This is game which I bought in 2013 or so but had never played but wanted too. DBN is based on the DBA rules, which I do like but is it’s own game which has been modified to cover the Napoleonic period. The rules are produced by KISR Publication and you can see their site and get the rules from their website here: http://www.dbnwargaming.co.uk/. With me having both a completed Prussian force and now having enough of a French force finished to play, Ernie and myself managed to try these out just before Christmas. So this is a quick review/write up of the first couple of games we played.
First, some background. DBN is a self contained rule set, but is very much based on the DBA model created by Phil Barker and currently in the V3, although a lot of people still play V2.2+, which is also a great game. Although self contained, I will say that knowing DBA really helps understand the DBN concepts. If you you were a wargaming ‘newbie’ then I would not recommend starting with these rules without someone who can teach you the game. DBA is a better starting point. That said, the rules are clear and fairly concise. We played two games with very few questions or issues. We looked up a couple of things but nothing that major. A better QRS for all the aspects of the game would be a great idea though – one I may do myself. The scale of the game is each element/base is basically a small group of historical battalions – so approx 2000+ foot or 1250 foot. This is the same representation of battle size as Blucher or Field of Glory Napoleonic version.
The standard game has 12 ‘element equivalents’ per side – which means that if using the lists provided most forces will have between 12 and 16 elements on the table. I do like the army lists provided as they cover all the period from the start of the French Republic to Waterloo, so the 1794 to 1815 period. That’s nice as many games avoid the pre-1805 time period which is a shame. Elements are what you’d expect, with line muskets , light troops, different types of cavalry (light, heavy etc.) and artillery. One interesting aspect is you can have militia/elite tags on the standard elements. Basically these are ratings and add a -1/+1 for all the units combat factors. This also changes the element equivalence of the unit, as a militia is a worth half an element less and elites half more. This allows for the rules to reflect of quality and number of units in armies easier than just the basic 12 elements of DBA. You can see the start of our first game below (both are 1813 forces) with the Prussian near the camera and the French on the other side.The basic game, command and control, combat and move rules will be familiar to anyone who has played DBA or DBM etc. There are some differences from other DBx games here though. One of the interesting tweaks to the standard rules is that a unit gets it’s full move only if the front edge moves forward of it’s starting point, otherwise it moves at half speed. Other minor changes are in such things as formations, which include attack columns, but also impacts for the rear element in such a column if the first one is destroyed. Another is that all elements can make 2 moves a turn as long as they are far enough away from the enemy, some can make even more.
So in our first game I was the Prussians and as the attacker I had to go on the offense (yes there is a rule that as the attacker you have to move at least one unit towards the defender each turn till they get within a certain range). That’s the penalty for seeing your opponents deployment – you have to at least try to close with your opponent. They can do what they want as the defender as with other games. Over a few turns I moved my 2 big formations of troops in the center and right forward, with support of the artillery. In counter to this the French cavalry moved around the hill to threaten their flank.This could leave the other side of the table somewhat held back by me, but decided I move up the troops on that side as well. That was partly because the French forces on that flank had advanced, with more cavalry as well as their light infantry.One other major changes from typical DBA games is that you can use hits vs. recoils in combat. This is a recommended option and the one we used. Each unit has 3 hits before it’s destroyed and at 2 hits it’s shaken which makes it worse in combat. This is a simple but very powerful mechanism. Most successful shooting will cause a single hit – doubling an element will cause 2. So, shooting becomes a slow attrition affair, with time/other tactical factors having a big effect. We used dice to mark these hits in our games. A my advance moved forward on the left hand side of the table my infantry line powered through the French screen of troops. Poor pip rolls on the French part helped blunt their response as well.On the other side my troops were not fairing as well. As my first line closed the French, their artillery started shooting – which eventually caused a hit on one of my musket units. Meanwhile, the French cavalry charged down my guns. In close combat troops recoil if defeated as in DBA but the hit system still is used as well. Of course like DBA there are some results which cause a unit to be destroyed no matter what, and artillery losing in close combat is one such case. I had to spend multiple pips to try to protect my flank from these successful French horsemen.All this meant that when the Prussian muskets got to the French line they were overlapped on either side. In the following shooting over a couple of turns this started to tell. As the troops shot on either bound things can start to do badly quite quickly. So soon the Prussian elements on either side were soon shaken. At this point the French line then advanced into close combat to finish the Prussians. After fighting was over I was down 2 elements and that was the game. The central Prussian unit was the only one victorious with the Prussian General’s personal involvement making the difference there.This game took approx an hour so we swapped sides and played again. In the second game the Prussians got to attack again, this time Ernie taking the offensive. But I used the French cavalry with the light infantry to try to blunt the combined Prussian cavalry advance on the French right. This worked to an extent, but the Prussian guns together with some decent tactics meant that things were very even on that side. In the end the Prussians lost 3 elements worth of troops on that side, while I lost 2.The Prussian line started to advance as I decided to try move one of the French cavalry units across the battlefield. i tried this to get an extra horse unit into the cavalry battle mentioned above. This sort of worked but in the end but my moving French cavalry got caught with a flank artillery shot so too a hit. But they did have an effect on hat side so it was worth it. It was enough for me in the end to blunt and destroy the Prussian cavalry. Meanwhile the Prussian line advanced and the forces got into musket range. The French art again did there stuff and eventually managed to get enough hits on a Prussian militia unit in the formation moving forward that that was the game. In return the Prussian artillery had killed a French elite infantry unit so it was a close run thing for me.That meant that the French army won both games, with each of us winning while playing the French!
So overall, both of us liked the game. We will play this again, which is nice to say after having owned the game for a couple of years and having high hopes for it. Like DBA it allows multiple games in an evening without too many painted troops. The tactical aspects are definitely in the game – the PIP control aspect is like all DBx games. There are also enough differences to make this not feel like a DBA game, but feel familiar enough for players who know that rule set. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes DBA and wants to play Napoleonic games but to do it without the desire to paint all the figures typically required for the period. The period specifics and changes for this rule set do mean that although using a very familiar basis for the game it does feel different and it has a nice flow. There are lots of optional extra rules which add more flavor and detail as well.
After 2 games though we did have a couple of minor comments which are worth mentioning though. They are more likely just aspects of the game but we found them interesting, so I note them here. First is that many of the ‘typical’ units in the – the artillery, light infantry, muskets, and most battle cavalry have starting combat factors of either +3 or +4. This makes overlaps and militia/elite factors very important. This is something to be aware of when playing as there is less variation in factors of troops than in the ancient games. This maps well to what you see in other games when thinking about this but it is interesting. The second thing we found is that the 4 element equivalent (i.e. 1/3 of the army) winning point seemed a little early/light for Napoleonic battles. Maybe using 1/2 of elements may be better. Now this may just make longer games but it did feel little early in the game for a win after playing various games in this period. That’s a minor change though and one which we’ll see over time.
So there we are. I hope you found this interesting, and we definitely will be playing more games of this I think.