Aylesford 455 AD

This year Hengest and Horsa fought with Wurtgern the king on the spot that is called Aylesford. His brother Horsa being there slain, Hengest afterwards took to the kingdom with his son Esc.

the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Ingram’s)

Both forces are deployed at a distance from the ford – possibly the river Medway.

Angles-Jutes in brown and the Britons in blue.

Vortigern ( Wurtigern ) is not present in this scenario, instead the Briton force is led by Vortimer and Catigern and the Saxons are led by Hengist and Horsa.

Vortimer fights on foot with his own hearth guard and orders all the spearmen to lock ranks. These troops are all professionals. Catigern is in charge of the horse troops. Not a shock arm but rather javelin throwers and flank harassers.
The Saxons are all barbarian troops, loose order and violent on the attack. Hengist leads his own barbarian hearth guard.

note: saxons is a blanket term. Tribes are known as Angles, Jutes, etc

Contrary to many designs there’s no play for Initiative. Each scenario defines which side is the First, the other is the Second. For this battle the Saxons are the First Player.

Horsa and Hengist urge a quick advance to clear the river but are checked by the enemy shieldwall advancing steadily to check the crossing.
Vortimer timidly leads from the back but Catigern can’t help but order all the riders to engage.
The first barbarians across have to face a wall of spear and shield and some are badly bloodied and lose heart.

Horsa takes advantage of the enemy inflexible shieldwall formation and pushes around the flank exhorting two warbands for high intensity combat (marked) – Full savagery at the expense of cohesion ( and maybe even get routed ).

Shieldwall is only as strong as the weakest point… and is no surprise that the flank crumbles before the onslaught but not without a heavy cost.

Horsa is among the slain and just before he could perform any heroic deed. While his name will last by the hand of the chroniclers, the bards might not be so forgiving but at least his death will be a theme.

Note: there’s three combat phases, javelin, combat and heroic combat. The heroic combat is the heart of the game design.

With the flank crumbling the Britons position cannot be held for long if at all. Catigern timing is perfect leading the horse around to counter the threat.

It is only natural that in such a small battle ( by universal history standards ) most troops can have a glimpse of what is happening but it also important to note that all the sequences are fast, a mere half dozen minutes.

Vortimer senses the danger and moves to the front with the household troops, searching for Hengist’s own grizzled barbarians.

Assailed with 3 to 1 odds against him, Hengist and his own guard embrace the fight and become drunk with slaughter and relishing in the bloodbath.

– “Bring it you dogs !”

The Britons, albeit being professional soldiers ( paid all year round by their lord ), are clearly shaken at this show of violence.

Vortimer’s step in and issuing challenges and promising gruesome deaths prepares for the heroic combat to follow.

note: all units can participate in heroic combat and new heroes can emerge from it. There’s an in depth system for the heroic combat sequence and how challenges are issued and how these combats can be broken and reinforced.

As noted before while battles can be won without Heroic combat influence most of the battles result will hang on that aspect. Heroic deeds can avert Panic and even change a certain defeat to a glorious victory.

There’s a strong “narrative wargaming” feel to the entire design. It does not depict a massed battle nor it is just a skirmish but rather a mass brawl where names of individuals are or may become known – age of heroes.

No wonder the Arthurian legend was born from this era.

Disaster strikes…
Too proud to be reinforced by the units around, Vortimer decided on a heroic equal fight.
His own guard is smashed and himself perishes.

note: at this point we made a mistake and marked Vortimer as slain BUT we retracted as there’s only a roll if any unit ( friend and foe ) is destroyed in the combat, which didn’t happen as the Britons were only Disrupted.

– “My death is false news you cur!” – cries Vortimer getting up to his feet.

Game end.
Although we marked Turn 3 we weren’t certain if it was actually Turn 4 BUT who cares, we were having so much fun we completely forgot to move the piece.

Victory for Vortimer forces
The Jutes force panicked at 32 points in Victory check phase.

In truth Horsa dying and Catigern bringing the horse around made the day.

There were few possibilities for heroic combat per se as the Britons kept the spearmen in close formation – no men breaking ranks to issue challenges – so couldn’t issue heroic combat challenges nor be challenged themselves.

Only in the last events did the Britons decided to open the wall when Vortimer moved forward.

All in all this is a GREAT little game with a very particular synergy between troop types and definitely a unique dynamic in the way the battles play out.

Really makes justice to a lot of literature and the very little historical records in the sense that it conveys vividly the narrative as in the game we played it could easily be an entry in the Chronicle:

– A.D. 455 – Britons led by Vortimer and Catigern battle with a Saxon force led by Hengist and Horsa. Horsa is slain. Hengist proves himself the better warrior but ultimately his force is defeated.

Battles for Prydain, heroic combat in dark age Britain is a game designed by Elezar Lawson

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