I spent all of yesterday visiting my friend Steve; both of us brought our younger son to the gaming session as well. The two boys have the same first name, which caused occasional confusion. However, we played a lot of games.
There was a game of Dreadball between the 2 children, where the humans got an early lead of 4 points and held onto it through the game. This was mainly because the opposing goblins were very unlucky with their shots at goal and missed every single time (and they had multiple chances!). In the final rush, one goblin was sprinting down the sideline, deep in enemy territory and quite unopposed, when a random event caused the ball to shatter and fall apart in his hands. Such was typical of their luck. However, some honour was salvaged when one of their Orc guards killed an opposing human - the first fatality we've seen in our games of Dreadball.
We played a couple of games of Race for the Galaxy, which is a brilliant card game of empire building amongst the stars. I won one and my son won one; it takes a little while to get into this game and the hosts were still finding it a bit difficult to come up with coherent strategies, I think. That's not intended as any mark of disrespect to them and I'm sure they'll be better prepared next time...
The big game of the day was SAGA, though...
SAGA: The Confrontation
Thurstan of Northumbria had led his men north to meet with King Macbeth of the Scots. They were supposed to discuss mutual security - in other words, both leaders wanted the other side to stop raiding them whilst still continuing surreptitiously to steal cattle in return. The peace conference didn't go well, insults were traded and then the leaders drew their weapons. Nobody could be sure who broke the peace first, of course...
|In the tan corner: Macbeth and his Scots|
The Scots warband consisted of:
- Macbeth (Hero of the Viking Age)
- 1 x 8 thanes on foot
- 1 x 4 thanes, mounted
- 2 x 8 warriors
|In the green corner: Thurstan's Northumbrians (Anglo Danes)|
This was the first time that I had used my Anglo-Danish warband. I took the following:
- Thurstan (generic warlord, great axe)
- 1 x 6 huscarls (great axe)
- 1 x 6 huscarls (spear), with a banner
- 2 x 8 warriors
- 1 x 12 levies (sling)
We played the Challenge scenario. In this, each warlord can take 12 hits (instead of the normal 1 + resilience). The aim of the game is simple: you have 7 turns to slay the enemy warlord! All other casualties are irrelevant, at least for determining victory.
All On His Own
I won the dice roll to start deploying first, which meant that I had to place Thurstan in the centre of the table. Macbeth ended up slightly nearer his own lines. This wasn't a disaster for the Anglo Danes, but then the Scots finished deploying first (they had fewer units) and so would move first in turn 1. Thurstan was feeling quite isolated as the Scots thanes all advanced on him.
Indeed, Macbeth felt brave enough to have a lunge at the stout Northumbrian. Blows were exchanged and a few cuts taken by each side. However, Thurstan won that encounter, causing Macbeth to step backwards into the safety of his lines of bodyguards. (From a tactical point of view, I would have been delighted to lose a wound or two in exchange for being able to retreat towards my own troops. But Thurstan just wasn't prepared to give an inch...).
With a roar of anger, the Northumbrians advanced to assist their beleaguered leader. All, that is, apart from one group of warriors behind a hill who hadn't realised that the battle had started (or maybe they were just shirking where no-one could see them - I don't know for sure).
Now the battle got going in earnest! The Anglo Danes had loaded their battle board with a die on the Intimidate ability, which could be used to cancel an enemy's dice used for activation. I was hoping to use this to prevent Thurstan from being attacked by the Scots. Instead, Macbeth used his automatic leader's activation (determination), we obey and side-by-side to take his large units of thanes into combat with my smaller unit of huscarls. "Come on, lads! With me!", he called as they cut down 5 of the 6 Northumbrians. At least 1 of my men survived, so I'd still get a SAGA dice for the unit!
Simultaneously, the Scots cavalry advanced menacingly towards my slingers. I used Intimidate on them, but they came on anyway (by using a second activation die). At least the slingers managed to shoot down one of the horsemen.
Then, the cavalry charged! They were fatigued by this time and only managed to cut down 2 of the Northumbrian slingers. As these withdrew, the Scots horsemen were horrified to see that the levies had been masking a group of Huscarls. They in turn charged from the trees into the tired and dispirited horsemen and slaughtered them all without loss (that's the second time I've seen my Scots cavalry models used in a game; they performed dismally in the first game as well!).
Near the centre of the battle, Northumbrian warriors attacked the fatigued Scots thanes, whilst Thurstan and Macbeth glowered at each other and caught their breath. The Northumbrians may have though that they'd caught their enemies at a disadvantage, but the Scots weren't fazed and repulsed the attacking warriors bloodily!
Now that Thurstan was unsupported again, Macbeth ordered his remaining 2 thanes to attack. The Scots were rolling well and had plenty of choices with their SAGA dice, but they now discovered a particularly vicious combination. By activating Hold the Ground and Counterattack together, they could generate an extra 11 attack dice for a single melee!
The pair of thanes between them inflicted another 8 hits on Thurstan, taking him up to a total of 10 of his 12 wounds! Ouch! The battered and bloodied warlord did manage to slay one of his attackers, but this was small comfort.
To add insult to the injury, Scots warriors slaughtered most of the nearby Northumbrian warriors, once again leaving Thurstan exposed and unsupported. One of the Northumbrian warriors did survive and was sent scuttling for the hills, so at least I didn't lose a SAGA dice for the massacre. Oh, well...
To and Fro
I took some small comfort by using my remaining Huscarls to steamroller the last remaining Thane; he never stood much of a chance. At the same time, a lucky set of SAGA dice allowed me to use Trapped to fatigue all the remaining Scots and then Exhaustion to cause 2 of the Scots warriors to fall by the wayside. But it wasn't enough...
Macbeth personally led his reserve warriors in a retaliatory attack on the huscarls. Although both sides took some losses, the Northumbrians came off worse and retreated.
Another clash saw more losses on both sides, but the Scots were held at bay, for now. Maybe, just maybe the Northumbrians would have enough time to rouse their last fresh unit of warriors from the other side of the hill and save the day with them? At least it looks as if the last huscarl is blowing his horn with all his might in an attempt to summon aid to his lord!
However even at this late stage in the game and despite having lost 2 entire units, the canny Macbeth was still rolling 6 SAGA dice every turn (due to his special "Hero of the Viking Age" ability). He managed a particularly handy set of stags and ducks in turn 6 and loaded up the battle board as seen above, (plus a couple of activations, if I remember correctly).
Firstly, the Scots warriors used reach to take out the last Northumbrian huscarl. The bodyguard didn't even get a chance to strike back as he was pinned down by their long spears.
Then, with a bloodcurdling yell, Macbeth himself charged at Thurstan. The wily Scotsman used the same combination of Hold the ground and Counterattack to boost his attack to 16 dice. Even though Thurstan braced himself for defence, this was only going to end one way...
Surrounded by his enemies, Thurstan fell on top of the bodies of his loyal household troops as Macbeth hacked and hacked at him. The confrontation was quite decisive and it was a dark day for the Northumbrians. After all, Macbeth is famous, but who has ever heard of Thurstan before?
As the Anglo Danes, I never really felt that I got going in this battle. My troops were fed piecemeal into a mincing machine, all in the vain attempt to protect a warlord who was too proud to retreat even a few steps! For the first half of the game, I just about held my own, but I suffered badly once the Scots got more used to their battleboard.
We've not used any Heroes of the Viking Age before; I think that having Macbeth really helped the Scots towards the end. In any other game, they would have slowed down as units were destroyed and caused the loss of SAGA dice. Not this warlord; he just kept on coming, with 6 dice giving him plenty of options!
Incidentally, the Anglo Danes had most of their units left at the end of the game; they lost only one! However that hides the fact that 2 units were reduced to 1 figure each, the slingers (whilst numerous) were somewhat useless and the final unit of warriors never really got moving and were too far off to affect anything. Lazy, cowardly dogs!