Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Fate of Alt Clut – Parts 2–4

A long overdue report on how things stand in our Dux Britanniarum campaign "The Fate of Alt Clut".

We managed to play four games, before taking a break for the summer way back in June. And now, here in November, we're still on that break and I don't think we'll be able to continue with the campaign until some time next year.

Anyway, rather than a detailed account of each game, I'll just do a quick summary and then finish off the post with some thoughts on Dux Britanniarum and the campaign.

The first game was a Pict raid on an Angles village, which ended in a marginal victory for the raiders. You can read more about that game here.

In the second game, it was time for the Picts to test their might against of the Britons of Alt Clut proper. And what an interesting game this turned out to be – it became very clear that playing in a campaign poses and imposes certain challenges on it's own, which is exactly the thing I'm after!

The battlefield, with the church in the middle,
surrounded by fields and a garden.
The Picts arrive from the top edge, and the Britons
from the right edge.

The Picts had their eyes set on a newly erected church just outside Mygedawc, where the holy relics were said to be of much value and the church's roof clad in gold.

I took command of the raiding Picts while my good mate Dalauppror commanded the staunch Britons – suitably reinforced with some heavy cavalry to hunt down the fast raiders.

Things didn't start too well for the Picts when I rolled two ones in a row: one for my morale roll and one for how many rounds headstart I would get. It seemed I would have to press forward as much as possible to try and get to the church before the Britons could form up a solid defense with their pesky shield walls.

The Britons making a swift advance with their levy,
trying to intercept the slow moving Picts screened by
their skirmishers and horsemen.

Unfortunately, my skirmishers got a little too enthusiastic while the other troops advanced far too cautiously. This meant the skirmishers got neutralised pretty quickly, even though they managed to tie up the Briton's cavalry for a while, buying me much needed time. As I found out, the skirmishers were badly needed as a way to soften up the Britons in shield walls before going in with the regular raiders.

The Britons cavalry arrive and immediately get locked in a lengthy
chase of the Picts' skirmishers.

After a couple of rounds of slogging towards the church, with some truly abysmal rolls for movement, it was clear this was not the Picts' day and I decided to withdraw to fight another time. But not before trying one last desperate attempt to get the upper hand: the Pictish Lord lead a mad attack against the British levy in shield wall. However, the only result of this attack was an honorable wound for the Lord and, predictably, some more fleeing Picts. The Britons tried to hunt down the fleeing raiders but only managed to inflict some minor losses after all. Result: a slight win for the Britons.

The Pictish Lord leads a suicide attack on the British levy in shield wall.
With predictable result ...

The Britons closing in on the raiders.

The Britons' cavalry, finally having destroyed the last skirmishers,
makes short work of the Pictish Lord's unit.
In face of the staunch British defense, the Pictish raiders
decide to call it a day.

And once again peace is restored.
Maybe even with a little help from The Man himself?

The month after the Picts were at it again, raiding a Romano-British farm. This time we switched sides, with me commanding the Britons and Dalauppror the Picts. Once again the raiders came up short as the British cavalry proved just as effective this time – a couple of well-placed charges saw the Pictish morale crumble and they were once again forced to withdraw in humiliating defeat.

Below are some pictures from this game:

An overview of the battlefield: Picts to the north
and Britons to the south.

Pictish cavalry rushing ahead of the main force.

The Picts arrive first and start to swarm all over the farm,
looking for things to knick.

Eventually the Romano-Britons arrive and everything degenerates
into that familiar mosh-pit of Dark Ages fighting.

Choo! Choo! You're about to get charged by some very angry cavalry.
What do you do?

With the Picts slightly weakened, the Angles (who were now up to full strength) saw an opportunity for an easy victory. They made a quick raid into the Picts' lands and stole some cattle. On their way back they were attacked by the returning Picts, who were eager to prove themselves after the failed raid against the Briton farm. However, the slightly under-strength force – no cavalry – proved no match for the aggressive Angles and another Pictish defeat was a fact. Sadly we didn't take any pictures of this game.

And so after 4 games and 3 months "in-game time" we have 2 victories for the Romano-Britons and 1 victory each for the Angles and the Picts. As is my general experience the attackers/raiders really need a good plan and some lucky dice rolls to win. It's also obviously of importance where the objective is placed – if it's placed far from the entry point of the attacker, it's going to be a tough match for them to win even with a couple of rounds of head start.

As for the rules themselves, they work fine for the most part but suffer somewhat from under-explanation. The added/adjusted rules for cavalry in the Raiders book, and the following confusion, really highlighted this I think.

I won't blame all the problems on the text though, as some of it is us, the players, coming to the game with a pre-conception of how things should be. When things aren't very clearly spelled out, we tend to fall back on how things usually work in our interpretations, which with rules such as these – with hidden depths, and elegant interactions between the different parts – makes for a somewhat confusing experience. It's easy to miss the smaller nuances, glossing them over in a quick read-through, when you think you already know how things work.

To be fair, the author has tried very hard to try and answer any questions but I really think there should be an updated version, with better explanations, or maybe simply a compiled FAQ-document like the one for Chain of Command.

I must confess that personally, my initial excitement for Dux Britanniarum has begun to wane a bit. Maybe this break was a good thing after all, giving us time to let the excitement build again. Because eventually, I really do want to continue with this campaign. The fate of Alt Clut still hangs in the balance ...

Thank you very much for reading!

And finally a big thank you to Michael/Dalauppror for supplying me with all the pictures for this post!

Update: Hey everyone, I didn't mean for this to turn into "let's bash Dux Britanniarum" and scare anyone away from this most excellent game. We've played close to 20 games of it by now – more than any other game I've ever played! – and it's really been tremendously fun.

My comments on its shortcomings were just to say that I think a great game could be even better. I would be very happy with an updated version with some tidying up of the text, together with some more and better explanations/clarifications and examples. Failing this, I'd be satisfied with a regularly updated FAQ-document.

Monday, 10 November 2014

WSS #75

On Friday I received the new issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy. An issue which is of special interest to me, not only because this time the theme is the Thirty Years Wars – an era I have long wanted to take a closer look at, but the timing has never been right (too much other stuff going on) – but also because it features an article by my good mate Dalauppror on the Danish invasion of the island Gotland in 1361. The fact that it even made the cover is fantastic!

This really is an excellent feature, with a comprehensive historical background, lots of nice pictures of lovely painted Danes and four scenarios for Lion Rampant that could be easily adapted to your rules of choice. It's well worth checking out by anyone with the slightest interest in Scandinavian medieval history.

I have contributed by some proof-reading and help in play testing the scenarios, as well as lending parts of my Dark Ages collection to be used as Gutes. If I had known the miniatures would end up on the front cover of WSS 2,5 years later I would have spent some more time on them ...

Anyway, this is not my show but all Dalauppror's – nice work mate and congratulations!