Thursday 5 July 2018

881 AD, The Battle of Conwy

The Battle of the Conwy in 881 was fought between the northern Welsh Kingdom of Gwynedd and a Mercian army almost certainly led by Aethelred, Lord of the Mercians. The Welsh were victorious ending a period of Mercian domination over the western kingdoms. Some historians suggest this setback moved Æthelred to accept the lordship of King Alfred the Great of Wessex and set in motion the eventual unification of the kingdom of England a step closer. Following the battle, King Anarawd had courted a brief alliance with the Norse but abandoned this to ally himself with King Alfred.

The Battlefield
The battle took place deep in the kingdom of Gwynedd near the town of Conwy located on the river of the same name. This is the sole scrap of information known of the battle and the fact that the Welsh were victorious. Looking at modern terrain maps of the area, we note west of the town a number of possible battle sites while on the opposite bank the terrain seems too rugged to offer a safe passage to Conwy. The best approach passes through a series of wide valleys, each scored with a number of small streams. In broad terms, the terrain follows the DBA list for hilly terrain giving a defender two difficult hills as compulsory, a BUA (hamlet) and an extra difficult hill. One possible option is to replace the extra difficult hill with either a river or wood. The BUA should not be large (2BW x 3BW) so as to represent a small farm community and not the town of Conwy. If using the optional river (stream) this must flow into the river (defender’s board edge). The defender’s board edge is the River Conwy so there is no need to place a waterway. 

Players may wish to use a second battle site which is located further west. Here the valley floor opens more offering both sides ample room to deploy and to manoeuvre. Terrain pieces used should comprise of two difficult hills, a river and two woods (a small hamlet may replace one wood).

The Armies
The Welsh use the Book III/19a sub-list which gives them one general (3Bd), nine warriors (3Wb) and two javelinmen (Ps).

The army of Mercia use Book III/24b which allow three hird including general (4Bd), eight select fyrd (Sp) and one archer (Ps). It seems unlikely the select fyrd (7Hd) would leave Mercian lands to fight but these may replace two select fyrd.

The Setup
The Welsh are defending and face east with difficult hills on either flank. The valley floor is 7BW wide at the Welsh deployment area and opens to 9BW on reaching the Mercian side. The Welsh deploy first and the Mercian army must deploy opposite the Welsh. The River Conwy is off board and behind the Welsh deployment area. 

Using the second battlefield, the difficult hills are positioned further apart giving both sides an additional 2 - 3BW space to deploy. This will allow the Mercian player to extend fully in line clearly overlapping the Welsh army. 

Recommended Reading
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 

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