The Battle of Stratford on Avon

1 January, 2010

King Magnus’ ambition to be ruler of all the British Isles led him to declare war on William Rufus’ Anglo-Norman kingdom in the south of England. Magnus challenged William for control of the province of Mercia, a challenge that the Norman accepted. Magnus’ voyage from Man was uneventful, as was that of his ally Angus of Scotland. His forces consisted of his huscarls (3x4Bd), household knights (1x3Kn), fyrd spear (7x4Sp) and archers (1x2Ps). Angus came with 1x3Cv, 1x2LH and 1x2Ps.

William met the invaders at a place where a road forded the river Avon, a place called Stratford. His army consisted of knights (4x3Kn), spear (5x4Sp), crossbowmen (1x3Cb) and archers (2x2Ps). In addition he had the promise of assistance of Gruffudd of Wales, who hearing that the Scots were assisting the Northumbrians, elected to help the English lest the Northumbrians grow too strong. He came with 1x3Cv and 2x2Ps.

The battlefield was level, apart from the river and the road and a wood and a low hill that faced each other across the road. Due to pre-battle manoeuvring, Magnus managed to meet William from the direction he desired, securing the hill to his own advantage. William deplyed his entire army on the right of the river with his spear in the centre and knights on each flank. The archers and crossbowmen were in reserve.

Magnus deployed with his huscarls in the centre, the knights in reserve and the fyrd on each flank. He expected the Scots to arrive from the same direction as him, while the Welsh would arrive on his right flank.

Initial Deployment: William on the left and Magnus on the right.

On the first turn Magnus’ entire host advanced in a line, while the English army, lacking direction (1 PIP) could only advance some of their army. Neither of the allies arrived.

Turn 1: the two lines start to close.

On the next turn it was Magnus’ turn to lack PIPs (1 PIP); therefore he held back the knights, who were going to be used on one of the flanks. William was more active (5 PIPs), and contracted his line on the right to let the knights advance. Both sides continued to wait for their allies.

Turn 2: William's knights move to the front.

On the third turn Magnus wheeled his line on the left and extended it on the right. William went to investigate the river, discovering that it was paltry. Angus arrived and deployed on the left flank, on the other side of the river. Gruffudd seemed close behind (5 PIPs), but William had to keep waiting.

Turn 3: the Scots arrive as William crosses the Avon.

On the next turn Magnus dithered (1 PIP), opting to continue his advance. William brought all his knights over the river and sent forward archers to delay the enemy’s advance. Angus, keen for a scrap (6 PIPs), sent his light horse forward to delay the king and hurried after them. The Welsh still did not show.

Turn 4: Scots light horse face off against the English king.

Then suddenly it was all over. Magnus continued his advance, recoiling some archers, and William decided to attack the impudent Scots horse. The odds seemed very good (1/3 chance of destroying them, with only a 1/12 chance of being destroyed), but these Scots were in a fell mood and William, advancing ahead of his men, was unhorsed and killed by the quick-moving Scots (5+2 v 2+6). His household troops fled and the battleline began to waver and retreat. In the retreat two elements of 4Sp were destroyed (reflecting the casualties caused by the loss of a C-in-C).

Turn 5: Angus' light horse crow over the body of the English king.

  • Aftermath

The Scots earned 2 prestige points for their victory. The English, in disarray, retreated from Mercia, which the Northumbrians took possession of. They then sent for William’s brother, Henry, in Normandy and prepared for more fighting in the summer.

The Northumbrians could advance on England proper in the next season, but they would be without the support of the Scots, who can only support within two moves of their army. There was a bit of a diplomatic incident over the body of William. It was reported that it was decapitated and the Scots would not give it back. The Normans said this was barbarous and unchivalrous behaviour. The Scots denied this and said it was typical of the Normans to make such claims, reminding them that on the contrary the Scots had been a Christian people for a good deal longer than the Normans, whose ancestors were not long ago committing pagan atrocities across Europe. Such a barb, however, got at their allies the Northumbrians, not long Christians either, and all round tempers flared.

Stories abounded as to why William had crossed the Avon; one that gained a good deal of credence was that he’d spotted a fine looking hind, and being a keen huntsman had set off in chase of it. The Scots got to it first and an argument ensued over whose catch it was. Versions vary as to how William was killed; some claim he was struck by a stray crossbow bolt!

  • Review

An interesting start to the campaign. Henry steps into a difficult situation. William could claim, with some justice, to have been very unlucky. Yet, there is a certain amount of risk in committing one’s general so early. Had he won, however, he was set to give the Scots a good mauling. As in the previous battle (for Ceredigion), victory was decided without the close-order infantry coming to blows.

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10 Responses to “The Battle of Stratford on Avon”

  1. TWR Says:

    Great report Mark.

    I was interested to see you used the allied contingents as per the rule book. When we played our campaign allies were deployed on table but did not receive an additional PIP die. Instead they received a single PIP and additional PIPs must be allocated from the main PIP die.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks. I thought I’d try out the allied contingent rules as per the book. Do you still roll a dice to see when they get a ‘6’ to arrive? Do you move them in the same bound as the main army?

      • TWR Says:

        The main army and or allied contingents are deployed together at the start of the game. Everything is assumed to have arrived.

        The Allied contingent is ideally commanded by it’s owning player so while it is “on-table” how much it contributes is up to the owning player. He always gets one PIP, but everything else must be allocated. This actually creates some interesting decisions. Will the allied player seek prestige, or will he wait and see how things develop before risking his own contingent.

        I use this for two reasons. Firstly most allied contingents deployed historically with the main army. Secondly, a separate PIP die per contingent seemed too much to me.

      • Mark Davies Says:

        TWR says:

        The main army and or allied contingents are deployed together at the start of the game. Everything is assumed to have arrived.

        The Allied contingent is ideally commanded by it’s owning player so while it is “on-table” how much it contributes is up to the owning player. He always gets one PIP, but everything else must be allocated. This actually creates some interesting decisions. Will the allied player seek prestige, or will he wait and see how things develop before risking his own contingent.

        I use this for two reasons. Firstly most allied contingents deployed historically with the main army. Secondly, a separate PIP die per contingent seemed too much to me.

        Thanks. I agree that most allied contingents would be with the main army, but the random element about when they arrive and the ability to arrive on a flank makes for some interest.

        I was thinking of using an average dice for an ally’s PIPs: 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4. That’s still quite a lot, but particularly in HOTT with Magicians and fliers, less PIPs might make the ally a bit useless. In DBA only LH are likely to be able to use the excess PIPs. I’ll stick with the standard rules for a while to see how they work before I start experimenting.

  2. Dougal Says:

    Thanks for another interesting battle report,makes me want to jump on the No28 Bus and visit the battle site..seriously i look forward to the next one

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks. As for the name, it was chosen as I needed a river in the province and it was a forded one, so Stratford seemed ideal. Next one should be coming very soon: the Irish invade Wales!

  3. Stephen Says:

    “the random element about when they arrive” – you mean the random element about *if* they arrive 🙂

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Good point! Allies, like Dragons and Gods in HOTT are not something you should rely on to show up!

      • Stephen Says:

        Not that William Rufus gave his allies much of a chance to show up!

      • Mark Davies Says:

        Stephen Says:

        3 January, 2010 at 7:00 pm e

        Not that William Rufus gave his allies much of a chance to show up!

        Very true. The whole battle came to a very abrupt end!


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