The Church of Saint Amphibalus
A slightly different take on this week’s latest playtest, and no, fear not, I shall not be wandering lonely as a cloud and exercising my poetic bent a la Sidney! Over the past few weeks we’ve been running our on-going campaign with Cyddic the Saxon as he tries to become King of Britain, or at least Brytwalda, the senior Saxon war-leader in the island. In truth this is an overblown claim, although ultimately this is the journey upon which he has embarked, but one that will take him time and, probably, two sets of rules to complete.
Within Dux Britanniarum is an in-built campaign system which is all about career advancement. In “Dux Brit” the premise is that our likely Saxon lad has landed on these fair shores and is keen to get himself a slice of land to call his own. Unfortunately for him what land there is belongs, fairly and squarely, to the British who are intent upon keeping both it and their Romano-Christian heritage intact.
Our campaign is specifically set around the Roman city of Verulamium, an indulgence as we live in the modern city of St Albans in Hertfordshire and see the ruins of the former Roman town all around us on a daily basis. That said, once the rules are complete where you set your campaign will be entirely a matter of choice. We’ll be providing a map of the whole of England and Wales with the ancient British Kingdoms marked and local maps for all of those which will allow you to set your own campaign close to home if you are British, or anywhere you fancy if you come from overseas. Part of the fun of the “Very British Civil War” phenomenon has been the fact that you can fight over ground you know, and this is very much the same, just 1500 years earlier.
Of course, when your chosen bit of geography comes under attack will dictate when your campaign is set. Here ours begins soon after the fall and abandonment of London, so the early 470s, whereas if you fancied something a bit further to the west you may find that your local Kingdom didn’t really come under threat from the Saxons until later in the 6th century. We’ll provide a time-line for the main British Kingdoms to allow you to get the background right from an historical perspective, as well have having a map of the major Romano-British towns and the geography of your Kingdom.
On the Saxon side the objective is to usurp your British neighbours and gain your own Kingdom. For the British the objective is to hold on to what you’ve got and to establish yourself as a King or a great military leader, the Duke of Britain, or Dux Britanniarum of the title.
From the outset such lofty aspirations may appear somewhat optimistic, as the game is designed to allow you to start out with a small force of around forty figures a side, the ideal raiding force with which to begin your career.
Over the past weeks we have looked specifically at various areas of the game structure and my chum Sidney Roundwood has been very kindly playing Cyddic is a very brutal manner in order to test to the full the grittier aspects of combat in order to ensure balance in terms of playability so that both sides have a fun game and also making sure that the historical balance was in place. To be fair to Sid, and indeed Cyddic, the necessity for some gung-ho aggression has left him playing on some sticky wickets, so this week we wanted to allow him to take a more tactical approach and start the campaign proper.
At present Cyddic has his halls down in Kent near the abandoned city of London. Whilst he is a free man he does have obligations to the Saxon King in that area, and he is keen to spread his wings and find his own nest. However, before the campaign allows Cyddic to make a bid for his own lands he needs to try to gain some prestige and wealth in order to attract men to his hall who will follow him in his bid for a Kingdom. At this stage his only strategic option is to raid into British lands, so each week we generate a raiding scenarios to see what his objective will be.
This week Cyddic rolled up a raid on a church, clearly looking to get his hands on their plate, or at least the lead off the roof. A lucky roll placed the church relatively close to his “friendly” table edge, by which he had to enter and leave the table. However, what he didn’t know was that the British were hot on his heels, just one turn behind him!
On the British side Maximus Boicicus, the Tribune who commands the Verulamium Milites, had been shaken from his slumber once again, only a month since the Saxons had last raided British farms. His men had stood to, and the network of warning beacons had guided them rapidly towards the Church of St Amphibalus.
Cyddic had been fast off the mark, sending Aelfric forward to loot the church while the rest of his force came on behind. The arrival of the British immediately on their flank was something of a shock, and rapidly the Saxons fell back to form up around some patches of briars on the edge of the ancient woodland. The British, for their part, rushed forward with no attention to formation in the hope of catching their foe unawares, but their haste saw them met on unequal terms and they reeled back briefly, the Tribune sorely wounded to the bone, before forming up more efficiently to face their foe.
It was now that Cyddic used his Saxon wiles to taunt the British, advancing here, falling back there, leading the British shieldwall a merry dance as they attempted to face off each fresh threat. At one point the shieldwall broke down in disorder simply from the stress of attempting to wheel to face their foe.
All the while the Saxons harried heir foe, all the while Aelfric searched the church for its treasures while Cyddic kept one eye out for the flames that would signal that wealth was his. Yet came it not. Still on came the Britons, on the left. Boicicus was weak through loss of blood, his bandages stained red, but quit the field he would not. The stuff of heroic poems indeed, but with his command influence much reduced (to one point) he may have done better leaving the job to the commander of his Comanipulares, the last of the Romans, Gaius Ambrosius. However one doubts that heroes think of such considerations.
What was for sure was that Cadwalladr the Bold, commanding the British Levy, was frustrated by the Saxons’ refusal to stand their ground. On he came with his Levy, tawdry as they were with hand unaccustomed to spear and shield, more used to plough and harrow, and again the Brythnoth on the Saxon left fell back, almost to the church itself. And then he turned.
Cadwalladr had brought on two Groups of Levy and was struggling forward with a third when Brythnoth struck. His Gedright to the fore, backed by men of the Duguth, they cut through the Levy like scythe through standing corn, first one group ran, then another. On charged Brythnoth catching the peasants as they ran and sending their souls to meet their Christian God.
It was at that point that a shout went up; the church was afire, Aelfric was running with his men, arms laden with gold and silver. Cyddic had his prize, and sought no other. Now he ran from the field and, fearing the death of their Tribune, the Britons let them run.
This was a classic Saxon raid facing a classic British response. The solid shieldwall, so strong in battle, was small help when dealing with raiders who came for geld and not for land. Cyddic checked his victory and noted that his fame will be sufficient to not only instantly replace his dead but also to gain him additional men. What was more he has sufficient wealth to hire a large mercenary band when he next takes to the field, albeit doing so will cost him points in the prestige stakes; it’s easy to win when you pay someone else to do the fighting!
For Maximums Boicicus the encounter was a minor disaster. The number of Levy lost has shaken the confidence of the cives who had believed that they would be protected. It will take some months before confidence will be restored and then only if the Saxons stay away. And that’s looking unlikely. The Civitas of Verulamium is much damaged by this result.