Saturday, 22 October 2016

Hastings 1066 ~ 950 Years & One Week Later...

Today at Nunawading Wargames Association we played the Battle of Hastings. Six commands & six players. It was a small battlefield (one 6' x 4' table) with both armies crowded into a small area.

On Senlac Ridge we have:
Pete Jenkins ~ Harold Godwinson, King of England,
On the left is Martin Morgan ~ Gyrth Godwinson, and
On the right is Greg Hubbard as Leofwine Godwinson.

At the bottom of the ridge we have the Normans:
Tom Break ~ Duke William (not yet a conqueror),
Mike Goldyn ~ William fitzOsbern the leader of the Flemish mercenary troops, and
Gary Richards ~ Allan the Red with the Breton contingent.

Duke William, leading from the rear.

Let the Battle Begin

Before the Norman attack begins the minstrel Taillefer, with permission from William,
charges the Anglo-Saxon line to deliver the first blow at the enemy.
He fails and is cut down like a dog.

The Normans moved off the mark at a slow but steady pace with the Breton's lagging behind a bit. The first blood went to the defenders as they moved their small group of skirmishers down from the ridge and into range where they shot at the Norman archers inflicting a casualty.

The brave Godwinson brothers obviously enjoying the skill of their mighty skirmishers.

Until those skirmishers were caught flat-footed in the open and slaughtered by the Norman infantry.

The Normans, in return moved their own archers up and a lucky shot by the Bretons (a 6) caused a casualty and a break test. A roll of snake eyes saw a whole unit of brave English thegns run from the battlefield like a pack of craven curs. Or was it treachery? Were they paid off by the wily Duke with promises of future wealth...?

The Normans watch as Harold points out to them that this is his ridge!

The First Assault

Good King Harold decided that with the loss of the cowardly thegns he needed to extend his line to protect his flanks. This weakened his center and the Normans, seeing this attacked with their infantry.
Meanwhile two units of Flemish infantry, maybe intimidated by the sight of the Anglo shieldwall facing them broke for the rear (they rolled a Blunder). On William's left his Breton allies charged Leofwine's newly reinforced flank.

King Harold looks on with a steady gaze and a heart of oak. 

This first assault failed with one Normans infantry unit breaking and the other locked into the combat. Allan the Red's Breton cavalry was forced back down the hill in disorder. But the Anglo-Saxon troops managed to restrain themselves and held firm on top of the ridge.

A Crisis on the Flank

On the Flemish flank, fitzOsbern was given a gap in his line due to his infantry falling back in the previous turn. Through this gap brought up his knights spent time organising them for an attack. When he was in place he sent his cavalry, supported by his remaining infantry, against the thinner (although extended) enemy line. Against the thegns the cavalry faltered and fell back but the infantry were facing a single unit of unsupported fyrd who got the worst of the fight and routed leaving a big hole in the Anglo-Saxon line.

Gyrth managed to fill the gap and held the line. King Harold came down from his high ground and led his huscarls into the fray to support his center and managed to throw the Normans back down the slope.

The Norman's then renewed the attack this time with their cavalry supporting their infantry and the Breton infantry moving up in support. A ferocious fight on the crest saw the Norman attack fail again.

Harold Leads From the Front

The battle rages in the center and on both flanks. Harold's troops, for the most part, managed to hold the Normans back but they were showing signs of wear and tear on both flanks. Gyrth was getting the worst of it against the Flemish mercenaries and Leofwine was managing well with support from a unit of Harold's household thegns.

Seeing that things were not going as well as planned Harold took to the front line in an attempt to force the latest Norman attack back. A bold plan that failed.

Harold's entire center was forced back although they remained in good order.

On the Flemish flank fitzOzbern pressed the attack. Gyrth's troops were in a bad way now but they managed to hang on and frustrate the attackers even though they had lost their uphill advantage.

Although, the Saxon front had been forced back, the Normans were in no shape to follow up their advantage and Harold, still leading from the front, got his men back into the fray. On their left the Breton infantry started to push their enemy but it was their cavalry that began to force Leofwine's men back.

The Breton infantry attack failed and they fell back to the bottom of the hill in disorder. One unit of thegns then charged down the slope to continue their success. But they ended up stranded facing a mass of the enemy.

Gyrth's command was on the verge of collapse and fitzOsbern kept up the pressure until they eventually broke. One unit of thegns remained and they were locked in battle. They managed to hang on for another turn or two due to good break test rolls but they were doomed. When they finally fell Gyrth fell with them.

William Leads the Attack

William led the next Norman attack from the front and the Anglo-Saxon center couldn't hold under the increasing pressure and began to fall back. Meanwhile Allan the Red pushed Leofwine's flank back again and again.

Duke William the Bastard

King Harold rejoined his huscarls on top of the high ground and prepared to sell himself dearly but both of his brothers fell and both flanks collapsed. With only his household troops and his bodyguard left his army was broken.

And the Norman's, being fine fellows who like to play fair, decided to move up their archers and shoot the king down. Despite a special rule making Harold very susceptible to arrows, he managed to dodge them all and left the field unscathed.  What happened after we shall never know.

Mike (fitzOsbern) Goldyn looks on the carnage with a sense of relief whilst Tom (Duke William) Brake looks pretty chuffed at the thought of becoming the new King of England. But Harold survived and maybe he could pull together enough troops to once again stand against the invader...


Well, it was a hard fought game. The Norman's had the very good luck of routing a unit of thegns with a single flight of arrows very early in the game (I still think William paid them off) which managed to completely disrupt the Anglo-Saxon shieldwall. As an observer I could see the writing on the wall as soon as Pete (Harold) started shuffling his troops around. He should have stood firm and strong. In reinforcing and extending his flanks he weakened his center and left Martin (Gyrth) unsupported.

I umpired the game. I designed it, wrote up the scenario special rules and orders of battle. But I was quite happy to see other people play it. I was expecting the Saxons to hold firm and the Normans to break on their defence so I designed rules to (hopefully) force Harold's troops int chasing the retreating Normans. This only actually happened in one instance. I was quite surprised.

Thanks to Tom Brake and Gary Richards for providing the majority of the Normans. All the Saxons were provided by me as well as the Flemish contingent. And special thanks to Mike Goldyn for providing the juggler.

I got this photo just now; Clockwise from top left: Greg Hubbard, Pete Jenkins, Martin Morgan, Mike Goldyn, Tome Brake, Jim (observer) and Gary Richards.


  1. Brilliant! An epic battle with wonderful minis, great and enjoyable report!

  2. Superb report of a epic play. Photos are very evocative!