The Battle of Cnoc an Eirleaigh (Norse Irish v. Scots Isles and Highlands)

1 August, 2009

I played this game last Saturday. I set it up in a bigger room with less lighting than the room I’ve used before. I changed the aperture on the camera, which resulted in blurring of figures in front of the focal point. I won’t do that again. I wrote notes as I played, but didn’t write the report until later in the week—on the bus on my handheld. The perspective is different from previous reports I wrote straight after the game.

After his failed raid on Malcolm, Fergus mac Dougal, decided to try his luck in Ireland. He took some Highlanders, led by Angus Dubh, and some Galwegians, always keen for action (this was necessitated by a shortage Viking Bd and Irish Ax, which could be used by both).

He was encountered by the local Irish leader, Dermot O’Conall, near the coast. He was the aggressor, though the Irish were keen for action (both rolled high). He hoped to trap Dermot’s forces with their backs to the coast, but failed. Nevertheless, Angus pressed him to allow him to lead a landing force to get behind the Irish lines. Despite misgivings (all littoral landings to date have been disastrous), he assented to this plan.

Initial Deployment of Fergus and Dermot

Initial Deployment of Fergus and Dermot

Dermot got all the terrain he could hope for, and organized his line of battle with his Ostmen in the gap between the hill and the woods.

Turn 1: Angus has landed near the Irish who reacted speedily

Turn 1: Angus lands near the Irish who react speedily

In the opening moves Angus landed opposite the hill; the Irish on it reacted quickly (5 PIPs) and turned to face. Meanwhile, Fergus advanced his Islemen, impatient at their speed, being forced to watch the battle on the hill while Dermot was content to wait for him.

Turn 3: The Highland warband has driven the bonnachts up the hill while the archers have been driven back to the coast

Turn 3: The Highland warband drive the bonnachts up the hill while the archers are driven back to the coast

The archers shot at the bonnachts for three turns without effect. Only on the fourth turn did they force a recoil. Meanwhile, the Highland rabble, with skirmishers providing overlap, succeeded in chasing some bonnachts up the hill. They followed up, of course, giving their opponents the uphill advantage. It was around this time I realized some of the moves were illegal, the hill making both sides out of command control. Things slowed down as a consequence.

Turn 4: Disaster for Angus as the skirmisher are trapped by his own shooting

Turn 4: Disaster for Angus as the skirmisher are trapped by his own shooting

The rabble survived a round of combat before being able to attack with the skirmishers in flank support. This was a chance for a kill, but unfortunately in a tough fight they were forced to recoil, as were the skirmishers, who not having room were destroyed (this was a self-inflicted loss, as the archers had forced the bonnachts to recoil into where the skirmishers needed to go). The rabble was then, over a number of turns, forced back until off the board. The archers looked doomed, unable to move away from the bonnachts and vulnerable to being forced to recoil into the waterway. There was the depressing likelihood that Angus’ landing would lose Fergus the battle before the Islemen made contact.

Turn 6: the Highland warband are driven off the battlefield, but the archers continue to hang on

Turn 6: the Highland warband are driven off the battlefield, but the archers continue to hang on

Dermot tried to ensure this by sending out a cloud of kerns to slow Fergus’ advance. Meanwhile he sent the bonnachts, buoyed up by having chased off the warband, to drive the archers into the sea (this was a slow process—no group moves on the hill and each element out of command range).

Turn 7: Dermot tries to buy time by using kerns to delay Fergus' advance

Turn 7: Dermot tries to buy time by using kerns to delay Fergus' advance

For his part, Fergus was keen to have his Islemen close with Dermot’s main line of battle before the archers were destroyed. Yet this was no simple matter; his flanks were in

Turn 8: after Fergus' move; the kerns are put to flight

Turn 8 (Fergus): the kerns are put to flight

bad going and had to make individual moves. the kerns were also effective in their delaying tactics. By turn 9 it looked as though the archers would not last another round.

Turn 10: A lucky break for Fergus; the archers destroy some bonnachts

Turn 10: A lucky break for Fergus; the archers destroy some bonnachts

Fergus was almost in position to attack. He was given a breathing space when his archers succeeded in breaking an element of bonnachts. Dermot decided to break off from

Turn 11: the bonnachts break off from the archers

Turn 11: the bonnachts break off from the archers

the archers and attack the Islemen on their flank. It proved a good decision; the archers, starved of PIPs, played no further part in the battle. With the bonnachts flanking,

Turn 12: flanked Islemen are destroyed in bad going

Turn 12: flanked Islemen are destroyed in bad going

Dermot succeeded in destroying an element of Islemen with an element of kerns—oh, the ignominy!

Turn 13 (Fergus): Last roll of the dice; Fergus gives the order to charge

Turn 13 (Fergus): Last roll of the dice; Fergus gives the order to charge

This was a situation brought about by the PIP dice going against Fergus (he rolled a 1 that turn (turn 12) and followed it up with a 2; by contrast Dermot was on fire rolling two 6s!). On the verge of breaking Fergus gave the order to charge. He succeeded in leaving one of the Ostmen overlapped on both sides and then destroying it. It was too little too

Turn 13 (Dermot): Another element of flanked Islemen are destroyed and the Fergus' army breaks

Turn 13 (Dermot): Another element of flanked Islemen are destroyed and the Fergus' army breaks

late. Dermot was able to flank another element of Islemen and repeat what he’d done the turn before; game over!

  • Review

Dermot certainly had good luck with the PIP dice, particularly when it counted. He was able to neutralize the littoral landing on the first turn and then in the last two turns was able to manoeuvre for favourable flanking attacks while Fergus was unable to marshal his forces effectively (overall the average for the PIP dice were high, but favoured Dermot: 4.75 to Fergus’ 3.92).

The most serious problem was the set up. I think a littoral landing is really a recipe for disaster. If it’s too close to the enemy, you run the risk of fighting most of their army with part of yours, and being out of command control, making it hard for the the rest of the army to advance! Having said that, but for the mistake of firing on the bonnachts that cut off the skirmishers retreat, the fight on the flank could have gone differently. Otherwise, Fergus tended to see his Wb as useless against the Irish Ps and Ax and banish them to the wings. Yet the Galwegians could have gone after the Ostmen—they’ve a good record against Bd.

Of interest was to see how effective the Bd could be in bad going. The only edge the Ax had over them was mobility, and yet it was more PIPs that allowed Dermot to destroy the two Bd that he caught.

It was satisfying to see the kerns behaving like regular skirmishers, delaying the advance of the opponent’s battleline. They also had virtual immunity against Fergus’ army; only the archers and skirmishers could hurt them unless they were overlapped. And it’s quite satisfying to have been the element that destroyed some Bd in bad going!

Lesson for next time, and Fergus seems to be a slow learner, is avoid littoral landings.

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4 Responses to “The Battle of Cnoc an Eirleaigh (Norse Irish v. Scots Isles and Highlands)”

  1. Nick Grant Says:

    Good report Mark,

    Keeping the Irish on the hill reminds me of an old DBx saying – “If thou hast a good position, blowest it not!”

    Nice set up too – I like your hills. Contoured felt lets everyone know who’s up hill from whom, but its much easier to keep your elements upright!

    Cheers,

    Nick

    • Mark Says:

      Thanks, they’re about the only bit of terrain I have that I’m satisfied with. I made them after remembering how useless my first hills were. I made them in the 80s for WRG 5th Ed. They were made out of mattress foam, sculpted and painted. They looked great, but the figures needed Velcro to stay on them! On my to-do list is at least getting a few trees for the woods. I need to visit a few more model shops to find ones that look right.

      The Irish need bad going to face Bd at even odds, and if they’re uphill they actually have the edge. For all that, my Irish have won more times than they’ve lost, and their only loss was due to an earlier rash littoral landing.

  2. hrldplmr Says:

    Another great report. Interesting revelation about Bd in rough terrain too. Fergus can’t cut a break can he? Would he have been able to support his littoral landing better if he’d set up closer to the waterway?

    • Mark Says:

      Thanks, he’s been a little unlucky, but he’s made more trouble for himself through his deployments; the littoral landing was a rush of blood to the head that was always going to be a big gamble. I guess he could have set up closer to the waterway—it might have given him better command control, but then he’d be be attacking the hill, with almost everything against him. Still the gap between the hill and the woods was so small that maybe that wouldn’t have been a bad idea. He could aim to crush a wing with all the Highland troops supported by some of the Islemen. Instead he never succeeded in getting superiority of numbers anywhere. He was lucky that Dermot never brought more troops to bear on the littoral landing; it was just four elements against four elements, all similarly disadvantaged by command control—Fergus and his Islemen were close enough to occupy Dermot’s attention.

      Bd in bad going aren’t bad, but they’re slow, and Ax still have the edge in being able to flank easily. I particularly liked seeing skirmishers doing what they’re described as doing in actual battles, slowing the advance of the main body of troops.


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