Saturday, 21 February 2015

Boernward Oferheah - the 'magnificent'

Boernward masses his force
Last night saw the latest instalment of our ongoing Dux Britanniarum campaign. With the previous death of Eadwulf the Good the tribes on the west coast of Cumberland had rallied around a new leader. Boernward Oferheah (a giant of a man). But whilst he organised his forces Ivar the cowardly northman had laid siege to a coastal town. Boernward would need all his great strength to break the siege and defeat Ivar in open battle.

Boernwar formed his troops together with his new champion Gudrum of Ellenfoot seen here carrying the banner. As a pitched battle you can roll for special events so Boernward broke open the beer barrels in the hope of giving his men some extra courage. It worked giving them an additional D6 in each first combat (it would have been good if I had remembered this).

Ivar's horde came running out of the trees splitting their units in two, in what looked like an attempt to surround Boernward outside the town gates.

Battlefield set with Northmen entering from the left
The best Cumberland troops pushed forward to attempt to delay the onslaught, but caution in such an open battlefield is often the best approach and Boernward ordered his army to lock shields. There was a tense pause as the Vikings came on readying themselves for the charge. Luckily a small copse forced the Vikings to remain split into two groups, this would at least mean the battle wouldn't be decided in one huge mele.

Boernward orders his men to lock shields
Ivar cunning as ever sought to boost his first charge in an attempt to break the shield wall in the rush (several good cards played to help the Vikings) only to find the Vikings charge came up short, they threw their spears but to little effect. It was now too late to hold back and the Vikings charged in. The first real clash of the battle immediately saw Boernward and Ivar up against each other, but the Vikings were out numbered. After weathering the first rush Boernward called in support from his bodyguard.

Bracing for the first clash

On the other side of the battle field the Vikings seeing their Lord charge in advanced towards the Cumberland levy. Was the order mis-heard or was it the magic mushrooms ? we'll never know but in the confusion of battle they immediately charged headlong into the levy shield wall. Although much better quality troops they were out numbered and the Levy not only weathered the storm but pushed them back suddenly the Vikings were looking shocked and anxious.

The question now was how would Boernward convert this good start. It is really difficult to push forward an advantage in shield wall formation, which is slow and inflexible. But Boernward was determined to use his early advantage calling his troops out of their defensive formation and aggressively charging forward. Clearly Ivar had not been expecting this and the shock was immediate.

English levy shield wall holds firm

Suddenly the Vikings were being pushed back on both sides of the battlefield. Things were turning nasty. Ivar sought to rally his units on the left trying desperately to pull them back in some order and re group. In the confusion Gudrum of Ellenfoot stepped too far forward and was cut down, luckily this prevented Boernward being wounded himself by the thrust. With a roar Boernward shouted for revenge, there was to be no mercy now and his men rushed forward not allowing Ivar to reform. In the struggle that ensued Ivar was lucky to survive (some say it might have been better if he had fallen!) with two wounds he limped and was carried from the field by his bodyguard.

Ivar wounded twice and forced to flee

The loss of Ivar and his champion, together with both nobles being wounded meant the morale of the Vikings had all but disappeared. The remaining Vikings shocked to see Ivar being carried from the field also decided to break and flee. But Boernward wasn't in the mood to let them away (declining the option to end the battle and choosing to pursue) , pulling his best troops forward he moved across the field seeking to block their retreat back to the coast. The vikings were already week and badly shocked. It was now only a case of how many would survive as they ran.
Blood lust - cutting off the retreat

Exhausted Vikings turn and flee for their lives
The final combats of the battle saw Boernward cutting off and smashing into the remaining viking formation from the rear. As the weakest men fell to the sword the last few turned and fled. This had been an extraordinary victory for Boenrward and it would take a long time for Ivar not only to get over his wounds but to amass enough men to again trouble the Cumberland coast. Boernward return to the town a hero and the townsfolk took up the shout Boernward the 'Magnficent' what a reputation. From the dead he was able to plunder coin sufficient to build watchtowers right across the coastal territories and to hire a new unit of archers to add to his army.

Footnote : not sure where it all went right but luck always plays a part. Choosing to pursue was a great option as I was able in the last few turns to collect 5 pursuit cards in my hand which massively boosted the victory up to +8, this far outstripped our previous best.

Boernward will now wait to see if Ivar has the will to raid his lands again !. Check out the Hobby horse for more pictures.

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