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The Civil Wars in Norway 1130-1240


The infant King Håkon is carried to safety by two Birkebeiners escaping across the mountains from pursuing Bagler forces.

Historical background 

Around the year 1000, Norway was firmly established as a separate Kingdom, ruled by one- and at times two or more - King(s). 

In practice though, the Kingdom was a collection of more or less autonomous smaller regions/earldoms/areas that showed loyalty to the King based on what benefits and protection they could get from the King. The King ruled the kingdom by travelling around between different Royal Farms together with his bodyguard - the Hird. 

There were several strong clans in Norway tat at times claimed the throne, alone, or in alliance with each other or outside forces like Denmark or Sweden. 

Harald Hårfagre (Harald Fair Hair) fair hair and his clan had their base in the western parts of Norway, in Rogaland and Hordaland. Smaller chiefdoms existed in Sogn and Møre. 

In Trøndelag (the area surrounding the city of Nidaros/Trondheim), the mighty Lade jarls (Earls of Lade) had their base, from which they sought to dominate the Norwegian coast. They also at times controlled and at times fought against the rebellious chiefs of Hålogaland to the north.

In the area around Viken (Oslo fjord), several strong clans had their base. On the western side, around Borre and Brunlanes, Olav Haraldsson (St.Olav) and his decedents, had their base. Small chiefdoms existed in Grenland and Agder as well as inland in Telemark. On the eastern side of the Oslo fjord, around Jeløya and Sarpsborg and Tune, the earls of Vingulmork had their base in rich agricultural land. Just to the south was Ranrike, which was an area fiercely contested by the various clans of the Swedes (Svearne, Skaner, Göter etc).

In the valleys of central Norway - Lærdal, Valdres, Gudbrandsdal, Hallingdal, Østerdal and Romsdal, fiercely independent clans lived in isolated settlements, often attacking travellers and at times acting as mercenaries for the various royal pretenders.

To complicate matters even further, Viken was at times under Danish rule, and kings and clans from Denmark and Sweden were at times also involved in the civil wars, supporting one side or another. 

In 1130,upon the death of King Sigurd, open hostilities erupted between supporters of his son Magnus, and an Earl called Harald Gille, who claimed he was the rightful heir to the Norwegian throne. Various pretenders, clans and regions fought intermittent wars between 1130 and 1240, interspersed with more quiet periods where all sides rebuilt their strength and consolidated their gains, whilst planning their revenge on their enemies.


The Game 

ULFHEDNAR: The Norwegian Civil Wars 1130-1240 is an low to medium complexity simulation of this period in Norwegian history. The game is recommended for2-4 players, although rules for solitaire play will also be included. Each player represents a faction vying for control of Norway, and will use his resources and military forces to try to take control of the Norwegian throne and maintain it for as long as possible.

2.1 Game Play - Sequence of Play

Each game turn represents 5 years of time, and the game runs for a maximum of 22 turns.

Each turn is split into 4 seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter

Each season has its own unique sequence of play, as the main purpose of each season is different:

Spring: Recruit, arm, prepare ships and bands of warriors, plan military operations for the year, conduct diplomacy, draw random events

Summer: Campaigning season where military action is taken. Trade.

Autumn: Consolidate gains, build new structures, resource production, taxes, draw random events

Winter: Pay upkeep for military forces and structures, purchase new forces and operation cards, pay contributions to allied regions and clans (to keep them loyal) etc.


Each player may conduct up to two sets of actions each season, based on whatever action cards they hold (Cards may have different effect depending on season)

2.2 Game Play -  The Map

The map shows the Kingdom of Norway, as far north as Hålogaland, with off map boxes for Finnmark, Iceland/Greenland, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, central Europe, Gardarike.

Norway is divided into regions with major towns/markets, with sub-regions that each contain a village that must be controlled to retain control of the region. Each region and sub-region is rated for tax value, manpower value, resource value (grain, fish, fur) and victory point value.

Superimposed on the map is a grid that regulates the position of units and movement.

Early play test map. The final map design will be completed by a professional graphic designer.

2.3 Game Play - Units, cards and markers

Units ("counters") are size 1" and represent ships (warships and trading ships), bands of warriors (1 strength point = 50 men) and leaders, both kings and pretenders, as well as regional and local chieftains. Warriors are generally loyal to one leader and his superior leaders.

Markers represent buildings (fortifications, camps, churches, chieftain halls), resources, currency (silver and gold), trade goods, and territory control.

Cards are used to generate movement points, resolution of combat, diplomatic action, trade, and random events.

Sample action cards (Play test cards. Final design will be different)

2.4 Game Play - Movement and Combat

During the campaigning season, players may move as many units as they can activate using movement cards. Units must have a leader present in the stack to be able to move. There is no limit as to how far units can move in a single season, but units must always stop when they enter an area which contains hostile forces or specific types of terrain. Units move from one square to the next, paying attention to terrain as they go along.


Combat occurs between forces that occupy the same area and can be of four types:

Raid- if the attacker chooses a raid combat, his forces will attack once and then retreat automatically after the first round of combat. The attacker may or may not capture resources or currency from the defender. Raids can be conducted from the sea or over land.

Siege - a fort or a town/city with defensive structures can be besieged by an attacker. The siege lasts for three rounds of combat by the end of which the siege is either successful or failed. Siege results are affected by defensive structures, siege works and the type of units present. Both players can use cards to strengthen their chances of success.

Land - This is a field battle between two land based forces. Combat is conducted by totalling each sides strength points, each side choosing a tactics card, and rolling a die. The die roll is adjusted for leadership value, defensive structures, terrain, morale etc, and the final result is compared to a CRT which gives the outcome of the battle. Each side may withdraw after each round of combat, otherwise combat occurs until one side is destroyed or demoralised and forced to retreat.

Ship - Ship combat occurs when opposing fleets meet in a sea area. Ship combat is actually essentially land combat on sea, in that many of the same principles apply, but a few additional elements also come into play. The objective is to either sink or capture the enemy ships while protecting your own fleet.

2.5 Game Play - Resources

One of the reasons for the Civil ears in Norway was the struggle for limited resources, and these play a critical part in the game. Resources are used to pay for (feed) military units, build and train ships and military units, trade, and build buildings (that in turn will increase resource production). No player can win the game without careful resource management over time.

2.6 Game Play - Diplomacy and Trade

Diplomacy and Trade are critical elements for success in the game. By playing Diplomatic action cards, players can gain new allies (domestic or from outside Norway).For instance you can marry your children to those of other chieftains and earls to build clans together for a certain period of time,giving you access to both resources and military forces.


2.7 Game Play - Random Events

Random event cards are drawn twice per turn and the results are implemented and valid until the next card is drawn (or longer in some cases). Random events can be good (increased resource production, higher trade prices etc), bad (plague) or really bad (death). Some random events will force the players to cooperate, for instance to fight off a foreign invader, which will test players ability to work together, but also destroy any plans they had for other operations this turn.


2.8 Game Play - Victory Points

Victory is determined by gathering victory points all through the game. Victory points are won or lost, depending on control of territory, positions and random events. One innovative feature is that players may purchase additional victory points during the game! These are expensive, so any resources pent on these will reduce other options for the player, but the additional victory point may well be the deciding factor when it is all tallied up in the end..

map 3.png
sample cards.png
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