Sunday, 18 November 2012

Anglo-Saxon Army for WAB

Well, here’s my Anglo-Saxon army. Really, it’s Anglo-Danish, due to the presence of huscarls, but a bit of jiggery pokery and mixing these figures in among the thegns would make it suitable for earlier periods too.

Anytime you feel like it...

We have the army general, a Jarl, plus one of the three Aeoldermen, designated the army standard bearer. These are drawn up with the single unit of huscarls, equipped with two-handed axes, with leader, musician and standard bearer. Here right in the centre on the highest ground they can dominate the battlefield (1).

Then, two units of armoured thegns (2 and 3), each unit having a leader, musician and standard bearer. One each of the other two Aeoldermen is attached to these units, to bolster their leadership.

A single unit of ceorls (4), with leader, musician and standard bearer provides some support for the flanks and acts as a reserve, albeit not a terribly mobile one.

Finally, two units of geburs (5 and 6), one armed with slings and one equipped with bows round out the army with some fire support.

The strengths of this army are the large number of steady, well-armoured infantry that can fight in strong formations (using shieldwall) with spears. This is amplified if you have huscarls in the army.
The mixed unit rule, whereby you can intermix armoured and unarmoured troops and have them fight as the former, makes even relatively cheap troops noticeably more formidable.
Its weaknesses are its relatively low mobility and a dearth of missile troops. The latter can be solved, by swapping a fairly small number of thegns for a much larger quantity of sling armed geburs, but the mobility problem remains.

By varying the banners, and hence the origin of the army, you can make some changes that have quite an impact on how the army performs.

Fighting under the golden wyvern of Wessex, all the thegns gain veteran status, and a chance to re-roll a single attack per unit. In my case this might make the difference between winning and losing two rounds of combat, and that might make a difference between winning and losing the whole battle.

The eagle and saltire of Mercia allows thegns to be designated as light infantry. In skirmish formation, the double rate move does go some way to overcoming the mobility problem. A Mercian army has a chance to actually seize and hold an objective in the face of a more mobile army, rather than to simply wait until the enemy in place and have to dislodge them.

Under the Invicta, Kentish men (or men of Kent) as shown here, were famed for their aggression . Thegns and ceorls can swap thrusting spears for throwing spears. Thus a charging unit can attack in two ranks in the first round. Two ranks, probably striking first and the gain of momentum is a potential battle winner.

Generally, this is not the army that can dash across the table to secure the strategic terrain or seize a key structure. It doesn’t dash anywhere, but tends to trundle very deliberately. However, anything attempting to interfere with that trundling had better be numerous, resolute and prepared to be crushed flat by a spear-tipped steamroller. Likewise, if it gets itself set somewhere it wants to be, then driving it off is no easy task.  With its light troops guarding its flanks and buying time to re-orient the heavy units, trying to outmanoeuvre this army might not be as effective as you might think. If the characters can hold the units together, and provided I don't roll too many 1's so the warbands charge like maniacs, it's a winner.

This is the army that ground Harald Hardrada and Tostig Godwinson into the earth at Stamford Bridge, and came within an ace of sending the Bastard of Normandy back whence he came.

Come on have a go, if you think you’re hard enough!

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