Last night I was at the Friday Night Firefight Club and played a game of SAGA with John F (aka Ducat). The scenario was Battle at the Ford and my Anglo Danes faced John's Norse Gael.
I haven't written a full battle report as such, I was much too busy thinking about how I was going to defend two crossing points against an opponent who could avoid melee by issuing a challenge... I did take a few photos mid battle though.
Anglo Danes are on the left. Norse Gael won the dice throw and moved first. A large unit of javelin armed warriors surged across the ford throwing their pointy sticks as they advanced.
My own 8 man warrior unit took quite a pounding and by the end of the first turn they were down to just a pair of stout veterans! Whilst blood was being spilt, another unit of Dane Axe wielding Norse Gael warriors and their warlord can be seen in the background advancing on the ford. The battle was fierce, but eventually the Anglo Dane warriors were whittled down to a single man, who put up a defence worthy of his own Saga, but inevitably fell. The Norse Gael warlord advanced across the ford with his warriors and charged the Anglo Dane huscarls. Although the huscarls fell, they also took out all of the Warlord's warriors while pushing him back onto the ford, thoroughly exhausted.
The Norse Gaels had won this section of ford, but at what cost? Only two javelin armed warriors were left alive (some judicious use of the Anglo Dane Exhausted ability proved helpful there!) and the exhausted warlord stood on the ford. Unless he could muster his strength and step forth he would earn no victory points. However, the Norse Gaels still had a unit of hearthguard in reserve and these now started to advance, after all what could stop them?
Meanwhile at the bridge, the Anglo Dane warlord decided to hold his ground with two 4 man units of huscarls at his side. Despite being the only unpainted unit on the table ;-) the Anglo Dane levies really proved their worth in this game. They pelted the advancing Norse Gael on the bridge knocking one into the water. The levies then moved to the river bank where they were just in range of the Norse Gael warriors at the other ford. Although attacked by the advancing hearthguard, the levies lost only a couple of men and were pushed closer to the ford. This proved quite useful, since the levy were able to pelt the other unit of hearthguard reserves at the ford, taking out at least two and therefore reducing the number of victory points they would earn by crossing the river.
Attacking Norse Gael can be tricky. Norse Gael have a special rule that allows them to issue challenges to their opponent. Battle board abilities can be used to give the Norse Gael player an advantage making it more likely he will win the challenge. Depending on the challenge, a victory means the Norse Gael can force the combat to end, loose fatigue, reduce enemy attacks etc. In our game, John was fond of the challenge that enabled him to disengage from combat and therefore avoid an unpleasant dice loaded Anglo Dane battle board.
One strategy that I found helped to overcome this was to use a two unit punch. At the bridge, the Norse Gael hearthguard were left fatigued after their clash with the levy. With a fully loaded battle board, a unit of Anglo Dane huscarls charged in. I was expecting a challenge to be issued, but since I had another huscarl unit in reserve I was ready! However, the Norse Gaels decided to face the charge, so the Anglo Danes brought forth Lords of Battle. This is a devastating battle board ability that not only provides 3 additional attack/defence dice, but also adds two additional fatigue on top of the one generated by the melee. Long story short, no one was killed on either side so the huscarls disengaged. BUT, the Norse Gael hearthguard now had 4 fatigue and were exhausted. That's right folks, I didn't spend the fatigue the hearthguard had gained from their encounter with the levy. I now activated my warlord and with side by side charged the hearthguard with a fresh unit of huscarls. Since exhausted units cannot issue challenges, the Norse Gael couldn't avoid the melee. Although two huscarls fell, the Norse Gael hearthguard were cut down leaving the bridge clear.
The Anglo Dane warlord raced across the bridge with his two huscarl units. Of course a Dane Axe wielding unit of Norse Gael warriors were waiting for him on the opposite bank and put up a stout defence. All of the huscarls were killed, but the Anglo Dane warlord slew his enemies and was able to earn 3 victory points when he stepped off the bridge.
At the ford, the Norse Gael warlord had finally rested from his previous exhausted state and was also able to step off the ford earning 3 victory points. The remaining warriors earned another victory point and the hearthguard 4 more. After a bloody conflict, the Norse Gaels had deservedly won 8 points to 3.
Still, it was closer than I was expecting and I did at least manage to get my warlord across the river - alive! Many thanks to John for a very enjoyable game.