The next installment of our 1066 anniversary battle is the Battle of Stamford bridge. This time round Harold Godwinson was to take the field against Harald Haldraada. The armies lists were –
The Campaign game replaces the ‘5 days before battle’ section with its own map. The Saxons are always attacking , and the Pre Battle cards indicate whether the battle took place at its original spot (where the Vikings are surprised and the army split) or whether the Vikings are more ‘canny’ and force a more conventional pitched battle. Both sided had 9 cards, so it wasn’t a guarantee that it would take place as historically.
The preamble began slowly with the Saxons winning or drawing the early hands and thus the battle being held in the spot advantageous for them. The penultimate hands saw the Vikings make a break out away from the river and to an open plain for battle. However, a last red Saxons card in the last round saw the Vikings pushed back to the river, and the battle would be fought as per the special rules.
The battlefield was split with a traverse river, which while fordable was difficult going. The Viking army was split in two , each half being deployed on each side of the river. In the first turn the Viking would be dealt cards ‘face up’ – using the allies rules – to represent their lack of preparedness for the battle.
The scouting phase was not particularily exciting , with 100% heavy infantry armies there is not much in the way of scouting cards. The Saxons did outscout , but only by 20% (which was 2 TuGs)
The blasted north, looking a bit more like Mordor than Yorkshire. The coloured sticks a necessary evil to denote troop quality and command. As they are all my figures and are the same it could get a bit mixed up
So there were 5 Vikings battlegroups on each side of the river. The Saxons had 11. The victory conditions were that the Saxons must break the Vikings (destroy 5 TuGs) while if the Vikings held on (for 3 hours) then it would be a Dane victory. So if Harold could crush the 5 battle groups on the near side of the river, before the others ‘woke up’ then that would be the game.
The cards were dealt.
Luckily the Vikings did have a good hand of cards and not one of their commands was ‘asleep’ – the Saxons has obviously trod on a few too many twigs en route to the battlefield.
Harold and his Hearthguard had made the unusual decision to go right at the end of the line to try and act as a hammer while the anvil of the Select Fyrd held the surprised Vikings in place.
Battle was joined. The Viking on the far bank of the river formed up and advanced (as quick as their cards would allow) , but the river was slow going.
The Vikings facing the onslaught of the Saxon army fought valiantly. The first casualty of the game being one of Harold’s elite Hearthguard. The shieldwalls ground into each other, but they were evenly matched and the Vikings broken the deadlock when one of the Saxon Huscarl catastrophically units broke on the centre of the line. The Vikings started spewing though the gap and rolling up the line
Things were looking close. Harold broke his opposition on the end of the line and tried desperately to turn the line there and capitalise on that advantage. However disaster struck and the huscarls next to Harold were attritted away and broke. They was a sizeable hole in the Saxon line now. The was a slim chance now, as the Saxon training was marginally better and the ‘tribal’ Hird would find it difficult to redeploy in a different facing.
As an indicator of quality green = average, yellow = superior and red = exceptional
At this point the remainder of the Viking force crossed the river. This equalised the numbers and the Saxons would just have to be lucky. This was not the case. The Saxons ended up having to commit elements of the lesser Fyrd, and it was getting desparate. As we approached the end game (3 hour time limit for Viking victory) Tostig and his men destroyed another Saxon Huscarl unit. The only positive being that it cost the treacherous brother his life as he fought in the front rank! The Saxon army teetered on breaking, the coup de grace being when the flanked Saxons had a disastrous set of dice and a unit of Viking Huscarls – who had been 1 hit from breaking for most of the game – hit the end of the lined diced well and broke the unit they hit in the flank for no loses… Harold Godwinsons army broke.
Harold and his men by virtue of being at the end of the line could only be spectators as the Saxons army crumbled and fled. That did save him from being part of the destruction.
As our Battle of Stamford bridge concluded we rationalised that Harold with his army now defeated would not be in any position to stop Willliam in the south, and would flee to the continent. For our next instalment we decided to break from history try and see what would happen with the North still under Viking rule and the South now controlled by the unopposed Normans. Stay tuned for the next instalment …