Like all games in the COIN series, Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain represents the political and economic geography through a combination of parameters including who controls the space (Control) and how large its population is (Population). Unlike most previous games however, Pendragon does not complete this trio with Support/Opposition, as, over such a long period, the only comparable measure would have been adhesion to Romanitas versus “barbarian” values, and I highly doubt any Roman Dux or Saxon war leader ever saw the situation he had to deal with in terms of “not enough Roman” or “not enough pro-barbarian”. So this aspect is modeled through events and, indirectly, the Imperium Track, and Pendragon instead adds for each Region and City the concept of Prosperity, and represents it in a wholly new way, by placing small golden Prosperity cubes on the map!
Determining who controls a space is very similar to other COIN games: a faction needs to have more pieces in the space that all other factions combined. Also, similarly to A Distant Plain, Fire in the Lake, or Liberty or Death, the two Briton factions (the Dux and the Civitates) combine their pieces to determine “Briton Control”, though that cooperation disappears should the Imperium status fall to Fragmentation.
Unlike previous COIN games however, owning the most pieces in a space is not sufficient to establish control: a faction also must own a stronghold there. The reason for that is the much longer time scale in Pendragon: marching a large army into a space may deny control, but it cannot establish durable control, unless or until it can establish a permanent base, which often means destroying the enemy’s strongholds first in order to clear a site for building. This makes strongholds, while similar to bases in previous games in their role for gathering resources or mustering, absolutely essential for control. As a result, most campaigns will revolve around the capture of key strongholds, very historically.
The two City spaces in the game, Londinium and Eboracum, differ from regular regions in that they only have a single stronghold site, and that ownership of that stronghold is enough to provide control, even if outnumbered by the enemy; this represents a siege or blockade situation, where nothing but the fall of the besieged stronghold is a lasting success.
Population of regions and cities in Pendragon range initially between 1, for the poorer and less developed regions typically found in the western and northern highlands, as well as the military city of Eboracum, and 3 for the two wealthy and populous tribelands of the Catuvellauni and Atrebates, both in the South.
The period saw significant changes and movements of population, and, accordingly, game events or actions may reduce or increase the population of a region (but not of a city), possibly down to 0 – which does not mean that the area has been entirely depopulated, but rather than there has been such widespread destruction as to make the area worthless economically and politically –, and up to 1 more than the written population. So for instance, a Pop 1 region may increase to 2, but no more, while one of the two Pop 3 regions may go up to 4 Population.
Besides events, the Saxons may reduce the population of regions they are raiding when pairing their command with a Ravage Feat. This is a double-edged sword because while population reduction hurts the Civitates in the short term, it also reduces the value of these territories for Saxon expansion in the long term, since both factions are interested in the total population they control as part of their victory conditions…
Conversely, the Civitates may resettle refugees from these events or Saxon terror campaigns through their Rule Feat. Unless there is a specific mention to the contrary, every reduction of the population of a region generates a Refugees marker, which can then be resettled on Briton-controlled land (at a hefty cost). However, there can never be more than 4 such Refugees markers in play at a given time, and half of them are discarded during each Epoch round, so the Civitates have to act quickly, or they will see the Briton population of Britain be reduced permanently…
While the Civitates may only resettle population that was previously uprooted, and cannot increase the population of any region if they have no Refugees marker in hand, the Saxons have the ability to create new population from their Warbands through their Settle Feat, representing the influx of settlers from mainland Europe once the Saxons gain viable footholds in Britain.
The key concept behind Prosperity is to represent the mostly temporary impact of raids and army depredations, and symmetrically the administrative or support actions that can alleviate these. It is also used as a proxy to represent to what extent the authorities are able to provide security to the people, and the level of support they enjoy as a result.
Initially, this was represented as a state – Rich, Poor or Ruined – which was associated with a multiplier – respectively x2, x1 and x0 –. Every successful raid would downgrade the Prosperity state by one level, yielding each time a number of Plunder cubes equal to the population of the targeted space. The Total Prosperity – the sum of all regions’ and cities’ population multiplied by the current Prosperity multiplier – would measure, added to Prestige, the score of the Dux faction, while the revenue of most of the factions – especially the Civitates – would be mostly calculated by this same product for every controlled space.
All of this, while conceptually sound, made for a lot of calculations, counter – there were Prosperity markers with a Poor x1 and a Ruined x0 sides, with Rich x2 being the default state printed on the map – and golden cubes handling. In the spirit of streamlining gameplay, I realized that there was an exact mathematical identity between the value of the plunder being collected, the decrease in revenue resulting from that plundering, and the impact on the Dux score. This is how I came with the novel idea of replacing the Prosperity markers directly by golden cubes – now called “Prosperity cubes“ –, two per population number, which could then be directly picked up from the map when raided. This also reduced the determination of revenue or Total Prosperity to simple additions – or, early in the game, subtractions as the max value is known to be 80 (total starting population of 40, multiplied by 2) –.
Slots for the golden cubes are printed on the map, including the allowance for a population increase. The slots are arranged in two rows, allowing to easily check that no row holds more cubes than the population of the region. Replacement of cubes on the top row during the Recovery Phase of Epoch Rounds is also restricted when the Imperium status is not Roman Rule, representing the effect of the breakdown of Roman administration and long range commerce on the economy.
As a side benefit, this change allowed for a lot of flexibility in game effects, either from events or actions, which were no longer restricted to chunks equal to population, but could be applied cube by cube. For instance, when Britons destroy units that were carrying plunder, they have the option of returning 1 such cube to the region’s prosperity. What can be returned this way remains however typically much less than what is destroyed by the raiders, even if they don’t manage to return it.
The Britons have more effective ways of restoring Prosperity through the Dux Train and the Civitates Trade Commands, which can place back prosperity cubes, representing either the action of army engineers and soldiers in rebuilding or improving facilities, or the impact of good administration.
Eventually, the passage of years, represented by the occurrence of Epoch Rounds will allow some natural recovery of prosperity: during the last Phase of each Epoch Round, every space that is Controlled gains back a number of Prosperity cubes equal to its Population, though not on its top row if the Imperium Status is Autonomy or Fragmentation.
As we have been alluding more and more to the Imperium status, we will be covering this key concept and its associated Imperium Track in the next installment of the Chronicles. Stay tuned!