Friday, 9 January 2015

The Battle of Bassa's Ford - Dux Bellorum Campaign Game 1

To kick off 2015 I decided to try running a solo Dux Bellorum campaign. Sadly the rulebook doesn't contain any rules for a campaign. However in 2014 I bought the Warhammer Historical 'The Age of Arthur' supplement, which is an excellent resource for the period, but also contains two different campaigns. The scenarios in the supplement dovetail nicely with the ones in Dux Bellorum, so only a few tweaks appear to be required.

Fortunately I already had two painted warbands so could kick things off straight away. Re-inforcements are in the lead pile in the attic to give more flexibility, but at my disposal were the following:

1 x Companion Foot Warriors
2 x Foot Nobles
6 x Ordinary Foot Warriors 
2 x Foot Skirmishers (javelins)
1 x Foot Skirmishers (bow)
1 x Stampede 
1 x Priest

Saxon Sea Raiders
1 x Companion Foot Warriors
4 x Foot Noble Warriors
2 x Ordinary Foot Warriors
2 x Foot Skirmishers (javelin)
1 x Foot Skirmish (bow)
1 x Shaman
1 x Beserkers

Of the two campaigns, I chose 'Campaign 2, The Raiding Season' as I liked the narrative feel of it. Also, the next scenario depended very much upon the outcome of the previous game. The scenario was modified slightly, details of which can be found below:

Scenario 3 - The Battle at Bassa's Ford
  • Use 'River Battle' on p58 of the Dux Bellorum rulebook for set up details.
  • The Repeller deploys as normal.
  • The Agressor deploys all of his skirmishers in his deployment zone. Other units start off table and arrive upon a successful 'Bravery' roll.
  • Champions Challenge. The Agressor issues a challenge to try and buy time for the rest of his warband to arrive on the table. Use the 'Champion's Challenge' from p50 of the Dux Bellorum rulebook. Neither side pays any points for this 'Strategy & Tactic'. If the Agressor wins the challenge, he also gets one free turn in which to try and activate his warband to arrive on the table. The Repellor doesn't get to activate in this free turn.
So with the scenario sorted, it was time to sort out the respective warbands for the start of the campaign. I decided to have both warbands as 'Warriors', mainly to help speed up play and to fit in with my general view of them. After some thought, I went with the following:

Welsh Warband 32 points
1 x Companions - The Teulu of Tiern Cynwyl Cadarn
2 x Noble Warriors - The Cambrogi of Uchelwyr Culhwch & Uchelwyr Cadfael Cambrogi
4 x Ordinary Warriors
3 x Skirmishers
1 x +1 Leadership Point

As you can see, quite a few units to play with in the game, with plenty of skirmishers and the extra point of Leadership should give them more flexibility and staying power.

Saxon Sea Raiders Warband 32 points
1 x Companions - The Hearthguard of the Atheling Hrothgar
3 x Noble Warriors - Thegns Hrethric, Hrothmund, Hrothwulf and their Duguth
2 x Ordinary Warriors
1 x Skirmisher (bow)
1 x Javelins for 6 units

In contrast, the Saxons are a small, hardcore unit that hope to punch a hole in the massed ranks of the Welsh. The 'S&T' javelins option should give them some hitting power at distance before they close for combat. I've never used this before but it could be quite useful...

The Keynsham Chronicle
In the year of our Lord, AD555, the Saxon raiders appeared out of the East. The Atheling Hrothgar laid waste to many villages, bringing death and misery to the innocent. Our blessed Protector Coinmail, sent the noble Tiern Cynwyl Cadarn to bring down the wrath of God upon the pagan Hrothgar. They met at the place known as Bassa' Ford ...

The Welsh deployed in the left, with the Saxon skirmishers the only unit on the table.

The ford is situated in the centre of the table with a few trees to mark its place.
The Welsh host of Cynwyl Cadarn deploy for battle.
The lone Saxon skirmishers hoping that the rest of Hrothgars warband will soon join the party.

Turn 1 - Welsh 7 LP Saxons 6 LP
The Saxons as a whole raced towards the ford, matched by the Welsh. The only blot on the turn for the Welsh was the bow armed skirmisher unit blundering, thereby losing 1 point of cohesion.

All roads lead to the ford...

Turn 2 - Welsh 7 LP Saxons 6 LP
The Saxon skirmishers were the first to the ford, bravely occupying it. Their Welsh counterparts decided not to wait for the main body of the warband and charged into close combat. The Saxons wisely used their LPs to soak up any hits sustained and remained locked in combat.

Both sides close in on the ford.
The Saxons defiantly hold on despite being outnumbered.
Turn 3 - Welsh 7 LP Saxons 6 LP
There was some shooting from both sides but to no effect. The Saxons continue to advance as quickly as they can, whilst the Welsh deply about the village and ford, readying their lines for battle. The Saxon skirmishers best their opponents in the ford, destroying one Welsh skirmisher unit.

The Saxons in nominal control of the ford at this point.

Turn 4 - Welsh 6 LP Saxons 6 LP
In the shooting phase the Saxon archers cause 1 point of cohesion to be lost by the Welsh skirmishers, who move out of the way of the main Welsh units. A unit of Welsh Nobles charge the Saxons in the ford and unsuprisingly make short order of them.

Both sides are very close to each other now.
The Welsh now in control of the crossing.

Turn 5 - Welsh 6 LP Saxons 5 LP
Once again the little shooting that there was was rather ineffective. The Saxon Nobles made a supported uncontrolled charge on the Welsh, only to be repulsed due to some wide use of LPs to soak up hits.

The Welsh firmly in control of the ford, for now...
The Welsh Nobles make a follow up move to try and bring more units over the ford.

Turn 6 - Welsh 6 LP Saxons 5 LP
The Saxons moved more units into support of the main combat as well as trying to manouevre out of bow range. This time the Saxons bested the Welsh in close combat, pushing them back but electing not to follow up. The Welsh unit of Nobles was now one point away from breaking. This would allow them to used their javelins before moving into combat next turn.

The Saxons close in to bring as much support to bear as they can.

Turn 7 - Welsh 6 LP Saxons 5 LP
The shooting was more effective this time, with the javelins causing the Welsh Nobles to use precious LPs to avoid breaking. At least the Welsh caused some losses of cohesion on a Saxon unit. The Saxons managed to break the unit of Welsh Nobles, the javelins having taken their toll.

The Saxons push back onto and nearly over the ford.
The Saxons receiving as much support on the flanks as they can. However the right flank is coming under sustained missile fire...

Turn 8 - Welsh 5 LP Saxons 5 LP
A quiet turn as any hits were soaked up and the combat at the ford drawn.


Turn 9 - Welsh 5 LP Saxons 5 LP
The shooting was ineffective once more. With the combat at the ford in danger of bogging down, both sides were only allowed to use the LPs for attacks and not to soak up any hits. As a result both the Saxon and Welsh units died a heroic death! With neither side the winner, there was no opportunity to follow up and move into the ford.

The ford once again clear of combat, but not for long.

Turn 10 - Welsh 4 LP Saxons 4 LP
In the shooting phase more hits were taken by the Saxon right flank and at the ford, the Saxons had managed to advance over and move units across onto the left flank.

The Saxons have pushed across, with the Welsh ready to counter attack.
Both sides are losing points of cohesion, threatening their ability to continue the fight.

Turn 11 - Welsh 4 LP Saxons 4 LP
The shooting phase turned up trumps, with a unit of Welsh skirmishers finally succumbing to javelins, but the Welsh archers reduced a unit of Saxon warriors to 1 point away from breaking. At the ford, the combat ebbed and lowed, with neither side in the ascendance.

It's all starting to get very messy...
The Saxons possibly have a slight upper hand, but only slight.

Turn 12 - Welsh 3 LP Saxons 4 LP
Once again the shooting phase caused more hits, but it was the close combat phase that clinched the battle. The Welsh Nobles finished off the Saxon unit that had suffered 4 points of cohesion loss from missile shooting, but in return the Welsh lost two units of warriors. This put them at 50% losses and so triggered an aoutomatic break test, which they promptly failed, leaving the Saxons in command of the ford.

The Saxons are over the ford...
... with the Welsh having too few units to stop them.

Post Game Thoughts
Well it's been some time since I played Dux Bellorum, but it all came back to me fairly quickly and was once again another enjoyable game. Nice and easy to set up and relatively quick to play with plenty of decisions to be made through out the game on how to use those precious leadership points. So as always a few thoughts:
  • At the start of the game I completely forgot about the Champion's Challenge!!! Mea culpa.
  • I think the River Crossing scenario is a hard one to play. Without cavalry it can descend into a slugging match. This game was in danger of that but having seen this before, I made the decision at a crucial point not to use any LPs to soak up hits. It freed up the game and allowed it to flow once more, plus gave the cinematic element of both sides fighting to the death in a heroic fashion.
  • Playing this as part of a campaign is much more fun as far as I'm concerned. Being able to use the 'Age of Arthur' supplement is a big help. Maybe one day Dan Mersey will come up with some ideas for a simple campaign system for Dux Bellorum.
  • I'm not quite sure how to reward the victor, but my initial thoughts are to give them 1 extra point for each victory. Nothing too dramatic but enough to maybe give them that extra edge in the next game.
I think before the next game I need to finish off some cavalry for the Welsh to give them some options as well as another skirmish unit for the Saxons. Next game may see the arrival of the 'killer sheep' or the Saxon beserkers...
Next scenario
This will be Scenario 11, 'The Roman Road'. In essence the Saxons have to get off the board past a Welsh delaying force. The Saxons will have a manpower advantage but will face a time limit. Details to follow once I've sorted them out.


  1. Great post Steve, it does seem like cavalry are the order of the day. Good luck with the campaign.

    1. Thanks Stu. The cavalry were completed at the weekend ready for the next game.

  2. Great stuff.
    I must get on and play my Dux Bellorum campaign.
    I've been adapting some rules from MW, but haven't actually turned them into action yet.

    1. I enjoy campaigns Tom, so look forward to your's when you get it going:).