Tuesday 3 July 2018

851 AD, refighting the Battle of Aclea

After sacking Canterbury, the Danish host turned west intent on plundering the churches and monastery at Titsey. Approaching the hamlet of Ock, banners and crosses could be seen above the heads of troops lining the west bank of the river of the same name. The West Saxons have arrived.

The Danes had dismounted and prepared for battle by forming up under the banners of their Jarls. At the rear of the column wagons and carts were collected to form a lager and the horses were tethered behind the impromptu camp. Each were allocated a guard as the wagons were full with plunder and the horses were too valuable to let roam free.

The Danish host now deployed about 500 paces from the Saxon line, but due to the restrictive nature of the ground, the Danes had formed several deep columns. In contrast, the army of Wessex had ample room to deploy and could extend their line beyond that of the Danes. In the centre of the Saxon line, the white dragon of Wessex could clearly be seen and it was here that the Danish king would focus their assault.

Advancing toward the river Ock, the Danes wheeled their line so as to square up with the Saxon centre. As the Danish cautiously moved forward, the Saxons used the time to adjust their line behind the River Ock.

Noticing that the River Ock formed several bends, the left wing of the Danish host was despatched to attack the Saxon right flank and doing so would hopefully draw off reserves or thin the centre.

After a long struggle, the Danish left were able to push the Saxons back from their position on the Ock. Without hesitation horns signalled the general advance for the main body. Seeing the Danish host move forward, the Saxons could only pray that their right flank would hold.

Through a mis-communication in signals (low pip scores) the main assault lost its cohesion and with this delay let the advantage of the moment slip by. The Saxons sensed this too and redoubled the efforts. Those on the right flank succeeded in sending the Danes back across the river. Casualties on both sides were heavy bringing an even score of 2 – 2.

Catching their wind, the Danes redoubled their effort to push the Saxon right away from the river bank, while in the centre, the Danes wrecked havoc crumbling the Saxon. Unfortunately, due to the limited room any change of direction was greatly hampered forcing both sides to move forward or recoil back.

In a moment of frenzy, the berserkers launched themselves at the Saxon king guaranteeing them their place in Valhalla. King Æthelwulf sensing the moment right for a counter-stroke, ordered his son Aethelbald to cross the Ock River downstream. From this position he would attack the Danish reserves and delay their support in the action taking place in the centre.  Wessex was gaining the upper hand (3 – 2). 

Further losses on the Danish left and the momentum in the centre evaporating, Danish resolve collapsed forcing them to retreat back to their camp. Hesitant to continue the fight beyond dusk, Wessex would discover the following morning that Danes had slipped away during the night to return to their ships.

Chroniclers would record this as a great victory but history would record this as a footnote in the long history of the Danish presence in Britain.

Design note;
This final version is the result of many test games, each fought over slightly different terrain. After four successive Danish victories, I looked further to the Ordnance Survey maps and concluded a river may have played a part in delivery a Saxon victory at Aclea. Woods and difficult hills did narrow the battlefield but the Danes were able to overcome the constricted terrain eventually grind their way through the Saxon defence.

The selection of a river as an additional feature did give the Saxons a boost, but further fine tuning was required. To balance the game I reduced the number of Danes as it seemed logical following two engagements at London and Canterbury. Designating two elements to guard the camp and horses seemed plausible. The river classification was selected as a compromise as this did reduce the movement distance to cross and its banks would aid defence. However, the class II river would allow group movement which helped the Danes. Further testing resulted in reaching my goal as this gave a victory for both sides.


  1. A nice place in Valhalla for courageaous warriors, and a nice report with beautifu larmies and river...glad to see some Danes!

  2. Phil,

    Of the six or eight scenarios planned, the Danes are involved in half and these take place in other parts of Europe. Those were chosen for their unique location or the opposition facing the Danes.

    This Thursday I will post a second scenario.

  3. Excellent commentary.

    I am impressed at how you are able to transcribe DBA mechanics and die results into a report that feels like someone chronicling the battle first hand.

  4. Thank you for the kind word Christopher,

    The historical scenario format changed from the usual historical matches of three games. The plan is to focus on a few interesting battles and devise a scenario that can be played with a standard size DBA army.

    In some cases, seeking a reasonable balance in each scenario did require a lot of testing so I decided to do one report and add more than the usual brief passages.

    Next scenario will be posted tomorrow – Battle of Conwy.