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The end of the 6th Century in the regions of northern Britain and Scotland was a turbulent time, caused by the clash of four cultures - the Celtic British, the Scots-Irish, the Picts and the Anglo-Saxons. Kingdoms large and small were engaged in constant raiding and warfare, marked by the legendary battles of Catraeth (Catterick), Degsastan, and the Idles. Kings vied for power and formed alliances of convenience. It was in this setting that four strong kings emerged as champions for their respective peoples - Riderich Hael of Strathcylde Britains, Nectan nepos Uerb of the Cruithne (Picts), Aedan mac Gabran of the Dalriadic Scots, and especially King Aethelfrith of Bernicia. This DBA campaign scenario depicts this time. It is designed for four players, but can easily be expanded by splitting the Picts into their historical northern and southern kingdoms and/or by adding Rhegged. Special rules are provided to give the campaign a historical flavor.

The Historical Background

In Pictavia, the passing of King Brude mac Maelcon (583 AD) saw renewal of the traditional split between the Northern and Southern kingdoms, with power shifting to the southern Kingdom first under Garntnait mac Domnach and then in 595 AD by Nectan nepos Uerb of Forfar, who ruled the fractious Picts for 20 years.

Strathclyde was the strongest of the British kingdoms of the North, ruled by Riderich Hael (The Generous). The King of Strathclyde had ties by blood or marriage to the lesser northern British kingdoms of Din Eityn, Goddodin and Selcovia. The Welsh annals record Riderich as a warrior king, astride his warhorse Rudlwyt ("Dun-Grey") and bearing the sword Dyrnwyn ("White Hilt). Accounts of his battles are scare, however. He shared the victory at Arderydd against Caer-Guenoleu, fought with Urien of Rheged and others against King Hussa of Bernicia in 590 AD, and skirmished constantly with Aedan mac Gabran following the latter's treacherous raid on Hael's court at Alclud. In his later years, Bernicia was his principal foe. Riderich Hael reigned until his death in bed in 612 AD, when he was succeeded by his son Constantine.

Under Aedan mac Gabran, the Dalraidic Scots waged almost continual war on the Picts from 584-597 AD, successfully repelling Pictish sea raiders from the Orkneys and striking overland to defeat the Maetae at Leithri (Miathi) in 590 AD to reclaim Manau Goddodin, as well as driving Irish contenders from their lodgments on Inys Manaw. But following his defeat at to the Picts at Circinn (598 AD) and to the Bernicians at Degsastan (603 AD), and the subsequent death of St. Columba (606 AD), Aedin mac Gabran abdicated his throne in favor of his son Eochaid Buide and retired to the monastery of Kilkerran, where he died in 609 AD.

Aethelfrith the Ferocious came to power in Bernicia in 592 AD. After defeating the Britons at Catraeth (598 AD) and the Dalriadic Scots at Degsastan (603 AD), he deposed Edward of Deira (604 AD), overran Byrneich, attacked Din Eityn and Manau Goddodin, and extended Bernician rule into the British midlands. Aethelfrith ruled Bernicia and Deira jointly until 616 AD from his coastal stronghold at Din Guyardi (modern Bamburgh). His power grew to rival that of the East Anglian Bretwalda Raedwald, who defeated and killed Aethelfrith at the Battle of the Idles on behalf of the deposed Edwin of Deira. The sons of Aethelfrith sought safe haven with King Eochaid in Dalriada, laying the foundation for future conflicts for the throne of Northumbria.


King Riderich Hael Northern Brits (II/81d)
King Aedan mac Gabran Scots of Daliada (II/54b, as modified)
King Aethelfrith of Bernicia Angles of Northumbria (II/73, as modified)
King Nectan nepos Uerb Picts (II/68b)


Click Map Image to Enlarge


Pictavia: Pictavia is depicted as two kingdoms - the North (Grey) and the south (Purple). Each kingdom is defended by its own army, both of which are controlled by the player in the role of Nectan. The southern army uses the normal DBA II/68b list. The more sparcely populated northern kingdom is defended by a smaller army comprised of 1x3Cv or 3Sp (Gen), 1x 2Lh, 5x 3Sp and 2x 2Ps, and can not be recruited beyond nine elements in strength. Either army can defend its own turf at any time, but only the southern army of Nectan can move or attack outside Pictavia (or attack a non-Pictish foe in Cait, Fidach or Ce) in any season. Losses in each army are recorded separately, and neither army can recruit its losses from the territory of the other. Either army can contribute an allied contingent to the other, but only for battles fought within Pictavia. The allied contingent will be "reluctant" on a 1D6 result of 5-6. Allied contingents should be run by another campaign player who is otherwise unoccupied or a player determined by other means.

In order to simplify the campaign, Nectan is not allowed to conquer the Northern kingdom. But if either the northern or southern Pictish capital falls or Nectan (i.e. the southern Pictish CnC) is killed in battle, then Pictavia is reunited under an unnamed king. The stronger of the two Pictish armies is used (the other is retired) and the army can henceforth recruit normally from the remaining Pictish territories.

Dalriada: The Dalriadan list is modified as follows: 1x 3Cv or 3Wb or 3Ax (Gen). King Aedan of Dalriada was overlord of the Dal Raitans who remained in northern Ireland, and was entitled to taxes and possession of the Dal Raitan fleet. Migration continued between northern Ireland and the prosperous and expanding Kingdom of Dalriada. To represent this, Aedan can recruit one element (3Ax or 2Ps) from new arrivals each campaign year.

The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: The Anglo-Saxon army list is modifed as follows: 1x3Cv or 4Wb (Gen). King Aethelfrith can recruit two elements each campaign year from both Bernicia and Deira and one from Bryneich. He can also call upon the Southern Saxons for an allied contingent in any battle fought in Bernicia or Deira. Allied contingents should be played by another campaign player who is otherwise unoccupied or a player determined by other means. During each summer season that Aethelfrith is campaigning outside his territories, roll 1D6. One a result of 6, there is a revolt in Deira and Aethelfrith must abandon his campaign and return by the fastest route with his army to suppress it.

Seiges and Strongholds: Dark Age armies lacked the means to maintain lengthy seiges. In this campaign, only one seige attempt may be made. If it is unsuccessful, the beseiging army must retire from the province the next season in order to replenish its supplies. The Royal Strongholds (Abernethy, Din Guyardi, Dumbarton and Dunadd) are indicated on the map by name. They fall only on a 6 if garrisoned (5-6 if ungarrisoned), whereas the provincial strongholds fall on a 5-6 if garrisoned (4-6 if ungarrisoned).

Allied Contingents: Late arriving allied contingents were not characteristic of Dark Ages battles. Each player sending an allied contingent must indicate to the CnC whether the contingent is "willing" or "reluctant." The allied contingents then deploy at the same time as the main army in a legal deployment area specified by the CnC (but in a formation determined by the commander of the allied contingent). A willing allied contingent moves normally. A reluctant allied command does not "activate" until it rolls a unmodified pip die of 5-6 or is attacked. Until activated, it may not move except to turn in place.

Big Battle Option: In any battle where two or more rulers are allied against a third (and/or fourth), the battle may be fought using DBA Big Battle rules. Players must agree in advance which ruler will serve as CnC. Where the alliance has three rulers, the battle is fought with three commands comprising the normal DBA army of each ruler. Where the alliance has two rulers, the CnC's army is doubled, and the allied ruler provides the third command. When attacking or defending alone in an alliance big battle, a single ruler triples his army. If sufficient figures are not available for Big Battles, then players should opt for normal DBA battles.

Non-Campaign Territories: Northern and Southern Rheged and various other British kingdoms of the western midlands are represented on the campaign map in teal. Although British, they are not part of the campaign (i.e. may not be conquered) and are hostile to any foreign army that seeks to traverse their territory. For each stage of transit, roll 1D6. On a result of 1-2, the transiting army loses that number of elements to skirmishing, ambushes, and lack of supply. An army that finishes its movement in any teal territory is considered out of supply unless adjacent to a home territory.

Map Movement: The following special rules apply to movement on the campaign map. A Dalriadan army can move by water between Loarne and Kintyre, but all other armies must move by land. Movement between Argyl and Strathclyde must transit through Fortrenn. A Pictish army can move by water between Circinn and Fib, but all other armies must move by land.

Sea Routes: Although the coastal kingdoms of Dalriada, Pictavia and Bernicia all possessed ships, no provision is made for sea movement (except as provided under Map Movement above) since there is no historical record of large armies moving by water (only small raiding parties). If parties opt to use sea routes, then sea movement is treated as coastal in nature with movement segments determined by the boundaries of the land territories.

Victory Conditions

The campaign lasts for ten years, after which the winner is the player who has accumulated the largest number of prestige points.

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Last Updated: 9 April 2006

Campaign designed by Chris Brantley. Questions, comments,
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