Undiscouraged by the rather bland aftertaste of his initial raid on the British lands, last Sunday H. decided to have another go at Dux Britanniarum. This time around it would be a simple wealth redistribution barbarian style – grab some cows, get them on the boats, have a feast once safely home. Any locals having objections were more than welcome to discuss the issue with the tip of a Saxon spear.
The scenario begins with Saxons already having acquired meat for their planned barbecue. They are now trying to get to their boat at the opposite end of a table stuffed with more or less randomly placed terrain features. Natives, obviously rather miffed at the Saxons, make their entry through a section of one of the long sides of the table decided by a roll of a six-sided dice.
In our case, Saxons had a nice ahead start of three rounds before my Brits appeared on the table. Luckily for me, the cows did their patriotic bit, not only insisting on moving at “oh look, a patch of grass, let’s graze for a while”-speed, but also veering off in any direction but straight forward almost every time they had a chance to do that. Perhaps Saxon way of herding the cattle with sharp side of the axe had something to do with it…
In any case, when the time for my vanguard to make their appearance finally arrived, the dice decided that it would be at the flank of the Saxon convoy. It looked like it would be a rerun of previous scenario, but this time around H., having deployed a proper flank protection, was ready for any eventuality. Initial clash of shields ensued almost immediately. With the advantage of superior numbers and shieldwall formation, I managed to push Saxons back without much effort, but this was just a foreplay before the main event.
In reaction of the initial setback, H. quickly turned his hearthguard around to support his rather hard-pressed warriors. Over next couple of rounds, we both gathered and formed up our forces. The end result was something of a standoff, with two massive lines of warriors facing each other, while the cows sloooowly made their way to the Saxon feast tables.
Not willing to take on H.’s massed force in front of me, I decided to send my peasants of a furious run around the the Saxon flank, hoping to catch the cows before they reached the edge of the table. My advantage was in the fact that my movement rate was 3 D6 dices per turn, while the cows moved only with 2 D6 dices. There was also a chance of those cows veering of if they rolled same result on both dices. All said and done, there was a good chance my peasants would be able to swamp the Saxons and reclaim those cows before they were spirited away to the Danish shores. In the meantime, my “proper” warriors would keep the attention of Saxon host without actually attacking them.
H. would have none of that, of course. Once he had his troops in order (a relative term when used regarding Saxons), he swiftly jumped on my host with obvious intention of gutting every single one of my followers. A gruesome and protracted clash of shields between two rather evenly matched forces ensued. Casualties were quite even on both sides, but Lady Luck smiled at me also on this occasion and the Saxons finally run away, cracking under the weight of shock.
In the meantime, the race between the cattle herd and my peasants was slowly decided in the favour of two-legged creatures. My mob caught up with their target just as they were about to exit the board and I actually did have a chance to try to stop the Saxons. However, I faced two problems. My bunch of peasants were unformed and would certainly suffer serious losses even against the few Saxon warriors who were controlling the cattle. Furthermore, the remains of the main Saxon host were by that time just a stone throw away and H.’s hearthguard would make mincemeat out of my levies. So in the end, I just didn’t dare to attack and let the Saxons get away with their loot.
Musings after the battle
Aside from the fact that we had a much nicer time than in our first game, there are two things that are worth discussing. The first is the combat mechanism used in Dux Brittaniarum. At first glance it is rather simplistic ‘buckets of dice’ system, but this impression is rather deceiving. Maybe we were just lucky, but in our huge clash of shields, the system provided a truly gruelling and nail-biting experience with proper historical feel to it. Add the faith deck cards to the mix and the result is a close combat system that is fun, “realistic” and somewhat unpredictable.
The second issue that requires further attention is the campaign setting in which scenarios are played. I’m not sure if I’m alone here, but the fact that there are consequences beyond the last dice roll of the game do significantly change the way I play. In this particular game, I consciously held back on two occasions - first, when two evenly matched forces faced each other and then in the final phase of the game, when I decided that the casualties I’d probably suffer weren’t worth the potential gain. If this were a stand-alone game, I wouldn’t even think twice before attacking in either of those situations.
Finally, a quick apology for varying quality of the few pictures I was able to salvage from this game. My regular camera has decided to quit on me and the compact that I used for this game is simply not up to the task.