Monday, September 11, 2017

Another Try of Art De La "DBA"

The Spanish army after deployment, facing off against their Andalusian foes as the Reconquista rages
 Years ago, I was about as avid of a player of 15mm Ancients using De Bellis Antiquitatis rules as you could find. I ran and played in tournaments a good half dozen times a year. I was constantly painting new armies. I did my best to promote the game and teach new players.
Two of our three opponents -- Andy (enthusiast of the rules) and easy-going Allen, who will play anything
And then, after more than two decades of enthusiasm, it abruptly died in me. I simply lost all enthusiasm for the game. What before seemed elegant and simple seemed vanilla and stale. The idea of rolling for movement pips and then out-rolling my opponent in combat was just tired to me. DBA had a good run with me. I pretty much played it from the beginning. But all good things must come to an end, they say, right?
Things are getting a little iffy on my flank, as Keith's light horse maneuver all around me with their speed
Ever since then, Ancients has kind of languished in our Sunday night gaming group. There was a brief period of reinterest when Steve V ran games of Hail Caesar for us. Several of us went out and bought the rules. I made it a point to say I enjoyed them -- even though they were possibly even more die-rolling intensive than DBA was (by the way, rolling dice is not a particular strength of mine...ha, ha!). But Steve lost interest, and veered to Might of Arms, which excited zero interest in me. He later tried a game of "To the Strongest" (or something like that), but that was one of the worst Ancients systems I'd ever played.
With poor Joel crushed on our right, and Keith making me nervous on the left, Mike S and I order in the spearwall
Lately, a few of the people in our area started buying, playing, and talking about a French set of rules, Art De La Guerre. Andy was a fan of it, in particular. We heard others liked it -- Mike S bought the rules at Historicon last year, and Steve V once again had a new Ancient rules set he wanted to try! One night, they did a small playtest, but we had a late family dinner and I showed up only to kibbitz at the end. As they talked their way through combat, it sounded a LOT like DBA. On another evening, I was there for the playtest. I was not impressed. WAY too vanilla, in my book. And way too much like DBA. That was when I coined my own name for it: Art De La DBA.
But surprise, surprise! I manage to run off some of Keith's lights, and then hammer with my knights
Steve and Andy were enthused, though, and Mike S was intrigued. So, we tried it again -- this time with Steve V's El Cid era medieval troops. The figures are gorgeous, but it was a little confusing differentiating the "Light Horse" from the "Heavy Cavalry," as they all had the same number of figures on the base. This caused a blunder on my part as I gave my right wing commander a force of mostly Light Horse, thinking he didn't have a strong enemy opposite him. He was outclassed and quickly crushed.
The right wing was looking very shaky when the Spanish managed to pull out victory over the Andalusians
It ended up being a close-fought game, with the Spanish winning by one point. So, what do I think after a third exposure, second time playing? Honestly, I feel it is simply a DBA variant. It has troops based by elements, like DBA. You roll dice for your movement pips, like DBA. Each troop type has a combat factor to which you add a roll of 1d6, like DBA. When you are beaten badly in combat, your element is destroyed -- like in DBA. The "variant" part comes in with each type of troop being able to take a limited number of "fatigue" or "hit markers" (or whatever they call them) before their element is destroyed. You receive those when you are beaten by an enemy in combat (or shooting), but not badly enough to be destroyed. And, like DBA, the game is over when you lose a certain number of elements, with some small variation on counting "disordered" units for half-points, as well.
The rules...popular with some in our group and not-so-much with Keith and I!
For all intents in purposes, I see Art De La Guerre as simply a variant of DBA. I would much rather play Saga or Hail Caesar. Maybe it is me -- maybe my jaded-ness from DBA prevents me from seeing this as a new and interesting set of rules like some of my friends do. However, I can't help the way I feel, and am not particularly looking forward to more games of Art De La DBA.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Giving Saga Dark Ages skirmish a try

Andy's borrowed Viking army
One of our friends, Andy, offered to run a big, learner game of Saga -- a Dark Ages skirmish set of rules -- for us this past Sunday night. It must have struck a nerve as 8 of us showed up to game. I brought along my own 28mm Dark Ages figs, which had not seen the tabletop in a long time. Typically, I've used Song of Blades and Heroes for them. But I was not averse to trying a new rules set.

I was a bit worried how it would work, as the rules are set up for a one-on-one game. However, with four players per side, and each of us having our own "battle board," it worked just fine. I had actually played it once before at least a year or more ago at the home of one of Andy's friends. So, I was familiar with the basic concepts. Andy did a great job giving us a primer, and for the most part, the players understood how to use the game's dice allocation system. That's the trickiest part, actually. Most experienced Saga players say it takes a while to "learn" your chosen army's board. You roll a handful of special dice (although you can use normal 6-siders) and allocate them to certain spots on your battle board. This becomes your command and control and dictates what you army can do. You don't simply move or shoot a unit. You must spend the dice to do so. The only "automatic" is if you are engaged by an enemy unit in melee, you fight back.
My troops (bottom) and Joel's mix it up in the field of crops
Andy's scenario was four Viking armies (one of which was mine) are caught after a raid by 3 Norman and 1 Anglo-Danish one. I was matched up against the very similar Anglo-Danish one and we fought in a field of crops on our army's left flank. There was a minimum of shooting and mostly charging. I was getting the better of Joel, my Anglo-Danish opponent -- but we were wearing each other down. The other sides of the field saw us getting crushed in the center and winning on the right flank. The crushing was outnumbering the winning, and after a couple hours of play, it was obvious the Vikings had lost.

I think a lot of the players were interested in Saga, and I would not be surprised if some of the eight players pick up the rules. I've been looking for a set at the flea markets at conventions for some time. I just haven't felt like parting with $40 for a rules set I may not use much. However, if it is going to be a regular feature of our games, I'll probably shell out the money. I have quite a few 28mm Dark Age miniatures already from the Viking period in Britain. So, who knows? Andy may have made a sale in our group...!