Their boats had been seen at dawn,
They came as the sun rose over the bay of Rheged
the men of Gingus Ui Mingus
Their boats of hide spilt forth
A tide of sullen slaughter
Upon the land of our fathers
With violence they came
Their hearts dark with desires
Their spear points sharp and ready
Yet the men of Rheged
They would not succumb stealthily
Constantine, Bedwyr, Noggin.
We’re play-testing the rules and campaign system for the forthcoming Raiders supplement for Dux Britanniarum and wanted to give the Irish a run out against the Britons of Rheged in the North West. Were this part of the campaign it would have started with some raiding but we are looking to test the force balance with the sterner challenge of a full battle.
We diced for the table set up and our game began with the Irish coming in along the centre of their tabkle edge atop some high ground. The Britons entered to one side, advancing between some marshland and woods in order to present a solid shieldwall with anchored flanks.
The Britons took the option of exchanging their elite foot soldiers for a Group of mounted Shock Cavalry, but decided against supporting them with some mounted warriors. The Irish took the option of mounting their Lord in a chariot and teaming him and his champion up with their Raider cavalry, thereby improving them to contact cavalry as well as having the skirmish option.
The game began with a rousing speech by the British Lord which sent his force morale soaring and enhanced his standing for the game. The Irish sacrificed a goat but found little indication that their Gods were bothered ether way. The British champion then challenged the Irish champion to single combat. This was significant as the Irish champion would be joining the mounted troops, so killing him would pull a few teeth from that arm.
Of course it was a disaster for the Britons. Their champion was badly wounded and the Irish morale was increased. After that the Irish called for the battle to begin and we were off.
The Irish advanced down from their hill, intent on putting their missile troops and skirmishers ahead of their main body in order to inflict as much damage and disorder on the shieldwall as possible. Their cavalry they left free on the right flank.
The British advanced as quickly as they could to take up their defensive position with their Shock cavalry under Noggin on their left. A small but powerful unit.
As the lines closed the Irish cavalry rushed impetuously forward with a massive 20” move.
The British responded with an aggressive charge in the form of an Artorius card which saw them crash into the Irish supremely confident of victory. However despite everything in their favour, and the odds heavily favoured them, some truly atrocious dice rolling saw the British routed from the field and the Irish completely intact but badly shocked by their scrape.
There can be little doubt that seeing their cavalry run from the field now goaded the British into action. They could see that despite their victory the Irish cavalry were in some considerable disorder, so a quick win now could balance the odds. On the Irish left a group of Raiders had advanced too far forward and the shieldwall now engaged them in combat.
The overlap combined with the better disciplined force saw this group of raiders routing back, but the combat had drawn the British out from their security of their chosen position and they now feared for their flanks. To withdraw back was a difficult task and would involve breaking their formation and presenting their rear to their foes. They had four Groups in one large shieldwall with two groups of Warriors to the fore and two of Levy to the rear. To their front but over lapping their line were two Groups of Raiders on the Irish left near the woods, and the Irish centre was held by a group of skirmishers and slingers slightly refused. On the extreme left in the woods a further group of skirmishers were harassing the British flank.
The British sent forward a Group of Levy in reserve to drive off the skirmishers in the woods, which they did successfully. They then sent two groups from the shieldwall to take on the Raiders while the two other groups in shieldwall broke formation and ran forward pell-mell to drive off the skirmishers and slingers in the Irish centre. Their gamble was to destroy the Irish infantry before their cavalry under Ui Mingus could recover. It was a massive gamble.
In the centre the Levy from the shieldwall dispersed the Irish slingers but the Warriors failed to make contact with the skirmishers. Worse was that the shieldwall was overlapped and the two groups of Raiders fell on the flank of that formation and cut large holes in it, forcing the warriors in the front rank to retire behind the Levy.
In the centre the Irish cavalry had recovered and now simply rode down the British Warriors who had charged but failed to contact the skirmishers there. This in turn left the British levy leaderless and cut off from their force. The Irish raiders now fell on the defeated shieldwall and routed that comprehensively from the battlefield.
In a desperate move Constantine led the remnants of his reserve to deal with one group of Raiders and was successful in routing these in an attempt to cut his way through to the surrounded Levy. But all was in vain.
Ui Mingus turned his cavalry on the exposed levy and routed them from the field and a group of Irish skirmishers sealed a major Irish victory with a few javelins which saw the British rout from the table.
It was a truly massive victory. The British gamble of breaking shieldwall was a disaster as it presented Ui Mingus with a number of isolated units which was precisely what his cavalry was effective against. Had the British retained their shieldwall and kept their flanks anchored the Irish should have had the Devil’s own job breaking in. As it was one small but key move was the British levy chasing away the Irish skirmishers in the woods on their right. Had they simply ignored the skirmishers and formed up on the end of the shieldwall the Raiders would not have turned their flank and rolled up the British position.
Were this game to have occurred in a campaign Rheged would have been open to Irish raiders for six months of uncontested plundering, almost another Barbarian Conspiracy of 100 years before. Fortunately this was a playtest and next time I can see the Irish having a tougher job on their hands.
The grave of Madawg, the splendid bulwark
In the meeting of contention, the grandson of Urien,
The best son to Gwyn of Gwynlliwg.
Every one that is not dilatory inquires-
Whose is the mausoleum that is here?
It is the grave of Einyawn, the son of Cunedda;
It is a disgrace that in Prydain he should have been slain.
This year has been a busy year on Lard Island, not least because of the mileage we did taking Chain of Command on its tour of the UK. The four capitals tour took us to London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff and then we hit all points of the compass with club visits and wargames shows