All Along the Watchtower – Dux in the USA
Just in at Lard Island News is a bit of a scoop from our New York correspondent, Jon Davenport. Jon and his gaming group have been enjoying a bit of Dux Britanniarum in his superbly equipped basement gaming room. They sent us this report of their latest game when they reconvened after a summer recess.
The Next Chapter in the Annals of Civitas Novo Eboracum: All Along the Watchtower
After spending some months recovering from his losses at the Battle of Pandemonium, gathering new warriors to his banner, Supefluous has sent a patrol eastwards from lands of King Caractacus, Y Mae ei Merched a Basiwyd Gan [Whose Ladies had just passed by], to see why no attack has come from the Saxons over the summer. Having failed to find any Saxons, only burnt out and abandoned Romano-British settlements and a wandering churchman, Pius, the patrol has just crossed the ford back into friendly territory to re-join the rest of Superfluous’s band at the watch tower at Tir Wraig Trydan. The men have struck up a song of rejoicing when, all of a sudden …
A long day’s march to the east Hectic, the Saxon chieftain, had heard that Britons were abroad in the land he had wrested from their fathers. There was little for them to find other than burned homesteads and empty land awaiting the new settlers expected across the Grey Sea any day. Still, Hectic – always swift to anger – could not countenance such a trespass and, gathering his warriors and henchmen, Heretic and Septic, and his champion, Pubic, about him, he set off towards the setting sun to punish these Britons. Moving swiftly to cut off the patrol, the Saxons stealthily crossed the River Wrin, that separated their lands from the Britons’, near the watch tower at Tir Wraig Trydan, which they believed the Britons were making for, and hid to observe the foremost post of the Britons. Who knows, a small force might be led by a Briton of distinction – one who might be ransomed for a pretty sum. Wait, do you hear someone singing “Sospan Fach”?
And so we began our next game of Dux Britanniarum – after a long lay off during the summer as I have been travelling way too much. We decided to play the Raiding a Border Tower scenario as I had just completed the 4Ground Roman watchtower which I thought looked rather splendid . We did this straight from the book – although we set up the table without dicing at random and added a wandering churchman whom the patrol has rescued from Saxon territory. The forces were, as last time with the following characters in charge: The Saxons – Hectic (III, 26, Average Build, Honourable, Wodenborn; Heretic (II, 28, Tall and Strong, Lustful, Wodenborn); Septic (24, Average Build, Iron Liver, Wodenborn) and Champion, Pubic; The Romano-British – Superfluous, the Last of the Romans (III, 22, Tall and String, Dutiful, Exile); Rictus (II, 21, Short and Wiry, Devout, Son of an Honestiore); Crapulus (II, Tall and Strong, Constitution of an Ox, Exile) and Champion, Acrimonius.
In our previous game Howard and Roger had commanded the Saxons and Tom and Dennis the Romano-British so, for this exchange we swapped around although, as Roger couldn’t make it, I took Superfluous’s part. The Romano-British rolled a 5 and the Saxons rolled a 6, bringing the two forces into almost immediate contact. On that basis, once the dice for arrivals had been made that the result was a foregone conclusion and all the Saxons had to do was turn up.
There are two fords below the tower of Tir Wraig Trydan and Crapulus, with his patrol of warriors with the monk, Pius, took the right hand, still keeping up a quick pace and singing their battle song to celebrate their return without loss.
No sooner, though, had the patrol broken the wood line by the stone of the Old People that marks the ford but, from the treeline away to their right came a mighty roar as the Saxon host burst from the trees. Each Briton ceased his song and took a firmer grip on his shield and on his sharp spear. In crossing the ford Crapulus’s two groups became separated and could not form a shield wall, instead, the brave Britons of the first group turned to face their attackers the first of whom, an elite group, can bounding towards them.
Superfluous, the Last of the Romans, and the rest of his force could only look on in dismay as, or so it seemed, Crapulus and his men would be butchered before their eyes before they could intervene.
On the Saxons came, baying for British blood, hammering steel-tipped spears shafts on their shields, barking their guttural cries and taunting their foes.
Crapulus and his men, crouched and braced and waited for the tide to break. They hurled their javelins into the oncoming Saxons, who faltered just a second, before rushing on ands the two groups clashed. And God was with Crapulus!
In the initial clash, two Britons fell and only one Saxon but the Saxons, not expecting such resistance were massively shock and as swords and spears and shields of the two groups rang again in combat, again the Saxons were shocked, losing another man and losing, in an instant, the amphora of their courage.
Shocked that their best troops had failed in such spectacular fashion the whole Saxon force shuddered and, despite the calls to their gods, the morale of them all shrank from the cold steel of the Britons now hot with Saxon blood. The Saxon elite fled from the field and Septic, his face flushed with shame, ran with them.
In a disjointed fashion, the remaining Saxons under Hectic’s goading tried to assault Crapulus and his men but the respite given by Septic’s ignominious failure gave Crapulus enough time to pull his second group, with Pius, out of the trees to face the second onrush of Saxons. Also, the alarm had been raised at the tower of Tir Wraig Trydan and Superfluous, the Last of the Romans, was leading his men down onto the flood plain of the river to assist his liege man, Crapulus.
This advance prevented Hectic massing his men against the patrol as he had to send men to oppose Superfluous. He decided to take his own elites, a group of warriors and his archers to face these Britons as he could see that most of them were poor levy who had already banded together in a hasty shield wall. He could also see Superfluous’s standard and his household and champion but he knew that these hearthguard would not deign to stand in a wall with mere levy.
Again Hectic’s confidence was misplaced as again his warriors could not shake Crapulus nor the courage of his men. Again Crapulus defied him.
Again Hectic’s warriors failed and in his rage and desperation Hectic gathered his hearth guard, the follows of his mead hall; the his champion; and his standard bearer about him and flung himself – biting the edge of his shield in his wrath – directly at Superfluous and his hearthguard. Three brave warriors of each side went down under the blades of their foes but again it was the Saxons who were shocked – mightily shocked – while the Britons shrugged off their losses and stepped over their dead to advance on the Saxon. But the Saxons would not stand and they recoiled before the anger and the rage of the Britons, the hearts of every man falling into his boots at the sight of Hectic, their chief, running before the British sheep.
Again, the cheeks of the Saxons glowed red with shame and tears of frustration and, dare it be said, fear sprang from every Saxon eye where before there had been only the gleam of anticipated victory and riched. And the shame was multiplied a thousand-fold as the war song of the Britons rang in their ears:
“Sosban fach yn berwi ar y tân
Sosban fawr yn berwi ar y llawr
A’r gath wedi huno mewn hedd.”
And so ended our second game of Dux with this group with Saxon defeat out of certain victory. Truth be told, the Saxons had had some rotten luck with their dice, killing Britons but failing to inflict much, if any shock, whereas the Britons were able to match with number of dead Saxons but inflicted many more shock in every combat – including five against none in the final melee between the two leaders with their elites. The other problem the Saxons had was over-confidence and, as a result, they failed to coordinate their attack on the patrol as they assumed they would win – frankly, so did the Britons – and they didn’t think they needed to.
In campaign terms, the Saxons would probably not have made the last charge but it really was a bit of frustration from Tom which fitted very well with the character of the game.
This game really demonstrates the genius of Dux Britanniarum as both sides assumed it was a question of when, rather than if, the Saxons would complete their victory as would have been the case with standard IGOUGO, fixed movement rules. Instead, the Britons were better able to organise and to defeat the Saxon attacks in detail. On top of which, everyone had a fantastic time.
Honours must go to Howard as Crapulus who brought his patrol home safely and defeated the best of the Saxon army in the process.
We’ll be doing it all again in a couple of weeks.