It's time to get the freshly painted Norse Gaels on the gaming table. John F's SAGA day will be held in Canterbury next week and includes three scenarios - two of which neither Kyle or I have played before. The three scenarios are:
Champions of God (kill as many of the enemy as possible to gain slaughtering victory points)
Battle Twilight (hold ground in table quarters until nightfall)
Sacred Ground (capture and hold three pieces of terrain)
We played the last scenario at the previous Canterbury event earlier this year. The two new scenarios are from Crescent and the Cross. So I thought we had better give them a try!
My Anglo Danes would be facing Kyle's Norse Gael. This is no simple kill the warlord. To win, the Anglo Danes need to kill as many of the Gaelic ghouls as possible. Each hearthguard, warrior and levy is worth a certain number of slaughtering victory points. Cheaper units being worth the least.
Since I could already hear the cry of 'Challenge!' from across the moors, I decided that it would be useful to position myself behind as much uneven ground as possible and selected three terrain pieces (marsh, woods and a building). Kyle wanted to get stuck in as quickly as possible so opted for just a single piece of terrain. His rocky ground was placed at the side of the table out of harm's way. The scene is set, now onto deployment.
Since I placed most terrain, my warlord was first to enter the battlefield. The Norse Gael warlord then surveyed the scene from his craggy outcrop. Units from each warband entered the fray. First one unit from the Anglo Danes, then one from the Norse Gaels. Missile armed troops positioned themselves first. If either warband had deployed cavalry these would have arrived next, with regular infantry the last to arrive.
The Anglo Danes positioned themselves between a marsh and an old fenced hovel. The warlord stood next to his Religious Advisor, carefully listening to her wise words and thinking about all of the extra SAGA dice she would allow him to roll! Next to him were his trusty Dane axe armed hearthguard. Although only a small unit of four, these professionals are lethal in combat. Another larger unit of hearthguards stood in reserve with a warrior unit forming a solid block between.
The sling armed levy waited in the marsh ready to drop as many approaching Norse Gaels as possible.
In our game, the house was surrounded by wicker fencing I painted a little while ago. This was just for show though and didn't represent a further obstacle. This scenario is played on a 4 by 3 playing area, so large rock formations were used to mark the edge of the long section.
Here's my opponant, Mighty Kyle with his Norse Gaels. The warlord positioned himself at the rear protected by four trusty hearthguards. The rest of the warband consisted of warriors most of whom were armed with Dane axes. A 12 man unit stood to the front, javelins at the ready. Behind these were a further 20 Dane axe armed warriors split into three units.
One 10 man unit was accompanied by Ox (who in this game decided to try the role of a Warrior Priest). It has to be said, all those axes do look sharp...
The two warlords rolled to determine who would go first. The heathen gods spoke and the Norse Gaels won the initiative!
Luckily for the Anglo Danes, defenders are still permitted to roll three SAGA dice...
Two helmets and a horse; three dice to strike fear into any opponant. We all know where these are going!
The Norse Gael surged forwards. They saw the danger in the marsh and sent javelins in answer. Luckily only a single Anglo Dane levy fell.
The Warrior Priest was activated. The thought of this burly brute leading a charge with 10 Dane axe wielding psychopaths, made the Anglo Danes quake in fear. A spot of Intimidation was enough to put a stop to that though and the Anglo Danes breathed a sigh of relief!
The Norse Gaels had used up their SAGA dice, but were now dangerously close. Time to start flinging some stones.
Thanks to their Religious Advisor, the Anglo Danes could roll seven SAGA dice. Since two were already committed to Trapped, just five were rolled. Trapped is a nasty ability that helps pile fatigue on three separate enemy units and was now used on the Norse Gael warriors. The Religious Advisor then took a fatigue permitting the roll of two more SAGA dice. Dice were loaded up onto the levy for three shots with a couple of dice held in reserve for a defensive Hard as Iron and the remainder placed on the combat pool.
After a frantic whirl of slings, five Norse Gael warriors had fallen. It would have been more, but after the second activation the levy became fatigued and this could then be used to reduce the effectiveness of their third shot.
Oh dear, it's turn 2 and the Norse Gael are mad! Another levy falls to a javelin and the already dirty water in the marsh starts to turn red.
Blows are exchanged and the levy flee the marsh leaving the Norse Gael warriors in a commanding position.
Time for a counter attack.
The Anglo Dane warriors charge towards the marsh.
The Norse Gaels are taken by surprise and offer no challenges. After a bloody encounter, the Anglo Danes smell victory and only a single enemy warrior is left alive. Exhausted, he stumbles back towards his own line.
From the Anglo Dane shieldwall, things are starting to look promising. But why is Mighty Kyle smiling? What have I missed?!
Although the javelin menace has been neutralised by warriors, this break in the shieldwall means that an eight man unit of hearthguards has been left exposed. Can I hear the sound of running feet...?
Five Norse Gael warriors come hurtling towards the hearthguard. From afar, I can hear the cry of 'CHALLENGE!!'.
One of the Anglo Danes steps forward, his armour glistening in the bright afternoon sun (a bit too bright it turns out and we had to put curtains up in the conservatory. Anyway I digress). Cackling like only an eleven year old child who thinks he had just gotten one over on his dad can cackle, Mighty Kyle pushes forward some scraggy unkemp warrior. Shouldn't be a problem though. To meet the challenge, the Anglo Danes roll two dice (as befitting their hearthguard status). The Norse Gael rolls a single die. The highest score wins. Two against one, this should be easy. The Anglo Danes roll a 2 and a 4. The Norse Gaels roll a 5. No! My hearthguard champion falls. Still it could have been worse... The cackles get louder... Mighty Kyle can barely contain himself... 'Who's next?' he shouts with what can only be described as an unhealthy glee.
'Pardon?' I respond.
'We go again!' Kyle says in only a slightly more restrained manner.
'Pardon?' Again says I.
'Read the Battleboard' comes the response. Giggles have now returned I should add.
'Do you want to remove another three hearthguard? Or shall we resolve the challenge again?'
Three hearthguard! He's already killed one. Surely with the dice stacked against him he won't win again! Oops, another slaughtering victory point goes to the other side of the table. Or again! One of my rolls is a six. Ha! Mighty Kyle's grins have vanished.
'Beat that sucker,' yes I know he's only eleven. I know he's my son. But this is SAGA!
He rolls a six. A draw? 'How brave are you, dad!'. Shouldn't that be a question? It appears not. How Brave Are You is a Norse Gael battleboard ability that is played during the Orders phase and adds 1 to the score during challenges. Yes, it can increase the score beyond 6 and yes, it means I just lost again!
This is starting to get serious. I'm three hearthguard down. If I refuse the challenge I immediately lose three more, leaving me with just two. Out of an eight strong unit! We roll again and thank The Lord I get another six. This time the Norse Gaels fail to match my score and I win the challenge.
Challenges are resolved in Step 0 of the melee. The standard melee sequence now resumes. Four Norse Gael warriors against my remaining five hearthguard. Other battleboard melee related abilities can now be used and the Anglo Danes have something up their mail clad sleeves. Bringing forth Lords of Battle, the hearthguard are triumphant. All of the Norse Gael warriors are killed, but not before another two hearthguard are cut down.
My main fighting unit has just been cut to ribbons. Points wise, it's about neck and neck though so the game is still wide open.
Another unit of Norse Gaels charges the Anglo Dane warriors. Dane axes are frightening when used on lightly armed units.
Casualties are taken by both sides and the Anglo Danes are pushed back. But the Norse Gaels have been left exhausted. Hmm I have an ability for that!
The Anglo Danes play Exhaustion and immediately eliminate two warriors. The levy regroup and pelt the survivor.
He doesn't really stand a chance.
Kyle now starts chuckling again - oh dear - and takes quite a bit of time looking at his Battleboard and measuring distances to my hearthguard. A convoluted charge route is planned. VS away from the building... S away from the levy... Enough movement to account for fatigue slowing movement...
Suddenly the Norse Gael Warrior Priest is off! Unfortunately Mighty Kyle failed to take into account one vital thing...
Just as the Warrior Priest is about to run past the building, Mighty Kyle looks up and spies my Battleboard.
The Warrior Priest's charge is thwarted. Rather than leave himself sat in the open, he changes direction and runs around the house - out of range of my levy.
The levy seem to have caused an irrational fear in the Norse Gaels and Mighty Kyle decides to take decisive, if rather rash, action.
Stood on his craggy outcrop the Norse Gael warlord has decided he's had enough of the stone hurling peasants. Taking his crags with him (!) he surges forward to deal with the situation himself.
Wouldn't it be funny if the Norse Gael warlord was killed by a bunch of unarmoured levy?
Apparently quite funny for the Anglo Danes, but not so much for Mighty Kyle... The warlord fell and a single levy was left to tell the tale - several times before the game ended I can assure you!
Despite losing his warlord, Mighty Kyle was still very much in the game. The Anglo Danes needed another couple of slaughtering points for a clear victory, so it was time to send in the heavy boys.
It is turn six and the Anglo Danes haven't lost a single unit so are still rolling seven SAGA dice. The Battleboard is loaded and the Dane axe armed hearthguard dash forward. If they can eliminate the remaining Norse Gael warriors whilst sustaining few casualties themselves, the game will be won. A tall order? Not with Lords of Battle!
A challenge is issued. If the Norse Gaels win, my hearthguard will be forced to disengage. Unfortunately for Mighty Kyle his luck deserts him. The Norse Gael champion falls and Dane axe meets Dane axe. Since the Norse Gael warriors only have an armour of four, their use of Dane axes combined with my use of their fatigue brings this down to two. The Anglo Dane's axes add one to the result of attack rolls - effectively meaning automatic hits. Unfortunately the Norse Gaels use the fatigue on the hearthguard, meaning that rolls of one would still miss. Lords of Battle gives three extra attacks, whilst another attack is added to the hearthguard's standard eight through use of the Attack Pool. Twelve attack dice are rolled. Twelve attacks strike home. No saves are made and the warriors all fall dead!
Alas, as they stumble the warriors summon the strength to hit back - killing all of the attacking hearthguard...
A straight swap of four slaughtering victory points of warriors for four points of hearthguard. I haven't lost anything by this last gasp action, but do I have enought points for a win?
The battlefield is now rather bare. Facing the surviving Norse Gael Warrior Priest and four hearthguard are the Anglo Dane warlord, Religious Advisor, three warriors, three hearthguard and the lone hero levy. Looking at the figures remaining it appears that the Danes may have snatched a minor victory.
We count up the casualties. It's 16 points for the Norse Gaels and 19 points for the Anglo Danes! The Danes just scrape a win.
Great game, but I'll go to bed and have nightmares about a small voice whispering 'Who's next?'