DBA 3.0 – Beyond the Yangtse River

YesthatPhil came around with his Seljuk (or Seljuq) Turks, Timurids and Mongol Conquest armies to kick off the Yangtse narrative campaign. So General Ming Wu-chan 无情的铭 (The Merciless) took a contingent of troops to see them off. Tamberlaine actually died in 1405 on his way to fight them, so read to the end to see how they might have faired! He was aided indirectly by the Tibetans, and by the Seljuks and Mongols squabbling amongst themselves.

Game 1: IV/73 Ming Chinese 1350-1598 AD vs IV/75 Timurid 1360-1506 AD

Start State

IV/73 Ming Chinese 1350-1598 AD

General Ming Wu-chan (Cv), 2 Chinese cavalry (Cv), 1 Javelin men (Ps), 2 Chinese Halberdiers (4Bd), 2 Chinese crossbowmen (4Cb), 1 Bolt thrower (Art), 1 rocketeers (Art), 2 Chinese militia (7Hd). Arable: aggression 2.

Timurid light horse archers

Elephant approaches

IV/75 Timurid 1360-1506 AD

1 General Zombie Tamburlaine (Cv), 1 Elephant (El), 5 Cavalry (Cv), 3 Turkoman horse Archers (LH), 1 Sabadar archers (4Bw), 1 Militia archers (3Bw). Steppe: aggression 4.

The Ming defended, setting up their artillery in the centre of the battlefield and their cavalry on the left flank. Ming the Merciless’ cunning plan was to back the artillery with hordes , who would advance to protect the artillery from an untimely death if the enemy closed.

He need not have worried – the Timurids swung over to his left flank to overwhelm the inferior Ming cavalry, and shooting proved to be underwhelming. Below, we see Ming getting a merciless thumping from the Timurid elephant and friends.

Cavalry clash

Again, Ming charged off the hilltop to avoid being outflanked and hopefully initiate the combat at a five to three  advantage from the right flank. Again, it didn’t work!

Result: Ming (1-5) Timurids

Game 2: Mongol Conquest vs Tibetan

General Dargey Tamang was back in the saddle for this one, facing Mongols in one of their many iterations:

Mongol vs Tibetans

III/15 Tibetan 560-1065 AD

General Dargey Tamang (4Kn//Sp), 4 Tibetan cataphracts (4Kn//Sp), 3 Tibetan cataphracts (4Kn//Sp) or 3 Nepalese cavalry (Cv), 1 Nepalese cavalry (Cv) or  1 garrison spearmen (Sp) or 1 nomad horse archers (LH) or 1 mountain tribal archers (Ps) or 1 Nepalese swordmen (3Bd), 1 Nepalese archer (Ps) or 1 nomad nobles (Cv), 2 Tibetan cataphracts (4Kn//Sp) or 2 nomad horse archers (LH). Hilly, aggression 3.

This was such a heavy metal army that cavalry had to stand in for cataphracts, and I used a pin to mark the only cavalry element in the army. Phil’s Mongols are very jolly and brightly painted, having looted lots of silk on their journeys east. The rope thrower is waving the heads that he is planning to load into the bucket to hurl at the enemy. Charming!

Mongol Artillery 01

IV/35 Mongol Conquest 1206 – 1266

General Ghengis Khan¹ (Cv), 2 Mongol armoured cavalry (Cv) or horse archers (LH), 5 Mongol Horse archers (LH), 1 Mongol horse archer (LH) or rope pull stone thrower (Art), 3 Uighur, Khitan, Khwarizmian, or Chinese cavalry (Cv) or  3 Mongol horse archers (LH). Steppe, aggression 4.

Phil fielded 4 cavalry and 6 horse archers instead of 2, 3 or 5 cavalry and 5,6 with no artillery, 8 or 10 light horse. I’m sure it won’t be the last time either of us do that, and it made no difference. It depends on whether or not you think that the somewhat arbitrary divisions in the army lists are that important. I don’t.

The game started with the Tibetan steamroller trundling forward in a cloud of dust. The whole table rattled and the Mongols peeled off to both flanks to work their way around the Tibetan rear. The Tibetans responded by trundling on serenely and wheeling the right flank of their front line to catch the Mongol’s own left outflanking movement.

Tibetans attack Mongol Conquest centre

Tibetan right flank about to catch the Mongols

Ghengis had misjudged the speed of the Tibetans, but rallied quickly to catch them in front and rear. The Mongols bounced, and lost a light horse element. (1-0).

Phil kindly talked me through the peculiarities of DBA movement that meant a legal move needed the Tibetan element with the large banner to attack the rear light horse, then the small pennants had to do an Immelman turn to attack the front element. A less charitable opponent would have just watched me flounder and told me that I couldn’t do what I wanted.

Mongol Light Horse Recoil

In the centre, things were going badly for the artillery, as might be expected. Nobody likes skull-chuckers! It looked as if the Mongol camp might be ripe for sacking! (3-0)

Mongol cavalry destroyed

The game ended when the cataphracts on the right wing sauntered back into the surviving light horse, who were caught on the board edge and destroyed.  General Tamang was left wondering how many skulls could a skull-chucker chuck?

Result: Tibetan (4-0) Mongols.

Game 3: Seljuk Turks vs Mongol Conquest

Mongols advance against the Seljuks

My Mongols are not nearly as pretty as Phil’s: Mine are very brown and hairy, but are looking forward to a bit of plunder as they fight more battles. Spoiler – they didn’t get much after this one! I went for a five cavalry, six light horse mix and left the skull-chucker at home. The General is only pretending to be a cataphract, he is really cavalry.

III/74a Seljuq Turk Rum Army 1037 – 1276 AD

General Malik Shah with Mamelukes (Cv), 2 Askaris (Cv), 5 Turkoman horse archers (LH), 1 Armenian, Georgian or Kurd horse (3Kn or Cv), or Franks (3Kn) or Turkomans (LH), 2 Armenian or Kurdish foot (3Bw or Ps) or 2 Turkoman horse (LH), 1 Agulani (4KN) or 1 Dailami (4Ax) or 1 Turkomans (LH). Steppe, aggression 3.

General Malik Shah doesn’t have to pretend – he has 4 and 3Kn. Still, Genghis can take him! The Mongols defended and put down a minimum of gentle hills, then set off with cavalry in the first ranks and light horse in the second. With hindsight, the Khan might have had more success with the classic double envelopment, as the first rank cavalry were always going to be outclassed by the opposing Seljuk knights.

Seljuks clash with Mongols

The two opposing front ranks clashed. Malik Shah has wisely put his toughest (4Kn) element on the flank, supported by the (3KN) Georgians, and is expecting to win  the inevitable scruffy brawl on the odds. Ghengis‘ light horse on the left flank are looking for a gap that isn’t there yet.

First Seljuk Blood to the Mongols

Things have gone better than expected for the Mongols in the melée – the Georgians have been destroyed, but so has one of the Mongol light horse on the right flank and one of the cavalry in the centre (1-2). More Mongol light horse have filled the gap. What I should have done next was to put my general back into the line, with light horse fixing his opponent’s flank, but what I actually did was slip the two light horse in to reform the line. What was I thinking? The cavalry would have done the job better! Lack of experience was well to the fore there and the Mongols ended up losing (1-5) as Phil mopped up my general and one more element in his turn. Every day is a school day!

Result: Mongols (1-5) Seljuk.

Impetuous light horse sweep in

Post Game Chit Chat

  1. I used to own two cats – Genghis Khan and Attila the Cat. They were horrors too. This picture isn’t actually Attila, but it might as well have been.
  2. The final tally in the first game was 5-1 to the Timurids, with the Ming  leaving two artillery elements on the battlefield. This means that if a siege comes up, then they will have two captured elements of artillery to add to the siege.
  3. The Tibetans achieved an impressive 4-0 victory in Game 2, (as opposed to the previous Timurid marginal 5-1 victory 🙂  ) by ignoring the temptation to react to the Mongol plan, and relying on brute force to shrug front and rear attacks off. General Dargey Tamang can be a reckless rascal when he wants.
  4. The Seljuks took a massive 5-1 victory over the Mongols proving the exception to the rule “The army with the simplest uniform wins“. I snatched a massive defeat from the jaws of a smaller defeat by not realising that an element can always perform a flanking move when a hole has been punched in the enemy line, and being fixated on taking on the most dangerous element, rather than killing weaker ones .
  5. So in summary, three very enjoyable and instructive games with another opponent who knows what he is doing and is prepared to share tactics. Thanks, Phil!

Unfashionable City Breaks Three – Amsterdam


Previous unfashionable city breaks to Stuttgart for its Christmas Market, and Rotterdam for its modern architecture led us back to Amsterdam, as the 2022 host of Floriade.¹ Strictly speaking, that makes it a fashionable city, but the quaint and hip facade is only maintained by some seriously unfashionable engineering, from the system of pumps that maintain the canal flows and levels, to the piles and foundations that Amsterdam rests on. It’s what you have to do if you build little Lego brick houses on a sandpit and then put big steel and glass boxes and brick lined canals next to them. The picture above is the commonly accepted postcard view of Amsterdam, but turn one hundred and eighty degrees to the north, and you will see something more like this:

Station and Hotel

YesthatPhil tells me that Venetian palaces were built on rush mats “thick enough to stop the water oozing through them”, but the Dutch relied on brick and pile foundations backed by clay to line their canals.

Relining a Canal

Nowadays they import gravel and steel reinforced concrete with reinforced concrete and steel piles to do the job. We saw plenty of evidence of both. The water in the canal above won’t be going anywhere that it is not supposed to once the shuttering is removed. Look through the steel trusses to see the canal bed some twenty one feet (7m) below street level. If you cannot drive heavy plant through the narrow streets, there is always a handy canal nearby.

Relining Canal Bank

For a city that attracts hordes of cannabis devotees to its Coffee Shops, and worshippers of the partially clothed human form to the red light district, a robust cleaning plan and policing policy is needed. The canals are patrolled by this scoopy, grabby barge and street sweepers offer no quarter to litter in the streets.

Litter Barge

Haarlem, which is a short train ride away to the west, is quieter, even cleaner, and had a group of volunteer paddle boarders litter picking on the canal.

Litter Picking

My urge to concrete-sniff was sated by this concrete-hulled Houseboat, moored up in a quiet back canal.² Being Dutch, of course it had a green roof.

Concrete Houseboat

Amsterdam manages to be non-threatening by day, boisterous by night and a nightmare if you step off a pavement into a cycle lane. For the record, some of the best apple cake and coffee in the city is found in the Oude Kirke in the centre of the red light district. Mine came with a cheery little Wizard’s Staff painted in the foam on top.³

Coffee and Cake

Opposite, we were looking for electrically assisted tandems. We could have had tattoos too but settled for beer instead, which was uniformly excellent.

Bike Rental

The Jope, La Chouffe and Roode Laars stood out from the pack in the Chinese Quarter, as Did the Sechuan Cooking. The bars were cosy and had that lived-in corduroy suit feel to them.

Bar Life

One of the highlights at Floriade for me was a concept house made from bioplastics and organic rush materials.

Exterior waterproofing incorporated organic resins and a mycelium that self-heals to protect the surface. Roof materials absorbed water to feed green roofs, before shedding the excess into storage, and 3D printing was starting to make its way into building components. It’s all at concept stage now, but expect it at a DIY store near you some time in the next ten years!

Green Roof

This modern take on a cool cellar was rather fun.

The usual statement pieces were there in the centre of the Expo, but Suzanne made her way to the German Exhibition, which had obviously come to site as an IKEA flatpack, to sniff out Beer, Bratwurst and Frikadellen. I rather liked the “Tang Dynastie” takaway container. It would make a good DBA 3.0 Camp 🙂

Tang Dynastie

German Ikea build

  1. We started going in 1992. This is our fourth, and we are looking forward to 2032.
  2.  I was half of the 1979 Concrete Society inter-varsity Concrete Canoe Championships winning team, in a glassfibre-reinforced boat unoficially called “The Concrete Banana“. We were beaten in 1980 by a Dutch team in “Jack the Dripper“. Internationally,  Concrete canoes are still a thing.
  3. As in Terry Pratchett’s “The Wizard’s Staff has a Knob on the top!

DBA 3.0 – Tibetans Trundle Thunderously

Having been given a good thrashing by the Turks, the T’ang thought they would take it out on someone else instead. The Tibetans can field a pretty fearsome line up of 4Kn Cataphracts if they want. Fearsome, because they can dismount to form a spear wall if the initial cavalry charge doesn’t achieve the job.  They can also field about half of the line up as cavalry if the enemy decide to field Knight killers, and the T’ang have a few of those. Against them, The Southern Han or T’ang could field Elephants, Artillery, fast bows and blades, and solid crossbows with spears, plus a couple of cavalry.


III/15 Tibetan 560-1065 AD

General Dargey Tamang (4Kn//Sp), 4 Tibetan cataphracts (4Kn//Sp), 3 Tibetan cataphracts (4Kn//Sp) or 3 Nepalese cavalry (Cv), Nepalese cavalry (Cv) or  garrison spear men (Sp) or nomad horse archers (LH) or mountain tribal archers (Ps) or Nepalese swordsmen (3Bd), Nepalese archer (Ps) or nomad nobles (Cv), 2 Tibetan cataphracts (4Kn//Sp) or 2 nomad horse archers (LH).

I misread across lines and gave the Tibetans 5 cataphracts, they should have had 4, 6, 7 or 9 with corresponding adjustments in cavalry and or light horse to compensate – hey ho! It made little difference.

Southern Han 01

III/39 Late T’ang & 5 Dynasties Chinese 755-989 AD

General Sing T’ang (Cv), Cavalry (Cv), 2 Crossbows (4Cb),2 Archers (3Bw), 2 Spears (Sp), 2 Vanguard Swords (3Bd), 2 Militia (7Hd) or Southern Tribesmen (3Wb or if Zhuang 4Ax) or tribal horse archers (LH) or [if Southern Han , Elephant (El) + stone or bolt thrower (Art)].

Start positions

The T’ang were back on home ground (with a newly painted cardboard camp and an elephant with barely-dry paint). The Empress decreed that the elephant was too grey and needed more pink. This was fair comment, as it was a fantasy jobbie picked up cheaply. As in the Lord of the Rings film, it “still only counts as one“. The Halberdiers on 30mm deep bases to the bottom left of the picture below count as cataphracts.¹


The T’ang managed to form a line on the Built Up Area (BUA) with their stone thrower snugly in the HAMLET to the centre. General Dargey Tamang had managed to line his light horse up with the elephant, but it did him no good, as the Tibetan mounted charge bounced off the T’ang line in fine style. At least the light horse fled instead of being killed, as the cataphracts would have been.

Tibetan line recoils

The T’ang (or Five Kingdoms Southern Han) were in a comfortable position now. General Sing T’ang did some complicated things with his elephant and mounted stuff, to which the Tibetans were unable to reply due to a sudden pip famine. Look at all those cataphracts sat on the left flank doing nothing! Meanwhile, the cavalry were manfully trying to break a solid spear and crossbow line that the cataphracts had avoided. They had little luck and no satisfaction at all, with a couple of cavalry elements dying without breaking the spear line.

General Dergey Tamang Triumphant

Then it all went horribly wrong! The Elephant had set up the perfect double flanking pin on the Tibetan left wing. Their cataphracts were still lagging behind, and were unable to provide support.² The doomed cataphract element cheerfully ignored all that and rolled a six, to recoil everyone around him. The elephant recoiled into its own waiting pocket and obligingly died during the Tibetan turn. The stone thrower that had given good service in close combat loaded up with marshmallows and damp powder, firing to no effect whatsoever.

Dead Elephant

Suddenly the T’ang were three elements down and level pegging at 3-3, having come from a 3-0 lead, but fortunately for them, their crossbows dispatched a fourth Nepalese cavalry element to win the battle. The Empress looked surprised by her victory, but nonetheless accepted tribute of green tea and a Jammy Dodger.

Post game Chit Chat

  1. Without a doubt, the Tibetan cataphract element on the left flank was the man of the match.
  2. General Dargey Tamang should have put his cataphracts onto the right flank to have a chance of destroying the spear men.
  3. A better option might have been to take an all cataphract force and just rolled it into the T’ang line. When I have enough cataphracts, that is certainly going to happen. If it goes wrong, it will have the benefit of being very spectacular!


  1. Shades of Monty Python here; perhaps I should have loyal retainers with coconuts clip-clopping behind?
  2. I’m pretty sure that they were on a work-to-rule on account of not having been given horses!

DBA 3.0 – In Which the Twang Dynasty fires at Will, for Turkish Delight

Sometimes the old jokes really aren’t the best ones. Fresh from his victories (and defeats) at Britcon, Will Whyler came round with his scratch Turkoman “Turkish Delight” army for fighting Chinese. Will is of course, a complete gentleman, and also a seasoned player¹, so Suzanne and I had an instructive set of four enjoyable games.  Watching Will use his hordes as a shambling roadblock was very instructive, allowing his cavalry to get up to all sorts of flank mischief.

III11b (Other) Central Asian Turkish 550-1330AD

General (Cv), 2 Noble or Ghulam Cavalry (Cv), 6 Horse Archers (LH), Bactrian Camel Archers (Mtd-3Bw), 2 Levy Spearmen (Hd). Steppe – Aggression 3.

II4d Warring States (Other) Chinese 480 – 356BC²

General Long Ch’in (HCh), Chariot (HCh), Swordsmen (3Bd), 6 Ji Halberdiers (3Pk), Crossbow (3Cb), 2 Archers (Ps). Arable – Aggression 1.

III20c T’ang Chinese 618 – 755AD

General Ting T’ang (Cv), 3 Cavalry (Cv), 2 Horse Archers (LH), 3 Pu-ping (8Bw), 2 Pu-she (4Bw), Crossbowmen with Halberd (4Cb). Arable – Aggression 3.

Game 1 – The Turbulent River Delights the Soul

Game one saw the Turkoman defending steppe terrain with a river placed centrally across the board. Naturally, the first Ch’in Archers (Ps) to go paddling rolled a five, causing the river to become turbulent.

As the Turkoman army closed up to the banks, the light horse on their left flank probed across the river, initially being repulsed by the Ch’in Psiloi, but eventually forcing the crossing.

On the Turkoman right flank, The Ch’in general became impatient and having successfully defended the bank, threw his mounted troops over the river in pursuit, eventually winning the day.

In the centre, the Ch’in Archers picked their teeth, shot at the approaching hordes, and generally sat around defending the bank. Will and I both agreed, “no more rivers today!”

Now I really, really want  a marker to show raging torrents. Eventually, I remembered that I was supposed to be attacking and charged Will’s right flank with my chariots. I aced the die rolls and won the day, just! Regrettably, I was so excited that I forgot to take any pictures of this historic victory!

Game 2 – A Dry Land Brings  Thunder of Hooves

Turkoman hordes vs Chin fast pikes

Arable terrain game two. This time the Empress was untroubled by annoying terrain, as Will had chosen to start with most of it on his side.

As before, the Hordes shambled towards the rapidly advancing fast pikes in the hope of killing one of them for double points, as the cavalry did cavalry stuff on the flanks. Their dreams ended in a flurry of pike tips as things quickly got stabby in the centre.

The Chin centre gets stabby

The Turks had to work their way around a Tented HAMLET close to their camp, as they thundered across the parched land, raising an impressive cloud of dust. They  were hoping to catch the Ch’in in the open. The Empress was having none of that though,  counter-charging the hordes to get at the cavalry, once they got close enough. Fast pike really are fast when they have a level run up. Her Psiloi should really have dived into the rough, but the pips were needed elsewhere.

Where are all the Generals

Meanwhile, General Long Ch’in did a bit of outflanking of his own. He had forgotten that Light Horse can quick-kill Chariots (Kn), so died with a surprised look on his face! He was not the only one. The unnamed Turkoman general ran full tilt into the Ch’in fast blades like an apricot hitting a blender, but survived with a recoil! A wiser general might have taken that as a hint, but not wanting for courage, he counter-charged and died splendidly.

The Empress had not realised that killing hordes did not count towards victory points, so lost gracefully, having first made an Elegant Imperial Face of Mild Regret. Will knew what he was doing and won an economical victory.

Game 3 – Rice Paddies Reflect the Fires of Heaven

I managed to lose the die roll and defended. Hai-aaah! Out came the paddy fields and built up area.  Again, I was having too much fun for photos. I lost narrowly as Will’s light horse proved to be very slippery. The bow line proved its worth against a cavalry army as even though it killed nothing with shooting, it was a solid factor 4 against horse for the Bows in combat, so no horse came near. Or my memory might be failing me and I won narrowly. I don’t know, I was sober!

The photo below was the only one that survived and shows the T’ang and Turkoman cavalry having at each other with great enthusiasm.

Turkomans go Right Flanking

Game 4- Civilised Nations Stop for Tea

Setup Tang vs Turks

On grassy spring steppe slopes, The Empress’s second game saw the Turkomans riding Pell-mell for the flanks, and the hordes shambling towards the T’ang central bowline  (nobody actually shouted “braaains”, but had they done so, it would have fitted the cinematics perfectly.

Setup Turkoman vs Tang

Will is a cautious player by nature, and held his right flank back from the T’ang cavalry, who were on a hilltop, until his light horse had weaselled their way around the flank. At that point the T’ang cavalry charged, were pushed back up the hill, and defeated!

Tang advance vs Turks

General T’ing T’ang decided that the best place to conduct the battle was from a grassy knoll on the left flank. Doesn’t he look splendid?  His centre and right flank marched off to sort out the Turkoman cavalry, who sat on their own hill. Somewhere along the way, the Hordes were trampled underfoot, such is their lot in life. The bow line did not even break step.

Khitns go right flanking

The final picture below shows General T’ing T’ang’s last stand. If you are going to die gloriously, then being on a hilltop surrounded by barbarian Turks is as good as it gets! ³

General Ting Tang meets a sticky end

Almost unnoticed, the camelry on the left flank have polished off an element of T’ang cavalry. Will’s plan worked perfectly, giving him time to overwhelm the left flank as his zombie hordes collected arrows in the centre by the simple expedient of walking straight into them (4).

Arrow Riddled Horde

Post Game Chit Chat

  1. Mostly Pepper 🙂
  2.  We should have used II4e, but I sent “d“to Will, by mistake, so we used that.
  3. A cunning General with enough pips might have withdrawn to the bow line and swung its left flank into the Turkoman cavalry. Just saying.
  4. I can see the point of Hordes now!

DBA 3.0 – More Twang Dynasty vs Kittens

Setup Tang vs Khitan

The T’ang waste no time in advancing on the Khitans.

III20c T’ang Dynasty 618-755 AD

General Ting Tang (Cv),3 Cavalry (Cv), 2 Horse Archers (LH), [3 Pu-ping Bow (8Bw), + 2 Pu-she Bow (4Bw) + Crossbowmen with Halberds (4Bw)] or [2 Cavalry (Cv) + 4 Nomad Horse Archers (LH)]. Arable – Aggression 3.

II61d Khitan or Hsi (Liao) Dynasty 350-1000 AD

General No Fun (Cv), 2 Noble Cavalry (Cv), 8 Horse Archers (LH), 1 Skirmisher (Ps). Steppe – Aggression 2.

For the third and final game in this series, The T’ang Dynasty defended again. This gave the Khitans a relatively open left flank to deploy in, with an annoying series of paddy fields blocking any avenues for outflanking on the right.

Tang Cavalry Recoil

General T’ing T’ang deployed all his cavalry on the open flank, hoping to tempt the Khitans into a frontal attack. They bit! With only General No Fun and light horse, the Khitans forced their T’ang opponents to recoil along the line. Things were looking good!

Cavalry melee continues

General T’ing T’ang did restore some honour to the Chinese cavalry , but Khitan Psiloi were hot-footing it forward to join the mêlée. Suddenly, things were not looking good!

Tang Cavalry Recoil

The Psiloi arrived on the T’ang flank just as the Khitan cavalry crashed back in to engage General T’ing T’ang, with the advantage of an overlap. The T’ang bow line was dangerously close.

Tang bows in support

At the critical moment, the T’ang bow line engaged, fixed and destroyed the Psiloi, allowing the T’ang  cavalry to recoil most of the Khitan cavalry, leaving General No Fun isolated and overlapped again. At this point, the pips deserted him in his move. He managed to get his cavalry back into line, but then luck also deserted him, and in one round of mêlée he and another cavalry element died, ending the game. I sensibly refrained from suggesting that the Empress might make the tea.

Post Game Chit Chat.

  1. The benefit of ROUGH terrain was proved once more for the T’ang bow line, Which has proved to be tougher against cavalry than we were expecting.
  2. I was surprised that the T’ang cavalry were able to hold their own against superior numbers of Khitan light horse. On reflection though, they had been forced to double up and act as ersatz cavalry, which meant that a line of five Khitans were fighting a line of five T’ang horse.  Neither sides’ foot were able to significantly influence a cavalry battle that could have gone either way on the die rolls.  I can see the point of Psiloi now.

DBA 3.0 – Twang Dynasty being cruel to Kittens

YesthatPhil has been discussing auxilia surviving in bad and rough going as they get a poor rep in DBA 3.0, so it seemed like a good time to run the Khitans out against the T’ang Dynasty amongst lots of paddy fields. We cooked the books so that the T’ang Defended each time, and reasoned that if they were defending, they would take the foot option rather than a full cavalry army.

Maps of a semi-nomadic empire that spanned 650 years and moved its capital to Bejing are necessarily a bit fuzzy, but the one below gives a good idea of why the Khitans, with a largely cavalry army, failed to make much of a dent in the densely cultivated south.


III20c T’ang Dynasty 618-755 AD

General Ting Tang (Cv),3 Cavalry (Cv), 2 Horse Archers (LH), [3 Pu-ping Bow (8Bw), + 2 Pu-she Bow (4Bw) + Crossbowmen with Halberds (4Bw)] or [2 Cavalry (Cv) + 4 Nomad Horse Archers (LH)]. Arable – Aggression 3.

Tang Cavalry

Tang bows

II61d Khitan or Hsi (Liao) Dynasty 350-1000 AD

General No Fun (Cv), 2 Noble Cavalry (Cv), 8 Horse Archers (LH), 1 Skirmisher (Ps). Steppe – Aggression 2.

Khitan Light Horse

Khitan Cavalry

In the first game, the T’ang managed to place their paddy fields and built-up area Hamlet in a zigzag diagonally across the board. Apologies that these were just pieces of card (and not legal sizes as it transpired afterwards). The visuals were not great!  However, my superb Paint-shopping has rescued the day!

Starting Positions

Game 1: After their opening move, the Tang have closed off all avenues of approach!

The Empress reasoned that plough was only annoying on a roll of 1, whereas boggy ground and enclosures are ROUGH going and are annoying all the time, so she took three with a built up area, managing to fit in all four. The Khitans selected their clearest avenue of approach, but found it tricky to bring enough weight to bear in time.

8Bw Destroyed

Initial success saw the Khitan cavalry punch a hole in the 8Bw , but fail to dislodge them from the Built up Area.

Tang Cavalry Redeploy

The 8Bw in the built up Area managed to destroy one cavalry,  by shooting them off. The other headed for the T’ang camp . Meanwhile, the T’ang right flank was being stove in by superior numbers of light horse that had flooded through the gaps in the paddy fields. General Ting Tang, who was holding his own on the T’ang left flank, dispatched a body of cavalry over to assist. It was enough – the T’ang bows about faced to catch the Khitan cavalry in rear with shooting. Their own light horse had recoiled the Khitans in the enemy move to push them back into bow range. In the same move General Ting Tang had managed to catch and destroy two light horse elements, ending the game.

Tang Light Horse recoil the Khitans

For the second game, the Khitans selected their clearest avenue of approach, but again found it tricky to bring enough weight to bear in time.

Khitan Cavalry Charge home

Their only clear avenue of advance was a narrow gap that with careful manoevering, could just take a two element attack.  Undaunted, the Khitans got stuck in to the T’ang left cavalry flank with everything, gambling that they would break it.

Sadly, they did not, running short of pips when one cavalry element was recoiled and the light cavalry failed to reach the T’ang flank. The T’ang bows wasted no time in fixing the exposed Khitan flank, which resulted in the loss of General No Fun and one of his noble cavalry. Not a good start!

Finishing off the Khitan Cavalry

After that it was a foregone conclusion that the remaining cavalry element, with a double overlap, was not going to be doing any post-game looting or carousing!

So two victories to the T’ang. Being cruel to Kittens is not edifying, but sometimes, it just has to be done! Here is a picture of a kitten:

Twang vs Kitten

Post Game Chit Chat over tea and biscuits

  1. We concluded that rough and bad ground annoyingly placed give the edge to foot troops and seriously disrupt cavalry armies. Who knew? 🙂
  2. In the right circumstances, bows will more than hold their own against cavalry.
  3. If you are going to put cavalry into a doubled formation, make sure that your general is in the front, and there are no infantry in reach of your flank. It is just too embarrassing for words otherwise.

In other news, Will Whyler took his armies to Britcon, winning three and losing three. Apparently , Chinese armies (I/14d Chinese Border tribes, I/32c Other Chinese Armies), put a spanner in the works. I shouldn’t chuckle, but will have a look at them 🙂

DBA 3.0 – Shoe Dynasty meets the Yokel Neighbours to the South

Sui face the Koreans

The Sui above have their backs to us.

Sui Dynasty (III20b – 581 to 611 AD)

Most Favoured  General Sing Song (4Kn), Cataphracts (4Kn), Cataphracts (3Kn), 4 Pu Ping (Sp or 3Pk, or 8Bw), 4 Pu She Archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 Moho Horse Archer (LH), or (3Wb) or (Ps). Arable, Aggression 3.

Koguryo Koreans (II76 – 300 to 668 AD)

General Wat Yu See (4Kn), Cataphracts (4Kn), San Bae  (4 or 3Kn or LH), Armoured Archer (4Bw), 2 long spear (4 or 3Pk), 2 Militia (3Pk), 2 Militia Archers (3Bw)¹, Malgal  Archer (3Bw or Ps),  Malgal  Horse Archer (LH), or Halberd (3/4 Bd). Arable, Aggression O.

Her Most Serene Majesty ‘Tsu ‘Tzanne, expressed an interest in taking the Sui Dynasty out for a spin against the Koguryo Koreans. This pits two very similar armies of cataphracts (4Kn) and armoured cavalry (3Kn), with solid line infantry and bows, against each other to give a balanced game.

In the first game, I marched the Korean pikes straight into the centre of ‘Tsu ‘Tzann‘s spears, smashed into the line, but then lost catastrophically to overlaps because the Korean fast bows neither gave nor received support in close combat. Her Most Serene Majesty smiled, and commanded that I make tea as tribute, commensurate with my new status as a  vassal. It was an elegant victory and I don’t want to talk about it 😦

Wu-Zetian Tea

In the first game, the Sui defended despite a +3 advantage, so in the second game shown above when the Koreans defended, Most Favoured  General, Wat Yu See, ranked his solid pikes up centrally, backed by his fast pikes. Bows flanked these, and in turn, his knights flanked them. He wasn’t going to repeat the mistake that I made by charging in headlong.

Setup was pretty conventional in both games, with the Sui fielding a solid centre of spears, flanked by bows. In the first game, the Knights were shared equally to both flanks.  For the second game, General Sing Song’s cunning plan was to weight the right flank, anchoring the left flank on the river  backed by light cavalry to deal with any mounted breakthrough. All his knights were on the right flank. General Wat Yu See’s plan was to sit tight, and trust to the centre to hold firm.

The Sui right flank Knights trundled forward, and the Koguryo left flank held back, hoping to gain support from the foot (I had forgotten that they were 3Bw – serves me right 😦  ).

Knights Meet

Both centres edged forward until in bow range, then began to exchange fire. The Korean pikes seemed in no hurry to try their luck a second time, and the bows on both sides had fun recoiling the centres. It began to look like a barn dance, with opposing elements stepping to and ‘fro!

Sui and Korean centres recoil under fire

The issue was decided , as expected , by the Korean left wing caving in when General Wat Yu See died, but not before some close die rolls had seen the Sui knights recoiled.

The key combat

Undaunted, they piled back in to win the day. The Korean bows nearly averted the collapse by fixing the Sui Knight’s (3Kn) Right flank , who rolled their way out of trouble with an even score as they were fighting General Wat Yu See – (3Kns recoil 4Kns on a tie).

Cavalry Generals clash

A late charge by the Korean right flank came within an ace of destroying the two bows opposing them, but the horse recoiled and time ran out.

Sui R Flank charge

Post Game Chit Chat²

We discussed tactics over tea.:

  1. The Koreans have the option of taking four elements of Militia Fast Pike. Using their superior speed to attack the bows might have led to a different outcome?
  2. An element of 3/4 blades might have been more useful than light horse?
  3.  The later Sui  have the option of 6 Conscript hordes (7Hd), that may prove harder to defeat with unsupported pikes than the initial numbers suggest? Must give them an airing.


  1. I was using anachronistic later Korean 4Bw instead of the correct 3Bw so that Suzanne could see that it was a Korean army (and because “they are pretty”). She still hammered me!
  2. Chi’t Cha’t is a Chinese warrior monk, who has yet to make an appearance.

Garden Wargaming 8 – War!

Fort Rottonwood Destroyed

A lot has been going on in Piedmont recently, with rascally Pirates attacking and destroying Fort Rottonwood. The Same Pirates tried attacking Fort Redwall, but were driven off, and de Barros troops mounted a daring commando raid by air to capture the secret pirate base.

Pirate Base Captured

A mysterious green brute with unfashionably short ragged trousers has been rampaging through the Pattipan Forest. The Fortean Times has dubbed this creature “The Improbable Hulk”.

Mayhem in the Pattipan Forest

Peidmontese soldiers have been found stuffed head first into upturned buildings – they are not happy about that – and finally, a force of rampaging soldiers, believed to be from de Barros, has invaded, pushing deep into the Pattipan Forest, with heavy casualties reported.¹

de Barros Invasion

This has been widely reported in the quality press, with de Barros reports that “The Piedmontese did it to themselves” being treated with barely concealed mirth. Piedmontese forces claim to have destroyed a fiendish armoured tracked vehicle that they are calling “a Tank“. This report has not been independently verified.

Brave Piedmontese Defenders

A strongly worded diplomatic message has been sent to the Minister for War and Lego, along the following lines:

Your Excellency,

I regret that unless de Barros troops withdraw immediately from our Sovereign Territory, we must consider ourselves at war. All de Barros Diplomats are being expelled from Piedmont, and our own embassy is closing. Kindly reply by tea-time tomorrow. If no reply is received, we will call on our  allies for military assistance and formally declare war to expel you from our territory.

Yours faithfully


The Fortean Times is leading with this headline:

UFO Sighted over Fort Rottonwood!

Shocking New Pictures!!!



  1. A peculiarity of the Piedmontese flora in these parts is that it varies wildly from one growing season to the next. Scientists have theories about this and cartographers have nightmares. For example, the savage mice on Savage Mouse Island have been hunted to extinction, and maize grows there now.  Map sellers are very content, as a season-old map is pretty useless to anyone except historians and map collectors. In compensation, perhaps, Piedmontese stamps never vary, and are described by philatelists as “very dull indeed”. In stark contrast, the Forbidden Forest mostly comprises apple trees from one year to the next.

Doctor Evile’s Shout-along Blog


It is not what you know, so much as who you know. At first, Doctor Evile’s links to Doctor Horrible and the Evil League of Evil were not suspected. When characters began to appear in widely separated places with no time at all for travel, the presence of  gateways from one place to another was deduced. Investigators on the scene of the incidents (or crimes, as thefts of high tech equipment were often involved) began to discover traces of Wonderfelonium. This discredited the theory that the holes were powered by Handwaveium, and these gateways were quickly dubbed “plot holes” as they began to appear more and more frequently.  Who knew?


What the Doctor¹ was planning was still a mystery. The African country of Bokassa was reputed to be totally under his control, although reports were contradictory . It didn’t help that nobody was quite sure where Bokassa actually was on the map. “Somewhere in the middle, or perhaps the edge” was the consensus of opinion. Reports of business takeovers and raids into neighbouring territories fought for space with idle speculation and unfounded opinion. In summary, no-one knew.


  1. Not those Doctors. Who?

DBA 3.0 – More Twang Dynasty – Mostly Cavalry

General Tsu Tsan

Following on from the last post’s rather splendid print of a Chinese heroic general leading a cavalry charge, here is my 15mm version of him from Essex, I think, with a couple of Minifigs sidekicks. The trumpeter blows his trumpet into the ear of the cavalryman beside him when ranked up. I still find that old chestnut amusing. The banner is a Ching dynasty (1615) one, but hey!

Chinese Dynasty Flags

The Ch’in¹ dynasty started dressing their convict infantry in a sort of scruffy cochineal red, and this seemed to become common as a military sort of colour by the Han dynasty.² My gouache paint box has a nice set of crimson, red and orange that together give a rich red effect in 15mm.

Three elements of Cavalry

The flag above is actually a Tang dynasty one.

Armoured cavalry element and Korean heavy cavalry

Pale and navy blue silk seem to have been common too, so they went into the mix. The Korean cavalry on the left are from Essex, and the Armoured cavalry on the right are Minifigs. As the Koreans maintained older traditional Chinese styles, they work for me as Chinese cavalry too.

Essex light horse

The light horse above are all from Essex. As the dynasties progressed and dissolved into warring factions, horsemen from the north and steppes were incorporated into the Chinese military machine. That’s fine, because a lot of the cavalry that I was able to purchase were listed as Mongols and Turkomans.

15mm Essex Korean Archers

To distinguish the Koreans, Green and purple shades were adopted. This makes them more visible than the usual black tunics and white under-smocks.

Peter Pig Goblins pretending to be Chinese peasant Psiloi

The peasants were painted white, which together with painting their pointy ears black and giving them white headbands, helped to disguise Peter Pig’s Goblins/Orcs as Chinese. Not painting the eyeballs red helped too. It still wouldn’t fool Legolas or Gimli though.³

  1. Ch’in is rendered as Qin by Wade-Giles in their romanisation. Why? For anyone who cares, Hanyu Pinyin is probably more useful and will be used here. Suffice to say … it’s complicated, and arguments about spelling and pronunciation are  guaranteed to start bar fights.
  2. The Hans also beat Darth Vader and the Waffen SS to it by adopting lacquered black armour as a cool military colour. I went with dark blue to avoid them looking as if they had just been undercoated.
  3. The reason I own goblins at all is because they were going to give Trebian’s Garden Gnome army someone to fight, but somehow it just never happened. I’m not one for throwing things away, so they were repurposed. Who am I kidding? I love the little scamps!

De Bellis Antiquitatis 3.0 Chinese Armies (Twang Dynasty)

HCh Gen 02

Heavy Chariot General, with paper tiger skins and barding, and a scratchbuilt chariot in 15mm.

The original purpose of this blog was for games of silly spacemen, AKA Science Fiction, but it has been diverted to become everything wargaming that is not NQM (Not Quite Mechanised). I was invited to Will Whyler’s Birthday Bash, so had to learn DBA 3.0 pretty sharpish. To my surprise, Suzanne also expressed an interest in the game, as she is an avid consumer of Korean and Chinese drama.

Thus, the Twang Dynasty was born.¹

HCh Gen 01

More scratchbuilt chariots. The crew is magnetised.

Before I knew it, my games table was overrun by 15mm Minifigs, Irregular Minis and Essex … all shouting “Twang“. Work in progress pictures follow. I ran a spreadsheet on the four DBA 3.0 Army list books, to work out what needed to be built to allow every variation of the Chinese Dynasties to be fielded.  Given that my first ever Chinese army used War of the Roses figures and had two dinosaurs towing one of the chariots, I wasn’t too worried about veracity.

4Kn x 2 and 4Kn Gen Northern tribes

4Kn Mongol General and two 4Kn elements that can trundle across several northern armies as required.

Also, Suzanne cannot see small detail, so bright colours and pattern recognition were more important factors than exact detail. Coupled to that, I was limited by the numbers of Minifigs (my preferred manufacturer) that were available at short notice. I reasoned that the Koreans and Northern Chinese were pretty much vassal states, so could use Chinese troops too. I think that I’ve got away with it.

Hd7 Dixon 15mm

7Hd Peasants. Actually 14Hd (Count ’em). These Dixon 15mm figures are some of my oldest, dating back to Armati days.

Pictures are all work-in-progress. I have the block colours laid down and matt spray varnish prior to inking and gloss varnishing. The flags were printed and painted over. First few pictures above, more to follow.


This is what I was aiming for in my mind. Chortle!

I also owe a debt of gratitude to YesthatPhil for being very patient with me when learning to play. He is a long-time, experienced DBx gamer and didn’t roll his eyes too often when explaining some pretty basic concepts. To be fair, he has been urging me to play for years.

  1. Historians and sensible folk will recognise it more readily as the Tang Dynasty.


Being an unreliable recount of Doctor Evile’s plan to conquer the world.

 Contains Pygges, Scary Lasers and both sorts of robots!


It all started in school, as these things often do, with the usual backstory of a socially maladjusted genius, bullied and thwarted in love. He, she, or it took their revenge and headed off to an evil laboratory, after making their fortune by taking over the biotech company that employed them, and rebranding it as Drevile Industries™. There are no reliable pictures of Doctor Evile in existence- their Alma Mater burned down in suspicious circumstances, close work colleagues met unfortunate accidents, servers exploded. Mysteriously, classmates and teachers have no recollection of Dr Evile, whose  true name is lost to the records.

Anecdotally, Dr Evile’s greatest difficulty came from registering  with the Evil League of Evil, when it transpired that Doctors Doom, Evil, Fury, Horrible, Impossible and Terrible were already registered as professional identities. It is rumoured that Dr Evile (a.k.a. Evil, Eville) is actually registered as Dr Annoying, but this too is impossible to verify.

The Pigs began to appear when Drevile Industries filed patents for a theoretical chimera of a human-pig hybrid (Listed as a Pygge©) for medical organ transplants.


Drevile Industries™ denied all knowledge of human-sized, aggressive creatures  that committed organised violent crime on an industrial scale. They were rumoured to be experimenting with Wolf and Lizard DNA, and with adding chlorophyll as skin pigmentation, which they also deny. The rumours continue to mount to this day.

The following poor quality photos were found on the mobile phone of a deceased Drevile Industries™ employee following  a closed staff meeting. No  individuals have ever been identified conclusively.

Why does it smell of wet dog in here?

‘Why does it smell of wet dog in here?’

Although two of the females identified bear striking similarities and may be related, they are not thought to be the same individual. Some believe that Dr Evile may be the individual wearing a skull shirt with their back to the camera.

Are you sure it is from my lab Doctor? Mine don't usually have four ears!
Are you sure it escaped from my lab, Doctor? Mine don’t usually have four ears!

The unattributed photograph below was found in film stock washed up on a Madagascar beach. It is believed to belong to a missing photo journalist and purports to show a mysterious secret lair deep in the  African interior. Accompanying photographs of road signs to a Drevile Industry employees car park are thought to be unconnected.

Dr Evils secret Lair

DISCLAIMER – Any assertions made in this Publication  should be fact-checked against a reliable source, such as The Fortean Times, Facebook or Fox News. The Press office for Pigs in Spaaace can be found behind the Little Ale House in Wellingborough. Office Hours are 1600-1800hrs on Fridays. If closed, then the staff may all be at the Little R’Ale House, having not returned from the Friday Staff Meeting. The deadline for complaints was yesterday.

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