Sunday, December 30, 2018

Raid on the Border Tower

I hope everyone had a good Christmas! My wife and I had a great time with friends, and I managed not to eat too much for a change. With the holiday season upon us, I also found time for a wargame. My gaming table is back in commission, so I played the next game in my Dux Britanniarum campaign - and what a game it was!

Ebba the Saxon gained a measure of wealth from the March cattle raid, his first foray onto Romano-British soil. It had cost him some men dead, but two months were enough to see his force replenished by new recruits. Ever ambitious, Ebba has cooked up a scheme to raid once more into enemy territory, this time in search of a high-value prisoner to ransom. He got lucky. In May, word reached him that the Romano-British were patrolling the area along the border, their force led by Lord Cynbel the Magnificent. Such a sobriquet deserved to be measured against reality, so Ebba gathered his men and marched against the enemy.

Signals from the border tower alerted Cynbel to the presence of the Saxons. He gathered his two groups of warriors and marched for the tower. On the other side of the wood, Saxons gathered with grim purpose.

Up on tower hill the Romano-British Tribune, Gaius Menusius, had gathered the remainder of his force. He watched developments unfolding on the plain below. His Companions stood by close to hand. To his left the local levy had deployed with archers out front. The folks of the nearby farmhouse also gathered to watch the mass of warriors gathered on their doorstep.

The Saxon's movements had Gaius concerned for Cynbel. As the Lord appeared in the distance Gaius sent his Companions forward to reinforce him, convinced that the combined groups of warriors and Companions would suffice to see off the Saxon dog. 

The levy he ordered forward under the command of Lord Barriventus. With the archers leading the way, Barriventus made to block the gap between the farmhouse and the fishpond.

Ebba's men weren't slacking. The second group of hearthguard under Oeric caught up with their comrades as they reached the northern edge of the wood. There they paused a few moments to take stock. Ebba rubbed his beard and eyed the Romano-British warriors, noting they'd formed shieldwall. The Saxons in turn watched their short and wiry leader, wondering what passed through his mind.

The sounds of movement behind him told Ebba the rest of his force had caught up. Their leader, Wigmund Wodenborn waved to show he was ready for whatever mischief Ebba would unleash. Ebba waved back, his mind made up.

Ebba tapped his helmet more securely on his head, hefted his shield and looked at his men, his familiar cracked grin crossing his face. "We came to snatch a plump Roman lordling for ransom, and by Thunir's beard, that's what we'll do. Forward!"

The Saxons surged forward, bearing down on the Romano-British shieldwall. Oeric's unnerving cackle split the air as he leaped along at the head of his group. The enemy braced themselves for impact and Ebba saw Cynbel to their right, directing his men. Ebba's grin grew fierce as he ran. You're ours for the taking! With a mighty shout the Saxon force hurled missiles and struck the shieldwall. The sound of impact came like the death knell of mountains. Savage combat broke out all along the line as Ebba and his champion Oglaf made for the enemy's leader.

In the midst of it all Ebba recalled his previous time encounter with the famous shieldwall. Then things hadn't gone his way. Some quality about the fighting now told him circumstances would be different this time. Sure enough the shieldwall began to buckle as Britons fell. Ebba roared encouragement as he hacked men down to get at Cynbel. Redoubling their efforts his men pressed the enemy hard until they suddenly gave way, running for their lives and taking their lord with them.

The Romano-British warriors never stood a chance. Ebba had sensed the moment and urged his men onward. They caught the enemy as they ran and slew them to a man-and that man was Cynbel. The enemy lord earned his name that day, for he fought hard before Ebba overcame him in single combat.

Ebba stood, catching his breath as Oglaf secured the prisoner. Not far away the enemy Companions had slowed their approach as if appalled by the sudden destruction of their comrades. Alert for a possible rush on them Wigmund pushed and shoved the hearthguard away from looting the enemy and back into formation. The two sides snapped and snarled at each other across the open ground.

Ebba glanced at the dejected and beaten Roman lord and nodded his satisfaction. "We've got what we came for. Let's head home." His men looked askance, every line in their bearing showing their reluctance to move away from glorious combat and all potential spoils that might ensue. Ebba glared around at them. "We move. Now."
The other side of the wood saw little activity on the Saxon's part. Wigmund watched the enemy's movements even as the sounds of combat beyond the wood filled the air. The Romano-British had sent their levy against him. Wigmund spat and grinned. Levy didn't frighten him. He watched one of the enemy fall to an arrow loosed by his archers. "That'll take some of the sting out of them."

The Saxon archers grew too bold, and got too near the enemy. The levy suddenly surged forward and the archers yelled and dispersed, but not before slaying another levy man. The sound of fighting beyond the wood died down and Wigmund grinned as he recognised Saxon yells of victory. His men faced off against the levy, daring them to come on. Each moment they wait will be another moment Ebba'll have to win clear, he thought.

And so it came to pass. The Romano-British Companions followed at a safe distance as Ebba and his men carried the wounded Cynbel away, Oglaf towering over the prisoner as if daring him to try to escape.

Within minutes the pursuit - such as it was - proved useless. Ebba made for the safety of the land beyond the Romano-British border and his horn blower sounded a jubilant note to summon the rest of his force to his side. Ebba eyed the crestfallen Roman and grinned. "We'll trade you for a pretty sum, old cock, see if we don't."
* * * *
Well, that unfolded in a way I didn't expect. Ebba seized his moment, grabbed a ripe hostage and made good his escape. When all was tallied up he'd scored a major victory over the Romano-British. Three Retreat cards to zero enemy Pursuit cards, plus his wiping out two groups of warriors saw Ebba with a handsome +4 on the campaign winner results table. It means he replaces all his slight losses within a month and gains two extra volunteer warriors for his force the next time he takes the field. Ebba ransomed the unfortunate Cynbel for a Theif's Hoard, and gained another matching hoard when he raided unopposed in the following month of June. Come July, the Romano-British recover enough to contest the Saxons - but what will Ebba do next?

Ebba began the campaign with a Tribune's Tribute of wealth, so he was already quite wealthy. After two opposed raids and a free month to pillage due to enemy weakness he has now amassed a King's Treasury. At the end of the year he'll owe his King back home a Beggar's Bowl in tribute, but Ebba can already disburse a shower of loot amongst his hearth guard who'll proclaim him a mighty warlord, and he'll still have enough left over for contingencies. In campaign terms when a Saxon leader is declared a warlord it gives him the power to contest with the Romano-British for ownership of a province.

On the other side of the hill poor old Gaius Menusius is proving to be more Gauis Uselessness. He possesses a Tribune's Tribute of wealth, but has been unable to win enough prestige to gain his King's favour and the wealth needed to expand the defences of the realm. It might prove the ideal time for a newly-minted Warlord Ebba to strike...

No comments:


home page uniques