The Games We Play

The Games We Play

A repository of reports on the Wednesday night sessions of the club and anything else related to the club or boardgaming in general, which may be of interest to anyone who may be passing by.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Alternative British History 43-1085AD

Documents, recently discovered during an archaeological dig have caused some consternation among historians as they seemingly cast doubt on the accepted course of British History from the Roman invasion until the year 1085. Many have questioned their accuracy, while others have puzzled over peculiar aspects of the papers, such as the points allocated to the various nations, and colour coding seeming to link what might otherwise be considered totally unconnected groups. Their follows a summary of the contents of these mysterious documents.
The Romans invaded in the year 43, by order of the emperor Claudius. The invasion took place along the south coast from Kent to Devon, dealing with token resistance of the Belgae and Welsh, before heading further north in England to engage the Brigantes in March and across to Dyfed in the south of Wales. The Belgae and Welsh showed know stomach for a fight and submitted at first opportunity. In this first phase of the invasion, no Roman losses were suffered, but a revolt of the Belgae under their warrior queen Boudicca then had to be put down with some minor damage.
The bulk of the Roman conquest took place in the first 15 years, the next 40 mostly taken up with dealing with the rebellious Belgae and some modest progress further north. Bernicia was reached around 150 and taken unopposed, this being the furthest northern advancement, alongside the Pennines, taken by force from the Brigantes. The remaining approximately 300 years of the occupation were spent protecting forts and eliminating the last Belgae. The Romans withdrew around 430, when matters on the continent became pressing, at a time when defence of their holdings was becoming increasingly difficult due to the number of other invading forces. Points-100
The Romano-British took over much of the Roman territory following the withdrawal and initially consolidated in the South with the intent of invading Jutish lands. They had to content themselves with Saxons, who got in between them, they had some success with King Arthur around 500 and migrated north following the death of their legendary leader (of old age). They then gradually dwindled, becoming a lessening force, finally being eliminated by the Welsh around 800. Points- 18.
The Belgae capitulated to the Romans at the first opportunity, but rose up around the year 60 under the leadership of Boudicca laying waste to some Roman forts and eliminating a legion, but their rebellion was short-lived, ending with the death of the Queen. The Belgae died out around 300. Points -28.
The Welsh spent nearly 400 hundred years as Roman subjects; this inhibited their growth and left them vulnerable to Irish raids and after the Roman withdrawal, it took until about the year 700 to re-establish control over their ancestral lands and evict the Irish who had settled in Dyfed. In the 100 years or so prior to this, although raids into England toward York were considered this was not possible due to intervening Romano-British forces and the Angles in occupation of the City. After 700, there was peace at home for over 200 years, with forays into the adjacent English areas of Hwicce and Avalon, where the last Irish colony was wiped out.
Peace came to an end around 940, with the invasion of the South by Dubliners led by Olaf Guthfrithsson. Although the Dubliners were later forced out of Dyfed, a settlement remained in Gwent after 1085. The Welsh had also been forced out of Devon and Cornwall by 1085, falling to Saxons retreating from the Wars raging in England, although they had expanded to take March & Hwicce. Points - 73.
The Brigantes were untouched in the early years of the Roman invasion, but in the late 50s March & Cheshire were overrun, this was a cue to withdraw North abandoning York and Bernicia and capturing Dunedin from the Picts. The Pennines fell around 80, but after that the Brigantes were not bothered by Roman forces and had comparative peace, until the arrival of the Scots invasion led by Fergus Mor Mac Erc around 500, at which time Dunedin and Lothian were lost.
The next nearly 600 years were a time of near continuous War, with Dunedin, Lothian and the Pennines changing hands many times as variously Scots, Angles and Danes came and went. Throughout these turbulent years, the Brigantes were always able to remain in occupation of their Strathclyde and Galloway core until sometime in the 1070's, when a force of Picts, having previously regained control of Dunedin, launched a major attack on Strathclyde resulting in the total elimination of both large armies. The Brigantes survived after 1085 as a small population living in the mountains of Galloway. Points – 62.
The Caledonians occupied their homelands of Orkneys, Hebrides and Caithness for about 750 years and despite occasional forays against the Picts in Mar & Skye, were never able to expand further.
The arrival of Ketil and his Norsemen around 800, led to the loss of Orkneys and Caithness and the Caledonians were finally eliminated in 1070, when an army of Norsemen from Skye captured Hebrides. Points- 38.
The Picts lost Dunedin to the Brigantes in the late 50s, leaving them confined to the mountains with Caledonians a constant threat to the North and Brigantes to the South. Despite trying, they could not reclaim Dunedin and things deteriorated still more, with a Scots invasion leading to the additional loss of Dalriada. Alban also fell by 710, but was recaptured by 800 as the Scots declined.
The improvement of fortunes against the Scots however coincided with the arrival of Norse invaders, who captured Skye around the year 900, reducing pictish influence to their homelands of Alban, Mar & Moray. Toward the end of the period covered by these documents, in around 1050, the Picts finally reoccupied Dunedin and it was the entire army of that region that set out to engage the Brigantes stronghold of Strathclyde, the ensuing battle resulting in the elimination of both armies. The Picts survived beyond 1085, in occupation of Alban Mar and Moray. Points - 64.
The Irish are first recorded as small raiding parties around 200, but the first evidence of an Irish colony is around 300, when they landed and sacked a Roman fort in Wessex. As the Romans were withdrawing, they moved from Wessex to Avalon, also occupying Dyfed and Cheshire.
A further trickle of Irish imigrants continued until around 710 and it was around then that the Welsh were able to firmly re-establish control of Dyfed. The last Irish colony in Avalon survived until around 800 when it was conquered by the Welsh. Points – 30.
The Scots were first seen around 300, but it was not until about 100 years later that a landing took place, with the conquest of Dalriada from the Picts. In about the year 500, Fergus appeared with more forces and Dunedin and Lothian fell. At the height of Scottish power they also controlled Alban, before a decline due to resurgent Picts and Brigantes, together with the arrival of new invaders in the form of Norsemen and Danes, reduced them to the one area of Dalriada, where they remained in 1085. Points-40.
The Norsemen arrived in around the year 800 led by Ketil Flatnose and set about the conquest of the Caledonians. Orkneys and Caithness fell by 860 and during this time there was also an unopposed raid into Cumbria, which had been left vacant, due to some secret deal, which led the Brigantes to withdraw from that area.
After this progress was hard and only Skye and Hebrides were added to Norse territory. In 1085, the Norsemen occupied Orkneys, Caithness, Hebrides and Skye. Points – 43.
The Dubliners were first seen in around 900, but no incursions into Britain were made until 950 or thereabouts, when, led by Olaf Guthfrithsson, they landed in Cumbria and South Wales. By 1085 they were reduced to the single area of Gwent, driven out of Dyfed by the Welsh and forced to withdraw from Cumbria, which had become untenable due to the actions of Brigantes and Danes, as well as an impending Norwegian invasion. Points – 13.
The Danes first raided in 793, laying waste to Lothian, Bernicia, York and Cheshire, before withdrawing. They returned in 865, led by the brothers Ivar and Halfdan, taking territory on the east coast form Lothian in the North down to Lindsey in the south as well as reaching inland to the Pennines and Mercia, reaching as far west as March.
There now followed a period of consolidation in the face of renewed attacks by the Saxons and Angles, who took Lindsey and then York, which had perhaps been left too lightly defended. In the early 11th century, further forces arrived from Denmark and Danish rule was established over East Anglia, York and South Mercia, in the process eliminating the last vestiges of the Angle nation. By 1085, following the arrival of further reinforcements under Svein Estrithson, the Danes were the major power in England (Svein having engaged William of Normandy in Essex, forcing him to flee into the Downlands) controlling territory from Bernicia down to Essex. Bernicia and York had briefly been ceded to the Norwegians, but recaptured without difficulty. Points – 82.
The Norwegians landed at York in 1066 and quickly occupied the city together with Bernicia, Cheshire and March. The only resistance was briefly put up by the Danes in North Mercia, before they withdrew to Suffolk.
Following the successful initial invasion, the forces were forced out of York and Bernicia, leaving Harald Hardrada to rule over Lothian, Pennine, Cheshire and North Mercia from his court in Cumbria. Points – 38.
The Saxons first appeared around 300, destroying the Roman Fort in Sussex, with further forces arriving over the next 100 years or so, destroying Roman forts in Kent and Essex, while moving a little inland ahead of the Jute invasion which swept into Kent & Sussex in their wake. Around 442 a large force led by Aelle established a Saxon presence in much of Southern England, but were met by stiff resistance by the Jutes and Romano-British, led by Arthur. The Romano-British threat died out following the death of Arthur, but it was to take something like 350 years before the threat of the Jutes was finally eliminated with the fall of Kent around the year 800.
In the next 150 years or so under the leadership of Alfred and Edgar, control was gained over much of the South, but the continuing threat of the Welsh in the west and surviving Angles, together with the new danger of the Danes in the east, prevented progress further north than South Mercia and Hwicce.
By 1066, the South Coast had been heavily fortified, but a Norman invasion under William cut through the Saxon forces. A somewhat low key battle near the town of Hastings on the coast led to the loss of Sussex, but neither leader was present with William campaigning in Essex, while the Saxon Harold cowered in Devon.
By the end of 1085, the Saxons were a spent force, surviving only in Kent, together with Devon, Cornwall and Avalon in the west. Points- 84.
The Jutes landed following the Saxons in around 400 and occupied the areas of Kent and Sussex, vacated by the Saxons as they moved in land. They came under heavy attack during Aelle's major invasion shortly afterward, but were able to hold Kent and in an audacious move attack and take Wessex from the Saxons.
Wessex was lost again in around 600, but the Jutes held on in Kent for approximately a further 200 years before falling to a Saxon army led by Egbert. Points- 22.
The Angles appeared as one of a host of raiders in the latter part of the Roman occupation, and their efforts resulted in the destruction of a Roman fort. It was in around 600 that a major force led by Ida established control over much of East Anglia and the East coast.
For the next 200 years or so, the Angles were probably the strongest nation in England, but attempts to expand their territory further west and south led to pyrrhic victories at best, with many troops going to their deaths and the Danish raids of 793 resulted in the lost of all Angle holdings in the north confining them to East Anglia.
Following the Danish invasion of 865, the Angles fought back taking York, but they were confined to the areas of York, Lindsey & Norfolk by the start of the second millennium, and these areas fell easily to the renewed Danish invasion under Cnut. Points – 78.
The Normans invaded in 1066 led by William of Normandy, but were met by heavy Saxon forces on the south coast and the invasion petered out in Essex, following the loss of many infantry.
William barely escaped with his life some years later, when an attack on Essex by Svein the Dane, forced him to withdraw to Downlands with his remaining Cavalry unit. He remained there in 1085, the proud ruler of Downlands, Sussex and Wessex. Points- 28.
At the beginning of the year, Matt, Mike, Steve & I played a game of Britannia, which went down well and we agreed that we would repeat it sometime. On Saturday we finally did so on what was probably our last opportunity, with Matt moving down south at the end of next week.
We agreed in advance, who would play which colour. Steve had played Yellow in the previous game and was keen to try that again, while I wanted to try Green (I know a lot of people find this faction a bit uninteresting, but it's a long time since I played it, in fact it was the Black faction in those days). Mike had expressed an interest in playing Red, but was happy to switch to Blue, as Matt had played Blue in the previous game and wanted to try something different.
It should be noted that while we have all played before, none of us would claim to be great experts, lacking the time to play often and become accustomed to the use of the different nations. That said, this was a very enjoyable game, the closest that I can recall taking part in although as can be seen from the scores not a tremendously high scoring game. Two of the reasons for the low scores, may be another couple of features of this game that seemed unusual in my experience, firstly that at no time was any nation able to claim the title of Bretwalda or later king, secondly at the end of the game all four of the claimants to the throne were still alive even if they couldn't claim the prize.
The above "history" represents my recollection of the game. It is possibly not 100% accurate in places, but I have tried to ensure that what I have written fits in with the record of points scored at different moments during the game. Below is a progress chart for the game, showing the final scores.


  1. Bravo Dave! Excellent report.

    Looking back on our previous session, I (Blue) narrowly beat Mike (Green) by 4 points after the Picts threw the Caledonians out of Caithness on turn 16 for a swing of 6 blue/green points (+2/-4).

    This time; I (Red) again win by 4 points beating Dave (Green) after the Norsemen threw the Caledonians out of the Hebrides on turn 16 for a swing of 11 red/green points (+7/-4).

    Interesting. I think the Caledonians a 4th territory, however hard that may be to achieve.

    A great game guys, thanks for seeing me off in style.

  2. This was a brilliant scrap, each player could say "If only...." about battles won and lost which would have swung the game their way. My main problem was that the Angles, despite a pretty disastrous start, did get a load of points for territory on Turn 10 but had to spread themselves too thinly to do it. They then couldn't hit the Saxons hard enough to make the Norman invasion easy.