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Re: A Modest Proposal - Saxon Violence

Greetings to Cheapside!

Here are some thoughts of my own on Beornheard's proposal for a
Saxon/Viking event.  These are in no particular order.

1) As I understand it, you are suggesting the following:
 	Vanguard: a reduced-form battle for positional advantage in
 		the main battle
 	Main Battle: a big battle
 	Pursuit: loser of the Main Battle tries to get somewhere in
 		sufficient numbers and time; winner tries to stop them
 	Siege/Assault: of a typical ring fort (note that Motte and Bailey
 		castles are a product of the continent, and not brought
		to England until Bill the Conqueror, 1066)
What I suggest as an Implementation plan that would work is the following:
Vanguard Fight:
 	no archery (the archers are with the main group)
 	no resurrection (the group involved is smaller than the
 		whole army)
 	some physical objective to hold (a flag or hill, representing
 		the positional advantage for later combat)
 	have combat go only until you or your representative thinks
 		that the fight is over--one side has given up or is
 	Winner gets to set up where they wish in the Main Battle.
Main Battle:
 	have archery
 	have resurrection (counted resurrection, perhaps, rather than
 	possessor of the physical objective wins the battle (or, 
 		alternatively, the side with less total casualties,
 		as you wish)
 	loser becomes the retreating side in the pursuit/rearguard fight
 	Any way you design this semi-accurately is going to involve 
 	running.  Running in armour ain't a good idea--heatstroke, 
 	exhaustion, lack of fun.
 	I suggest that you make this a "rearguard defense" rather than a
 	pursuit.  Let the defenders set up where they wish, and the
 	attackers attack them.  Defenders get exactly one resurrection
 	each; Attackers get unlimited resurrections.  Run this until
 	the Defenders are overwhelmed, and decide on your own judgement
 	who was most successful.  This is sort of a limited frontage
 	battle, but DON'T make a haybale bridge if you can possibly
 	avoid it.
 	How well this works will depend totally upon how much of a
 	good ring fort you have.

There are a lot of other implementation plans for the combat that would
also work.

2) One thing I warn you, based upon seeing an awful lot of awful
bad fighting scenarios--don't get too complicated.  Victory conditions
are rarely the source of enjoyment of the event, and are often the
source of confusion and ill-feeling.  Keep them simple.  Or don't have
them at all--who really cares which side wins, as long as the fighting
is fun!
3) Single Combat:
The Vikings and Saxons had the same attitude about heroes as the
Celts did.  Many of the Sagas include a description of one hero
holding a ford or bridge.  In the battle of Stamford Bridge, in fact,
one huge Viking held the tiny footbridge crossing the river alone,
killing a series of stalwart Saxons, until he was shot from below
by archers.  This wasn't exactly what you mean by "champions-style
single combat as a part of army warfare", though.  There is a very
big difference between liking sagas about single combat, and delaying
your whole army to allow such a single combat.  I expect that, by and
large, the warleaders of the 9th-11th centuries were a little more
pragmatic than that.  Most of them would probably send for archers
after an enemy hero had delayed them long enough for them to get
frustrated :^)

4) I would suggest that you go even more strongly towards having
authentic weapons combinations: _disallow_ any shields except rounds,
kite shields, and bucklers; any polearms except two-handed axes
(the Frankish axe was the favorite of the Saxon Huscarles), and
encourage combat archery and spears.  You might have a bunch of
mass-produced loaner shields (easy enough, for center-grip rounds).
You could even make them out of 3/8" plywood, so they would break
and fall apart during the fight, like real shields hit by axes
and swords (this idea might require testing in advance to see
if it was truly safe :^)

5) You might wonder about the authenticity of the combat archery I
suggested.  Wonder not!  I've written an 8-10 page article on Viking
Naval Archery, based directly upon the sagas, which are often
detailed enough to describe the wood the bows are made of (Elm,
mostly, although Ash and Yew are also mentioned).  St. Olaf's Saga
especially makes clear that lots of Vikings used bows.  As for the
Saxons, archery played a noticeable part on their side in both the
Battle of Stamford Bridge (Saxons against Vikings from Norway) and
in the Battle of Hastings (or Senlac Hill, if you are Saxon) a month
or so later (Saxons against Normans).  Further, St. Edmund (King of
England) was martyred by archery in the (?9th ?10th ?) century.