Mike and Phil refighting Brunanburh using To the Strongest Rules. On a field enhazelled near the settlement of Brunanburh two sides shall meet to determine the fate of Britain. Aethelstan’s forces from Wessex and Mercia against those of the Alliance of Hiberno-Scandinavians (from Dublin), Scots and Strathclyde British from Cumbria led by Olaf (Anlaf).
About 150 points each side with a field bordered by woods, and a marshy stream.
1 Only Olaf and Aethelstan can command forces from other divisions.
2 Units charging into melee get a plus one to command (making it easier) to do so.
3 The first army to destroy four enemy formed units may take the “golden hoard” token. This may be used as a free additional general replacement activation card once per turn for any unit in the army that is in command range of its general (including Olaf and Athelstan). However each unit may only have one replacement card played on it per turn.
Phil played the Alliance and Mike the Saxons. The forces began by advancing towards each other though the Hiberno-Scandinavians (H-N) on the right flank proved extremely reluctant to follow Olaf and his Axemen. On the left flank the Strathclyde British light horse took refuge in the enclosed field proving an irritation to the Saxons. Fearing a charge at the rear of the Viking mercenaries the reserve Saxon cavalry were dispatched to eventually winkle them out.
As the skirmish lines closed the casualties fell heaviest on the Alliance whose skirmishers occasionally failed to evade as the shieldwalls clashed too. Olaf and his axemen were caught exposed thanks to the reluctant Ostmen H-N shieldwalls and fell into disorder. He had to retreat them back to his line and rally whilst the Saxons under Edmund reordered their own lines and then advanced again.
To the left flank the British cavalry failed to dislodge the Vikings even with a charge to the flank and were eventually threatened by the reserve horse. The Alliance used about 18 ammo chits throughout the battle but inflicted very few if any casualties. The Saxon shieldwalls held strong. The battles were furious aided by the scenario rule of a plus one to activate a melee. However with both sides fielding lots of deep units it proved difficult to achieve a decisive breakthrough. The Scots seemed to be making headway against Aethelstan’s forces but because of his detached status and free command moves every time they infliced 2 disorder on the deep units he soon had them rallied again.
Eventually even the Scots could not hold back the indestructable deep shieldwalls and their cavalry and javelnmen/ archers proved inneffective. Even the Irish blackshields on the right flank failed to take the opportunity of a flank charge when Olaf really needed support. Note the two Aces next to Olaf’s doomed Axmen. With the route to the camp cleared once the Ostmen were destroyed the Alliance realised the day was lost and Victory was awarded to the Saxons. Well played Mike.
we might do this as a display game hence the large sized leader name cards pictured. Would be better double sided. The Saxons should not really have detached leaders. Far too powerful in this period with Deep shieldwalls and heroes. What to do about the cavalry? Just seemed to be too much cavalry for a clash of shieldwalls battle. Probably should make the saxons raw or small units and allow the Saxons to deploy with their flanks better protected by the woods. Head on there seems little the British cavalry can do to a formed shieldwall as it should be. Also the Saxons had too many veterans compared to standard Fyrd which unbalanced the forces further. This was done in an attempt to balance the forces but backfired. Mike is painting up some Irish warriors for Olaf’s H-N force which will be better and then more Fyrd can be allocated to the Saxon side as originally planned. One we will definitely do again and the To the Strongest rules worked well, as always with lots of tense moments and fascinating moments. Such as when Athelstan took a light wound from a Scottish Spear thrust and survived to keep on fighting and rallying his Shieldwalls.
The Original Poem translated into English:
King Athelstan, the lord of warriors,
Patron of heroes, and his brother too,
Prince Edmund, won themselves eternal glory
In battle with the edges of their swords
Round Brunanburh; they broke the wall of shields,
The sons of Edward with their well-forged swords
Slashed at the linden-shields; such was their nature
From boyhood that in battle they had often
Fought for their land, its treasures and its homes,
Against all enemies. Their foes fell dead,
The Scottish soldiers and their pirate host
Were doomed to perish; and with blood of men
The field was darkened from the time the sun
Rose at the break of day, the glorious star,
God the eternal Lord’s bright candle passed
Across the land, until this noble creature
Sank to its resting-place. There many men
Lay slain by spears, and northern warriors
Shot down despite their shields, and Scotsmen too,
Weary, with battle sated. The West Saxons
Throughout the whole long passing of the day
Pressed on in troops behind the hostile people,
Hewed fiercely from the rear the fleeing host
With well-ground swords. The Mercians refused
Hard battle-play to none among the fighters
Who came with Anlaf over rolling seas,
Bringing invasion to this land by ship,
Destined to die in battle. Five young kings
Lay dead upon the battlefield, by swords
Sent to their final sleep; and likewise seven
Of Anlaf’s earls, and countless of his host,
Both Scots and seamen. There the Norsemen’s chief
Was put to flight, and driven by dire need
With a small retinue to seek his ship.
The ship pressed out to sea, the king departed
Onto the yellow flood and saved his life.
Likewise the wise old Constantinus came,
The veteran, to his northern native land
By flight; he had no reason to exult
In that encounter; for he lost there friends
And was deprived of kinsmen in the strife
Upon that battlefield, and left his son
Destroyed by wounds on that grim place of slaughter,
The young man in the fight. The grey-haired man
Had little cause to boast about that battle,
The sly old soldier, any more than Anlaf;
They could not with their remnant laugh and claim
That they were better in warlike deeds
When banners met upon the battlefield,
Spears clashed and heroes greeted one another,
Weapons contended, when they played at war
With Edward’s sons upon the place of carnage.
The Norsemen left them in their well-nailed ships,
The sad survivors of the darts, on Dingesmere
Over the deep sea back they went to Dublin
To Ireland they returned with shameful hearts.
The brothers also both went home together,
The king and prince returned to their own country,
The land of Wessex, triumphing in war.
They left behind corpses for the dark
Black-coated raven, horny beaked to enjoy,
And for the eagle, white-backed and dun-coated,
The greedy war-hawk, and that grey wild beast
The forest wolf. Nor has there on this island
Been ever yet a greater number slain,
Killed by the edges of the sword before
this time,as books make known to us, and old
And learned scholars, after hither came
The Angles and the Saxons from the east
Over the broad sea sought the land of Britain,
Proud warmakers. Victorious warriors,
Conquered the Welsh, and so obtained this land.