I was in Orc's Nest today and picked up the new Dux Britanniarum rules by the appallingly named Too Fat Lardies. They also had the new Osprey Dux Bellorum rules as well but I only noticed those in the window after I had left the shop. It seems odd that two Arthurian period sets of rules should appear so close together and with such similar names. The games look fundamentally different, however. Lets try to get our Dux in a row.
Dux Bell (as we shall call it) is an element based game for larger battles from the period, based on the same author's well thought of Glutter of Ravens (which I have not played). Now, I don't like element based games as I always mount my figures individually so this counts against it quite heavily. Armies have six to twelve units so this sounds like it contemplates quite a lot of figures which is not good for someone like me.
Dux Brit, however, looks much more my sort of game, in that figures are individually based and formed into very small units of around six figures. Indeed, the initial starting forces for the game are around forty figures per side, which is reasonably achievable for me. It's very much based around a campaign system with quite a lot of non-table elements that need resolving before and after a game. All of these look quite interesting and allow for quite a lot of period flavour (often literally - one option is to provide mead or ale to your force in advance of battle!). Combat also involves the use of two types of cards (included with the game) which affect combat, morale and other things.
The idea of the game is basically to conquer or defend your chosen part of Britain depending on whether you are a Saxon or Romano-British leader. Characters are very important in the game and there is quite a lot of dicing for characteristics. Warbands progress during the campaign and can add (or lose) troops depending on how well they do.
It's hard to get a feel for it without playing it but, given that the progression and improvement of forces from game to game is similar to The Lord of the Rings Battle Companies rules, I am hoping to persuade my son Guy to have a go at it. Terrain is placed randomly but I do at least have some Dark Ages buildings and our normal terrain pieces will work for the period. The only thing that I don't have is a river but I might see if I can get something at Colours in a couple of weeks.
The rules are a full colour paperback, printed on very glossy paper but they don't have the production values of, say, Warlord Games offerings. There are only four small photographs of figures in the 92 page rule book but there are many, rather basic, diagrams illustrating different aspects of the rules which are probably more useful, if less inspirational. There are also quite a few typos and mis-indexed pages. Nice maps, however and the summary play sheet is on the back cover, which is a good idea.
So, lets look at the forces I will need to play a game of Dux Brittaniarum.
A Saxon force starts with four characters: A lord, two nobles and a champion (there are significant rules for individual combat between army champions). Next you have two units of six Gedridht elite warriors and three groups of six Geoguth or Duguth (the rules do not distinguish between the two for the Saxons) ordinary warriors. In addition there are four missile troops who have to be archers. So this means a total of 38 figures. Other types of figure such as a shaman or light cavalry may be added as the campaign progresses.
Some of my Musketeer Gedridht
Now, looking at the Musketeer Miniatures Early Saxons I have painted I can see that I already have enough figures for the three units of six warriors. I also have one and a half units of elite Gedridht painted. So to complete my main Saxon warrior force I need to paint three more Gedridht. I don't have any archers but Musketeer conveniently sell them four to a pack. Something else to look out for at Colours. I have a figure that can serve as a champion but need three more characters to be my lord and nobles.
My standard bearer can become a noble
Somewhere I have a figure for the lord as he came with the standard bearer which I have painted (there is no role for standards in the rules but I may make one of the other nobles a standard bearer). Bill Thornhill, Musketeer's sculptor, has been working on some marvellous characters for this period so, hopefully, these will appear shortly and will solve the missing noble problem.
For the Romano-British I did paint some of Gripping Beast's Arthurians (very much based on characters from Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles) but some of them look a bit crude today. Musketeer have some superb new Late Romans which should certainly provide the elite troops and Artizan have a small range which includes some very nice levy types (I think I might even have a pack or two somewhere). The initial British force consists of a tribune, two Decurions and a champion, like the Saxons. The warriors are different, however, with three units of six Numeri (levy), two units of six Milites (warriors) and one unit of Comanipulares (elite). The four missile troops can be archers or slingers. Forty four figures altogether. Neither Artizan nor Musketeer make slingers for the Romano-British but Musketeers Saxon slingers are largely clean shaven (compared with their very beardy warriors) so will easily pass as British. I think I have four which I have started somewhere.
I have been wanting to play Arthurian wargames for many years; ever since I bought the old range of Gripping Beast figures from their short-lived shop in Richmond, Surrey. This set of rules could make that a real possibility!