The following is a replay of Shield Wall posted on BoardGameGeek by Chris Hansen.
I played this game on Saturday April 28th with my brother, Brad (bradleygh4).
I played the Saxons and set up my units along the Senlac Ridgeline. I set up my huscarl units along the frontline (I wanted to begin with a strong defense) with fyrds in the back ready to move up into any openings along the line. Brad set up his unit along the Norman start line. His Bretons were on his left, Normans center, and French on the right.
He was a little overly cautious on his first move and didn’t bring too many units up the hill. The Norman assault accomplished very little but the Bretons were able to get a small toehold on the ridgeline. The French units were not successful in their assault but they did cause a few of my units to involuntarily charge down the hill. Unfortunately for me, this charge consisted of one leader and (Leofric) and two other huscarl units. (Unfortunately for Brad, Leofric turned out to be a killing machine that the Normans could never kill.)
The game progressed over the next few turns in a similar fashion. I had Saxon units centrally located the the Norman assaults were never able to make serious headway. However, the Breton units on the left and French on the right were able slowly pick away at my flanks. The Bretons actually were able to gain some territory on the ridge while the French, while never setting foot on the ridge, were able to get me to abandon it through involuntary charges.
At first I was upset about the units that had involuntarily charged. But the units at the bottom of the hill soon proved beneficial because they were able to block much of the Norman charge.
Meanwhile, Leofric, who had charged down the hill in turn one, continued to slaughter Norman troops turn after turn. Brad had some amazing bad luck in his combat. There were turns where Leofric was attacked by four separate units but was able to withstand them all and then pick one of them off in retaliation. At one point in the game, he was within two hexes of William, which could have ended the game if he’d been able to get close enough to kill him.
By turn six, most of the Norman archers had run out of arrows and been removed from the game. However, there were still two French archers on the board who were annoying me a lot. I did my first voluntary charge of the game by sending a fyrd unit down the slope to take out the last two archers. This he accomplished easily (archers are eliminated as soon as an opposing unit is adjacent) and following the example set by Leofric, he proceeded to kill three more French units before the end of the game.
On turn seven, the Breton units sent up a large charge. This was entirely unsuccessful in taking any territory but it did result in most of the Saxons on the left side of the hill involuntarily charging after them. The Bretons were all but eliminated, but it was a pyrrhic victory since the Saxons had left a huge opening on the ridge. For the first time in the game, a Norman knight could easily charge directly to Harold.
On the final turn of the game, both sides were severely depleted but the Normans had a clear path to take a large section of the hill. They, of course, took advantage of this by moving five units up. I was able to move in and eliminate three of these units, but two remained. I even tried charging with nearby units in a desperate attempt to remove them but to no avail. They remained at the end of the game so the result was a draw.
I’m not sure exactly what a draw meant in terms of history. Neither side was terribly willing to compromise but I suppose eventually, William would have withdrawn his remaining army and attacked again somewhere else - or been forced to retreat back to Normandy.
Both of us had a few lucky streaks in the game. As I mentioned, I had two units that were able to kill 11 or 12 Norman and French units between them. Brad was also lucky at forcing involuntarily charges. I’ve never seen the Saxons charge down the hill and abandon their defensive advantage as much as they did in this game. Also, Brad had a huge advantage in reinforcements. William was able to roll the maximum number of rally points on just about every turn, bringing back from dead everyone I had managed to kill on the previous turn. I did not have similar luck with Harold. I think he was only eligible for rally points once in the entire game. This resulted in Brad having a lot more troops at his disposal than I did in the later turns of the game. Overall, the game was fun for both of us, even if we found the draw result to be a little anti-climactic.