Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battle report: The Harrying of the Northern Tribes

History, as is often said, is written by the victors.

From Dunstone's Chronicle containing the Annals of the Realm of Angaland

In the spring of the eleventh year of his reign and the thirtieth of his birth, Eddard, Fourth of His Name, King of All the Angalish, did make an expedition against the tribes of the north, necessitated by an ever-increasing number of raids and border encroachments perpetrated by the seemingly restless tribesmen.  With him did go his energetic brother, Rickon, Duke of Glockster, and his faithful constable Willem, Lord Aystings, along with a full contingent of fighting men made up of their household forces. These forces did number somewhere near 6500 men afoot, armed with bow and bill, and including contingents of pikes and handguns from the Lowland realms; therewith rode some 250 mounted men-at-arms for use as scouts, and a contingent of eight newly crafted black powder artillery pieces. 

The King did travel north with malintent, for he was greatly angered at the tribesmen's continued audacity against his citizens, and as the King was ever the loyal protector of his people, he set out to do rightful harm unto the tribesmen in recompense for their unjust and unprovoked assaults. He sought eagerly to establish a foothold in the northern lands by establishing a base for his harrying of the north at the shallow fords of the River Tine within the lands inhabited by the ruthless savage. The King, ever filled with daring in matters of soldiery, hasitly rushed with his own household and mercenaries to create a bridgehead to secure the crossing for the forces of both the Duke, his brother, and the Lord Aystings. The presence of so many men under arms did come to the attention of the inhabitants of that wooded country, and there was a great alarm amongst the men of the tribes. A hasty defense was mounted, as Errmann, Chief of the band who call themselves the Nordomanni, called for men to repel the southron invaders. To his summons came tribesmen in the thousands, and with promises of a portion of the ransom for the king which Errmann claimed he would capture, the chieftain did lure into his service the mercenary captain Durgorix, called the Veteran, accompanied by his band of tribal cavalry and his paid contingent of foul orcish creatures. So too came the warrior Horgen, known as the Audacious, all in jest; for on the field he was known to be overly bold or not bold at all--a characteristic which often led his men unto their early deaths. All told the savage tribes numbered some 20,000 tribesmen afoot, 1000 a-horse, and nearly 3000 foul-spawned creatures of orcish extraction [These numbers, like most which pertain to the enemies mentioned in Dunstone's Chronicle, have been exaggerated at about double the numbers considered likely by battlefield researchers.- Ed.]. 
Initial overview (Hi, kitty!!)

View from the corner of the table

The northron left, led by Horgen the Audacious
Close up on the barbarians in the village.
The ridge's crest, with Errmann in front of his bodyguard.
The foul denizens on the northron right: Durgorix can be seen behind the tray of goblins at the head of his cavalry, who would not see much action at all. Never trust a mercenary...
These did gather upon a long crest overlooking the river's crossing, near one of the southernmost Nordomanni hamlets. From there they did look down and see the royal host arrayed in the river's bend, where the King himself went afoot, clad in his gilded armor, amidst his loyal soldiery, clasping men by the forearm or clutching them upon the shoulder, whereupon he would call them 'Brother' or 'Friend' to rouse in them their battle-courage. The king, seeing the horde drawn up upon the ridge did know that to fall back beyond the river would surely mean defeat. If, however, he could hold long enough for his leftenants to make the crossing, and then with a mighty surge plant his banner upon the ridge's crest, he was assured that the day would belong to him.

Looking down from the ridge
Looking up to the ridge
When battle was at hand, the King did act swiftly and decisively, as did his wing battles. The Northron savage, however, stood rooted, unable to cope with the swift advances of the Angalishmen. When, at length, the hordes began to stir, it was from Horgen's quarter that the first push came. Seeking to bar the Lord Aystings from the completion of his crossing, Horgen's tribemen surged forward, only to break upon the Constable's forces as waves against Angaland's southern cliffs. Horgen himself was caught up in the rout, and just barely managed to extricate himself from its press to retain command over his men. The Lord Aystings did the King good service on the day, and in time, the newly forged guns would also tinge the northern soil red with northron blood.

The forced crossing of Aystings, and Glockster in the far background. Horgen advances.
Horgen's attack repelled; the advances.
The Duke of Glockster did advance at speed as well; some say he crossed more swiftly than Lord Aystings. His march across the ford was unopposed, as all men know that the orcish brood is a dull one, and is slow to react or understand a changing situation. Seeing his brother's swift advance, the King did rally his men and begin a cautious and measured advance towards the ridge. This advance was countered by the chieftain's forces, as at long last they stirred their courage to sweep down the ridge upon the combined forces of the King and his brother, who was also feeling pressure from the orcish contingent. These foul creatures, though large and apparently fierce, were no match for the young Duke's vigour [This will remain one of the mysteries of the battle. That a group of bloodthirsty orcish Toughskins should be so easily brushed aside borders on the unbelievable. Nevertheless, I think we must take Dunstone's word for it, as it fits with the overall depiction and result of the battle as a crushing victory for King Eddard. -Ed.].

Despite the horde's impetus, the king's men held, though some were troubled by a mob of painted savages who seemed to have worked themselves into a blood frenzy. The Nordomanni push came to naught, and then the King did turn the screw. With a mighty push, he himself led his men into the bloody fray. The courage of the savage is as the flash of a falling star, burning bright and brief, while the courage of the noble man, of which King Eddard was but one, is as the eternal sunne in all its splendour. The northron fled before the flashing armaments of the King, and a mighty roar did go up from the royal host as the King's banner was planted upon the ridge-crest, proclaiming the battle justly won with its words, "God's, and my right!"

The center collides. The Toughskins routed by Glockster's extreme  left.
The northron center crumbles. The King surges forward.
The King takes the ridge, chasing Errmann, who is in the process of running away with his bodyguard.
A great slaughter of the foe was made, and it is said that the day is remembered among the northern tribes as a black stain upon their history. The failure of the Nordomanni to bar the King's way resulted in a great harrying of the northern lands, the thought of which still causes the northron--be they man, woman, or child--to weep bitter tears.

The Major Morale check roll: can't get any lower than that!

[You have just read a narrative account of the most crushing victory I have ever secured on a miniatures table. The rules were Hostile Realms by Piquet. The opponent was the Official Wife, aided (if we can call rolling 1's aid) by our son. The scenario is based on Charles Grant's "Bridgehead Breakout" scenario. The tribesmen would win if they could repel the invaders back beyond the river, while the invaders would win if they could secure the ridge and hold it.

The battle was a walk despite sides which on paper were quite balanced. Between my wife and son, they managed to roll a total of around fifteen 1's. They were good sports about this however, and the weeping of bitter tears was left to their fictional charges. The game got off to a good start for the Angalish, as they won the first initiative by 11 (!!) and chose to act first. The tribesmen are an offensive army, and they were put on the back foot from the get-go. Amazing disparity in our dice rolling saw me rout unralliable 3 units, as well as the full destruction of 4 units. The Angalish lost only a single melee and a single morale chip. There was no need for tactical morale challenges: the tribesmen took care of the running themselves.

The poor wife saw only a single move card, and never got her berserker card, or anything else remotely decent. It also killed her when after going through many of her not so great cards, we tied on the initiative roll and we had to reshuffle the decks! Thankfully I am married to such a pleasant companion, who not only loves miniature gaming, but knows how to take a drubbing with grace. 

The battle ended on a major morale failure just after the Angalish took the ridge. I had just had a run of 8 cards, and when it was the wife's turn to flip, Major Morale was the second she flipped. And characteristically for the day, the roll was a 1. It was a day to remember for me, as the wife usually gives good sport, and beats me with regularity. But as we all know, the wheel of fortune continuously turns, and I know that those who crest its top will soon find themselves upside-down at its bottom.

Great rules, great company, and great fun!]

S. V. B. E. 
-The Fox


  1. Glad you enjoyed it; I think Michele needs a set of Jalapeno dice! :-)

    1. No doubt she could use some. My solid red dice have now been re-christened the 'Red Hots'.

  2. A great report and nice pics too!!!!

  3. Fab report and pictures. And good on the Official Wife for having a game. I think I would fall over if my wife offered to play a wargame.....

    1. My wife is an avid gamer. She plays with the best of 'em, be it minis, board, or rpgs. She doesn't paint, however... ;)

    2. Haha. The very idea of painting is absurd for one so farsighted as myself!