Sunday, August 21, 2011

A host of Glittering Spears - 881ad

Although there is a massive backlog of posts to get through, it felt appropriate to jump the queue and get the outcome of our refight of  Saucourt En Vimeu up.

The game was fought as a three hander, with Mark in charge of the Franks, and myself and Mike splitting command of the Vikings.

For the Carolingians, or Ottonians or Franks as they most likely thought of themselves at the time, the forces were as follows:

King Loius (+2 Command 8) led 3 units of Milites with the wedge special rule

Carloman (+1 Command 8) led 3 further units of Milites, lacking wedge

Bishop Arnulf (+1 Command 7) led 4 units of Liberi spearmen and 2 units of Coloni bowmen

For the Danes the order of battle was thus:

Olaf lord of the Northmen (+2 Command 8) led 3 units of Hirdmen and also had a unit of Besirkir, more under their own control than otherwise

The Jarl of the East (+2 Command 7) had 4 units of Bondi, one of whom had bows

Svein of those in the boats (+0 command 8) had two units of Bondi in reserve and three units of Thrall skirmishers with bows

The battle poem giving little description of the field on the day, opted that this meant terrain must have been pretty inconsequential to the engagement, so opted for a largely open field.  The Vikings were given a large hill to deploy on, with one secured flank, whilst the Franks approached in depth across rolling meadows.

The franks chose to swing Loius' cavalry against the right flank of the Vikings, more heavily defended than the left, but more exposed too.  Meanwhile the Vikings largely elected to stand their ground, in particular, confusion over who was in command and where led to inactivity.  The Frankish cavalry wedges smashed into and straight through the Viking lines instead.  Just like in the poem.

Carloman used his cavalry to draw the Besirkir into a charge off the hill, but Mike wisely threw some of Olaf's Hird in to support them too and bounced the cavalry away, on the next turn the Vikings came down in force and surrounded the hapless milites with such numbers as to ensure their destruction.

Far to the rear the Franks of Arnulf were making only slow and unwilling progress to the front, though they did so in perfect order.

Carloman recognised the risk of the Viking attack and responded with a timely flank charge, but it did little to blunt the impetous of so many Northmen, The Northern general joined the fray looking for Frankish royal blood to adorn his axe.

And received it.  As the cavalry were cut down by two handed weapons, their lord fell amongst them.  To the Viking rear though the Milites of Loius were still mopping up the Jarl's men and making moves upon the reserve of Svein.

A desultory exchange of fire between the bowmen concluded the day in the end.  Carloman's command was destroyed, and, although largely intact,  Loius too exhausted to fight on.  Similarly, the command of the Jarl was wiped out, and the heavy core of Svein's men thrown to the winds too.  Only the centre of the Viking line remained strong, and the serfs of Bishop Arnulf had no will to take on the Viking line.

Many things went just as the poem would tell us, but as the troops of Loius got tangled up in the flank, unable to support the centre the battle lumbered to a more marginal victory for the Franks than history suggested.  Viking losses were heavy,  perhaps a thousand or fifteen hundred men in scale, but then the Franks lost some six hundred cavalry, the flower of early chivalry.

The rules held up well, and gave the sort of lively, fast paced game on hopes for.  Next up report wise, will be a game played several weeks ago, that in some ways is very similar, but with very different results...

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