The Roundwood Report – The Raiders
Rich: Thanks for inviting me.
Sidney: Well, in view of the arrival of The Raiders I wanted to get the full SP from the horse’s mouth. As you, and many of our readers, will know, I really enjoyed Dux Britanniarum when you first released them. We played a fantastic campaign set around Verulamium at the time. Who could forget the death of Maximus Boicicus?
Rich: It was certainly a great campaign to play. Happy gaming memories indeed.
Sidney: Absolutely. So, tell us about the new Raiders supplement.
Rich: Okay, well, the Raiders is, as you say, a supplement to Dux Britanniarum. Specifically it introduces new factions in the shape of the three raiding nations, the Irish, the Scotti and the Picts. It also has some amendments for Northern British forces, the Men of the North such as the Goddodin and Alt Clut – the Strathclyde British – and Rheged to allow them to field more mobile forces to deal with the raiders.
Sidney: So if I were to look at my original copy of Dux Brit, would I find all of the troop types in there, or are there some new variations.
Rich: Gosh, lots of variation. You’d certainly recognise exactly how they fit into the world of Dux Brit, but they are quite different. The Raiders are very tough men, but rather brittle when operating in their raiding mode. So they are a completely new troop type with new stats. Also new are the Raider cavalry who have some very different options which allow them to screen their foot troops very effectively and keep an enemy at bay while the raiders do their job.
We also have some variations on themes. Commanded Skirmishers are an addition, where the light troops can be influenced by a junior Noble, and the Noble Raiders come into the game as the campaign progresses and add a bit of backbone to your force. So lots new in there in terms of troop types.
Sidney: Any significant rule changes from the original version?
Rich: We have changed the way in which cavalry operate. This is more of a subtle tweak of the rules than a complete change as the original Dux was fairly light on cavalry, whereas the Raiders sees the introduction of more and more varied horsey types. As a result we have put the cavalry on one single card which allows them to operate in a co-ordinated fashion, but it also presents some command challenges for the Nobles attached. Cavalry can be a powerful weapon, but they need to be used properly.
Sidney: Can you give us an example of how that would work?
Rich: Yes, sure. I am a great believer in the importance of getting tactics right in the game design as much as on the tabletop. What I wanted with cavalry was a force which had strengths but also weaknesses. When you mention Arthur at the head of his British “knights” you tend to see rules which treat them as some kind of all-powerful trump card which beats anything else. I don’t view it like that. Yes, Arthur and his cavalry need to be powerful, and by God they can be, but they cannot simply trump everything.
In the original rules we note that cavalry cannot charge to contact if they have any Shock. So, for those unfamiliar with the rules, you need to be in good order to deliver a boot to boot charge. This places some importance on using your Nobles to keep their men in line, but with a relatively small cavalry force in the original Dux rules they can normally just rally their men when their card is dealt and charge in. What we have done in The Raiders is add the Cavalry card. This means a larger cavalry force can be better co-ordinated, something which I think is important, but they are harder to keep in order as any rallying still occurs on the Noble’s card.
Sidney: I see, so it may be that the cavalry card comes out first and they cannot launch a charge as they need the Noble to rally them first.
Rich: Yes, correct. And in the interim enemy skirmishers can be adding more disorder to a unit. All of which is designed to encourage you to use your shock cavalry properly. If they have charged and become disordered, you’ll need to pull them back and form them up properly before charging again. And in the meantime you’ll need to protect them from any enemy harassing troops. To my mind this reflects the way shock cavalry should be treated. They aren’t a panzer Division zooming all over the table, crushing all opposition, they are a finely balanced weapon which is good at what it is good at, but has real weaknesses.
Sidney: I see, that sounds quite sophisticated.
Rich: I think the secret of good game design is to be simple but sophisticated. You want to present the gamer with choices at each stage of the game. I don’t want to tell the gamer via the rules that they MUST withdraw and reform before they can charge again, indeed the rules allow cavalry to keep ploughing on for as long as they can, but in doing so they become more and more exposed. What the rules do is reward the player who makes the right choices. I think that makes for a far more interesting game. Sometimes it is worth taking a risk, the fun is deciding when that is the case.
Sidney: Very interesting. I guess this is like using the right tool for the right job.
Rich: Precisely. So Shock cavalry are good at shock, but once they have done the impact bit their advantage dwindles away and in a protracted fight they are potentially in trouble. That’s when you pull out of the fight and take them back to reform before coming on again at the next key moment.
Sidney: So what about infantry? Any changes there?
Rich: A few subtle changes, but all very much in the comfort zone for Dux. The Raiders as a troop type are different to the old Warriors, Elite or Levy, so we have a new sort of man to deal with, but that fits in very comfortably with the existing mechanisms. They are tough old boys, they really do die hard, but they don’t enjoy a protracted fight. On the other hand they are nimble and good at what they do best, raiding. In a campaign setting they can progress more rapidly than the British or Saxons and gain new reinforcements. They will need these to stand up to the older factions in battle, so the early parts of a Raiders campaign should be focussed on developing their reputation and encouraging new recruits to come forward.
Sidney: Aha, yes, the campaign system. A clear winner for me, and, in a world not short of Dark Age wargames rules, this is really what puts clear blue water between Dux Britanniarum and the others. How do the Raiders fit into that campaign world?
Rich: That’s an interesting one as frankly, they change the game hugely. Dux Britanniarum provided a very simple world where A fought B. It is a tremendous format for a campaign as it is very simple. Once you introduce C all bets are off, the game changes completely. A can fight B or C, or B and C. And if you introduce D and E you can see things can get very complicated indeed. Well, not only have we introduced three new factions, we have also brought in two new maps as well, so essentially the whole of the British Isles are now covered.
Having said that, it is highly unlikely you’d want to fight a campaign which covers all the Kingdoms on the maps. If you did you’d have thirty different factions in play and, frankly, that would be a bit bonkers. So what we have done is taken a tool box approach where you use the bits you want to build the campaign you want.
So, it could be that The Raiders are simply bit part players in your existing campaign who just show up occasionally to raid your lands as an annoyance factor in an on-going campaign. Or where you can now hire Raider mercenaries to join your Romano-British or Saxon forces. However, you may wish to take a different tack altogether and play the High King of Ireland campaign which is fought largely on the Ireland map alone, albeit with other areas of Britain providing an opportunity to grab riches to help your cause.
Essentially, in the same way as you chose your kingdom when playing a Dux campaign, you make your choice with the Raiders which bits you want and then play accordingly.
Sidney: That is really interesting. So this isn’t just adding three new factions with a few rule amendments, it’s actually about adding lots of new and very different campaign options.
Sidney: Now, this may be a thorny question, but I did see on TMP someone suggesting that £18 was a high price to pay for a supplement to an existing rule set. What are your thoughts on that?
Rich: I am frankly intrigued. I bought twelve 28mm figures at Salute last week and they cost me more than that. That’s less then 200g or 6oz of metal for twenty quid. I cannot see any comparison in value between twelve unpainted figures and a really nice book with superbly evocative artwork, two beautiful maps and a 54 card deck of cards.
Actually, on the cards, I know plenty of games involving cards which use printed business cards for their games. Nothing wrong with that, it’s certainly a cheaper option. But when I have seen Dux Britanniarum played across the UK and Europe is usually a beautiful game played with beautiful figures on beautiful terrain. I wanted the rules and the cards that went with it to be equally beautiful. We use a company called Cartamundi to produce our deck to the same standard as playing cards. They have rounded corners, they are plastic coated for easy shuffling, indeed everything about them is top quality. I reckon you get what you pay for, and this is an example of that. You’ve seen the cards Sid, you know the quality I am talking about.
Sidney: That is true. I must admit that after literally dozens of games mine are good as new. But moving on. What have been your abiding memories of creating The Raiders supplement?
Rich: Just fun really. Everyone who has played them has enjoyed the challenges they provide. Seeing the prototype version in action at Crisis in Antwerp last year was great, especially as the game was being run by a bunch of wild Picts and Scotti from the South East Scotland Wargames Club all suitably bedecked in kilts. But I guess the most memorable game was the very first time I took the Raiders to the local club.
I’d been testing them at home and having fun with them. One of the lads took a couple of Groups of them as mercenaries to assist his Saxons. They got wildly drunk before the game began, stood sullenly in a stupor while everyone else advanced and then, driven by an incredible run of cards and dice rolling, they simply streaked up from the back, overtook the Saxons and rushed up a hill to smack straight into the Romano-British shieldwall. Another incredible set of dice rolls – lots of 1’s followed by lots of 6’s – saw then almost slaughtered to a man. It was an inauspicious start, albeit very funny indeed. And that’s part of the fun of wargaming; that narrative which is entirely believable but incredible at the same time. That is where the campaign system in Dux Brit scores for me. It adds such a different dimension to games when you need to consider the implications for the future after each battle is over. And that is where The Raiders continues the narrative even further.
Sidney: Well, thank you very much for that insight into The Raiders for Dux Britanniarum. Before you go, may I ask where Dux goes next? Is this it, now that the Age of Arthur is complete?
Rich: I hope not. I’d really like to see Dux Britanniarum continue forward to the Heptarchy next and the into Danelaw and the Vikings. Indeed I can see Dux going forward over time all the way to 1066, probably ending with William the Bastard and the Conquest. And then, of course, we have options in area like Brittany where the British exiles come into contact with the Franks.
Sidney: Wow! When will that happen?
Rich: I am not sure. I rather like the idea of people getting to play with The Raiders for a year or so before we even consider that route, but it’s all there for the future.
Sidney: Well, thanks for joining me in the Roundwood’s World studio, and thank you at home for joining us for this Special edition of Roundwood’s World.