Solo DBA Rules

Solo DBA for DBA Version 2.2

With kind permission of Richard Lee, I am reproducing here the full version of the solo variant rules for DBA v2.2. These rules were originally produced and published in the Solo DBA Yahoo Group. They were developed from John Meunier’s “Random Terrain Placement” and Chad La Mons’ “De Bellis Solitarius”. They provide not just a full variant for DBA, but also a useful template for developing solo versions of other rulesets. Highly recommended!



Solo DBA provides a method of playing one side of a De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) game against a human opponent. The intention is that the automatic (non-human) player plays sensibly, but not too predictably. This terrain system, deployment and tactical engine were developed from “Random Terrain Placement” by John Meunier and “De Bellis Solitarius” by Chad La Mons, taken from the Fanaticus website.

This version is intended for DBA version 2.2.


  • NPG: The Non-Player’s General

  • YOU/YOUR: Refers to you the human player (i.e. the NPG’s opponent)

  • Bad Going Troops: Psiloi, Auxilia, Warband, Bow

2.Army Composition

Select which armies will be used by the NPG and YOU. Then:

2.1.Choose YOUR Army Options

If YOUR army has options, choose YOUR army’s composition before that of the NPG so that you do not sub-consciously take advantage of your knowledge of the NPG’s army composition.

2.2.NPG Army Composition

Work through the army list looking for options, but chose the general last (see below). Wherever there is an option, chose the elements by dicing. Select the option with the highest score (dicing again if more than one option had the highest score). Ignore any result that would cause an odd number of pike to be in the army.

2.2.1.NPG General

If the NPG has options for their general’s element, throw a dice for each option, apply relevant modifiers (see below), and then choose the option with the highest final score.


  • -2 Will cause there to be an odd number of pike in the NPG army

  • -2 Mounted (except elephant) general when YOU have 4 or more bows

  • -2 General will be slower than any other element in the NPG’s army

  • -1 Psiloi general

  • -1 Elephant general when YOU have a total of 4 or more psiloi, auxilia, light horse, or any artillery

  • +1 Infantry general of a troop type already present in NPG army

  • +2 Mounted general of a troop type already present in NPG army

2.3.Attacker and Defender

Dice to determine which army is the attacker using the army aggression factors, as per the rules.


If the NPG is the defender then select terrain from the NPG’s compulsory and optional features:

3.1.Compulsory Terrain

Select one instance of the compulsory terrain feature. Arable terrain has 2 options for compulsory terrain.

3.1.1.Arable Compulsory Terrain

For ‘Arable’ terrain the compulsory terrain may be either a Built-UP Area (BUA) or road(s). Some players don’t use BUAs. Players who do use BUAs should throw a D6, apply the modifiers and refer to the table:

Arable Terrain Compulsory Feature

Dice Roll

Terrain Feature

Up to 3


4 or more



  • +1 Defender has 5 or more mounted elements

  • +2 Defender has a total of less than 6 spear and blade

  • +2 Attacker has artillery

  • +3 Defender has no spear or blade but the attacker does

3.1.2.Multiple Compulsory Terrain Features

Some compulsory terrain types may have 2 pieces. For Woods, Steep Hills, Gentle Hills, Rough or Road throw a D6. If the defender has a total of more than 6 bad-going elements, add 1 for Woods, Steep Hills or Rough. If the score is 4 or more then select a second compulsory terrain feature.

3.2.Optional Terrain

3.2.1.Number of Features

Determine whether there will be 2 or 3 optional terrain features. Throw a D6, apply the modifiers and consult the table:

Number of Optional Features

Dice Roll


Up to 3


4 or more



  • +2 Defender has more bad going elements than attacker

  • +1 Attacker has more mounted than defender

  • -1 Compulsory terrain includes 2 pieces of bad going

  • -1 Defender has more mounted than attacker

  • -1 Attacker has more bad going troops than defender

3.2.2.Littoral Options

Littoral terrain may have either steep hills or marsh. It may have either woods or dunes. If the defending army has littoral terrain, decide whether steep hills or marsh are appropriate. If both are appropriate for the defending army, throw 2 dice, 1 for steep hills and the other for marsh. Ignore the terrain type with the lower score when dicing to select terrain. Use a similar procedure to choose between woods and dunes.

3.2.3.Optional Terrain Selection

For each optional terrain feature for the defending army, throw a D6. Some terrain features may have up to 2 instances; for these throw a D6 for each possible occurrence. If attacker has littoral terrain and a waterway is an optional item of terrain for the defender then subtract 1 from the waterway’s score.

There must be at least one feature that is bad going, a Waterway or a River. If this has not already been chosen as compulsory terrain then select the relevant feature with the highest score. Select the other optional terrain features from those with the highest scores. If necessary, re-roll for ties.

3.3.Terrain Placement

“Near baseline”, “far baseline”, “right” and “left” refer to the current position of the human player during terrain placement. It is assumed that the human will be seated in the same position during terrain placement.

Re-roll for any result that would be illegal under the rules or is impossible because of terrain already placed.

3.3.1.Place Waterway

If a waterway has been selected as one of the terrain features then place it first. A waterway must be on one edge of the playing area. Throw a dice then refer to the table below:

Waterway Placement

Dice Result

Position of Waterway


Right side of Battlefield


Left side of Battlefield


Far baseline


Near baseline

3.3.2.Place Built–Up Area

If a built-up area (BUA) has been chosen place it next. A BUA must fit completely within a 900 pace square rectangle in a corner. Throw a dice then refer to the table below for the approximate position:

Built Up Area Placement

Dice Result

BUA Position


Near baseline on right


Near baseline on left


Far baseline on right


Far baseline on left

3.3.3.Place River

Rivers go from one edge to the opposite. They can meander (bend) so that they are up to 11/2 times the distance between the ends. They must avoid going within 600 paces of any battlefield edge except where they start and finish. They are allowed to cross 2 battlefield quarters only.

Throw a dice then refer to the table below:

River Placement

Dice Result

Position of River


Left to right, between 12” and 18” from near baseline


Left to right, between 6” and 12” from near baseline


Near baseline to far baseline, between 6” and 12” from left side


Near baseline to far baseline, between 12” and 18” from left side

3.3.4.Place Other Area Terrain

Notionally divide the board into 9 sectors of equal size. For each piece of area terrain, roll two 2D6 of different colour to determine sector. All area features must have at least 50% of their area in the sector designated by the dice. If only one piece of Bad Going terrain is selected, it must straddle two quarters of the board in order to meet the rules for terrain placement in DBA.

Area Terrain Placement

First Die

Second Die

1,2 = left

1,2 = near baseline

3,4 = centre

3,4 = middle

5,6 = right

5,6 = far baseline

3.3.5.Place Roads

If one or more roads have been selected and there is a built-up area (BUA) one road must contact or pass through it.

Roads go from one battlefield edge to the opposite. They can bend slightly to avoid other terrain features but should otherwise be fairly straight. They must not cross more than 2 battlefield quarters, so take care when placing them near the middle of the battlefield. Where they cross rivers is either a ford or bridge, depending upon whether or not a model bridge is available.

Notionally divide the battlefield in 9 sectors. For each road throw 1dice. Refer to the table below:

Dice Result

Road Position


Left to Right close to near baseline


Left to right close to middle


Left to right close to far baseline


Near baseline to far baseline, left side of battlefield


Near baseline to far baseline, middle of battlefield


Near baseline to far baseline, right side of battlefield


4.1.Base Edge Selection for NPG Attacker

For a NPG attacker, select the preferred edge to deploy. For any edge not adjacent to a BUA (built-up area), throw a dice. Choose the edge that has the highest total score after applying the following modifiers:


  • +3 Deployment zone is clear of rivers and bad going

  • +3 The opposite deployment zone has a reasonable sized area of bad going near its centre

  • +1 The opposite deployment zone has bad going within 6” in front of it and YOUR army has 6 or more elements of Knights, Cavalry, Light Horse, or Camelry

  • +1 Deployment zone has gentle hills

  • -1 The opposite deployment zone has bad going within 6” in front of it and YOUR army has 8 or more elements of Bad Going Troops

  • -1 Waterway on the flank of the deployment zone and YOU have littoral terrain type

  • -2 Waterway on the rear of the deployment zone and YOU have littoral terrain type

  • -2 Deployment zone has bad going within 6” in front of it and NPG army does not have 8 or more elements of Auxilia or Psiloi

  • -3 Deployment zone has a reasonable sized area of bad going near its centre

Once the preferred edge is selected, dice as per the DBA rules to determine which edge the NPG deploys on.

4.2.Camp Garrison

If the NPG has a camp, garrison it by either camp followers or spear. If the NPG army has spear, then throw a dice and add any modifiers that apply. If the result is 6 or more, garrison the camp with spear.


  • +2 YOU have light horse

  • +1 NPG has an odd number of spear

  • +1 YOU have more mounted than NPG

4.3.Camp Placement

The NPG camp is placed according to the following rules in descending order of preference:

  • Avoid a flank with a waterway if YOU have littoral terrain

  • Avoid roads coming from the YOUR side

  • Position camp behind bad going if available

  • Position camp as close to the centre as terrain and the other rules permit

4.4.Built Up Area Garrison

Armies with infantry may garrison a built up area (BUA). Roll a D6, apply modifiers, then consult the table:

Built-Up Area

Die Roll


Up to 3


4 or more



  • +2 Defender has Blade

  • +1 Attacker has no infantry except Psiloi

  • +1 Defender has Spear

  • -1 Attacker has Spear or elephant

  • -1 Attacker has Psiloi as well as Auxilia, Spear or Blade, or more than one Spear

  • -2 Attacker has Blade or more than 1 pike

  • -2 Defender has no infantry except for bows or psiloi

  • -3 BUA in Defender’s side

Use the following rules in descending order of preference to select a garrison:

  1. Pick blade if their number is not divisible by 3

  2. Pick spear if there is an odd number of spear

  3. Pick blade

  4. Pick spear

  5. Pick pike if there are an odd number of pike

  6. Pick artillery

  7. Pick horde

  8. Pick auxilia

  9. Pick warband

4.5.Tactical Groups

Form tactical groups of up to 4 elements each. If there is more than one mounted element then there must be at least two tactical groups containing mounted. The tactical groups should be of the same element type except for the following exceptions:

  • Psiloi elements are committed to support blades, spears or auxilia if YOUR army contains a combined total of more than 3 mounted and warband elements. Priority of allocating psiloi is given to wherever they can provide rear support for 3 elements of the same type;

  • Bows are interspersed with spear or blade elements if YOUR army has more than 3 mounted;

  • Spears, blades or pikes may be combined within the same group. Pikes should be grouped in even numbers, if possible;

  • Elephants may be grouped with up to a total of two other elements: auxilia, psiloi if YOUR army has no more than 2 mounted, or knights if YOUR army has 3 or more mounted.

  • Excluding elephants, mounted elements may be grouped with other types of mounted elements.

4.6.Littoral Landing

Armies with littoral terrain may do a littoral landing if there is a waterway. If the NPG army has littoral terrain throw a dice and apply the modifiers below. If the total is 6 or more then the NPG may reserve troops for a littoral landing.


  • +3 NPG is attacker

  • +2 YOUR camp is within 6 inches from the waterway

  • +1 There is bad going terrain near the centreline, near the waterway and NPG has auxilia (or camels if the bad going is dunes)

  • +1 YOU have 10 or more elements that move 300 paces or less in good going

  • +1 NPG has 8 or more elements that can move at least 300 paces in good going

  • +1 YOUR army does not have littoral terrain

  • +1 YOUR army has stronger infantry (more pike, blade and spear) than NPG

  • -1 NPG has any elephants, artillery, horde or warwagons

  • -1 NPG general moves at 200 paces in good going

  • -2 Waterway at YOUR rear and NPG is defender

  • -2 YOU as defender have deployed troops within 3 inches from YOUR camp

  • -12 NPG is attacker and YOU have reserved 2 or more elements for a littoral landing

4.7.Deployment Position

There are 4 major positions within the deployment zone: ‘Centre’, is in the centre two quarters of the deployment zone, up to the furthest forward deployment position; ‘Reserve’, is 200 paces behind the centre position; ‘Right Flank’, is to the right of the deployment zone, up to 600 paces from the NPG baseline; ‘Left Flank’, is on the left of the deployment zone, up to 600 paces from the NPG baseline.

Throw 2 dice and add their score, apply the modifiers then refer to the table to decide where to attempt to deploy each group:

Deployment of Groups

Dice Score


4 or less





Left Flank


Right Flank

12 or more

Littoral Landing/Right Flank


  • -5 Mounted General which is the only mounted element

  • -5 Infantry facing good-going when YOU have more infantry with high combat factors against infantry in good going and NPG has more mounted

  • -3 Cavalry, Camelry, knights, blades or spears and YOU have reserved troops for a littoral landing

  • -3 Mounted if both flanks are bad going

  • +2 Psiloi or auxilia

  • +3 Tactical group contains elephants or knights and is not the general who is the only mounted

  • +3 Bad going troops and both flanks are bad going

  • +4 Cavalry, Camelry, Light Horse and is not the general who is the only mounted element

Flanks may be joined to the Centre, or may have a gap between them and the Centre if they need to avoid a terrain feature. The Centre should be centred in the middle of the game board unless there are major tactical reasons not to, e.g. inconvenient terrain ahead. The Reserve is paced 200p behind the frontline.

It is possible to have the whole NPG army in one massive group in one area (e.g. Centre, Reserve, etc.). For example, the die results have three groups of Spartan spear being placed in the Centre. The Spartans are thus placed in a huge phalanx, which might be 2 ranks deep, 6 elements abreast or a line of 12 elements.

Deploy the groups following these rules:

  1. Deploy pikes in 2 ranks;

  2. A maximum of 4 elements may be used for a littoral landing. If more than 4 elements are chosen for a littoral landing then throw a dice for each tactical group and select the one with the highest score. Elements not used for a littoral landing are deployed on the right flank.

  3. Do not deploy psiloi facing cavalry, camelry or knight with no bad going between them;

  4. Do not deploy war wagons or elephants facing within one base width of YOUR artillery;

  5. Deploy troops in column if they are in, or will soon enter bad going, or to avoid deploying in bad going. Otherwise deploy in line if space permits.

  6. If the NPG army has 6 or more warband elements, throw a D6; on a 1-3 deploy the elements in two ranks; otherwise deploy one warband element on each flank of the group (one rank deep) with the remaining in two ranks;

  7. If YOUR army has 5 or more spear elements and the NPG army has 6 or more spear elements, throw a D6: on a 1-3 deploy the elements in two ranks; otherwise deploy one spear element on each flank of the group (one rank deep) with the remaining in two ranks;

  8. The fastest elements are placed on the outer extremities of a position unless that will mean mounted troops facing or being deployed in bad going. Fastest mounted have priority over slower mounted;

  9. Deploy the general as close to the centre of the position as is consistent with the other rules;

  10. If non-bad going troops are to be positioned on a flank in bad going or that has bad going ahead within 600 paces then deploy them on the other flank if that is clear of bad going;

Some placements may be impractical due to the presence of impassable terrain or terrain an element cannot enter (e.g. the die roll indicates that a group of two Ottoman bombards are to be placed on the left flank where there is a large bad going marsh). Since Artillery can’t be placed off-road in bad-going, the 2 Artillery must roll for a new position.).

4.8.NPG Defender Option to Swap Elements

Once YOU have deployed, use your tactical judgement whether or not to swap up to the 2 pairs of elements that the defender is allowed to do for the NPG. Look to see which elements on YOUR side are facing those of the NPG. Ignore any matches where there is bad going or impassable terrain between them. Try to avoid bad match-ups for the NPG and try to create bad-match ups for YOU.

4.8.1.Bad Match-Ups

  • Psiloi faced by cavalry, camelry or knights

  • Elephants faced by psiloi, auxilia, light horse or artillery

  • Knight faced by elephants, scythed chariots, light horse or bows

  • Cavalry, camelry ,light horse or warband faced by scythed chariots

  • Pikes or spears faced by elephants, knights or scythed chariots

  • Blades faced by knights or scythed chariots

  • Hordes faced by elephants, knights, scythed chariots, warband, bows or artillery

  • War wagons faced by elephants or artillery

5.Tactical Engine


The tactical engine guides the NPG by prioritising the actions that the NPG may make. The actions are:

  • Aggressive Attack – Attack YOUR troops by shooting or close combat whenever there is an equal of the NPG killing YOUR elements compared to YOUR chance of killing NPG elements;

  • Aggressive Manoeuvre – Move NPG troops to either threaten YOUR troops or facilitate a future attack;

  • Calculated Attack – Attack YOUR troops by shooting or close combat whenever there is a better chance of destroying YOUR elements than NPG elements;

  • Defensive Manoeuvre – Move NPG troops to defend against a threat from YOUR troops, e.g. to face a flank attack or to move psiloi into bad going to protect against YOUR cavalry;

  • Form Column – A group forms a column, usually to facilitate passing through bad going or a gap;

  • Form Line – Columns form line,

  • Occupy Terrain – Move bad going troops forward to occupy bad going or a hill;

  • Re-arrange Line – Move NPG troops so that they change position within an existing group, e.g. widen a group by putting elements in rear support into the front line, putting elements from the front rank into rear support or moving rear support;

  • Reckless Attack – Attack YOUR troops by shooting or close combat when there is a chance of the NPG killing YOUR troops but YOU have a higher chance of killing the NPGs;

  • Re-enforce – Move NPG troops towards an existing group or single element as a re-enforcement;

  • Repair Line – Move elements that have been recoiled or pushed back, or which have been brought to within one move away from their anticipated position, into position in a line.

  • Safe Attack – Attack YOUR troops by shooting or close combat whenever there is a chance of destroying YOUR elements but no chance of destroying NPG elements;

  • Support Attack – Attack or shoot as part of a coordinated attack on YOUR forces, i.e. attack to make a simultaneous attack on YOUR forces more effective;

5.2.Aggression Level

The aggression level determines whether or not the NPG tends to play aggressively or defensively throughout the game. It is determined once, at the start of the first NPG bound, and affects what the NPG does in all following bounds.

Throw a dice. Apply the modifiers then refer to the table below.


  • +2 NPG has 5 or more mounted elements

  • +1 NPG has an army with eleven or more elements that move at least 300 paces in good going

  • +1 NPG has 6 or more warband and YOUR army has 6 or more spear

  • -1 NPG has a total of more than 4 auxilia and psiloi and YOU have a total of more than 4 cavalry, knights, blades and spear;

  • -2 NPG has a total of 6 or more spear, blades and pike

Dice Plus Modifiers

Aggression Level

2 or less


3 or 4


5 or more


5.3.Each NPG Bound

At the start of each NPG bound roll 2 dice. (It is helpful to use different coloured dice.) The first die determines PIPs. The second die determines the NPG tactical stance for this bound (essentially what element(s) shall warrant priority in expending move points).

NPG Tactical Stance

Die Roll

Battle Plan








  • -1 Each element the NPG has lost

  • -1 NPG has ‘defensive’ aggression level

  • -1 NPG has 1 or 2 PIPs

  • +1 Each element YOU have lost

  • +1 NPG has ‘aggressive’ aggression level

  • +1 NPG has 5 or 6 PIPs

  • +4 NPG has lost 3 elements but YOU have lost 2 or less

Permitted moves for the 3 tactical stances are listed in descending order of priority. Exercise your best tactical judgment, but attempt to find useful higher priority moves for the appropriate tactical stance in preference to the lower priority moves. Consider using the ‘Tactical Engine Override’ (see below) if the tactical engine seems to be making a very bad choice.

Permitted Moves for the NPG Tactical Stances in Descending Order of Priority




Safe Attack

Support Attack

Calculated Attack

Aggressive Attack

Aggressive Manoeuvre

Reckless Attack

Occupy Terrain

Defensive Manoeuvre


Repair Line

Form Line

Defensive Manoeuvre

Safe Attack

Support Attack

Occupy Terrain

Calculated Attack

Aggressive Manoeuvre

Form Line


Form Column

Repair Line

Repair Line

Defensive Manoeuvre


Form Line

Occupy Terrain

Safe Attack

Support Attack

Calculated Attack

Aggressive Manoeuvre

5.4.Tactical Engine Override

Sometimes the tactical engine will either miss opportunities or not allow the NPG to deal with significant risks. There are a maximum of three opportunities per game to dice whether or not to ignore the choices that the tactical engine makes for that bound. An opportunity is used whether or not the dice allows the tactical engine to be overridden.

Throw a dice. If the score is 3 or more then ignore the tactical engine for this bound. If the score is 1 or 2 then follow the dictates of the tactical engine for this bound.

Campaign Maps – The Easy Way!

Part of the island of Nylandia

Wargame campaigns have been on my mind a lot recently, after reviewing William Silvester’s book on the subject.

I’ve dusted down my copies of Tony Bath and Don Featherstone’s ground-breaking books covering the same topic, and have been mulling over some of the possibilities.

All three books spend time discussing that first essential of any campaign, however modest or ambitious – the campaign map. In this regard, it’s surprising how little things have changed over the years. Don’s book was originally published in 1970, with Tony’s following a few years later (though it subsequently went through several reprints). William Silvester’s book came out just two years ago. All three books consider the various types of drawn or printed map that are available, and the options for measuring and recording map movement.

Back in the ‘good old days’ the possibilities for acquiring suitable ready-made maps were somewhat limited, and could be expensive. Old classroom maps of the biblical Middle East, tourist souvenir maps, and Ordnance Survey Maps were among the most popular (and, in the first two instances, rather quaint) options. Map movement could be recorded using plastic overlays and marker pens, or coloured pins, always bearing in mind that the map itself was valuable enough to be treated with respect and re-used again and again.

When it came to creating a map from scratch, particularly a map of an imaginary continent or other geographical area, drawing the map by hand was the obvious – indeed the only – option back in the day. Tony Bath famously created his mythical continent of Hyboria, where he fought out battles with other well-known wargaming figures like Charles Grant, in preference to re-fighting a purely historical campaign or using an existing historical map. He makes a convincing case for going down the ‘imaginary’ route (Setting Up A Wargames Campaign, page 7):

“Having at various times tried all three courses, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the third, of setting up your own continent, to be far and away the best. With a world of your own, the limitations are only those of your own imagination together with a certain sense of realities. For instance, within the boundaries of my own continent of Hyboria existed armies and cultures ranging from the Ancient Egyptian to the 13th Century mediaeval enabling me to make use of the whole ancient-medieval period.”

This is certainly the approach that most immediately appeals to me. Creating my own mythical continent, peopled with a mixture of ancient and mythical nations, has an innate ‘wow’ factor to it. The opportunity to give my various DBA and HoTT armies a run-out against each other, as part of an over-arching narrative, feels too good to resist. I’m planning to start work on this shortly!

So what options are there for creating my map, and for tracing movements on it once it’s been brought to life? My drawing skills are not exactly my strong point, and it would certainly be nice to produce something that has more visual appeal than a rough hand-drawn map. And working with a ‘physical’ map, drawn up on squared or hex-based paper – or using a square or hex acetate overlay – sounds like a rather messy option in this digital era.

In the past I’ve tried one or two cut-price computer-aided drawing packages (CADs), but I’ve found them a bit fiddly to use, and the results less than impressive. Nor has the end product solved the problem of logging and marking map movement as a campaign progresses. So I’ve got to thinking whether other options might be available – preferably ones that come in at a budget price.

The solution, it turns out, was close at hand all along. And I’m sure it’s one that has occurred to other wargamers too, so I certainly wouldn’t presume to claim any originality for the idea!

Like many other gamers, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the years playing the various incarnations of Sid Meier’s excellent computer game Civilization, with Civ4 my favourite version. Now, Civ4 happens to have a fantastic in-game editing facility called WorldBuilder. Indeed, one of the keys to the success of the game is the ease with which an enthusiastic community of online gamers is able to create new scenarios for the core game, and – crucially for me – new maps and worlds as an essential part of that. Over the last year or two most of my games of Civ4 have been based in worlds that I’ve either tweaked or that I’ve created myself from scratch.

Civ4‘s WorldBuilder – which comes free with the main program – may seem a little daunting at first, but with a bit of practice it turns out to be straightforward and intuitive to use. The results, once you’ve learned the basics, are visually impressive and highly flexible. You can build an island, a continent or indeed a whole world to your own personal specifications, then drill down to whatever level of detail fits with your campaign requirements. You can add production facilities, resources, fields, mines and buildings to your cities and their environs. You can build new roads and railways, surround a strategic location with a string of forts, or colonize an island to expand your nation’s borders. You can keep it as simple as you choose, or add layers of complexity if fine detail is your thing.

Even better, via a few mouse clicks you can go back into that self-created world any time you like to add or change its features and the location of the units depicted on it. You can mark the movement of armies, the capture or plunder of cities, the progress of fleets and supply trains, the stock-piling of munitions and the building or burning of villages, towns and forts. You can use the program to chart small actions or large – to monitor off-table movement in one small corner of your continent, to set and execute an ambush in a wooded valley, or to move whole battalions at the grand strategic level.

By opting to switch on the ‘grid view’, you have a built-in tool for measuring map movements, one square at a time.

Civ4 will also help with record-keeping, enabling you to save multiple copies of each map to give you a permanent record of your campaign. You can zoom in or out to print maps at whatever level you choose, providing you with a hard copy to work with, or a digital copy to add in to your virtual campaign diary.

Once you’ve got used to the idea of using Civ4 not as a game per se, but purely as an editor, it really does seem to tick all the boxes as a campaign and mapping tool. Note that this is quite distinct from playing Civilization with the world you’ve created in the usual way – what I’m suggesting means that you’re restricted to using it in WorldBuilder (i.e. ‘edit’) mode only. Each time you load the scenario you’ve created, you go straight back into the WorldBuilder to continue your campaign moves, edit the map and so on.

Whether you use one of the many worlds created by the online Civilization community, tweak a computer-generated world, or build your own new world from scratch, I would seriously recommend giving it a try. Retailing for just a few pounds, I reckon it’s a sound investment for the budding wargames campaigner!


Top of page: part of my newly-created island of Nylandia – an imaginary island created for a mini-campaign set in the Pike & Shot era. As you can see, this mini-campaign is going to be nice and simple!

Bottom: zoomed-in shot showing the Swedish port of Svalbard, part of Nylandia and the base of operations for Gustavus’s invasion force.


Civ4 Fanatics Forum – Creation and Customization Section. Everything you need to know to build your own world!



A Guide To Solo Campaigning

Book Review: The Solo Wargaming Guide by William Silvester. Published by Precis Intermedia, 2013.


It’s always nice to find a new addition to the small library of books designed specifically for the solo wargamer. This is even more the case when the book is aimed squarely at an aspect of solo wargaming that has not, to date, received much coverage. In fact, outside of the pages of Lone Warrior magazine and the odd website, solo campaigning has barely been touched on at all prior to the publication of this book.

Weighing in at around one hundred and twenty pages, and retailing at a price of £10 or thereabouts, this is a ‘cheap and cheerful’ publication whose main appeal definitely lies in the ideas between its covers rather than in eye candy or fancy production values. That’s no bad thing though, as it should be affordable even for those gamers operating on a tight budget (and who isn’t in these days of government-enforced austerity?).

Mr Silvester has collected a wealth of ideas together here. Unlike some books that wrap a handful of useful notions for the soloist in a whole lot of verbiage about wargaming in general, this guide gets right down to the nitty-gritty of solo gaming and solo campaigning – its advantages, its motivations, its possibilities and (best of all) a straightforward and comprehensive set of mechanisms designed to get you started.

In fact the first forty pages or so contain the ‘meat’ of the book so far as solo campaigning mechanisms go. Short sections cover Mobilization, Time and Transposition, Weather, Logistics and Attrition, Morale, Alliances, Revolts, Sieges and Mutinies. These form the core of the text, and include a simple but effective way to provide for alternative campaign strategies for both the attacker and the defender. Mr Silvester suggests ways to build unpredictability into each solo campaign, both for the solo player and for the counter-strategies of his/her ‘automated’ opponent. Each side may have a number of possible approaches to the coming conflict, and each side is subject to the changing fortunes of war.

I won’t give the game away by going into detail here about what we might call the ‘core mechanism’ for determining the course of each campaign at the strategic level. In truth it’s actually pretty straightforward, but the beauty of it is that (a) it works, and (b) it can be developed in order to add further layers of complexity should you wish to do so. As the author says, rather than set out to write a ‘solo wargamers bible’, he has focused instead on providing ‘guidelines that can be bent or twisted, even broken and reformed, to suit a wargamer’s needs’. Where other books on wargame campaigning occasionally suffer from a rather forbidding complexity, the author here has set out a neat and effective approach which contains everything the gamer needs in order to get started. He gives us a foundation that can be built on, expanded and elaborated to your heart’s content – or used ‘as is’.

Later chapters expand on the core ideas, and touch on everything from naval campaigning and air warfare through to ideas for resolving the table-top battles when the opposing forces finally come into contact. The author goes to some lengths to explain how to transition from map to battlefield, and this is both unusual and immensely helpful – it’s an area that’s often been skipped over by other writers.

Overall, this is a good little primer that covers everything you need to know to get started in solo campaigning. While it might usefully be read in conjunction with older books like Tony Bath’s Setting Up A Wargames Campaign, it works well as a stand-alone introduction to this much neglected subject. Mr Silvester’s book is an extremely useful addition to the solo wargamer’s bookshelf.

The Battle Of Ethandun Part 2

The Battle Of Ethandun
The Battle Of Ethandun

This post continues where the previous one ended – scroll down to view it or click here for link.

The Basics

This scenario is designed to work with the “non-player general” (NPG) controlling the Danes, and the human player controlling the Saxons. It would be straightforward though to reverse those roles with a bit of adjustment.

I’ve used a tweaked (house rule) version of Hordes of the Things (HoTT) to play the scenario, but any suitable rule set will do. Overall the two sides should be reasonably well balanced. As the Danes are “professional” fighters they may merit a higher combat ranking than the Saxons, but you obviously need to ensure that the two sides are not so ill-balanced that the Saxons face an impossible task! In HoTT terms, I classified the Danish grunts as a mix of Blades and Warband, and the Saxons primarily as Spears sprinkled with a few Blades to represent household troops. I may amend this in future games to run the Danish side as an all Blade army, and/or run the inexperienced Fyrds at a combat disadvantage to reflect their rawness. I classified Uhtred and Svein as heroes.

In line with Bernard Cornwell’s fictional account of the battle, the main action begins on the Saxon right flank. On the other flank, Guthrum’s defenders and the Fyrds under Wiglaf pin each other in position until the fighting on the right is resolved.

Begin the battle by advancing the whole of the Saxon right wing, including Uhtred and Alfred, slowly towards Svein’s Danes, who will also begin to shuffle forwards. Once the two opposing lines are within a couple of moves of establishing melee contact, the first random factor comes into play. Needless to say, all these steps are optional – you may choose to just fight this out as standard wargame using the starting positions shown above, or pick and mix whichever bits appeal to you.

Single Combat – Uhtred versus Svein

In ‘The Pale Horseman’, single combat takes place during a pause in the fighting on the right flank, when Uhtred has a rush of blood to the head and challenges the Danes to provide a champion to take him on in single combat. Svein, who commands the Danish left flank, accepts his challenge. I’ve moved this forward in time as it would be difficult to model with the rules I’m using once the two shield walls have clashed.

First of all, dice to determine whether Svein answers Uhtred’s challenge – a throw of 3 to 6 on a D6 means that he takes him up on it, a 1 or 2 means that Svein opts to stay behind his lines (in which case, move on to the next section).

If single combat takes place, either use your own favourite skirmish/duelling rules to decide the outcome, or resolve it with a D6 throw for each combatant. In playing this out I added a factor of plus one to Uhtred’s dice score to reflect his effectiveness (and good fortune!) in the book. The losing combatant is removed from play, with the following impact – again determined via a D6 throw – on the loser’s side during the ensuing melee:

1: No effect

2 – 4: fight with a minus one modifier in the next round of melee

5 – 6: fight with a minus one modifier in the next two rounds of melee

Wulfhere’s Fyrd Troops

As the two sides come face to face, the troops of the Wiltunscir Fyrd under Wulfhere who are fighting alongside the Danes begin to have second thoughts. Do they really want to fight against their fellow Saxons and co-religionists? When the two shield walls are within a single move of each other, throw a D6 and interpret the results as follows:

1 – 2: They remain in position and fight for the Danes

3: They turn and retire from the battlefield

4 – 6: They defect to the Saxon side

The consequences of throwing a 1 or 2 need no further explanation.

If a 3 is thrown, the Danes will “shuffle up” and plug the resulting gap before the melee begins, as Wulfhere’s troops fall back (they play no further part in the battle and can now be removed from play).

If a 4, 5 or 6 is thrown, then we need to determine the effect that this change of allegiance has on the two battle lines. Again, throw a D6 and apply the following :

1 – 2: They pass through the Saxon shield wall without significantly disrupting it, and re-form immediately behind it.

3: They are incorporated seamlessly into the Saxon shield wall, other units shuffling up to incorporate them.

4 – 6: The defecting troops break the cohesion of the Saxon shield wall as they attempt to join it. Model this by moving the Wiltunscir/Suth Seaxa Fyrd units facing Wulfhere’s defecting units back one full move, then place the defecting units behind them. In this way the Saxons will have gained some troops but will have lost cohesion – definitely a mixed blessing.

In all of the above instances, the defecting elements immediately come under the command of the Saxon (i.e.human) general.

Now the melee on this flank begins in earnest…

Guthrum’s Response

Once the two steps above have been completed the fight on the Saxon right must be fought to a conclusion.

How will Guthrum react to what he’s seeing? Will he send some of his own troops to reinforce Svein? Or will he skulk in his defensive position and refuse to intervene? Although they’re allies he has no love for Svein and may prefer to just stand and watch.

At the start of each Danish turn from this point onwards, throw a D6. If a 5 or 6 is thrown, then Guthrum will commit some of his troops to reinforce Svein’s wing. Throw a D6 and apply the following:

1 : Guthrum sends a single unit to reinforce Svein’s shield wall

2 – 3: Guthrum sends two units to reinforce Svein’s shield wall

4 – 5: Guthrum sends two units specifically to target Alfred and his household troops

6: Guthrum launches an all out attack. He sends his flank units to support Svein’s troops and attack Alfred, and sends his troops on the main ridgeline facing Wiglaf’s Fyrds forward to engage them. Guthrum himself will advance down onto the main battlefield with his household unit, but will hold back from combat himself for as long as practicable.

Note that this is a one off event. Once Guthrum has sent reinforcements in or launched a general attack, this chance event is considered resolved and no further reinforcements will be committed.

Common sense also needs to be applied here. If there have been several rounds of fighting already on the Danish left flank and Guthrum sees that Svein’s wing is collapsing irrevocably, then ignore the dice and allow him to continue exercising caution. He won’t throw his own men into a hopeless fight for Svein’s sake.

If Guthrum has launched a general assault (a throw of 6 in the above action list), then the next stage becomes redundant and the battle is simply fought to a conclusion on the ground in front of the hill fort.

Otherwise, resolve the battle between the Saxon right and the Danish left flanks before moving on to the next (and final) phase.

The Attack On The Hill Fort

The battle on the Saxon right must be fought to a conclusion before moving on to this next phase. Obviously if Guthrum has launched a general advance then this phase is in any case redundant. Otherwise, and assuming that enough Saxon troops remain on the field of battle, the focus shifts to an assault on the hill fort itself.

This will be a frontal assault on the edge of the old hill fort immediately facing the Saxon left.

Redeploy any survivors from the Saxon right to reinforce Wiglaf’s Fyrds.

Similarly, redeploy Guthrum’s troops and any survivors from the Danish left to present the strongest possible defence of the ridge line facing the newly reinforced Saxon left.

Deploy Guthrum’s troops in a defensive posture and move your Saxon troops to the foot of the ridge.

At this point, and before advancing further, dice for the possibility of a rear attack on Guthrum’s position by Fyrd troops who have worked their way around to Guthrum’s rear. Throw a D6 and apply the following outcome:

1 – 2: The rear attack fails to materialise. Not good news for the Saxons, who face a (literal) uphill battle against Guthrum’s men

3 – 4: One fresh Fyrd units appears at the rear of Guthrum’s position (see photo above, top left corner, for placement)

5 – 6: Two fresh Fyrd units appear in this position

If the Saxons have succeeded in deploying to Guthrum’s rear, dice for his reaction (if any). Throw a D6:

1 – 3: No reaction. Guthrum is unaware of the threat until the Saxons carrying out the rear attack reach the flat ground within the walls of the hill fort

4 – 6: Guthrum realises he is in danger and may move up to three of his units immediately to counter the threat

The attack on the hill fort is then fought to a conclusion. Note that the fort represents a strong position and the defenders will fight at a factor of plus two while they hold the high ground.

Victory Conditions

The Danes:

The Danes will score a major victory if they kill Alfred and rout his army. They will score a marginal victory if they rout the Saxon army but Alfred lives to fight another day (by exiting the battlefield via his own baseline).

The Saxons:

The Saxons will score a major victory if they succeed in routing the Danish army and capturing the hill fort. They will score a marginal victory if they destroy Svein’s flank,  succeed in protecting Alfred, but fail to take the hill fort – provided they have at least two more elements left at the end of the battle than the Danes.

Any other position at the end of the battle will normally represent a draw, in which case the Danes and the Saxons will sit down and discuss terms over a nice cup of tea.


The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell – part two of The Warrior Chronicles series.

Alfred, Warrior King by John Peddie.

Hordes of the Things by Phil Barker, Richard Bodley-Scott and Sue Lafflin Barker.

Bratton Camp - Probable Site of the Battle
Bratton Camp – Probable Site of the Battle


The Battle Of Ethandun Part 1

The Battle Of Ethandun
The Battle Of Ethandun

This solo scenario is based on the battle of Ethandun, or Edington, as described by Bernard Cornwall in his novel ‘The Pale Horseman’. Cornwell bases his account of the battle primarily on John Peddie’s excellent ‘Alfred, Warrior King’. I’m using the fictional account because it provides lots of options for chance to intervene; in any case, like most battles of the period there are few reliable historical facts to hand.

Rather than simply re-run the sequence of events described in the novel, I’m going to plunder Cornwell’s version of the battle for a selection of random events that can be woven into a table top game. I am, however, going to begin with a layout that is pretty faithful to Cornwell’s account. I’m using the ‘Hordes of the Things’ (HoTT) rules in a house version to play out the game, but any suitable rule set will do.

The photo above shows the basic set-up.

On the Saxon side, working from left to right, we have:

i) Fyrd troops under Wiglaf (HoTT Spears plus one Blade).

ii) Alfred and his bodyguard (two HoTT Blade elements).

iii) Uhtred of Bebbanburg with Leofric, Pyrlig and Steapa (a HoTT Hero element).

iv) The Fyrds of Wiltunscir and Suth Seaxa under Osric (HoTT Spears).

Across the battlefield we have the Danes. Going from right to left this time, they comprise:

i) Svein of the White Horse, at the rear of the main line (a HoTT hero element).

ii) Svein’s Danish warbands, along with turncoat Fyrd troops commanded by the treacherous Wulfhere, who has defected to the Danes’ side (HoTT Warbands and Spears).

iii) Within the hill fort (I know, I know – it was the best I could do at short notice!), we have Guthrum the Unlucky, overall commander of the Danes and not a big fan of his ally Svein. His troops are a mix of HoTT Blade and Warband. In the photo, Guthrum’s element provides the hinge on which the line bends.

In the far left corner at the very rear is the unguarded weak point in the hill fort defences, a point from which an enterprising little band of Saxon Fyrdmen (HoTT Spears) may, as per the novel, launch a surprise attack on Guthrum’s apparently impregnable position.

The novel provides a whole skein of “what if” options for the game. One of the best things about the description of the battle is that Cornwell emphasizes the two aspects of warfare which are often downplayed – morale and chance. In theory, the Danes should win easily. In practice, a number of random events tilt the balance the other way. As options for the solo game, the following elements of the account need to be modelled as possible events:

i) The defection of Wulfhere’s Fyrd back to the Saxon side as the shield walls on the right approach each other.

ii) The positive or negative effect on the Saxons if the rogue Fyrd does rejoin them, either strengthening the Saxons or inadvertently breaking their shield wall.

iii) Single combat between Uhtred and Svein, and – depending on the outcome – the impact it has on the two sides.

iv) The decision of Guthrum to (a) reinforce Svein, (b) attack Alfred’s flank as it advances on the right, or (c) stay put and hold his troops in reserve.

v) If Guthrum does launch an attack, what will he do about the Fyrd troops facing him? Will he advance to meet them, or hold the front edge of the hill fort to keep them pinned without risking any loss?

vi) And finally, there is the possibility of a rear attack by those sneaky Fyrd troops, which could turn Guthrum’s defensive position into a death trap…

Note that to keep more or less in line with the fictional account, a number of assumptions are made here:

i) As per Alfred’s orders, the left wing of the Saxon army will not launch an attack on Guthrum’s wall until the fight on the Saxon right has been resolved. Until then it will hold a static position – unless it’s attacked.

ii) Guthrum may choose to act at any point by committing more troops to the fight, but unless he launches an all out attack right along his line he will not leave the walls of the hill fort unmanned (i.e. he won’t risk the possibility of the uncommitted Saxon left wing flanking his charging troops or taking the hill fort). In game terms, the Danes on the hill fort facing the Saxon left flank are effectively pinned by them.

iii) The rear attack on Guthrum, if it occurs at all, will not take place unless and until the Saxon right flank is victorious and Svein’s troops are destroyed.

Anyone familiar with the novel will see that I’ve fudged a couple of issues here when it comes to timing; but as I’m using the book as a source to mine for ideas I hope that is acceptable.

In my next post (after a bit of play testing!) I’ll set out some options for modelling the chance events mentioned above – and also look at what might comprise suitable “victory conditions” for each side.


Battle Cry Game Review

Battle Cry

After seeing lots of stuff online about Battle Cry I was really looking forward to unpacking the game and trying it out for myself, particularly to see whether it would work as a solo wargame.

Battle Cry is the first game produced by Richard Borg using a core system which he has since expanded into the Ancient, Napoleonic, Samurai and Modern eras.

The game comes with a sturdy game board, customised battle dice, command cards (a key part of the system), terrain tiles, army flags, a whole bunch of plastic miniatures and a few other bits and bobs. All of the components seem well made and durable, with the caveat that over time the command cards themselves are likely to be subject to a fair bit of wear and tear. The game also includes a very straightforward rules booklet which includes thirty battle scenarios, plus a terrain quick reference sheet.

You will want to paint up the 20mm figures yourself, and in time replace the flimsy generic unit flags with more specific ACW standards. For a good overview and footage of the game components, see Marco’s YouTube review here: For related eye candy and lots of other resources, check out BoardGameGeek here:

Command Cards

The heart of the game lies in its use of command cards and the division of the battlefield into three sectors (left, centre, right). Each side draws a number of cards at the beginning of the battle, and plays one card per turn thereafter, drawing a replacement from the deck. Most of these command cards facilitate movement in a particular sector of the battlefield – for example enabling a player to move three units in the centre sector, or two units on the left flank, etc. But the deck also includes a range of cards giving interesting one-off options. Your sharpshooters, for instance, may be able to target an enemy general; you may be able to force march certain troops, or use cavalry to charge then retire; reinforcements may arrive on your baseline; you may be able to cause supply problems for an enemy unit, forcing it to retreat to its baseline; and so on and so forth.

Battles are won primarily by capturing enemy flags (i.e. destroying units), and/or taking and holding objective markers, and the judicious use of the cards is a key part of the game. I’d wondered whether this would make the game a bit predictable, given that most of the cards are about activating troops in particular segments of the battlefield. This fear proved unfounded. While most of the cards are sector specific, the inclusion of so many unique ‘wild cards’ gives the whole game an air of unpredictability, and nicely models fog of war. No game is going to play out the same way twice, which means that even if you stick to the scenarios included in the booklet (and there’s no need to, as others are available online) you’re never going to be bored.

So What About Solo Play?

I bought Battle Cry primarily to play solo, as there seemed to be a lot of scope for tweaking the system and a lot of positive comments online about its solo potential. In fact so far I’ve played the game solo “as is”, enjoying the battles I’ve fought to date without feeling any need to adjust the rules. Given that each side has limited, shifting options – depending on cards held and cards drawn – it’s easy to set aside your own preferences for one side over the other once you’re immersed in the battle, and simply play each side to the best of your ability. The combination of chance with a degree of constraint seems to recreate the unique feel or flavour of a two-player game. I’m not entirely sure why this is – but it works for me!

However, the potential for further adjusting the rules for solo game play is very clear. Starting your favoured side with less cards than “the enemy” would be a simple and effective mechanism – a quick fix that would make the game a tough challenge. Drawing a fresh set of cards for each “enemy” turn would also provide an interesting solo variant. There are more suggestions for solo tweaks available here:

My initial impression of this game is that it will provide many, many hours of solo gaming. I’m looking forward to applying various solo customisations as time goes by. It’s certainly expanded my appreciation of the potential for using “chance cards” in a solo game, from simply inserting random events (as per Don Featherstone) to actually limiting the options available on the battlefield in a radical way.

General Impressions

However, this game won’t be for everyone. The elements of chance that make it so good for solo play – in particular the use of cards – and the straightforward nature of the core battle rules will put some people off. So will the fact that Battle Cry is played on a hex board. The movement/firing/combat rules themselves are very basic.

This could however be seen as a plus point, because it means that they’re very easy to expand and amend to your own specifications. As I think Marco pointed out in his video review (see above), you could use these core rules as a tool-set to develop further. In particular, adding additional detail for specific units and unit grades would be pretty straightforward.

This brings me to another bonus offered by Battle Cry. With a little customisation, and the purchase of suitable miniatures, it would be easy to adapt the game system to other conflicts of this era. The “bare bones” nature of these core rules means that they are ripe for expansion and adaptation. Using this system for the wars waged by Bismark’s Prussians immediately springs to mind, and they may even bear adaptation for 19th century colonial conflicts…

And Finally, An Apology

You may have gathered by now that I really, really like this game. I find it so addictive that it’s finally dragged me away from my computer and back to the wargames table. Still, I feel somewhat embarrassed by my unalloyed enthusiasm for it. So apologies if I seem a little over-enthusiastic – not something I can normally be accused of!

But what the heck – I’ve been assimilated by the Borg, and I’m loving it!

Battle Cry - Shiloh Day One
Battle Cry – Shiloh Day One