Army popularity and success in DBM 3.3


John Graham-Leigh

This is based on analysis of over 1,100 games using DBM 3.3 between 2016 and 2019.  The great majority were played in UK competitions and a few in the USA and Western Australia – the latter two may have used slightly different versions of the rules.

15% of the armies used were from Book 1, 35% from Book 2, 23% from Book 3 and 27% from Book 4 – this relative popularity of the different periods has been fairly constant throughout DBM’s history, but the use of Book 3 armies has increased at the expense of those from Books 2 and 4.

Armies from 185 different lists were used; 73 armies were used in only one competition each (normally 4 games) and have not been included in this survey.


Table 1: Most Popular Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
1Late Imperial Roman6142
2Later Carthaginian5844
3Alexandrian Imperial5455
4Medieval German5250
5=Classical Indian4445
5=Later Hungarian4449
8=Alexandrian Macedonian4254
8=Patrician Roman4241
8=Wars of the Roses English4252
11=Later Sargonid Assyrian4047
11=West Frankish or Norman4044
13=New Kingdom Egyptian3662
13=Later Hoplite Greek3645
13=Later Achaemenid Persian3653
16=Early Achaemenid Persian3251
16=Free Company or Armagnac3260
19Middle Imperial Roman3158

19 armies were used in at least 30 competition games. Late Imperial Roman returned to the top position, and Later Carthaginian remained in second place. New entrants to the “most popular” list are Skythian, Later Sargonid Assyrian, Later Hoplite Greek, Later Achaemenid Persian, West Frankish or Norman, Free Company or Armagnac and Wars of the Roses English; they replace previous favourites Polybian Roman, Marian Roman, Early Imperial Roman, French Ordonnance, Italian Condotta, Ottoman, Lydian, Graeco-Bactrian and Medieval Portuguese.


Table 2: Roman Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Polybian Roman1561
Marian Roman2655
Republican armies4158
Early Imperial Roman2552
Middle Imperial Roman3158
Late Imperial Roman6142
Imperial armies11748
Patrician Roman4241

Roman armies are still popular, and the legionary-heavy ones are more successful than the later ones with more diverse troop types.  Sub-Roman British were used in only one competition so do not figure in the list.

Table 3: Pike Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Alexandrian Imperial5455
Alexandrian Macedonian4254
Later Swiss2449
Macedonian Early Successor1239
Later Macedonian843
Pike armies20048

Pike armies remain popular, but many appear to have dropped out of use. Sumerians did not appear at all, while Pyrrhic, Low Countries and Scots Common Army were used in only one competition each. Generally pike armies maintain their middle-of-the-road performance.


Table 4: Impetuous Armies – Knights

ArmyGamesSuccess %
West Frankish/Norman4044
Carolingian Frankish2450
Later Crusader1656
Feudal English1656
Feudal Spanish1259
Early Crusader1255
Early Serbian1225
Feudal French1154
Serbian Empire841
East Frankish831
Italian Ostrogothic863
Italian Lombard853
Cilician Armenian831
Medieval French744
Knight Armies21446

Perhaps surprisingly, Normans are now the most popular army based on irregular knights, and Superior Knight armies are much less common. The Carolingians and Early Crusaders are not necessarily irregular knight armies as some or all of their knights can be regular. Generally knight armies have done well, their average success being brought down by the dismal performance of a few such as Early Serbian and East Frankish.


Table 5: Impetuous Armies – Warband

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Early Frankish etc1643
Middle Frankish1642
Ancient British868
Warband Armies6449

Warband armies have nearly disappeared from competitions; former favourites such as Old Saxons and Early Germans have vanished altogether. Of course, many other armies can include warbands but armies relying on these as the main troop type seem to be considered too clumsy.



Table 6: Medieval European Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Medieval German5250
Later Hungarian4449
Wars of the Roses English4252
Free Company3260
Italian Condotta2854
French Ordonnance2843
Medieval Portuguese1652
Burgundian Ordonnance855
100 Years War English1238
Medieval Armies26251

Knights (mostly regular) supported by bows, heavy infantry and sometimes light horse form the basis of these armies. The Germans remain the most popular, Wars of the Roses English are much more successful than their Hundred Years War ancestors, and the most striking improvement is by Free Company armies. These are actually mostly Armagnacs, offering some cheap infantry as well as the (dismounting) knights and other costly troops. With few exceptions these armies are of average performance.


Table 7: Cavalry Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Later Achaemenid Persian3653
Later Muslim Indian2060
Sui/Early T’ang Chinese2050
Seljuk Turk1643
Central Asian City-States1172
Later Mycenean871
Cavalry Armies19155

The Ottomans have fallen from favour, displaced at the top by Darius III’s Persians, while the Khurasanians consolidate their position as a popular choice. The Russians and Byzantines have disappeared. However, the Ottomans (usually with a Serbian contingent for punch) continue to be highly successful, as do the Later Muslim Indians whose combination of cavalry and elephants can be formidable. But the similar Sassanids and Timurids have vanished, while the Ghaznavids are less successful. Avar armies do well, with plenty of good light horse and light infantry to support the cavalry.


Table 8: Spear and other HI Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Later Hoplite Greek3645
Fanatic/Islamic Berber1648
Norse Viking & Leidang1648
Communal Italian845
HI Armies12746

These armies, relying on either Spears or Blades, tend to be draw-heavy and include no outstanding performers. Hoplites (mostly Spartans) have displaced the Lydians as the most popular choice. Aztecs have considerably improved their performance to reach average status.


Table 9: Light Horse Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Yuan Chinese1261
Komnenan Byzantine1243
Sha-t’o Turkish873
Early Armenian860
Central Asian Turkish851
Light Horse Armies10848

Armies based on light horse seem to do better when supported by Chinese infantry, as with the Sha-t’o Turks and Yuan Chinese – the latter was the only Mongol army with enough games to be listed, with Golden Horde, Ilkhanid and Mongol Conquest appearing in only one competition each. Hunnic performance continues to be poor, and the Numidians are much less successful than hitherto. Apart from those two, light horse armies are still hard to beat.


Table 10: Light Infantry Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Early Libyan1263
Early Slav880
Pre-Feudal Scots858
Light Infantry   Armies6459

Once again, these armies are not much used but several of them have high success rates. The Picts have the advantages of a force of Superior Warband and plenty of light horse as well as the numbers provided by the light infantry.

Table 11: Elephant Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Classical Indian4445
Tamil Indian & Sinhalese1552
Khmer & Cham841
Elephant Armies8746

The Burmese are no longer the elephant kings, the Tamils now being more successful. Classical Indians remain by far the most popular.


Table 12: Camel Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Christian Nubian1249
Later Pre-Islamic Arab1465
Early Bedouin854
Camel Armies42657

Camel-based armies are even less common than previously – the Tuareg and the once-popular Blemmye have vanished. The Pre-Islamic Arabs are the best-balanced of these armies and consequently the most successful.


Table 13: Bow Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Early Achaemenid Persian3251
Early Samurai677
Bow Armies11451

Armies relying on massed archery have done rather well – apart from the Tupi who have special disadvantages. The Samurai are no longer popular but won convincingly on their few outings. The Welsh have become both more popular and markedly more successful; this may be partly due to the few games in 2017 when Welsh archers were all Bw(S).


Table 14: Balanced Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Later Carthaginian5844
New Kingdom Egyptian3662
Later Sargonid Assyrian4047
Sung Chinese1656
Abbasid Arab1441
Papal Italian1232
Middle Assyrian870
Saitic Egyptian868
Spring & Autumn Chinese841
Later Hebrew840
Ch’in Chinese834
Nikephorian Byzantine763
Libyan Egyptian662
Balanced Armies24850

The Carthaginians continue to be the most popular in this category of mainly Regular balanced armies. The increased utility of Inferior Elephants may have influenced this, but it doesn’t seem to have done much for Hannibal’s success rate. Some formerly much-used armies such as Han Chinese and Palmyran have vanished. Papal Italian is slightly more popular than hitherto and considerably more successful, but still below average.

With around a dozen competitions each year there are still enough games to make comparisons viable. It should be borne in mind, though, that an army with only a few games played, such as Early Slav, may represent a single player using such an army in a couple of competitions. If that player is particularly skilful, the army may appear to be a killer whereas it needs a lot of talent to use effectively.

JGL 9.11.2019


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