Friday, 27 May 2016

Wooden Oaths

We played Saga last night, with a epic four-player scenario. I was pondering how to even begin writing this up, when Caesar posted his report to our club's Yahoo group, a report of such brilliance that I decided to steal it wholesale:

"We had four players, each fielding a six-point warband, beginning the scenario “Wooden Oaths” in two teams of two. The oaths were wooden because at the end of each turn players could choose which side they wanted to play on the following turn, without knowing what everyone else was going to bid. There was a running score kept of red team versus black team kills, which was the only known, apart from the troop dispositions on the field. A situation ripe for treachery and intrigue!

And so it was that Gary led his Normans, allied with John Purvis’ Vikings as the black team. Against them, Alan headed the Welsh, allied with my Anglo-Danish as the red team. Those alliances remained for the first two turns. The Welsh occupied a farmhouse in the centre with a unit of levy bowmen and repulsed a determined attack by Viking bondi who suffered heavily for their courage.

Meanwhile, on the distant flank the Norman bow released an effective barrage against Anglo-Danish ceorls, cutting down their ranks. The Anglo-Danish infantry commenced a slow advance and then the strike force of the Norman faction, the knights, swept in causing more carnage. The horses fatigued and in the open, were vulnerable to a counter attack by the Anglo-Danish, led in person by their warlord. And then, in true Hastings style, another unit of Norman knights charged down the Anglo-Danish warlord using the “crush” ability to double their hits. There just weren’t enough expendable Thegns to throw in the path of oncoming lances and the Anglo-Danish warlord went down.

On the third and fourth turn everyone bid for red team, which resulted in a truce for those turns (i.e. you skip them). Finally, at the end of turn four, in accordance with the scenario, we each bid for the alliance that we were to be stuck with until the end of the game on turn six. Alan and Gary both bid red and John and I bid black, resulting in balanced teams, but a switch of allegiances! This had the interesting effect of wedging the Normans between the hostile Vikings and Anglo-Danes, with the Welsh somewhat isolated in their ivory farmhouse.

The Vikings fell upon their former allies, and after the effort the Normans had expended in dealing with the Anglo-Danish, picking up plenty of fatigue thrown at them along the way, they could put up little resistance to Viking berserkers, bondi and a warlord sweeping away crossbowmen, knights, and finally the Norman warlord himself.

The running score was close for both teams. With the Welsh completely intact and the Vikings not overly chopped up, victory would go to either of these factions if they could push the body count their way. The Welsh skirted around the woods, catching Viking hirdmen with a scathing javelin attack and almost halving their numbers. The remaining Viking bondi in the open around the farmhouse were shot down or took refuge in the woods. However, the Norman dead continued to rise from the Viking onslaught and a final Anglo-Danish assault with double-handed axe armed huscarls on Norman mounted sergeants. Astonishingly after all the treachery and slaughter the team scores were equal towards the end of turn six. Then in the very final action of the night a couple of exhausted Norman crossbowmen collapsed (a sneaky Anglo-Danish ability).

Triumph was therefore narrowly seized by the Scandinavian alliance, first place claimed by John and his more intact Viking warband, who certainly deserved victory after marshalling a battle board and six-point warband so masterfully in his first game of SAGA. Alan’s efforts too were impressive, wielding the Welsh with cunning and lethal efficiency, taking no casualties but inflicting many. As for Gary, my deadliest opponent, showcasing the devastating potential of a Norman cavalry charge, made our end of the field a pitched battle to remember.

I think with two novice players, six point warbands all round, the crazy yet engrossing scenario special rules, and our first go at urban combat, the game went very smoothly. The only thing we forgot was to apply fatigue to friends near a broken unit but I don’t think that would have greatly changed the outcome. Thanks to all involved for our biggest and best SAGA battle yet.

What I can contribute are pictures.

This is the Welsh firebase in the ruined building - twelve levy archers (not all of the figures had to be deployed before you start counting).

The table. My Welsh were poised to occupy the woods at the bottom of the picture. Most of the action took place at the other end of the table where the Normans faced the Anglo-Danes.

The Welsh deployed.

To their right, the Anglo-Danes.

Opposite them the Vikings, in a dispersed formation.

Finally the mighty attacking force that is the Normans.

The Welsh archers taunted a group of Viking bondi into range, before cutting them down with well-aimed shots. When the bondi charged the Welsh used their superior numbers to drive them off. I've become quite a fan of the Welsh Saga board.

The main fight. The Normans and Vikings attacked the Anglo-Danes in the early part of the game, before the Vikings switched sides and fell of the flank of their Norman allies. The Welsh ended up allied with the Normans purely because they were still enjoying fighting the Vikings - my enemy's enemy and all that ...

Norman knights cut down the Anglo-Dane warlord and his retainers.

The Norman warlord did little to enhance his reputation, riding down a single, tired, enemy warrior.

With the scores very close the Welsh closed in on a group of Viking hearthguard, and cut them down with a hail of javelins. They needed sixes to hit, and scored five sixes off six dice.

More javelins thrown from the other side pushed the Welsh/Norman alliance into a slight lead.

Vikings in a very uncomfortable position.

The final acts. The Anglo-Danes charged some Norman horse, with the traded casualties evening the score.

But this group of Norma archers was tired, and a cunning play from the Anglo-Dane battle-board saw two of the collapse and die, giving the Anglo-Dane/Viking alliance the victory.

The Welsh-controlled part of the table. Most of it, in fact. The Welsh didn't lose a single figure during the game

Two turns out of six with no actions left me stuck out on a limb when it became obvious the main battle was taking place elsewhere, but I did my best with the position I had, and our side nearly pulled off a famous victory for Wales; a victory bought at the cost of worthless Norman lives.

I'll admit I'm not a great fan of Saga, but on a Thursday evening any game is better than no game, and any game with good company is always worth playing. This was a lot of fun, and a very interesting (if bizarre) idea for a scenario, with possible applications in other games.

Thanks to Gary, Caesar and John for a most entertaining evening.

1 comment:

  1. It's very hard to produce a good battle report without pictures and yours really help tell the story. Not a great fan of Saga?? Resistance is futile! We'll just have to wear you down with some more games. Wait till Gary starts wheeling out the crusading age factions. They add some lovely twists to the traditional battle boards. I'm hunting around for suitable figures myself.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...