Designer Lew Pulsipher looks
on during the demonstration as the new FFG version of Britannia
The new version of the game
was probably largely responsible for a new surge in attendance
Finalists Ewan McNay (left),
Llew Bardecki, Scott Pfeiffer, and Barry Smith (seated at left)
contest the last board.
45 people, more than the tournament has had in four of the
last five years, journeyed through the looking glass following
the glittering promise of the new Britannia just published
by Fantasy Flight Games. FFG's repackaging of the classic game
was universally admired by the crowd for its eye-catching graphic
design. Only one mistake was universally declared by all, whoever
decided that the Romans should be yellow when the board background
had also been changed to yellow was clearly out of their mind.
In the minds of most players, the Romans are purple and shall
remain so for many years.
a change in color did not affect game designer Lew Pulsipher's
rewrite of the rules. Lew set out to rationalize the multiple
versions of the rules that had been created, encourage more historical
accuracy into the game play, and correct some of the clear imbalances
of the game. Thus, the raiders floating at sea for hundreds of
years that nearly drove the placid Lew apoplectic when he saw
it at this tournament are no more, and shockingly, King Arthur
will be visiting Scotland no more.
As to balance between the colors, there was evidence that
it may have been addressed. More years of statistics will be
needed, but this year's tournament numbers are promising. In
the original Britannia, red and purple wins dominated
the tables each year, with green years occasionally showing up,
and blue frequently only grabbing one win, if any. This year,
in the 17 heat games, yellow (also known as purple) and green
each had four wins, while red and blue had five each.
While the distribution of color wins was a promising statistic,
the closeness of many of the games also gave evidence of the
rebalancing of the game. One of the heat games resulted in a
tie, advancing two winners to the semi-finals. Another of the
preliminary games came down to a win by two points in which the
win was secured by a Saxon infantryman taking out a Norman cavalry
in single combat. In the semi-finals, another tie occurred, with
it being one retreat away, on the last battle of the game, from
having been a 3-way tie. And another semi-final came down to
a 1 point win.
Naturally, the balance in the colors did not prevent blowouts
in some scores. As usual, high scoring plaques were awarded for
each of the colors in the preliinaries. Ewan McNay came back
with a multi-plaque performance again, garnering an astonishing
blue high score of 338, and a nearly equal red score of 294.
A newcomer, Daniel Farrow, showed very well with green, pulling
in a score of 253 in a game with several old hands present. Lastly,
championing the yellow (purple), Ted Simmons, who has played
many games but not won before, won in fine fashion with a top
yellow (purple) of 244 points.
Low scores did not abound, but, as Lew keeps reminding the
crowd, Britannia is a dice game, and sometimes those dice
turn against you. For that, we have the Ethelred the Unready
award. Eric Kleist went to the semi-finals with a handsome blue
win in the 2nd round. But a 3rd round game proved not so propitious
as the dice turned against Eric's Saxons and he pulled in at
the end with 184 points.
And at last, let's go to the Final. Although many nwcomers
were drawn to the republished game, apparently experience in
the old game still tells in the new with four of the usual suspects
populating the Final. Ewan McNay (Blue), Scott Pfeiffer (Green),
Barry Smith (Yellow) and Llew Bardecki (Red) met Sunday morning.
In a dramatic opening, eight of Barry's legions were killed,
with three of them being lost when six of Llew's Brigantes came
streaming from the north and descended like locusts on March.
Such was their wrath that they killed all three legions and the
fort they garrisoned, and then had to lose a unit to starvation.
However, Llew's weakly defended Brigantes left behind in the
north attracted an attack by the Picts. Boudicca's rebellion
though, a new feature of turn 1 of the game, passed with a whimper,
Boudicca storming into Essex and being cast back by the legions
with no losses. Meanwhile, Scott's Welsh, as has become the norm
with the new Britannia, retired to submission to the Romans
after killing three legions.
But Barry's spending of the blood of the dead legions paid
off with his acquiring every Roman point possible on turns 1-3.
After the passing of the Romans, the Germanic tribes came
ashore in usual fine fashion, with the newly named Saxon leader
Aelle building a fort in the Downlands surrounded by his mighty
army. Apparently, distracted by the Saxons coming ashore to the
south, the Brigantes signed a deal with the Angles and submitted
when but a single Angle sauntered into the halls of Strathclyde.
The deal left a crowded invasion for the Angles. But that
distracted them not at all from their prime target as 10 Angles
piled onto King Arthur, protected by two cavalry and two infantry,
and dramatically slaughtered all of the Romano-British with a
Meanwhile in the north, Ewan's Picts, untouched by the Romans,
and able to spread out and grow, maxed out their population,
presenting a huge wall before the Scottish invasion. Barry's
Scots killed a few Picts, but his dice turned cold and Ewan's
Picts rolled back the Scots into the sea, with a little help
from some restless Angles in the south. And so, at turn 9, there
were no Yellow pieces on the board, and none to return until
turn 12 when the Dubliners appeared.
A quiet mid-game was primarily of interest because of Llew's
creeping Brigante presence. The submission deal with Ewan's Angles
allowed them to grow. Unfortunately for Ewan's hapless Picts,
the only avenue for growth left to the Brigantes was to the North.
By turn 10, Scotland became the northern kingdom of the Brigantes
with Strathclyde, Dalriada, Alban and Dunedin being held strongly.
With the quiet mid-game, it looked like Scott's Danes would
have a completely full board to attempt to storm. But a successful
round of raids on turn 11 softened up the coast, and the armies
ashore ran to hide from the impending Dane invasion on turn 12.
Scott's Danes swept through and killed many of Ewan's Angles
and a few of Llew's Saxons, but unlike their more successful
raids, the Danes were bled with nearly every battle and ended
with few forces left to defend their newly acquired gains.
Turns 13 and 14 were a mostly kingless swirl of chaos as the
nations fought each other for enough breathing space to survive
and grow. But Scott's Danes, Barry's Dubliners, Llew's Saxons,
and Ewan's Angles balkanized England sufficiently for Cnut, even
with his weakened armies to still achieve a very short-lived
Turn 15 dawned. A red-green deal yielded Scott's Welsh sending
a mighty army of four units out to York to defend against Barry's
Norwegians. Meanwhile, the Normans faced a thin shield wall to
the South with Llew's Saxons having been thinned out by the strife
throughout England in the previous three turns.
Of course, when nine of Barry's Norwegians, along with the
leader Harald Hardrada, descended on York, the mighty Welsh army
shredded like mist, taking only one Norwegian with them. Heartened
by their victory, the Norwegians then went to easily take the
rest of their points, knocking more of Scott's Welsh out of North
Mercia and March for an invasion with a quiet denouement.
Llew's Saxons decided to defend King Harold by sheltering
in the friendly hills of Wales and left a tissue thin defense
of the coast, with only one Burh, the new wooded towns constructed
by the Saxons, sitting on the coast. Scott's Jutes in Kent and
Sussex felt very lonely. Ewan's Normas swiftly took advantage
of the opportunity given to tear apart the Saxons. But Scott's
mighty Jutes took ill to the incursion by the Normans and killed
two cavalry and two infantry, casting William back to Essex.
Turn 16 greeted exhausted armies everywhere. Ewan's Picts
managed to struggle back into and hold their homelands. And a
desperate grab at the end captured the last island for Llew's
Norsemen, but the empty lowlands yielded a victory for the Normans
as they spread out. At the last though, the Normans were cheated
of kingship by the last battle in which a Saxon infantryman killed
one of the last Norman cavalry in another deadly single combat.
When the results were tallied, Ewan's blue had scored 234,
Llew's red 228, Barry's yellow (purple) 222, and Scott's green
204. The win makes Ewan the 2nd 3 second 3-time winner after