Friday, January 16, 2015

A Time of New Editions?

Everyone is probably already aware that Dungeons & Dragons has recently released their 5th Edition of the game, and it seems to be a hit with most "old school" gamers. Or at least those who, like me, were playing OSR games out of a combination of nostalgia and a dissatisfaction with the gamey-ness of D&D 4th Edition and the munchkin friendly often hilariously rules-heavy 3rd Edition series of games.

But another, equally revolutionary game has also had a new edition published in the recent year - the historical miniatures wargame "De Bellis Antiquitatis", or "DBA" to its friends. DBA was first introduced in 1990, but gained much popularity in the mid-90's with it's 1.1 edition. The 2.0 edition released in 2001 greatly expanded the army lists (which range from the dawn of history in Sumer and Egypt up until the Renaissance.), and culminated in 2.2, which was sort of the "D&D3.5" to 2.0's "D&D3.0" - a clean up and minor enhancement, but still pretty much the same game.

The primary innovations of DBA over the rules that existed at the time were twofold.

First, the cumbersome command and control rules common to games at the time, often involving a myriad of carefully written orders (yes, written orders) and pro-rated movement, were replaced by a simple, abstract D6 roll. That roll gives you points to spend ordering your troops however you see fit. There is no simulation of HOW the army is commanded, only the overall difficulty of controlling the army.

Second, the size of the game itself was revolutionary - each army consists of 12 "elements", where an element is a single game piece with between 2-4 miniatures on it. That means a whole army can be built with only 24-48 miniatures, usually averaging around 32 miniatures. Also, the game board itself is only a 2 foot square for 15mm figures, or 3 foot square for 25mm figures. Just about anyone can find a table to throw down a 2x2 piece of cloth and some simple pieces of terrain, and DBA introduced the idea of being able to play miniatures as a "pickup game".

DBA's third edition comes after a 10 year break. The game is superficially the same as it was before, though a number of very controversial changes were made. Here is a good overview of the changes, but in short, the rules seem to even better reflect how ancient battles were pitched and fought, and the "game" aspect of DBA has been tightened up as well. In short, it brings the 90's-era game more into the modern mindset, which is a bit ironic, since DBA originally killed off the 90's era wargaming mentality.

Now, I haven't played DBA much since 2.2 came out. I haven't played at all in the last 6-8 years. But this new edition has me excited. I've dug out my old armies and the heaps of lead I'd collected. I have almost as many armies still in their boxes as I do painted.

Amusingly, since DBA3.0 has some significant changes over the 2.x games, many gamers are refusing to switch, and a "DBA2.2+" movement ("Pathfinder", anyone?) has started.