Sunday 28 April 2024

The Battle of Brunanbugh 937 : Much blood will be spilt !

For this weeks battle we move back into the ‘Dark Ages’ mainly as I had an itch to get my Welsh on the table after our recent castle trip. Unfortunately I don’t have a suitable 13th Century British force so we went a little further back in history to the Battle of Brunanbugh. Although you can find a lot written about the battle little is actually known as it is referenced fairly briefly in a number of the Anglo Saxon chronicles and mainly in a Poem, the debate rages as to the location of the battle although Bromborough on the Wirral has been making a claim most vocally. It is also the end battle in the recent Bernard Cornwall TV last Kingdom series ?

An ‘illustration’ of the battle ?

My short summary for our battle is as follows. Athelstan the King of ‘ England’ (West Saxons) has been throwing his weight around and gradually building a stronger alliance across the bulk of what is now Southern England. His aspiration goes further and a few years earlier 934 I think he invaded what is now Scotland putting King Constantine II in his place. Things have then settled down again but the Picts are not happy. Constantine builds his own alliance with Olaf Guthfrithson King of Dublin and the ruler of the Vikings who have settled there. Owain of Strathclyde is brought into the rebellion with his border forces as well. This conglomerate army gathers and moves south to give Athelstan a bloody nose. Athelstan sets out from Wessex with his army picking up, a strong contingent of Mercians on the way and according to some sources mercenary Vikings as well. What could be better Saxons, Picts, Stratclyde/welsh and Vikings on both sides. There is some debate as to whether the Saxons had some cavalry at the battle so in the words of one infamous Director if you weren’t there how do you know ?. (After all I do have the figures so…… we also squeezed some archers in 😀)

Our setup, big but fairly equal forces, the Saxons generally more heavily armed. Both armies are split into their three broad contingents. The winner would be chosen by the most blood shed at the end of the day ! Be warned this battle was not for the feint hearted.
In the foreground the Dublin Vikings under Olaf occupy the high ground, beyond them the Owain with his Strathclyde/Welsh, in the distance the Picts under Constantine.
Athelstan holds the opposing high ground with his heaviest armed Saxons, the Mercians take the low ground opposite the welsh and the mercenary Vikings are posted on the left
The Picts have brought their fearsome war dogs to the battle (go Ridley Scott)
Once in place the forces begin to close, this is a time blood and sweat the winner needs to be the most aggressive, for now though Olaf keeps his force on the high ground
The welsh and Picts howl and scream running forward 
The Saxons edge forward clashing swords and spears on shields, some ineffective arrows are fired but have limited effect, although the first casualty is one of Athelstans Thanes on the hill perhaps hit in the eye ?
Woof…….sadly of course in a small skirmish battle the war dogs would be impressive and scary here they are simple brushed aside by the Mercenary Northumbrian Vikings
Owain and his force close on the Mercians in the centre
Some of his force approaches the base of the hill and coax Athelstan’s bodyguard to chase them down the hill
The Picts charge into the Mercenary Vikings intent on revenging the death of their canine pets
It quickly becomes obvious that this is going to be a really tough battle with units taking massive damage and being broken quickly in the front line, but more men are thrown forward from behind, the Picts initially look like they are breaking through on the right but somehow the Vikings hold ! And then push back.
The centre of the battle line is not the place for cowards 
Still Olaf holds the high ground but now the Saxons have crossing the valley and sent forward their cavalry
The Dubliners are pushed back but then regroup and start the push the Wessex men back down the hill, the cavalry get caught at the base of the hill and get butchered.
Owain has finally broken the Mercian centre, but now finds his exhausted remaining force facing left and right, they chase anything that moves the slaughter is terrible !
The battle is reaching a climax, very few units remain combat effective
The Welsh are mopping up the Mercians and any Vikings they can find
A brutal battle after several hours of fighting both forces are reduced to only two effective infantry blocks and a few skirmishers hopping about and everybody is exhausted. Sooo much blood has been spilt but it is still not clear who has taken the day, Owain advances towards the Saxon line calling out Athelstan.
They fight in single combat to settle the day, after several blows and wounds Athelstan is knocked from his horse and captured. The Scottish/welsh/Irish alliance will claim a victory unfortunately there is nobody left to cheer the win !

Such fun this was probably the bloodiest and most brutal battle we have fought for a while, the advantage swinging both ways during rounds of combat, both forces becoming increasingly exhausted with units being finished off by single figures or a couple of skirmish arrows. 

With a view to playing some more Dark age battles I picked up this useful little book in Wales last week, it is obviously not an exhaustive list and only has limited details but is a really useful start.

It includes a useful map with dates of the main battles.
and a plug for George’s ebook from the Wargame vault.
Again with some useful starting ideas for scenarios/battles in this period adaptable to any ruleset.

Do I need some more dark age figures ? I have some more cavalry already to paint in the ‘pile’ otherwise I’m thinking not but things can change…

That’s it for now no more games planned for a while as we are off on another history focussed holiday in Naples at the end of the week and hopefully some sunshine.

Thanks for popping by Matt 😀

Thursday 25 April 2024

French Dragoons more Tallarn and Welsh Castles

Painting mainly from last week with a bit completed this morning. First up some dismounted French Dragoons….these are entirely Aly Morrison’s fault, I had primed them a while ago but they sat on the todo list for ages. Then Aly painted up his ‘shiny’ version, so impressed was I that they rushed to the top of the painting queue.

Perry figures which you get with their Dragoon sets. I have created a little bit of variation and added in a command figure, trumpeter and standard, I thought about basing them individually but in the end plumbed for multibasing. They make a nice little light infantry unit for the future
Next up I have been continuing to paint up my growing Tallarn force he some artillery in the form of a Basilisk, painted to match the other vehicles
I recently treated myself to some Rough Riders, I already had the horses which made them just acceptable cost wise as they can be silly prices ! They make a fast attack unit with their exploding lances
I have also been trying to pick up a few more figures where I can get them cheap enough, some of these I painted up as a veteran squad
…..and the rest to match the other figures.
This currently leaves the force as a respectable 1000 point army for 40k or a pretty large XenonRampant force. I do have a few more bits which I’m working on, my isn’t to keep buying these but if they come up cheap.

So next to the recent castle tour of Wales the objective was to visit a number of the Edward 1st castles which we hadn’t visited in the past. I should say here that I recently did my Ancestry DNA test which confirmed pretty much what I already knew. I am mainly English but have a good 25% welsh blood so will claim a foot in both camps (the only other contributor to my heritage is a small amount of Scandinavian DNA, presumably from Vikings who settled in Mercia where my English heritage is focussed). 

So in the order we visited them :

Flint Castle the first of Edward’s Castles built between 1277 and 1286 which back then had access to the river Dee
Looking from the Great tower, which is unusually separate from the main body of the castle towards the Dee in the distance
Looking the other way towards the great tower which was isolated on all sides by tidal water
and from the front open walled section towards what would have been the gatehouse

Rhuddlan Castle 1277-1282, built during the same phase of Edward’s conquest of Wales
Super impressive and built by Master James the kings castle builder of the time. Located on a previous Norman motte and Bailey. Above the Gate house built to impress or intimidate
The gatehouse across the dry moat
Rhuddlan is partly famous as Edward wanting to have boat access for resupply got his workforce to divert the River Clwyd this took three years to complete

Denbigh Castle 1282-1311, Edward encouraged his lords to also build castle to subdue the troublesome welsh, Denbigh was built by Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln and included the town as it was then as a small English enclave
The gatehouse remains the most impressive remaining structure made of three octagonal towers and lots of fancy stonework
It has a particularly well preserved posturn gate and access with shallow stone steps to allow horse access across two separate drawbridges

Dolwyddelan Castle 1170 or so, this was a Welsh castle and not one of Edward’s. Famously Llewelyn the Great was born here around 1173
A very dramatic location on a hill really only the Norman keep remains intact and sadly this only seems to have limited access, but a wonderful spot for a picnic

Harlech Castle, one of the ‘big four’ built in the 1280’s at enormous cost. State of the art at the time and a super impressive location for Master James of St George who became constable of the castle whilst he was completing his other builds further north. It’s history includes capture by Owain Glyndwr in the early 1400’s.
Access today is across the bridge to the right which back in the day would have been draw bridges between two separate gate towers.
It remains impressive inside today with views out to the mountains
A view from the top showing how far the sea has retreated as back in the day boats to supply the castle at the bottom of the cliffs

Aberystwyth Castle, a castle had been at or close to the location since Norman times but again in 1277 Edward demanded something much larger. Sadly now fairly ruinous you can still get a sense of the scale.
The large structure at the back is actually the rear of the main gatehouse
The highest remaining tower facing towards the sea which here hasn’t retreated at all and is only a few yards across a road

Montgomery Castle, a slightly later castle built around 1225 by the English to again control the welsh borders. Another impressive hilltop location overlooking the town of Montgomery.
The hilltop location protected on three sides by cliffs and dry moats
The bridge is across one of two huge ditches, presumably at least partially man made to protect the main access
The inner courtyard of the castle
The area has seen much history and as this noticeboard identifies it overlooks the location of the battle of the same name during the English Civil wars.

A final shot of my intrepid fellow castle explorer enjoying some Fish and chips overlooking the sea at Aberystwyth
 I should say we did do some other stuff although my daughter does enjoy visiting castles,  preferring the ones with gift shops !

Thanks as always for checking by, we are already planning another trip later in the year to more castles 

Matt 🙂

Monday 22 April 2024

Peninsular Napoleonic Battle : V&F (plus more)

Several things to catch up on this week 😀

Firstly following the recent V&F French Russian battles it seemed time to get my British onto the table with a Peninsular battle. Surprisingly I seem to have painted almost as many British as I have french ? So they are fairly well balanced. Steve would take control of the British as this was his first run out with V&F and he could defend, the French would be tasked with assaulting.
The French are assaulting from the two long edges, the British holding the higher ground which is cut by a ravine in the centre. Forces are roughly equal with five infantry brigades  and some supporting cavalry. Reserves for both sides are marching to the sound of the guns but will arrive randomly both in terms of timing and potential location.
A view from the other side of the battlefield, showing the British on the high ground
The main french army moves quickly to assault before the British reserves can arrive, opening up with their heavy artillery.
A smaller french brigade takes the church to protect their flank
They face the British light Brigade coming down the ravine.
The British see an opportunity to outflank the french and move off the ridge , the black watch leading the way
Playing a devious fate card the French light cavalry surge forward, catching the British light cavalry in march column and send them fleeing off the ridge.
The main assault pushes forward towards the ridge where the British foot guards await the onslaught ! On the left French dragoons arrive
In the same turn the British cavalry arrives and is sent to protect the rear of the British line from the marauding Chasseurs
The Foot guards don’t waver and prepare to receive the charge
The British ‘lights’ form into square to prevent the Chasseurs attacking them
The rest of the light brigade push forward supported by the Highlanders
Another fate card for the French Vive L’empereur sees the leading French brigade rush up the hill into the foot guards, needless to say the hold the first charge
Worryingly for the British the french dragoons are now on the move !
The Black watch are overly confident and get too far ahead of the rest of their brigade and take a serious volley they are quickly shaken and have to withdraw from the field (technically rout but we can’t have the Blackwatch rout can we !)
The British heavy cavalry charge along the back of the British lines to chase away the french Chasseurs it’s no contest
The headstrong British cavalry have to charge through and hit the french infantry, but they are tired and somehow (poor dice roll) fail to break through and are pushed back
More British reserve brigades arrive from the right
But they are matched by french arriving as well
The cavalry skirmish continues behind the lines with the French dragoons who are still fresh charging the British heavy cavalry 
At this point we reached our end time, the French Cavalry have broken through and the french infantry after a tough fight have seen off the Foot guards and captured one half of the ridge. Plenty of fight left in the British but a French victory on this occasion. With one British brigade broken and several shaken.

A good battle, great of course to get the British out on the table. I had reread the rules since the last game so attempted to remove the few errors we made. What this did mean is the brigades were actually much tougher than before even when they started to lose Regiments. We had started with 3 brigades each side and although by the end we were moving through turns quite quickly we both had reserves who didn’t really make it into the battle. For future games I need to ensure the initial troops get into battle quicker and the reserves arrive earlier. One option would be to implement a brigade collapse rule which might speed things up ?

I also played down at George’s  new delux gaming palace. We played what proved to be the last in our Smolensk campaign. George has already down a write up of the battle so really I will just share a couple of shots I took of his lovely Russian terrain.

The Russians would be attacking from the left, and if they could secure a win the campaign would be a major win for the Russians. So the fight was on !
Cautious Russian deployment as they need to overwhelm the German defenders not go in piecemeal
Costing 8 points it is expensive but the KV1e is a heavily armoured mobile machine gun even with an antitank gun the Germans struggled to knock it out
Ready to the assault the Russians have carefully brought up all their troops
With concentrated firepower the Russians got the upper hand slowly driving the defenders back. For one moment the Germans came back with a counterattack and suddenly it was  very close but the Russians pulled through for the win
The battle saw the return of Anastasia my Russian sniper girl. Here she is being awarded a medal for her performance.
So a campaign win for the Russians , thanks of course to George for setting up and hosting the campaign, very enjoyable and looking forward to the next one 👍

Been out and about in Penrith and visited this Iron Age site just south of the town

Only one standing stone remains in the centre.
The site is called Mayburgh Henge, the embankments were created by carrying river cobbles from the nearby river !!

That’s it for now, next up some painting progress and some castles as I’m currently touring wales visiting some of Edward I’s famous creations

Thanks for checking in Matt