De Bellis Renationis

 

DBR has gone up to 2.0 with the usual changes to troop abilities. The deployment system has also changed. It could have moved to the much better DBM 3.0 but has slunk back to a system relying on the defender having to deploy first. The terrain choice system could also be better. The terrain system in DBM 3.1 is spot on but DBRers are left with a less intuitive set of rules.

DBR 2.0 is an improvement and I have been building up armies simply because I like doing so. A recent ECW game was somewhat random as Pistols destroy other Pistols relatively easily. Hence those cavalry melees tend not to last long. I have built up Eastern European armies (Ottoman, Russian, Polish) which allegedly were good in 1.1 but are stuffed by pike and shot in 2.0.

I am sticking with DBR as it is an easy move over from DBM and some of my DBR based troops can fight in DBM armies. The other reason is a lack of a decent alternative. I do not like those orders and units rules such as the old Gush set. Warhammer ECW looks good on the shelf but again Warhammer seems too much like work (lots of dice, unit ratings, commanders). I have Piquet but have yet to beat the learning curve.

I have posted some pics of my DBR Rooskies here

Old Comments

DBM is pretty big stuff in Halifax, copies of DBR turned up almost instantly on publication and players have started to admit to owning Renaissance armies. Despite this it has yet to be played at the club although I have twice brought along 6mm armies to try to tempt the locals. This could be due to the need to re-base figures for DBR and the lack of played knowledge of the rules. DBM is played as the rules say it no matter how silly that may be. This has lead to literal readings changing the way the game is played and WRG to issue 2 amendment sheets to take the game back to its roots. As an example DBM states that on setting up terrain a river or road can only be exchanged for a river or road. We are now seeing powerful defensive rivers changing into wimpy roads. This is not allowed in DBR and I cannot see it getting past the next DBM amendment.

 

The Renaissance is not an easy time period to define. WRG have considered DBR suitable from 1494 to 1700 without regard to geography. Some DBM armies can still be used although their base depths will not be the same as the new standard. As always with WRG the rules require complimentary army lists not merely to work out how many troops are required for a game but to get some idea of how to classify figures. As yet the only lists available cover a strange collection of armies partly evolved from DBM lists and bulked up with some Eastern European armies and some - but not all - armies from the 16th and 17th century Wars of Religion. Amongst the armies not covered are most of those from the 30 Years War or any from the English Civil War. Still there is enough information in the book of lists to help sort out what should be in the missing armies.

 

DBR is the Renaissance variant of DBM, not surprisingly the general principles are much the same. There are more than a few differences leading to a generally simpler system at the expense of some popular DBM mechanisms. The scale has also been cranked down to allow the simulation of smaller battles. 1 element is now about 100 men compared with up to 250 in DBM. The changed ground scale makes troops move faster and fire further. Bows move 12cm in 15mm scale in DBR but only 3" in DBM, they fire 16cm compared to 4" in DBM.

 

The Irregular and Regular classifications are also dropped so any troops from tribal levies to Swiss foot are just as easy to control. Now the uncontrolled advance system of irregulars has gone elements will no longer move towards the enemy unless they are deliberately stopped. Instead a rout and pursuit system makes units of beaten commands rout in both sides moves and their opponents similarly charge after them in every move. Entire commands become beaten on the loss of 1/3 elements just like demoralised commands in DBM. The DBM demoralised command is usually running away or being chopped up, in DBR a beaten command can steady groups for 2 PIPs in the turn they become beaten. After that elements rout as individuals and must be stopped from routing at 2 PIPs each, pursuers are in the same boat. This should lead to a beaten command streaming to the rear followed by those enemy elements which must pursue. In practice with all armies being akin to DBM regulars the command dice (which produce the PIPs for each command) can be allocated after rolling. Naturally the beaten command gets the highest scoring die and stands a good chance of steadying all its troops. The command then fights on with a slight disadvantage in combat but because that entire command now counts as dead for victory calculation purposes the player will want to keep beaten commands in action as long as possible to tie up enemy elements.

 

Overall victory is based on the destruction of 2/3rds of the initial element count (1/2 in DBM) or the "beating" of the 2 largest commands. Consider a pike and shot army of 2 wings of horse and a foote centre. If the centre consists of above 2/3rds of the army the player will not have lost until the centre and at least 1 of the wings are beaten. If both wings are beaten this will not consist of the 2 largest commands but the 2nd and 3rd largest. I have fought a Spanish against Dutch battle of about 1620 and seen both cavalry wings on both sides "beat" each other but rally the remnants. The issue was settled by the slaughter in the centre (Holland 1 : Spain 0). Another English Civil War battle was less of a problem because of a higher proportion of cavalry (later ECW battles approached 2:1, cavalry : infantry) allowed the battle to be decided by the cavalry wings before the foote came to blows. This ECW battle did not "benefit" from Barker's lists so such actions may be impossible in official ECW armies.

 

DBM works best with commands as single big units which all move from a single PIP die. This looks pretty good with big barbarian armies who move straight forward at limited speed and break up if they do not contact pretty quickly. DBR also encourages this action, a single big block of infantry is easier to move rather than those messy little regiments that troops went around in. An attempt has been made to encourage units to split up by charging 3 PIPs to move a group more than 4 elements wide but 1 for a narrower group. Naturally a group 5 elements wide could move for 2 PIPs by pretending it is 2 adjacent smaller groups. Except for pikes who benefit from fighting 4 deep there is little point fighting more than 2 deep so multiple lines will begin as 1 very deep line and drop off supporting lines as they approach the enemy. This does not exactly match the prints of ECW and 30 Years War battles which show distinct lines of troops each divided into distinct Brigades or Tercios. Moving an army in such a fashion with DBR would not be easy.

 

To anyone unfamiliar with DBM or DBA these commentaries will not make a lot of sense but such a reader will also have a lot of trouble with DBR. Although the obvious differences from DBM are easy to pick up there are limited attempts to make the game easier for the first time player. Diagrams clear up some points but 3 pages are taken up with tactical advice and hints on terrain. Much of this is directed to veteran players including considerable chiding to players to smarten up terrain. What the system needs is a run through of how to set up terrain for a battle and a commentary of a few moves, that is a look at the big picture which can be hard to see through the WRG minutiae. It cannot be argued that there is not space in the rulebook because here are 3 pages of unashamed filler at the back (we all know that books must be filled up in units of 4 pages). Certainly DBM is picked up from the playing as will be DBR but someone has to start the ball rolling in each group and WRG still fail to appreciate this. Yes it is all there somewhere although some of it must be wrong or there will never be an amendment sheet or 2nd edition, even a decent index would be helpful.

 

 I had only played a few live (rather than solo) games of DBR before the last review. I can now update this after several live games in 6mm, 15mm and 25mm with Pike and Shot, Turkish, Russian and Polish armies. Also the Halifax club did a 2 day demo at Bankfield museum, there were a good few games, I took over the Ruskies in the 2nd day of a big DBR bash but have to admit that we spent more time chatting to passers by than playing and we largely fudged the rules to get the pieces moving a little rather than bothering about playing. Tim Cockitt has also reported playing DBR and his comments fall into line with mine and most people at the club. It is a little strange. We play a lot of competition style DBM and it is clear that although the rules are similar they are not the same and there are some things that can happen in one set of rules but not the other. A typical example is firing in DBR. Elements must shoot at the nearest eligible stand (the rules for eligible can take some understanding), rather than 2 shooting stands pairing off and blasting away they may both end up shooting at nearer opponents. If a stand is able to fire then it fires back (not getting a distinct shot of its own) but if it is not shot at then it gets its own shot at its nearest opponent. Eligibility allows the back rank of groups in combat to be shot at amongst other effects. The general feeling is to wait for the Book 2 lists which will include the ECW and Thirty Years War. These are delayed until late May allegedly because our Phil is stuck on the Germans in The 30 Years War. Looking at the level of detail in other WRG list books all this research will only boil down to an element here or there in the big picture so why spend time looking it up in first place? I still play DBR because t is similar to DBM which is a very fine system and DBR is so much quicker than the old Gush set of rules (and the unpteen sets based n the same system).


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Pike and Shot Matters

 

A few points on various 17th century products that do not warrant a full description. Book 2 of the DBR lists are finally out and already the competition bores are talking of forming armies after 2 years of not being bothered. This is a pretty thin tome but does cover the ECW and 30 Years War plus some Eastern armies. The level of research is not going to stun anyone and it is hard to say why all this took so long. It is clear that some lists are single source efforts, Gustavus' Swedes come from the 2 relevant Osprey books and the Scots Covenant list is from Stuart Reid's book on the subject. As some consolation the lists are a lot better than the old Gush set, notably the proportion of cavalry in the ECW lists is significantly increased. Entirely cavalry armies are still (wrongly) forbidden but it is possible to have largely cavalry Royalist armies (as should some Parliament armies be). The best idea in both books of lists is the setting of maximum points sizes for certain armies. Montrose can only field 300 points and is pushed to find 250 decent points worth, this will scupper any super highlander armies.

 

Another set of Pike and Shot rules is 1644. This is backed by Wargames Foundry and pushes their own figures, it also includes a superfluous made up campaign and some typically over-restrictive lists. Having thrown out this lot there is good fast set of rules in the centre. Mechanisms are based on the old single figure casualty removal system with units individually rated for fire and melee allowing veterans or recruits to be deployed. The base of combat is the fire or melee factor and referenced with the number of troops in involved to give the total number of whole figure casualties plus the dice score required for 1 more.

 

Morale is represented by units having a rather excessive 5 command states. These states are shown by marker counters which never go down too well with figure gamers, drummers and officers could be used to show command class but that will detract from the number of figures available for combat strength purposes. A unit can drop more than 1 command state in a single test which is usually caused by combat results. Good command is the best state, shaken halves movement and forces the unit to pursue if it wins a melee. Disrupted commands move half rate and fight at half rate, again they are forced to follow up. Lost is much the same but harder to recover from and easier to drop to rout status. Even good command units may end up pursuing after combat giving a common result of the loser running away from combat pursued by the winner, both sides equally unlikely to influence other events for some time. Cavalry move at a good speed and are likely to flee off table followed by their pursuers. The pursuing unit then has to roll 1 die each turn until a 6 is rolled, having done so the die continues to be rolled each turn until a 2nd 6 shows up and the pursuing unit gets to come back. In short this is not often going to happen. This is pretty good representation of the lack of control on period battlefields. Melee can go on over several turns and nearly eliminated units may take more than 1 turn to hack down, neither of these results is ideal. Still a zippy set of rules that can be played using DBR or Gush base sizes although casualties will have to be marked.

 

A final note, while waiting for a lift back from FIASCO I allowed myself to be talked into joining the Pike and Shot Society. Don't, there is some useful stuff in old society publications but the group is now well past it's sell by date and clearly run out of steam.

More DBR

 

WRG have quietly pushed out a sheet of amendments to DBR. These will mess up the nice tidy rule book and doubtless foretell a new edition on the horizon. The minor changes in wording have some pretty serious effects with a general tend to simplification. We note that Pistols (I) can now only fire 2 ranks deep and (S) class shooters have +1 if they beat the enemy while shooting (a useful bonus).

 

Keep Wargaming, a shop that shares the same address as WRG, have De Bellus Civilis a set of ECW scenarios for DBR. The book covers all serious English battles in 1642 and 1643 but no later. I have about 1,000 points of troops which allows all except Edgehill and 1st Newbury to be fought out. I gave Landsdown a go at the club which played in about 2 1/2 hours and is one of the bigger scenarios. Note that the maps provided are PC drawn with a skill that I know I can match. I missed a wall off for Landsdown thinking it was just a line on the map and mistook an entrenchment for a hedge because the map was just not clear enough. The book is of little use to non-DBR players but the battle lists are a lot more use in drawing up forces than WRG's lists. Several of the historical battle forces would be illegal under WRG which pretty much sums up Barker's attitude to lists "typical but wrong".