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Posted on Jul 10, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Time to Get Medieval With You!  Hastings 1066 Board Game Review

Time to Get Medieval With You! Hastings 1066 Board Game Review

By Rick Martin

Hastings 1066 AD Game Review. Publisher: Turning Point Simulations Designer: Lembit Tohver with Jim Werbaneth Price $32.95 (ziplock) or $37.95 (boxed)

Rick Martin

Passed Inspection: Fun and educational, nice components and expertly written rules, interesting random events, mounted board, innovative activation system, good solo play, living rules updated on company’s website

Failed Basic: a little too static in set up, maybe more alternative set ups and scenarios, needs a glossary, yellow banded counter set up not clear on map board

“Hastings 1066” is the 8th game in Turning Point Simulations’ wonderful “Twenty Decisive Battles of the World” series which is based upon Sir Edward Creasy’s book. It effectively and succinctly illustrates the challenges, strategies and tactics which encompassed this famous battle.

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While I could go in to my own dissertation on the basics and historical significant of this battle, let me quote from Turning Point’s expertly written description for the game from their own website:

“The background to Hastings is well known, with an English king (Edward the Confessor, who had spent years before his crowning exiled in Normandy and encouraged Norman interests to off-set local rivals) dying childless. The England of the day actually made accession a “vote” of the most powerful lords and Harold Godwinson was the overwhelming choice…but not without exterior rivals. Harold III of Norway (commonly called “Hardrada,”) brought up an accession vow issued by Edward’s predecessor, Harthacnute, the one Viking who actually had ruled the whole British Isle. William of Normandy, (where Vikings had been intermingling and expanding since invited to settle in 911 A.D. by French ruler Charles the Simple – who certainly earned his title) claimed Edward had promised him the throne while exiled and that Harold, who had been William’s “guest” after a shipwreck, and sworn to uphold the promise. Both Harold and William gathered forces to press their claims, Harold picking up a disaffected brother of the English king for local support.

Harold landed first and lost, at Stamford Bridge. Harold had really been more prepared for William’s naval invasion, which was delayed through a combination of bad winds and (perhaps) savvy tactics. Though seemingly ready to sail in August, William did not depart until September 20, by which time Harold had dismissed his militia (fyrd) so that they could harvest their crops. William had also taken the time to bribe the Pope and gain support for the “righteousness” of his claim. This paid dividends later.

William landed with little opposition, set up a defensive beachhead, and began pillaging the surrounding area, both to appease his troops (at least half of which were mercenaries) and to pressure Harold to respond quickly. Harold did, bringing the remnants of his battered army all the way from York in a march that would be considered legendary (if they had won.) The inside story is that Harold’s brothers suggested he remain in London, raising more troops, while they took the tired or hastily gathered troops to Pevensey. If they beat William, end of story. If they lost, Harold would be ready with another army. It was the smart move, but analyzing Harold’s mind-set suggests that the Papal Banner William carried really affected him, and he looked forward to head-to-head battle to decide the issue – “trial by combat” in a large scale.

Tactics of the battle are well known. Harold tried to surprise William in camp but good recon foiled that plan, so Harold lined his army up on the best ground he could find and dared William to take it from him. William had many advantages – a far more professionally trained army, a mix of infantry and cavalry, and far more missile weapons at his disposal. He would need all of them, as the mixture of farmers and housecarls managed to create a shield wall that turned back every Norman attack – until the Normans hit on the idea of faking a retreat and encouraging the defenders to break ranks in pursuit. Together with flocks of arrows, the English army was worn down until Harold was killed (though whether it was an ‘arrow in the eye’ is highly disputed) and the defenders broke. Further details are sketchy, and, despite the location of an Abbey William is said to have ordered built “on the site of the battle,” even the actual location has been disputed lately.

While William expected the country to yield after the battle, the English persisted longer than is commonly recognized. They actually elected a new king, Edgar the Aethling, and managed several battles that delayed William’s advance and accession. Though Hastings ended at dark on October 14th, it was not until Christmas Day, 1066, that William was crowned king.”

Hastings 1066 allows you to make the choices which would shape the fate of England. The cover features a beautifully painted image of mounted men at arms. The game includes the following components:

One full color, 11” x 17” mounted map and loss track
90 larger 9/16″ full color, die-cut counters
a 12 page rule book

All of the components are well designed and easy to read. Each unit counter is color coded showing whether the unit is in the forces on the left wing, center or right wing of the opposing armies. Simply put the units on their color coded hex of the map to set up the game. Set up only takes a few minutes. The only problem I had was that the color coding for the yellow striped units’ map starting hexes blends in with the overall tan color of the “clear” type terrain on the map. That should have been corrected when the proof copies were reviewed before final printing.

Each unit represents around 300 men, each hex is around 50 meters and each turn is one hour of time.

Each unit is rated for combat strength and movement speed. In addition to the usual suspects of knights, medium infantry, fyrds and huscarle, named leaders are represented and are rated for their movement allowances. Plus leaders have a wounded side to the counters. Each unit has a front facing, flank and rear facing. These come in to play when a unit is attacked.

Also counters for the Saxon’s and Norman’s standards are available.

While the rules are logically laid out and well illustrated, a glossary should have been included to help novices figure out what is meant by unfamiliar terms such as “fyrds” and “huscarle”.

The counter mix represents the fact that Harold’s English army represented mostly infantry while William’s Saxon army included about half infantry and the rest crossbowmen and cavalry. As it plays out in the game, while Harold’s forces own the high ground and have a very strong defensive position, William had a better, more balanced offensive capacity. In the game, William’s crossbowmen are handled very abstractly but can have a devastating affect on the English infantry.

The sequence of play is as follows:

1) Initiative
2) Random Events
3) Activations
a) Rally
b) Norman Crossbow Fire
c) Movement – routed and pursuit then regular movement
d) Melee Combat

The initiative is determined by a modified die roll but then units activate based upon an activation chit which is drawn from a cup or some other container. There are both Saxon and Norman activation chits for the left, center and right wings of the respective armies. I love this method for activating units. It recreates the uncertainty and chaos of battle and really adds to the tension in the game.

The events are rolled on a table and can have devastating results on the flow of battle. Some events include leaders being engaged in single combat or have arrows shot through their eyes, inspired leaders urging their men to fight harder and immediate rallies for routed units.

The heart of the game is the activation phase in which units move, fire missile weapons, rout and fight. As previously mentioned, Norman crossbows are handled abstractly with a roll of a die for each Norman leader’s wing. If you roll a 6, the Saxons take some damage to their forces.

Each unit is rated for movement and its handled in the traditional way. A terrain chart is included which shows the movement cost for the terrain features. Routing is handled in an interesting manner. If a unit routs owing to combat losses, it will move three hexes towards its own army’s battle standard. For every friendly unit that the routing unit passes, a moral roll must be made. If the unit fails, it routs as well. This can create a realistic cascade affect which could turn the tide of battle. If the battle standard has been captured by the other side, the routing unit has to move off the map and is counted as destroyed for victory point determinations. If the standard is intact, the routed unit stops adjacent to it and can try and rally in future turns.

Melee combat and charging knights are quickly and efficiently handled. Each unit has a combat rating. When either side’s units are adjacent to each other they can fight. Simply cross reference the unit’s combat strength with a six sided die roll and modify it by such factors as whether a leader is present, if the attack is against the rear or flanks or across defensive terrain or if the defender has entered in to a shield wall defensive stance. The modified results can either have no effect, push the enemy unit back, do damage to the unit or other various results.

If you do a number of hits to a unit, move that unit’s formation (left, center, right) hit counter on the chart on the top of the map. For every 5 points of damage, that formation must lose units. When units are lost, make a moral check and see if units are routed. If a leader is stacked with the fighting units, roll to see if that leader is wounded or killed. If the leader is hit, this can cause moral issues or even the complete loss of unit cohesion which could cost you the battle.

Rules are included to simulate the Norman’s tactic of “false routs” aka faking to be in retreat to lead the Saxons in to a trap, regrouping, etc.
Hastings 1066 is a very well developed and researched game. It has a small footprint so it’s very easy to take on trips. It’s both educational and a hell of a lot of fun. Solo play is easy as long as you don’t mind wearing two different hats as you play.

There is some tarnish on its armor though – the static nature of the battle could limit is replayability. Alternative set ups and special scenarios would help fix that. As mentioned before the rules need a glossary to help the uninitiated look up the terms used.

None-the-less, Hastings 1066 is a good solid game and deserves to be on the bookshelf of any gamer interested in the Medieval Period.

Armchair General Rating: 90 %

Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 is not suitable, 5 is perfect for solo play)

About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

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