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Thursday, 6 September 2012

Dux Bellorum – First impressions

I had my first game of Dux Bellorum on Monday. We used the Welsh and Saxon sample armies from the book.  I took the Saxons and Kev and Stewart between them the Welsh.  My 25mm collection provided the figures - I even managed to dig up a couple of cows to provide a mini stampede.  The monks were more Feudal than Dark Ages in appearance but at the end of the day a cowl is a cowl.

It was not a very subtle game. The Welsh cavalry and warriors charged forward and crashed into my shieldwall.  The skirmishers did very little damage on the flank but one of my Irish elements managed to take out the light cavalry.  The other one intercepted one of the Welsh warriors (I thought in the flank but not as I had not taken care to start from far enough back). The cows did their job by destroying themselves against the shieldwall but weakening a unit in the process. The monks were not keen to advance too far but were just close enough to provide spiritual help in the form of extra leadership points to most of their line.

I used leadership points to minimise casualties on the shieldwall which gave them plenty of staying power and I was eventually (with the aid of some good dice rolls) able to wear down the opposition to less than 50% in units.  The subsequent morale rolls went against the Welsh and they fled the field.

So what were   my first impressions of the rules?

I  like the mechanisms which generate good period flavour and are elegantly put together.  The rulebook itself is attractive and generally well laid out.  On the downside there seemed to be very few figures on the table (about sixty in total) and the game seemed to be over in no time at all.  Certainly not an evening’s entertainment, although to be fair we had not tried to be particularly sophisticated in our tactics. 

Definitely interesting enough to play again though and Kev and I have agreed a rematch in 2 weeks time, Late Roman against Saxon sea raider.  We will attempt to play two games in the one session.  25mm again, normal 60mm wide basing for the first game with the second using Impetus bases at 120mm wide, on a bigger table,  but keeping movement rates at 60mm base width equivalents.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it is difficult to give a rounded review of Dux Bellorum after just one game.  I want to like them as I approve of well written and presented period specific rules that try to capture the feel of a particular era.  However can deliver a satisfying game?  For me the jury is still out on that one.


  1. Given that the movement and shooting ranges are not too great, you can increase the number of figures in a unit and just increase the Base Width to the extent that your table can accommodate - I start with my armies 6 BW apart.

    1. I like to give systems a good try as written on the grounds that the author and his play testing team have put a lot of effort into optimising them.

      I must admit though one of my first ideas was to simply double the number of points in an army. More figues with the same number of points would look better - the game on Impetus bases will provide that

  2. I have to wonder if you're like me and you're just use to huge games with hundreds of figures that take whole days to finish? I'm an old Warhammer Ancients player and 2000 points was a "small" army to me... you know, an army with *only* a hundred figures split into 4-8 units. That's why DBA games have always looked weird to me.

    One thing you might try: play out a small campaign. Build your forces for a couple of games with options built in for whoever wins a particular game and then play them. I bet you could squeeze in 2-4 games in a typical evening, assuming that you have the campaign planned out ahead of time. I'm heading that way myself and that seems more satisfying than just one fairly short game.

    Also, I wonder if this game can be expanded like Big Battle DBA where you have 2-3 players per side with each fielding an "army" of 32 points of their own.

    Some thoughts.

    1. The army size that I have used most is in the 150 to 180 range. Nearer WAB than Hail Ceaser I agree that DBA looks wierd.

      We are going to try 2 games in an evening to see how that goes and to help the learn the rules. More armies/players is a thought and the campaign idea is interesting as well.

  3. I'm very tempted to say that the Impetus basing with it's larger frontage (and potential depth too) will give a much more aesthetically pleasing game.

    I do not own a copy of the rules as of yet but do intend to buy them and give them a whirl so it's nice to read as many reviews as possible in the meantime.

    I like the campaign idea as set out by Randall Case though I think it important to have some sort of device that can effect how many troops make it to the battlefield etc so the games are unevenly matched, at least on paper.


  4. Thanks for the write up David; out of interest, how long did your game take to play?

  5. Keep the reviews posting. My copy is in the post and I will be using Impetus bases for this when it arrives.


  6. We just tried this last weekend. My sons and I have played a lot of Hordes of the Things and DBA when time has been restricted, so I didn't consider short to be a negative. If we'd had more time Sunday, we'd have plyayed two or three times.

    1. The type of game we like to play is very much a personal thing, isn't it. For somebody like yourself who likes the format I would say these rules are absolutely ideal

  7. Great post David, I'm yet to play a game with the rules or have the figures to play with, but that will possibly change soon!!