Friday 24 August 2018

939 AD, refighting the Battle of Trans-la- Fôret

Viking scouts had reported the approach of a Breton army. Deploying their troops in three groups, with the right flank resting on the crest of a nearby hill and the left flank rested on the fort. Any attempt by the Breton to turn the Viking left would be foiled by the presence of the fort offering them no further option that to attack the hill position.

Alan II divided his army into three divisions; and posted the militia and skirmishers on the left, Breton cavalry in centre leaving all the Breton light horse to take a position to the far right of some dense wood.

The militia were instructed to demonstrate in front of the hill while the while the light horse would attempt to turn the Viking left flank. This left the Breton cavalry to deploy in front of the Viking centre and await the proper time to make their assault. Anticipating this, the three separate Viking lines wheeled right to form a contiguous line while a reserve detachment were rushed to support the left flank.

Seeing the Breton militia were not willing to make an assault, the Vikings on the hill moved further downhill hoping to provoke them into action. The timely arrival of the reserves frustrated Alan II but confident that the light horse would reach some success he brought forward the remainder of the cavalry to extend the centre line.

The wait was over and the Breton cavalry launched their attack on the Viking centre. This attack caught the Vikings off guard as their entire line recoiled back from the charge. The Vikings on the left anticipating an attack by Breton light horse were caught off guard by an assault by Breton cavalry coming from the centre.

Despite the casualties received in that first exchange (0 - 1) the Breton cavalry reformed to make a second charge. A second charge sent Viking line back on their heels but they did not break, however elsewhere,  the situation took a desperate turn as the Breton cavalry supported by light horse had broke the Viking left (2 – 1). Viking survivors retreated to form a new line.

The collapse of the Viking left freed many Breton cavalry and light horse to look for new targets. Seeing their commander was hard pressed, Breton light horse fell on the rear ranks of the Vikings locked in combat. This move sealed the fate of the Vikings and they fled the field leaving their dead behind (4 – 1).

This concludes the series of Dark Age scenarios set in the 9th and 10th century. I had selected some 30 battles and trimmed these down to a possible 10 that I could feasibly do. The battles selected could easily be fought with a standard size army of twelve elements with a possible inclusion of allies. Those battles that reached the final selection were those for which I had in my DBA collection and required no new figures. That said, the Welsh were the only exception to this as I found the battles of Conwy and Buttington interesting to do.

We enjoy playing historical battles so this series proved a good exercise in how quickly I could translate obscure text to create a playable DBA game. No changes to the rules were made with the exception of a change of deployment; Leuven and Buttington required the defender to set up in the middle of the board and Brenta placed the attacker closer to the enemy camp to simulate a level of surprise. These did require an amount of play test but we found the end result worked well.  


  1. Nice to see such an effective use of light horse.

    I also think that your adaptations of what you discovered in your research (including looking for possible spots for where battles may have occurred), into DBA sized battles, should inspire others to follow suit.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Christopher,

      I hope others are inspired to write their own scenarios. The availability of tools such as, Google Maps (terrain), Google Translate and e-books make the task of investigation a much easier process. And fun as well.

  2. A great (and fast) looking battle, enjoyed!

    1. Phil,

      It was a fast game and fraught with a number of near disasters for the Breton. On two occasions Alan II was caught front and flank in combat but did manage to extricate his element safely away.