Dux Britanniarum (DB henceforth) is the new Early Medieval (aka Dark Ages) game from the Two Fat Lardies. I had played in the demo game at the Newbury Wargames Show about a month ago, but Friday night was the first time I’d played where I had any true grasp of the rules. The are specifically designed for the early period, Romano British v invading Saxons, 5th century stuff, though they could easily be used with later periods.
My regular opponent ‘Sunjester’ had bought the rules, along with the card packs (more later) for £25, as he had lots of 25mm figures that hadn’t seen a table for some years. The book is approx 100 pages from the look of it, printed on high quality glossy paper in colour and ‘perfect bound’, similar to the TFL recent releases ‘I Ain’t Been Shot Mum’ (version 3) and ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’. The pro’s and cons of the increase of production values is argued on wargame fora across the internet, so I won’t go into them here, except to say I liked the general look. The card packs are playing card sized, rather than the oversize cards produced for IABSM.
The game plays pleasingly straight forward, the rules simple but not basic. Many principles found in other TFL games have been carried over. Some are put off by a ‘stable’ feel to rules from the same publishers, but Richard Clarke (Chief Lardie) and/or whoever the writers are, have used them for effect, rather than ‘We always put this in’ – this isn’t IABSM/They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant/etc Dark age.
Troops are catagorised as either Levy, Warriors or Elites, organised into groups of 6 of the same kind. They are lead by leader figures, who, whilst seperate can join groups and fight along side them.
Each leader is rated from 1-4, 4 being the best. This rating is how many actions he gets. He is activated when his card comes up from the deck. This deck idea is one common in Lardie games, with DB only the leaders (not the individual units) get a card in the deck, the exception being ‘leaderless’ groups, such as archers etc, who don’t hang around in groups of 6. At the start of every turn the pack is shuffled and turned one at a time. The named leader gets to take his actions. There is no equivalent to ‘Tea Break’ all cards are drawn, so all leaders get a turn.
Often these will be used to activate units. It takes one action to activate a unit, so it makes sense to keep 6 man groups together to form 1 large unit, thus 1 activation, forcing the player to prefer to use period tactics, with out absolutely forbidding him – “You can send bands running all over the place, but we’re going to make it difficult to move them all”. An activated unit moves 3d6, or fights if already in combat. A unit within 4″ of the front of an enemy is pinned, and is highly limited at to its actions – simulating standing yards from a group of heavily armed men engenders a certain amount of fear and caution! This idea is found in the various musket rule sets.
Leaders can also remove Shock, a by product of combat, at 1 point per level used. The other major thing they do is they can use 1 point to draw 1 Fate card. Fate cards a new thing to DB. They sit seperate to the action deck, and are basically used to give the player an advantage if he decides to play one. Thus when I charged into combat with one group I played a ferocious charge card, giving them +1 to hit in the first round of combat.
The fate deck is in three ‘suits’, Dragons (Brits) or Boars (Saxons) under the card text make it force specific, while other cards are ‘No’ suit, so can be used by anyone.
Combat is simple. 1 die per man in combat (in this contect 1st and 2nd ranks if you have a deep formation), + 1 per level of each Leader fighting. Then lose 1 die per 2 shock points a group has. 4+ hits. You reroll the hits to see how many kills/shock caused. The target number required varies on the troops you are fighting. So (this is from memory- apologies if wrong), it takes a 6 to kill and 4-5 to shock, elite, while Levy shock on 2-4, and die on 5-6. If any leaders were with a unit that suffered kills then roll a d6 – if equal or less than the number of kills caused, one of them goes on him, reducing his level. If he is knocked down to 0, then he is dead.
Shock represents the build up of fear and loss of nerve in a unit, and has a number of effects; 2 shock loses a unit 1 die in combat, it reduces movement by 1 inch per shock, and can cause the unit to run away. In IABSM if a unit has more shock than men still living, it “Loses its bottle”. In DB it “Loses its amphora”! It retreats away from combat, and any further kills/shock forces it to keep retiring until such time it either leaves the table, or a Leader can use his command to remove shock down to the number of men.
Also included is a campaign system that generates scenarios. As Friday was a quick game to get the feel of it, we haven’t really looked at this yet, but it looks like this is what the game is really about – an ongoing saga of how your men improve, and what loot they gain. Of course there is nothing to prevent you using the on-table rules as you wish for one off games.
The game played quickly, flowed smoothly and was simple enough that I learnt basic rules from just playing, while still giving a combat resolution that felt ‘right’: Heavily armoured Elites/Hearthguard are easily to hold their own against peasent levy who out number them. We did wonder how valid the idea the Saxons don’t use shield wall bacause they have light buckler shields for raiding is, I think this might be an attempt to give each side unique characteristics.
Over all a enjoyable game, and I am looking forward to my next game.
Link to the TFL site – various purchase options depending whether you want just the PDF, and make your own cards, all the way up to Book, Cards, PDF and 2 Starter armies.
(Note, They ARE available, no matter what the top of the page might say).
NB Any inaccuraicies in description of mechanics is because I don’t own a set Ican check!