To bring into play the possibility of an other-than-historical outcome, we should allow the dice to make up the minds of the leaders, rather than fix them into the inflexible rut of historic fate. But first, before we get into the logistics of setup, let me indulge in a brief spell of stage setting.
Claimants for a crown
The throne of England had been a long-contested prize by 1066. In 1016 Canute the Great received baptism and the crown, and a Norman wife, Emma the daughter of duke Richard the Fearless, who had been the wife of king Ethelred. Canute captured Emma, and for reasons not now clear (but perhaps no more complex than simple female vanity and ambition) she gave her consent and became queen of England a second time.This act denied her two sons, the athelings Edward and Alfred, who withdrew into a long exile at the Norman court. Their elder half-brother Edmund Ironside waged a very brief war against Canute before he died later in 1016. He had held the south of England below the Thames by treaty with Canute. Ironside's baby son Edward was whisked away to safety in Germany, where he grew up at the German and Hungarian courts and married a German princess. He was remembered to the folk in England as "the exile."
In 1035 Canute sent to Robert the Devil duke of Normandy, offering to divide half of the kingdom of England with Robert's cousins the athelings. But duke Robert was away just then on pilrimage to Jerusalem; and shortly after Canute sent his offer he died and his throne was quickly occupied by his illegitimate son Harold I, popularly known as "Harefoot." He had the support of England's strongest earl, Godwin of Wessex. Edward and his brother decided that the time had come at last for them to seek to England to defend their rights, which the offer of Canute had admitted. So with troops from Normandy and Boulogne, and using Boulognnais ships, the two athelings fared oversea. Edward landed near Southampton and fought a successful battle. But the countryside did not rally to his cause as he had hoped they might; so he retired back to the mainland to await news of his brother. But Alfred did not come. It was learned soon after that he had answered an invitation of the wily Godwin to a parley; but at the meeting Alfred and his men were treacherously seized and delivered over to Harefoot. He imprisoned Alfred and blinded him so savagely that he did not long survive. Harefoot lived another four years. His half-brother Hardicanute, Emma's and Canute's legitimate son, assumed the crown in 1040 with Godwin's backing. And Edward the atheling was invited over to live at the English court. Two years later, Hardicantue perished at a banquet from overeating. Edward was hailed by the witan as the next king of England.
Now for the contenders: Hardicanute had entered into a treaty with king Magnus of Norway, to the effect that if either should die childless the other would inherit his lands. Magnus defied Edward and his crowning as illegal. But his war to subject Denmark took all Magnus' time and attention until his death not long afterward. Robert the devil had also died on his way home from Jerusalem, and his heir was his little bastard son William. The magnates of Normandy did not take well to the idea of being ruled by a child and a bastard, not when there were so many legitimate cousins and uncles available: so the duchy was delivered up to nearly fifteen years of anarchy. During this time, little William Bastard's life was despaired of; but his guardians, dying left and right, managed to safeguard their lord till he arrived at his majority in 1045. With the support of his sovereign king Henry of France, William managed to survive the next five years and grew stronger. But his marriage to Matilda the daughter of Flanders in 1051 caused a break with France and a war that lasted till 1060, when king Henry died. Duke William by then was lord of Maine and most of Brittany. The new king of France was a boy who was in awe of the Norman warlord. In 1064 came a windfall: Harold Godwinson the earl of Wessex, crashed in a ship on the coasts of Ponthieu, and the count who was a client of duke William's gave up the Englishmen to him. William held Harold hostage until he swore to be his vassal in England for certain holdings and to help William gain the throne. This much is irrefutable fact. The English historians admit as much. Where the disagreement comes in is regarding a much earlier promise of Edward's to duke William, that he would make him his heir to the kingdom of England. The promise, if ever there was one, must indeed have been a very long time before: as Edward had left the court of Normandy way back in 1041 or '42. There was one rumored meeting in the interim between William and his royal cousin, 1051, when William visited England very briefly before his marriage. The promise could have been given then, or confirmed. Edward was at that time on very bad terms with earl Godwin and his family, who were banished that same year. King Edward was looking out for himself and could name his heir as he pleased. He was more Norman than English in his sentiments anyway, having stayed the main part of his young adult life in Normandy. He preferred to speak French, and there is evidence that he was on very friendly terms with his cousin duke Robert during the period of exile. But whether or not the promise in fact had ever been given or confirmed, it was soon rendered moot. The earls forced king Edward's hand and Godwin effected a complete return to royal favor. The witan sought for an heir for the childless king. Edward the Exile was invited to take up his heritage. He did so in 1057, but died upon arriving in England before king Edward could even meet with him. Nevertheless, he publicly recognized the Exile's son Edgar the Atheling as heir to his father's claim on the crown. So the English were not in anywise unduly concerned about their future: until earl Harold managed to get himself captured by the Normans and made all those oaths to gain back his freedom. But that was not even particularly significant either until 1065 when king Edward fell mortally ill. Everyone knew that William bastard was holding earl Harold to his promises as the witan met to discuss the succession. Even as Edward breathed his last in the first week of 1066, they argued that a mere boy (Edgar the Atheling) could not lead the kingdom in a war against Normandy. Harold, since earl Godwin's death in 1053, had been as the king's right arm and leader of the army (even bearing the title "subregulus"). To Harold, then, the witan turned and gave their promises of support. Harold Godwinson was crowned Harold II on the same day Edward was buried.
Duke William sent envoys to remonstrate with Harold over his broken oaths. But to no avail. The king and his people prepared for invasion. All summer the southern coasts were watched by the fyrd, while duke William gathered troops and ships at the river Dives. The Norman army was joined by volunteers from Brittany, France, Flanders, and Normans from Italy and Sicily. The English king, foresworn and stigmatized by Norman propaganda, was excommunicated and the kingdom of England placed under the ban of Rome.
Then it was, that the old Norwegian claim was resurrected. Tosti, king Harold's younger brother, had till recently been earl of Northumbria; but for the crimes of being rapacious and corrupt in his rule he had been banished. Tosti sailed to the court of king Harald Hardrada, reminding him of the treaty between Hardicanute and Magnus. Hardrada was Magnus' successor and gladly seized this opportunity to expand his realm into England. Even while the Norman armada was awaiting favorable winds in the Somme estuary - to which they had moved on 12 October - a mighty Norse battle fleet put into the Humber and disembarked at Riccall. On 20 September, Hardrada and Tosti met the army of the earls of Mercia and Northumbria, Edwin and his brother Morcar. The invaders won a complete victory and Hardrada obtained the fealty of the earls and principal men. Five days later, Harold II caught the Norse by surprise at Stamford bridge, as they awaited further hostages from York. In an all-day battle the vikings were practically annihilated and Hardrada and Tosti slain.
Three days following Stamford bridge, duke William's army landed in Sussex. The coasts were clear, as the fyrd had eaten up all their food and been dismissed to their homes. King Harold's men were still recuperating at York when word came of the French invasion. He wasted not a day getting together all his troops who could ride and struck the road for London. After a pause there of a few days to collect latecomers he continued south through the Andresweald forest. On Caldbec hill at the far edge of the trees he encamped during the night of 13 and 14 October. In the morning he drew up his best men in a shield-wall on high ground just outside the forest. The Normans, Bretons and French made repeated attacks throughout the day-long battle. But it was only at the very end, as darkness was falling, that Harold II was killed and the English remnant dispersed.
Duke William wended his way toward London during the next two months, laying the countryside waste in a serpentine course through southern England. Edwin, Morcar and the Londoners proclaimed Edgar the Atheling their king and tried to organize a resistance. But the calamitous events of that year had taken their toll: the main mass of English people felt leaderless and cowed. The northern earls, the dignitaries of London, the clergy and even Edgar himself then approached the duke of Normandy with peace terms. William entered London in triumph. At Westminster he was crowned on Christmas day by the archbishop Aldred of York, as England's third king in less than a year.
War-gaming GATE FULFORD
The Icelandic poet, Snorri Sturluson, is the only source for details of the battle. This is considered an unfortunate thing anymore. But let's be fair: Sturluson was savvy on Norse details and hazy (to say the least !) on English and French details. The two last battles of his hero Hardrada were obviously going to be very popular epics. Sturluson was writing early in the 13th century to an audience that knew what was realistic. His battlefield scenes had to agree with what was known to be true. As he describes them, the events of the battle at Gate Fulford are believable in themselves. While historical relationships of the English characters certainly suffer under Sturluson's pen, his gift is that of classic imagery which has endured. Anyway, if we throw out Sturluson's account of Fulford, we have no battle narrative at all: so we may not be playing the "real" Fulford, but we are going to play the only Fulford we've got.
Mercia and Northumbria could field 3,000 well-equipped men of the fyrd. The housecarles of the brother earls together probably numbered 500 to 600. (The 200 men of earl Tosti's killed in the uprising at York were probably housecarles, giving us a potential size for a housecarle unit of an earl.) The call to arms of the whole available manpower (called prosaically the "greater fyrd") would raise another 6,000. Some had already been killed in battle as the Norse had raided down the east coast. 8,000 men is not too high for the defending English. The Norse army came in a Leidang of at least 200 warships, plus many more smaller supply vessels. At 12 to 20 oars per side for a warship, an army of 12,000 men is about right for the Norse. But a third were left behind to guard the fleet at Riccall.
Therefore the armies are about equal in numbers. There is no question that the half-a-thousand housecarles of the English earls' are the best troops: even Hardrada's own warriors admitted that. But the quality of the viking host is generally better. Man for man they are better-armed than the defenders. And their morale is higher too.
Hardrada advanced with his toughest vikings on the left near the Ouse river. The rest of his line was led by Tosti: a mixed bag of Flemings, English and men from the northern islands. Their front rested upon a ditch (a morass) which turned and paralleled the Ouse. Down between this double barrier came the English. They thrust Tosti's troops back. But Hardrada plunged into the English right flank, leading his troops beneath the Land Ravager, his raven banner. The English ranks split and scattered. Many of Morcar's and Edwin's troops perished, perhaps most by drowning. The two earls were thoroughly cowed and swore fealty to the invading Norse king.
English order of battle
Housecarles: heavy infantry, spear, sword and broadaxe with 3 javelins: 500 men. Morale B class.
Thegns: 10% heavy infantry; 10% light infantry; the balance medium infantry; spear, sword and broadaxe with 3 javelins: 3,000 men. Morale C class.
Geneats: 10% medium infantry, the rest light infantry; spear and broadaxe with 2 javelins: 3,000 men. Morale D class.
Local ceorl levy: 50% light infantry the rest unarmored infantry; assorted weaponry and one improvised hand missile: 1,500 men. Morale D class.
Divide the English army into three divisions, with the best troops in the leading division(s). Two are in line with one following behind. (Or alternately place all three in a single line of left right and center.)
Norse and allies
Hardrada's left wing, two commands: heavy infantry, spear, sword and broadaxe with one hand missile: 2,000 men.
Also medium infantry as above, 2,000 men.
Also light archers, sword and bow: 1,500 men.
Morale of all is B class. (While Hardrada leads, his personal 500 men are A class morale.)
Tosti's right wing, one command: medium infantry Flemings, spear and sword: 1,000 men. Morale C class.
Also half light and half unarmored English infantry, spear and one hand missile: 1,000 men. Morale D class.
Also light archers, sword and bow: 500 men. Morale C class.
Deployment and gaming considerations
Upon initial deployment, the English roll a morale test each turn: failure means a forward attack into Tosti's formation across the morass. Hardrada's archers giving flanking fire makes the English flinch to their own left. But if they make another morale check once they are on the move, the English may opt to face the viking left instead of attacking over the morass.
The morass is a +25% combat bonus to the troops standing on the defensive behind it. The river Ouse is uncrossable, and the marshy ground along the east ditch is laced with treacherous spots: each figure entering it will perish on a 1d6 roll of: 1=light and unarmored infantry 1,2=medium infantry 1,2,3=heavy infantry. Roll for each figure each turn of further movement through.
War-gaming STAMFORD BRIDGE
Should Hardrada and the Norse win at Gate Fulford, proceed historically to the next battle five days later. King Harold II has brought his mounted army up from London. Last night (Sunday, 24 September) he was encamped with his troops at Tadcaster about seven miles south of York. He sent troops to York to hold the gates, so that word of his arrival would not be taken to the vikings at Riccall. But his appeal to the earls to help their true king brought only excuses. Perhaps a few volunteers from Yorkshire join the royal army on Monday morning as it moves past York toward Stamford bridge.
The battle is again given full treatment by Snorri Sturluson: augmented by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle we arrive with enough details to play it out. Snorri's account is scorned by historians as an obvious crib from the more famous battle of Hastings a few weeks later: I doubt this very much. For one thing, Snorri had no reason to care two pins about what happened at Hastings, as his hero was already ashes by then. The argument of whether to believe Snorri centers upon the argument of mounted combat: for he claimed mounted tactics for the English army which many historians patently disbelieve. But vikings in the past had fielded mounted warriors in battle (albeit rarely): while there is no doubt at all that on at least one occasion the English used their horses to fight (very poorly, as it turned out). Stamford bridge, according to Snorri, was another.
Part of the Norse army was on the west side of the river. The main body was on the east. There was a narrow footbridge of wood crossing at this point. But on the horizon the Norse spied, not approaching hostages from York, but rather the glint of weapons and helms. Tosti suggested that it would be wise to withdraw back to the ships at Riccall. But Hardrada said they would fight where they were and send messengers to bid the ship guard hasten to the field. One-third of the Norse army was there, with nearly all the mail armor, for the late September day had dawned warm and the vikings had not thought that another enemy host could be nearby. (At this point, you can fudge with history and roll 1d6 for Hardrada: 6=Hardrada has a reasonable moment and agrees to withdraw and unite his army at Riccall. Play out the battle there on the strand with the whole Norse host, fully-armed. Needless to say, history might take a radical course change !) King Harold II had led all his fyrd and housecarles with those of his two brothers, Gyrth's and Leofwin's. They had picked up local ceorls and a few thegns with their retinues as they drew near the battlefield. Their army was significantly larger than Hardrada's and Tosti's. And the English for the main part were fully-armed. On horseback, part of the English army went downriver and crossed over. Meanwhile, the Norse on the west side of the river had formed up with the bridge at their backs. Hardrada used the time to form his main army for battle on the east side in a broad somewhat soggy field. The English main host attacked on foot and slowly obliterated the holding force. A single Norse champion (according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) held them up for a bit longer still, but was finally dispatched from beneath the bridge by a spear thrust through the planking by a hidden English warrior in a skiff. The English filed over the bridge and formed up. Hardrada's host had been standing in a circular shield-wall while the mounted portion of the English army rode their horses around them: dashing in close to throw javelins and shoot arrows, then riding swiftly away when the viking formation remained firm and shot back. It was a standoff until the main English army was finally ready to attack. But they stood there, while their mounted brethren continued their light skirmishing and harrassment of the vikings. Finally growing tired of the waiting, Hardrada gave the command to open the shield-wall and attack. Rumbling forward in a single line, the vikings met the English army where they stood, backs to the river. The mounted thegns and housecarles rode in close and lobbed arrows and javelins upon the rear of the Norse, causing their rear ranks to turn and face. At this point the mounted troops must have gone in for the hand to hand fighting on foot: Snorri makes no further mention of horses. The battle waxed sore, and the English came nigh to fleeing (which they certainly would have done if mounted). But then Hardrada took an arrow in the throat and died. The viking attack was stayed. A parley to break off the war was scorned by the Norse, who fought to the death with Tosti beneath the Land Ravager. Even the arrival of the ship guard could not change that, as they came upon the field after a forced march of a dozen miles and were half-dead from fatigue. They threw off their mail shirts to give themselves a little refreshment and went down to a man as berserkers. The Norse survivors were given quarter the following day and departed in only 24 ships, leaving the rest of the mighty fleet as spoils to the English. The viking dead were pilled upon the field and burnt.
English deployment and order of battle
There are three commands. You can divide them amongst the three Godwinson brothers for convenience. One is mounted. Deploy the two infantry commands within a hundred yards or so of the vikings at the bridge: king Harold II has two battles in his command. the mounted command begins off-table and will be composed of housecarles and (or) thegns. they enter on the opposite side of the river by rolling 3d6 each turn until they get a 13 or higher.
Housecarles: heavy infantry, spear, sword and broadaxe with 3 javelins: 3,000 men. Morale B class.
Thegns: heavy infantry, spear, sword, and braodaxe with 3 javelins. 1,000 men. Morale C class.
Thegns: medium infantry, as above: 4,000 men. Morale C class.
Geneats: 10% medium the rest light infantry, spear, broadaxe and 2 javelins: 5,000 men. Morale C class.
Archers: unarmored infantry, knife and bow: 500 men. Morale C class.
Ceorl local levy: half light and half unarmored infantry, assorted weapons, one improvised hand missile: 500 men. Morale D class.
Norse deployment and order of battle
One-third of the Norse army is guarding the ships at Riccall twelve miles to the south. Those on hand are nearly unarmored, having left their mail shirts with the ships. (Hardrada himself left "Emma" his prized coat of mail behind; because the day was warm the vikings had ridden away from the ships "very merry.") The total numbers available to the Norse therefore, are contingent upon how many losses they sustained at Gate Fulford: in our rules the victor gets back 75% of his losses as returned routed and wounded troops. But in this case there isn't enough time to recoup so many: so return 60% of Hardrada's losses from Fulford. Furthermore, the ship guard includes all the wounded too hurt to move: so only half of them can force march to Stamford bridge.
Assuming the Norse army's original strength to have been c. 12,000 men, the most they can have on hand - before casualties from Fulford - is 8,000. 25% may be considered as medium infantry: the few who opted to retain their mail, and others who wear a gambeson of leather or quilting. Every warrior brought along his weapons, shield and helm, and the archers their bows, so the balance of the vikings are light infantry.
There are four commands: two battles under Hardrada's command, and one under Tosti's; there are 1,000 + (1d10 hundred) = vikings on the English (west) side of the river. The bridge behind them is too narrow to allow more than one figure wide. After they are disposed of (barring a fluke of bad luck with the English dice !) and both English foot commands are over the bridge onto the east side, one-half of the viking ship guard will arrive at the south edge of the table in 3+3d6=turns. They are TIRED ! Allow them to fight at full, unarmored infantry combat value after they shuck their mail. If they try to fight with it on, you could allow them to have half-combat value (rounded down): which is the same value in our rules, but their movement rate would then be reduced to a stand only once in combat. (Berserk they very well were, but they had no energy left to power the rage. After the battle, quite a number of them were discovered dead without a wound on them, having expired from their exertions to arrive in time.)
The viking shield-ring will be allowed to break out on a successful performance test. You may roll once each turn. To break out, the lowest morale rating in the shield-ring must test successfully, otherwise no one will break out - i.e. no piecemeal breaking of the ring. Obviously the Norse drill allowed units to wheel. The same cannot be definitely claimed for the English, but it seems reasonable; at least for the housecarles and thegns.
The English when fighting mounted cannot perform any sort of tight, concerted charge (like that allowed Norman knights on trained warhorses). They can gallop in a body, but it is in open order for skirmishing only and pursuit of a broken foe. The vikings, accustomed to such horsemanship, do not oblige by breaking.
Historically, Harold II's army was what had survived Stamford bridge, minus the wounded and those whose horses had perished, plus latecomers to the muster at London. They would not have possessed very many horses. That is why they were left behind in the first place. King Harold did not wait for them now either. He collected what fresh mounted troops there were and in two days he covered the sixty-odd miles to Caldbec hill. The local levies of Sussex and Kent were on hand to avenge their pillaged farms.
After a fruitless exchange of envoys, Harold II and duke William prepared for battle.
The road to London crossed the summit of a barren ridge about a mile south of the edge of the forest, and there Harold II planted his standards, the Dragon of Wessex and his personal banner of the Fighting Man. The main body of fyrd levies remained back in the trees, apparently because the troops refused to fight in such a "narrow place." But more likely because they were disaffected by the king's excommunication and the ban. In the hour of battle, Harold II had less than half his army drawn up around him.
William opened the battle with an all-out attack upon the entire English position. First the marksmen emptied their quivers and retired: then the horse and foot labored up the slopes. By prior arrangement with the French right wing, the knights performed a feigned flight, which drew down much of the English left wing in pursuit. The Bretons on the Norman left might have also been ordered to do the same; but instead of a feigned flight, the Bretons withdrew in earnest, pursued successfully by the English right. After hard fighting, the Normans assaulting Harold II in the center also fell back in disorder down the hill. The French had turned about and attacked the English who had pursued them; but everywhere else William's army was coming apart. He probably had held back a reserve of knights around himself and the papal banner: this is implied by the original sources, which claim that as his Normans were beginning to rout away he bared his head of helm and hauberk, and, riding in front of them, rallied them with his own voice and appearance. Obviously, he was not engaged in the fighting up to this point, or else he would himself have been swept up in the rout. And equally obvious is the impossibility of a single man being able to rally thousands of retreating troops. He must have had a sizeable body of knights to make himself noticeable and with which to stem the withdrawing tide by riding in front of it. The Normans were rallied, sorted out and returned to the attack. The French were withdrawing by then, having heard rumors of William's demise. He rallied them and led a fresh attack upon the English left, which, deprived now of the advantage of the high ground, was methodically destroyed by weight of numbers. Troops were sent to succor the Bretons, who had been driven right into the marshy flats of Asten brook. But the renewal of the Norman assault on the English center had not gone well at all. In fact, Harold's best troops were winning, until William led reinforcements of the French and Norman cavalry from the victorious right wing up onto the ridge and charged straight at Harold's command post. By this point it was growing dark. The English had held out all afternoon. But now a random arrow supposedly pierced the king in the face. Gyrth and Leofwin were already dead, probably on the lower slopes with their men of the right and left wings. (Although their bodies conceivably could have been carried up and laid near Harold's standards during a lull in the fighting.) There was no one to hold the English on the field and they withdrew into the night-shrouded forest.
Had one of the Godwinsons lived they might have continued the war. They did not need to win the battle of Hastings; they merely had to survive and hurt the invading army, which they had done well. Reinforcements would have come in a few days to the English army, but not so readily to William's with the Channel between and his fleet dependent on the wind. William's injured army was spared another battle. The deaths of all three Godwinsons has to rank as one of the great one-sided flukes of war. Their demise on the field of battle, so closely fought, was viewed by Englishmen for centures as the will of God.
Norman, Breton and French order of battle
The proportion of knights to marksmen to spearmen should be approximately the same for all three commands. The Norman center contains half (or slightly more) of the total forces. The Bretons on the left might have been in greater numbers than the French right wing, but in a war-game you can equalize them if you choose. Morale: all marksmen D class; Breton left D class; Norman infantry and cavalry C class (William's reserve are B class); French right are C class infantry and B class cavalry.
The fleet used by the duke numbered in the hundreds. An exact figure is offered by Wace of 696 vessels, which is believable though not necessarily correct. Many ships, probably special horse transports, had been built during the summer. The rest were commandeered in the duchy and lent by Boulogne and Flanders. A fleet of that size could easily have carried 2,000 to 3,000 horses and the knights to ride them; 1,000 or more marksmen, and enough heavy infantry to bring the total numbers up to at least 7,500 men: 10,000 should be viewed as the upper limit.
English order of battle
All the surviving housecarles and fyrd from Stamford bridge: such other fyrd as reinforced the army at London with horses; the local ceorl levy. The total at Battle hill should not exceed 10,000 to 10,500. For convenience, let Harold's two brothers Gyrth and Leofwin command the wings (if they both survived Stamford bridge). Harold has the center and a bodyguard of up to 500 men on the summit. The two armies are comparatively equal in total manpower, with perhaps a few hundred more on the side of the English. Morale: housecarles A class; thegns B class; geneats and ceorl levy C/D class. (The double morale figure works this way: when rolling for rout - seeing others routing or taking casualties and so forth - use C class: but when making performance tests - such as remaining in line when the enemy is routing in front of you - test on D class.)
The slopes of Battle hill are steep and rough along the front, mostly covering the English center. Apparently there were rough patches of woods on the gentle west end of the ridge: at any rate the ground there broke the Breton advance so that any cavalry charging there will be on a fragmented frontage. The English left is above furrowed ground, making charges there impractical too. Behind the whole English position the rear slopes on either hand drop off steeply into gorges - the headwaters of the Brede and Bulverhythe. This ground is impassable to all but light and unarmored infantry.
No defensive postion of this period that I am aware of ever broke from sustained missile fire: the marksmen were too few in number and ammunition too short. William's marksmen apparently rearmed at least once during the battle. To reflect this, roll 2d6 for each turn after the first three for each shooting bow unit. If a 2 is rolled before the fourth turn of shooting, the unit may not shoot: it is out of missiles. If the unit rolls above a 2 it may shoot a fourth turn: before the fifth turn of shooting a roll of 2,3 will mean the unit is out of missiles: before a sixth turn of shooting the unit must roll above a 2,3,4: before a seventh turn of shooting, the unit must roll above a 2,3,4,5, and so forth, until the unit finally runs "dry." Once out of missiles the marksmen unit will retire to the rear (they may not be used offensively in melee attacks).
If the armies separate, as they did historically after the "crisis" in William's army, then the two armies redeploy in their basic starting positions: casualties are returned at 60% and the English side roll 1d6=5,6 to receive a late-arriving unit of 500 light infantry fyrd spearmen. The battle resumes: it is now afternoon.
If the armies separate again, do the same a second time: returning 60% of the casualties from the second battle phase only: the English might receive another 500 light fyrd spearmen with a 5 or 6 on 1d6. A third phase of the battle is during deep evening. The game will only last ten turns, then start rolling 1d6 at the end of each turn: a 5 or 6 brings on total darkness and the battle ends.
If Gate Fulford is won by the English, Harold II will be able to double his army size when he faces William. But the increased troops will be mostly of doubtful quality: the core army already serves under his banner. Had the northern earls joined him in time for Hastings, his army would not have greatly benefitted, as Edwin and Morcar had taken a fearful beating from the Norse. Nevertheless, duke William would most likely not change his strategy in the face of a larger English army. His harrying of the Godwinson lands in Sussex was what in large measure had brought Harold II so swiftly to battle, instead of waiting to gather his full strength. Harold II was impetuous and chivalrous, and William played upon these weaknesses. The English army at Hastings will be larger only if Harold waits: he will do so on a 1d6 roll = 6 after receiving news of the northern earls' victory: otherwise he will not wait for them and will attack William as per usual (albeit with an untouched army !). But if he does wait, increase the English army to 3,000 housecarles and 8,000 thegns; the geneats, mounted and on foot (for Harold brings the infantry too) will be 10,000 or even more. This makes it very doubtful that William can win a standup fight on the terrain of Battle hill. However, because Harold has waited for his full strength, William might have gained the rest of his army too. The same wind which had blown his fleet to England would carry returning ships to Boulogne, while it held up the English-commandeered fleet from the Humber. And the historical change to a northerly a few weeks later allows the English fleet down, but the Norman reinforcements have a head start across the Channel. However, there would be only a few hundred more knights, while the numbers of spearmen and marksmen would go up appreciably. Allow William's army 3,500 cavalry, 2,500 marksmen and 6,000 spearmen - or maybe more if they are light infantry. The battlefield would in all likelihood be elsewhere, and not so inimical to William's army: if Harold waits, you see, the invaders have more time to gather provisions in and spread out from Hastings, thus finding a good open spot of ground to deploy cavalry to advantage: and Harold will have to fight on the ground of William's choosing.
Should Harald Hardrada win Stamford bridge (or "Riccall"), anything becomes possible. There could be a three-way war, if Harold II or either of his brothers survived. Roll for alliances: 1d6 each, with the two high rollers joining against the third party; then fighting it out afterward between themselves.
If Hardrada has killed off the house of Godwin, then it is just between himself and William. If William agrees, it is likely that the wily Hardrada would offer to be king of Northumbria only, and let William have the south of England. Both would gather their strength for the final confrontation. If William refuses and marches north to battle the Norse, then randomize a battlefield and play it out. Remember, that Edwin and Morcar are now Hardrada's vassals; but their morale and that of their subjected troops should be D class (shakey). I doubt there would be any chance of them turning against the more familiar Norse in favor of the alien "Frenchified" Normans. The Northumbrians resent the Norse intrusion, but their long intermingling with Scandinavian settlement has familiarized them with Hardrada's kind.
To determine if Hardrada will offer a truce to split England, roll 1d6=2-6. If not, he will move with his army and new vassals to battle with the Normans. If William is offered a truce, roll 1d6=4-6 he will refuse. If he accepts, he will use the time to reduce London and Edgar the Atheling's following, who by now have crowned the boy king. This faction will have 1d6 hundred housecarles; 1d6 thousand thegns; 1d6 thousand geneats; and 1,000 London milita (a force of medium infantry "billmen": morale C class).
Should William defeat king Edgar's army, he will banish the young man and get himself crowned in London as soon as possible. If Hardrada decides to invade (1d6=5,6) before William has eliminated Edgar, he will offer his services to the young king. Edgar will accept on a 1d6=3-6. If he refuses, then roll 1d6: 1,2=Hardrada attacks Edgar first; 3,4=William attacks Edgar first; 5,6=William and Hardrada fight it out first. The winner of this three-way war will prevail upon the witan to proclaim him king of England (or already will be, if king Edgar somehow manages a miraculous win).
1066 was the year of battle, but there was a fair amount of carnage spread up the east coast of England before the main armies arrived. This resulted in quite a few smaller engagements which can be fun to play out. Tosti, before he went off to convince Hardrada to try his hand in England, had earlier that summer attempted to rally the folk of the kingdom to his own banner. He did this with a force of 60 Flemish ships crewed mostly by Frisian pirates. (500 unarmored bowmen; 1,000 unarmored swordsmen; 1,500 light swordsmen and 500 medium flemish spearmen: morale: Frisians D class; Flemish C class.) But the pirates caused quite a bit of ruination and the people, never fond of tosti to begin with, reacted predictably and attacked him instead. To teach the locals around the Humber a lesson, Tosti led his men ashore here and there and raided the peasants. To play out a scenario of a typical pirate raid, place several two and three building hamlets around the gaming table; "a river runs through it" to the exit point as an estuary where the ships are parked. (If you have a nice "Gripping Beast" longship - or similar - lay it down for looks.) The English defenders write down which side of the river their troops are on; they can be on either side, but at least one 500 men unit must be on each side. The pirates then deploy their troops on one side only and move inland. Their whole objective is plunder, i. e. burn buildings. Each building takes 15 hits before it is plundered and burning. It requires a minimum of a pair of raiders to roll 1d6=points of damage each turn in base-to-base contact with a building (and the pirates may not be fighting). The total points are added together until 15 points are totaled and the building has then been plundered. Lay a piece of dirty cotton on the roof to show that the building is gone. The raiders gather points of loot: 5 points per plundered house; the mill is 10 points; the thegn's great hall and the church are each worth 20 points. There should be 100 points of buildings laid out. Wooded terrain is between the hamlets. The defenders begin with 4,000 ceorls (half and half light and unarmored infantry) and 500 thegns and geneats (half heavy and half medium infantry). In 2d6 turns, 500 more thegns and geneats arrive mounted on the table from one of the 1d4 indicated directions. The defenders begin with 65 points. Each defender figure killed reduces this by -1. Tosti begins with zero points. When the game is over, the side which lost can buy for the winners at the local.
The brave defenders of Holderness
This little scenario can be added to the list of battles to be played if you wish. In sequence, Tosti's raiders is first, then this battle, before Gate Fulford. As Tosti and Hardrada sailed down the east coast from Scotland, approaching the Humber, they put ashore a couple of times and raided the inhabitants. At Holderness, the fyrd mustered to oppose them.
This is a typical situation where the attackers think they have all the enemy in front of them, only to discover that they are in fact far more numerous. The vikings are in camp with 1,500 warriors. The rest are out foraging. The brave lads of Holderness have 1,500 local ceorls (half and half light and unarmored infantry) and 500 thegns and geneats (half heavy and half medium infantry). They begin one hundred yards away from the camp edge formed up. After they make their first move, roll 1d6=5,6 and another 500 vikings come on the table from a randomized direction (not directly behind the English). The terrain can be whatever you please, but should include a few houses and some tilled fields. The casualties suffered by the English and their enemies at Holderness will reduce the available forces at Gate Fulford. The victor gets back 60% of his losses.