Press "Enter" to skip to content

Category: Chris Crawford

Excalibur – The United Kingdom

I was telling you last time how power in England had started to consolidate around two Kingdoms : in the South my Kingdom, with my vassals (King Pellinore and King Baldulf) and my allies (King Hoel and King Penda), in the North King Uryens kingdom, and his stooges.

My power in the South elicits envy and jealousy, in particular King Garwin’s ; in fairness he probably feels a bit surrounded. Correctly identifying King Pellinore as the weakest link in my system, he marches on Gwynedd. I fly to the rescue, and together with Pellinore‚Äôs men we repulse him with prejudice.

I do not have much time to celebrate ! King Horsa, seeing I had left my castle, is attacking Camelot ! I return in all haste, but find out that he has more men than I me. Unclear as to the experience of his force and noticing he is himself attacked by King Royns, I refuse combat. He soon leaves my territory.

Finally, King Uryens of the North makes his big move. King Uryens leaves the desolated North with a powerful and experienced army and is marching South. His target, again, is Gwynedd. My army is exhausted, smaller and less experienced, but I will accomplish my duty as a King and support King Pellinore ! True Kingship does not turn its back to its allies.

With Uryens’ army massed in front of Pellinore’s castle, my men grow confident ! Who could have predicted that Uryens’ army would be hit by a nasty case of plague as it crossed England ! What a surprise ! What a totally unexpected development ! Maybe we stand a chance after all !

The battle is not as long nor brutal as I expected. King Pellinore’s forces sacrifice themselves to receive the first blows – possibly because I had put them at the front and made sure to position Sir Bors just behind them so they could not retreat. Once Uryens’ men have tired, my own men swoop in and chase the invaders. When I defeat King Uryens’ personal guard, victory is mine.

Out of the 16 men lost, maybe 14 are Pellinore’s

This task accomplished, I return to my castle. This humiliating defeat sends a tremor through the political landscape of England.

The following weeks are great for me. King Uryens’ prestige has faltered, and smelling blood in the water King Colgrim of Bernicia pounces on King Uryens vassals, locking the North in a war I am thankfully not part of. To avoid fighting more than he can handle, King Uryens pays me a tribute. This does not last, but it prompts the other Kings to also pay tribute to avoid being next on my naughty list ; first King Royns, then King Horsa. King Deira of Sater straight up becomes my vassal. Soon half of England is either a vassal or paying me a tribute. I use this impromptu cash to retrain my army and shower my Knights with gold. My prestige is at an all-time high !

But wait, there’s more ! I eventually receive one of the best news of my reign :

The powerful King Penda requests to become my vassal !

At this point, with 4 vassals and three Kings paying tribute, with my opponents divided, with my treasury full, I am confident England will soon be reunited :

Colgrim put so much pressure on Uryens that he managed to convince King Lot to switch sides.

It is unfortunately not the time yet ! I have quite simply too many kingdoms to defend, and there are too many Kings still active. King Cheldric of East Anglia, in particular, is relentless, as is King Horsa who does not pay tribute for long. Again, I run from vassal to vassal. I win all my battles, but fail to arrive in time to defend Penda – I can’t even remember who attacked him. Furious, Penda immediately defects to King Uryens. Shortly thereafter, King Sater of Deira joins King Cheldric, My prestige plummets to below 45.

I change my strategy. King Augusel had thrown the towel after I killed all his Knights in battle, maybe that’s what I need to do : focus on doing as much damage as possible rather than on winning battles as cheaply as possible before jumping to help the first vassal. I need to pick a King whose troops have limited experience – and King Cheldric happens to be that King after the flurry of attacks he unleashed on each of his peers. As an added bonus, he is the growing power in Southern England.

In one decisive battle, I kill 7 of his Knights, granted losing half 40% of my army in the battle.

There is no way to keep vassals after such a defeat

I follow-up by an attack on Cheldric’s home , but he refuses to leave the protection of his castle for a long time. I have to return to my castle, where the map room is full of messengers. I learn I have two new vassals : one is King Idres from the far North who decided for some reason to bend the knee again. The other is Royns. After losing a long scuffle with King Garwin of Powys, he’s decided I am the protector he needs !

King Uryens seem to have mostly recovered, and King Colgrin is back to being a nobody... for now

King Uryens and King Colgrim are still locked in their ruthless war, but Cheldric, Hengist, Horsa and Garwin accelerate their raiding, alternatively attacking my vassals, me or one another. I pivot my strategy and focus on defending Pellinore and Royns. My prestige does its usual thing and goes down again, especially since Idres keeps requesting me to be his liege, then Uryens, then me again, then Uryens – and I lose more prestige than I gain every time. I soon lose Elmet too, but I don’t really care for now. I fight battle after battle after battle and I don’t seem to progress – I need to get one of the other Kings out of the competition.

I have a plan : King Horsa’s Cantware is next to Camelot. Everytime Horsa is out bringing misery to another King, I sortie and raid his territory.

One of my early raids, accelerated 3 times. The long pauses every time I destroy a crop are part of the many small issues making the game frustrating to play.

Slowly, surely, his morale collapses. First he is faltering, then despairing, and finally he declares himself a vassal to King Garwin.

As to the other Kings, I manage to slay a Knight here and another there, though never as efficiently as when I wiped almost all of Cheldric’s elite in one battle. King Cheldric has only one Knight available when attacking, King Hengist only two, King Colgrim (which I only occasionally see in the South) two as well. Only King Garwin and I suppose King Uryens managed to keep most of their Knights alive. As for me, I know which battles to fight and which to avoid, and I kept my 6 Knights. Merlin’s special “savestate” magic plays some role in that, but I manage to use his power with relative restraint.

After defeating King Horsa, I finally found the martingale : wait for the Kings to leave their castle, and then raid their Kingdom mercilessly. It goes extremely fast : I get rid of King Hengist next, then King Cheldric. My rivals inherit their vassals, but King Penda switches back to me. We are down to 4 Kings, plus Kinglet Hoel in Dumnonia still clinging to his throne.

The Tetrarchy. King Colgrin has managed to take the upper hand against King Uryens, possibly after seizing Elmet, one of the few Northern territories whose crops have not been annihilated in the Great Northern War.

The messenger room is now mostly empty, I need to wait a long time between messages. I cannot pull my usual trick against King Garwin, because he has enough Knights to leave a good number in defence. But unfortunately for him, with so little activity, my available-plague-to-battle ratio goes up. In one of his attacks against Camelot, Garwin ends up with only 28 men against almost 100 of mine. I use the opportunity to kill 3 of his Knights !

Envelopment is a lot easier when you outnumber your opponent 3:1

After that, it is easy to raId his Kingdom and force him to abdicate in favour of King Uryens. I then wait for King Colgrin to leave for one of his frequent Northern expeditions to raid his territory, and it is even more effective : not only does King Colgrin abdicate, but he hates Uryens so much that he becomes my vassal. With King Hoel finally picking a side – mine – there are only two Kings left :

When a King becomes a vassal, all his vassals follow him, so compared to the last map Garwin’s Kingdom was merged with Uryens and Colgrin’s Kingdom with mine, except for another Pictland – Reget swap that happened when he was still active.

With so many vassals paying tribute, cash becomes a non-issue – I receive more than I can even spend. I soon have the most powerful army possible : 128 men with 128 in experience.

As for Uryens, he also has enough vassals to max his army, which in his case means 128 men but more than 128 in experience. The Scots have more potential in them than the rest of us !

I have 149 in prestige and 6 Knights, Uryens has 119 and 10 Knights. Key-difference though : Uryens has no bio-weapons, I have.

I plague King Uryens’ army, and march North to meet him on the battlefield. That’s the last important battle of the campaign. 133 of my men (Knights included) against 116 better-trained of his.

As King Uryens still has all his Knights, his soldiers are distributed between 11 units, while mine are distributed between only 7, so taking into account experience my units are on average probably slightly better than his. To make the most of that advantage, I move to the left of the battlefield, rendering useless King Uryens’ own left :

I then push forward, with my best Knight, Galahad, leading the charge. Uryens’ right routs, and some of his Knights even leave the battlefield !

After that, I wheel right, surrounding what’s left of Uryens’ army :

All my units can attack, whereas only 4 of Uryens’s can fight at the same time. It is a bloodbath. I kill 4 of his Knights, the rest escaping to the North-East. Alas, Sir Percival gives his life trying to contain King Uryens’ personal bodyguards, while Sir Tristan is routed.

Finally, King Uryens is surrounded, and his elite guard annihilated :

This has been the longest battle of my campaign (15 minutes !), and a costly one too : but there is no way Uryens comes back from that.

Mathematically, King Uryens’ advantage in experience is gone, and it will not come back if I can keep the pressure on. I am not sure what “mathematically” means, I’m just repeating what Merlin told me.

My war against Uryens carries on for some time, always following the same procedure : Uryens marches against one of my vassals. After a long trek I always arrive first (even when he is attacking Reget) and with the help of the vassal’s army I repulse Uryens, each time more easily than the previous one. I then raid his Kingdom a bit and return South. It takes a while, but Uryens eventually weakens, then falters, then despairs, and finally :

The change of colour of the castle indicates its owner became my vassal. Note that I am going at twice the emulated speed because it was that long at the end.

The last thing to do is to return to Camelot to officially proclaim the United Kingdom :

Finally !

Well, I have won, I am both happy with but also not too proud as I have reloaded a lot to achieve this victory.

The Rating & Review is upcoming, but I can already say the game far, far outlasted its welcome despite its many qualities ; it is incredibly innovative but boy is it long (I only mentioned maybe 10% of the battles I went through) and repetitive. If I have one advice to anyone playing the game (beyond “check it, but don’t try to finish it“) it is to raid crops like crazy – there’s no indication about this in the manual or the novellas but that’s what triggers Kings to abdicate.

I can promise that the long campaigns are done for the time-being, and with one Avalon Hill exception we are going to cover shorter and less ambitious games from UK !