Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Second battle of Arbela

Next on our campaign 'A time of Empires' is another battle between Alexander's greeks and Darius' persians. In the map above you can see that the macedonians have reached deep into persian territory. This is how our campaign looked after the 3rd year, when things were clearly not going well for the persians. The following battle is indicative of the complexity of the campaign mechanics, hence some units were quickly assembled as simply the image of a soldier on an element base, due to many same units being present (i.e. 3 Sch for persia).

The armies are deploying on a complex terrain. Forests, hills and roads have all entered the generals' strategy. The macedonians deploy in three parts, a column of light troops in the centre, already inside the woods, while the general's companions are following behind. On both right and left flanks there are two units of pikemen with cavalry screening them in the front.

While the greek skirmishers enter the woods, across the battlefield the persians are moving forward: on their right, four mounted units and on their left the three scythed chariots in front of their general. The persian skirmishers are just leaving the hills behind them on the centre.

The persian view from the top of the hills. The left persian flank has not moved much yet but the right is approaching the greeks fast. The bactrians are itching for a charge.

Alexander manages to organise his troops into a line, the weaker hypaspists and psiloi at the centre inside the woods, his companions and prodromoi on the right and a mix of phalanxes and horsemen on the left. Darius' chariots are slowly moving forward while his cavalry on the right flank is within attacking range.The persian centre is equally weak, comprising two psiloi and one auxilia takabara.

The persian chariots rush forward and the grinding of the horrific scythes is echoing around the battlefield. The macedonian cavalry find themselves on the defensive as panic sets in.

It was quick and painful for both sides... Chariots scatter and companions are butchered. The battle is started gruesomely and the victorious chariots keep going deeper into enemy lines.

The greek horsemen stay disciplined and manage to route another scythed nightmare. The last chariots are pushed back by greek slingers. Darius' first attack is slowing down.

The persian general and his bodyguards join the fight, and take down the slingers on the left. The persian line is slowly forming while a lone unit of light horsemen has moved far to the left, threatening the macedonian flank.

While the macedonian right is moving back, a unit of prodromoi light horse on their left charges the bactrian cavalry and cuts of its retreat. It's risky but the macedonians are getting desperate...

But it works! Without space to retreat, the persians are cut down. The right flank of persian horsemen though is still looming and now they are angry!

An eye for an eye, the greek prodromoi are immediately taken care of and Alexander can sense his pending defeat.

Alexander has had enough. His troops could not withstand the might of persia this time and they turn and fall back. 

The persian troops are celebrating their much needed victory and Darius is pointing to his mighty empire, exclaiming that right here is where the tide turns. This is where Alexander's onslaught stops!


This is probably among the most intense (and least good-looking) battles we have ever played. The fear and excitement of the approaching scythed death-dealers were fierce. The woods in the middle and placing the light troops at the centre felt very counter-intuitive for macedon, while the superiority of the persian cavalry was clear. The plan for macedon was weak and reactive while persia constantly had the initiative. The author's usual lucky dice rolls ran out and victory went to Darius with relative ease. 

Do you think if 1/4 of Darius' actual armies comprised scythed chariots (hopefully automated :), history would be different?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Grand campaign rules

As requested at some point, here are our custom rules for a 2-player DBA campaign (probably adaptable to more players). This is a comprehensive set of rules we developed after playing 4 long-term campaigns. They favour quick access to lots of units (hence paper armies are ideal) due to rules allowing the mixing units with little limitation. More often than not, during our Alexander vs Darius campaign, we ended up with mixed armies involving e.g. 3 knights vs 3 scythed chariots simply because we could create an army for more offensive or defensive purposes strategically. The result was that this was our ugliest (due to speedy unit creation) but most intricate campaign. 

We have forgotten the places where we found the variants but most of them come from the fanaticus website ( (especially within the pages of 'variants' and 'campaigns'), and the other inspiration was the Total War game series. We hope this all makes sense and feel free to ask stuff (how it works, how it worked out in the end etc). Perhaps the next post might be commenting how each of the following elements worked out in the end. The text might have some minor repetitions, so, sorry about that... If there is 'optional' it means that you should consider dropping that rule as it may complicate things.


Winning: There is one king (determine a specific general unit). If the king dies, the campaign is over (optional). After a certain number of years (up to you, can be 5 or 10), points are counted per controlled city (1) and capitals (2). In case of a draw, you may add 1 point per battle victory and subtract 1 per lost general.

Generals: There are limited generals (1 per available army). The two kings have +PIP/bound (optional). If there are battles where one army is found without one of its generals, a 'captain' is assigned on the spot but without the +1 combat bonus.

Game time: measured in seasons and years. There are 4 seasons and during winter the marching of armies is risky (unless one risks the attrition - see below). There is no ‘initiative’ since our movements will be simultaneous, written down in secret and revealed simultaneously. Army movements happen after all other actions of the round (recruitment, infrastructure, bribing, mercenaries, all described below), but remember that all actions are written in secret and revealed simultaneously. The campaign ends in a certain amount of years (up to you). 

Movement: Each unit, individually, can move once per season between two adjacent areas. No limitations apply on where you can move your units and how many of them. 

Conquest: After we enter an area (by winning a battle or simply occupying the space) we have to leave at least 2 units there for 2 seasons (including the initial season when we move to the area), the second season without giving battle, or the region returns to previous owner (neutral or enemy). If the attacker does not want to conquer he can destroy the infrastructure (see below) and leave.

Attrition: if an army is in a non-friendly area in winter, the player rolls for attrition (0-3 casualties). If an army moves at any time to a neutral or enemy area without any friendly area adjacent to it, he needs to roll 4-6 for no casualties (otherwise a roll of 3 means 1 casualty, 2 means 2 and 1 means 3). If an army is cut off from all directions (no friendly area around), there is attrition roll (like in previous sentence) for every season until the area becomes occupied (practically for one season only unless battle is given). However, if the army remains cut off when winter comes, attrition starts normally (for every season from then on). Example: one occupies an area for 3 seasons and then is cut off in Spring. No attrition happens until winter season. Then one rolls for attrition for every season onwards.

Beginning phase: We start with 2 armies and with the control of 10 areas/cities each, and there are 10 more which are neutral (see map above). For every five cities there is a capital (so we start by controlling two capitals each) where one can recruit any kind of troops and which provide two talents per year (see below). (In our following campaigns we tried smaller maps and they were rather handier. Hence, perhaps it’s better to start each with the control of one capital and 6 areas, and two corridor-areas to be neutral).

Currency: we collect 1 talent for each city and 2 for each capital under our control. At the end of the year, in the beginning of winter we collect talents which we start to allocate immediately, in the winter season.
  • Applied example: in the end of the first year of our campaign, in the beginning of winter, Macedonia controlled 11 cities and 2 capitals (the initial 8 cities, the initial 2 capitals and 3 more cities conquered during the year). This provided Macedonia with 11+2x2=15 talents. Assuming we decide to start with 2 armies, the cost for sustaining two armies during the winter is 4 talents (24 units/6=4). Thus, by the end of the winter, Macedonia has 11 talents left to spend.  

What to do with the money: a. raise new units, b. build infrastructure (explained later), c. attempt a bribe (optional) on an army adjacent to a friendly area by spending 1 talent for each enemy unit and 50-50 chance - success meaning the bribed units don't appear in the battle, d. hire mercenaries (optional). 

Recruitment: We need to spend 1 talent to raise 1 unit (or 2 for generals/special units like elephants – optional). It takes one season to raise a unit and the limit is 6 units/season which then appear in the respective areas in the beginning of next season. If an enemy army attacks an area where there are units planned to be recruited, the units may still appear the next season (unless the city is taken by storming).

Sustaining units: cost of 1 talent per 4 units per year. 

Recruitment limitations: We can recruit units up to the limit determined by the number of capitals we control (1 capital=up to 12 units). The capitals allow recruitment of any unit and the normal cities only of auxilia and psiloi (optional) (this works only with opponent armies with a similar amount of light units, eg Ps, Ax etc). To make it fair, we consider such ‘light’ recruitment only for our exclusively ‘light’ units (1 aux, 1 ps for Macedonia, 2 ps for Persia). By building barracks (see below) one can recruit any unit in a city.

Infrastructure: 1. Marketplace costs 3 talents, takes 3 seasons to build and increases income (offering 2 talents in the end of the year when it is completed). 2. Barracks (optional) cost 3 talents, take 2 seasons to build and offer the possibility to recruit any unit in that city. 3. City walls take 2 talents and 2 seasons and make a siege harder. If all the improvements are build in a city, it becomes a capital and provides 2 points (for final calculations).

Maximum of units: the number of (occupied) capitals defines the maximum number of armies on the field. Therefore, we have 6 capitals in total, there are up to 6 armies=72 units on the map. By occupying 3 for instance, a player has the right to recruit up to 3 armies=36 units.

If there are no enemy units in the city, one can leave two units for one season for the city (or three for a capital) to fall. If there are at least two enemy units in the city, one must wait two seasons (or one more season for every two enemy units) for the city to fall (generally 1 unit=none for most purposes).

A. If there are no enemy units, the attacker takes the city without 'waiting' but rolls for losing 0-3 units. If there are walls, to capture it one must roll 6-(1/every 2 units in the attacking army). If it succeeds he also rolls for 0-3 casualties. If it fails he rolls for casualties 6-(1/every 2 units in the attacking army). Note: 'waiting' applies after a failed storming. 
B. If there are at least two enemy units but no walls the attacker must roll 6-(1/every 2 units more than opponent). If the storming fails casualties are 6-(1/every 1 unit difference). If it succeeds there are casualties 6-(1/every 1/2 unit difference). If there are walls, he must roll 6-1(rounded down)/every 4 units more than opponent’s units. If storm fails, roll for casualties and calculate: 6-(1/every 4 more units of attacker). If it succeeds roll for casualties and calculate: 6-(1/every 2 more units of attacker).  

Attacking a besieger: if the besieged army decides to exit the city and attacks, he chooses the terrain and also attacks first. The besieger rolls for the side.

Armies with less than 6 units: they can't give battle on the field. Instead roll dice and small army needs to roll more than the difference of units between the two armies in order to win. Loser army retreats if there is at least one unoccupied adjacent friendly area, otherwise the army is lost. If the retreat is successful, loser rolls for losses 0-3, 1=3 2=2 and 3=1. If loser is the small army then he rolls for extra loses by adding one to the dice per two unit difference. E.g. in the case of a losing army of 5 units which confronts a 7-unit army, the loser rolls the dice for 0-4 losses.
Battles: maximum units in one army are 14. When 1/4 of the units in an army is routed (rounded upwards, minimum 2), the player rolls a die in the beginning of every bound. The roll must be higher than the difference of the casualties between the two players. Eg if Macedon's 12-unit army loses 3 units and Persia's 12-unit army loses 1, then for every bound the Macedon player must roll at least 3 (3-1=2) in order not to flee (see below). This may change radically of course, since with every casualty it is adjusted (and even reversed). If an army loses 1/4 of its units, the player may decide to flee whenever.
  • When an army loses a battle and retreats to a non-enemy controlled area occupied by an enemy army, it gives another battle (as the attacker). If it loses again, it is destroyed.

Flee: When an army flees, all its units recoil one based depth, reverse their facing and move towards their camp or board edge of entry - 600p (mounted) or 300p (foot) or 400p (foot on road). All the elements have a -1 combat modifier applied to them and all PIP costs are increased by 1. Fleeing elements may not initiate close combat and may not engage in missile fire unless PIPs were spent to keep them from fleeing. PIPs may be spent on an element to stop its flee movement and the element simply turns to face the enemy. It cannot move anywhere or undertake any action. PIPs may be spent to stop a whole group from fleeing. PIPs must be spent on the same elements each succeeding turn or they will flee.

Maximum casualties: Irrespective of the flee die-rolling rule above, if half the units are routed (rounded down) the battle ends immediately. Eg a 11-unit army may lose up to 5 units before the battle is over.

Retreat: one can only retreat to a friendly area and NOT to an enemy-occupied area, regardless of the presence/absence of armies in the area, otherwise it’s destroyed. Once the battle is over, all the remaining units of the losing player move altogether where the player wants (not individually).

Mercenaries: in any season we can recruit mercs (optional) from any city with the cost of 2 talents per common unit and 1 talent per light unit (Ps and Aux) (unless of course recruiting is kept free of limits throughout). From then on they cost accordingly for sustaining for every season.  

Armies meeting: the attacker and the defender are decided in case two armies march to the same (neutral) area by a 50-50 die roll; the higher roll allows the player to decide to attack or defend. If two enemy armies march towards each other’s area, the battle is given between the two areas, in terrain according to the map’s geography (google maps helps :). The loser retreats to an area away from the one he started off, unless he left at least two units guarding the area. The winner occupies the area he was marching to in the first place.