With DBA 3.0 in test, and a test version of the rules published in the Files section of the DBA forum on Yahoo, it is about time to look at them and the implications the new rules may have, with an emphasis on solo gaming. (I will not be covering all changes.) So, if you don't have the test rules, go get them now so we can go over it section by section.
Playing Area and Ground Scale
The 15mm standard battlefield is defined as 24" square, but there is now a nod to the "North American" use of 30" square boards, so players can choose either and not feel like it is unofficial.
There is a new troop type - more of a modifier, really - that of Mounted Infantry. This is basically a standard foot troop type (but presumably not of type War Wagon or Artillery) that has a deeper base, moves at the speed of a Knight element, but is shot at and fights as their base element type. This will make for an interesting element type, although I gather that there will be few army lists with this option. Nonetheless, it will add a new tactical challenge that the solo gamer can explore.
Dismounting is essentially the same as before, save that you cannot use a group move to perform the dismount action. That makes dismounting of large portions of one's army much more costly, so that limits a tactical choice one might have previously had. Again, another tactical challenge that a gamer might like to experiment with and refine in solo play.
This is the area where the rules change substantially, and are almost a boon for the solo gamer. The defender now chooses the terrain pieces to be placed, however a random roll determines which quarter the piece will be placed in (or which player gets to choose the quarter it will be placed in). The defender places the terrain piece, but if it cannot fit (some terrain types must be placed wholly within a quarter) it is discarded, even if a compulsory type. Once terrain is placed, the invader (attacker) chooses the board edge they wish to attack from (with some limitations).
From a solo gaming view point this might simplify terrain selection and placement. Based upon the army type being played you might choose some standard compulsory and optional terrain features, with guidelines on the sizes of the pieces and how they should be arranged. This is a big change from the method I was attempting by specifying exact terrain selection and placement based on army pairings, then looking at how the terrain might appear from all four angles (depending upon which side the invader ended up on).
The Arable topography now has the Rough terrain type, representing boggy, plowed fields. Previously all Bad Going in this topography blocked line of sight (and command) in some way. Great for bow-armed elements to hide behind.
Another aspect of the terrain changes is that all terrain must be at least one base width (BW) from one another, and from the board edges (with the BUA providing the sole exception). This means that using terrain to hug the "edge of the world" and stop the enemy from going around your flank without having to move through Bad Going no longer works, again changing some of the previous terrain placement strategies.
Single elements and groups moving entirely on roads make their first move for 0 PIPs. This makes the use of roads much more strategic. With Arable able to place up to three roads, road movement might become much more common.
The nature of a LH army changes dramatically too, as the command radius to them extends out to 2,000 paces (or 20 BW or 32", easily covering a 24" square board), allowing a group of LH to use a single PIP to move when far from the General. (I am already blowing the dust off of my Skythians...)
Movement through Bad Going for Psiloi is more generous, making it possible to make group moves in line, rather than in just column and second moves is ending there. This will definitely change how you deploy your troops.
Breaking-off from Close Combat
Fewer troops can now break-off from close combat, so this will reduce the possible defensive moves, simplifying the work I was doing for De Bellis Antiquitatis Solus (DBAS).
Now that elements can shoot from or at an overlap position, this changes how Bows could be deployed in the battle line and makes them much more useful and less likely to be nullified from shooting.
Overlapping in Combat
A crucial change to the overlap rules is that an element within 1/2 BW of the battlefield edge counts as overlapped on that flank. This changes the nature of the edge of the board, as it did with terrain deployment, making games where an army anchors its flank on the "edge of the world" less likely (or at least less beneficial).
An element providing rear support, save for a Psiloi element, is no longer destroyed when the element it is supporting is destroyed. This makes two ranks of Spears and Warband more viable options for deployment. Given this rule, and the pursuit rule, Psiloi-backed Spears, Blades, and Auxilia might become a less-likely deployment option.
What does it means for solo gaming using DBA 3.0. When I started writing DBAS, I broke down the solo gamer's decisions to:
- Determine the composition of the Non-Player General's (NPG) army. How to determine the composition does not change much, but it does some, primarily given that the Psiloi is now destroyed more often while giving support from the rear.
- Determine the terrain elements to be placed, if the defender. Again, this does not really change much.
- Determine the size of the terrain elements to be placed, if the defender. Now that terrain placement is randomized (at least by the quarter it must reside in), all area terrain other than Gentle Hills must be placed wholly within the indicated quarter, no area terrain may be placed closer than 1 BW to another, and no area terrain other than a BUA may be placed closer than 1 BW to the battlefield edge, selecting lots of large area terrain could result in those selections being discarded due to lack of space in an overloaded quarter.
- Determine the exact placement of a terrain element, if the defender. Other than the rules indicated above must be met, this probably makes it easier for the solo gamer. Previously, you had to develop a cohesive terrain arrangement for the NPG – one that would make sense for the type of army the NPG was using, and one that might penalize the player's army – but now the elements are randomized one at a time and placed, so the defender is unsure of the complete set of elements at his disposal while specifying the exact position of the element. From the DBAS point of view, that means thinking of terrain arrangements is nice, but unless the dice gods favor you, you are unlikely to get the exact arrangement you want. Again, that will lead to guidelines on terrain placement, rather than rules.
- Determine the baseline to take, if the invader. This does not change much, as again it will be more a set of guidelines on how to determine which terrain to face or occupy, rather than a set of rules.
- Determine troop deployment. This changes some, if only because of the change in dynamics of the elements (e.g. Psiloi being destroyed easier in support, versus operating better in groups). However, something glossed over previously is that the movement of all elements has sped up significantly and deployment areas are more generous, making it much quicker to get into contact. The corollary of this is that a player now has fewer moves to rearrange his troops to obtain better match-ups. This is especially true of the defender, who no longer receives the two element pair swap during deployment. That all said, any previous guidelines on troop placement will have to change, in order to reflect the new dynamics, but the nature or complexity of those guidelines won't change much for DBAS.
- Determine which elements or groups receive PIPs. In the previous version of DBA, DBAS used a formula for determine who should get PIPs based upon which group or element would have the greatest positive effect on gameplay. This was the heart of the Tactical Engine. Although the rules and priorities won't change much for 3.0, it will have to change if only to take into account new rules for group movement and second tactical moves.
- Determine how the elements or groups perform their moves. DBAS ignored this decision in the past, figuring that if the player could determine an effective move to be scored in the Tactical Engine, he already had the exact movement path in mind. That won't change.
There are a lot of changes to the rules – more than I have gone over – so I suggest you pick up a copy. Remember, this is a draft and thus can change again. There is already a lot of discussion going on at the DBA forum on Yahoo and on Fanaticus, asking for clarification on some of the wording, so I suspect this language will change, if only to ensure we will buy a copy of the rules when they are published!
I, for one, am looking forward to the new rules. I await the new Theban army list so I can base my newly-painted figures. However, based on the language in the draft, I may not have enough figures painted as the Thebans now use some Double-Based Elements (DBE) 8Sp!