Archive for July, 2012
In order to play Dux Britanniarum you will need both the Game Deck and the Fate Deck. We know that some of you like to make your own cards for use with the game so we have produced an easy to make downloadable set with full instructions. All you need to do is cut the cards and fold them over to get a perfectly matching front and rear. We reccomend laminating the cards or using them in card sleves.
Click here to download Dux Britanniarum Card Set
“You’ve got to fight for what you want, for all that you believe” Praefectus Constantine’s voice soared as he spoke to his men, “It’s right to fight for what we want, to live the way we please. As long as we have done our best then no-one can do more, and life and love and happiness are well worth fighting for”. He paused to look along the ranks, no cheer, no sound. He continued “And we should never count the cost or worry that we’ll fall. It’s better to have fought and lost than not have fought at all. Let’s always take whatever comes and never try to hide; face everything and anyone, together side by side”.
A man at the back coughed. This was not what they wanted to hear. A prayer from the Priest had been less than stirring and the skies had darkened just as he implored the heavens to show their light. These were portentous signs!
With Verulamium besieged the messengers who escaped its walls each night brough with them tides of woe. Only four weeks food remained within the walls and the area around the city had been ravaged by the Saxons, stripped bear of all that could provide succour, the aquaduct broken down beyond repair.
The defeat at Coln Fields had taken some two months to recover from, but now the forces of Cynwidion were taking the field to expel the foe from the walls of its fairest city, Caer Mincip, the City of the Municipality. They faced their foe on the same ground upon which they had suffered the reversal and memories of that day were prominent in the minds of many. Friends dead, countrymen slaughtered. It did not bode well.
For two months now Cynewulf’s forces had laid siege to the city of the Romans and dreamed of the German settlers who would fill its fine verdant countryside and pay tribute at his halls. He would not occupy the Roman town, that was not the Saxon way, but high up on the hill there was fine land for a King to build his hall and look out across his kingdom. That was the dream.
But today was the reality. The Britons were come to turn his dream to a nightmare. He spoke to his men, he sacrificed a goat, but the sky had turned dark at just the moment when he called upon the Goddess Freya to smile upon them. It was a portentous sign!
The Saxons raced forward towards the small hamlet which sat amid the battlefield, its inhabitants long gone, its livestock slaughtered to feed the besieging army. To meet them the British advanced towards the high ground to the south, moving fast at first and then forming their shieldwall. On their right the Numeri of the Levy under Coroctacus formed up on their own, the Comanipulares refusing to form up with the peasants.
For the Saxons Aethelstan advanced on the right with the Hearthguard whilst Hinga took the right, intent on harrying the Levy there. In the centre Cynewulf commanded two Groups of Warriors whilst ahead his archers shot towards the enemy shieldwall. However his patience was short and he sent forward his two groups, one led by him to support Hinga, then other on its own to attack the Levy from the front. To his disgust the former rushed forward and hit the Levy before he could bring his force round on their exposed flank.
Levy they may be, but these men fought for their homes and families. This was their land and no man would take it from them without a fight. The Saxons fought hard, and British blood was spilt, but numbers and the fact the the British were atop a rise took their toll and the Saxons were routed back down the hill. With a cheer and a cry of “Cynwidion am Byth” the farmers ran after them down the slope, taking Coroctacus with them into a feast of blood and revenge.
Fortunately for Coroctacus the Saxons died easily, and he was able to spot Cynewulf working his was round to attack him in the flank. Now was no time for hesitation. “Run!” he cried. And they ran.
The British shieldwall had broken to allow its men to turn to face this fresh threat on their right flank where they again locked shields to face the foe. It was to this bastion that Coroctacus ran, met by Constantine who aided him in rallying his men after their narrow esape from under the Saxon noses. Indeed it was in shieldwall afresh that the levy met the onslaught of Hinga whose men outran Cynewulf’s force to lauch their attack on the Levy. But now Owain, Cynwidion’s Champion, fought with them, and he laid about the Saxons with his sword and smote them down in great numbers.
Yet as Hinga retired wounded, a fresh wave broke against the peasants in their shieldwall as Cynewulf brought forward his final Group of Warriors. The fight was grim as men cursed their foes and pushed with their shields to keep the enemy at bay. The ferocity of the Saxon attack was such that the Levy and Coroctacus were forced from the field, fleeing back away from the fight. Cynewulf laughed as his foes fled, but the laughter turned to bile as he looked to his right.
Aethelstan and the heartguard had been placed to watch the main British shieldwall, to harry them while Cyenwulf destroyed the Levy and they could then turn their attentions on the British warriors. It had been a tactic which so nearly worked last year but had gone horribly wrong before a violent counter attack led by Constantine.
While the fight had raged Bedwyr the Briton had broken the shieldwall into two parts. Two groups of warriors had faced off the Saxons fighting the melee, whilst the Comanipulares had formed the front rank with warriors to their rear and had attacked Aethelstan.
An error of judgement saw the Saxon Hearthguard fail to retire before this force, as Cynewulf had desired, and in the ensuing combat the Britons had sent the Pagans to the halls of the dead with abandon. The pagans fled.
With a sigh Cynewulf walked back across his dying men. Hinga limped along side him, his leg already stiff with pain from his wound. They would not flee from their foe, but they knew they were beaten. The omens had been right, the signs were portentous.
This was the second game of the evening, set two months after the last in June of 481 the Britons had recovered the men lost in the last game and were set to relieve the siege of Verulamium. In the end they won a three point victory on the tabletop but in the post game phase they had two net Pursuit cards, turning it into a 5 point victory, a very significant victory indeed. This allowed them to upgrade one of their Levy Groups to Warrior status, which is very fitting in view of how herocially the Levy performed. Interestingly the Britons had surrendered another Pursuit card in the penultimate turn in the hope of getting a tactical advantage in the game itself. In return they drew a Desperare card, “You Despair” which is useless. Had they held on to the Pursuit card this would have been sufficient a victory to allow them to gain an additional unit on the reinforcements table. That said, getting the Levy promoted to Warriors is a great result for the British as they are now shaping up to be a very competent force. The Saxons will need to use all of their speed and tactical guile to beat the British in future.
In campaign terms, the Saxons have been expelled from Cynwidion until they can recover their numbers. They rolled well for this so they can return in five months, however as that is November they will be ensconced in their halls and won’t return until April 482AD. That also takes us to the end of year at which point Cynewulf needs to pay Hengist in Ceint his tribute. It has been a poor year for him, but he can just scrape together enough cash to do this, fortunately or he’d have been declared an outlaw! We now look at the end of year events, a few dice rolls which occur in the closed season and tell us is anyone dies of natural causes (which could be important for Constantine as he has not yet establish sufficient a reputation to make a claim for the throne himself – fortunately the King of Cynwidion still lives). As it was no plague or pestilence struck (which could raise a siege if one were in place or end building work), which is fortunate as Constantine has used the wealth gained from his victory to build watchtowers along the borders of two provinces as the ones being built near Verulamium had all been thrown down by the Saxons.
So, our next game will be in April 482AD and, unless I am much mistaken, will be a Saxon raid as Cynewulf desperately needs to raise some cash.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this report and it shows how simple the campaign management system is and how much narrative you can get from it with pretty much no work.
September of 480AD saw Cynewulf raid again into the lands of the Britons, sacking a village and leaving with sufficient plunder to pay his dues to his Overlord Hengist in Ceint and still feast his men through the winter. At Yule his men hoisted him upon their shields and declared him a great leader in war, a Warlord in the finest Saxon traditions. For Cynewulf and his men it was clear that Woden had guided them and that in the coming year British land would be theirs.
Meanwhile in Cynwidion’s Senate the King met with the Decuriones and his military leader Praefectus Constantine. The outlook for the new year was bleak. On the border, around Verulamium Constantine had begun construction of border towers to warn of the approach of raiders, but worse was feared. Already it was clear that the Saxon plague was attempting to take hold of land and Verulamium, Caer Mincip as the British were increasingly calling it in their own language, was likely to be a target.
In April of 481 Cynewulf attacked, not this time to raid but to seize land. His men tore through the British levy who were caught out of shieldwall, and the remaining Britons were encircled on a patch of high ground and called upon to surrender. Constantine responded by launching a charge with his Comanipulares and a band of warriors which shattered a Saxon force that had come too close, routing them from the field and killing a Saxon Noble. Despite outnumbering the British the Saxons were so shocked by this small defeat that their entire force fled the field in disorder.
Some said it had been a miracle, yet in truth the victory was a pyrrhic one which took the Britons months to recover from, allowing the Saxons a free hand to raid with impunity, although fortunately the shock of their defeat had been sufficient to limit their inclination to cross into Cynwidion too often. That remained the case until July when once again Cynewulf came in search of battle.
To the south of the old Roman municipality, on the Coln river, the Saxons crossed into the land of the Britons. Prafectus Constantine once again led his men into the field. By now his military prowess had bought him small wealth and, more importantly, his constant drilling and no shortage of war had seen some of his levy fully trained as Warriors in his force. Yet despite this his men’s morale was not high. As they looked across the valley towards their foe the Praefect stepped forth. “Here we stand and fight for our land, for civilisation and for our families…” His speech was eloquent and well measured, his men cheered to hear such words spoken and then, his sword in hand he formed the shieldwall and lead it forward.
Cynewulf the Silent had attempted to rouse his men with speech, but so dire was it that he was met with cries of disgruntlement from his men. In desperation he slaughtered a calf, yet all could see that the entrails spelled disaster. But no man could dwell too much on that, for the Britons were advancing. Forward went the Saxons, intent on proving to their Gods that they could fight and make their own luck. On their left Cynewulf ran forward, in the centre Hinga loitered with malice in his heart at the wounding words his Lord had clearly spoken of him. On the right Aetelstan the Just commanded his Lord’s Hearthguard; no loitering there. The malice Asthelstan held was not for his Lord but for the Britons who he despised for their weakness.
On his right the Levy stood back as though afraid of the fight, their right flank anchored on thick woodland. In the centre Constantine advanced with three Groups of Warriors and his Comanipulares. He had surrendered his position atop the hill and was intent on taking the fight to his foe. Their shieldwall braced itself as Aethelstan charged forward with his heartguard and shields clashed, metal rang on metal.
The Gods may not have been with them, but outnumbered and against a Shieldwall Aethelstan’s Hearthgaurd fought like men possessed. Men fell on both sides, but then the Shieldwall broke. Now was the time for killing, now was the moment when the Britons would be overwhelmed. But all control had been lost. Instead of overlapping the remnants of the wall and cutting them down the Saxons rushed forward though the gap intent on chasing their fleeing foe. And Aethelstan went with them.
The British Comanipulares now pushed back the remainder of the Saxon Hearthguard, suddenly leaderless and confused, and the shieldwall broke to surround Aethelstan and the men who had broken through in order to destroy them. Men who moments before had been certain that victory was theirs. Could this be the Gods abandoning their cause? Could Woden have truly deserted them?
Of the hearthguard who had broken through only Aethelstan fought free from the scrimmage and ran towards his own folk. On the hill Constantine called for order. If he could reform his men on the hill in shieldwall to face the advancing Saxon Warriors he could win a famous victory and, hopefully, keep the Saxon plague from this land for months or years to come.
But it was a false hope. Hinga and Cynewulf, now seemingly resolved to act in concert, swept past Aethelstan and fell upon the disordered Britons and routed them from the field. A Thief’s Horde in plunder was taken from the battlefield yet no pursuit was possible. A shame, for had such occurred the defeated Britons would have been thrown into greater disorder. As it was Cynewulf and his men found themselves besieging the Roman city of Verulamium, one of the wonders of Britain where the fountains still flowed and the Curia debated. What was clear was that the city had men to man the walls, but only sufficient food for three months. How long would it be before Constantine could take to the field again?
This was the first of two games we played last night, one after the other, and provided for an incredibly exciting game. Unbelievably the Saxon Hearthguard broke the shieldwall but then potentially threw it all away with a disorderly pursuit of the remnants. Had the British been able to re-form and re-organise before Cynewulf hit home they could have won a huge victory, but fate dictated that it was not to be, and they fled the field. Fortunately for them their casualties were relatively light, but even so their most wealthy city is under siege. A real see-saw game which we played in just over an hour and a quarter, so plenty of time for a second game, more of which later.
Here’s a look at southern Cynwidion which is the heart of our campaign. We have decided to go with the a-historical option of having the Saxons attacking the kingdom from the south as this allows us to focus on our club locality, so to make that more fun for us we have annexed Verulamium a bit earlier than we should. And why not?!
Possibly the most evocative aspect of Dux Britanniarum are the maps created by Coral Sealey which superbly bring to live the Britain of Arthur. The rules contain one large A3 map of Britian in 450AD as an insert showing the range of British Kingdoms existing at that time. Along side them we have the Book of Kingdoms in the rules with four A4 sized maps breaking the island down into four parts and providing the playing area for your campaign. These latter are much more detailed and show all of the provinces within each kingdom. Here we can see a magnified section on each map showing the evocative artwork on the A3 coloured map and the A4 sized regional maps.
The A4 maps will serve as the main playing areas for your campaigns. If you buy the hard copy book you won’t need to rip these out, we’ll provide you a printable pdf copy (a low-ink version if you prefer) so you can run your campaigns on that. The game mechanism is based on provinces, rather like a game of Risk, so movement around the map will be based on the conquest of regions rather than moving your armies from point A to point B. This will allow for a completely minimalist approach to campaign bookwork, indeed we reckon one sheet of paper to allow for the odd note at the end of each game will suffice for a whole campaign.
That said, we have not taken a minimalist approach to detail. The maps include plenty of additional information if you want to expand he game further, with the Roman roads marked, local industries and geographical features. What is certain is that with this degree of detail fighting your campaign will be a visually spectacular game.
I’ll be writing an article here about the Fate cards and how they work. It’s a system designed to be simple but far from simplistic and one which adds an additional dimension to the game.
Finally, here’s a few shots of some pages. The rules are interspersed with many illustrations and examples of a game in play as well as explanations from our friendly scribe Gildas who is there to talke you through how the rules work.
Sadly 650 pixels is not really enough room to show you a decent image, but we hope you get the picture! Just one week to go now and the boxes of envelopes are piling up on Lard Island. We have between 50 and 70 Arthurs left at this moment, so now is the time to order your hard copy edition to get your hands on the limited edition figures.
We are happy to announce that the next tranche of Dux Britanniarum releases are now available with the tablet and PDF bundles. What you’ll get with these bundles is either the PDF or tablet edition of the rules with a hard copy set of the Game cards.
Both editions are fully printable, but the tablet verision is fully navigable when used on a touch screen tablet such as the iPad. In addition, purchasers of these products will be able to get the low-ink printable version which is much cheaper to print but not quite as pretty.
The hard copy cards with the tablet edition or the PDF version are normally £20 but for advanced orders placed before the 30th we are doing a special price of just £18. We’ll be despatching the hard copy cards on Friday the 27th of July and the electronic files will be sent by email on Mondya the 30th.
Having seen the printer’s proof’s we have pressed the button for the presses to roll and we’re on target for publication on the 30th of July. We thought now might be a good time to look at the fabtastic deals you can get by ordering in advance. Not only will you be at the head of the queue for getting your order despatched, but you’ll also get some great bonus items, especially if you are quick.
We have commissioned a limited edition run of 800 28mm Arthur figures to go with the first 800 hard copies ordered. Like all TooFatLardies limited edition figures these will never be available again so are real collectors items. In addition to this we are giving away a free printable PDF of the rules OR a navigable version designed for a touch-screen tablet such as an iPad with every hard copy sold. Let us know which you’d like when you order and we will email this to you on pulication day, the 30th of this month.
The hard copy bundle is just £25 for a 92 page rule book with full colour throughout. It includes the rules, a set of 64 cards which comprise the Game Deck and the Fate Deck. We’re even throwing in a free hard plastic card box as well so you can keep your cards neat and tidy. To top that off you get the limited edition Arthur if you’re one of the first 800 customers ordering a hard copy and any customer placing an advanced order will get his or her choice of PDF or tablet version of the rules.
You do need to card set in order to play Dux Britanniarum, that’s why we are doing the bundle for such a great price. However, we do know thta some of you like to make your own cards. If that’s you, then the Hard Copy advance order deal is as follows. One copy of the rules, a limited edition Arthur if you are one of the first 800, and either the PDF or the tablet version of the rules. Again, the latter will be emailed to you on the 30th of July when the rules are released. The Hard copy advanced order deal is just £20.
Over the next few days we’ll be taking a look at what is in the rules, so watch this space for some greta previews of Dux Britanniarum.
We have just had the Dux Britanniarum cards back from the printer and they are really smart. So, we thought we’d shove a couple of pictures on Lard Island News. There are 64 cards in total, 19 comprise the Game Deck which determines the run of play. Typically a game with a starter Army will have eight cards but we have added plenty of spares to allow you to field larger forces if you wish. Here’s a look at the Game Deck with a few cards dealt out so you can see the image quality.
Next we have the Fate Deck which comprises 38 basic cards which are present for all games plus another six which may be added depending on the pre-game events, and we’ve added a blank card in as they always come in handy. Here’s a look at the Fate Deck.
We should be in a position to start taking advanaced orders early next week. We always like to see the final proofs from the printer before we take orders, just to ensure that we’re happy with the quality. In the next few days I hope to have some sample page shots so you can see what is going to be our most impressive production to date.
Rich: Publication date is the 30th of July. We’re getting ready for the launch, stuffing the limited edition Arthur figures into zip-lock bags and sticking up on padded envelopes so we’ll be ready for the big day.
Nick: How does one get hold of the limited edition figure?
Rich: The first 800 hard copies of the rules come with a 28mm Arthur figure, beautifully sculpted by Richard Ansell to fit in perfectly with the Gripping Beast starter armies that we are selling.
Nick: Yes, I noted they were available. Let’s talk about them in a moment, first can you tell me about the rules. What format are they available in and what do you get?
Rich: Okay, well the rules are perfect bound eighty odd pages, eighty four or eighty six, I can’t remember at the moment, all in full colour on high quality paper. In addition to the rules there is a pull out A3 sized map of Britain in 450AD, so that’s at the very start of the period that the rules cover, which shows all of the British kingdoms of that period. This provides a background to the rules and more importantly to the campaign system which is really at the heart of the game. We will also be producing an interactive tablet version of the rules which will be perfect for the iPad or similar touch screen tablets, and a PDF version.
In addition to the rules we have produced a deck of cards which actually is two decks, the Game Deck and the Fate Deck. There are 64 cards in total and they come in standard playing card size with a nice hard plastic box to keep them in.
Nick: Are these different to the IABSM cards then?
Rich: Yes, they are smaller, 88mm by 61mm with round corners. They are exactly like a standard playing card so very easy to use and shuffle.
Nick: Okay, so rules, cards, a large map, is there anything else we may need?
Rich: Figures. The rules aren’t limited to any particular scale but we use Gripping Beast figures and it made sense to talk to them about producing standard starter armies to accompany the rules. We sell a British starter army and a Saxon starter army at a good discounted rate so you can pick that up as well if you need. Then you’re ready to go.
Nick: Okay, so what about prices.
Rich: The rules will be selling at £20 for a hard copy with the cards at £8, but we’re doing a bundle deal for just £25 which I think is the sensible way to buy them. The PDF and tablet versions of the rules will have a set of printable cards with them if you fancy a bit of DIY card making, and they will be £15.
We’ll be doing some great pre-publication deals as well, for example if you buy the hard copy bundle prior to publication we’ll be throwing in the tablet or PDF version for free. Also the first 800 hard copy customers will get a free limited edition sculpt of Arthur in 28mm.
Nick: Is this by Richard Ansell again?
Rich: Yup. Tricky is a very talented sculptor and he has done Arthur to fit right in with the Gripping Beast figures. It looks superb. Like all of our limited edition figures it’s a one-off, we won’t be producing these again so they will be a real rarity in years to come.
Nick: Yes, I saw one of the Sharpe and Harper sets on EBay recently going for twenty five pounds!
Rich: That’s funny, that’s twice as much as the rules cost in the first place! A good investment.
Nick: Well, you have long stressed your desire to produce good value rule sets and the £25 bundle sounds like a great deal.
Rich: I think we have seen hyper inflation in recent years with the cost of rules. I try very hard to keep our rules affordable without compromising on production quality. If you look at the quality of IABSM which we produced last year you’ll see a very similar quality with Dux Britanniarum, although the look is very different.
Nick: What about the game, how does that play?
Rich: The rules of the basic game are very simple indeed, the back cover is the one page playsheet and that’s all you’ll really need to play the tabletop game, but there is much more to Dux Britanniarum than the tabletop game. We have designed to rules to provide a complete campaign system of which the games are the central part.
In essence you will select the British Kingdom which you and your opponent wish to fight over and then start a whole campaign which can last over many game years. What we have been at great pains to do is to create a streamlined almost paper-free system which allows the gamer to focus on the fun of the game but have those couched in a background setting which makes them all the more fun.
I have always believed that campaigns are the Holy Grail for wargamers. We all aspire to take part in one but all too often they never get off the ground or the fall apart due to external pressures taking away too much of our free time. So we have put together a system which literally takes a couple of minutes before each game and a couple at the end at the most, but allows you to have a relatively busy backdrop to your games. Lots of flavour for not a lot of effort.
Nick: How would that work?
Rich: Okay, the main map of Britain has over twenty Kingdoms on it, you choose the one you want to fight over and the campaign becomes the story of that particular Kingdom, almost the Annals if we want to use a period phrase.
You and I would both have three main characters, nobles if you like, one of whom is the Lord commanding our force, the other two his trusty lieutenants. There’s a bit of character generation at the start of the game, but that takes no more than five minutes and then you’re ready to play.
To get started the Saxon player has a choice of which of your provinces he attacks. For example if you are on the East coast he is likely to be a sea-borne raider, if you’re inland then he’ll be coming from an adjacent Saxon kingdom already conquered.
If we turned up at the club on a Tuesday night and you were the Saxon player you say “Okay, I am raiding into this province”. We’d then generate the terrain with the terrain generator in the rules, and then roll a few dice to see what it is that you are raiding to attack and where that is on the table, then we get playing.
Nick: You say raiding, can I conquer your lands or am I just a German bandit out to mug you for some cash.
Rich: At the start of the campaign that is pretty much what you are, a robber baron almost. You can attempt to conquer my lands but at first you need to establish a reputation and gain some gold, so raiding is how the campaign starts.
This is intentional as it means that for the first three or four games you are going to be limited to raids, that will give both of us a chance to learn the rules and get a feel for what tactics work with our armies before we actually get to the point where we can lose any land. I think that gives a fair start to both sides and it also allows us to play a wide variety of scenarios. The skirmish games are all really quite different and a lot of fun in their own right.
Once you start amassing some cash there are numerous options which allow you to enhance your own position and strengthen your position.
Nick: Sounds like accountancy skills will help!
Rich: Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong. Your “cash balance” if you like is on a scale of 0 to 10, so all you need is to keep a single digit total most of the time. It’s very simple indeed. When you get the cash you’ll find that there’s always something to spend it on, so your balance remains pretty low for the most part.
Nick: So if I get some cash what sort of thing can I do?
Rich: That depends on whether you are British or Saxon. Both sides have different career paths they can take which reflects their background. The British one is rather more politically nuanced than the Saxon one, the Roman influence has left the British with a real penchant for intrigue, whereas the Saxons are much more straightforward.
The British Lord begins his career commanding a Kingdom’s Army, so he is looking to gain prestige and wealth in order to influence the local nobility whose support he needs if he is to ever become a King in his own right. As the campaign progresses he can restore the old Bronze Age hill forts and strengthen his defences, as well as seeking to enhance his prestige and influence with a range of projects and the support of the Church. The Saxons are rather more interested in Ale and wenches than politics, but they will be looking to gain the support of their own Gods and strengthen the lands they capture against a British counter attack.
Nick: And this is “paper free”?
Rich: (Laughs) I said ALMOST paper free! Actually it is really each. But one sheet of paper should do you for the entire campaign.
Rich: Yes, absolutely. Indeed for the campaign we have been playing at our local club I haven’t written down anything, it is all easy to remember, even with my addled brain!
Nick: I played in one or two games in the first playtest campaign you ran with Cyddic, and that was certainly paper free, but the one you’ve been playing latterly I have missed all of. From the write-ups on Lard Island News and Roundwood’s World that seemed more involved in terms of narrative, I presumed that some book keeping must have been involved.
Rich: No, not a bit. The latter campaign is much more the finished article, whereas with Cyddic I had the basic ideas in place but we were stress testing them to see where they broke and where they worked. The Cynewulf campaign has progressed much further and has run very smoothly. Cynewulf won sufficient gold to be hailed as a great Warlord by his men and with that came the chance to raid into British lands. He has done that but recently suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the British Lord Constantine which kept him off the British lands for the rest of the year. Constantine, who started as a Tribune, has been promoted to Praefectus for his services to Cynwidion.
Nick: Cynwidion? Never heard of it.
Rich: That’s a shame Nick as it is where you live! It is the old lands of the Catuvellauni which now have a King who rules to the north of London up to the south of Leicester. A real “Heart of England” area, which tells us who won in the end!
Nick: Okay, but I could set my campaign anywhere in the British Isles?
Rich: Not quite. Anywhere in England, Wales and lowland Scotland, all the way up to the Antonine wall. Above that were the Scotti and the Picts. Dun Brithon is the most northerly British capital, what is now Dunbarton.
Nick: And the Welsh?
Rich: No people of this period would call themselves that. The Welsh as we call them today are the original Britons. “Welsh” is the Anglo-Saxon word for foreigner, “Waelisc”.
Nick: So the British are the Welsh?
Rich: Yes, the rules differentiate culturally between the Romano-British who live in the south and east and the British who lived in the mountainous western area we now call Wales and in the North, from the Humber up. The Romano-British are culturally more Roman, the British are more British but they are both civilised Christians who are linked to Rome still through the church. They both fear and hate the pagans from Germany who they see as simply trashing all things civilised.
Nick: What about running large campaigns with a number of Kingdoms, is that possible?
Rich: Yes, very much so. In fact I am going to produce a supplement which provides rules for that and for three new factions, the Scotti, the Picts and the Irish. We’ve already been play-testing these and they are great fun. Real wildmen!
As the rules stand they are designed for a single kingdom to be fought over. If there are just two of you taking part then that’s simple. If you have more players then by all means fight over multiple adjacent kingdoms, form your own alliances and so on. There are no rules for that yet, but with a small dollop of common sense it is very achievable.
Nick: What is the end game for the Saxons. Historically they just kept coming back for more until they won? Surely the British can only hope to keep the Saxons off their land, they can never reclaim the whole island.
Rich: Yes, that’s very true. The British job is to keep their kingdom secure, and that is enough of a handful without trying to reclaim Kent and the lost lands. Ultimately the Saxon can be utterly defeated if he loses all of his wealth and cannot pay his tribute to his over-Lord. When that happens he is declared an outlaw in Saxon lands. He can then try in a last ditch effort to seize some of your land, but if that fails his men will disperse and he will be finished. That is an immensely hard job for the British, but it should be hard, it was in reality. The Saxons have an equally hard job, so it should be a hard fought campaign and a lot of fun.
Nick: How many games do you see the campaign lasting for?
Rich: That’s a bit of a piece of string question, but there is plenty of fun in there. If you wanted to play it every week for a year you could, but likewise if you chose a small kingdom with one or two provinces it could be significantly quicker than that. As a minimum a single province city state, such as Verulamium, could provide a campaign with an absolute minimum of half a dozen games. Much more likely that would run to ten to a dozen games.
With a larger kingdom you’ll have more games. I think this is what makes the rules great value for money. The interest level is high because of the campaign. For twenty odd quid you could be getting a year of solid gaming. I think that compares favourably with six pints in my local pub. However, I would say that the system is designed to be picked up and put down, so if you fancy going away and playing IABSM for a few weeks then you can just come back and pick up where you left off with no problems.
Nick: So, how do the rules play on the tabletop?
Rich: The emphasis is on keeping the basic game play simple and intuitive, you want a game that flows easily where everyone playing is involved and caught up in the narrative of what is happening in the game rather than the rules themselves.
The turn sequence is dictated by the Game Deck which includes one card for each of the Nobles and one for each of the independent groups of missile or skirmish troops, so quite a small hand. In each turn all of the cards are played and that determines the order in which things happen.
Nick: No “Tea Break” card which can end the turn prematurely?
Rich: No, I think that in a game where the emphasis is on hand to hand combat rather than ranged weapons that is not appropriate. The use of cards to determine the order of activation provides sufficient variety and potential for friction in this period. That and the Fate Deck.
Nick: Tell me about the Fate Deck.
Rich: The Fate Deck is made up of 38 standard cards plus a further six cards which may, or may not, be added due to pre-game events. Typically each player will have a hand five cards which he may play during the game. The idea is to get the hand which best suits your plans and then play them when you launch your attack to get an advantage over your opponent. Some of the cards are aggressive, some are defensive, some suit the British best, some the Saxons,
Normally both sides will start with a couple of “national characteristic” cards in their hand which are central to their tactical doctrine. So the Saxons tend to have the Aggressive Charge card, whereas the British have the Shieldwall Braced card, the rest are dealt randomly from the deck.
What you are looking to do, especially in the early stages of the game is to construct a plan which your hand of cards will support and provide you with some advantage. You should be looking not to use the cards as the determining factor of what you want to do, but rather to enhance that. These are not totally dominant in the game, they give you a fleeting advantage, but one that can be significant if you plan well and time your attack.
Dump cards that don’t match your plan, look to keep and acquire cards which suit your national characteristics and then seek to use these to tip the scales in your favour, especially in the first onslaught of your attack.
Now what is interesting is that the Fate Deck is multi-facetted in that the cards don’t just do one thing. You have Dragon suit cards in there which benefit the Britons, Boar suit cards which benefit the Saxons. Both sides can use these, but if you are British the Dragon cards can, not will but can, give you an enhanced result. You have aspects to the cards which affect the post battle phase, and so on.
Typically a Nobles can play one card when he is activated. You don’t have to do this, so if you have built up the perfect hand to suit your plan you keep that until you unleash it. If you are still looking to construct the perfect hand you can recycle a card each time one of your Nobles is activated.
One of the key cards you are looking for is the Carpe Diem card. This allows you to play a run of numerous cards and is really the key to getting an immediate advantage. So, for example, when you are planning your attack at the front end of the game you are ideally looking for one of these so that you can launch your attack with the most power. Now, the good news is that this isn’t too hard, there are half a dozen in the deck, so the chances are good that you’ll have one of these from the outset. The big question is whether you use these to gain an immediate advantage or whether you husband your resources a bit more carefully.
It is perfectly possible to plan a really powerful attack, playing all five cards in one go, but the system is designed so that whilst this will tip the odds in your favour it will never be a guarantee of success. Once you have used your entire hand you will find that it takes time to rebuild any hand, let alone the one you want. For me this represents the commander’s ability to make a decent plan and launch that, but what happens after that is harder to control. As the battle is joined it becomes harder to try to develop a plan, and much easier to simply be reactive.
This is really key to the cards. They are assets, and the player is faced with some serious decisions about using them. Do you get the immediate advantage of playing a card now as soon as you get it, or do you look to rebuild your plans by holding on to the cards to try to put together a decent run which could give you a significant advantage. It’s a conundrum, and one that makes for a fun game.
Nick: Okay, but you mentioned pre-game events, what’s that about?
Rich: The game is actually played in three phases. The pre-game phase, the game itself and then the post game phase. All of these impact on each other and then determine what happens in the campaign as a whole.
The pre-game phase varies depending on what sort of game you are about to have. If it’s a simple raid across the border to pinch some sheep or plunder a church then this is simply a case of rolling to establish your force morale level. This then determines how much you can expect of them in the forthcoming raid.
If you are fighting a full blown battle then this develops out further into an opportunity to really psyche up your force and attempt to get them mentally prepared for the fight. This has a range of options such as sending forward your champion to engage in single combat, passing round the drinking horns, calling on your God or Gods for their approval, making a rousing speech. All of these have the potential to boost your force morale, gain your character personal kudos, fire up aggression and other such benefits.
However, these things aren’t as simple as they first appear. Along with benefits can go unintended consequences. For example, getting your men roaring drunk before a battle could well make them more aggressive, but it can also make them more unruly, and even fog your brain as a commander if you over-do it.
You may get a situation where one of your Priests declares a miracle which boosts your mens’ morale and he may even have had some sort of vision which allows you to use a battlefield ruse, all based on historical precedents, this isn’t magic by the way, you can be sure that he will then be looking for a lump of cash to build a church on the spot, and that will come out of your purse.
All of this is designed to be multifaceted, and you need to judge when your men are ready, when you have the advantage over your enemy, and then let them loose. Over-egging the pudding tends to have negative consequences.
What occurs in the pre-game phase can determine how many Fate cards you have in your hand, affect your force morale, give benefits in combat, and so on. Once you have that do you play the game itself. After the game is complete the post battle phase and that is where the cards in the Fate Deck have a different function again.
Let’s imagine that you have raided my lands, and are making off with your ill-gotten gains. Now typically in a wargame if you make it to the edge of the table you have won. Not here. Some of the Fate cards have a small line at the bottom saying Pursuit or Retreat. The Carpe Diem cards, being the really powerful cards are marked “Pursuit or Retreat”, so they do both. Once you leave the table we now need to compare how many of these cards we have in our hands. You are looking for retreat cards as you are the one running off with your plunder. I am looking for Pursuit cards as I am chasing you.
So, okay, you have won the game as you raided successfully, but let’s presume that you have two retreat cards and I have three pursuit cards, in that instance my forces are pursuing you to the border and your margin of victory is reduced by one as a result. If I have four Pursuit cards I’d have reduced that further. So how much loot you actually get away with is reduced, how much prestige you gain is limited, how many volunteers turn up at your hall is restricted. You end up looking more like a common thief rather than a great war leader, and that doesn’t help your cause.
Nick: That sounds a very novel and fun idea.
Rich: Thanks. I think that the emphasis is on fun with historical plausibility. I wanted a game which modelled the warfare of the Dark Ages but did so in a manner which was enjoyable. The Fate Deck really adds to the game. You could play the basic game without the cards and it would be fast paced and simple, once you add the cards you really make the game more multi-dimensioned and it fits in beautifully with the campaign.
Nick: Can you play the rules without the campaign?
Rich: You could certainly do that. We did it a lot in the early phases of play-testing as the campaign rules were still all in my head. What we found was that when we added the campaign system it really enhanced what was already a fun game. You need o think about other issues. Phyrric victories are all well and good in a typical one-off wargame, but with the campaign added they can have huge implications.
What’s the point in stopping a bunch of Saxons nicking the lead off your roof if it means your casualties are so high that you have to then spend months rebuilding your forces? So, the answer is yes you can, but I can’t think why you would not want to throw in the campaign as well, especially in view of how little effort is involved.
Nick: Well, thanks for your time Rich, having not been involved in this project I am feeling a bit jealous that you’ve been having so much fun in my absence.
Rich: So how are you getting on with Jolly Jack Tar, your Sharp Practice supplement?
Nick: Ahem, I am the one asking the questions! Actually it is coming along well. I am slaving over the Summer Special at the moment, that’s my number one priority, so Jolly Jack Tar is looking likely in a few months.
Rich: Excellent, I shall really enjoy having a bit of fun with Sharp Practice again. I have seen some of the graphics you’ve done for that and it looks fantastic.
Nick: Thank you, I am certainly pleased with the way it’s shaping up.
Well, thanks for your time today Richard. If anyone has any questions about the rules how can they get them answered?
Rich: They can shout on the TooFatLardies Yahoo Group or drop me an email via the web site. I am always happy to chat about our projects.
Nick: That’s great. Thanks again, I am sure that Dux Britanniarum will be a real hit. I shall look forward to getting my Dark Age figures on the table at long last.
We have the card decks being printed, we’ve just got the limited edition Arthur figures back from the caster, and the rules are in their final stage of checking for the printer, so we are very pleased to announce that Dux Britanniarum will be available on Monday the 30th of July. We’re just putting together all the details for the great value bundles that we’ll be producing for our hard copy, interactive tablet and PDF versions of the rules, so watch this space for regular updates. In the meantime here’s a picture of the cover with artwork by the exceptional Coral Sealey.