De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) is a fast-playing highly abstract system for historical games up to about the 15th century. The game mechanics are very simple compared to more conventional rule systems and usually only require a single modified die role for resolution of engagements. List building and army design is likewise very simplified with a constant twelve single-element units used by any of the hundreds of possible historical armies. These units are classified as very basic troop types so that Roman Legionnaires, medieval dismounted knights, and Japanese Samurai are all just “Blades” with no distinguishing features. This simplistic approach enables very fast gameplay while retaining the major strategic differences between historical armies.
History: The game was introduces in the late 80’s as a deliberate counterpoint to the ever increasing complexity of historical wargames. Such systems were mostly designed to be accurate historical simulations with deep detail and therefore often considered unplayable by the casual gamer. DBA re-introduced a focus on gameplay rather than simulation. Today, several newer historical game systems such as Flames of War, Warhammer Ancients and Warmaster Ancients offer a better mix of playability and accuracy than the early historical systems but DBA has remained a popular game at the international level.
Scale: Figures of just about any scale can be used for the DBA rules though they were written with 15mm or 28mm figures in mind. I am using 15mm models for most of my DBA armies as a matter of choice.
Basing & Painting: All bases in DBA are standardized to a 40mm frontage for 15mm figures. Depth of the bases varies by unit type from 10mm to 40mm. Bases hold one to four models depending on their unit type with most regular infantry using four models in a single row. As a nod to the abstract nature of DBA I am using deliberately tall bases (3mm). This gives the impression of wooden blocks with models on them rather than actual humans on the table top with “hidden” bases for stability only). For the same aesthetic reasons I attach unit type labels to the back of each base. The labels are printed on parchment paper, laminated, cut and then glued onto each base.
My main goal for DBA armies is to capture some of the iconic forces of the Ancient and Medieval period as well as their traditional enemies. At the same time I am trying to capture all major “army types” from a game system perspective (e.g. heavy infantry, light infantry, phalanx, mixed-bag, all mounted, etc.).