The Pendragon Chronicles Vol. 2 – Raiding

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Possibly the most characteristic feature of Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain is the importance of raiding and counter-raider warfare: no matter what approach you adopt, you are going to undertake (if you play a Barbarian faction) or suffer (if you are playing a Briton faction) a lot of raids, so let’s start with raiding. We will talk of counter-raider warfare in the next installment of these Chronicles.

Raids are a hallmark of pre-state heroic societies, a kind of low-intensity warfare that could still prove immensely disruptive to its victims, while fueling the social gears of the warrior society.

What must be understood right away is that putting together a raiding expedition was no sure thing: typically, one daring leader with significant repute would call it, inviting or daring brave warriors and free men to join him on what promised to be some adventure rich in opportunities, both to gain fame and wealth. The more famous the leader, the more people would tend to flock to his banner, but still, considerable obstacles such as local affairs, competing raids, fear of the enemy strength or fortifications or personal rivalries could limit the appeal of a given raid.

Saxon Raid Commands

Saxon Raid Commands

So you need considerable Renown to launch a Raid. But how did you get that Renown in the first place? Well, having achieved successful raids in the past is probably the main way to do so. But what constitutes a successful raid? Well, killing enemies, burning their crops and sacking their strongholds will certainly constitute good material for the bards or aedes at home to sing your praise, but if most of your men get slaughtered by the terrible Roman cavalry and too few men come back home to their families rich with bounty and slaves, while you do not get the wealth you need for gift-giving, chances are that, the next time you call for a Raid, very few people will heed your call…

In game terms, Raid is a Command common to both barbarian factions, where these factions spend (or invest) Renown to launch raids, ultimately hoping, through a later Return Command (also common to both factions) to collect Renown from the Plunder taken during these raids, though sometimes the impact of raids on Briton Prosperity and/or Control outweighs the profit these raids can return to the barbarians: in COIN, it is often just as important to undermine an opponent as it is to further one’s own goals…

It should be noted here that “Renown” serves as the Resources for both Barbarian factions, being spent to meet the cost of various Commands and Feats (Pendragon’s Special Activities), and being accrued through various game actions and events.

First, one must select the number and scale of the raids: Saxons may undertake (unless it is a Limited Command, which is always limited to 1 raid) up to 3 distinct raids on a given Raid Command, Scotti up to 4; each individual raid may be small-scale (rolling 1d4 to determine the number of raiders) or large-scale (Saxons rolling 3d4 if Saxons, but Scotti only 2d4). A small-scale raid is free for the Scotti but costs 1 Renown for the Saxons; a large-scale raid costs 1 Renown for the Scotti, and 2 for the Saxons. One can already see a fundamental difference between the two Barbarian factions: Scotti raids tend to be more endemic but pack less punch than the Saxons’…

The choices regarding the number, scale and targets of all raids within a given Raid Command must be made, and the Renown spent, before any individual raid is resolved. This is where raiding takes the character of betting – since not only can one not, usually, be certain of what the enemy response will be, but one cannot even be sure of the number of raiders that are going to answer the call – and investing since, unless the objective is purely to weaken the Britons, raids should Return more Renown than they costed since they are the primary means by which Barbarians accrue Renown, which is both a victory condition for them and the means to take further action. This means that careful consideration should be given to a number of elements when picking the targets and the scale of the raids: how prosperous the targets, how well defended, how likely and deadly the probable Briton counter-attack…

Once these choices are made and Renown committed, individual raids are resolved fully one at the time, in sequence. The first challenge facing raiders is to actually make it to their target: initially, with no permanent presence on the island, all raids must come either by sea or through Hadrian’s Wall, guarding the border between wild Caledonia and the northernmost Roman provinces. The seas bordering the parts of Britannia most exposed to attacks (the “Saxon Shore”) are patrolled by Roman warships operating from naval bases on the island. In game terms, one simply counts the number of Dux Forts in coastal Regions bordering the sea from which the raid is originating, or, of raiding overland from Caledonia, in the two border Regions. This number is then directly subtracted from the dice rolled, representing those raiders who were intercepted on their way in, or who preferred to renounce.

The Saxons are Raiding the Corieltauvi Region: they paid 2 Renown to roll 3d4, for a total of 8, but the 2 Dux Forts in Parisi and Corieltauvi itself border the Oceanus Germanicus (which is Patrolled) from which the raid is originating, reducing the number of raiders making it ashore successfully to 6.

The Saxons are Raiding the Corieltauvi Region: they paid 2 Renown to roll 3d4, for a total of 8, but the 2 Dux Forts in Parisi and Corieltauvi itself border the Oceanus Germanicus (which is Patrolled) from which the raid is originating, reducing the number of raiders making it ashore successfully to 6.

Then, if any raider made it to the target space, they get to Plunder before defenders can react (unless some special conditions due to a paired Feat such as Surprise or Ravage apply). How does that work? Again, very simply: the current Prosperity of a Region is represented by golden cubes positioned in that Region in designated holding boxes; raiders are allowed to Plunder a number of these cubes (now referred as “Plunder cubes”) up to the current Population of that Region, as long as each Raider unit does not carry more than 1 Plunder cube. Unless specifically allowed by a Feat (Saxon Ravage) or an Event, excess Raiders cannot take more Plunder at this stage (they may still get some if they later successfully sack an enemy Stronghold).

This raid is not paired with a Ravage Feat and the Population of Corieltauvi is 2 so, even if 6 raiders landed, only 2 Prosperity cubes can be grabbed. In this case, Corieltauvi’s Prosperity had previously been reduced to 2, so there was no more Prosperity to be Plundered anyway...

This raid is not paired with a Ravage Feat and the Population of Corieltauvi is 2 so, even if 6 raiders landed, only 2 Prosperity cubes can be grabbed. In this case, Corieltauvi’s Prosperity had previously been reduced to 2, so there was no more Prosperity to be Plundered anyway…

Now comes the second important decision: do the Raiders stop at that point and start heading back to their ships, or do they try to engage the local defense forces, typically to try to storm an ill-defended Stronghold? In the first case, that raid is over for now, and defenders may only try to engage the raiders by taking an appropriate Command at their turn; in the second, the raid proceed to the Battle sequence which is common with the Battle Command, with a Field Battle (if the defenders do not all withdraw behind their walls) and, if desired, one or even two Assaults on enemy Strongholds located in the target Region.

Obviously, these battles are likely to weaken the raiding group, or even wipe it out entirely, as Raiders are the least efficient units in combat (they are much more interested in easy pickings than in glorious fights) but the sack of enemy Strongholds can significantly increase the amount of Plunder collected. Also, if the area can be cleared of Briton Control, which takes destroying all Briton Strongholds as Raiders do not contest Control by themselves, that will slow down the possible counterattack as the dreaded Dux Intercept Command requires Briton Control to work (see the next volume of the Chronicles for details), thus enhancing the survival prospects of these raiders considerably, especially if the raid took place in Clear terrain.

Scotti Raid Commands

Scotti Raid Commands

Finally, if the raided Region was Controlled by the other Barbarian faction, not only do the raiders collect Plunder as per the above, they also reduce the Renown of the raided faction by the same amount, representing the direct loss of prestige of being unable to protect one’s own land in a heroic society. That loss of prestige can be instantly wiped out if the offending raiders are subsequently wiped out by the offended faction before Returning with their ill-gotten gains…

Raid Commands can be associated by each faction with two different Feats: Surprise, which allows either a deep raid inland or the attempt of a coup de main on an under-garrisoned Stronghold, is common to both factions, while the Saxons get Ravage (which waives the Population limit for Plundering and may provoke an exodus of civilians, but prevents any Assault and offers any defender an opportunity to Battle) and the Scotti Ransom (which gives them a shot at directly taking from enemy Resources or Renown through the capture of high-level hostages). A number of events also impact Raiding in various ways, either positively or negatively.

Ultimately, any surviving raiders, whether loaded with Plunder or not, will remain in the target space at the conclusion of the Command, waiting for their faction to undertake a Return Command at a later time, which will send back the raiders to their Available Box, and convert all the Plunder they carry to Renown on a 1-for-1 basis. It may also allow some of them the opportunity to Settle in Britain, rolling (50% chance for Saxons, 33% chance for Scotti, who are not as land-hungry) to be converted to much more dangerous Warbands and possibly establish some Settlements, forming the basis for local Barbarian Control and development.

But before they can do that, they will have to survive the Briton backlash, which we will examine in detail in the next installment of the Pendragon Chronicles…


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2 thoughts on “The Pendragon Chronicles Vol. 2 – Raiding

  1. Great write up, Marc.

    Another great reason to start with discussion of Raids: COIN Series aficionados will note how different all this is, how many new aspects of conflict we have going down in this Volume.

    Volko