Monday 29 January 2024

Stamford Bridge 1066

The Battle of Stamford Bridge 1066. 

King Harold marches his Anglo-Saxon army north to meet with Viking invader, King Hardrada.

The game is my own design and was published, together with a Hastings game by Revolution Games in 2015.

Last year both games went out of print. I am pleased to say that Legion Games are looking at bringing both games back, but to also include the remaining battle of that year as a new design … Gate Fulford, which has been designed by Geoff Noble, who is also doing a strategic 1066 game for Legion Games. The idea is that the strategic game and the individual battles will form a complementary 1066 line-up

All three battles will be packaged together and share the same game engine. I have seen the proposed artwork, which looks very nice, so fingers crossed on all of that.

In the meantime, today, I am putting my copy of the Revolution Games’ Stamford Bridge to the table.


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

Despite sharing the same game engine, Hastings and Stamford Bridge give very different play experiences. Hastings is a slow grinding game as the Normans fight hard to gain the Senlac Ridge. It was an eight hour battle.

Stamford Bridge by contrast is a brutal hack and slash game and after playing the Hastings game, the speed at which casualties rack up can be quite shocking.

At the heart of the game is the class / morale system. As casualties mount amongst the various unit types, there becomes an increasing chance that the further loss of individual units will cause those around them to rout.

At first this happens just here and there as individual groups break, but as the situation deteriorates, larger groups will run, until whole sections of line can break, with reserves, usually of a lower quality, desperately trying to shore up the gaps as the battle tips towards one side or the other.

Anyway, here we are. One of the aspects about Stamford Bridge is that the Vikings were quite unprepared for battle. Many men had left their armour on the ships back at Riccall and a significant part of the army was also there under Orri's command.

This will give us two things to consider in the battle. Firstly to represent the armour left back at the ship, the Viking front line is drawn from a pool of mixed combat values and set up with the counters face down so that neither side knows the strength of each unit. 

Some units will have their armour and be at strength 5 and others will not, being at strength 4. The true value of a unit is not revealed until the moment of combat has been declared.

Secondly, Orri's reinforcement ran all the way from Riccall and arrived pretty much exhausted. In this game, exhausted troops cannot attempt recovery from disorder or rout, so they can be a one shot party trick.

Also note, units fight one on one, the system does not allow ganging up.

The Refight.

Above, this is a fixed set-up (unless options are used). Note the front line of Viking counters (blue) are face down, these are the units that may or may not have their armour.

There are strict movement restrictions on turn 1, to represent the fact that Harold has had to deploy his force on the other side of a narrow bridge and the Vikings are steadfastly in their shield wall formation.

As the first line of housecarls throw themselves at the Viking shield wall, they manage to break into the Viking line at a couple of points, but suffer heavily from disorder results.

Above - by the Start of turn three, we have the typical chaos of this game as the lines mix and individual unit flanks become exposed and vulnerable to quick defeat.

The housecarls are taking very heavy casualties, though the Viking shield wall has lost much of its cohesion. Harold's troops had pushed their archers out to the flanks, but the Viking levy extended the Viking front to meet that threat and inflicted heavy losses on the bowmen.

Above - the first rout of the game sees a unit of housecarls break. For a unit to rout, a side must already have suffered a lot of casualties. Thereafter, whenever a unit is removed from play, that side rolls a D6 for each unit class adjacent to the lost unit (i.e. the housecarls or the fyrd). 

The die roll is added to the number of casualties suffered so far by that class and if the total exceeds the unit type break level, then each adjacent unit of that class routs, so obviously the more losses a side takes, a lower die roll will be enough to cause adjacent units to rout and something of an escalation follows.

The Vikings have an incredibly lucky round of re-ordering disordered units, while Harold's troops continue to take losses.

Above - it is the end of turn 5 and the Orri reinforcements have just started to arrive, crossing Millsike Beck at a ford (top right of the map).

Harold's army is on its knees! Harold himself is exposed and needs to move. I can't remember seeing the Saxons losing this badly so early in the game before.

At turn 7, the Orri reinforcement automatically reaches exhaustion, so any of those units that now go disordered or rout .... stay that way. However, the reinforcement does have one opportunity to launch an attack with their hirdmenn using 'Berserker Rage', getting an uplift on their attack dice.

This is to represent the shock wave that historically hit Harold's line, when Orri arrived (known as Orri's storm), almost crushing the Anglo-Saxon position.

The Saxon army is fighting for its life, their leaders join in the fray, encouraging more from the men - they should have done this earlier! 

Above -  Harold has a narrow escape as the fyrd unit he is with is swept away. The writing is well and truly on the wall as Viking units press towards the road junction. Taking this would cut Harold off from the bridge.

Then .... Harold's brother, Gyrth, falls when those with him are attacked in the flank and this sets the final scene for a complete and massive Anglo-Saxon defeat!


Well the unravelling actually began on turns 2 and 3. The losses to the Housecarl were so great that further loss was almost certain to create routs, causing the army to deteriorate quickly.

They should have been less reckless and not simply charged at everything in front of them, concentrating instead on weakened areas of line and supporting any success with fresh attacks and keeping some of the front line ‘fresh’ as an immediate reserve for the following turn.

The early loss of archers fed into the break level of the fyrd, so that their break level was too quickly reached early in the game.

I have put a link in the resource section below that covers an earlier game in much more detail, with more of the game engine explained and which played out to a much closer ending. 

As always, thanks for reading this far.

Resource Section.

An earlier replay of the game, LINK

My sister webspace ‘COMMANDERS’  showcases the various figure and boardgame systems that I am enjoying and gives a flavour of where current projects are up to. Link.


  1. Hi Norm,

    Off piste I know but could you drop me a line please?

    Many thanks,


  2. Ouch that was a heavy defeat for the Saxons, I have both of your games and enjoy them immensely.There is lots of replay value in both. Interesting. It will be interesting what Legion games do. I have Men of Iron The Normans waiting for me when I get out of hospital so I will be interested to see how they treat the battles

  3. Hi Graham, at this point in time, the Hastings / Stamford rules will be the same and the gate Fulford scenario will use the same game engine and just have exclusive rules in the way that Hastings and Stamford do.
    The maps will grow to full size and the larger hex will allow larger counters. I have seen the artwork and it is very nice.

    I too have bought the Norman Conquests and hope to get that to the table soon. I bought it for both subject matter and the fact that I own the rest of the series. I will be careful how I comment on the game, if indeed I do, simply because the issue of ‘conflict of interest’ may be argued.

    There is a lot of goodness about. Hope you continue to improve and glad you at least have internet access to get your fix :-)

  4. Well that was a turn up for the books and somewhat different to history, but great when things like this happen on the table IMHO. Being able to play a campaign around these two invasions would be good fun, just to see those what might have happened moments. Having the first Viking line unknown is a nice touch and a simple one to implement with other games too.

    1. Hi Steve ‘Untried Units’ is one of my favourite boardgame mechanics. Some of my Ancient / Medieval games have blank maps and they might be useful to create some spin-off games using the game counters and system from Stamford Bridge, so for example, with Harold still alive and falling back on his South England stronghold, perhaps Hardrada pursues and there is another set piece battle.

  5. Just a thought for the new edition, do not leave the flip side of the units with uncertain values blank, instead have the unit icons and simply no values. If need be add some further way to pick them up out of a line-up.

  6. Hi Renaud, I like that idea. Presently, none of the units will have a blank rear side, as counter rears are being used to note disorder status. instead an ‘Untried marker’ was to be placed on top of the hidden units. But I like the idea of ghost markers going directly to the table and when one has to be revealed, the real counter can be pulled from a draw bag or chit cup. Thank you., I will suggest it.

  7. how did Harold botch that up??!! seriously... warrior kings these days, not like how they used to be.

    congrats on having the games re-issued. would be a great package with all 3 battles.

    1. Hi Stew, if only those warrior kings didn’t have to worry about pesky dice. Harold issued an order that he only wanted sixes rolled …. and the rest is history :-)

  8. Interesting post as always, not at all straightforward for Harold, I suppose there is scope for a what if Harald Hadrada Vs William the bastard?
    Best Iain

  9. Hi Iain, very much so and perhaps even an alliance between some Danish-Saxon troops and Hardrada against the Normans

  10. I bet seeing your games back in print is very satisfying. Why did you choose not to develop the third game in the trilogy? Seems natural to have you do the work.

  11. Hi Jonathan, this all started out around 2000 when I did DTP versions for direct sale. The intention was to do a quad, the three 1066 battles and a Crusader battle - hence the cavalry rules were developed with that in mind. I also had Kadesh as a fifth possibility.

    In those days, if you were self publishing via Desk Top Publishing software, you had to be everything, designer, artist, layout and distributor. It was labour intensive to get right. Also, i did not have access to counter cutting, so there was a bit of a home made / crafting look to it, as buyers had to mount and cut their own counters from the supplied printed sheet, this kept the asking price very low.

    The margins to go via overseas distributors on a self print product was a killer and I just seemed to spend too much time servicing something that was barely breaking even and taking over life! and so enthusiasm flagged and time passed.

    By the time the chances to came around to re-consider, I was just in a different place. Fortunately Legion Games wanted it and already had a designer doing other 1066 work, so there was a good fit to move the project forward. I am actively in contact with the designer, but he is doing the heavy lifting and doing a fantastic job.

    he is keeping the basic engine fully intact, which I am happy about and so I am eager to see his approach to Gate Fulford, because it is the dedicated scenario rules that give each game their character.

  12. Well, as Steve and others have said, that was an unexpected result, Norm! I have played the Vikings in this, using figures and To the Strongest - and apart from our mate Chris replicating the lone axeman's heroics on the bridge (not only did he stop the Saxons crossing, he went onto the offensive against entire units of Fyrd....!) the eventual outcome of the game was disastrously historical!

    1. Hi Keith, I of course went against my own advice and as the Anglo-Saxons, just rushed the shield wall, ultimately just disrupting myself across the front and making an easy target for the Vikings to counter-attack. I never recovered from that.

      What I should of done was some selective attacks and holding some housecarls back to attack specific parts of the Viking line that had been weakened. Just wait until next time! :-)

  13. I do love these famous dark age battles 👍

  14. Hi Matt, we are lucky that of late, they are getting a lot more attention from designers and developers. Warlord Games are expected to release their second volume of Shieldwall, with this one starting from 1066.

  15. I've lost count of the number of times I've re-fought Hasting- but have never given Stamford Bridge a go- it seemed too one sided- but this has changed my mind.

  16. Hi John, for the most part, this particular game is quite tightly balance and both sides are fighting for that ‘one more turn’ thing to try and push the other over the line. In today’s play, I use Harold rather recklessly from the get-go and they never really recovered from the casualties that came from that.

    he surprising thing from my chair is how different Hastings and Stamford feel, even though they share the same engine.


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