Medieval Armies DBA Page

DBA Resource Page

Early Medieval Germanic Armies

By Dan Mersey
Images by David Kuijt

Note: all images are thumbnails, and are clickable to see the larger original.

Early Medieval Germanic Army

Our Subject:

74 Early Frankish, Burgundian, Alamannic or Rugian 250 - 639 AD

75a Early Saxon, Frisian, Suevi, Bavarian or Thuringian 250 -804 AD

Composition:

The following descriptions are my interpretations of each of the elements available to an early medieval Germanic army.

10x 4Wb
(74 & 75a)
Ordinary Germanic Warriors These warbands represent the ordinary, yet ferocious warriors of all Germanic armies. They fought using melee weapons, and usually lacked armour of any kind (possibly wearing a leather jerkin); the basic warrior's equipment was a six to eight foot long spear and a round shield three foot in diameter. Other weapons were used, including war knives (the "seax"), and "francisca" throwing axes seemed popular - at least amongst the Franks. Tunics could be of many designs and colours (striped tunics were recorded by Roman observers), and some cloaks were noted as being green with a red border.
1x 2Ps
(74 & 75a)
Germanic bow The sole Psiloi element represents the few skirmishers used in Germanic armies of this period. Bows were common (although possibly not in Britain), and slings would also have been used frequently.
1x 3Cv or 4Bd
(74 only)
Commander's Personal Warband (Mounted) This element represents the commander's personal warband. It would have comprised of the most loyal and skilled warriors available, and it's members received a high social standing. Like most elite warriors of this period in north west Europe, they were capable of fighting as either cavalry or as heavy infantry: a large number could have possessed chainmail and helmet (traded, raided, or from a battle victim), and upper class warriors sometimes fought with swords, angons (a javelin very like a pilum), and the normal choices of spear and javelin.
1x 4Bd
(75a only):
Commander's Warband on foot Unlike many of their European counterparts, the personal warband of a Saxon (or kindred) warlord seem to have fought on foot. They may have ridden to the battle (horses are known of in, although not an essential part of, high status Germanic burials), but fought as heavy infantry. They would have been equipped in a similar way to other Germanic leader's warbands (see above)

Enemies:

The best news of all for the prospective Germanic player is the number and variation of enemies available to him or her. There is only a slight variation between the two lists:

The enemies of list 74 (Early Franks, et. al.) include Middle Imperial Roman (#69), Early Gothic or Vandal (#70), Early Frankish, Burgundian, Alamannic or Rugian (#74), Early Saxon, Frisian, Suevi, Bavarian, or Thuringian (#75a), Late Roman-West (#77a), Hunnic (#79), Later Visigothic (#80), Patrician Roman (#81), Gepid/Lombard (#85), Early Byzantine (#86), Italian Ostrogothic (#88), Slav (#89) and Avar (#90).

The enemies of list 75a (Early Saxons, et. al.) include Caledonian/Pict (#67), Middle Imperial Roman (#69), Early Gothic or Vandal (#70), Early Frankish, Burgundian, Alamannic or Rugian (#74), Early Saxon, Frisian, Suevi, Bavarian, or Thuringian (#75a), Late Roman-West (#77a), Hunnic (#79), Later Visigothic (#80), Patrician Roman (#81), Sub-Roman British (#82), Gepid/Lombard (#85), Slav (#89) and Avar (#90).

Tactics:

The term "shieldwall" springs to mind!

Warband

The Warband are probably best grouped together into either one or two blocks, and advanced either slowly or not at all (if the terrain is favourable, it is best to wait for the enemy to attack you). If deployed two elements deep, the warbands are more powerful, but a bad result is likely to lose you both elements - it's probably best to see which enemies you are facing before deciding upon this (there are several articles about this on this very website).

Choosing Cavalry or Blade is a matter of taste, but also depends upon your opponent's army. Which will be better against them - the strength of Blade, or the all-round capabilities of Cavalry?

More Warband

The Psiloi can be used either to support your Blade, or to hold bad going, or to slow down an enemy flank, or all of those things Psiloi can do!

Either army is very suitable for a beginner to DBA, as there are only three troop types to get the hang of.


Timber Palisade

Camp:

Either army's camp can be a simple palisade and rampart. Alternatives exist - maybe a water-filled ditch could be added. Generally speaking, the earlier your Germanic army, the less urbanised their peoples were; later on, refortified Roman sites could be used, or timber buildings.

About the Author

Dan Mersey has a degree in Archaeology and is a Contributing Editor to The Castles of Wales website. Any feedback or questions can be sent directly to: danielmersey@yahoo.com.

About the Images

Figures shown are a mixture of Essex (SXA3, SXA4, SXA5, WA1, WA4, and HSA9) and Gladiator (GO-1, GO-3, GO-6, GO-7, and GO-10). Many of the shields use Veni Vedi Vici (VVV) shield transfers. All figures were painted and photographed by David Kuijt.


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Last modified: December 29, 1998. Images added; page moved to new location.

Page created: August 24, 1998

My thanks to Dan Mersey and Chris Brantley. Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page can be sent to David Kuijt, kuijt@umiacs.umd.edu. Please do not use any pictures or text from this page without permission.