The Pendragon Chronicles – Vol. 8 – Imperium (Part 2)

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To read Part 1 of this article, go here.


Changing the Imperium Status

Considering how impactful a change in the Imperium status or Political Balance can be, players will be relieved to learn that such changes are, for the most part, not the product of blind fate, but that they do have a number of levers to influence these changes. While there is a general law of gravity that tends to make the Imperium slide down toward Autonomy and ultimately Fragmentation, it is entirely possible to forestall or even, in some circumstances, reverse this slide, though of course it takes more effort to go back up. Note however that once Fragmentation has set in, there is only one single Event (unshaded Groans of the Britons) that can retrieve the Imperium from Fragmentation…

Groans of the Britons Event Card (non-final playtest art)

Events

The prime means to change the Imperium status is through Events: no less than 6 (of 72) regular Events, 2 Pivotal Events and all but one of the seven Epoch Events directly shift the Imperium Status and/or Political Dominance. Please note however that such an Event-induced shift may be quite short-lived if unsustainable under the current political conditions (see below).

Perhaps the most drastic Imperium-shifting Event is the Dux Pivotal Event, Coel Hen: the Dux Faction needs to have a Prestige of at least 5, and the Imperium cannot be Roman Rule, to be allowed to play it, but as soon as it does, it shifts (permanently, unless a later unshaded Groans of the Britons) the Imperium to Fragmentation! This represents the heirs of the Roman administration and military giving up on trying to hold together even a rump empire in Britain, and accept that their best hope lies now simply in becoming the foremost warlords on the island.

Coel Hen Event Card (non-final playtest art)

Epoch Events, which are linked to the advent of Epoch Rounds, and are implemented as part of these (after assessing Automatic Victory, but before Revenue), are all momentous events who have the potential to shift the Imperium significantly, including potentially going back to higher Imperium statuses. Of particular relevance are the various “Bids for the Purple” (three such out of seven) which represent the involvement of the British army into continental affairs.

Magnus Maximus Event Card (non-final playtest art)

The Imperium Phase

Besides Events, the other key avenue to shift the Imperium Status is during the Imperium Phase of each Epoch Round.

The first aspect is to check whether the current Status is sustainable under the current political conditions. What this means is that Roman Rule could not endure in the face of massive loss of territory or rampant chaos, and that even a local post-Roman state (Autonomy) would be unable to survive even more massive losses or disruption. In game terms, there are minimum thresholds for Briton Control and Total Prosperity + Prestige for both Roman Rule and Autonomy. If, during this check, any of these thresholds is found to be missed, then the Imperium Status is immediately adjusted down to a sustainable level, which can end up being Fragmentation. In that way, the two Barbarian Factions have the ability to directly attack the political stability of Britain through targeting aggressively Prosperity and Control, while the Britons cannot afford to pursue their selfish objectives too narrowly if they don’t want to see their world crumble around them.

The second aspect is to determine if Political Dominance shifts, i.e. who of the military (Dux) or civilian (Civitates) factions holds or seizes power. This is achieved through a simple comparison of the current levels of Prestige (for the Dux) and Wealth (for the Civitates): if the difference is large enough in favor of Wealth, the Civitates establish (or maintain) Civilian Dominance; if Prestige is close enough to Wealth, then it is the Dux who sets Dominance to Military. Note that if the difference between the two is in a medium range, there is no change and Dominance remains with whomever was holding it prior.

Prestige and Wealth

All of this means that Prestige and Wealth are essential measures and means of success for, respectively, the Dux and Civitates Factions.

Prestige is mainly accrued through victories in battle and some political events such as the Bids for the Purple, and reduced by defeats and failures to protect Forts and Towns. The Dux also receives a bonus allocation of Prestige when they hold Military Dominance, which rewards stability in power. Prestige factors both in the various Dux victory conditions (associated with Total Prosperity or Dux Control), in maintaining the Imperium stability (through the Imperium thresholds), and in gaining or maintaining Political Dominance.

Wealth essentially tracks the amount of Briton (blue) Resources that the Civitates have been able to spare from the war effort to sustain their opulence and elite status and develop their clientele. The Civitates can put aside available Briton Resources either through their Rule Feat (2 Resources for 1 Wealth) or during the Hoard step of the Imperium Phase (1 for 1, but no more than twice the number of Towns on the map). This last step takes place after paying Annona for Foederati, but before assessing Political Dominance, so players should be wary of possible last-minute Wealth additions swinging the Wealth-Prestige difference the Civitates way… Wealth has a number of uses for the Civitates besides gaining Political Dominance, as it is needed for some actions like recruiting and maintaining Comitates units (the elite Civitates warbands), rebuilding Towns without Dux help and, possibly even more importantly, constituting a war chest that is out of reach of imperial taxes and Army Preemption. However, Wealth can be vulnerable to the Dux Requisition and the Scotti Ransom Feats if regular Briton Resources are depleted.

Now, both Dux and Civitates must be wary of falling into an easy trap, focusing on their tug of war for Political Dominance, and neglecting the general situation of the island of Britain. Those who do fall for this will find soon enough, to their dismay, that while necessary, Dominance is far from enough to win, and they need other global parameters to be high, something they typically cannot achieve on their own, and certainly not if in open war with the other Briton Faction! Conversely, getting or keeping hold of Dominance is often the best way of keeping in check a Briton opponent doing too well when the overall situation is “too good” without having to sabotage the common good. That is, as long as you can make sure of your hold on power…


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