Hidden Gem: Great Battles Of History For DBA

By chance I found a fantastic free PDF that I want to promote in this blog. But first this.

In my mind, De Bellis Antiquitatis always was ‘that cheap ugly little rulebook’. This ugly rulebook.

I rediscovered my teenager’s wargaming hobby in 2006. The historical wargaming scene in Holland was small and scattered then but with the help of internet I found out that the leading Ancients ruleset was DBA.

Fastplay and simple, but -a thin A5-sized booklet, softcover, no pictures, no colours or fancy artwork inside, only dry tightly written text in Times New Roman and diagrams and army lists. It had the looks of a cheap board game manual. How to play checkers. In layout no match for the GW ‘Enemy Within’ campaign or any colourful roleplay book that I appreciated. Absolutely no match for the later Warlord Hail Caesar books with their perfect pictures and casual storytelling style.

As the Washington Area DBA Gamers wrote, in their Unofficial Guide to DBA (still available here)

Unfortunately, the spread of DBA has always been hampered by a cryptic writing style and its
lack of clear diagrams and examples. In addition, the ambiguity of the language used has meant
that a common understanding of what the rules really mean has been elusive.

Their free WADBAG 2.2+ version was not only better written but had a better layout as well. Even the current hardcover third edition of the DBA rules looks poor in comparison with the standard professional wargame rulebooks that are published every week. Pictures, stories and a professional magazine layout, Playboy for Wargamers, are the norm.

Although I agree that many modern wargame rules are all hat, and no cattle, and just means to promote new miniature ranges, the DBA-rules are the other extreme: all love, no sex please, we’re British.

Enter Great Battles of History for DBA 3. Warlord brings you their colourful rulebooks mixed with battle reports that give you a feel of the battles and an impression what you can do with the rules. For DBA 3.0, I today discovered the free fan publication Great Battles of History for DBA 3 that does the same for De Bellis Antiquitatis, In colour! With pictures! With orders of battle! With maps!

The hard core DBA players know this 2016 Joe Collins fan publication. One of the contributors is Robert Madrigal aka Timurlank, who is mr DBA in The Netherlands. I met him a few times.

But I’m not hard core. I play many periods and rulesets, as a casual gamer, who likes to toy with soldiers and history. I recommend Great Battles of History for DBA 3.0 to every casual wargamer who has no real experience with this classic wargame and likes to read and see what he can do with these rules. See below for examples. Download it! Spread the word! Hydaspes, Cannae and Spartacus, how ugly would the world be without a chance to replay them with toy soldiers?


5 thoughts on “Hidden Gem: Great Battles Of History For DBA

  1. Thanks for that hint! Well researched scenarios are always precious! Keep up the good work 🙂

    If you like the Guide to DBA and the 2.2+ version of WADBAG, have you tried their ruleset Triumph? I was an avid DBA 2.2 player until I tried Triumph which has become my ruleset of choice for ancients (https://wgcwar.com/triumph.html).


    1. I checked it. On paper it looks ok, I liked the earlier unofficial WADBAG guide. But I want to make a choice for a mainstream rulesystem. Which is, according to the stats, DBA, M&G and AdlG. And Warlords HC! I added Age of Hannibal as new runner up in my test mix. Triumph is definitely outside ‘mainstream’ and the aspects that are ‘better’ than DBA (flexibility, stamina, better writing) are aspects that I expect to find in M&G and AdlG.
      So, Triumph! ended lower on my priority ‘to play’ list. Many systems are good in their own way. Have you tested DBA 3.0?


      1. You’re right, Triumph! is not a mainstream ruleset and your selection for the comparison games (which are great by the way) makes a lot of sense – Triumph doesn’t belong in there. I only mentioned it because in my opinion it is much closer in scope (size, duration) to DBA than M&G and AdlG and also I think it is the better game.
        I have tested and played DBA 3.0, but I think it has moved too far away from DBA 2.2 and has become a different game. It didn’t convince me, even though I was a long-time DBA player.


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