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
Book Two goes on to explain the campaign, development and the like in 7 sections:
- Beginning Your Campaign
- Career Paths
- Filthy Lucre
- Force Deployment
- Campaign Structure
- Raids & Battles
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.