Well, it’s been a while since there’s been any progress on the King Magnus campaign, and it may continue to be patchy, but last Wednesday Joel came over for a game, and not bringing any of his figures we decided to fight the next battle of the campaign. This battle was between Gilledomman of the Isles and Angus of the Scots. Gilledomman hoped to add Strathclyde to his possessions, invading in spring with an army of Islemen (6x4Bd including the commander), supplemented by some Irish mercenaries (2xsAx) and some Highlanders (2x3Bw, 1x5Wb and 1x2Ps).

Angus met this force with a muster of his spearmen (5x3Sp(L)), his thegns (1x4Wb), archers (2x2Ps), his retinue (1x3Cv), light horse (1x2LH) and Galwegian allies (2x3Wb). Joel commanded the Islemen and I the Scots. As the defender I got to set the terrain, and it was here I made my biggest mistake. I set terrain appropriate to the last two battles (nothing like preparing for the last war!). There were two steep hills in diagonally opposite corners, a wood and a road (I would have been better to put terrain in the centre of the field, as became apparent as I deployed).

Gilledomman didn’t get the edge he hoped for. Angus opted to position his spear on a hill in front of the camp and the rest of his army next to the wood. Gilledomman deployed in a long line to meet them, with his warband opposite the spear and his bow and bonnachts opposite the woods. Angus didn’t alter his deployment in response to this.

 

Initial Deployment: Angus' Scots on the right and Gilledomman's Islemen on the left.

 

As the Islemen advanced, Angus sought to pull his right wing across to confront the Islemen blade.

 

Turn 1: The thegns begin to wheel towards their left flank.

 

Gilledomman brought his troops off the hill as Angus moved his cavalry to the left.

 

Turn 2: Gilledomman's troops watch in surprise as the Scots attempt to move to their right.

 

Gilledomman’s fastest troops, his bonnachts, advanced on the left, as the Scots continued their risky manoeuvre.

 

Turn 3: The Islemen get closer as the Scots continue to move to the left.

 

As the line of Islemen bore down on them Angus and his archers formed the right flank for the warbands that were still on the march to the left.

 

Turn 4: The Islemen get closer.

 

The Islemen now had the warbands pinned, but more surprising was the effectiveness of their archery, which destroyed one of the Scots skirmishers.

 

Turn 5: Ouch, the Scots' right flank gets shorter.

 

On the next turn the Islemen got ready to attack, but before their right flank could charge they were beaten to it by the warbands, who used all 6 PIPs to charge into contact. The first fight was crucial, if the Galwegians could drive back the Highland rabble, they would provide overlaps on the two Islemen blade; unfortunately they got a ‘stick’ result. The other two combats were very desultory (we both rolled 1s twice!).

 

Turn 6: A promising opportunity for the Scots comes to nothing.

 

With the Galwegians overlapped on both sides their future was not promising, and sure enough they didn’t stick around. The Scots were now 2 down and looking very ill. However, on the right wing their other archers were made of sterner stuff, getting a ‘stick’ against the Irish that attacked them.

 

Turn 7 (Gilledomman): Galwegians go home! The Scots are two down.

 

Angus retires his two surviving Wb and his retinue. His archers are forced back by the Irish.

 

Turn 7 (Angus): The Scots fall back on the hill.

 

Gilledomman continued his run of great PIP rolls (three 6s in a row). He boldly takes on the Galwegians single-handedly, while his Islemen flank the archers. the Galwegians fall back, and the gritty archers get another ‘stick’!

 

Turn 8 (Gilledomman): The Islemen close in on the Scots position.

 

Angus orders his Galwegians to attack Gilledomman’s household troops supported by spear, but they show a lack of passion and fade away (they rolled 1 to 3). It’s now 3-0 to the Islemen and Angus’ is wondering what army will be left to him for summer if the Islemen keep coming after him. Surprisingly his army doesn’t fold this turn, as those doughty archers shrug off their flankers and the Irish!

 

Turn 8 (Angus): Galwegians lack spark—yet again!

 

Now Gilledomman’s PIP luck changes (2 PIPs). He sends in the Highland rabble against the Scots spear, only to see them driven back. Even more surprisingly, the archers prove too much for the Irish, who decide to make a run for it (1-6).

 

Turn 9 (Gilledomman): Angus' troops hand on grimly, heartened by the brave example of their archers.

 

Angus’ lines his spear up with the thegns and with their overlap support attacks Gilledomman himself, hoping to meet him in personal combat. The Islemen fall back before his charge.

 

Turn 9 (Angus): Gilledomman falls back before the Scots cavalry.

 

Now Gilledomman’s PIP luck changes definitively (the first of three 1s), helping to keep the Scots’ hopes alive. He opts for caution as he aligns his household troops with the Highland warband.

Angus, heartened by his army’s first success, has 5 PIPs and uses them to line himself and his archers with the main battle line. He also sends his light cavalry around behind the line to try to take the Highlanders in the rear.

 

Turn 10: Angus stabilizes his line and sends his light horse behind the enemy's line.

 

With only one PIP Gilledomman decides to line up his blade with the Highlanders. Angus has another 5 PIPs, which he uses to attack the warband with his horse and continue to lengthen his line to the left. The result against the Highlanders is a ‘stick’.

 

Turn 11: The Scots light horse fall on the Highlanders, but a stalemate eventuates.

 

With his one PIP Gilledomman sends some Islemen to chase off the archers, but do you think they’ll go! The Islemen retire in confusion. The Highlanders, however, force the light horse to recoil.

 

Turn 12 (Gilledomman): Go Scots archers! They won't give up.

 

Angus has two PIPs, renewing the attack on the Highlanders and lining up his spear on the hill. The warband had enough and forced back onto the Scots spear disperse. It’s now 3-2 to the Islemen, and their right wing is looking very unwell.

 

Turn 12 (Angus): At last, the bane of the spear is put to flight.

 

Gilledomman gets 2 PIPs and tries to push those archers out of the way. They get yet another ‘stick’! Angus has 3 PIPs and launches an attack on the lone Isleman facing the thegns. These get a ‘stick’; the archers at last are forced to flee.

 

Turn 13: The archers at last are forced to flee.

 

Gilledomman’s PIPs improve (3). He flanks Angus and his retinue, but is driven back. He also forces back the thegns.

 

Turn 14 (Gilledomman): Flanked, Angus drives back his attackers.

 

Angus pulls out the stops on the Islemen facing the thegns, sending in the light horse. This finally gets them, and the score is now 3-3. He brings up the archers to ZOC the Islemen that flanked him and he attacks Gilledomman himself, flanking him with spear, but the roles are repeated from his turn, and he’s driven back.

 

Turn 14 (Angus): The second time a flanked commander fights off his attacker.

 

With 6 PIPs Gilledomman ZOCs the spear that had flanked him and attacks the light horse, forcing them to flee through the thegns.

 

Turn 15 (Gilledomman): The light horse are chased off.

 

Angus has only 1 PIP; he advances the thegns to align with the spear.

 

Turn 15 (Angus): On a knife's edge. Can the Scots last long enough to get that one more casualty?

 

Gilledomman has 4 PIPs. He decides to work on those pesky archers. He moves his archers across to support his right flank. Then it’s all over. His archers, the same ones that shot the Scots archers, shot the Scots spear (6-1). The Scots archers, however, don’t give up, only recoiling.

 

Turn 16 (Gilledomman): The second distance shooting of the battle causes more casualties.

 

  • Aftermath

What looked like being a massacre was a hard-fought victory for the Islemen. Whether they feel strong enough to follow up their attack in summer is now uncertain. The thegns, remembering how poorly the Galwegians fought at Ebchester, placed the blame for the defeat squarely at their feet. As it was, with the Galwegians all put to flight and their territory now cut off from the Scots by the Islemen in Strathclyde, their defection was hardly surprising.

The Islemen will now get Galwegians instead of the Highland rabble and one of the Irish. The Scots will get some Orkney Vikings to replace them (2x4Bd).

  • Review

I was lucky to force the Islemen so hard after that peculiar deployment. Having said that two of his victories, both by shooting, were freak shots. Worse still from my point of view, I reminded Joel both times to do the shooting! On the balance, this was evened out by the Scots archer’s stubbornness. However, the fact that the Scots have 3Sp(L) was what allowed that second shot to succeed. I’m yet to use them well. At deployment I should have swapped one of the 2Ps for a 3Sp(L) so that it could have neutralized that warband.

Turn 3: The Islemen get closer as the Scots continue to move to the left.

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.

Anglo-Norman Dismounted Knights

27 September, 2009

I’ve now finished 4 elements of dismounted knights to allow my Anglo-Norman knights to dismount:

Dismounted Knights

Dismounted Knights

They are largely Essex figures, but the front element on the left has two Feudal Castings spearmen. The other spearmen and the two-handed swordsmen I got from Paul Potter in a trade. They mix well with the other knights and command figures that I’d already got.

I was particularly pleased with the flag, as it was small and folded and I was sure I’d make a mess of it. However, I noticed that a VVV roundshield transfer was actually a cross, and of the sort I was going to try to paint. all I had to do was paint the centre! I think it came out very well.

The Knights' Flag

The Knights' Flag

I also finished two elements of Essex Norman light horse. These will be useful in allowing me to create non-historical armies to represent probable opponents in the up-coming competition. I’ll use them tonight, hopefully, in a contest between my ‘Picts’ and some Eastern Patrician Romans represented by a mixture of Normans, Irish and Galwegians!

Norman Light Horse

Norman Light Horse

I should add that the ‘Picts’ are now complete, as I finished three more elements of Pre-feudal Scots spearmen; this means the Pre-feudal Scots are also finished. I only painted six figures this weekend, and converted two to being axemen, but I was able to base 7 elements and flock 13 elements (most of the painting was done last weekend).

Big Painting Session

20 September, 2009

This weekend I surprised myself by getting two batches of figures painted, some 6 mounted and 35 foot. The first lot were started on Thursday, I think, inasmuch as I’d done their flesh, but I finished them totally Friday night. These were figures for my Pre-feudal Scots army: 2 figures for light horse and 7 figures for spear. I’m planning to use them as Picts at Conquest,  a wargames competition in Christchurch next month, so I need an extra 2LH and 2 more 3Sp. I’m now waiting for a few figures from Feudal Castings, so I can finish the spear.

The next day I spent the afternoon and evening on armoured infantry—mostly metal, so relatively easy. These were 12 dismounted knights and 12 Islemen.The knights are now based and waiting for their magic wash and flock, while the Islemen need 4 more figures from the Feudal Castings order before I can base them. I also painted 4 feudal scouts (2x2LH). These were figures I got by trade from Paul Potter through a chance post on the Fanaticus Forum. I swapped Museum Miniatures figures that don’t scale well for me for some Essex ones.

Figures painted this weekend in array: on the left are the pre-feudal Scots and Islemen, in the centre are the knights and on the right are the feudal scouts; behind them are Macbeth's witches waiting to be based. On nails are the next batch, some Irish. Right behind them is the set of drawers with all the unpainted lead. On the far left the Pre-feudal Scots are trying out used business card holders as storage for their trip to Christchurch.

Figures painted this weekend in array: on the left are the pre-feudal Scots and Islemen, in the centre are the knights and on the right are the feudal scouts; behind them are Macbeth's witches waiting to be based. On nails are the next batch, some Irish. Right behind them is the set of drawers with all the unpainted lead. On the far left the Pre-feudal Scots are trying out used business card holders as storage for their trip to Christchurch.

In the next few weeks I’ll be trying out my ‘Picts’ against various assortments of Normans and others to get practice against probable opponents at the competition. In particular, I want to see how they go against Patrician Romans and Classical Indians (for which I’ll need to use my HOTT Bh as El!).

While I wait for figures to arrive from Feudal Castings to complete the armies for the King Magnus’ War campaign, I decided to refight the battles from which this alternate history stems. There’s a risk, of course, in doing this: the history requires one outcome, but that’s tempting fate, and the dice gods!

Malcolm, the son of Duncan, had grown up in the English court after Macbeth killed his father. In 1054 with the support of Earl Siward of Northumbria he sought to contest the throne of Scotland. Earl Siward is the commander of an Anglo-Danish army that  in place of one 4Sp has one 3Cv representing Malcolm and his supporters.

Actually, most historians do not think that it was this Malcolm at the battle between Macbeth and Siward, but possibly a leader from Strathclyde, but I’ve chosen to follow the popular historical tradition. The battle in which Malcolm defeated Macbeth, at Lumphanan, was some three years later and not much more than a skirmish. The one between Siward and Macbeth was a major battle, so it’s more satisfying to stake the fortunes of Scotland on an encounter between two large armies, than on a skirmish.

These invaders were met at Dunsinnan Hill, in Perthshire, by King Macbeth with a standard Pre-feudal Scots army, complete with fierce Galwegians.

Macbeth had let the Northumbrians advance a good way into his realm before meeting them, but when he judged the time was right he took the initiative (6+1 v 1+1 for attacker). The battlefield was along a road that had nearby a pair of low hills and a small woods. Macbeth succeeded in approaching Siward so that the wood was in the middle of where Siward was deploying and the road ran between them. After deployment Siward shifted his cavalry and his skirmishers to the right flank, moving fyrd into their place.

Initial Deployment: Siward on the left faces Macbeth on the right

Initial Deployment: Siward on the left faces Macbeth on the right.

The battle opened slowly as both sides advanced and tried to extend their battlelines.

Turn 1: Macbeth's Galwegians surge out ahead

Turn 1: Macbeth's Galwegians surge out ahead.

Turn 1: Macbeth 5 PIPs, Siward 6 PIPs.

Turn 2: Malcolm threatens the Galwegians

Turn 2: Malcolm threatens the Galwegians.

Turn 2: Macbeth 3 PIPs, Siward 3 PIPs.

Turn 3: Siward's troops trundle forward

Turn 3: Siward's troops trundle forward.

Turn 3: Macbeth 2 PIPs, Siward 5 PIPs.

Turn 4: Macbeth retires a little to straighten his line

Turn 4: Macbeth retires a little to straighten his line.

Turn 4: Macbeth 5 PIPs, Siward 1 PIP.

Turn 5: Siward confronts the Scots with one unbroken line

Turn 5: Siward confronts the Scots with one unbroken line.

Turn 5: Macbeth 4 PIPs, Siward 4 PIPs. Macbeth sends the light horse to the right flank.

Once he had his battleline in position, Macbeth gave the order to charge. With only two PIPs he was able to order a general advance and get the light horse to flank Malcolm and his cavalry. He was counting on the right flank to create a ripple of death, or at least recoils to set the warbands up for success. The Galwegian advance down the road on turn 1 had brought the warbands into perfect proximity to the three elements receiving skirmisher support, and two of these were blades as well (not very bright!), so they’d need all the overlaps and a lot of luck to succeed.

Things got off to a good start when Malcolm, outflanked against spear, was destroyed (4+4 v 2+4). However, the spear next to them were unfazed and stood firm (4+2 v 3+3). This stopped the ripple. Macbeth tried to restart it on his flank, but was repulsed (4+2 v 3+6). It now all fell to the Galwegians facing the fyrd to get lucky, so that the thegns were not totally unsupported against Siward. They failed (3+5 v 5+4); the other Galwegians were now in a difficult situation and were lucky to be only forced back (2+3 v 6+2). Such luck was not with the thegns facing Siward, who, overlapped on both sides, were put to flight (1+4 v 7+3). The first of the two elements of skirmishers fled from the spear they faced (1+2 v 4+6), but the second, despite being overlapped on both sides, only recoiled (0+5 v 4+5).

Turn 6 (Macbeth): the Scots charge is thrown back

Turn 6 (Macbeth): The Scots charge is thrown back.

Siward ordered a countercharge into the wreckage of Macbeth’s attack. His 3 PIPs allowed him to advance in three blocks, allowing for the difference in depth of recoil. The attack started well, with the element of Galwegians facing his huscarls breaking (6+2 v 2+1). The other Galwegians, however, retired fighting (4+5 v 2+5). The fyrd facing Scots spear forced back their opponents (3+5 v 3+2), but the huscarls facing Macbeth were fought to a standstill (3+1 v 2+2). The skirmishers continued to fight bravely, but were this time forced to flee (4+6 v 0+5).

Turn 6 (Siward): The Galwegians join the thegns in flight

Turn 6 (Siward): The Galwegians join the thegns in flight.

Macbeth’s position was looking very tenuous, but he didn’t panic. With 6 PIPs he ordered his light horse to advance on Siward’s camp (2 PIPs). The two spear on the right flank attacked the fyrd opposite them with the advantage of having flanked them (2 PIPs). With the remaining PIPs he retired himself and ordered the surviving Galwegians to do likewise. The battle on the right flank went well (3+4 v 3+3), and Siward was now two elements down. If Macbeth could sack the camp before Siward could inflict more damage on him he could steal a lucky victory from a messy position.

Turn 7: the light horse make for the Northumbrian camp

Turn 7: The light horse make for the Northumbrian camp.

His luck held when Siward, suddenly aware of how exposed the camp was, panicked (1 PIP). He decided against trying to catch the light horse by chasing them down the road and order his spear onto the Scots spear nearby (I thought his spear were Huscarls at the time, oops!). The fight changed little, forcing the Scots back (4+5 v 4+4).

Turn 8: the light horse are repulsed

Turn 8: The light horse are repulsed.

It was now Macbeth’s turn to be flummoxed (1 PIP). Fortuitously he was just in command range of the light horse and ordered them to attack the camp. The camp followers, however, resisted bravely (2+4 v 3+6).

Siward, nevertheless, continued to dither (1 PIP again). At a loss for inspiration he ordered the fyrd (who he still thought were huscarls!) to attack the Scots spear. They were forced back (4+2 v 4+4).

Macbeth recovered his composure (4 PIPs) and ordered the light horse back against the camp (2 PIPs) and prepared his right flank to deal with the lone element of fyrd facing them. This time the light horse, driven forward by the promise of booty, broke into the camp and sacked it (2+5 v 3+1).

Turn 9: The light horse celebrate as they pillage the enemy's camp

Turn 9: The light horse celebrate as they pillage the enemy's camp.

Macbeth secured a lucky victory. Later accounts of the battle, which took due note of the crucial role the light horse played, claimed that Macbeth himself was actually fighting with them. Other accounts gave credit to his son Lulach as the commander of the light horse. Despite being routed in a flanking manoeuvre, Malcolm made good his escape, continuing to be a thorn in the side of Macbeth and his successors. He made sure he kept out of the way of Siward, who had to come to humiliating terms with Macbeth in order to extricate his army from its predicament.

  • Review

Well, I’m somewhat of a novice with the use of 2LH. They won the battle pretty much. I was also not aware how easy it was for 2LH to capture a camp. If I’d known, and I should have paid more attention to the Battle of Koi, then Siward could have kept an element of 4Sp in the camp. It might also have been sensible for him to have kept the 3Cv as a reserve, which would have stopped the 2LH making for the camp.

Macbeth’s warbands faced the stiffest possible odds; it really was a gamble. I wonder how they could have found some nice unsupported spear to attack. The advance of the Galwegians along the road was really rather foolish, as it took them right into alignment with the huscarls. As warbands are an element that seem to rely to a big degree on luck I’d decided that the Galwegians’ recent poor form was because they didn’t like being two-deep. That didn’t prove the cure to their problems!

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.

I really had to try out some of my newly finished armies, and also try out recording a game—writing each move and taking photos. Therefore, last Friday I decided that I’d use the Pre-feudal Scots (the South Welsh really need a mounted opponent to be interesting, and currently the only ones are lowly Tabletop figures!). Given this choice the most appropriate opponent therefore seemed to be the Scots Isles and Highlands army, even though it didn’t follow the DBA list, but my adaptation of the DBM one:

6 x 4Bd (Islemen, 1 = cmd)
2 x 3Bw (Highland archers)
1 x 2Ps (Highland skirmishers)
1 x 5Wb (Highland rabble)
2 x 3Ax (Irish mercenaries)

The Irish were necessary, as the Galwegians were in the Scots army. The Islemen were also actually Vikings, as not enough of them have been painted, and one of them was an element of Thegns.

The Islemen, led by Fergus mac Dougal, are raiding somewhere along the West coast near Galloway in the early 11th century. They are met by the local Scots leader, Malcolm Canbeg, who has the support of nearby Galwegians, who are always keen on a scrap.

  • Deployment

They meet Malcolm along a road in an area of low hills with a small wood on their left flank. Malcolm has deployed with his skirmishers facing the woods, their spearmen in the centre and the Thegns and Galwegians on their left flank, flanked by Malcolm and his retinue and a troop of light horse.

Initial Deployment

Initial Deployment, Fergus on right, Malcolm on left

To meet this Fergus deploys his Irish to gain control of the wood, the Highland rabble next to them, then himself flanked by more Islemen, then the Highland archers to face the cavalry, and finally more Islemen supported by skirmishers to meet the cavalry and the warbands.

Malcolm decides to shift his cavalry to his right flank and move spearmen to face the archers.

  • Turn 1

With 2 PIPs Fergus chooses to advance the Irish and the right flank, hoping to move the archers towards the cavalry.

Situation at the end of the first turn

Situation at the end of the first turn

With 4 PIPs Malcolm advances the entire line 200 paces, and then spends the remaining PIPs getting his skirmishers into the woods.

  • Turn 2

Fergus has 4 PIPs and contests the woods with the Irish, advances the right flank and wheels the archers towards the cavalry. They lose the first fight against the skirmishers, but manage to win the second.

The situation at the end of the second turn

Situation at the end of the second turn

Malcolm uses 5 PIPs to advance his skirmishers to overlap one of the Irish, he then advances the cavalry, thinking perhaps to flank the Irish next turn. The rest of the troops continue to advance. The Irish run like a pack of cowards (they roll a 1 against a 6!). That was not expected, and suddenly Malcolm looks to be dominant on the left flank.

  • Turn 3

Fergus has 4 PIPs and retreats the Irish, advances on the right flank and splits the bow, sending one to support the right flank.

Situation at the end of the third turn

Situation at the end of the third turn

Malcolm decides that his LH are not suited to facing archers, retreating them and starting to send them to provide support on the opposite flank. He himself retires to line up with the line of spearmen.

  • Turn 4

With 4 PIPs Fergus hurries the right flank forward, hoping to make contact before the LH can arrive. He aligns the Irish with his own line and advances it too. The archers, having chased off the LH, try to catch up with the right flank. The archers lined up with the right flank fire ineffectually on the Thegns.

Situation at the end of the fourth turn

Situation at the end of the fourth turn

Malcolm continues to be energetic and has 5 PIPs. The LH complete their manoeuvre (3 PIPs), and the skirmishers advance to the edge of the woods (not too smart!). The Thegns are again shot at ineffectually.

  • Turn 5

With 4 PIPs Fergus takes on the skirmishers in the woods. The Irish and rabble advance to contact, and then the rabble use an extra move to close the door. The right flank advances to contact, fearing the LH flanking. The lone archer moves a little closer. His shooting on a spear unit was ineffectual (he probably was shooting illegally at the one providing overlap support on the other archers).

Situation at the end of the fifth turn

Situation at the end of the fifth turn

Then it got messy! The Islemen facing the Thegns go first. They are confident (6 v. 3), but the dice are against them (1 v. 6!), and they’re routed. Their plan, risky as it was, had hinged on this combat going well. The Galwegians recoil, as do the spearmen. Remarkably the archers survive; only recoiling (0+4 v. 4+1).

Malcolm used his 3 PIPs to advance his spear and Galwegians against the Islemen and flank them with the LH. He also advances his spear against the archers. The archer not in contact illegally shoot at the spear providing overlap support, forcing it to recoil (I missed that at the time!).

The spear and cavalry are too much for the Islemen, who are routed. However, the Islemen facing the Galwegians, despite being overlapped on both sides, forcedthem to recoil again (4+6 v. 4+3). The spearmen fail narrowly to destroy the archers (4+6 v. 2+4). Actually, had they still had their overlap as they should have, the game would have ended then.

  • Turn 6

Fergus doesn’t despair, and energetically tries to recover the situation with 4 PIPs. The surviving Islemen on the right flank retreat. The Irish and rabble tackle the last skirmisher (I’m not sure the Irish could sidle into contact; perhaps they should have closed the door and had the rabble, at best, as overlap support). Fergus himself tries to avoid his archers with a wheel of 100 paces and an advance. The archers, despite support, fail to disconcert the spear with their shooting, but it’s close (3+6 v. 4+5). The Irish avenge their comrades in a tough fight (3+6 v. 1+5).

Situation at the end of the seventh turn

Situation at the end of the sixth turn

Malcolm remains energetic and sends the Galwegians into another charge (2 PIPs) on the Islemen supported by the Thegns and the LH. They fail again (4+2 v. 4+4). The archers again shoot ineffectually at the spear.

  • Turn 7

Starting to lose momentum, Fergus has only two PIPs, which he uses to make contact with the enemy himself. He gets some overlap support from some archers. The spearmen, however, are resilient. Those overlapped by the archers recoil ((5+4 v. 3+2), narrowly avoiding breaking. Those facing Fergus are bolder, but are still forced back (6+4 v. 3+4), and Malcolm and the Islemen facing him poke at each other halfheartedly (3+1 v. 3+1!).

Situation at the end of the game

Situation at the end of the game

Malcolm, clearly distracted, issues almost no orders; with only one PIP he orders his spearmen back into contact. The overlappers are now overlapped, and the archers are mauled (4+6 v. 1+3), giving victory to the Scots. No longer overlapped Malcolm fights with more energy and forces his Islemen back (4+4 v. 3+3). Fergus’s other flank support, clearly unnerved by the destruction of the archers next to them, are also forced to recoil (4+3 v. 4+1). Fergus himself, overlapped on both sides, nevertheless fights his opponents to a standstill (4+3 v. 4+3).

  • Review

It’s hard to say how much of Fergus’s defeat was due to his bad deployment—the archers would have done better on the left flank, where they would have neutralized any attempted redeployment of the LH. His decision to try to get the archers across to meet the cavalry was probably worse, as it forced the gamble of attacking on the right flank before the centre could catch up. However, his luck was as big a factor; he was unlucky in the woods, and Malcolm was lucky to get his LH around to the other flank so fast. Also the collapse of Fergus’s right flank was caused by the Thegns remarkable victory. Perhaps they were expressing some sort of opinion about being earmarked to become Islemen! If so, they were emphatic about it.

Battle honours are owed to the Thegns (it’s not the first time they’ve done this, either!), and to the Islemen/Vikings who valiantly held off the repeated attacks of the Galwegians, even when flanked.