Home Forums Medieval Realistic Dark Age Skirmish Rules

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  • #64744
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Which rules do you think do the best job of realistically simulating the dynamics of skirmish warfare in the Dark Ages?

    I ask because lots of Dark Age rules make an explicit virtue of portraying “the legend” – I was wondering which rules try and go the other way.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #64745
    Mike
    Keymaster

    Are we looking for figures based as units or figures individually based?

    #64749
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Oh, any.

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #64752

    No claims to expertise but wouldn’t the reality of Dark Ages warfare be either a series of unco-ordinated combats and/or the clash of two shield walls?

    Either way, not a lot of expertise or tactical finesse and, in these terms, not the material for a great wargame.

    Individual prowess seems to have been lauded in the sagas and indeed, may have been the winning factor in many battles.

    Thus, maybe, he “Hollywood” approach of several sets of rules (eg SAGA) may not be entirely wrong even if somewhat exaggerated.

     

    donald

    #64753
    OB
    Participant

    You could try Lion Rampant it’s very flexible and you could fit most troop types into it.  Your nobles will be heroic and your fanatics fierce, it gives a good game.  Should you want to minimise on figures perhaps using larger ones instead I think that would work too. It’s a very affordable starting point.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #64767
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    I’ve never found any that satisfy completely, and most aim towards the cinematic/saga-esque anyway. A realistic set of rules for individual figures could probably be written quite easily but is also likely to be fairly basic and generic, because there is so little evidence of how individuals actually fought. Maybe something like FUBAR would be one of the better options. I like the idea that warriors might freeze (fail their activation) and the combat system is simple enough.

    For larger games with figures ranked together in units, I have always thought that Poleaxed 2 models the attempt to keep the battle line together rather well. It was written for the later medieval period, but the central difficulty of command and control is one that larger forces in the early medieval period would have suffered from too.

    Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    https://envirocitizen.eu
    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/

    #64773
    ian pillay
    Participant

    I can’t recall this issue number but, Wargames Illustrated had some great ancient / dark age rules in the magazine. I remember them being D10 based and they played really well.

    i guess anything by Dan Mersey are pretty good.

     

    ian

    Tally-Ho!

    #64787
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    I’m not sure we have a clear enough idea of what we are trying to model in a Dark Age Skirmish to judge realism.

    For larger shield wall clashes I really like Andy Callan’s Dark Age Infantry Slog (It is on Wyre Forest Gamers site here: DAIS ) and Dan Mersey’s adaptations of same. Not much tactical finesse as per the original, but you can model leadership, strength, aggression etc. and produce an excellently entertaining game that ‘feels’ right even if we have the shakiest idea of what it really looked like.

     

    #64788
    John D Salt
    Participant

    “Realism” is a term from art criticism, not from simulation modelling, so any judgement on that will depend on the taste of the audience.

    The Dark Ages is another of the vast areas of military history’s rich and extensive tapestry that I cheerfully classify as “not my period”, but it seems to me that the basic business of seeking to poke sharp or pointy things into your opponent or his horse while remaining unpoked yourself remained much the same roughly from the invention of the pointy thing until the invention of the stuff that goes bang. Taking “skirmish” to mean usiing individually-based figures representing individual combatants, I would strongly recommend Phil Barker’s “De Bellis Velitum”:

    http://www.wrg.me.uk/PHIL/DBV%202003.htm

    They are clearly not yet a finished set of rules, but a part-baked set by Phil B I find is often more complete and better playtested than quite a few other people’s “finished” efforts. I shall try to remember to nag him to finish them at COW this year. They do not include the tedious amounts of spurious detail that I associate with far too many “skirmish” sets, and the combatants are all “statistically identical” within their class, that is, there is no RPG-like list of skills and attributes for individuals.

    All the best,

    John.

    #64803
    Whirlwind
    Participant

    Thanks very much for the comments and recommendations.

    “Realism” is a term from art criticism, not from simulation modelling, so any judgement on that will depend on the taste of the audience.

    I’m not sure what the proper term would be.  Ideally I’d like a “Lost Battles” for skirmishes – what would that be called?

    All the best

     

    https://hereticalgaming.blogspot.co.uk/

    #64804
    Derek H
    Participant

    You could try Lion Rampant it’s very flexible and you could fit most troop types into it. Your nobles will be heroic and your fanatics fierce, it gives a good game. Should you want to minimise on figures perhaps using larger ones instead I think that would work too. It’s a very affordable starting point.

    There’s something more than a bit strange about recommending Lion Rampant as being “realistic” rules to use for the Dark Ages.

    The tactics used by  many of the forces of the period involved getting the groups in a force all formed  up into a shieldwall, then trying to keep it in good order and fighting as a single unit.

    You just can’t do this in Lion Rampant where the individual groups aren’t allowed within 3″ of each other and must all  move separately (with the high probability that not all of them will get to move in a single turn).

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Derek H.
    #64811
    OB
    Participant

    There is a lot more to Dark Age warfare than shield walls.  Even in that case a shield wall is not a single unit, its a line of many units of varying quality and type.  

    Whirlwind asked about Dark Age Skirmish rules not mass battle rules so I think Lion Rampant would do the trick.  Had he asked about mass battle rules I’d have suggested Roache’s Ager Sanguinis or MacDowell’s Comitatus. 

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #64832
    Patrice
    Participant

    lots of Dark Age rules make an explicit virtue of portraying “the legend”

    I’m not sure this has something to do with the realism (or unrealism) of the game systems. Mentioning “the legend” can help to attract customers (players will think that if it’s described as “legendary” it’s not boring) and, also, many rules are linked to ranges of miniatures, which sell better if representing “legendary” characters or units. It does not prevent the rules themselves to be realistic (or not).

    At skirmish level, Dark Ages fighting includes group formations in shield walls as others have mentioned, and/or groups of spearmen, etc (or cavalry depending on context) with the better armoured and noble warriors at the front ; and some individuals trying to accomplish …legendary… feats of arms.

    http://www.argad-bzh.fr/argad/en.html
    https://www.anargader.net/

    #64840
    Derek H
    Participant

    There is a lot more to Dark Age warfare than shield walls. Even in that case a shield wall is not a single unit, its a line of many units of varying quality and type. Whirlwind asked about Dark Age Skirmish rules not mass battle rules so I think Lion Rampant would do the trick. Had he asked about mass battle rules I’d have suggested Roache’s Ager Sanguinis or MacDowell’s Comitatus.

    The thing with Lion Rampant which, at least to my mind, makes it compl;etely inappropriate for Dark Age skirmish at any level is that you cannot actually portray ” a line of many units of varying quality and type”.  At least not one that moves as a coherent whole.

    My reading of the period s that they could form a shieldwall even if they had as few men as are in a Lion Rampant force (24 plus) they’d be quite capable of forming a mini-shieldwall.    And you just can’t do that with Lion Rampant.

    All you have is groups of men running around independently.  I’ve even said this to Dan Mersey and he agreed with me and said that Lion Rampant was much more of a game than a simulation.

    And it’s a fine game, though I prefer Dragon Rampant, where realism doesn’t matter one little bit.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Derek H.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Derek H.
    #64845
    OB
    Participant

    Well you have to pick what suits you and how you think Dark Age warfare worked.  I don’t think all units in a shield wall have the same motivation or skills so I don’t mind if they don’t all step off like a Guards brigade.  The best troops are  always in front, lesser souls behind and missilery, if any, where ever its most useful.  You can expect the professionals to be more likely to obey orders than the part timers, that’s why you have been subsidising and pampering the professionals.

    I like uncertainty in games others I know don’t.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #64859
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    “Realism” is a term from art criticism, not from simulation modelling, so any judgement on that will depend on the taste of the audience. The Dark Ages is another of the vast areas of military history’s rich and extensive tapestry that I cheerfully classify as “not my period”, but it seems to me that the basic business of seeking to poke sharp or pointy things into your opponent or his horse while remaining unpoked yourself remained much the same roughly from the invention of the pointy thing until the invention of the stuff that goes bang.  

    Physically this may well be correct, but different cultures seem to have devised several different ways of organising the rights and wrongs of how various wielders of different pokey things did what to whom. And lots of people since have interpreted the bits of writing that have come down to us about the actual use of pointy things in different ways.

    How many people make a skirmish? And does the phrase shield wall mean anything apart from a literary form of referring to a lot of blokes with shields and pointy things? Could 15 blokes form a shieldwall or did the other people run round the side and throw things and abuse at them in a cruel and cavalier fashion? I don’t know. And I’m not sure anyone else does with certainty. So whether a game is ‘realistic’ or not is unclear to me, whether it is an art history term or a non-engineering term applied to ludic simulations.

     

    #64873
    OB
    Participant

    “Could 15 blokes form a shieldwall or did the other people run round the side and throw things and abuse at them in a cruel and cavalier fashion?”

    Pretty much what cost Magnus Bare Legs his life, give or take some numbers.

    I’m in sympathy with the post above. Various peoples and cultures organised for violence in different ways, tactics and methods could vary as could the numbers, equipment and skills of warriors brought to the fray. I like rules that enable me to try and reflect that in a game.

    Realism, of necessity, is in the eye of the beholder.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #65029

    Again, I aspire to no genuine level of expertise with this period so feel free to snigger at my post.

    The wargamer’s dream of commanding exclusively elite “armies” must come close to reality for this period & level of play with surely one side, at least, being composed of exclusively seasoned warriors. Would any warband of raiders take anyone other a veteran and those who were trained & highly motivated?

    Admittedly, their opponents could include some rabble of hastily formed levies, pulled together to resist the raiders. However, for one side of a skirmish game set in the Dark Ages, you would need a force with “unrealistic” levels of skill & morale.

     

    donald

    #65030
    Ruarigh
    Participant

    The wargamer’s dream of commanding exclusively elite “armies” must come close to reality for this period & level of play with surely one side, at least, being composed of exclusively seasoned warriors.

    Theoretically, if you are depicting only a small force led by a lord or king, you could have a warband comprising nothing but the best-trained warriors with the best equipment.

    Never argue with an idiot. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    https://envirocitizen.eu
    https://emidsvikings.ac.uk/

    #65032
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    Well it may be an elite force, depending who you think went raiding, but it might not.

    It’s a ‘Dark Age’ skirmish – big period – and is as likely to be a scrap between a couple of extended farming families as hearth troops of a Danish king and an English king.

    #65034
    OB
    Participant

    There were raids and raids.  Big raids put together by important Jarls and their immediate followers, rite of passage raids by groups of young men, slave raids, inter clan raids, I could go on but you get the point.

    A good starting point is to see who was expected to fight.  Even an elite raid would contain lesser warriors to do the donkey work.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #65046

    Theoretically, if you are depicting only a small force led by a lord or king, you could have a warband comprising nothing but the best-trained warriors with the best equipment.

    Well, the OP did refer to skirmish warfare so I’d say this was more or less what I meant. Perhaps substitute “better” for “best”. I  don’t actually believe Dark Age warriors were unbeatable ninjas or SAS-trained fighters but the raiding party must have been comprised of men who largely wanted to be there, had decent equipment & some concept of how to use it, unlike a bunch of reluctant peasantry dragged together by their lord to defend home & hearth & his honour.

    So “elite”, being a term qualified by application to the period is the bon mot.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Deleted User.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Deleted User.
    #65049
    Rod Robertson
    Participant

    Gather some friends. Buy some Dark Age replica weapons and shields. Armour is optional and rare. Want to spice it up? Rent some horses. Hit/stab each other as often as you can and for as long as possible. Contemplate what you have learned and how much you enjoyed it in the recovery ward. Voila! Realistic Dark Age rules!

    I need sleep.

    Cheers and good gaming.

    Rod Robertson.

    #65061
    OB
    Participant

    My own view is that the best Dark Age warriors were very good indeed.  Fitness levels were very high, likewise weapon skills and as for morale, well, read the poetry that set the standard expected.  They were full timers and dedicated, sometimes literally, to their profession.  But there were never that many of such people in any given population and they tended to be found in relatively small concentrations.

    Now and then we get bigger assemblies of such elites and they always leave their mark. 

    As for peasants, it depends what you mean, free farmers mostly had a duty to fight and wanted to as it was part of their legal status.  Unfree or semi free folk were not expected/allowed to bear arms in most cases.

    OB
    http://withob.blogspot.co.uk/

    #66449
    Anon User
    Member

    I’ll run with “realistic” being an outlook that seeks a typical historical Dark Ages fight.

    I’ll run with “skirmish” being a small fight where each figure represents one figure.

    Within these parameters, the only game I know that fits the bill would be The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game – REALLY! If you only use “captains” and the occasional lesser Hero [many of which have interesting and characterful abilities that don’t add much complexity to the game, but give it a lot of flavor] the game is quite simple.  There are detailed rules [if needed] for falling, jumping, climbing, sieges, mounts, monsters, flyers, etc.

    We found it to be quite realistic in the actual fighting/combats. Depending on who wins Priority [initiative] and how you use your warriors and leaders, you can break into opposing groups of mutually supporting figures and kill them more easily individually [seems realistic], while your opponent has the same goal. The use of mounted troops is also “realistic” in that they can barge into figure groups and possibly knock some figs down, separating a mutually supporting group. Captains [indeed, most characters] have a limited ability to break the turn sequence a specified number of times, and once the ability is used up that’s it. So you have to pick and choose your critical moments carefully. This feels quite realistic.

    Copies of the rules are readily available used on line for a couple bucks used since they were so prolifically published. Also, I will add that unlike most Wargames, these rules were actually playtested, and the only issues that we ever came up with were the usual problems with balancing scenarios that involve really famous characters or monsters [unsurprisingly]. These are a moderately complex set of rules, but games are simplified by avoiding cavalry and complicated terrain.

    All the other skirmish games that I’ve played are either too much like RPGs [e.g. the classic Melee by Steve Jackson / Metagaming, free online now] or too clunky and gamey [e.g. the entire Song of Blades and Heroes stuff].

    OK, so that is it for “skirmish gaming”

    If by skirmishes you are also willing to extend the definition to small battles that typify the 90% of the period [instead of extraordinary battles that are large and may only occur once or twice in the lifetime of a warrior] I second the recommendations for Dark Ages Infantry Slog, for Dan Mersey’s efforts, e.g. Glutter of Ravens /Dux Bellorum, altho I must admit to not having played them extensively.

    For fast play rules, especially good for newbies, I strongly recommend Neil Thomas’ “One-Hour Wargames” which I’ve played hundreds of times and modified in several attempts. Cheap, and Highly Recommended!

    I have played the following variation on them very extensively, as I developed it with my gaming group:

    https://darkages40and25.blogspot.com/2017/07/latest-dark-ages-feudal-rules.html

    Posts related to them by topic, such as batreps and detailed tutorial of a feudal battle, are in this search thread:

    http://darkages40and25.blogspot.com/search/label/One%20-%20Hour%20Wargames

    I hope this helps, and LMK how it goes!

    Best, Alex

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