This must be some sort of record – Dux Britanniarum lands on the doormat and a couple of weeks later we’re playing a game. We like the rules which the Lardies produce, but none have clicked with us the way this set have. We’ve had several fun games of Sharp Practice, but we never could get on with Blinds (don’t know why – they are a great idea) or remember to roll for an event when loads of dice were rolled and there were more ‘1’s than ‘6’s. Dux Britanniarum gets around these minor gripes by not having any blinds and having a Fate Deck instead of events – hurrah!
After one read through the rules, I ordered a Romano British starter army (great idea) and painted it up in 2 weeks – I must be ill!!! Saxons are from my Anglo-Dane and Viking forces for Saga, but hopefully we will have some plastic Thegns being painted up before the campaign starts in earnest to replace the guys swinging the 2-handed axes with gay abandon.
The scenario we picked for our first try-out of the rules was the “one man and his dog” one, where raiding Saxons have to herd some livestock across the table before the Roman British can stop them. The British got to bring on 3 units at the start of the game, rolling the right centre area for their deployment zone. My Saxons were going to fight off the British with their elite units, while the Warrior units did the herding – the Saxons had to get 2 groups of pigs off the table to win.
Turn 1 did not start well for the Saxons. The Big Man cards for the 3 units of warriors with the pigs came out quickly, but I rolled doubles for the 2 groups on the left (this means the livestock veer off in a random direction) and they ended up chasing their pigs around a wood, whilst the single group of warriors who also rolled a double (!) moved very close to the British Elites and Levy in pursuit of their pig. The Saxon elites moved straight up the road hoping to pin the inevitable shield wall against the board edge by threatening to outflank the damned thing. The British spent their turn shuffling about waiting for reinforcements to arrive, but with high movement rolls some of them would be in position to strike on turn 2 – damn!
On turn 2 after their mates arrived, the British elites felt bold enough try to charge the single group of Saxon warriors with the pig, but I played a Goad Fate card to stop them short and right in the path of my Lord and his elites. The Saxon Lord card came up next, so I ordered a charge against the British elites with my Lord leading 2 groups of elites against one. The sneaky British turned tail and ran (they had an evade card, another useful Fate deck card) meaning that no battles were fought on turn 2. The rest of the turn was spent by the British getting into formation and the Saxons in the wood going nowhere as they rolled a double 1 for movement – the dice Gods were shining on me as usual!
On to turn 3. The Saxon Lord & 2 elite groups charged the British shieldwall of 2 warrior & 1 elite group, which had been formed just in time by the British Lord (his card came up first, followed by the Saxon – the Saxon prayed it would be the other way round, but it was not to be – did I say I was the Saxons?). Surprisingly, no-one had a “Seize the Day” card, but the British had the “Shieldwall Braced” card which cancelled out the Saxon “Aggressive Charge” card – double damn! Of course, the Saxons came off worst losing 3 men to the British none and so had to fall back 3″ due to the shock (of losing to peasants, though worse was to come). The pig-herding Saxons on the flank continued their slow progress towards the edge of the board which would give victory, while the other British leader whipped his levy into formation on the flank of the Saxon warrior line.
On Turn 4, once again the British Lord card came up first, and he ordered the British shieldwall to follow up into the retreating Saxons, but victory was not so swift this time – the combat went on for 4 rounds over 2 activations, but when the dust settled the Saxons elites had been broken or wiped out and the Saxon Lord had to run back to join the warrior group which had previously lost their pig to a bunch of levy. The only good thing from the Saxon point of view was that the British champion had fallen, taking a sword thrust intended for his lord. The pig-herding Saxon warriors continued to try to move their charges down the flank, but the British skirmishers had moved across to them so they were now being harassed by slingshot as well as making continuous poor movement rolls.
Turn 5 and the British Lord card came out first again, so he ordered a regular group to charge one of the flanking Saxon warrior group with pigs, trampling the Saxon bowmen in the process. Amazingly, he took a wound and lost the combat, falling back 1″. Maybe the pigs might get off the board after all….
It was not to be – the British leader with the Levy was now activated, and ordered the formation of Levy to charge the Saxon warrior group which their Warlord had sought refuge with. Again, the dice gods deserted the Saxons and the peasant Levy beat them up so badly that they had to leave the field at end of turn due to excess shock, taking the Warlord with them and sending the Saxon Army Morale below zero. This ended the game and put paid to the Saxon pig rustling on the flank as they lost the will to fight and melted off into the country side with no filling for their bacon butties.
I lost badly as the Saxons – I think I only won 1 combat and was beaten twice by Levy with pitchforks. On the other hand, my archers were quite successful, dishing out 2 kills and some shock – this was not going to win me the game though. The British shieldwall which they managed to form in the nick of time was dead tough – I lost count of the number of kills it saved by being in the formation. The movement trays, though they sped up the game, confused us for a time – we were trying to wheel on the corner of the tray etc, but we didn’t have to do this as the mass formation is fairly flexible. Only when in shieldwall formation is wheeling necessary and most manoeuvres can be done by just subtracting 1D6 from the movement. The Fate Card Deck added a lot of spice to the game, never mind that I couldn’t pull a Carpe Diem card to save my life – this allows you to play more than 1 card in a turn, which can make for some devastating combos in a fight. Tom pulled all 3 of mine but didn’t pull one of his own until the final turn, and as we didn’t make it through the deck I was never going to see one – in the end I had to press the attack without one, which ended predictably given my usual dice rolling. The game was a really good introduction to the rules, and has given us an appetite for the campaign system where casualties matter – if this had been a campaign game I may well have thrown the towel in earlier. Highly recommended.