I finished the Welsh spearmen this week, complete with fancy decals for shield patterns, so they had to be used. Gruffudd ap Cynan was the obvious leader and he was facing the chief marcher lord of the Welsh March, Robert of Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury. Clearly Gruffudd wasn’t happy with Robert, as he was on the attack (3+1 v 1+2). Gruffudd was taking the opportunity to attack the march when the king was distracted; he marched against Robert’s castle and settlement at Montgomery in Powys. Robert summoned as many of his tenants as he could and marched to meet him. The two armies met in an flat area near the castle. There were only two low hills and a very small wood. Gruffudd did not get to approach the battlefield from the direction he hoped (he rolled a 1).

Gruffudd had his retinue of 3Cv, a unit of skirmishers (2Ps), two of archers (3Bw) and six of spearmen (3Sp). He also had two units of Viking mercenaries from Dublin (where he grew up). Gruffudd apparently oversaw the change in tactics in the North; he had a long and interesting reign, living until 1137 and being the only prince to have a biography written. In the alternate history of King Magnus’ War many of the details of his life leading up to the war were the same; he had come to power in Gwynedd at the Battle of Mynydd Carn in 1081 with the help of Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deheubarth, he had been imprisoned for a time by Robert, but had escaped, and clearly he felt he had some debts to settle with Robert. The battle took place in 1103, a year before King Magnus’ War started. Despite the Marcher Lords ‘home team’ advantage, this was all but neutralized by the enthusiastic support of his bardic contingent (patriotic music provided by Tecwyn Ifan and Dafydd Iwan)!

Robert had four elements of knights (3Kn), one of muntatores (3Cv), four of spearmen (4Sp) and three of skirmishers (2Ps). He drew up his forces in three troops, the central one with himself and the bulk of his knights flanked by his spearmen. On the left flanks he positioned his skirmishers, supported by some cavalry (muntatores on the right and knights on the left flank).

Gruffudd’s deployment was a curious one, with two strong wings and not much in the centre. He divided his archers to make Robert’s life more complicated. One went to support the three spearmen on the left flank, one was in the centre, and the skirmishers were in support of the spear on the right flank.

Initial Deployment

Initial Deployment

Both sides were keen to engage, both rolling 6 PIPs for the first two turns! Robert used these PIPs to throw his skirmishers forward to slow the advance of Gruffudd’s wings.

Turn 1: Robert's skirmishers rush forward

Turn 1: Robert's skirmishers rush forward

This proved a dangerous move, as Gruffudd was able to attack the skirmishers on his right flank with his own, well supported by the spear. The plan worked well. The skirmishers facing the spear were scared silly and scarpered (4+6 v 1+1!).

Turn 2 (Gruffudd): the skirmishers are dispersed with casualties

Turn 2 (Gruffudd): the skirmishers are dispersed with casualties

This left the other element horribly exposed, and the Welsh javelinmen showed it no mercy (2+4 v 0+1). Clearly those skirmishers didn’t want to be there.

Turn 3

Turn 3

On the third turn, Gruffudd had 5 PIPs which he used to turn the hill on his left flank into a salient. The spearmen pivoted (I assume that’s legal) and the archers turned to block the muntatores if they should attempt to get round behind them. With the other PIPs the right flank reformed after the manoeuvre that saw off the skirmishers. Robert’s response was slower (2 PIPs), with which he advanced the main body and tried to block the archers with his skirmishers (they laughed at the Welsh shooting (2+1 v 2+6!).

Gruffudd next advanced his right flank to within range for a charge on Robert’s opposing flank. His archers this time forced the skirmishers to recoil.

Robert woke up and ordered a general advance (6 PIPs). The skirmishers, supported by the muntatores attacked the archers, who had uphill advantage to counteract the overlap. He also ordered the spear and knights on his right to charge the spearmen on the hill, while he lined his spearmen up to face the archers in the centre. These archers, however, took aim at the flanking knights and forced them to retire. The other archers narrowly held off the skirmishers’ attack (2+1 v 2+2—the hill was the difference). The spearmen fought diffidently on the hill to a stalemate (5+1 v 5+1).

Turn 4: Robert's attack is repulsed

Turn 4: Robert's attack is repulsed

This meant the knights didn’t have the overlap they were hoping for and despite a valiant charge were repulsed by the deep formation of Welshmen (3+6 v 5+6).

Gruffudd reacted vigorously (6 PIPs). The archers on the left retired, while he ordered a general attack on the right flank and the centre. The archers forced the muntatores to retire (important as it would prevent them flanking next turn). The spearmen on the hill, now with overlap support, forced their counterparts back. The archers in the centre got the only result they didn’t want, a stalemate (2+2 v 2+2)! They wouldn’t be able to shoot next turn and the spear would be well placed once flanked by knights to drive them back and provide overlap support. However, on the right flank things again went to plan. The spearmen again chased off the skirmishers emphatically (4+6 v 1 +4) and the spear then destroyed the unsupported knights (5+5 v 2+2).

Turn 5 (Gruffudd): more success for Gruffudd on his right flank

Turn 5 (Gruffudd): more success for Gruffudd on his right flank

Robert replied by sending his skirmishers and muntatores against the archers, who were adjudged, perhaps generously, to have the uphill advantage. He also moved into support the spearmen in the centre as Gruffudd feared he might. The battle on the hill was a stalemate. The other archers came close to achieving the same result (4+2 v 2+3), but were forced back. Despite their advantage the knights facing Gruffudd and his retinue made no progress (4+1 v 3+2). Robert, however, made a mess of the Dubliners facing him (2+1).

Gruffudd’s situation was by no means comfortable. His right flank had nothing in range (and seemed content to strip the corpses of the knights and make rude taunts at the skirmishers). The archers on the left flank were hanging by a thread and Robert had the favourable match-ups in the centre. With the 3 PIPs that he had he retired all the centre. This had the useful benefit of disrupting Robert’s formation, as both the knights pursued. He had no energy to spare for the archers on the left. He told his archers to shoot at Robert, hoping to make him recoil, without success.

Somehow I forgot to roll for the encounter between the archers and skirmishers, and in Robert’s turn the muntatores were able to close the door. With his remaining PIPs he lined his knights up with the spear. The archers again shot at Robert, but despite an enthusiastic effort, Robert was unmoved (4+5 v 4+5). Meanwhile, the archers on the hill remained unfazed and calmly cut the skirmishers to ribbons (2+1 v 2+4)! This was a major success for Gruffudd. Robert was on the point of breaking and the chance of attacking the spear on the hill both front and back was gone.

Turn 6: Gruffudd retires his centre and his archers triumph on the left flank.

Turn 6: Gruffudd retires his centre and his archers triumph on the left flank.

Despite this lucky reprieve, Gruffudd seemed a little dazed, and could only order the bow on the hill to turn and shoot at the muntatores. They did this without success. The other archers, however, finally succeeded in forcing Robert back. Robert was equally flustered, but with 2 PIPs was able to recover from his recoil and attack. This time the spear failed to repulse the archers and were instead thrown back by a heroic defence (4+1 v 2+6)! Unfazed, Robert chopped up the remaining element of luckless Dubliners (3+6 v 3+2). On the other flank Gruffudd drove the knights back (3+2 v 4+5).

Turn 7: Gruffudd holds on in the centre.

Turn 7: Gruffudd holds on in the centre.

Gruffudd still couldn’t spare time to direct the more scattered elements of his army (2 PIPs). He decided to risk all by charging the knights facing him supported with a flank attack. The archers on the hill continued their fine form, almost destroying the muntatores (4+6 v 3+3). However, the knights repulsed his charge, leaving things decidedly messy.

Robert, however, was equally flustered (1 PIP), only able to order his spear against the archers, who were overlapped on both sides. Did that bother them? Not a bit! They gave ground reluctantly in a fierce fight (4+2 v 0+5). Meanwhile, the knights facing Gruffudd could make no headway (4+4 v 4+4).

Turn 8: Things are looking grim for Gruffudd in the centre

Turn 8: Things are looking grim for Gruffudd in the centre

Gruffudd was obviously sweating and could only signal the spear to again flank the knights he was facing (1 PIP). It proved enough, just (4+1 v 3+1). With half his knight gone and most of his skirmishers, Robert surrendered the field. Gruffudd, by contrast, despite coming close to disaster had only lost some mercenaries, who were not popular with his people anyhow, so they’d hardly be mourned! Montgomery lay open for a good pillaging, and the Marcher inroads into Wales received another rebuff!

Turn 9 (Gruffudd): Gruffudd and his retinue break the Marcher Lords!

Turn 9 (Gruffudd): Gruffudd and his retinue break the Marcher Lords!

  • Review

Well, those archers were clearly armed with some pretty potent longbows! Both elements remained steady against heavy odds. Had they broken it would be hard to have seen Gruffudd win. His deployment was unusual. The hill worked fairly well for him, though the archers were lucky to come through against the odds. The plan was to win on the flanks and this worked well on the right flank. Poor PIPs prevented those troops taking any further part in the battle after destroying the troops in front of them; after turn 6, where his 3 PIPs allowed the centre to retire, he rolled 1, 2 and 1. Better PIPs might have seen these troops turn on Robert himself.

It was good to see the new Welsh command have some success, as in their first battle they did nothing, and I don’t think the Scots one has done much yet (most noticeably in their recent outing against the Anglo-Norse). The North Welsh army is actually quite good. I was surprised at how effective just two archers could be against cavalry. I’m tempted to make Gruffudd the Welsh player and demote the other Gruffudd (ap Rhys, his son-in-law!) to a minor ally.

I think the biggest fault in Robert’s plan was that he hoped to win in the centre, yet advanced both flanks aggressively. To be fair, psiloi are generally safe doing this, but that’s when they advance into bad going. Here, however, in good going and with the opponent getting good PIPs they came unstuck. The dividing of the spear made it hard for Gruffudd to line his 4Bd up against them, making them pretty ineffectual. Still they took two turns to die, whereas two spear would have been gone in one in the same situation!

The match-up of the 3Cv and 2Ps against the 3Bw was interesting. The 3Cv attacked the 3Bw at more unfavourable odds (3 v 4), but any match up when the base values are both 2 has a much higher degree of chance involved, and on this occasion the 3Bw got lucky.

A good victory for the North Welsh in their first time out, and something to think about as I get closer to starting the campaign: will they demote the South Welsh to a minor ally in their stead? Following on from Hardrada’s great victory a few weeks back I’m starting to have a bit more faith in spear armies facing knights, especially when, as here they have a few archers.

As a kid I never got anywhere with making models. My only attempt was with a Airfix spitfire that I never finished, which is why I sympathize with Calvin (below). After that I stuck to painting figures, so it was with some reluctance that I tried my hand recently with using shield transfers.

ch090607

I finished a batch of Welsh spearmen, along with a few knights and some Islemen this week. They all have VVV decals for shield patterns and I’m very pleased with the result and how easy it was. Here are some pictures.

The new Islemen pose alongside their command and some suspicious thegns—"They better not think with that pack of shifty thieves!", "I dinnae trust Islemen; why only a few weeks back we put a load of them to flight, didn't we!" They were the first transfers I did so I chose simple designs in case I messed up. The other figures are for a comparison with hand-painted shields.

The new Islemen pose alongside their command and some suspicious thegns—"They better not think we're with that pack of shifty thieves!", "I dinnae trust Islemen; why only a few weeks back we put a load of them to flight, didn't we!"

These were the first transfers I did so I chose simple designs in case I messed up. The other figures are for a comparison with hand-painted shields.

The Feudal Castings knights. One of the commanders is still waiting for his arm. I'm sure the one I was sent is for a ECW cavalryman. A couple of the knights were painted earlier. Their hose is so tight that I've decided to paint them as bare-legged, as Welsh and Scots knights—obviously gone native very quickly!

The Feudal Castings knights.

The Feudal Castings knights are still waiting for an arm for one of their commander. I’m sure the one I was sent is for a ECW cavalryman. A couple of the knights were painted earlier. Their hose is so tight that I’ve decided to paint them as bare-legged, as Welsh and Scots knights—obviously gone native very quickly! The transfers only just fit and I needed to paint bosses onto the flat shields to make the patterns look right. If I put a little more effort in I might have made bosses with green stuff, but these look OK.

The Welsh spearmen. Note the hunchback in green on the right. His head came off and when I glued it on he looks hunched compared to the others in that pose. Still, his element destroyed some Anglo-Norman knights last night, so it's not affected his fighting skills!

The Welsh spearmen

The Welsh spearmen got the bulk of the transfers. Note the hunchback in green on the right. His head came off and when I glued it on he looks hunched compared to the others in that pose. Still, his element destroyed some Anglo-Norman knights last night, so it’s not affected his fighting skills! The middle element was painted last year, so gives a comparison of my efforts without transfers.

Trying out Transfers

25 August, 2009

I tried out applying transfers this morning. These are the VVV ones, and they’ve gone well so far. They’re a perfect fit for the Feudal Castings round shields (I’ll try their kite shields tonight). Thanks to a lead I got from a reply to my query on Fanaticus, I’ve used vinegar to soften the decals into the contours of the shields (some have small indents to represent nail holes, and others have lines to show the plank construction of the shield). I’m not sure how much difference this has made—I have to wait for the decals to dry and then for them to be varnished. If it hasn’t worked I may use magic wash on the shields first to bring these details out. That should work provided the decal is a darker colour than the shield.

I’ve not tried the LBM transfer yet; they look lovely, but they also look a lot more work. I’ll use them on some Essex and Khurasan figures, which are a fair way down the queue to get painted.

I’m definitely a convert to using transfers. I think my shield painting skills have been getting worse! I probably need one of those magnifying glasses to help me, but also the shields are generally the last thing I paint and by the time I get to them, I’m in a hurry to finish: “if I get the shields done tonight, I can put the wash on tomorrow morning and base them later in the day!”. As a consequence, I reckon my efforts were getting more hurried and uninspired. I was getting dissatisfied with this, and transfer offer a good solution. Still, I will probably need more patience with drying times than I’ve had in the past!

Painting Progress Update

23 August, 2009

No interesting battle reports this weekend. Instead I’ve finally got back into painting. Yesterday I finished a batch of figures except for their shields. They’re all Feudal Castings figures, 7 mounted (Norman knights) and 23 foot (6 x Welsh 3Sp and 1 x Islemen 4Bd and 1 galloglaigh who’s really too late to fit in with the Islemen). 11 of the foot have no shields so they’re done, and until transfers from Veni, Vedi, Vici and Little Big Men Studios arrive I can’t do the shields of the others. I’ve never used transfers before, so I’m not sure how it’s going to go!

I’ve already started on the next batch, the last of my Feudal Castings Vikings (23 figures) and an element of dismounted knights, which is a combination of Feudal Castings Norman spearmen and Essex knights. I’m not sure how well they’ll mix, so it’ll be interesting to see how they look when finished.

Inspired by the tallies of Neldoreth and Tim of Saskatoon, though I’m not in their league either in quality or quantity of output, I decided to work out how many figures I’d painted, and more damningly, how many I had to paint, especially as I’ve recently bought quite a few figures for the King Magnus’ War campaign.

Figure Purchases and Painting

Figure Purchases and Painting

What was surprising about this exercise was to discover that I now have 1,251 15mm figures, of which only 2/5 are painted (484). I didn’t realize buying DBA armies would add up so fast—after all, I keep telling myself they’re only about 12 elements each. I’ve got a few hordes to blame for some of this, and as yet of them only half of the Goblins are painted. Anyway, when the last order arrives (72 more figures from Feudal Castings), I’ll try to avoid buying more and focus on making some inroads into that pile of unpainted figures!

Alternate Histories

17 August, 2009

I’ve updated some of the information on the King Magnus’ War campaign. The ruler of  Scots is now Angus, the nephew of Macbeth, which to my mind gives their kingdom more colour. There is now an earlier departure from the standard timeline, as in 1057 Macbeth defeated Malcolm at Lumphanan.

Out of curiosity I’d googled Stamford Bridge and alternate histories and got some interesting stuff. The most convenient URL is probably here: http://wiki.alternatehistory.com/doku.php/alternate_history/1066

Some people are a lot more serious than I am. I clean forgot about Tostig! Perhaps I can have a battle between him and Harald once I finish my Vikings. I’m sure he’d get off side with his erstwhile ally; he seemed that sort of guy! I also want to get Norway and Normandy out of the picture for the interests of a convenient campaign, although the British Isles were in this period were intimately connected through their invaders with both Scandinavia and France. Then as far as Macbeth and his relatives go, I’m really just using a couple names without being too worried about their exact relationships to Macbeth, or even their ages, as far as they’re known, something I do for some of the other leaders.

Well, the I was keen to try out the ‘Anglo-Norse’ that King Magnus will lead. I figured that by some stage in his father’s reign the changes in army composition would take place; these consist of adding the option of an element of knights, Norman adventurers, and an extra element of archers (Ps or Bw). However, I didn’t have a clear idea of who they might fight. I didn’t want to fight the Anglo-Normans, so I thought the Pre-feudal Scots, their other main neighbour, would work.

The opponents were chosen, but something was missing; there was no spark, but that was provided by a chance email from Steve that referred me to an article on the resistance to the Canmore dynasty in Scotland. This was perfect. It seems that for a number of generations the rulers of Moray resisted the change to a hereditary king from the older method of tanistry, election from those eligible within the kin group. These rulers of Moray seem to have been relatives of Macbeth, a person badly maligned in literature. They provide names for another wrinkle in the alternative history: Macbeth defeats Malcolm at Lumphanan (Malcolm would never get the ephithet Canmore, assuming it means ‘Great Chief’ rather than ‘Big Head’, as he had to run back into exile. Macbeth’s son Lulach reigned for a while after him, followed by his nephew Máel Snechtai.

In the reign of Máel Snechtai, Malcolm had moved to the court of Olaf Haraldson in York, hoping to convince Olaf to support his claim for the throne of Scotland. Malcolm’s presence created friction between the two courts, as Máel claimed his presence was both an insult and a threat, demanding that Olaf cut all ties with him. Things simmered along like this for a time until Máel finally gathered an army and invaded Northumbria (initial rolls for aggression were tied at 1+1 each, so clearly neither king was that serious about the matter and the affair took a while to get going).

On hearing of Máel’s invasion, Olaf mustered an army and marched to meet him. He encountered the Scots raiding not far over the border at a place close to the village of Ebchester. He drew up his army nearly parallel to Dere Street facing a low hill, with a hill on his right flank and a small wood between him and the enemy on his left flank. He drew up in three divisions with himself and his huscarls in the middle and the knights held back in reserve.

Initial Deployment

Initial Deployment

Máel drew up in a line with his spearmen in the middle, his light horse on his left flank and himself, his thegns and Galwegians on the right flank.

Máel's troops drawn up for battle

Máel's troops drawn up for battle

It took a while for the two sides to come to blows, as Máel sought to overwhelm Olaf’s left flank with his warbands, and Olaf responded by sending archers and the knights to support that flank.

Turn 2: Máel orders his LH to assist on the right flank

Turn 2: Máel orders his LH to assist on the right flank

Máel was reluctant to face knights with warbands and decided to retire his left flank a little and bring the light horse across to support him against the knights.

Turn 3: Olaf has succeeded in strengthening his left flank

Turn 3: Olaf has succeeded in strengthening his left flank

It was not until the sixth turn that he was finally in position, having decided to let the light horse face the knights.

Turn 4: Olaf and his huscarls inch towards the Scots on the hill

Turn 4: Olaf and his huscarls inch towards the Scots on the hill

In his manoeuvring, however, he made a dangerous miscalculation, allowing Olaf to charge him before he could charge Olaf’s left flank.

Turn 6: Olaf seizes the initiative on his left flank

Turn 6: Olaf seizes the initiative on his left flank

Olaf seized this opportunity to try and get what little advantage he could from the encounter, ordering the advance on all fronts. His huscarls put the skirmishers to flight (5+1 v 1+1) without much effort. Meanwhile, his spear forced the other skirmishers to recoil (4+2 v 2 +2), as did the knights to the light horse (4+2 v 2+2). Such average dice did not continue when he turned on the thegns, who despite being overlapped and facing spear with skirmisher support still managed to win (5+1 v 2+6)! In this they repeated their performance against Fergus’ Islemen in a previous battle. The spear facing the Galwegians were now overlapped, though so were the Galwegians. However, the Galwegians were not up to the form of the thegns and were forced to recoil (4+3 v 3+3).

Máel kept his head and had plenty of time to react to Olaf’s attack. He advanced to offer overlap support to his light horse, while the thegns closed the door on the skirmisher support that the spear had. He then ordered the skirmishers and Galwegians back into combat and the end spear on the left flank to retire so that they could move to give rear support to the end spear on the hill. He hoped that the Galwegians would destroy the spear in front of them and advance into the skirmishers, giving the thegns flank support against them. No luck; the Galwegians were again mediocre (4+1 v 4+3). The thegns, cursing the Galwegians, forced the archers to recoil, while remarkably their own skirmishers showed more energy than the Galwegians, forcing the spear in front of them back. The knights, however, were unfazed by the light horse, successfully charging them down (2+2 v 3+6).

Turn 7 (Máel): No luck for the Scots!

Turn 7 (Máel): No luck for the Scots!

The situation for Máel was now precarious, as the knights were able to attack him and if he recoiled he would encounter the Galwegians and be destroyed. He had some luck, however, as Olaf had only 1 PIP, which he used to try exactly that—without success (4+3 v 4+3). Máel and his household cavalry fought the knights to a standstill. Now all he needed was good PIPs to rescue the situation, but clearly rattled by the knights, he could only tell the Galwegians to get the hell out of his way (1 PIP). He had to hope that the Galwegians won, so that if the worst came to the worst against the knights he had room to recoil. However, the Galwegians continued their poor form and were fought to a standstill (4+1 v 3+2). It was now all on Máel to win against the knights. He didn’t, forced back by a furious charge (4+4 v 4+6).

Turn 8: Máel's retinue recoil into the Galwgians and break

Turn 8: Máel's retinue recoil into the Galwgians and break

Máel was forced back into the woods and his household cavalry broke in the confusion. He himself was able to slip away. His forces retreated in disorder and with great acrimony. The thegns fumed at what they called the pathetic effort of the Galwegians, who, they said, really let the side down! Some went even further and suggested treachery. Malcolm, they said, was fighting with the Anglo-Norse on their left wing, directly in front of the Galwegians. Clearly he had bought them off.

Turn 8: The wider situation at the end of the battle

Turn 8: The wider situation at the end of the battle

The Galwegians were greatly insulted by such charges, and from this incident their antagonism to the Kingdom of the Scots arose, and in response they came to ally themselves more with the King of the Isles.

  • Review

Well, fighting with warbands is a chancy business, and this time only half of them were awake. Máel increased the gamble by putting the LH against the Kn, again hoping for a QK. However, the LH always run the risk of being doubled. It would have been a safer policy for Máel to face the knights himself.

Máel didn’t have any plan beyond winning on the right flank, but he was reasonably effective in delaying Olaf attacking his spear on the hill. Olaf’s hope rested mainly on trying to win on the overlap, or perhaps the Ps could have interpenetrated the Sp and flanked the Scots.

My sympathies were with the Scots and it was disappointing to see their recently painted cavalry both get destroyed. On the bright side, I’ve now got a reason for the Galwegians to dislike the Scots. and those thegns are really developing a reputation, one previously held by the Galwegians, who probably need my son to roll the dice for them!

The dice colours were rather too similar to be convenient, but both sides wanted their lucky dice from their previous battle! I used a website called A Vision of Britain through Time as the source for appropriate sounding placenames. I’d also spent some time the day before cutting my outcome markers from Neldoreth’s site more neatly, and the effect, I think, was worth the effort.

This post grew out a response to Neldoreth’s comment on the Battle of Navenby.

One of the things I’m finding I enjoy most about DBA is creating scenarios with some background. I think the game is well suited to this for a number of reasons. For one the armies are small, so it’s easier to build historically matched armies; then the games are quite quick to play so it doesn’t take too long to play a game and then write it up. But perhaps one of the main reasons is that the system is quite abstract, so you’re encouraged to imagine reasons for the different outcomes. I use the dice rolls as a measure of the combatants’ commitment. You could imagine a situation where both sides rolled 1s (5+1 v 2+1) and start to think that they’d actually amicably agreed, given the situation, that the loser should take off without bothering to fight!

This fairly high level of abstraction extends into the campaign system. A less abstract system would have to deal with the most regular military activities of the age I’m interested in, raiding and guerrilla responses to invasions. Neither make for satisfying wargames, and are therefore ignored, though in writing up a campaign you could describe them as part of the background to any of the battles.

I noticed when I played HOTT that I didn’t enjoy it as much as DBA, and I think the reason was the HOTT armies I used were ad hoc ones put together to try out the rules. DBA battles are between opponents with their own history which you’re able to bring to any battle. I’ll be interested to see if HOTT is more interesting when I finally have a few armies finished that can fit into the Hesperia campaign background.

Last Sunday I tried a battle between the Anglo-Norse and the Normans. I wanted to link it into the King Magnus’ War campaign, so I decided on a battle between Harald Hardrada, leading an Anglo-Danish army, and William the Bastard (not quite the Conqueror in this world!). As the justification for 3Cv as part of the Norman list seems marginal I opted for 7 3Kn and 1 2LH (scouts; I would have gone for 8 3Kn, but I don’t have enough painted yet). The foot were 2 4Sp and 2 2Ps. Harald had obviously got the northern fyrd behind him, as he fielded a regular Anglo-Danish army (3 x 4Bd, 8 x 4Sp and 1 x 2Ps). I used my Feudal Castings Vikings for Harald and his huscarls (and the skirmishers) and my Tabletop Anglo-Danes for the fyrd.

I was somewhat nervous about the encounter; I’ve always felt that facing knights with spear is a chancy proposition, but I’d read up on some of the posts on the Strategy and Tactics section of the Fanaticus Forum, and felt I should be more optimistic about the chances of the spearmen. However, as I wanted this to be a battle that showed how Harald held onto the north I really needed him to make a good showing (the back-up plan was to change the names of the contestants if he got thrashed!).

Harald was the defender (quite decisively 1+1 v 6+3!). He chose a location with a series of low hills and a road running along one side (and I’ve just realized that’s one too many hills!). The hope was that the road might be to his rear and allow rapid redeployment from one flank to the next. Unfortunately, William got the end he wanted, the side with most of the hills and the road running towards Harald.

Harald’s deployment was probably sheer madness. He hoped to advance in column down the road and then turn and face the flank, advancing onto the hill. This was unlikely to work—he moved second, he moved slowly, and he would run into the Normans before he could put this into effect. He also decided to garrison the camp with an element of fyrd, in case anything got behind his line.

William decided to have his spear at the front of a column on the road to give them the best chance of getting into combat—they otherwise have a habit of getting left behind. The rest of his mounted troops deployed in a line along the hill.

Initial deployment after Harald moved two of his elements

Initial deployment after Harald moved two of his elements

Harald was clearly greatly excited by the sight of those spear. He advanced himself to the front of the column and gave the order to charge. His luck was with him; for the first four turns William was in a dither (PIPs: 1, 1, 2 and 1!). By contrast Harald was all action (PIPs: 4, 6, 1 and 6).

Turn 3: Harald attacks William's troops on the road

Turn 3: Harald attacks William's troops on the road

On the third turn William had only been able to deploy a line of two spear and a knight along the road and Harald met this with himself flanked by two spear and supported to the rear by skirmishers. He continued his form with the dice, personally cutting the Norman spear to shreds (6+6 v 4+1). On his right flank the opposite almost happened, but for his overlap support (4+1 v 3+6). On the left flank the spear held firm (5+2 v 2+4).

William continued to dither, while Harald, distracted, perhaps, by the bloodbath he’d created, could only order his right flank to advance. Despite his overlap support, the battle was indecisive (4+5 v 3+6).

Turn 5: William's attack on Harald causes no losses

Turn 5: William's attack on Harald causes no losses

This action finally seemed to get a response from William, who began to advance and sent more knights into the fight on the road. Harald’s spear on the right were overlapped and recoiled. However, in a savage fight Harald forced back the knights opposite him (4+6 v 3+5). The knights on the left flank were now overlapped and fought to a stalemate (2+5 v 5+2).

Harald kept his head and decided to retire. Aided by more fantastic PIPs (6, then 1 to William, and then 4) he was able to rebuild his battle line (I’m not sure if the huscarls were eligible for the road movement when they only had part of their rear on it, but that movement was essential for the success of the whole redeployment).

Turn 6: Harald redeploys while sending some fyrd against the Norman scouts

Turn 6: Harald redeploys while sending some fyrd against the Norman scouts

Harald ordered his fyrd to contest the hill with the mounted scouting (not without risk as the scouts were uphill and get a QK!). He almost destroyed the scouts, but they fought bravely enough to retire (4+6 v 2+4).

The battle was now in the balance. Harald still hadn’t effectively deployed much of his army, and William saw his opportunity (finally getting 6 PIPs!). He was able to advance all along the line. However, hopes of seeing Harald’s line rolled up by his overlap in what has been called the ‘ripple of death‘ came to nothing. The overlapped fyrd on Harald’s left stood firm (3+5 v 3+2). The next weak point were the huscarls on the road, and he achieved a breakthrough here (3+6 v 4+1). The knights between these two conflicts were overlapped on one side while having overlap support on the other and were fought to a standstill (2+5 v 3+4). William’s hope to leave Harald surrounded came to nothing as the fyrd to the right of Harald stood firm (5+6 v 3+5) in a fierce encounter. Harald, unfazed, continued his heroics and slaughtered the last of the Norman spear (5+6 v 3+2).

Turn 7 (William): The Northumbrian line remains firm after Willaim's charge

Turn 7 (William): The Northumbrian line remains firm after Willaim's charge

Now it was Harald’s turn for a response, but as had happened the last time he’d killed he was too blood-crazed to give directions. He flanked the knights on his left and trusted in the dice. They didn’t let him down; he rolled yet another 6 and the knights crumpled (3+6 v 1+3). Taking heart at this victory the fyrd that had been fought to a standstill in William’s charge routed the knights in front of them (4+6 v 2+2). William, looking on at the loss of all his spear and two units of knights, yielded the field. Meanwhile, after the pursuit, Harald’s skalds sang his heroics to the sky; seldom has there been a battle decided so overwhelmingly by the individual battlefield prowess of the general!

Turn 7 (Harald): Harald continues his mad, almost single-handed, slaughter of the Normans

Turn 7 (Harald): Harald continues his mad, almost single-handed, slaughter of the Normans

The battle is named after a village near Lincoln on the old Roman road to York, Ermine Street to the Saxons, as this road proved central to the battle. Harald met William’s advance up this road near that village.

  • Review

Had I remembered the limit for each sort of terrain how different this might have been. Part of Harald’s dilemma was a lack of terrain to anchor a flank, or to channel William—woods would have done this nicely! What was I thinking at set up!

By rights Harald’s deployment was so hazardous he should have lost. He was saved by the dice (a nice black one). He averaged 4.0 for PIPs against William’s 2.3. He rolled 6 for every combat he was involved in (the total of his dice in these four combats was +13 over the Normans. In the remaining combats the dice actually favoured the Normans, who scored higher on 7 of 11 combats and totalling +18 over the Northumbrians, who in the remaining four combats totalled +10. These statistics confirm the central role Harald played.

The heroics in this battle fit well with what is recorded of Harald. Rather than blame the peculiar deployment on him, it might be better to imagine William encountered him as he was on the march, and his decisive reaction saved the day. That’s surely what his skalds will claim. I’m not sure what to attribute William’s inaction to.

King Magnus’ War

6 August, 2009

I’ve added a whole lot of pages setting out the background of the DBA campaign called King Magnus’ War. It’s accessible from the link Campaigns at the top of the page.

Before it’s ready to go, I need to draw a map (although it’s all designed), and if I use the minor allies, I need to finish off designing rules for them.

Otherwise, I’ve not really decided whether to try to play it as a solo campaign, or to see if I can’t do some sort of PBM campaign, even if I still played the individual battles solo.

Things on the boil

2 August, 2009

Playing DBA and writing battle reports has occupied most of my time recently, but I have started painting some more figures. I’ve now got some Feudal Casting knights, some Welsh Sp and an element of Islemen on the go. They don’t take long to paint; it seems to be a matter of getting started as much as anything. Having said that, the Feudal Casting knights did need their arms glued on which was fiddly. Starting the Welsh was more spontaneous—I had some metallic paint left over from the knights and grabbed a bag of figures that were primed to use it on. That solved all the procrastination around which foot I did next!

I’ve also finally prepped a whole lot of knights, mounted and dismounted and other ‘Norman’ figures from Essex, Feudal Castings and Outpost Miniatures. they just need undercoating to be ready to paint.

Otherwise it occurred to me a week or so ago that I finally had enough figures painted for a campaign set in Britain after 1066. It was an idea I had over a year ago, but now the figures for it are painted. I’m planning this as an alternative history campaign—Harald Hardrada wins Stamford Bridge and England is divided between the Normans and the Norse. It needs a handier title than ‘A campaign in Britain set in the 1100s after 1066 turned out differently’. By 1100 the heir to Harald would be Magnus Barefoot, which is too good a name to pass up. He also seemed to be quite an energetic chap, so I’ve decided to call it ‘King Magnus’ War’. I’ve developed a fair bit of background to the campaign, though ultimately I wouldn’t claim a high degree of realism to it; after all it’s not very plausible to imagine relatively small powers like the Isles and Highlands or either North or South Wales being on equal terms with the richer and more populous English rulers.

Anyway, I should be ready to start putting some of this background on the blog soon, especially as I’ve just got Campaign Cartographer 3 now to design the map. This campaign will be a spur to get more figures painted to round out the armies for it: Welsh, Norse IrishScots Isles and HighlandsPre-feudal Scots, Anglo-Danish (or perhaps  Anglo-Norse!) and Anglo-Norman. Once they’re done, I can work on the armies for the Hesperia campaign that’s given this blog its name.

My next battle will probably be the ‘Anglo-Norse’ against the Anglo-Normans. The Anglo-Norse would basically be Anglo-Danish, but with one 3Kn (they’re in the DBM list and could be justified as adventurers welcomed into the northern kingdom much as they were into the Scottish kingdom). I’m less decided about whether to allow one 3Bw as an alternative to the 2Ps (it’s in the Viking list). Also I’m wondering whether to allow an extra 2Ps or 3Bw; part of the rational for the 1100 date is that it allows me to field post-Norman Welsh armies. Is it plausible the Anglo-Norse would not also adapt to facing Kn?