“You’ve got to fight for what you want, for all that you believe” Praefectus Constantine’s voice soared as he spoke to his men, “It’s right to fight for what we want, to live the way we please. As long as we have done our best then no-one can do more, and life and love and happiness are well worth fighting for”. He paused to look along the ranks, no cheer, no sound. He continued “And we should never count the cost or worry that we’ll fall. It’s better to have fought and lost than not have fought at all. Let’s always take whatever comes and never try to hide; face everything and anyone, together side by side”.
A man at the back coughed. This was not what they wanted to hear. A prayer from the Priest had been less than stirring and the skies had darkened just as he implored the heavens to show their light. These were portentous signs!
With Verulamium besieged the messengers who escaped its walls each night brough with them tides of woe. Only four weeks food remained within the walls and the area around the city had been ravaged by the Saxons, stripped bear of all that could provide succour, the aquaduct broken down beyond repair.
The defeat at Coln Fields had taken some two months to recover from, but now the forces of Cynwidion were taking the field to expel the foe from the walls of its fairest city, Caer Mincip, the City of the Municipality. They faced their foe on the same ground upon which they had suffered the reversal and memories of that day were prominent in the minds of many. Friends dead, countrymen slaughtered. It did not bode well.
For two months now Cynewulf’s forces had laid siege to the city of the Romans and dreamed of the German settlers who would fill its fine verdant countryside and pay tribute at his halls. He would not occupy the Roman town, that was not the Saxon way, but high up on the hill there was fine land for a King to build his hall and look out across his kingdom. That was the dream.
But today was the reality. The Britons were come to turn his dream to a nightmare. He spoke to his men, he sacrificed a goat, but the sky had turned dark at just the moment when he called upon the Goddess Freya to smile upon them. It was a portentous sign!
The Saxons raced forward towards the small hamlet which sat amid the battlefield, its inhabitants long gone, its livestock slaughtered to feed the besieging army. To meet them the British advanced towards the high ground to the south, moving fast at first and then forming their shieldwall. On their right the Numeri of the Levy under Coroctacus formed up on their own, the Comanipulares refusing to form up with the peasants.
For the Saxons Aethelstan advanced on the right with the Hearthguard whilst Hinga took the right, intent on harrying the Levy there. In the centre Cynewulf commanded two Groups of Warriors whilst ahead his archers shot towards the enemy shieldwall. However his patience was short and he sent forward his two groups, one led by him to support Hinga, then other on its own to attack the Levy from the front. To his disgust the former rushed forward and hit the Levy before he could bring his force round on their exposed flank.
Levy they may be, but these men fought for their homes and families. This was their land and no man would take it from them without a fight. The Saxons fought hard, and British blood was spilt, but numbers and the fact the the British were atop a rise took their toll and the Saxons were routed back down the hill. With a cheer and a cry of “Cynwidion am Byth” the farmers ran after them down the slope, taking Coroctacus with them into a feast of blood and revenge.
Fortunately for Coroctacus the Saxons died easily, and he was able to spot Cynewulf working his was round to attack him in the flank. Now was no time for hesitation. “Run!” he cried. And they ran.
The British shieldwall had broken to allow its men to turn to face this fresh threat on their right flank where they again locked shields to face the foe. It was to this bastion that Coroctacus ran, met by Constantine who aided him in rallying his men after their narrow esape from under the Saxon noses. Indeed it was in shieldwall afresh that the levy met the onslaught of Hinga whose men outran Cynewulf’s force to lauch their attack on the Levy. But now Owain, Cynwidion’s Champion, fought with them, and he laid about the Saxons with his sword and smote them down in great numbers.
Yet as Hinga retired wounded, a fresh wave broke against the peasants in their shieldwall as Cynewulf brought forward his final Group of Warriors. The fight was grim as men cursed their foes and pushed with their shields to keep the enemy at bay. The ferocity of the Saxon attack was such that the Levy and Coroctacus were forced from the field, fleeing back away from the fight. Cynewulf laughed as his foes fled, but the laughter turned to bile as he looked to his right.
Aethelstan and the heartguard had been placed to watch the main British shieldwall, to harry them while Cyenwulf destroyed the Levy and they could then turn their attentions on the British warriors. It had been a tactic which so nearly worked last year but had gone horribly wrong before a violent counter attack led by Constantine.
While the fight had raged Bedwyr the Briton had broken the shieldwall into two parts. Two groups of warriors had faced off the Saxons fighting the melee, whilst the Comanipulares had formed the front rank with warriors to their rear and had attacked Aethelstan. An error of judgement saw the Saxon Hearthguard fail to retire before this force, as Cynewulf had desired, and in the ensuing combat the Britons had sent the Pagans to the halls of the dead with abandon. The pagans fled.
With a sigh Cynewulf walked back across his dying men. Hinga limped along side him, his leg already stiff with pain from his wound. They would not flee from their foe, but they knew they were beaten. The omens had been right, the signs were portentous.
This was the second game of the evening, set two months after the last in June of 481 the Britons had recovered the men lost in the last game and were set to relieve the siege of Verulamium. In the end they won a three point victory on the tabletop but in the post game phase they had two net Pursuit cards, turning it into a 5 point victory, a very significant victory indeed. This allowed them to upgrade one of their Levy Groups to Warrior status, which is very fitting in view of how herocially the Levy performed. Interestingly the Britons had surrendered another Pursuit card in the penultimate turn in the hope of getting a tactical advantage in the game itself. In return they drew a Desperare card, “You Despair” which is useless. Had they held on to the Pursuit card this would have been sufficient a victory to allow them to gain an additional unit on the reinforcements table. That said, getting the Levy promoted to Warriors is a great result for the British as they are now shaping up to be a very competent force. The Saxons will need to use all of their speed and tactical guile to beat the British in future.
In campaign terms, the Saxons have been expelled from Cynwidion until they can recover their numbers. They rolled well for this so they can return in five months, however as that is November they will be ensconced in their halls and won’t return until April 482AD. That also takes us to the end of year at which point Cynewulf needs to pay Hengist in Ceint his tribute. It has been a poor year for him, but he can just scrape together enough cash to do this, fortunately or he’d have been declared an outlaw! We now look at the end of year events, a few dice rolls which occur in the closed season and tell us is anyone dies of natural causes (which could be important for Constantine as he has not yet establish sufficient a reputation to make a claim for the throne himself – fortunately the King of Cynwidion still lives). As it was no plague or pestilence struck (which could raise a siege if one were in place or end building work), which is fortunate as Constantine has used the wealth gained from his victory to build watchtowers along the borders of two provinces as the ones being built near Verulamium had all been thrown down by the Saxons.
So, our next game will be in April 482AD and, unless I am much mistaken, will be a Saxon raid as Cynewulf desperately needs to raise some cash.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this report and it shows how simple the campaign management system is and how much narrative you can get from it with pretty much no work.
It’s been nearly a month since the 1940 Handbook for Chain of Command was released so with all of the interest in the Blitzkrieg phase of the war, we though we’d talk to the author to get a feel for what is inside especially as this is the first Handbook produced for Chain of Command.