Download Twilight of the Britons – Fast play rules for the English Invasion of Britain

For a long time I’ve been looking for a set of wargaming rules for the Arthurian age i.e. the Dark Age in Britain. Having tried lots of commercial rules, Vincent Tsao and I have written our own. Called Twilight of the Britons – Fast play rules for the English Invasion of Britain it is a variant of Twilight of the Sun-King (2001 version) . It covers the warfare in Britain from Roman departure (410 AD) until the English installed a Briton of Strathclyde as King of Scotland (1054 AD). The six page booklet contains only two pages of rules and four pages of army lists.

Twilight of the Britons - Logo


Backstory

Back in 2013 Tom Loback and Vincent Tsao wrote a battle report for the Battle of Hastings under Twilight of the Sun King. This has been lurking in my subconscious ever since, kind of a innovation Viking waiting to spring. With my recent obsession with all things Arthurian I thought I’d pick up the conversation with Vincent and see what we could do to take Vincent’s Norman mods and turn them into a stand alone game.

My starting point was the original (2001) version of Twilight of the Sun-King. I actually wrote this in 1995 although it was only published in 2001. Being from the last century means it is quite dated in style. So I rewrote it to reflect my current thinking about game design. I haven’t published the 2022 draft as its main purpose was just to get a modern version of the rules to provide a more solid foundation for the new variant.

Britons-201 English advance
Britons-201 English advance

Then Vincent and I started tweaking to get the Arthurian vibe. Vincent’s mods were a great inspiration, but we didn’t stop there. We dropped the two base units and went for single base units. Inspired by Philip Sabin’s Analysis of Ancient Warfare in Lost Battles I went for basic troop types: heroes, heavy infantry (HI), light infantry (LI), heavy cavalry (HC) and light cavalry (LC). Vincent contributed the supplementary attributes for a unit, both the missile weapons (javelin, sling, foot bow, or horse bow) and the optional attributes for heavy units (armoured, aggressive, undisciplined, and well drilled). We also included Vincents’s ideas on recoil, evade, hold and impetuous advance. I added “curses” to give priests, druids and magicians a battlefield role; I might not believe in the efficacy of curses but the men of the time did. Units are rated brave (+1), epic (+2), or legendary (+3), with the great mass being brave and Arthur and his lot being legendary. I wanted a heroic feel to the game hence “heroes” not “generals” although they serve a similar purpose in the game. I adopted the cavalry threat rule of Andrew Coleby from the 2010 version of the rules (Version 1.1). Movement is far more generous than in the original rules where the games were often described as arthritic. I dropped the random end of battles in favour of a hard stop after one side loses 1/3 of their army.

Throughout that process I stuck to my design goal of a two page set of rules, despite urging from Vincent to relax that constraint. I like a hard limit on rule size as it forces me to make hard game design decisions. I did, however, add four pages of army lists: Romano-British (407-470 AD), English (429-1075 AD), Briton (471-580 AD) and Northern Briton (580-1054 AD), Western Briton (580-1149 AD), Gewissei, Picts (211-900AD), Scots-Irish (55BC-900AD), Scots (900-1124 AD), Norse-Irish (842-1300 AD), and Northmen (790 – 1280 AD.


Download Twilight of the Britons

You can download Twilight of the Britons as a PDF.

Twilight of the Britons - Download


Versions

Version 1.0 (18 June 2022)

The first publicly available version.

22 thoughts on “Download Twilight of the Britons – Fast play rules for the English Invasion of Britain”

  1. I just love the elegance of TotSK’s mechanisms and design… I must confess I’m not usually that interested in Dark age warfare, but this might prove a (literal) game-changer. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. There’s a lot to like in these rules! There are a few questions I have if you’re entertaining such. Mostly they are things I’m sure you understand but an outsider might need to have explained.

    Reply
      • OK, you asked for it! 🙂 As I said before, these are all the types of questions that game designers encounter once their darling rules leave their hands (where everything of course makes sense) and are put before the unwashed masses who come at the rules cold.

        “Armies comprise 6-24 units of 200-400 men.” In the army lists, though, the “Min” armies often don’t add up to six. The Romano-British list, for example, shows a Min force of 8 units and one warlord for a cost of 32 points. It would make more sense, I think, if there were a common minimum size that matched up with your 40 points.

        I’m not quite sure I fully understand the relationship between units, groups, warbands, and armies. I think that units are indivisible bases and these (sometimes) are formed into groups that are a part of a warband, which is a part of an army. Is there some minimum number of warbands in an army, and are warbands composed of the same type of units or freely configured? Does each warband have a commanding hero?

        I am confused by the sequence of play because it’s unclear which of the bulleted rules belong to all units and whihc to only specific types of units.

        Also, in a turn does the active player activate every friendly unit or just a warband or just an individual unit? It reads to me like the answer is that one entire army activates, then the other (classic igo-yugo). Is that right?

        I like the idea that combat is a matter of morale. (At least that’s how I understand the rules.)

        “Allocate attacks so as many units as possible test morale for being in melee.” I’m not sure I understand what this means.

        I’m also unclear as to the concept of “overlap.” Way it reads, a group conducts combat as a sort of super-unit composed of multiple units. Is that correct?

        “Foot in the open must test morale when threatened by enemy cavalry.” Is “threatening” an action? Otherwise, it’s not clear why and when this morale test occurs.

        “A unit must recoil once if it fails any morale tests in the player turn, regardless of hits taken.” Does this mean that there’s one morale test whenever a hit is taken, no matter how many hits there are? Or do I just not understand?

        “A hero can become a casualty if the attached unit takes a morale test. On an unmodified score of 2 the hero is a casualty and removed.” So there are really two results of a natural 2 rolled as a part of a morale test: a double-hit and a hero casualty? If so, I’d put both results together.

        I have a LOT of questions about the tactical factors chart. I realize when reading it that I’m not sure if both the attacker and defender roll for morale or if only the defender. What’s the difference between the two sets of factors in the chart, as there seems to be some overlap between them?

        “A group in the open can make a simple move at the speed of the slowest unit.” This implies that groups can only move in the open. True?

        When a unit begins in open terrain and encounters difficult terrain, what happens? Is the distance shown the max for the whole turn or just for the portion of the move taking place in difficult terrain?

        I think it might make more sense to put the “Actions” section before the combat section and also to make “Simple Move” and “Melee” and “Shoot” into actions. The relationship between all this is a little confusing.

        A clarification of THAT would also help to clarify the idea of an action test. Are there tests before combat or just the actions shown immediately above? This might also help to sort out the turn sequence section. Basically, what I read is that each unit may do one of three things: simple move, combat, or perform one of the special actions. Some of these require action tests. It might be clearer to just say a unit may perform an action (including movement and combat as actions) and then proceed to list all the different types of actions and their requirements.

        Looking forward to hearing back!

        Reply
        • > relationship between units, groups, warbands, and armies
          Armies have heroes. Each hero has their own warband. So an army has a number of warbands, the same number of warbands as there are heroes. Each warband is made up of units, each of which is a base. Warbands can have any mix of units that suits you. All of that is fixed for a game.

          Groups are ad hoc formations depending on which units are lined up with which other units during the game. A group of heavy infantry is a “shield wall”.

          Reply
        • > sequence of play
          “The active player goes through this sequence of play for every friendly unit” means:
          – the active player does something for every unit.
          – and that something is the bulleted list, although they probably only do a couple oof those steps, as many steps are mutually exclusive.

          Reply
        • > active player activate every friendly unit or just a warband or just an individual unit
          A player activates, along with their entire army, but then they go through the sequence of play for every unit individually

          Reply
        • > I like the idea that combat is a matter of morale. (At least that’s how I understand the rules.)
          yeah, me too.

          Reply
        • > “Allocate attacks so as many units as possible test morale for being in melee.”
          Imagine two friendly units (A, B) in contact with and slightly overlapping two enemy units (X, Y). A is in contact with both X and Y. B only in contact with Y. This rule is a rather abbreviated attempt to ensure that A attacks X and B attacks Y, rather than both attack Y.

          Reply
        • > I’m also unclear as to the concept of “overlap.”
          > Way it reads, a group conducts combat as a sort of super-unit composed of multiple units. Is that correct?
          Kind of, with limits. Imagine a group of units in a line: A, B, C. A is in contact with enemy X. A is in melee with X because it is in contact. B is not in contact with X directly but is an overlap because it is extending the front of A and not itself in contact. C is not in contact with anything and is too far away to be an overlap.

          Reply
        • > Is “threatening” an action? Otherwise, it’s not clear why and when this morale test occurs.
          No, “threatening” is not an action. it is based on the context on the table. The most common threatening scenario is when both (1) friendly foot is in open and (2) enemy cavalry is within 2 BW and not in melee. In other words, cavalry do not have to charge foot (or take any other action) to make them take a morale test.

          Reply
        • “A unit must recoil once if it fails any morale tests in the player turn, regardless of hits taken.”
          Whether it takes 1 hit, 2 hits, 3 hits or more hits in the turn, it only recoils once.

          Reply
        • > I’m not sure if both the attacker and defender roll for morale or if only the defender.
          Only the active player’s units test morale, i.e. the defender.

          > What’s the difference between the two sets of factors in the chart, as there seems to be some overlap between them?
          In the “tactical factors” table? There shouldn’t be an overlap. Please highlight any you see.

          Reply
        • > When a unit begins in open terrain and encounters difficult terrain, what happens?
          > Is the distance shown the max for the whole turn or just for the portion of the move taking place in difficult terrain?
          Max for the whole turn because … “Movement is reduced if the unit moves in difficult terrain (woods, marsh, buildings, steep slopes and rivers) at any point during a move/action.”

          Reply
        • > I think it might make more sense to put the “Actions” section before the combat section and also to
          > make “Simple Move” and “Melee” and “Shoot” into actions

          Actions are complicated movements that require a dice roll to succeed.

          By that definition “Simple Move” and “Melee” and “Shoot” are not actions.

          “Simple Move” is movement but is not complicated so does not require a dice roll

          “Melee” and “Shoot” are not movement. They are assumed to be happening and causing morale loss.

          Reply
        • > Basically, what I read is that each unit may do one of three things: simple move, combat, or perform one of the special actions.
          I wouldn’t quite phrase it like that. A unit takes morale test (if in combat) and optionally moves (which can be simple or an action). Evade is the only action before the morale test; all other movement comes after the morale test. Some movement is mandatory and prevents optional movement, e.g. impetuous advance, recoil.

          Reply

Leave a Reply