On Saturday the 27th of June I played in the DBMM tournament, the Winter Cup. Organised by Allen Yaxley, it’s a four-game tournament at the Hutt Club which drew 14 players. It’s my first DBMM tournament, and my first DBx tournament in well over a decade. Here are my thoughts.
First off, the format is great. The first two games were played on the 27th of June, the next two on the 25th of July. I’ve organised a lot of tournaments and have always stuck to one-dayers due to the availability of players. It never occurred to me to run multi-day tournaments weeks apart! I know as a wee lad I had no problem going on gaming binges for days at a time, but I think these days I’d feel far too burned out even if I could even find the time.
In the last ten years most of the tournaments I’ve played in have been Malifaux. It was funny coming back into DBx gaming because I noticed the logistical differences immediately. The main reason for these is that in every other common gaming system, the boards are pre-set. This means that the organiser and some helpers set up every table before the tournament, and they usually stay that way for the whole day. When each round is drawn the players are allocated an opponent and a table to play on, so they make their way there and do battle.
In the DBx systems the terrain is generated as part of the game. This means that the table you’re on doesn’t matter, so you’re just given an opponent to play each round. You find your foe for the round then you both work out where you’re going to play. This is when the fun starts! What ensues is a comedy of wargamers moving from table to table with their laden carrying trays, landing on one table only to find it’s already claimed, cagily asking their previous opponent if they plan on moving tables, or two orphaned gamers desperately searching for that one empty table that should be left over. It brought back a ton of memories of old DBM tournaments, I did miss that chaos before each round. It is a great way to bond with one’s fellow gamer before trying to defeat them!
As I am currently “between armies”, I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a Seleucid army from the ever-friendly and helpful Vince Cholewa. As I’m currently painting up a Macedonian army that seemed like a great fit, it’s mostly the same core of troops so I felt that a) any lessons learned while playing them would be retained once I get my own army and b) I wouldn’t fall in love with a different style of army altogether from the one I’m getting, and regret buying it.
I put together a list that most closely resembled my planned army. This meant I didn’t play up the strengths of the Seleucid list, but I felt that this early in my DBMM career that wasn’t going to matter too much! I had a big phalanx, a fair amount of companions, a large number of line cavalry and a single elephant.
First up, was Vince! He took Thracians, an army I usually pass over when flicking through the army list books but is actually a very fine force. Plenty of very good skirmishers, lots of varied light horse, a solid block of Greek mercenary hoplites and a core of noble shock cavalry in wedge.
I couldn’t think of a better person for a beginning player to face. Vince explained everything in the pre-battle setup and then also verbalised his thinking behind his deployment and what he was planning on doing every turn. It really helped to hear that, as it not only meant I picked up on movement costs but also got me thinking about the deeper tactical problems he was mulling over. Also any foolish moves I did he would point at and suggest better alternatives.
In the end we timed out, no doubt due to my inexperience and Vince being prepared to spend time to explain the finer points of the rules. Even though it ended in a 13-12 draw in my favour (only due to me being the invader!) if it had gone on for another few turns my army would have surely broken. I was making small progress on my right flank, but on my left the Seleucid nobility was be slowly but surely cut down by the Thracian peltasts and light horse, and the Thracian nobles were about to join the fight.
My second game was against another familiar face, Drew Fortune. When I first joined the Hutt Club back in 1993 Drew was there also playing WRG Ancients 7th edition. He dropped out of the scene until quite recently, so it was good to catch up. After that and the ballyhoo of finding a table, we got down to business. He was fielding a beautiful Ottoman army that he’d recently painted up – I think it was his sixth game. So given it was only my fourth game, it was bound to be one involving a lot of time spent with our noses in the rulebook!
And sure enough, we timed out and weren’t able to finish the game. That was a shame because it was looking pretty close at the end – some hurried moves against his light horse and Janissaries on my last turn had rendered my left command disheartened, but I was making some good progress in the centre and right flank against the Ottoman cavalry and Serbian knights. However Drew had taken a much steadier toll on my army from the beginning of the game so it ended 14-11 to him.
I learnt a lot during the day:
- Army-scale wargames with large formations of troops feel very different to skirmish games. Looking at a large table with your army of a few hundred miniatures in front of you gives you a sense of scale and generalship that I haven’t experienced since I stopped playing DBM.
- Moving from DBM to DBMM can be difficult! I spent my day constantly getting the combat factors wrong, especially for knights which have gone from +4 vs mounted and +3 vs foot to the other way around. The other ones I found tricky were auxilia being +3 against mounted instead of +2, and light horse being +3 against foot. That last one just seems wrong!
- Cavalry is fantastic. I heard someone calling it the universal soldier of DBMM, something I can totally agree with. The fact that mounted don’t suffer corner-to-corner overlaps in their turn, and that foot don’t get rear ranks against it, means they are much more useful and versatile than in DBM. I’m not regretting the dozen elements of it that I have in my Macedonian army.
- The troop interactions are very interesting compared to DBM. Watching my mighty phalanx get slowly nibbled away at by a screen of Thracian peltasts was a novel experience!
- Even though the rules suggest a more static and lumbering game that DBM, DBMM actually allows much easier redeployment through an encouraged use of columns and changing formation into and out of them. This makes for a more interesting and dynamic game than I expected.
All in all, I’m very happy with my decision to get back into ancient wargaming and am looking forward to the next day of the tournament.