Last Sunday Craig, Bern, Gary and I played a Hail Caesar refight of the Battle of Brunanburgh 937 AD, the Saxons fighting a Viking, Scots and Welsh alliance. We played the scenario as described on pp.154-161 with the only modification being a reduction in the size of the units. We didn’t have enough painted figures between us to field the massive sizes used in the book! The venue was at Good Games, a GW style gaming shop with plenty of tables, located in the suburb of Conder, in Tuggeranong, south Canberra.
There were four commanders and divisions a side and so we took two each. The Saxons commanders were led by King Athelstan, with his brother Edmund, Egil’s Vikings and an Eorl leading the mounted thegns. The Viking commanders were Olaf Guthfrisson King of Dublin, Eric commanding mercenary Vikings and Men of the Isles, Constantine II King of the Scots and Owen I King of Strathclyde. Most of the units featured combined formations with half thegns and ceorls on the Saxon side and half hird and bondi on the Vikings side.
|Gripping Beast plastic Thegns|
The game started with a double move for the Vikings which was a good thing as two divisions failed to move at all and the Welsh under Owen rolled a blunder and promptly fled off the table! This was the high point of the Welsh contribution - they were obviously keen to return to their sheep and home. Eventually they were able to return to the table and actually advanced towards the Saxon line but needless to say, failed to make contact for the rest of the game. Subsequent moves saw the Viking line advance and engage the Saxons. On the Saxon side Egil’s small unit of Vikings supported by mounted thegns put up a tough fight against a large unit of Scots who were also supported by friends. A helter skelter follow me order from Constantine saw a unit of Scots engage and then break the Saxons on the extreme left flank of the Viking/Scots line.
|More plastic Thegns|
|The Viking right flank|
|Foundry -The Men of the Isles|
|Gripping Beast - King Athelstan|
|Foundry - Beserkers|
Edmund, sensing an opportunity to exploit gaps in the Viking/Scots line, advanced off the hill and leading from the front, threw himself fearlessly into the fray. As part of the scenario, commanders in combat had an increased chance of being killed and this reflects the high mortality rate among the commanders in the actual battle. Meanwhile on the right flank Olaf and Athelstan were fighting it out and cracks were starting to appear in the shield walls, units on both sides were becoming shaken and disordered and eventually broke.
Back on the left Edmund’s large unit with supporting mounted thegns broke successive Scots units killing Constantine. They then broke the Men of the Isles, also killing Eric in the process. Tragically Edmund himself was killed in this final melee, although the unit remained relatively unscathed. The Saxon revival however was not universal and in the centre Egil’s Vikings and mounted thegns were broken by the Scots and a further Saxon unit broke before the marauding Scots had time to charge them in the rear. On the right a final melee between the remaining Viking and Saxon forces of Olaf and Athelstan saw the Saxons finally broken.
The Vikings/Scots had won a hard fought victory which could so easily have swung the other way! Despite many turns of combat and the large number of units involved the entire game probably took about three hours to fight and a half hour, of setting up at the start and packing up at the end. Thanks to Craig, Bern and Gary for a cracker game which really seemed to capture that elusive war gaming goal of ‘period feel’ particularly well!
|The final melee of the game|