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.
At 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..!)
Now 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.
Ahead 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.
Now 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.
One 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.
Yet 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.
Yet 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.
His 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?
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
Over the past few months we have been busy playtesting the forthcoming campaign handbook for Sharp Practice. It’s been great fun and has generated some exciting games and thrilling narratives. However, our latest campaign threw up a game so unusual that we decided to roll it out as a club night game to see just