DBA Army IV/13ab: Medieval Germans

The army arrayed: DBA IV/13ab, Medieval German (Braunschweig)

One of the beautiful things about DBA is that all of the armies are the same size.  Once you paint 12 elements, you have a complete army and you never have to paint anything for that army again.

Except, it’s a lie!  A dirty, dirty lie! 

In order to field all of the available options for some armies, you have to paint far more than the 12 minimum required elements.  The winner of this dubious award is Medieval French, requiring 29 elements to field all possible options.  Apparently I got off easy painting these Medieval Germans, which only require 20 elements for the (a) list.  I painted all options except the 2x4Pk, but I included an extra Knight so I could field it as a DBA 2.2 (b) list as well by using deep sabot bases for the 6Kn elements.

The elements are 6x3Kn, 4x4Sp, 4x4Bd, 2x3Ax, 2x2Ps, 1x4Cb.  This will build the dismounting knights for IV/13a or the double-based knights from IV/13b.  In the proposed DBA 3 lists, this builds the IV/13b list with mandatory blades but no dismounting.

The Knights: 6x3Kn, or 2x6Kn, 2x3Kn.

Even though the army lists are under revision and will likely change before DBA 3.0 is released, I’m confident that I’ll be able to field a legal Medieval German army with these elements.

All of the shields are hand painted.  The foot figures use painted highlights on their red coats, but I used a Devlan Mud wash on the horses for expedience. I skipped painting lions on the horse cloths, but I bet you didn’t notice, did you?


I decided that one of the main reasons I don’t like most of the Medieval DBA armies I’ve seen is that they are too gaudy.  Typically, people either paint a wide variety of generic coats of arms that may or may not be accurate, so they can morph the army for use as any medieval army; or they accurately research 30 different coats of arms and it still ends up looking to me like a bazooka festival at a paint factory.

The best looking German army I’ve seen was painted by Scott Ludwig, and his work is directly responsible for convincing me to paint a Medieval army.  He chose a single set of heraldic devices and painted a unified color scheme across the whole army.  I decided that whether or not it was accurate, I’d do the same thing.


Since I was looking for an ally for King Valdemar II the Victorious of Denmark, I chose the coat of arms of Braunschweig.  Otto I “the child”, duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, was Valdemar II’s nephew, and allied with Denmark against all enemies in the first half of the 13th century.  Things started to go wrong at the Battle of Bornhöved, where they both lost, and Otto was captured and imprisoned.

The coat of arms I chose, two gold lions on a red field, is that of Braunschweig (Brunswick).  It may be anachronistic for Braunschweig or Otto I at the time of the Battle of Bornhöved, but I found at least one source on the Internet that associates these arms with Braunschweig.  Who trusts the Internet anyway?  As a result, there are now two sources on the Internet, and the lies turn into truth by repetition…

1x4Cb, 2x2Ps.

The figures themselves are from Black Hat miniatures, part of the old Gladiator line.  These are very nice figures, I have absolutely no regrets regarding my figure choice.  They are well sculpted and highly detailed.  The faces are very distinctive, and I could see how someone might not like them, but I definitely do.  This is the same manufacturer that made the Auxilia I used in my Leidang army, and they definitely go well together.

4x4Bd, dismounted knights for IV/13a.

The Knights and Blades are technically a bit late for the Battle of Bornhöved.  They are closer to 1275 than 1227.  If I believed Denmark should be using primarily kite shields at this time, why didn’t I think the same for Germany?  It’s not like they’re very far away from each other.

Instead, I bought a few more blades to augment my Leidang in case we ever decide to field a triple army.

I am very pleased with the way this army turned out, but slightly paranoid about the accuracy.  I like to get things correct, but I’m not willing to spend money or an inordinate amount of time to ensure that they’re correct.  In the mean time, I can sustain myself with the dubious honor that comes with painting 82 microscopic yellow lions.

Rebasing miniatures? This is madness!

Madness?  This is Sparta!

To be more specific: this is my newly renovated DBA army II/5a, Later Hoplite Greeks: Spartans.  I didn’t actually rebase them, I only redecorated the bases they were already mounted on.  Not very dramatic, I know; but I don’t have a bottomless pit handy, so it was the next best thing.

The army arrayed: DBA II/5a, Spartans. Essex DBA v1 army pack.
The left half of the line: 6x4Sp.
5x4Sp(Gen), 1x2Ps.  General is on the far left.

This was the first army I finished painting for DBA, and the first 15mm figures I ever painted.  It was around 2003, and I found a few DBA v1 army packs on discount.  For the most part, the Spartan army didn’t change at all for DBA 2.0 (at the time); though more options were available in the 2.0 list.  These 12 elements were the only options provided in the original Essex army pack: 11x4Sp, 1x2Ps.  I later augmented the list with the other options available in 2.0, with slightly better basing: 1x4Ax, 1x3Cv (not shown here).

By the time I came back to DBA years later, my basing standards had improved.  These guys were painted well enough, but they looked like they were standing in a pool of toxic waste.  I repainted the ground brown, and added flock and static grass.  It’s as close as I can come to my current basing technique without fully rebasing the figures.

I also took the opportunity to reattach spears and do some touchups.  They won’t be winning any painting contests, but I’ll feel better using them… and at least I don’t have to paint another 11 elements of hoplites any time soon.

Now that I know a bit more, I don’t like these figures (or any Essex hoplites) for a few reasons.  Essex hoplite shields are too small, aren’t as round as they could be, and have no rim.  The single pose doesn’t bother me, because I prefer a “toy soldier” look for heavy foot.  However, I absolutely cannot stand forward-facing spears: they’re unusable in practice on such shallow bases, even if they more or less accurately depict fighting hoplites.  In the future if I build any more hoplites, they’ll all be holding their spears upright.

DBA Army IV/65: Wallachians

I love counting people! Let’s begin.  One impaled merchant, Wa ha ha ha!

I’m sorry, that was Count von Count, not Vlad the Impaler.  I always get those two mixed up.

Vlad the Impaler, not to be confused with Santa Claus.

Here is my new DBA Wallachian army, IV/65: 1x3Cv (gen), 3x2LH, 5xPs, 2x3Bw, 1x5Wb.

I decided to paint Wallachians mainly because the new Essex figures looked so good.  The army list is “not competitive in an Open tournament” and doesn’t fare well in DBA against most of its contemporaries.  5 psiloi in 1330-1504?  AD?  Besides, who the heck were the Wallachians anyway?

That last part is easy: Vlad the Impaler!  Vlad III Tepes, aka “Dracula” (son of Dracul, his familial name meaning “dragon”) is considered the prototype for Bram Stoker’s vampire.  Sometimes I think he’d be a good Darth Vader, given Vader’s penchant for killing people off.  Wallachia was a part of what is now Romania.

Wallachian Light Horse.

This army is from an Essex DBA 2.2 army pack.  Most of the figures are from the new Wallachian/Moldovian line, but the cavalry General consists of older figures from other lines.

Wallachian and generic Psiloi.

The Light Horse figures are very interesting.  Unlike any other Essex mounted figure I’ve ever painted, these are cast in a single piece except for the spears.  They have very nice details and sculpting, and are well proportioned.  However, the poses are quite flat.  There is enough of a variety of poses to be interesting, but they vary mostly only in their heads and armament.

Wallachian bows and generic Warband.

There are 5 Psiloi elements.  The army pack provided three elements of Wallachian spears and two elements of generic light medieval crossbowmen.  For the shield designs on the light horse and psiloi elements, I referred to Wallachian heraldry online as well as WRG’s Armies of the Middle Ages 2.  There are only a few true heraldic devices, with the rest being merhant marks. Besides being the only source I could find, this felt somewhat appropriate, since Vlad made a hobby of killing off all the nobility as painfully as possible.

The two units of bows were from the Wallachian line, but the warband was a generic horde.

Overall I’m very happy with the figures and my paint job.  I would’ve preferred to see a few more of the Wallachian-specific psiloi, but I expect that they chose alternate figures for a reason. The other non-Wallachian figures were well chosen and fill their role well.

I haven’t played this army yet, and don’t know when I will.  Besides not having many opportunities to play recently while I’m so busy with work, there aren’t many opponents I’d bother irritating with this band of light troops.  Hopefully there will be a good Eastern European themed event for me to bring them to before Murphy’s Law totally revamps the list for DBA 3.0.

Rant: apparently Shimano 105 hub bearings suck

This year has been horrible for flat tires.  While repairing my latest rear flat today, an explosive pinch flat on a massive pothole (“spring” in Pittsburgh is measured by the potholes and not the weather), I noticed my rear hub bearings were loose, so I investigated.

I examined the drive side cone and it had a pit in the surface. Maybe that’s why it was so noisy.  I found a spare cone and started replacing it… but then I looked at the other cone and it was way worse: it had pitting all the way around.  The hub was still packed with grease (no dirt), and had only 7-10k miles on it.  (I didn’t pull out the balls and examine them.)

Maybe the damage was caused by the fact that the hub bearings were loose, but I’d expect them to be loose after so much pitting and wear on the bearing surfaces. In any case, I’ve never heard of bearings loosening while installed on the bike.

This isn’t my first problem with this wheel set (it even matches!), either.  Within a year after buying these wheels, I had a horrible noise in the front wheel, and investigation revealed that the balls themselves were severely pitted.  That wheel hasn’t had any problems since I repacked it with new balls.

These are Shimano 105 road hubs bought new only 3 or so years ago.  I thought these were supposed to be better than off-brand hubs.  Maybe 7-10k miles is “better,” in these days when department store bikes are ridden an average of 20 miles total, and “real” bikes have their components upgraded every year to keep up with changing fashion.

Stoogecon: a Matched Pair?

Stoogecon was a few weeks ago.  As with last year’s event, the tournaments were three rounds long: an Open and Matched Pairs.  Unlike in previous years, the DBM folks showed up as well, and even managed to get as many players as “we” (the DBA players) did.  Although I mainly want to share my thoughts about my choice of Matched Pair armies, I’ll start with a summary of the day.

In the Open, we apparently all had the same idea: “everyone likes medieval knight armies, so I’ll take elephants.”  I brought Rajput Indians, III/10b. The other players had Tamil Indians, Graeco-Indian, Southern Dynasty Chinese, New Kingdom Egyptians, and Romans.

A quick summary of my Open games: In round 1, Frank with Tamil Indians beat me in a close and hard-fought match, 4-3.  In round 2, I shouldn’t have gone into the bad going, and Rich’s Chinese punished me for it, 4-1. In the last round, Larry’s Egyptians ran up to me and committed ritual suicide: I won 2g-0 on the bound Larry first contacted me.

For the Matched Pairs event, I chose Early Bedouin, I/6c, vs. Later Achaemenid Persian, II/7.  Bedouins have: 3x3Cm (Gen), 1x2Cm, 4x3Ax, 4x2Ps.  I gave the Persians 1xLCh (Gen), 2x3Cv, 2xLH, 4x3Ax, 3x2Ps.  The basic difference is the Bedouin camels are better vs. mounted, but there are fewer of them.  Bedouins have the possibility of Dunes, but with Ag: 3 to 1 they’ll rarely get to use them. 

So, is this a well-matched pair?  I’ll share my thoughts after a summary of the event.

In the first round, I played against Jim using his armies: I played Middle Imperial Romans vs. his Later Imperial Romans.  I didn’t feel like I made any big mistakes during play, but still ended up continuing my losing streak against him: 4-0. 

In the second round, we used my armies, and JM chose Bedouins.  These armies have low combat factors, so they’re fast and bloody.  I don’t remember the details of the battle, but it was a total rout: I won 6g-1. 

In the third and final round, we played my armies again and Frank chose the Persians.  Surprisingly, the Bedouins won terrain and of course placed some big central dunes. That whole “rout” thing worked so well, I tried it again… only this time I was Bedouin, so I lost 5-2.

At this point my conclusion may be obvious, but I first want to make it clear that I really enjoy playing either one of these armies against the other.  I’ve had some tense and interesting games, and even the routs didn’t look totally hopeless until the dice started rolling.  Using primarily light troops means you run faster, so you get into combat faster with less time to rearrange lines before contact; and the low combat factors mean someone dies quickly.  You’ll never end up with an incomplete game, in any case.

The basic premise of this matched pair is to take two similar but slightly different armies, with similar compositions but relative strengths and weaknesses. Bedouin camels have an advantage against mounted but a penalty against foot, and don’t suffer bad going penalties if they happen to find a dune to stand in.  Persians have more mounted, but less bad going troops.

Despite these seemingly even odds, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Bedouins win.  It can certainly be done, and there have been some close games, but overall I don’t think the pair is as well-matched as I used to.  After Stoogecon, I considered why this might be, and came up with a few ideas.

First of all, “dunes” are mostly a red herring.  Bedouin will rarely get a chance to place dunes at all, only 6/36 of the time.  If you do get dunes, they can probably be used effectively, but I haven’t done it correctly yet.  The benefit of dunes in this matchup is not that camels fight in them without penalty; it is the camels’ ability to move through dunes as a group.  No Persian player would be dumb enough to put their Cavalry near the dunes, so the camels will only be facing foot… but the camels aren’t very good against foot.  So, deploy the dunes for disruptive PIP advantage, rather than as a central terrain to fight over.

The other problem is the nature of the armies’ advantages.  Bedouin camels are better against cavalry, which is 5 elements; but they’re worse against foot, the other 7 elements. Their advantage turns a cavalry matchup from 3-3 into a 4-3, which increases their odds of a kill from 2/36 to 4/36 and a recoil from 15/36 to 21/36. Their disadvantage against supported auxilia goes from 3-3 to 2-3: 2/36 chance of being killed up to 6/36, and 15/36 recoil up to 21/36.  Against unsupported auxilia, 3-2 to 2-2 reduces the chance of a kill from 6/36 to 4/36, while increasing the chance of being killed from 1/36 to 4/36.

So basically, Bedouins get a lesser advantage against fewer foes, and a larger disadvantage against more foes.

The overall dynamic is that the Persians are happy playing with their entire force out in the open, while the Bedouins want to keep their foot in bad going to stay away from the enemy Cavalry.  They have to choose to either stay in bad going and give the Persians both numerical advantage in the open and overall PIP advantage; or to come into the open and give the Persians combat factor advantage

Not all of these factors played into every loss I’ve seen, but in my previous attempts to use this matched pair I came away with similarly skewed result.

Overall, I have a bit of a dilemma.  I really enjoy playing this pair of armies, but I no longer think it’s an even match.  I either need to figure out how to win with Bedouin, since I already know how to win with Persia; or find another matched pair that I enjoy playing as much as this one even when I’m losing.  Any ideas?