The Battle of Long Bog (Norse Irish v. Anglo-Normans)

14 July, 2009

At the end of March this year to celebrate the completion of the Norse-Irish I tried them out in a solo game against an Anglo-Norman opponent. The Irish were defenders (I didn’t need to cheat about this, but I was prepared to). The Irish had to have a waterway and elected to have two woods close to it at either end of the board and a long marsh at 90 degrees to it in the middle of the board in relation to the waterway, and near and about two thirds of the way along the board in the other direction. The Normans thought of trying to put the waterway to the rear of the Irish, but eventually decided to be closest to the marsh and hope to get around its flanks with their cavalry in time to destroy the Irish in the open.

The Irish deployed with three elements of bonnachts supported by an element of kerns in a line in front of the wood behind which their camp was and then to have the rest of the bonnachts and kerns to line up alongside this group with the Ostmen to their rear. They hoped to gain the marsh before the knights and cavalry could catch them. They decided against trying a littoral landing (it’d only slow up the rush for the marsh).

The English had three elements of skirmishers (psiloi) behind the marsh, the four spear in a column in the gap between the marsh and their wood, one knight next to the waterway, and the other three knights, the commander and the cavalry on the far flank.

The Irish exchanged two bonnachts with two kerns to get the kerns on the open flank in the hope of racing to the marsh on their first turn and disrupting the cavalry. This proved a winner as they rolled enough PIPs to get a kern into the edge of the marsh and ZOC the column of knights. At this point the English commander realized the problem of having his commander on one wing and tried to move himself and two other knights to the other flank. The cavalry continued its outflanking manoeuvre, and the psiloi went into the marsh.

The Irish got some two more kerns into the marsh and one was destroyed in a combat with the English skirmishers (very bad dice). On the next turn the general flanked by two bonnachts poured in; they lined up with the psiloi and on the open flank outflanked the psiloi with a kern. The dice at this point really ended the game—both flanking bonnachts were destroyed! The general survived exposed but in a hopeless position. I decided to reroll to see what would happen and this time the expected happened: the flanked Eglish psiloi was destroyed, as was the one on the other end; the one facing the general was lucky to survive.

Now the battle was more evenly poised. The English had a bottleneck trying to get the knights out between the marsh and the woods—the spear were in front and blocking them. The surviving skirmisher abandoned the marsh and faced off against the general just out of range flanked by a knight. On the outer flank the cavalry avoided a kern doubling back to flank them while being attacked frontally by the Ostmen. They spent most of the battle fairly ineffectually retreating from the Ostmen while waiting for the knight on that flank to skirt the ZOC of the kern perched on the marsh’s edge and join them. The Irish then made the bottleneck worse by advancing an element of bonnachts into the spear who were too close to the marsh. They had to turn and face, blocking the English general. The element of knights next to the waterway advanced, while the Irish used good PIPs to send all the bonnachts and kerns in the woods out to try and get at the spear. As it eventuated, these bonnachts won the game. They got lucky against the knight: overlap and psiloi support made it 3-2. The knights recoiled when they charged the element closest to the waterway and then were destroyed when the Irish followed up—good dice did it.

The spear had managed to destroy the bonnachts in the marsh, but now were caught on their flank again by the bonnachts that had been victorious against the knights. Worse still a kern had moved across the marsh to flank them. They survived, forcing a recoil in the first combat, and charged in for a second time with a stalemate. The Irish then got the result they needed to win the game.

The mobility of auxilia and psiloi is quite neat, but their vulnerability in the open to knights (that went for the entire army!) was pretty unnerving. If it’d been a bonnacht that was supporting the Ostmen they might have been able to trap the cavalry, but the kerns were scared to leave the marsh lest they get hit by the cavalry.

The English knights could have, and should have, moved through the woods to get past the spear, but were mesmerized by the area of open ground between the marsh and the wood, which was blocked and they remained ineffectual. Otherwise their deployment was ill-conceived, with the general on one flank and the spear in column. Still, but for the PIPs that allowed the kern to obstruct on one flank it would have been a slaughter.

A much better deployment would have been to put the spear in a line behind the marsh and not move them. The skirmishers should have occupied the edges of the marsh on the first turn as the kerns did. This would have let the cavalry around where they could have hoped to catch some Irish in the open. Fighting for control of the marsh was a mistake; they were lucky not to lose all three psiloi. Sitting outside with the spear would have left what Irish made it to the marsh look foolish, cut off from half the army and the camp. Knowing what to do with the Ostmen was difficult. They were slow and were torn between chasing the cavalry and going after the spear. Once they opted for the cavalry their speed committed them to persevere with this.

It was a fun game. The Irish were always going to need a fair amount of luck to win, and they generally got good PIPs and the right combat dice (except at the start in what became a very quick alternate outcome!). Hindsight revealed the shortcomings of the English deployment, which the Irish were able to use to good effect.

Next I think I’ll go for a fight of Irish against Vikings, both are littoral, so it’d make for an interesting match-up, provided the Irish were defending.

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