I’m currently doing the groundwork for a solo DBA campaign set in the Dark Ages and provisionally titled ‘Mighty Albion’. As part of the preparation I’ve played a few solo DBA games using the De Bellis Solitarius rules variant written by Chad La Mons. Although this is a generally excellent variant, some aspects have proved a little problematic in the games I’ve played. This has led me to think about making some changes for the purposes of the campaign:
As written, this is quite rigid. For example, all of the NPG’s (Non-Player General’s) elements are grouped according to their type (e.g. all Spears will be grouped together). This fails to allow for mixing missile troops and other foot, or for mixing horse and foot. The deployment table also throws up, occasionally, some quite bizarre set-ups. So as an alternative, for each of the NPG armies in the campaign I intend to map out four ‘typical’ formations; then, prior to deployment, throw a D6. If the result is a one or two, I will consult the DBS rulesheet, throw again, and proceed as per the original rules. However if the throw is a three, four, five or six, I will set out the NPG army as per the equivalently numbered ‘typical’ formation.
2. The Tactical Engine
While this is quite powerful as written, it does throw up some odd results from time to time. The NPG may fail to make an ‘obvious’ move, because of the constraints placed on him by the battleplan generator; or he may become excessively (and unrealistically) static and defensive after sustaining a couple of losses. These criticisms are partly dealt with by Chad’s caveat towards the end of his document, where he writes: ‘Exercise your best tactical judgement while at the same time remaining within the parameters of the NPG’s mood… It might be helpful at this point to view the NPG as your Commander, issuing out orders that you must manifest as best as you see fit.’
Despite this caveat, using the rules as written I’ve found that there will still be points where you think to yourself: ‘Hmmm, the NPG is committed to a defensive strategy, but in fact if he chose this moment to move his whole line into contact with my disordered one he would most likely win the game.’ It seems to me that in these circumstances – and equally for example where it would be madness to attack, or alternatively to not move that single element into a potentially game-winning flanking support position against my general – there needs to be a mechanism for varying the strictures of the DBS tactical engine.
To reflect this, I intend to try the following rules variant. Faced with the sort of quandary described above, rather than automatically implement the course of action prescribed by the DBS tactical engine, instead use percentage dice to determine the NPG’s actions based on the probability of how a competent player/general would act in the circumstances. For example, if a general assault rather than a defensive realignment might win the game for the NPG at a pivotal point in the battle, you might allocate a 75% probability to this assault occuring and a 25% probability to the NPG sticking to his defensive approach. Use this mechanism no more than three times per game. I’m hoping that this option, used sparingly, won’t break the tactical engine but will instead add to the enjoyment and realism of the game, and provide me with a greater challenge!