Tuesday, 20 December 2011

DB...eh what?

So I’ve finally got round to reading DBA v3.0. It’s taken me a couple of goes because I tried to print it out as a booklet at first and the print was really small and I couldn’t read it so I had to print it out again full size.

So much for economising on paper and ink.

Any how, what have the Barkers done to this much loved set of rules? I say the Barkers as this is clearly a collaboration between the two of them and no one else, as only their names sign the introduction. Of course, in line with Phil’s methodology, this has been play-tested “on three continents”, which I assume means that they were in communication with gamers on other continents, not just that they were playing the game on their holidays.

I’ve known the Barkers for nearly 30 years now (through WD) and whilst I wouldn’t say we’ve grown to love each other I am aware of Phil’s idiosyncrasies and I have some admiration for the way he works and the care he expends over his rules. I’m also aware he is very well read and very opinionated. (Sue on the other hand tends to be quiet but is clearly the much smarter of the two of them). Phil’s never been backwards in putting his opinions in his rule writings, but there are some odd bits even by his standards in these.

He’s obviously not happy with the way some people have been playing with his system, - he wants the boards to be 24” x 24”, but some people use 30” x 30” even though this gives “longer games and more draws”. Bases sizes are fixed, so figure manufacturers responsible for “scale creep” need to sort themselves out, rather than Phil adjust the size of bases to allow for what is becoming more normal. Grudgingly we are allowed to expand the base depth to allow for our over sized figures, which is a relief as the alternative is to chop one of their legs off. In fact there are several instances where the sub text of the writing seems to scream out “Will you just leave my rules alone!!!”.

There’s another odd window into someone’s secret pain in the section on Dice. This reads:

“All dicing uses a single ordinary 1 to 6 dice, which should be used for the whole game to avoid suspicion of malpractice. However, as a concession for the superstitious, a dice that scores 1 in six successive throws may be junked and replaced.”

Suspicion of malpractice???? Keeping track of the number of 1’s rolled? As I said, there’s some secret pain there. Me, personally, I like to have several dice on the table, as sometimes I’m in a green die mood, and some times I’m in a red die mood. I can be impulsive. I hope my regular opponents will be able to forgive me this foible when we play.

A lot of the changes to the text are further explanations rather than new rules, but they don't do anything for Phil's reputation for dogmatism. However they do help you understand where he's coming from.

I'm not really in a place to comment on the rule changes yet. The change in measuring to use Base Widths is to be applauded as making the whole system more internally consistent and I'd be in favour of it a lot more if I hadn't bought myself a special DBA v2.0 ruler last year at Derby. There are big changes in the effects of recoiling units which strike me as a good thing, and also a variation of blade factors if being shot at,

Finally there's more stuff about Built Up Areas. I've never understood these rules and I understand that they are not universally liked elsewhere either. All I would point out is that each turn in the game is approximately 15 minutes, and within that time it is possible to seize a town and install a puppet government.

Yes, in less time than it takes to watch a Simpsons' episode you can have a full political revolution.


  1. Great, great post. I'm a big fan of DBA but once they start tinkering it all goes pear-shaped (DBMM anyone?!). I think as with any rule set you should be allowed to play with what you've got as long as the opponent has the same base sizes (so we use FOG bases for DBA). Table sizes are the same - play the 24" if in a competition but for any other bash then play on whatever table size you like.

  2. I think puppets (government or otherwise) are not covered by the army lists in V3 (and may not fit the basing - it might depend whose hand is up their whatnot ...) :))

    Yes, there is some odd sruff in there (does it still say measuring stick should be made by cutting up cereal packets?) ...


  3. Phil B (presumably not THAT Phil B)

    Some of what is being done probably needed to be done. There are some rule-based tactics which run contrary to what would happen in real life and are easily dealt with, so that is to be applauded.

    What amused me more was the apparently random comments and odd remarks. Other Phil has noted the thing about the measuring stick made from cornflake packets. I think that's gone, but then there's something about figures being based on thin cardboard or equivalent. Why thin cardboard? what's wrong with mdf?

    PB can be an odd fellow.


  4. Sigh - I bought a DBA measuring thingy last year for use at Cancon - now after only 6 games, it will be retired. Perhaps I will frame it and hang it on the wall as an exhibit of Ancient History.

  5. A interesting thing about the size of the battlefield for 25mm figures is that many if not most DBA players in the U.S. interpret "twice as large" to mean 4' by 4'. Twice as large would actually be more like 3' by 3'. I raised this on a forum once and drew responses along the lines of "Why would anyone ask such a stupid question? Twice as large means 4' by 4'!" I thereupon abandoned that forum, but I've noticed since then that in the UK at least, 3' by 3' is used. I wonder if this has led to some, ah, interesting discussions when people from opposite sides of the Atlantic play...

    Best regards,


  6. Thomo,

    Don't think I've even got 6 games out of mine.

    Having said that PB could easily take another year or two to get this stuff to market, so plenty of chances to use it still.


  7. Nope, i am betting early next year for publication. And I have had to deprecate my DBM measuring sticks.

    1. Well, I got that wrong.. three years.. nearly... and a lot of pain later. But I am reasonably happy with the final result, even though my partner (a 30 yr veteran of magazines, newspapers and writing generally) says it looks like a medical textbook...

    2. Shame we never put money on it!

  8. The death the other day of "Phil Barker", the wargamer and fantasy-novelist, reminds us that not only are most wargamers apparently called "Phil", but also that the more familiar Phil Barker - apparently a distant cousin - is a hale and hearty fellow (one trusts) who will celebrate his 80th birthday later this year. De Bello Barkerorum has yet to be written, and I do not suppose it ever will be.

  9. It was always confusing that there were two of them. The UK's PB really looks good for 80 years!