War Wagons in DBA are a special type of unit representing wagons that
fought on the move. Some of them were specially reinforced, like the
wagons of the Hussites. They were manned by missile-armed troops and
had "great resisting power to blunt an enemy attack" (DBA rules, page 4).
They count as foot troops for DBA purposes.
War Wagons are quick-killed by Elephants and Artillery. Unlike almost
all other foot, they are not quick-killed by Knights. They move
as heavy foot or Artillery, and share with Artillery the restriction that
they cannot be moved into contact with an enemy, nor can they move off-road in
War Wagons share with Artillery and Bows the ability to make attacks
at range with missiles. Their combat factors of +4 versus foot and
+5 versus mounted make these attacks quite effective.
War Wagon vs. Blades or Spear
War Wagons can hold their own against the toughest heavy foot. The battle
is likely to be long and slow, with the Blades/Spear being thrown back every
once in a while. A battle isn't going to be won by this sort of contest,
though -- it will usually take so long that something elsewhere on the
battlefield will be where the final victory is decided.
War Wagon vs. Pike or Warband
Here the War Wagons do better, although again it is a long, slow slog,
and unlikely to come to any resolution quickly. Even double-ranked Pike
have only a fairly small chance (11%) of destroying a War Wagon without
one or more overlaps, and the War Wagon has an 11% chance of destroying a
Pike or Warband single-ranked or by missile fire.
War Wagon vs. Auxilia
Auxilia cannot realistically contend with War Wagons. In missile fire
or melee they have an 11% chance of being destroyed, and no chance of
destroying (or even affecting) the War Wagon without at least one overlap.
War Wagon vs. Psiloi
Psiloi cannot be slain by War Wagons, but neither can they expect to
achieve anything. Every turn they are fired upon or are in contact with
a War Wagon, Psiloi will have a 25% chance of being routed and forced to
flee. Since the range of a War Wagon equals its movement off-road, Psiloi
cannot even interfere much with the movement of a War Wagon.
War Wagon vs. Mounted: Cavalry, Knights, and Light Horse
War Wagons are tremendously effective against the common types of Mounted
troops. If the Mounted get into contact they still have no chance of gaining
an effective result on the War Wagon, and the missile fire will harry them
at range. Every missile attack will have an 17% chance of killing Knights
or Cavalry, and a 33% chance of killing Light Horse.
So What Do War Wagons Fear?
War Wagons fear getting flanked. Their slow movement and inability to
move to contact the enemy mean that they are more vulnerable to a mobile
attack of this sort. Although they do not recoil (and will never
be destroyed by a bad recoil into impassable terrain or misaligned
friends) they can still be destroyed when beaten while attacked in flank.
Elephants get quick-kills on War Wagons. Elephants must
be screened off and blocked if possible; the strong missile capability
of War Wagons will often be able to delay them and drive them back, but
the odds of a War Wagon killing an Elephant stand are small: 4.5% per
attack. When the Elephant gets into contact it will kill the War Wagon
28% of the time, die itself 4.5% of the time, and be recoiled 53% of the
time. The War Wagon, of course, will never recoil.
The big danger is Artillery. The low mobility of War Wagons and the
long range of Artillery, combined with the fact that Artillery gets a
quick-kill on War Wagons, puts War Wagons in grave danger if their
opponent has any artillery. In a single turn of firing Artillery has
a 42% chance of killing a War Wagon. If the War Wagon is in range for
return fire, there is only a 3% chance of the Artillery dying.
There is little that a War Wagon player can do about this sad
it is as hard to maneuver Artillery into a good position as it is to
maneuver War Wagons. Keep your War Wagons away from enemy Artillery.
If your opponent puts you in a position where you cannot avoid his
Artillery, try to screen your War Wagons with heavy foot (Spear or
Blades) and use your War Wagons to hold the flanks, or else give the
enemy Artillery something to worry about by charging Cavalry or Knights
or Auxilia forward to engage them, screen their firing, and hopefully
What Are War Wagons Good At?
Used carefully, War Wagons can be tremendously useful. The fact that
they do not recoil makes it very hard to beat them when they are in a
good formation. The common offensive tactic of trying to compress and
push back a defensive wall is entirely impossible on War Wagons. This,
their high factors, and even more their missile ability, makes War Wagons
excellent troops for holding the corner of a line or the end of one flank.
You can often leave a flank hanging in space without supporting troops if
you have a War Wagon holding it down, depending upon the missile fire
and high combat factors of the War Wagon to see off any attackers.
As noted above, War Wagons are devastating against Mounted opponents.
Strangely enough, War Wagons are also good support for Mounted. It takes
them some time to get into position, but they have very good matchups
against the troops that Mounted hate most: Bows and Pikes. Where other
heavy foot has to worry about getting flanked or overlapped, War Wagons
don't mind it as much. This means that a cavalry-heavy army can abandon
its War Wagons in a fairly isolated position without great danger.
War Wagons are very good at holding a line, even heavily outnumbered.
The enemy may be able to overwhelm them eventually, but it will take a long
time to do it, giving you time to return or achieve your own aim on the
other end of the battlefield. War Wagons do exceedingly well in a defensive
situation, where the enemy must move towards them and they can sit and use
their powerful missile factors.
War Wagons are good at interdicting bad going. One of the ways
of using bad-going troops is to site them just inside the terrain, putting
good-going troops in their face and interfering with their movement. This
is easy to stop with a War Wagon or two -- you drive up to the edge of the
woods and open up with missile fire. Any Psiloi or Auxilia inside will
quickly be destroyed or driven off.
Finally, War Wagons make excellent Camp Defenders. Outside a Camp they
can interdict enemy movement and use their missile factors. Inside a Camp
they can still fire, and they gain +2 combat factor in melee. A Camp cannot
be flanked or overlapped, so the War Wagon will have +6 or +7 combat
factor, cannot be recoiled, and can only be killed by being doubled,
which is mathematically impossible even for Psiloi-supported Blade or
double-ranked Pike. Without Elephants or Artillery, defending a Camp
with a War Wagon makes it impossible for your Camp to fall.
What Are War Wagons Bad At?
Maneuver. They can't enter bad going except on a road. This can make
an army using War Wagons as part of its formation end up in some awkward
and cramped positions. It makes them moderately poor at any aggressive
movement in a crowded map. And if there is some piece of crucial bad
going that must be taken or passed through, War Wagons are useless.
can't move into contact with the enemy. This makes them surprisingly poor
support troops at the center of an advance, as they can't go with any
advance into contact. Since you cannot fire at any units in melee or in
an overlap position, War Wagons quickly become spectators if their
commander is trying a push forward.
The Moral of the Story:
If you've got War Wagons, concentrate on giving them a task they are
good at. Used carefully, they can be an excellent addition to any army,
whether mounted like the Pechenegs or largely infantry like the Hussites.
Keep them away from enemy Artillery and Elephants and give them a task
within their capabilities, and they will do very well indeed.
War Wagon Armies
War Wagons are one of the rarest element types in DBA, with only eight
historical armies possessing them (Scythed Chariots appear in five armies,
a couple more if you count Stampeding Cattle).
War Wagons are used in an interesting variety of army types.
The Hussites supplement their mandatory complement of
War Wagons with Blades, Artillery, and a light mounted contingent. The
Pecheneg, with the second largest potential War Wagon entourage, are
a mounted army based almost entirely upon Light Horse. The Sea Peoples',
in marked contrast, are a Warband army.
A single War Wagon element appears as part of the Early Hebrew mixed-foot
army, the Khazar army based upon Cavalry and Light Horse with some foot
support, and combined-arms approaches of the Communal Italians and
The strangest army with a War Wagon element seems to be the Cyropaedic
Persians. Their War Wagon represents a mobile tower, and supplements a
mixed force of Cavalry, Auxilia, and Psiloi with one Camel element and
a striking arm of three Scythed Chariots! Talk about an eclectic mix.
Max. No. of War Wagons
Sea Peoples' (#14a)
Early Hebrew (#13), Cyropaedic Persian (#28b),
Khazar (#93), Communal Italian (#123), Later Hungarian (#166)
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