Ramblings on Recruitment

I’ve been mulling over my views of competitions, points systems and variety in games following another excellent English Civil War game this week. One of the old chestnuts of wargaming that often raises its head is that of points budgets, points values and army effectiveness. It’s an interesting debate and one that is certainly not restricted to the Renaissance gaming community. I routinely use points budgets to assist with balancing games, but I tend to feel that points based games have too great an impact on rules and therefore games. I thought I would post a few thoughts on points values in DBR games, though I suspect they are equally valid across a number of rules systems.

I think it’s reasonable to say that the DBR rules points system has a few basic flaws. Arguably some elements are too expensive, such as heavy artillery, while others are often considered too inexpensive. Examples of the latter are baggage and foot armed with firelocks. All are apparent when players start forming armies devoid of one type and using as many troops of another type. This was one aspect that “Kiwi Points” has tried to address, with reasonable, but not perfect results. Yet, these differences are made more apparent in “Open Competitions” where armies of very different periods face each other. I’m of the view that an early arquebusier is, for example a fine troop type when facing archers or even early caracoling Reiter, though terribly outclassed by firelock armed musketeers.

Looking at overall points budgets most games have a clearly defined budget. In DBR competitions these tended to range from 350 points to 400 point, with 400 point competitions being more popular under DBR v2. With the exception of Australia and New Zealand DBR competitions have all but died out, though even here the number of competitions are few in number. Within these remaining competitions 400 points as being standard in Australia and 400 or 450 points in New Zealand.

There is of course a balance here between satisfying selected players need to place models on the table, providing visual interest on the selected playing area, providing a balance between manoeuvre and being able to complete a game in the allocated time. I’m sure each player will have divergent views on the optimal game size. However, I think the points budgets that are normally used encourage repetitive play. They produce, in my view, games where armies are overly optimised and armies tend towards similarity. It is for example very common for a 400 point army to always have six stands of baggage. Why, well with this points budget your lists decision aren’t too restricted and as they cost vs value decision is such you would be silly not too.

In contrast I look at three recent English Civil War games I’ve played in recent weeks all played with 300 points. Partly we use this points budget as we only have a couple of hours for our Tuesday evening games. However, they really allow you to mix army composition up. Further, the points budget is so restricted some hard choices need to be made. As a result my opponent, using the Scots Covenantors, has to his credit fielded three very different armies. For my part I’ve tried some variations as well. The result is we have had three very different games.

I encourage players to add some variety in army list composition, ditch the “effective” list composition, consider some change to your traditional points budget and try something new. You may enjoy it.

For King or Covenant

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my Renaissance site, but that shouldn’t be confused with a lack of Renaissance gaming. Far from it in fact with armies being deployed almost every week. As always the games played with the locals are always excellent. Last Wednesday’s game was no exception.

Jim deployed his newly completed Scots Covenanters while I took the field with my English Civil War Royalists in a game set in 1644. Each army comprised 300 points. The situation found the Scots invading, on a fine Autumn day with the Royalists deployed behind a stream. To the Royalist left several enclosures bordered the stream and would play a part in the battle. To the Scots left rear a small wood hampered the Scots deployment but would otherwise not impact the battle.

The English deployed in traditional manner with foot, some 1600 in number, in the centre with some 800 horse split evenly on the wings. A few dragoons and a handful of guns supplemented the small English army. The larger Scots deployed their foot across the battlefield interspersed with guns of various weight. Their horse, outnumbering the English, were deployed to the rear due to their doubtful quality.

Both armies advanced in the centre where soon the foot of both armies were hotly engaged in a prolonged exchange of fire. As time past the Scots foot and gunners would suffer heavy casualties. On the English left the enclosures soon rattled with musket fire as English Dragoons and Scots dragoons and musketeers engaged each other.

However the wings where the scene of much action when English foot charged across and threatened both Scots flanks. On the English right the stream caused much disruption and delay. While a foothold was gained counterattacks eventually drove the English cavaliers back in rout. On the English left the cavaliers were more successful. While delayed but Scots dragoons eventually across and began to drive in the Scots horse. Meanwhile English foot prepared to press their hard won advantage in the centre.

Alas it was only the lateness of the day that was to save the Scots right from collapse. Well, at least according to the English pamphlets reporting the battle…

Harquebusiers & Hussars – Autumn Report

Today several players gathered for the Autumn round of Harquebusiers & Hussars here in Christchurch. As with previous events it was an outstanding success. Perhaps the only unfortunate point being that some players who would normally play were unable to due to work commitments. That said with a couple of out of town players in attendance we still had a very respectable field of eight players.

The armies in use were as follows:

  • Mark Caunter – Early Austrian Imperial
  • Jim Morton – Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita
  • Colin Foster – ECW Scots Covenanter
  • John Kerr – ECW Montrose Scots Royalist & Early Parliamentarian 1644
  • Tilman Walk – Sinhalese
  • Brian Sowman – ECW Scots Covenanter
  • Keith McNelly -ECW Royalists 1644
  • Keith Caukwell – Safavid Persian

We use a flexible format allowing players to use a different army in each round. It transpired only one person elected this option allowing John to field historical armies against his opponents. All armies comprised 300 points and play was on a smaller table using pre-set terrain.


Above, a first round game between the Early Austrian Imperialists and the Sinhalese. The game resulted in a bloody defeat for the Austrians, more of this later. Below, also in the morning, a game Colin’s Scots Covenantors and Jim’s Polish.


Below, a photo of an afternoon game between my Royalists and John’s Civil War Parliamentarians. The Parliamentarian use of commanded shot significantly bolstered the ability of the Roundhead horse. It was only after repeated Royalist charges that the Roundhead horse broke.


In other afternoon games, shown below, Brian and Colin used their Covenantors to engage Safavid Persians and Austrians respectively. 


On another table the Poles were engaged against the Sinhalese which can be seen below. The Polish commander employed some camp followers as fake Winged Hussars causing some surprise to the Sinhalese commander.


As with previous Harquebusiers & Hussars events the outcome of the games is not recorded. The winner of the prestigious Captain General cup is rather determined by player nomination of interesting game events. After some discussion it was determined to be between two “events” we’re in the running.

The first was my own ability to have victory almost robbed from me when a fresh command Royalist horse was demoralised by a broken Roundhead horse while simultaneously my own foot, who outnumbered the Roundhead foot opposite, also come within a breath of collapse. I however lost out to Mark whose army, during the morning games, was caught by a hidden command of Sinhalese deployed behind a hill. Unable to recover and attacked at several points the Austrians army collapsed while causing little damage to his enemy. A true disaster!

Above all, another excellent day of Renaissance gaming using DBR.

Balancing the Baggage

There has been a some discussion in the DBR world for a few months on issues, or perceived issues, in the rules. One such issue is the impact of baggage on games. From a game perspective I believe that some of the issues are being addressed in ways that are not always elegant or may provide unforeseen issues. So what is the issue?

Basically, there is concern that the baggage rules, as they stand, allow baggage to allocated to bolster a commands break point to a level that a command can not be broken, at least by casualties inflicted on fighting stands alone. I agree that this is unrealistic and is an issue. I would like to see this changed. I however differ from some in how this should be addressed. I am particularly cautious of a proliferation of ad hoc amendments.

Over recent months there have been a couple of tournament specific attempts to address baggage. In my view they are either complex, create further issues, or fail to focus on the Renaissance battlefield. They adopt selected DBMM mechanics which I believe are not ideally suited to the current version of DBR. One of the current ideas is to divide the baggage between the commands. In my view the DBMM “variants” miss the point in several areas, one of which they take only part of the DBMM rules, ignoring others.


In standard DBR baggage bolsters one command and allied contingents, both of which I believe are flawed. I think it a mistake to try and fix one and ignore another. Unfortunately, the DBMM “variant” currently being used in some DBR competitions extends this bolstering to all commands, irrespective of size. This is in contrast to DBMM, which is sensibly formed. Some of the most obvious points of DBMM are that it introduces a tactical factor reduction at 1/4 loss, rather than DBR’s 1/3. DBMM also reduces a baggage elements ME value. Both limit the bloated command affect. So what are some of the ways to address the impact that baggage has on games?

Before defining possible solutions here are a couple of additional thoughts, the first an excerpt by the English Civil War commander George Monck in his “Observations upon Military and Political Affairs”…

“There is nothing that bringeth so much disorder to an Army upon the March as the Baggage; and therefore it is highly necessary to reduce it to the smallest proportion that may be.”

It’s interesting that while Monck advises to limit the baggage while wargamers, especially those attending competitions, start with baggage to maximise their army composition. Perhaps something is wrong?

Now, to some gaming specifics. Let’s start with a look at figure scales. DBR has a figure scale where a stand represents between 50 and 100 men, depending on the stand type. Typically an English Civil War army with 400 points represents around 3500 to 4500 men depending on the various troops selected. These typically have some six stands of baggage. Interestingly, some non Civil War armies have allied contingents of only a few stands. There are examples of allied contingents with five or so stands of light horse. As each stand represents 50 men, or 250 men in total, how realistic are such small commands become unbreakable when baggage is added? Even more typical allied contingents, let’s consider English Royalists supporting Scots Engagers, can be bulked out effectively making them more resilient than other commands. This seems equally suspect.

By way of contrast DBMM allows baggage association only if certain ME of fighting troops are available, this counters the small allied contingent. Something could be added to DBR to cover these small commands, but given the low number of figures a stand in DBR represents I wonder if another solution exists?

As you may know my main period of interest is the English Civil War. There are a number of Civil War battles where one or both armies fielding horse only, or horse supported by commanded shot. In these situations they travelled relatively light and unencumbered. This style of action can be represented in DBR now, and rather well. You may recall that armies without baggage have a notable advantage in the deployment process. In my opinion this should be retained. I’m therefore not of the view that all armies should have free baggage.

Interestingly, in very large battles baggage where baggage existed it could well be some distance from the deployed armies, at Edgehill a good mile from the Parliamentarian troops. Edgehill and Naesby also provide good examples of Royalist cavalry being “lost” to the battle pursuing routers and raiding baggage to the detriment of their own side than that of Parliament. Not having baggage on table helps represent this rather well.

So what does baggage represent in DBR? It models the concept of an army being a little more determined to hold the field rather than abandon their loot, despite George Monck’s advise to commanders. I do not believe however that such baggage should bolster any individual command be that the largest foot command, an allied contingent or all commands in general.

Yet I’m not keen for it to be free, where its loss demoralises an army rather than adding to it, simply becasue small armies often travelled without it or it was some distance from the battleield. Indeed we must be careful, when using points budgets, that the a balance exists between points cost and benefit. Currently the benefit is clearly too great for the cost as most players wish to use baggage.

What DBR does model reasonably well is the situation where a well formed reserve can be steadied, has a degree of resilience and can we’ll continue to operate even once the command is beaten. This is well defined in DBR with a nominal break of 1/3. If we maintain this trigger value point value, without increasing any commands breakpoint, what are our options?

I would suggest that all army baggage, irrespective of its source be deployed as one group. It does not count towards the break of any command but rather only contributes to the army breakpoint. It seems sensible to have it deployed behind the largest foot command. If it is to be moved then PIPs must be allocated from the CinC’s command. This requires no change to the ME equivalents or points cost, while at the same stage addresses the bloated command syndrome of any command, including allied commands.

I’m sure if a new version of DBR is developed other solutions will be thrashed out, but in the meantime perhaps this would provide a useful method of resolving a perplexing challenge. That said it is yet another amendment and I believe there are inherient risks with such amendments. Further, does it address the points cost for benefit equation? To be honest I’m not sure. Players can not help themselves construct a perfectly balanced army when real commanders were forced to struggle with what they could assemble.