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Battle Scenarios

The Battle of Hastings (1066 AD)

At Hastings, William the Conquerer made good his claim to the throne of England, defeating and killing the last Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson.

The Armies

Norman (#102c):

3x Spear (Norman and Franco-Flemish), 1x Crossbow, 2x Psiloi,
2x Cavalry (Breton), 4x Knights

Anglo-Danish (#113)

3x Blade, 8x Spear, 1x Psiloi

The Historical Battle

In 1066, Edward the Confessor, king of England, died without heir, purportedly on his death bed leaving the care of his kingdom to Harold, son of Earl Godwin of Wessex. Across the channel, William, Duke of Normandy, held a claim to the throne tracing back to the marriage of Ethelred the Unready to Emma, daughter of Duke RIchard I of Normandy. As a twist, following a shipwreck on the Norman coast, Harold Godwinson had spent time in the court of Duke William, and had sworn an oath recognizing WIlliam's claim to England. To further complicate the matter, Norwegian King Harald Hardrada decided to take this opportunity to make good his own claims on the kingdom stretching back to pacts made during earlier Canute's reign in England.

Thus, when Harold came to power, he moved quickly to square away England's defenses for he knew that invasion was inevitable. The only question was whether it would come first from the North or from across the channel. Weather and logistics combined to delay William's plans for invasion, while Harald Hardrada moved his army to Scotland, where he was joined by Earl Tostig of Northumbria, the rebellious brother of Harold. In early September 1066, Hardrada and a fleet of 300 longships ranged first up the Tyne River and then up the Humber, creating a camp at Riccall. On September 20, Hardrada's army found its line of march blocked by Earl Morcar of Northumbria and Edwin of Mercia at Gate Fulford, two miles south of York. In a sharp battle, the heavily out-numbered Saxon army was defeated, losing 1000 men.

Confident that there was no one to oppose his progress, Hardrada split his army, sending a portion back to Riccall, while the balance encamped at the cross-roads of Stamford Bridge to forage. King Harold had received prompt notice of the Norwegian invasion and mounted his army, leading them on a lightning advance that caught the Norwegians by surprise. In the heavy battle that followed, Hardrada was slain by a Saxon arrow to the throat and only enough Norwegians to fill 20 of the original 300 ships survived.

While Harold celebrated his victory in York, William launched his invasion with a landing at Pevensey on September 28. Finding the interior roads unfavorable, he transferred his army by boat down the coast to Hastings, which offered a better route to London, and erected a fortification, which had been transported by boat from Normandy. Meanwhile, Harold and those of his army that could keep up rode from York to London, averaging 40 miles a day. Calls went out for fresh troops to repair the heavy losses at Stamford Bridge, but time was short. Harold sought to emulate his lightning tactics against William and could not wait for a full muster. Thus, after only five days, he began his advance from London toward Hastings.

Setting out on October 12 and riding through the night of October 13, Harold's army arrived at an arranged rendevous at Caldbec Hill on the morning of October 14. Here, the local levy had been ordered to gather at the "hoar apple tree." Harold's plan, apparently was to launch an early morning attack catching William's army within its pallisade and nullifying the Norman's advantage in cavalry. However, William was not surprised (perhaps alerted by early arrivals at the hoar apple tree) and had stood his army to arms during the night. As the morning son rose at 5:30 a.m., Harold found William's host in full array on Telham Hill, having advanced six miles from their base at Hastings to give battle.

There was little that Harold could do but form a shield wall and wait the Norman attack. He picked a ridge approximately a 1000 yards forward of Caldbec Hill with steep slopes to protect his flanks and fronted by a marshy bottom that made it difficult for an attacking army to deploy. He had with him 700-1000 of his loyal housecarls and heavily armored Danish mercenaries, including the retinues of his brothers Gyrth, Earl of East Anglia, and Leofwine, Earl of Middlesex. These formed the front ranks of his battle line. He also had approximately 7000 lightly armed Sussex levymen, most of whom lacked armor or shields and bore only throwing axes, stone-headed clubs and an assortment of missile weapons. The pace of his advance had been so rapid that one chronicler (Florence of Worcester) reported that only one-third of Harold's army was present at the start of the battle and only half eventually assembled at all.

For his part, William had a small but well drilled army of approximately 6,000-7,000, which he arrayed in three battles, comprised of successive lines of archers, spearmen and cavalry. In the center battle was William and his Normans representing half the army. On the left were William's Breton allies. On the right were William's French and Flemish contingents. William could call upon at least 2,500 cavalry against Harold's zero.

William began the battle by moving his lines forward to the base of Harold's ridge and sending forward his Norman archers to test the English morale. Their arrows were taken on the shields of Harold's housecarls with little effect. When the supply of arrows was exhausted, William sent forward his heavy infantry. Their role was to create gaps in the English line that could be exploited by William's cavalry. They were met with a hail of missiles, however, that staggered their advance. Pressing on, the battle lines came to grips beginning on the left where the Bretons enjoyed the easiest approach. In the melee that followed, the skill of the English and Danish professionals and the heavy bite of their two-handed axes told heavily on William's infantry.

On the left, the Bretons panicked and fled, carrying their cavalry supports with them. Harold's right wing, possibly including his brothers Gyrth and Leofwine left ranks to pursue and for a moment it looked as if the tide of battle had shifted decisively to Harold. Calmly, however, William dispatched his Norman cavalry from reserve in the center to cut off the pursuers, who were forced to close ranks on a hillock forward of the English line. To far forward to be supported, they were quickly surrounded and then annihilated. This disaster, including the lost of Harold's brothers Gyrth and Leofwine, who were killed in melees with Norman knights, was perhaps decisive.

Despite their loses, Harold's army closed ranks and maintained their sturdy shield wall. A full scale attack by William's cavalry was repulsed with little difficulty, but their recoil prompted another ill-fated English pursuit that was quickly cut down.

Seeing that his attacks were making little impression, William changed tactics. His archers maintained a harassing fire on the shieldwall while his Knights mounted small charges to exploit breaches and feigned flights to prompt pursuits. He kept up a steady pressure throughout the afternoon that was designed to wear down the English line by attrition. It succeeded as the English line was forced to contract allowing WIlliam to move cavalry atop the ridge along the English flanks. This also allowed him to better coordinate the attacks of his cavalry and archers, who now began to loft their arrows high into the massed English positions. It is at this stage of the battle that Harold is reputed to have received an arrow wound to the eye and was laid among his baggage.

As dusk fell, the English line had tighly compacted around its banners, leaving gaps that the Norman horse were able to exploit. At this point, a small group of Norman knights, including Guy of Pontheiu, Walter Giffard, Hugh de Montfort, Eustace of Boulongne and possibly even Duke William himself broke through the Saxon housecarls and fell on the wounded Harold, hacking him to death. It is said that William sliced off an ear and one knight was later censured by William for slicing off Harold's thigh, which may actually have been a reference to parts even more personal. Thus died Harold Godwinson, last King of the Anglo-Saxons.

Despite the death of Harold, the English housecarls fought on doggedly even as the levy fyrd melted away into the Weald. As darkness fell, the retiring housecarls crossed Caldbeck Hill and stopped to regroup along a steep bank overgrown with brush dubbed Malfosse or "Evil Ditch". Here, at approximately 5-6 p.m., the Norman cavalry in pursuit attempted an ill-advised attack resulting in their heaviest loses of the day. Eventually, however, the last Saxon resistance melted away, and Duke William could fairly claim his conquest.

Deployment

Harold deploys first anywhere within 900P of his baseline. William deploys second anywhere within 900P of his baseline and moves first.

Game Map (ASCII)


=================Norman Baseline=================
. . . . . . h h h h h h r h h h h h h h . . . . .  <-  Telham Hill
. . . . . . . h h h h h r h h h h h h . . . . . .
w . . . . . . . h h h h r h h h h h . . . . . . .
. w . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . w w w . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . b b
. . . . . w w w w w . . r . . . . . . . . b b w b
. . . . . . . . . . w w r w . . . . . . w w w b b
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . w w w w w w b b b . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . h h h . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . h h h . . . <-- The Hillock
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . h h h h h h r h h h h h h h h . . . .
. . . . . h h h h h h h r h h h h h h h h h . . .
. . . . h h h h h h h h r h h h h h h h h h h s .
. . . . h h h h h h h h r h h h h h h h h h h s . <--  Harold's Ridge
. . . . s h h h h h h h r h h h h h h h h h s s .
. . . s s s h h h h h h h h h h h h h h h s s s . 
. s s s w w s s . . . . r . . . . . . . . . w s s
s s w w . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . w s  (Malfosse not shown)
w w . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . w
================English Baseline=================

SCALE: The distance between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going (Good Going)
r=Road
h=Hill
b=bad going (marshy ground)
s=Steep slope (Impassable)
w=Stream (treat as bad going)

Terrain Notes

All hills have gentle slopes except where indicated as steep (s), which is impassable. Treat the stream as bad terrain. It is not a defensible feature and does not require dice to cross.

Special Rules

Neither army need deploy a camp.

As an optional rule, any Anglo-Danish element that forces a recoil in close-combat will pursue one base-length as impetuous on a roll of 1-2 on 1D6, until such a time as the Anglo-Danish army suffers 2 elements lost.

Victory Conditions

Use the normal DBA victory conditions, except that no loses can be attributed to capture of a camp.

Notes

The Battle of Hastings 1066 web page has a history of the battle including a breakdown of the armies and photographs of the local sites (932 years later).

Scenes from the battle of Hastings are recorded in the famous Bayeaux Tapestry, executed by English artists (subjects of Duke William the Conquerer) at Canterbury in 1082.


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Thanks to David Kuijt for providing the suggested historical army lists.

Last Updated: Sept. 3, 1999

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to my attention at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.