The Dark Ages, Dux Britanniarum, 28mm
This small game was the first in a mini campaign, involving Saxon raids on what is now Essex. In the 6th century AD it was Caer Colun, and the Saxons were raiding by boat across the Thames Estuary, from the “Lost Lands” of Ceint (now Kent), the main Saxon foothold in the area. This raid was launched against the lands surrounding the Post-Roman British town of Caesaromagnus (now Chelmsford). This raid was taken from the scenarios at the back of the rules, and was called “Raiding a Border Tower” – presumably one overlooking the Thames. While the main British force was clustered around the watchtower, a patrol had been sent off, and so the Britons were split. The Saxons knew this, and had the option to attack the patrol, or assault the main force. The British were played by Alan and Gyles. We (Sean and I) decided to take the latter course, working on the principle that our objective was to capture a noble, and with two there instead of one, then the chances of success were higher, despite there being four British units to fight instead of two. We had better troops – or so we thought – so what could possibly go wrong?The game began with a rapid Saxon advance, down from the hill on the east side of the table, towards the border tower near the shorter southern table edge. The game was fought on an 8×6 foot table, but in these games a 6×4 would have been just as good – if not better. The Britons came off the hill to meet us, with their one elite hearthguard unit going to the right of the marsh, and the three groups of levies to the left. Sean took charge of our own elite hearthguard, and by outnumbering the British hearthguard two to one we were fairly confident of victory. For my part my warriors – three groups of them – headed around the marsh to take on the three units of British levies. They were only levies for goodness sake… surely this was going to be easy!Our first shock came when our hearthguard were repulsed by half their number of their British counterparts. In Dux Britanniarum it isn’t just the number of troops you have – its the cards you play. Each side gets a poker hand of five Fate cards. Depending what they say on them these can help your attack or defence, or give you some form of bonus. In the British case they fired a volley of missiles before the two sides made contact, and then played some pretty slick cards, which effectively doubled the casualties they’d inflict that round. Our own cards were mediocre at best.So, our elites bounced back, taking three casualties to one of the Britons. Over to the right the British levies had formed a shieldwall, and stood braced and ready for my charge. I played a good card – “Aggressive Charge” – which gave me a +1 to hit, but it wasn’t enough. Even though I should have inflicted more casualties than they did, because they were in shield wall the first one on each base doesn’t count. So, my warriors were bounced, and spent the next turn licking their wounds, wondering what on earth had gone wrong.By then the British patrol – two groups of warriors – had returned, and Gyles, commanding the British left piled them into my right flank. This attack was mirrored by the levies who defied the logic of warfare and charged in at the same time. So, my three bases were hit by five British ones, and my warriors started to go down. Once again the British players produced some excellent cards, while we had nothing to match them. That’s their battle line down below – the long line of British spears and shields. My guys are shown two turns later, fleeing the field, accompanied by the Saxon leader Athelwald. On Sean side of the table the British hearthguard with their chief Bryannus (Alan’s alter ego) at their head piled into the Saxons again, and despite suffering a couple of casualties the Britons won again. One of Sean’s two elite units “lost its amphorae” and fled, while the other had little option but to pull back. By now we were all running from the field. You see, in a campaign game you don’t want to take too many casualties, or lose a leader. In the aftermath of the fight we rolled to see what happened- the Saxons would spend three campaigning months licking their, while the British get to promote a unit up one quality level, so a levy can become a warrior, or a warrior group an elite one. Next time we meet it’ll be that little bit harder to win the day… things aren’t looking good in Ceit this year!