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.

Friday, 14 October 2022

Battle of Hereford 760 AD


During his early reign, King Offa of Mercia, was beset by constant incursions by a number of Welsh kingdoms, Brycheiniog, Gwent and Powys being the most aggressive. The Battle of Hereford, fought in 760, is noted briefly in the Annales Cambriae (Annals of Wales) as a major engagement involving all three kingdoms against the Mercians led by King Offa. Later sources describe the Welsh victory significant, as it “freed themselves from the influence of the Anglo-Saxons”. 


From the map coordinates given for the battle, Hereford is in close proximity to a ford over the river Wye. The settlement, suggested by one source, would become fortified as a result of the battle, therefore the hamlet of Hereford should be open. Terrain pieces to be placed, the River Wye, BUA (hamlet), difficult hill and wood. 


Welsh: III/19a are invading.  

Middle Anglo-Saxon III/24b 


Battle of Hereford


List of Anglo-Welsh Wars


History of Wales (Battles and other significant events in Post Roman Wales)


Castles Forts Battles


Re fighting the battle

Both battle-lines formed three groups, for the Welsh, Gwent and Powys formed on the flanks of main force from Brycheiniog and similarly, the core of the Mercian army led by King Offa were supported by the powerful lords within the realm.

As the armies advanced, the Welsh proceeded to overwhelm the Saxons on the left causing a near collapse of that wing. To their surprise, the attack on the Saxon centre was repelled.

Despite the chaos on their right, the Saxon centre recovered and were able to maul the Welsh to their front to reach a narrow victory, 3 – 3g

Second battle

Details of the actual battle, such as size and deployment are sketchy, a second battle was played and reversed the deployment areas for each army, leaving Hereford in possession of the Welsh. The Saxon approach to Hereford was not well timed as gaps appeared as they approached the Welsh position.

The Saxon centre, led by Offa, struck the Welsh centre sending their king back. Unfortunately, the Saxon support elements were less successful leaving an exposed Offa to be quickly surrounded.

King Offa survived the assault as Saxon reserves quickly moved to aid their king, leaving Offa to renew his fury against the Welsh king. This continued for a time, sending the Welsh king recoiling, while laughing and yelling “Fool, look behind you”. Cautiously turning to look behind, Offa saw the Saxon centre gone. A Welsh victory, 4 – 0.

Saturday, 1 October 2022

Battle of Rhuddlan 797 AD

The battle

In 797 AD, King Coenwulf of Mercia seeks to re-assert his domination of Gwynedd. In his defense, King Caradog gathers his Welsh forces which include those of Powys and Dyfed. The battle proves to be indecisive as both forces meet again the following year in Snowdonia.


The Ordnance Survey map of 1871 sites the battle in a field to the North West of Rhuddlan. This location is described as marshland bordering the river Clwyd to the east and by steep hills to the west. Our battlefield will have two difficult hills on one side and two boggy grounds placed facing each deployment area.


Welsh: III/19a, an option, represent Powys and Dyfed as allies of two elements each.

Middle Anglo-Saxon: III/24b.


From EBKHistorical Chronology of the Early British Kingdoms.

The re-fight

Due to the limited amount of open ground, King Coenwulf reinforced his flanks with extra troops; these would fend off Welsh flanking attempts as he pushed his line forward. The Welsh line was noticeably broken by the boggy ground offering an opportunity for the Mercians to destroy one flank.

Both armies marched cautiously forward and sensing some confusion on the Mercian side, King Caradog quickened the pace of his left.

As the main battle lines clashed, King Caradog deployed Welsh skirmishers to harass the Mercian right while wheeling his own bodyguard to turn the Mercian line.

The battle quickly cascaded into a slaughter as King Coenwulf fell as did other thegns of Mercia sending a tremor of despair among their ranks. Further losses incurred by Mercia forced them to flee the field. Welsh losses were insignificant (3g-1). 



Each subsequent test, the Welsh proved tenacious winning the majority of their battles with the Mercian commander thrice succumbing to a Welsh axe. Other Dark Age battles will follow.

Saturday, 10 September 2022

Enemies of the Carolingian

Noting the strengths and weaknesses of enemies for a particular army is a useful exercise when competing in tournaments, however, the information gathered here is meant to enhance scenarios between two historical opponents. This set takes a look at the tactical strengths and weaknesses of opponents of the Carolingian in the collection. The list long with a few armies having sub-lists.

Reviewing the Carolingian list, you will note a few alternative troop types reflecting regional differences, such as the province of Aquitaine or the division of the realm following the death of Charlemagne.

III/28 Carolingian 639 – 888 AD, Terrain Type: Arable, Aggression 3

1 x General (3Kn), 2 x caballari (3Kn), 2 x Swabian or Bavarian caballari (3Kn//4Bd) or [1 x Gascon javelinmen (Ps) + 1 x Gascon light horse (LH)], 1 x caballari (3Kn) or 1 x Thuringian cavalry (Cv), 4 x select levies (all Bd or Sp until 814, thereafter all Sp), 1 x archers (3Bw or Ps), 1 x archers (Ps) or lesser levies (7Hd).


The Enemies of the Carolingian

 II/73 Old Saxon, 250– 804 AD, Terrain type: Arable, Aggression 2

Saxon warband caught are easy prey for Frankish knights if caught in the open, therefore a defending Saxon will select a hamlet, boggy ground, scrub, and possibly an enclosure to increase the longevity of warbands when confronted by Frankish knights. Troops moving through rough ground would do so in column, increasing their vulnerability. A river would add another level of complexity to the mix of terrain.  

II/83b Later Visigothic Army 622 – 720 AD, Terrain type: Arable, Aggression 1

A well-balanced mix of knights and spear supported by skirmishers and auxilia. Difficult to dislodge from a defensive position, best to lure toward an open plain. Attacking, avoid matching troop types as battle can degenerate into a long slogging match.

III/1b Western Slav Army 741 – 1003 AD, Terrain type: Arable, Aggression 1

The majority of foot are spear-armed and with few cavalry and archers in support, expect a defensive position with a number of choke points. Carolingian blade is best used against a Slav shieldwall and supported by skirmishers, these can attack exposed enemy flanks or rear. Enemy archers may prove a nuisance, use skirmishers to neutralise their threat.

III/1c Southern Slav Armies 476 – 896 AD, Terrain type: Forest, Aggression 1

Similar in composition as their western neighbors, spearmen are a lighter type supported by open order archers. Suggest driving enemy into or beyond woods will isolate them from their commander. Slav infantry can out distance own infantry, therefore, reserves should be placed to deter enemy flanking threats.

III/13a Avar Army 632 – 826 AD, Terrain type: Steppe, Aggression 1

The Avar have similarities with the Breton; but lack useful terrain. Pinning the Avar against gullies or rivers should be high on your list otherwise follow the tactics suggested against the Bretons.

III/18 Breton Army 580 – 1072 AD, Terrain type: Arable, Aggression 1

Breton armies are highly mobile and can face off against Frankish knights and infantry. Denying the Breton maneuvering room, form Frankish spear in line forcing the enemy to engage or give ground. Frankish cavalry can protect the flanks of the infantry and conversely if fighting on open ground reverse the order with cavalry and flanks protected by heavy infantry. Keep the date 814 in mind.

III/21a Italian Lombard 584 – 774 AD, Terrain type: Arable, Aggression 1

The majority of the early Italian Lombard are heavy cavalry supported by archers; the latter will create problems for your cavalry. An effective tactic of the Lombard is to close quickly against your cavalry while archers and skirmisher attempt to envelope your line. Much will depend who deploys first, but neutralising the archers should become a priority.   

III/21b Italian Lombard 775 – 1076 AD, Terrain type: Arable, Aggression 1

Coming under the umbrella of Frankish control, half of the heavy cavalry are replaced by spearmen creating a composition troop type mirroring the Carolingian. History records a frequent use of the allies listed which may tip the balance in a game.  

III/26b Croatian Army 627 – 1089 AD, Terrain type: Littoral, Aggression 1

Solid auxilia wielding javelin and axe account for bulk of the army following by a good number of mounted troops. The threat of a littoral landing is also present, however, using the auxilia may not be the best choice. Expect difficult hills defended by auxilia, but this should be welcomed as you can focus your attack on their cavalry and camp.

III/28 Carolingian 639 – 888 AD Terrain type: Arable, Aggression 3

Following the death of Charlemagne, the kingdom did lapse into a period of civil strife among its successors. From a historical perspective, armies should reflect some regional differences avoiding a mirror image of the other. For example, Aquitaine would have Gascons in its ranks, while Swabians and Bavarians would be present among the eastern Frankish kingdom. Allies would also play a role during the civil upheaval.   

III/29 Thematic Byzantine 650 – 963 AD Terrain type: Hilly, Aggression 1

This is the only army not present in the collection.

III/33 Early Muslim North Africa & Sicily 696 – 1160 AD Terrain type: Aggression

Lacking sufficient shock troops, they do make up with a highly mobile army on land as well as by sea (littoral landing). Make use of the sea to pin the Muslims against or have them take flight in that direction. Your knights may become vulnerable when pursuing, so care should be taken to have adequate support nearby.

III/34a Andalusian 710 – 765 AD Terrain Type: Arable, Aggression 3

This sub-list is similar to the Early Muslim, but its home terrain will offer a fine selection of terrain suitable for light troops, expect much use of rough ground. Use your cavalry to engage their cavalry, the advantage of number should bring enemy infantry out from their defensive positions.  

III/34b Andalusian 766 – 1172 AD: Terrain Type: Arable, Aggression 1

Quite similar to the previous sub-list with a few minor additions. There are a number of useful allies that can cause problems, such as the Feudal Spanish.

III/35a Feudal Spanish Army 718 – 950 AD, Terrain type: Hilly, Aggression: 1

Cavalry account for 1/3rd of the army with skirmishers forming a majority supported by spearmen. May pose a difficult fight if the maximum number of hills are placed as these will channel your approach. Spanish skirmishers reign supreme in such terrain; therefore, care should be taken to protect flanks and rear areas.

III/40a Viking Army 790 – 849 AD Terrain type: Littoral, Aggression 4

Lacking cavalry, fast blade will be disadvantage by an attack from your knights, therefore a defending Viking will make good use of difficult hills, marsh and a river to break up an enemy assault. Deploying an extended line seems less likely, but do expect a reserve forming a second line placed behind or split positioned at either flank.

III/40b Viking Army 850 – 1250 AD Terrain type: Littoral, Aggression 4

Solid blade of the ‘b’ sub-list presented different opportunities as these are less mobile and will avoid selecting difficult ground; a river and BUA would be better terrain choices. Solid Vikings foot will repel cavalry on even scores, but destroy knights. Using Frankish spear to pin, cavalry and skirmishers can attack exposed Viking flank or rear.