Saturday 19 January 2013

"Oi' Gerrof my land!" or the Battle for Hanham.

Having made some counters for a variety of warbands for Dux Bellorum, it was time to get a trial game in to see how the rules played. For the first game I wanted to keep things nice and simple, so used the sample warbands from the book as a guide, with no Strategy &Tactics options taken. 

Late Roman
1 x Mounted Companions (Cynwyl Cadarn)
1 x Noble Riders
1 x Ordinary Riders
4 x Ordinary Shieldwall
1 x Bow
1 x Mounted Skirmisher (Javelin)
2 x Foot Skirmisher (Bow)

1 x Foot Companions (Hyngga the Angle)
1 x Noble Warriors
7 x Ordinary Warriors
1 x Foot Skirmisher (Bow)

Both warbands had 6 Leadership Points each. Being a solo game I decided that the Late Romans would use their LPs mainly for defence when in close combat, with the Saxons using theirs for offence. This seemed in keeping to me with the Late Romans being a Shieldwall warband and the Saxons a Warriors warband.

So with the Warbands sorted it was time to choose a scenario. Again keeping things nice and simple (the KISS principle works for me) I went for an Annals Battle. This way I could concentrate on the rules rather than the various nuances that a more involved scenario might entail. Unsuprisingly the Saxons won the die roll for Agressors, which is entirely in keeping with their image. So the poor Late Romans had the unenviable task of defending their land from the marauding Pagans.

For a first game again I went for the simple approach and played the game on a 2' x 2' table. Scenery was kept minimal  as befitting the Late Roman Repellors with a wood and hedgeline in opposing table quarters.

Deployment was as per the rulebook with the Saxons forming three battle lines with Hyngga and his Nobles in the centre, flanked by Warriors on either side. The Late Romans formed as solid shieldwall in the centre with skirmisher in the woods on the left flank and Cycnwyl Cadarn and his cavalry on the right flank.

The warbands deployed for battle.

Both sides used their LPs to aid movement as there was no chance of combat being joined at this early stage of the battle, with each warband advancing forward whilst maintaining a cohesive battle line. No one wants to leave a flank hanging in the air, even in the Dark Ages!

Both sides advance.

The skirmishers move to the edge of the wood to shoot at the Heathens.

Again, each warband used it's LPs to ensure they passed their Bravery rolls. Both sides used their skirmishers with bows to shoot at their opponents, with neither side inflicting any hits. Both sides continued to advance in their respective battlelines as before.

Combat will soon be joined.

With combat highly likely this Turn, the Late Romans used the LPs to remove hits taken by the Shieldwall Warrios and the Cavalry. The Saxons on the other hand allocated their LPs to aid their attacks, with the Warriors on the Left Flank and the Companions in the centre sharing them equally.

The Late Roman skirmishers got the better of the shooting phase, with the Mounted Skirmishers with Javelins inflicting 1 hit on a Warrior unit, whilst the Skirmishers in the wood caused 2 hits on the Saxon Skirmishers with bows. The Late Romans with Bow were not to be outdone and caused a hit on the Warriors directly in front of them. The Saxons failed to cause any hits in return, but were not too worried as shooting is not their forte. Up close and personal is more their style.

With the shooting out of the way, it was time for some combat. The Mounted Skirmishers with Javelin decided to withdraw out of charge range of the Saxon Warriors, whilst Cynwyl Cadarn and his cavalry charged home into the Saxon left flank. For the Saxons their bloodlust was up and they did not bother to attempt to stop their  uncontrolled charges, with the left flank attacking the Skirmishers in the wood and Hyngga and his Nobles charging into the Shieldwall.

The Saxon right flank easily saw off the Skirmishers with bow, but received a hit for their troubles. In the centre the Saxon Warriors combat with the Late Roman bow was a bit embarassing as they only inflicted 1 hit, causing the Foot Bow to retreat 1/2 a base width. Hynggas Companions attacks were seen off but the judicious use of the Late Roman LPs to save the hits cause, resulting in a drawn combat. The Noble Warriors faired better inflicting 1 hit on the Shieldwall forcing it back 1/2 a base width.

Cynwyl Cadarn and his cavalry decided to use their LPs to add to their agression as they had got the charge in, with the Saxons doing the same trusting that the Gods would see them safe. The first combat was a draw, but Cynwyl Cadarn forced the central unit of Saxons back 1/2 a base width. Unfortuntely for the Late Romans, the Orindary Riders failed miserably and were destroyed by Saxon testorone, but at least caused 2 hits in return.

Most unit charge home.

Not looking good for the Skirmishers with Bow.

The attacks go in in the centre.

The cavalry charge home hoping to break the Saxon left flank.

The outcomes of the combat.

The Late Roman left flank is under pressure.

The Shieldwall starts to break up under the Saxon onslaught.

The cavalry charge didn't go quite to plan...

The Late Romans were now down by 2 LPs due to the loss of their Skirmishers and Cavalry unit. This was going to make it hard to decide where and how use their 4 LPs this turn. The advantage definitely looked to be with the Saxons.

There was little shooting but the remaining Late Roman Skirmishers with Bow saw off their opposite numbers.

Cynwyl Cadarn decided to charge home but was counter charged by the Saxon Warriors on his flank.  The rest of the Late Romans were once again charged by the Saxons where they possibly could. This looked like it could be a decisive turn. The Late Romans were going to have to step up to the mark this turn.

Unsuprisingly the remaining Skrimishers with Bow succumbed to a massive Saxon onslaught, but at least went down fighting causing 1 hit in return. In the centre the Shieldwall was forced back by a succession of saxon attacks, despite using their few remaining LPs to save some hits. The Late Roman cavalry fared badly, causing plenty of hits, but losing the noble Riders, which meant that Cynwyl Cadarn and his Companions were left facing 3 Saxon Warriors units, albeit with quite a few hits on them.

The charges take place.

More attacks go in in the centre.

The Late Roman line begins to buckle under the onslaught.

The Late Romans are pushed back on all fronts.

The centre survives but for how long?

Cynwyl Cadarn and his Companions are very isolated.

End of Battle
With the loss of another two units, the Late Romans were now down to only 2 LPs and with one flank turned and the other very much at risk of being broken. With the situation as it was I decided to call it a day, with the Late Romans leaving the field and the Saxons victorious.

For a first game of Dux Bellorum I must say it all went very well and I hardly had to refer to the rulebook, mainly using the QRS throughout. I think this speaks volumes about the quality of the rules. So  a few impressions of the game can be found below:

  • The game was very easy to pick and provided a quick (as it turned out) and enjoyable battle. Nothing seemed confusing or caused me to scratch my head at any point.
  • Having played plenty of Blitzkreig Commander, the idea and use of the Leadership Points seemed very natural. Others not used to the Warmaster Ancients stable of games might find this a bit unusual at first.
  • The movement of Agressor followed by Repellor units in their respective order works really nicely. I didn't use the Interrupt rule for my solo game, but I am looking forward to giving it a go when I play against my regular gaming chums.
  • The simultaneous shooting and combat gets a big thumbs up from me. 
  • Leadership Points are, unsuprisingly, the USP of this game. Knowing when and where to use them brings a real tactical challenge to the game. Again this will fully come to the fore when playing against my Chums.
  • I think a 2' x 2' board is a bit too small, especially with a warband that has cavalry. I would think a minimum size would be 3' x 2'. I really didn't get the chance to use the cavalry properly as they were hemmed in by the hedgeline.
  • For larger warbands or multi-player games a standard 6' x 4' table would do nicely.
  • I think this game will scale up nicely, probably allowing for up to 3 players per side when played on a 6' x 4' table, with each player having his own warband. I can see this producing an awful lot of fun games.
So there you have it. My first game of Dux Bellorum and one that I must say I enjoyed immensely. I'm already looking forward to my next game and many more in the future. Now I must find some time and place an order with those Pendraken chaps so that I can play with figures rather than counters!

Sunday 13 January 2013

Dux Bellorum

My first tentative steps into wargaming took place in the dim and distant past of the 1970s, when my friends and I started using the Airfix WW2 wargames rules by Bruce Quarrie, to go with our Airfix and Matchbox figures and tanks. Alongside these appeared 'The Quest of Thane Tostig', a simple set of wargames rules that introduced me to fantasy skirmish wargaming. This in turn led to playing 1st edition D&D at school, as well as Chainmail and another game, the name of which escapes me.

In short I was hooked on skirmish wargames, as I enjoyed the whole 'ancients' feel of the games as well as the fun of painting up just a few figures required for a game. Then real life intervened in the form of university and wargaming took a back seat, except for the odd boardgame game snatched between projects. 

Then, like many others I'm sure, I drifted back into wargaming whilst living in Nottingham as a result of looking in the Games Workshop window. I dabbled in Warhammer but although the 'period' was right, I just never got into the game the way that others did. However I still bought the then excellent White Dwarf magazine as I used to buy it when it first came out, and in a sense kept up with what was going on at Games Workshop. An article appeared with some simple rules for a game called 'Mordheim', that ticked all the boxes as far as I was concerned and which took me back to my formative wargames years. 

I happily played these to the exclusion of all else for about 5 years until it stopped being supported by Games Workshop, coupled with my regular gaming chums being unable to make it to club nights. So ended my skirmish gaming. I even tried Lord of the Rings which was good, but this never took off at the club. The same was true of Legends of the High Seas. All was not lost as I rediscovered WWII wargaming in the form of Flames of War, which was quickly ditched for the superb Blitzkreig Commander. Alongside this I played Rules of Engagement so I was getting my fix of skirmish gaming. 

Lately however I have been looking to go back to my wargaming roots so to speak. With the appearance of several 'ancients' rules of late, it seemed I would be spoilt for choice. So which ruleset to choose? 'Hail Caesar' by Warlord Games, SAGA, 'Dux Brittaniarum' by TTFL and finally 'Dux Bellorum' by Osprey Publishing all have their advocates and I'm sure produce good games. One of the joys, and pitfalls, of the internet, is that you can find plenty of online reviews of each game on various forums, Blogs etc. This is a blessing and, equally, a curse as it can get a bit confusing with a host of different views on offer.

After plenty of reading I settled on 'Dux Bellorum'.

I won't bore you with why I rejected the others, but a few reasons can be found below as to why I selected this ruleset:
  • It contained everything in one book of 64 pages, including Army lists.
  • There would be no need to buy supplements, a rare thing these days in the world of wargaming!
  • It cost me less that £8.00 including p&p, again unheard of in these days of the £30 coffee table rulebook.
  • I liked the look of the rules and the way they played as they seemed to fit my style of wargaming, which is naturally rather important. Too many times have I bought rules that everyone has said are good, only for them to be sold off within the year at a bring'n'buy at a show.
So the book was duly ordered and I waited with keen anticipation for them to arrive. I was not to be disappointed in my purchase. So a few first impressions: 

  • The book is beautifully produced as you would expect from Osprey Publishing.
  • It is well bound and with a good weight of paper so fingers crossed should not fall apart quickly, unlike some other rulebooks.
  • The book is very well layed out and flows naturally, from the introduction by the author Daniel Mersey, all the way through to the scenarios at the end.
  • The rules are very easy to follow with nice and simple diagrams to accompany the text where necessary. Each section starts with a basic overview followed by detailed explanations, which aids understanding in my opinion.
  • There are optional rules within each section that allow you to play in a slightly different style if required, mainly in keeping with 'standard' rules from other rulesets.
  • The book is not packed out with unnecessary 'fluff', but has some nice images from Osprey books and photographs of miniatures, mainly 15mm and 28mm.
  • There are 7 army lists in the book, Late Roman, Romano-British, Welsh, Saxon, Irish, Picts, Land Raiders and Sea Raiders. The latter two are slightly different form of the others with the exceptions of the Late Romans. Within each list there is usually the option to have them as either shieldwall (defence) or warrior (offence), as well as mainly cavalry or foot. Most lists can also take Allies, therefore giving more variety should it be required.
  • A big warband will really only consist of 10 bases. Yes that's ten bases! No need to paint up hundreds of figures, unless you want to of course.
  • The section called 'Strategies and Tactics' is a real winner as it allows you to tweak you warband to suit its background or your playing style, by buying certain attributes for said warband. As an example, I love the 'Stampede' option as it allows you to drive cattle, or similar, towards your enemy to disrupt them! This just appeals to my wargaming sense of fun.
  • There are 6 scenarios at the end, all of which look nice and simple to play. The rules themselves will allow for plenty others to be created I'm sure.

So there you have it. A set of rules that I'm extremely glad I bought and can't wait to get my first game in. They may not be for you but I'd recommend having a look at them if you can.