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Battle Scenarios

Battle of Yns Mon (500 AD)

By Tim Donovan

In the time of Arthur, the Irish Kingdoms in Wales, long settled and growing in power, were ruthlessly crushed. In North Wales, Cunnedda's grandson, Catwallaun Longhand is said to have expelled the Irish from Anglesey around 500 AD after a long and bitter campaign. The Irish king of Leinster, Illan, reigned from 492 to 512 is said to have fought eight or nine battles in Britain and is the most likely candidate for the leader of the Irish crushed by Arthur at Chester during his 12 battle campaign that culminated in victory at Badon. Following the victory at Badon, Arthur entrusted loyal Nobles and his valiant "Knights" to re-establish Romano British rule in lands overrun by the barbarians.

In Bernard Cornwell's Arthurian Trilogy the hero Derfel undertakes a quest to Yns Mon (Anglesey) and is confronted by some very nasty Irish warriors under the leadership of their wicked King Diwrnach. In the running battle the Irish, mounted on shaggy ponies, battle the steady Spears of Derfel's Wolftail warriors.

In this scenario, for fun, I simply combine the history and fiction. Catwallaun, aided by Derfel, culminates his campaign with an invasion of Anglesey. The Irish King Illan (he survived the campaign) is long gone, leaving his pagan brother Serach and his ally Diwrnach to fight the last battles.

The Standard Scenario

The Armies:

  • Scots Irish (#61): 3 LCh or Wb or LH, 6 Wb or Ax, 3 Ps. The Irish are recorded using chariots as late as 563, but the Warband option is more appropriate for this period. Cornwell has the Irish fighting as skirmishers mounted on small shaggy horses. The use of Light Horse is a very viable option given long contact with the Romans and later Romano-British especially when considering most Irish armies were simply large raiding parties favoring mobility.

  • Romano British (#82) 1 Kn or Cv (Catwallaun), 2 Cv, 1 Cv or LH, 2 Bd or Wb (Derfel), 4 Ax, 2 Ps or Welsh (#92) 1 Cv (Catwallaun), 2 Bd or Wb (Derfel), 2 Wb or Ax, 5 Ax, 2 Ps. Just as Irish armies of the period are a matter of controversy, the nature of the British successor kingdoms is even more hotly debated. The debate centers around the WRG theory of a degenerate Late Roman army while many other scholars support a return to the old Celtic aristocracy and style of fighting. These two lists are pure conjecture based on limited research, any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Terrain: Standard DBA terrain rules or the proposed rules for DBA 2000. The Cornwell book mentions small rocky sources hillforts, swamps, forest, and farmland. I suggest the defender place compulsory terrain of 2 hills, 1 wood, 1 swamp, and then 0-3 additional terrain pieces of hill, woods, or swamp.

Deployment: After the defender places the compulsory and optional terrain the attacker chooses the edge to invade from . The defender now deploys either a hillfort (+3) or a camp. If the defender places a hillfort the attacker need not place a camp.

The defender now deploys 6 elements and then attacker deploys 6 elements. The defender finishes their deployment followed by the attacker. Dice for the initiative, high score has option of moving first or second.

Optional Rules: Consider both the Catwallaun and Derfel elements as generals receiving the +1 bonus, additionally, roll 2 pip die and use the higher score.

The Irish in Cornwell's book are depicted as especially nasty. Try the new warband rule allowing a subsequent move for warbands if ending in combat, also, supporting warband elements also follow up behind a victorious advancing warband element.

Victory: Standard.

The Expanded Scenario

The Armies: Here I suggest you do as you please. The Irish Nobles can trundle around in chariots, skitter around as Light Horse or fight on foot as warbands to bolster the main battleline. Mercenaries are always prominent in Irish armies so some lingering Attecotti or Franks are appropriate while the bulk of the common warriors should be light troops, Auxilia and Psiloi.

The Romano British can likewise be a real mix. A few Nobles can fight as Knights or Cavalry with the balance of the mounted troops as Cavalry or Light Horse. The foot can be a mix of light troops augmented by the tougher foot of Derfel or the displaced northern British tribes brought south to fight the Irish. The wandering Theodoric and his Visigothic fleet would have been perfectly suited for this venture (see the Porth Mawr scenario) so again do as you please.

The following army lists are designed mainly for fun and ease of finding suitable elements. I have opted for a typical Big Battle DBA 24 element affair incorporating many of the different interpretations of what these armies looked like and how they fought.

  • Irish 2 LCh or Cv or Wb (Diwrnach and Serach), 4 LCh or Wb or LH (Nobles), 6 Wb (mercenary Franks or Attecotti), 8 Ax, 6 Ps

  • Romano British:

    • Catwallaun: 1 Kn or Cv, 1 Cv, 4 Ax, 2 Ps, 2 Ps or Lh
    • Derfel: 2 Bd or Wb, 4 Wb or Ax, 2 Ps
    • Theodoric: 1 Kn or Wb, 3 Wb, 2 Ax or Ps

Terrain Notes: The board should be expanded to 2 x 4 for 15mm or 4 x 6 for 25mm.

Standard DBA terrain rules or the proposed rules for DBA 2000. The Cornwell book mentions small rocky sources hillforts, swamps, forest, and farmland. I suggest the defender place compulsory terrain of 2 hills, 2 woods, 1 swamp, and then 0-5 additional terrain pieces of hill, woods, or swamp.

Deployment: After the defender places the compulsory and optional terrain the attacker chooses the edge to invade from . The defender now deploys either a hillfort (+3) or a camp. If the defender places a hillfort the attacker need not place a camp.

The defender now deploys 12 elements and then attacker deploys 12 elements. The defender finishes their deployment, recording any flank marches or ambushes followed likewise by the attacker. Dice for the initiative, high score has option of moving first or second.

Optional Rules:

  • Irish: The Irish divide their commands evenly into 12 element armies and can not switch or share pip die rolls.

  • Romano-British: Catwallaun, Derfel, and Theodoric are all considered Generals. Roll three pip dice, add the highest two and divide them any way the player(s) see fit.

  • Warbands: Are allowed a subsequent move if ending in combat. Supporting warband elements always follow up behind a victorious advancing warband element.

  • Ambush: The defending army may elect to place 6 elements in ambush anywhere within their own half of the board provided that there is available terrain to provide concealment. The elements deployed in concealment and their location should be recorded secretly in writing. Terrain types eligible for concealment for any element are woods, bog or swamp, and the reverse slope of a hill. The terrain feature may only conceal as many elements as can physically fit within its area.

    Once deployed, an element or group in ambush may not move without revealing its location. The element or group of elements in ambush must be announced and placed on the table at the recorded spot prior to executing its first bound of movement.

    As long as it does not move, a concealed element need not be placed on the table until it falls within the unobstructed line of sight of an opposing element. Elements hiding behind a hill or ridge can be spotted by an observer with a clear line of sight at a range of 600 paces. Elements hiding in forest or swamp will be spotted by an observer at 100 paces. Spotting is automatic and does not need to be requested. It is the responsibility of the commander with troops deployed in ambush to monitor the enemy's line of sight and deploy ambushed troops when they are spotted.

    An element(s) may emerge from ambush at any point during its commanders bound and moves and engages in close combat or distance shooting normally.

  • Flank March: Either army may elect to send up to 6 elements on an off-board flank march. The flank edge and the turn on which the flanking command is expected to arrive should be recorded secretly in writing, during the initial deployment. Troops designated for a flank march are not deployed on the table, but are held in reserve until their specified time of arrival. The specified turn of arrival may be turn three or turn two if entirely mounted.

    On the turn they are to arrive the player rolls the pip die as normal needing a 5-6 for the flank march to arrive. On the subsequent turn a 3-6 is needed, following turns they arrive on any roll other than a 1.

    One initiative pip is required to deploy each flank element or group of elements. Commands entering the gaming board via flank march deploy anywhere in the enemy half of the board except within one base element width of any enemy element. No close combat may result as a consequence of deployment.

Victory Conditions: Standard, 8 elements lost breaks the army. Generals and camps count as two elements lost, the hillfort, if used counts as three.

Background Resources

The Age of Arthur, John Morris, 1973, Scribners,
Enemy of God, Bernard Cornwell, St. Martin's Press, 1996
Early Medieval Ireland, Daibhi O' Croinin, 1995, Longman History of Ireland.
Medieval Ireland, Michael Richter, 1995, St. Martin's press
Arthur's Britain, Leslie Alcock, 1971, Penguin
Arthur and the Anglo Saxon Wars. David Nicolle, 1984 Osprey (#154)
Medieval Historical Battles 732 to 1485, Peter Sides, 1993, Gosling
The Celts, Nora Chadwick, 1971, Penguin

WRG
Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome, Phil Barker
Armies of the Dark Ages, Ian Heath,
Army Lists, Book Two, 55bc -1000 AD (for WRG Rules)
DBM Army Lists, Book 2 : 500 BC to 476 AD
DBA


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Last Update: March 17, 2000

My thanks to Tim Donovan for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.