Long had the borders of Alt Clut been troubled by the Picts, their loathsome hordes, dark swarms of worms that emerged from the narrow crevices of their holes when the sun is high, preferring to cover their villainous faces with hair rather than their private parts and surrounding areas with clothes. In Din Brithon, the fort of the Britons, King Dumnagual the Old looked to his northern borders and sent forth his scouts to forewarn of fresh raid. It was on the shores of the great lake Llyn Lomyn that they found their foe.
Tarmacticus spat out a curse. The riders up ahead could mean but one thing, the Britons were aware of his presence. Well, so be it. They would know soon enough, yet he had hoped to cross the broad Leamnha and burn the farms thereabout before he met the enemy in battle. It never harmed the Britons to see their farms burning and their womenfolk taken before battle was met. For this was no raid, Tarmacticus was to lay waste to the lands of his foes and show them such desolation that they would proffer tributes to their Pictish masters until the ends of time.
Across Alt Clut the call went out. To the standards came the companion troops of the King arrayed under Tafod y Ddraig, the men of the Milites under Maelgwyn and the Levy under Cadwaladr Beiddgar. Marching north from their rocky capital they drew up their lines behind the Leamnha just as the Picts approached.
Tarmacticus led from the front, his raiders rushing across the broad moorland, and then down the glen came MacAlpin’s men following their Lord towards the left hand ford and intent on crossing to outflank their British foes.
Yet now Tarmacticus hesitated. He looked to Rab MacAlpin and spoke. “I shall take my men and cross to the north. I would wish for you to cross here and harass the enemy with shot and with javelins for they will wish to face us with a firm wall of shields, you with us on both sides they shall not stand against us”. With those words he headed north so as to trap the men of Alt Clut between two foes.
The javelin armed cavalry went to the fore in order to best engage the enemy with their missiles whilst on a rise above the middle ford hunters with crossbows attempted to engage the British shieldwall with their deadly bolts, yet their efforts were thwarted by accurate shots from the British slingers.
Forward rode the light cavalry, emboldened by the promise of wealth, but fate was not with the Picts this day. Advancing too close to the British companion troops they were surprised and torn from their saddles, the blood from their cut throats making the grass sticky under foot.
Enraged Rab MacAlpin crossed the river his raiders running ahead of his skirmishers.
Yet the advance of the Britons saw them run for the cover of the woods where their fleet of foot favoured them against the slow and ponderous shieldwall.
They had not allowed for the violent charge of the King’s retainers who, though outnumbered two to one fought savagely to destroy these intruders. All vestige of order was abandoned as the Britons ran pell mell towards the fight, a group of peasant levy scattered the Pictish javelin troops and soon weight of numbers ensured that Rab MacAlpin’s men were chased from the field, their Noble lying dead among his slaughtered men.
It was a day of disaster for the Picts, their force was for the most part scattered before the British onslaught, yet now Tarmacticus emerged and charged forward to catch some fleeing Levy in the rear. Where the Alt Clut Milites were attempting to form a shieldwall under the orders of Tafod y Ddraig this broke and a group of milites surged forward to assist the Levy.
The slaughter was great the Levy fell back defeated with Cadwaladr Beiddgar running with them. Only the Milites fought on, but despite their odds against them they held the line for a brief moment…
..and then the fight was reinforced by Maelgwyn.
In a bitter battle the Britons prevailed, forcing Tarmacticus back in disorder.
However Pictish losses were few and with time and strong words the Pictish Lord would rally his men and lead them in a fresh charge.
Desperate to stop the Picts reorganising Tafod y Ddraig led a handful of peasants forward in a desperate charge.
If they could break the morale of the Picts now and send them running back to the north then they were safe. If they allowed the Picts time to rally then all would be lost. It was a bitter fight, men fell on both sides, but a wound to Tarmacticus and the shock of the British charge was just enough to tip the Picts over the edge. Their morale broke and they fled the table.
This was a very interesting playtest for the forthcoming Dux Britanniarum Raiders supplement covering the Picts, the Scotti and the Irish. We have been playing quite a few raid scenarios with these chaps but the past few encounters have been battles as we need to be sure that the forces provide a good balance of play. What was interesting here was a disastrous plan (or lack of one) by the Picts combined with some very unlucky rolling which saw the Pictish cavalry wiped out in one fell swoop and their missile troops reduced to utter ineffectiveness almost immediately. Their change of plan led to the British defeating MacAlpin’s men in detail, albeit the net result of them surging forward and abandoning the shieldwall had meant that they had suffered some casualties and were in poor order when Tarmaticus eventually arrived.
That said, Tarmacticus leading a death or glory charge was officially bonkers. His force morale was down to about 5 and he had only two Groups of raiders plus him and Salmud his British hating Champion. But, throwing caution to the wind, and a well played Carpe Diem card, he routed the British Levy and gave a bloody nose to a Group of Milites who had piled in to help their peasants. However, the latter did hold the line for just long enough for Maelgwyn to reorganise his men, the defeaters of MacAlpin, and bring them up to join the fight.
Even so, Tarmacticus held on and looked like he was about to win. One roll of 10 dice with not a single hit on his opponent (that’s ten 1’s 2’s and 3’s and not a single 4 or better) saw his shock reach such levels that his men broke off from the fight utterly disordered. Despite this their losses were absolutely minimal so with a bit of reorganisation they could well sweep all before them. It was only a desperate charge by Tafod y Ddraig leading a rabble of any men he could bring with him (what remained of the Companions refused to move an inch, they had had enough!) that saw him finally break the Picts.
It had been a desperate fight but a hugely entertaining game, full of heroism and drama. What was interesting was that despite “winning” the battle it will take the men of Alt Clut three months to replace their losses, whereas Tarmaticus will replace his lost men in two month, so he will have the option of raiding into an undefended kingdom for one month, a quick way to gain cash and some prestige, or it may be that he will return to lay siege of the Fort of the Britons and the old King on the Clyde.
In 1939 the British and French had a fortunate eight months to prepare themselves for the German Blitzkrieg. Fortunately we no longer have that long to wait as the Blitzkrieg 1940 supplement is at the printers and will be with us in just two weeks time. However, we can still use that time productively to