A few years ago I played a game, The Honey Trap or the start of Argonors Saga. In the Saga, a ship load of Swedes under the command of Rolf were returning home to Uppsala after unsuccessfully raiding along the coast of Anglia and Northumbria. Rolf was desperate to recover his bad fortune, his men had taken to calling him Rolf the Unlucky, (behind his back of course), but he knew this would bring shame and disrespect to his name.
He made the decision to raid the farmstead of Argonor, a famous Danish warrior and a most successful Viking.
In Dane-Mark where ever men gathered they talked of Argonor the Mead Maker, the Mead Drinker, Argonor the Story Teller, the Weaver of Tales, the Man of many Threads.
Argonor was famous for his wealth which came from brewing Mead a fine potent drink, which came from his bees, which were a rare commodity in 9th and 10th century Dane Mark.
Rolf had not heeded Argonor’s warning “Raiding the bee-keeper's homestead for mead is an obvious thing to do - but I should probably warn you, that this brewer has swords, shield, mail tunic, and a Gjermundbu-helmet (and a well-sized beard to show his status as an old warrior)”
Rolf’s decision was a decision, but it turned out to be a bad decision and he was lucky to escape with his life and some small quantity of Argonor’s wealth.
The story grew with the passing of time into the epic tale of Argonor almost single-handedly defeating the Swedish raiding party. Their numbers grew from 1 shipload of 50 men (half of whom guarded the ship) into a small fleet and he had killed countless men that day, all the rest had fled back to their ships to escape his wrath.
Argonor knew better; he knew the truth, it had been a close call, he had nearly been killed or captured himself but he reasoned there was no need to dispel these stories. No one would risk raiding his farmstead now that his reputation as a fearsome warrior was so well established but even so the raid made him uneasy. He felt the insult from that raid and it still rankled with him, he was determined to settle the score one day.
That raid occurred 5 years ago and he wasn’t getting any younger. Autumn was on the land and with another winter in prospect he knew time was no longer on his side, this year he must exact his revenge.
The perfect opportunity arose when he was visited by two old friend’s Eorl Uthred Snappison and the adventurer Vagabond Skallagrimson.
Snappison was a West Saxon and had landholdings in Defenascír, he was a seasoned warrior, prepared to stand all day in the Shield Wall, 2nd or 3rd rank preferred, unless there was a 4th, but was new to the idea of sailing to a strange land and taking what he wanted when he arrived.
Skallagrimson however was a far more seasoned sailor and raider; if it wasn’t nailed down he would take it. If it was nailed down, he would use a crowbar to release it and then take it. You may have heard of a famous Viking warrior and poet – Egill Skallagrimson and if not your education is sorely lacking and you will need to read his Saga. I’m not saying Egill and Vagabond were related but they had the same attitude and father’s name.
When Argonor proposed the raid, both men just smiled, nodded, and asked – when do we leave?
Should you be so bored as to read the account of The Honey Trap you might be confused when you see some of the same figures appearing in this account but having decidedly different names to the previous account. You will have to put this down to your inaccurate eyesight and the fact that Saga accounts are sometimes a little unreliable, historically speaking.
The full account of the Honey Trap is here https://vagabondswargamingblog.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-vikings-saga-of-argonors-bees-honey.html
The previous pictures show Rolf’s village, he was a Christian and had built a church in the Anglo-Saxon style, probably because he had an Anglo-Saxon Priest but we’ll never know the true reason. His Long House was typical of the time and reflected his status as a man of substance.
Taking his lead from Argonor he’d tried to amass wealth and prestige by building hives for his bees and then taking their honey to make Mead. Sadly he was stung repeatedly the damp weather didn’t suit the bees and his mead turned sour. Then he passed the bee keeping on to Harrald, Harrald was a 7ft tall warrior, not a bee keeper and felt insulted by this demeaning task, he left Rolf s service and went to seek another Lord.
He travelled far to serve the only man he considered worthy of his loyalty. He went to Dane-Mark. He went to Argonor.
Here, he is returning to Uppsala to take revenge on the worthless worm Rolf. Harrald Horned Helmet is the man with the horned helmet, but you probably guessed that.
Vagabond Skallagrimson is the chap in the green tunic with the long flowing grey hair. (He wishes) and the prancing horse banner belongs to Argonor, who is in the distance with the double handed axe. Argonor is a canny warrior and has left a large force to guard his Dragon ship – Wave Dancer. His men forge forward but there are only 9 warriors, maybe he has become a little cautious as he’s grown older. (Or maybe it was just poor dice rolling)
Uthred Snappison in his purple tunic is related to royalty. Well he says it is so and it’s a brave man who will dispute the claim. The semi naked chap next to him is his faithful servant and Skáld, Fyrndagas Sweota, Old Scrotum to those who don’t read Old English.
Steapa and Leofric his trusted lieutenants accompany him. (I’m not sure which is which but I think the man with 2 heads is Steapa, he’s 2nd from the right in the front line).
Snappison had a better dice roll and has 15 men with him, although I thought it was 18. Snappison with only 10 fingers and thumbs has trouble once it goes above that number.
My men see the church and quicken their pace. They are here to exact revenge; Rape, Burn and Pillage are their maxims but not necessarily in that order. Today the first is going to take too much time, the third is going to be profitable and the second will be spectacular as well as roasting their chestnuts. Either of the last two items on the agenda will gain points towards a win, the first will just get you killed when more of the enemy arrive.
We are playing co-operatively against the Swedes but are in competition with each other to see who gets the most fame and wealth from the raid. (Fame is burning things and wealth is obvious)
Snappison leads his men along the lane into the heart of Rolf’s village. This lane is working like a funnel and we all know what happens at the end of a funnel.
There are only 5 men in the homestead, Rolf is somewhere about, but I believe he was asleep in his long house.
These men are seasoned warriors; they take one look at the number of Saxons coming down the lane and….
Charge forward, blocking the funnel.
They hold the line between 2 daub and wattle dwellings, the fight is long and tough. The shield walls push back and forth but no one gains the advantage. Rolf heard the clash of steel and rushing from his slumber hasn’t had time to don his shirt and so fights Berserk, swinging his large club one handed.
Snappison caught by surprise, fights in the front rank, his long bushy beard swaying left to right as he flails about him with his long sword, Serpent Breath. He tries to reach Rolf but the press of men is too great and he concentrates on staying alive and killing the man in front of him.
Steapa waves his 2nd head in the face of one of Jarl Rolf’s men; this doesn’t ingratiate him with the man.
With their eye on the prize, they are here to loot and burn not fight, Argonor’s small force climbs over the fence beside the church and prepare to enter.
Will the door be locked and barred – they won’t know until they try it.
The press of men between the houses is so tight that it might appear as if nothing has happened but Steapa is down, split in two by the man who didn’t like a 2nd head waved in his direction and one of Rolf’s men has also fallen as the fight continues.
As Argonor’s men exit the church some of them are carrying small but valuable items of loot. There’s no sign of Harrald Horned Helmet, who must be busy gnawing on some poor priests bones or maybe collecting some larger treasure from within the church.
Vagabond Skallagrimson looks on in disbelief, how can 6 Swedes hold up 15 Saxons. Then he realises, “how can they not”. Swedes are Northerners, forged in Ice and Fire, they’re a force to be reckoned with; the Saxons from Wessex are just softie southerners.
The reality is that the Vikings are veterans of countless fights, skirmishes and battles, even harking back as far as WRG 4th edition but the West Saxons are in their first fight, the paint on their shields is barely dry. It’s no wonder they are looking a little shaky and unsure how this form of warfare should be played, besides, we are using my rules.
Snappison was so busy fighting in the front rank that he lost control of the action. Eventually; pushing his opponent back he realised that most of his men in reserve are just shouting encouragement to the front rank fighters.
Get round the back of these turnip eaters he shouted at them and reluctantly his 2nd 3rd rank moved to outflank the Swedes. Climbing two fences slowed them down a little and they still haven’t got into place yet.
Before the men of Wessex can reach the action there’s a roar of “With me” from Argonor and the four of them crash into the rear of the Swedish line, the men of Uppsala stand no chance and those that are not slain surrender. “Good to see you at last” puffs Snappison as some of his men disappear into a small hut looking for loot but the main body can be seen in the distance about to enter the Long House.
I think they finally realized that this is a raid for loot and glory, not a long hard slog against determined foes.
Harrald Horned Helmet finally leaves the church following the men with the loot. He leaves it burning fiercely, he’s obviously read the scenario conditions and a burned out church is worth a lot of points, also he’s a devout Pagan.
Two of Snappison’s men are carrying sacks of grain from the hut, the 3rd chap wasn’t strong enough to lift his sack or barrel and was left behind, grunting and sweating to try again.
The largest group of Saxon’s are now in the Long House and totally lose control.
Not shown for those of a sensitive disposition or who are easily offended but the women of the house prove more enticing than the wealth all around them. Snappison’s men are going to spend a long time before they can get on with the main job of looting and burning.
Unknown to them, the men of the Homestead are starting to return from the fields, in dribs and drabs at first but once Rolf’s neighbours arrive this small stream of men would become an unstoppable river.
Argonor and Snappison’s men are scattered throughout the settlement, the ones in the Long House out of control and the lad who has gone into the hut on the right also starts making eyes and some poor Uppsala maiden and will be a while before he can get on with looting properly.
In the hut on the left the weakling has still not managed to lift the barrel of beer onto his shoulder. Maybe he should have drunk some of it to lighten the load.
Middle left Snappison himself emerges from a hut carrying a small barrel of mead, lighter and more valuable than beer.
The various looters are slowly making their way to the ship but are dismayed to see in the distance, the banner of Red Orm, the first of Rolf’s neighbours to arrive in force.
The raider’s initial advantage in numbers is slowly eroding, have the men of Wessex lost too much time fighting and now womanising? The scales of fate are starting to balance on a knife edge.
Rolf (Lime green shield) has surrendered and is under guard. Harrald Horned Helmet has gone into the Long House, a man of ice he is not swayed by the debauchery going on in there and immediately starts to light a fire. His intention is obviously to burn the place down.
I did say he’d read the scenario rules and a burning Long House is almost worth as many points as a burning church.
Seeing Orm in the distance has galvanised Snappison (Purple cloak, Black plume) and he dropped his barrel of mead to join with his men. The chaps with the barrel and sack are Argornor’s men and they know better than to drop loot until it’s time to RUN.
Argonor’s Long Ship, Wave Dancer pulls into the beach. Those of you with poor eyesight might think that is Snappison’s glasses case but you would be wrong, it is indeed a shapely 44 oared long ship the scourge of the North Sea and Argonor’s delight. Well one of his delights!
Unconcerned by Orm’s arrival Argonor leads some of his men into the homesteads storehouse. There should be plenty to steal in there or is the word liberate, I’m not sure.
Harrald has managed to get a small fire going but not enough to set the damp thatch ablaze. The chaps making eyes at the maidens have run out of steam and are ready to obey their Lord’s angry shouts to “get the hell out of there”. Red Orm has arrived and charged straight at Snappison’s hastily drawn up shield wall.
Not able to carry the sacks and barrels from the Storehouse in time, Olaf has been ordered to set the rest on fire.
He’s also read the scenario notes.
He’s also luckier than Harrald and the thatch catches fire immediately.
Meanwhile more neighbours arrive and make their way through the drying hayricks nearest us.
If they’re quick they will cut off the raiders from their ship.
Just as worrying is another small group advancing from the far right, out of sight in this picture but they’re forming the classic pincer movement, that knife edge is getting sharper.
The fight by the Long House is fierce but the lines fall back to reform and taunt each other; the dead and wounded have been pushed aside to create room for the fighting men.
Snappison is wondering if he should have gone on holiday to Weston Supermare rather than visit his friend in Dane-Mark.
Harrald is having no luck with his fire but the raiders in the house are making their way out, empty handed but thankful not to be caught in the firestorm that Harrald will undoubtedly cause – eventually.
The Skáld Fyrndagas Sweota is among the fallen in the shield wall, who will sing songs of Snappison’s great deed’s if there’s no Skáld?
Probably no-one the way things are going. All of the West Saxons have dropped their loot so they can move faster and fight harder, the Danes aren’t giving up theirs so easily, there’s no points for dead Swedes.
The warriors coming through the hayfield have cut off two of Argonor’s men, these two are still carrying loot from the church but it looks as if they will have to fight for their lives in a minute. The other small warband is approaching from our right.
Just a dramatic shot of the same action. Sorry – we had a surfeit of pictures.
There are many more of the Uppsala men arriving, drawn no doubt by the smoke from the burning buildings.
They are still a long way from the raiders but closing fast.
Finally the fire actually has smoke, and we all know - there’s no smoke without fire, and the rush for the door becomes a stampede.
The Uppsala lads have cut off the retreat to the sea, Argonor has led 3 of his warband through the gap between the field and the hut and attacked the Swedes from the rear, I’m told this is a legitimate tactic to use, but what do I know.
The other group, the ones who have been out of sight so far, have finally come in to sight and attack the two chaps carrying the loot from the church. Are you still with me, I hope you’re not as confused by all this as I am.
Snappison is trying to make a fighting retreat and has pulled his men back a little as Harrald watches his handiwork in the Long House. He likes fire, and flames and the crackle of burning things, I imagine he’s a bit of a worry if you’re sharing a berth with him.
Rolf is being hurried towards the ship by a small band of West Saxons (on the left) who unlike their Jarl have also read the scenario notes and realise Rolf is worth points.
Red Orm shouts in exultation as his men surge forward, pushing the West Saxons backwards, they are taking a beating. Jarl Snappison is down, defeated by a blonde haired warrior and things are getting very sticky for the raiders. Snappison thinks to himself, “we should have run sooner, bugger this fighting lark” as blood seeps into his boots and makes a mess of his new cloak.
Ketil Trout has arrived and leads his men forward past the church. The raiders are now completely outnumbered and will have to either be very fast on their toes or very cunning indeed to get out of this.
The crucial fight is now between the men from Uppsala and the Danes of Argonor. Northman against Northman. If the Danes can defeat the Swedes they will open the way for what’s left of the West Saxons to escape. Of course they will leave behind their Jarl Uthred Snappison, his Skáld Fyrndagas Sweota, and Steapa or Leofric or maybe both, I’m still not sure which is which but I’m sure I’ll be told later.
The fight on the far side is between the two Church robbers fighting to retain their loot and their lives and four Swedes. Closest to us are the Danes, a Wolfshead, Vagabond Skallagrimson, a man with a budgie on his shield and on the far right Argonor himself. Argonor as befits a hero is fighting 2 opponents.
The fighting is hard and good men are hurt and incapacitated, Argonor was defeated, so was Skallagrimson but on the right the Church robbers pushed back two of their enemy and held the other two at bay, some small consolation in a rapidly declining situation.
With a roar that could be heard above the tumult of the battle Harrald seeing his new Lord fall, rushed to his aid, the Argonor’s Prancing Horse banner flying high beside him as the Bannerman waved it menacingly in the direction of the Swedes.
Rolf’s homestead is ablaze, mostly thanks to one man, Harrald, but the Danes and West Saxons are surrounded by the more numerous Uppsala men.
The fight had been long and hard but as daylight closed it looked like the end for our raiders, all the heroic leaders were injured and unable to carry on the fight, all except for Harrald Horned Helmet. A man tall in stature and long on cunning, he shouts for a truce, Red Orm and Ketil Trout agree.
“We have Jarl Rolf and will trade him for our lives” Harrald began. Neither Orm or Ketil like Rolf but when Harrald added the sweetener “and we’ll leave the booty behind as well. You can share it as you wish” - they both agreed.
So the men of Dane-Mark and the men of Wessex sailed back to Argonor’s Long House not richer in booty but proud in their destruction of Rolf’s Farmstead.
The Skáld Fyrndagas Sweota, made a swift recovery and by the time Wave Dancer made port he was half way through a long verse, mainly about the prowess of Jarl Uthred Snappison but the men of Dane-Mark knew who the real heroes were and they were all Danish.
So Argonors Saga continues, it would be nice to write another chapter of it sooner than in another five years time but who knows how the Norns will spin their web and change the fate of men, not I for sure.
This was the first of five games we played when the Mad Lord Snapcase journeyed northwards from his home in the hills of Devon to visit me in the wild fastness of the Derbyshire Dales. My Vikings have rarely been out of their comfortable storage in the last 30 or so years and it was a treat to get a few of them running round and creating mayhem after all this time. The inspiration was of course that Snappers has decided for no discernable reason to paint a few West Saxons and it would have been churlish not to have them carouse with seasoned veterans from the 70’s.
Hopefully you made it to the end, it’s a long story but after all – it is a Saga.
PS It's also my 100th post.