The Dark Ages, Dux Britanniarum, 28mm
As a change from Napoleonics we ran an Arthurian game this week, a Saxon raid on a Post-Roman British church in what is now Corehampton in Hampshire. Back in the darkest Dark Ages it was part of the British Kingdom of Rhegin, which was under attack from sea-borne Saxon raiders. Well, this raid was a scenario lifted straight from the rule book, fought out on a 6 x 6 foot table. The Saxon raiders started at the ford over the River Meon, which marked the southern boundary of our table. They had a head start on the British, and rolled well, meaning they were deployed between the central wood and the church. So far so good. The Britons rolled badly, and their vanguard was limited to just one unit, which started on the eastern table edge. The rest of the British force would come on behind it, during Turn 2.Anyway, the Saxon objective was to get to the church and plunder it. They needed two caches of plunder – hidden candlesticks, silver plates etc.), which was hidden somewhere in the church. To find each group or leader had to spend a turn searching. If they did they got to roll a die – on a “6” they unearthed part of the loot. Then they had to get themselves off the table. Ideally this would be the southern edge, but failing that the western one would do almost as well.The Saxons (played by Gyles and Alan) decided to send two groups of “warrior” class geoguth to the church, and use the rest of their army to hold off the oncoming Britons (run by Joe). This made perfect sense, but it things didn’t really go according to plan. First of all, they split their blocking force into three groups, with one unit of “elite” gedricht hiding in woods on their right flank, while the other two groups (one gedricht, the other geoguth) held the centre. Well, the Arthurian “elite” comanipulares ignored them and headed straight for the church, while the two groups of “warrior” class milites headed for the Saxons in the wood. When they came on the levies or numeri faced off the main part of the blocking force. That’s when the Saxons made their next mistake.Instead if staying in the wood their “elite” gedricht charged out to take on the milites, and thanks to some nifty card play by the Britons they were chopped to pieces. Each side has a poker hand of cards when the game begins, and these can be played to give the player some combat advantage, or traded in for fresh cards. It adds a great little touch of spice to the game, meaning that a player can turn the tables in what would otherwise be a really bad situation, given the right cards. Anyway, the milites led by the British lord Vortigen sent the Saxons running towards the ford. Vortigen went on to advance over the hill, to circle around the wood and the village, intending to block the Saxon’s line of retreat. He was accompanied by a small unit of British slingers. His Saxon counterpart Wyrmwalch abandoned his two remaining men who were fleeing the field, and followed the same route through the village to rejoin his companions.Meanwhile the British in the centre lined up against their Saxon counterparts, even though the British numeri weren’t a real match for their more experienced opponents. That’s when thecomanipulares came to their aid, joining the levies just after the first clash of arms. Strangely the numeri held their ground, and the Saxons suffered several casualties.h them before the Saxons reached them. Once again the battle swung rapidly in the Britons’ favour. The Saxons were pushed back, and after a little more pushing, hacking and shoving they “lost their amphorae” and dispersed. So, the Saxon centre and right had collapsed. Effectively, that just left the two groups of geoguth in the church. To add insult to injury the comanipulares charged the Saxon archer unit, who were prevented from evading by a timely British card. That meant another Saxon unit was duly removed from the table.They were having a mixed time of things. With two groups of Saxon spearmen and a leader searching, the Saxons got three rolls a turn, and needed a “6”. They got one on their first turn. That’s when they made their second bad decision. They elected to send one of the units off with its share of the plunder, leaving the Saxon noble Healfwulf to lead the remaining unit inside the church. That also though, meant that they would have two goes at getting a “6” next turn, rather than three. That last “6” proved elusive. In fact they were still trying to roll for it when the unit of British comanipulares arrived outside the church door. The Saxons had two choices – bar the door and stay inside, to keep looking for the last of the plunder, or come out and fight. The fate of the raid now hung in the balance.To help the Saxons reach a decision the Britons outside began rolling too, trying to set fire to the thatch on the church roof. Rather than get fried the Saxons decided to come out and fight, hoping to drive off the comanipulares before going back inside to finish the search. Actually this proved a pretty bad decision on a couple of counts, most notably because the Arthurian warriors outside were hardened elite troops, but also because the British numeri were now marching towards the church. Incidentally Vortigen and his milites had reached the village, accompanied by the slingers, and had completely sealed off any escape route to the south. If the Saxons were going to escape it was by the western table edge. Give Healfwulf and his men their due – they certainly came out fighting. Both they and the Britons suffered casualties, and fell back from each other, the Saxons because they suffered more casualties, and the British comanipulares because they’d garnered too many “shock points”.The numeri had now arrived, led by the British warlord Caractacus. What remained of the Saxons – two men – were joined by their own warlord Athelwald and his champion Grimbeorn – the only survival of the Saxon force fighting in the centre. He launched another charge, hoping to see off the numeri through the play of a good run of cards and his better troop quality. It wasn’t to be. While the numeri took casualties they also wiped out the last two remaining Saxons, along with Grimbeorn. With none left to command Athelwald and his two lords headed for the table edge, leaving the Britons in control of the table. So, the Saxons only got half the plunder they needed to win, which meant it was a British victory. That was borne out by the fighting on the tabletop too, as well as the plunder, as the Britons had managed to win every melee. Everyone enjoyed themselves though, whether they lost or won. These games are always hard-fought, well-paced and enjoyable. Who knows – we might even get around to running a small campaign. However, it’ll always remain a secondary period for us – something to be brought out when we’re really in the mood for something a little different. The Age of Arthur certainly is exactly that.