The cold grey dawn crept over the headland. The one-eyed man drew his bearskin cloak around him and stared out at an empty sea. Not a single sail broke the horizon.
Treachery, circumstance, or fate. It mattered not. The ships weren’t coming.
He stood, shrugged off the bearskin and stretched. His breath was a thick white mist.
A few short cycles of the moon... and it would have been over. His pursuers cheated of their prey, his reputation enhanced by a year of victory after victory, the banners of his enemies hung in his hall.
But time had run out for Einar the Perpetrator.
The bleak, isolated promontory - intended as an escape route- had become a trap and everything would be decided here, today...
...at the point of a sword.
This game formed the climax of an ongoing campaign chronicling the blood feud between two Viking Jarls : Gunnar the Aggrieved, and Einar the Perpetrator.
(editor’s note: First Encounter Second Encounter)
(editor’s note: First Encounter Second Encounter)
In Viking law, a man with an outstanding accusation of murder against him could be hunted down and slain with impunity for a year from the date of the accusation. If he could escape justice for that long, the Fates were assumed to have judged in his favour.
Einar’s year of outlawry was almost over, and he’d thrived on it. At large and undefeated, this was to be his pursuer’s last attempt to have their vengeance.
We were using ‘Sword & Dagger’, our club rules, by Richard (AKA ‘Gunnar’) available to download from Tyneside Wargames Club website.
They’re 1:1 skirmish rules for Dark Age –High Medieval forces of around 40 men per warband/retinue.
The points system and army lists had been substantially revised since our previous game, with drastic results for our force composition!
Einar (Norman D Landings)
Trygg Olafsson (Ian)
We played on a table roughly 4”x8”, with the long edges being N & S, the short edges E & W.
The terrain represented a low headland where Einar had been intending to take ship for Aengland, but had instead been trapped by Gunnar’s pursuing force.
The westward end only was the landward edge; the rest of the table was surrounded by sea.
The point of the set-up was to force Einar into an attacking strategy – a tough call, but only fair, since he had been able to dictate tactics in all the previous engagements.
Gunnar & Trygg deployed at the Western edge – Gunnar toward the SW, & Trygg toward the NW.
Einer’s band ranked-up opposite Gunnar, and Guthrum opposite Trygg.
Turns 1-3: All factions advance!
All commanders decide to ‘go with the flow’ and follow the path dictated by the terrain – Einar and Gunnar marching toward each other in the stretch of open ground along the southern shore, Trygg and Guthrum heading for the open ground to the north.
while his scouts and command group skirt the rougher ground toward the middle of the table.
(already, Einar thinks the spearmen look like a blocking force, intended to hold up his escape while the rest of his enemies close in... however, the only way to go is straight over their gutted corpses, so there’s no point worrying about it!)
As Gunnar’s scouts advance, his slingers split off from the main group, and head for a dense patch of rough ground.
Trygg’s initial advance sees his forces skirting some rough terrain. His highly mobile warband flows easily around the broken ground and forms up facing the widest stretch of open ground on the table: a potential killing ground for his cavalry and archers!
Guthrum, however, is no fool. He slows the advance of his main body,
sending his archers into the dense reed-beds which border the open ground.
Turn 4: Form Ranks!
The general advance continues...
Einar’s warband organize themselves – his Viking raiders, best armoured of his men, will lead the advance. His archers form the second rank of this unit, and he slows his advance to half-speed to allow them to move-and-shoot. Although they score no hits, their shafts do make Gunnar think twice about leaving his men standing out in the open!
Turns 5 & 6: The Slings and Arrows of outrageous fortune!
His scouts press forward through some light woods and onto the slope of a small rise to Einar’s right.
Trygg has established his slingers in a dense patch of rough ground and continues to advance the rest of his men. He continues to vex Guthrum’s scouts with hopeful long-range shots into the reeds, wounding a slinger in turn 5 and another in turn 6.
Guthrum continues to push forwards through the reed-beds, but has reached an impasse: there’s no way to get any closer to the enemy without breaking cover. He halts his men in some broken ground and rethinks his options....
Einar keeps pressing forward at a slow enough pace to allow his archers to keep shooting, taking a toll on Gunnar’s slingers. Although this will allow time for Gunnar’s scouts to close from the north, there seems little point in rushing forward – no matter how fast the outlaws march, they won’t outrun the enemy horse!
(At this point, I, playing as Einar, discovered that my peasant archers have fallen foul of the new rules! Viking peasantry are no longer allowed to be bow-armed in the revised army lists. A quick recalculation promotes them to Sergeants [the rules use generic medieval terminology]which increases my warband’s point total to 254 – still well within acceptable leeway for a 250pt game.)
Turn 7: Into the woods!
Gunnar decides to deploy for battle in the rough ground. His men, taking cover at its edges, are redeployed across it. On Einar’s flank, Gunnar’s scouts come within range of the outlaws and their lone archer looses an arrow, scoring a Light Wound.
Trygg’s tactics seem to be working. He leaves his skirmishers to whittle down Guthrum’s advance elements, and inclines his column of horse south – to his right – toward the impending clash between Gunnar and Einar!
Guthrum has also made the decision to head south – but Trygg’s forces are still too close to ignore. He sends some light troops to the south, into rough terrain, but his main body use the round to redeploy with the stronger warriors to the right, to counter the threat of a charge.
Einar diverts his Viking spearmen to charge Gunnar’s scouts. Although they pose no major threat, the narrow front on which Einar and Gunnar’s forces will meet means there’s no advantage to be gained by everyone getting there at once – therefore, nothing to be lost by a small diversion! Gunnar’s scouts, predictably, choose to evade the charge – only just managing to do so.
Turn 8: Finally, the Clash of Arms!
Eager to make up for lost time, Guthrum’s scouts rush through the broken ground to harry the flanks of Tyrgg’s column!
Back at the southern edge of the headland, Einar’s spearmen again charge Gunnar’s scouts, this time, caught against the edge of a thicket, they have little choice but to stand, and battle is joined. The melee is inconclusive, with Gunnar’s archer the only casualty.
Gunnar’s spearmen launch their attack from the rough ground, against Einar’s large mixed unit.
The combat is absolutely brutal! The dice are merciless and wound after wound is dished out!
Einar’s men respond by charging in their turn – the Saxon mercenary spearmen charge Gunnar’s command group, pinning them to prevent them joining the main fight, while Einar and his Berserkirs pitch into the flank of Gunnar’s spearmen!
Trygg’s column rides toward the sound of battle, with Guthrum’s skirmishers still worrying at their flank; while Guthrum’s main force presses on some way behind.
Turn 10: Einardammerung!
In the press of melee, Gunnar finds himself face-to-face with Einar! And, like many before him, has second thoughts when it comes down to it! He steps aside and waves his archers forward – such arrant cowardice comes to naught as Einar parries with his shield.
Einar, too, has archers at his side – but he is made of sterner stuff! Einar charges into single combat!
(It may seem reckless, but there is, in fact, a cunning plan: Stab Gunnar in the face ‘til he dies!)
But the Gods of battle have other plans.
Not for Einar the straw death! In the face of the outlaw leader’s onslaught, Gunnar’s greataxe strikes home
After a year of constant pursuit, and repeated failure, on this bleak, marshy headland, Gunnar the Aggrieved has become Gunnar the Avenger.
Even in death, Einar manages to cheat Trygg, who seethes at missing the kill!
Guthrum has won renown for standing by his wayward kinsman against all comers.
The warriors of rank from both sides of the feud gather as a Viking funeral is prepared, and flames leap into the grey sky to Wagnerian strains!
Today’s victory belongs to Gunnar... but all present know that as long as this tale is told, men will know it as Einar’s Saga!
Gunnars version of events can be found Here