Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Battle of Deorham 577AD

The missus was absent babysitting for No.2 son so I decided to have a break from painting and mapping and have a decent battle instead, I chose one of the battles from my Dark Age scenario book which involved the two armies I can actually field. Deorham involves the forces of the cities of Bath, Gloucester and Cirencester who are attempting to halt a so far victorious Saxon army from moving on Bath. I decided the British armies would have two units apiece, one with average morale and one slightly lower, Bath's king would have a more superior Comitatus, the best troops on the field. The Saxons on the other hand had something similar but their units were much larger and almost all had a leader of some kind, whether it be King Ceawlin, his son Prince Cuthwine, a notable Thegn or a couple of mystical Shamans which meant that overall Saxon morale should be much better, they also had a reserve of mounted Duguth warriors.

The armies array.
The British line.
The Saxon line.
The British had the high ground and were prepared to stand on it in shieldwall and await the assault. Javelins, arrows and slingshot opened the fray but neither side had an advantage and as the main lines approached each other the skirmishers eventually sought safety on the flanks or behind the warriors. Ceawlin decided to hit the weaker British left flank first, hopefully defeat it and then force his cavalry through.
The Saxons advance.

Ceawlin forms shieldwall and regroups.
As the Saxons hit the British left a unit of Prince Cuthwine's, urged forward by a Shaman, broke ranks and charged uphill at the British right. To everyone's surprise the Shaman inflicted a rout on his opposite number, swept them from the field and found himself behind the British lines, at the other end the Welsh fighting for Conmail of Cirencester also ran but managed to outdistance their pursuers. In little over an hour or so (game time) it looked like defeat for the defenders. Left with no choice but to break ranks and test the Saxon centre Farinmail and Condidan of Gloucester attacked.

The Saxons assault the British right.
The Saxon right in melee, the Black Flag flies proudly.
The pendulum had swung again and this time it was Ceawlin who suddenly found himself holding the centre alone, nearby his son had been cut down amongst his companions as the remainder fled. The British were elated and the only thing stopping them sweeping everything in their path was another Shaman fighting under a black banner who was trading body for body with his young Geoguth against the household troops of King Conmail.
Farinmail charges.
Ceawlin backs off.

Saxon counter-attack.

The delay in routing the Black Flag allowed Ceawlin and the first Shaman to bring their troops onto the flanks of the hurriedly re-organising British centre, it looked like the Gods were smiling on the Saxons. The flank attacks failed to bring results and Ceawlin took several wounds during the melee as did King Farinmail. Eventually the Black Flag Saxons broke having lost over three quarters of their men, Ceawlin's hearthguard was also hit in the flank and his remaining warriors closed around his bloodied corpse.

Ceawlin breathes his last.
Elsewhere the Saxons just could not finish off the Welsh and a wild cavalry charge on King Conmail also came to nought with the cavalry suffering horrendous casualties, despite his wound the old King stood like a rock in the front line.

With their King dead and night about to fall the defeated Saxons fled the field, the British being too exhausted to follow. The cities of the South had been saved for another few years, but at a high cost.

This battle was a triumph for both sides, at first I thought the British were going to suffer not having a reserve but their desperate attack in the centre paid off brilliantly, Ceawlin's equally desperate counter-attack did not, but only just failed. The Welsh managing to rally meant the Saxons could not take advantage of pushing them out of the line and the Saxon cavalry just could not get into a good position before the Black Flag unit broke and freed Conmail's depleted infantry. Saxon morale along with some excellent dice worked the way I wanted it to, it did not make winning the game any easier but it did give them extraordinary staying power, which I would expect from an army flush with previous victories and expecting a walk over.

I was very pleased with the resulting game.


  1. George!
    That looks absolutely marvellous. :-D
    Lots of beautifully painted toys and a great table. Deorham is just up the road, relatively speaking - although as with most battles of the era no-one is quite sure of the exact location ;-)
    Really enjoyed that post.

  2. Thanks Matt, it was a great fight. I will do more once I clear the decks as I have several map projects and of course the Romans on the go.

  3. Did you play this game solo George? Did you win?

  4. This was a solo game and I am always scrupulously neutral to both sides using my immense hoard of military knowledge to make decisions, erm and a die occasionally.

  5. Well, I am very impressed except that you won't come down to London to see your old friends. We have a saying here in the colonies. "Americans think 100 years is a long time. Europeans think 100 miles is a long way". :)

    1. London may as well be a foreign country coming from up here, also the M6, M40 are not the I90 and we are talking 5 hrs for 257 miles, but I take your point.

      Send your itinerary but I still think sadly I am out.

  6. I will but I understand. That is a long drive for a brief visit. I'm enjoying your blog.