Thursday evening saw Nick and I return to a very mild (for early November) garage for a WAB 2.0 Shieldwall battle between my favourite army - the Hiberno-Norse, and Nick with a rather surprising (for him) Welsh army.
It was a good chance for us to see how the new rules influenced these armies and I was very keen to see how the new open order rules would help an already powerful Norse army. Ultimately it was an interesting, although not very competitive affair....
We diced for terrain and in the end pretty much all of it came down on Nick's side of the table. There were two rough patches in the flank sector of his right flank, another rought sector was just ahead of my deployment zone on my left of the central sector. Nick then had a low hill right in the centre of his side of the table and a steep hill in his left flank zone. He then took the Welsh option to deploy an additional piece of terrain to put a low hill also right in the centre of the table.
With this wall of hills and given that I knew Nick would have cavalry, forced me to deploy to my left aiming to cut through the rough as quickly as possible and get around Nick's right flank. From the picture left you can see that Nick's army was maxed out on allowable dogs of war units and on his left flank he had a unit of Breton heavy cavalry; a large unit of Viking pirates led by some slingers; then the Household welsh warband headed by the CinC and the army standard bearer; two more units of warband welsh - one headed by a priest and a warlord; the other with just a warlord. He had a unit of skirmishing bowmen, and finally holding his right flank some javelinmen complete with poisoned javelins!
Clearly Nick aimed to hold on the right and attack on the left; which was exactly what I planned to do too!
I deployed left to right: a unit of 13 Viking pirates with armour, shields, javelins and 2 side arms in skirmish. Behind them was the two heavy hitter Hirdmen blocks - one led by the Jarl and standard bearer, with 2 berserkers and 16 hirdmen; the other with one warlord, two more berserkers and 17 hirdmen. Both formidible units. Then in the edge of the rough I depoyed 12 slingers with the Bondi warblock behind - these were led by a Godi who basically made them immune to all tests, and a warlord to take on any challengers. The 28 bondi were equipped with thursting spears and shields. Next came 15 bondi bowmen deployed in open order, behind them came a small unit of 15 hirdmen without any characters or berserkers but with javelins. And finally holding the right of the line, another 12 slingers.
Nick got the jump on me first turn and swiftly moved his units left aiming to get aorund my right flanks as quickly as possible. In the shooting phase, his archers peppered the bondi archers who were regretting not being in skirmish! They just saved having to take a test for 25% casualties from shooting on the first turn!
On my first turn I rushed forward with the pirates and hirdmen on the left (see the picture right) and the slingers and Godi led bondi trudged through the rough patch. The bondi archers took advantage of the new open order two free formation changes and did an about face and moved backwards then wheeled to get a long range shot on the dreaded Breton heavy cavalry. The dice gods were kind to me and I wounded 3 Bretons despite moving and firing at long range - Nick then only saved one. That one shot pretty well meant the Bretons didn't play much part in the game as from then on Nick ensured they were hidden away behind his slingers as much as possible. There they were safe from harm, but not much of a threat. Meanwhile I decided I had to trust to the Viking toughness and armour, and pushed the small Hirdman unit straight up the table towards the Welsh archers.
Next turn the hirdmen were peppered by arrows and slings, but due to their toughness and armour lost only lost two men. In the next turn, their opened out their formation and unleashed their javelins and with the slingers aid, took out 50% of the archers. They passed their waivre test but decided it wasnt the best place to be facing a load of hairy vikings and so doubled away.
Meanwhile on my right, the bondi archers and lowly thrall slingers were doing a pretty good job of holding up Nick's attack. The Godi led bondi block was wheeling in the rough to continue the Norse line and my slingers were taking holes out of the Welsh warbands. The Jarl led hirdmen had got out of the rough and were racing up towards the welsh swinging their axes!
Then disaster struck the Vikings. The welsh poisoned javelinmen and remaining archers stood to try and damage the pirates who were fast chasing them down. There shooting was inconclusive, and the pirates charged them in a wild rush - too wild it seems. The javelinmen failed their Fury of the Norse fear test and were virtually annihilated by the pirates swinging two hand weapons apiece. But in the pursuit, the Vikings threw a 12 on two dice and overran not only the welsh skirmishers but then smashed into the right end welsh warband.... sure enough, they failed to make enough impact and were defeated in the combat. Despite their 8 leadership, their failed the morale test and then ran all of 3 inches in rout, getting cut down for their troubles! Meanwhile on my right flank, the welsh slingers finally got a good shot on the bondi archers whose morale failed and they too ran. Then right slinger unit was hit by a wave of javelins from the Vikings on Nick's side and they also ran!
But that was to be the last good news for the Welsh as the Viking Hirdmen came into combat.
In this picture you can see the critical stage of the battle take place. Nick's veteran warband right in the centre failed its warband control test and charged the viking slingers in the centre. They stood, but were obviously defeated in the combat allowing the welsh to pursue into my Jarl-led hirdmen. In the next round though, the two berserkers in that unit ripped through the poor welsh, killing an amazing 9 before combat proper happened. They then failed their morale despite having the army CinC in their rankes and that was it as they ran taking most of Nick's army with them.
We could have played on but with Nick's centre gone, along with his best unit and army standard and CinC, and my three hirdmen blocks and large bondi virtually untouched, there wasn't much point - plus it was 11.30 at night so we called that a game.
Overall, Nick did all he could to deal with the Norse but they are so powerful and having lost his skirmishers in the centre, he couldnt try and get the berserkers to charge prematurely, so, when they did charge, they ripped through his best warrior unit. Apart from the Normans, I dont see many shieldwall armies have much of a chance against the Vikings which is slightly unsatisfying to be honest - although I still like the Hiberno-Norse!