Thursday, 7 July 2011

Dux Bellorum: Creating units and sorting out bases

A couple of people have asked about the numbers of figures needed for units in Dux Bellorum, and also about base sizes. Nice to know that a few people are starting to think about building armies!

Well, this is a bit of a tricky one to answer, because although I’ve given suggested unit and base sizes in the rules, you can play the game using whatever sizes you fancy. Unlike Glutter of Ravens: Warfare in the Age of Arthur, which was scaled very much like a De Bellis Antiquitatis game with one 40mm base for 15mm figures or 60mm base for 28mm figures equalling one unit, this time I’ve wanted to allow players to choose the look of their battle. I’m also aware that not only does this come down to personal preference for the look of a game, but also the amount of money and time you can invest in collecting miniatures, and the size of table you have access to (I’m in a small apartment, so the later is my big problem); this means that I want to ensure you can have an equally good game regardless of how much space you have to play on ... the mechanics of the game slide up or down based around units, regardless of their composition.

How does this work? Well, there’s no set ground scale in the game (that seems out of kilter firstly with the nature of Dark Ages warfare, but also beyond the game-weighted, as opposed to simulation-weighted, rules I’m producing), and all measurements are given in Base Widths. I like this mechanism a lot, and first remember seeing it in a set of horse & musket rules in Wargames Illustrated, probably in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Whoever came up with the idea, thanks, because it allows a game to be scaled up or down as the player wishes. So measurements in the game are entirely dependent on the base sizes you choose for your units. Admittedly, if you go for figures based on a 120mm base, it will look great but you’ll need a big table and long arms to push the units around in the middle of it! A Foot unit usually moves 2BW and a Mounted unit 4BW, so using 40mm (DBA-style) bases as individual units, Foot units move 8cm per move and Mounted 16cm per move - perfectly fine on a 2x2ft table; scale that up to 80mm bases (either using 28mm figures or several 40mm bases pushed together as one unit), and Foot move 16cm and Mounted move 32cm. Again, manageable, but probably on a 6x4ft table minimum.

Anyway, to (finally!) answer the question about how many figures you’ll need and how to base them, let’s take a look at the options. In the rulebook, I’ve assumed that you’ll use one 40mm or 60mm wide base per unit. Shieldwall and some Warriors are 4 figures to a base; most Warriors and all Riders are 3 to a base; all Skirmishers (Foot and Mounted) are 2 to a base. But the options really are endless.

You might go for a DBA, Field of Glory or Wargames Research Group base as your core unit size, which means 3 or 4 Foot or 2 or 3 Mounted on a base 40mm wide from 15mm figures and 60mm wide for 28mm figures. That’s easy enough to collect and paint. Or you could scale up a bit: using either 15mm or 28mm figures on 80mm wide bases - that could be 8 15mm Foot or maybe 4 28mm Foot on a narrow depth base, or if you double the base depths, 16 15mm Foot or 8 28mm Foot. Base depth, by the way, doesn’t matter in the rules at all, unless you tried to go for something ridiculously deep; so it’s fine if you want two ranks of figures rather than one, for example.

Single-based figures can be used in clumps or on movement trays (as used in Warhammer Ancient Battles and War of the Ring for example); the rules provide some guidance on this, but as a rough guide I’d say one unit might have 8 Foot or 4 Mounted to look good.

Army sizes are usually between 5 and 12 units, to give you some idea of how many units you need. Once again, the player has flexibility depending on what sort of army he or she wants to command - a small, elite force or a larger muster of average troops.

Flexibility. That’s what I’m going for in DB. That does mean that you need to work out what base sizes suit you, and I’d still recommend working with the traditional WRG bases (either as individual units or pushing several together as one unit). Alongside scalability, I wanted to avoid players needing to do one thing: rebasing. No-one likes doing that!