Medieval Armies DBA Page

Making DBA Terrain Squares

By David Kuijt

A DBA battlefield for 15mm scale is 24" square. The rulebook sets some limits on what is appropriate terrain as follows:

That is nearly the whole description of terrain in the DBA rulebook.

Perhaps the most common DBA Terrain is made out of felt. A 24" square groundcloth of green felt for the base covered with cutout shapes of different colours of felt to mark rivers, roads, towns, marshes, woods, lakes and the like.

This article describes an alternative that is nearly as inexpensive and much more attractive. Few tools are necessary, and no great artistic skill is required. The result is a set of 12" squares that can be combined in a modular fashion to make a wide variety of different terrain. Using 12" squares with permanently attached asymmetric terrain features is one method mentioned (and supported) in the DBA rules.


Terrain Design

The basic idea is to make a relatively small number of geomorphic 12" square boards. Any four of them can be fitted together to construct a DBA map. This accords well with the description of choosing map terrain in the DBA rulebook, and allows an appropriate battlefield to be chosen very quickly.

On the one hand you wish to be able to play in a very wide variety of battlefield terrain. On the other hand you haven't got infinite time and money to devote to making terrain boards, and they can't require a dedicated truck to bring them to where you choose to wargame.

The boards below allow a reasonable compromise between the desire for variety and the constraints of expense, portability, and manufacture. Terrain features are positioned asymmetrically on the boards. This means that rotating a given 12" map quarter 90 degrees and leaving it in the same position will change the board, perhaps in a very important way (e.g., positioning a ridgeline across the center of the board, or with a simple rotation, the ridge becomes a much less important feature along one board edge).

There are 12 boards described below. Using only those 12 boards, a player will still be able to generate approximately 800,000 different legal 24" square map combinations of clear, hills, and bad going. With the addition of rivers and roads, the possibilities are infinite.

The following boards are required:

To reduce the number of boards that need to be constructed, roads, towns, and rivers are not part of the boards above. After the boards are positioned, the player creating the terrain can easily add a river, town or village, and any roads desired. For this purpose the player will need a couple of linear terrain features made up for roads and rivers.

Materials

Construction Method

Options

These techniques can be easily used to generate other types of terrain. Suppose you like to play Arab Conquest, you don't want all that silly grass all over your terrain? Nothing is easier. Use a sandy colour of grout as your base, dry-brush some lighter colours over the surface after applying the layer of diluted glue, and you are done! Behold desert terrain that any Arab could be proud of.

Similarly, there are some occasions where you might wish for a beach, perhaps a view of the Adriatic, or Lake Trasimene. Special-purpose terrain can be easily added and integrated in a modular fashion with your basic 12 squares. Use the techniques described above to create a 12" by 24" rectangle, with the shores of Lake Trasimene on one edge. Combine it with two of your basic squares and you have a nice battlefield on the edge of a major waterway. You can subsequently use your Lake Trasimene double-sized segment to recreate a Viking invasion, a battle along the side of the Black Sea, and so on.

Carrying Case

Flock will gradually be worn away if you stack these boards on each other, so I built a carrying case of plywood I had laying around, plus a flap-down handle and a couple of hinges. This case will store up to 16 boards (I only have 13 at the moment). A picture of the case is available here.


Last modified September 5, 1998. Added images.

Page created September 1, 1998.

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