The Battle of
Menai Straights
1098 AD

Vikings vs. Anglo-Normans
DBA Scenario

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The 1190s saw Wales embroiled in conflict, with the Welsh lords facing constant Viking raids from the west and incursions by Anglo-Norman marcher lords from the east. In 1098, the marcher lords Hugh the Proud (Earl of Shrewsbury) and Hugh the Stout (Earl of Chester) led a 2500 man Anglo-Norman army into North Wales. Facing little opposition from the Welsh who fled at their approach to take shelter in the hills, the Anglo-Normans arrived along the coast opposite Angelsey at precisely the moment that a 1500 man Norse raiding expedition under Magnus III (Barefoot) (a grandson of Harald Hardrada) was landing their longboats along that same shore. What followed was a bloody battle, whose details are largely lost to history. The heralds record that Hugh the Proud fell while charging with his knights through the surf; taking an arrow in the eye presumably shot by a grandson of Harold Godwinson fighting on the side of Magnus. The outcome is presumed to be a tactical draw with heavy losses on both sides.

This DBA scenario is inspired largely by Terry Goreís scenario for Medieval Wars, published in SAGA (April 2002). That scenario was inspired in turn by a scenario done by Guy Halsall in Miniature Warfare (Dec. 1986).

The Armies

  • Anglo-Norman (IV/3)
  • Viking (III-40b)

Battle Map

The board is comprised of either flat good going (green) or impassable waterway (blue).  The waterway covers approximately 1/4 of the depth of the board, leaving at least 18 inches between the Anglo-Norman baseline and the Viking shoreline.

Special Rules

Based on accounts and the previous scenarios, it is believed that the Anglo-Normans and Vikings were dispersed at the start of the battle, with the Vikings entering at several points along the shoreline as their ships landed and the Anglo-Normans attempting to concentrate and respond to the evolving Viking threat. What makes this historical scenario appealing is that it presents a true meeting engagement, where commanders must adapt on the fly to a fluid deployment situation. In order to simulate that situation, the following special deployment rules are used.

  • The board is divided into 6 parallel zones (four inches wide on a 24 inch board, or better yet, five inches wide on a 30 inch board). Each zone is numbered 1 through 6 along the respective baselines from left to right.
  • Each army is divided into four small commands of three elements.
  • The Anglo-Norman commander deploys first. The Generalís command is deployed in either zone 3 or 4. The Anglo-Norman then rolls 1D6 and deploys a command in that indicated zone, re-rolling if there is already an Anglo-Norman command deployed in that zone. Keep rolling until all Anglo-Norman commands are deployed. Anglo-Norman commands deploy as single-element wide columns, with the rear element parallel to, and touching their base edge.
  • Once the Anglo-Norman army is fully deployed, the Viking commander then places his first command (including the Gen. element), which is treated as a Littoral Landing in zone 3 or 4 of his shoreline, and takes the first bound as the attacker.
  • The remaining Viking commands land, one per bound, at the beginning of bounds 2, 3 and 4. In each bound, roll 1D6 to determine the landing zone. It is possible for arriving Viking commands to land in the same zone as previous commands.

Normal victory conditions are used. There are no camps or logistical elements.

You may wish to mark the landing zone for each Viking command with a ship model and provide a special rule whereby the Anglo-Normans can attack and destroy the beached ships for victory points. In that case, the Vikings should have the option to re-embark and sail off if hard-pressed in order to save their ships.

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Last Update:  23 Dec. 2004

Comments and feedback welcome and can be sent to Chris Brantley.