News for October 2008
Drafting Sides in Britannia
By Lewis Pulsipher
Britannia | Published 15 October 2008

This is an alternative to using the standard sets of nations and colors specified in the Britannia rules. Choosing nations in this way may result in occasional lopsided results, as players may not immediately recognize optimum strategies (just as they usually do not when playing the first few times with the standard nation sets). On the other hand, this method will usually result in new combinations that will make the game seem "new" to experienced players.

 
When a player has a choice, he chooses one nation (or a combination, when combinations are being used). If a player has one of the nations in each of the following sets, he is not permitted to choose the other, unless there is no other choice available.
 
Prohibited Nation Pairings: 
Romans and any of: Angles, Belgae, Brigantes, Irish, Jutes, Picts, Saxons, Welsh 
Angles-Danes 
Angles-Saxons 
Danes-Saxons 
Danes-Norwegians 
Norwegians-Saxons 
Normans-Saxons
 
This strongly limits the player who has the Romans, considerably limits the player who has Danes or Saxons, and limits the Norwegians and Angles almost as much, and it is conceivable that a late choice must be a "prohibited" combination simply because there is no other choice. For example, if the player with the Romans has the last pick, and only the Belgae remain, he'll have to take the Belgae.
 
Three players: 
In order to have the same number of picks for each player we split the Romans and Romano-British apart, and also combine Dubliners with Jutes (one pick takes both), and Romano-British and Belgae (one pick for both) for a total of 15.
 
The three players are designated, A, B, and C, with the designations assigned in some suitable way (dice roll, age, whatever). The players choose in the following pattern:
 
A B C C B A C B A A B C
 
And then roll dice for the order of the last set of picks, 1 2 3. Or use the point option described for five players.
 
Four players: 
The Romans and Romano-British are one pick together, so that there are 16 picks. The pattern is:
 
A B C D D C B A D C B A A B C D
 
Alternative: split the Romans and Romano-British apart, and combine the Romano-British with the Dubliners.
 
Five players: 
We split the Romans and Romano-British apart. In order to have the same number of picks for each player we combine the Dubliners with Jutes (one pick takes both), and the Romano-British and Belgae (one pick for both) . The pattern is:
 
A B C D E E D C B A
 
For the last five there are two choices. First, you can roll dice for the last set of picks, using 1 2 3 4 5. Second, you can tally up the average scores for the nations selected so far, using Pekka Marjola's database (latest numbers below), and then choose in order of points, lowest to highest.
 
Comments: 
It is possible to end up with a set of sides that will leave one player with nothing to do for long periods of the game. Drafters need to take this into account when they choose. This is especially likely for five players.
 
Using the prohibitions can result in "jockeying" for situations where a nation cannot be taken by your opponents, so you can leave picking it until later, and take some other nation. For example, for three players, player A takes the Romans, B the Saxons, C the Angles: now B and C cannot take the Danes, so the Romans may try taking someone other than the Danes with his second pick (sixth overall), hoping that they will still be available at his next pick (ninth overall). (To counteract this player C might choose not to take the Angles, but that's a touch decision to make . . . player C has both third and fourth picks, remember.)
 
The alternative of not using the prohibitions is available, but can lead to lopsided results even amongst experienced players. A recent game for three using drafting ended in a score of 441-249-95 when the first player got the combination of Welsh/Saxons/Angles/Brigantes. In the middle of the game virtually all opposition was eliminated.
 
Testers suggest you may want to use the victory point bidding system described in the rules after selections are made.
 
My thanks to people who helped me test this: Rob Brockway, Jamie Edmundson, Richard Jones, Pekka Marjola, Torben Mogensen, Karsten Ockenfels, Luke Taper.
 
Average points from Pekka's (still quite small) database:
 
 
Romans 125 
Romano-British 8 
Scots 28 
Dubliners 18 
Norwegians 36 
Welsh 91 
Caledonians 36 
Jutes 16 
Danes 67 
Brigantes 55 
Irish 28 
Saxons 98 
Norsemen 42 
Belgae 22 
Picts 62 
Angles 92 
Normans 42
 
Example of a Drafting system
 
Allison, Bill, Conrad, and David are choosing sides for a four-player Brit game. (The order corresponds to the first letters of their names.)
 
Allison chooses the Romans/Romano-British. 
Bill chooses the Angles. 
Conrad chooses the Welsh. 
David chooses the Saxons and the Picts. He could not choose Normans, Norwegians, or Danes, as they are prohibited to the Saxons. 
Conrad chooses the Normans to go with his Welsh. 
Bill chooses Norwegians. He could not take the Danes, as he has the Angles. 
Allison chooses, having a limited range of choices because she has the Romans, and takes the Danes. 
David takes the Brigantes. Saxons, Picts, and Brigantes looks like a pretty good combination, but certainly puts him up against the Roman-R-B-Dane side. 
Conrad takes the Norsemen to go with Welsh and Normans. 
Bill takes Scots to go with his Angles and Norwegians--a northern axis brewing. 
Allison now has Belgae, Irish, Jutes, Caledonians, and Dubliners to choose from. She can't take the first three because she has the Romans. She takes the Dubliners. 
She now has another choice, and is forced to take the Caledonians. 
Bill now has Belgae, Irish, and Jutes to choose from. He takes the Jutes. 
Conrad takes the Irish, as much to protect the Welsh as for any other reason. 
David takes the Belgae.
 
Allison: Romans, Romano-British, Danes, Dubliners, Caledonians 
Bill: Angles, Norwegians, Scots, Jutes 
Conrad: Welsh, Normans, Norsemen, Irish. 
David: Saxons, Picts, Brigantes, Belgae.
 
Strategy changes drastically. It looks like the Irish may be helping the Welsh against the Saxons, instead of the other way around. The Picts and Angles will be enemies (which was true historically), and the Scots and Angles may cooperate against the Picts. The Saxons, Brigantes, and Picts have the Angles surrounded, in a manner of speaking. We still have the "four kings" controlled by four different players, but that may not always be so. It isn't likely to be as balanced a game as the standard sides, but it will certainly be different in fascinating ways.
 
Many people in Conrad's position would have selected the Danes to go along with the Welsh, but he wanted to try something different. At first Conrad was going to take the Belgae as his last selection, but saw that it would be best to keep the Irish off his back. Now Conrad has Norsemen and Irish able to cooperate, and not likely to pick on the Welsh--could be interesting. Bill has no pieces on the board until the third round! He may have the weakest lineup, as well. Maybe he should have taken Irish rather than Jutes? It was his choice, nobody made him do it. In the mid-game Allison may have little to do unless her Romano-British survive for a while, as the Caledonians tend to be pretty passive.
 
And so forth.
 
Lew Pulsipher
    
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