Ortus Regni - The Villages
The villages of an Earldom can be conquered, or pillaged and lost.
As a great Lord you are safe enough behind your walls and fortifications but the rest of your Anglo-Saxon society is dispersed across the land in farming villages.
You guard and protect your most precious Fiefs, and all the most important strategic locations in your Earldom with strongholds, burghs, maintained roads, and watchtowers... but how well can you protect the rest of your world from the incursions of both other Earls and the feared Vikings?
In this variant each Earl sets out 10 cubes of their color in front of their Earldom at the start of Ortus Regni. These are the key farming Villages of their Earldom.
Opponents can Attack and attempt to conquer or burn your Villages. When all 10 are gone your Earldom has been crippled and starved of resources, both human and material.
In this variant there is a new Attack possibility.
In addition to an Attack on another Earl's Towers, or Raiding a Fief, or Sieging one of their Castles (or Palaces), Earls can now target another Earl's Villages. And each damage point that gets beyond an Earl's fielded defending forces will conquer or destroy 1 Village.
The Villages are not protected by Towers. Players can place or line up their Villages beyond their Towers on the table.
The successful attacking Earl may then select whether they want to conquer Villages or burn them down. They can either take any Villages they have successfully hit, and place them with their own Villages… or remove them from the game if they wish to burn them down.
The Vikings can be directed to Attack an Earl’s Villages. But Vikings only pillage and burn villages; removing Villages from the game.
Villages are not rebuildable. It is the peasants, villeins, and livestock that make a village, not the huts and barns.
But you may, of course, take Villages from another Earl to replenish or add to the number of Villages under the control of your Earldom. There is no limit to the number of Villages that an Earl may control.
When your Earldom possesses no Villages you suffer a penalty. This penalty is then permanent for the rest of the struggle, you can no longer steal Villages from other Earls but you can still burn Villages. Your feudal society is torn asunder and you no longer have the human capital to integrate distant Villages into your Earldom.
When an Earl’s last Village has been lost they must immediately discard all but 1 card in their Hand!
From that point on they may hold no more than 1 card in their Hand. If they ever find themselves holding more, they must immediately choose 1 card to keep, and discard down to 1 card.
For example, you may hold 1 card in your hand when you go to draw a card from your Earl deck to end you turn. You must then decide which of those 2 cards in your hand to discard and which card to keep. Similarly if you Banquet you may draw 2 cards, but then must decide which to keep and which to discard.
The bulk of the thanes and peasants supporting your medieval society and economy are lost to you. But you still have your arms and honor, your castles, and some loyal retainers… to fight on bravely against such tyranny!
Even if your great hall - your Hand - is emptied of the normal crowd of notable Anglo-Saxons that formally crowded around your table.
Players can line up their Villages just above their Tower wall. This both indicates that they are vulnerable, beyond your Earldom's normal defenses, and also makes it easier for everyone to see the number of Villages in play.
Villages will change sides, and go back and forth, as Earls attack each other's Villages. The color of the Village cubes have no other significance than showing who originally controlled them. It is merely embarrassing for an Earl to see Village cubes of his or her color now proudly held by others.
It is not easy to remove all of an Earl’s Villages. There are 10 of then to start with and an Earl who has lost multiple Villages may conquer some to replenish their society.
While the penalty imposed for losing the Villages can be crippling it may merely be an inconvenience, depending on what state your Earldom is in or what type of deck you are playing.
Also keep in mind that this is more likely to happen in the later part of a game, when Earls often have very few cards in their Hands anyway. Still, it is a serious limitation on your ability to operate a powerful and responsive Earldom.
Typically, using tactics that are aimed at crushing another Earl’s Villages is a strategy that will shape your game. And it does not always pay off. Earls can and have won despite losing all their Villages in the end. One can view the Villages as something akin to life or hit points, as a game mechanism, but the Villages plays more like an alternate strategy path in practice than implied by that comparison.
Playing Village rules with Thanes rules
It is tricky but possible to play both variant rules together. But instead of 10 Thanes cubes and 10 Village cubes (all 20 included in the game!), players can set aside 4 Thanes cubes and 8 Village cubes. Using 12 cubes each. Even though this leaves only 8 cubes for the Viking Bag this is likely to be sufficient. Thane and Village cubes will also be removed from play as the game proceeds, in many cases.
Thane cubes also need to be more carefully placed and handled when Village cubes are lined up in front of Earldoms, to avoid confusion.
Fold and Play Mat
We originally made this type of printable mat for Knight-errant and King, Archbishop, and Duke - to provide game functionality - but for this variant it offers some thematic ambiance to the rules.
This is not at all required for gameplay, but for those who like the concept, each player would print out their own mini mat and place it in front of their Earldom tableau, and in front of any Towers.
This is a PDF file that you can print out and then fold corner to corner - the long way - and provides each player with a personal mini mat to place cubes along the top of.