Partizan 2022 warm-up game: Battle of Degsastan 603 CE

With two weeks to go to the Partizan show in Newark, Scrivs kindly hosted a warm-up game for us in his lovely sunny conservatory. It’s a variant of the Battle of Degsastan game that I first played with Matt M back in in December – you can read all about that here. Since then, I’ve been busy developing the Midgard rules and putting together an ambitious scenario for Partizan, where you’ll be able to find us just inside the main door on the right (Stand DG13, Morris & Chums).

One of the key features of Midgard is that, as long as units have roughly the same frontage, you can play as big or as small a game as you like. One of our play testers is using 6mm models on 2.5cm unit bases, another is using 15mm WoFun flats on 4cm bases, and most of my games have been using 28mm miniatures on 12cm bases. However, the combined Dark Ages collections of our group are somewhat numerous so I came up with a plan: how about using double-sized units for Partizan? This would allow us to field an impressive display but still get the game finished in a few hours.

Four normal unit bases will make up one large infantry unit for our Partizan game.

With units double the normal width and depth, we’ll be using quadruple the usual number of figures per unit (around 40 rather than 10). By my calculations, this will give us over a thousand figures on the table, and hopefully the game will crack along as well.

Anyway, Scrivs’ usual 6 x 5′ table didn’t allow for such extravagance, so we played with a simple layout using our usual 12cm units. We combined forces to field units from all four of the players’ collections and compared notes on manufacturers and figures we’d not seen before: Gripping Beast (metals and plastics) formed a large part of the collection, with more by Footsore, Warlord, Foundry and Black Tree amongst others. Terrain mat is by Geek Villain, with trees from Last Valley and a converted stream from S & A Scenics. We’ll run the Partizan layout on a slightly fancier set-up but this was fine for a run-through.

Chris and Scrivs chew over the knotty problem of how to beat the Dal Riadans (in between munching on authentic Northumbrian orange Club biscuits)

Scrivs and Chris (Winston ap Rees) took the role of Aethelfrith of Northumbria and his Saxons, trying to lay down the law with Aedan Mac Gabhran, King of Dal Riada (played by myself and Tom WD). The standard ‘charge them in the face’ tactic was slightly obstructed by having to cross the burn in the centre of the table, which resulted in some javelin-hurling across the water, causing some casualties amongst the Northumbrians. The Dal Riadans hurled themselves forwards with Saxon exile Hering, Son of Hussa* and his comitatus going straight for Aethelfrith himself.

[*We know that Hering was killed at Degsastan, but not which side he was fighting for! I have taken the line for this scenario that he had been exiled and was therefore fighting for Aedan Mac Gabhran – JM]

Hering, son of Hussa (blue tunic, centre) challenges his arch enemy Aethelfrith (red banner) – both sculpts by Soapy for Gripping Beast.

Despite his bold move, Hering was cut down by the warlord Aethelfrith in single combat. Battle was now raging all along the burn.

Over the course of the next two hours, the Northumbrians attacked all along the valley. Aethelfrith broke through the exiled Saxons, driving them back with his fearsome reputation and skill in sword-play.

Degsa’s Stone (centre)
Aethelfrith’s brother Theobald gets out his legendary blade
Hering and Aethelfrith square up

However, the Dal Riadan army experienced success on both flanks, especially with Mael Uma’s Ulstermen. The shieldwall battle had broken down into a number of separate intense combats, with neither side able to gain the upper hand until Cerdic, thegn of Northumbria, took down Aedan Mac Gabhran – King of Dal Riada – in single combat. Aedan’s son Domingart followed soon after, and suddenly the Dal Riadans were almost leaderless. Only Mael Uma remained of the commanders.

Now the Northumbrians were able to push their advantage, driving back the demoralised Dal Riadans, Picts, Irish and Britons. Finally, Mael Uma himself fell fighting yet another single combat. The British horsemen pulled out a charge on the Saxons but it was too late – Aethelfrith was master of the field, having pulled off an even greater victory than the historical one.

This well-executed front and rear attack by the Britons was too late to save the game!
Northumbrian thegn Theobald finally brings down Irish warlord Mael Uma in single combat.

An excellent fun game that could have gone either way! Look forward to playing it again at Partizan.

Man of the Match award went to these Saxon slingers (bottom) who single-handedly destroyed a Dal Riadan warband over the course of the entire game, firstly with shooting and then in an incredibly lucky combat. Respect!

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