The summary is: Being new to the rules I assumed the hill was difficult terrain, deployed accordingly, realised too late I was wrong, and then watched as Chris rolled over my hastily improvised battle line.
Chris got Late Roman. In Dux Bellorum that means Riders, Shield Wall, Skirmishers, Bow and Cataphracts. Of course, they are all on Big Bases.
I got Visigoths. Of course, being based in Britannia, Dux Bellorum doesn’t have a Visigothic army list. So I made one up. Couple of Riders (Nobles), including the General’s Companions, six Warriors (Warband), couple of foot skirmishers (Archers and Javelinmen), and mounted skirmishers (Alans).
The outcome of the battle was pretty well determined at the outset. Chris hadn’t read the rules. I had read the rules – but not carefully. We went through the deployment rules and found Chris was the aggressor and I was the repeller, so I chose the terrain. All good so far.
I picked a nice big hill which went in the centre. I’d read in the rules that movement was halved in area terrain so I assumed this was true for hills. I set up my army to avoid the hill, massing most of my army on the left where the gap between the hill and the table edge was. When the game started I moved my cavalry to spearhead the drive around the hill. That left a single warband and my skirmishers in front of the hill and wood.
Chris, who hadn’t read rules, assumed the hill was good going and lined up all his infantry to go over the top. When the Legionaries got to the hill I checked the rules to make sure my recollection was correct. It was, but not entirely. I again found the bit where it says area terrain (and by implication any kind) slows movement. But I also found the chart of terrain effects which specifically says hills don’t affect movement. It seems Chris’s assumption was right. All i could think was “Ooops”. Ah, well, I’d see how good my skirmishers were at delaying actions under these rules and try to win quickly on my left flank where I had vast superiority in numbers.
The battle started on the hill first. And then I discovered there wasn’t an evade rule. Presumably an evade is achieved by using a Leadership Point to pre-empt the enemy move and move away. That probably would result in not shooting by the skirmishers – which seems odd – but it was academic as my Leadership Points were used elsewhere.
I wanted a decisive result where my cavalry was so I chose to stock up my General with Leadership Points. However, I then chose to use them to cancel hits rather than to give more aggression dice. So that particular combat was going to drag on a while.
Meanwhile, on the hill I quickly discovered how brittle skirmishers are. The first one routed quick smart.
Back on the other wing the Roman Cataphracts went slap bang into my line of warband. Neither Chris nor I knew what would happen. Chris, of course, was hoping that heavily armoured guys on armoured horses would carve their way through warriors pretty quickly.
I was hoping that 6-to-1 odds would work in my favour, and quickly. In fact neither of us were right. The Cataphracts killed my warriors but not quickly. My numbers told, but it took time.
Meanwhile the legionaries on the hill took my skirmish line apart. The drove back everything I could fling at them and rapidly dominated the hill.
I like to think that I dominated the flat on my left flank. But in reality the score was fairly even. My cavalry killed some units. Chris’s Cataphracts killed some units.
Ultimately, my original deployment mistake lost me the game. Chris won on the hill before I could win on the flank.
In three games we’ve used three different sets of rule sets and four different armies. I deliberately designed the Fall of Hispania Campaign to enable this kind of variety. I like it.
This was our first game of Dux Bellorum. Chris enjoyed it, but acknowledged that winning helped his opinion.
I wasn’t too impressed. My big issue with the rules is that I couldn’t distinguish the various troop types. All of the units seemed to operate like heavy infantry. Some of them were brittle heavy infantry (skirmishers) and some where hard as nails heavy infantry (mounted companions and cataphracts) and the rest were just normal heavy infantry (warriors, shield wall). Okay they all had different factors but the net effect was that some were normal, some brittle and some hard as nails. The skirmishers didn’t / couldn’t skirmish in the rules. And my impression of cavalry combat is that it is more volatile than the foot but in this game the cavalry was as solid as the infantry – and in some cases more so.
Because everything behaved like heavy infantry the game was quite grindy. It took a long time with a lot of dice rolling but without much happening on the table.
I didn’t like all the factors as well. I was forever looking up the factors in the rule book. And to make it worse different types of factors were on tables on different pages. Very annoying. And slow.
Chris objected to the number of markers on table. The Leadership Point gems. The casualty dice. All got characterised as “table clutter” by my opponent.
On the plus side it was nice to break the “all armies have 12 elements” aspect of DBA.