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.