Blimey...seems like Arthurian rule sets are like buses...you wait ages for one then along come a load of 'em all at once!!
Yup...my 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...