Saturday, March 12, 2016

Back to the Gaming! Dux Gondorum - AAR / Batrep


Last weekend, my buddy Nick and I wanted to try out a game of Dux Britanniarum as we're both fans of TFL rules sets. I had played DB once, a few years ago when I first bought the rules and Nick had recently acquired them.

As Nick's Dark Ages collection are still bare metal and unassembled, we agreed to use my (mostly) painted LotR models for this game, with no rules modifications to represent Middle Earth. Mordor orcs proxied for Saxons and Gondorian soldiers for Romano-Brits.

The scenario we chose was Raid on Border Watchtower in which the Morgul Orcs seek to ambush a Gondorian patrol in Ithilien with the aim of abducting Lord Faramir as a hostage. It was an opportunity to trot out my newly painted Hudson & Allen Scenics medieval tower.



The Forces

Gondor

Gondor is lead by Boromir as the "Lord" or senior noble with Faramir and cousin Imrahil as his subordinate noble leaders. Between them they lead:

  • 2 groups of 6 warriors - The Gondorian regulars garrisoned at this fort.
  • 3 groups of 6 levy - Brought to Ithilien from Gondor's southern fiefdoms by Imrahil for some badly needed blooding in combat.
  • 1 group of 6 elite companions - Citadel Guard brought from Minas Tirith by Boromir as his personal retinue as he inspects the garrisons along the frontier with Minas Morgul.
  • 1 group of 4 scouts -  Ithilien Rangers

For this scenario, one leader (Faramir) is returning to the border watchtower from scouting/harrassment raid with the two units of warriors while Boromir, Imrahil and the other men occupy the tower defenses.


Morgul Vale

The ambushing forces are led by Gothmog, Lieutenant of Morgul, with sturdy trusted orc captains as his subordinate leaders. For Gothmog, I use the GW Mouth of Sauron model as I personally envision him to be either a named Nazgul or a Black Numenorean, but never an orc. And certainly not an orc with Elephant Man's disease. Like the Saxons forces in Dux, this raiding party is comprised of
  • 2 groups 6 elite warriors - Mordor Uruks
  • 3 groups of 6 regular warriors - Mordor Orcs
  • 1 group of scouts - Snaga archers
For this scenario, they come on randomly - random table edge and random number of groups. They are trying to cut off and overwhelm Faramir's party before they can reach or link up with the garrison around the watch tower at the other long end of the table.

The Game

Here, I won't seek to give a turn by turn accounting but rather sketch out the general flow of battle with a few disappoining iPhone pictures to supplement. (Should have checked the battery on the digital camera the night before.)

Pre-game battlefield looking West

Per the scenario, we roll for where our forces enter the game. Faramir's patrol started on the Northeastern table edge (bottom right in the picture above with the rest of his forces deploying around the watchtower. The watchtower player gets 3 movement rolls for the returning patrol, but Faramir's patrol must have been dawdling as Nick rolled low all three times. They started 9" from the table edge.

In contrast, Gothmog was lucky - too lucky - rolling to arrive on the table edge just North of Faramir - almost on top of him.  We both agreed this wouldn't make for a very interesting learning game, so I rerolled.  Gothmog's forces would arrive from the South - immediately to the left of the copse of trees on the left side of the photo above, bisecting the field. Random roll determined 3 groups of troops of any quality would arrive with any number of leaders. So, Gothmog brought both of his elites along with a group of warriors and one of his orc captains.

So began the footrace...

Dux Brit uses a card-based activation system, keyed to the leaders and any missile troops which cannot join formations with hand to hand troops, thus acting independently.

The forces of darkness had the initiative and fanged it North - with the orc captain taking a group of elite Uruks west of the forest on the left and Gothmog combining his group of Uruks with a group of orc warriors to lead them forward into the hills a little east of the other group of orcs.  Depending on Faramir's initiative, they planned to combine and block his route back to the watchtower or, get in front and behind him and surround him.

Looking east, Gothmog and Uruks top, orc warrios middle, another group of Uruks with orc captain, bottom.


From the watchtower, Boromir spied the threat to Faramir before Faramir himself and began to mobilize his Rangers and levy to move out of the tower perimeter.

Rangers move from base of the tower. Boromir and his retinue still inside.
Imrahil's levies arrayed around the base of the tower hill.


Looking east, Faramir's patrol of two groups of warriors, ambling along, clueless that they are being tracked...
After getting all three groups of levy into one formation, Imrahil leads them out of the tower perimeter's southern gate to intercept threaten the arriving orcs in the rear if they choose to ignore them on their way to nab Faramir

Fiefdom levy off to see the elephant for the first time...
Imrahil's banner precedes him out of the gate...

Faramir's patrol moseying along (Drat! Who left that tape measure in the one decent photo?!)

Viewed from the east, Gothmog's formation in the foreground,
about to link up with the other group in the hills to the north
Gothmog now has tough mob of two elite Uruks and one group of warriors to swamp Faramir's
two groups of warriors. Ithilien Rangers try to put some shock on the orcs before the assault launches.
On the southern flank (center, bottom) Imrahil forms his levies into a three group shieldwall, while Gothmog's second orc captain debates whether rush north to support his master or chase off these green farm boys from the south.
With the next round of game cards, Gothmog's good fortune (or cunning) holds and he keeps the initiative and pulls out all the stops "Seizing the Day" (allowing multiple Fate cards to augment the attack) by launching an "Aggressive Charge" (+1 to all combat rolls) while "Strong Arming" axes and darts on the way in to close combat (additional attacks). The "suit" cards - boars for Saxons/orcs - add additional dice.  OUCH!
The Eye of Sauron is with Gothmog this day...
Over on the other flank, the impetuous orc warriors rush headlong at "easy pickings" of levy without any Fate cards to augment their attack - only to dish out very little damage in return for a mauling.  They recoil almost off the battlefield badly shaken.

This orc captain learned a brutal lesson about attacking a shieldwall without the help of Fate.
However, this was just an amusing but instructive sideshow to the main event...

Gothmog's heavy formation closed in, dispersing the Ithilien Rangers caught in the open, then proceeded to dish out so many kills and and so much shock that both groups of Gondor veterans broke and ran taking Faramir with them.
Just the beginning of "shock and awe" - that's just the shock from "Strong Arm" missiles on the charge in.
They hoped they still might make it to the tower by putting a dense thicket of hedges between themselves and their pursuers, while Boromir brought up the elite Citadel Guard...

Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide
But, alas, Gothmog had more Fate in store ordering his orc captain to take one group of elite Uruks to circle the other side of the thicket using an extra movement card from his Fate hand.  And, because the remnants of both groups were broken, they were all captured. Mission accomplished!

Fazit

This game reminded me of why I love this rule set and how much I'd love to play a full campaign. There's enough randomness to create an interesting "fog of war" experience, while the Fate cards give you degrees of control within the randomness. Particularly as you can refresh your Fate hand each time you draw a noble's card, particularly in the early game when they are only using one of their initiative to move the formations they're leading. 

I'm motivated to get these two sets of models completely painted and keep playing these scenarios, perhaps in the form of a campaign set on the Ithilien frontier. It would be fun to get some custom cards made up with the White Tree and the Red Eye or Pale Tower to represent the suites. 

I'm also motivated to figure out the photography and lighting situation. This was rushed as I decided at the last minute to make the game blog-fodder.

Most of all, thanks to my buddy Nick for a fun game and for strongly advocating for Dux over Lion Rampant this time.  I like LR/DR very much and will be using it for my Westeros gaming, but it sure was fun to get reacquainted with Dux Britanniarum.

12 comments:

  1. Nice AAR, looks and sounds a fun game.

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  2. Nice AAR, looks and sounds a fun game.

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    1. Thank you, V.

      Yes, the mechanics of DB make for some intriguing tactical choices. Plus it was fun to "rediscover" these rules and figure them out again. I highly recommend them. We used only the basics but there are pre-game rules for calling on divine support , getting your troops boozed up and having your lords' champions fight a duel. All which can have an impact on game play. We just wanted to get the hang of the basics this time out.

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  3. Excellent stuff. We shall be doing Dux for LOTR but I am really interested in seeing how DR works. As I understand it DR will support a larger number of figures and that will be very good as we have a lot of toys waiting to go on the table.

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    1. Hi Thomas,

      Dragon Rampant should work very well. I have a few games of Lion Rampant under my belt and it's easy to play and highly adaptable.

      What I particularly like about Dux Britanniarum, though, is the easy campaign system as well as the Fate cards, which give both players some discretionary "umph" to exploit key opportunities or shore up weaknesses.

      Comparatively, DR has more flexibility in the forces as DB was designed for c.400 Britain and shieldwall warfare. Still, it works nicely in Middle Earth with a bit of tweaking.

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    2. We'll just have to start with Dux and work our way up. Maybe run a bigger, campaign-deciding game using DR.

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    3. Yes, that could be a great way to go. DR seems to scale well, particularly if you divide up your armies into 2-3 retinues, each with their own player-commanders. Michael Leck over at Dalaupproar - http://dalauppror.blogspot.com/ - has modeled the way that with these larger, multi-player games.

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    4. I recently joined the club where Dala plays, I shall have to make sure I get to join in some of his games.

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    5. Judging from his blog posts, it looks like you lucked into a great bunch of gamers!

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    6. I did indeed. Sören of http://blackpowdergames.blogspot.se/ asked me over to run a game of Chain of Command last year and the rest is history.

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  4. I have the rules but yet to really try them out. Too busy playing the other TFL rules of CoC and the soon to be released SPV2.
    The watchtower and winter trees look excellent.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Pat! I may redo the foundation of the tower as I chose the gray granite more out of an aesthetic choice to create intentional contrast but find it's grating on me, visually.

      As for DB, I highly recommend whenever you get the bug, recognizing you're on another couple of TFL vectors at the moment. :-) Cheers!

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