I had my first game of Dux Bellorum on Monday. We used the Welsh and Saxon sample armies from the book. I took the Saxons and Kev and Stewart between them the Welsh. My 25mm collection provided the figures - I even managed to dig up a couple of cows to provide a mini stampede. The monks were more Feudal than Dark Ages in appearance but at the end of the day a cowl is a cowl.
It was not a very subtle game. The Welsh cavalry and warriors charged forward and crashed into my shieldwall. The skirmishers did very little damage on the flank but one of my Irish elements managed to take out the light cavalry. The other one intercepted one of the Welsh warriors (I thought in the flank but not as I had not taken care to start from far enough back). The cows did their job by destroying themselves against the shieldwall but weakening a unit in the process. The monks were not keen to advance too far but were just close enough to provide spiritual help in the form of extra leadership points to most of their line.
I used leadership points to minimise casualties on the shieldwall which gave them plenty of staying power and I was eventually (with the aid of some good dice rolls) able to wear down the opposition to less than 50% in units. The subsequent morale rolls went against the Welsh and they fled the field.
So what were my first impressions of the rules?
I like the mechanisms which generate good period flavour and are elegantly put together. The rulebook itself is attractive and generally well laid out. On the downside there seemed to be very few figures on the table (about sixty in total) and the game seemed to be over in no time at all. Certainly not an evening’s entertainment, although to be fair we had not tried to be particularly sophisticated in our tactics.
Definitely interesting enough to play again though and Kev and I have agreed a rematch in 2 weeks time, Late Roman against Saxon sea raider. We will attempt to play two games in the one session. 25mm again, normal 60mm wide basing for the first game with the second using Impetus bases at 120mm wide, on a bigger table, but keeping movement rates at 60mm base width equivalents.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it is difficult to give a rounded review of Dux Bellorum after just one game. I want to like them as I approve of well written and presented period specific rules that try to capture the feel of a particular era. However can deliver a satisfying game? For me the jury is still out on that one.