Those of you who have persevered with these bletherings of mine will recall the feeble efforts of my Viking Warlord, Snorri Borrison, to win his first game of Saga (if you are new here you can find the sorry tales here and here ).
In fairness to Snorri, it turns out that we had been playing the "Resilience" rule wrong and that what should have happened is that Snorri could have transferred all of the remaining hits to his bodyguard, so he wouldn't have been taken out in that first game so quickly. However, his martial prowess in the second game was pretty abysmal, so much so that he was on a final warning to get his axe out of his backside and win a battle or it was permanent exile back to the display shelf.
A worried Viking facing the shame of returning to the back of the shelf.
Just an aside for a moment. It has been spuriously suggested by both Alan and Raurok that Snorri is in fact a female. This scurrilous claim is made by them purely on the basis that Snorri has pigtails and has a rather large chest under his pelts. Let me state quite categorically that Snorri is male and that in his original guise he was "Sven" and was a model produced by GW for the Kremlo the Slann scenario. So although Snorri may have fought like a girl that is simply as a result of a lack of practise.
Anyway, back to the main event. Both Alan and I received our copies of "Northern Fury" the first Saga supplement from Gripping Beast a couple of weeks back.
The supplement introduces 4 new factions to the game, the Bretons, the Anglo-Saxons, the Scots and the Jomsvikings. Now according to the blurb in the book, the Jomsvikings are a semi-mythical band of Vikings who feature in some of the Icelandic Sagas and one in particular - "The Jomsvikings Saga". They appear to have been a bunch of mercenary Norsemen, who through a strict code of brotherhood fought for the highest paymaster and were quite happy to change sides if offered more gold. Not much historical data on them apparently but enough there to give the rules writers the excuse to include them in the supplement.
As Alan had been busily painting up his Scots Warband we decided last Thursday to use 2 of the new factions in our Saga game with Alan using his shiny new Scots and yours truly taking his Vikings (and Snorri) but they were to be JOMSVIKINGS.
We set up the table to play the "Sacred Ground" scenario from the main rulebook.
Fairly open battlefield, the scenario called for a hill to be placed in the middle of the table and then each player selected one other piece of terrain each, so I picked the other hill and Alan the forest. The object of the scenario was to gain victory points by having your troops occupy the terrain features at the end of your opponent's turn. Game length was 7 turns and player with the most victory points would be declared "Supreme Saga Player in Arbroath" (no time restriction).
Deployment was staggered, so that the player winning the initiative roll (that was me) would deploy one unit and then Alan deployed one and so on. The Player who finished deploying all of their units first (that was me again) would start the game.
A unit of Jomsviking Bondi, the undulating terrain caused by Alan's badly creased table cover
Oh Oh! The Scots have men on Nags.
The Scots also have men with long pointy sticks - the Soer-chele (warriors)
Now Alan had also got the free Scots Warlord model from Gripping Beast with the supplement but he hadn't painted him up! So he used this guy instead
No, this historical game has not suddenly become a fantasy game with wizards and spells. It was just the picture was taken at a coincidental angle to make the paint splats that dozy Alan had made on his table cover look like bolts of fire coming from his Warlord's finger. Still, looks pretty cool!
This unwashed lot are the Scots Levy or "Doer-chele". They have shorter, pointy sticks. No such unwashed hordes on the Jomsvikings side, they just had brave, fearsome, professional soldiers, in other words the rules don't let the Jomsvikings have Levy troops.
The supplement didn't introduce any new rules to the game system but each new faction had new abilities specific to their particular race. The Scots, dour in defence and absorbing the enemy attacks before launching their own devastating (hopefully) counter attacks, have abilities on their battle board to try and recreate these tactics.
The Jomsvikings, for their part, have the "Wrath". This ability, is built up by choices made by the opposing player, so for example, by playing the "Pagan Fury" ability, the opponent has to choose whether to let the Jomsviking player activate 2 of his units or increase the Jomsviking Wrath score by 1. The higher the Wrath score gets (to a maximum of 6) the more nasty the Jomsviking abilities on the third column of the battle board gets. We soon found out, how nasty those abilities could get!
I took the first turn
Odin's Beard!! The mythical "S" rune is seen!
I hadn't seen many of these in our previous games using the Vikings. Was this a sign of things to come??
The two sides rolled forward, but at the end of the first turn no one was occupying any of the terrain pieces. The nasty Scots on Nags, however, had thrown their pointy sticks at the Jomsviking Berserkers and had caused a casualty to them.
Not wishing to simply stand there and get shot to bits by pointy things, the Berserkers did what comes naturally to them
The ensuing combat did not bring about the mutually assured destruction that I had been expecting but instead left each side with just one warrior each
The Berserker and the Nagman eye each other suspiciously across the battlefield
Typically Alan, in his turn, did the cowardly thing and ran the Nagman into the forest (looking to claim some victory points) and then threw his pointy stick at the Berserker
Meanwhile, in the centre the opposing Warbands had reached the hill
Snorri, suitably surrounded by half his army just in case he needs to rely on the "Resilience" Rule
Whilst on the Jomsviking left flank, the Bondi there claimed the Hill.
"For Snorri! Now where's the Beer?"
It has been a feature of our Saga games is that my dice rolling has been crap. I could use stronger words but Ladies sometimes read this blog. But in an unexpected reversal of fortunes, it was Alan who was really rolling the dross rolls, as a result some of his Warband hadn't really moved at all after 3 turns.
The Scots are a long way away
However, Alan eventually managed to get his peasants to move and being the forefathers of the late, great Jocky Wilson, they threw their pointy sticks at the Jomsviking Hearthguard.
Well not quite, but 3 Hearthguard left the field to have the pointy sticks surgically removed.
Back in the centre, the 2 sides square up
Snorri's make or break moment approaches!
Having seen the peasants whittle down the Jomsviking Hearthguard, the Scots equivalent - Thanes, decided now was the time to try and do something useful and so with a 3 man advantage they ran forward to meet their foes
"We've got more men than you!" jeered the Scots
However, being the forefathers of Kingsleypark, they rolled their dice -
And rolled 2 hits out of 16 dice
These were promptly saved by the Jomsvikings who in their hacks back dispatched 3 of the useless Scotties
The Scots cower behind their shields.
This blow clearly affected Alan's confidence in his troops - not! Instead of taking stock and thinking out a new stratagem, on the centre hill his Soer-Chele charged forward
The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted the sudden appearance of a Celtic Cross on the hill. Alan thought this would give his Scots some sort of morale boost - totally mucks up the continuity of my pictures but hey ho the cross stayed (it is in fact a souvenir fridge magnet).
Another abysmal Scottish roll of the dice and some very unKingsleypark rolling by the Jomsvikings and the Scots were hurled back
Jomsvikings 6, Scots 2
Both Warlords were now within a "S" move (4 inches) of each other. This meant the "Warlord's Pride" rule kicked in and thus if the Warlord moved at all he had to try and move into contact with the opposing Warlord.
Now was the time for Snorri's master stroke. The Jomsviking Hearthguard on his left charged into the Soer-chele in front of them, with the intention of destroying as many of them as possible, thus reducing the number of volunteers for the Scots Warlord to use for the "Resilience" Rule. 6 Scots lay dead at the end of that combat for the loss of only 1 Hearthguard. Step 1 complete.
Step 2, Snorri charges forward taking the Warriors on his right with him using the "We Obey" rule. Snorri charges into his opposite number , Horace Broon, while the warriors charge into the 2 Scots warriors on Horace's left.
Now in my excitement, I made a foolish mistake. Yes, I know that's hard to believe but I'm human and sometimes it happens. Instead of fighting the warrior combat first, I elected to resolve the Warlord combat first. I should have fought the warriors first, I had a 4 man advantage after all and if I killed the Scots warriors then that would have been even less volunteers that the Scots Warlord could use for the "Resilience" rule.
But Snorri went first. Step 3, call upon the "Hammer of Thor". This ability in the third column of the Jomsviking Battle Board allows the Jomsvikings to discard the relevant Saga dice and score a number of automatic hits on the opposing unit equivalent to the current Wrath level. At this point the Wrath level was "5". 5 automatic hits on the Scots Warlord plus I still had to roll for Snorri's own attack rolls.
As it turned out it was just as well I had used the Hammer of Thor because Snorri managed a measly 1 hit from his 5 dice. Still that was 6 hits on Horace Broon, surely he would fall???
Alan rolled 5 defence dice needing 5's and 6's (the Warlord automatically ignores the first hit in combat). The jammy so and so rolled 3 saves and passes the other 2 wounds onto his warriors on his left. They fall to the ground leaving my warriors with no one to hit in their combat! In retaliation Alan rolled 2 hits on Snorri, ignoring the first one, Snorri failed the save and had to call on his warriors to take the pain and save Snorri from more ignominy.
Horace Broon stands alone but very much alive
At least by this stage of the game I was racking up the victory points. The Bondi on the left flank were racking up 4 points a turn and Snorri's boys on the centre hill were also scoring heavily. With all the losses Alan had suffered that turn on the centre hill, his victory point tally really slowed down. At least the solitary Nagman in the forest was earning him 1 victory point (and still contributed a Saga dice).
So, despite Snorri's best efforts to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I was still feeling pretty confident. Then this happened
Did somebody knock the table and they all fell down??
No. With my new found confidence I had charged the Hearthguard. Axes swung, pointy sticks pointed but at the end of it it was the Scots who were left with 1 man standing. OK, not good but still, numbers on the hill were still in my favour.
Then Alan moves his peasants up to withing range of the hill and starts chucking his sticks. I had killed the remaining 2 warriors on the hill (again as a result of charging Alan's warlord and him having to use the "Resilience" rule to keep Horace alive but now those damned peasants took out another 2 of my Hearthguard with their throwing pointy sticks
Horace stands even more alone but still bloody alive!
No more fannying about! Snorri with a little help from Hammer of Thor charges Horace bringing his warriors with him. Snorri's axes glinted in the sunlight, their speed dazzling the witless Horace who unable to resist the furious onslaught succumbed to Snorri's prowess
"Who's the Daddy?!!"
The sole remaining Hearthguard on each side and battered each other to Valhalla so by the start of the last turn Alan only had his peasants left and oh yes the Nagman hiding in the forest (he was a Hearthguard too) so it meant Alan could at least roll a Saga dice.
"I'm still here!"
Now the Scots equivalent of the "S" rune on the Saga dice is a Deer symbol
It looks like this
Unfortunately for Alan, he saw one of those in his very first roll of the game and didn't see another one until the very last roll.
The game ended with Snorri, standing Colossus-like on the hill, master of all he surveyed
And also sensibly out of range of the throwing pointy stick peasants.
The victory point tally was added up. Horace had a paltry 34 points while Snorri, that shrewd tactician and master warrior amassed over 70 points. All hail Snorri!!!
In fairness to Alan the game turned as much on his abysmal dice rolling and me actually rolling half decent dice for a change. As he couldn't roll a Deer on his Saga dice he was unable to use the "Activation Pool" ability on his battle board which would have given him extra dice to roll and as such he was never really able to make use of the special abilities on the Scots battle board.
In contrast, with Alan letting the Jomsviking Wrath level grow, I had been able to make much better use of the abilities on the Jomsviking Board. I think with more plays against the Jomsvikings a player will be better able to judge when to allow the Jomsviking to increase his Wrath level. Without his Wrath, the Jomsviking will struggle I think. Each time you use one of the abilities in the third column of the Battle Board it does reduce the Wrath level so the Jomsviking player has to think out when to use which ability to it's best effect.
But let's not take anything away from Snorri, for when it came to the crunch, it was his Axe that ended up in Horace's skull. So he has been saved from banishment and has found his true place, not as a Viking but as a
One final observation. I thought there was a striking resemblance between this fine chap
And that fine young Irish actor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Well okay they both have a beard
(That one is for you Anne!)