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Monday, 30 July 2012

Nice Weather For Dux...

Blimey...seems like Arthurian rule sets are like wait ages for one then along come a load of 'em all at once!! PDF download of Dux Britanniarum has arrived (the hard copy should be here in a matter of days...) so now my line up of Duxes (is that the plural???) is complete.

So far, I have skimmed through Dux Bellorum and had a flick (if that's the right word for a look through a PDF) through Dux Britanniarum and it is abundantly clear that what we have here is potentially two very good rule sets that both have their own very unique takes on wargaming the Age of Arthur. I can honestly see me playing both games regularly if I have opponents to play with, as both games do very different things and each looks like it'll do its particular 'thing' very well... The following are just a few initial observations and I will expand on them once I actually start playing each set.

Dux Bellorum is a set of battle rules that simulate armies of about 500 men in full-on battles. The basic 'unit' is a stand of models representing 50 men. This means that one has to have one's models based as 'elements' in effect. For the WAB players amongst us with 20mm slottabase armies, this is no problem...we'll just use sabot bases/movement trays. I'm already thinking I might design some for the game and ask Warbases to build them for me. 120mm wide and 80mm deep should do it, with 12 shieldwall foot, 10 warrior foot, 5 formed cavalry, 3 skirmish cavalry or 4 skirmish foot to a base. That way, I can field a full 32pt (standard size army - the Dux Bellorum equivalent of WAB Age of Arthur's 1500pts) Romano-British army or indeed a Welsh army from my WAB models with no problems at all.

The basic mechanics look pretty straightforward and easily adaptable to any scale of minis or size of table with very little effort - movement is done in base-widths so base sizes are irrelevant other than for determining table size (although the notion of using increments of 4" with 28mm models on the big bases as per Steve 'Age of Arthur' Jones' idea is the way I want to go. )

There are army lists provided for all the obvious protagonists in Britain from 400 - 800 (ish) AD, so lots of scope for using those Dark Age and Late Roman armies.

The key to Dux Bellorum seems, from my initial skim through, to be the way that a warlord's leadership points are allocated to units/groups of warriors - command and control seems very big in this game. Leadership points do all sorts of cool things, usually boosting one's abilities - bravery, aggression, etc or cancelling hits - even interrupting an opponent's move sequence. As casualties mount, leadership points are lost, making it harder for the warlord to influence the battle, which is a good representation of battlefield attrition. Very clever idea!

The production values are top notch and typical Osprey, with the addition of pretty pics of model soldiers. For £11.99 it's an absolute bargain!!! Now, who wants to play???

Dux Britanniarum, on the other hand is a full on campaign system and skirmish game all in one. The production is absolutely superb, with excellent layout, etc. It costs almost twice what Dux Bellorum does, but it is worth it, as the artwork and layout is brilliant.

In this game, you are either British or Saxon. As the former, you are attempting to keep your kingdom safe from pagan marauders and rsie to either be a King or to be the Comes or Dux Britanniarum - Warleader  of Britannia. As the saxons, you are trying to steal the British kingdom and become its new Saxon king. There will be a future supplement detailing multi-kingdom campaign systems and additional raider 'nations' (e.g. Picts, Irish)

There is a great system for generating your characters and, army-wise, you start with a standard force. For the Britons, 1 unit of elites, 2 of warriors, 3 of levy and 1 of skirmishers, plus a war leader, his champion and two nobles. For the Saxons, this is 2 units of elites and 3 of warriors and 1 of skirmishers with the same characters as the Britons. Now, historically speaking, I'm not convinced by the British levy, but most rules include them and it does make each army different, which in this game's terms seems as though it will be important. The basic warbands can increase as the campaign progresses, with unit sizes increasing (all formed units start at 6 models, skirmishers 4) and extra units being recruited (assuming one is successful in one's battling/raiding). One can also upgrade units as battles are won (although the number of elites is always limited - you can't just upgrade everything to 'elite') and foederati can also be hired, so, as the campaign progresses, things get more and more interesting.

The game mechanics look pretty straightforward, but are significantly enhanced by a card system that adds flavour to the proceedings for each side. This is the part I'm really looking forward to with these rules and ios the part I need to read in more detail before commenting further.

There are two types of battle - raids and battles, each giving rise to slightly different types of game. This is good, as it does depend on the stage of the campaign and the way one is getting on as regards whether raids or battles can be fought and also reflects the warfare of the time very well. The post-battle/raid sequence seems remarkably straightforward and the authors' claim that record keeping is down to a side of A4 could well be right!! Time will tell!

So, two very different, hugely interesting sets of rules. I will be playing Dux Britanniarum against Mike next Monday and have also got one definite local Dux Bellorum opponent lined up, with possible games within the next month. Exciting times for an Arthurian anorak such as myself!!!!

More to come soon, so keep watching...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Dux Bellorum has arrived!!! Dux Britanniarum on the way soon!!

Got my advance copy of Dan Mersey's new Arthurian rules today via Osprey. Bloody good book that combines rules, army lists and scenarios in one compact package. Great pics also from various related Osprey titles, plus two pics from my Arthurian armies and loads from James Morris' collection. Just need to order some bases now to create the 'element' style units the rules need (assuming I can find an opponent at the wargames club!).

I'll post a bit of a review once I have actually read and digested the rules a bit. All I will say at the moment is that they are an element based mass battle game that are a zillion miles away from my usual wargaming fare of WAB and skirmishy stuff... But that can only be a good thing!!

In other news, my movement bases arrived today for the Too Fat Lardies 'Dux Britanniarum' Arthurian skirmish rules. The actual rules are released on Monday and Mike 'Trouble at t' Mill' Whitaker (one 't' dontcha know...I spelled it wrong on my last post...sorry Mike...!!) and I are VERY much looking forward to this one, as it's got rules and campaign system all in one handy package!!! And it looks like it really ROCKS as a game too! Very nice! Check out the Lardies' blog for more info/battle reports, etc...

Pics of my Romano British army plus back-story once the bases are done and the book has arrived so I can choose which kingdom I am representing...

Mike and I are planning our first foray into these rules on August 6th...there will be a report and pics!!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Triumph of the White Ravens!!

So, a few weeks ago, Mike 'Trouble at t'Mill' Whittaker and I reconvened with our new Age of Arthur scenario that we have been playing with for a while. We have had one test game already (on Mike's blog, I think) and this was the re-match. The map is below. Basically, the defender has a non-hearthguard unit and some skirmishers defending a watchtower against an enemy attack, but deployment of all other units on both sides is determined by leadership rolls which are modified each turn to give increasing chances of getting troops to arrive. The objective is to hold the tower at the end. We used 1500pts plus a bonus force of 250pts that would arrive in our enemy's half of the table at some point, time and place determined by dice rolls... I took my Romano-British and Mike took his early Saxons.

Below, my deployed defenders - milites with light armour, thrusting spears and large shields and some rustici with slings.
Here is what Mike managed to deploy and get on table in turn 1. My chaps were already outnumbered, as my troops don't start arriving til next turn!
So, Mike launched his attack with Gedriht and Duguth...oh dear...this ain't gonna end well!

 ...and both units assaulted my palisade, having driven off the skirmish screen... This is turn 2
 And, as expected, my milites crumbled and ran - they only lost the combat by one, surprisingly, but, not for the first time in this game, I couldn't roll dice worth a darn!!
However, things looked better  at the end of turn 3, as my army was beginning to arrive and the milites had rallied, albeit without their banner AND the tower compound was now full of the unwashed saxon horde. Trouble was, Mike was rolling superb depolyment dice so I was still looking shaky and very much outnumbered!
Turn 3! The Saxons line up against my milites against what was MY palisade... On Mike's right, Geoguth advanced menacingly...
However, it wasn't all bad, as my cavalry decided to arrive as well to threaten the Duguth on Mike's left and my skirmishers arrived on my extreme left to play havoc with the Geoguth there. Things were starting to look interesting now!

Turn 4: The Gedriht, sensing that an overwelming British attack was coming in the centre moved out to deal with it. Mike kept the Duguth in the tower compound, as he's very good at remembering the scenario victory conditions - lots of additional victory pts if the tower is uncontested at end of game! My equites were also really being annoying now, threatening the left Saxon flank. At this point, both our reserve units arrived. You can see my allied Saxons at the ford at the top of the picture and the 'White Ravens', which were Mike's mounted Duguth. The smart readers among you have by now worked out what's going to happen here, broadly speaking, from my post title...but do read gets MUCH better!!! :-)

 Here you can see the end of turn 4, with Mike's duguth facing off my cavalry and the 'White Ravens' advancing towards my shieldwall...What??!! Surely not...
So, in turn 5 Mike's Gedriht attacked my Milites in their shieldwall and, wonder of wonders, BOUNCED!!!! Only a remarkably lacklustre British pursuit ended my howls of derision as the pride of the Saxon kingdom buggered off back over the hill AND panicked the dugutrh in the tower compound!!! At this point I was regretting the heavy armour on my Commanipulares, as they were struggling to impact on the battle at all....
 In turn 6, my milites advanced on the palisade to attempt to control it and my allied saxons closed off the 'White Ravens' retreat so they had to advance on my shieldwall...hmmm...cavalry sandwich, I thought....
 ...and, in turn 7, faced with the threat developing up their backside, the Ravens charged my shieldwall and caused a few casualties. No problem...thrusting spears, loads of ranks...16 attacks...and this is what happened!!! My cursed dice made their most spectacular appearance with 9 (NINE!) ones.

It got worse in the next round...these are my saving throws....
...which meant that the Ravens broke and ran down my milites. Luckily, no-one panicked, but all Mike's fleeing Saxons rallied, with the result that, although the tower was contseted, he had most troops close to it and gained 200 victory points in addition to those scored for busting up my milites with his (now much vaunted) 'White Ravens'.
 So, the scenario went to Mike.

Cracking game though, as always. I really enjoy playing Mike. We are evenly matched gaming-wise and we both have similar philosophy: it's all about fun and a great game and the scenario is king!!
We now reckon this scenario is a winner - Mike has played it again since with another club member (Saxons against Saxons) and it was another great game. It really makes you think. The deployment rules are really good - they keep both players guessing and the need to hold the tower keeps the game focused around its objective. The terrain also plays a part, which is very important. Mike and I have created a winner here, we think!

We are doing a club Age of Arthur day in November and are considering opening it up to other gamers wot we know, (details coming soon!) so if you come to see us in November, you may well end of playing this scenario then!!

For Mike's view of this battle go to his blog ( and read his 'Saxon Poetry''s great!!!!