De Bellis Renationis

The wargame rules “De Bellis Renationis”, or more commonly known as “DBR” are designed to allow the recreation of the Renaissance battlefield using historical miniatures during the period 1494 AD to 1700 AD.

In the 1970s Wargames Research Group (WRG) published George Gush’s Renaissance rules, Renaissance wargaming were effectively born. These rules provided myself, as well as many others, hours of wargaming pleasure as they captured much of the colour and drama of the military changes introduced during the period. Armies from Italian Wars to the English Civil War could be assembled and battles from Europe to Asia, a vast and colourful period, could be recreated on the wargames table. However, Gush’s rules were followed in 1995 by Phil Barker’s own Renaissance rules “De Bellis Renationis”. These rules were soon supported by three army list books covering armies from Europe, the Americas and Asia. In 2004 the second and current edition of the rules was published.

While DBR clearly has it’s foundations in the mechanics of Phil Barker’s earlier rules systems, DBA and DBM, both developed for the Ancient and Medieval periods, DBR is very different. It is these differences that provide a very different game and model a very different period of warfare. As the author points out the rules are not DBM with extras. But what are some of these variations and how are they used to simulate warfare in the Renaissance?

For those familiar with DBM one of more notable differences in DBR is the movement penalty imposed to break formations up. This is achieved by imposing what is commonly called “separation anxiety”. Basically, if a player wishes to break up a formation of troops there is a heavy movement point penalty. In DBx terms a PIP penalty is applied when separating elements in most situations. The result is interesting and models the period well. Armies suddenly become slower in nature creating a more deliberate mode of combat on the table.

To further capture the flavour of the Renaissance period additional troop types were of course required. As one would expect a range of firearm equipped troops are needed. These range from arquebus armed early infantry of the Italian Wars to musket armed infantry typical of the Thirty Years War and English Civil Wars. Others model troops trained or equipped for close combat, including those that fired by salvo. Other troops are also reclassified to allow fire at a distance. This includes some cavalry who engaged the enemy using distance fire, such as reiteir firing by caracole, as well as skirmishers, both mounted and on foot.

Players in DBR are also encouraged to support troops by using mixed formations. The most obvious example being mixed pike and shot formations. In such formations pike are critical to preventing enemy mounted riding unsupported musket armed troops down, yet at the same time pike formations are at risk of caracoling cavalry unless protected by arquebus armed troops.

Likewise many cavalry formations benefit from support from commanded shot, while these same shot benefit from nearby troops of cavalry. Combat outcomes also contain notable changes compared to DBA/DBM. In DBR some results of combat are linked to which player is attacking and the troop type. For example Royalist Cavaliers are most dangerous if they charge Parliamentarian cavalry in their turn. These interactions all provide subtle period flavour.

In conclusion if you are looking for a set of rules that allows the reproduction of Renaissance warfare on the table top you may well be surprised what DBR has to offer. The rules are certainly different from other DBx systems and these differences, in my view, capture much of the flavour of the period.