Saturday, 24 January 2015

Ivar Sveinson Goes to War

In the year 809 AD, Ivar Sveinson the Coward was crowned warlord by his loyal followers, no doubt encouraged by the coin rattling in their purses. He vowed to give his warriors a real home, a land of their own, which would be taken from the weakling and cowardly Saxons. Singing songs of war and glory, his men followed him into battle.

At the end of the first year of campaigning, Ivar had  amassed eight chests of coin, enough to buy himself the title of Warlord, which meant he could now march into battle rather than just raid. Victory in battle would win him and his followers lands of their own, the first step on the road to the conquest of Rheged. With barrels of ale to encourage his troops, the vikings trudged inland to a likely looking settlement. It seemed relatively unmanned and would make a good base from which to begin the conquest.

Vikings dash toward the thin Saxon line
The vikings dashed across the open terrain, they had double the number of the Saxons and were confident they could scatter the few defenders to the winds. The Saxons formed up a thin defensive line but it seemed a meagre gesture. Suddenly, over on Ivar's left flank, there was a commotion. A line of Saxon levy appeared as if from nowhere - the cowardly dogs had been concealed in the long grasses just below the brow of a small dip in the ground (the position in the photo is a little above the fate card). They leapt up and charged into the vikings. Ivar's confidence faltered as he felt the steely jaws of the trap closing around him.

This was our first attempt at a battle game. I decided to ply my troops with drink, to give them courage, and it seemed to do the trick as morale rose. The Saxons decided to pray for a miracle and could hide troops in a dip in the ground. I figured I could ignore the ambushers and just rush into the main body of the army, hopefully making a decisive strike while I held numerical advantage, with roughly half of the Saxons nowhere to be seen. But when they appeared on my left flank, I was suddenly faced with two battle fronts. Worse still, the initial charge by the Saxons sent a unit of vikings reeling. My left flank collapsed, to the front a Saxon shieldwall closed in. I was caught in a textbook pincer movement, surely this hadn't been invented yet!

Viking meat in a shieldwall sandwich!
I had kept a unit to the rear of my army, as a reserve force to plug any gaps. So quickly they charged to shore up the left flank. They managed to disrupt the Saxon advance, but not halt it, and again suffered large casualties. Faced by a shield wall to the front and a seemingly invincible line of levy to the flank, the vikings were slaughtered. Ivar just about made it from the field, but most of the army was routed. It was a grim day. The northmen suffered heavy losses, while the Saxon Lord gloried in a victory so great it earned him a title - the Good. We did think that the Blessed was more appropriate, after the miracle of the levy intervention, but the bold blue text of the Good promises some kind of benefit - though as usual it's not really explained very clearly and I will have to delve into the rules to find out exactly what the benefit turns out to be.

What a crushing blow to Ivar's ambitions. It's hard to imagine the battle going so badly, from a levy charge! The dice certainly did not favour me this game, but I was too rash in advancing forward so quickly without first working out how to deal with the ambush. Still, it was a very entertaining chapter in our saga, certainly the most decisive game to date and a real eye opener for Ivar, I doubt he will be so lax in future encounters with Saxon levy. For some filthy Saxon propaganda on the battle, take a look at Matt's blog - wargames in the dungeon.


Matt Crump said...

Strangely he doesn't look cowardly at all in the picture quite heroic really !

Old Fogey said...

That was obviously taken before the battle started. He looks pretty mature too for a 23 year old!

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