Jay's Wargaming Blog

February 4, 2015

Campaign Maps – The Easy Way!

Filed under: Campaigns,General,Scenarios — Jay @ 12:06 pm

Part of the island of Nylandia

Wargame campaigns have been on my mind a lot recently, after reviewing William Silvester’s book on the subject.

I’ve dusted down my copies of Tony Bath and Don Featherstone’s ground-breaking books covering the same topic, and have been mulling over some of the possibilities.

All three books spend time discussing that first essential of any campaign, however modest or ambitious – the campaign map. In this regard, it’s surprising how little things have changed over the years. Don’s book was originally published in 1970, with Tony’s following a few years later (though it subsequently went through several reprints). William Silvester’s book came out just two years ago. All three books consider the various types of drawn or printed map that are available, and the options for measuring and recording map movement.

Back in the ‘good old days’ the possibilities for acquiring suitable ready-made maps were somewhat limited, and could be expensive. Old classroom maps of the biblical Middle East, tourist souvenir maps, and Ordnance Survey Maps were among the most popular (and, in the first two instances, rather quaint) options. Map movement could be recorded using plastic overlays and marker pens, or coloured pins, always bearing in mind that the map itself was valuable enough to be treated with respect and re-used again and again.

When it came to creating a map from scratch, particularly a map of an imaginary continent or other geographical area, drawing the map by hand was the obvious – indeed the only – option back in the day. Tony Bath famously created his mythical continent of Hyboria, where he fought out battles with other well-known wargaming figures like Charles Grant, in preference to re-fighting a purely historical campaign or using an existing historical map. He makes a convincing case for going down the ‘imaginary’ route (Setting Up A Wargames Campaign, page 7):

“Having at various times tried all three courses, I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the third, of setting up your own continent, to be far and away the best. With a world of your own, the limitations are only those of your own imagination together with a certain sense of realities. For instance, within the boundaries of my own continent of Hyboria existed armies and cultures ranging from the Ancient Egyptian to the 13th Century mediaeval enabling me to make use of the whole ancient-medieval period.”

This is certainly the approach that most immediately appeals to me. Creating my own mythical continent, peopled with a mixture of ancient and mythical nations, has an innate ‘wow’ factor to it. The opportunity to give my various DBA and HoTT armies a run-out against each other, as part of an over-arching narrative, feels too good to resist. I’m planning to start work on this shortly!

So what options are there for creating my map, and for tracing movements on it once it’s been brought to life? My drawing skills are not exactly my strong point, and it would certainly be nice to produce something that has more visual appeal than a rough hand-drawn map. And working with a ‘physical’ map, drawn up on squared or hex-based paper – or using a square or hex acetate overlay – sounds like a rather messy option in this digital era.

In the past I’ve tried one or two cut-price computer-aided drawing packages (CADs), but I’ve found them a bit fiddly to use, and the results less than impressive. Nor has the end product solved the problem of logging and marking map movement as a campaign progresses. So I’ve got to thinking whether other options might be available – preferably ones that come in at a budget price.

The solution, it turns out, was close at hand all along. And I’m sure it’s one that has occurred to other wargamers too, so I certainly wouldn’t presume to claim any originality for the idea!

Like many other gamers, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the years playing the various incarnations of Sid Meier’s excellent computer game Civilization, with Civ4 my favourite version. Now, Civ4 happens to have a fantastic in-game editing facility called WorldBuilder. Indeed, one of the keys to the success of the game is the ease with which an enthusiastic community of online gamers is able to create new scenarios for the core game, and – crucially for me – new maps and worlds as an essential part of that. Over the last year or two most of my games of Civ4 have been based in worlds that I’ve either tweaked or that I’ve created myself from scratch.

Civ4‘s WorldBuilder – which comes free with the main program – may seem a little daunting at first, but with a bit of practice it turns out to be straightforward and intuitive to use. The results, once you’ve learned the basics, are visually impressive and highly flexible. You can build an island, a continent or indeed a whole world to your own personal specifications, then drill down to whatever level of detail fits with your campaign requirements. You can add production facilities, resources, fields, mines and buildings to your cities and their environs. You can build new roads and railways, surround a strategic location with a string of forts, or colonize an island to expand your nation’s borders. You can keep it as simple as you choose, or add layers of complexity if fine detail is your thing.

Even better, via a few mouse clicks you can go back into that self-created world any time you like to add or change its features and the location of the units depicted on it. You can mark the movement of armies, the capture or plunder of cities, the progress of fleets and supply trains, the stock-piling of munitions and the building or burning of villages, towns and forts. You can use the program to chart small actions or large – to monitor off-table movement in one small corner of your continent, to set and execute an ambush in a wooded valley, or to move whole battalions at the grand strategic level.

By opting to switch on the ‘grid view’, you have a built-in tool for measuring map movements, one square at a time.

Civ4 will also help with record-keeping, enabling you to save multiple copies of each map to give you a permanent record of your campaign. You can zoom in or out to print maps at whatever level you choose, providing you with a hard copy to work with, or a digital copy to add in to your virtual campaign diary.

Once you’ve got used to the idea of using Civ4 not as a game per se, but purely as an editor, it really does seem to tick all the boxes as a campaign and mapping tool. Note that this is quite distinct from playing Civilization with the world you’ve created in the usual way – what I’m suggesting means that you’re restricted to using it in WorldBuilder (i.e. ‘edit’) mode only. Each time you load the scenario you’ve created, you go straight back into the WorldBuilder to continue your campaign moves, edit the map and so on.

Whether you use one of the many worlds created by the online Civilization community, tweak a computer-generated world, or build your own new world from scratch, I would seriously recommend giving it a try. Retailing for just a few pounds, I reckon it’s a sound investment for the budding wargames campaigner!


Top of page: part of my newly-created island of Nylandia – an imaginary island created for a mini-campaign set in the Pike & Shot era. As you can see, this mini-campaign is going to be nice and simple!

Bottom: zoomed-in shot showing the Swedish port of Svalbard, part of Nylandia and the base of operations for Gustavus’s invasion force.


Civ4 Fanatics Forum – Creation and Customization Section. Everything you need to know to build your own world!




March 27, 2014

The Battle Of Ethandun Part 2

Filed under: Scenarios — Jay @ 7:04 pm
The Battle Of Ethandun

The Battle Of Ethandun

This post continues where the previous one ended – scroll down to view it or click here for link.

The Basics

This scenario is designed to work with the “non-player general” (NPG) controlling the Danes, and the human player controlling the Saxons. It would be straightforward though to reverse those roles with a bit of adjustment.

I’ve used a tweaked (house rule) version of Hordes of the Things (HoTT) to play the scenario, but any suitable rule set will do. Overall the two sides should be reasonably well balanced. As the Danes are “professional” fighters they may merit a higher combat ranking than the Saxons, but you obviously need to ensure that the two sides are not so ill-balanced that the Saxons face an impossible task! In HoTT terms, I classified the Danish grunts as a mix of Blades and Warband, and the Saxons primarily as Spears sprinkled with a few Blades to represent household troops. I may amend this in future games to run the Danish side as an all Blade army, and/or run the inexperienced Fyrds at a combat disadvantage to reflect their rawness. I classified Uhtred and Svein as heroes.

In line with Bernard Cornwell’s fictional account of the battle, the main action begins on the Saxon right flank. On the other flank, Guthrum’s defenders and the Fyrds under Wiglaf pin each other in position until the fighting on the right is resolved.

Begin the battle by advancing the whole of the Saxon right wing, including Uhtred and Alfred, slowly towards Svein’s Danes, who will also begin to shuffle forwards. Once the two opposing lines are within a couple of moves of establishing melee contact, the first random factor comes into play. Needless to say, all these steps are optional – you may choose to just fight this out as standard wargame using the starting positions shown above, or pick and mix whichever bits appeal to you.

Single Combat – Uhtred versus Svein

In ‘The Pale Horseman’, single combat takes place during a pause in the fighting on the right flank, when Uhtred has a rush of blood to the head and challenges the Danes to provide a champion to take him on in single combat. Svein, who commands the Danish left flank, accepts his challenge. I’ve moved this forward in time as it would be difficult to model with the rules I’m using once the two shield walls have clashed.

First of all, dice to determine whether Svein answers Uhtred’s challenge – a throw of 3 to 6 on a D6 means that he takes him up on it, a 1 or 2 means that Svein opts to stay behind his lines (in which case, move on to the next section).

If single combat takes place, either use your own favourite skirmish/duelling rules to decide the outcome, or resolve it with a D6 throw for each combatant. In playing this out I added a factor of plus one to Uhtred’s dice score to reflect his effectiveness (and good fortune!) in the book. The losing combatant is removed from play, with the following impact – again determined via a D6 throw – on the loser’s side during the ensuing melee:

1: No effect

2 – 4: fight with a minus one modifier in the next round of melee

5 – 6: fight with a minus one modifier in the next two rounds of melee

Wulfhere’s Fyrd Troops

As the two sides come face to face, the troops of the Wiltunscir Fyrd under Wulfhere who are fighting alongside the Danes begin to have second thoughts. Do they really want to fight against their fellow Saxons and co-religionists? When the two shield walls are within a single move of each other, throw a D6 and interpret the results as follows:

1 – 2: They remain in position and fight for the Danes

3: They turn and retire from the battlefield

4 – 6: They defect to the Saxon side

The consequences of throwing a 1 or 2 need no further explanation.

If a 3 is thrown, the Danes will “shuffle up” and plug the resulting gap before the melee begins, as Wulfhere’s troops fall back (they play no further part in the battle and can now be removed from play).

If a 4, 5 or 6 is thrown, then we need to determine the effect that this change of allegiance has on the two battle lines. Again, throw a D6 and apply the following :

1 – 2: They pass through the Saxon shield wall without significantly disrupting it, and re-form immediately behind it.

3: They are incorporated seamlessly into the Saxon shield wall, other units shuffling up to incorporate them.

4 – 6: The defecting troops break the cohesion of the Saxon shield wall as they attempt to join it. Model this by moving the Wiltunscir/Suth Seaxa Fyrd units facing Wulfhere’s defecting units back one full move, then place the defecting units behind them. In this way the Saxons will have gained some troops but will have lost cohesion – definitely a mixed blessing.

In all of the above instances, the defecting elements immediately come under the command of the Saxon (i.e.human) general.

Now the melee on this flank begins in earnest…

Guthrum’s Response

Once the two steps above have been completed the fight on the Saxon right must be fought to a conclusion.

How will Guthrum react to what he’s seeing? Will he send some of his own troops to reinforce Svein? Or will he skulk in his defensive position and refuse to intervene? Although they’re allies he has no love for Svein and may prefer to just stand and watch.

At the start of each Danish turn from this point onwards, throw a D6. If a 5 or 6 is thrown, then Guthrum will commit some of his troops to reinforce Svein’s wing. Throw a D6 and apply the following:

1 : Guthrum sends a single unit to reinforce Svein’s shield wall

2 – 3: Guthrum sends two units to reinforce Svein’s shield wall

4 – 5: Guthrum sends two units specifically to target Alfred and his household troops

6: Guthrum launches an all out attack. He sends his flank units to support Svein’s troops and attack Alfred, and sends his troops on the main ridgeline facing Wiglaf’s Fyrds forward to engage them. Guthrum himself will advance down onto the main battlefield with his household unit, but will hold back from combat himself for as long as practicable.

Note that this is a one off event. Once Guthrum has sent reinforcements in or launched a general attack, this chance event is considered resolved and no further reinforcements will be committed.

Common sense also needs to be applied here. If there have been several rounds of fighting already on the Danish left flank and Guthrum sees that Svein’s wing is collapsing irrevocably, then ignore the dice and allow him to continue exercising caution. He won’t throw his own men into a hopeless fight for Svein’s sake.

If Guthrum has launched a general assault (a throw of 6 in the above action list), then the next stage becomes redundant and the battle is simply fought to a conclusion on the ground in front of the hill fort.

Otherwise, resolve the battle between the Saxon right and the Danish left flanks before moving on to the next (and final) phase.

The Attack On The Hill Fort

The battle on the Saxon right must be fought to a conclusion before moving on to this next phase. Obviously if Guthrum has launched a general advance then this phase is in any case redundant. Otherwise, and assuming that enough Saxon troops remain on the field of battle, the focus shifts to an assault on the hill fort itself.

This will be a frontal assault on the edge of the old hill fort immediately facing the Saxon left.

Redeploy any survivors from the Saxon right to reinforce Wiglaf’s Fyrds.

Similarly, redeploy Guthrum’s troops and any survivors from the Danish left to present the strongest possible defence of the ridge line facing the newly reinforced Saxon left.

Deploy Guthrum’s troops in a defensive posture and move your Saxon troops to the foot of the ridge.

At this point, and before advancing further, dice for the possibility of a rear attack on Guthrum’s position by Fyrd troops who have worked their way around to Guthrum’s rear. Throw a D6 and apply the following outcome:

1 – 2: The rear attack fails to materialise. Not good news for the Saxons, who face a (literal) uphill battle against Guthrum’s men

3 – 4: One fresh Fyrd units appears at the rear of Guthrum’s position (see photo above, top left corner, for placement)

5 – 6: Two fresh Fyrd units appear in this position

If the Saxons have succeeded in deploying to Guthrum’s rear, dice for his reaction (if any). Throw a D6:

1 – 3: No reaction. Guthrum is unaware of the threat until the Saxons carrying out the rear attack reach the flat ground within the walls of the hill fort

4 – 6: Guthrum realises he is in danger and may move up to three of his units immediately to counter the threat

The attack on the hill fort is then fought to a conclusion. Note that the fort represents a strong position and the defenders will fight at a factor of plus two while they hold the high ground.

Victory Conditions

The Danes:

The Danes will score a major victory if they kill Alfred and rout his army. They will score a marginal victory if they rout the Saxon army but Alfred lives to fight another day (by exiting the battlefield via his own baseline).

The Saxons:

The Saxons will score a major victory if they succeed in routing the Danish army and capturing the hill fort. They will score a marginal victory if they destroy Svein’s flank,  succeed in protecting Alfred, but fail to take the hill fort – provided they have at least two more elements left at the end of the battle than the Danes.

Any other position at the end of the battle will normally represent a draw, in which case the Danes and the Saxons will sit down and discuss terms over a nice cup of tea.


The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell – part two of The Warrior Chronicles series.

Alfred, Warrior King by John Peddie.

Hordes of the Things by Phil Barker, Richard Bodley-Scott and Sue Lafflin Barker.

Bratton Camp - Probable Site of the Battle

Bratton Camp – Probable Site of the Battle


March 24, 2014

The Battle Of Ethandun Part 1

Filed under: Scenarios — Jay @ 10:00 pm
The Battle Of Ethandun

The Battle Of Ethandun

This solo scenario is based on the battle of Ethandun, or Edington, as described by Bernard Cornwall in his novel ‘The Pale Horseman’. Cornwell bases his account of the battle primarily on John Peddie’s excellent ‘Alfred, Warrior King’. I’m using the fictional account because it provides lots of options for chance to intervene; in any case, like most battles of the period there are few reliable historical facts to hand.

Rather than simply re-run the sequence of events described in the novel, I’m going to plunder Cornwell’s version of the battle for a selection of random events that can be woven into a table top game. I am, however, going to begin with a layout that is pretty faithful to Cornwell’s account. I’m using the ‘Hordes of the Things’ (HoTT) rules in a house version to play out the game, but any suitable rule set will do.

The photo above shows the basic set-up.

On the Saxon side, working from left to right, we have:

i) Fyrd troops under Wiglaf (HoTT Spears plus one Blade).

ii) Alfred and his bodyguard (two HoTT Blade elements).

iii) Uhtred of Bebbanburg with Leofric, Pyrlig and Steapa (a HoTT Hero element).

iv) The Fyrds of Wiltunscir and Suth Seaxa under Osric (HoTT Spears).

Across the battlefield we have the Danes. Going from right to left this time, they comprise:

i) Svein of the White Horse, at the rear of the main line (a HoTT hero element).

ii) Svein’s Danish warbands, along with turncoat Fyrd troops commanded by the treacherous Wulfhere, who has defected to the Danes’ side (HoTT Warbands and Spears).

iii) Within the hill fort (I know, I know – it was the best I could do at short notice!), we have Guthrum the Unlucky, overall commander of the Danes and not a big fan of his ally Svein. His troops are a mix of HoTT Blade and Warband. In the photo, Guthrum’s element provides the hinge on which the line bends.

In the far left corner at the very rear is the unguarded weak point in the hill fort defences, a point from which an enterprising little band of Saxon Fyrdmen (HoTT Spears) may, as per the novel, launch a surprise attack on Guthrum’s apparently impregnable position.

The novel provides a whole skein of “what if” options for the game. One of the best things about the description of the battle is that Cornwell emphasizes the two aspects of warfare which are often downplayed – morale and chance. In theory, the Danes should win easily. In practice, a number of random events tilt the balance the other way. As options for the solo game, the following elements of the account need to be modelled as possible events:

i) The defection of Wulfhere’s Fyrd back to the Saxon side as the shield walls on the right approach each other.

ii) The positive or negative effect on the Saxons if the rogue Fyrd does rejoin them, either strengthening the Saxons or inadvertently breaking their shield wall.

iii) Single combat between Uhtred and Svein, and – depending on the outcome – the impact it has on the two sides.

iv) The decision of Guthrum to (a) reinforce Svein, (b) attack Alfred’s flank as it advances on the right, or (c) stay put and hold his troops in reserve.

v) If Guthrum does launch an attack, what will he do about the Fyrd troops facing him? Will he advance to meet them, or hold the front edge of the hill fort to keep them pinned without risking any loss?

vi) And finally, there is the possibility of a rear attack by those sneaky Fyrd troops, which could turn Guthrum’s defensive position into a death trap…

Note that to keep more or less in line with the fictional account, a number of assumptions are made here:

i) As per Alfred’s orders, the left wing of the Saxon army will not launch an attack on Guthrum’s wall until the fight on the Saxon right has been resolved. Until then it will hold a static position – unless it’s attacked.

ii) Guthrum may choose to act at any point by committing more troops to the fight, but unless he launches an all out attack right along his line he will not leave the walls of the hill fort unmanned (i.e. he won’t risk the possibility of the uncommitted Saxon left wing flanking his charging troops or taking the hill fort). In game terms, the Danes on the hill fort facing the Saxon left flank are effectively pinned by them.

iii) The rear attack on Guthrum, if it occurs at all, will not take place unless and until the Saxon right flank is victorious and Svein’s troops are destroyed.

Anyone familiar with the novel will see that I’ve fudged a couple of issues here when it comes to timing; but as I’m using the book as a source to mine for ideas I hope that is acceptable.

In my next post (after a bit of play testing!) I’ll set out some options for modelling the chance events mentioned above – and also look at what might comprise suitable “victory conditions” for each side.


October 12, 2009

The Moyry Pass

Filed under: Scenarios — Jay @ 1:03 pm

Hugh O'Neill

In the year 1600, as Lord Mountjoy succeeded the Earl of Essex as viceroy of Ireland, Hugh O’Neill was at the height of his power. He had given the English a bloody nose at Clontibret (1595) and The Yellow Ford (1598), and had successfully prevented the enemy from encroaching into his earlship of Tyrone. His first confrontation with Mountjoy, the man who was eventually to prove his match, occurred in the autumn of that year when the English leader attempted to force the Moyry Pass, the difficult and well-defended gateway to Ulster. The succeeding battle – ‘one of the greatest fights that hath been seen in Ireland’ – provides excellent material for a solo scenario. For a full account of the battle see G.A. Hayes-McCoy’s comprehensive ‘Irish Battles – A Military History Of Ireland’. You can also read a brief account of the battle on Wikipedia.

The battlefield should be set out along roughly the following lines (click on image for a full size version):

Moyry Pass

As you can see, the battlefield is effectively divided into three distinct zones. In the centre, the pass is blocked by three barriers, “long traverses with huge and high flankers of great stones, mingled with turf and staked on both sides with palisadoes wattled” (Fynes Moryson, Mountjoy’s secretary). Plashed barriers separated the central highway from the rough rising ground on either side.

As a solo scenario, you take the side of the English commander, who must force the Irish from two of the three zones in order to win the day. The English forces consisted of 3,000 foot – a mix of pike and shot, some of largely untried quality – and 300 horse. The number of Irish troops is unknown, but for the purposes of this scenario we should assume that they significantly outnumber the English; as a rough guideline allow them at least 50% greater strength. The Irish appear to have fought well and to have had both high morale and a high degree of mobility, and it is likely that they would have been armed similarly to the English (though perhaps with a greater preponderance of calivers over pikes). The actual number of figures or elements used should be tailored to your preferred ruleset in order to give both sides a chance of winning the battle.

The following scenario notes apply:

A. Initial disposition of Irish troops unknown. As the English commander you can see that some troops are manning the first barricade, and there appear to be some troops on both sides of the pass along the rising ground. Lay your plans and deploy your troops.

B. Dice for Irish dispositions once your troops have begun their advance into the pass. Note that you cannot re-allocate or shuffle your infantry once you have seen the Irish dispositions, but must continue with your initial plan of attack. You can however freely move your cavalry to whichever side of the battlefield you wish at any time. Throw a D6 to determine the Irish dispositions:

1,2: One third of all troops placed in each of the 3 combat zones (left, right and centre)

3,4: Half of all troops placed in the pass itself, remainder divided equally between flanks

5: Irish centre and Irish left strongly manned, Irish right screened only

6: Irish centre and Irish right strongly manned, Irish left screened only

C. The English will fight at a combat disadvantage of minus one on the flanks of rough, rising ground, and will suffer a movement penalty on that terrain of minus 25%.

D. The Irish behind the barricades count as being in soft cover.

E. Irish casualties: eliminated or routing elements have a chance of rallying and reappearing along the Irish baseline, in the sector of the battlefield from which they fled. Throw a D6 at the start of the Irish turn to determine this for each such element, a throw of 5 or 6 meaning that they have successfully rallied.

F. Irish at the barriers: any elements pushed back from the barriers will automatically retreat to the next barrier to their rear. They will do this successfully unless their retreat is physically blocked by an English unit.

G. Any Irish shot along the rough ground will attempt to enfilade the advancing English in the pass unless they are attacked to their own front.

H. Irish troops on the rough ground attacked to their front will attempt to close with the English if they outnumber them by a factor of 3:2 or better. Otherwise they will engage the English in a fire-fight whilst slowly falling back to avoid contact. They will however hold their ground at all costs if they have fallen back to the line of the last barricade in the pass.

I. As the English commander you must attack the barriers in the pass with a minimum of one quarter of your force, though these troops may be used to hold or pin the Irish at their barrier(s) rather than attempt to actually storm them.

J. To reiterate, you win if you succeed in pushing the Irish off the field in any two sectors of the terrain; should this happen the Irish will have lost their overall advantage and will melt into the hills. Any other result means that the Irish have won.

Good luck and happy gaming!


August 11, 2009

The Last Apostle

Filed under: Scenarios — Jay @ 12:11 pm


“It was a pleasant sight, if a man’s skin had not been in hazard.”

John Taylor, Chaplain and Chronicler to Henry VIII, 1513.

The Background

This scenario is loosely based on an incident that occurred during Henry VIII’s 1513 invasion of France, though it may readily be adapted for any period between the Renaissance and the late nineteenth century.

When Henry’s army assembled at Calais in the summer of 1513, it had with it ‘twelve guns of unusual magnitude each cast in the image of an apostle’ (Charles Cruickshank, ‘Henry VIII and the Invasion of France’, Alan Sutton 1990). The king was inordinately proud of the large artillery train he took with him on the expedition, and the apostles were his particular favourites. But when the English were surprised by a French force in the neighbourhood of Tournehem in late August, one of the apostles – St John the Evangelist – became separated from the main body of the army in the aftermath of the fighting, and slipped into a deep stream in the ensuing confusion. An English detachment assigned to fish out the gun – which weighed over three tons – was overwhelmed by a body of French troops, and the apostle was lost.

Henry was furious. The Earl of Essex and Sir Rees ap Thomas set out to see whether they could retrieve the gun, as well as a bombard that the French had seized at the same time. When they arrived on the scene they realised that whilst the bombard had already been removed to safety by the enemy, they had a good chance of saving St John, which was still mired in the stream. The great gun was dragged from the water, but while they were preparing to move off with it a large French force appeared. Essex wanted to attack at once, but Thomas pointed out that they were outnumbered, and moreover that their orders were to retrieve the apostle – not to fight a general engagement. The Welshman’s counsel prevailed, and the English – with the apostle harnessed to a team of Flanders mares – headed back to camp. At this point the French cavalry launched an attack on the rear of the English column, but they were beaten off with great spirit. Essex and Thomas arrived back at Henry’s camp in triumph.

The Scenario

This small action provides a number of possibilities for solo scenarios, with either or both of the discrete phases of action providing enough material for an interesting game. I have chosen to concentrate on the second phase, i.e. Essex and Thomas’s rescue of the gun, and to assign the NPG (non-player general) role to the French, and the human general to the English side. This however could be reversed with little difficulty should you wish to do so.

The balance of forces engaged in this fight clearly favoured the French, but other than that details are sketchy. I would suggest the following order of battle, which you will need to adjust to fit your chosen rule set (I tend to use the movement and combat values in DBA, with some house amendments):

The English:

1 x Knight General (the Earl of Essex and Sir Rees ap Thomas)

3 x Demi-Lances (medium cavalry)

4 x Border Horse (light cavalry)

2 x Bowmen

1 x Limber Team (plus out-riders)

The French:

3 x Gendarmes (knights) inc. General

4 x Stradiots (light horse)

2 x Mounted Crossbowmen

2 x Mounted Arquebusiers

2 x Skirmishers

The Battlefield

The engagement is fought out on a battlefield consisting of good going dotted with four small copses. A stream crosses one edge of the battlefield diagonally; it should be treated as impassable terrain for the purposes of this game, except for the French skirmishers and English bowmen. At the start of the scenario the apostle is in the stream. See the map for further information including the starting positions of the two main forces. Note that this is my own interpretation and is necessarily a highly impressionistic one! Click on the image below for a larger version:


Winning The Battle

You will achieve victory if you meet all of the following game objectives:

  1. The limber team and attached apostle exit the battlefield safely.

  2. Your general exits the battlefield safely.

  3. At least 50% of your units manage to leave the battlefield in good order (i.e. not pushed back across the baseline or routing).

Note that the English can only exit from the corner of the board where they were initially deployed. If you meet the first and second objectives but lose more than half your troops, you have achieved an honourable draw. Any other result and the French win!

Playing The Game

As commander of the English side, you will have to deal with a number of unknowns:

  1. How long will it take to drag the apostle out of the stream?

  2. When will the main French force attack, and what form will their attack take?

  3. Where have the French deployed their skirmishers?

Once the battlefield has been set up and the two forces have been deployed, the English are free to move towards the stream to retrieve the gun, and take the first game turn. You may choose to throw out a defensive screen to cover any French advance, or you may prefer to concentrate on getting your troops to the stream as a single body. Note however that you may not attack the French at this stage. When the English move is completed, throw a D6. Results as follows:

1 – 4 : the French hold back, no action this turn.

5 : the French are indecisive, throw again.

6 : the French will attack this turn.

Repeat this procedure at the end of each English turn until the French force attacks.

Following the completion of the first English game turn, throw a D6 to determine the position of the French skirmishers, with the following result:

1 – 3 : the skirmishers are positioned across the stream.

4 : the skirmishers are hidden in the copse nearest the English entry point.

5 – 6 : the skirmishers are deployed in the copse nearest the stream.

Note that the French skirmishers will attempt to disable the limber team. Failing that, they will harrass the nearest English unit(s). If positioned across the stream, they are able to cross it without suffering a movement penalty, but fight at a minus one combat penalty if caught in the stream itself by any of the English horse or foot.

Once the English limber team has reached the apostle, throw a D6 – this determines the number of turns it will take to pull the apostle out of the water and limber it up.

Once a French attack has been triggered, you must determine the tactics that the French general will employ. You may well choose to use your own solo ‘house rules’ to this end, but here are a few suggestions based on simple dice throws. Throw two D6 and proceed as follows:

2 – 3 : Gendarmes and Stradiots move to block the English exit point. Other troops deploy to harrass the English at the stream and at any weak points along their line.

4 : Mounted Crossbowmen and Mounted Arquebusiers move to screen off the English exit point while other troops concentrate on destroying the limber team.

5 : Mounted Crossbowmen and Mounted Arquebusiers move to screen off the English exit point while other troops concentrate on killing the English general.

6 – 7 : All French units move to block the English exit point.

8 : The whole French force launches a general attack along the English line.

9 – 10 : All French troops focus on killing the English general.

11 – 12 : The whole French force focuses on destroying the limber team.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this simple scenario, based on a small-scale engagement in Henry VIII’s 1513 French campaign, will provide plenty of scope for adaptation and variation. Most of the suggestions I’ve made here – for example as to the composition of the two sides, the French tactics, and the victory conditions – are tentative proposals which would undoubtedly benefit from further development. Scales and distances will have to be tweaked to fit in with your favoured ruleset – the English need to have a reasonable chance of accomplishing their mission, and the French of engaging them en masse!

It should be fairly straightforward to transpose this game into other periods. It will neatly fit into most historical periods from the late medieval age to the beginning of the modern era. And of course by replacing the stranded gun with, for example, a supply wagon or siege engine it would also be possible to morph it backwards into earlier times.

Addendum, October 2015: Richard Mulligan and friends have produced a really nice version of this scenario, with lots of eye candy, here – http://stuartsworkbench.blogspot.co.uk/


June 30, 2009

The Battle Of Maldon

Filed under: Scenarios — Jay @ 6:47 am


The battle of Maldon, 991 AD, is mentioned both in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and in a famous eponymous poem of the period. It was an important engagement which led to the humiliating Saxon practice of paying ‘danegeld’ in exchange for peace. Wikipedia provides the following concise account of the battle:

“The Vikings sailed up the Blackwater (then called the Panta), and Byrhtnoth called out his levy. The poem begins with him ordering his men to stand and how to hold weapons. His men, except for his household guard, were peasants and householders from the area. He ordered them to “send steed away and stride forwards”: they arrived on horses but fought on foot. The Vikings sailed up to a small island in the river. At ebb, the river leaves a land bridge from this island to the shore; the description seems to have matched the Northey Island causeway at that time. This would place the site of the battle about two miles southeast of Maldon. Olaf addressed the Saxons, promising to sail away if he was paid with gold and armour from the lord. Byrhtnoth refused.

Olaf’s forces could not make headway against the troops guarding the small land bridge, and he asked Byrhtnoth to allow his warriors onto the shore. Byrhtnoth, for his ofermōde [“pride” or “excess of courage”], let all the Vikings cross to the mainland. The Vikings overcame the Saxons after losing many men, killing Byrhtnoth. An Anglo-Saxon called Godrīc fled riding Byrhtnoth’s horse. Godrīc’s brothers Godwine and Godwīg followed him. Then many Anglo-Saxons fled, recognizing the horse and thinking that its rider was Byrhtnoth fleeing. After the battle Byrhtnoth’s body was found with its head missing, but his gold-hilted sword was still with his body.”

This battle provides excellent material for a solo game. The map above provides the initial dispositions (click on the map to go to a larger version). Note that the marshy ground does not appear to have affected the fighting and may therefore be disregarded as a terrain factor, at your discretion. The following scenario has been designed with a standard small-scale DBA battle in mind, but it would be a simple matter to adapt the opposing forces to other rulesets – the Danes were (as usual) tooled-up professional raiders, while the Saxons fielded a few housecarls and a mass of inexperienced levies.

The Scenario

The Danes: 1 x Blade General (Olaf Tryggvason), 11 x Blades

The Saxons: 1 x Blade General (Byrhtnoth), 2 x Blades (Housecarls), 8 x Spears (Fyrd), 1 x Psiloi (Light Troops)

Deployment: all Danes are deployed in a single, one-element wide column on the causeway, with Olaf Tryggvason at least three elements back from the front. They are faced at the end of the causeway by a single element of Saxon Housecarls (not Byrhtnoth’s element). The causeway is one element wide.

Phase One

During this Phase the Danes on the causeway must attack the Housecarls holding its landward end. During this Phase the Danes fight at a – 2 combat penalty, reflecting the historical performance of the respective troops. The Housecarls will hold their position and will not advance further down the causeway if the Danes are pushed back. However, if pushed back the Danes must attack again next turn.

At the start of each game turn during this Phase throw a D6. On a throw of 1 or 2, Byrhtnoth calls on his Housecarls to retire to the main body of his army, and the Phase ends immediately. At the end of game turn six this will be automatically triggered, and Phase One will end.

Phase Two

Redeploy the Housecarls as part of the Saxon line, then draw up the Danish force (minus any casualties they have suffered) opposite them, i.e. with all Danish troops now across the river and over the causeway. The main battle may now commence. Note that the Danes will fight on until two thirds of their original strength has been destroyed (8 elements) and the Saxons will fight on so long as a Housecarl unit remains on the field (but see below).

To reflect the historical weakness of the Saxon Fyrd in this battle, all Spear elements will fight at a penalty of – 1. In addition, if a Housecarl unit is destroyed, throw a D6: on a throw of 1 all Saxon Fyrd will immediately flee the battlefield.

This gives a reasonable re-play of the original battle. However, for added spice any or all of the following extras can be included:

1. Saxon Morale. At the start of Phase Two throw a D6 and note the following results. If a 1 or 2, the Saxon Fyrd will fight on a – 1 factor for combat as in the main rules. If a 3 or 4, they will be inspired by Byrhtnoth’s honourable behaviour and fight at their regular combat value. If a 5 or 6, they will be imbued with martial spirit and fight at a bonus of + 1 during their first combat, and at their usual combat value thereafter.

2. Byrhtnoth’s Single Combats. To reflect the poem’s account of Byrhtnoth’s individual prowess, he will take on three Danish warriors at the start of Phase Two. You can either place individual figures on the table to represent the combatants, or run it as a ‘virtual’ combat. Dice for each separate combat in turn, throwing a D6 for each combatant and adding + 2 to Byrhtnoth’s dice score. If he is beaten, Byrhtnoth is deemed to have been killed and his element must immediately be removed from play. If he wins all three combats then the Danes will be deemed to have become demoralised, and will fight at a penalty of – 1 for the remainder of the battle. If Byrhtnoth is unbeaten at the end of the three combats but has drawn one or more of them, then Danish morale will be temporarily shaken and they will fight at a penalty of – 1 during the next round of combat only.

3. Godric’s Treachery. To recreate another aspect of the poem’s account of the battle, dice for the reliability of Godric and his kin once the first round of fighting in Phase Two has been completed. Throw a D6 and proceed as follows: if a 1 or 2, Godric defects and two Fyrd elements flee the battlefield (dice or draw a card to determine which ones); if a 3 or 4, Godric flees and one Fyrd unit follows his cowardly example; if a 5 or 6, Godric overcomes his fear and stays to fight…in which case history has done him a grave disservice!

Feel free to mix and match any of these additional rules or to add others, as you see fit. After all, this was a Dark Age battle – who knows what really happened ;o)

Brythnoth v 2

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.