In the first game,
Alfred The Great: The Great Heathen Army 871 AD,
Alfred had led the West Saxons to victory of a sorts,
spectacular but not comprehensive.
Ivar the Boneless the Great high King of the Vikings is dead,
killed in Ireland in 873AD and his Lothbrok kin, Halfdan and
Ubbe had traveled north to fight the Picts and the Britons of
Strathclyde, And then to Ireland, to reclaim the land lost by
Ivar. This left
Guthrum and his fellow Kings Anwend and Oscetel to mount another
attack on Wessex.
What kind of plan had Guthrum hatched? We know that he moved
1,500 men quickly and with stealth and seized the fortress of
Wareham. There he was to be joined by a huge fleet of 3,500
Vikings. A Fortified Wareham situated on the Southern coast of
Wessex had proximity to the West Country Fyrds of Devon and
would need these to bring his enemy to battle. It would also
provide a safe harbor for his warriors that had traveled by
ship, and was also within striking distance of Winchester, the
capital of the West Saxons and a town that Guthrum knew that
Alfred would defend at all costs.
There has been strong speculation that Guthrum had discussed
with Halfdan and Ubbe Lothbrok a joint plan of attack. One
possible scenario could have Halfdan landing in Exeter (that had
a strong Briton population) where the groundwork had possibly
been laid with the Britons of Cornwalum to stage an uprising
against their Saxon lords. The Britons had bad memories of the
slaughter following their last uprising and defeat by King
Egbert in 836 AD (Alfred’s grandfather). They would have needed
some strong persuasion, but a three-pronged attacked from
Guthrum in Wareham, the Britons and Halfdans army from Exeter,
and Ubbe landing a force in the North of Devon or Somerset,
would have stretched Alfred’s army to a breaking point.
The last King of Cornwalum was Doniert and it is mentioned that
he died sometime around 875AD by drowning, presumably while out
hunting but it is also claimed in Irish annals that he was
drowned for his collusion with the Vikings. Did Alfred seek
revenge for a traitor on his border? Or did a leading West Saxon
Earl hunt him down and exact vengeance? Unfortunately for
Doniert and Guthrum, Halfdan died in Ireland and Ubbe was
probably involved in seeking retribution (the Lothbroks did have
a history of revenge!).
In Wareham, after making a deal with Alfred, Guthrum killed all
his hostages and fled to Exeter with his house troops while the
rest of his army readied to sail to Exeter. Possibly this was a
last throw of the dice to get the Britons to stick to their
plan, but unfortunately for Guthrum his fleet was caught in a
storm off Swanage and his plan and fleet were literally sunk.
The game system is designed to reflect the decisions the Saxon
and Viking Kings had to make. The Vikings are the more
professional soldiers and are stronger in combat than the Saxons
from the Fyrd which was in essence a local shire militia called
together by their Earl. The Earl, Jarl and Uchelwyr (British
sub-king) are of equal fighting quality. The Saxon Earls and
their house troops were as well trained and motivated as their
Viking opponents. The Britons were renowned for their fighting
ability, if not battle tactics. Kings have different combat
strength depending on their historical standing.
In this period monarchs were in the true meaning Warrior Kings;
leading their men in battle and their presence lifted the moral
of their soldiers. You will have to fight the temptation of
leaving them all safely hidden away in a fortified hex as
without them on the battlefield your troops will be at a severe
and constant disadvantage.