Getting Started With DBA
You’ve looked around my blog, and you’ve taken a trip over to Fanaticus to read the Tips & Guides section, and you’ve decided that you’ve got to give DBA a try, but you don’t know where to start. This is especially true for those of you who have never painted miniatures, or played miniatures games before.
The good thing is that you have already taken the first steps by doing a little research about the game. Your next leg of research will focus on a period to game. DBA covers a period of history ranging from 3000 B.C. to 1500 A.D.- that’s a broad period of time from which to find something that interests you.
If that seems a bit daunting, don’t worry, you don’t have to be a scholar to figure out what period to game. For instance, did you like the Russell Crowe movie, “Gladiator”? Did you enjoy the “On my word, release Hell.” scene? Then perhaps the Early Imperial Romans are for you, or even Early German. Better yet, paint both as a matched pair, then you can recreate the battle! Other inspirational shows/movies: HBO’s “Rome”, Oliver Stone’s “Alexander”, “300”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, the list goes on and on. Not every movie gets it right as far as historical details, but most are sufficient to get your imagination fired up. Movies are not the only inspiration-books by Bernard Cornwell and Colleen McCullough are definitely worth reading.
Before we go any further it’s important that you get a copy of the rulebook. The current version is 2.2. You can get a copy directly from Wargames Research Group at their Ebay store. A novel idea these days is to ask your local game store to get you a copy (maybe you could suggest that they make it a regularly stocked item!).
Another invaluable resource is the W.A.D.B.A.G Unofficial Guide to DBA.
The guide is very comprehensive, but keep in mind that it is one interpretation of the rules, and is not intended as a replacement for the official rules (plus the rulebook is the only place you can find the army lists).
Since I first published this guide WADBAG has published a new set of rules modifications in response to the development of DBA 3.0 by Phil Barker. If you play in HMGS circles I suggest you go and get the rules here, along with the corresponding play sheet.
Your first Army
You’ve got the rules and let’s say you just have to have an Early Imperial Roman army. You just love the idea of ranks of armor clad, barbarian hating, killing machines rolling across the battlefield, crushing everything in their path. Great! You’ve made a perfect choice. Now you need some figures…
The first thing to decide on is scale. DBA is usually played in the following scales: 6mm, 15mm, and 25mm. The most common scale, and the one in which you will find the most opponents, is 15mm. Most all of the 300+ army lists in the DBA rulebook are manufactured in this scale. 15mm is also ideal because of the ease of painting and cost factor, with a complete (unpainted, more on this later) army running between $20.00 – $50.00 USD. Most 25mm armies will run you well over $100.00 USD. So for now, let’s assume your not willing to sink a ton of money into something you’re just trying out-fair enough. The next step is to buy some figures!
The Fanaticus Bazaar is a great one-stop-shop. Chris Brantley has gone to great lengths to provide a comprehensive list of manufacturers and retailers-so use it! The Early Imperial Romans (henceforth known as EIR), are a very popular army, and therefore you will find many different manufactures. It ultimately comes down to which figures you like more. Corvus Belli and Essex are the most common lines, and both can be purchased from Wargames, Inc. (see link above). For my painting articles, I will be using both Essex and Corvus Belli as examples. When ordering an army, most retailers provide an option for DBA army packs at a slight discount. I suggest you go for it. Usually these packs contain all options for the army list and makes your job much easier.
Now that you’ve ordered your figs you get watch your mailbox day and night for that delightful bag of lead to arrive! One last tip I have for buying an army is that you can often buy unpainted armies for a very deep discount buy buying off of other gamers. Many of us have unpainted armies sitting around that we may never paint, and often you can get an entire army for less than $20.00 USD. I have only paid full price for about three of the armies I have that are unpainted.
“What if I can’t/don’t want to paint an army Mike, what do I do?”
My suggestion is that if you have an extra hour or two a week, and are physically capable, go ahead and give painting your armies a try-it is much, much, more easy than you think. However, if it’s not possible, I suggest you try this Ebay search. You can also find many companies that offer painting services. You should be prepared to pay over $100.00 USD for a decently painted 15mm army.
While you wait for your figures, why not go download some paper armies to play with in the meantime? Just cut them out and glue them to some cardboard or regular bases. Go here for the best!
O.k., your rulebook and your army have finally arrived! In the meantime you’ve downloaded and read the Unofficial Guide several times and understand how to read the army list, and know how to base your figures on the appropriate bases from Litko, or Renaissance Ink. Be sure to order a bag each of 40x15mm, 40x20mm, 40x30mm, and 40x40mm if you are using the 15mm standard. You should be able to build a couple armies from those bags.
Before you put those figures on bases you need to get them painted up! In order to paint them you need some references. A great first stop is Google image search; I entered “Roman Soldier” and this was the first result:
Not too difficult huh? Another approach is to look at other people’s armies. I used Google again and here is what I found:
*Painted by Dan Becker
These are definitely the “poor-man’s” methods of researching an army. The best source for painting an army that I know of are the Osprey series of books available from the De Bellis Bookstore (you can get them anywhere, but if you get them from Fanaticus you can support the community). The Osprey books not only feature excellent color plates, but provide good background on the army and culture you are trying to represent. SO go order your Osprey book and come back back when it arrives.
Painting Your Army
So your Osprey book has arrived and you know what colors you need. Great, now you need some supplies to prepare your army. Preparing and painting your army is a multi-step process; therefore I have separated each step into its own page, accessible below. Simply click the link for each step as you proceed.
- Buying the Supplies
- Choosing the Right Paint
- Prepping Your Figures
- Beginners Guide to Painting
- Advanced Guide to Painting
- Basing Your Figures
- Protecting Your Figures