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Thrones of Britannia – The Great Viking Army

March 19 2018

By Michael Whelan

The Great Viking Army

In 878 AD, the Great Viking Army was defeated by King Alfred and faced a new life of enforced settlement in the east of Britannia. A bitter pill for the invaders to swallow, in light of their grand vision for a new Scandinavian kingdom.

The previous century had seen escalating Viking incursions across the isles. What began as sporadic coastal raids intensified over time as the Vikings began to glean the scale of plunder Britannia could offer. A sense of organisation crept into their plans, and in due course the Danes, supported by the Swedes and Norwegians, raised a great army with the intention of conquering Britannia and avenging the death of the legendary Viking warlord Ragnar Lothbrok, executed by the King of Northumbria in 865 AD.

Ragnar’s sons led the Great Viking Army and made landfall in East Anglia that same year. The locals made peaceful overtures, offering the invaders their horses and hospitality to allay conflict. The army wintered there before setting off north towards York, where they were again paid off while establishing control of Northumbria.

 

Over the next 15 years the Vikings ranged high and low, from Wessex to The Clyde, conquering towns, claiming victories and suffering their share of defeats. The army was reinforced – and later divided – but ultimately endured until the Battle of Edington in 878 AD, where its leader Guthrum met his match in the young King Alfred and his West Saxon army. Bested in the field, his forces retreated in disarray to a nearby fortress. Flush with success, Alfred’s men gave chase and laid siege. After a fortnight of starvation, the invaders surrendered.

Three weeks later, under the terms of his capitulation, Guthrum was baptised into Christianity and became Alfred’s adoptive son. He and his men were allowed to return to East Anglia and settle – provided they kept Alfred’s peace, of course.

Defeated, but never humbled, the Vikings seethe with an all-consuming rage. One does not cage the wolf without consequence…

 

Cultural Traits:

Settled they may be, but the Vikings haven’t forgotten how to wring coin out of civilians. Great Viking Army factions gain bonus income from raiding and sacking.

Defeated by an English king, Great Viking Army factions simmer with a need for vengeance, and gain a morale boost when fighting Anglo-Saxon enemies.

The king of the Danes in Britannia must play a delicate game to remain ascendant, and find a balance between appeasing the English and his own men…

 

Great Viking Faction: Northymbre

When the Vikings arrived in Northumbria in 867 AD, they took the city of York – or Eoferwic, as was – for their stronghold. And what a bastion it was, with its formidable Roman walls still standing strong 700 years on. King Aelle of Northumbria attempted to wrest the city back from the Danes, but was captured during the attack. In retribution for Aelle’s execution of their father, the sons of Ragnar made an example of him with the horrifying Blood Eagle ritual.

Northumbria remained under Viking control and, after the battle of Edington and the subsequent treaty of Wedmore, a portion of the Great Viking Army marched back to Northumbria, to settle under Alfred’s peace.

 

Faction Leader: Guthfrid

Guthfrid, son of Hardacnut, came to the throne of Northumbria by an unlikely path. A slave boy by birth, he was pressed into service in the Great Viking Army and was among their number who settled in Northumbria after Edington.

Abbott Aedred of the Monastery of Carlisle approached the kingless warriors in Northumbria. He sought Guthfrid out by name, claiming that Saint Cuthbert had appeared to him in a vision to command Guthfrid be appointed king. The remaining Vikings must have been suitably impressed by this saintly intervention – coming, as it did, hot on the heels of Guthrum’s baptism – and Guthfrid was duly crowned.

 

Northymbre faction traits:

The Vikings under Guthfrid still burn with vengeance for Ragnar. Unique combat missions will be issued in his name!

The Vikings of Northymbre are still Vikings at heart. All Northymbrean units gain a boost to their charge in combat.

As a Viking faction, Northymbre has access to very strong axe units and Berserkers, with good all-round infantry. They may also recruit powerful Northumbrian Spearmen.

 

 

Great Viking faction: East Engle

Forming the bulk of Britannia’s south-easterly coast, East Engle was the staging-point of the Great Viking Army’s invasion, and the region where many of its warriors settled after the Battle of Edington. Under the rule of the Danish leader Guthrum (or Æthelstan, to use his adoptive name by Alfred) it would ultimately come to be known as the Danelaw.

Yet still, some fight remains in the Danes of East Engle. One does not shed the mantle of glory and become a landsman overnight.

 

Faction Leader: King Guthrum

In many ways, Guthrum’s failure to conquer Britannia may be attributed to Viking disunity. Three years prior to the Battle of Edington, his Danish kinsman and fellow leader Halfdan Ragnarsson had split the Great Viking army, taking half north with him to fight the Gaels and leaving Guthrum’s forces critically underpowered.

Halfdan himself saw little glory. After sporadic and aimless conflict with the Gaels, he returned to York and took the throne. His rule was brief, and he was run out of town in 877 AD – by his own men – on account of his appalling standards of personal hygiene. He died in 877 during a vain attempt to claim the kingship of Dublin.

In the January of 878, under cover of darkness, Guthrum and his men executed a lightning strike on King Alfred’s court at Chippenham. Had it been successful, English history today would look vastly different. Alfred escaped however and spent the following months sheltering in the Somerset marshes, raising troops for a major engagement, and here lies the origin for the tale of ‘Alfred burning the cakes’.

That engagement came in May 878 AD. With masterful use of shield-wall, Alfred’s men drove Guthrum’s forces back to their fortifications and sieged them out. This defeat ended the Viking invasion for good, though Guthrum was treated with a surprising level of mercy. Now king of East Engle, with a growling and resentful band of Danish nobles in his court, Guthrum’s troubles are far from over…

 

East Engle Faction Traits:

The king of the Danelaw rewards those who raid and conquer in his name! Playing as East Engle grants unique combat missions with unique rewards.

East Engle warriors are happiest when conquering, and therefore gain a bonus to their melee skill when fighting in enemy territory.

East Engle’s forces feature very strong axe infantry, and a good balance of other infantry units. They also have access to Berserkers, and powerful Anglian Champions.

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