Sunday, October 7, 2012

Donogh the Viking - Part Two

I cribbed the map from Donald Featherstones "Wargames Campaigns", added some place names and some little briefings. The rest of it was based off Paddy Griffith's free kriegspiel chapter in "Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun" and my half remembered understanding of his, "The Viking Way of War."

Peaceful traders you say...

The third team were the hapless Saxons, led by Thane Egbert (Icecream) and ably seconded by Abbot Bedwin (Krisztian) with Capability Savage as their Cupbearer. They had to raise the Fryd (militia), protect the population and prevent the Viking from looting either the main town or the abbey. The Saxons had the advantage of a map, with names written on it and everything, while the Vikings had to get by on a written briefing and the sketchy reports of scouts and prisoners.

A wandering Longship I, a thing of wood and sails...

But from my point of view, this was not their story, it was the story of Donogh the Viking, who looted and pillaged and was brought low by treachery.  Donogh fetched up on the coast of Britain, having been separated from one of his longships in heavy seas. He raided the first village that he came across, razed it and rounded up over a dozen slaves. He moved along the coastline, doing much the same. He was concerned about his missing ship and crew, but reckoned that they would follow the plumes of smoke and link up with him.

Meanwhile, the Anglo-Saxons were in a real tizzy. I actually really enjoyed watching them play, because in many ways it was like watching an Alien Invasion from the point of view of Earthlings. The Vikings appeared mysteriously, wreak untold havok and then leave having abducted the population. Meanwhile, steadfast Donogh the Viking was trying to find this elusive monastery.

The Anglo-Saxons raised the Fryd and started trying to bring the Vikings to battle, which was difficult as their intelligence was always a day or two behind and the Vikings made extensive use of their longship's mobility.

In the meantime, Fatz the Viking had looted and burned his way along the coast, only to run into Donogh's missing ship, which he promptly snapped up as a prize.

This one won't be going in the figures as a "hate crime"

The game ended with Donogh the Viking looting the local monastery only to run into Saxon Fryd. He escaped, but lost most of the crew to Saxon spears, only to be mugged by their Viking counterparts once they reached open sea. Live by the sword, old chum.

A few months ago I brought my Hungarian chum Krisztian to Dvblinia, an exhibition on the medieval history of Dublin, which basically began its life in the 9th century as a Viking slaving port.  The exhibition is really rather good and I recommend it to anyone who wants get a grasp of the basics of the history of Dublin in a relatively short time. One thing, I found particularly interesting was a commentary on one of the panels describing the Norse raids on monastic settlements. The writer was at pains to point out that the Norse weren't doing this out of anti-Christian sentiment, but because they were after loot and slaves. There's a rather peculiar 21st century way of thinking here, something along the lines of "Well, they may have been vicious pirates with a history of brutality, violence and sexual assault, but they weren't bigots!"

Highlights of the game

- The mounting panic and confusion from the Anglo-Saxon players when the Vikings appeared to be appearing and disappearing at will.

- Donogh the Vikings missing ship turning up two days late because of poor weather. The captain stopped to investigate a burned village, beaching his ship and leaving it with a small guard. When the second Viking team came across it, they seized it immediately at the swords point leaving the raiding party stranded.

- The focused drive of Donogh the Viking, who was determined to take the main prize, the monastery.  He really did deserve better, the poor fellow.

- The confusion of the Saxons when they realised there was more than one group of Vikings.

- Abbot Bedwin rather nervously telling Thane Egbert that there was an important relic of St. Cuthbert travelling towards the monastery.

- Donogh the Vikings incredibly lucky assault on the stone built monastery. The Saxons just put that little too much faith in stone walls.

- Sven (Donogh's missing captain) wandering around inland, running into the relic, murdering the escort and then stealing it. This led to no end of confusion as the Saxons swore blind that there couldn't be Vikings there and the Vikings becoming very confused when the Saxons offered to negotiate for its return.

- The piratical glee of Fatz the Viking, who happily plundered his fellow norsemen and stole the ship that Donogh the Viking had left to secure his line of retreat.

- Fatz the Viking waiting at the estuary mouth when he realised that Donogh the Viking would be returning there laden with loot from the monastery. Donogh had taken the prize against all odds, only to be robbed of it at the eleventh hour.

- Fatz the Viking's team when asked if they wished to take on the gathering Saxons. "I don't think so, that looks like a particularly sharp piece of fruit." A shiny new longship to the raider who can spot the reference.

Fatz the Viking and his buddies returning to Norway

All in all, I think it was a pretty good game with some interesting runs of luck, but to be honest the players were the real random element.

In retrospect, despite losing several villages and the monastery, I thought the Saxons did rather well. They managed to evacuate and save more villages than they lost. They recovered the relic that was stolen. From their point of view they managed to bring the Vikings to battle twice and win both times, something that from Paddys book I've learned was pretty rare. Fatz the Viking had a crushing short term victory, but did so by actively harrying his fellow Viking, Donogh. I imagine there are some pretty axe heavy office politics in his future.

Definitely something I would do again.


  1. A great report. I like the map. The villages look like terrified faces.

    1. It was the genesis if the whole thing - I was actually looking for something else to turn into a KS when I came across it.

  2. Conrad

    Sounds like a great game - how long did it take to play out from start to finish? Was it one or several day's entertainment?

    I suggest that you retire to the local mead hall and sing of Donagh's fate - loudly and off key!


    1. An evening only - while we played other games. The KS lasted from about 2000 to 2300, though we kept playing other stuff long after that.

  3. I suspect your piece of fruit reference to be Blackadder-esque in origin.

    That's Fatz the Viking with the shield, right? I'd know those legs anywhere...

    1. Well done E the Sharp Tongued. An extra shiny longship for you.

  4. That last picture could almost have been taken in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota USA on Leif Eriksson Day!

    Best Regards,