Big Battle Strategy Basics

Overview and Preamble
Command Sizes
Terrain
The C-in-C
Win and Don't Lose
Command Missions
How to set up First
How to set up Second
How to set up Third

Overview

This file describes the basic principles of Big Battle DBA strategy. We assume herein that players of Big Battle DBA are already competent players of DBA version 2.0.


Command Sizes

With a single army or an ally, you have no choice -- each army is 12 elements. With a double army the commands should be split 13/11, 14/10, 16/8, or 17/7. That way you need to take 9 elements casualties to break both your commands, not 8. With a triple army the best split is either 13/13/10 or 16/13/7 or 16/10/10.

What size to allocate to each command depends upon the command's mission and pip resources. Missions are discussed in more detail later. Larger commands require more pips than smaller ones. Commands with simple, static missions require fewer pips than commands with active, mobile missions. Larger commands are harder to break; smaller commands are easier to move, especially through bad going.


Terrain

This topic deserves a large article just by itself. To keep the topic simple, as befits an overview, here are some of the uses for terrain. Note: in the discussion below, "vertical" terrain is oriented from one backfield to the other, parallel to the side edges. "Horizontal" terrain is that which is parallel to the long back edges.

  • Flank Protection: Flank attacks by mounted are a major threat for many forces, including most less-mobile commands. Marching with one flank anchored on terrain, with perhaps a few auxilia or psiloi in there in support, allows a less mobile force to protect its flank against a more mobile force. This is very useful for pike. Using terrain this way requires that you march parallel to the line of terrain, or else stand beside it. For movement, it is most useful if the terrain is vertical.
  • Highway: If you want to attack an enemy using bad-going troops, the best way to get deep into the enemy backfield is to march down a line of vertical bad-going that goes into their backfield -- treat the terrain as a highway. Auxilia and psiloi are the best at this use of terrain.
  • Wall: A simple idea: make a horizontal line of terrain that blocks the enemy. This is not always very useful, though -- the enemy is rarely obliging enough to attack through such a wall at a disadvantage.
  • Funnel: This is the use of some small pieces of terrain to split enemy commands as they advance, and force them to use more pips to advance.
  • Pillbox: This is the treatment of a piece of terrain as a stronghold against enemy attack. Steep hills are particularly good for this. Even advancing foot can be interdicted in this way, and the clever use of ZOC to disorder enemy forces from a patch of bad going can delay the enemy advance. The pillbox tactic is most useful on a flank -- if you put one in the center it is easier for the enemy to assault it with good foot.
  • Special Rule: There are a number of special rules with regard to terrain that can be exploited to advantage. The most obvious two are camels and littoral landings. Armies with camels gain advantage when there are dunes and oasis, which camels treat as good going. Littoral armies can use the littoral landing rules to place a small force somewhere unpredictable along the waterway when a waterway is present. In addition to those obvious examples, there are a number of more subtle uses of special rules. Marsh and rough are more useful against knights because they will advance after combat into those types of bad going. Woods are very useful for psiloi to hold against enemy bow, because they interdict bow fire and protect the psiloi. Artillery can be used defensively behind marsh or rough, where their fire will not be affected but enemy movement must be in columns (for more pips). On the other hand, steep hills and woods and oasis can be used to create blind zones for enemy artillery.

  • The C-in-C

    If your C-in-C is killed, you lose. Do not put your C-in-C in the line of battle unless things are desperate. Things are never desperate at the start of the game.

    Your C-in-C can add +1 to his combat roll, once only per game. Do not put yourself in a position so that you need to use this modifier. If you end up in such a position, only use it if you must. Most of the time, this means only to use it to save the life of your C-in-C.


    Win and Don't Lose

    The principle here is very simple. You cannot win the battle everywhere. So when you look over the battlefield, you should not be trying to win the battle everwhere -- you should identify one part of the battlefield where you will win it. The rest of the battlefield your objective is much simpler -- you want to "not lose" there. DBA is a game of pip management. Spend your pips where you are trying to win; only spend pips where your objective is to "not lose" if you must. Make your opponent spend pips elsewhere, so he has fewer pips where you are trying to win the battle.


    Command Missions

    Give each command a mission; something simply described. Keep to that mission and don't get distracted for temporary gain. Make sure that your commands are structured so as to be able to fulfill their mission. For example, it is impossible to get enough pips for one command to simultaneously advance in bad going against enemy troops, and also to move forward beside them with pip-hog troops like elephants. It is also foolish to give your lowpip command the mission of advancing through bad going.

    Give each command a mission. Make sure the command has the right resources (troop types, number of elements, and appropriately-sized pip dice) to fulfill that mission. And then keep your plan on target.


    How to set up First

    You must place your C-in-C command and one other down before the enemy deploys. Keep as much of your plan hidden as you may until after he deploys. This will give him the chance to make mistakes. For example, if you have only one important group of bad going terrain on the map, putting your bad-going command behind it will be obvious, and so reveal nothing to the enemy. But if you have two such groups of bad going, one on each flank, and only one bad-going command to exploit it, you best wait to deploy the bad-going command after the enemy has set up his troops. Similarly, if you have a large wall of psiloi-supported spear as your main good-going battle line, it will not surprise anyone for you to put it on the map in the center. But if you have a last-placement mobile reserve that can flank to one side or the other, wait to place that last, after the enemy has deployed.

    Note that it is often possible to get good matchups, even if you deploy first. For example, if you set up with corridors of good going running from one side to the other, you can rely on the fact that an enemy with large pike units would send them marching down these corridors. Thus you may position your forces knowing how the enemy will deploy. This principle of forecasting is especially important with artillery.


    How to set up Second

    Setting up second, as the attacker, you get more information than the guy setting up first, but less control over terrain. You don't get "no" control over terrain -- sure, you can't move or eliminate any pieces, but you aren't required to fight in them either. By placing your commands well you can choose which terrain pieces become important in the upcoming battle, and which ones become irrelevant.

    Further, you get information about the enemy. You can usually figure out what his plans are for the two commands that are already deployed. You may even be able to figure out which one will get the high pip dice, which the low pip, and which the mid pip. You can easily figure out what the composition of the third not-placed-yet command is, and from that information often figure out what plans the enemy has for that command.

    From all this information you can place your commands to maximize your advantage and get the best matchups possible. Don't restrict yourself to thinking about element matchups -- it is often more important to get mission matchups between commands than it is to get element matchups. If you can arrange to attack one of the enemy commands with two of yours, while making it difficult for the enemy to get a similar concentration of force, that can win you the game. If you can figure out enough information about the enemy plans and intentions from his deployment, you can usually gain a large advantage.


    How to set up Third

    The last-placed defensive command can be a game-breaking advantage if you use it well. Examine the attacker's deployment as described above in setting up second. Figure out what he is going to do, and how he intends to do it. Once you have that information, place your third command so as to frustrate his intentions defensively, or (even better) to attack aggressively where he is weak, so as to throw his plans totally out of whack.


    The author may be contacted at kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu Please do not use any pictures or text from this page without permission.