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Author Topic: The Saxon Problem  (Read 3076 times)

Offline Unlucky General

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The Saxon Problem
« on: January 16, 2021, 08:04:01 PM »
Okay, confession .. I don't know if this is a problem, or rather if it's a wargaming problem or not. I am interested in people's perspectives or insights into early medieval (or 'Dark Age') wargaming.

Do the Saxons suffer an image problem and does this affect their popularity and uptake in the wargaming world?

In movies and TV Saxon characters and Saxon armies as depicted very poorly and generally look dreadful. To say that accuracy is absent is an understatement. They also often look very 'uncool' compared to how the Vikings (Norse) are portrayed.

Do you think there is a more general and subliminal view that Saxons were 'losers' becasue they were ultimately defeated by the Normans or becasue they were given a hard time by Norse Vikings? The stories being told and retold in recent years has them mostly on the defensive.

If this is so, are Saxon armies considered 'bronze medal' contestants for people collecting and playing early medieval wargames? Can anyone tell me how Saxon figures sales compare to Vikings or Normans?

I don't know but I suspect they are a third option but this might be me becasue as yet I have a Norman army, have bought a Viking one and have not considered a Saxon collection ... yet. If it's true for others, then this is a shame becasue the reality of who Saxons were, what they achieved, their success on the battlefield and how they looked is nothing like how they are handled on TV. There are some fellow gamers and figure painters posting right now and on these fora who are producing some great looking and very cool Saxon figures and units.

So ... are they misunderstood in popular cultural memory or have I missed something? I often do.

Offline Atheling

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2021, 08:54:38 PM »
The Anglo Danes of the 11th Century were considered to be some of the best infantry in Europe at that time.

I don't really pay that much attention to how they are portrayed in any TV series I've seen, but you're right, it is usually dire. Though nothing will ever make me laugh out loud as much as ahistorical as the 'Welsh' in The Last Kingdom series one who had huge holes in the centre of their shields  lol lol lol I still giggle to myself when I think of it as I type :P

Offline Blackwolf

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2021, 10:33:17 PM »
My perception is no;  but then I barely watch television or films,and much rather read. Just thinking about this makes me think of how many words we use that have an Old German root,our thought processes given light because of how we think,partially constructed by our use of these forms. However this is a huge digression...And I am biased Harold,Hereward et cetera have always been heroes of mine rather than the perfidy of the Normans lol
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Offline TheBlackCrane

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2021, 11:14:10 PM »
Can't really speak for how they're portrayed on the screen - save for weary resignation that in any series I happen to see (e.g. some series' of The Last Kingdom, some of Vikings) they'll be in absurd kit, possibly just to make them look 'different', but from a wargaming perspective I've always been put off because to me the nature of the warfare is very much based on the shieldwall.

Mind you, that's also what puts me off doing anything Vikingy too, and if I've considered the Normans it's to do something with them in Italy or Sicily rather than Northern Europe.

Granted, my historical knowledge of the nature of their warfare might be less than it ought, but I wouldn't be surprised if a perception that wargame battles would be dependent on shieldwalls puts off gamers who want a bit more variety available?

Painting-wise there are some great figures out there, and I guess if you're into skirmishes the shieldwall aspect isn't such a big issue, but otherwise it does feel like Saxon armies (and Viking) are a bit limited wargames-wise.

For all that, I'm also very much pro-Harold and anti-Norman, and am forever frustrated by the defeat at Hastings (and for all the times I've been to see the re-enactment, what beats me is why they charge down that hill every time  lol )

Offline The Inscrutable Dr. Huang

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2021, 01:05:26 AM »
When I think of Saxons, I think of Hengest & Horsa, the Bretwalda Aelle, Penda, Alfred and Aethelstan and Edmund Ironside.

Offline Atheling

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2021, 08:09:47 AM »
When I think of Saxons, I think of Hengest & Horsa, the Bretwalda Aelle, Penda, Alfred and Aethelstan and Edmund Ironside.

It's the opposite end of the scales for me, my imagination always draws me to this man......



Not that I'm averse to diving further into the past.....



Though, it has to be said, they have always got to be in the right kit   lol

Offline SJWi

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2021, 09:01:57 AM »
Unlucky General, an interesting question. I think the Vikings have a fascination for people as they travelled so widely and are part of the history of many nations. Plus the Danes, Norwegians and Swedes would keep their memory/folklore current as part of their history .  Without getting too political "history is written by the victors" and after Hastings the Anglo-Saxon story was over-written by the Normans.  I think if you asked 90% of British people to name any Anglo-Saxon you might get "Alfred", but not much more.

In wargaming terms however I can see why the period isn't played too much. For big battles the armies are pretty bland with mostly "shieldwall", not much choice of troop types.  Drop to skirmish level and things become more interesting. That probably takes you back to the interest in the Vikings with raids, longboats etc etc .

That said I find it a fascinating period. I have forces for the 5-6th centuries but will admit they don't see the table as much as they should.

 

Online carlos marighela

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2021, 09:16:01 AM »
I blame Steve Coogan.
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Offline Rick F

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2021, 09:38:58 AM »
I blame Steve Coogan.
He had a nice car and theme tune though.

Offline dadlamassu

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2021, 09:50:47 AM »
Interesting question about historical fiction/entertainment. 

When fighting the "nice" Christian British of Arthur the pagan, vicious, avaricious, rapacious land grabbling Saxons have to look and be dressed as "baddies" - lots of dirt, hairy cloaks, dark colours, scars, tattoos

When fighting the "nice" Christian Saxons of Alfred the pagan, vicious, avaricious, rapacious land grabbling Danes have to look and be be dressed as "baddies" - lots of dirt, hairy cloaks, dark colours, scars, tattoos

'He could have lived a risk-free, moneyed life, but he preferred to whittle away his fortune on warfare.'
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Offline Atheling

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2021, 10:46:16 AM »
Interesting question about historical fiction/entertainment. 

When fighting the "nice" Christian British of Arthur the pagan, vicious, avaricious, rapacious land grabbling Saxons have to look and be dressed as "baddies" - lots of dirt, hairy cloaks, dark colours, scars, tattoos

When fighting the "nice" Christian Saxons of Alfred the pagan, vicious, avaricious, rapacious land grabbling Danes have to look and be be dressed as "baddies" - lots of dirt, hairy cloaks, dark colours, scars, tattoos

I think the movie The Warlord set the standard in that regard.

Offline Bearwoodman

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2021, 11:31:09 AM »
I think there is something in the OP's question, at lest from my perspective as a non-expert.

I have little specialist knowledge of this period and have never played a dark age wargame, but I have used figures from this period in fantasy games. When I think of Vikings I think of wild beards, tattoos, huge axes, horned helmets (yes I know, but I still think of them...), beserkers, raping and pillaging etc. Essentially barbarians! Plus all the Norse mythology Valhalla etc which again is very powerful and distinctive.

Normans on the other hand are perhaps associated with being more organised and disciplined (although just as ruthless) and have a distinctive sinister look with long mail suits and kite shields.

Saxons just seem a bit blander (which can make them useful for generic fantasy soldiers).  Now I know they may also have used axes in battle like Vikings or kite shields like Normans and in fact may have fought in a similar manner (and with considerable success) as the other two more glamorous groups mentioned, but that cannot quite override the fact that in my mind at least their image is not quite as distinctive or compelling. Just my opinion obviously. ;)
« Last Edit: January 17, 2021, 11:35:33 AM by Bearwoodman »

Offline Rick F

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2021, 01:04:50 PM »
I doubt there was any real difference between Saxons and Vikings in how they looked. After all, the Angles were from the same area (ish) as the Danes, just a couple of hundred years earlier, trade would have continued and for all we know family links could have been maintained. Wargamers like to have noticeable differences between armies though.

Offline Patrice

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2021, 01:55:18 PM »
Vikings are always popular and seem to be more appreciated than neighbouring people.  ::)

There was a Tristan & Isolde, French movie in the early 1970... which said they were from Iceland...  :( >:(
...(because most French people didn't know a thing about Cornwall, and Brittany was not fashionable enough then).

Offline Cubs

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Re: The Saxon Problem
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2021, 02:06:21 PM »
Saxons just seem a bit blander

This. For me, they will always be not quite as good or interesting as the dudes they're fighting. Tactically (or at least, my flawed impression of), you have spear-armed infantry dudes who form a shieldwall and hope to grind down the opposition. No berserks (historically suspect or not) or fun raiders like the Vikings, no cavalry or massed archers like the Normans, no terrain-using guerillas like the Welsh. I've always enjoyed the rich flavour of interesting troops - either small numbers of elites or guys who did something out of the ordinary. The rather vanilla aspect of Saxons has never appealed to me.
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