Monday, November 15, 2010
DBA Benefit Followup
The benefit tournament to support the Boston Food Bank was a great success this weekend and left me with a few thoughts. The first is that through Steve's work we managed to raise $150. In one sense that's not going to provide food for the Eastern seaboard but in another it's $150 more than they had a minute ago! I find it nice that by doing our hobby we managed to raise some money for a good cause when otherwise we might be eating pizza and talking politics. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
The second thought is that DBA is really a pretty fun game with a lot of depth. DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis) is the creation of a group of game designers led by Phil Barker, another member of the spookily smart Barker clan (see Professor M.A.R. Barker for more Barker madness). In a game of DBA you control an army of twelve units in a tabletop battle. DBA features a very abstracted game mechanic. Barker's team felt that men with spears would behave the same in 400 BC as they would in 1200 CE. Likewise, they felt that "spears" and "knights" would have certain consistent behaviors and strengths throughout history. "Knights" are always prone to charge, "bows" are always a threat to mounted troops, etc. etc. DBA summarizes all pre-gunpowder warfare into contests between certain archetypes and provides simple rules for resolving the battles. Luck plays a role but certain units will always do better or worse against certain other units.
This results in a fast and realistic battle that usually reflects historical reality. Knights charge at every opportunity, Greek hoplites shove back and forth until one side collapses from fatigue. And barbarian warbands charge in to impact legionnaires either to sweep them away or self destruct. The armies always include exactly twelve units of troops so clearly you're not simulating a historical event. Despite the abstraction, however, DBA seems surprisingly realistic.
DBA has a lot to recommend it as a beginner's game. The armies are easy to assemble and twelve units can be purchased for maybe $20. The rules are quick and straightforward. And the game plays quickly on a two by two foot area. It's a great way to begin a miniatures gaming hobby.
DBA does have a downside. Phil Barker is so very very very clever that his rulebook is almost impossible to make sense of. He has expressed that any intelligent schoolchild should be able to read it. I would make the counterclaim that an intelligent pediatrician found it dense. That being said the DBA community has produced the Unofficial Guide to DBA to help the slower schoolchildren and pediatricians struggle through. Beginners can also turn to Fanaticus for more inspiration and information. Interested folks can find the rules through eBay.