The Battle of Degsastan in 15mm

The 90 x 120 cm battlefied set for action in my kitchen as Martin takes the role of Aethelfrith of Northumbria. Background art used by kind permission of Jon Hodgson Illustration.

Following the game’s first appearance at Salute 50 in London, Martin popped over for a much quieter gaming experience – a kitchen table rematch of Northumbria vs Dal Riada at the Battle of Degsastan in 603 CE.

I’ve played this game many times since reading Guy Halsall’s article in Miniature Wargames magazine in the 1980s, and was delighted to hear that he’s just written an updated version due to appear soon in Wargames Soldiers & Strategy magazine! Definitely one to look out for,

Goblets are used to record the Reputation of both forces during the game

Although Martin’s being playing my Midgard Heroic Battles rules since their very first play test some years ago, quite a bit has changed over the last year so a quiet game was a good opportunity to bring him up to date. I still don’t have a release date for the rules but keep an eye on social media and my blog – as soon as there’s an official announcement from Reisswitz Press, it’ll be on here.

The two forces arrayed for battle: Dal Riada on the left (all 15mm figures from Forged in Battle; Northumbrians on the right (18mm fgures by Wiglaf Miniatures). Background art used by kind permission of Jon Hodgson Illustration.

This 15mm battle is an ideal introduction to Midgard: the forces are around 300 points each (perfect for an evening’s play) and there’s nothing more fantastical in the game than a pattern-welded blade and the Fated trait hanging over Saxon noble Theobald. (As Theobald died in the historical battle, I gave him a trait which means that he can’t reroll his Risk to Heroes tests – meaning that he’s more likely to be wounded or killed. As fortune would have it, he survived our game to inherit his brother’s kingdom!)

Divine help is appealed for by the Dal Riadans

The forces were as follows:


Aedan Mac Gabhrain (Army Commander, Level 3 Mighty Hero)

Mael Uma (Irish Warlord, Level 2 Minor Hero)

Domingart (Aedan’s son, Level 2 Minor Hero)

2 Dal Riada/ Irish Hearthguard units (bodyguards for Aedan and Mael Uma)

4 Dal Riada/ Irish Warrior units

3 Dal Riadan units of Mounted Warriors (Noble Light Riders in Midgard terms)

4 Dal Riada/ Irish Skirmisher units

Dal Riadans – 11 units, 3 Heroes (300 Midgard points)


The Northumbrian force was smaller but better-equipped:

Aethelfrith (Army Commander and Level 3 Mighty Hero)

Theobald (Brother of Aethelfrith, Level 2 Minor Hero)

Cerdic (Champion, Level 1 Hero)

Eanfrith (Brother of Aethelfrith, Level 2 Minor Hero)

3 Saxon Hearthguard Warrior units

4 Saxon Warrior units

3 Saxon Skirmisher units

And the Northumbrians – 10 units, 4 Heroes (300 Midgard points)
Skirmishers swap darts and arrows

True to form, both sides advanced to the stream and exchanged missiles across it.

The micro-dice at the back of each base is used to keep track of Stamina (damage) – all skirmisher units have just two points each, so are unlikely to hang around when combat starts

Playing Domingart leading the Celtic mounted warriors, I chose to throw in the first charge of the game to gain the maximum Reputation! This was possibly a little optimistic but at that point, there was only a single Saxon unit commanded by Eanfrith holding the Northumbrian left flank. An unfortunate Risk to Heroes roll – made in Midgard whenever a Hero’s unit suffers damage – saw Eanfrith roll the dreaded double one! Fortunately, he was able to expend a Mighty Deed and a Reputation Token from his goblet to survive this, but it was an early boost for the Dal Riadans.

Eanfrith (bottom right) flunks that Risk to Heroes roll!

Seeing the danger, wily old Aethelfrith sent some of the Saxon warriors down the line in case Eanfrith should break.

More Saxons (right) arrive to reinforce the beleaguered Eanfrith

Sporadic javelin fire was beginning to cause problems for the Saxons in the centre and right, so Northumbrian champion Cerdic bravely charged over the stream and into the main Dal Riadan force. Very quickly, the Northumbrians found themselves taking casualties with their friends too far behind to support (the stream provided a movement penalty, making it hard to advance over in good order). Once again, Aethelfrith proved himself an inspiring leader by using his Hold Fast! trait to rally Cerdic’s men and keep them in the fight.

Another Saxon unit followed Cerdic and found itself fighting both Mael Uma and Aedan’s hearthguard units – a most perilous situation.

This is when Aethelfrith stepped up to the mark and crossed the stream, gaining great reputation as his men charged Aedan Mac Gabhrain’s personal guard (Reputation Tokens can be gained for leading units into combat, with bonuses if the Army Commander is involved).

Aethelfrith steps up to the stream

Not only were the Saxons better-armoured, but they had the luck, and Aedan rolled double one for his Risk to Heroes test! He recovered to suffer just a single wound, but his reputation had taken a battering.

Hearthguard on hearthguard action
Double one (ravens) for Aedan! I found the raven dice at a games shop in Copenhagen – with the custom icon on the 1 (rather than the 6) they are ideal for Risk to Heroes tests in Midgard.
The Saxons have secured their left flank (bottom) and are holding firm in the centre having crossed the stream

With Aedan wounded and his hearth guard taking a battering (reduced to one Stamina point), I desperately needed to get some reinforcements into action. Two Dal Riadan warrior units were rushing to the rescue, but failed their Command Test for charge home. With Aedan having burned all his Mighty Deeds for this turn in the preceding combat, there was nothing I could do!

The fresh Dal Riadan unit (right) has just failed its Command Test and cannot charge in to reinforce Aedan’s struggling hearthguard!

Reduced to desperate measures and feeling heroic, Aedan challenged Aethelfrith to single combat in the midst of battle. The Northumbrian leader accepted but quickly regretted it as Aedan struck him a wounding blow in the second round – now both leaders were on the ropes.

Single combat!

A draw in the third round of single combat in Midgard inflicts a wound on both challengers…and guess what? Aedan struck Aethelfrith down, but was himself mortally wounded in the act. Both leaders fell dying as the battle raged on around them. This meant a major loss of Reputation Tokens for both sides – the next units to break would decide the game.

The Dal Riadans (green) are running out of Reputation! Dice tray by Handiwork Games.

Despite the loss of their leader, the Saxons had done exceptionally well to hang onto their troops, although several warrior units were close to breaking. However, Domingart’s impetuous charge on the Dal Riadan right had cost them dear. After Saxon reinforcements had arrived, all three Dal Riadan mounted warrior units had broken in short succession – Domingart was still fighting, but was now wounded and losing Reputation hand over fist. Having lost all his men in the melee, he fought on but was last seen falling under a hedge of Saxon spears. Victory to the Northumbrians!

Domingart goes down fighting

And so, history was repeated with another Saxon victory. Although I had given him the Fated trait to encourage a heroic end, Theobald survived with a single wound and took over the kingship from his fallen brother Aethelfrith.

We’ll be running this game again at Partizan in Newark on Trent on May 21st 2023 – do come and say hi. You’ll find us in the Lard Zone this time around.

17 thoughts on “The Battle of Degsastan in 15mm

  1. Are you intending to publish any historical army lists or is it up to the players to develop their own lists/stats for historical forces?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are planning to put a broad ‘Dark Ages/ Early Medieval’ list in the main rulebook which will suit Picts, Saxons, Scots-Irish, Normans, Welsh etc, and there will be some additional lists published online. However, there won’t be a set of DBM/WRG-style lists. The rulebook will contain a full Hero and Unit Creator that players will be able to develop their own lists with. Hope that helps.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Looks fabulous! Sadly I won’t be at Partizan as I’m taking the boy to an airsoft event. I need to get my Saxons painted so we can meet over the table for some Early Medieval action in the not too distant future! Raedwald of East Anglia needs to take on Aethelfrith in battle!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A fantastic looking game as always. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Midgard, but as the other battles on this blog have been so huge (some have been MASSIVE) I hadn’t appreciated that the rules would work nicely for a kitchen table scrap at 15mm. This is excellent news!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers! Glad that’s been of interest. It’s the unit frontage that’s important in Midgard and this pretty much determines table size, so with smaller units, you can play on a smaller table.


      1. Well, being the editor of Slingshot, I could be persuaded to include an article or two

        Liked by 1 person

      2. just to let you know, I’ve put a little teaser for the rules in the up and coming Issue that will be sent out to subscribers next month

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: