Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Another game of Dux Bellorum

Last night I visited Chum Simon B (I know too many Simons) for Games Club. That’s a grand title for two blokes sitting in a kitchen playing boardgames, but it makes us both sound more sociable.

First up was another Dux Bellorum playtest. We decided on two small but well motivated armies: an Irish army, which is awash with Noble Warriors, and a Pictish land raider army, which again is high in Noble troops. The Irish comprised of just five units (Companions plus four Noble Warriors), and the Picts had seven units (Companions, four Noble Warriors, and two Mounted Skirmishers). The Picts had been at the Mead (a special rule), meaning their attacks/Aggression was higher than usual, but their hit points/Cohesion was lower than usual. Shirty but fragile . . .just like me post-mead. The Irish used two special rules: Assassination and Champion’s Challenge. Assassination gives them a chance of bumping off the enemy’s leader before the game starts, lowering Leadership Points (with some risk of failing dismally and affecting their own LPs); Champion’s Challenge is a one off dice roll at the start of the game, with the losing army demoralised and losing an LP for the game. The Assassination failed, but the Irish Champion lopped off his Pictish equivalent’s hairy head and waved it around a bit -1LP to the Picts. With the armies being used, we knew the game was going to be a David Speedie Battle*: short and brutal.

Deployment saw the Pictish Warriors line up more towards their left and centre, leaving the right flank for their Mounted Skirmishers to roam. The Irish spread across the centre of the board. The first couple of turns saw the Pictish horsemen work their way cautiously around the Irish flank, not wanting to get close enough to trigger an Uncontrolled Charge (Warriors will usually do that, whether Noble of not), and the two lines of Warriors edged towards each other. Turn three saw the Warriors close within charge distance and it all kicked off: the Picts moved first, allowing them to charge into two of the Irish Warrior units and the Irish Companions; meanwhile, with the horsemen cutting around their flank, the two remaining Irish Warriors turned at a right angle to head them off, allowing the other Pictish Warriors to charge in. The game then turned into an exciting but messy close combat, with both sides gaining the upper hand at different times. The Picts were more aggressive (Mead), the Irish a little tougher. We both had to use our Leadership Points cleverly, not a strong point for me (!), and gradually the Picts started knocking out Irish units. Once you start to lose units, your Leadership Points are reduced, making it less easy to inspire your troops, so once you start to slip, you slip quickly. With weakened Irish opposition, the Pictish horsemen leant their weight to the attack, but had little effect (other than drawing one Irish unit away from the main battle). In turn nine, the Irish gave way entirely, losing all of their units including the Companions; the Picts has lost one Mounted Skirmisher, and three Warriors, but held the field when the Irish Companions routed.

This was a good test of whether DB gives an enjoyable game even with just a few stands of figures. We agreed that correct use of LPs was a good challenge, and certainly gave both players lots to think about. It also wasn’t a pretty battle . . . both sides got stuck into a messy brawl without any clear battle lines, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to model. Overall, I was happy with how this game play. Not least because I was the Picts.

* Scottish footballer from the 1980s/1990s, very dangerous despite his size.