Irish Kern encompasses soldiers for hire and the "rising out" of peasant warriors, who fought as unarmored, loose order troops. Kern are distinquished from the better equipped hearth soldiers or nobles and the armored foreign mercenaries, such as the Galloglaich, who were known collectively as bonnachts. For our purposes, Irish Kern are designated as 3Ax in the Norse-Irish, (III/46) and Anglo-Irish (IV/21) army lists. It is presumed the Irish bonnachts (3Ax) of the Medieval Irish list (IV/58) are of the sturdier sort and unlikely to fight in the Kern style. In the Medieval list, the Kern can be upgraded from 2Ps to 3Ax as modified by this variant.
Several commentators on Irish warfare have been critical of the classification of Irish Kern as Auxilia in DBM/DBA. The criticism can be traced to the fact that Kern engaged in a style of warfare with characteristics typical of different DBx troop types. As stated by Kevin Boylan (Spearpoint, March 2003), "because of its all or nothing outcomes, the DBM combat system cannot simulate the cumulative, disordering effect of a cloud of skirmishing kern peppering the enemy with an endless barrage of javelins, slingshots and arrows. Furthermore, DBM's rigid, generic unit classifications cannot depict how the same kern who rarely stood up to an enemy charge could be very aggressive and even reckless when charging themselves...."
In summary, Irish Kern typically fought a skirmishing battle, giving ground if pressed, but often charging impetuously when opportunity arose. Being light troops in open order, they were not greatly hampered by rough terrain, and often used it to good advantage. But in the open, Kern are apt to give way when faced with determined foes on foot or horse. In short, Kern have the attributes of DBA psiloi, auxilia and warband.
To simulate this method of warfare, Irish Kern are modified as follows:
As an option, you might consider letting each Kern element go "Warband" once per game at the general's option (instead of by die roll), and possibly even remaining Warband for the balance of the game, but this would require record keeping or a marker to distinquish those Kern elements who had become impetuous from those still in skirmishing mode.
Note: This variant was inspired by a series of articles by Kevin Boylan and Nick Harbud on the "Misty-Eyed Irish" appearing in issues 201, 219, 221 and 227 of the Society of Ancients' Slingshot journal.
Last Updated: March 16, 2003
Comments and suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.