Monday, 16 November 2015

Dux Bellorum

Back in October of last year I played a couple of games of the popular Dark Age rules, Dux Bellorum, and really enjoyed them. By now you'll find lots of  DB reviews and AARs elsewhere. I've included some game photos here, but they are just for decoration as what I really want to talk about is aesthetics. The rules are very period-specific and one of their major appeals to me is the look of the armies. DB is one of those games which requires relatively few bases (phew), but they can be big and dioramic (huzzah). Think DBA on steroids.

Utilising what I already had available, we played one game with my 15mm Late Romans and Welsh (pictured below) and the other with my 6mm Late Romans and Goths. Despite the difference in scale, both these games were fought with figures based on 40mm frontages betraying their WRG origins. Using 1 base = 1 unit, both games fitted within a compact 2' x 2' arena.

Single-rank, evenly based 15mm figures. Perfectly usable
but they just don't cut it aesthetically, especially when
using 1 base = 1 unit.
Now, as I've said before, I really do not like the look of single-base units with only a single-rank of figures, so the 6mm figures - based in two ranks - presented a vastly better spectacle IMO. Even so, they were products of the old WRG basing tradition in which even barbarian armies look neatly spaced and ordered and at regulation density.

Since the introduction of Impetus and its big bases, however, our eyes have been opened to a more dioramic approach, and a quick Google of Dux Bellorum images reveals some superb examples of raggedy battle lines, particularly in the smaller 6mm and 10mm scales.

For DB I would have a couple of ranks with a few extras at the front for 'Warriors' and at the rear for 'Shieldwall'. But this depth has to be balanced by adequate width so that each base/unit suggests a battle line.

Capturing this look might require 60mm x 30mm bases (and a 3' table) if using 6mm figures and 80mm x 40mm bases (and a 4' table) if using 10mm figures. The ranges available in 10mm are slightly more extensive (e.g. Pendraken has Picts), but keeping the playing area to 3' x 3' would be more convenient at home and better fit my current enthusiasm for more compact games. One possibility would be to compromise by using 10mm figures on 60mm x 40mm bases.

Why so deep you may ask? Well it should allow for some irregularities with a view to creating  a more animated impression. It will also allow me to stagger the horses on cavalry bases. Another possibility is to have different depths for close-order infantry, skirmishers and cavalry as in Impetus. I haven't yet decided what options I'd pursue and would probably need to play around with some actual figures before deciding.


Author's blog
Forum for Dux Bellorum and Lion Rampant
Dux Bellorum at BoardGameGeek


  1. It's a good set of rules, isn't it? Look forward to seeing how your project develops.

    1. So much to do - so little time! However, with my planned basing-before-painting approach it's theoretically possible that I might be able to start the project this year...