Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Project 2023

Of the 150 DBA armies in the collection, more than half have not seen any use. I have given thought as to how best to reduce the collection to an enjoyable size; a programme is now underway to do this. By mid-February, I expect a sizeable number will have new homes. 

Those which have been sold there remain extra bits that will serve as cadres for a newly created army. The first, in this reconstruction project, the Kingdom of Nabataea, is nearly done, but lack only the camel mounted troop. Photos and a brief description will be uploaded when the collection is complete.

Next on the list are the Late Judean, ideal opponents for the Nabataean. Both armies were created from extras left behind from the sale of Polybian and Middle Imperial Roman.

To fill the vacancy left by the departing Roman armies, I have decided to add an Early Imperial Roman army to set against the growing number of opponents. Plans for the Imperial Roman will be posted soon, complete with unit names and shield patterns.

With the completion of the Late Judean, the total of enemies awaiting the return of Rome will reach 10, of these 7 are double size. This period offers a wealth of scenarios based on the campaigns in Germania, against Parthia, Dacia and last but not least, the Jewish Wars. Based on recent archaeological findings, the Batavian Revolt for example has a nice mix of open confrontations and riverine warfare. The Jewish War offers some interesting aspects of the siege of Jerusalem.

 Map: Wiki Common

Thursday, 5 January 2023

The Early German armies Book II/47

This past week I gathered a number DBA3 armies to be sold and among them were the Early Germans. I seem to recall offering them earlier and with no interest they remained in the collection. Looking at preliminary photos, these showed an out-dated technique/  As a challenge, I decided to keep them and bring them to the next level. 

The process became more than my original plan. Clothing and exposed body parts were darkened, allowing a better definition when highlighted. Weapons were redone and designs were added to the shields; stars and crescents for the Marcomanni and swirl and line patterns for the allied contingent. Skull standards were added for the warriors trained in the Roman fashion (4Bd).

The project took less than two weeks to complete, inspiring a review of other armies in need of refurbishment. Needless to say, the Early Germans will remain in the collection. 

Marcomanni 1


Marcomanni 2


Tuesday, 13 December 2022

Battle of Brunanburh 937 AD Option II

The composition of both forces was revised for this test, the greater fyrd (7Hd) were replaced with select fyrd (Sp), unburdening the Saxons of extra pip cost. The Strathclyde 6 elements remained untouched; however, Norse and Scots are now equal strength, at 9 elements each, adding an extra column of pikemen plus skirmishers while reducing the number of Norse blades. As you will read from the report, the changes made for a tighter game, a longer game with a nail-biting finish. 

Test three

The Alliance, to the left of the photo, have the Norse facing Aethelstan’s Saxons, the Scots in centre with Strathclyde positioned on the far left to face the Mercian wing. 

Both divisions of the defending Saxons move boldly forward only to be met by an eager Norse contingent while the Scots and Strathclyde are still discussing the matter (low pip score).

Overcoming their disagreements, the Scots and Strathclyde join the battle, by this time, the Norse have inflicted heavy casualties on Aethelstan’s division. 

Heavy fighting ensued along the entire line, this time with the Saxons equalling the casualty count. Not long after, the Scots breach the Saxon centre having a distressed Aethelstan scrambling to send reserve formations to fill the gap.

For a brief moment, the interior flanks of Wessex and Mercia were both exposed, yet Constantine, in a moment of hesitation (low pip score), saved the Saxons from imminent disaster. Aethelstan, ably sealed seal the breach in centre as the Norse fury dissipated into isolated combats. 

This respite enabled the Saxons to redouble their resolve and send the Alliance off the field, but at a high cost (7 - 9).



The game lasted 7 turns, but took well over an hour to complete. Contact was reached on turn two resulting in 12 combats and this set the tempo for subsequent turns. The casualty count swung back and forth, both sides ending one short of victory at the end of turn six. 

Turn seven, the Saxons scored 6 for pips sending a shiver through the Norse, Scots and Strathclyde. A very tight game.

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Battle of Brunanburh 937 AD


Æthelstan’s invasion of Alba in 934 fell short of the desired objective to bring Constantine II to heel. Events would redirect Aethelstan northward as the throne of Jorvik (York) became vacant. With no direct heir, Olaf Guthfrithson, King of the Dublin Norse laid claim to the throne and to ensure his claim, Olaf gained support from Constantine II of Alba and Owain I of Strathclyde. Sailing from Dublin, Olaf would meet Constantine II and Owain I on the march south.


Described by chroniclers and poets as the ‘great battle’, Brunanburh lasted the better part of a day leaving thousands of dead on the field. To simulate this, the single command is doubled in size bringing the total of elements to twenty-four. How this variant works can be found by following the link 

Aethelstan set off from Winchester with core units filling the ranks on his march through Mercia. Most likely, this would include the greater fyrd and two 7Hd must be included in the Saxon army.

Posing a different problem, no strengths are known of the Norse, Scots and Strathclyde forming the coalition. Therefore, two lists are proposed with either Olaf supplying the greater force (12 elements) or Constantine II. To bolster their ranks, any mounted selected will deploy as their equivalent dismounted type, this would have spearmen for Strathclyde and Constantine II fighting on foot with his thegns.


Aethelstan, III/25b (must include Mercian levy of 2 x 7Hd)

Norse, Scots and Strathclyde

Option I

Olaf King of Dublin, II/40b (12 elements)

Owain, King of Strathclyde, II/81d (6 elements)

Constantine II, III/45 (6 elements)


Option II

Constantine II, III/45 (12 elements)

Olaf King of Dublin, II/40b (6 elements)

Owain, King of Strathclyde, II/81d (6 elements)


Where the battle took place remains unsolved as there are four locations named as likely candidates. The Wirral Peninsula offers an ideal landing for the Dublin Norse longships and for this test, terrain pieces were limited to gentle hills, scrub, and wood.  


The Brunanburh Campaign; A Reappraisal, Kevin Halloran, Edinburgh University.

The Battleof Brunanburh, University of Nottingham (the podcasts are particularly interesting).

Great Battle of History for DBA3, ed. Joe Collins


Test one

Both armies deployed in extended line covering the breadth of their deployment area, leaving extra elements to be positioned in a second line. The battle commenced with the Norse Vikings striking the Mercian division, suffering casualties for their effort.

Capitalising on an early success, Wessex struck the Scots and Strathclyde. Strathclyde proved tenacious not yielding ground, the Scots however, managed to pierce the Saxon line creating chaos among the Saxons.

The carnage among the Saxons escalated forcing them to leave the field; presenting the coalition a victory, 8-3.

Test two

This time, the Saxon thegns (4Bd) were positioned together to hopefully improve their chances for a breakthrough.

Battle swayed to-and-fro, with casualties relatively even on both sides.

Nearly an hour passed (4 turns) before the unexpected happened, Olaf was slain in combat. Constantine II, assumed command of the coalition, unfortunately, lacking sufficient runners to bring new orders, many Norse troops remained leaderless.

Despite their small numbers, the Scots again pierced the Saxon line and avenging their fallen warlord, the Norse put to flight their opposition to deliver a second victory; 8-4 + general. 

List coalition one was used for both tests resulting in two defeats for the Saxon army. Of the two, the second came closest to matching actual events. Olaf’s demise would prompt the Norse to leave Britain ceasing any claim to the throne of Jorvik, therefore a strategic victory for Aethelstan.  

Testing will continue next month and use the second list for the coalition.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Aethelstan Invades Alba, 934


Guthfrith, the Norse king of Dublin,  briefly ruled Northumbria passing away in 934. King Athelstan of Wessex, seized the moment to solidify his authority on the north and assembled an army at Winchester. Marching north he would meet allies, a few of which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles list the Welsh kings Hywel Dda of Deheubarth, Idwal Foel of Gwynedd, Morgan ap Owain of Gwent, and Tewdwr ap Griffri of Brycheiniog and thirteen earls, six of whom were Danes from eastern England.

 “Aethelstan’s invasion of Scotland” found at Wiki offers the following:

“The invasion was launched by land and sea. According to the twelfth-century chronicler Simeon of Durham, his land forces ravaged as far as Dunnottar and Fortriu in northern Scotland, while the fleet raided Caithness by which a much larger area, including Sutherland, is probably intended. Caithness was then probably part of the Norse kingdom of Orkney. Owain was defeated and it is unlikely that Constantine's personal authority extended so far north, so Æthelstan's attacks were probably directed at Constantine's allies, comprising simple looting expeditions.

In contrast, the Annals of Clonmacnoise presents the invasion in a different manner; "the Scottish men compelled [Æthelstan] to return without any great victory", Lacking archaeological evidence, we cannot know for sure if an engagement did take place, nonetheless, this does offer an opportunity for a battle, pre-dating Brunanburh.


This fictional encounter, Constantine II is defending, placing two difficult hills and two wood on the game board. No road, therefore Athelstan may choose any one of four sides.  


Constantine II, Pre-Feudal Scots III/45.

Athelstan, Middle Anglo-Saxon III/25 with Welsh allies III/19a.


The Invasion of Scotland, 934, Medievalists Net


Annals of Clonmacnoise, Internet Archive


Anderson, Early Sources, Scottish Annals, pp. 67–69; Woolf, Pictland to Alba, pp. 166–168; Miller, Sean



Refighting a battle.

In schiltron formation, Constantine’s’ battle line was dwarfed by the Saxon array at the opposite end of the field. Constantine II and thegns positioned themselves in centre between schiltron formations. Athelstan’s banner could be seen in centre with Mercian earls on the right and Welsh allies on the left.

The Scots advanced in two groups, the right under the direct command of Constantine quickened their pace to meet the enemy while the left wing moved cautiously forward. To confront the Mercian and Saxon centre. As the lines met, the Welsh fell before the long spears of the Schiltrons opening the Saxon left.

Reinforcements were sent to bolster the left flank, but seeing unopposed Scots moving toward the centre, Athelstan called for a general retreat, extricating his troops from an impending encirclement. A convincing victory for the Scots, 5 – 0.


A second battle.

The result was not quite as I expected, taking less than four turns, therefore a second battle was played, both sides deploying as before, but swapping sides.

The Welsh seemed not to have their heart in the game and were again mauled, this time the aide of the Scottish light horse.  of the Scots joined in on the drill. To their right, the Mercians were next to fall collapsing the Saxon line, creating a second victory for the Scots, 5 – 0.  

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Battle of Hingston Down 838 AD


The Battle of Ellendun marked the decline of Mercian hegemony over Wessex and taking advantage of the opportunity, King Egbert sought to expand his lands. In the decade following, Wessex borders moved closer to East Anglia and northward, resuming its conflict with Mercia.

In the southwest however, Egbert encountered a setback against Danish raiders at Carhampton in 836. Recovering later, Egbert would defeat the Vikings and their “West Welsh” allies, a term used to describe the British peoples of Cornwall, at Hingston Down.


The location of the battlefield remains unknown; however, Viking longships could easily find shelter along the river Tamar, in close proximity to the downs near Hingston. The area is also described as wooded and the rounded grass-covered hills offering hilly terrain known as downs. For game purposes, exchange the difficult hills required for gentle ones (maximum 3) and add two woods. A figure outlined in chalk, such as a long-legged horse or Hercules with a big stick, would add ambience to the board.


Wessex, use army list III/24b.

West Welsh, 1 x general (Sp), 7 x warriors (Sp), 1 x skirmishers (Ps) +

Viking allies, 1 x huscarls, 1 x raiders (3Bd) 1 x archers (Ps).  

Re-fighting the battle.

Both sides battle lines were evenly matched, yet Wessex, advancing forward, were inconvenienced by woods on the right, formed two columns. The Cornish troops encountered no such obstacle as they advanced cautiously forward creating a gap with their Viking allies.

The battle developed quickly on both flanks with the Vikings earning their pay, making quick work of the Saxons to their front. The Cornish left was less fortunate, as Saxons drove a deep wedge in their line. Shortly after, the centre of both armies made contact.

The Vikings having accomplished their task and remained at their position to see the Cornish army flee the field. A glorious Saxon victory (4 – 2) over the West Welsh and their Viking allies.


Battle ofHingston Down, Wiki

Wales andthe Britons, 350 – 1064, T.M. Charles-Edwards (online)

Tuesday, 18 October 2022

The Battle of Ellendun 825 AD


During the early 9th century, Mercia still held a hegemony over several realms in southern England. Beornwulf deposed Ceolwulf I in 823 seizing control of Mercia and began strengthen control over the southern lands. Marshalling an army, he marched first against the West Saxons eventually meeting them at Ellendun, near present day Swindon. The battle that ensued ended in disaster for Beornwulf, the consequence of which saw a number of kingdoms switching their allegiance to the West Saxons.  


Both armies use the III/24 list with a minor difference. Mercia invades Wessex forcing Ecgberht to cut short his campaign in Dumnonia. To meet the Mercian army. Eadberht calls to arms the greater fyrd (use at least 1 x 7Hd).

Wessex forces carry green banners, Mercia blue. The banners denote the hird (4Bd) with the largest signifying the general's element.


The location of the battlefield remains contested, some sources placing it near Swindon, others, close to Wilton or Wroughton. Swindon began as a Roman settlement near the junction of two Roman roads. From the early 5th to the 8th century, this area has seen a number of battles leading one to believe this a disputed area between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex. 

For game purposes, the board would have the following terrain pieces; a filed, a gentle hill, a wood and scrub. No road.

Re-fighting the battle

An early autumn morning, both armies formed their battle lines to near identical length, behind the Wessex line, the greater fyrd could be seen positioned on a hill behind their right flank. The battle began slowly as both sides moved cautiously forward; the steady advance broken only with Wessex skirmishers moving further ahead to threaten the Mercian right.

Battle lines swayed to and fro with neither side gaining an advantage. This continued for three-quarters of an hour (3 turns). Advancing too far forward, Mercian hird were cut down by superior numbers exposing a gap in their line.

The gap, further widen separating the Mercian left flank from the centre spreading alarm among their ranks. Sensing a disaster, Beornwulf called for a general retreat. The chronicles would record this victory (4 - 0) as a turning point for Wessex.

Second battle

A 4-0 result is unusual for two identically formed armies. This called for a re-match with sides deploying over terrain moved a quarter turn.

The battle turns quickly in favour for Wessex, driving the Mercian right back to hopefully create a breach of their line.

A breach did develop, but not where Wessex expected. Mercia capitalised on their good fortune, but at some cost. A Mercian victory 4+hd - 2.