The death of the childless King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, which set up a succession struggle between several claimants to his throne. Harold was crowned king shortly after Edward's death. Two other claimants, Harald Hardrada and Duke William of Normandy then invaded. Hardrada was defeated by Harold in the north, but William took advantage of good winds and Harold's absence to cross the Channel. Harold rushed south again, and the armies encountered each other near Hastings.
Harold's forces deployed in a small, dense formation at the top of steep slope, with their flanks protected by woods and marshy ground in front of them. The line may have extended far enough to be anchored on a nearby stream. The English formed a shield wall, with the front ranks holding their shields close together or even overlapping to provide protection from attack.
Duke William appears to have arranged his forces in three groups, or "battles", which roughly corresponded to their origins. The left units were the Bretons, along with those from Anjou, Poitou and Maine. This division was led by Alan the Red, a relative of the Breton count. The centre was held by the Normans, under the direct command of the duke and with many of his relatives and kinsmen grouped around the ducal party. The final division, on the right, consisted of the Frenchmen, along with some men from Picardy, Boulogne, and Flanders. The right was commanded by William fitzOsbern and Count Eustace II of Boulogne. The front lines were made up of archers, with a line of foot soldiers armed with spears behind.
The battle opened with the Norman archers shooting uphill at the English shield wall, to little effect. The uphill angle meant that the arrows either bounced off the shields of the English or overshot their targets and flew over the top of the hill. After the attack from the archers, William sent the spearmen forward to attack the English. They were met with a barrage of missiles, not arrows but spears, axes and stones. The infantry was unable to force openings in the shield wall, and the cavalry advanced in support. The cavalry also failed to make headway, and a general retreat began, blamed on the Breton division on William's left. A rumour started that the duke had been killed, which added
to the confusion. The English forces began to pursue the fleeing invaders, but William rode through his forces, showing his face and yelling that he was still alive. The duke then led a counter-attack against the pursuing English forces; some of the English rallied on a hillock before being overwhelmed.
Anglo-Saxon Army (Use Tan blocks)
• Leader: King Harold II
• 5 Command Cards
• 2 Inspired Action tokens
Norman Army (Use Purple blocks)
• Leader: Duke William (the Bastard)
• 6 Command Cards
• 3 Inspired Action tokens
• Move First
The Norman Medium Cavalry units are not armed with bows.
The river is impassable
All supported Auxilia battle back with 1 extra die
Both Sides uses Byzantine Inspired Actions
Gave this a test run yesterday, and was pretty happy with the way it played. Added an extra LB to the Saxons, just to balance a little the "stand off and shoot" possibility, but it equally could have been adding a time pressure Victory banner special rule.
In the playtest, the Saxons stepped back off the crest, and the Normans edged forwards. A Saxon foray on their right was quite successful, and distracted the Norman assault. Ultimately they all paid the price, though an Auxilia with a leader (a newly rallied leader, my first) kept this flank troublesome for a long time.
Eventually the Normans were set, the Norman cavalry pushed forwards to engage and the Norman foot then Double Timed to the hill, which the Saxons had moved up to the crest to defend again. This Norman assault rather spectacularly failed, with several units destroyed, and even the Heavy Cavalry destroyed. At this point, the Saxons were 7-5 ahead, and seized the opportunity to pursue and try and finish the battle. However, foot wasn't swift enough to catch them, and the Norman cavalry charged from every point, and for a moment the battle hung in the balance at 8-8. The Saxons had one chance to win, but the cavalry evaded safely, and then charged back to finish the Saxons.
Quite a thrilling match, and very interesting to see the balances between an all foot army vs a mostly foot army with a modicum of cavalry.