reviews\ Apr 1, 2001 at 8:00 pm

DBA Online - PC - Review

For the newcomer to miniature gaming, a first look at DBA Online reveals a program that seems slightly confusing, and lacking three-dimensional eye candy.

But delve into the world and you’ll be amazed at what you find. The graphical elements may be akin to one of the older Avalon Hill board games, with a touch more artistry to the individual units, but this game is one that will have you sitting staring at your computer monitor for hours while you try to figure out what your opponent is doing, and how you can counter that.

DBA Online is intriguing, challenging, frustrating (as in, why can’t I have more movement points) and will take you a long time to play, longer to master, but will provide quite a bit of enjoyment along the way.

This game has worldwide support. It is not uncommon to find opponents to play in England, Rome or any stop in-between. Before you challenge one of those players, you can take a sneak peak at how good they may be by visiting their player profile and checking out their won-loss record. Of course, on any day, even the newest war gamer may find the terrain in their favor, or the planets have aligned and a brilliant military move sudden occurs to them.

The game itself has history on its side. While some of the battles you fight may be created in the minds of those who send the challenge, the armies are historically based. The game itself is turn-based.

Obviously, it is a game that is played online. You can get into the game at the lowest membership level without it costing you too much, but if you want to be a full-fledged player, capable of taking part in tournaments and championship battles, you will have to pay for that privilege. The cost is $9.95 a month.

“DBA Online is built on a miniature rule-set under the name DBA,” said DBA Online Marketing Manager Eugene Kisly.  “It is a famous rule-set and is widely used by miniature gamers.

“It is easy to get the idea of the game. DBA Online Graphic User Interface lets people concentrate on strategy and tactics, exempting them from boring distance calculation and questionable situations.

“The game is turn-based. It may be divided into two phases: battle preparations and battle itself. During battle preparation phase, you compose your army, make map selection, place your camp and deploy your army. The second phase is the battle itself. Winning condition is to kill 4 out of 12 enemy elements. There are a couple exclusions from the rule, but they occur quite rarely.”

So how does the game play out? After setting up your armies and placing your camp, you are given a score. The high scorer goes first. During your bound (or your turn), you can move your units. You have only so many movement points to spend. You can advance, group, spin elements or align them any way you wish. If you have bowmen, and they are in range, you can attack. When you have everything set up the way you wish, you hit the finish key, connect to the server and send your movement to your opponent. You can have several games going at once, which can be a bit confusing, but it does keep the game tempo going while waiting for a reply from another gamer.

The player interface is a bit confusing to begin with, but as you play, you do get a feel for it, and what is possible. While the game is not lavish in its graphical elements, it does give a nice feel for miniature war gaming and expands it worldwide. Don’t expect to be wowed by the audio portion of the game.

This is chess. Sure, the elements may be different, the rules may be not be as familiar, but the cerebral processes are every bit as intense. Instead of a manual with the game itself, players can access the manual online. You will find a variety of movement hints and tips, but the real challenge comes in playing the game.. Obviously, if you lack the patience to play a battle over a period of time, this is not the game for you. If you relish competing in tournaments and championship battles that play out over weeks, while meeting a variety of gamers from around the world, then this may be exactly the type of game that you will enjoy.

Though not rated, this game can be played by anyone.


Install: Easy.
This game is relatively easy to install, and connection to the server – where the games are played – takes little time.

Gameplay: 7
This is turn-based and some of those turns may be a long time in coming. However, you can have more than one battle going at the same time, which will give a wide diversion to the game play. Game boards for individual battles are not overly big, but do sport terrain features (as flat two-dimensional outlines), which come into, play during the battle.

Graphics: 7
The elements are like an old-style board game, though there are ways you can view the contest. While not stunning, they do convey the style of play well.

Sound: N/A.

Difficulty: 9.5.
It does take a while to learn how to play this game, but the fact that each battle can take quite a while to play out works to the advantage of the neophyte gamer. It is entirely possible to create battles on your own computer – as opposed to one against an Internet foe – to learn the game by playing against yourself.

Concept: 8.
While Internet gaming is not new, this is one of the first products that embrace the miniature gaming world with its rules intact. Other war gaming products have modified versions of these rules, and while they may intrigue a different style of war gamer, DBA Online caters to those that have been proponents of this particular style in a manner that they firmly embrace.

Multiplayer: 9.5
This product is played over the Internet with opponents from throughout the world. Obviously that gives this game high marks in this category.

Overall: 8
This is not a game that will appeal to everyone, but it does have terrific Internet support and an incredible worldwide support base. Game play is slow, there is little doubt about that, but if you have the patience, you will find that the cerebral challenge is worth the time it takes to play out a battle. The fact that you can challenge and play a wide range of games at once also is a plus.


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