Sunday, 30 November 2014

Dux Britanniarum first impressions

Dux Britanniarum is a dark ages skirmish game/campaign system that has been around for a couple of years. It's been on my radar for a while, so recently Matt and I set up for a raid scenario. We had previously tried a test game to get familiar with the mechanics, but that was a few months back so had forgotten most of them, but as we got into the game it slowly came back to us.

The rules are relatively simple. Combat troops make up the bulk of the two opposing forces and are classed as elite, warrior or levy. These are generally fielded in groups of six, which can join together into larger formations. Each group/formation is activated by a noble or lord. These command figures have varying levels of command, which determines how many activations they can perform and how far their command reaches. When a group/formation is activated, it moves and/or fights. In combat, troops can be killed, or shocked. Kills are self explanatory. Shock has a cumulative effect on the unit, that gradually erodes their combat capability, forcing them to withdraw or even turn and flee the battle.

Shieldwall on a hill, a DuxB deathstar!
There are no unit stats! Movement is by dice roll so no need for a move stat. Better troops roll more dice in combat and are harder to kill, so no weapon/melee/armour stat. The shock mechanic determines how long troops stick around to fight, so no need for a morale/leadership stat. It's pretty clever stuff for such a simple mechanism.

Having sung those praises, I did find the rules a little bit vague at times. Combat is an easy mechanic but it does take a bit of careful reading to understand how the units interact. There are several diagrams, but our first combat was not covered by any of them. There is a table of contents but no index, so I did spend a fair few minutes flicking around trying to find some information. There's a useful reference sheet on the back cover which I suspect will be all that's needed after a couple more games, but it does not include the force morale table which is central to the game. As units flee from combat, nobles take wounds, and maybe other circumstance, the morale of the force is affected. When a force morale reaches zero, it has lost all resolve and withdraws from the battle. It's probably the biggest table in the book, so should really be in the reference section.

White dice as shock markers, a temporary measure.
That minor gripe aside, it feels like a very solid ruleset. The basic mechanics are really rather impressive and give a good feel to the game. Troops move and act in a way that feels "right" - this is always going to be a personal thing for gamers of course, but it ticks a lot of boxes for me. And that's before we get to the scenarios and campaign system. A very promising system, I am looking forward to playing more games and will be covering more detail in future posts. Time for me to go and research some suitable names for my characters.

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