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A Welcome in the Hillsides

It was found hundred and seventy six years after the birth of our Lord when the plague that was Cyddic the Seaxe returned to our lands to steal for himself a throne in the land of the Britons. For one year now, since the death of Boicicus the Protector our fair city had been part of the realm of the Kingdom of Cynfeln in the Chalk Hills. Aged was the King, infirm with the weight of years, yet among us was his war chief, Gaius Ambrosius, last of the Romans. Gaius who had fought with Boicicus, Gaius who had been born to the purple and who, it was said, had served the great tyrant in Gaul. Now it was on him that the hopes of the civitates rested.

X1At the stream of Dim Mynediad they met. To the south could be seen Cyddic’s men, roaring in their cups as the mead flowed among them. Forth came Gaius to speak to his men, all Britons true, and with voice strong and clear he told all of their land in the hills, of their cities and churches still true to the ways of Rome and free from the pagan stain. Then forth did stride Arthur ap Mullard, champion of the Britons to face the Saxon Abrecan. It was a strong blow for Arthur which wounded Abrecan, but a sly twist of the knife saw blood on the Briton’s tunic. With vigour afresh Arthur drove home his spear, slaying his tormentor. (an unfortunately posed photo follows..!)

X3Now Cyddic came forth to speak, his voice heavy with mead, his rage profound for Abrecan was his son and in his rage he drank deeply from his cup and swore on the hand of the God Tiw that he would be avenged.

To wait would be folly, for Gaius knew that his God was with him. Forward came the British shieldwall, and on ran the Saxons, their cries to their dark Gods echoing from the hills. Across the stream they came, through the damp ground of the marsh and onto firmer soil. On their left Wulfstan came, climbing the rise to the small copse which over looked the farm. In the middle came Cyddic and on his right Brythnoth the Bonesplitter.

X4Ahead our archers’ bows sang as their arrows found their mark, whilst in the shieldwall Gaius and Noggin ap Nog stood firm. The levy with Cadwalladr the Bold struggled forward to join the wall, encouraged by the fair words of their beloved leader.

X6Now forward came Brythnoth, dashing aside the young boys with their bows who fled before this devil. On our right Wulfstan moved against the levy who fell into disorder turning to face him and in their panic were driven from the field, their blood turning the grass green.

X8One came Wulfstan, as Cyddic’s men looked on, taunting our brave Britons yet fearful to close. Then Wulfstan was upon the flank of the shieldwall, slaughtering a group of Milites before Gaius Ambrosius stepped forth with his companipulares. “None shall pass here” was he heard to call, and before him many Saxon fell.

X10.5Yet outnumbered but not outfought, Gaius took a wound and his loyal guard made haste to hurry him from the field. But of such action he would not hear. Returning to the shieldwall he steadied the line as another wild Saxon attack, the pagans fuelled in their passions by drink, as Cyddic at last closed with his hearthguard.

X12Yet now Brythnoth was thrown back by the British Levy, their shields braced against his charge. Cyddic could be seen to waver, as Wulkstan stood weary with his wounds amongst his spent men unable to assist. Calling to his Gods the Saxon King with no throne cast off the mantle of circumspection and with a final cry fell upon the Milites. Nogging ap Nog was wounded and in the rush Gaius was driven from the field, great was the slaughter and Cadwalladr the Bold brought back his Levy to cover the retreat.

X13His force spent, Cyddic could claim the field but his losses were such that no pursuit could be attempted. Defeated, but stout of heart and valiant of spirit Cadwalladr stood firm and the retreat to the walls of Verulamium began. Now we stand under siege with the very Devil at the gates of our city. Shall its villas, fountains and churches fall to the pagan? Shall we find hope in the shape of our neighbours who could march to our aid?

Appius
Annales Vervlamiae

A great playtest. I have been putting much thought into getting the balance of combat right and have had my ideas mapped out for a few weeks now, but this was the first chance to put them to the test; and they worked! Hurrah. This is quite a different form of combat for us, we’re much more used to ranged weapons so the whole full-on-contact stuff has required a good deal of playtesting in search of balance.

The combat system of who fights who is now much streamlined. We built the system up to the point where it was pretty much over-engineered but was starting to do what we wanted, and then stripped out all of the unnecessary stuff to leave a solid structure in place that wasn’t overly convoluted. Very pleased with that.

The next phase is to work on the campaign system as some areas of that are very much flying by the seat of their pants, with just vague ideas sketched out. That should be fun to do over Easter.

Some good news on the movement bases front. You can see my movement bases with my Romano-British which are by good friends of Lard Warbases in bonny Scotland (Cyddic’s troops are on different ones, not sure who by but they belong to my chum and well known TV weatherman Sidney). Anyway, Warbases have produced some sample six figure bases in a semi-regular shape specifically for Dux Britannarium, so ideal for troops not in shieldwall but in a more rough and ready “formation”. I will be ordering some today so I’ll take some snaps when they arrive. You can check out Warbases other stuff, like the more formal movement bases seen above here: Warbases

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9 Responses

  1. Laffe says:

    Tell Warbases to produce “irregular” movement trays with four and eight figures too, since that’s the most common sizes in Saga. That way he can sell them to both Saga and Dux Brit players 😉

  2. Great report and insight Rich, your writing is getting nearly as flowery as Sid’s. Really looking forward to getting these, figures on order ready, just hope I can get them painted in time for the big day. Good news on the irregular shape bases from Warbases, Martin is an all round good egg, more for the Salute shopping list.

  3. Jim says:

    That’s also the only fault I can see with the bases, they are a ‘rank and file’ and need to be a bit more irregular for a Dark Age mob… or any mob or that matter. You could still have the same number of figures on the base, but looking a little less regular.

    Good stuff on the AAR though. It will be odd to play a game where missile fire isn’t an important facet of warfare, but to me it’s spot on for the period.

  4. John says:

    Really looking forward to this set of rules and I’m enjoying your updates. Out of interest will the final ruleset include rules for mounted troops?

  5. Great report and insight Rich, your write ups are getting to be has flowery has Sid’s. Looking forward to release of these, I have figures on order ready, just hope that I can get them painted ready for the big day. Good news on the bases from Warbases, Martin is a top chap, more for the Salute list.

  6. Big Rich says:

    Jim, I like the regular bases for the Shieldwall, I much prefer the idea of “blobs” for the loser formation. Either way, it makes life a LOT easier to have movement bases. Speeds up play considerably.

    John, absolutely. We have been working hard to get the infantry combat balance right, you’ll see some horses very soon. Two weeks time to be precise. We’re adding in some new troop types as well.

  7. Andrew Brentnall says:

    “loser formation”? Freudian slip, Rich?

  8. MM says:

    Interesting rules. Nice looking terrain. What do you use for the table? is that a cloth of some sought or textured and painted foam base?

  9. MM says:

    Do you recall and have you read Guy Halsall’s command and control in the early medieval (dark ages etc) in WI 17? An excellent article and certainly made me change immediately the way my armies would manoeuvre into battle.

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