In Action Point 1, we examined the Raid Command available to the Scotti and Saxon factions. In this Action Point, we will take a look at the Foederati and how they can affect the game for the good, and also to the detriment, of the Romano factions the Dux and Civitates.
Let’s first take a look at who the Foederati are. Foederatus was any one of several outlying nations to which ancient Rome provided benefits in exchange for military assistance. The term was also used, especially under the Roman Empire, for groups of barbarian mercenaries of various sizes, who were typically allowed to settle within the Roman Empire. For a little more insight into how they fit in Pendragon, we turn to the words of the designer Marc Gouyon-Rety:
Another major innovation [in Pendragon] is the Foederati, the system where the Briton factions can hire Barbarian warbands and use them as their own units, while they retain their national characteristics. Obviously, this does not come without downsides: first, the Foederati must be paid in Renown – before victory conditions are assessed – or they will rebel; second, there are a number of events, including the dreaded Saxon Pivotal Event ‘Adventus Saxonum’, that are triggered by the presence of Foederati.
The Battle Command and Foederati
The Foederati are a method for the Dux and Civitates factions to gain additional muscle in the form of these barbarian mercenaries who in effect have turned against their fellow countrymen for the promise of blood and coin. These units lose all of their previous faction abilities and for all intents and purposes become either Dux or Civitates, even aiding in determining control in a certain region. I say that they lose their previous abilities but they do retain their advantages based on terrain in Battle. They can March with Dux or Civitates and also will lend their abilities in combat in open Battle.
We will now take a quick look at how the Battle Command works, as well as what role the Foederati will play in that Battle. There are actually two types of Battle, one is Field Battle, which is fought in the open between troops occupying a specific Region, and the other is Assault, which involves any Fort, Stronghold or Settlement that is being attacked after a Field Battle.
First off, one of the very interesting elements in the Pendragon design is the use of the concept of Home Terrain. See the following chart to see the varied types of terrain as well as what units are at home in what types:
You will notice that the different types of Foederati have different Home Terrains. Saxon Foederati are at Home in Fens while Scotti Foederati feel more comfortable in the Hills. I love this part of the design and felt the thematic decision in the game play. So, what does Home Terrain do for these units? During the Pre-Battle step, troops that are located in Home Terrain can choose to either Evade or perform an Ambush. This ability is really key as Evade allows you to escape a sure defeat and Ambush allows you to inflict damage before the other side can attack. Powerful abilities that must be considered when you move and stage troops for Battle.
Field Battle plays out in the following steps after resolving any Pre-Battle parts such as Evade and Ambush as stated above. It is important to remember that units also only get to strike one time per Battle, so if they have Ambushed, they cannot then again attack in one of the other steps:
Trap – This part doesn’t come up often as it is specifically tied to an Event that enables units to Trap or Strike simultaneously.
Withdrawal – Any surviving defending units may Withdraw from the Battle and enter friendly Strongholds located within the Region where the Battle occurs. No moving to adjacent Regions to escape your enemies. There are holding capacities for each type of Stronghold so large armies will be forced to fight. If all defending units are able to Withdraw, the Field Battle then ends immediately.
Charge/Ambush – All surviving cavalry and any Ambushing units now Strike and apply losses to the enemy. The cavalry are really good and will be able to deal their damage prior to the units being able to attack back. That is their greatest power.
Melee – At this point, any surviving Warbands, Foederati Troops, Comitates and Militia will be allowed to Strike and apply losses.
Harass – Finally, the lowly Raiders will have a chance to Strike and will only do 1/2 loss per unit.
At this point, if all defending units have been removed or have Withdrawn to a Stronghold, the attacker has the choice of pressing the attack to include an Assault on the Stronghold itself. Each Stronghold has an intrinsic Garrison unit that mans the fortification and this unit must be killed before being able to deal losses to the units that might have Withdrawn into the Stronghold.
The concept behind Assault is that the defenders located inside the Stronghold, including the intrinsic Garrison unit as well as any units that were Withdrawn from the Battle to the Stronghold up to the Holding Capacity, get a crack at the enemy units that are advancing toward the walls. This models the walls and the protection and height that give defenders the ability to fire arrows, throw spears and stones from the walls to land on the hapless attackers below. Great addition to the Assault that we really thought was great, if not a little complex.
First off in this Assault, if the Assault came as a result of an Event or was paired with the Surprise Feat, then you are able to perform a Coupe de Main roll to allow for the attackers to skip this phase. The attacker who has the element of surprise will roll a 6-sided die and must roll no more than +1 above the difference between the target Stronghold’s Holding capacity and the number of units Withdrawn inside. For example, if a Town (capacity of 4) has 2 Militia pieces inside, a roll of 3 or less will succeed. This is figured by taking the total capacity number minus the pieces and adding +1. So, in this example, 4-2+1 = 3. If this roll succeeds, it is said that the attackers have the advantage and are able to skip the Escalade step and immediately storm the Stronghold.
Escalade is, once again, the modeling of the defenders attacking upon the attackers approach to the Stronghold. All units inside, including the intrinsic Garrison unit as well as the Withdrawn units, get a chance to strike and inflict losses based upon the Escalade Defense value shown on the table above. So, if we use the previous example of a Town with 2 Militia units inside plus the intrinsic Garrison unit, they will inflict 1 1/2 loss to the attackers who must now absorb those losses before the Storm segment of the Assault.
All surviving attackers then Storm the Stronghold and both attackers and defenders get to perform a simultaneous strike. The intrinsic Garrison unit must absorb any losses first and then remaining hits will be given to the Withdrawn units. If all defending units are removed, the Stronghold is defeated and will be destroyed by being removed from the Region. If there is another remaining Stronghold in the Region, the attacker now has the choice of whether they want to Assault that second Stronghold. There are negative consequences for losing such Strongholds. For example, if a Fort or Town are removed, the controlling player will lose 2 Prestige.
We found that there is a high level of risk with these Assaults and players will have to weigh their chances carefully by simply doing math to calculate their odds. We really enjoyed this element of the game and did our share of Field Battles and Assaults.
The Downside of Foederati
The last element I want to cover here is the risk associated with using the Foederati. The first, and probably most deadly risk, is that your opponent might be able to play their Saxon Pivotal Event titled Adventus Saxonum.
This Event simply allows for the removal of all Foederati markers on Saxon Warbands in up to 3 different regions. Wow, this is a huge turn of fortune as you will now find yourself having to actually fight off the mercenaries that you once controlled and kept content with pay at the end of each Epoch! In addition to you losing these turncoats, you will now have to Battle them in the Region where their allegiance changed while they now will have the added benefit of the Feat Shield Wall, which doubles the losses they can absorb. Yikes! You must be aware of this event and always prepare for it as if you don’t, you can kiss at least 3 Regions goodbye as your troops will simply not be able to withstand this surprise change of fate. There are other Events that you must keep in mind though, besides Adventus, which can turn Foederati against you, sometimes with contagious effects such as Cerdic, Acculturation to name just a few. Those hirelings are not always with you till the bitter end, but let’s be honest, what hirelings are?!?
But, the most difficult part of having Foederati is that you must pay them in Renown to retain them at the end of each Epoch. Mercenaries have to be paid or they will revolt. So, you must prepare for this eventuality and it doesn’t come easy.
In our next and final Action Point, we will take a look at some of the very interesting events contained on the Epoch Cards.