Saturday, 15 October 2016

Stamford Bridge ~ 950 Years Later...

Today I and a group of friend from Nunawading Wargames Association played the Battle of Stamford Bridge using the Hail Caesar rules at The House of War! at Ringwood. It was a great game although we were all a bit rusty on the rules and made a few mistakes along the way.

The cast of characters were:
Mike Goldyn ~ Harald Hardrada
John Waligora ~ Tostig Godwinson (the traitor!)
Sean O'Neill ~ Eystein Orre
Pete Jenkins ~ Leofwine Godwinson
Me ~ Harold Godwinson, King of England & Gyrth Godwnson (because we were short a player).

Special thanks to Sean for his ability to wade through the book and find a whole variety of things when we needed them (those of you familiar with Hail Caesar will know that this is an outstanding feat as the rules do tend to ramble on, somewhat).

Our table was a bit more elongated than the map ad I think this led to a slow start and our "Battle Flats" was a bit small but that's by the by. We had a table river and a bridge. So, say no more and let the battle begin...

Starting Positions

The King Harold's forces were formed into three battles with Harold in the center, Leofwine on the left and Gyrth on the right. The King had his household thegns, his Algo-Danish huscarls and a unit of mounted thegns. Both his brothers had units of thegns, fyrd and some skirmishers.

The Norse led by Harald Hardrada started in complete disarray (all units were disordered and could reform on a d6 roll of 4+). Two units were on the wrong side of the river. All were unarmoured with only their sheilds and weapons. Thus, they were considered Medium Infantry. In a game where Heavy Infantry ruled the day, this was a pretty severe drawback. 

First Moves

The Anglo-Saxons got off to a flying start with Leofwine rushing forward. However, Harold was slow in moving his troops forward only managing a plodding pace. Gyrth was completely tardy and failed to move any of his troops.

However, the King managed to get his troops moving and Leofwine's skirmishers managed to put flight to one of the Norse unit's before they managed to reform. Unfortunately the other managed to get back across the bridge, where a lone Norseman stood ready to stop the Saxon advance single-handed.

John's laughing ~ Something must have gone
wrong with Peter's cunning plan.

Meanwhile Gyrth Godwinson decided to stay close to the
beer supply and didn't move a bloody fraction.

The Norseman on the bridge took on a Saxon challenger but didn't fair as well as his "historical" counterpart. He only managed to kill one challenger but stopped the English army for two turns giving Harald Hardrada time to organize a defence. The Saxon skirmishers managed to put another Norse unit to flight with accurate shooting across the river.

The First Crossing

Leofwine attempted the first assault across the bridge and Gryth (now full of beer and belligerence) got his finger out and moved his troops up. Getting those troops to actually do something was a different kettle of fish altogether.

 Your friendly writer and Peter ~ Brave Saxons nobles, preparing
to give the invaders a taste of good of English steel.

Leofwine led the charge and pushed back the Norse, lead by Hrdrada, himself. However, he only managed to push them back without any great loss but he did get a foothold on to opposite bank.

The Norsemen, in their turn pushed back at Leofwine's thegns. They held on but they couldn't be reinforced and ended up getting surrounded on all sides and annihilated. Although Leofwine survived and crossed back to the English side of the river.

King Harold's Assault

King Harold now took time to rearrange his troops and put his houshold thegns in the vanguard with his huscarls following up. Something happened at this stage and two units of the King's household men charged to the rear. Maybe they thought they saw a threat form that direction (I actually rolled a Blunder but we don't need to tell anyone about that).

On the west side of the river Hardrada formed another defensive position with his own troops to the front and those of Tostig in a second line atop the Battle Flats. Fortunately for Hardrada reinforcements had arrived from under the leadership of Eysteun Orre.

King Harold needed to do something fast before Eysteins troops came into play. His thegns surged across the bridge and once again smashed into the Northmen back, this time with a lot more effect.

The Norsemen were smashed and put to flight. Harald Hardrada, leading form the front was killed at this point. It seems no photo's were taken of this event so history is vague on the true nature of his death.

Taking advantage of the routing Norsmen, the English pressed the attack and surged up the hill only to meet a solid sheildwall. They were repulsed with the leading unit of thegns smashed and routed. The remaining troops were still in good order and managed to hold their ground.

Fortunately Eysteins' troops slowed the advance giving the English time to reform. Meanwhile Gyrth managed to get his troops ready to cross the bridge. Leofwine, having had his nose bloodied decided staying on his side of the river and shooting was the better part of valor.

Eystein, crashed into the huscarls but only managed to force a retreat which put them into a better position. it also left a gap which the mounted thegns took advantage of, charging across the bridge and into the Norsemen atop the Battle Flats. But they failed to move them and fell back, in good order, in front of the bridge.

Eystein continued to press the attack and saw off the mounted thegns but more Saxons had managed to cross the bridge led by the (now sober) Gyrth.

In the pics below the Norse at the bottom of the picture were disordered. The English beside the
bridge  facing them charged and inflicted a lot of hits. However the plucky bastards managed to save
every single hit and the attackers bounced back.

 The Norse were on the ropes and bold action was required. Harold led his huscarls & thegns up the hill and rolled over the invaders. Two units broke and fled the field. The enemy was almost done for...

But, alas, King Harold fell and many tears were shed at his passing.

Oh ye bold Harold
On the cusp of triumph
Thou hath gone from us
Your children.
Like the passing of a great wind.

With night fallen (turn 18) the battle was at an end. Harold and Harald were both dead but their subordinates were still standing including the traitorous Tostig, who would now, no doubt, sue for kingship.

It was a great game and very hard fought right down to the last turn. The Norse were in bad shape but they were still kicking. The Alglo-Saxons were in better shape but the king was dead. We made plenty of mistakes due to our rustiness with the rules and some revision before next weeks Battle of Hastings is in order.

Also, thank you to Mike Goldyn for his endless stream of authentic Viking insults.

As is usual when a wargame gets intense, we forgot to take photos. So there are gaps in the pictorial narrative. I'm hoping to get some nice pics from Robin Peat and when they arrive I'll add them.


  1. great looking game, nicely done!

  2. What a bloody and beautiful game, well done!

  3. Thanks for your comments guys. It was a great game and took every bit of cunning and ruthlessness to force the bridge and take the fight to the invaders.