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!
Bully report! Out of curiosity, where did you get those blood drop fatigue markers?ReplyDelete
Thanks! The "splat!" markers are home made (very easy). See here for details: http://colgar6.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/splat.htmlDelete
Fantastic write up; sounds like you all had a great day. And SAGA looks like a really interesting gamReplyDelete
SAGA is a really fun game, I think, though not everyone likes it. It's more Hollywood than history perhaps, but none the worse for that. Yes, it was a good day out, if quite long!Delete
Nice board and set up. Whilst SAGA leaves me cold it did sound like a good game and day.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Clint. I know you're not keen on SAGA, but we did have a good day.Delete
Great read and the battle sounds like it was a lot of fun - at least for the Scots! I've not played the Challenge scenario yet. Since Kyle's NG are now painted, I rather suspect it could be a short game... A NG warlord challenging another unsupported warlord. Ouch! The Scots sound like a force to be reckoned with. How did the kids get on with SAGA?ReplyDelete
Well, my warlord was only unsupported because I just couldn't get his bodyguard to move forward in enough numbers (and he was too darned proud to retreat!). With 12 wounds, it's not going to be a sudden death game, if you'll pardon the pun, so at least both sides have a chance to react to current circumstances.Delete
The Scots excel in defence, but they're pretty good at counter-attacking as well. If they can weather an assault then they come back at you hard!
I think the battle boards give the kids (and novice adults!) some trouble; there's often a tendency for more "traditional" wargamers to use all their dice for activation, one die per unit. Once they see the power of a "super smash death combo", that tends to attract a lot of attention instead...
I'm thinking about Kyle's Norse Gael warlord issuing a challenge (particularly the nasty Who's Next) on my poor Anglo Dane warlord. With How Brave are You also used, I'm not sure my Warlord would survive into the second turn!Delete
Actually for novice players, particularly children, it may not be a bad idea to limit battle boards to just the activation abilities. At least for the first couple of games. One of our family friends has two children who I considered a bit too young for SAGA. Would be good to find a way to ease them into the game.
Well, yes - that's a nasty combination that the Norse Gaels can use. But it does take 2 fairly good SAGA dice to activate it. Surely any other faction's warlord can also pump himself up quite a bit with 2 SAGA dice, albeit in a different manner?Delete
Unfortunately since the challenge is resolved as step 0 of the melee, Who's Next would take place before any other SAGA dice can be used. If he used a Enlightened Priest (can change dice to any desired symbol), I think it's curtains!Delete
Good to note that you guys are trying to pass the baton to the next gen.ReplyDelete
Yes, we try :-) . Sometimes it's more successful, sometimes less so...Delete
That sounds like a bruising battle for the Danes! Great to hear that the boys had fun too.ReplyDelete
Actually, I had many more troops than the Scots did when the battle ended. The trouble is that many of them were levies and all of them were too far off to matter!Delete
Nice AAR, great looking battle with beautiful minis...ReplyDelete
Thanks, Phil. Glad you liked it!Delete
Nice battle report. MacBeth is really a butcher, lordish butcher but still a butcher.ReplyDelete
I don't think that there are many Dark Age leaders who were famous for being gentle! There are a few (they tend to be the extremely pious ones, I think?), but really not many at all.Delete
Being a butcher is not a bad thing in the Dark Ages :) . I was just highlighting how he overkilled the enemy :)Delete
Great report as usual, looks like the bravery didn't work in the Northumbrians' favour today!ReplyDelete
Ha, no! Standing in front of a load of angry enemy warriors and taunting them just isn't a good idea :-) !Delete
Enjoyable, if brutal aar, but a poor showing by the Nothrumbrians against their haggis eating neighbours, ferocious as they were - nothing changed really .ReplyDelete
Games of SAGA do tend to be brutal! I take this to be as much the warriors slinking away or being wounded or exhausted too much to continue rather than them being chopped into bloody chunks.Delete
I'm sure that the Northumbrian Anglo-Danes will get their own back sometime!
One of the Scots warriors recounted the end of the fight "he unseam'd him from the nave to the chops".ReplyDelete
Mrs Macbeth was less complementary after her husband arrived home late spelling of mead and battle, but had forgotten to collect the groceries. "Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way."
Hmm, if Macbeth was too full of human kindness on his day out with the lads then I don't like to think what he'd be like when the mood wore off! He'd probably end up murdering someone, or something like that...ReplyDelete