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"Like 'Trial by Combat' for two very different armies..."
- Mitchell & Creasy's Twenty Decisive Battles of the World
When King Edward the Confessor died childless, three very different men claimed the throne of England. Harold Godwinson was the overwhelming "local" choice, named by Edward and actually elected to the position by the most powerful English lords. But Harald Hardrada, from Norway, had a claim that came from Edward's predecessor, Harthacanute. And Edward's distant cousin, William II of Normandy, also claimed a promise from Edward and an oath from Harold as his entry to the throne. Hardrada came fast. William took the time to add a large mercenary contingent to his Norman army, and to secure (with the help of a large bribe) the "Papal banner" and blessings from the Pope for his invasion.
While Harold Godwinson was defeating the Vikings in the north of England, William finally landed in the south and began pillaging the area, both to appease his mercenaries and to draw Harold to him. It worked. Harold brought the remnants of his battered army all the way from York in a march that would be considered legendary (if they had won). Though his brothers encouraged caution and a savvy plan to give Harold time to gain strength, Harold seemed obsessed with the fact that the Pope was on William's side. He looked for head-to-head combat to "Let God decide".
The tactics of the battle are well-known. Failing to surprise William in camp, Harold lined his army up on the best ground he could find and dared William to take it from him.
The rest is up to you. Can your Saxon shield wall, made up from housecarls and farmers, fend off the professionals in William's army? Can your Norman army use its greater mobility and floods of arrows to capture a kingdom for your Duke?
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Turning Point Simulations
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