Wednesday, 25 January 2012

In the Year of Our Lord 452 A.D.

In the Year of Our Lord 452 A.D. there came a terrible host of Saxons from their lands to the south, sailing up the River Colne from the Great River. They were led by a leader, Sidic, the wolf of the southern strands and notorious seafarer of the Grey Waters.

In Sidic’s host was a champion, Wulfstan, who the men of Verulamium greatly feared for he was cruel and mighty. Sooner would his flesh become food for ravens than he would approach an altar and bow before our True Lord.

Before the gates of Verulamium the host of Sidic stopped. The walls remained after the Romans had left. This masonry was still wondrous; fates had not yet broken it. The works of giants had not yet decayed. Under the columns stood the leader of Verulamium, Maxim Boice. Armed he was in the noisy combat. Amber wreaths encircled his brow and a purple cloak comforted his shoulders. Large was his retinue, the men of Verulamium, laughing as they moved, although fearful of a gloomy disaster before the Saxon foes.

Great was the quantity of spears who watched Wulfstan ford the dark waters of the Colne, preparing food for the ravens, slaughtering as he stalked. Splintering the shield of his enemies, women wept as he passed. None in the Verulamium host could stop him until a soldier of Britain, Mullard ap Artur shattered his shield.

There was food for ravens, and for the raven there was profit as Wulfstan fell in the Colne, his head severed by Mullard ap Artur’s sword. Furious were the Saxons. To drinking of mead they fell in gloomy despair. Black fury became anger as the words of their fell priest came to their ears

Silent the men of Verulamium watched. Of their leader, Maxim Boice came little but words of high pitch, reedy and soft. His words of battle were lost as the sound of Saxon arrows filled the air on eagles feathers, keening for prey.

Battle-mad with the death of Wulfstan burning their eyes, Sidic’s host marched with speed, regaled with mead; great was their design. Retreat was their poison, battle their desire. No mother’s son nurses them.

A conflict on all sides befell the bitter field. Saxon and Briton fell together in violent slaughter. Punishment the Saxons sought on their enemies, but the wall of shields of Maxim Boice stood fast. Sword and spear shattered upon wood and iron.

A violent thane, Brytnoth the Saxon, led his men first, eager in battle with eyes of a serpent. Under the helmet of his terror, his men died impaled on bright spears.

Sidic came to his aid, blood draped his cloak from many winters of fighting. With a bold shout he pierced the wall of Maxim Boice, the lion of Verulamium.

Blessed conqueror, Maxim Boice, of temper mild, the bone of the people, with his battle streamer displayed was victorious. There was grief and sorrow upon the Saxons as they went back to their boats. Those boat pirates who meddled with the mane of a lion did not return until the next summer.


So, there you have it. One of the forgotten battles of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recreated in all its glory at the Fleetville Community Centre, St Albans, England last night. It was the first game my local wargames club has done set in the Dark Ages and it was really entertaining. Especially fun was the way in which each side's forces had to be inspired to take the field through a mixture of excessive alcohol, the revealing of good (or bad) omens and through encouraging (or, as proved to be the case from Maxim Boice, downright awful) speeches.

It’s much too early to say much about the rules we were using ... writing as we went along ... , but the Venerable Bede would have no doubt been rather bemused.

Lard-Thane, Richard Clarke, has also posted a far more erudite look at the challenges and rewards of wargaming Dark Age England at Lard Island News. For those interested in the period, I highly recommend you have a read at Richard's blogpost here.

We’ve scheduled a follow up game for next week in 453 A.D., so stay tuned!


  1. Excellent post Sidney. I really enjoyed the read. Fantastic photos too.

  2. Great battle review. Thanks for sharing. And it's a joy to look at all those excellent painted figures!


  3. Great stuff! I really enjoyed that!

  4. That was a different slant on a typical batrep but it was very enjoyable....

  5. Great stuff.
    Lovely models and pictures and a really enteraining write-up

  6. Excellent! Maxim Boice indeed! Loved the report and can clearly see why the subject has a lasting appeal. Looking forward to more next week.

  7. Splendid report! Lovely pictures of the game too.

    BTW - where did the green battlefield cloth come from?



  8. Very entertaining, a real good report. Thanks for posting.

  9. Mullard ap Artur, now that is history. Very droll and very enjoyable reading.

  10. Sid: brilliant. I used to teach Beowulf and 1066 and all that and you got the cadence spot on. Lovely figures and that Roman arch is very impressive.

  11. Seconded: you nailed the feel perfectly, Sounds like it was a good battle, too.

  12. Fantastic! Love this BatRep. Table / miniatures look terrific too, well done to you and your club.

  13. Excellent chronicle Sidney. Very promising start for the new TFL project. I will sure buy into it, I'm a fan of Ancients/Medieval games but a very frustrated one... unable to find a convincing set of rules

  14. An excellent batrep, a very enjoyable read. Beautiful figures and terrain also!!

  15. Really nice board and simply terrific storytelling! Your not only a good painter, but great with words too!


  16. Great report and pics, Mr. Cornwell had better look out :-)

  17. Thank you for the report. I see myself getting together the figures needed. How many do you need on a side?

  18. Thanks Guys! It's good to know that the first responses to the new period wasn't …. "errrr….pardon?" We were quite nervous that it might be after years of World Wars I and II!

    @Rodger, Peter and Phil B - thanks guys. You should note that the nicely painted figures belong to Rich and Biff - mine are the (currently) drab and unexciting ones!

    @Angry - glad you enjoyed it. I'm not sure I'd want to pretend to be a Dark Age monk-chronicler every day of the week, mind!

    @TWD, Michael and Delaware Area War Gamers - thanks very much. More to come so stay tuned!

    @Matt- thanks mate. I can enquire next week regarding the battlefield cloth. We've had some cloths for more than ten years which were tie-n-dyed, but this one is new. I think it might be something Rich has produced at home, but let me get back to you on that one.

    @Ian Nicholson - Yus my dear!

    @Mad Padre and Mike W - thanks so much, Mike and Mike. :) The old chronicles and histories are great fun to read and rip off. I love the way they come out with completely random and impressive phrases like "No mother's son nurses them" in the middle of a battle scene! Heaven only knows what it means, of cours ...

    @Fire Monkey - thank you Sir. Pleased you enjoyed it.

    @Benito - Mate, we definitely share your pain about sets of ancients rules. I've a load at home….WRG 5th, 6th, 7th, DBA, DBM, DBMM (or whatever), Shock of Impact, WAB (plus supplements). Oh good grief, I've spent far too much on a dead tree of Ancients rules, and none of them have quite hit on what I wanted. So, maybe we'll get there with this period. Who knows, but it's going to be fun trying!

    @Ray - thanks mate! Really chuffed you liked it.

    @Christopher - with my dodgy painting on the Saxons, I felt I had to try and push the boat out with the writing !!!

    @Phil - steady on, Sir! That might be slightly premature!

    @Captain Richard - thanks mate. Always a great pleasure welcoming you here any time, Captain.

    @Jon - thank you, Jon. The basic game we're planning can be played between two sides of 36 figures each. So, definitely not huge forces. We've hardly started writing the rules yet, so I don't quite know where we will end up as regards maximum size. But the aim is for a fairly contained game which is quick to play, historically (reasonably) accurate and above all fun . Richard Clarke, over at Lard Island News (please see link in post above), will have all the answers, whereas I just make the tea!

    Cheers everyone, and huge thanks to everyone who commented - it really is very welcome indeed.

  19. Wonderful. This article makes me yearn for a dark age army.

  20. Words almost fail me, but I'm glad they didn't you. I very nearly forgot about this post with just how good the one at Lard Island News is, and they make an overwhelmingly good pair. You've rekindled my interest as well. That past is us, but in a very different world, and you're really getting at that.

  21. Really great looking figs and game! There has been a lot of local gamers painting Dark Ages figures latley, and it looks like I'm catching the bug! Great stuff!

  22. How do these compare to Saga?

  23. Thanks again for all the further comments:

    @John - so pleased you enjoyed it, John. Your late Roman forces from Fall of the West would be perfect of the kind of game we're hoping to create.

    @Porky - That's extremely kind, Porky. I love what you have mentioned - "the past is us, but in a very different world". It's far harder to see ourselves in the Dark Ages. In the gloom, through the incomplete pages and torn vellum scraps, amidst the odd cadence of forgotten languages, it's very easy to slip away from the truth that we could, but for a few centuries, have been them. Here's hoping we can bring that relationship home in the games we're playing.

    @Cory - thank you Sir. Glad to see you have been infected!

    @Anonymous - that's a great question. I wish I knew! We've only just started building a set of rules for the period. So, at present, they don't compare at all !!! I'm just interested in helping build a wargame which is fun and which glitters in the gathering dark like a brooch made of Lindisfarne garnet. Anything which does that and still is full of the rasp and stink of the Dark Ages is the game which I would very much like to play ...

  24. Lovely writ-up... Looking forward for more!

  25. Fantastic battle report backed up with some excellent pictures

  26. I enjoyed this report. Excellent story with some very nice pictures. Look forward to see where this goes.

  27. Very nice AAR with good text and good photos. Lookig forward to try out the rules some time in the future:)

    Best regards dalauppror


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