DBA Gaming and Military History-By Musashi

DBA Day at Avon Park Florida

After nearly a 15 year hiatus from playing DBA, I was cordially invited to attend a DBA day in Avon Park Florida. It is Dave Blackmon’s home turf as I learned, but for the majority of us, it was a good sized drive. It illustrates the passion the game inspires that people will drive hours to get together for a miniatures game!

my re-introduction to DBA was well timed. I had a wonderful time meeting everyone and I urge anyone in the greater Florida area who would like to get some DBA gaming in, or learn how to play contact the Yahoo DBA group:


The event was hosted by the gracious folks at Battlezone in Avon Park. A wonderfully welcoming environment! Thanks to them again, for opening early for us and no doubt also staying much later than normal as well. It was greatly appreciated!


Ptolemaic Empire

The Ptolemaic Empire

The first event was the “Scourge of the Republic” campaign which puts a focus on belligerent actions between Rome of Civil Wars era and the enemies scattered throughout the eventual empire Rome would control. Before Rome got a chance to make the Med, her bathtub, we got a chance to put our generalship to the test. I took control of the Ptolemaic faction, located of course in Egypt! I was the yellow player on the map (picture below).

 I found the campaign to be immense fun, building on the format used to good effect at previous conventions.  I highly recommend it for any DBA groups out there not using it! Tony Aguilar and Rich Gause co-ran the campaign flawlessly and seemingly effortlessly. My eyes had long glossed over when the vassal family tree became something more appropriate for ancestry.com than the puny human brain! Both Tony and Rich were wonderful event sponsors. Dave Blackmon receives kudo’s for the idea of getting us together there. His wife receives the savior’s award for the day. She kept the assembled soldiers fighting, unfettered from hunger pangs, by bringing delicious hot soup to us at the Battlezone location. I sheepishly took seconds while no one was looking. Thanks again!

You can click on the pictures if you want to see them isolated as well.

Tony Aguilar explains how the campaign thing is going to work. I had a good feel for the concept after the initial briefing but it came into sharper focus once a turn had been completed.

Campaign Board first turn

The yellow was my adopted home for the day, the Ptolemaic Empire! I was promoted from everyday moron to ruler of an empire at the wave of Tony’s hand. Nice fellow.

Rich On His Throne of Belts?

My first match was against the Sarmation army led by the ferocious commander Hostilius Gausius…A name I just made up for Rich Gause this very minute. You’re welcome sir!

Rich was the unfortunate victim of being paired with a player who hadn’t played DBA since 1.0 came out (that would be me). He was a gentle antagonist. Not only was I borrowing Rich’s Ptolemaic army for the campaign, but he kept answering all my questions and offereing sound advice before we moved even one unit!

Rich is a gentleman’s gentleman. Good parenting I suppose! Here is a pictorial After Action Report (AAR) from this battle:

Our initial disposition. I was attacking, and Rich placed the terrain. As you might suspect with all his horsies, that’s a gentle hill in the center, not a steep hill!

A race to the top of the hill? Methinks I should just do whatever he does. He sure knows more than I do! Mimicry is the highest form of flattery Rich.

Indeed a race it was! Come visit me in Clearwater Florida and I can take you out for a great day at Tampa Bay Downs this fall. For now, this horse race will have to do! It was a dead tie, actually. My general Knight unit on the center of the hill saw neither of us having hill advantage and each of us had an advantage hill wise, on either side of center!

See my LH on the far left flank? It was very tempting to send my LH after his camp. Instead, my LH turns into the fray.

As you can see above, the action was see-saw there all along the line!

My general witnesses a breakthrough in his lines to his immediate right. Looked a bit grim on that flank. Every general knows you put your good troops to watch your left flank right?

I fed the elephant some jumbo sized peanuts and it paid dividends like a blue chip stock! This isn’t the final battle position, but I did win the round when my right flank managed to hold. You should notice Rich is NOT using any fancy Litko Aero lumber in this game! As I said, I’m sure he didn’t want to pummel the new guy.

I think he wound up playing against himself more than me. His kind offerings of clarifications which would in the end, benefit me, was not lost on me. 😉  I put the NOT in bold about the plywood Litko Aero stuff for a reason, which you will see later in this post! Ha!

Just a shot of another game I was able to snap!

This was after a couple of rounds I believe. Basically the more colors you see of your faction on the top the better. If you’re a vassel and control others still in your tree, then you have some chips of your color below the stack which still earns you points. But to be the dominant ruler, you need to see your color chip on the top of as many piles as you can. My next opponent was scheduled to be Marty Schmidt. But for now, let me bask in my glory by adding this picture:

If you really want to do well, beat a guy in the first round who will dominate. Rich was a monster, racking up win after win! This allowed me to expand “my” empire. Why was I feeling like he was doing all the work? Probably because he was! lol

Owning 2/3rd’s of the known world will put a hell of a bulls-eye on your back so under the weight of responsibility to maintain my new found lavish lifestyle, I met Marty “The Destroyer” Schmidt, under a hazy sky of raven blue. A bad auger if ever there was. I will take this chance to demonstrate in detail what happens when you haven’t played DBA in 15 years, and your head has swelled from the board bleeding yellow like a rusty Port-O-Potty. The Brown marker belongs to my neighbor to the south in Africa, the Numidians.

Putting the words Port-O-Potty and Brown that close together in a paragraph is probably not a great idea.

The Destroyer…err..Marty, placed the terrain. He has a bunch of light troops. I don’t want to take the drama out of this report and divulge the outcome but I will anyway. I got smashed and smashed good!

Aside from the visual fun of just photographing DBA in general. I decided to try to take pictures of my games as much as I could so I could later look back and learn from my mistakes. All players think about what they might have done differently when they lose, but a photo record of it really lets you bore down into the specifics and take away lessons which will hopefully be long lasting.

My first admonition to myself is I need to memorize the combat results table. My elephant should so stay AWAY from massed aux and psiloi, not be set up sure fire meet them!

I set up second, and even with the unit swap for the defender on his part,  there’s no way I should set up my elephant OUT of command range from the get go. My placement due to rough terrain in my middle battle line does not mean I have to oblige the terrain placer by having it completely dictate my initial deployment.

A plus pip unit like an elephant outside of command range due to LOS terrain problems is just…uh…dumb. Again, learn and move on soldier! I put a psiloi and a blade in the bad going in the middle of my deployment area thinking even if the blade got stuck in the bad going it can still fight ok.

But what about the rest of my army? My entire deployment was based on that two unit middle positioning, instead of looking at the macro picture. Looking at the picture above I can come up with not less than 5 better ways to handle this starting terrain issue. A large scale view of the terrain overall and army placement needs to take place, not unit placement……..Army Placement!

This is the look the executioner gives you as they take the paper plates of your last supper away!

It’s a little late one turn into the game to realize the precarious pip placement right flank I put myself into! To compound matters, I rush what pips I do get into getting my psiloi and blade in the center out of the rough in the center. What was I thinking? They were comfy as two bedbugs in a rug in that rough. The immediate remedy after that aggressive flank move by Marty was to get my General unit into command LOS ASAP. Or something …anything but a nice orderly line, which happens to be sending orders via carrier pigeon. Not good, little soldier!

To beat a dead elephant…err…horse, why I have my elephant out on a twig of a limb against an army full of …AUX is beyond me. Where is Rich? Where is my mighty vassal? I need him….badly …..need asistance…now…..Rich….Rich where are you?

I’ve managed to get my pike into contact……..oh wait! Oh no I don’t! I’m just a smidge short it seems and cannot move to contact. Now I’ve got a pike noogie for dessert. Next lesson. Purchase Litko-Aero bases and DBx rulers and set it all up and premeasure BEFORE you move it to make you can make it!

You can see my emergency plan to help my right flank is to move my other knight unit to that flank. But wait? Did I bother to move my general up to get my right flank in command LOS? No, why would I do anything smart like that? lol

EDIT: I have just been studying these pictures again to think about what I could have done better. Suddenly it dawns on me that I was operating under the assumption that the light brown patch I was wading through, which caused me to spend 2 pips for my right flank units was ROUGH terrain. I just assumed that and moved along charging myself 2 pips for each move over there.

For one thing, I looked it up, and it can’t possibly be ROUGH terrain. The Numidians are a HILLY terrain type Agression 3 normally. My Ptolemaic are Arable, Agression 1 normally. We used aggression factors based on campaign map movement not army list aggression, but the terrain type of each army applied depending on who won the die roll. ROUGH terrain doesn’t even exist for Hilly. Hilly has a mandatory terrain of Steep Hill, of course, which this obviously is, now that I’ve had time to look it up.

For another thing, if I thought it was a ROUGH terrain feature, then there would be NO LOS issues, as rough doesen’t prevent LOS. So I was just wrong all the way around!

So ignorance again comes into play here, as if I had realized it was a Steep Hill, I should have asked before we chose map edges to have the hill’s crest determined since it’s not indicated on the hill itself with little dashes or what have you. If the hill crest went parallel to my battle line, I would have always had LOS for my general unit and that entire fiasco could have been avoided!! Of course the crest could have been perpendicular to my deployment and I would have been in the same boat. Woulda shoulda coulda, but the point of looking at your games when possible and again, learn some lessons! So, all you newbies out there, remember to define terrain pieces carefully and decide hill crests if not marked!


It wouldn’t have cured my idiotic deployment to begin with, but would have allowed me to do much more than I managed. I actually was rolling really high pip movement dice as you can tell by the amount of stuff I was still able to do.

Here’s a picture of what NOT to do:

The red circle shows how close I was. Again premeasure with chits before movement! doink! I had to bring the psiloi up out of his comfy spot to try to make sure my pikes didn’t get the door closed on them. In my defense I had never played with pike before, even in 1.0 days. I had no idea that pike didn’t get the +3 bonus for rear rank support against LH. I figured long pointy sticks….hey what did I know? So ignorance is a good defense for this movement here.

As in life, there are cascading effects to every action. Moving the psiloi out would prove painful:

Oh…look! My psiloi are nowhere to be seen. The dice finished the business, but I booked the hotel room, arranged the Skype conference call and picked up the donuts on the way to the meeting. It was all pre-destined before I even picked up the ivory cube! Of course Marty being an excellent player might have had a smidge to do with it!  😉

I didn’t realize it at the time immediately, due to my grieving for my psiloi, but that Aux move to get to him now prevents my pike from sliding over to ever even get into contact with that LH in my middle. I am now completely suck in the center unable to attack a thing!

Meanwhile on my right flank, my Knight has shown up to save the day, but like his pike friend before him…..it’s horseshoes and hand grenades as it turns out. A day late and a dollar short:

I have included that circle around Marty’s troops because you see I’m set up for a clash against those troops. A clash that never comes close to happening. If you’re smart like Mr. Destroyer you don’t offer up your troops that don’t match up well just to do it.

I think in DBA this is way more subtle than refused flanks, and using your pips in sectors that you want battle to take place. If you can get an enemy to use pips where he doesn’t want to to deal with the pips you just spent, then you sir, are well on your way to a big fat W! But there is more to it than that. Something invisible.

From a more primordial view, good generalship comes from what have your troops NOT do, more than the direct action decisions. Certainly decisive action is required in DBA, but I find that at this early juncture in my DBA 2.2 life,  that I feel compelled to rush forward…or backward. It has to be about more than frenetic activity to soothe the savage beast.

DBA, or any activity can be a window into your soul if you let it. You play DBA like the person you are. Are you super uber technical, dreaming up rules machinations never intended, but technically legal, not missing the slightest trick or letting your opponent slip up a millimeter? Well that is who you are. Are you amazingly indifferent about accurate movement, sloppy even and just want to pop a cold one and laugh harder as the brews multiply? Then that is who you are. There is nothing wrong with either, but these extremes are good examples that those two players are going to make different sorts of moves based on who they are. The fact of how many pips they got, or how the terrain affected them, is completely secondary to the outcome. It’s a theory that deemphasizes the die rolls largely.

I did’t move units in a haphazard, frenzied way, like I did in this game, simply because I enjoy flailing about. It is because I was essentially dazed and confused in that gaming situation. I was too new to know the 2.2 rules any better and veteran enough to see the failings. Know thyself  little soldier. It’s the first step to playing better!

A calm heart and steely resolve will find you making DBA moves in a like fashion. I will aim my gameplay in that direction. Drink a little Buddha potion and all will be well. All the sixes on the dice cannot cure what ails my game plan. Only a mental attitude shift can do that for me!

By the way these amateur philosophical moments are brought to completely free of charge!

Here is Marty, he of the calm heart and steely resolve….about to show me how it’s done!

You see my Knight on the far right not getting there in time allowed an overlap on the LH and he recoiled…which in turn resulted in the epic fail on the elephant.

My tabletop troops all cheered in unison, “Elephant steaks for lunch” and hit the road packing. I think I lost 5-0 but I don’t remember.

I think it is very helpful to record your own games if possible. They are very instructive and a lot of fun later to ponder the possibilities! Also when you see battle reports, they’re almost always when someone wins big or wins a tourney or something. Big losers rarely take the time to photograph much less, edit and post their ignominy. I would find people’s losses much more instructive than their wins. I find my own games to be the same!

Here is the map of the world A.M. (After Marty):

I missed one red line to the White player (Sarmation) He controls me therefore he controls Rich!

Here are some random shot of games during the day:

In the foreground is Devin Gause (L) playing Dave Blackmon and in the background Rich Gause (L), playing Tony Aguilar.

Jason Schmidt (L) takes on Kevin Schwabe in the foreground and Bill Melendez (L) takes on Jim Riley in the background. Speaking of that game, here are some pics of their match I was able to catch:

Bill on the left was playing as Gauls and Jim on the right was playing Dacians!

The only thing separating these barbarian hordes is mean intentions and about a foot and a half of cheap outdoor carpet!

I don’t have pictures of the rest of their game.. If you want to know what happened……in this clash of arms…..why not come see for yourself next time at Hurricon, a convention in Orlando this September 23rd through 26th.


DBA gamers are the friendliest group I know. I will be there, just say hi!

Jason, and Devin were two of the nicest young men I have met in a long time. It no doubt stems from all the time fathers and sons have spent together learning and playing DBA! It’s a wonderful family bonding hobby and I think it would be great if more people used social gaming to reinforce that part of family life again. DBA is an easy to pick up and learn game, but hard to master sort of thing which provides ample room for historical study or just pushing figures around. It’s really a ton of fun surrounded by nice people!

The horde assembled to hear the machinations which our tabletop aggression has caused.

The campaign over and all very pleased, all of us moved onto the open tournament. I used my newly based Early Seleucid army. I say newly based, as I painted all of them back in 1994 and never actually got a chance to play with them. So this was their baptism by fire. Here are a couple pictures of my army I fielded:

Speaking of fun people, here is the game between Dave and I. So it’s my Early Seleucids vs Eastern Franks! Dave said he had never had a chance to play this army and have them dismount. Well, since I laid the terrain down, he did indeed have a chance to dismount!

Dave is a super guy, he had me laughing the whole time we played. This is especially impressive as it turned out to be a game in my favor. Great sport, I bow to you sir! Here are a few pics:

Initial Deployment

Right before the dismounting started lol

Next up is the final game of the day, Tony Aguilar come to grips with Rich Gause. Marty, Tony and Rich are our resident master players. This grizzled cadre provide me with wonderful resource to increase my skill level quickly! Like any thing in life, to get better at something, challenge the best! Between the wonderful cameradie of the group and the technical expertise, I expect I will be more than simply competent in short order.

 Tony has just returned from Historicon winning the NICT championship. He is so gracious, you’d never know he had just scaled that DBA peak! Thanks to both Tony and Rich for making me a vastly improved DBA’er in just one day!

Tony's Song Chinese vs Rich's Bosphorans

My, a VERY brave Arty piece!

A perfect example of backing up as more effective than fighting!

Now here it’s Rich’s turn, and do you see all that lumber on the board? He is measuring it quite smartly to make sure everything is as he would like and also not cause any confusion for his opponent! BUT…but…where was all this woodenware when I was playing him? That is where my suspicion comes in that he didn’t want to grind me to a pulp lol. Whatever the case may be, the net effect is the same. I won the first game I played that day, vs Rich and it left a soft afterglow the rest of the day, regardless of the subsequent thrashings! But next time Rich, I expect all sorts of measuring sticks to come out in our games! 😉

Which is cat and which is mouse?

A shot of Tony’s wonderfully painted Chinese Artillery men! They’re about to light that sucker!

Rich has rid himself of that Arty on his right side, and feeling flush from that victory plows in for the jugular! He explained after the game he wish he had kept his troops in the woods longer and let his Horse get fully engaged before he sallied forth.

and here is the result:

Tony wins 4-3. A hard fought victory and superior generalship from both!

I had a great time, so thanks again for everyone involved! I’m working on painting a few armies for Hurricon now. Again, if you’d like to learn how to play DBA, just jump in!!

By the way, Tony has a great blog on wordpress as well which is here:




5 responses

  1. Musashi, this was a brilliant post of our fun times last weekend! It was agreat pleasure to have met you and look forward to having you take part in our many, many DBA games to come!
    Your writing style is quite entertaining. I will try and remind myself to not drink anything while I am reading them. 😀

    July 26, 2010 at 5:13 am

    • Thanks Tony! That’s such a nice thing to say! I appreciate it 😉

      I’m happy to have run into you guys. I can already tell the Florida DBA contingent has a lot of unit cohesion and Esprit de corps!

      I’ve been reading up on Arty armies after watching your expert handling of them on Saturday!

      July 26, 2010 at 11:49 pm

  2. Hey.. I’m starting my own wordpress blog. I’m calling it Warriors in Miniature. I used to have a blogspot by the same name, but can’t find it. the link is http://daveblackmon@worpress.com
    I need to find my old pics and take some good pics of my armies… we’ll see how it goes.

    July 30, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    • Hey Super Duper Dave! I just subscribed to your blog. I bet I’m the first one since you don’t have anything up there yet lol. But this way, I can keep a close eye on you….a very close eye. Are you feeling the pressure?
      Welcome aboard to the WordPress crowd! I’m with Tony, WordPress is much more robust than (Insert blog name here). I think you should have called it Warriors hunting Wabbits, for absolutely no reason other than I like the word Wabbits today.

      July 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm

  3. Great post, I like your writing style and use of pictures.

    August 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm

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