For our finale game in our 1066 series of game, we saw the victorious (from Stamford Bridge) Harald confronted by William. As this was divergence from the historic events, we had no pre planned events to follow and just let the standard game dictate the events.
The Vikings won the initial roll off and chose to defend the north. They tried to secure their armies flank against a river. The Normans were happy to let them do that – saving a fortuitous draw of cards for the outscouting phase. This resulted in the Vikings being 70% outscouted. The terrain while being ‘dense’, saw 2 large scrubby hills failing to place. So in the end the battlefield was open in the centre and secured by a river on one flank and a couple of field on the other.
While the Vikings were outscouted it largely didn’t alter the army disposition, with 5’ of shieldwall. The Huscarls were spread out across the line, rather than in one particular area.
William didn’t have much in the way of options and really had to destroy the Viking army to keep his grip on England. So, he lined up his numerous Milites and hoped to smash the centre while the Bretons harried the flanks. The Norman left saw the infantry contingent refuse the line. The Norman infantry was at best equal to the Vikings, so it was down to the mounted wing to win the day.
The strategy that both armies deployed was not subtle. The Normans just trying to cave the centre of the line, while the Viking foot resisted in shield wall. In game terms the Hird are average light spear , close order infantry (with shieldwall). The Milites are average , charging lance, devastating chargers… so in the charge they are up 2. But the bit thing was that shieldwall negates any ‘s’s , and only a ‘skull’ gives a shatter. The Hird in 9’s are really resilient, and while the initial charge might have looked good, they can afford a few bases here and there if they can inflict and casualties. As is panned out the Normans charged, had some success, but lost a few bases. The subsequent melee was even more even. The Huscarls are savage in the melee, being 2 up n the fight, and their presence started to take a toll. The Normans had to spend their better cards to break off and re-charge (where they had more advantage) , but this was costing them a lot in card management. The Vikings could sit back to rally off wounds where they could. The Milites in 6’s , were starting to look thinned out. One unit broke and the Vikings had a breakthrough. This had the effect of splitting the line and some isolated Huscarls that dashed out were cut down by the Norman horseman – this seemed all very ‘in keeping’
However, the chances of getting the major breakthrough the Normans required started to dwindle. The Bretons were making little headway on the flanks. There were just a few too many Viking troops, and the gap in which to manoeuvre too small. Having javelins didn’t really help them and the Vikings were in big stodgy blocks. The Viking berserks had not been put in the front line and were acting as a fire brigade looked like a target and some initial success with missile fire looked like they might be seen off, but the more numerous Viking squeezed the Bretons into skirmishing away and their impact was negated.
As the game came to an end the result started to look as a bloody draw. A lot of Norman horsemen had been cut down, with just the Noman infantry intact. In conclusion it looked like Williams invasion would fail. His inability to destroy the incumbent armies would mean that his wish to control the whole of England would be inconclusive. At best we might end up with a toe hold in the south, with Godwinson defeated. Victorious Haldraada , however, might have plans to extend the Danelaw !
Fighting these battles in MeG, is quite tough , there are no quick wins, and most combats have to be ground out. The subtle nuances of the interactions actually give you some tough decisions to make. For instance the Normal quandary about martialling their cards to either ‘feign flight’ or ‘rally up’, gave the more static Vikings an edge. Also the fact that average infantry are so numerous (cheap) make any cavalry breakthrough really hard.
Made for a flavourful game, and did seem to feel right. Surprisingly more decisions to make than in other ‘Dark Ages rule sets ©’ , where they tend to run themselves.. line up.. fight