DBx is a family of rules that use the same mechanisms and conventions, namely DBA (the first born, so to speak - came onto the wargaming scene around 1987 and soon took the world by storm. It was much simpler than anything in use at the time), DBM (essentially an extention of DBA to allow for much bigger battles), and Hordes of the Things (HOTT - the fantasy variant of DBA)

By Chris Brantley and Nick Grant

De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) published by the Wargames Research Group, is a set of fast-play rules for ancient and medieval wargaming using miniature figures. It includes army lists for nearly 200 popular historical armies from the period 3000 BC to 1485 that can be used in the game. The 24 page rule book also includes simple rules for conducting campaigns.

What makes DBA distinct from most rules systems is that all armies, regardless of their historical numbers, are comprised of twelve equal width stands ("elements") of different depths, with 2-4 figures on each element depending on the troop type, representing a ratio of the predominant troop types in that particular army. The rule system is also designed for fast play, with typical games lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour.

DBA divides troops into basic types that reflect common fighting styles of the period - not by what armour individual soldiers wore or the estimated effectivness of whatever particular weapons they used, but rather how they fought and what function they performed on the battlefield. The basic element types incorporate classic foot (i.e. Auxilia (e.g. Early Imperial Roman Auxilia), Blades (e.g. Roman Legionaries or Viking Huscarls), Bow (e.g. 100 Years War English Longbowmen), Pike (e.g. Macedonian Pikemen), Psiloi (skirmishers, such as Baleric Slingers), Spear (e.g. Saxon Fryd) and Warband (the ubiquitous Barbarian type)), mounted troops (i.e. Camelry, Cavalry, Elephants, Light, Heavy or Scythed Chariots, Knights, Light Horse), and special troop types such as Artillery and War Wagons. There is no attempt to delineate elite from inferior elements.

DBA does not set a figure scale per se. Each element represents a body of troops that is large enough to be able to take independant actions. The rules provide basing and movement scales for use with 2mm, 6mm, 15mm and 25mm figures. The basic scale is 25mm = 50 paces for 25mm figures (which is the best scale for 20mm (1/72nd) figures); one turn equals 15 minutes of the battle.

All aspects of the game (combat, movement, etc.) are resolved with a modified 6-sided die roll and by reference to the Rules book. The mechanics of the game are very simple...

Both players roll one six sided dice (1D6) , the high scorer being the invader. The defender (low scorer) then sets out the terrain. Once the invaders base edge has been decided (agian, by dice), the defender sets up his army on the opposite side. Invader then places his army and takes the first move ("bound").

Each element/troop type has a pre-determined movement distance measured in paces. The player rolls 1D6, and is only allowed to move that number of individual elements or groups (a group being defined as two or more elements lined up either side by side or in column). Distance shooting then takes place, from artillery or bows who are in range but are not in contact with the enemy, and then any hand to hand/close quarter combats are resolved between opposing elements who are in contact with each other.

The combat system is simple but elegant. Each troop type has a specific combat factor against foot and/or mounted opponents. Each player rolls a dice and adds their respective combat factors (which are altered depending on whether the element has any rear support, it's flanks are secure (or it is "overlapped"), or is uphill of it's opponent etc) to the resulting dice roll. Generally speaking, if one of the combined totals is twice as high as the other, the low scoring element is destroyed. If the difference is less, they are pushed back one base depth (a "recoil" result). However, there are specific exceptions to this rule depending on the troop types involved in the combat (e.g. heavy foot troops cannot kill skirmishers, but can only force them to flee).

The first side to lose either four elements, or their general and more elements than their opponents, loses the game. The vanquished are not chassed off the board!

With only 25-50 figures per army (the contents of one box of plastic figures will usually be sufficient for making an infantry army), and with its quick play format, DBA provides an excellent introduction for newcomers to the hobby of miniature wargaming. The simplicity of the rules belies the opportunities for complex strategy and despite the rules abstractions there is a "historical feel" to the game. The low cost of fielding an army (especially when comparing the price of plastic to lead) allows you to dabble in different periods and collect/paint a variety of colorful figures. The small size of the gaming area (4' by 4' for 25mm figures) means games can be played on a game board that can be placed on the kitchen table. The short duration of the game allows you to enjoy the hobby without neglecting your family and other obligations. The DBA rules are also written so that players who want a more detailed and larger game can use their DBA elements with the De Bellis Multitudinus and other Wargame Research Group rules without rebasing.

The latest published version of DBA (Version 1.1, published March 1995 by the Wargames Research Group) is available in most well-stocked wargaming shops and/or can be purchased directly from WRG or by mail order to major gaming retailers/wholesalers.

In June 1999, DBA co-author Phil Barker released a set of Official Amendments to DBA, dubbed DBA 1.2 and also announced forthcoming release of the DBA 2.0 edition in early 2000. It is anticipated that the rules changes outlined in DBA 1.2 that play-test well will find their way into the print edition of DBA 2.0 along with corrections to previous rules/army list errata.

For more information about DBA, please visit Chris Brantley's DBA Resource Page, and visit Bob Beattie's Introduction to DBA page.

For a look at a DBA battle in progress, have a look at my photo essay/battle report The Second Battle of Pinehurst Fields.


DBM (or De Belles Multitudenes) is an expansion of DBA, with the addition of troop gradings (diferentiating between elements of the same troop type), mechanisms for handling larger armies (including the easier handling of regular troops over irregulars - things like spontaneous advances for your more unruly elements etc), a more detailed system for setting out terrain, and further refined combat factors and outcomes. DBM has fast become the preferred set of ancients rules in New Zealand.


Hordes Of The Things coverHOTT (Hordes of the Things) is the fantasy version of DBA, with the addition of magic (simply displaying the results rather than the detailed application as found in more complicated fantasy rule sets), and troop types more comonly found in fantasy fiction/myths than historical settings. Such things as 'Hordes' (huge numbers of Orcs or Lizards or even Peasants), 'Flyers' (giant bats, eagles and the like, as well as mechanical devices), 'Lurkers' (giant spiders and stuff that hides in certian terrain), 'Sneakers' (assasins),'Mages' (wizards) and 'Clerics' (essentially anti-wizard protection).

I haven't played many HOTT games myself (so many games, so little time), but the ones I have I have really enjoyed. It's quite cool to have an Aerial Hero buzzing around the place upsetting everones apple cart! In fact, I have written up a battle report of one of my games - Chaos Rulz!.

A very good intoduction to HOTT can be found here, from The Stronghold.

Variations on a Theme

Battle Reports

Click here for some battle reports of some of the DBx games I have played.



Here is "SciFight", my own fast play 25mm science fiction skirmish rules, inspired by an article from Practical Wargamer magazine, and based loosly on War Hammer 40K (though much simpler - and hopefully with enough changes in ranges and wording and stuff to avoid prosecution!).

DBMw CaseList version 2 for DBM 3.0 (588 Kb)

Here also is the latest DBM CaseList (written by Neil Hammond, from Casecroft System Limited), an absolutley brilliant application that allows you to sort out your army into commands, and takes care of all the sums (like the element costs, breaking points etc) automatically. Very very cool!

Links to Related Web Sites

De Bellis Homepagius The Official DBx Site, packed with a whole heap of useful and interesting stuff regarding DBx rules (DBA, DBM, HOTT)
Humberside Wargames Society's DBx Page, with a heap of stuff including their famous 1500AD-1900AD extension to
De Bellis Antiquitatis Resource Page - an excellent site for all things DBA
Fanaticus. Fanaticus is a virtual community of ancient and medieval wargamers who use DBx rules. Lots of interesting stuff.
Medieval Armies DBA Page - a great DBA site by David Kuijt. Take special note of his Forlongsaga
DE BELLIS MULTITUDINIS, Richard Bodley Scott's official DBM page.
Nunawading Wargaming Association's DBx Site a great site full of DBx stuff, including an illustrated section on DBM tatics - very interesting indeed!
DBM Down Under, a flash new Australian site dedicated to DBM.
Keith Barker's Ancient British DBM Wargamers Site
De Bellis Dinosauris (a.k.a. Dino-Wars), by Jeffrey Zorn. Think DBM with dinosaurs.
DBM [e-mail] List the Yahoo! e-Group dedicated to the discussion of all things DBM. You can read the posts off the web using this link, rather than getting 100's of e-mails each day in your inbox!new
The Stronghold - a site dedicated to Hordes of the Things
Historical Miniatures Gaming Society - heaps of links to wargaming sites

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