The Bear Exalted (518-537 AD) – DBA Arthurian Campaign

It is 518 AD. The Roman legions are long gone and the barbarians – Angles, Saxons, and Scots-Irish – are established on the soil of Britannia. The Picts remain troublesome neighbours, and the Gewissei are the enemy within. But the Celtic people (Kymry) of the Romano-British kingdoms continue to fight back.

I have written two DBA Arthurian Campaigns based on Martin Smith’s “Arthurian campaign” article in Slingshot (Smith, 2021), itself based on Kaptain Kobold’s solo HoTT campaign (Dux Bellorum). The first was The Legions Have Gone (420-439). This is the second campaign. It is called “The Bear Exalted” and is set in 518-537 AD, the most likely time period for a historical Arthur. The campaign name, “The Bear Exalted”, is based on the title Arthwyr, a possible, if dubious, old Welsh origin of the name Arthur.


The Protagonists

There are four Romano-British kingdoms and five barbarian nations. In fact these all represent conglomerations of kingdoms/tribes under a overall battle commander (Pendragon) or high king. But for simplicity lets call them kingdoms and nations.

Each of the four players is randomly assigned to one of the Romano-British kingdoms, populated by more or less Romanised Celtic people (Kymry). The kingdoms strive for glory by fighting battles against each other and against the barbarians. A kingdom cannot be knocked out of the campaign. The Romano-British kingdoms are:

  • Dumnonia (Southeast)
  • Ebrauc (Northeast)
  • Powys (West Centre)
  • Rheged (Northwest)

The five barbarian nations are controlled randomly by via dice rolls. This can be done by an umpire, if you have one, or shared amongst the players. The barbarians need a helpful player to fight their table top battles, unless you are using the solo battles option (which I’ll post about separately). The barbarian nations are:

  • Angles (Ængle)
  • Picts (Cruthni)
  • Gewissei
  • Saxons (Sahson)
  • Scots-Irish (Scoti)

Map

The campaign doesn’t need a map because there is no movement and no conquest. However, I like maps so I drew one anyway.

The Bear Exalted (518-537 AD) - DBA Arthurian Campaign
The Bear Exalted (518-537 AD) – DBA Arthurian Campaign

The map shows the Romano-British kingdoms (red dots) and and five barbarian nations (various coloured dots) as nodes on a travel network. The nodes are connected by travel routes. These represent the major roads or sea routes. All Romano-British kingdoms are connected to each other, but each Romano-British kingdom is only connected to three barbarian nations. Invasions and raids must be along a travel route. Barbarian allies are also limited by travel routes.

The Romano-British kingdoms have travel routes to/from these barbarian nations:

  • Dumnonia: Gewissei; Saxons; Scots-Irish
  • Ebrauc: Angles; Picts; Saxons
  • Powys: Gewissei; Saxons; Scots-Irish
  • Rheged: Angles; Picts; Scots-Irish

Romano-British forces

Each Romano-British kingdom has a great army, field army and a reserve. The great armies are the total pool of manpower and start at 18 elements. Field armies comprise up to 12 elements drawn from the great army and are used to fight battles. The reserve contains those native battle losses that can be returned to the great army through recruitment. Other battle losses are discarded and removed from the game.

Romano-British great army

All of the Romano-British kingdoms start with the same great army based on army list DBA II/81. The great army initially has 18 elements. Campaign events will change the composition of the great army. Losses due to plague, battle and raids will deplete the great army and recruitment will replenish it.

The starting great army is composed of:

Romano-British (Terrain Type: Arable)

  • 1 x Knight [General and Commitatus]
  • 3 x Cavalry
  • 1 x Light Horse
  • 1 x Warband [Champions]
  • 9 x Spear [Pedyt]
  • 1 x Psiloi [Archers, Slingers or Javelinmen]
  • 2 x Hordes [Levy]

Romano-British field army

Field armies, used for a battle, are selected from the great army. A field army can have at most 12 elements. The composition of the field army can, and is likely to, change from battle to battle. Also the same elements can be selected again and again, so can appear in consecutive battles, even within the same campaign year.

Romano-British reserve

Native Romano-British elements make their way to the reserve when lost from plague, in battle or as a result of a raid. Players use recruitment to return elements from the reserve to the great army. Barbarian mercenaries never go to the reserve and are discarded instead.


Sequence of play

The “The Bear Exalted” starts in 518 AD and lasts for 20 campaign years.

Each campaign year has a number of phases comprising a sequence of play:

  1. Romano-British plans
  2. Romano-British recruitment
  3. Plague
  4. Barbarian raids
  5. Barbarian invasions
  6. Schedule the battles
  7. Fight battles
  8. Tally glory points
  9. Write the chronicle

Phase 1. Romano-British plans

At the start of the year, each Romano-British player secretly choses a stance from one of:

  1. Invade Barbarian Nation e.g. “Invade Saxons”
  2. Invade Romano-British Kingdom e.g. “Invade Rheged”
  3. Recruit forces to bolster their army
  4. Peace i.e. to strive for peace

Immediately after all players have secretly chosen their stance, they all simultaneously reveal their choice.

Phase 2. Romano-British recruitment

A Romano-British player that choses the recruit stance is trying to increase the size of their great army. It is possible for the great army to exceed the original 18 elements via recruitment. There are two ways to increase the size of the great army: native recruitment and mercenary recruitment. The player must choose one of these in a recruiting year.

Native Recruitment

Move one element from the kingdom’s reserve to the kingdom’s great army. If there are no elements in the kingdom’s reserve then this option is not allowed.

Mercenary Recruitment

Only three barbarian nations can provide mercenaries: Angles, Saxon, and Scots-Irish. The player chooses one of these nationality of mercenaries, but it has to be one of those that has a travel route to the Roman-British kingdom.

Roll 1d6. On a 2+ add two elements of mercenaries of that nationality to the kingdom’s great army. On a 1 all mercenaries desert, of any nationality. Deserters are removed from the great army and are discarded. Deserting mercenaries do not go to the reserve; in fact mercenaries never go to the reserve.

The Romano-British kingdoms can recruit these mercenaries:

  • Dumnonia: Saxon Warriors[Sp]; Scots-Irish Warriors[Wb]
  • Ebrauc: Angle Warriors[Sp]; Saxon Warriors[Sp]
  • Powys: Saxon Warriors[Sp]; Scots-Irish Warriors[Wb];
  • Rheged: Angle Warriors[Sp]; Scots-Irish Warriors[Wb];

Note: Have a look at the army lists for options including replacing all Saxon Sp with all Wb and all Scots-Irish Wb with all Ax or All Sp.

Phase 3. Plague

One player rolls 1d6 to see if it is a plague year for Britannia. On a 1 it is a plague year and on a 2+ it is a bountiful year. Plague might be actual plague, pestilence, famine, drought, severe storms or a combination.

In a plague year each Romano-British kingdom immediately loses one element from their great army. Mercenaries are discarded (they do not go to the reserve) and native elements go to the reserve.

Phase 4. Barbarian raids

Each Romano-British kingdom can be raided by barbarians. Raid are resolved by up to three separate die rolls.

Roll 1d6 to see if a barbarian raid occurs. In the first decade of the campaign there is a raid on a 1 and no raid on 2+. In the second decade there is a raid on a 1-2 and no raid on a 3+.

If there is a barbarian raid, roll 1d6 for the nation raiding. This roll depends on the target kingdom:

  • Dumnonia: 1-2 Gewissei; 3-4 Saxons; 5-6 Scots-Irish
  • Powys: 1-2 Angles; 3-4 Gewissei; 5-6 Saxons
  • Ebrauc: 1-2 Angles; 3-4 Picts; 5-6 Saxons
  • Rheged: 1-2 Angles; 3-4 Picts; 5-6 Scots-Irish

If there is a barbarian raid, roll 1d6 for the result of the raid:

  • 1-2 Raiders win: Romano-British kingdom loses an element from their great army; mercenaries are discarded (they do not go to the reserve) and native elements go to the reserve. Romano-British player loses -1 Glory point.
  • 3 Stalemate.
  • 4-6 Raiders repelled: Romano-British player wins and gains +1 Glory point.

Phase 5. Barbarian invasions

Each year, each of the Romano-British kingdoms roll to see if they have been invaded by one of the Barbarian Nations.

Roll 1d6 to see if an invasion occurs. On a 1 there is a Barbarian Invasion and on 2+ there is no invasion.

If there is a barbarian invasion. roll 1d6 for the nation invading. This roll depends on the target kingdom:

  • Dumnonia: 1-2 Gewissei; 3-4 Saxons; 5-6 Scots-Irish
  • Powys: 1-2 Angles; 3-4 Gewissei; 5-6 Saxons
  • Ebrauc: 1-2 Angles; 3-4 Picts; 5-6 Saxons
  • Rheged: 1-2 Angles; 3-4 Picts; 5-6 Scots-Irish

Phase 6. Schedule the battles

By this point the players know the battles that must be fought because of:

  • Phase 1. Romano-British Plans including any “Invade” stances.
  • Phase 5. Barbarian Invasions

From that the players need to decide in which order to fight the battles, and which player is involved in which battle.

A player should fight their own Romano-British army. Players should divide up the duties to fight as the barbarian nations. Players that chose “Peace” or “Recruit” are obvious candidates to play the barbarian nations.

If a single Romano-British kingdom will be involved in more than one battle, use dice rolls to determine the sequence of battles.

Phase 7. Fight the Battles

Fight the battles using DBA.

The invader in DBA terms is the Romano-British kingdom or barbarian nation conducting an invasion in the campaign. The army’s aggression factor is not used for this.

For a battle the Romano-British player chooses up to 12 elements form their great army. Barbarian armies are always 12 elements, and are chosen at random from a small selection of orders of battle – see Barbarian Forces.

After each battle decide what happens to elements destroyed in the battle. Roll 1d6 for each element destroyed. The roll to succeed is 5-6 if a Romano-British kingdom loses a battle and 3-6 when a Romano-British kingdom wins a battle. A success on this roll means the element in question returns to your great army. A failure means mercenaries are discarded (they do not go to the reserve) and native elements go to the reserve.

Barbarian losses are ignored and the barbarian forces always return to the normal 12 elements.

Phase 8. Tally glory points

Before the campaign starts each Romano-British kingdom gets 10 glory points. A kingdom gains or loses glory points depending on campaign events.

  • In Phase 4. Barbarian Raids
    • +1 for repelling barbarian raiders
    • -1 if barbarian raiders win
  • In Phase 7. Fight the Battles
    • Winning / losing battles
      • +3 for winning a battle against a Romano-British kingdom
      • +2 for winning a battle against a barbarian nation
      • +1 for winning two consecutive victories against the same opponent, without losing a battle against them in between (although you can fight and lose to other people)
      • -2 for losing a battle, whether against a Romano-British kingdom or barbarian nation
    • If a Romano-British general is lost in battle
      • Reset the kingdom’s glory points to 10
  • In Phase 8. Tally glory points
    • +2 if kingdom’s stance was ‘Peace’ and either there was no battles/raid or the kingdom won all battles/raids

Phase 9. Write the chronicle

Write up the results of the campaign year and share with the players. It will probably read better if the kings, leaders and general have period appropriate names.

At the end of the campaign, the Romano-British player with the highest Glory is declared “King of the Britons” (Latin: Rex Britannorum, Welsh: Brenin y Brythoniaid).


Barbarian Forces

The barbarian nations each have a set of fixed army lists based on the relevant DBA list. All barbarian army lists have 12 elements, regardless of campaign events, but there are variations in each battle. Roll randomly (1d6) for which variant to use. Some variants will be entirely of national troops.

Some army list variants include 4 elements of allies from another barbarian nation. Which barbarian nation sends allies depends on which Romano-British kingdom is the target of the invasion. The army list will say “Allies (first on list)” or “Allies (second on list)” so just look at the list that follows and pick the appropriate nation. A nation cannot ally with itself.

  • Dumnonia: Gewissei; Saxons; Scots-Irish
  • Powys: Gewissei; Saxons; Scots-Irish
  • Ebrauc: Angles; Picts; Saxons
  • Rheged: Angles; Picts; Scots-Irish

Angle (Ængle) and Saxon (Sahson) Armies

Saxon was the all embracing term used within Britain for the Germanic new comers (Heath, 1980). These Germans included Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Frisians, Franks, Danes, and others. Although all of these might have appeared as mercenaries, only the first three settled in significant numbers and fielded armies of their own. The Saxons and Angles were the majority.

In our period the Angles and Saxons are all pagan.

The official DBA list is II/73 Early Anglo-Saxon 428-617AD: 1xWb(Gen); 10xWb[Warriors]; 1xPs[Archers]

The Angles and the Saxons share the same list. As I discussed in HOTT and DBA Army Lists for Britannia 600 AD, I think shield walls are more like Sp than Wb.

I like the idea of fanatics in this period; I have no evidence for them but they seem consistent with a warrior ethos. Fanatics are warband [Wb] representing a wild charge and disregard for personal safety.

  • Terrain Type: Arable for Saxons; Littoral for Angles
  • Invasion Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1-2: 1xSp(Gen); 10xSp; 1xPs
    • 3-4: 1xSp(Gen); 10xSp; 1xPs; 1xWb
    • 5: 1xSp(Gen); 6xSp; 1xPs; 4 x Allies (first on list)
    • 6: 1xSp(Gen); 6xSp; 1xPs; 4 x Allies (second on list)
  • Defending Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1-4: 1xSp(Gen); 10xSp; 1xPs
    • 5-6: 1xSp(Gen); 8xSp, 1xPs; 2xHd
  • Allied contingent: 1xSp(Gen); 3xSp

Note: All Sp must be replaced by all Wb if you believe early Anglo-Saxons charged wildly rather than used shield walls.

Pictish Army

The inhabitants of Northern Scotland called themselves Cruthni (Nicolle, 1984). Pict means “painted”, reflecting the Roman observation that the early Picts tattooed themselves using woad (Barker, 1981; Barker & Scott, 1998). Later Welsh also called this area Prydein (“Land of the Painted Men”) although the use of woad had largely died out by 600 AD. Nicolle postulates that the painted effect may have been the natural dyes of their cloths running and colouring their skin, as it did more recently for tartan clad Highlanders.

In this period the Picts were pagans. St. Columba brought began missionary work in the pagan court of the Northern Picts in 564 AD, although there was Christian activity at least 100 years before and pagan influences were felt long after (The Kingdom of the Picts: Christianity, Paganism and the Making of Gaelic Scotland).

Personally I don’t accept the “Pike” attribution for hill tribesmen. Admittedly the Picts used a long spear but I think categorisation as Spearman works.

The official DBA 2.2 list is II/68b Pictish 500-846AD: 1xCv or Sp(Gen); 2xLH[Horsemen]; 6xSp[Spearmen]; 3xPs[Archers and crossbowmen]
In DBA 3.0 the list is II/68b Pictish 500-846AD: 1xCv or Pk(Gen); 2xLH[Horsemen]; 6xPk[Spearmen]; 3xPs[Archers and crossbowmen]

I’m using the DBA 3.0 list but making the spearmen Sp not Pk.

  • Terrain Type: Littoral
  • Invasion Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1-2: 1xCv(Gen); 2xLH; 6xSp; 3xPs
    • 3-4: 1xSp(Gen); 2xLH; 6xSp; 3xPs
    • 5: 1xCv(Gen); 1xLH; 4xSp; 2xPs; 4 x Allies (first on list)
    • 6: 1xCv(Gen); 1xLH; 4xSp; 2xPs; 4 x Allies (second on list)
  • Defending Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1-2: 1xCv(Gen); 2xLH; 6xSp; 3xPs
    • 3-4: 1xSp(Gen); 2xLH; 6xSp; 3xPs
    • 5: 1xCv(Gen); 1xLH; 5xSp; 3xPs; 2xHd
    • 6: 1xCv(Gen); 1xLH; 5xSp; 3xPs; 2xHd
  • Allied contingent: 1xCv(Gen); 2xSp; 1xPs

Note: All Sp must be replaced by all Pk if you believe hill tribesmen formed into a Phalanx. All Sp must be replaced by all Wb if you believe the Picts favoured wild charges like their Celtic ancestors and Celtic near neighbours.

Scots-Irish (Scoti) Army

The official DBA list is II/54b Scots-Irish 433-846AD: 1xLCh or Ax or Wb(Gen); 9xAx[Warriors]; 2xPs[Skirmishing Javelinmen]. In DBA 3.0 this becomes: 1xLCh or Ax or Wb(Gen); 9xAx[Warriors]; 1xPs[Skirmishing Javelinmen]; 1xPs[Skirmishing Javelinmen] or Hd[Saint and praying monks]

By this time there are Scots-Irish kingdoms on the coast of Britannia so the full list is available, including chariots. Personally I am not a fan of the auxilia [Ax] troop type in DBA. For dark age Scots-Irish I favour spear [Sp], assuming they fought in a shield wall like all their neighbours, or warband assuming they retained a fierce Celtic charge longer than their Briton relatives. For this list I’ve gone for warband [Wb].

  • Terrain Type: Littoral
  • Invasion Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1-4: 1xWb(Gen); 9xWb; 2xPs
    • 5: 1xWb(Gen); 5xWb; 2xPs; 4 x Allies (first on list)
    • 6: 1xWb(Gen); 5xWb; 2xPs; ; 4 x Allies (second on list)
  • Defending Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1-2: 1xLCh(Gen); 3xLch; 6xWb; 2xPs
    • 3: 1xLCh(Gen); 2xLch; 6xWb; 2xPs; 1xWb
    • 4: 1xLCh(Gen); 2xLch; 7xWb; 2xPs
    • 5-6: 1xLCh(Gen); 2xLch; 5xWb; 2xPs; 2xHd
  • Allied contingent: 1xWb(Gen); 2xWb; 1xPs

Note: All Wb must be replaced by all Ax if you agree with the DBA list. All Wb must be replaced by Sp if you think the Scots-Irish fought in a shield wall like all their neighbours. Okay, I like the idea of fanatics in this period; I have no evidence for them but they seem consistent with a warrior ethos. so you could keep one stand of fanatics (warband [Wb]) who like a wild charge and disregard for personal safety.

Gewissei Army

Cerdic is recognised the traditional founder of the English Kingdom of Wessex. The name Cerdic has a Celtic origin. Hunt (2017) argues Cerdic is Ceredig, son of Cunneda of Gwynedd in Wales, so is either Irish or Hiberno-British! The Gewissei then become a federate or mercenary army initially serving the high-king of Britannia. By our period, the Gewissei have formed an alliance with the invading Anglo-Saxons and are fighting against their Celtic relatives.

Gewissei was probably a Saxon term to distinguish “good” Britons from “bad”, the bad ones being, of course, the wealas (foreigners) or Welsh (The Origin of the Tribal Designation Gewissei). Your enemy is a foreigner and strange to you but your friend or ally is known and you can be sure and certain of him. This reflects the turncoat nature of the Gewissei.

There is an argument that Cerdic’s followers were Jutes from Kent (Johnstone, 1946) but there is also a case for Scots-Irish (Cerdic’s origin) or Romano-British (the bulk of the people). When invading Dumnonia or Powys in the campaign, the Gewissei can have Saxon (in this case Jutish) and Scots-Irish allies. So I’m making the core army Romano-British. I have retained the chariot option for the general, from the Scots-Irish list.

I’m going with: 1xKn or Cv or LCh(Gen); 1xCv[Horsemen]; 1xCv or LH[Horsemen]; 3xSp[Pedyt]; 3xSp[Pedyt] or Sp[Jute Warriors] or Wb[Scots-Irish Warriors]; 2xSp[Pedyt] or Hd[Militia]; 1xPs[Archers, Slingers or Javelinmen].

div class=”orbat”>

  • Terrain Type: Arable
  • Invasion Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1: 1xKn(Gen); 2xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs
    • 2: 1xLCh(Gen); 2xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs
    • 3: 1xCv(Gen); 1xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs; 1xLH
    • 4: 1xLCh(Gen); 1xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs; 1xLH
    • 5: 1xKn(Gen); 1xCv; 5xSp; 1xPs; 4 x Saxon Allies
    • 6: 1xLCh(Gen); 1xCv; 5xSp; 1xPs; 4 x Scots-Irish Allies
  • Defending Army (Roll 1d6):
    • 1: 1xKn(Gen); 2xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs
    • 2: 1xLCh(Gen); 2xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs
    • 3: 1xCv(Gen); 1xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs; 1xLH
    • 4: 1xLCh(Gen); 1xCv; 8xSp; 1xPs; 1xLH
    • 5: 1xKn(Gen); 1xCv; 6xSp; 1xPs; 2xHd
    • 6: 1xLCh(Gen); 1xCv; 6xSp; 1xPs; 2xHd
  • Allied contingent: 1xKn or Cv(Gen); 3xSp

HoTT Campaign

This campaign is pretty easy to switch to a HoTT campaign.

In terms of troop types:

  • Knights, Warband, and Spears are the same in DBA and HoTT
  • Light Chariots, Cavalry and Light Horse become Riders
  • Auxilia become Blade (Ex-Roman) or Warband (Scots-Irish)
  • Generals can be upgrade to Hero General at additional cost
  • Psiloi become Shooters or Lurkers
  • Hordes representing praying monks become Clerics at additional cost
  • Other fantastical elements can be added at additional cost

“At additional cost” reflects the fact that a DBA army of 12 elements is 24 AP in HoTT so 2 per element. Many fantastical elements cost more than 2 AP. Higher cost troops means less troops.


References

Barker, P., Bodley Scott, R., and Laflin-Barker, S. (2014). De Bellis Antiquitatis: Simple fast play ancient wargame and campaign rules with army lists [Version 2.2]. Wargames Research Group.

Barker, P., and Laflin-Barker, S. (2014). De Bellis Antiquitatis: Quick play wargame rules with army lists for ancient and medieval battles [Version 3.0]. Wargames Research Group.

Hunt, A. (2017). Ceredig son of Cunedda and the Founding of Wessex. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Johnstone, P. (1946). Cerdic and his Ancestors. Antiquity, 20(77), 31-37. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00019244

Saunders, A. (Kaptain Kobold) (2012). Dux Bellorum: A Solo HOTT Campaign. Stronghold Rebuilt: Hordes of the Things.

Arthur defends Britain from raiders and invaders. A simple solitaire campaign set-up suitable for DBA or HOTT.

Smith, M. (2021, January/February). Arthurian Campaign. Slingshot: Journal of the Society Ancients, 334, 12-17. Society of Ancients.

Thomas, S. (2007). Britannia 600 AD Campaign. Balagan.

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