Tuesday 5 June 2018

Historical Match up - Later Visigoths vs. the Middle Franks

Religious differences between the ruling Visigoths and the general population of Hispania came to a head in the early 6th century. The conflict soon escalated forcing the Merovingians to intercede on the behalf of the orthodox Christians. Not all the Visigothic nobility supported their monarch on religious issues and later dissatisfaction would later lead to civil unrest. 

In 531, Childebert marched with his army to confront King Amalaric of the Visigoths in Hispania. This was the first of a number of expeditions eventually leading to the possession of Pamplona (542) and the siege of Zaragoza. The majority of these campaigns took place in the fertile region of the Ebro valley. 

In this series, the Visigoths make use of their city militia (4Ax) which reduces the number of mounted elements. Further, the Franks are Austrasian which gives them a different ratio of spear and warband and they are assisted by Visigothic allies. This open demonstration of disloyalty would lead to the coming civil war between the Visigothic royal houses. 

Game 1
The Visigothic city militia and tribal warriors are positioned in centre with skirmishers on the right holding a gentle hill. Visigothic gardingi cover the open flank while in reserve we find the Visigothic noble cavalry. Across the field, Childebert placement of troops mirrored that of the Visigoths.

Both sides commit their infantry to open the battle.

Frankish warriors quickly disperse Visigothic skirmishers exposing the flank of their city militia leading to their subsequent destruction.

The Frankish cavalry and allies charge home to inflict more casualties on the opposite flank. Through a mix up in signals (low pip score), the Visigothic cavalry remained inert eventually fleeing the battlefield as all was lost. Score 4 – 2 for the Franks.

Game 2
The difficult hills, wood and village offered little area for the Visigoths to deploy in. If the Visigoths were to make use of their cavalry they would need to advance quickly to create room to maneuver. The Franks (to the left in photo) were of equal mind as they intended to restrict those Visigothic plans. 

The opening moves were spent adjusting the alignment of the two lines.

As the forces met, combat degenerated into much pushing and shoving with most units holding their ground. Only a unit of Visigothic skirmishers broke ranks to flee for cover.

The gap left by the skirmishers opened an opportunity for which the Frankish tribal infantry quickly seized on. Moments later new gaps in the Visigothic line soon appeared giving Frankish cavalry held in reserve an opportunity to deliver a decisive blow. Score 5 – 2 for the Franks.

Game 3
The final battle, both sides faced one another over ideal cavalry terrain. Despite the equal numbers of mounted troops, the Franks placed their horse in a reserve position behind their infantry line. The Visigoths gambled on an all out confrontation and so positioned their cavalry in front.   

The rough ground proved an inconvenience for the Franks as their battle line moved slowly forward to allow the tribal infantry to keep pace with the infantry on their right.

Visigothic militia held the Frankish tribal infantry in check opening a gap which the Visigoths were able to reciprocate and cripple the Frankish spearmen. By now all the Frankish cavalry were committed to battle, leaving no further option to Childebert but to join the battle.

Unfortunately, the losses incurred by the Frankish infantry became severe that a general retreat was called for. Score 4 – 2 for the Later Visigoths.


  1. Glad to see Wisigoths taking their revenge in the last game, interesting 6th century's battles!

  2. Yes. The final game did restore their reputation. It was interesting to note under the right circumstances, the Visigoths could still be vulnerable; their battles against the Suevi are a good example.

    The Dark Age battles have produced quite some good games. We have done some quick tests games with the newly painted Vikings against Picts and Middle Anglo-Saxons and are excited about them. We shall do a proper series as this collection must grow with a few more armies.