Tuesday 17 July 2018

891 AD, refighting the Battle of Leuven.

In late spring of 891, the Danes invaded Lotharingia and crushed an East Frankish army at Maastricht. Returning to the coast, the fleet sailed further south to plunder the county of Flanders and in the fall of that year, their raids reached Leuven where they decided to winter.

Despite the setback received by Lotharingia at Maastricht, King Arnulf gathered a new force comprising of Franks, Saxons and Bavarians to attack the Viking raiders now encamped at Leuven.

Several miles from Leuven, Arnulf split his force in two divisions, the first comprising all infantry would approach the town of Leuven from the east using the low hills to mask their movement while the mounted division would encircle the town from the north and west.

As the infantry reached 500 paces from the town, horns sounded the alarm sending Danes tumbling out of buildings and form a ragged line around the perimeter of the town. In 30 minutes (two moves) the Franks had formed a crescent stretching from the east, to the north and west side of Leuven; leaving the south end of town unattended. Retreat was not an option for the Danes as all their plunder was in town and had they not beaten a similar force in the spring. 

By pushing, shoving and an occasional thumping, the whole of the perimeter of Leuven was now covered by Danish troops leaving a small reserve of Hird positioned in the market grounds. During this time the only Frankish movement seen were infantry steadily closing the distance while the cavalry seemed content to hold their position.

The battle began on the eastern part of town with the Saxon infantry attacking the Danes. 

That attack was done with only half their force which was easily repulsed, but in their enthusiasm the Danes pursued leaving the protection of the town.

The Saxon shield wall held their ground and beat the Danes back to the town, leaving a great number of corpses as evidence of their impetuosity (1 – 0).

Emboldened by the success of the Saxon shield wall, the archers proceeded to pelt the Danes on the north side of town with arrows. Stung, the Danes were determined to exterminate them, but the archers fled to take shelter behind the ranks of Frankish heavy cavalry.

An hour had passed since the start of battle and seeing the infantry were now in a position to threaten the eastern side with an assault, Arnulf unleashed his heavy cavalry to strike the north side of town.

Despite the narrow passages between buildings, the Frankish knights destroyed a good number of enemy sending panic among the Danes (3 – 0). West of town, the Bavarians had dismounted and were ready to cross the Dyle and seal the fate of the Danes.

In desperation, the Danes used their reserve to plug the gaps created by the Frankish heavy cavalry. This did catch some cavalry by surprise but this was little consolation as more blood was spilled at the north end of town prompting the Jarl to sound a general retreat (4 – 1).

{1} the presence of black robed priests had no function in the game other than annoy the Danish player with their prayers of thanks for each departing pagan element.

Design note:
The battlefield and deployment of both forces is taken directly from ‘Battlefields of the Lowlands’ by Professor Luc de Vos. During the many test games we discovered many subtle rule features of DBA 3.0. 

Fighting in rough going does not affect combat factors between single elements as bad going will (-2); only movement is reduced to 1BW. Although group moves are possible spearmen cannot claim the advantage of flank support (+ 1) while in rough going. Vikings (4Bd) scoring a 'less than' result from heavy cavalry (3Kn) are not destroyed, but recoil. Unfortunately for the Danes, two Frankish knights scored 'twice as many' evidence that Odin does take lunch breaks.

The Frankish player did use two deployment zones, but the consequence of this meant some troops were beyond command distance. The Franks did manage good pip scores. The Danes did pursue taking them outside the town perimeter. One of these was the commander which resulted in any movement within the town by the Danes would cost an extra pip. Fortune smiled on the Danes as their commander was sent back into town. 

Can the Danes win?
Yes they can, but I will not deprive you from your journey of experience.


  1. A superb and desperate defense!

  2. Phil,

    If you enjoyed this scenario you will like upcoming battle.
    That one will be posted this Thursday.