Army Popularity and Success with 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


ArmyGamesSuccess %
2Later Carthaginian9343
3Marian Roman8649
4Late Imperial Roman8042
5New Kingdom Egyptian7649
6Alexandrian Imperial5952
7Medieval German5552
8=Early Imperial Roman5240
8=Patrician Roman5263
8=Early Achaemenid Persian5254
11=Italian Condotta5154
11=French Ordonnance5149
13=Polybian Roman5043
16=Middle Imperial Roman4853
16=Later Hungarian4855
18Classical Indian4140
20=Alexandrian Macedonian3852
20=Medieval Portuguese3860

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Polybian Roman5043
Marian Roman8649
Republican armies13647
Early Imperial Roman5240
Middle Imperial Roman4853
Late Imperial Roman8042
Imperial armies18044
Patrician Roman5263

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Alexandrian Imperial5955
Alexandrian Macedonian3852
Macedon Early Successor1941
Later Macedonian845
Hellenistic pike armies28447
Later Swiss3546
Scots Common Army3445
Low Countries864
Other pike armies8949

Pike armies remain popular, with the Hellenistic types not noticeably more or less successful than the others.



Table 4: Impetuous Armies – Knights

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Medieval French2141
Feudal French1852
Feudal Spanish1654
Romanian Frank1539
Kn(S) Armies7046
Early Crusader2750
West Frankish/Norman1644
Italian Ostrogothic1633
Early Ostrogothic1365
Carolingian Frankish1120
East Frankish937
Feudal English830
Kn(F/O) Armies15045

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Early Frankish etc1670
Early German1641
Old Saxon etc1672
Ancient British1557
Early Vietnamese1352
Arab Conquest1355
Middle Frankish1236
Villanovan Italian1263
Later Visigothic746
Warband Armies16955

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Medieval German5552
Italian Condotta5154
French Ordonnance5149
Later Hungarian4855
Medieval Portuguese3860
Wars of the Roses English3663
Order of St John1651
Free Company839
Early Burgundian838
100 Years War English834
Medieval Scandinavian843
Teutonic Orders746
Medieval Armies33453

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Later Achaemenid Persian3647
Nikephorian Byzantine3256
Later Muslim Indian2457
Seljuk Turk2451
Post-Mongol Samurai1955
Sui/Early T’ang Chinese1641
Early Byzantine1341
Early Polish1259
Abbasid Arab1248
Sassanid Persian1219
Post-Mongol Russian1247
Central Asian City-States1059
Early Russian859
Cavalry Armies33752

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Later Hoplite Greek3643
Fanatic/Islamic Berber2847
Early Hoplite Greek1960
Early Carthaginian1842
Communal Italian1651
Norse Viking & Leidang1349
Early Swiss868
Medieval Scandinavian843
HI Armies24049

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Early Armenian3142
Mongol Conquest2345
Komnenan Byzantine1647
Yuan Chinese1661
Central Asian Turkish1249
Sha T’o Turkish1248
Dynastic Bedouin1161
Early Hungarian850
Light Horse Armies22051


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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Early Libyan849
Pre-Feudal Scots756
Norse Irish760
Light Infantry Armies8051

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Classical Indian4140
Tamil Indian & Sinhalese1334
Elephant Armies6642

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

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Christian Nubian2646
Later Pre-Islamic Arab1461
Camel Armies4749

Camel-based armies have also become much rarer, though maintaining average effectiveness.  The once-popular Blemmye have completely vanished.



Table 13: Bow Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Early Achaemenid Persian5254
Early Samurai1238
Bow Armies14248

Massed archery has become relatively more popular, but no more effective.  The decline of the once-feared Samurai has continued.


Table 14: Balanced Armies

ArmyGamesSuccess %
Later Carthaginian9343
New Kingdom Egyptian7649
Nikephorian Byzantine3256
Later Sargonid Assyrian2455
Han Chinese2452
Ch’in Chinese2054
Middle Assyrian1961
Early Carthaginian1842
Hittite Empire1353
Sung Chinese1258
Spring & Autumn Chinese1162
Papal Italian819
Neo-Assyrian Empire856
Saitic Egyptian859
Later Hebrew761
Balanced Armies40650

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.

JGL 7.12.2015


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