Sunday, 10 February 2019

Battle of Pinhoe 1001 AD - Dux Bellorum

Yesterday David and I got to play the finalised version of the scenario I have been working on over recent weeks and covered in my post on JJ's Wargames - Battle of Pinhoe 1001 AD Dux Bellorum where I was looking to use the rule set Dux Bellorum to play a scenario game rather than a points based one, to recreate the local battle at Pinhoe just outside Exeter.

Dux Bellorum - A rule set I have come to like more and more each time I play them

The battle saw some 4,000 Viking raiders led by Palig Tokesen confront a hastily raised 2,000 man Fyrd army of Devon with some men from Somerset led by Theign Kola, after the raiders having landed at Exmouth marched on Exeter but were repulsed and forced to seek better sport in the neighbouring villages before being challenged by the arrival of Kola's army.

The Anglo-Saxon line forms up on the rear slope of Beacon Hill as scouts war of the approach of the Viking host

Two days prior to our club game I took the time to walk the battlefield on Beacon Hill just outside the modern day village of Pinhoe and you can read a post about that walk together with a PDF of this scenario that we played here.

JJ's Wargames, Battlefields in Devon - Battle of Pinhoe

Thus this game is the culmination of the previous three play-tests together with a walk on the likely site for the battle to confirm the terrain characteristics.

The Viking force approaches in three distinct groups with skirmishers covering the flanks

The Viking host approached the hill in three distinct groups with two units of bow armed skirmishers on each flank who attempted to take out the tree groups of Saxon skirmishers with their shooting as soon as they came into range.

The Saxon skirmishers wisely hugged the scattered woods around the hill using the cover and a few Leadership Points (LP) placed with them to protect against unfortunate hits, but waiting for any chance to rush from cover and close assault their opponents whilst replenishing their bows.

Saxon skirmishers rush out from the small woods around the hill to ambush their Viking opposites and try to reduce their threat

In these first battles between the skirmishers the Saxons managed to balance the forces to one skirmish base apiece and take three LP off the Vikings for two lost in return.

As the skirmish battle starts on the Saxon right flank the line waits in silence as the Vikings approach

The Skirmish action was however only the hors d'oeuvre to the main course of the two battle lines meeting as the three Viking groups went impetuous and charged up Beacon Hill crashing into their Saxon opposites braced up in shield wall.

Saxon slingers man the woods on the left of the line

At first it seemed as if Tokesen's historic charge would be matched by our game as the Saxon line reeled back in all but one of the clashes as they lost the first rounds of combat and were pushed back.

I, as the Saxon commander, rashly went for the Viking leader using Kola's stand of Companion warriors and adding in two supports together with three LPs to give an eleven dice attack against the Viking Leader only hitting on '6s' but still managing to miss with all eleven dice whilst taking one hit in return.

The two hosts meet as the Vikings charge home and the first casualties, (gaps among the bases) start to appear

Needless to say the Saxon line did not charge in on the next round of combat, leaving that to the Vikings, however conceding the -2 for charging uphill as the Vikings had successfully pushed the Saxon line back in the previous round.

This time though the Saxon Companions and one base of noble shield wall focused their attacks on the Viking warriors rather than the nobles and companions and were rewarded with multiple casualties and push-backs whilst the rest of the Saxon shieldwall managed to resist the bulk of the Viking attacks and thus pushed back the original attacks.

The fist rounds of close combat with gaps in the lines and pushbacks and follow ups equally spread along it

Shieldwall means that the Saxons were only succumbing to sixes rolled by the Vikings whist the Warrior status of the Vikings meant that apart from their Companions they were succumbing to fives and sixes and the shield wall also reduced Viking attacks by two dice equaling out the reduced striking power of the lower quality Saxon shieldwall.

Thus the game produces a finely balanced struggle on the hill that should eventually turn in favour of the better quality Viking host with their extra Leadership Points but the balance of the struggle in the early contest together with our house-rule of testing the success of LP's used to save hits, needing a 4,5 or 6 to succeed, keeps things interesting for the Saxon commander looking to take as many Vikings down as he can and force them to seriously think about leaving.

The first Viking casualties

The other added house-rule of a variable clock rolling down the eighteen turns of an Annals Battle meant that the players could not be sure if they were fighting a nine, eighteen or thirty-six turn battle or something in between thus adding a little extra pressure to the struggle.

In the end the Saxon line succumbed on turn ten having lost five bases of shield-wall warriors including the two levies and reduced to just one LP but having in return taken out four bases of Viking warriors together with three skirmish bases and reduced the Viking force to just two LP.

The first Saxon casualties

This was a really hard fought struggle likely emulating the historical contest fought a couple of miles from where we were playing a thousand years previously and produced a really fascinating game with decision points throughout as to where to place LPs and whether to charge or fight this group or another and I really enjoyed the afternoon.

Not only that but it has been really nice to get the Saxon - Viking collection out after putting it together just a year ago and I am very keen to add to the collection in time and play more Dux Bellorum which I feel has to be one of the best sets of rules written by Dan Mersey

Thanks to David for taking me on with the Vikings and to Bob and Steve M for the earlier play-tests that have helped shape this scenario.

The PDF for the scenario can be found here:
JJ's Wargames, Battlefields in Devon - Battle of Pinhoe


  1. Looks beautiful, lovely units!

  2. What a good looking game. It really struck me how much courage it would take to face up to such a large invading host.