Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Monday, 30 March 2020

DBA: Battle of the Standard AAR (1)

The Battle of the Standard took place near Northallerton in 1138, as an English Army attempted to stop a large-scale Scottish raid made by King David himself.  It has been the subject of two magazine articles in my collection, one in Miniature Wargames 20 and the other in Wargames Illustrated 74.  The former proposes quite a large battle and a very large Scottish Army, the latter is slightly more sceptical and in any case proposed a DBA scenario, which makes things easier.  The Wikipedia page is pretty good for this one and was very helpful in fleshing out the two magazine articles a little.

The Forces:

The English Army:
1 x Standard (General) (CWg)
4 x Dismounted Norman Knights (4Bd)
3 x Serjeants and Local Levies (4Sp)
1 x Crossbowmen (4Cb)
3 x Archers (Ps)

The Scottish Army:
1 x Mounted Knights (3Kn)
8 x Spearmen (4Pk)
2 x Galway Warriors (3Wb)
1 x Bowmen (Ps)

The Scottish army was deployed in four lines, with the Galwegians in the van, and the archers in the second line.  I put the Scots' King with the mounted knights, but he could equally well be placed with one of the pike elements.

I think these are straight selections from the DBA list at the time of publication (Nov 93) and this is what I used for my refight; the latest version of DBA differs a little.  In the latest list, the orders of battle should probably be:

The English Army:
1 x Standard (General) (CWg)
3 x Dismounted Norman Knights (4Bd)
4 x Serjeants and Local Levies (4Sp)
2 x Bowmen (3Bw)
1 x Archers (Ps)
The final element could be either extra knights (3Kn), mounted archers (Mtd-3Bw), Welsh (3Ax) or South Welsh (3Lb). I don't think any of these really fit, but might be tempted to go for the extra knights.

The Scottish Army:
1 x Mounted Knights (3Kn)
7 x Nobles & Yeoman (4Pk)
2 x Galway Warriors (3Wb)
1 x Highland Archers (3Bw)
1 x Small Folk (7Hd)
This would probably work just as well for the Scots.

The Scenario:
The Scottish Army is trying to break through, or simply break, the English Army blocking the Great North Road going to Northallerton.  It had high morale having previously defeated an Anglo-Norman Army at Clitheroe.  The main special feature of this scenario is the Scottish deployment and command and control issues.  I simulated this by deploying the Scots in four lines, with the Galwegians in the lead; and ruling that the Scottish side must use its first PIPs to advance the Galwegians (i.e. the Warbands) to attack the nearest Anglo-Norman troops.

The terrain is very simple.  There is a slightly raised ridge along which the road lies.  This acts as a slope for troops moving laterally.  The English position is flanked by passable marshy ground.

The Set-Up:
The Anglo-Norman army defending its position astride the road and ridge, flanked by marshy ground to both sides.  The standard is in the centre of the line, with spearmen to its right and dismounted knights and the crossbowmen to the left.  There are a couple of groups of dismounted knights as reserves, and skirmishing archers on the flanks.

The Scottish Army in its four-line deployment: Galwegian warriors in the van, archers and mounted knights in the second line (and offset), and the spearmen in the third and fourth lines.

Another wider view of the terrain, showing the ridge a little better.

The standard in the middle of the Anglo-Norman line.
The Battle:
The Galwegians charge, not waiting for any support!

The Anglo-Norman crossbowmen turn to fire at the advancing Galwegians (left)...

...which makes absolutely no difference and the Galwegians charge home into the dismounted knights on and around the standard

And the ferocious Galwegian warriors eliminate their opponents in short order!

The Anglo-Normans rush in their reserves of dismounted knights...

Who at least temporarily restore the situation, and half the Galwegian warriors have fallen...the remainder of the Scottish Army advance more slowly in support

A wider shot; the Galwegians again try and break through the Anglo-Norman line; on the Anglo-Norman left, groups of archers indulge in ineffective skirmishing (left); King David moves his knights towards the other flank (top)

A closer view of the Galwegians resuming their attack in the centre...

Which is totally successful! At this point, the morale of the Anglo-Norman army broke...

A wider view of the position at the end of the battle.
Game Notes: Typically DBA - short and sweet! 

The result of this refight was more or less what would have happened in reality if the battle had gone according to the Scottish plan.  The key element in the rules here is that although dismounted knights and Anglo-Norman spearmen have better combat factors than aggressive tribal warriors, if the tribal warriors win they are likely to eliminate their enemy straight off whereas the warriors are only beaten if they are decisively defeated, otherwise they will merealy be pushed back.  The English were undone in this refight by basically horrible, horrible dice rolling and the Galwegians should never have been able to get waway with this so easily...the best one could say is that probably the vast majority of the Anglo-Norman would have escaped in the rout...
The terrain set-up seemed to work reasonably well.  The English army came from the Normans in the Baccus 6mm Early Medieval range, with an Irregular Miniatures' later medieval wagon-standard filling in (IW32);  whilst the Scottish army mainly came from the Baccus 6mm Saxon range, but with Celtic warriors being used for the Galwegians ("Picts").
Anyway, with this game being so short, I re-loaded and had another go...Battle 2 coming up shortly!


  1. Certainly short but not sweet for the Anglo-Normans! Sometimes the die rolls just don't go in your favour. As for DBA, tried it but couldn't get to grips the Barker's language, which drove me mad.

    1. Yes, exactly. Sometimes it is very much better to be lucky than good!

      Although they share some hidden similarities in terms of rules-writing, Phil Barker and Neil Thomas are very much at opposite ends of the rules-writing spectrum: the former covers everything in the most dense language possible; the latter writes a pretty basic framework in very easy-to-digest way.

    2. Give me Neil Thomas' rules any day along with a good dose of common sense!

    3. Hahaha! Clearly heartfelt...
      I like Neil Thomas too. He is very good at getting me out of a doldrum by starting again with something simple.

  2. You are one of very few people to have ever mentioned the battle of Clitheroe (my home town). Although there is very little known about it it seems that the Anglo Norman side was a scratch force of local nobles and levies and was overconfident. The action seems to have been fought near one of the crossings over the River Ribble probably at Edisford. I have always fancied at go at it refighting it but there are no reliable sources as to the numbers that I am aware of. Not that has stopped me from refighting other local battles in the past.

    1. That reminds me that I had intended to write myself a scenario for Clitheroe. Watch this space.