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The world’s most famous chess set inspires a board game in a Game of Thrones-like medieval Britain

Bretwalda sees players wrestle over the seven kingdoms of early Middle Ages England and includes pieces based on the Lewis chessmen.

A new board game inspired by the famous Lewis chessmen and set in early medieval Britain will hit Gamefound this summer, Dicebreaker can exclusively reveal.

Bretwalda takes place in the wake of King Offa of Mercia’s death in 796 AD, setting the stage for a Games of Thrones-style squabble over the throne between England’s four biggest kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex and East Angles.

Those regions will be controlled by up to four players, who must use their power and persuasion to seize the crown of England’s seven kingdoms as Bretwalda - the ruler of Britain.

The upcoming board game sees players using their kingdom to occupy areas of Britain, construct abbeys - in keeping with the historical era’s shift from Paganism to Christianity - and manage their available funds and armies to fend off attacks while keeping their own troops loyal. The game is an asymmetric experience, as each kingdom will have unique abilities and leaders, with each player pursuing secret objectives referred to as Chronicles.

During each of up to 12 rounds - representing seasons - players resolve the effects of that season’s event card before performing two actions of a possible four: choosing to collect taxes, develop their kingdom, mobilise or move. Bretwalda will play in around two hours, with the option to play the game in a single-player solo mode.

As well as contending directly with their rival rulers, players will have to deal with the threat of Viking raiders and other independent factions vying for power within Britain - either by using pure military might or by paying Vikings and independent armies to turn on their opponents instead.

Publisher Phalanx, which previously created WWII submarine sim UBOOT and Vietnam War co-op game Purple Haze, described Bretwalda as encouraging diplomacy, bartering and alliance - however temporary - between players as they juggle head-to-head conflict and careful management of their kingdom.

The board game will include player pieces based on the Lewis chessmen, the 12th-century chess pieces discovered in the Outer Hebrides that are arguably the most famous chess set in the world. The game’s artwork is said to draw influence from the Book of Kells, the ninth-century illuminated manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament renowned for its calligraphy and illustrations.

Bretwalda will hit crowdfunding site Gamefound on June 15th, with its campaign running until July 6th. At least two expansions would be revealed for the game during the campaign, Phalanx added. An expected release date and pricing are yet to be announced.

About the Author

Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief, Dicebreaker

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.

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