Ab Initio Games & Software Simulations

Interactive Sports, Historical & Sci-Fi Games

Over Thirty Years of Online & Postal Play - since 1986

When the Romans left Britain, they turned out the lights. This is what happened next.....

Dark Age Britain

The scene is Dark Age Britain, a land where a dozen nations and kings and a multitude of tribes and races jostle for supremacy. Britons, Picts, Welsh, Scots and Irish battle for survival against invading Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Norsemen.

In the far corner of the isles are the remnants of Celtic Britain, gathered in the mountains and moors, and ready to reclaim their heritage. In Wales, in Cornwall, and in the northern lands beyond the wall are the British kingdoms of Cornwall, Dyfed, Gwynedd and Strathclyde.

To the furthest noth the Picts still linger, survivors of an age beyond civilisation. To the west the Gaelic clans and tribes of Irish and Scots await their chance to cross the Irish Sea to the mainland.

Across the south of the country are the Saxons, establishing one kingdom in the east and another in the west. The Jutes are settled in the far south east, in the kingdom of Kent. In East Anglia, Mercia and Northumberland are the English.

Beyond the misty grey water of the North Sea the Viking homelands bulge with the growing population of Scandinavia. Soon the longships will set forth on their voyages of discovery, of looting and conquest, and behind them will come the farmers and settlers to the new lands in the west.

This is the age of Beowulf, of Arthur, of Alfred the Great, Eric Bloodaxe and Ethelred the Unready. This is an age of bitter war, of ever-shifting alliances, of great population movements, as the many kings and peoples of Britain pursue their destinies with sword and plough.

Many kingdoms and populations will vanish forever from the pages of history but others will grow, and some day one will stand pre-eminent. Will it be an Anglo-Saxon king that brings the country under a single ruler? Will the Saxon kingdom fall under the onslaught of the Vikings and Britain become the southern outpost of the lands of Scandinavia? Will a new Arthur arise and lead the British back to the rich lands of the south?

Barbarians at the Gate

The game detailed below is Dark Age, situated in the British Isles. There is now also a variant game, based on the Dark Age game, called Barbarians at the Gate, situated in all of Europe at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire. Click here for details of Barbarians at the Gate, or continue here for details of Dark Age.


Sample Map

The Game



Mountains, Forests and Wetlands


Scouts and Spies

Ships and Fleets

The Last Resort

Games and Turnfees

Writing Orders/Play by Email

Players from outside the U.K.


Sample Map

A sample map is below, a blank map to illustate the Dark Age map. The map is a thumbnail, click on the map to expand it.

darkage.jpg (407807 bytes)


The Game

Dark Age is a game of power and conflict in Dark Age Britain. The game system is simple and straightforward, with plenty of scope for skill and skullduggery, combining the finesse of Diplomacy and the fluidity of Risk. To win the game you must expand your population to become the dominant kingdom of Britain. Only warfare will provide the room for your population to grow, but only peace will allow you to secure your gains. Wars must be decisive, and your diplomatic efforts may be the key to victory.

The English, Welsh, Scots and Irish; all the ancient rivalries of Britain, in an age where no-one can afford to bear grudges - because everyone is out to get you.


Cities provide the common subjects of your kingdom an ideal place to populate. Industries such as commerce, trades, crafts and markets allow you to increase the economic resources of your kingdom and may increase your influence with rival kings. Building such riches may also attract raiders from rival kingdoms in search of plunder.

Rivals may attempt to blockade your cities by surrounding them with vast numbers of armies and can lay a siege on the city to wear down the defences in order to capture it. As king you must ensure you have enough armies to protect the cities. Fortifications can also be erected to help improve the defensive capabilities of your armies and population within the city.

If you cannot fight your way to freedom you may wish to donate money to your attacker as part of a deal, as a bribe, as protection money, as ransom for removing the blockade from the city. Alternatively you may call on your allies from another kingdom to help attack the barbarians at the city gates.


Lowlands also provide an excellent place for population growth. Without the defensive advantages of a City and the difficult terrain of the mountains, forests and wetlands to slow armies in the treacherous conditions, they can be a vulnerable place to establish a major population base, though sometimes it's unavoidable. 

Expansion is the aim and lowlands certainly provide the space. A combination of fortifications and armies may be your only way to protect your common subjects from enemies looking to rapidly sweep through the lowlands wreaking havoc.

Mountains, Forests and Wetlands

You could expand your population and kingdom into the mountains, forests and wetlands, although not as ideal for massive growth. The defensive capabilities of your armies are increased in such terrain. They also provide excellent protection against rival armies whose movement is severely hampered. This can give you valuable time to round up more armies to help protect your kingdom while rivals fight through the trying conditions.


For each of your land areas you must decide its defensive strategy or tactic in case of attack from blood thirsty assassins. You can order your armies and population to:- Fight! Stand and fight until the last man in standing if attacked; Retreat! Move to nearby friendly territories if outnumbered; Ambush! Set up an ambush and spring a surprise attack on any invader whose guard is down. 

Scouts and Spies

Scouts and spies are of enormous value in reporting back to the king on rival kingdom's populations, industry levels, fortifications, ships and army numbers. This information can be vital for your tactical expansion plans. Scouts obtain data and information about areas on the borders of your kingdom while spies move all over the country. 

Spies must be elusive or they can be found and strung from the nearest tree. Spies can set a trap for rival kingdoms' spies so important information about your kingdom does not get transferred around the country leading to your downfall. If a rival spy is caught they are knifed in the dark and dumped in a ditch. Spies can sabotage armies and ships but they are caught and executed. Spies can also set up a permanent watch from a tree and provide information about the territory.

Good scouts and spies can be the difference between expanding your kingdom in the right direction to victory or walking into a massive build up of troops and ships to a massacre.

Ships and Fleets

Viking long boats rule the high seas; no beach or city port is safe from their raids. Ships can be built and fleets launched by any kingdom which has a territory on the coast. Fleets can be important weapons in a kingdom's offensive armoury. Ships can help defend against the vicious Vikings and can help you launch a surprise attack against oncoming armies behind enemy lines, cutting the retreat routes and forcing them to fight your kingdom on two fronts.

The Last Resort

If all else fails and it looks like a group of your territories must fall, pillage the kingdom. Send in the troops to seize any and all moveable, consumable or saleable assets (including the population themselves: these are the dark ages, after all). This will totally rape the territories of anything valuable so the attackers will be forced to rebuild the villages and industries from scratch.

In the face of total annihilation you can always exchange your kingdom for a better position. You'll escape the humiliation of defeat and live to fight another day! Freedom!

Games and Turnfees

In Dark Age you normally start playing by joining a new game, and there are always waiting lists open. However, you can also join an existing game, if kingdoms are available and still suitable for play. You may have to wait a few weeks for a game to start playing. Once started, all run with two-weekly deadlines (so you've fourteen days between turns). Turnfees in Dark Age are 2.50 for one, 10.00 for four, 20.00 for ten and 36.00 for twenty. There are further discounts available if you play in more than one game. Click here for more details of turnfees.

We welcome players from outside the UK. Click here for more details of overseas players.

Game Reports

Normally reports are sent to you by email, so you'll have your result within minutes of the game being played, but players can receive their results by post if they wish. For more details on play-by-email click here.

Sending Orders/Play by Email

Your instructions are normally sent through our active website, but can also be sent by post or fax if required. Click here for more details on play by email

How to join

To join Dark Age you'll need to send 5.00 (payable to Ab Initio Games) along with your name and address, which covers the cost of your rulebook, setup and first three turns. When you send in your application please give five kingdom preferences in order (choices are: East Anglia, Middle Angles, Mercia, Northumbria, Wessex, Essex, Kent, Cumbria, West Wales, Dyfed, Gwynedd, Strathclyde, Irish, Scots, Picts and Vikings).

To join the game you need to click here to pay your startup fee by credit card via our secure server website, or you can print out the form below and post it to us along with payment. If you'd rather submit your application by post, please print off the form below and include payment when you send it to us.

Please print, complete and return the details below:


YES, Id like to join a game of Dark Age.

Ive enclosed a cheque/postal order for 5.00 (payable to Ab Initio Games).

Kingdom Preferences: 



Where did you first hear about Dark Age?: 

Email Address if you're happy to be contacted this way:

For more information please contact: Danny McConnell

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