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The Siege of Caeseromagus, 540 AD


The Dark Ages, Dux Britanniarum, 28mm

It was the club night before Christmas, and all around not a mouse was stirring. Well, no mice, but the Saxons were, and a few Arthurian Britons. I’d originally planned to play a War of the Grand Alliance game with Chris Henry, but he backed out with a bad cold bug. Instead I sat in on a Dark Age game which pitched Jim Loutitt’s Saxons against Jack Glanville and Derek Hodge’s Britons. This was the first chance I’d had to see Too Fat Lardies’ Dux Britanniarum in action, and I was interested to see how it all worked. Apart from the figures the table looked pretty dreadful. The lads take a minimalist approach to terrain, and a brown wasted heath with a scrap of cornfield and a lime green hill were pretty much “it”. Still, the figures looked nice, and the guys were clearly enjoying themselves.dux-011In Dux Britanniarum the rules augment a little campaign system, and this one was set in Caer Colun – the modern day county of “Essex”. The Saxons – raiding northwards from Ceint (Kent) – had already given the Britons a bit of a kicking in a previous battle, fought somewhere near the town of Caesar Romagnus (present-day Chelmsford). Today, Chelmsford really isn’t worth fighting for, but back in 540 AD it clearly was. After defeating the Britons the Saxons laid siege to the town, and this little battle was an attempt by the Britons to break the siege. The relief force was intercepted a few miles from the beleaguered town, and battle was joined.dux-010Before the battle began, both sides tried to raise their morale by calling the gods, making rousing speeches and buying the lads mead. By the end of all this nonsense the Saxons enjoyed a significant advantage over the Britons in terms of confidence. Loss of figures in battle leads to a further loss of confidence, and the eventual rout of the small army. Otherwise, the two sides were equally matched  – the Saxons had less figures but the ones they had were of better quality. The big British advantage was that non-levies can form a shieldwall, which gives them a big bonus in combat. Consequently the Saxons split their forces, and set about outmanoeuvring their opponents, trying to work their way around their flanks. This was going to be the theme of the game.dux-015The fact that the battle forms part of a campaign means that the players are strangely reluctant to risk taking heavy casualties. It can often take months to recover from heavy losses – months the enemy will spend pillaging your lands. So, both sides were cautious, and sought to gain an advantage in manoeuvring before risking everything in a clash of spears. Both sides had small units of archers, which peppered the enemy from afar. In the end they caused the only casualties of the game. When they found their shieldwall outflanked the Britons decided to call it a day, and quit the field, leaving the Saxons crowing over their near bloodless victory. The game was followed by a small phase of post-game bookkeeping – losses were calculated, replacements rolled for, and plunder gathered. Meanwhile, the fall of Caesar Romagnus is another month closer…dux-009I have to say, I was so impressed by the whole Dux Britanniarum package that the next day I bought a copy of the rules. All I need now are some figures …

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