We looked in the previous entry of these Pendragon Chronicles to some elements of the Arthurian Legend that can be found in Pendragon – The Fall of Roman Britain. The game is also drawing from what little historical material came down to us through the centuries, i.e. mostly De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (“On the destruction and conquest of the Britains”, a pamphlet by a British monk, Gildas, circa 510), the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (“Ecclesiastical history of the English People” by the English monk Bede, c. 730), the Historia Brittonum (“History of the Britons”, compiled by the chronicler Nennius c. 830), the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (late 9th century), the Annales Cambriae (“Annals of Wales”, 12th century?), and, for flavor at least, the epic Welsh poem Y Gododdin by Aneirin (c. 600).
As we are getting near the release date of the game, we are now going to present some of the Event Cards that you will play with in Pendragon – The Fall of Roman Britain. For our first installment of this second series of Chronicles, we are going to focus on a very visible, and sometimes controversial, aspect of the game: the elements it borrows from the Arthurian Legend.
Now that we have surveyed a range of individual aspects of Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain, we would like to see how they interact to transport us into the final travails of the Roman presence in Britain. As we discussed in the previous Chronicle on Imperium, Pendragon for the first time in the COIN Series not only provides a dynamic simulation of Britannia, it models the transformation of the island’s political-military-economic affairs from one system to another. While Andean Abyss enables you to enact the relations among diverse factions in modern Colombia to varying outcomes, the system of insurgency and counterinsurgency represented functions essentially the same at the end of the game as at the beginning. In Pendragon, we can begin in a diocese of the Roman Empire and end amidst warring kingdoms of the Dark Ages. To see how, we must view the behavior of Pendragon’s elements as a complex and interlocked whole.
To read Part 1 of this article, go here.
Where previous games in the COIN series cover a few years, or at most a couple decades, of history, Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain spans more than a century of the history of Britain, from the waning years of the Western Roman Empire (c. 360 AD) to the thorough fragmentation of the island into warring proto-kingdoms of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds (c. 500 AD). Naturally, such drastic political, institutional, and cultural changes over such a long period mean that conditions and objectives underwent significant evolutions during that span of time. In game terms, this translates into the necessity of the evolution of the very rules and victory conditions during the course of the game! This is captured in Pendragon’s Imperium Track. Now, this evolution was not necessarily preordained, but to a large extent the product of the actions and aspirations of the involved historical players, and so it will be in a game of Pendragon…
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!
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:
For the very first time in the COIN series, in Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain, you will be able to take control and use for your own the pieces of another faction… How so? Through the very unique feature of Foederati, that typical Late Roman practice of hiring potential or even erstwhile enemies in exchange for land or subsidies. Let us explore this further:
The fourth and fifth centuries AD were ones of widespread violence in Western Europe as the old Roman imperial structure buckled down under internal tensions and external barbarian pressure. Whether as a result of raids, or as a product of direct military confrontations between rival powers, there will be a lot of battles in Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain, and we are now going to have a look at how these work.
As we examined in the previous volume of these Chronicles, raiding is an important feature of the period covered by Pendragon: The Fall of Roman Britain. As a consequence, if you are playing a Briton faction, you better be prepared to suffer significant harm and desolation from marauding raiders. But that does not mean you are helpless in trying to mitigate, punish, or even deter these depredations, as you are going to see forthwith.