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No Surrender!

A report of the Italian DBMM International Team Championship 2014

By Herbert Wong


Thanks Lorenzo and the Milanese players for holding the annual Italian DBMM Team Champion (ITC) for the DBMM players.  The event in 2014 was grand and well received by those who have attended.  It is a team championship using the Swiss System with each of the four players in every team playing in each of the four DBMM game pools.  We formed our team Yellow Dragons” to participate in the 2013 championship.  Our team ranked 7th out of 18 in the team classification in 2013.  This year we formed the team again with the same three Chinese teammates and a new teammate, Mr. Mark Gibson coming from N.Ireland.  With:

Mark Gibson playing in Pool 1 with L.Sargonid Assyrian

Andrew Lam playing in Pool 2 with Alexander Imperial

James Cheung playing in Pool 3 with Early Byzantine

Herbert Wong playing in Pool 4 with WotR English

Before going to Milan, we had played more than one hundred practice games in Hong Kong after the 2013 Championship.  Let’s go to Milan.  For glory!

Training and Army List Selection

My training and preparations for the Championship began shortly after ITC2013.  My Later Hungarians did well in the competition last year.  I was hoping for a better result this year.  I had decided to try my luck in the Medieval Pool again. The Medieval Pool is probably the most complex one among the four pools.  Complex because the army lists have a lot of variants and sub-lists with many different army compositions and possible combinations of troop types.  Almost all the Superior Grade troops types are present in armies of Pool 4 with BwS and KnS in domination.  On one hand, BwS can destroy targets in range by shooting at them but they can be quickly killed by charging Kn and will lose two ranks if defeated.  On the other hand, KnS can smash and destroy almost every troop types just by frontal attack but they are expensive in terms of army points, plus they will flee if they have lost their close combat against Bow.  That left me with two choices when selecting my army: either it is able to defeat these two dominating troop types, or I have to field both of these two troop types in my army.

I had tested several armies for suitability.  The first one was Serbian Empire, which is an irregular army with lots of IKnS, plus plenty of LHO and PsO, which are well suited for securing the flanks and supporting the Kn’s charges.  I found it unsuitable after practising with it for more than 3 months because the numerous Impetuous Irregular Kn in this army must pursue most of the times and they need too many PIPs to change directions or to hold them.  Most of the opposing regular armies in the trial games just simply slipped away before my knights were in a position to charge them.

The photos here are from one of my training games using Serbian Empire (vs. 100YW English).



The other ones I tested were the French Ordonnance, Later Swiss, Ghurid, etc. but I also found them unsuitable for reasons such as: not suiting my playing style, mediocre table-top performance in fighting against the BwS and KnS combo, etc.  In September 2013, I switched to the Ottoman Turks, which is an army with comprehensive troop types capable of dealing with all kinds of situations in my test games.  I even started painting them. 


However, there are two weaknesses in this army list.  Its compulsory choices had taken up too many army points, leaving only around 100 pts for me to field other troops.  The predominant troop type for this army. is Cv which is not that good for battles in Pool 4.  I have to heavily rely on the handful of Serbian Knights in this army to act as the striking hammer to break the enemy in a head-on battle.  Once they are gone, I will lose the attack momentum.  

The photos here are from one of my training games using Ottoman Turks (vs. Early Burgundians).

It was a hard decision to switch to another army again as it was almost January 2014 and the Chinese New Year long holiday would be coming soon.  Then I found that the army War of the Roses English (“WotR”) was capable of fulfilling all my requirements.  Among the Book 4 armies, It has adequate number of good shooting troops, some good quality Knights, which will be useful in case of need.  Even better, its BdS and BwS can support each other when fighting against Foot.  Most important of all, regular commands!  I had finally made up my mind to use this army.

Army Tactics

WotR has its strengths and weaknesses.  Its Army ME is small, it is short of Psiloi, and most important, it needs to wear down its enemies primarily by shooting.  I would like the enemies coming forward against my army from a narrow frontage, preferably from where I expect them to come.  My prepared positions will be waiting for them.  I have set up these positions with a wider frontage than theirs, so that I can maximize the combined firepower of my BwS and RArtI. for maximum combat effect in the killing grounds.  As WotR has a low aggression factor of one, I would be the defender most of the time and therefore could place a lot of terrain pieces in a way to create the aforesaid killing grounds.  I came up with a new idea to use a Isolated Tower (that is a BUAf, 40x40mm, costing 10AP), that forbids enemy elements setting up within 12cm of it before the battle.  BUAf can be placed within the enemy deployment area.  The whole purpose is to heavily reduce the area that the enemy troops can deploy in their deployment area by placing a BUAf nearby.  If I am lucky enough to place it there, I can use it to distract the enemy deployment plan, or even channel them to the killing grounds.  In one test game, my Burgundian Ordonnance enemies could only deploy with 1 command in the front, to be followed by the other remaining two commands.  I could just concentrate all my shooting against the enemy front command, and broke it before the second command took its position.  I finally broke his army by fighting with 3 of my commands against each of his commands in turn,  i.e. typically 3:1 odds of attack.

If the enemy did not follow my ploy, I would make good use of the terrain and my regular troop’s abilities to outshoot the enemy by fighting on battle grounds with a wider frontage than that of the enemy, where my boys can provide aid-shooting to the primary shooters.  No matter how, my plan was to avoid close combats as long as possible. Close quarter fighting is never the strength of WotR.  As my army did not have any Psiloi, the task to clear the Difficult going of enemy troops would be left to my BdS and BwS where necessary.

In summary, my tactics were to make use of terrain and my BUAf to channel the enemy approach, wear it down by shooting before commiting my troops into close quarter combat. The theory here waited to be proved in the coming tournament.

Tournament Games

Game 1 vs Early Crusaders “The Duels Between Elites”

WotR were the defender and I had placed the tower close to the Crusaders deployment zone. During the setup, WotR placed their Command B, Command A and Command C from left to right  as shown in the photos.  The Crusaders placed their BdS command directly in front of my tower, obviously he wanted to storm the tower with his heavy foot.  The Crusaders ISpI command was placed in the upper left in the photos, as reserves in the rear and the Knight’s command was placed in the upper right facing the open.

WotR had 2 plans.  Plan one was to move Command B to face the ISpI and destroy them by shooting.  However, since the enemy spear command had been deployed in the rear, if I moved my Command B towards them, I might exposed my flank to the Crusaders counterattack, which sounded risky.  The alternative was to use the tower to draw the Crusaders BdS towards the tower.  Then my KnS and General would advance and attack them.  They had a good chance of killing a few of these 2ME BdS, and that would break this Command.  Therefore, I chose the second plan.

The photos below were taken after the Movement Phase of bound 2. The Crusaders were ready to storm my tower with RBdS supported by PsO.

WotR Knights of Command B took up and reached the flank cover position, the King with his Royal Guard regiment (all RKnS) were ready to charge those Bd storming my tower. Crusader CinC with RknO reached position to cover the flank of the Spear command and part of the BdS tried to take the RH.

The Crusader BdS proved to be a hard nut to crack.  WotR knights had been repulsed several times and took casualties. The WotR CinC was lucky to survive a hard flank attack and carried the day later.  On the other hand, 2 Crusader BdS bravely stood in the flank, attacked and saved their Command from breaking.  In the mean time, the WotR tower has fallen after repeated Crusader assaults.

Crusader Sub Gen challenged the WotR CinC and advanced against him without any troops protecting his flank.  He was killed in the next bound by the WotR CinC hard flank attack (the first personal combat). The 2 Crusader BdS finally were slaughtered by the third attacks into their flank and their command was broken. However one of the WotR dismounted Knights was killed by a hard flank attack as well, the fight kept going with the WotR gaining the upper hand.

Finally the WotR CinC fought another personal combat with the Crusader’s CinC.  Fighting against the Superior Grade mounted, with enemy overlapping its flank, plus the enemy rolling a SIX for the combat, the Crusader commander was killed.  As a result, the whole Crusader army was broken.

Game Summary

The WotR tower was a distraction to the Crusader’s plan, it attracted his attention and the Crusader had committed a whole command to storm and attack it. It created an opportunity for the WotR to fix a decision point and commit their elites as well. The narrow frontage of the battlegrounds had favoured the WotR as they had only a handful of their elite Knight units, the Crusader had committed their elites set piece (first came the BdS, then came the KnO, and finally their commander) and their Commands were broken one by one.  However the tower had fallen quickly, plus the tough fighting of the BdS exerted lots of pressure to the WotR side, to the extent that even their CinC had been hard flanked.  He survived only because of luck.

Game 2 vs Ghurid “No Surrender!!”

“I was losing the battle at 5 o’clock, but I won it back at 7!”   Extracted from the film “Battle of Waterloo” when Napoleon commented on his Battle of Marengo.

I have played Ghurid in my test games, with the impressions that their IPkX were good vs BwS, Kn and other troop types except BdS. They can only fight up to 3 ranks, not 4 ranks.  They  do not have enough punching power to prevail against BdS.  Don’t forget that Pike can be quick killed by Bd in enemy bound.  Therefore I did not choose to use this army in ITC.  So when I knew that I would fight Ghurid in this round, I thought before the game that I had a good chance of winning.

As usual, WotR defended and deployed first.  Unfortunately I failed to place my 2 roads and consequently the tower could only be placed near the short table edge.  It did not serve its intended purposes for the whole game.  I had set up my army on the right hand side and Ghurid had deployed on the opposite corner.  When we started to play, I rushed my army towards the open area on the left hand side.  I intended to take the gentle hill if possible, or attack the Pike blocks from their flank. I sent my ILHO to take the gentle hill first, to be followed by my bowmen.  With hindsight, it was a big mistake to do so.  It made me to move these elements of my command A to the open and had stretched my line too wide and thin.  I also lost the mutual supports from my Command B that had set up on the far right hand side.  Even worse, my ILHO was no match to Ghurid’s ILHS and my BwS was no match to Ghurid’s PkX.

Ghurid commander wisely took advantage of the opportunity and sent all his forces to storm against my thin defense line.  I lost my ILHO quickly to Ghurid’s ILHS and my bow line could not be held too long against Ghurid PkX.  With the WotR RBdS on the way to reinforce my front line, the situation looked grim for the WotR.

In the mid game, my WotR army was close to being broken.  Its Command A had lost 12 ME out of 36 and its Command A had lost 4 ME out of 12.  Both of them became disheartened and were on the verge of being broken.  In addition, the WotR Baggage Command was looted by the Ghurid Light horse!  Meaning that 1 or more ME loss on either Command A or Command C would break the WotR army.  At this moment, the Ghurid losses were mild, my guess was probably only 2-3 ME. Several times I wanted to throw in my white towel and take a break.

My team spirit reminded me of my responsibility to other team members.  Even a few points more for this game mattered, as every point counted for my team’s final score, so keep on playing until defeated.  I started to counter-attack with my BdS, who destroyed the Ghurid’s Pike one by one.  There is a saying that “God helps those who help themselves”.  From this moment on in this game, my dice throws did not fail me anymore.  I must stress that I would have lost this game even by just one unlucky dice roll in one of my BdS combat (such as I rolling 1 and he rolling 6).  But my boys did not fail me and they kept fighting on.  The climax of the Battle came when 2 Ghurid’s ILHS attacked 2 of my RArtI (who were disheartened) at the modified combat factor of 3 for him and 1 for me.  Even worse, my Art would be quick killed if he won this combat.  However I rolled 2 Sixes for both Art, and won the combats, thereby repulsing the Ghurid’s attackers. Thank God!  The General of My Command C had also managed to survive from an attack by the enemy’s Pike and LH inside the woods that came from both its front and its rear.  I might have lost him even though my modified combat factor were higher than my opponent's.  I can remember the joyful moment now.

WotR finally managed to break 2 of the 4 Ghurid’s commands and inflicted more than 40% of Ghurid’s Total ME  The losses was close to the Ghurid’s army’s break point.  It must be emphasized that in the last few bound, even one bad dice roll of WotR would cost them to lose the game.


I made my mistake in my first moves, which made me almost lose this game.  With hindsight, I should have set up a defensive line across the open between the central hill and the woods, and fought the battle along the short table edge instead.  As my BwS supported my BdS, the PkX could only attacked my BdS supported by BwS at combat factor of 5:5, but I could have quick killed the PkX with my BdS in my bound.  The risk would be lower by doing so.  If this was a friendly game, I would probably would have conceded during the mid game.  But for team play, I needed to contribute as much score as possible.  This kept me  carrying on, and unexpectedly finally turned the tables in my favour.  On that night I remembered the Battle of Marengo.  Its course of events and the outcome were similar to that of this game.  So I learned my lesson: Never quit in DBMM!   You never know what will happen next.  Thank God!  I was very lucky in this game.

Game 3 vs Later Swiss “ Secure Your Flank!”

After I came back from Milan in 2012, I had tested the Later Swiss and it was one of the finalist candidates for my 2013 ITC army.  I prefer to choose the “King Tiger” (i.e. RPsS with Knights General double-based in wedges with rear element) when using this army.  The King Tiger (i.e. General) would be deployed next to the Pike block whereas the Pike would be attacking first at +6/7 combat factor.  Their superior qualities enable them to win a drawn combat result.  There is a good chance that they will push back or destroy their opponent and thereby overlap an enemy who is fighting against the King Tiger.  I have destroyed a lot of enemies who dare to stand against them.  But the Swiss army in this game was using different doctrine.

I was the defender.  Please refer to the following photo for terrain and set up.  Kindly note that the tower was placed in the Swiss deployment area,  I hoped to reduce the Swiss deployment area and make them to deploy in front of my army so that I would fight the battle as per my pre-battle plan.  For this battle, the Orchard placed by the Swiss was the strategic high ground which both sides would be striving to control With hindsight, the Swiss Plan was to make good use of terrain that could help them to turn the battle into a short table fight (i.e. both armies facing the short table edge instead of the long table edge).  The Swiss army consisted of 2 identical commands.  Each of them had 24 RPkS, the General, some RBdX and RPsS/O, 32ME each. Their third Command consisted of RBdX and RPsS/O, which was good for fighting in DG.  It had 10ME.  There was no baggage train, an indication that this army expected to fight using mobile warfare doctrine.

The Swiss set up in my opposite corner, using their superior pike regular maneuverability to come from my right, then turn 90 degrees and thus be ready to fight WotR from the short table edge. The Swiss initial move was brilliant and forced me to change my original battle plan.  I needed to turn my battle line by 90 degrees to form a hasty defense line in the middle of battle field.

Both sides moved cautiously.  We faced each other across the short table edge with the Orchard dividing the battlefield into 2 sections.  WotR had set up a defense line slightly behind the Orchard to anchor their flank to the orchard.  The Swiss setup their Pike blocks in 6 ranks deep, which could absorb 3 ranks of losses before they would lose their attack momentum.  This was a very clever tactic against the WotR BdS+BwS combo.  For WotR, Bw in rear rank can support Bd and fight at +5, but Pike fight at +7.  Assuming the Pk win the combat in its bound, as both these Bd and Pk were superior grade, the combat factor after grade adjustment would be 9 (for Pike) vs 6 (for Bd).  The Pk would destroy the BdS with the probability of 1/18.  Don’t forget Pk could easily push back the Bd and thereby support the next attack by overlap. And increase the chance of direct destroyed to 1/9.  You might argue that BdS have a good chance to quick kill the PkS in their own bound.  As the Pike block was 6 ranks deep, losing one or two ranks would not change their combat factor.  The BdS+BwS combo could not afford any casualties as once the first rank Blade was gone, the second rank Bow would be easily destroyed by Pk.  I would rather not to take this risk.  So I retired slightly back.  If I could control the Orchard, I could threaten the Swiss’s flank from there if their Pike block advanced against my defense line.  Certainly, the Swiss commander was also aware of the importance of the Orchard as he postponed his attack until his smallest command could bring up their Psiloi to clear the Orchard first.

In reaction, I had 2 plans.  If my command C was kicked out of the Orchard, I would retired my 2 bigger commands back to the RH on my left hand wing to set up a defense line with my foot and avoid battle where possible.  I thought the Swiss would not attack my new defense line as his combat factor became 6 in RH and mine would also be 6 if I was uphill in his bound.  But my BdS+BwS combo could quick kill his Pike in my bound. With this plan I might lose my smallest command, plus the Baggage command, but my army would still be intact.

If I won the fight for the Orchard, then I would attack, as I could threaten the Swiss flank from the Orchard.  I had set up my defense line by deploying my Bowmen inside the Orchard, and now it was up to the grace of God.

The WotR Bowmen inside the Orchard had repulsed several attacks of the Swiss handgunner (RPsS).  Despite Bowmen not being suited to DG fighting, their combat factor would be the same as that of Psiloi there.  They were superior quality troops and their shooting ability enabled them to fight as well as RPsS in DG.  Moreover, the Swiss had only committed their smallest ME command.  It was just 10ME.  It ended up twith this Swiss Command being broken and WotR occupying the Orchard firmly.  Now it was the time for the WotR to counter-attack.

The Swiss Pike block with the lowest PIPs retreated from the WotR command A and the WotR immediately charged them in marching, slaughtering their first rank (the Swiss first rank turned back to fight WotR Blade but without any rear rank support, together with the penalty of being unable to recoil).  The Swiss Pike Block turned 180 degree and counter attacked fiercely.  My WotR CinC's chest was destroyed by the piercing of a long pike.  Once again, the Swiss Pikemen had proved that they deserved to be classified as soldiers of the highest grade.

Now both of the two remaining Swiss commands suffered 4.5 ME and 6 ME losses respectively, but they were still far from broken.  My WotR Command A had lost its General, but all my Commands were in good condition.  While I was pondering on whether or not to commit Command B against the front of another Swiss Pike block, time was called.

Game Summary

It was a battle of brains, with both commanders calculating carefully and being cautious.  During the first two hours, we marched and counter-marched until both sides found the importance of the Orchard, where the Swiss committed his Light troop in attack.  The WotR Bowmen stood their ground bravely and they repulsed and defeated the enemy assaults.  Then WotR counterattacked, but there was not enough time left to conclude with a decisive result.  The WotR seemed to have the upper hand before the game was ended, though it had lost its CinC.  I enjoyed this game, not just because I was playing with a respectable DBMM general, but it was like playing a game of chess.

Game 4 vs Italian Condotta with Swiss ally “Bowmen Lead the Way!”

The last round of the tournament finally.  I had accumulated 50 points for my previous 3 rounds.  I needed to have a good result this round to have a decent chance of claiming any trophy.   Regardless of whosoever my opponent was and whatsoever his army was, I would play aggressively and attack.

I had a bad start to this game, becoming the invader and therefore unable to use my tower.   Further, the Condotta commander had successful separated the battlefield into 2 sectors by placing a 2FE DH and 1FE Marsh in the centre.  Even worse, I had to deploy first!  So no doubt we would set up in opposing corners, I need to move out of the DGo first and reform them before I could properly set up my battle line and attack.  It was a challenge.  My plan was to move the infantry of my command A into the 1FE Marsh, clear and secure it and then would roll up the enemy’s line from there.  My last battle against the Swiss had proven that my Bowmen were as good as PsS in close combat, even when fighting in difficult terrain.  Moreover, I could destroy the PsS just by shooting at them.   My bowmen should be capable of executing my plan successfully. The photos below show the initial deployment and the movements in the early stage of the battle.

The Condotta commander was surprised by my initial moves, he thought his RPsS (all his Ps were S) would not lose the fight in the DG, and therefore he need not send his BdS to reinforce that sector yet, though he might regret his decision later.

The Condotta RPsS had been destroyed or bounced off the Marsh after they had been shot at for several bounds.   Right now the Condotta sent his BdS into the Marsh to try to plug the gap, but it was too late.   The WotR BwS started to massacre the Horde group outside by shooting at them.   Thanks to their superior quality and good dice rolls, the WotR Bowmen inside the Marsh had repulsed the attacks of the Condotta BdS and PsS.   Eventually, the English quantitative superiority won the fight for the Marsh for them.

As the Condotta’s left wing command was close to being broken, the Condotta advanced the Swiss Pike block to attack the English in order to save the day.  Their attack was doomed as they were attacking from a narrow front with an insecure flanks.

WotR encircled the Swiss Pike block from their insecure flanks and slaughtered them.  The Condotta army was broken and the game ended in a WotR's victory.

Game Summary

The big surprise in this battle was the battle-worthiness of the WotR bowmen who led the way into the marsh.  They had won their fight against the Condotta PsS despite there being no rear rank support for them in distance shooting or close combat.  Thereafter, it was just a matter of time for the English to roll the Condotta battle line.  If the Condotta had sent their BdS into the marsh early in the game to react the WotR’s initial movement, the outcome of the battle might have been different.

Trip Conclusion

Surprisingly, our team managed to win the 2nd runner up this year.  It was encouraging for us and we are very happy to have the achievement.  I felt relaxed and relieved, not simply because of the end of the 2 days of hard fighting.  I was glad that my preparation for the tournament that lasted for the whole year did work.  Many thanks to Lorenzo and his team for the huge efforts they expended in arranging and organizing this fantastic tournament.  The event made it possible for 20 teams, totalling 80 players, gathering together, playing games, exchanging their views and sharing information about their favorite hobby.  It was really a wonderful moment.  I also wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to thank Lawrence Ho, of our player group in Hong Kong, who had spent a lot of time with me in our Sunday early morning training games thoroughout the year, enlightening me with many new ideas on the army list and game play.  Finally ITC has already become part of my life and I hope I can come back to Milan to join this spectacular event every year. Last word: “No surrender in any DBMM game”.


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