Hastings

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Bill Hupp
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Hastings

Post by Bill Hupp » Sat May 12, 2018 12:37 am

Before Triumph! I had made a custom board for the Battle of Hastings following the Two Davids That Embattled Isle scenario book. I adapted the scenario to Triumph! using Duke William’s Norman Invasion list and the Anglo-Danish list. Duke William: 4 x Knights (16 pts), 4 x Elite Foot (16 pts), 1 x Javelin Cavalry Bretons (4 pts), 2 x Heavy Foot (6 pts), and 2 x Skirmishers (6 pts). King Harold: 3 x Elite Foot (12 pts), 10 x Heavy Foot (30 pts), 2 x Skirmishers (6 pts).

I got a chance to play the game and the results were a come from behind Norman victory. Harold was up 11-4 and then 14-7 before the William was able to get 3 shattered results from its Knights (including William himself) and roll up the Saxon line on the Norman left. Overall it was tight game that could have gone either way and would have likely been a Saxon victory if they had won one of the combats in the last round to just get to their next turn. (NOTE: Pics with Thistle & Rose figures on Facebook.)

We did not end up using the Impetuous Anglo-Danish Foot rule. Overall, I think the rules straight up did a nice job, but a couple of things make me wonder if it wouldn’t be worth making a couple of tweaks.

Any thoughts on Battle Cards or scenrio specific rules?

1- seems like the skirmishers were underused/had no role- per accounts should probably be some archery action.
2- i added a Breton Knight, but maybe they could react like a Javilin Cavalry and imitate the feigned flight.
3- I went for 48 points straight up, but maybe I should add a couple more points to get a skirmishers stand for the middle battle
4- as a compact battle where flanks played no role, the 24 inch board seemed fine for the scale of the battle. Maybe it is short by 40-80 mm?

As the definitive battle of the Dark Ages and British History, this a battle worthy of replay.

Bill
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Lembit Tohver
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Re: Hastings

Post by Lembit Tohver » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:25 pm

As a game scenario, I can see this OOB as a valid organization of forces. I designed a board wargame on the battle of Hastings that was produced. I performed a significant amount of research on this battle. What you described to me from Rod's AAR of the playtest games on the Facebook page is ahistorical to the battle accounts as you mention above. Each command of the Normans would only have 1 Jav Cav. with 2 bow skirmisher or 1 Bow Levy unit available. It was the Norman medium infantry (Heavy Inf in Triumph) that engaged the Anglo-Saxon forces, and then performed a false rout, that caused the Fyrd (and some Huscarles) to charge after them and allowed the Norman Knights to engage them in the open with their advantage. Also in these games, do you have the "ditch" portrayed in front of the Anglo Saxon shieldwall on the hill to prevent the Knights charging in head on? In the AAR pictures on Facebook, I see no evidence of the ditch.
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Rod
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Re: Hastings

Post by Rod » Mon Sep 28, 2020 4:09 pm

Lembit,
Happy to discuss and debate historical scenarios, and people are welcome to present their versions as well. As with all historical battles our information is always less than perfect. I have studied the battle as well, my scenario draws heavily from what would probably be considered mainstream historical accounts and from actual visits to the battlefield (even though the very location has also been disputed).

The Breton forces which are described as breaking on the Norman left flank were made up or infantry and mounted, at least in the descriptions (I have not found anything to specifically indicate they were specifically heavy foot), so I have no problem with them being skirmishers and Jav Cav in Triumph terms. The later described feigned flights are specifically performed by mounted troops in the descriptions I have read, so I do not see using the mounted and mixed skirmishers as specifically ahistorical in my attempt to recreate the feigned flight effect.

Related to the ditch, I assume this comes from text about the "Malfosse" or Evil Ditch? If so that incident is generally described as happening after the battle was over and was an incident in the pursuit part of the battle where Eustace was wounded. I am not aware of a ditch being prepared or in place on the main battle line which hampered the Norman assault. Certainly no such ditch exists on the battlefield today at the top of the hill assuming it is even the correct location, but of course it could have been removed or modified over time by the monks of the abbey.

So if you have some sources describing a prepared ditch in front of the Saxon line on top of the hill that impacted the main battle, I would be very interested in reading that.

I am always happy to look at new information.

Also, what Board Game? I actually used an old board game map in the planning for my battlefield, along with pictures I took from the battlefield.
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Re: Hastings

Post by Lembit Tohver » Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:00 am

I originally designed my Hastings game back when I was in university in the mid 70's. My Greece History professor was a boardgame player which motivated me to design it. One of our readings was Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy's 15 Decisive Battles of the World. I read the chapter on Hastings (as well as the compulsory readings of Marathon and Arabella for my course). It is here that I read about the ditch in front of the Anglo - Saxon line. I had access to the archives in the library and found translations of Norman accounts of the battle that mentioned the trench.

My game is published by Turning Point Simulations which had a game designed for each chapter of 20 Decisive Battles of the World in which Lt. Col. Joseph B. Mitchell updated Creasy's book. It was great to get my game published, especially because the predecessor book inspired me to design the game. Here is a link to the game: https://www.turningpointsimulations.com ... category=1
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Re: Hastings

Post by Rod » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:16 am

Very interesting, I will take a look.

The trench is mentioned and not mentioned in various versions. I went with the version where the trench is encountered post battle behind the original Saxon line. So it does not come into play.
https://saxonhistory.co.uk/Battle_of_Ha ... lfosse.php

It would be possible to use the prepared defense battle card though.
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David Kuijt
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Re: Hastings

Post by David Kuijt » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:45 am

Creasy's book was published in 1851. While it may still have relevant material in terms of the socio-economic impact of particular battles on the advance of civilization, even that has to be filtered through the lens of Victorian biases. I'm sure his work was pioneering -- like that of Charles Oman, who died nearly a hundred years later -- but all Charles Oman's work has been superseded by modern scholarship, and his main stuff was published 90 years ago, not 170 years. 1851 was before the modern science of Archaeology was even invented -- Heinrich Schliemann's atrocities digging up Troy were still 30 years in the future at that time.

My point was that there has been massive improvements in the accuracy, interpretation, and archaeology of military history, even since 1970 (much less 1850). Some of the Norman accounts (William of Poitiers, for example) talk about the use of feigned flight several times to attempt to draw the Saxon shield-wall into pursuit -- that tactic was unlikely to be effective if the Saxons had a ditch or trench protecting their front. No ditch or fortification appears in the Bayeux Tapestry, although of course that doesn't prove anything. The Saxons had marched hard to get to the south after their victory at Stamford Bridge against the other Harald (Hardrada), and camped some major distance from the battlefield the night of 13 October. The battle started the next morning (9:00am, apparently), and the Saxon camp of the night before was several miles from the (currently believed) battlefield -- that doesn't leave a lot of time for mustering the forces, marching several miles, choosing a location, and digging major ditches. Further, I can't recall any other examples of Anglo-Saxons using field fortifications like that. The main purpose of such ditches would almost certainly be in slowing or disordering the mounted charge of William's knights -- but military engagements in England had been entirely foot affairs since the fall of Rome, more or less (one of the northern Briton kingdoms aside -- and even there the bulk of the army was foot). Where is this experience in developing anti-mounted trenches supposed to come from? The Normans, Carolingians, and Merovingians before them have no history of using anti-mounted trenches either, on the other side of the English Channel, and they had much more reason to develop them -- they had a mix of knights and shield-wall foot. Byzantium was the greatest source of military tactic technology, and there was contact -- Harald Hardrada (who Harold Godwinsson slew shortly before Hastings) had served in Constantinople -- but the Byzantines fought totally differently from the Normans and from the Vikings and Saxons, which makes that pathway for transmission sort of dubious.

Unless you are talking about the fosse that some few accounts represent as being BEHIND the Norman line, so that it messed them up when they were attempting a feigned retreat? That surely couldn't be a field construction of the Saxons, or why would they build it, then take up positions far enough away from it that the Normans could create a full formation and feigned retreat in front of it? I note that one account of the fosse puts it way behind the Saxon lines -- so that the Normans who are tripped up by it are doing so while pursuing the broken English (Anglo-Saxon) army. Again, hard to imagine that being a field construction.

None of which is proof -- but it does mean I'm very interested to see any support you can provide. This sort of discussion of historical battles is really fun, and I appreciate the opportunity!
DK
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Rod
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Re: Hastings

Post by Rod » Tue Sep 29, 2020 7:16 pm

A good video on the search for the actual battlefield.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhAXPI3ueW0

I watched this as well before making my battlefield, the laser topography is quite interesting.
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Re: Hastings

Post by Lembit Tohver » Thu Oct 01, 2020 1:10 pm

I have been pondering about this issue of the ditches. It seems that you are looking at it in the perspective of an "anti-cavalry" measure. I instead postulate that this was done as an "anti-infantry" measure. Digging maybe 10' length x 4-5' wide x 3-4' deep ditches about 25-50 meters infront of where the Anglo-Saxon's Battle line was positioned. They would be staggered ( Since we
don't seem to be able to post pics on this site, I will post it on FB), thus funneling the infantry attack. The dirt would be tossed onto the Anglo-Saxon side of the ditch to make a mound higher and more difficult to surmount. The funnel tunnels would be blockaded with wood bramble "Fosse" barricades to further restrict/inhibit the Norman infantry attacking through them. Willian
seeing these and not knowing the depth of the ditches would not want his knights charging uphill. This IMHO is quite possible and would explain the difficulties of the False Retreats. Also only digging partial ditches would take much less time and energy for the Anglo-Saxon men to perform. I remember suggesting to my professor the idea that the trenches could have been used to bury the Anglo-Saxon dead in "mass" graves, and that is something that the searchers for the battle site could consider to look for.
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Re: Hastings

Post by Rod » Thu Oct 01, 2020 3:38 pm

The only reference to a fosse that comes close is the one described by Wace. It is very much inconsistent with all the other references in both time and place of the fosse.

The other accounts I have seen seem to indicate it was a natural dip the ground and the concealment was from natural vegetation, only Wace describes it as being made by Harold's men.

Many of the accounts refer to it after the battle as part of the pursuit of the fleeing Saxons or even as a fight with late arrivals to the battle. I suspect this is in reference to the fosse Wace describes being built around Harold's original HQ with three entrances. This was probably the place some of the refugees fell back to as a last stand, and possibly where Eustace was injured. Although other accounts may have this happening in the naturally rough countryside around the area and in the darkness.

The fosse Wace describes being made is in the plain protecting one side of the English line, but he also describes the Normans as being already past it. The fosse come into play when the English charge and the French retreat falling back into a Fosse which may or may not be the one dug by the English. So it was not directly or immediately in front of the English line. This makes me suspect it was more likely a naturally occurring or overgrown dip in the ground that the retreating French fell into in their haste to escape and likely the somewhat marshy ground to the front of and slightly right of the English right flank. In my model it is sort of represented as marshy ground in that area, the current area is too built up and was heavily modified by the monks of the abbey to be sure.

Now he does briefly mention a barricade that some of the commoners created suggesting the piled their shields together and even made a sort of wattle and stick fence (not a ditch or fosse). This I suspect was in the rear or flanks were the lowest quality troops were located. This fence is mentioned near the end of the battle description by Wace and the Normans hack their way through it with their swords. Will have to go and reread it though to be sure. I suspect it was not much of a barrier, and hastily made. Still it seems to have been more like a second line of defense or maybe a camp perimeter.

So while your checker board defense proposal is interesting I can't find anything to support it as part of the main battle line.
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Re: Hastings

Post by Rod » Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:18 pm

Lembit, I attached your picture here to continue discussion if you like.

Ditch = Fosse in old English as I understand? So not sure why you are making one a ditch and one a barricade. I am not a language expert though only going by others translations.

As mentioned above, I can find a description of a makeshift barricade and a ditch in Wace, but nothing to support the defensive position you are speculating in your drawing. If you have some other sources always happy to take a look.

Also, one very curious thing about the Hastings, we have no archeological evidence (weapons, armor, bodies..etc.) to verify it's location. At least none that I know of, the video series I link above goes into that discussion and they even got permission to dig on the battlefield.

One of the great mysteries and suspicions about the true battlefield location is the lack of any archeological evidence and hence the reason why other sites have been proposed as the true location (Crowhurst for example). To the best of my knowledge no mass graves have been found that were identified as being the remains from the battle.
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