Monday, 12 September 2011

DBAven’t got a clue

I don’t think I’d ever claim to be a tactical genius. I win some of my games, lose some of them and umpire the majority. I struggle with the difference between historical or game driven tactics. I also have a view that tactical finesse on the battlefield, historically, is more apparent by its absence than its ubiquity.

Particularly in the pre-modern era, where controlling large bodies of troops over any form of distance is quite hard, my view is that Generals try to get as much stuff in one place as possible and then throw it at their enemies mostly all at once.

I’m quite good at that type of tactics. It basically is quite simple, but the great Generals normally have one extra Great Idea that will make the difference in the battle. This might be:

  • Attacking a weak point in the line (Alexander)
  • Offset deployment (That Theban bloke)
  • Tempting your opponent into a pocket (Hannibal)
  • Sit back and wait for the key moment to throw in reserves. If you’ve got any (various).

I can normally count on having about one good idea an evening. If I’m lucky I’ll have it early on.

Once you get on the table top this sort of approach can pay dividends. Phil Barker is keen to stress that historical tactics win battles under the rules he has written. I found when I was younger that deploying heavily offset was quite disconcerting to an opponent and I used it as a tactic almost to death.

The other type of tactics is that which derives from the way that rules work and require you to understand the rules rather than the historical prototype warfare which they are attempting to model. If the designer has got this completely right then the two are the same. If not then it becomes a case of exploiting the rules, or at least understanding them really thoroughly. At which point I sort of start to unravel a bit as I’ve never really cared enough about any set of rules to study them that much (except perhaps the original AK47 Republic and that’s because they were so all over the place but I loved them any way as there was a really good game hidden away in there).

This musing is brought about by my attempt to refresh my DBA knowledge after many years of not even knowing where my, now out of date, rule book was. The on-line information is excellent with explanations of how it all works and so on. It is amusing that the guides on how to play run to over 70 pages for a set of rules that covers barely 2 sides of A4 even allowing for Barker-ese.

(Although in fairness the rules for chess cover one side of A4 probably, and the literature is enormous)

So…Blades are best unless they’re in bad going fighting troops that aren’t blades unless they’re on horses (that’s the opponent not the blades) or something like that. And being caught in the flank is bad. And being uphill is good if you’re anyone except artillery. But most of all, roll lots of sixes.

I can do that.

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