Monday, September 9, 2013

Swords for Hire - Hereward the Wake

Usually it is the Heroes of the Viking Age who change the feel of each faction through their special abilities, here it is this unusual addition of a 'Sword for Hire' special Hero character that changes the composition of your Anglo-Dane force in the Saga wargame.

Hereward killing Normans

The Legend surrounding Hereward the Wake has grown up over the centuries such that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. He was an exile, outlaw and resister against the Norman occupation. In ways that parallel the tale of Robin Hood, he was seen as a Hero in the struggle against an oppressive power.
The name "Wake" seems to have been attributed to Hereward hundreds of years later, possibly meaning "the Watchful". 

What do we believe? Hereward was born in the mid to late 11th Century near Bourne in Lincolnshire to a family with land. He was exiled possibly in 1054 at the age of supposed 18 "for disobedience to his father and disruptive behaviour" in the local community. He was declared an outlaw by Edward the Confessor.

He may have spent time in outlying parts of the British Isles, but by around 1063 he was in Flanders working as a mercenary to a local Count.

Following Williams conquest at the Battle of Hastings, Hereward made his way back to his home, sometime around 1069 or 1070.

His motives for returning are not so clear to us. Was he no longer an exile and could return to family? Or was it to make fortune and fame from the situation in England? It is not really clear.
What is clear is that after he returned home to find his family dead, his brothers head impaled on the gate and his Estate given to a Norman noble, he decided to make killing Normans his top priority!

It is then said that with the help of one other, Hereward slew at least 14 Normans who were drunkenly celebrating the death of his family. He then replaced his brothers head with theirs. After this he gathered followers until he found his way to Peterborough Abbey and was Knighted by the Abbott. He is said to have left England for a time and then returned later, possibly with Dane and/or Flemish forces.

However, by 1070, Hereward and his followers made their way to the Isle of Ely in the marshy area of East England. This may have been as part of a Danish force sent by the Dane King intent on making a stronghold in this defensible area. The whole area was treacherous to approach and only then by ways known to certain locals.

Whatever the motivation, reason, Hereward and his band of local and Danish men gave the Normans a hard time which included them sacking Peterborough Abbey, now under control of the Normans and carrying off the valuables into their own 'care'. Morcar, the ousted Saxon Earl of Northumbria also brought a force to Ely to ally with Hereward at this time. The Normans sent a large force to take care of the rebels in the marshes and after suffering some losses were helped to find a way across the marshes and into Ely by Monks tired of the siege.

Morcar was captured and imprisoned but Hereward fled with some of his supporters. Various accounts exist of what followed for Hereward, including coming to a peace with William but falling to other enemies, capture and later rescue or disappearing into exile. My favourite, is that he betrayed and then ambushed taking 16 of his attackers to their deaths with his trusty sword, Brainbiter, before being killed himself by four Norman Knights spearing him in the back.

As wargamers, this gives us a lot of scope to create a Saga faction led by Hereward and all the motivation it needs to make a fight against the Normans all the ammunition we need to make a campaign.

So, where does this put Hereward into the Saga wargame?

The area of the Isle of Ely.

Here are the special rules for 'Hereward the Wake'...

Hereward is a Hero of the Viking Age and as such, it will cost you 1 point to include him in an Anglo-Danish warband.

Unlike other Anglo-Dane Warlords, Hereward does not fight with a Dane-axe.

Leaders of Many: Hereward generates two Saga Dice, plus one extra Saga Die for each Swords for Hire or Levy unit in his warband (and still on the table when Saga dice are determined).

A warband led by Hereward may not include Huscarls.

Flemish Exile: Any warband led by Hereward may include any number of units of Flemish Mercenaries.

Flemish Mercenaries in Hereward’s warband are not subject to the “Foreigners” special rule and act as standard Warriors of the warband.

Brainbiter: When fighting alone in a melee (i.e. without any other unit on his side) against an enemy with a higher Armour value than him, Hereward may re-roll once any Attack Dice which fails to hit.

Summary: As you can see, Hereward makes a big change to the composition of an Anglo-Dane Warband and may come as a surprise to an opponent used to seeing more Huscarls than levies or mercenaries. An enemy that reduces Hereward's armour in melee could turn out to be a mistake too! But if you rely on Hereward's Saga dice from the slow moving Flemish warriors or your local levies then you need to take good care of the man himself! Good luck.

If you want a 28mm scale model to represent him, Gripping Beast have a Hereward the Wake figure available on this link. You can also find Flemish Mercenaries here. Alternatively, you could use plastic Conquest Norman infantry for the Flemish... here.


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