DBA TOURNAMENT FORMATS
(for The Courier)
De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) lends itself nicely to tournaments at conventions: the rules are simple, the game can be played in an hour, games in 15mm are played on a 2 foot square, winners are fairly easy to determine, and players need only a few figures The major problem is the choice of format. I will describe a number of simple options and then describe two systems that I have developed. Apologies in advance to those who feel tournaments have but a small place in the hobby. At least those that I suggest involve historical opponents. The Courier has published few articles on the subject so far. Moreover, I feel that there is a sporting aspect to the hobby; that is, playing games for the fun and sense of accomplishment. After all, this is not 3-dimensional history but rather war GAMING.
At the simplest level, there can be a single elimination bracket arrangement. All players are randomly assigned to games and the winners advance until there are only two left for the finals. This is the typical tennis tournament style or NCAA basketball playoff arrangement. Even at 45 minutes to an hour, however, with more than 16 players, the time needed is over 4 hours. Moreover, half the participants will be knocked out in the first round. One of the constraints for a convention situation is to keep people involved. A second problem is that, unlike Wimbolton, the seeding potential of players is not known; so strong players may face each other in the early rounds. Thus, while the best player should emerge in the end, weaker players may advance to final rounds. The ideal situation is to have the two best players in the finals. At the 1993 Cold Wars and HISTORICON Conventions, such DBA tournaments were run as a late night event so those losing would not be missing opportunities to enter other events.
The "double elimination" tournament is a partial solution to the problems of the single elimination. In this situation, a player must lose twice before dropping out so each player gets at least two games. There is still the time factor; this style requires even more time than the single bracket one. The World Cup format is yet a third format. Players would be divided into pools of 4 and play each other (round robin). The top 2 players in each pool then advance to single elimination round, seeded by results of pool play. Everyone gets at least 3 games. With 16 players in 4 pools, there would be a further 8-player elimination series requiring another 3 hours. The finalists would thus have played 6 rounds for 6 hours. Still quite a bit of time. Moreover, in all of the above situations, there is the obvious situation of non-historical match-ups.
Another tournament version which seems popular in UK and Australia is the Swiss Cheese System. (Ok, it really is Swiss Chess, but the other sounds like more fun) Wargames Illustrated 10 has a full discussion of it.
The perfect solution in so far as determining the best player is to have a complete round robin series, all players play all other players but the time requirement for even 8 players is 7 hours and for 16 players it is 15 hours. A bit much for a weekend convention. Alan Spencer and others from NASAMW have provided a partial solution by running a "truncated" round robin game at Cold Wars and Historicon. He even deals with the historical match-up issue. In his format, each player his brings own army, is placed in a pool of players with similar historical armies (e.g. "Dawn of War", "Phalanx to Cohort, "Return of the Barbarians", and "Of Knights and Causes) and fights against 4 others in the same pool. Not, however, against everyone in the pool, so I call it a truncated round robin. Points are awarded for destroying elements, destroying generals and for winning games. Player with most points after four rounds wins the pool. Everyone gets 4 games and against potential historical (if not actual) opponents. There does exist the possibility for a strong player to be matched with a number of weaker ones and run up a high point total. The game requires each player to use his own army (although some were provided) and thus no need to demonstrate general knowledge of the rules. Players are assigned to preset terrain squares so they have little opportunity to create the table features. Nevertheless, an excellent and popular event at the HMGS Cons.
For the past few years I have run what I call a "duplicate" tournament at the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society - East conventions (Cold Wars and Historicon) and at small cons in Michigan. These tournaments have from 8 to 24 players. I provide all the armies. Each player uses each of the armies against an historical opponent. Therefore players need to have a good understanding of the rules and tactics to handle 3 or 4 different armies. I have used Macedon vs. India and Rome vs. Carthage in a four-round game; for a three round game I have used one of those pairs and then a civil war for the third option so both players use the same army such as War of the Roses or Roman Civil war. The most difficult part of doing this style of competition is matching up players so they face different opponents in each round using different armies. I have set up a little computer program to help create the matchups.
For scoring, I use the same point system developed by Alan Spencer to determine winners except that I use a net total of points-for verses points against. In the three round situation I have had a playoff between the top two scorers. There can be some bad skewing of the results if there are novice players mixed in; they tend to be point fodder for the experienced players. If two strong players are against each other, one may be eliminated from the top winners if that then takes on an easy opponent and the other faces more of a challenge later. Maybe there should be a limit to the number of element points over 4 that count for the finals. I have also thought of assigning each player the points of those players he has defeated so if one defeats a strong player, your score is higher.
I have generally assigned the players to preset terrain, but at Cold Wars-93, I allowed them to pick from among a number of possible preset squares. The squares were fairly similar except that a couple had rivers. These tended to be avoided. At Historicon-93 I provided each square with a various terrain features which one player would allocate to the board as he sees fit. The other then dices for his base line as provided in the rules.
Game ends when one player has won or time has expired. I allow between 50-60 minutes as needed to stay within the convention schedule. A player wins a game when, at the end of a bound, the player has eliminated at least 4 opponent elements and has lost fewer than the opponent. A bound is one player's turn (two bounds = one turn). Elimination of general or a camp does not win the game but gives the value of the general's element and any element in the camp (camp followers do count as an element but I let them be optional) and the camp is worth 2 elements. Thus if player eliminates a general in an early turn, that counts as only 1 element, and the game continues until the player eliminates 3 more elements (keep in mind the movement penalties with no general). I do this to forestall the potential for a player to intentionally lose a game for some reason by losing the general prior to having lost the full 4 elements (yes, yes, gamesmanship and not historical, but here we are dealing with sport and anything may be tried to win). If both sides have lost 4 elements at the end of a bound, then they continue playing full bounds to conclusion until one side has an advantage of at least 1 element at the end of a bound. A bound continues until all combats are complete, even if one side has eliminated 4 elements prior to all combats being completed.
Once the game is over, we add up the number of elements destroyed by each side and add the following bonuses: winning game=2, tie=1 per player, general destroyed=2, opponent's camp occupied at end of game=2. Thus the minimum score for winning a game before time has elapsed is 6 (4 elements plus 2 points for the win). If a player eliminates more than 4 elements prior to the end of bound, or eliminates the general or occupies the opponent's camp, a higher score may accrue. Win the game, eliminate all units, and occupy camp=21 points (12 elements, camp plus camp followers=3 elements, plus 2 bonus points for general, camp, and win.) If time expires prior to one side winning, the player with the most points is the winner and gets the two-point game-winning bonus. If players are tied in points, both get the 1 point for a tie. Below is a player's score card.
For most armies I allow no choice of elements; but in the War of the Roses scenario, I allowed for some troop selection by the players. I provide 3 knights, 3 bows, 3 blades, and 1 artillery. Players then have the option of 2 bows, 2 blades, or 2 auxilia. Rather than impose one of these choices on the players, I allow them to bid for the one they want. The currency is Player Initiative Points (PIP's). After the players determine which player is the higher or lower side and choose terrain and board edges, they secretly write on sheet of paper which optional elements they want and how many of their PIP's they will offer (1-6). After both have made the bid, they compare. Below is an example of a bid card with the instructions. After the bidding and selection, players subtract the number of PIP's bid from subsequent PIP rolls. A player must bid at least one pip. For example if player "A" wanted the blades badly, 6 pip might be offered. If player B bids less (say 4), player A gets the blades. Player B makes a selection from the bow and auxiliary. Player A will subtract 6 bid on subsequent PIP rolls until he is paid up. If player A rolls a 6 in the first bound, nothing is moved and the debt is paid, if a 2 were rolled, there would still be 4 more to pay off. Imagine the worst case -- 6 bounds with a roll of 1 each time.
I have done the duplicate tournament twelve times and all have been successful. The players seemed to enjoy the format, especially getting to use different armies. I have made changes along the way. At Dick Bryant's suggestion, I tried giving a truly duplicate flavor by preparing a set of common PIP rolls for the players on cards. Instead of rolling die, the players would draw a card with a PIP number or a combat outcome. All players of the same side in a round would get the same number. This took time to set up and to keep in order during the convention so I went back to the die rolls by each player. One convention I follow is to require the attacker roll first in all combats. This speeds up play because there are some folks who always wait for the opponent to roll first.
Large Scale Duplicate Tournament
Sometime, I plan to put on an all day Duplicate DBA Tournament. This will last at least 8 hours. It will be limited to sixteen players who will compete in 8 games as follows:
Seeding Round: Each player brings own 15mm army and plays against two random opponents. Maybe in the second game, the players will switch armies and so play against their own. Points are awarded for elements destroyed with the usual bonus points for general eliminated, camp captured and winning game.
Pool Play: Based on seeding round results, players will be placed in an 8 player pool and compete against 4 others in the pool using 15mm armies provided by me. Each player will use Camillian Romans vs. Later Carthaginians and Alexander Imperials vs. Indians. Again points will be awarded as in the seeding round.
Play Off: The top two scorers in each pool are paired off for a single elimination final. In the semi-finals each player will use a War of the Roses army. In the finals, players choose Greeks or Persians (each picks which ever he wants so that both could have the same army). This round will be 25mm. Lower finishing players may compete in additional rounds if they wish or watch the finals. I feel this format captures all aspects of the game. Players use their own armies for two rounds and then must play 6 different armies against historical opponents.
I now am developing a new style of tournament which I call a "pyramid" tournament (because of the shape of the pairings). I got the idea for this arrangement from Don Miller of New Hampshire. This mode combines individual and team play. Imagine a single elimination bracket (like the NCAA basketball tourney), but no one is eliminated. What if the University of Michigan played Duke and the winner picked up the loser's team to add to its own and anyone who fouled out is gone for the rest of the competition. So in this DBA "pyramid" format. The first round is 1 vs. 1 with historical opponents. The winner and loser then combine in the next round. Any elements lost in the first round are gone from the combined army. Thus there are at least 4 elements gone from each combined army, more if the loses were closer -- in a 3-4 victory, the combined army would end up with only 17 elements. I do require a game to continue even if the general is lost, until one side has lost at least 4 elements. The winner, as the commander in chief, rolls two dice and allocates a die to himself and one to his ally.
At the completion of the second round, the two teams then join forces with the commander of the winning side as the 4-player team CiC for the final round which pits two teams of four against each other. Again, elements lost in the second round of 2 vs. 2 are lost for the final round. The four player teams then play the final round. I award prizes to the four players on the winning team and "overall championship" to the one player who scores the most points relative to those scored against him. Each player thus keeps a record of the number of elements he destroys and losses in each round. In any round, if time ends prior to one player achieving a victory, the one who has lost more is the loser and must take off additional units of his choice to equal the victory conditions. If both have lost an equal number of units they roll a die and lower is loser and takes off units. At each round of play the number of elements needed to be eliminated for victory changes but the fraction is always a 1/3. So with 12 elements on a side, the player losing 4 elements first loses the game. In the second round, each side might have 20 elements and so the number to lose would be 7. If in the first round, one player lost 4 and the other 2 elements, together, they would be down to only 18 for the second round and would thus need to lose only 6 to lose the game. In the third round, a team with 30 combined elements would need to lose 10.
The first tournament I ran had successor armies involved: early Ptolemy, Seleucid, Eumennid, Antigonid, Lysimachid, and Macedon successor. To round out the field of 8, I added Galatians and Bactrian Greeks. In the final round, the Galatian player was down to 2 elements but was on the winning side with the Bactrians, Seleucids, and Macedonians At Historicon 93, I used a Punic scenario with the upper half of the bracket being Carthage vs. Numidian and Gaul vs. Spain; the other half with Rome vs. Campanian and Hellenistic Greek vs. later Macedonian. Spain defeated Gaul and Carthage beat Numidia. In the other half, Rome bested Campania while the Macedonians won. The next round had the Spanish/Gaul forces defeating the Carthage/Numidians and the Macedon alliance winning over the Italians. Thus the final game had a Carthage style army (but with a Spanish commander in chief) vs. a Roman/ Greek army under a Macadonian commander. At 2am the game was called and the Macedonian Confederation declared the winners. Below is a diagram of the affair with the players' names, the troop types, and loses.
The pyramid style requires some changes for deployment. To set up the terrain for a multi-player game, all players throw a die. CiC of team throwing the lower score chooses terrain for battle area which, in 25mm, is 2 - 48" squares, side by side, for 4 players and 3 such squares for 8 players (although 2 might suffice). CIC of team throwing higher total then numbers one long edge of board 1-2 and the other long edge 3-6 (as is done in DBM). CIC of higher team now throws a six-sided die; the number thrown is the board edge facing that player. Low team gets opposite edge. Players place camps alternately starting with one designated by the CIC of high team, then one designated by CIC of low team, until all are placed on a board edge anywhere in good going on dry land touching the board edge. Camps of allied players may be touching in a pair or group or placed singly. Those in a group will count as overlaps. Players deploy troops alternately starting with one designated by CiC of high team within 600p of his edge then one designated by CiC of low team within 600p of his edge until all are placed. After last low team player deploys, that side takes first bound.
The movement determination for teams is similar to that for individuals except that the CiC of team rolls as many dice as there are players and gives one of the die to each player to use for making moves (this is not an allocation of PIP's from the total but of the numbers from a specific die, two dice of 5 and 3 could not be given as 4 and 4 to each player). Players take turns using PIPs in the order decided by CIC. One player moves all of his elements, then the next, and so forth until all are moved. There should be no discussion of actions to be taken among members of a team but that is hard to enforce.
A player receives a point for each enemy element destroyed but that is only given to the player of the unit in frontal contact of the destroyed element even though the elimination was due to a unit at the flank or rear. A two-point bonus is given for elimination of an enemy general, camp and for winning the game (that goes to each player on the team). Each player also records losses and the final score is the total enemy eliminated plus bonuses minus own loses. If a player loses the original general in the previous round, he need only redesignate an element to be the general in the next round.
Here then are some suggestions on how DBA tournaments might be run at conventions or as all day single events. DBA is excellent for those who like a head to head competition but only want to spend a few hours at a convention. I am sure there are other, likewise, interesting ways to set up competitions and I would like to hear from any who have done other formats. Feel free to write me with suggestions or questions.
1516 Montclair Pl.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
I wrote this before e-mail had taken off J so now you can use the internet: firstname.lastname@example.org