Monday, 5 September 2011

Dux Bellorum Saxons vs Land Raiders (Romano-British)

Chum Simon EP turned up over the weekend with some new miniatures based on 60mm wide bases. These looked great and will be appearing in the final published version of Dux Bellorum. Foot units had 7-8 minis on them, Mounted 4 minis, and Skirmishers 2 for Mounted and 3 for Foot. The game looks very nice at this ‘in between’ size.

Before cracking on with Dux Bellorum, we played out a Cold War Commander skirmish, and once again learned not to leave troops standing in the open in front or a machine gunner and grenadier...

Back to Dux Bellorum: A confident, mounted raiding force of Britons were the game’s Aggressors, heavily loaded with Noble Riders and limited Ordinary Riders and Skirmishers. They had a Leadership of 7, but being a small, elite force, would only have to lose 3 of their 6 non-skirmish units before needing to take morale tests. It’s a tough call deciding whether to go with a small elite force or a larger army bulked up with Ordinary troops: we’ve played games where both types of army have won, so there’s no obvious game winner in DB.

The Saxon Repellers were a Warrior army (DB allows most armies to choose Warriors or Shieldwall, reflecting different battle tactics within the Arthurian era). They had their Foot Companions, 2 Noble Warrior units, 5 Ordinary Warrior units, and 2 Foot Skirmisher units with bows. Being a foot army, almost their whole army was deployed before the British horsemen were placed on the table. The battlefield was a broad valley with a few hills and rocky features down the side.

Simon, playing as the Saxons, chose to line up in three rows: Nobles at the back, Ordinary Warriors in front of them, and the Skirmishers in front of them. All good stuff, a solid battle array! My British raiders thought they’d use their mobility to skirmish in the centre and on the hilly left, luring in the impetuous Saxon Warriors (who make Uncontrolled Charges) into the valley while the Noble Riders and companions heroically cut along the hills to the right and poured down into the Saxon flank. Ambitious, eh?

Simon guarded his Warriors from making Uncontrolled Charges against my Mounted Skirmishers and Ordinary Riders (who would have spent Leadership Points to flee the charge, sucking the Warriors into the trap). This worked well, and his bows kept my Riders on their toes (hooves?), having to expend LPs to cancel out archery hits. Mounted and Foot Skirmishers exchanged missiles at close range, resulting in one of the Saxon Skirmishers routing. Simon then rather cunningly pulled his remaining Skirmishers back behind his Warriors, allowing them to charge in at full pelt against some unexpecting Ordinary and Noble Riders. The main battle had begun!

At about the same time, my flanking units reached the crest of the valley, looking down the length of the Saxon lines. Simon turned two units to counter my approach, my Riders failed their Bravery Tests (so just sat on the hill), and were hit by an uphill assault from Saxon Noble and Ordinary Warriors.

Warriors and Riders are fairly evenly matched - the Warriors have more staying power (Cohesion), and Noble Warriors have an impressive Aggression, making them deadly in Close Combat, but the Riders are able to move out of contact after one round of combat if they wish. The Saxon charge uphill was repulsed, and over the next few turns the Britons forced them down off the hill and gradually whittled down their Cohesion, using a lot of Leadership points in the process of doing so. In the centre, the Saxon Warriors routed the Ordinary Riders and the Skirmishers, but lost a unit to the Noble Riders.

As both armies lost units, their Leadership Points were reduced, and this was telling for the Saxons, who had started the game with 6 LP compared to the Britons’ 7 LP. Using their superior move distance to make contact only when they wished to, the Britons began to focus their LPs better, and also make a couple of flank charges at critical points.

The Saxons had to start testing Morale in Turn 8, and had a couple of spectacular failures, including the Foot Companions (they needed to roll 10 or less on two dice ... they rolled a 12). With a couple of units losing heart and routing, the Saxons were pushed over their 75% casualties threshold, and their remaining units fled the battlefield.

It was a close run battle: most remaining Britons and Saxons were down to 1 or 2 Cohesion points, although the Saxon Companions were on a strong 6 when they decided to leg it. All in all, a decent game once again: we’d both tried to outplay each other on the use of LPs, and I think Simon’s tactics were spot on: he countered my flank attacks, making them less devastating than I’d hoped, and used his Skirmishers to shield his Warriors from wayward charges. Me? Well I just got lucky with the dice.

This will be one of the last playtest games I take part in myself, before the manuscript is submitted to Osprey Publishing. I’m pretty pleased that my opponents pick up the rules easily and that we spend little time looking at the playsheets or flicking through the rules. Most importantly, I’m still really enjoying the rules, they’ve given us some memorable games so far. And hey, I won a game for the first time in ages (even if I wrote the rules myself...)!