The cry from the walls tore Maximus Boicicus rudely from his slumber. The chill of the June morning promised a hot day under cloudless skies, yet for the men of Verulamium no day of toil in the fields awaited them. Dark on the horizon, the smoke of a burning farmstead heralded the return of the Seax.
Cyddic smiled as he surveyed the scene. Below lay the sleeping farm, its neatly tended fields and orchards spoke of order and civilisation; of a Rome now departed yet still evident in the weak Britons who clung to the old ways. Across to his right he saw Oswic the Angle and his mercenaries, next to them Aelfrick and Brethnoth the bone cruncher. His men had stood by him during hard times, and now they would feast off the Britons, taking what they wanted before returning south to tell tales of their valour in his hall. He raised his spear and as a single body the curved line of men began to run down the hill into the small peaceful valley, and death ran with them.
“The lads have reported that we are upon them Tribune”. Cadwalladr spoke as he sent the young archers away to regain their place at the head of the column. They had provided good service scouting ahead, and for that they would be rewarded. It had not been difficult to track the Saxons, they path of wanton destruction and violation were clear for all to see. For some time now farmers had been moving their farms to within the old city walls at Verulamium where they could expect some protection from raids like this, but still others held to the old ways and clung to their outlying lands. For the Saxons these were as ripe bloated grapes, ready for picking and easy to gather.
The men of Verulamium drew up into their line for battle. On the left Cadwalladr commanded the Numeri made up of the local farmers who in times of trouble would wield a spear for their city. To their right was Morgan Ap Cesti heading a band of Jutish foederati. In the centre the Milites formed a shieldwall under Maximus Boicicus whilst to his right Gaius Ambrosius, the last of the Romans, commanded the Companion Palatini. Off to their right a small party of boyish archers were left to their own devices and were already sending flights of arrows into the valley.
“Who would spoil my pleasures?” Cyddic grunted as he turned to his left. “Damn these Britons, can a man not fulfil his obligations to the Gods without their interference?! Can they not leave me to raid in peace?”
Brythnoth spoke in reply. “My Lord, it seems that our foe is upon us. They must have marched from the city of Uerlam at first light. We must turn to face them or all is lost. Shall I bring up Oswic?”
“No! Oswic must first get the riches from the farm, then he may join the battle line. I forbid his presence here until we have gold and wine for the feast of Thunor! Bring your Warriors round and form on my right, here we shall hold the Walas until Oswic has done his job.”
It was with a shout that Brythnoth charged forward, his face set hard against his Jutish cousins who now served the enemy. Whilst there was kinship between them there was no doubting that the Jutes would fight for their Lord Morgan Ap Cesti, for they were sworn to his service unto death. It was hard fought in the edges of the wood, their Germanic Gods favoured first one side then the other, until exhausted both sides withdrew to form again.
They came Aelfric forward to face the Numeri, his numbers small, but his skill with the Seax knife a legend. Yet these men who tilled the soil could see their own fate across the valley where their own kinsmen were put to the sword amid the smouldering ruins of their farms, and they back the Saxon, for all of his pride.
Now the two lines formed for battle Cyddic had brought forth his Companions, the men who dwelled in his hall and whose hearth warmed their bones in winter, while Maximus Boicicus brough the shieldwall forward to receive them.
The charge was aggressive, the shieldwall braced, and the two sides met in a struggle violent yet beautiful. That day were heroes made as the men of Verulamium staggered back beneath the rain of Saxon axes, yet they did not break. For all of his violence Cyddic could not break the shieldwall, and on his right the Jutes returned to cast down Brythnoth and his warriors. Even Aelrfic could not withstand the British tide as it swelled against their defences and then washed them away.
So it was that the two forces met with unequal numbers, Cyddic’s greet for gold and his drooling affection for wine were so great that he attempted to take on a stronger foe. Oswic the Angle was recalled from his looting of the farm, yet his new found wealth was, through necessity, abandoned. There would be meagre fare on Thunor’s feast.
So, another fun playtest and more issues addressed. We are beginning to introduce more elements of the campaign system now. Cyddic is yet to reach a point where he has amassed sufficient kudos to call himself a King or Warlord, so he is unable to make a grab for land at this stage. All he can do is raid and hope to amass wealth to get more support. This was a classic raid scenario which we diced for according to the campaign system. This placed the farmstead on the far side of the table to Cyddic’s entry point and dictated where and when the Romano-British would enter the table. As it was Cyddic had four turns before Maximus and his force arrived and by that point they were nearly in the farm and well on their way to victory. Or so it seemed.
Cyddic could well have stood off from the British and waited for them to come on to him. Had the Saxons formed a line to screen their Angle mercenaries in the farm they could have presented a significant defence which the British would have had to breach. As it was Cyddic chose to hurl his forces piece-meal against a pretty solid wall of Britons, so that by the time Cyddic had his hearthguard up in place the rest of his force was relatively exhausted. Cyddic had also frittered away his best cards on individual Groups attacking, so when he came to launch his big attack he could only lead with an Aggressive Charge. That is a great card to play, but the British had been husbanding their cards somewhat better so were able to counter with a Braced Shieldwall card which saved them from the worst of Cyddic’s aggression.
Some interesting tactical developments. Cyddic placed himself firmly in the front rank in order to benefit from his personal aggression and skill in battle. Maximum Boicicus stood back behind the shieldwall so as best to rally it where it was under pressure. That allowed him much more flexibility in the long term, but sadly for the Saxons Cyddic had to place all his faith in one heroic, epic violent charge breaking the shieldwall. It didn’t, and several rounds of combat did little to change that situation. In the end it was the collapse of the exhausted Saxon warriors under Aelfric and Brythnoth that put the writing on the wall for Cyddic, and once again he pulled back. In the post-battle phase the Saxons had four Retreat cards to just two British pursuit cards, so they got away very cleanly and with all of their force relatively intact.
In the end the game was a winning draw for the Romano-British. Maximus actually gained zero points as his use of Mercenaries stacked the odds so much in his favour that he needed a major victory in order to gain any kudos. As it was he simply restored the boundaries of Verulamium, but is no closer to being able to declare himself King, which is his game plan as soon as possible. Cyddic lost on points but his lads are more fed up with Oswic and his Angle mercenaries who spent ages looting the farmstead. Had they been a bit quicker Cyddic could have come away with a nice, if minor, victory. And God knows he needs one!
If you’d like to read Sidney “Cyddic” Roundwood’s report into procedings, along with frightful poetry (and probably flower arranging soon) then venture here if you dare:
Its been a hectic week on Lard Island and we aren’t quite where we wanted to be with our 1940 lists for France and the low countries. The good news is, however, that we have the French list available and the British list is nearly complete. With a bit of luck we hope to have