Author: Daniel Mersey
Illustrator: José Daniel Cabrera Peña
Osprey Wargames Book 1
Dux Bellorum is a set of wargaming rules for Arthurian Wargaming during the period of 367 to 793 AD. This was a time when new kingdoms were forged on the British Isles and battles were commonplace. Warfare in Britain during this period stressed leadership and individual bravery over any technological advancements. These rules were designed as a straightforward game with rule emphasis being on a commander’s influence on his units. To this end, a commander that influences his units at the appropriate time can mean the difference between a victory and a defeat.
First of all, I want to quickly mention the movement and distance calculations used in Dux Bellorum. With this set of rules, you can use any set of miniatures you may have in your collection. Basing of these miniatures really doesn’t matter, what matters are that both players use the same basing system. Once that is resolved, all of your distances in the game are measured in “base widths”. So it doesn’t matter whether you are using 6mm or 54mm figures the distance is dependent on the base.
The Turn Sequence used in the game is fairly straightforward. It consists of 5 difference phases which are:
- Alternately assign LP’s (Leadership Points)
- Missile Fire with simultaneous results
- Close Combat with simultaneous results
- Check Morale and Victory Conditions
As you can see, the sequence is simple which makes the game easy to learn and puts the emphasis on the assignment and use of LP’s in the game and the strategy employed by the players.
Leadership Points are chosen when you are setting up the game. Each side is provided with a set number of points from which they can choose their army. These are known as Army Points. Each side also receives 6 LP’s at no additional cost when they are choosing their army. However, they can choose additional LP’s by paying additional army points up to a maximum of 10 LP’s per side.
The first important decision players must make is how to allocate their LP’s. First the defender will place some LP’s followed by the attacker and then each player will alternate placing LP’s until they are all exhausted. It is at this time that players assign the LP’s to the units but do not have to decide on how they will be used. A maximum of 3 LP’s can be assigned to a unit. When LP’s are assigned, they cannot be changed and no additional LP’s can be added to that unit.
After LP’s have been assigned, players can decide how to use them during the turn. This is where the real strategy of Dux Bellorum comes into play. Each player makes decisions and uses LP’s to affect play. It is the judicious use of the LP’s that decide the fate of a player’s army. During a turn, some of the decisions a player can make are:
- Interrupt an opponent’s movement and move one of your units
- Boost or reduce Bravery tests
- Boost Aggression for Close Combat
- Cancel a hit
- Modify a die roll
As you can imagine, with the judicious use of these LP’s that can easily upset an opponent’s plans.
The Dux Bellorum rules fill a void in an historical period in which not many rules sets are written. While many rules cross over into this period, few are devoted specifically to this era. These Arthurian Wargaming rules are a fun set and players are encouraged to enjoy the system.
My one negative comment about the rules has to do with the terminology used in the system. I understand that every designer wants to stamp his or her own moniker and style on their rules. However, changing standard, accepted terminology is something that while cute, I don’t necessarily agree with. In these rules the author uses the terms “aggressor” and “repeller” in place of the attacker and defender. While this is a minor annoyance, and I admit being a little picky on my part, I just wish the author would have stayed with the standard vocabulary.
Overall, Dux Bellorum, Arthurian Wargaming Rules for the Dark Ages is an excellent set of rules. As the author states in his introduction, Dux Bellorum has been designed as a game and not an in-depth simulation and to this end in my opinion, the author has exceeded his expectations. These rules are first and foremost fun and because a limited number of miniatures are used players can dig right in without breaking the bank on large purchases of miniatures. Armies consist of between 5 and 10 units and can be setup in a 2 x 2 foot area. The real strategy and fun in Dux Bellorum are how players use the Leadership Points. It is the strategy of employing these LP’s at just the right place and time that can upset an opponent’s best strategy and clutch victory out of defeat for your forces.