Yesterday was an opportunity to get the Saxon/Viking collection out on the table for their first game of Dux Bellorum, a rule set I have been ken to play again since my first go with the rules back in November last year, courtesy of Nick and Steve L.
Until you have set up your own game using rules new to you, you only have an image of the game in the minds eye to go by, so I arranged with Mr Steve to bring his collection of Scots & Irish just in case my collection was not enough to cater for our two players aside.
As it turned out the collection was plenty enough to cope and we fielded two forces, just over the standard forces recommended in the rules which gave a thoroughly entertaining game.
I threw down some terrain to recreate the terrain required for the River Battle scenario which in our case re-imagines the little known battle of Lympstone Cross here in East Devon which occurred during 896 AD and the abortive raid by a six ship Viking force that had based itself on the Isle of Wight.
The battle between King Alfred's new navy and the Viking ships in an estuary on the south coast fits very well with the theory that this occurred in the River Exe along the coast that had suffered most heavily form the recent incursions.
Some of the raiders escaped the naval battle and tried to make a break for it over land only to be met by the local Saxon Fyrd on a tributary of the Exe close to the hamlet of Lympstone.
Both sides were eager to get this clash over with (both sides were warrior rather than shield wall) as the Vikings were desperate to escape and the Saxons were eager for revenge with the sound of shields being clattered as the two sides faced off across the shallows and ford.
The Saxon aggression proved the superior of the two forces and their warriors formed up into two distinct groups rapidly pressed forward into the river.
The first warriors to close were met by a hail of arrows, javelins and sling-shot with the first casualties caused. This however had no effect on the closing lines that simply pressed together into the gaps caused by the fallen and pressed on.
As the lines of warriors drew near both sides seemed to release the leash on their men who needed no encouragement to charge in (warriors at three base widths will charge automatically unless restrained with a successful bravery test).
As the two sides ripped into each other the mayhem was only added to as both sides attempted to use their skirmishers to pepper the opposition line looking to add to the hits from the heavy infantry.
Both commands had the option to use their leadership influence to defend against casualties or add to the chances of inflicting them, with the latter option being by far the more popular.
This inevitably led to large gaps appearing on the bases as more and more warriors fell and the inevitable removal of bases.
Added to this was the disruption caused to the neat lines formed by the groups as the fighting swayed too and from over the river, breaking up any neat formations into smaller group fights between opposing troops.
The two lines of warriors happily singing axe and sword gave a really bloody and exciting struggle with the result in the balance right to the end when both sides were facing morale collapse, but with the Viking forces having formed troops closest to the ford still on the battlefield to claim a Pyrrhic victory.
The chaps seemed to really enjoy playing this rule set and with the majority of us new or relatively new to the rules it was great to see the play become more and more intuitive as the sequence and system became more familiar.
The rules are simple without being simplistic and the mechanic of reinforcing the various groups with Leadership Points to influence events in the players favour really adds a lot to those all important player decision moments.
The game plays fast and furious and would be more than capable of handling larger groups of players which is an advantage in a club that likes to bring lots of players to the same table.
We managed to finish this game and play several more rounds of a second game where Mr Steve and myself played two shield wall armies against each other which produces an entirely different game to the one reported.
I even chose the option of constructing a smaller but more combat effective force of Vikings with the maximum amount of Leadership capability to test it out against a more numerous but less effective Saxon line. It was surprising to see how effective a small group of experienced well led Vikings could hold off a larger group of enemy and the grinding battle two shield walls create.
I really like this rule set and can see myself playing them more often and now need to get a bag load of casualty figures to sprinkle around the areas of fighting to better portray the action.
I have put together some more thoughts on these rules on JJ's Wargames together with some ideas on play aids to aid setting up and overseeing the game.
Thanks to Mr Steve in helping to run this little outing and bring along his extra figures and to Jason, Nathan, Bob and Chris for providing a really entertaining game.