Wales 1, Pictland 0: a Midgard battle report

I’ve been busy developing my Midgard set of wargames rules over the last few months and my chum Pete, who has recently taken up gaming again, expressed an interest in collecting a Welsh force for the 7th century. While he was busy getting the new Gripping Beast plastics on to the painting table, I pulled out my metal collection for a game with him. Seeing as it was designed as an introductory game, I thought it’d also make a good battle report if you’re interested in Midgard.

Picts line up for battle opposite the Welsh. The vast majority of my collection are Gripping Beast and Foundry Miniatures. The mat is an OOP deep pile type from Cigar Box Mats.

While we often play historical scenarios, this game was a straightforward battle. I put together two forces – Welsh and Picts – with a total of just over 300 points apiece, adding a dash of mysticism with both forces containing a wise woman and bard for inspirational purposes (you can play Midgard on a scale anywhere between ‘straight historical’ and ‘high fantasy’ by choice of units and traits). This gave us the following armies:

Prince Cadwaladr leads from the front

WELSH OF GWYNEDD:

5 x Heroes (Prince Cadwaladr – Army Commander and Major Hero; Brochmael and Belyn of Lleyn – Minor Heroes; Marchlew – Champion; Gwenyfach – Wise Woman)

2 x Teulu (Welsh nobles on foot)

1 x Mounted Teulu (Cadwaladr’s bodyguard)

6 x Welsh Spearmen

1 x Skirmishers with Bows

Spearmen clash at the height of the battle

PICTISH RAIDERS:

4 x Heroes (King Bridei – Army Commander and Major Hero; Talorcan – Minor Hero; Drust – Champion; Brianna of Skye – Wise Woman)

2 x Mounted Nobles

1 x Pictish Nobles on Foot

5 x Pictish Spearmen

3 x Skirmishers with Bows

These are about the minimum size armies for a game of Midgard (10 or 11 units apiece) – while you can play smaller, it’s designed as a battle game where having a supporting line of warriors is critical, so just playing with five or six units won’t give that experience. Recommended number of Heroes is around 3-5, and these are rated from Champion (Level 1) up to Legendary Hero (Level 4), which means that you can model different armies by levels of leadership. My Middle-earth Orc army often takes to the field with just one strong army commander and a couple of low-level ones, meaning that it will have lots of troops but struggle with overall command and control. By comparison, its Noldor opponents are fielded with a very high level commander (often Legendary Hero, Level 4) and a good number of strong subordinate Elf lords to provide leadership across the battle line.

Anyway, enough about Middle-earth, we’re here for some Dark Ages hacking, so on with the battle report….

At the borders of the Pictish lands, marked by a standing stone, Cadwaladr (Pete) deployed his Welsh to block the invaders. Seeing that a battle was now inevitable, Bridei sent out his personal battle-smiter, Drust, to issue a challenge to the enemy. Despite being no more than a champion, Drust was known as the deadliest blade in Pictland, carrying his grandfather’s sword from the time of Magnus Maximus. The challenge was immediately taken up by Brochmael of Gwynedd. The armies watched in fascination, expecting a mighty duel, but it was brutal and short; aided by my appalling dice roll rolling, Brochmael took Drust’s head off with a single swing of his sword. This boosted the morale of the Welsh no end as they gained more Reputation tokens in their goblet. Battle was on!

‘I am Drust, Battle-Smiter to Bridei of Pictland, the mightiest blade north of Gwynedd, – ERK!’

With the Welsh starting on the front foot, I decided to go aggressive with my Pictish archers who I had clumped together on the left flank for the express reason of peppering the enemy unit opposite with arrows. Skirmishers in Midgard are allowed to evade enemy charging them as long as they pass a Command Test – I reckoned that I would get in a shot or two at the approaching Welsh before scampering away. Lo and behold, the Welsh warriors advanced faster than expected (with Pete passing all his Command Tests) and my archers failed to flee as they were charged. Farewell, Picts.

After this second blow, Bridei put his (slightly desperate) cunning plan into action: ride round to the right flank and attempt to get round the rear of the Welsh line. Marchlew, the Welsh champion on this flank, quickly drew off two spear units to counter this. The Welsh line was now fragmenting into three different directions, but could the Picts exploit this?

The Pictish centre holds back, waiting for the Welsh to be disrupted by the flank attacks…er…not.

Bridei’s nobles weren’t too keen on this new tactic and lagged behind, failing to make as much ground as they were capable of (they failed a number of Command Tests despite Bridei’s encouragement). Faced with his sullen hearth guard and seeing the poor state of his left wing, the Pictish king opted for a calculated risk – charging the nearest Welsh spear unit. This also raised the morale of the troops as Reputation tokens are awarded when Heroes lead their warriors into combat, and even more when the army commander is at the head of the charge. Unsupported, both sides took casualties in the ensuing combat, but the Welsh held on.

Help! Despite inflicting some damage on Belyn of Lleyn’s Welshmen, the last Pictish archers have run out of space and are run down.
Brochmael takes down a second Pict hero in single combat!

Meanwhile, in the centre, Brochmael’s Welshmen and Talorcan’s Picts came to blows next to the boundary stone. Brochmael, the hero of the duel at the start of the game, now challenged Pictish chief Talorcan to a second single combat. Reputation can be lost if Heroes turn down a challenge, so Talorcan pulled out his spear and charged! This was a longer combat, but Talorcan took an early blow (presumably in the foot – some of these Picts just don’t like shoes) which wounded him. Both sides gained Reputation as sparks flew from the heroes’ file-hard blades and in the final round, Brochmael and Talorcan wounded each other, the Pict dying in the process. The twice-victorious Brochmael rejoined the ranks of his Teulu as the two units closed for more spear-work, but the Picts were now outclassed by the Welsh nobles.

Now the other half of the Welsh centre advanced and was met by the Pictish noble warriors. Surely these battle-hardened northerners could blunt the flashing blades of the Welsh? Well…

Pictish dice (left), Welsh dice (right)….nuff said!

Battle was now joined all across the centre and the Pictish nobles weren’t doing too well. Pete was making great use of his wise woman and accompanying bard, using the ‘Inspiring’ trait to keep his units in the fight. That said, one of the Welsh units broke and fled, closely followed by the heroic Brochmael who took a javelin in the neck during the fight and succumbed to his injuries.

Welsh bard and wise woman, inspiring the troops at the key points of the game. Both miniatures by Gripping Beast, the standing stone is from Scotia Grendel

Then, disaster struck for the Welsh. Prince Cadwaladr, leading his mounted Teulu from the front, crashed into a Pictish spear unit. Using all his ‘Mighty Deeds’ (the silver markers that you can see in the pics which allow Heroes to do…er…mighty deeds in the game) to attack, he had nothing left to save himself when he rolled a double one for his ‘Risk to Heroes’ roll following the combat. Down he went, and the Reputation poured out of the Welsh goblet! The combrogi were finally teetering on the edge of defeat.

Cadwaladr throws caution to the wind and gets decked for his troubles.

However, it was not to be. Even as Cadwaladr fell, the Welsh broke two more Pictish units.

By the end of the turn, the Welsh goblet had only one Reputation token remaining, but the Picts had been reduced to zero – signifying defeat. King Bridei took his surviving warriors and rode back to Pictland, leaving the Welsh to bury their dead prince.

This was a cracking game – the Welsh had the best of it throughout, but the slaying of Prince Cadwaladr gave us a very tight finish.

Bridei and his Picts (right) flee the field

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