Sunday, 13 January 2013

Dux Bellorum

My first tentative steps into wargaming took place in the dim and distant past of the 1970s, when my friends and I started using the Airfix WW2 wargames rules by Bruce Quarrie, to go with our Airfix and Matchbox figures and tanks. Alongside these appeared 'The Quest of Thane Tostig', a simple set of wargames rules that introduced me to fantasy skirmish wargaming. This in turn led to playing 1st edition D&D at school, as well as Chainmail and another game, the name of which escapes me.

In short I was hooked on skirmish wargames, as I enjoyed the whole 'ancients' feel of the games as well as the fun of painting up just a few figures required for a game. Then real life intervened in the form of university and wargaming took a back seat, except for the odd boardgame game snatched between projects. 

Then, like many others I'm sure, I drifted back into wargaming whilst living in Nottingham as a result of looking in the Games Workshop window. I dabbled in Warhammer but although the 'period' was right, I just never got into the game the way that others did. However I still bought the then excellent White Dwarf magazine as I used to buy it when it first came out, and in a sense kept up with what was going on at Games Workshop. An article appeared with some simple rules for a game called 'Mordheim', that ticked all the boxes as far as I was concerned and which took me back to my formative wargames years. 

I happily played these to the exclusion of all else for about 5 years until it stopped being supported by Games Workshop, coupled with my regular gaming chums being unable to make it to club nights. So ended my skirmish gaming. I even tried Lord of the Rings which was good, but this never took off at the club. The same was true of Legends of the High Seas. All was not lost as I rediscovered WWII wargaming in the form of Flames of War, which was quickly ditched for the superb Blitzkreig Commander. Alongside this I played Rules of Engagement so I was getting my fix of skirmish gaming. 

Lately however I have been looking to go back to my wargaming roots so to speak. With the appearance of several 'ancients' rules of late, it seemed I would be spoilt for choice. So which ruleset to choose? 'Hail Caesar' by Warlord Games, SAGA, 'Dux Brittaniarum' by TTFL and finally 'Dux Bellorum' by Osprey Publishing all have their advocates and I'm sure produce good games. One of the joys, and pitfalls, of the internet, is that you can find plenty of online reviews of each game on various forums, Blogs etc. This is a blessing and, equally, a curse as it can get a bit confusing with a host of different views on offer.

After plenty of reading I settled on 'Dux Bellorum'.

I won't bore you with why I rejected the others, but a few reasons can be found below as to why I selected this ruleset:
  • It contained everything in one book of 64 pages, including Army lists.
  • There would be no need to buy supplements, a rare thing these days in the world of wargaming!
  • It cost me less that £8.00 including p&p, again unheard of in these days of the £30 coffee table rulebook.
  • I liked the look of the rules and the way they played as they seemed to fit my style of wargaming, which is naturally rather important. Too many times have I bought rules that everyone has said are good, only for them to be sold off within the year at a bring'n'buy at a show.
So the book was duly ordered and I waited with keen anticipation for them to arrive. I was not to be disappointed in my purchase. So a few first impressions: 

  • The book is beautifully produced as you would expect from Osprey Publishing.
  • It is well bound and with a good weight of paper so fingers crossed should not fall apart quickly, unlike some other rulebooks.
  • The book is very well layed out and flows naturally, from the introduction by the author Daniel Mersey, all the way through to the scenarios at the end.
  • The rules are very easy to follow with nice and simple diagrams to accompany the text where necessary. Each section starts with a basic overview followed by detailed explanations, which aids understanding in my opinion.
  • There are optional rules within each section that allow you to play in a slightly different style if required, mainly in keeping with 'standard' rules from other rulesets.
  • The book is not packed out with unnecessary 'fluff', but has some nice images from Osprey books and photographs of miniatures, mainly 15mm and 28mm.
  • There are 7 army lists in the book, Late Roman, Romano-British, Welsh, Saxon, Irish, Picts, Land Raiders and Sea Raiders. The latter two are slightly different form of the others with the exceptions of the Late Romans. Within each list there is usually the option to have them as either shieldwall (defence) or warrior (offence), as well as mainly cavalry or foot. Most lists can also take Allies, therefore giving more variety should it be required.
  • A big warband will really only consist of 10 bases. Yes that's ten bases! No need to paint up hundreds of figures, unless you want to of course.
  • The section called 'Strategies and Tactics' is a real winner as it allows you to tweak you warband to suit its background or your playing style, by buying certain attributes for said warband. As an example, I love the 'Stampede' option as it allows you to drive cattle, or similar, towards your enemy to disrupt them! This just appeals to my wargaming sense of fun.
  • There are 6 scenarios at the end, all of which look nice and simple to play. The rules themselves will allow for plenty others to be created I'm sure.

So there you have it. A set of rules that I'm extremely glad I bought and can't wait to get my first game in. They may not be for you but I'd recommend having a look at them if you can.


  1. Nice blog post. What I like about them on a read through is the sort of command system that means you won't always be able to activate every unit every turn,but with the Leadership Points system you can use them to ensure your really important units in that turn are pretty much guaranteed a move, or you can ramp up their attack or defuse abilities. This for me gives a real flavour of the period, where small forces of not very well trained forces relied on the skill and personality of their leaders to push them to great feats. It feels very of the period, with dare I say it a slightly heroic/mythological flavour in keeping with the 'Arthurian' period.

  2. That should read defence abilities. Bloody autocorrect.

  3. I agree completely Chris and thanks mentioning Leadership Points as I forgot to write about these! Rather important given that they are the USP of the game really...

  4. So it can be done! An inexpensive but professionally produced set of rules that give you plenty of options. Even more interesting is that they originate from a corporate entity like Osprey.

    For me it just shows how people producing rules like Battlegroup Kursk are just wasting our time, with fluff and supplements which increase profits but which make wargamers lives more difficult.

  5. Nice post Steve, as you know ive gone ahead and spent 7 quid on the rules, and spent another 7 on a 10 mm Romano British tribe......14 quid for rules and an army, amazing! I agree with you Keith, it just proves it can be done, rather than having to spend £20 or 30 on a rule book and endless suppliments.