Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Rome recrosses the frontier 359 AD

The recent victory over the Sassanid had tarnished the military reputation of Shapur II, however, Armenia who bore the brunt of the losses coupled with news of a failed revolt in Persian led Roman command to question the wisdom of continuing the campaign. Thoughts, pro and con, were heard during the military council and the decision was made to cease continuing the campaign and make preparations to recross the frontier. 

Aware of Rome’s decision, Shapur II was confident that Rome would relax their march as they approached the frontier. Taking a circuitous route, Shapur II crossed the frontier to position the army to block Rome from continuing its march back home. The gauntlet was cast. 

The Forces.

Each force fielded a single command but with double the number of elements. Follow the link to read how DBA24 is played.

To simulate the hilly countryside of eastern Anatolia, two difficult hills and two woods were placed on a board size half times larger (120cm x 80cm) by the defender, Rome.  


Even from a far distance, the glitter of spear points and dust clouds, Rome knew this was no raiding party that confronted them and little time was needed to deploy into battle formation. The legions and auxilia formed two wings with light horse extending their line and behind them, the heavy cavalry formed a second line. 

The Sassanid positioned all their infantry and the elephant corps on the left, skirting the woods and hills leaving the open plain to be filled by their cavalry to form its centre and right flank.

The advance of the Sassanid infantry and elephant corps opened the battle against the Roman right wing while the asavaran cavalry skirmished with the legion and auxiliaries on the opposite flank, intent on breaking their formation.

An hour and a half (6 turns) inconclusive fighting had past, then disaster struck as Roman infantry made quick work of destroying the Persian infantry and scattering the elephant corps. With the collapse of the entire Sassanid left, both sides moved their armoured cavalry with Rome looking to make a breakthrough and the Sassanid to stave off disaster.

To the surprise of Rome, the Sassanid broke off their attack to place distance between them and the Roman left wing. Ceasing their advance, Rome made use of the respite to redress its own ranks, but no further hostile activity by the Sassanid was made three quarters of an hour (3 turns).

FootnoteSassan was 2 short of break point while Rome sat comfortably at the half way mark. 

Sensing not much would be needed to send the Sassanid on their way, both Roman wings moved forward.

Springing into action, the asavaran moved forward at a trot and showered the Roman line with arrows as the first ranks, with lances thrust forward charged into the Roman line.

The combat was brief as gaps began to appear along the line. Startled at the sudden loss of its line, Rome called for its survivors to withdraw while the reserve cavalry would cover the retreat. Content at having regained its reputation, the Sassanid let Rome retire unmolested. Victory for Sassan, 8 – 6.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Revolt in Perse-Armenia

In 358, news of the impending campaign by Shapur II against Rome emboldened a number of leaders of the royal houses in Sassanid occupied Armenia, to seize the opportunity to rebel against their overseers. During the winter months, plans took shape and an informed Eastern Rome would assist with their own invasion against the Persians.

In the Spring of 359, the Sassanid army marched toward the frontier to intercept the Roman incursion. However, news filtered back of an uprising in the northern region of Perse-Armenia and as the uprising gained momentum, the Persian governor quickly assembled an army, stripping garrisons of their troops and marshalling loyal Armenian nobles and their retinues to march north.

The Forces

Both armies, II/69b Sassanid and II/28c Armenia, are doubled giving each side 24 elements. On the whole, the Armenian army were lighter equipped and comprising of an equal number of mounted and infantry would have a difficult time meeting the Sassanid on the open plain, but would hope to lure the enemy toward the rough terrain of the north. The Sassanid held superior numbers of cavalry and infantry were supplied by loyal Armenian nobles.

Terrain for the battle featured, two difficult hills, two woods and one fortified village to be placed on a game board of 120cm x 80cm.



From their position near the fortified village of Cozala, the rebel alliance could view the deployment of the Sassanid host. Taking a central position were the asavaran cavalry forming two lines with vast number of infantry forming on either flank. And lastly, in the gap, between infantry and cavalry, the dreaded elephants moved into position to complete the Sassanid deployment.

In comparison, the rebel line looked extremely vulnerable as their cavalry were not as well armoured and their infantry were outnumbered.

Despite the odds, the Armenian infantry on the left set off to perform the impossible and seized the hill overlooking the Sassanid right while the Sassanid infantry were engaged to their front. On the Armenian right, a similar action took place, holding the Sassanid advance at bay. 

Both flanks thoroughly engaged, the Sassanid seized the moment to launch the asavaran cavalry against the Armenian center.

After destroying half the Sassanid infantry on the left, the Armenians found themselves cut off and surrounded by Sassanid cavalry. The situation looked grim as no help would be forthcoming,

Rebel resistance collapsed after two hours of fighting (8 turns), leaving the infantry to seek refuge among the hills and the cavalry to flee north. An 8 – 3 victory for Sassan.

“Play it again, Sam”

Too good to pass up, the battle was re-played using the same terrain, but armies exchanging deployment areas. Armenia kept their battle formation while Sassan made minor changes to accommodate the restricted terrain and the Armenian defended village. The game developed into a nail-biter as both sides reached break point (8 – 8) on turn nine. A fortuitous pip score for Armenia tipped the scale to end the battle with a 10 – 8 victory for the rebels. 

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Battle in Armenia (BBDBA)

 In 359, Shapur II launched his second campaign against Rome with the invasion of southern Armenia, but encountered stubborn resistance by the valiant defence of the fortress of Amida. Finally surrendering after a seventy-three-day siege, Constantius II made massive preparations to include support from the royal houses of Armenia. Crossing the frontier of Perse-Armenia, Constantius II encountered the Sassanid army encamped a day’s march distance and prepared to do battle. 

The open plain between both armies allowed for ample room to deploy with a range of hills serving as a backdrop for the ensuing battle. Along the length of the Sassanid battle line, the Asavaran banners could be seen in an array of colour which sharply contrasted with the Armenian loyalist lacking any, but recognisable by their armoured cavalry.

Rome deployed in two lines, the first, the shields of elite units of palatine legions and auxilia could be seen and behind them, fluttered the draco standards of the Roman cavalry.

The Sassanid plan was simple, eliminate the Armenian allies of Rome as this would ensure the loyalty of their own allies eager to continue their position to rule. To this end, the Sassanid right wing launched its attack while the central command advanced forward at a walk to support.

The Sassanid assault against the Armenian wing was vigorously led and prompted the repositioning of Roman equites to bolster their line. The Roman centre was also affected as it came under rapid volley fire by Asavaran cavalry forcing auxilia back.

The Sassanid effort continued unabated, finally splitting the Armenian line sending many units fleeing. The effort to break the Armenian wing however, had come at a high cost, as the Sassanid wing was spent (also demoralised) and could only hold their position. 

Meanwhile, Rome had not been idle and had similar ideas to deal with the Armenian usurpers on the Sassanid left. The Roman right wing bore down on enemy to clash with the mixed formations of Sassanid and their allies. The combined effort of clibanarii and palatine units proved so effective, the Sassanid of the left wing fled the field.

By mutual agreement, both forces in centre gradually drew apart; the Sassanid leaving the field to Rome with Rome too exhausted to pursue. Rome would record the battle as a victory, but their allies would have another tale to tell.



We do not game many big battle games due to their necessitation too much time to play. This big battle game took an hour and forty minutes to complete and in that time two double size games can be played. The exercise did stimulate some ideas to continue ‘campaigning’ in Armenia.

Rome: II/78b two commands eastern imperials. a third command of Armenian allies: II/28c

Sassan: II/69b three commands with 6 elements representing Armenian loyalists.  

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

East European tests games

After completing the Post Mongol Russians (IV/44), I organised a four-nations test between the newly painted Eastern European armies; Teutonic, Polish, Lithuanian and Russian. Each nation would play in 24 matches, half as the invader, half as the defender. The standard 12 element size army was used and some variation with terrain was needed as three of the participating armies have ‘forest’ as home terrain; here, DBMM Book IV provided a few more options.

The series was done between painting sessions and took about three months to complete. The game board used was 80cm x 80cm, which left 4BW on either flank for a fully extended battleline, however, using a single battleline would meet with disaster. On the whole, the series provided an opportunity to explore interesting deployments and tactics which will be needed for two upcoming historical scenarios.

On a side note, halfway through the series, I became tired of dice flying off the table or disrupting the alignment of troops and the purchase of a dice cup solved this problem. Odd as it may seem, this changed one nation’s fortune for the better. Noted below are the performances of each army with some commentary.


Post Mongol Russian (7 wins, 17 losses)

Russia – Lithuania;       4-1, 4-2, 4-2, 4-0

Russia – Teutonic;        0-4, 5-2, 4-1, 2-4

Russia - Polish;            0-4, 0-4, 1-4, 1-4

The composition of the Russian army remained the same throughout the series, 9 mounted and 3 foot troops. Having too few infantry and light horse created difficulties, especially when playing the defender. History has documented how poorly the army of Novgorod performed during the 15th century and this will be covered in a future scenario, the Battle of Shelon.

Later Polish (15 wins, 9 losses)

Poland – Russia;            6-3, 4-0, 4-2, 4-2

Poland – Lithuania;       3-4, 5g-0, 3g-0, 5-3

Poland – Teutonic;        2-4, 3-4, 4-2, 4-0

The Later Polish were the most enjoyable to use. As invader or defender, the mounted contained a good balance of knights, cavalry and light horse and in many cases they ably out maneuver their opponents. War wagons and militia were used with the latter providing better value. The Teutonic Order proved a tenacious opponent with games lasting 5 or 6 turns.

Lithuania (16 wins, 8 losses)

Lithuania – Russia;       4-1, 5-4, 4-3, 6-1

Lithuania – Poland;       5-0, 5-3, 4-2, 4-3

Lithuania – Teutonic;    6-3, 5-1, 4-2, 5-0

Losing 7 of their first 8 games against Russia and Poland, I decided to make some changes. Deploying dismounted archers at the start of the game than during the game saved a migraine and investing in a dice cup, made a decided change. The latter was purchased after dice either disrupted the alignment of troops or fell off the table revealing your best die cast. The change was remarkable as Lithuania bounced back to win 14 straight matches. Experiments with deployment proved fruitful and these will be tucked away for our first face-to-face games. 

Teutonic Order (10 wins, 14 losses)

Teutonic – Russia;        6-2, 5-1, 4-2, 1-4

Teutonic – Lithuania;   0-5, 0-4, 5-4, 3-5

Teutonic – Poland;        2-5, 4-2, 1-4, 4-3

Despite their final score, the Teutonic Order are an excellent army to use but do require a long learning curve. The mix of troops, 7 mounted, 5 foot, does require some experimentation to reach a balance when fighting a highly mobile army, such as the Lithuanian. Various deployments were tried, such as evenly split and deployed on both flanks, positioned entirely on one flank, or positioned in the rear.   

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

“Unreliable Allies”

 Allied contingents, where these are permitted in the DBA3 lists, can provide specialist troops otherwise not available to an army. Having a different command structure, these may not be moved as a group with elements of the main army and will likely create a pip drain. Historically, the employment of allies could become a double-edged sword; their assistance could gain victory in battle or hastened your defeat when they joined the enemy.

A recent historical scenario for the Battle of Montlhéry presented such a sword depriving King Louis XI of a decisive victory. The scenario did handle the comte du Maine’s defection, but the rule option still had room for improvement. Searching further brought me to an article in Slingshot written by Phil Barker titled – DBM4.0, Proposals “Unreliable Allies”, Slingshot 227, p. 24.

Phil outlined a number of factors that would force an ally to become unreliable, for example, participating in battle would encounter too high a risk and an avoidance to be on the losing side, were the most important. Equally, turning an unreliable ally to a reliable one required greater inducement which outweighed the risk or the enemy was losing, time to join in. And noteworthy, an unreliable ally would not move about the field.

The proposals were intended for DBM4.0, but priorities changed then as DBMM became Phil’s primary focus. The proposals are useful and will be used for future historical scenarios, these are:

 Unreliable allies

An allied contingent becomes “unreliable” if a player scores a 1 on his first PIP dice. They remain stationary for the battle unless “activated”.

 Activation occurs;

when enemy are 3BW from any element within the contingent or a player may elect to spend 5 pips as an inducement or enemy are the first to have a demoralised command.

 A demoralised command, normally associated with the big battle option, can easily be used with the 24-element option. See Montlhéry.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

The Wedge formation in DBA3

DBA3 lists several armies with cavalry in double based wedge formation; the Nikephorian Byzantine, Medieval German and the Teutonic Order. The brief text. accompanying each list, describe differently armed or knights in full plate armour in front and lesser armoured types placed to their rear forming a deep wedge or ‘spitz’. These differ visually from cavalry placed in two rows of 3, such as the ally Lorrainer cavalry of the Swiss and the kavaillaroi of the Thematic Byzantine. Both double based elements add +1 if in frontal close combat with enemy foot and the DBE is entirely in good going.

Since the start of this project (late 15th century) I have encountered few examples of German armies employing the deeper wedge formation; Tannenberg (1410) and during the First Margrave’s War (1449) come to mind. What is noteworthy, most conflicts within the Holy Roman Empire. in the last half of the 15th century, do not record large numbers of mounted troops with fully armoured types (3Kn) accounting for a small portion of the total. Reasons for this have been covered in an earlier post, see Cities and Towns, but foremost is the increased tactical use of infantry (pikemen, handgunners) and field artillery.

Where does this leave the double based wedge (6Kn) of the Medieval German Army lists? The number of mounted troops, as mentioned earlier, was relatively small with the “lance or gleven” deploying in separate formations; one of armoured men-at-arms, coustilliers and mounted crossbowmen (later handgunners); a tactic used by Fredrich I, count of Palatine, at the Battle of Seckenheim (1465). Between the years 1480 and 1493, Philipp von Seldeneck, who fought on the side of Fredrick I, wrote a tactical treatise, ‘Ordnung für grosse Heere und Schlacten’. I was fortunate to stumble across an analysis of the work presented in a monograph by Erik Neubauer, and published at the University of Heidelberg in 1963.

The treatise is divided in sections, four describe the wagenburg, infantry formations, infantry tactics, and the last two, the cavalry. The section, Cavalry Organisation, von Seldeneck details the formation of a wedge consisting of 1000 cavalry, outlining the number of rank and files required. One gains the impression that this is an ideal formation as it is followed by examples of smaller formations consisting of 200 or 100 cavalry. Considering the number of cavalry employed the last half of the 15th century, such as Pillenreuth, 1450, Seckenheim, 1465 and between Poland and the Teutonic Order during the Thirteen Years War (1454 – 1467), it would not seem unreasonable if wedges were used, these would be formed with smaller numbers.

Returning to DBA3, there are two examples of cavalry in a single based wedge; the Macedonian Companions and Scythian nobles. These look pretty, however do not gain the +1 in frontal close combat with foot troops plus have the inconvenience of recoiling their base depth (1BW) which can become hazardous. This becomes less a problem if players follow the tactics written by von Seldeneck,  

Since the publication of DBA3, there have been a number of interesting suggestions exchanged at the DBA Fanaticus Forum concerning the effectiveness of light horse. One suggestion which has gained traction, LH ignore enemy in corner-to-corner contact with its front edge. This is similar to the exception allowed to psiloi and Scythed Chariots when in frontal close combat with an enemy. Wedge formations would also benefit from a similar rule, ignoring enemy corner-to-corner contact, as this would compensate for the lack of a +1 for the support enjoyed by the double based element by allowing it to focus on an enemy to its front.  

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Mounted Infantry in DBA3

Mounted infantry was not a troop type that I was familiar with, despite my long experience with DBA. It was not until the refurbishment and subsequent regrouping the late medieval collection into armies that I discovered just how many armies listed them. Their only mention, in the rule book, comes at page 5 detailing the composition and base size; 3-4 foot plus a vehicle, led mount or mounted figure are placed on a 40mm x 40mm base for 15mm size figures.

Gleaning through the army lists, here is an overview of mounted infantry types. Note, these are all bow armed, fast or solid, infantry.

Book I             Neo-Elamite,  kallapani carrying 3 archers (Mtd-3Bw).

Book III          Central Asian Turkish, archers on Bactrian camels (Mtd-3Bw)

Book IV           Anglo-Norman, mounted archers (Mtd-3Bw)

Book IV           Scots Common, mounted archers (Mtd-3Bw)

Book IV           Khwarizmian, archers on camels (Mtd-3Bw)

Book IV           Later Hungarian, Crusader crossbowmen (Mtd-4Cb)

Book IV           100 Year’s’ War English, mounted archers (Mtd-4Lb)

Book IV           Free Company, English archers (Mtd-4Lb)

Book IV           French Ordonnance, mounted archers (Mtd-4Lb)

Book IV           Burgundian Ordonnance, mounted archers (Mtd-4Lb).    


The following advantages-disadvantages come to mind and apologies if any have been missed.


Can be destroyed by any mounted in close combat with a better than score.

Base depth may pose a problem when recoiling.

In close combat with solid foot, bows will recoil on an even score.



Can make a second and subsequent move in good going.

Solid bows add +1 if supported by solid blade.

Knights are destroyed in close combat on an even score with Lb or Cb 

Fast troop types recoil from solid on an even score.   


If the above list of armies seems lean, the opposite is true if reading the DBMM army lists. I do not play DBMM, but do find the army list books a useful research tool. The revised edition was published two years after DBA3 and does benefit from the latest research or translations.

DBMM Book IV has been illuminating as the mounted infantry types are greatly expanded and the number of armies using them has increased; as an example, you will find more Mtd-4Cb, but also Mtd-4Bd, Mtd-Sp and Mtd-Ps. Plans are made to add these to the collection as there are a number of scenarios that would require them. And so, the hobby marches forward.

 Mounted longbow holding the English right at Castillon.