DBA Resource Page - DBA Scenarios

The battle of Stamford Bridge, 1066 AD

By Arnstein Orten

History

Background for the battle

Edward the Confessor, king of England, died on 5 january 1066. On the same day, Harold Godwinsson was coronated. He was not the only candidate for the throne, however; both William, Duke of Normandy, and Harald Hardrada, the hero-king of Norway, made claims on the throne - William, because it previously had been promised to him by Edward, and Harald because England's prior king, Harthacnut, had given it to his predecessor, Magnus, who had been unable to push his claim.

Hardrada mustered between 300 and 500 longships, many of them manned by battle-hardened veterans who had served under Hardrada in the Varangian Guard. Once in English waters they were joined by Tostig, Harold Godwinsson's alienated brother, who had gathered a force of scots. They fought a successful battle against the northern earls on 20 September (the battle of Gate Fulford) and entered York.

On hearing of the Norse invasion, Harold Godwinsson quickly gathered what men he could and force-marched on York. Taking the Northmen by surprise, he came upon them from the west as they had settled down to receive hostages from the surrounding countryside.

The battle

The main part of the Viking army was on the eastern side of the river Derwent, while a smaller group of men were on the western bank. Both groups were scattered, and many of the men had left their armour by the ships. Hardrada, on the eastern bank, immediately sent a messenger for reinforcements from the ships, and began forming up his army, probably in a circular formation.

The men on the west bank of the river fought desperately to buy Hardrada time to organize. While these forces were quickly beaten, it took a considerable time to dislodge a solitary Viking who made a stand on the bridge, the only access to the far bank. Having slain a score of englishmen, he was finally overcome by an English soldier who maneuvred himself under the bridge (probably using a makeshift boat) and impaled him on his spear.

By this time, Hardrada's army was formed up on the rising area known as "Battle Flats". The Northmen rejected an offer in wich Tostig would get Northumbria, while Hardrada, in the words of Harold, would receive "seven feet of English ground, or as much more as he is taller than other men".

Little is known of the actual battle; it probably was a hard-fought infantry battle in the contemporary style. The Norsemen, outnumbered and without all their equipment, had the worst of the battle. Hardrada was killed by an arrow in the throat, shortly after this Eyestein Orre arrived with reinforcements from the ships. The English suffered a setback, but as the Norwegian reinforcements had travelled quickly they soon tired. Throwing away their armour to fight more effectively, they instead presented easy targets for the Englishmen. As evening closed, the Vikings broke.

Aftermath of the battle

Most of the invaders' chiefs were dead, including both Hardrada and Tostig. The flower of Norwegian youth was left on the battlefield; only men enough to crew 24 ships returned to Norway.

The English ranks were severely weakened by this battle and the battle of Fulford Bridge. In addition, Harold's main army was now far to the north of the country, and was unable to shield the south of England from attack. Shortly after the battle, Harold received word that William, who would later be called "the Conqueror", had landed in Sussex.

The armies

Recommended lists for this scenario (sanctioned by the DBA ruleset):
Anglo-Danish: Viking:
1 x 4Bd: Harold Godwinsson and bodyguard
2 x 4Bd: Huscarles
8 x 4Sp: Fyrd
1 x 2Ps: Archers
1 x 4Bd: Harald Hardrada and his closest hird
9 x 4Bd: Hird and followers
1 x 3Wb: Berserkers
1 x 2Ps : Skirmishers
The Vikings should be divided into 3 groups:
Group 1: Vanguard
1 Ps, 1 Bd
Group 2: Main Army
8 Bd, including general
Group 3: Reinforcements
1 Bd, 1 Wb

The Terrain

The battle Map (ASCII)

     ============Norwegian Baseline-EAST==============
     . r . f f f f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
     . . r . f . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
     f f r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
     f f f r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
     f f f . r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r
     f f f . r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r .
     f f . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r . .
     f f . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . .
     f . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . .
     . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . r . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . r . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . . r . . . r . . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . . . r . r . . . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . . . .
     . . . . . . . . s s s s s # s s s s . . . . . . .
     . s s s s s s s . . . . . . r . . . s s s . . . .
     s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . s s s .
     . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r . . . . . . . . s
     =============English Baseline-WEST===============

SCALE: The space between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going (Good Going)
s=stream (impassable for any but English psiloi)
f=forest (Bad Going)
r=Road
#=Bridge (Good Going)
I have included some woods on the Norwegian right that probably weren't there. This is because fighting in a circle doesn't really help you when you're outnumbered in DBA, but having something you can pin your flank on does!

"Battle flats" aren't very steep, so probably wouldn't aid combat.

Deployment

Group 1 is deployed west of the river, or on the bridge. Group 2 is deployed by the anglo-danish player in good going within one of the table's quarters east of the river. A smart player will deploy the Vikings in a total mess, demanding an almost infinite supply of PIPs to straighten out. This is the intention.

Harold marches onto the table anywhere west of the river Derwent in the first bound. He can adopt any formation (probably 1-2 columns is most appropriate).

Special Rules

None of the armies have any camps.

When the Norse player throws a PIP-die of 6 for the first time after the first Anglo-Danish element has crossed the river, group 3 deploys in column, on the road on the north-east side of the playing board. This is Hardradas relief force from the camp by the ships.

The river counts as impassable terrain to all troops except the Anglo-Danish element of psiloi. These have a move of 100 on water, and treat it otherwise as "Bad Going".

Hardradas army can survive the loss of their leader - this simply counts as a normal element lost.

Other Resources

Christopher Gravett's "Hastings 1066: The Fall of Saxon England" (Campaign Series #13)

Snorre Sturlasson's "Heimskringla" (The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway). Should be used with care, but it's good reading, anyway!

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Brief, but good account.