A preview of our game for the Partizan Show on May 22nd 2022
‘At this time Aethelfrith, a very brave king and most eager for glory, was ruling over the kingdom of Northumbria. He ravaged the Britons more extensively than any other English king…to him…could fittingly be applied the words…”[he] shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey and at night shall divide the spoil.” For this reason, Aedan, king of the Irish living in Britain…marched against him with an immensely strong army; but he was defeated and fled with few survivors.
‘Indeed, almost all his army was cut to pieces in a very famous place called Degsastan, that is the stone of Degsa. In this fight Theobald, Aethelfrith’s brother, was killed together with all his army. Aethelfrith brought this war to an end in the year of our Lord 603…From that time no Irish king in Britain has dared to make war on the English.’
So it was that the Venerable Bede recalled this battle, writing around 730 CE. Details are scanty but what is clear is that the force under Aedan Mac Gabhran, King of Dal Riada, was huge by the standards of the time: estimates run up to around 5,000 men, including Aedan’s allies from Ulster and Northern Britain. The force of Aethelfrith was smaller but highly motivated and led by a dynamic and successful warlord who had already shown his ruthlessness and leadership in battle.
The battle was fought at Degsastan, ‘Degsa’s Stone’, an unknown location in Northern Britain in 603 (or possibly 604). Peter Marren’s book Battles of the Dark Ages presents the evidence for the most likely site being Dawston Rigg at Liddersdale in the Scottish Borders (there are other options but for simplicity I just followed his lead.) Guy Halsall’s article for Miniature Wargames magazine in the 1980s included a suggested map of deployment (reproduced in Peter Marren’s book), with the two opposing forces facing off across Dawston Burn, so I took this as my blueprint for the game. Historically, the battle was a mighty victory for Aethelfrith of Bernicia and paved the way for the Saxon domination of the north of England.
Sunday’s game is a run-out for my own Midgard rules which are due to be published by Reisswitz Press (Too Fat Lardies) at some point in the future. Our standard unit sizes for the game are around 10-12 miniatures on a 12cm wide base, but for the sake of spectacle – and the fun of getting all the toys on the table – we’ll be playing with extra large units on Sunday. It means that we’ll be doubling all the usual measurements but hopefully we’ll be able to crack through the game during the day.
We’re hoping to have around 1,000 miniatures on the table, ranging from the earliest Gripping Beast releases to the latest plastics. Our various collections feature large numbers of Gripping Beast and Foundry metals, along with various castings from Footsore, Crusader, Black Tree and others. It’s been a great pleasure getting these out again and back into action.
Here’s our order of battle for the game – some commanders are historically-based, others are fictional. Each force includes six Heroes to give us plenty of opportunity for heroic deeds and single combats.
Aethelfrith, King of Northumbria (Legendary Hero)
Theobald, brother of Aethelfrith (Major Hero)
Eanfrith, brother of Aethelfrith (Major Hero) [NB: Eanfrith is mentioned in the Irish Annals but not in the Anglo-Saxon sources – this may be a confusion with Theobald, but I have used his name here for a possible Saxon commander and otherwise unknown brother of Aethelfrith]
Cerdic, thegn of Bernicia (Minor Hero)
Wiglaf, Northumbrian thegn (Champion)
Osric, Northumbrian thegn (Champion)
3 x Gedriht (Saxon hearthguard)
7 x Saxon warriors
3 x Saxon skirmishers with bows and slings
2 x Saxon mounted warriors
DAL RIADAN FORCES
Aedan mac Gabhrain, King of Dal Riada (Mighty Hero)
Mael Uma, Ui Neill warlord (Mighty Hero)
Hering, Son of Hussa – exiled thegn of Bernicia, cousin of Aethelfrith (Minor Hero)
Domingart mac Aedan (Minor Hero)
Niall of the Swift Blade (Champion)
Culach, British chieftain (Champion)
2 x Household Warriors (Aedan, Mael Uma)
2 x Saxon Spearmen (Hering, son of Hussa)
6 x Irish/ British / Pictish warriors
4 x Skirmishers with bows and slings
4 x Mounted Warriors
Hope to see some of you at the show! Cheers.