Friday, January 21, 2011

Dux Bellorum Playtest 1

I finally found the time to play my first game of Dux Bellorum.

Playing solo and for the first time, it took me less than 2 hours to play the game to a reasonable conclusion.

As mentioned in the previous posts I played Hastings using the Romano-British list for the Normans and the Saxon list for the English. The Normans had more units and a higher Leadership Rating, so I was rather confident of them winning the game. I decided to use the standard game length of 16 turns, and assumed that the two armies started 8 Base Widths apart.

The first photo shows the Normans moving in for their attack. The English have placed their Companion unit (Harold and his huscarls) in the centre, and anchored the two flanks of their line with the Select Fyrd (Noble Shieldwall) units. The skirmishers have moved within their shooting range (as you can see by my home-made range stick - a dowel marked with coloured tape in 80mm bands). My plan was to chip away at the English with shooting before attacking with my Knights. However, I soon found out that it was impossible to inflict enough number of hits to cause any permanent damage as I only had three units with missile capabilities, and since missile isn't particularly powerful in this game (and era) the English could always cancel the effect of my shooting with their Inspiration Points!

I realised I needed to do two things: on my left the bowmen moved to close range, and on my right my skirmishers likewise moved to close range and combined firepower on a single Fyrd unit.

This strategy worked, and I caused one hit to each of the unit, which caused Harold enough concern to order the shieldwall units on his left to move forward to push the skirmishers back. However, this did not bring them off the hill (more than 1/2 of the bases are still on the hill), and the English are not rated as Warriors in this scenario, so they were not prone to impetuous charges or pursuit, much to my dismay.

With the clock running down fast (it took 5 turns just to move the missile troops into position), I decided to launch a charge with my Knights against both ends of the line. This was when I realised that ALL shieldwall units have a Protection of 6, meaning that I needed a 6 on a d6 to cause a hit! Add to that they were uphill of me and the fact that I had given them the Hurled Weapons special rule (in lieu of more units or a higher Leadership Rating) it meant my attacks were unsuccessful! Any hit I was able to score were negated by the placement of Inspiration Points by Harold.

By now we have reached Turn 16, but I decided to play on to see how the battle would end.
The English counter-attacked, prompting me to throw William into the melee. Their adjacent Fyrd units joined the melee, while my Norman Spears were too far away to support my attacks.
In the ensuing melee my Knights and Breton Cavalry on my right were repelled, while the unit of Knight on my left was routed. I decided to call the game a victory for the English.

William and Harold meet in melee at the climax of the battle!

Overall I found the rules easy to learn and to remember after the first few turns.

The placing of Inspiration Points was a nice game mechanism, which I suspect will be more interesting when playing against a real opponent instead of solo.

Terrain placement had a lot to do with the outcome of the game - I used a historical placement rather than per the game rules, which meant the English had a great advantage. The narrow front meant that the Normans could not bring their numerical superiority to bear - in fact the three Norman Spears units did not fight at all.

So far I like the rules - they are definitely much less paperwork than Glutter of Ravens, and melee is faster to resolve than in Warmaster Ancients, my default set of Ancients rules.

I initially had some problem accepting the Inspiration Points concept, which seemed to me to gives a player too much control over his army, and his opponent too much insight into what he was planning. The optional rule that made it costlier to inspire units far away from the commander helps, and I suppose the "visibility" of the placement of Insipration Points can be seen as the enemy observing the movement of messengers and amount of activity in various parts of the enemy line.

In my next game I will use an army with Warrior units, and go for a less lopsided terrain placement.

No comments: