Sunday 4 November 2012

Hail Caesar Battle of Hastings 1066

My eldest nephew asked to play a battle of Hastings game so in record time we put away the Napoleonic game and set up appropriate terrain and laid out the armies. I put together the troops based on an infantry unit roughly being 800 - 1000 strong as standard, getting my figures from the Osprey Campaign series book. I checked quickly with the Hail Caesar army list 2 to ensure I had it balanced, which it roughly was.

For this game I did not worry about number of figures in a unit because my base sizes vary quite a bit having amassed my collection over time buying from many different sources. I instead focused on ensuring everyone had the right size frontage, a nice mechanism in the Hail Caesar rules.

The forces were as follows.

Duke William - command rating 8 (2d6 in combat)
1 x Norman Knight cavalry - standard size, ferocious charge
1 x Norman Retainer cavalry - standard size
4 x Norman heavy infantry - standard size
2 x archers - small unit, skirmishers

Eustace of Bolougne and William FitzOzbourne  - Command rating 8 (1d6 in combat)
1 x Franco-Flemish Knight cavalry - small size
1 x Franco-Flemish Heavy infantry - small size
1 x archers - small unit, skirmishers

Alan Rufus  - Command rating 8 (1d6 in combat)
1 x Breton Knight cavalry - standard size
1 x Breton Heavy infantry - large size
1 x archers - small unit, skirmishers

Harold Godwinsson - Command rating 8 (2d6 in combat)
1 x Huscarl - standard size, elite, stubborn, valiant
1 x Thegn - standard size
2 x Ceorl  - standard size
1 x archers - small size, skirmishers

Gyrth Godwinsson  - Command rating 8 (1d6 in combat)
2 x Thegn  - standard size
2 x Ceorl  - standard size
1 x Javelin men - small size, skirmishers

Leofwine Godwinsson  - Command rating 8 (1d6 in combat)
2 x Thegn  - standard size
2 x Ceorl  - standard size
1 x Javelin men - small size, skirmishers
1 x archers - small size, skirmishers

The Game
Duke William set up as per history with his Normans in the centre, Bretons on the left and the Franco-Flemish  on the right.
The Anglo Saxons

The Normans

The Norman right to left

The Franco Flemish
Harold deployed with his brothers on his flanks, with a front shield wall with the Huscarls taking the centre flanked by Thegns. The Ceorls formed a second line. To keep things simple Harold opted not to merge any Thegn and Ceorl units as allowed in the rules. Due to an umpire error (me) 1 unit of Ceorls fought as Thegns. I put this down to the Ceorls excitement and eagerness to get to grips with the foe. The Anglo Saxon skirmishers covered the flanks and centre.

The Anglo Saxons on Senlac Hill

Gyrth's men bottom, Harold middle, Leofwine top.

Gyrth and hornblower. 2 old Citadel figures, now sold by Foundry.

Harold with his standard. Harold is an old Citadel Boromir from their first Lord of the Rings range before the films. I've no clue about the standard bearer, other than he was 2nd hand and painted pretty.

Leofwine raising his shield. An Citadel figure with axe and Leofwine is a Foundry figure. o

Not surprisingly Harold opted to defend Senlac hill and with rude gestures towards William taunting him to come and have a go if he thought he was hard enough.

Leofwine's flank

Close up of Leofwine's troops

The Bretons led the way failing their command roll and staying still. Next the Franco Flemings advanced skirmishers to the fore, then finally William led the centre forward. His knights charged forward ahead of everyone else masking his skirmishers from shooting at Harold. This didn't stop the other skirmisher units who managed to disorder and cause casualties on the Gyrth's left wing Thegns.

Bretons nearest the furthest board edge. Leofwine's Ceorls turn to extend the flank.
Since the Bretons were being timid, Leofwines skirmishers scampered down the hill to worry Duke Williams right flank. In the mean time the Franco Flemish developed a flanking attack on the Anglo Saxon left, Duke William sorted out his troops in to a sensible 3 lines made up of skirmishers first, them cavalry and finally infantry. Alan's Bretons decided to join the fight and the infantry formed up with Williams and the cavalry copy the Franco Flemish and went wide to threaten the flank.
Scampering skirmishers
Harold's response to this was to order Leofwine to extend his troops to the right bringing his Ceorls in to the front line. Gyrth wasn't so bold his responded by turning his second line Ceorl unit to face the oncoming Franco Flemish. To Harold's horror and Gyrth's the previously hurt Thegn unit anchoring the flank couldn't take the arrows any longer and broke. This now exposed the flank of the Ceorls who had turned to face the Franco Flemish to Williams centre advance. A classic roll up was in the offing.

Harold and Leofwine's troops look towards the distant Bretons and  the oncoming Normans led by William himself.

First blood. Gyrth's Thegns are disordered by William's archers.

The Franco Flemish keep pace with William's troops.

The Norman battle line at the beginning of move 2.

Breton's not keeping pace

Battlefield over view beginning of move 2.

Close up of the Bretons.

Battlefield from the left on move 2.

Breton eye view of Leofwine's skirmishers.

Skirmishers supporting the Norman knights or is it the Norman knights blocking them. I can't remember why  this came about, but William blundered twice and Harold once. I've never seen so many double ones or sixes rolled in a game before.

Duke William in red cloak. Not necessarily historical, well neither are the Anglo Saxon leaders, but he has a mace and can  be easily spotted.

William's troops
Since waiting to be broken by ranged arrow shooting didn't look like fun Harold decided to become more aggressive. The Breton cavalry proved too tempting a target and like history a Ceorl unit charged after them. OK historically the Bretons were retreating, but the Anglo Saxons weren't going to wait for them this time round. The Ceorls thumped in to the astonished Breton knights. They had already taken casualties from the Anglo Saxon skirmishers who know supported the charging Ceorls allowing the Bretons to be shaken, disordered and pushed back.
The battle line just before Leofwine's Ceorls follow up there victory to stay in contact with the Breton knights

Unhappy Breton knights on the right. 

Gyrth has turned a unit to flank to ward off the Franco Flemish, but  now have their flank uncovered by the broken Thegns on the extreme left of the main Anglo Saxon battle line.
On Gyrths flank his javelin men disordered the Franco Flemish knights which stopped a chance of a flank charge on the main battle line. Duke Williams command dice ensured everyone is pretty much stationary preventing him from exploiting the weak Anglo Saxon left flank. He was able to clear his skirmishers from his front ready from a grand charge supported by the infantry. However instead, William risked charging 1 supported unit of retainers in to the flank of Gyrths exposed Ceorls which were defending the flank of the whole battle line. Brilliantly poor dice left the chargers short. The Norman knights decided not to follow suit as they would be forced to engage the main battle line from the front which was uphill and too well supported.
Disordered Franco Flemish knights bottom middle of picture.
Harold showed no hesitation and ordered Gyrth to charge the Norman retainers, which he then supported with his own Thegns and Ceorls. The Huscarls stayed put as they had been disordered and the rest of the line maintained their defensive position. What of Leofwines Ceorls (fighting like lions e.g. Thegns)? Well they followed up the Breton cavalry and broke them turned and trotted towards the Breton infantry who now turned to face them and protect Duke Williams left flank. Alan Rufus had now joined his cavalry to add his dice to the combat and was wounded for his trouble.

The retainers fight on alone

Gyrth's and Harold's joint charge should have rolled over the Norman retainer cavalry but they held. Duke William was still rolling bad command dice leaving the retainers fighting on there own. By now Leofwines Ceorls had over reached them selves, failing to charge home and then were charged by the Bretons. The Ceorls broke. The Anglo Saxon flanks had lost a unit a piece, with 2 routes needed on each flank to secure victory for Duke William. At this point the Bretons had lost their knights and skirmishers leaving only their infantry fighting. I'd decide that since the rule was more than 50% broken and I'd created a division with 2 units in it that this was allowed. The main Norman division and Franco Flemings had yet to engage, with most of the damage being caused by their skirmishers.
Battlefield overview. The Huscarls are disordered as marked by the white cotton wool.

Same view but wider showing the Franco Flemish on the left flank of the Anglo Saxons.

Leofwine's Ceorls fighting as Thegns fail to charge home and are charged in turn by the Bretons.

William's knights supported by 2 infantry units wait for the right time to charge home. Right time  being  dice related.
Joined by Duke William himself the retainers valiantly fought on and became shaken, but there supporting infantry and skirmishers finally came to the rescue. Even better the Norman knights joined the fray with their supports crashing in to Harold's supporting Thegns leaving Gyrth's troops to fight on there own. This was too much for Gyrth's Thegns, all the Norman reinforcements allowed the retainers to cause enough casualties to break them, requiring the Ceorls to test which they failed. Despite Gyrth's appeals to his divison, and Harald's left flank they broke and fled. This allowed the retainers to support the knights in their combat with Harold's Thegns.
The first big melee. Both sides have a shaken unit marked with black cotton wool.

Another view showing how the Anglo Saxons have curled their  line. 
There was a great Hurragh! as the Thegns held shaken, but shaking the knights in turn who held there ground, and forcing the retainers to fall back with there supports disordered. The shaken knights caused their supports to test and one is forced to retire in good order. If Harold can shake one more unit of Duke Williams division it will break. Duke William in turn needed to break 2 of  Leofwine's units and 3 of Harold's. Could history be over turned?
The retainers are pushed back disordered with their supports.
Harold failed his command dice and can't charge his Huscarls and supports in. The fight continued and the Knights broke. William replaced them with previously retired infantry. The Thegns and Ceorls broke. 1 unit to go on Harold's division and game over. Can William keep history on track?
Battlefield over view. You can see the Breton infantry moving the protect against the expected wheel of the Anglo Saxon battle line.

Harold began his move with the Huscarls to charging the Norman battle line but with only one move barely edged off the ridge. Leofwine supported this move with one of his Thegn units joining the new battle line formed by the Huscarls. The rest of Leofwine's troops advanced on the the Breton infantry who held Williams right. The Bretons had till now escaped ranged fire due to poor Anglo Saxon command rolls to move in to range, and both sides taking each others skirmishers out in melee. If they can be broken with Williams division then the day is Harold's.The Bretons charge Leofwine's Thegns.

The Bretons broke. Harold needed to break 1 more Norman unit to winWilliam needed to break 1 more of Harolds division or 2 of Leofwine's for victory. Bad command dice and the rest of the Normans fail to move. The Franco Flemish can now clear Gyrth's shattered troops to again threaten the flank. The boys are fighting this to a knifes edge.

Harold charged in to the Norman infantry with Leofwine supporting with one of his Thegn units and Harold himself moved to the head of his Huscarls to finish this battle once and for all. Leofwines units that had advanced towards the Bretons seeing them flee halt their advance and move along the Senlac hill ridge to cover Harold's rear as he charged in.

The Bretons eventually joined the main Norman battle line and were defeated.  The Norman battle line is now all infantry the cavalry broken or shaken and moved to safety. The Anglo Saxons moving to reform their line.

Leofwine's troops move behind the main melee to cover the rear and flank. The Franco Flemish moving in from the left  to join the action.
The Norman infantry are pushed back but don't break much to everyone's surprise. Harold followed up but Leofwine's Thegns lose contact blocked by retreating Bretons. Duke William saw his chance to hit Harold in flank and failed his command dice. Only managing to move on to threaten rather than charge Harold's flank , another 2 moves were required to charge. However all is not lost, the Franco Flemish under Eustace and FitzOzbourne finally make their flanking march pay. The Franco Flemish knights hit Harold's supporting Ceorls in the rear and the infantry arrest the Leofwine's move to cover Harold's open left flank. The faithful retainers begin to move to support the Franco Flemish.

Harold troops held on to continue the fight. Leofiwine's Ceorls moving to cover Harold's rear are broken. The Franco Flemish infantry move to be in charge range of Leofwine's Thegns who had failed to get in to a position to support there fellows who were now rushing from the battlefield. One of Duke William's infantry is shaken but passes it's test to fight on. If it had broken Harold would have won. Now if either 1 of Harold's units breaks or Leofwine's then William has won. Harold still has 1 of William's units to break.

Harold fails his command dice to move Leofwine's units with just the skirmishers coming to Harold's aid. I confess my memory fails me here as they could have moved up to support as an enemy within 12" rule. So I may be mixing the last moves up together. By now the tension and frustration of both sides failing to break the final unit was creating it's own confusion.

The Franco Flemish strike. Knights charge the Huscarl supports in the rear and  Leofwine's Ceorls are caught unsupported as  they try and cover Harold's rear and flank.

Leofwine's Ceorls are defeated and the Franco Flemish infantry charge the  Thegns. The main fight slugs on.

The battle fought on and Harold won the combat. Could this be it? Before any break tests are made we rolled for leaders. Duke William was safe........ Harold falls at the head of his Huscarls. Was it an arrow? Technically not as you can't shoot in to a melee. Game over. To add insult to injury (death) the Normans passed their break test AGAIN!.

Harold is dead!
Gyrth has left the table to begin organizing further resistance to the invaders, which was an historic plus has he died. Leofwine is left to break contact, no easy task with Normans engaged on combat on 3 sides. Historically he didn't make it. Duke William with a very battered army could now march on London and be crowned King!
The last positions

Great game. As umpire I was utterly gripped by the ebb and flow. I thought the battle won by one side or the other more than once for it to be turned around again. The boys got frustrated trying the get the clear win, but with great dice William won.

I would definitely play the scenario again. I would balance William's flank forces more so that the fit in with the Hail Caesar lists for a 4 unit division. I also didn't give the Normans any light infantry using archers as skirmishers to meet that requirement in a division. If I do this I would give the Anglo Saxons more men. I definitely would still follow the numbers in the Osprey Campaign book but perhaps create more variety of units. For a game that, for me, was set up quickly it worked well.