Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Of Huscarls and Hearthguards

A favorite troop type of mine, from both historical and gaming perspectives, is the armored huscarl. Originating as the household guards for Dark Age Scandinavian warband leaders, the huscarls were traditionally armored in chainmail, and were noted for their use of the two-handed war-axe. Huscarls were more highly trained and disciplined than other typical Northern European Dark Age warriors, and were extremely loyal - often fighting to the death to protect their sworn leaders. Over the years, the use of huscarls were transplanted to the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in England, but most of these were tragically wiped out on Senlac Hill during the Battle of Hastings protecting the body of King Harald against the victorious Normans. Some survivors eventually went on to fight in the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperor, in numbers significant enough, that for a time, this unit was actually referred to as the "English" Guard.

I have a unit of these bad boys in my Norse-Irish army for Field of Glory, as a component in a Viking ally, anti-cavalry wing.  For Field of Glory, they are rated as Heavy Foot, Superior, Armored, Offensive Spear. I took them as Offensive Spear for that weapons ability to stand up to cavalry, and since for now at least, heavy weapons are very ineffective against charging cavalry. I don't view this weapon choice as inaccurate, since in my opinion, the weapon definitions in Field of Glory are not meant as literal descriptions, but more for the purposes of establishing troop type and weapon interactions. In order to get the huscarls to stand up effectively in shield wall against a cavalry charge, which they did historically (e.g. the failed Norman cavalry charge at Hastings), then this is how they need to be defined.

Here is a photo of my just completed huscarl unit, deployed in a typical formation for Field of Glory:

There are eight stands in the unit, deployed with three stands in the first two ranks and two in the last. This allows the unit to lose up to two stands, and still gain the tactical advantage of spear fighting in at least two ranks.  The unit can also be deployed four wide, as in the photo below, in order to cover more ground when protecting a flank:

The above formation is also how the unit would be deployed in Battle Line formation using the Hostile Realms fantasy rules. With those rules, the huscarls will act as my Hearthguard, of which only one unit can be selected, and it must be deployed with the Warlord commander-in-chief. Here is a photo of the unit deployed two wide in the Battle Order Hostile Realms formation:

And finally, a more close-up shot:

The figures are 15mm scale, as manufactured by Museum Miniatures. I think they are pretty decent sculpts, although unfortunately in a single pose. I got them for a very economical price though, during a show special offered by Silver Eagle Wargame Supplies during the Field of Glory US Open - only $2.50 for a pack of eight figures. I hope to get them seeing action on the tabletop soon.


  1. Lovely looking unit, the picture at the beginning is stunning!

  2. Nice units. Agree with the Lurker - very nice atmospheric pic!

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    I love the opening picture also, but I wish I knew who the artist was so I could look for more of his work. I did a Google search for "huscarls", and it was simply one of the pictures that popped up.

  4. The unit looks ready for the battle. The fighter are wearing sandals, its look like long time ago and from the history.