were unable or unwilling to engage, suffered heavy casualties.

The Japanese right pressed forward with the intent of slowly driving the Korean mounted, to their front, back. The ashigaru, armed with yari (3Pk) had the advantage and it was hoped that eventually the Korean horse would be pushed back and caught between the rocky hill to their rear and the Japanese. Instead, the battle swung back and forward inconclusively.

The Japanese centre meanwhile was disrupted by Korean artillery fire. An assortment of carts equipped with rockets being particularly effective in disrupting the dismounted samurai.

Eventually, on the Japanese left, a body of ashigaru flanked the Korean positions on the rocky hill on the Korean right and attacked the Korean main line from the flank. Simultaneously the Japanese samurai advanced in the centre engaging Korean spear and artillery. The Korean militia fought determinedly, pushing the ashigaru opposite back. The samurai, fighting the massed regular spear armed foot (4Pk) were more evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the battle on the Japanese right continued inconclusively.

While the battle on the Japanese right continued inconclusively, above, a decision in the centre was approaching. Eventually the Korean artillery was overcome and aa a result the samurai swirled on to the open flank of the Korean spear. Attacked from the front and flank the Korean pike were overcome.

With this massive rupture of the centre, Korean resolve collapsed. The army, including the relatively organised mounted component, fled the field.

The game was fascinating and despite only having 12 elements in each army lasted over 90 minutes. The final result was a 4-3 Japanese win with the Japanese only recovering from a losing situation in the last few turns. I’m certainly looking forward to a rematch.

Conquest Results

Over the weekend the local Conquest wargames convention was held. Yet again we were able to run a DBA competition, this year comprising two seperate events. The first day involved a standard DBA competition of six rounds, each of an hour. While the second day would comprise a Big Battle three round competition.

Looking at the first day the six rounds were further divided into two sections. The first three games involved the Ancient section and drew armies from the period up to 450 AD. The armies, except one, were all drawn from the Section II lists and all contained an interesting mix. At the conclusion of the Ancient Section Brian was 1st place with 33 points while Greg Kelleher and Keith McNelly were on second equal with 23 points each.

Above and below armies clash in the Ancient Section. Above Asiatic Successors clash with Eastern Patrician Army while below the same Successors clash with Palmyrans.

Below, a view of the Palmyran camp. A fine example of many well painted and presented armies.

The Dark Age and Medieval Section, played in the afternoon, also comprised three rounds and used armies from 451 AD. Of these armies a solid core were Late Medieval armies, including three Wars of the Roses armies and a hard hitting Free Companies. However, the Hussite army had several players scratching their heads on how to deal with the massed war wagons expertly commanded by Mark. After the three rounds of the Medieval section Mark Baker was on 24 points, Jim Morton on 23 and Greg Wells on 21 points.

Above, the Hussite host engage their enemy. Below, the Mongols prepare to advance against a Wars of the Roses English army.

Below, Wars of the Roses English engaged against Free Companies, who unsurprisingly were invading English territories. The English maintained a good account of themselves through a combination of archery and cannon fire.

Combining the scores of both Sections provided the final placings as follows:

  • Brian Sowman – I/50 Lydian with I/52g Asiatic Greek ally; IV/54b Medieval Scandinavian Union with IV/13c Medieval German ally (41pts)
  • Jim Morton – II/36a Graeco-Bactrian; IV/74 Free Company (34 pts)
  • Mark Davies – II/32a Later Carthaginian; IV/1a Komnenan Byzantine (33pts)
  • Greg Kelleher – II/82b Eastern Patrician Army; III/10b Rajput Army (31pts)
  • Keith McNelly – II/16b Asiatic Early Successor; II/83a Wars of the Roses English, Yorkist (31pts)
  • Paul Deacon – II/10 Camillan Roman; III/28 Carolingian Frankish (28pts)
  • Greg Wells – II/74a Palmyran; II/83a Wars of the Roses English (26pts)
  • Mark Baker – II/74a Palmyran; IV/80 Hussite (24pts)
  • John Kerr – II/33 Polybian Roman; II/83a Wars of the Roses English (22pts)
  • Angus Yeates – II/32a Later Carthaginian; IV/35 Mongol Conquest (16pts)

The second day of Conquest was allocated to an Ancient Big Battle event of three rounds. Most of the armies were similar to the previous days Ancient Section, with a few exceptions. Unfortunately, player numbers were a little lower with eight players participating. Of these players, a number had not played BBDBA with 3.0. Each round lasted 2 1/4 hours with a number of games going to the wire. Interestingly, unlike the previous day when there were no camps taken, a couple of camps were attacked and taken. Clearly the benefit of attacking camps in BBDBA were high on some players radar.

Above, Carthaginians deployed in one of the Big Battle games. In this game the Carthaginians fought with great determination, especially their Spanish mercenary foot. Below, the Carthaginians face the Eastern Patricians with their LPIA Nomad Ally in the foreground.

Below, Later Carthaginians engage Eastern Patricians. The Patricians were one of the armies that were supported by an ally. An ally can be a useful component for variety and to bolster a couple of standard DBA armies to the required size for BBDBA.

A revised scoring system was used for the BBDBA competition, after three rounds the placings were as follows:

  • 1st Brian Sowman – I/50 Lydian with I/52g Asiatic Greek ally
  • 2nd Keith McNelly – II/16b Asiatic Early Successor
  • 3rd Jim Morton – II/36a Graeco-Bactrian
  • 4th= Mark Baker – II/74a Palmyran
  • 4th= Greg Wells – II/74a Palmyran with II/23a LPIA Nomad Ally
  • 6th= Greg Kelleher – II/82b Eastern Patrician Army with II/23a LPIA Nomad Ally
  • 6th= Paul Deacon – II/49 Marian Roman
  • 8th= Mark Davies – II/32a Later Carthaginian

I should add a few notes of thanks. Firstly to our competitors who all played as true gentlemen. I of course must mention our four out of town visitors, two from Australia and another each from Auckland and Blenheim, thank you for your support. Then we have those players who provided loan armies to help with the themes.

Finally, I would like to thank Comics Compulsion who organise Conquest and are so supportive of DBA. I encourage you to support them.

Beware The Pretender!

For me one of the very appealing features of DBA is the ability to build armies in matched pairs and to refight both historical and fictional games between these pairs of armies, at reasonable cost in both lead and painting time. Over the years I have had plans, and on occasions false starts, at building large Ancient or Medieval armies for rule sets such as DBM. Yet with such games my opponents generally tend to have a preference to use their own larger armies. This is of course a very understandable preference given the investment we as wargamers make in our own armies. The required return on investment is even more pronounced when game time can be limited. It can be difficult after all to find time for a larger game and when you do it is natural for a wargamer to want to finally get his own troops on the table.

However, with DBA these time barriers start to be break down. Armies require less painting time and with a game lasting an hour a couple of games can be played in an evening. There is now time to use the other persons army. As such DBA allows me to build and deploy armies in historical pairs. Last night was no exception when four of us caught up for a gaming DBA gaming evening. 

For my part I played three Wars of the Roses engagements, one against each of the other players. The result was three excellent games where each game ran down to the wire. While I’m not going to provide a breakdown of each game they all had a degree of difference. Partly as a result of different player styles, partly based on army composition or deployment and partly due to the vagaries of the dice.

In two games ploughed fields become a major obstacle, a result of a recent heavy rain or a late campaign season. In each players opted for alternate troops or tactics. Archery proved on occasion effective, while at others brittle. Bill and bow closed to melee while in another game mounted men at arms charged, perhaps foolishly, in an attempt to gain advantage and glory. All these elements can easily be found in historical accounts. Yet all remained in period. How very different from unhistoric encounters.

Above, in both photos, Irish light troops dominate a rock covered hill and threaten some Yorkist billmen while in the centre Lancastrian bill and bow advance on the Lancastrian main line. The Lancastrians are from my own collection while the Yorkists are from John Kerr’s collection. By the way, be sure to click on the images to enlarge them.

 If you haven’t tried historical pairs I would highly recommend it. It’s very different from “Open” events and in my view is one of the great strengths of DBA.