Colossal volumes of work have stopped me getting any post-action reports here on Lard Island News recently, which is a shame as Dux Britanniarum is now complete and we are in the process of working on the formatting for the printer. We are now enjoying playing a campaign with the rules which has proved to be very interesting thus far.
A few weeks ago we rolled up our characters and played the first game. As regular followers of the News will know Dux Britanniarum is centred around a campaign with the Saxons attempting to carve out their own Kingdom in British lands. So, as the first step in was to decide which British Kingdom we were fighting over. We chose the Kingdom of Cynwidion as the setting for our campaign, basically because we could incorporate our home turf as part of the campaign however the rules will allow you to choose any British Kingdom for your own setting, right the way from the south coast up through modern England and Wales to the north of Edinburgh and Dunbarton.
The next step was to roll up our characters. For the Britons we have Tribune Constantine heading the forces of Cynwidion. Thirty-three years old, Constantine is the son of a Decurion, a member of the Senate of the local Civitas, he is of average build and a natural horseman. Coroctacus, his right-hand man is an exile from Kent and a sailor who fought on the Saxon shore. He is short, wiry and 32 years old. Finally Maelgwyn is 36, an athletic man and son of a peasant, at some point in his career he has already picked up an epithet, Maelgwyn the Impaler, suggesting this is not a man to be messed with.
On the Saxon side Lord Cynewulf is an interesting character. Only 23 years of old he is the son of a foederati who served the Roman administration and as such was born in these islands. He is desperately poor, a fine athlete and has already become known as Cynewulf the Silent. He listens much but says little, remarkable for one so young.
His right hand man is Aethelstan the Just, a 33 years old Saxon of noble birth. He is the son of a Lord whose halls were on the north German shore and is known for his honourable behaviour. Henga, on the other hand, is a 29 year old peasant of simple German stock.
So, the campaign began with Cynewulf raiding the lands of Cynwidion for the first time in spring 480 AD. It was a hard fight and whilst he made away with some gold the victory was not such that he gained any great prestige or new followers. However he was to return the following month, in May 480, with a plump Romano-British farm as his objective.
We began the game dicing up a raid scenario from the rule book. The British won the terrain roll and placed three large terrain pieces on the table, choosing a large hill, some woods and an area of marsh. The Saxon player then got to place four small terrain pieces, choosing some rocky bits of broken ground, a small pond and a grove of trees. We then diced to place the farm. Unfortunately for the Saxons it was at the far end of the table, however they were to benefit from a four turn head-start on the British who were aware that their borders had been breached and had sent forces to intercept the raiders.
So the game began with the Saxons almost upon the farm. The British, cursing their luck, were to enter the table from the marsh that they had placed along two foot of table edge. However, the British player had a plan. He would ignore the farm and move his force to block the Saxon exit route from the table. This would make it particularly difficult for the Saxons as some of their men would be carrying pillage and unable to fight without losing some of their newly found riches. With such a plan how could the British lose?
Well, quite easily apparently. The British decided to change their plan and with their first move they headed straight for the farm with their Milites and Comanipulares, however the Saxons, unencumbered by the sucking filthy marsh water were able to rush to cut off this avenue of advance, obliging the British to turn about face and slog their way through the whole of the marsh in the opposite direction.
The Saxons had initially seized the high-ground whilst Henga and his men looted the farm (the time they took suggested that they may have found the wine cellar and decided to empty that before taking any gold or silver). However, having seen Tribune Constantine wallowing in the mud they rapidly came off the hill and advance towards the edge of the swamp, intent on attacking there before the British could emerge and form a shieldwall on solid ground.
As the British Levy emerged Aethelstan’s Warriors charge in to contact them, sweeping the first Group away, shaking the two Groups behind them but not stopping them forming an impromptu shieldwall from where they attempted to cover Constantine as he struggled to free his best troops from the clinging mud.
Again Aethelstan charged, hurling missiles as they went in the hope of shattering the British shieldwall, yet the Levy locked shields and braced themselves. The fight was bitter and whilst one Group of Britons were eventually bettered the other repulsed the Saxons. Men died on both sides, but the bravery of the Levy was sufficient to buy time for Constantine.
The loss of two Groups of Levy was insufficient to shake the morale of the British troops, in fact their force morale rating did not drop at all due to two very low rolls (losing decent troops would see this plummet), but the morale of their commander was shot. He knew that just a few more men lost would hand the Saxons a major victory and in the context of the campaign he was better off cutting his losses now. He also had three Retreat cards in his hand so he was confident of holding his force together in retreat.
The Saxon Warriors had suffered badly in their tussle with the British shieldwall and their disorder was such that they were unable to intervene as the British withdrew. Indeed they had only one Pursuit card in their hand so were unable to challenge the retreating Britons in the post game phase.
Winning the victory and the number of casualties they had inflicted gained Cynewulf a solid victory. With two victories under his belt he has amassed some considerable wealth, the purse of a Patrician in fact, yet he knows that he will need a Prefect’s Riches in order to shower sufficient gifts on his men that he can be sure of declaring himself a King. What is more, to do so prematurely may do more harm than good. Cynewulf will content himself with more raids for now. On the positive side his success has resulted in two new volunteers joining his force, so one of his warrior Groups is now enlarged to eight men, a significant help. If he can get another four to six fresh volunteers he will be well placed to challenge for a throne.
As for Tribune Constantine, the battle was superficially a disaster, however in truth he only lost some levy and a couple of Milites to archery. He will be able to fill his ranks readily and be ready for when Cynewulf comes back in June. Had he lost more men it may have taken him two months to get his force back in the field, disastrous if Cynewulf had raided unopposed.
Before the Romans met the Germans the big bad wolf of their history was the Gauls. If the German raiding along the Rhine was bad, the Gauls had topped that by some distance by sacking Rome itself in 390 BC, or thereabout, when Brennus, the Gallic leader, coined the term ‘Vae Victis’. In their hatred