A Question of Scale

The De Bellis Renationis (DBR) rules system is designed to model warfare in the period from 1494 AD to 1700 AD. With battles of the period ranging from relatively small engagements to extremely large battles two figure and ground scales are used. The following is a brief explanation of these scales.

Normal and Condensed Scale:

The first of these scales is called “normal scale”. In this scale each formed infantry stand nominally represents 100 foot organised in three or four ranks. Cavalry represents between 50 or 75 men depending on the type and are assumed to be arranged in between two or three ranks. On the table, and using 15mm scale figures, 40mm represents 50 paces. A pace is defined in the rules as being around 0.75 metres. 

Above, an English Civil War regiment is represented in normal scale. There are six stands comprised of four musket armed stands and two pike armed stands. With each stand representing 100 men the total formation represents around 600 men. As the formation is deployed two stands deep it represents a formation in six ranks and has a frontage of 150 paces. I use this normal scale for most of my Renaissance gaming. My games include small games with few troops to large games with larger armies withtables being 1.2m x 0.9m where the number of troops are small to 1.8m x 1.2m for larger battles.

The second scale in DBR is known as “condensed scale”. In condensed scale each stand nominally represents four times as many troops. That is there are twice as many ranks assumed and with the ground scale doubled the frontage of a single stand has been increased two twice that of normal scale. This translates to a single stand of foot now representing 400 men in six or eight ranks. On the table, and again assuming 15mm scale figures, 40mm now represents 100 paces.

Below, a section of a Japanese army deployed for battle using condensed scale. Shown among other troops are two stands of ashigaru armed with matchlock muskets. Each of these stands represents 400 men in six ranks and has an individual stand frontage of 100 paces. Therefore the frontage of the three stands shown, the one on the left is of dismounted Samurai, is 300 paces.

Battle Size:

In addition to these two troop and ground scales games using DBR can be of varying size, just as battles were. DBR games typically are based around historical re-fights, scenarios or points based games. As points values are frequently used as a basis for games I will describe the games using points values. A points based game will typically range from as few as 100 points to 500 points or more. However, an important point to note is the size of the game is not dependent on the ground scale or troop scale.

Lets first consider the smaller points budgets, say 100 points. Using normal scale and such a points budget engagements between small armies of 1,000 to 1,500 men can be modeled. This is ideal for the small battles in the New World or skirmishes in Europe. Examples include the Battle of Panama in 1671 where Henry Morgan’s 1,200 man buccaneer army confronted a Spanish army of 1,200 militia foot and 400 cavalry in pitched battle outside the city. While in Europe the first engagement of the English Civil War at Powick Bridge pitted some 1,000 Parliamentarian horse and dragoons against a similar number of Royalists.

A points budget of 100 points will provide, typically an army of around 12-14 stands. Using condensed scale the same number of figures now represents more troops. Illustrated above is a small battle between two late 16th Century Japanese armies, each based on 100 points. The army in the foreground comprises 600 mounted Samurai, 1,600 dismounted Samurai and 2,400 Ashigaru of whom 1,200 are armed with muskets. A total of just under 5,000 men. Opposing them are 800 mounted Samurai, 1,200 dismounted Samurai and 1,600 Ashigaru armed with a mixture of musket and bow. Below, another view of the same battle.

Many DBR competitions require players to provide armies using a points budget of around 400 points and use normal scale. A 400 point Royalist army I recently took to a competition in Australia would, in normal scale, represent an army of 2,800 foot, 900 horse and 200 dragoons. Using condensed scale this same army would represent 11,200 foot, 3,600 horse and 800 dragoons. 

However, DBR is not all about competition gaming. If we were to look at the New Model army at the battle of Naseby it comprised some 6,500 horse, 6,000 foot and 1,000 dragoons. This translates to some 40 stands of troops using condensed scale, or some 400 points. In normal scale over 170 stands would be required for the same army, a massive 1,500 points. Clearly the advantages of both scales are now becoming apparent.

But there is of course the question of complexity. Do the two scales produce additional complexity? Fortunately they don’t. Condensed scale and normal scale both use the same rules with only slight differences. These differences are mainly in the area of rear rank support and tactical factors. In normal scale for example musket armed troops are typically deployed by players in two ranks. When conducting ranged fire the rear rank fires in support of the front rank. Because condensed scale assumes the troops of a single stand represent a greater number of troops in additional depth any additional stands of  musket armed troops behind the first does not now assist that in front. Players using condensed scale therefore typically deploy their musket armed troops in only one rank. Other equally small tactical factor changes in the rules are introduced for some other troops. However, the rules for deployment, weather, time of day, tactical outcomes and march moves etc remain the same between the two scales. This allows players to easily switch between the two ground scales without learning another rules systems.

Getting Started:

Then there is the question of where to start, especially for players new to the period. Players seeking small games, with limit troops and therefore limited cost can use either normal or condensed scale. Small games will of course be shorter, just as DBA provides a shorter game, but the same experience of Renaissance warfare enjoyed.

I have fought a number of small 100-300 point games using normal scale. These provide some great games and provide a great starting point for players starting out in Renaissance gaming. Indeed you will find mention of battles using various points budgets on this site. Below a game between to Maori tribes each of 130 points and representing a battle between around 1,600 warriors on each side.

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Hopefully this description helps explain the relationship between the two scales that are built into the DBR rules system. Further, I hope it inspires you to dust of some existing Renaissance figures you may have in storage or perhaps to build your first Renaissance army in what can be only described as a fascinating period of history.

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