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DBA Online Tactics     


By Chris Brantley

Auxilia: military history article. Its combat abilities and advantages: fighting cavalry and chariots, warband and infantry.

"Auxilia" was the name used by the Romans for non-citizen units who were otherwise typically organized along the Roman model into cavalry alae, infantry cohortes, and mixed cohortes equitatae. The designation covered many types of troops, from heavy infantry trained and equipped much like the Roman legions to cavalry and highly specialized missile troops. Perhaps the most common type of Auxilia, however, were the light and medium infantry employed for their mobility in rough terrain, where they could be used to protect the vulnerable flanks of the close order legion. This is how DBA defines Auxilia, which are described as "foot able to fight hand-to-hand but emphasising agility and flexibility rather than cohesion." In addition to the classic Roman Auxilia, DBA encompasses a variety of other historical troop types within this category, including Hellenistic peltasts, Japanese ashigaru, Spanish scutarii, Thracian foot, and Welsh or Irish spear. The New World armies (Mexican, Aztec, and Inca) are also comprised largely of Auxilia.

With a close combat modifier of +3 versus foot and +2 versus mounted, Auxilia could certainly be discounted as second rate foot except for their 300p movement rate (50% faster than heavy foot and a match for Psiloi) and the fact that bad going does not negatively affect their close combat modifier. Nevertheless, attitudes toward Auxilia and their usefulness on the tabletop are varied. I would divide them into the following general categories:

  • Bad Going Bullies: Since they are not penalized in bad going, Auxilia can engage Blades even-up and take on Spear at a +1 and Pike or Warband at a +2 in such terrain. The player who thinks this way tends to be aggressive minded and will deploy lots of bad going terrain. The key, however, is to place the terrain in the enemy's approaches rather than your own defensive area. The idea is to move forward and meet the enemy in favorable terrain, rather than waiting for him to come to you. If you adopt a static, defensive placement, your opponent will avoid the rough patches and pick apart the rest of your army, all the while daring your Auxilia to leave their protective terrain.

  • Psiloi on Steroids: Auxilia are also often pressed into duties typically reserved for Psiloi; such as skirmishing, protecting flanks, providing overlaps, and containing those pesky Elephants. With the same mobility and bad going capabilities as Psiloi coupled with a +3 close combat factor versus foot (compared to Psiloi's +2), Auxilia are more of a threat than Psiloi, although not quite as resilient if doubled.

  • Gap Fillers and Line Extenders: Rather than use Auxilia in a skirmishing role, it is not uncommon to employ them in the main battle line, to fill gaps or extend the line so as to deny the enemy an easy flank or support overlap. Successful deployment match-ups are critical. If Auxilia are placed in the battle line and find themselves deployed opposite Blades or Double-Ranked Pikes, they will not last long in the resulting crunch.

  • Second Rate Spear: Those who think of Auxilia as second rate spear will often be seen splitting their armies into two battle lines. The front line is comprised of the designated "killer" elements in the army and sent forward to engage the enemy. The second line of less robust elements, including the Auxilia, is kept out of harm's way for as long as possible while screening the camp.

  • Knight-Fodder: There are some players who view Auxilia with distain and use them as throw-away elements to occupy (and hopefully delay) the enemy's killer elements (such as Knights), while they go aggressively after their enemy's weak points in hopes of reaching the magical four kills first.

Measuring the Odds

The following tables provides a percentage breakdown of the outcomes from close combat match-ups between Auxilia and other DBA elements in good going:

Auxilia vs. Destroyed by Aux Recoiled by Aux Push Recoil Aux Destroy Aux
Auxilia 6% (2/36) 36% (13/36) 17% (6/36) 36% (13/36) 6% (2/36)
Blades 0% (0/36) 17% (6/36) 11% (4/36) 56% (20/36) 17% (6/36)
Spear 0% (0/36) 28% (0/36) 14% (5/36) 47% (17/36) 11% (4/36)
Pikes 6% (2/36) 36% (13/36) 17% (6/36) 36% (13/36) 6% (2/36)
2/Rank Pikes 0% (0/36) 8% (3/36) 8% (3/36) 58% (21/36) 25% (9/36)
Psiloi 17% (6/36) 42% (15/36) 14% (5/36) 25% (9/36) 3% (1/36)
Warband 6% (2/36) 36% (13/36) 17% (6/36) 36% (13/36) 6% (2/36)
Bows 17% (6/36) 42% (15/36) 14% (5/36) 25% (9/36) 3% (1/36)
Knights 3% (1/36) 25% (9/36) 14% (5/36) 0% (0/36) 58% (21/36)
Cavalry 3% (1/36) 25% (9/36) 14% (5/36) 42% (15/36) 17% (6/36)
Light Horse 11% (4/36) 31% (11/36) 17% (6/36) 31% (11/36) 11% (4/36)
Elephants 17% (6/36) 0% (0/36) 11% (4/36) 47% (17/36) 25% (9/36)
War Wagons 0% (0/36) 0% (0/36) 42% (15/36) 47% (17/36) 11% (4/36)
Scythed Chariots 28% (10/36) 0% (0/36) 0% (0/36) 47% (17/36) 25% (9/36)

(Note: percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding.)

The Classic Match-Up

Auxilia were used in so many roles over the ages that it would be hard to characterize any particular match-up as "classic". One common responsibility for Auxilia , however, was stiffening up the skirmishers and/or driving off the enemy's skirmishers. In DBA terms, Auxilia overmatch Psiloi in bad going and can destroy them by doubling them in close combat. So if those Psiloi get too pesky, send in the Auxilia.

David Kuijt highlights Auxilia vs. Warband:

I'd suggest Auxilia versus Warband as the "Classic" matchup -- the Romans used their Auxilia in that way, and it is a good way to fight a Warband army. Auxilia are the toughest foot that Warband have to face, really. Anything tougher (Spear, Pike, Blades) they get a quick-kill on. Against Auxilia they are even factors, and the Auxilia is faster (so can dress up lines and pull out of double overlaps) and the Warband is impetuous (and so can be pulled out of position or even into bad going, to be slaughtered). To balance that out a bit, Warband can get +1 for a supporting rank.

What Do Auxilia Fear?

Knights in good going enjoy a +1 advantage and can quick-kill Auxilia with a higher close combat result. With their modest +2 versus mounted, Auxilia are also vulnerable to being doubled by Camelry and Cavalry (+3 vs. foot). Blades, supported Pikes, and Spear can also ruin an Auxilia's day with good die rolling. Auxilia get their revenge if they can lure these opponents into bad going. War Wagons are an impossible nut to crack and should be avoided by Auxilia.

The Morale of the Story:

Auxilia are a skill element; they must be properly deployed and utilized to be effective. Use them incorrectly and they are no better than second rate Spear. Bad terrain is their friend and should be maximized. Keep them away from Knights and heavy infantry if possible. Auxilia will give as good as they get against Warband, single-ranked Pike, and Light Horse. They can also put the fear of god into Elephants, but will lose this lethal confrontation more often than not...so by all means, don't let your Aux get gored.

If you are frustrated with your Auxilia-heavy army, just for fun, try turning the tables on your opponent. For one game agree that the only terrain available for placement is good going (e.g., clearings, fields, etc.). The balance of the game board is considered bad going. Then sit back and watch your opponent struggle with the difficulties of terrain placement and troop deployment on a field where Auxilia are king.

Picking an Auxilia Army

If Auxilia is what you want, there are a wide variety of armies in every historical period from Biblical to Late Middle Ages to choose from. The following are your choices. Maximums are listed; in many cases Auxilia are optional elements, which gives you the flexibility to adapt your army to the terrain and your opponent.

Max No.
of Elements
Army List
9 Slav (#89), Mexican (#105), Inca (#150)
8 Samnite/Umbrian (#30c), Welsh (#92)
7 Illyrian (#26), Thracian (#27), Campanian/Apulian (#30d), Hellenistic Greek (#47), Early Serbian (#142a)
6 Early & Later Hebrew (#13 & #19), Macedonian Early Successor (#40), Pergamene (#48), Ancient Spanish (#52), Bosphoran (#55b), Caledonian/Pict (#67), Middle Imperial Roman (#69), Sub-Roman British (#82), Norse Irish (#112), Early Samurai (#127a), Cilician Armenian (#132), Medieval Irish (#164)
5 Mycenean/Minoan (#10), Dark Age/Geometric Greek (#17), Navarrese (#156), Catalan Company (#165)
4 Later Achaemenid Persian (#33), Early Armenian (#44), Maccabean Jewish (#56), Early Imperial Roman (#64), Late Roman East (#77b), Early Bulgar (#87), Khmer/Cham (#110), Pre-Feudal Scots (#111), Later Samurai (#127b), Early Crusader (#138)
3 Sumerian/Akkadian (#1), Hittite (#3), Philistine (#15a), Lydian (#18d), Early Indian (#21a), Early Achaemenid Persian (#28a), Later Carthaginian (#31b), Syracusan (#34), Lysimachid (#39), Later Macedonian (#49), Pontic (#58), Blemye/Nobades (#63), Annamese (#71), Late Roman West (#77a), Later Visigothic (#80), Avar (#90), Burmese (#98), Scots Isles/Highlands (#128), Medieval French (#170), Scanderbeg Albanian (#177)
2 Hykos (#8a), Early & Later Canaanite (#8b & #15b), Early & New Assyrian (#12 & #23), Kushan (#21b), Kimmerian/Skythian (#25), Cyropaedic Persian (#28b), Early Roman (#30a), Alexandrian Macedonian & Imperial (#36 & #37), Later Seleucid (#41b), Later Ptolemaic (#42b), Numidian (#53), Chinese Border Nomads (#62), Jewish Revolt (#66), Patrician Roman (#81), Tibetan (#97), Ghaznavid (#115), Communal Italians (#123), Seljuk Turks (#124), Cuman (#130), Sicilian (#135), Later Serbian (#142b), Anglo-Irish (#144), Lithuanian (#148b), Teutonic Order (#151), Mameluk Eygptian (#158), War of the Roses English (#179)
1 Mede (#18c), Early & Later Hoplite Greek (#24a & #32), Early North Greek (#24c), Saitic Egyptian (#29), Early Carthaginian (#31a), Antigonid (#38a), Early Ptolemaic (#42b), Pyrrhic (#43), Palmyran (#76), Early Byzantine (#86), Arab Imperial (#100), Magyar (#107), Comnenan Byzantine (#133), Anglo-Norman (#134), Feudal French (#137), Medieval Syrian (#139), Ayyubid Egyptian (#143), Feudal English (#145), Prussian (#148a), Ilkhanid (#159a), Early Ottoman (#160a), 100YW English (#168), Italian Condotta (#169), Medieval Spanish (#171), Islamic Persian (#175)

Comments, suggested additions, and/or critiques are welcome. Direct them to Chris Brantley at brant@erols.com.

Copyright Wargaming.net 1999-2013
DBA 1.2 Rules Wargames Research Group 1995
DBA 1.22 Rules Phil Barker, Richard Bodley Scott, Sue Laflin Barker 1990-2000