Let’s face it, there are times when a game starts off on the wrong foot and then things just get more weird as it progresses. It doesn’t have to be anybody’s fault, sometimes shit just happens and somehow saps all the joy out of a game. Luckily it doesn’t happnen very often, but when it happens, it can spell the death of a ruleset.
Neither H. nor I had any inkling about the fact that we were about to experience one of those “sour grapes” as we decided to start our Dux Britanniarum campaign. A province was selected (Rhegis, for those interested), nobles were generated, scenario was… well, not exactly randomly selected, but elected by default by the terrain I had available at the time.
The scenario was quite simple – Saxons were to plunder a small village, Britons were to stop them. With even forces on both sides and players eager to try the ruleset in earnest for the first time, what could go wrong, right?
Well, the dices provided us with the first monkey wrench in the machinery. With the village randomly placed on a far end of the table and British entry point still unknown, H. drove his warriors hard – his hearthguard elites moved rapidly… his levies took their time. After two rounds of free Saxon movement, I threw a dice to see where local heroes would make their appearance… and the dice decided for the sector that would allow me to drive straight into the flank of the Saxon force. Not the best news for H., but still not a deal breaker. Or so we though…
Next, we got the first taste of my “rolling dices like a god”-ability, which apparently was gifted to me by powers that be for that specific game. I was seemingly unable to roll anything less than fives in most of my offensive rolls. Thus, in its initial charge, my peasant shieldwall drove away H.’s levies without breaking a sweat. Even the fact that one third of my formation broke rank, chased after fleeing Saxons like headless chicken and got promptly slaughtered didn’t seem to bother their cousins all that much.
H.’s force was now split in two – his levies were sent packing, while his hearthguard was busy turning the village upside down. For a short while it seemed that Lady Luck was generous to both of us on that evening. According to the scenario rules, Saxons had to roll a six on a single dice to find loot; two loots successfully carried away would give H. a victory. Two loot dice rolls later, H’s hearthguard had fulfilled his victory conditions! Whether their fighting prowess was all it was cracked up to be remained to be proven, but they sure as heck showed that they were expert looters! All H. now had to do was to make a clean getaway and the day was his.
Cards, dice and pure dumb luck now conspired against him and turned almost guaranteed victory into a disastrous defeat. My guys moved far quicker than they should be able to, his turned inexplicably into lethargic zombies. My guys fought like lions, his acted as if they could barely lift a sword. Or, in gaming terms – disparity in our respective dice luck turned the game into a rather unsavoury one-sided slaughter and ignominious Saxon defeat.
Musings after the battle
If I’m to be honest, it’s hard to say anything constructive about the game or the ruleset based on the experience above. My incredible luck with dice on that particular day handed me the victory on a silver platter. Sure, it was a great triumph for the local lads, but not of the variety that provides a fun game.
All right, there was one valuable lesson that we learned from that game – it’s a good idea to keep a running tally of “dead” warriors while the game is going on. The actual deaths are rather important for the final outcome of a raid/battle and as it turns out, in the heat of the battle, it’s just too easy to forget who got smacked in the head with an axe and who shat their pants but managed to run away.