How Other People Recreate the Macedonian and Punics Wars with DBA

DBA is fun but pretty rubbish at simulating the Macedonian and Punic Wars so I wondered what other people are doing to deal with the issues.

The problems are:

  • Army lists don’t reflect historical reality – see my Revised Polybian DBA Army List.
  • Can’t reflect the historical deployment, e.g. multiple lines for both Romans and Carthaginians (at least at Zama). An alternative way of expressing this is that DBA doesn’t reward depth, e.g. Romans consistent deployed their Legions in depth against the Carthaginians.
  • Gauls and Galatians fought in solid shield walls. None of this impetus charging warband myth. Roman-Gallic face offs were long and hard, not the short sharp instant kill versus high factors of DBx.
  • Hannibal’s Gauls and Spaniards were particularly resilient. Hannibal expected them to lose against the Romans but slowly, allowing Hannibal to win elsewhere. In DBA Romans Blades kills Spanish Auxilia quick. See above re quick death Warband.
  • Spanish light troops caught and beat Numidians.
  • Roman veteran Triarii (Sp) have worse factors than younger, less equipped, and perhaps recent levy Hastati and Principes (Bd).
  • At least Pikes in DBA will generally beat the Roman legions if the same width, pushing them back over a great distance as happened historically. Unfortunately the historical Romans formed deep to counter pikes – not encouraged in DBA where wide is the winning strategy.

Other people have been grappling with aspects of this before me. I did a quick spin through the electronic version of Slingshot, the Journal of the Society of Ancients, looking for inspiration. I found three articles about adapting DBA to the Macedonian and/or Punic Wars.

Jason Gibbons

Jason Gibbons (2003) was only concerned about the absence of the slow steady recoil of Hannibal’s Spaniards and Gauls at Cannae. He suggested making Hannibal’s Gauls and Spaniards Blade (I), i.e. make them Blade with a -1 combat modifier. Jason found this gave a good balance in a Cannae refight using otherwise standard DBA.

Jason also tried making the Roman’s Bd (I) as well, on the grounds they were recent levies, but found this tipped the balance in the Carthaginian’s favour.

Dave Reardon

Dave Reardon (2004) points out that DBA encourages Roman Bd to spread out and Macedonian Pk to form up two deep. Historically they formed up in the same depth. (I’d add that even against the relatively weak Carthaginian infantry the Romans formed deep.)

Dave suggests Bd get on +4 versus foot, with +1 for a second rank. The second rank is not eliminated if the first is.

A Phalanx, i.e. two Pk stands, must stay together for the duration of the game. This is not true for two Roman Legionnaire stands. This allows more flexibility to the Romans.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins (2002) offers a more radical Punic Wars variant for DBA. He added and changed lots of rules. I’ll ignore his suggestions to increase the size of the games as what I’m looking for is Roman, Punic and/or Macedonian flavour.

Mike added these modifiers for the Punic Wars:

+1 Spanish Ps versus other Ps1

+1 Hannibal’s Spanish Cv versus other Cv

+1 Hannibal’s Spanish Ax versus other foot

+1 Roman Triarii (Sp) versus other foot

+1 Roman Principes (Sp) versus foot

+1 to losing scores of 2 or more Roman Legions only

-1 Roman Penal Legions -1 Carthaginians Citizen Spears

+1 All Carthaginian Sp 2 deep

+2 All Carthaginian Sp in deep2 phalanx

+1 Roman Sp or Bd supporting Bd if from the same Legion

+2 Deep2 Roman Legion

+1 Ps supporting Bd, Sp, Ax, Wb, LH or El

+1 Ax supporting Ax, Bd, Sp or Wb


(1) Spanish caetrati (Ps) and cavalry could catch and beat the equivalent Numideans.

(2) Because Mike was playing big games his “deep” was four stands. That might only be three in more pure DBA. 2 rows deep is already covered by other modifiers.

John’s Wargames Page: Magnesia!

In his refight of Magnesia! John used these special rules:

  • No supporting elements.
  • Pikes are changed to +5 (foot) +6 (mounted) +4 (against shooting, or in close combat against Ps, Bw, Cv or Lh). They suffer a -4 penalty in bad going.


Collins, M. (2002, September). “Hannibal”: DBA for the Second Punic War. Slingshot, 224, p. 38-41.

Gibbons, J. (2003, July). Hannibal’s Hardmen and Varro’s Variables: Cannae Refight with DBA2. Slingshot, 229, p. 30.

Reardon, D. (2004, May). ‘Those thin on the ground Romans’ – DBA Legion Formations. Slingshot, 234, p. 40-41.

John. (2012, 21 Feb). Magnesia!. John’s Wargames Page.

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