Saturday, 4 August 2012

First Look: Dux Britanniarum

Dux Britanniarum is the latest addition to the Too Fat Lardies range.  The sub-title "Wargames Rules for Dark Age Warfare in the Age of Arthur" clearly places these in the early Dark Age period after the Romans had gone and when Britain was threatened by the Saxons.

Similar to their other recent publication - IABSM3 - this is a full colour perfect bound book accompanied by a set of printed cards (normal playing card size this time) and, in this case, an A3 colour map.  The rules are 92 pages which, following the introduction, are broken into five main sections, or "books".

Book One covers setting things up in four sections:

  • Setting Up Your Campaign
  • Selecting Your Kingdom
  • Assembling Your Forces
  • Creating Your Characters
The rules are intended to be driven by a simple to manage campaign system which provides a context for each game and an opportunity to develop your leader characters and forces.  This allows a variety of games to be played which have more meaningful objectives.  This is an approach I really like as it will avoid that "last two minutes of the superbowl" style play where everything is thrown in recklessly near the end of the game with no thought to the consequences!

Your initial force will contain a Lord, two other leaders, a champion and a number of units.  Units are Levy, Warriors or Elite troops (6 figures) or Harassing troops (4 figures with missile weapons).  Tabletop games can then affect the size and composition of your force, for example, cavalry may become available later in a campaign.  An initial British force will have one Elite unit, two warriors, three Levy and one of missile troops; whilst a Saxon raiding force will have two Elite, three warrior units and one of missile troops.

Book Two goes on to explain the campaign, development and the like in 7 sections:

  • Beginning Your Campaign
  • Career Paths
  • Filthy Lucre
  • Objectives
  • Force Deployment
  • Campaign Structure
  • Raids & Battles
Book Three then covers the actual tabletop rules, which have a number of similarities to other Lardies sets.  The rules are card driven (although with no equivalent of the "Tea Break" card - which means everything activates each turn).  They also have units receiving "shock" as a result of combat which can be removed by leader actions (IABSM, Sharp Practice, Through the Mud & the Blood).  They have a separate tactical card deck and also allow formations (like shieldwall) to be formed from multiple units (similar to Sharp Practice).  But these have been combined with enough specific elements to make these play differently from those other sets.

Each game is broken down into three phases, the first covers events before the game, the second the game itself and the third after the game.  Games may either be raids or battles - which operate slightly differently.

Phase One helps you set your initial morale level and the opportunity to prepare your men for the fight through speeches, drink, consulting the gods or having a single combat between each sides' champions.  Then the initial Fate Cards (tactical cards) are dealt.

The Fate Cards have three characteristics, they may have a suit (Saxon Boars or British Dragons or neither), they may be Pursuit or Retreat cards and they have their primary function as described by the main text.  Cards with suits may only be played when a leader is activated where as the ones without a suit may be played at any time; additionally they may provide bonuses to the player whose suit they belong to.  Cards with Pursuit or Retreat printed on them may be retained for use in the third, post game, phase.  The other cards generally provide a bonus to fighting, movement, activation or have an effect on your troops or your opponent's.

Phase Two covers the actual tabletop action.  As with some other Lardies' rules activation is driven by the main card deck.  Each leader and group of missile troops has a card in the deck.  When a leader's card is drawn they may activate a number of units or formations at a distance determined by their status (1-4) to move, join a formation or remove shock, or they can spend an initiative "buying" a card from the Fate Deck.  His troops then carry out their actions and a Fate Card may be played.  Once complete he may draw a further Fate Card (unless he has his maximum already) and then the next activation card is drawn.  Un-commanded troops may only activate after all the cards have been drawn; however, they cannot move into combat or join formations on their own.  One little wrinkle to this sequence is the Carpe Diem card which, if played, allows a player to play multiple Fate Cards at one time - which can be very useful - however, you still only get to replenish your hand one card per activation.

Movement is variable, usually 3D6, with modifiers for terrain, interpenetrating other units etc.  Combat is typically 1D6 per figure fighting to hit with a separate roll for effect.  Shock is accumulated as a combat result and ultimately will lead to the unit withdrawing unless removed by a leader.

The game is ended either by a force's morale collapsing or by them achieving their scenario objectives.

Phase Three, the post game part, allows you to resolve whether a withdrawing side will be pursued or can evade their pursuers - this is where those Pursuit and Retreat Fate Cards come in - which then affects the scale of the victory.  The the results of the game are calculated and the appropriate table consulted to see the effects - generally, how long it takes to recover losses, whether you get reinforcements and how much loot you may have got away with.  This then gives you options as to how you can develop your leaders, forces and the campaign as a whole.

The first three books are followed by The Book of Battles which contains the rules for terrain and scenario generation and The Book of Kingdoms which provides a map and brief background on the British Kingdoms of the time to allow you to anchor your campaign.

The rules are available in hard copy (£20), pdf and tablet-enabled pdf (with lots of easy to tap link buttons) for £15 each.  You can download and print the cards or buy the professionally produced set either separately for £8 on in combination with the rules.  The Lardies also sell starter armies for the rules containing figures from Gripping Beast.

As I was lucky enough to be one of the first 800 to ordered the rules I also received a 28mm "Arthur" figure:

All in all I think the production is very good with a nice graphical style, clear layout and the cards, in particular, are very pleasing.  I am hoping to get them to the table in a couple of weeks to try them out in anger and will report back on how they work in action.


  1. Looking forward to that Al, must say, the production values look pretty high - very nice ;)

  2. The Lardies are really working on the quality of their productions. But this one is lots of content rather than just eye candy which is also nice. Really looking forward to see how they work on the table.

  3. Thanks for the review. I just purchased it.