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Wappinshaw 2005

Wappinshaw is the annual Glasgow wargames show - a showcase for the hobby in Scotland's largest city. The 2005 event was held on 2 March 2005 at Woodside Halls.

The GDWS demo game was Dyrrachion 1081. Staged by the Display Team of Dave Watson, Liam Entwistle, Andy McGeary and George Dick.

In May 1081 Robert Guiscard and his Norman/Italian army landed at Avlona on the Albanian coast. He marched north to lay siege to the Byzantine regional capital Dyrrachion (modern Durres).

The recently enthroned Byzantine Emperor Alexios 1 had marched west to relieve the city. As the garrison was under no immediate pressure (having destroyed the siege tower) many advised him to wait arguing that, with the Normans blockaded by land and sea, time was on the Emperor’s side. Alexios favoured the attack and planned a flanking move by light forces through the marshes whilst his main army fell on the Norman camp. However, Guiscard’s scouts spotted the move and he advanced out of his camp to face the Byzantine army.

As with most medieval battles, the size and composition of the two armies is difficult to assess. Our main source being the Emperor’s daughter Anna Comnena.  Her figure of 30,000 Normans is probably excessive but it included some 1300 heavily armoured Norman cavalry supported by light cavalry and foot with spear, bow and crossbow.  The Byzantine army included some 7000 cavalry plus Turkish horse. The infantry core was the 1400 strong Varangian Guard, 4000 Armenian foot together with levy foot spearmen, archers and slingers. The total Byzantine army probably did not exceed 22,000. 

The battle began with the Varangians advancing. Feint attacks from the Norman centre were driven off by archers. The Norman right now charged the Varangian left flank but while they stood firm the Byzantine left counterattacked driving Count Ami’s forces towards the shore in panic. They were rallied later by Guiscard’s wife Sichelgaita, in full armour.

 However, the Varangians also pursued the beaten Normans leaving themselves exposed to an attack on their right by Norman spearmen supported by crossbows. This left the weaker Byzantine centre and right exposed to the full force of the Norman heavy cavalry. They soon disintegrated with the exception of the guard units who resisted long enough for the Emperor to flee. Even a belated sortie from the city failed to turn the tide.

 The battle was refought using 28mm figures from a variety of manufacturers, although mostly from the Gripping Beast ranges.  The rules are Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB). The scenario was originally designed before the publication of the Warhammer Historical ‘Byzantium – Beyond the Golden Gate’ sourcebook.

For fuller details of the Battle and army lists see Dyrrachion 1081 at the Balkan Military History website.

For the record the Byzantines did somewhat better in the re-fight. Some more photies of the game.

The Byzantine Emperor advances

Norman Foot advance

Byzantine cavalry flee off the table from the Norman impetuous charge.


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Copyright © 2004 Glasgow & District Wargaming Society
Last modified: 09/21/09