Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Dux Britanniarum!

Tenebris Aetas Brexitus
After spending the whole of last Autumn and Winter solely focussed on painting up Soviets to use with Bolt Action, I felt that I needed a change of scene. I was definitely intrigued by the arrival of  'Cruel Seas' from Warlord and that will certainly have a slot on the painting bench over the coming months, but what has really caught my imagination was stumbling across 'Dux Britanniarum' by those Two Fat Lardies!
The splendidly Romanesque cover... how could one resist?
Dux Britanniarum is a guide to running a campaign set in the British Isles in the chaotic and often very violent years known to history as the 'Dark Ages', or 'Post Roman Britain', or, as it says on the cover, 'The Age of Arthur'!

To help you organise your campaign, you get a wonderful map, depicting Britain in the years following the withdrawal of the last of the regular Roman Army and that epoch making event, known as 'The groans of the Britons' or 'gemitus Britannorum', where our ancestors desperately tried to remain part of Europe, by appealing to the Roman General, Flavius Aetius, for assistance against the ghastly, and not very civilised, Picts and Scots. 

In an age where battles could be won and kingdoms forged by the prowess and personality of individual warriors, the book also contains all you need to create the characters who will bravely, or otherwise, lead your forces into the fray. A series of die rolls generates everything you need to know about the commander and his subordinates, including age, name, origins and those all important personality traits that define the nature and disposition of the man who may one day become dux britanniarum

The main rule book centres around a campaign, featuring a Late Roman or Post Roman warlord valiantly defending our islands from the villainous and downright barbarian Saxons, over here to steal our jobs, girlfriends and housing benefits. If the grubby Saxons aren't your thing, then you can purchase an additional booklet giving you all you need to know to build an army of those other raiders of the age, the Picts, the Scots and the Irish. 

The campaign system is absolutely wonderful, and I could spend all day just rolling dice and creating characters, but what attracted me when I first encountered Dux Britanniarum was the table top battle rules. It is, when all said and done, the outcomes of the battles that are the events which drive the campaign forward and determine the fate of the characters that your dice rolling has created. 

Armies in the game are relatively small and ideal for 28mm figures. As a British warlord, you will only need 44 figures to get you started and that drops to 38 if you want to be a nasty Saxon. Most infantry figures are grouped into multiples of six and are either elite, warriors or levies. Missile troops are fielded as individuals, as are your commanders. Each army also has a 'champion' who performs acts of great valour and daring do and, more importantly, adds bonuses to dice scores during the heat of the battle. 

Six Elite Late Romans... armoured, wearing helmets and carrying those large shields.

Having got completely hooked on the random activation system used in Bolt Action, I'm glad to say that the Lardies have adopted the same principle in Dux Britanniarum. Activation is triggered by the draw of a card, so you never, well hardly ever, know which noble is going to be next to come under the spotlight. Each of your nobles has a certain number of Initiative Points, which he can use to do things like move, activate some of his troops or buy a card from the Fate Deck, which can be used to influence events during the battle. If you have ever used a randomised activation system, you will know just how much this adds to the tension and, sometimes, immense frustration when trying to execute your meticulously thought out battle plan. 

Combat involves loads of dice and the noble can play cards to influence the outcome, usually by adding even more dice. Players role to hit the opposition and then again for the effect of those hits. If the Gods of the Dice are with you, your enemy can have troops killed or their unit can accumulate points of Shock, which will impact upon their performance in subsequent actions.

At the time of writing, the basic rule set costs about £20 for a nice glossy, 90 odd page hard copy, including the map, but is available for less in PDF format. Bundles, including the card deck can be purchased for a discounted rate and all of this is available to buy direct from the Two Fat Lardies web site. As mentioned earlier, lists and card decks are also available for other raiding armies, so you can pit your wits against slightly less gruesome foes than the Saxons. In terms of figures, there are loads available for this fabulous period of history. The arrow fodder for my army are exclusively and pretty cheaply made up from the Gripping Beast Late Roman Infantry and Dark Age Infantry plastic boxed sets. The more heroic elements are from the magnificent Footsore Miniatures, which are metal and therefore somewhat more expensive, but definitely worth the expense. A feature of this period is the brightly coloured shield designs and loads of these are available from Stephen Hales at LBMS.
The next unit is underway... 12 warriors with helmet, shield and long spear.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Putting the Finishing Touches to my Bolt Action Soviet Reinforced Infantry Platoon.

After completing my three squads of infantry and the two armoured vehicles, it was time to turn my attention to the support troops who, hopefully, would give my Soviets the edge over the hordes of Germanic invaders.

The first of these support troops was a sniper. My sniper is well covered by a stone wall and is based on one of the long bases which come with the Soviet Infantry boxed set for basing prone figures. There were many famous snipers at work in the Soviet army; the most famous of them probably being Vasily Grigoryevich Zaytsev, sometimes known as Jude Law, who reputedly bagged 225 German soldiers, mostly during the Battle of Stalingrad. 

My son Tom bought me this lovely piece of kit for Christmas. It is a 45mm Anti-Tank Gun and comes with a crew of three figures. I really like this gun because it fits in perfectly with what I was trying to achieve with my Soviet platoon. There were more powerful anti-tank guns, like the Zis-2 57mm for example, but this one makes commanding the Soviets just a little bit more of a challenge.

With a penetration value of +4, the 45mm gun is a lot more potent than my anti-tank rifle team, but you need to be prepared to see its shells harmlessly ricocheting into the undergrowth when firing at some of the better armoured German tanks. I'm not quite sure what's going on with the gun commander, who appears to be blowing a kiss at some random passer-by or maybe whistling 'The Red Flag' to inspire the rightly nervous gunners. 

All of these Warlord kits that back up your basic infantry units are metal castings and I find painting them a bit of a chore, compared to the plastics. Personally, I find that my acrylic black undercoat tends to rub off when you start to put the colours on, which is a tad frustrating, but they look good once the paint and varnish are put on.

My absolute favourite Soviet weapon is this Maxim medium machine gun. Again, it comes with a crew of three and a gun shield which gives you a bit of extra cover when being fired at. Like the anti-tank gun, it is an all metal kit, so you can't do much in the way of personalising and your Maxim will look pretty much the same as anybody elses! There is something nice and antiquated about the Maxim, compared to the deadly MG42 for example, but it is a pretty effective weapon on the Bolt Action battlefield.

The final battlefield toy I added to my reinforced platoon was this 82mm Medium Mortar Team. The mortar is a fabulous bit of kit to have, particularly if you are good at rolling 6s, as it gradually zeroes in on opposition forces who insist on staying in same place. You can quickly build up a lot of pin markers on an enemy unit with a mortar, but the one thing I wish had done before my first engagement, was to paint up an observer. The observer makes a massive difference to your ability to hit the enemy while keeping your precious bit of hardware out of sight and free from retaliatory fire.

I've about done for now painting for Bolt Action, but I do need to come back to it pretty soon with some important additions still requiring to be added. One of my squads has been converted to a Rifle Squad, which I now field as the free 'green' squad which Soviet armies are allowed to have, so I need to paint up another LMG Squad and, as mentioned above, an essential job for the near future is to paint up an observer for my medium mortar team.