Wednesday 27 March 2019

Battle of Khambula

In two days time there is an anniversary of a battle fought in the Anglo Zulu War,. To honour those who fought on both sides the Shed re-fought this engagement on Monday night.

140 years ago the British Army was reeling from their disaster at Isandlwhana. An entire battalion of British Infantry along with hundreds of supporting troops had been wiped out, and despite the brave and resolute defence of Rourkes Drift the morale of the invading forces was at its lowest ebb. The Zulus, in contrast were in high spirits and many native regiments were still keen to ‘Wash their Spears’. Isandlwhana proved that a numerically stronger native force could sieze victory against a complacent modern European army. Indeed Cetshewayo, King of the Zulus, recognised that his forces could only win in open battle when the British could not defend behind defences. Sadly for his people this understanding was ignored and on 29th March at Khambula the Zulus suffered their first heavy defeat of the war. In the long run this paved the way for their demise as the pre-eminent military force in South Africa.

Number four column, commanded by Sir Evelyn Wood VC had entered Zululand with the intent of marching towards the Zulu capital at Ulundi. His 2000 men were a formidable force, consisting of two battalions of regular infantry, artillery and several hundred boers, irregulars and locally raised native allies. Fearing that the same fate that befell the 24th at Isandlwhana a few weeks earlier might repeat itself, Wood proceeded with extreme caution. Aware that a sizeable army of Zulus (ten times his number) were approaching the commander set about defending a hill known as Khambula. His defences included the classic Boer Laager of Wagons, a redoubt on a higher ground and a palisade linking the two. This was a strong position with densely packed ranks of rifle armed troops supported by artillery. Ammunition was distributed and scouts were sent out to seek the enemy. The British waited.

For a full account of the battle I would strongly recommend this link.

Its been some time since we have played a game set in the Anglo Zulu War and given the anniversary of the Battle of Khambula is this week I determined that this would be our next engagement. But where to start?

Unfortunately there are few wargamers who have reported their take on the battle so I had to develop my plans from scratch.

A good starting point was to look at the orders of battle. Estimates suggest that the British had around 2,000 combatants and the Zulus 20,000. We do know the British had 15 companies of infantry and therefore basing the company on a notional 100 men the British were given 15 units of regular infantry. Each unit would be represented by four figures so a scale of 1 to 25 was adopted.  To supplement the British regulars the Allied force was given six more units of irregulars (boers, natives and mounted infantry) plus a couple of artillery pieces. With 21 standard units the British break would stand at 11 (ie if the Zulus routed or broke 11 or more units they would win). In total the British force had 84 figures plus officers and gun crews

The Zulus needed 10 times that number – sadly I don’t have 840 Zulu figures (only 700) so the Zulus would be slightly undermanned. Each of my Zulu warbands  are 12 figures strong (and would represent 300 natives in real life). These were deployed equally in three divisions (Left Horn, Right Horn and Centre) and each division would have three regiments consisting of six warbands. A regiment would therefore have 1800 men, a division 5,400, the Army in total 16,200.

Each regiment would be commanded by its own induna and would break once 2/3rds were destroyed (ie a loss of four units).

With the unit size settled I then addressed the stats for each unit. With so many forces on the table simplicity would be the order of the day. Using the Zulu warband as the base these guys would get 6 attacks in hand to hand, 1 missile attack, a morale save of 5+ and a stamina of four (ie they could take four hits). Previous games had shown how brittle these warbands were with only 3 stamina so an extra point was given. By contrast the British regular units are only a third of the zulu warband size and as such they would need to be modified. They would retain their 3 shooting attacks but both their stamina and Hand to Hand values would be reduced to 2. The British regulars would save on 4+ all irregulars would save on 5+. I figured that if the British could not stop the attacks with rifle power then the chances of them winning in a melee – one company versus one warband must put the Zulus at a disadvantage. Equally two companies standing side by can only be contacted by one warband and it becomes a more even affair. All the irregular units had the option of being mounted if they chose to be and firing from the saddle would reduce their shooting value by 1 dice.

Finally the Zulus were given the bloodthirsty trait (all missed attacks in first round of combat rerolled) and the British regulars given the steady trait (one failed morale save gets a reroll). To put this in context a unit defending a wall gets +1 added to dice rolls for morale meaning our pluckly redcoats would save on anything bar a 1 or a 2 (and still get a reroll.

As far as the table was concerned I built the hill (using parts of the Hastings construct) down the middle of the table. Length ways you are looking from the west to east. The redoubt sits at the eastern end, the cattle Kraal to its left on the southern side and the wagon laager in the centre. The terrain bits came from my Rorkes drift set and it was a perfect opportunity to use my cheap pencil sharpener wagons. As far as other terrain features were concerned the battle reports I Have read suggest that the southern side of the hill was traversed by a ravine hiding the Zulus until they got to the lip of the hill. We recoignised this by stating that anuy unit touchoing the base line was in the ravise and to escalate this cost a full move. To the west lay boggy ground and the left wing could only traverse if they rolled 4+.

The British units were deployed as per the original battle includer Bullers cavalry out to the far east goading the Zulu right horn into attack. The centre of the Zulus forces would come in from the south and the right horn from the Southwest.

The Zulus emerge in the East (top) and the South

More Zulus our in from the West

The defenders stand ready

Usuthu - the centre holds til the horns are engaged

Companies disperse along the barricades

The British centre supported by artillery

Bullers cavalry in the distance open up on the Zulu right

The left Horn pours forward

As does the right - the redoubtr is under threat

The first assault is repulsed oin the Zulu left - just too many guns

The right commences its climb up the hill under sporadic fire

The Redoubt comes under attack

Zulus crash against the defences but the Brits hold on

The Cattle Kraal is under attack

More Zulus rush forward ready to wash their spears

The last stand of the redoubt as one company meets its demise

A lone zulu unit braves fire from the Laager and is repulsed

The plucky redcoats are just holding on in the Kraal

The redoubt falls

The Kraal falls - the Zulus rush on

The batteries are blasting away but get caught in the open. 

The guns are about to be wiped out. The Zulus are siezing the initiative on their right and centre

A furious firefight erupts from behind the redoubt as the Zulus press on

The Left horn finally attacks the Laager but get driven back in disarray - the Zulu left wing is virtually wiped out

Defending the ramparts - independent fire at will

With the British left gone remaining units rush to the safety of the Laager

A lull as the Zulus ponder their next move - casualties have been extremely high

With the left horn gone the Brits can redeploy

The last stages of the battle - about half of the original zulu units are still intact - only tour british units and the guns have been taken down. With time running out the Zulus conceded feariing more lives would fall to the Martini Henry

As a game this was a visual treat and despite my our best efforts to break into the Laager early on we were thwarted by the massed ranks of British Infantry.

In the real battle the Zulus managed to take the cattle Kraal but could get no further.

It is estimated that every allied soldier shot on average 31 bullets – that’s 60,000 pieces of lead flying through the air. The Zulus got their backsides kicked bigtime. In historical terms the Brits lost about 80 men the Zulus close to 2000. A resounding British victory.

Although we failed to complete the game it was evident that the Zulus were going to probably come off second best. The entire left wing had been destroyed and much of the centre had suffered heavy casualties. A full assault on the laager was possible but the bloodshed was going to be horrendous.

The group agreed that it was a relatively well balanced game, had fortune shined on the Zulus  they could have won albeit improbably.  Its interesting to note that when we fought Isandlwhana the British forces got decimated – they had no cover, were too spread out and could never sieze the initiative. In contrast, this game illustrated that a concentrated defence wins these types of battles.

A big thank you to all those that took part

Sunday 24 March 2019

Announcing 2019's Projects

With the Dark Ages project now complete and the three battles of 1066 fought to their historical conclusions it’s time to turn my attention to my next project. Or should I say projects !

The first of these was determined by an article carried in Wargames Illustrated at the end of last year.

I was fascinated to read that the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC) was going to launch a 10mm range of kit for the Cold War. This really did spark my interest as one of my very first forays into historical wargaming focussed on the modern period. Back in the eighties we were playing ‘what if’ scenarios of Warsaw Pact versus Nato. We used the old WRG rules and fought out our battles with the tiny tanks and figures from Heroics and Ros. All the terrain has long since gone but I still proudly possess my Warsaw Pact forces, the rules and the excellent Army lists.

My original set from the 80's

The idea of rekindling my youthful days of Cold War engagements struck home and I got really excited about thinking of fielding this in 10mm.

I quick search in the shed found one of my old folders dedicated to this period and low and behold I not only found the rulebook but also the army lists (this is like gold dust) and some of my aid sheets - all handwritten in the days before excel

The Army Lists Book

Players Aid

Since the early days of the WRG rules a number of new rules have emerged including Team Yankee and Cold War Commander. I have bought copies of both and after a cursory read through still think the original set my serve my purposes well.

Sadly a quick email to PSC revealed that their ranges would not be available until later this year. Not to be outdone, I scoured the internet and found a few sellers of metal 10mm models. Some orders were placed and this project has now kicked off in earnest.

A later post will highlight and list the ranges available in this scale and the progress that has been made.

With a large stack of generic 10mm terrain already available I just need to create 80’s Germany. So think roads, buildings and other paraphernalia. Fortunately model railways suppliers of N guage will come to my rescue and over the coming months you will see this project come to life.

Stop Press: In the same folder I found my rulesets I found the old price list for Heroics & Ros - this is almost 40 years old !

Today a 1/300 tank from the same company is going to cost you 65p - back in the early 80's the cost was 21p. That is an increase of over 300%. Out of interest I compared this to a pint of beer. In 1980 a pint was 35p - today you would be hard pushed to find a pub serving pints under a fiver



The second project is something much bigger and more akin to the big 28mm scales armies I have built over the last few years.

This new project is to recreate the Roman invasion of Britain. Inspired in part by the excellent Simon Scarrow legion books, I am going to build the Legions of Britain and their woad painted foes, the Ancient Brits. I started thinking about this project about five months ago and having been steadily building up the plastic forces through judicious purchases on ebay. I now have several hundred Celts and Romans to assemble. Ultimately I envisage about 1000 figures on the table – around 400 Romans and 600+ Celts. Like all my previous builds these will all be plastic, the good news is that Victrix have recently launched a range of Celts and Gauls who will augment all the Warlord games boxes I have bought.

more on this in the coming weeks

I think my wallet might take a pounding at Salute in a few weeks time 😉


Monday 11 March 2019

1066 - Battle of Hastings - a 28mm Wargame

Here we go folks promised my take on 1066 Hastings. This is a long post but contains a load of information and pictures...please indulge me.

Twelve months ago I embarked on a project to bring the Battle of Hastings to the games table. As you will have seen over the last 12 months I have been painting up hundreds of plastic 28mm figures to realise this dream and in the last couple of weeks we have playtested the Hail Caesar rules to refight the other battles of 1066. 

Sunday 10th March 2019 was the culmination of this project and I was delighted to finally bring Hastings to life. As you will read in the following text the table for the game needed to be of a certain size, and sadly even the shed could not deliver the space we needed. So I packed Mrs Shed off to her parents for the day and took over our family room at the back of the house to host the game.

A big thank you at this point to my fellow gamers who joined me on that blustery Sunday morning.

Your enthusiasm and good humour created a fantastic day and one that will live on in memory for a long time.

This was an iconic battle that changed the course of English history and so to do it justice this is going to be a long post. This post will not only our game but also my research, the orders of battle and the various house rules and components we introduced to support this event.

Should any readers want to use this in their own recreations please feel free to do so, just give this blog a nod 😉

Setting the Table
Settling on the Size of table

I am very aware that there is some dispute over the real location of the actual battle but for the purposes of this game we will be fighting this engagement at Senlac Hill with the Saxon line ranged across the top of the hill where Battle Abbey now stands.

In order to scale this battlefield we can use the dimensions of crest of the hill that Harold was defending. His flanks were guarded by woodlands and steep climbs up the sides and reverse of the hill. William’s only choice was a frontal assault.

The frontage of Harold’s position was about half a mile in width (approximately 800 meters). With a troop ratio of 1-10 this would mean we need a scaled frontage of about 80metres.

The following calculations illustrate on how  I arrived at a scaled view of the Saxon frontline.

Using a scale of 28mm = 1.5metres (the height of an average man in 1066) the games table would need to be 1.5metres wide for a ratio of 1 to 10.

Calculation: 80 metres divided by 1.5 multiplied by 28 – 1.45 meters.

Such a table is too narrow for our game but clearly illustrates how tight this battlefield really was.
More calculations needed….

1.      On the basis that each Saxon warrior is standing shoulder to shoulder with his neighbour in the shield wall the total number of actual troops in the front rank would have been about 1300 men (I have worked on the assumption that each man needs 60cm of space – around 2ft).

The historical records talk of the ranks as being so tightly packed the dead remained standing up !

2.       Such a frontage of troops means that there would have been at least 6 ranks of Saxons facing the Normans. So on our scaled map I need 130 men facing the Normans in the first rank.
3.       However, my figures are not based in tight formation. Each of my figures is based with three of his mates on a 5cm x 5cm base (so each man occupies 2.5cm of game table frontage).

4.       By multiplying the 130 figures by 2.5cm gives a table width of 325cm – Decision the table will be 3 metres wide.

This means my final ground scale is now 1cm = 2.6m (80 metres divided by 3 meters on the table)

As far as the depth of the battlefield is concerned we will need to illustrate the top of the hill, the hill itself and the valley where the Normans mustered.

The Hail Caesar rules give bows of this period a range of 18 inches (45 cm) – using our ground scale this means these bows can shoot (45cm x 2.6metres) around 117 meters – according to my internet searches the bows of the time had a killing range of about 90 meters so I think we can keep these ranges as they are.

Given the real battle started with the Norman Archers shooting at the shieldwall we should keep the forces a minimum of 60cm apart. This way the archers will have to advance into range when they want to shoot.

As far as the Saxon Line is concerned I reckon 60cm of depth from table edge to front rank would be sufficient to denote the ridge at the top of the hill. The base edge of the Saxon line will be the point where the hill falls away.

Further reading on the battle suggests that the hill in front of the Norman varied in gradient from 1 in 8 to around 1 in 12. We can use an average of a 1 in 10 slope. (The flanks and reverse were much steeper) By making the slope 60cm in depth I can create an elevation of 6cm – enough to suggest a gentle slope and prevent the figures sliding down. A further 80cm on the valley floor provides a table depth of 2 metres

The battlefield needs to feature the slope – a small rise in the slope part way down the Saxon right flank (the hillock), the London road (more likely a track) running across the battlefield, and the marshy ground in the valley. 

Using the kitchen table as the main support I constructed a sturdy 3.5metre x 2 metre table in the middle of the room. 

The table

Hill added - top of hill padded out with pink foam and boards

Here you can see the slope

Sitting astride the boards was a hill slope constructed from timber earlier in the week. Once my teddybear throw (2 stitched together) was thrown over and a few trees added the table was good to go.

Add one (actually two ) teddy bear throws. These were sold in Dunelm but are sadly no longer available

All of the troops on both sides (bar any Saxon reinforcements) will start on the table in their deployed positions.

The best bit.....

Then came the very pleasant job of putting out all the figures. This was the first time all of the figures had graced the table and aside from a few odds and ends 95% of what I painted made it onto the field. Standing back and looking at the finished article was a very proud moment. Indeed when my gamer's arrived they were pretty impressed and very keen to get things underway.

almost 1500 plastic soldiers

Ready for battle

It was at this point I fortified my guest’s with bacon rolls and then proceeded to explain what would happen. We agreed in advance that play would take place between 10am and 4pm – with food and drink being available as and when folks wanted.

Background to the Battle

This battle was the culmination of three men’s attempts to secure the crown of England. In the period of a couple of months England witnessed three of the most bloody battles of the Dark Ages and English society was changed forever.

In January 1066 the English King Edward the Confessor died leaving no immediate heir. The throne was seized by his son in law, the most powerful Earl in the kingdom, Harold Godwinson. His conation sparked two others to react. Harold Hardrada, King of Norway, who had his own claim through King Cnut (and no doubt spurred on by Harold’s estranged brother Tostig) made plans to invade. Similar preparations were made by William, Duke of Normandy. His claim, also tenuous was based on the promise that Edward had bequeathed him the throne and was supported by oath from Godwinson.

By the late summer of 1066 King Harald Hardrada invaded the north of England and soundly beat the Northern Saxon Earls at Fulford. (you can read our interpretation of Fulford here)

A few weeks later Hardrada’s ambitions came to a grisly end at the Battle of Stamford Bridge (our refight is here) when faced by the army of Harold Godwinson. Whilst the Saxon king was fighting in the North William the Bastard invaded the southern coast of England near Pevensey.

With victory still ringing in his ears, Harold marched his forces south to meet this new threat. A couple of weeks later the forces were to meet on the road leading out of Pevensey marshes on what was known as Senlac Hill.

The focus of our game will be to re-enact this engagement as best we can in both a methodical and fun way. One of my concerns when putting together this project was that the battle might just end up as an attritional maul with little tactical and strategic planning so with a bit of artistic license I have endeavored to create a scenario where both sides can fully participate and have a chance of winning.

Designed very much as a team game – ideally with three players a side. Two players will play the lead protagonists, William and Harold, and these will control and command the central divisions of each of their armies. The remaining players will play the divisional commanders on the left and right flanks of their respective armies. Each player will control a ‘lead personality’ and a defined number of sub-commanders.

The Saxons await on the hill

The Rules
For this refight of the battle we used the Hail Caser rules produced by Warlord Games. The choice was relatively easy given the familiarity we have with comparable rules sets – Black Powder & Pike & Shotte.

Inevitably I tweaked the rules to fit with the scenario.

The stats for each unit will be lifted directly from the Army lists provided by Warlord Games for this period. Player sheets appear at the end of this guide.

The Objectives

William’s Objective:

William’s objective for this game is simple he must kill Harold. 

Were Harold to escape he could raise his dragon banner elsewhere in the country and prolong the resistance. Ultimately William does not have the sufficient man power to engage in a prolonged campaign.

To avoid a scenario where Harold might flee the field, Harold may not leave the battlefield until either 2/3rd of his forces are broken or his elite Huscarls have been defeated.

This is a fight to the death. Unless Harold is killed the Normans cannot win the game. As soon as Harold is killed the entirety of the Saxon army will rout and it is game over.

Should the Norman Army ‘break’ the Saxon Army but Harold is able to flee then the Normans can only claim a minor victory.

The Norman Army waits

Harold’s Objective:

Harold, conversely, does not need to kill William he just needs to blunt this invader’s capability to take his throne. Harold just needs to break the Norman Army on his shield wall.

Harold wins a major victory if the Norman Army is broken. 2/3rds of the Norman must be shaken or disordered at the end of a Saxon turn.

Should William die his half-brother, Bishop Odo, will assume command but all units will suffer -1 to their morale for the remainder of the battle. If Odo and William die the Saxons may also claim victory.

The Armies

Both armies were said to be of comparable size with estimated numbers ranging from 5000 to 12000.

Using the excellent Osprey series book on the battle of Hastings I have decided to use their listed order of battle for the two sides, for the purposes of this game we will assume that each army consists of around 7000 troops.

This count works well with the forces I have available for the game with some 700 x 28mm figures painted per side and gives a ratio of approximately 1 to 10.

The Saxon Army was comprised entirely of foot and the historical records report that these were all infantry. It is unlikely that Harold had any formed archer units and certainly no cavalry. That does not mean that the Saxons did not have archers available they just weren’t available in large numbers.

We also know that Harold had a unit of his personal bodyguard (Huscarls) with him. These were most likely to be found in the centre protecting the king and the standards.

His infantry would have been drawn from two sources, the Thegns (landowning Saxons with quite possibly good military equipment and training) and the Ceorls (local farmers and peasants with little or no equipment and training). These two types of troops would have been mustered by the King at the time of war in what was known as the Fyrd.

From the various accounts I have read it appears that the front ranks of the Saxon shield wall would have been made up of the better troops in Harold’s army (the Thegns) with the lesser and lighter troops in a more supporting role.

From an organizational perspective the Saxon forces were organized into bands of approx. 100 men with each band lead by a ‘hundredthman’

The Saxon Dragon Banner looking down from the hill

To keep things manageable in the game the Saxon Army will consist of only three types of Warriors

·         The Housecarls
·         Thegns (heavy Infantry)
·         Ceorls (light Infantry)
S     Sling armed Skirmishers

All units will be  two ranks deep with a frontage of 25cm.
We have more information pertaining to the Norman Army with many records stating that it was a combined force of Archers, Infantry and Cavalry.

These will be split into three divisions – Bretons on the Left, Normans in the centre and French on the right.

The Norman Army

Unlike the Saxons the Norman forces will consist of a few more different troops types, again all will be standard sized with a facing of 25cm (note that each cavalry unit will consist of 10 horsemen)

·         Archers
·         Medium Infantry
·         Heavy Infantry
·         Medium Cavalry
·         Norman Knights

All players were given a summary of the Hail Caesar rules and this handout with houserules

Birds Eye View - just before kick off

Lets Fight the Game !!

A short write up followed by pictures...

Having outlined the objectives and house rules of the day I announced who would be playing on which side. As the host I decided that I wanted to play the role of Harold and I knew Mark also wanted to stand behind the shieldwall. This left Alastair, Glenn and a newcomer to our games Steven to take the role of the invaders. Alastair commanded the Normans in the centre, Glenn the Franco/Flemish forces on the right wing and Steven the Bretons (left wing) .

Both sides then broke to discuss their strategies. Mark & I (Saxon) decided that we would get our frontal units into Shieldwall as quick as possible and then avoid any movement that might cause a blunder. Our game at Fulford demonstrated very clearly that a bad order can have devastating effects on defending troops. Only if the opportunity presented itself would we come off the hill. Ours was to be a very static defence.

The Normans kicked off proceedings and made a general advance up this slope. It soon became evident that the Normans were going to try and pin down our right flank and throw their centre and rightflank against the Saxon line – it looked like I was going to be the target.

Early on in the game the Norman archers came up against the limited number of Saxon skirmishers. Some rather fortuitous dice rolling by yours truly routed a lead archer unit. First blood to the Saxons. It was at that point my luck deserted me – for the rest of the game all my dice rolls went against me. I had a nightmare – every set of rolls for hits and saves were at best average and virtually every break test I was called upon to roll failed spectacularly. I have never rolled so many snake eyes.

Within a few turns the Norman cavalry on their right flank had crashed into the Saxon line and were slaughtering my troops. Two Saxon units quickly succumbed to Glenn’s aggressive actions, and as became the norm on the Saxon left flank, support units were driven back or routed in the ensuing action.

After a couple of hours of gameplay my forces had been decimated and I was only just holding the line. By now the Norman centre had reached the Saxon lines and after a brief exchange of missile fire the centre was under heavy pressure from sustained Norman charges. Only the right flank was holding for the Saxons (and that was because the Breton’s sole aim was to pin these guys down rather than force the battle across the line.

The Norman cavalry were living up to their reputation as the kings of the dark age battlefield and the combined arms force of William was causing no end of troubles for the single purpose Saxon line. History was repeating itself. Despite the judicious use of our tactics cards the Normans were coming up trumps in virtually every assault. The only saving grace was that both feigned flights planned by the Normans came to nought and the resilient Englishmen refused to come off the hill.

As time marched on the casualty lists began to mount – for every Norman unit taken out in battle the Saxons were losing two. A rate of attrition that was only going to end one way.

Realising the Saxons were in dire straits Alastair charged his remaining heavy knights, lead by Bisdop Odo, into the centre.

Crashing into the conscripted Fyrd, the middle of Saxon line collapsed. The defences had been breached and Harold was in severe danger of being overrun. Odo’s knights were then turned on by what remained of the Saxon forces gallantly holding on. A small victory for the Anglo's as Odo was dragged from his horse and sent to meet his maker earlier than he intended.

It was almost over – the Saxon left and centre had disintegrated.

As a final act of defiance the Kings household troops charged down the slope into the fray- these hardened warriors wiping out a unit o archers and a badly mauled unit of knights. But it was too late. William (soon to be known as the Conqueror) personally lead his mounted body guard into the melee delivering the final coup de grace. What of Harold – he survived but his army is in tatters and his reputation severely tarnished.

In hindsight he was never going to be killed in conflict unless he put himself in harms way. So on the basis the Normans utterly crushed the Saxons they were awarded the victory  

The Normans kick off....

Awaiting the the Saxons at the top of the hill

The Saxon defences look impregnable

The Normans advance with care

Saxon skirmishers run out to taunt the French

A short firefight in no mans land

The Breton right advances up to the Saxon line

As does the left wing - French and Flemish mercenaries

Finally the Norman centre moves up

Blows, spears and taunts on the Saxon left

The Saxons are still quietly confident

Harold studies his lines and forms his troops up in Shieldwall

The Normans unleash their arrow storm

In the far distance tyhe Norman right flank has made contact

Cavalry crashes into infantry - ouch

Here comes the Norman Centre

Harold's position is starting to look threatened by advancing Horse

The battle is raging across the front

Those Normans keep coming

We are tryng to hold them

Combined arms of Normans proving a better job than the single purpose saxon army

Pushing up the hill

Its getting desperate on the crest

The right flank of the Normans regroups

Giving time for the Saxons to catch their breath

Things are starting to go wrong in the centre

The Saxon left collapses

As the last stand of the Huscarls is revealed

The Normans push on to victory

The Saxons are staring at defeat

The Housecarls launch a desparate drive to take out William

The end...a lot fewer forces grace the table

Thats it folks - the Battle of Hastings has been fought and the rest is history

Thanks for following this project and in my next post I'll tell you what I am working on next...


Some House Rules for Hastings

Histories report that the battle started at the 3rd hour (09.00am) and raged all day. It wasn’t until the late afternoon that William’s forces finally overran the Saxons and Killed Harold. This would have been around 4-5pm. Sunsets in October at around 6pm.

Realistically the soldiers of the day could not bash each other up for eight straight hours.

I believe that the real battle was probably more like an American Football match with periods of high intensity and then a series of time outs and breaks.

These interludes would have allowed both sides to catch their breath, reform battle lines and rally shaken troops. This view is reinforced by the Bayeux Tapestry which shows the Norman archers restocking arrows during the battle.

Given the Saxons were defending the timetable of the battle would have been determined by the Normans.  

To reflect this in our game William has the opportunity during the game to call time outs. He may do this twice during the game provided the following criteria are met.

  • ·         That there are no formed Saxon units anywhere other than on the ridge line (ie not disordered)
  • ·         none of his forces are either engaged with enemy troops
  • ·         none of his troops are in initiative range of a Saxon attack.

If all these criteria are met the Norman player may call the time out.

Note: Should the Saxon players have decided to come off the hill to attack the time outs may not be called – until such time that all formed Saxon troops are back on the ridge line.

At the point a time out is called the players on both sides may do the following:

Saxon Player:
·         All units currently disordered are longer disordered and may make one move but not over the ridge line – exception disordered Saxon units not on the hill may retreat backwards towards the hill and remove disorder
·         All units that are shaken may make one move but not forward
·         All commanders may rally one unit that they are attached to or if not attached within 12” without making a command roll

Norman Player
·         All units may make two free moves but not forward up the hill (they may move forward on the valley floor
·         All units currently disordered are longer disordered and may make one move
·         All units that are shaken may make one move but not forwards
·         Commanders may rally one unit that they are either attached to or within 12” without making a command roll
·         Archery units may restock *see archery

Note: The Norman player may call a maximum of two timeouts in the battle.

All troops may pass through one another without causing disorder in this phase.

Archery/Missile Troops

Only the Normans have designated Archery troops. Every Saxon unit has its short range throwing weapons as per standard rules.

The considered historical view is that the initial archery phase of the battle had little affect on the Saxon shieldwall – the archers were firing up hill and that a limited arrow supply was evident.

Given the Saxons had few archers the number of reusable shafts lying in the Norman’s half of the field would have been minimal.
However, as mentioned previously, the Bayeux Tapestry shows the archers restocking during the latter part of the battle and of course we all know what happened to Harold in the latter part of the day.

Therefore the Archers units will be limited to three rounds of firing at full effect, thereafter they fire with only one dice. Once the Normans have called their second timeout we can assume that supplies have reached the archers and they can restock back to three fire phases.  No Archery unit may have more than three archery counters.

Moving/Seeing through units

This is a crowded battlefield with units densely packed.

Only archery units on the Norman side may freely pass through other units or have units pass through them with no chance of disorder.

Only Archery units can be seen through when it comes to charge targets for the Normans. Please note that these are not skirmish units so may not evade.

Units other than archers that pass through one another must dice for disorder. Both units affected dice. On a roll of 123 the unit is deemed to be disordered.  

Battlefield Tactic Cards

Each General will receive a small deck of Battlefield Tactic Cards, these may only be played once during the game and then discarded. The card should be self-explanatory when it can be played.

Some of the Saxon Battle cards


1.       Feigned Flight: Played at the beginning of the Saxon turn. Any units within 12” of a single commander may retreat a full move backwards. All enemy units in the front quarter of these retreating units must then advance x number of moves unless successfully commanded otherwise – each unit must be commanded successfully. A failure to command (ie keep them to hold ground) will cause the unit to advance as any moves forward that they failed (ie think of this as a command roll in reverse). Should the Saxon units hit the retreating Normans combat ensues normally.

2.       Withering Storm: Played at the beginning of the Norman archery phase – all archery units add +1 attack dice

3.       The Papal Banner: Must be played at the beginning of the game. One unit has been given the honour of carrying the Papal banner  - this gives that unit +2 attack dice for the whole game.  Should the unit be lost all surrounding units within 12” take break test at -1

4.       The Conqueror Lives – should William fall in combat (and die) the Saxons might think they have won the battle – however William survives (albeit wounded) – Place William within any unit 12” from the point he fell. William may continue to fight but only has one wound remaining and can only add +3 to a unit’s attacks.

5.       An Arrow in the Eye: Played before the Norman shooting phase. One designated archery unit will deliver 4 automatic hits and a disorder  (Saxons still get their morale saves) – if this target unit has a commander attached that commander automatically receives 1 wound. May not be played in conjunction with Withering Fire.

6.       No retreat, No surrender (as we haven’t got anywhere to go): Maybe played at the beginning of the Norman order phase – one unit in the Norman army that is not disordered will automatically rally removing two stamina. The unit may have just taken wounds or is already shaken.

7.       Iron Discipline: Played at the end of any combat phase. One Norman unit may automatically remove a disorder marker.

8.       Heroic Deed: Played on any non named commander attached to a unit before a combat phase. This Commander throws himself into the fight with complete disregard for his safety – increase his attack dice to +5 for that round. Although his deeds will be written about for ages he will not live to read them.

9.       Confusion in the ranks. Played before the beginning of the Saxon command phase. The Normans may designate one unit of Saxons (not Huscarls) and that unit may not use its initiative or receive any orders that turn. The unit targetted must NOT Have a commander attached

10.   Advance to the enemy: Played at the beginning of the Norman turn: Every unit in one designated division may make one move/charge towards the Saxons as if under initiative – no further command rolls may be made. Units shaken and/or disordered may retreat.

11.   This land will be ours: Any one unit may reroll a break test taking the better of the two values

12.   Our brothers are with us. May be played at the end of a combat resolution. All supporting units for one unit may double their value


13.   Confusion. Played before the beginning of the Norman command phase. The Saxons may designate one unit of Normans and that unit may not use its initiative or receive any orders that turn. The unit targetted must NOT Have a commander attached

14.   This land is ours: Any one unit may reroll a break test taking the better of the two values

15.   Stragglers arrive – played at the beginning of the Saxon Command phase one additional unit of thegns arrive to support the king. They enter the battle on the road behind the Saxon lines

16.   Hold the Line – Played at the beginning of any combat phase. Before dice are rolled one designated unit receives a +1 morale save for that round

17.   Panic in their Ranks - Played at the beginning of any combat round one designated Norman Infantry unit receives a -1 morale save for that turn.

18.   Slippery with Blood – Played after a Norman unit has successfully pressed home a charge – this only affects one unit. The Unit charging stops 3” from the Saxon unit targeted

19.   Heroic Deed: Played on any non named commander attached to a unit before a combat phase. This Commander throws himself into the fight with complete disregard for his safety – increase his attack dice to +5 for that round. Although his deeds will be written about for ages he will not live to read them.

20.   The Dragon Roars – Played before any single combat. Any single unit Saxon charge gets to reroll any missed attacks in the first round of combat

21.   The Dragon Banner: Must be played at the beginning of the game. One unit has been given the honour of carrying the Dragon banner  - this gives that unit +2 attack dice for the whole game. Should the unit be lost all surrounding units within 12” take break test at -1

22.   Iron Discipline: Played at the end of any combat phase. One Saxon unit may automatically remove a disorder marker.

23.   Shields Up: Must be played at end of Norman command phase and before their shooting. All shooting attacks lose one attack dice this round.

24.   We stand together: May be played at the end of a combat resolution. All supporting units for one unit may double their value


Historically the commanders of battles in the Dark Ages got stuck in – they were warriors and their presence in the front line was not only seen as one of valour but it was expected.

In this game we want to see these generals get stuck in, to create the heroic moments of the sagas and lead those charges.

Please note that these rules supercede those given in the rule book.

Saying that leading from the front does not help you to command and order your army, to take those tactical decisions that will sway the battle and react quickly to events outside your immediate vicinity. So with that in mind we will adopt the following rules to get those folks stuck in.

William & Harold will both add +5 attack dice rolls to a unit that they are attach themselves to. The other  commanders +3. 

When attached to a unit the commander can in the command phase either use the follow me rule or issue commands to any unit within 12” of his position But not both. Commanders not attached to units are not affected by the 12” rule of command.

A unit may not be rallied unless the commander attaches himself to said unit.(see exception in phases)

The commanders themselves must take a hit to be killed - 

When the unit attacks/defends in melee/missile fire but not broken and has a commander attached

Roll 2d6  - for melee on an 11,12 the commander takes one wound, for archery the score required is 12

When a unit is broken in a combat (missile or melee) the number of hits including and pass the shaken point are added to the 2d6 die roll. A score of 12 or more is an instant kill,

Eg William is attached to a cavalry unit that is one point from being shaken. They take four fits after saves. The commander kill roll is thrown. The saxon player rolls an 8. To this score he adds +3, the number of hits that have been taken including the shaken point. This gives a score of 11 – William is wounded. Had the Saxons rolled a nine or more William would be dead.

Any wounded commander (bar William or Harold) issues commands at -1 for the remainder of the game. A general attached to a shaken unit will retreat with that unit. They can either choose to rally that unit the following turn or flee to the safety of another. Normal rules permitting.