19 March 2013

Day of Battle: Middle Ages review

Day of Battle is a wargame designed for medieval battles made up of unit blocks of 28 or 15mm scale miniatures and uses a mix of D6 dice and regular playing cards for the core gameplay mechanics as well as the classic (although initiative based) IGOUGO framework which is divided into several sub phases for each players turn. It also features a heavy emphasis on the personalities leading armies and mimics the medieval difficulties of raising armies which adds a lot of flavor to the rules. It should also be noted that this game, just like By Fire & Sword which I have reviewed previously on this blog, has fleeting army lists that vary in size between players. It’s not a “point by point” approach, instead players are playing as commanders during a period where mustering troops was hard and where you maybe didn’t always know who would heed your call to arms.

And while I personally like this approach, it may not be to the liking of “tournament minded” players that want perfectly matched army lists.

It should be noted that while I more than happily reviewed the rules I was unable to actually give them a play beyond some proxy mockup situations due to lack of miniatures and opponents (though I know the interest for medieval warfare exists at the club). So you will have to see this review as something of an overview that helps you make up your mind about the contents and decide to get the rules.

Let me start by focusing on what I thought made the rules interesting, the personalities leading your army. And this part of the rules is also fairly big and detailed. There  is a list of social ranks, ranging from Knight to King/Emperor, each players start out as a “Baron”. Each personality has beside their social rank also an esteem and honor value. All three combined affect various aspects of your commander, from his ability to efficiently raise troops prior to battle, to how big his retinue of core troops and body guards is and how many sub commanders he will have in his army.

This whole aspects creates an organic growth of your army size during a campaign where victories and great deeds on the battlefield advance your status.

Another interesting thing is that each commander of an army has to pick a profile; Raider, Mercenary or Chivalric. Each of these profiles alter the way your army will gain victory points on the battlefield and tell how your commander should act to advance his social status and esteem. It’s actually a clever system and something that I haven’t seen in any other game I’ve come across. There is a big list which players consult at the end of a battle to see how many honor points their commander have gained, and each aspect that may have occurred on the battlefield is divided between the three classes and the rewards vary accordingly to class. A Chivalric personality will get more honor points than a Raider for seeking out and challenging en enemy personality, he will also gain a lot more honor dying by the sword on the battlefield. A Raider will get honor points for raiding the enemy encampment or making enemy units flee. Mercenary characters rely on winning battles and fall into the middle ground of the Chivalric and Raider profiles in terms of how they achieve honor.

A lot of the gameplay as such revolve around the personalities leading their battles and armies rely upon these men to be raised and led properly. Now let’s move on to the remainder of the rules and begin with how the playing cards come into play.
As mentioned at the start of the review Day of Battle uses D6 dice and playing cards (52+Jokers).  Cards are mainly used when your commander creates the army, in which case he draws a certain amount of cards correlating to his social rank. A Baron (Social rank 3) will draw 3 cards. Numbered cards are worth that many army points, faced cards are worth 5 points, Aces are worth commander social rank in points and Jokers are worth the commanders social rank x2 in points.

The army points total is then divided by 3 and that number is how many units you will be able to field in the upcoming battle If you for instance drew, 8, Queen, Ace your army point total as a Baron would be 16. Divided by 3 you will field (rounded down) 5 units. A commander may have his own personal retinue units as well, based upon his social standing. These are units that are guaranteed to arrive at the battle and are added to the army after the mustering.

Now the army creation has one more aspect to it and that is what troops your “domain” have available. Each country /domain has their own preferred historical ratio of troops.  Any army is always made up of a certain amount of cavalry, infantry and missile units. Some domains will have more cavalry, others more infantry. Furthermore each unit class has a small chart of available troops (Spearmen, Militia, Billmen, Crossbowmen, Archers etc) which are randomly determined by rolling a dice. So you as a commander can never be sure of A) how big your army will be, B) exactly what troops will arrive.

As a commander you can however be sure of A) That your retinue units will always be there to fight alongside your banner, and B) have a good idea of the ratio of warrior class that will show up to the battle.

All is not lost if your army turns out to be made up of mostly subpar units, your commander can use his social status to battlefield promote units to increase their combat value by a notch if he so chooses.
Cards are also used during the game by both players to generate command points for army control. A player may never hold more than 5 cards on his hand.  The cards are worth between 1-3 command points each and units require commands to perform actions (some of which cost more than 1 command point to perform).

Onto how the game works on the battlefield.
The turn summary of Day of Battle is as follows:

1) Command Check to see how many command points each commander will have this turn.
2) Shooting in the Opening of a turn
3) Movement
4) Melee
4.1) Taking ground, attacking units occupy positions of enemy troops that withdrew
4.2) Breakthrough Melee, units that smashed through one enemy unit may fight a second one
4.3) Shooting at the end of turn
5) Honor point tally, Honor points are awarded for actions and deeds performed during the turn.

Models are based upon large bases forming blocks. The block size depends on unit t type but generally they are 80x40mm (and a block may be made up of smaller bases acting together). The amount of miniatures per base is not set in stone, but should represent the unit type fairly well. Skirmisher bases should have fewer miniatures on them than a wall of spearmen.

Units are graded in morale from Poor, Average and Veteran up to Elite. Depending on their morale they are able to regroup better or worse by rolling 1D6 and taking their morale value and any modifiers into account. Morale can be boosted by spending command cards to add to the roll.
Each unit has 3 movement bands, and the movement naturally varies based upon what kind of troop type you refer to. Light cavalry is able to move at breakneck speed around the battlefield while tightly packed warriors forming shield walls move slowly. Nevertheless armies are able to close in upon each other relatively fast as units that are outside of a specified range from an enemy increase their movement speed. However, units that are within a certain range from an enemy will slow down and move more carefully. Personalities may always move freely around the battlefield without speed restrictions unless they attach to a unit.

There are also unit formations, such as the favored wedge formation allowing cavalry units to inflict tremendous amount of additional damage upon impact during a charge, shield walls and spear/pike formations that increase the durability of a unit both in terms of wounds and defense capabilities.
Melee combat has both sides roll dice to determine the outcome and compare results, the player with the most amount of successful hits applies these on the target unit which takes a morale test (where attached personalities may be slain, wounded or captured if things go bad). If the combat remains locked units may wade in to make contact with enemy troops of the ongoing melee.

Ranged weapons have each a fixed number of D6 dice that they shoot each turn and their ability to hit is divided between 3 range bands (close, medium, long range). Dice are added or removed from a units shooting pool depending on various factors such as target size (large units add D6 to your pool) or if the enemy is in cover in which the amount of shots you can fire is decreased.

There are of course a lot of special situations and rules that may occur during combat or choices that each commander can make based upon troop type, terrain and so on. So rest assured there is more to combat than just meet and roll some dice. There are however no “armour saves” in this game, at all. The closest you come to a save is when units fight in melee and block each other’s attacks by eliminating opposing results. But there is no “roll to hit, roll to wound, roll to save ”mechanic.

The remainder of the rulebook consists of rules for various types of terrain, and terrain generation. Additional rules for battle line morale for your army, descriptions for setting up a tactical campaign with victory conditions and unit setup. It also features a page describing fighting battles in the crusades and how that may affect your units, explanations on how nations/domains work in terms of troops available for mustering. The list of domains in the rulebook cover Normans, Anglo-Saxons, England, Scotland, France, German states, Early Crusades, Seljuk Turks, Hundred Year War English and French and War of the Roses lists. The author makes a good point about encouraging players to create their own domains (or check his site for additional lists) but also to play correct periods against each other.

I'm not that familiar with historical rule sets based on this period, however I found a lot of things that I liked in Day of Battle: Middle Ages and hope to try the rules out in the near future. The 48 page rulebook I think covers the gameplay, rules, campaign, personalities and everything else you would need to know quite well. The rules may however appear to be a bit hard to understand if you try to read them casually, fortunately they feature a good amount of examples explaining game mechanics.

If you found this overview interesting then I highly suggest that you check out Day of Battle.  It certainly got me interested and I may well end up using them for a future 15mm medieval project of my own (Poland/Lithuania wars with Teutonic Order).

Publisher: http://www.dayofbattle.com/
Contents: Color cover, 46 pages B&W
Authors: Chris Parker
Format: 2-player initiative based IGOUGO (includes options for solo play)
Gaming aides: D6 dice and playing cards (52+jokers)
Price: 20$


  1. Love these rules! A couple of AARs of games can be seen on the Club's BLOG at http://kingstonirregulars.blogspot.com/

    Dick Bryant

  2. Thanks for the link Dick, will check it out :-)

  3. Might have to check that. I have done Poles/Lithuanians and Teutons for Grunwald on 60x30mm bases so might be able to ues these.

    See pcis of the armies and game board at http://leighs-wargames.blogspot.com/search/label/Show%20Game%202010

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. That is awesome Leigh!! Exactly the project I myself am thinking about, the wars with the Teutonic order are just too cool to pass on :-D


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