"March ye men of Harlech go, Lov'd fatherland your duty claims,
Onward comes the Saxon foe, His footsteps mark'd in flames"
Onward comes the Saxon foe, His footsteps mark'd in flames"
My mate, Alan, and I have had several games of Saga over the last couple of months. The Dark Ages has always been one of Alan's favourite periods of history and when Gripping Beast announced they were going to produce the Saga rules, I think Alan was one of the first to pre-order the rules and the elusive dice sets.
Once armed with the rules and dice, Alan then set about painting warbands for the Vikings, Anglo-Danish and the Welsh, using mainly figures from Crusader Miniatures and Gripping Beast. Alan paints a lot quicker than I do and soon had enough figures painted to form a 6 point warband for each of those factions.
I'm not going to do an review of the rules here as they have been dealt with, much better than I could, on many other sites - I would in particular recommend Neil Shuck's review on his Meeples and Miniatures web page.
I had been using his Welsh warband for the last few games. Initially I struggled with the leek munchers and it wasn't until the penny dropped and I re-read the rule properly about javelin armed troops being allowed to throw javelins as part of their movement activation - Doh!! As a result in last week's game the sheep herders overwhelmed Alan's pathetic Anglo-Danish pastries while only losing only a handful of their own brave warriors (It also helped that I didn't seem to roll less than 4 on any of my combat dice).
So in tonight's game I was feeling confident that last week's success would continue now that I knew the right tactics. You've all been there folks haven't you, so you can probably guess what happens next...
We decided to play one of the scenarios from the rule book - "The Battle of the Ford". Alan had picked up some river sections at the Claymore show last year and quickly got them painted up today for the game.
The freshly painted river - so much so the figures were really in danger of getting their feet wet!
I lost the initiative roll for deployment so after Alan had deployed half of the figures of his Anglo-Danes, I had to deploy the whole of my warband.
Alan then finished his deployment
The objective of the scenario was to get as many of your troops over on to your opponent's side of the river, scoring victory points for each hearthguard or group of warriors/ levy over the river at the end of the scenario which was to last 7 turns.
We then rolled to see who would take the first turn - I won that roll so I was keen to get my troops moving quickly. With 2 units of mounted Teulu I definitely had the advantage of better mobility across the table, except there was a blooming big hill between me and the bridges, so it meant I would have to go round it. As I had a full 6 point warband I was able to roll 6 Saga dice
Not a Dragon in sight.
The first roll of the Saga Dice set the tone of the evening. No Dragons, so it meant I wasn't able to use the "activation dice" option on the Welsh battle board which allows you to discard 1 Dragon dice to roll another 2 Saga dice.
Round and round the hill we go!
Meanwhile the Anglo-Danes rumble down off their hill
The Anglo-Danes have one special activation on their battle board which I think is a total pain - "Noble Lineage", which basically allows them to take one of their rolled Saga dice and change it to any symbol. So basically, the Anglo-Danes are always guaranteed to be able to use one of their dice on this activation, which in Alan's case he converts to the relevant symbol for the activation dice option (a helmet) and then he discards that for an additional 2 Saga dice. Boo Hiss!!
As we moved into turn 3, the brave boys of the Valleys were approaching the bridges, courtesy of my home made Saga stick
The Anglo-Danes moved relentlessly towards their destiny
The little token behind the lead unit of Anglo-Danish hearthguard (or Bulwarks - sounds very similar to Bollocks if you ask me) is a shield which we use to keep track of a unit's fatigue. Alan just needs to get them painted....
IMPORTANT EDIT- See below!!!!
On the right hand bridge, the Bulwarks storm over to meet the brave Taffs
Now you see them
Now you don't!
To a rousing chorus of "Men of Harlech" the Teulu slew the Bulwarks to a man without loss. My combat dice continued from where they had left off last week. But on the other bridge, my Teulu lined up to hurl their javelins
I needed 5's to hit and with an extra combat dice, I was rolling 9 dice so Alan then spent my fatigue token to decrease my hit roll to 6's.
Look as much as you can - you still ain't going to spot a 6
Leighton Rees would hang his head in shame at this abysmal dart throwing. With their laughter loud and raucous the Bulwarks charged over the bridge into the bewildered Teulu and brandishing their 2 handed axes slew the horse warriors to the very last nag
The bodies of the Welsh folk have been removed from this picture to avoid causing distress to those of a delicate nature.
And it just didn't get any better from there on. Back on the right hand bridge, the lowest form of life on the Anglo-Danish side, their peasant levy or Gerbers slew 2 of the Teulu (aided by the fact that Welsh cavalry suffer a -1 penalty when shot at and also suffer an additional -1 penalty for being mounted). The remaining 2 horsemen then prepared to defend the bridge as the Anglo-Danish warlord himself, Harold Two-Bellies, rolled over the bridge
"Out of my way nags!"
Unfortunately the Teulu obliged and were slain. With both mounted units gone I threw in the Warriors (or Priordaur) at the right hand bridge who had been following close behind the cavalry. But Harold was having none of it and he repulsed the Warriors with frightening ease. His blood lust not yet fully sated, Harold turned his attention to my poor, defenceless levy (Bonnedig) and give them a good beating too.
The Bonnedig cower back from the fearsome Two Bellies
Back on the left hand bridge, the Welsh warlord, Owen Gilgangillygillygogogoch, and his personal bodyguard tried desperately to plug the gap
And for a while (well a turn), it looked as if Owen might succeed, with his bodyguard bravely slaying the Bulwarks to the last man although they too perished in the melee.
Soon Owen stood alone as the uncivilised Anglo-Danish horde rushed over the bridge.
Now cometh the hour, cometh the man
Eh not quite
The warrior on the left side suffered a mild scratch to the paintwork on his shield from Owen's fruitless attack. Owen then died (it would have been from shame except the several axe blows to the head did the job first).
The final unit of Teulu did manage to bring Two Bellies to task
But it was too little too late and on the final turn, the last Taff found himself alone and unattended (except by a pile of Anglo-Danes)
The last Taff dropping his spear in terror
But no mercy is shown by the sheep haters.
So a total wipe out suffered by the brave boyos and totalling up the victory points at the end of turn 7 the score was 14-0 to the Anglos. Bugger.
So another enjoyable game, despite the result. I really suffered from rolling poorly on my Saga dice, only 1 Dragon rolled in the first 5 turns. On the sixth turn I rolled 3 Dragons on 4 dice but it was too little too late. And after last week's combat dice being red hot, this week my warriors couldn't have punched their way out of a paper bag.
I will no doubt pick up my own copy of the rules in the next few months, now that the re-print is back in stock and I'm toying with the idea of building a Norman warband using the plastic Norman Cavalry from Conquest Games although I should be wary of having to paint more horses, given I still have a pile of Byzantine Cavalry to do, but then again, I never seem to take the easy option.....
A couple of final pics of some of Alan's warriors
EDIT!!! - When I was writing up the bat rep I couldn't remember the name used for the Anglo-Dane hearth guard so I had sent Alan a text asking what they were called and he replied "Bulwarks" so that what's I used. Unfortunately he had his predictive text on and so his reply should have read "Huscarls".......