The Fray at Mallens’ Farm

It is the beginning of yet another solo Dux Britannium campaign, set in south-east England around the ancient kingdom of Rhegin in 477 AD. The game was a raid on a British farm on a hillside with a forest to its rear. The Saxon warchief Penda was able to reach the farm and begin looting before the British rescue mission arrived. Knowing that the British would arrive from the west, Penda formed a battleline anchored firmly against the most western farm outhouse with his best troops, supported by his archers.

Sure enough, Tribune Titus Valerius arrived with his own companions and warriors and decided to rush forwards and fix the Saxons into combat until his levies could arrive, flank the raiders and destroy them with superior numbers. The plan almost worked, but the British rolled atrociously to charge forwards while maintaining their clunky shieldwall formation, which limited the number of valid Fate cards they could use to bolster their assault.

As it was, Valerius used a “Hero of the Age” card to double his own combat prowess, and inflicted several casualties, but took far more shock points in return. The British were forced to retire. British levies were trickling onto the field, and Valerius could certainly rally the shock off in a few turns. Seeing this, the Saxons decided to return the favour and charge themselves, to keep the British off-balance.

In a battleweary melee, both forces’ left flanks began to give way, splitting the massive battle formations apart into separate, disorganised blocs. Penda’s own bodyguard pursued Valerius’ companions so vigorously they ran past the British centre, who now made a battle-defining gamble.

A decurion rushed forwards, ordered the centre to break shield wall and about-face and hit Penda’s men in the rear. With only three or four inches of open field to cover, but only 1 movement die available, the manouevre could have left Penda in a world of hurt. Instead, the decurion rolled a 1 for movement, and left his men exposed, out in the open.

Now it was the Saxon centre’s turn to charge into the exposed rear of an enemy formation and they promptly scattered the entire British centre (two groups). In rushing forwards they themselves exposed their far left flank to British peasants, who tried to make a flank attack. Their charge exacted heavy casualties on the battered pagan warriors, wiping out one group. But there were Saxon companions present in the melee, and they were simply too good for the levies and blunted the attack.

In a final desperate effort, Valerius threw his decimated companions into the fray against Penda’s own companions, and failed to inflict enough casualties to kill them. In the following round, Penda himself was activated and chased Valerius’ companions off the field. This was enough to break British morale and win a fascinating battle for the Saxons.

Interestingly, the TooFatLardies’ iconic “shock” system (where combats are more likely to generate fear, confusion and friction rather than outright fatalities) mimicked historical ancient melees superbly, as groups of warriors advanced and withdrew to rally under the personal direction of their warlords. The British attack was too piecemeal, and hampered by several bad movement rolls. The Saxons had dedicated sufficient troops and leaders (but only just) to see off the British while a few groups pillaged the farm for loot.

The British lost 16 troops, and the Saxons lost 17, but maintained possession of the field, and consequentially, the loot. In campaign terms, they were even able to replenish their losses fast enough to recommence raids before Valerius was ready to meet them, and now have a very tidy loot stash; after a few more raids Penda may be able to afford an attempt at actual conquest of one British province!

About Joshua Letchford

To plagarise Gandalf ruthlessly, I am Joshua, and Joshua means me! I blog to practice communicating my thoughts on whatever subjects sit in front of me when I'm not blogging (which is most of the time), and that ranges from high school teaching to history, board games, politics, philosophy, literature, both tabletop and computer gaming, 3D printing, railway modelling and cricket.
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