Over the weekends of 2/3 and 9/10 July 2016 we once again hosted Rupert Katrinsky and his children Eric and Sissy. They were over in the UK for a couple of weeks visiting sites in England and Wales that were associated with King Arthur and the period just after the Romans left Britain. To tie in with this, we hosted them on both weekends for a weekend of young Arthur trying to bring the kingdom together under the assistance of Bishop Germanus, and then secondly around 10 years later during a revolt engineered by Mordred and Morgana. Eric took the role of Arthur in both weekends, with dad Rupert playing Germanus and then assisting during the revolt on the second weekend. Meanwhile, Sissy’s task as Merlina (surely Merlin was actually a woman) on the first weekend was to find Excalibur, and on the second weekend to find and retrieve stolen horses, seek out a poison that had been used on Guinevere, and to get the holy grail to administer a cure to save Guinevere’s life.
We used a campaign map for both weekends to plot movements of raiding Saxons, Picts and the rebellious forces, and for Arthur and his allies. Puzzles, riddles, games and dungeons were used to run Sissy’s adventures.
We would like to say thank you to Chris Charlton and Chris Flowers for the lend of some troops and terrain, and in particular to Roger Castle for both lending us some troops and turning up for a day each weekend to help fight the battles by providing our guests with opposition.
We used the Hail Ceaser rules with the forces tailored to represent the makeup and qualities of troops at the time. For instance, many of Arthur’s forces were still well drilled and therefore took the “Drilled” skill. The Picts were always open order while they were moving but formed up for combat. The overall forces were in “warbands”, generally 3 or 4 infantry and anywhere between 1 and 4 cavalry units. We think this scale works really well for the campaign and with the ruleset.
Battle one near Danum, south of Eburacum. One heavy and four medium Saxon war bands plus two small archer units versus two each of Romano British heavy and medium units plus one medium archers unit. The Romano Brits had better skills as they were drilled and steady, and were led by a better commander, Garmonion Hen of Eburacum. Both sides were split into two divisions. The game centred around a roman villa on the Saxon left flank and the exit down the road towards Viroconium. The smaller of the Saxons tried to move towards the villa and the road but constantly failed their command role and made little progress. The larger division slowly crept towards the Romano Brits. Meanwhile, the Roman Brits decided to head for the villa and defend that and the gap between the hills where the road left towards Lincoln. The game really started after the Romans took up their positions whose command roles enabled them to move faster. The larger Saxon division threw itself against the villa four times before they were finally repulsed. The break test results were amazing for the Saxons, and while they were doing little damage to the defenders, they were very resilient. At that point as the smaller Saxon division had not managed to get to contact, and seeing its friends running away, they decided to beat a hasty retreat also as they were now outnumbered.
Battle two was at Stonehenge where Arthur and Bedevere met a smallish Pictish force who had landed in the Bristol channel and had raided Ynys Witrin and Durnovaria before heading up towards Aquae Sulis via Stonehenge. The Picts had four units of medium Pictish infantry (feigned flight and wild fighters) and a heavy unit plus two small units of archers. Arthur’s force was one large heavy infantry unit, one medium infantry plus a small archer unit, and two units of heavy cavalry and a medium. Bedevere’s force was 2 heavy and one medium infantry, a small archer unit, one heavy cavalry and one horse archer. The game started with Arthur’s cavalry streaking past Stonehenge itself towards the Pictish right. Bedevere and Arthur’s infantry steadily advanced up the middle whilst Bedevere’s cavalry swung round the Pictish left flank. The Picts realised that the game was up as they had no cavalry and were effectively pinned in position. It did not take long before they were cut down or broken leaving Arthur with another victory to his name.
Battle three, the last of day 1 took place against more Saxon raiders at Corinium. The Romano forces here were Bishop Germanus’ four cavalry units, two heavy and two medium., and Bedevere’s infantry of two heavy, one medium and a small archers force. The Saxons had two heavy, two medium and a small archer to oppose this and took up a defensive line to oppose them, just to the right of the outskirts of Corinium. The Romano forces lined up with their cavalry facing the Saxon left and the Infantry facing the Saxon right. The Romano plan immediately put into effect was for the cavalry to swing round the Saxon left to pin them and stop them advancing whilst the infantry swung towards the Saxon right flank. The Saxon force (one division only in this game) failed 9 out of 10 command roles and just watched the Romano forces advancing and succeeding in their plan. It was only at the last moment that the Saxons managed to move to secure their left flank against Corinium to stop the Romano cavalry sweeping into them. But by that time, the Saxons had been split into an inverted V formation bulging out and trying to defend against both flanks. The Romano infantry charged and broke a medium Saxon unit and then a heavy one. The other half of the Saxons facing the cavalry took some fire from archers and unluckily one had to take a break test and retreated. By this time, the Saxon commander decided enough was enough and retreated into Corinium to escape under cover of darkness.
Meanwhile, Merlina (played by Sissy) had been seeking amulets containing riddles to the location of Excalibur. Having been to the Lords who held them and having persuaded them to part with them, she solved the riddles and headed to Stonehenge where she became involved in a mission to find a village lost in time.
Day 2 battle one near Ratae. Saxons 7 infantry, two archers and two medium cavalry. Arthurs’s contingent and Bedevere’s infantry and Galahad. The Saxon cavalry was beaten and their commander, Octa was captured. Infantry clashed in the centre and one Romano unit charged Saxons and won first round causing them to retreat. On the other one the Saxons stood.
The final battle of the first weekend was the largest fought yet and involved 8 saxon warbands and four units of cavalry. Arthur’s forces were slightly smaller in infantry but more in cavalry with some later reinforcements of mainly infantry. This was the nearest game of the weekend. After having initially seen off the Romano cavalry on the Saxon left, the Saxons were unable to turn the flank of the existing army due to the lucky arrival of the Romano reinforcements. In the centre the Saxons faced off against the Romano cavalry whilst clashes of infantry to the right were a near run thing. In the end, the Saxon’s wavered and the return of Arthur with Excalibur lifted the morale of Arthur’s forces and the battle was won.
Merlina finished her quest to find the lost village and was given some knowledge that if she placed the amulets together at Stonehenge, she would be transported to the next location. She did this and arrived at a stone circle near Tintagel. Here she located the dungeon and quickly (and very impressively for someone so young) navigated her way through after battling an ogre, skeletons and a lich. She came out at the sword in the stone, teleported to fetch Arthur off the battlefield and he pulled Excalibur free. She then returned him to the battle.
Finding the Sword in the Stone
During the second weekend we only had three battles, two on the Saturday and one final game on the Sunday. After some initial map movements, the first battle took place between Lincoln and Leicester. Arthur, Galahad and Gawain faced off against Saxon war bands. During the engagement, Arthur sent a request to Mordred for help to be sent as at this point he did not know he was a traitor. The game was fairly well fought by the Saxons but Arthur’s superior quality and numbers told and the Saxon’s eventually fled.
The second battle of the day happened at Eburacum where King Lot (Morgana’s husband and Mordred’s father) met up with an invading Pictish army to battle Bedevere and his allies. The Picts were pretty keen but Lot’s heart was not in it as he failed to move several times and could not get across a ford to attack Bedevere’s flank. Due to Lot’s hesitancy the Picts were soon in trouble and after the arrival of Arthur and his cavalry, eventually their divisions broke, at which time Lot legged it having made no contribution to the game at all. While recouping, Arthur received news that confirmed Mordred’s treason and that he had been spotted approaching Camelot which had been built forty miles north east of Bristol. Arthur set off back with his, Galahad’s and Gawain’s cavalry as he knew his infantry would not make it in time.
The Picts get stuck in
A view of the whole battlefield at Eberacum
Roger’s excellent Picts
Sunday saw the final battle. Mordred, Octa and a Saxon war band had joined forces to besiege Camelot. Kai was trapped inside, unable to sally out due to being vastly outnumbered. Mordred had brought up some catapults to try take out the gates before assaulting it. When Palomedas and Bedevere turned up to try relieve Kai, Mordred and Octa turned to face them. Arthur’s allies took an initial defensive stance while they tried to consolidate, having been quite far apart at the start of the game. Had Mordred been able to move quicker, or had Octa been able to roll the correct dice to move at all, Palamedas may have been picked off before they turned their attention to Bedevere. As it was, and as had been very consistent over both weekends, Arthur and his allies tended to end up moving very quickly and the rebels struggled to be able to move when they needed to in order to take advantage of conditions. Although the catapults eventually broke down the doors to Camelot, most of their troops had been drawn off into stopping Arthur’s allies, so could not attack. Arthur turned up about half way through and was able to fill the gap between his allies, Mordred’s forces fought hard but were overcome as were the other Saxon raiders. Octa virtually stopped stationary on his hill in the centre, once again undecided as to whether to commit or not. There were definitely moments when Mordred could have swung the battle towards himself, but luck is a fickle mistress, and was not with him that day. He together with Morgana were captured by Sissy as they fled the battle injured.
Eric safe inside Camelot
The two forces square up to each other ready for the final push
Another view of the final stage with Morgana laying unconscious (centre next to Mordred) after her magic duel with Merlina
Merlina had been through two more days of puzzles, riddles, games and dungeons to track down missing horses, the poison used on Guinevere, and the Grail. It culminated in her arriving at the final battle with the Grail but unable to enter Camelot to administer the cure until she defeated Morgana in a battle of magical strength, at which point the shield around Camelot collapsed.
For first time Hail Ceaser players, Rupert and Eric picked things up very well and their tactics were excellent. Eric kept Dad’s enthusiasm and lust to destroy the enemy ion check whilst Dad helped Eric to think about what he needed to do and come up with appropriate tactics.
The weekends provided everyone with a very enjoyable experience, and we think that Hail Ceaser worked immensely well with the smaller forces we used. We thank Rupert and family once again for their custom and look forward to seeing them again in the near future.
This campaign is now available to anyone else wanting to battle for control of Arthur’s Britain (with or without the dungeon role playing elements). Please get in touch if you would like to give this a go.