ARMY POPULARITY AND SUCCESS IN DBM 3.2
This is based on analysis of nearly 1,600 games using DBM 3.2 between 2010 and 2015 (some in 2014-15 using the proposed 3.3 amendments). This is only about one sixth of the number of games included in my previous survey, reflecting the reduced popularity of DBM due to competition from newer rules sets, but there are still enough games to make comparisons valid. Of course, the more games played by an army the more its success rate will tend towards the average. The tables and totals exclude armies which were used only a few times; I have taken 7 games, normally representing use in 2 competitions, as the minimum for inclusion. Most of the games were played in the UK, the rest in the USA and Western Australia.
About 70% of the armies were based on the army list books produced for DBMM, which represent the most recent available scholarship, and the rest were based on the 2nd edition DBM army list books issued in 1998-2000.
For comparison, readers may like to look at the similar articles by Gavin Pearson in Slingshot issues 194, 201, 214 and 219, and by me in Slingshot 243 and on this site, dealing with earlier versions of DBM. This piece is in the same format as the latter article, to allow direct comparison.
16% of the armies used were from Book 1, 38% from Book 2, 17% from Book 3 and 29% from Book 4 – this relative popularity of the different periods has been fairly constant throughout DBM’s history, but shows a slight swing towards late medieval armies at the expense of the early medieval period. Overall, armies from 194 of the total 313 lists were used.
Table 1: Most Popular Armies
|4||Late Imperial Roman||80||42|
|5||New Kingdom Egyptian||76||49|
|8=||Early Imperial Roman||52||40|
|8=||Early Achaemenid Persian||52||54|
|16=||Middle Imperial Roman||48||53|
The fall of the Patrician Romans continues as their popularity slips to 8th, while the Seleucids, always popular, now top the table. Nine armies of the 21 are new arrivals, the most dramatic being the Marian Romans who have jumped from nowhere to 3rd, while the Early Achaemenid Persians are also in the top half. The Marians’ success rate has improved, too. Of the former favourites, Ugaritic, Skythian, Abbasid Arab, Early Samurai and Medieval French have all disappeared
Table 2: Roman Armies
|Early Imperial Roman||52||40|
|Middle Imperial Roman||48||53|
|Late Imperial Roman||80||42|
There are now six Roman armies in the 21 most popular. The legionary armies are more popular than previously and their success rate appears to have settled down at just below average. The most effective are those which can have Superior Blade legionaries or praetorians. The 3.2 points changes have evidently helped these armies without making them killers. The Patricians are rather different in relying on troops other than legionaries, and are much more successful.
Table 3: Pike Armies
|Macedon Early Successor||19||41|
|Hellenistic pike armies||284||47|
|Scots Common Army||34||45|
|Other pike armies||89||49|
Pike armies remain popular, with the Hellenistic types not noticeably more or less successful than the others.
Table 4: Impetuous Armies – Knights
Very varied performance by these wild-charging armies; strangely, the one with probably the highest proportion of Irregular Fast Knights is the most victorious while Charlemagne’s paladins have a woeful record. The Feudal French do much better than the very similar Romanian Franks. Overall these armies are rather below average but there are obvious variations.
Table 5: Impetuous Armies – Warband
|Early Frankish etc||16||70|
|Old Saxon etc||16||72|
Warband armies have become much less common but rather more effective. The Early Franks (who include my own 25mm Suevi) and Old Saxons have been very successful, with front rank Wb(S) backed by Wb(O), though less deadly against mounted troops than they were in DBM 3.1. The more popular Gauls, relying on Wb(O) and cavalry, were less effective although the similar Villanovan Italians were more so.
Table 6: Medieval European Armies
|Wars of the Roses English||36||63|
|Order of St John||16||51|
|100 Years War English||8||34|
These armies generally rely on a combination of (usually Regular) knights, heavy infantry and bows. The success story is Wars of the Roses English, who have become very popular and vastly more successful. The attraction of super-wedge knights doesn’t seem to have made the Teutonic Orders more popular.
Table 7: Cavalry Armies
|Later Achaemenid Persian||36||47|
|Later Muslim Indian||24||57|
|Sui/Early T’ang Chinese||16||41|
|Central Asian City-States||10||59|
The Ugaritics, who used to lead this category, have disappeared – with only 4 games played they don’t qualify for inclusion. Abbasid Arabs have also become much less popular and the Sassanids are markedly unsuccessful, while Later Achaemenid Persians are much more commonly used. The Ottomans have resumed their place at the top and are also among the most victorious.
Table 8: Spear and other HI Armies
|Later Hoplite Greek||36||43|
|Early Hoplite Greek||19||60|
|Norse Viking & Leidang||13||49|
Astonishingly, some of the previously most popular armies such as Makkan/Dilmun, Chinese Northern & Southern Dynasties and Anglo-Danish disappeared completely with DBM 3.2. The Lydians are of course old favourites, but hoplite Greeks are now much more popular with early Spartans, fielding large numbers of Sp(S), being the best performers among the spear-based armies. Massed Blades as used by the Philistines and Swiss did exceptionally well. These armies are still draw-prone, but those based on fast-moving Blades at least can get results.
Table 9: Light Horse Armies
|Central Asian Turkish||12||49|
|Sha T’o Turkish||12||48|
|Light Horse Armies||220||51|
All these armies rely mainly on large numbers of light horse but have assorted supporting troops – knights, cavalry or heavy infantry. Generally they are a bit above average, with the usual wide variations in effectiveness. The Skythians remain the most popular, while the Huns have plummeted in effectiveness.
Table 10: Light Infantry Armies
|Light Infantry Armies||80||51|
These armies have become rather less popular and considerably less successful, now being only average. It is often hard to force a win with one of these armies, though their numbers can make them difficult to beat.
Table 11: Elephant Armies
|Tamil Indian & Sinhalese||13||34|
Elephant-based armies have slumped in popularity and effectiveness; some such as the Khmer and Hindu Indians have disappeared entirely. Only the El(S) Burmese retain their success rate, though they are still rare.
Table 12: Camel Armies
|Later Pre-Islamic Arab||14||61|
Camel-based armies have also become much rarer, though maintaining average effectiveness. The once-popular Blemmye have completely vanished.
Table 13: Bow Armies
|Early Achaemenid Persian||52||54|
Massed archery has become relatively more popular, but no more effective. The decline of the once-feared Samurai has continued.
Table 14: Balanced Armies
|New Kingdom Egyptian||76||49|
|Later Sargonid Assyrian||24||55|
|Spring & Autumn Chinese||11||62|
A popular collection of armies with balanced forces of heavy and light infantry and cavalry, generally Regular and manoeuvrable. The Middle Assyrians stand out as particularly effective, while Chinese armies are solid and reliable. The only dismal failure here is the Papal Italian army.
DBM 3.2/3.3 seems to have achieved very good balance, with no category of armies much better or worse than average. Even the legionary armies, for long the big losers in DBM, are now close to average. Only elephant-based armies have been significantly less effective, and the small number of games played by these armies make it difficult to draw any firm conclusions from their lack of success.