Another fairly unique (within the COIN series) feature of Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain is that, at least in the scenarios starting at the very beginning of the period covered by the game (c. 360 AD), two of the four factions begin play with not one single piece on the map! These are, of course, the two barbarian factions, the Saxons and Scotti, as Britain begins solidly in control of the Roman Empire, represented by the two Briton factions, the Dux and Civitates. While the barbarians can raid by sea and over the northern border, it will be essential for them to settle on the island itself to compete for a win:
The first, and primary, use of Strongholds (called Settlements for the barbarian factions) in Pendragon is to allow Control of Regions and Cities: without one, you may deny Control, but you cannot establish your own. While Scotti care nothing for Control either in their victory conditions or revenue calculations, Saxons are very much interested in controlling new land, as one of their alternate victory condition is based on Control, and they do collect revenue from Controlled spaces during Epoch rounds. The Scotti, however, cannot ignore the need to create some Settlements of their own since, while their primary victory condition is based on accumulated Renown, they must have at least 4 Settlements on the map to be eligible for a win; they also collect revenue from on-map non-Foederati Settlements during Epoch rounds. If the Saxons go for their alternate victory condition, which is also based on Renown, they must as well have a minimum number of Settlements on the map.
Barbarian Settlements are also essential bases for more efficiently raiding Briton lands and cities as any space with both a (non-Foederati) Settlement and a Warband of the same barbarian nation is considered a possible origin of Raids into all adjacent spaces (with no interference of naval patrols) and any bordering sea. Settlements can also serve as locations to raise new Warbands. Consequently, establishing Settlements on the island typically allow barbarians to launch more destructive raids into new regions, thus triggering a potential snowball effect… unless the Britons manage to eradicate these footholds quickly! Hence the desirability for these initial footholds to be located in Home terrain regions, ideally off the main roads, making a Briton counterattack both costly and risky.
So, how can barbarians settle Britain?
The foremost mechanism to do so is through a Feat common to both factions, and named, unsurprisingly, “Settle”:
This Feat is usually paired with a Return Command: essentially, it allows to designate one single space for settlement and to roll for every Returning Raider in that space and every adjacent space to see how many accept to forego returning home and become a permanent Warband in Britain. This likelihood is slightly higher (50%) with Saxons than with Scotti (33%) which were not as land-hungry. Then, as part of the same Feat, the active faction may swap 2 Warbands for a new Settlement, as long as an empty Stronghold Site is available in the Settle space. Note that this Feat may also be paired with a March Command in order to claim new land, though only using Warbands already on the map…
As mentioned in the previous installment of these Chronicles, another significant mechanism to establish barbarian Settlements is through the invitation of Foederati: Foederati Settlements do count toward the minimum number of Settlements required for their national faction to win, and they are liable to shed their Foederati status and revert to the ownership of their national faction. There is also a number of Events that place new barbarian Setlements and Warbands directly on the map, typically in regions where these nations were particularly present at the time.
Now, for all their necessity and benefits, Settlements also constitute liabilities for the barbarian factions: where Raiders can hope to Evade enemy activity and eventually board their ships, bound for their home across the waves, and frustrate Briton soldiers, Settlements are going nowhere and their destruction can be both a blow for barbarian Renown and a useful propaganda tool for their enemies, not to mention provide valuable slaves. This can be achieved by a Briton faction through, respectively, the Dux’s Retaliate and the Civitates’ Pillage Feats, while all plunder made by a barbarian faction from raiding a Region Controlled, or sacking a Settlement owned, by the other barbarian faction is deducted from the Renown of the target faction.
To make matters worse, barbarian Settlements are the weakest Strongholds in the game, meaning that great care will have to be given by settling barbarians to pick secure locations and strongly protect their Settlements.
In the next installment of the Pendragon Chronicles, we will turn to how the game models the economic and political geography of 5th century Britain, through the introduction of the concepts of Population, Prosperity and Control.