a scenario for the board wargame Battles for Prydain: Heroic Combat in Dark Age Britain 450-650 AD
As mentioned in part 1 the Saxon forces quickly cleared the empty space that separated them from the reduced Briton force. Their Leader, noticing that they would be easily flanked ordered the right wing to loosen the shieldwall and extend the line along the slope so to force the enemies into an equal front.
A turn has 2 movement phases, one for each army, but for each movement there’s a reaction phase which in the case of foot troops it means changing facing.
The Briton commander had to reform during his own Movement phase.
It wasn’t a surprise to the Saxons. One thing is to hope that the enemy is stupid and cower like sheep in a tight shieldwall but another entirely to actually see them proceed exactly as expected and there wasn’t much to do in the Briton Reaction as they can only rotate in place and during Movement all the troops can move forward and rotate one hex side per forward move.
The following phases revealed what we are gaming for. The thunderous crack of axes and shields and spears as the lines collide.
It is of note that the Saxon troops are classed as Barbarians. There’s “commitatus” grade troops in the barbarian classes but as it is, they are the hearth guards, the committed sworn warriors. These units bear the heroic status and both armies have them.
There’s extensive evidence of such bodies of troops working in these conditions after the infamous “Look to your own defense.” proclamation when the Empire left Britannia for good. Troops along Hadrian wall and spread across the romanized regions did provide the armed defense to what was essentially their own homes and families. Most certainly the warchiefs and lords that emerged post 410AD and throughout to the late 7th century had their origins in these “companies”. The counterpart, from the Saxon tribes, Jutes, Angles, and others ( including even eastern europe horsemen ), also used a similar system, where land was taken and settled and be defended by their best warriors.
Not different from many of the ancients and definitely can make way to the middle ages chosen warriors cultures. The most striking of it all is that Heroic feats of arms were the currency of power and acclaimed in the bard songs so no wonder warriors wanted to be recognized during battle and be seen in combat killing droves of enemies and especially slaying an enemy renowned hero.
Situation as the Turn 2 Saxon movement ended. There’s a Leader in the center and another one in the extreme right of the Saxon line. The best troops, 3 contingents of Barbarian Comitatus are center and left ( sword, axe, spear icon ). The Briton reaction was simply to open some formations to allow for Heroic Combat as close formations cannot be challenged nor challenge.
Each target hexagon must be announced and can only be attacked once per Field Combat. We simply used the ‘shock’ markers to link the attackers to the targets and also decided that all attacks must be announced before the dice starts rolling. It gives a bit more realism to the commitment of the forces.
The Briton line extension as a counter to the Saxon punch can be praised at this point when the Saxon Field Combat phase starts and the engagements are announced.
Once the combat resolutions starts is a matter of combining attack values and comparing to defense ones, verify special conditions and any specials such as Intense Combat, roll the die and consult the the combat results table final results and apply the effects.
I must say that I am not a fan of CRTs.
Maybe what I don’t like is how they are mostly implemented in most games and what they try to represent. But…In this game !? Oh yeah, good implementation, credible results, expanded special results such as breaking a shieldwall and turning the formation to loose, locking units in place in combat, things like that spice up the story unfolding and the players understand what is happening. Is not some abstract result. I lack the ability to explain it better, but I feel what I’m trying to explain…( nevemind that made little sense ).
Loss affects unit condition, not as attack/defense strength value dropping but to the unit cohesion. So it goes from steady, to shake, to disrupted and then to routed ( or destroyed ). Each “step” loss decreases the condition of the unit and each level has its own limitations that, again, are easy to visualize the why.
The first clash was really felt on both ends of the Briton line as one group broke and another got seriously mauled and the worst was yet to come.
If you read each phase of the game representative of just a couple minutes, half a dozen during the heroic combats, it is very very easy to keep with the narrative unfolding. Very clear to understand what happened in those two minutes when the lines crashed and the initial barbarian fury met with the shieldwall. Some Saxon units got shaken but that is the payback when using Intense Combat, one forfeits cohesion for a small increase in freedom of action and offensive power represented by a +1 in the dice roll for the combat result table. It is not a decision to be taken lightly as it can backfire with horrendous consequence and rout the unit much more easily as it takes only 2 steps loss to be sent running away like sheep.
After the Field Combat is resolved comes the Heroic Combat. The true muscle of the design and where the poems and songs of Taliesin are spun and names for Bede’s chronicles are recorded.
It is an entire game on its own and easy to get wrong in the heat of the moment. Two important things to keep in mind are:
Take notice of the Class orders for issuing challenges and acceptance of challenges.
This is paramount as it affects the Panic levels directly ( I shall write about Panic later). We messed this twice but wasn’t game breaking.
Heroic Combat resolution has its own system. Death comes fast and success has a cost. It revolves around attack and defense rolls.
A successful defense awards only 1 step loss. Failure rewards with death.
( continues in part 3 )