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 πŸ˜€)

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 πŸ˜€



28 comments:

  1. Fantastic battle report Matt and a very bloody encounter.

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    1. Thanks Neilwill take me a few days to recover πŸ˜€

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  2. Good read and a great battle, table and figures looked great and what a bloodbath!!

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    1. Thanks Donnie I just wish the war dogs had lasted a bit longer

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  3. Great looking game there Matt! Enjoy your holiday and after the Winter and Spring we've had, some warm sunshine would be more than welcome for sure.

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    1. Thanks Steve the weather has certainly been uninspiring up here

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  4. Thanks Matt, I thoroughly enjoyed that having picked up Michael Livingston’s ‘Never Greater Slaughter’ last Friday at Waterstones. He has a rather nice coloured map inside of the Wirral Peninsular with the topography described using LIDAR (some fancy pants radar at scans the ground).

    enjoy your hols.

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    1. Thanks Norm, I haven’t looked at all the evidence but the Wirral seems a bit out of the way for such a battle ?

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  5. Now that's a Dark Age battle indeed, no quarter asked and none given, splendid stuff!
    Have a great time in old Italia!

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  6. Was an epic, I can still smell the blood. Today the picts and vikings beat the saxons and Welsh. All hope is lost in the North, although I have unleashed the irish in Scotland. There could be one final massive battle for London.

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  7. A veritable blood bath there Matt! You need more Vikings I think...

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    1. Thanks David yes more Vikings is an option ?

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  8. That was an absolute bloodbath which, as you say, you don't see that often. Have a great holiday Matt.

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    1. Thanks Lawrence although I didn’t mention it in the text a couple of units fought on with incredibly lucky morale rolls several double 1’s being rolled during the fight

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  9. Wow that certainly was a very sanguinary encounter Matt. I watched a film called (I think) "5 Kings must Die" on Netflix a few weeks ago...it was basically a retelling of this tale....very bloody, too!
    You do seem to be making the most of your retirement with all these trips...good for you...have a great time!

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    1. Thanks Keith , the film is the Bernard Cornwall book made into a film πŸ‘

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  10. An impressive slaughter fest Matt….
    Enjoy your holiday… will we see Neapolitan Napoleonics when you return… 😁

    All the best. Aly

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    1. Thank Aly………I have been thinking about some Italians for the Napoleonics, I will if you will πŸ˜€

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  11. Good to see this battle on the table. Which rules did you use?
    Stephen

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    1. Thanks Stephen our go to rules for the Dark ages are Kings of War historical, simple and elegant, we have a couple of minor house rules mainly to do with skirmishers and cavalry πŸ‘

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  12. I thought the undulating ground looked very effective.
    Stephen

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  13. Fantastic looking and playing game, Matt! I did not know that George had a Dark Age scenario book too. Enjoy Napoli!

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  14. Splendid epic battle, Wargames Atlantic are doing plastic 13th/14th century knights, just saying!
    Best Iain

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