I had a few games of DBA in the last few months. The Syracusans had a couple of outings. At the AWC against Philip’s Muslim Indians they almost won and at the Auckland City Guard against Joel’s Lysimachids they seemed set to win when they fell apart. I then tried my Seleucids against Joel’s Marians. I tried the ‘d’ list of the Seleucids and was doing pretty well from memory before losing yet again. My last game before Conquest was against Craig, visiting from Brisbane; he took the Seleucids who cut the Carthaginians to pieces decisively in two rounds of combat. I attacked. my opening attack was intended to gain an overlap; it went one better and destroyed its opposing element. I then took a risk and attacked with my psiloi-supported spear against the SCh. My luck deserted me and lost the two elements. I was lucky to survive that round, but in Craig’s round I lost 6-1, I think!

I got to Conquest for the third time now. Next year is the tenth anniversary of the competition (not the DBA part of it), so I’d be keen to get along again. Keith very kindly put me up and we had a game of DBA the night before the competition. My Seleucids were victorious against his Graeco-Bactrians; the Scythed Chariot was unstoppable and took out three of his elements from memory.

  • Arne (II/23a Later Pre-Islamic Arabs)

At Conquest, first up the Seleucids faced Arne’s Later Pre-Islamic Arabs. This was his first time using this freshly painted army. I took the 3Ax option, but I think the 3Cm or the 3Cv would have been better. As it was these 3Ax refused to die for quite a while and I came close to winning this battle, but I think I lost 4-3.

Lining up against massed camels.

  • Andrew Taylor (I/20a Ugaritic)

My next opponent went for a lot of terrain; not quite the hills of Cappadocia of the previous year, but still pretty bad. My deployment was frankly inept and I hung on for a draw. The psiloi advance on the hill was forced to retreat after one died and advances on the right flank were forced to retreat by light troops in the woods. Eventually the SCh died after chasing some Ax up the hill and the elephant, after running into the midst of the enemy to create some room for the rest of the army, also died. I was lucky to finish with a draw.

Wallowing around in confusion in the woods and hills of Phoenicia.

  • Stephen (II/64b Middle Imperial Roman, East)

I then had a bye, my most successful outing to date, and refreshed by a longer lunch break, I faced Stephen. His Romans had beaten my Carthaginians a number of times in the past, but these were later ones, and seemed to be under some curse. After eyeing up the terrain I decided to risk the equivalent of a littoral landing by sending half my army up the road. I hoped he’d struggle to redeploy and I might get his camp. Given that I put my elephant in the front, I was lucky he didn’t causing some squashing!

The Seleucid armoured column prepares to trundle up the road.

Luck was on my side (or very much not on Stephen’s!) and I got one of his cavalry. He then started shooting at me with his archer and artillery, but I shrugged it off and recoiled his general into the camp to record my first win.

The first Roman cavalry is despatched.

The Roman general stumbles on the camp and breaks.

  • Keith (II/36a Graeco-Bactrian)

Against the Graeco-Bactrians high PIPs on the first turn lead to a charge by psiloi on the hill on the enemy’s flank. I sent all three as I wanted to outnumber his Ax. However, I then had terrible PIPs (2 a turn for ages) and could only manoeuvre these slowly as the Graeco-Bactrians advanced at speed on my main force. By the time they made contact I had only just started to catch up. So much for the psiloi peeling off his rear support! Instead I was overlapped on that flank and soon lost the pike whose own rear support was turned. Despite this I managed to kill his general and in a final combat that was at even odds I lost and was defeated 3G-4.

Psiloi on the left flank eye up the opposition hill.

Pike fail on the left flank, but the right flank sees Scythians broken by Cataphracts, though the other Scythians fend off Camels and a flanking Scythed Chariot.

Knight on knight with no room to recoil. The Scythians had been defeated, but the Seleucid agema break when attacked by the Graeco-Bactrian mounted.

  • Brian (II/3 Classical Indian)

My final battle saw Classical Indians on the defensive and wary after facing pike in a previous battle. Given bad terrain and no desire to rush across it the battle was a stalemate.

The pike might have been better more central here. Instead things became a stalemate across the swamps.

That night the Seleucids got another chance to meet the Graeco-Bactrians. On a billiard table against an all mounted army, their ‘c’ option was defeated by light horse. In the encounters between LH and Ax, Ps or Wb I didn’t roll high enough to recoil them into each other and went down without breaking any of the enemy.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day. I didn’t play that well. I guess I’m still getting the hang of this army, which looks extremely strong, but doesn’t like bad terrain, especially as the SCh and El struggle to manoeuvre around it.

Thinking about all the mistakes that contributed to the Carthaginians failure against the Classical Indians last night, I decided to refight the battle solo. I don’t have any Classical Indians, so I resorted to my Goblins, as I’d done some time ago. The Goblins this time used wolves for the HCh, but were otherwise led by a Giant along with ogre and troll cohorts (3xEl) and had goblin archers (4x3Bw), wolf riders (2x3Cv) and as I didn’t have enough archers to replicate Joel’s army, I took a 5Bd(!)—I didn’t have any 3Bd, as they’d been cannibalized for SBH.

The Carthaginian leader, one of the numerous Hasdrubals, was in retreat from India. Fortunately most of his casualties had been skirmishers. But he still wasn’t looking forward to explaining his defeat to his superiors. After all, now that the Carthaginian Republic was the supreme power in the Mediterranean and was even extending its influence east beyond the Hellenistic world, it took a dim view of unsuccessful generals. Hasdrubal was hoping for some success on the way back to balance this defeat. He reinforced his army with some Gallic mercenaries that had been foraging during the previous encounter, so there were two 3Wb instead of two of the 2Ps. These Gauls brought some disturbing news, claiming to have seen a Giant with a horde of hideous green-skinned people. Hasdrubal was disinclined to take such a report too seriously, given the Gallic propensity for exaggeration; he also suspected that their foraging had gained them a little more wine than was wise. Nevertheless, he sent forward his Numidians to confirm this report.

The Numidians brought back news that there was indeed a host of these foul creatures and they were camped near an area strangely similar to the battlefield on which they had met the Indians. Upon ascertaining the nature of this army and drawing on his experience in the previous battle, Hasdrubal succeeded in forcing the Giant to deploy with the marsh in the middle of his line. This gave Hasdrubal a handy wood on each flank. This time he took care to position his camp centrally and watch the Goblins deploy. The Giant chose to deploy on his left of the marsh, so he would have clear ground in front of him. He put the wolves to his left and the archers to his right with the wolf riders in reserve and the blades on the end of the line. After he saw the Carthaginian deployment he shifted one archer to the left to try to meet the threat of the Spanish Scutati.

Hasdrubal deployed with the Libyan spear on his right flank with the Spanish Scutarii ready to go out wide from them. In the centre were the elephants with Libyan skirmishers in support. On the left were the Gauls and in reserve were the Numidians and Hasdrubal’s Libyphoenician cavalry.

Initial Deployments: Goblins on the left and Carthaginians on the right.

The opening manoeuvres favoured Hasdrubal, who had good PIPs, while the Goblins started very slowly, struggling to get out of the marsh. However, Hasdrubal moved his spear and elephants a little closer than was sensible before they had support on the left flank and the Giant was able to launch a general attack. Shooting in Hasdrubal’s turn had recoiled one of the spear, but the archer was not able to advance with the line, being ZOCed by the Scutarii. The Giant started by having the psiloi in front of the trolls put to flight. This left the elephant on the left overlapped against archers, who destroyed it. Elsewhere it did not go so well. He was recoiled against elephants, as were the ogres against spear. The poor wolves faced long odds and were routed when the dice went 1-6 against them.

The Giant's charge sees each side lose an element, but the Carthaginians can be relieved to have got off so lightly.

In Hasdrubal’s turn he attacks the archers with his Scutarii and brings the Libyan psiloi in front of the spear. He also advances to reform the line on the left along with the Gauls. In the only combat the Scutarii rout the opposing bow.

With good PIPs Hasdrubal restores some order to the Carthaginian line.

The Giant advances his archers to shoot at the Gauls, destroying one warband with concentrated fire. He advances on the Libyan psiloi, but only recoils it, rather than making it flee.

Accurate shooting sees some Gauls break and run.

Hasdrubal decides to gamble on a charge into the archers. The Gauls use a move sideways to join him (avoiding the archers’ ZOC), and then uses their second move to charge into combat. They are followed by Hasdrubal and the Libyan psiloi, who on the right have overlap support from the spear. Hasdrubal goes first and destroys the archers in front of him, the Gauls then recoil the archers they face, but the Libyans, despite overlap support on both sides, get a ‘stick’ against the trolls and are recoiled again against the ogres.

Hasdrubal succeeds in his charge on the Goblin archers.

In the Giant’s turn, he flanks the Gauls and advances on the elephant and spear. He rather foolishly leaves the trolls in combat with the psiloi, though with his overlap the odds are now better (3-2 rather than 2-2 of the turn before). The Gauls shrug off the attack of the archers, chasing after them. The Libyans facing the trolls finally prove too much for them, and although the Giant recoils the opposing elephant, it’s not enough to help the ogres against the Libyan spear, who recoil them. With their battleline now in tatters the goblins take to their heels.

The trolls have had enough, and with their departure the goblins flee.

Hasdrubal has a victory, and some strange trophies to restore his standing in the republic.

  • Review:

I had a plan this time, and the Giant didn’t really counter it effectively. His wolf riders were not really effective on the right flank, and should probably have been on the left where they would have made a very useful reserve. However, they had the hope of flanking the Carthaginians, which they had neither the PIPs nor the time to do.

The idea of facing the elephants with elephants was one I got from the Fanaticus Forum. I thought putting the psiloi in the middle would be a good way of neutralizing the general and keeping it safe from other mounted. Otherwise, the dice were kind to me this time, though it made a difference that the psiloi were only exposed to elephants (of sorts!) this time, as they were my downfall in the last game.

The Carthaginians were overdue for a win, even if a solo one. I should get to use them again this Friday when I visit John. After that there won’t be many battle before my trip overseas removes me from gaming for a few weeks. Then I hope to get them down to Christchurch for the Christchurch Wargames Club’s DBA Open Championship. After all, I need the practice before the IWC competition.

Last night I got to use my Carthaginians after quite a break. Joel was able to get some time for a game. He asked if I wanted to face the Marians, or would I like to try something else. Rather than offer him my Ancient Britons, I suggested he try out his Classical Indians.

In this encounter I was the aggressor; not sure how that would have happened, unless the Carthaginians turned mercenary themselves and went way way east; or perhaps Hannibal won the Second Punic War (or the Second Roman War, if they got to write history!) and expanded east, again, way, way east!

Joel laid out a pair of woods and a marsh for the terrain. I got the edge I wanted, and set my camp behind a wood, which seemed a good idea at the time. Joel then deployed, with the elephants in the centre, flanked by archers and his cavalry in reserve.

My deployment was to put the spear in the centre, flanked by one elephant, the Spanish in the woods, the Numidians behind the marsh, and the commander in reserve with an elephant. I had reservations about using an elephant in reserve, but the battleline seemed too short to fit the spear and the elephants. In response to my deployment, Joel shifted his HCh to his right flank.

Initial Deployments: Carthaginians on the left and Indians on the right.

Very quickly I started to see problems with my deployment, as Joel’s cavalry advanced on my right flank, threatening my camp. It was hard to protect, and it blocked access in GGo past it (well done me!). He also threatened the other wing with his chariots, and I had only the Numidians to oppose them. I decided to retire the Numidian cavalry to buy me time and to send the general and his elephant across to stop the Indian cavalry (and hopefully attack some of his archers). This took me quite a while, and as I was doing it Joel advanced an archer to shoot at my Numidian foot; on the first shot he got 6-1 and they were off; my left flank now looked very exposed.

The Carthaginian general moves across to the right flank, cursing the subordinate who positioned the camp!

Indian archers prove too much for Numidian psiloi.

I finally managed to get my general and elephant around to face his cavalry, who began to back-peddle. But by then I had an archer and some chariots to the rear of my spear. I did my best to launch an all-out attack. Unfortunately, my Spanish were not terribly valiant, and the Scutarii were recoiled, leaving the Caetrati overlapped. Like the Numidian foot, they weren’t terribly resilient. However, the general did destroy an element of archers. Yet, when Joel’s archers recoiled my elephant, the spear looked all the more forlorn.

Looking grim as the Carthaginian centre advances against elephants.

Joel in reply got 6 PIPs and he was able to attack on all fronts. His chariots did not manage to destroy the Numidians, who recoiled before them. His archers recoiled the elephant some more, and his elephants ploughed into my spear. His general sealed the victory by leading the attack and destroying the centre spear and its psiloi support. One spear, despite being overlapped, recoiled the elephant in front of it; the other was less lucky.

The Libyan spear are destroyed by the Indian elephants (one spear element is shown as having recoiled, reflecting a level of confusion!

  • Review

I have to confess that I didn’t really have much of a plan, but what plan that did arise in response to Joel’s deployment was reactive to the bad positioning of the camp. If it was more central I could have defended it with psiloi from the woods. I then would have had the elephant and general free to stop any mischief by the chariots. I would have been better to have kept the spear behind the marsh, I think, and had the elephants in the centre. This might have led to something of a stand-off, as Joel would not have wanted to advance between the wood and the marsh. I might have kept the game going another turn if I’d had the PIPs to get the Libyan psiloi in front of the spear to face the elephants. Actually, Joel revealed a surprising confusion about the quality of his elephants, as he’d forgotten they QKed spear. He held off attacking the spear for quite a while because of this. This is all the more surprising as Keith assures me Joel’s elephants have trampled his hoplites many times!

Anyway, this has given me much to think on, as my Carthaginians continue to be winless after five battles, especially as I want to use them for competitions.

Yesterday Joel and I caught up for our second game of DBA together. Joel again provided the armies. He was keen to use his Marians again and suggested as opponents Classical Indians (his only other army that he doesn’t feel is in need of a repaint). It wasn’t exactly a historical match-up, though I postulated that if Mark Antony had had more success against the Parthians he just might have kept going … OK, it’s a long shot!

The Romans took two elements of psiloi this time, but were otherwise the same as last week. The Indians had 3xEl (including cmd), 2xHCh, 2x3Cv and 5x3Bw. I chose the Indians, as I figured Joel, who’d used them a lot, would have a better idea of how to counter them with the Marians than I would.

I’d used some pseudo-Classical Indians before, and the main lesson I’d taken from it was not to let the archers get left behind from the rest of the army, which is mounted. I was the defender, and went for the minimum wood and two patches of rough. Joel got the opposite edge from the one he wanted, and I deployed with the archers on the wings (where they might find some BGo to meet the Roman blades on slightly better odds). I had the cavalry on the left flank. Joel chose to deploy on one flank, using the wood as an anchor.

I reacted to this by moving the HCh to flank my general (not terribly inventive!).

Initial Deployment: Classical Indians on the left and Marian Romans on the right.

The Roman deployment made for a slow start to the game as he manoeuvred to protect both flanks, and I tried to get my unwieldy elephants to line up with him.

Turn 1: The Romans expand their line and the Indians advance out of the rough.

I hoped to advance my left flank archers through the woods and my cavalry around the flank.

Turn 2: The Indian cavalry start to head around the left flank.

Turn 3: The Romans advance towards the road.

I hit upon the idea of forming a column to move sideways, as the chariots and elephants would turn in place if contacted. This had ramifications that I had not anticipated!

Turn 4: The Indian battle line forms a column.

As the Indian column moves to the right (bearing an unfortunate resemblance to a circus parade!), the Romans have one PIP and move one of their psiloi to their left.

Turn 5: The Indian archers head for the woods.

The Romans decide that the Indians are too tempting a target and begin to close on them. Meanwhile, the Indian archers get closer to the woods.

Turn 6: The Indian column tempts the Romans to advance.

As the Roman line gets closer, the archers on the Indian right turn to face them. It’s now I discover that I advanced my column too far, and one of these archers cannot expand out from the other.

Turn 7: As the Romans approach, the Indian cavalry is recalled.

On the right flank the Romans are able to attack the Indian archers without suffering from overlap from the elephant, who’s not facing the right way—an unexpected consequence of the column. The archers are fortunate only to be recoiled. The Indian cavalry start to return to support the left flank.

Turn 8 (Romans): The Indian archers are recoiled by the Roman blades.

The Indian cavalry continue to rush to support the main battle line.

Turn 8 (Indians): The Indian cavalry gets closer to the Roman line.

One of the archers in the woods was destroyed when attacked by two blades, one of which flanked it.

Turn 9 (Romans): The Romans in the woods destroy an element of bows.

In response the Indian cavalry attack the flanking blade, but only force it to recoil. The elephant on the right turns to support the archers.

Turn 9 (Indians): The Indian cavalry force the Romans that flanked the the archers to recoil.

The Romans now attack this elephant, which again gets no overlap support from the chariot still in column. However, it manages to force the Romans back. They also begin to bring up their cavalry as a reserve. In response the Indians turn most of their battle line to face the Romans (all of 4 PIPs).

Turn 10: The Romans attack the end elephant and are recoiled. Their cavalry advance to be in reserve.

The Romans are only metres from the Indian battle line. In response, the Indians attack with their cavalry again—disaster! They roll ‘1’ and the Romans ‘6’, the only result that would cause their cavalry to be destroyed!

Turn 11: Disaster for the Indians as their cavalry attack is routed.

The next turn the Romans attack. On the Indian left flank the Indian elephant and chariot are forced to recoil. On the right the elephant forces back the blade opposite, taking the psiloi support from it. Unfortunately, the chariot facing the now unsupported blade can only get a ‘stick’ result. When the Romans face the Indian general it’s the last turn all over again (the last game all over again, in fact!): the Romans roll ‘6’ and the Indians ‘1’—game over!

Turn 12: The Indian general puts up no resistance and the battle is over.

One is left to wonder how Romans historians would report this victory. It would be a feather in the cap of any general that was able to get as far east as Alexander, and to win. Perhaps, with the glory won from such a victory Mark Antony could look to shift the capital to Egypt, as Octavian’s propaganda accused him of planning to do.

  • Review

I wasn’t sure how to confront the narrow Roman line. The archers could only hope to stop blade in BGo; they could take on the Roman cavalry, if they could get to them! My plan was them to advance through the wood and support their cavalry against the Roman cavalry. It was a plan that required more time. A suggestion of Joel’s after the game was to have supported the cavalry with a chariot. The Roman cavalry would then be at a significant disadvantage.

I needed to advance enough to prevent the Romans simply turning to face my cavalry, but I got too close. Rather than using a column, I could have tried to wheel to anchor my line with archers in the woods and in the rough.

The result was a comprehensive defeat, but it was over so fast owing to two extreme result rolls. If those had gone my way it might have been gone the other way. However, Joel had the advantage, as he got to launch the attack (another consequence of that column move: I figured I could always turn to face if atacked, but trying to turn to a line in my turn would require some 9 PIPs!

I’m enjoying these games, and feel I’m benefitting from the opportunity to face a more experienced player. We should get another game soon, and Joel says he found someone else interested in DBA, so the Auckland DBA scene is starting to come to life!