Monday, August 20, 2018

The Ride of the Men of Goddodin

Lord Gwendawg summons his forces to meet the Roman invader
Messengers riding on tired steeds brought word that men were marching on Gododdin. It strained belief, but the word was they were Romans -- returned to Britain to claim it as their own, again. Lord Gwendawg, Shield of Gododdin, scoffed at the idea of the past coming to life again. Surely, they were another Briton kingdom claiming the mantle of Roman rule -- or another trick by the Saxons to seize yet more land. So, the good Lord Gwendawg called out his hearthguard, who mounted their steeds and put on their mail, his warriors, who shouldered their shields and struck their javelins against their oaken faces to show they were ready to repel marauders yet again. Calling up bowmen of the local levy, Lord Gwendawg marched to meet these "Romans," and send them reeling from the lands of the British kingdom of Gododdin.
Some of my 28mm Dark Age troops from various manufacturers, assembled as a Welsh Saga army
We had been talking about doing Saga as a group for months, and a number of our regular gaming group had bought the rules and were painting armies. I owned quite a few individually-based, 28mm Dark Age figures already -- Vikings, Picts, Saxons, Irish, and my favorite, Britons. So, when I received the new Saga rules in the mail I decided I would play a Welsh army, which is what they categorize those Briton kingdoms that fought against the takeover of the Saxons and later Viking invasions. Strathcylde has always been one of my favorite kingdoms from Dark Age Britain, but the Saga army lists stipulate all figures are mounted for this army. I own only 12 mounted 28mm figures, so that wasn't happening! The Welsh list allows you to mount your Warlord, Hearthguard, and Warriors at your discretion, though, so I chose that army.
The invaders -- Steve's Late Romans with their shield decals from a surviving primary source from Roman times
The local Saga organizer and gamer extraordinaire, Andy, had set up a Sunday morning/afternoon Saga day at Game Table Adventures in Newark, OH. We ended up with only four players showing up, so I matched up against Steve P, and Andy and Jim squared off. Steve is a veteran Saga player, but I am a relative newbie. I'd played the old rules twice, and this would be my first time with the new rules and lists. Steve chose the Late Romans, so we were historically off by quite a few centuries. However, it was a friendly, learning game, so neither of us cared. We set up the Clash of Warlords scenario from the back of the new rulebook. Both of us placed a number of terrain pieces -- marshes, rocky areas, woods, and scrub brush -- till Steve decided that my Welsh army would be able to make better use of the terrain and ended the placement phase.
The invading Romans on the left, Lord Gwendawg of Gododdin's army on the right
He deployed half of his army first, then I deployed my whole army. He followed this up with deploying the remainder, and taking the first turn, albeit rolling only 3 Saga dice instead of his normal six (by the deployment rules). Both forces had to spread out -- we weren't allowed to deploy within a Medium move of a friendly unit. Steve spread from edge to edge, while I massed more in the center in depth. Steve's force contained:
Late Roman Army
  • 1 Foot Warlord
  • 1 Foot Hearthguard unit of 8 figures
  • 3 Foot Warrior units of 8 figures
  • 1 Levy unit of bow of 6 figures
  • 1 Levy unit of Ballista
Facing him, Lord Gwendawg of Gododdin had brought:

Welsh Army of Lord Gwendawg
  • 1 Mounted warlord
  • 1 Mounted Hearthguard unit of 8 figures
  • 2 Foot Warriors units of 12 figures
  • 1 Levy Bow unit of 12 figures
The Roman ballista at top center has devastated both my archers and the Warrior unit in the rocky area to their left
Steve cleverly placed his ballista in front of my Warrior unit that was out in the open. He used his Saga dice rolls to fire off a couple shots each on two turns. Lord Gwendawg's men had never encountered such fearsome weaponry as the Roman ballista. Steve's rolling was fantastic, and my saving was abysmal. Five warriors were killed on the first turn, and five archers on the second (after I forced marched them to the center to cover the heavier units. Of my 33 figures, pretty much 1/3 were dead in the first two turns from what was essentially half of a Levy unit!
The first target of our advance - a small, 6-figure unit of Roman Levy archers in the woods
The Warrior unit immediately took cover in rocky ground, while the archers used two moves to fan out across the center (where they took it on the chin!). The mounted hearthguard moved up behind the archers, while the Warrior unit which had begun in the scrub emerged and advanced quickly towards the woods where the Roman archers were hiding. When we got within Javelin range, we tossed out missiles, causing five hits on the archers. My friends all laugh at my die rolling ability. However, what they don't realize is that I am not simply a bad die roller, I am streaky. When Steve saved all five hits that the archers took, that was the nadir of the streak. It would go up from there.
Gododdin's heroes leave the scrub brush and advance towards the woods, supported by the warlord and his bodyguards
 One of the really cool things about the Welsh army is that it has all kinds of great abilities on its "battle board" -- which simulates command and control. We had two very dangerous reactions -- Our Land, which allows me to move or charge in response to any enemy movement, and Guerrilla, which allows my troops to make a missile attack on enemy moving unit which comes within a Medium move (charge range, essentially). This made Steve very cautious, and his Warrior units lurked on the periphery of the battlefield rather than press forward.
The heroes enter the woods, and fight off the attacks of hearthguards to the left and warriors to their right
And then, the heroes of Gododdin strode forth. My Warrior unit which had emerged from the scrub entered the Roman archer's woods. Steve moved up his foot hearthguard and then charged them. I used my "War Dance" ability, and his fatigue for a second move to make it harder to him my warriors. The streak reversed itself, and my Warriors slaughtered his men who dared enter the wood to attack us. Steve lost six of his eight figures, while I lost only one. Steve's warriors then charged from the other side against the same Warriors. Much slaughter was done, but the Romans were driven back. On my turn, I rested my heroic Warriors, then charged them into the archers, who they drove from the woods in panic. One unit had devastated three enemy units.
After the charge of the mounted hearthguard and the warriors in the woods -- only scattered enemy remain in the center
Now, it was time for the ride of the men of Gododdin. My mounted hearthguard thundered across the field and slew the remaining Roman hearthguard. Meanwhile, the archers had been firing at the ballista crewmen themselves, and had succeeded in disabling its ability to fire. It needed one more casualty to be destroyed, but never again would it wound Gododdin's sons. The Warriors in rocks emerged and threw javelins at the Roman Warriors who had edged forward to support the ballista.
The end game -- only two Warrior units on Steve's right would be left to contest the field after the riders of Gododdin would slay the enemy warlord, and Lord Gwendawg revenged himself upon the ballista by killing its remaining crew
Here was where Steve made a fatal mistake. His first move was to bring his far right flank Warrior unit closer to the action. I used Our Land again and responded with a charge of the mounted nobles of Gododdin -- against his Warlord! Although it ended up taking us two turns of combat to slay his leader, this was the loss the broke the heart of the enemy warband. With only two units producing Saga dice (his two right flank warrior units), Steve conceded.
Sound the trumpets in victory! The men of Gododdin, and Lord Gwendawg - shield of the kingdom - triumphed!!
My heroes of the game were obviously the foot warriors who strode into the woods and defeated three enemy forces. The mounted hearthguards also were crucial to my success, slaying the remainder of his hearthguards and his warlord. My lucky streak changed from dismal to inspiring just when I needed it! It was a fun game, and I look forward to getting in some more games of Saga soon.

1 comment:

  1. I think I was doomed after my hearthguard unit was mangled by your warriors. After that I had nothing to stand up against your hearthguard. They are a tough unit - mounted with javelins. A very fun game with a huge swing in momentum.