Sunday, 11 December 2016

A Raven's Feast at Littleham Cross - Dux Britanniarum

Another year almost done and here we are in December 2016 with the traditional "Big Club Game" at the DWG, where we all come together in one final game of the year.

This year's theme is the Dark Ages and we decided to bring together the members vast collections of 28mm figures with those not having this period putting together some units for the game.

The rules chosen were Dux Britanniarum from the Too Fat Lardies and the game follows on from the play test we ran last month which was very useful in helping to decide the format for this final game.

A Gathering of Ravens at Littleham Cross

With sides activations being governed by card draw we tried using one deck to govern one large game on one table, but trying to organise wargamers is like herding cats and so we changed the format to the one outlined here.

If you are interested in running something similar, our game organiser Nick put together a briefing plus the event cards and game markers we used to add a little extra spice to the game, and I have copied that information here for reference.

The club gathers on Saturday morning with plenty of casual chat as the four game tables are created

So to set the scene for our big game, the West Saxon King Cenwalh (Vince) has gathered his warriors plus about thirty ships to support a thrust into the British Kingdom of Dumnonia ruled over by King Geraint (Chas) who has his capital in Exeter.

The Britons have been licking their wounds since Cenwalh's punishing raid earlier in the year and were determined to defend their lands should the Saxon barbarians return, thus the call to arms was answered readily when cavalry patrols along the River Axe contacted the West Saxon army and spotted their support ships creeping along the Dumnonian shore towards the Exe estuary.

As this is our Xmas Seasonal Game there is always plenty of provisions on hand

The West Saxons were concentrated close to the little village of Littleham-Cross and its church just south of Exeter when the Britons moved out to meet the raiders.

A little map to help set the scene and context for our game

For our battle, the plan was to go back to using the scenarios as laid out in the "Dux Brit" rules, by setting up four separate but linked tables with victory points gathered on each adding into a total that would decide the outcome of the overall battle.

Thus each table was a small battle with in the larger clash and each table had its own card deck dealt out to the players involved.

If a player moved his forces off table in a march to join the combat on another table he would leave his cards on the former and be dealt new ones on joining the latter once having successfully tested to arrive.

Thus each of our opposing Kings could redirect his forces as required and each would decide how many forces to allocate to each table at the start of our game. Thus on Table 4, Slave Run, we had three Saxon players up against one Briton, who received reinforcements throughout the day as the Britons fought to get control of other tables.

The tables and the scenario plan follow, together with the event cards and game markers we used.

The Village
The Battle
Take the Church
Slave Run.

Table 3. "Take the Church"  takes shape

Table 1: Loot the village
Both sides to loot and attack the village.
  • Wagon = 10 points
  • Big Barrel = 5 points
  • Small Barrel = 2 points
  • Animals = 5 points
Being attacked when carrying loot of any type means that you drop the loot to combat the
attacker, the winner of the combat takes the loot.

Table 1: layout
This table should have a stone wall around the outside of the village, with animal pens inside the
village. The village should also have streets/roads inside the village with buildings running
alongside and dotted around inside the village wall.

Any unit under the control of a player can try to loot a building or animal pens, only one unit can
enter a building to search for loot.
Dice roll: 1x D6 (When checking for loot the unit which is checking cannot carry out any other
action that turn.)
Roll of 6 = Finds loot( roll a D3, 1 = small barrel, 2 = Big Barrel, 3 = Wagon
Roll of 1 = No loot in the building or the pen.

Table 1. The Village otherwise known as Littleham Cross

Table 2 Battle.
As listed in the Dux rule book

Table 2: layout
This table needs to be mirrored for each side, so that the battle ground is fair for both sides, the
table should include hills, roads and trees and maybe a few walls, but there should be no buildings
on this table.

Points and killing
The Side which is holding the battleground at the close of play gets 25 points.

3 points for killing
2 points for killing
1 point for killing
Elite Unit
Shock Cavalry
Noble Raider Cavalry
Warrior Unit
Raider Cavalry
Levy Unit
Missile unit
Skirmisher unit
Skirmisher Cavalry

All set to go with Table 4. "Slave Run" closest to camera

Table 3: The Church
Both sides want to take and hold the Church and the grounds.
  • Each turn of the Lords card in control of the church 5 points.
  • Each turn of the Lords card in control of the church grounds 2 points.
The Saxons want to take and hold the church as this would be a big insult to the British (Players
wanting to make fun or make a funny face at the British player could get extra points.)
As above for the British players:
Only one unit can be inside the church, only one unit can attack the church (There is only one
doorway into the church.)

Table 3: layout
The Church should be in the middle of the table on a hill with a wall, hedge or fence around the
church and the grounds, a road should be running from both sides to the church. There should also
be small low lying hills and small groups of trees.

There is nothing to loot,

Saxon raiders approach the hamlet on the coast looking for slaves

Table 4: layout
There should be buildings dotted around the table where the slaves could be hiding, with small low
laying hills and small groups of trees, roads should also be placed.

Finding a slave works in the same way as looting a building, but there is no D3 roll as all slaves have
the same value in points.
If any unit is attacked when taking slaves to their table edge, the slave makes a break for freedom
and runs off. The unit losing the slave can start a new search if the unit is in a fit state.

The Britons on the far slopes gather ready to defend their coastline, note the scantily clad modest young lady at the back acting as the Britons slave marker.

Notes for all tables
  • All cavalry can charge even with shock, but not with excess shock.
  • Killing a religious leader: 10 points
Leaving the table.
Any player can leave the table to try to move to a new table, to carry this out the Lord figure need
to move to the table edge that is next to the table the player is playing on, and the player must say
that he wants to join the new table. When this happens a D6 is rolled.

D6 Roll
6/5 = move on to the other table on that edge ( all cards which that player holds are left on the
table and new cards can be drawn on the new table when the Lords card is played again.)
A local peasant mislead you and your troops and sent you the wrong way, the same peasant also
ran off with your pet dog and has set up a love nest with your lover. Your side also lose 10 points.

4 = Move to table 4 leave cards behind and draw new cards on the next lords card,
3 = Move to table 3 leave cards behind and draw new cards on the next lords card,
2 = Move to table 2 leave cards behind and draw new cards on the next lords card,
1 = Move to table 1 leave cards behind and draw new cards on the next lords card,

A player can re-roll by asking a new peasant, but at a risk of losing 10 more points if a 6 or a 5 is not

Opposing forces move into Littleham
The extra 'Event Cards' that were added to our game
A cagey opening here on Table 2. "The Battle"

Saxon cavalry support the infantry attack on Littleham Church

West Saxon raiders enter the church grounds
These are the markers we handed out to players on completion of an objective which
was handed to the umpire to add the points to the force total
The Britons advance to meet the invaders

What proved to be one of the most interesting aspects of playing a multi-scenario game like this was the decisions of the respective commanders to allocate their forces at the start.

As the maxim holds true "he who defends everything, defends nothing" the commanders sought to gain the ascendancy on tables they thought could give them the maximum return whilst seeking to hold back the enemy on others and frustrate their attempts.

Close terrain in Littleham 
The Britons fight to defend the village

The added spice of various event cards given out to respective players meant that best laid plans could still go wrong as those players responded to events that their comrades were not necessarily aware of.
The lines draw near on Table 3 at the church

As is ever the case with big game battles, you are really only aware of what was going on in your particular area, with awareness of the occasional cheer further along the table as one side or another gained an objective or won a major fight.

Even as your roving reporter I still only have a vague impression of what was going from one table to another, an impression that is even more unreliable as I write this report twenty-four hours after the event; and you quickly understand why reports of real battles by limited observers throughout history have so many inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

British cavalry take a hand on Table 4 during the Slave Run battle
Thoughts of taking slaves diminish as the need to kill or be killed takes over

On my particular table, Table 4 Slave Run, we three Saxon commanders grabbed two slaves cowering in the orchards and hovels of the hamlet we encountered and they were quickly shepherded to the boats.

Then as our opposing Briton commander, Jack, moved into the hamlet gathering slaves of his own (he obviously didn't hail from this particular village), the two sides stopped slave hunting and moved rapidly into close combat, that developed into a struggle all afternoon as the King of the Britons continuously fed in reinforcements to tie the Saxons down and prevent their slave hunting activities.
The Britons prepare to receive cavalry on Table 3 at the church
The battle on Table 4 really hots up as more British cavalry enter the fray

Destroying enemy units was quite satisfying, but often distracting from the real objectives that would net the most points and so it was that the Britons score board just kept turning over.

Fighting on the Slave Run table under the watchful eye of a British shield wall on the slopes above

The two tables the men of Wessex were focused on, namely Tables 1 and 4 proved very difficult to get a hold on and indeed the Britons were well on top on Table 1 at the close of play.

The lines clash on Table 2 at 'The Battle'

Frustration at events only increased on Table 4 as the enraged peasants aggrieved at being rounded up for a life of slavery started to attack their attackers and whilst destroying one of these enraged mobs I ended up losing three of my elite warriors for absolutely no gain to the scoreboard for ruthlessly destroying the mob. C'est la guerre!

The Britons start to gain the upper hand on Table 1 in Littleham
No quarter asked or given on Table 4 as the villagers angered at being enslaved attack any strangers at will
Table 4 and both sides have fought each other to a standstill
British Cavalry just kept on attacking
The Clergy attempt to rescue valuables as both sides clash around the church
The Britons start to mop up in Littleham Village as the West Saxons reel under the pressure

We played from midday through to just after four pm and with the bar beckoning and a score board that clearly showed the day was the Britons the men of Wessex fell back to the boats and the River Axe well and truly beaten with 355 points versus 240 points.

The Skittles score board looks ominous for the men of Wessex. I rather think the 'Valiant Brits' should have been scored under the home team.
Still the Saxons keep fighting around the Church
They think it's all over - it is now! The Britons clear Littleham of the invaders

As usual much fun was had by all and we had a great turn out for the day with a club that has grown with new members joining throughout the year.

The Devon Wargames Group 2016

Many thanks to Nick, Jason and Steve L for organising a great day's entertainment and to all the members of the Devon Wargames Group for creating all the fun in this game and all the games held this year.

On behalf of the club we wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas holiday and look forward to another fun year of wargames in 2017.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

A Gathering of Ravens at Littleham Cross - Wessex Attacks (Dux Britanniarum)

Yesterday's game at the DWG November meeting was an opportunity to play-test the annual big bash held in December when the members of the club traditionally "go large" on one game that all the members who can attend join in.

This year needed a little more preparation as the period and rules selected for the club to wheel out its enormous collection of 28mm dark ages figures was a Saxon v Romano-British clash using The Lardies "Dux Britanniarum rule set.

The idea was to play our large game with one set of cards used in the rules to drive activity along the length of our table to see how easy it would be to herd the cats that are the DWG membership, or not.

As it was Jason, Nick and Nathan did a sterling job maintaining a sense of co-ordinated activity throughout the day which produced a very enjoyable, convivial dark ages set to.

That said the December game will not follow the format of yesterday (that's what play-testing is all about) and we plan to  break our battle up into four separate tables with their own card decks but with all the results on each contributing to the final outcome for the day. With at least four regular members away yesterday, the game in December should be a really good one to finish the year off with.

Our table with the Saxon forces to the right of picture
The other end of the table with Saxon lines to the left of picture
As with any of our big games in the past we always like to have a bit of local history included in them combined with a large chunk of "what if" included but like all the best historical fiction you will find fictitious names and places mixed in with the historical. Any similarity between actual people and places is purely coincidental!

So with that little preamble out the way, to help avoid anyone looking up this particular battle on Wikepedia and to save me time writing it up there anyway, on with the context behind this mighty clash at what became known in the Saxon Chronicles as the Gathering of Ravens at Littleham Cross.

The history of the enmity and suspicion between the West Saxon Kingdom of Wessex pressing up to the modern day county borders of Somerset and Dorset with the Romano British Kingdom of Dumnonia occupying the area of modern day Devon and Cornwall is well documented if a little sketchy on detail.

The West Saxons continued pressure to occupy yet more lands of the Britons saw King Ceolwulf of Wessex occupy Dorset in the 590's bringing the West Saxons onto the borders of Dumnonia.

The Kings of Dumnoina and Gwent combined to strike back against Wessex in 612 that saw the Dumnonians defeated at Bindon on the Devon-Dorset Border.

A period of relative peace then followed before the men of Wessex under King Cenwalh tried their luck again in 661 by marching on Exeter, beating the Dumnonians at Posbury near Crediton but themselves forced to withdraw as Dumnonian diplomacy paid dividends when pleas for help were met by King Wulfhere of Mercia who invaded Wessex in response and later defeated King Cenwalh after he had hurried home.

And here we are in the summer 670AD and the aged King Cenwalh, determined to press the Dumnonians under King Geraint, has brought his host over the River Axe pillaging the peaceful idol that is East Devon on his march towards the Dumnonian capital at Exeter.

Determined to resist yet again and with assurances of help from the Mercian King Wulfhere, Geraint brought the Dumnonian forces to Littleham Cross a hamlet just six miles south east of Exeter.

The Saxon Chronicle talks of battle lasting the day with great loss on both sides and a gathering of ravens that remained over the field of battle for the weeks that followed.

But the West Saxons were forced to retire and Dumnonia would remain independent thirsting for revenge and determined to take the fight into Wessex.

The two lines goad each other in and around the hamlet of Littleham

King Geraint had gathered his finest warriors
King Cenwalh was determined to settle the matter once and for all
Messengers travel along the line of battle
The javelins fly as the two lines close
The terrain broke the fighting up into areas of resistance - those pigs look good enough to eat!
Britons v Saxons in Littleham
No quarter asked or given

The Dumnonians on their extreme left flank form shield wall on the Salterton Road under Dux Bob.
Both sides cavalry groups joined in the fray
West Saxons gain some ascendancy in the centre with both sides swapping flights of arrows

The Saxons pressed hard but the Dumnonians held
Both forces are well and truly blooded with honours even
The line had degraded into wins and losses along its length for both forces.

Littleham occupied by Saxons with Britons occupying the surrounds and high ground
So with the rule set tested to destruction and the combatants brought up to speed with their tactics and battle skills we are all set for next month when King Geraint strikes back and takes the fight to Wessex.

Thanks to all the members of the DWG who provided all the fun and the great figures and terrain for me to take pictures of. Here's looking forward to next month.