Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Hastings 1066 - some boardgame action and a figures video.





Recently, I was rather taken by a YouTube video AAR of the Hastings battle using 28mm figures on nice terrain, with the Triumph rules system. A link to that video is given in the Resource Section at the foot of this post. 


There are a series of three videos showing the full battle, but for those inclined not to watch, I would recommend looking at just the first 10 minutes or so, to appreciate the nature of the battlefield and the efforts of the gaming group.


The game shows a hard slog up the hill, with the flanks being where the first Norman inroads to the Anglo-Saxon defensive position are likely to occur, but for much of the game, the Normans are battering themselves against a robust Anglo-Saxon line and a win for them looks unlikely, it is only in the last part of the battle that any certainty of a victory to either side becomes clear. 


This is very much how I portrayed the battle in my Hastings boardgame, it is not an easy battle for the Normans .... neither should it be!


Anyway, prompted by the video, I put the boardgame, Invasion 1066: The Battle of Hastings, on the table (published by Revolution Games). This post takes a light overview of how the game progressed this time around.


Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.




I am going with the historical set up. The Normans are at the foot of the ridge with a centre and two wings. Their army is drawn up into 3 ranks, archers, then infantry, followed by cavalry. 


The Anglo-Saxon front line is hardened by a rank of Housecarls and Select Fyrd, their superiority combined with the ridge position makes this a tough nut to crack and Norman attacks will likely need leaders to get involved (risky) if they are to break into this defensive line. The Norman player must keep trusting that they will win ...... even when that looks unlikely, victory is often only revealed in the last moments of the game.


The Anglo-Saxon position is strong. There is only one thing that the player commonly needs to observe ...... don’t come off the hill! (well, unless the opportunity for victory is too good to ignore - see link in the Resource Section for such a game). As front line Housecarls fall, they will be replaced by the weaker General Fyrd and as the General Fyrd increasingly fill these front line positions, the greater the threat to the Anglo-Saxon player’s defensive line, but this all takes time to unravel.


Casualties feed into the calculations for rout levels. The more casualties suffered by any particular class of troop, the greater the chance of them routing and so this is an ‘attackers’ game, trying to force routs by inflicting casualties. At first, routs will be localised, but as the armies deteriorate, routing will become more widespread.





Above - the historical scenario starts on turn 3. The battle opens with nice tidy lines. The Normans open with their archers, trying to disorder the enemy, where successful, Norman infantry will move in to engage. Archers shoot with a D6, but on a roll of 1 or 2, the unit goes ‘out of arrows’ and is removed from play. This is a mechanic that simply recognises the opening phase of battle and stops archers behaving later like melee troops.





Above, they have a great opening, disordering two adjacent Housecarls opposite the Bretons, reducing their strengths from 5 to 3 (+1 for the slope). The Bretons (Green on the left) under Fergant, attacks with infantry, but one attacking unit is removed from play.





Above - The Housecarls in the front line pull back, so that they can try and re-order and are replaced by Fyrd. Breton infantry to exploit this, but frustratingly lose another unit, causing adjacent units to check morale ..... they fail (D6 roll 6, plus 2 casualties =8, which is their break point), so they rout. They do not have a clear path to be able to rout through, so they will be removed from play. This is a disastrous start for the Norman left.





Above - On the right, the Franco-Flemish under Eustace manage to get a foothold on the ridge.





End of turn 6 - things are not looking good for the Normans. Their left is partly neutralised and the right has taken casualties and is seeing routs. A disordered Anglo-Saxon Fyrd unit on the ridge loses discipline and makes an impetuous charge off the ridge to follow the routing cavalry (above). They catch up with the cavalry near Asten Brook, but fail to do any harm. This lone Anglo-Saxon unit is not going to survive for long out in the open!


William must get the attack moving and is compelled to do something in the centre with his cavalry, but this is risky.





Turn 8 - Desperate Normans are now resorting to feigned attacks with their cavalry. ‘Pretending’ to retreat can prove particularly dangerous, but in this instance (above) they are successful in disordering a Housecarl unit.  





Turn 9 - Seemingly getting nowhere, William orders the Papal Banner to be put into the front line to inspire his men (above). It does create new momentum and the cavalry break into the ridge position, but are at great risk to being attacked in their flanks. However, against the odds and even though disordered, the cavalry unit holds off against Anglo-Saxon attempts to dislodge them.




Turn 11 - The Normans have breached the centre (above), but both flanks of the army are exhausted. William moves up in case he has to intervene personally (the loss of either King Harold or William will cause an instant sudden death victory to the other side, so this is a good indication of how worried the Normans are).





Above - Harold’s brother Leofwine leads an attack, bringing his wing off the ridge and into the Norman right. The attack is devastating and Eustace is killed by Leofwine.




Turn 12 (the last turn of the game) - The Norman centre has become disordered and William becomes directly involved in the fight. He orders the whole line to make one final Herculean assault, but some of those attacks are ill-advised. 





One Norman infantry unit break and are removed from play as they assault the ridge in the centre and as a direct consequence, two adjacent Norman cavalry units fail their morale tests and rout. One of the units is carrying the Papal Banner, the other is with William (not a good omen), though William is able to rally his unit back up from rout to disorder status and hold them before they raced off the map!


For their part, the Anglo-Saxon left flank under Leofwine pulled back onto the safety of the ridge and the rest of Harold’s army move to re-consolidate along the ridge as best they can, but they are lucky that the battle has ended as they too have some problems. They have lost too many Fyrd, mostly men routing from the ferocious fighting in the centre.

  

Conclusion.

An enjoyable game that despite good initial arrow attacks, quickly saw the Norman flanks flounder and they never really recovered from that.

Normally they would keep pressure up on the flanks using their leaders in combat, but their commands became too fragile too quickly.

Perhaps Norman leaders should have been more involved and perhaps with failure looming, William should have taken a risk and intervened earlier.

The Anglo-Saxons didn't have to work too hard. When Leofwine counter-attack, coming off the hill, he did not have an overwhelming force, it was just that the Franco-French under Eustace were so vulnerable. Once the Norman centre started to cover that flank, Leofwine sensibly fell back to the ridge.


Looking at the map, the Normans have obviously failed to dislodge Harold from the ridge or to destroy the Anglo-Saxon army, but let’s see what the Victory Point Schedule looks like;


Normans - get 18 points for removing 6 Housecarls, 20 points for 10 Fyrd and nothing for the objective of penetrating deeply into the ridge.


Anglo-Saxons - get 18 points for removing 9 Norman infantry, 28 points for 7 cavalry, 5 points for killing Eustace and 1 point for there being an enemy currently routing. They do not get any points for an objective (reaching the causeway at Asten Brook) and have failed to capture the Papal Banner.


The final tally is 38 points for the Normans, but 52 points for the Anglo-Saxons, a clear victory for King Harold.


Though it looks very tough for the Normans, the game does generally give them a fair crack of the whip a 50/50 and normally it is the brutality of the final couple of turns that decides the issue.



Resource Section.


Hastings in 28mm using Triumph rules - a YouTube presentation. There are 3 videos, each about an hour long, but just the first part of the first video will give a good overall impression of play. LINK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SKhLfILJUI&t=2s


An earlier post showing a Hastings game, when the Anglo-Saxons counter-attack in strength. LINK.

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2016/10/hastings-anniversary-replay.html


A post covering the sister game at Stamford Bridge, against the Vikings. LINK

http://battlefieldswarriors.blogspot.com/2016/04/invasion-1066-stamford-bridge.html



22 comments:

  1. Great walk through of the game Norm and an interesting outcome. Didn’t William order most of his boats to be burned? Perhaps the revised bayeux tapestry (or should that now be the Canterbury tapestry) will show a captured William swearing on oath to be Harolds vassal...lol.

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  2. Thanks JB. Initially I though the Normans were about to get an easy ride and then two or three bad dice turned things rather on their head ...... something else missing from the tapestry ..... all those sixes rolled!

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  3. A great report Norm. We played Hastings a few years back on our Tarawera wargaming week, using To the Stronget rules. The Breton cavalry were wiped out but their sacrifice allowed the Normans to penetrate the Saxon flank and gradually roll them up. Harold was killed in single combat, trying to snatch an unlikely victory!

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  4. Hi Keith, there are a few rules, like Kings of war Historicals that cover the period and use 'Heroes', making Harold and William heroic leaders would seem in keeping with the era/battle. The Bretons do seem to be hardest part of the force to manage because of their fragility when facing a shieldwall uphill!

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  5. Cheers Norm! This is just what I needed to give me some momentum towards unpacking the 1066 game and giving it a go! Thank you!

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  6. Thanks Steve, I was thinking of you as I prepped this one up.

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  7. Inspiring battle isn't it? Nice looking game, great report!

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  8. Thanks Phil, Hastings fascinates and it is incredible to think how just 8 hours of fighting could result in such historic ramifications.

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  9. Great report and I think a real tough nut for either side so I can easily believe it’s one that can go either way. Another one of my favourite battles.

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  10. Thanks Graham, fully agree. By the way, I have just picked up The Battle of Wakefield in C3i from a few issues ago ...... it is part of the Men of Iron system, so should add to the Blood and Roses module.

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  11. Thanks Norm really nice to see, I plan a Hastings Battle sometime in the summer in the garden when lockdown is finished. I have watched the video you shared and found it interesting but slightly uninspiring. Our likely rule set will be Kings of War. I have been collecting various maps etc of the battlefield, but need to do an audit of the troops. Thanks for sharing๐Ÿ‘

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    1. Matt, I watched the video too and felt similarly. Rules were boring and fiddly, I thought but I learned about the battle.

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    2. Thanks Matt / Jonathan, by the time you get to the end of 3 hours of video, it seems that the players have gamed for 5 hours with that constant too and fro that sets the tone right from the start and I agree that as a participant, i would want something a bit more snappy - but, my interest comes more from the fact that the system is giving a long drawn out 'bashing your head against a brick wall' kind of experience, which of course fully reflects the battle and is something that my own game tried to achieve, so much so, that I have always been concerned that the Norman player will give up at the half way point, seeing no chance of winning.

      The design notes urge the gamer to play on and to perhaps play it 3 times. to hit the learning curve of how best to use the Normans before coming to a conclusion about the worth of the game, because the Norman play can and does win, as should be the case, but it should be tough.

      In that respect, the frustration that the Norman player gets creates an emotional connection to the game that better reflects the anxiety of William on the day, a worthy design goal.

      I think the YouTube game was doing that and the purpose built terrain did add to the sense of a tough uphill grind.

      I wonder whether Kings of war will be too destructive to serve the scenario well.

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    3. I have to admit to skipping through the video. I think you are right Norm the rules need to reflect the ‘slug it out’ sense of dark age battle . I need to think about that obviously with Kings of war you can up the resilience quite easily by upgrading units to hordes where on average they will hold in combat for multiple turns. I am hoping that we can field a reasonable number of units to give that sense of spectacle and also give a gradual sense of attrition. I need to make sure the Norman s have a chance though. I know how hard an uphill assault into a prepared enemy can be LOL

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  12. Hastings is such a cool scenario. Nice walkthrough of the board game. ๐Ÿ˜€
    My own Hastings project has laid dormant for such a long time now. Sad really. Maybe one day it’ll be the focus of my hobby again. I’ll be sure to check out the video at my next painting session. ๐Ÿ˜€

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    1. Thanks Stew, at least your project will be there for when you are ready for it. With luck, when the kids are older they will do a Hastings project at school, they will beg dad for a figure game and you with have reached cool status with the yongsters :-)

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  13. A revelation: I was only aware of the old TSR Hastings game (with the round counters: back before the earth cooled prior to them switching over to D&D). A most interesting looking game and an excellent report: thanks for posting.

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  14. Hi Ed, it is surprising that such a significant battle was so under represented for so many years in the boardgame world. I think part of that is that it is seen as a bit of a boring situation for the Anglo-Saxon player, who needs to just sit it out on the hill.

    In fact when i first set about this game way back in 2000, the initial design was a solitaire game, with the system handling the Anglo-Saxon side, it was only while trying to get a solo bot working that I came to appreciate the nuanced role of Harold's side and it became a two player game (that is friendly to solo play).

    Around 2015 / 16, there was a small flurry of games on the topic, don't know why, just one of those blip things.

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  15. A nice write up Norm and good to see it was a tough ask for the Normans, which of course it should be! As you say, ideally you play the scenario several time to learn from your mistakes and to even our the vagaries of the die rolls.

    I always feel that this battle, Stamford Bridge and a post battle Hastings would be best played as part of a campaign. So as in this case the Normans lost, but what would happen next?

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  16. Thanks Steve, the what if’s are interesting. From a campaigning perspective, in this game, the Normans were not knocked out badly enough to kill of the threat and the Anglo-Saxon losses too great to pursue a greater victory, so maybe some small clashes would occur on the the ‘Norman road to retreat’.

    But dynastic wise, the ‘what if’ of a Norman defeat is a tremendously significant question and would put in the shade a similar ‘what if’ question of the Vikings winning at Stamford Bridge a few weeks earlier, unless Harold had died at Stamford Bridge, in which case what would be the Norman / Viking dynamic.

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  17. Great write up and interesting post. Yes I remember the flurry of games circa 2015/16 ,seemed a strange time for them all to come out at the same time!
    Best Iain

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  18. Thanks Iain, yes, normally it is things like major anniversaries that produce a design spike, but there was nothing like that around that time.

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