Sunday, December 29, 2019

Dozen Games at Guardtower, Dozen Sagas to Tell

Jenny's Viking berserkers lead the charge against Lowell's Anglo-Saxon battleline
We continue to attract new players to our monthly Saga game days at the Guardtower East game store on the east side of Columbus. With a handful of players out sick with the crud that has been going around, we still managed to have 13 players fight out a dozen battles over the course of a Sunday morning and afternoon between Christmas and New Year's. Once again, I took Sigurd Skullsplitter's Anglo-Danish army of Jorvik.
Close up of the brave (& usually doomed, in the games I've played) berserkers taking on the entire Anglo-Saxon warband
My first game was one of the scenarios from Book of Battles called "Prized Possessions." I would be trying to escort three baggage wagons across the table from my base edge to that of my opponent -- Anthony, also playing Anglo-Danes. I had skimmed the scenario rules this morning to make sure I had the proper terrain, but should have read the victory conditions more closely. I knew that I would get the most victory points if the wagons exited the table on Anthony's board edge, and would lose the most if they were destroyed. However, I incorrectly recalled that if they were still alive at the end of the game I would receive victory points, but a smaller amount. Actually, I would be penalized in this case.
Sigurd Skullsplitter's attempt to punch through on the right, led by a large warrior unit and hearthguard in the woods
What's more, I should have pre-measured the distance from baseline to baseline (two of my wagons would march onto the board on my first turn). As it turns out, the wagons must move a full Medium move distance every turn to have a chance of exiting the table edge. If they're held up for even one turn (such as by the presence of enemy troops), the odds become longer at achieving your victory. I am beginning to become less enchanted with the scenarios from Book of Battles. I simply don't think they are balanced. On the table behind me, Mike S and Dave W were playing Pillage -- which I had played at the last meeting and found very unbalanced against the raider. Their game produced similar feelings - there seems no way for the attacker to win. I would be curious to see how others feel about the scenarios in the book. Honestly, I haven't been impressed, thinking perhaps they weren't adequately play tested?
Sigurd's warrior unit drives off Anthony's warrior unit to try to clear a path for the wagons
Anyway, Sigurd Skullsplitter's force was identical to previous games, with two large units of 12 warriors and two units of 6 hearthguard each. Although this gives me only five units when you include the Warlord himself, I like the survivability of larger units. Each of the three baggage wagons had Determination, so their movement would not be a drain on my Saga dice. I set up my army to punch through on my right, screening the wagons with one of my large warrior units, whose flank was guarded by a hearthguard unit advancing through a forest on my right. Not having played the scenario before (nor counted out the distances), I was WAY too methodical in my advance. I was more concerned with protecting the wagons than a pell-mell charge across the table.
The left half of my force followed along slowly -- our two centers essentially ended up just countering each other
One of the Anglo-Danes' main abilities on their battle board is to put fatigue on enemy units. Both Anthony and I did this regularly, which further slowed down our attempts to close with each other. A unit of Levy archers stood in the way of my advance, shooting at us as we closed. My warriors did drive off his smaller warrior unit which guarded their flank. Anthony countered with a charge by a unit of hearthguard, who shattered my large unit and drove it back into the wagons. I riposted with a charge by my own larger hearthguard unit, which sent his reeling back, down to one survivor. I set it up to use Sigurd himself to drive off the archers, but Anthony astutely launched a spoiling attack on my warlord with his warlord, pushing him back.
Mike S's Last Romans on left attempt to pillage an aggressively-defended Welsh village
Sigurd's attempt to take advantage of his fatigued warlord ended in disaster and the loss of my hearthguard unit. I brought Sigurd back up to try to force the issue, again, driving back his archers. It was simply too little, too late, though. There would be no way we could clear out his units guarding his table edge. Honors in kills were close, with Anthony having a slight edge. Victory points for the wagons took him over the top, though, and Anthony won, 11-3.
Jim's Byzantine army marshals its battle line in one of its two battles
My second game was against a new player, Adam. Steve P had sat him down to play his father, Christian, in the first game. Dad's Normans triumphed over Adam's Vikings, but both were spoiling for a second game. Adam and I set up a Clash of Warlords game, with several forests dominating the flanks and center of the board. I coached Adam on how he could rearrange his points and units, and he chose to combine his two hearthguard Viking units into one big, 8-man unit, leaving the rest at minimum sized units. He placed his double hearthguard unit and his Warlord on the extreme left of his line. I promptly marched my Warrior unit facing them towards the center, and the Hearthguard on that side into one of the woods to delay the clash with these two powerful units.
Close up of Jim's Byzantine infantry and their draco standard
In the meantime, I marched my other large warrior unit forward and hurled back one of his 8-man warrior units. My warrior's left was guarded by the advance of a hearthguard unit, which was hurrying to close the distance with a unit of levy archers shooting at us from a wooded hill. I felt bad for Adam when he brought up a fresh 8-man warrior unit, loaded up with abilities from his Viking board, and charged into my bigger unit. He sacrificed two figures with Valhalla and used another ability to roll 17 dice to my 10. Uh-oh, I thought. He's beating me at MY game. However, Adam's dice completely failed him. He caused only two casualties, while I savaged his unit. Bad luck for the new player!
Anthony's Anglo-Danes advance against Jim's Byzantines in a second round matchup
I followed up and destroyed the depleted unit on the next turn. His first Warrior unit charged in, again, driving my unit back, but whittling us both down to three figures. These two remnant units spent the rest of the game resting and eyeing each other warily. My hearthguard crashed into his levies, but Adam's luck returned, and he lost only two of them to one of my figures. I would spend the rest of the game charging into his levies with the hearthguard, eventually destroying them on the last turn of the game.
Stop me if you've heard this before: Jenny's berserkers lead the charge...this time against Jon's Irish
Meanwhile, the showdown on the center-right was looming. I slowed his advance enough with fatigue enough to be able to concentrate three units against his two -- one large warrior unit, a hearthguard unit, and Sigurd himself. What followed was a knock-down, drag-them-out slugfest. Both of our hearthguard units were slowly whittled down, as were my warriors. Although both warlords were brought to exhaustion, neither of us could strike the killing blow. There were tense moments for each of us, but all five units were still facing off against each other when the sixth turn ended.
The climax of game two - Sigurd Skullsplitter trades blows with the Viking warlord
It was VERY close on points. I ended up squeaking out a victory, 20-16. Adam played a great game, and showed he was picking up the tactics and use of the Viking battle board well. I was impressed. With a couple breaks, he could easily have won this game. His awful start on dice rolling handicapped him, but his luck returned at the end when I could have killed his warlord. Fun game!
Dave W borrowed my Welsh (being of Welsh ancestry) and went 2-0 for the day, defeating Steve's Romans
Only one of the 13 players had to leave after round one (Steve P had not played the first round, shepherding Christian and Adam through the rules). Here are the results of a great day of Saga gaming:

Round One
  • Anthony's Anglo-Danes defeated Mike D's Anglo-Danes in Prized Possessions, 11-3.
  • Jenny's Vikings tied Jon's Irish, 20-19 in Clash of Warlords. 
  • Dave W's Welsh defeated Mike S's Last Romans in Pillage, 19-7.
  • Lowell's Anglo-Saxons tied Daniel's Norse-Gaels in Desecration, 16-16.
  • Andy's Anglo-Saxons defeated Jim's Byzantines in Desecration (no score tabulated).
  • Christian's Normans defeated Adam's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, (no score tabulated).

Round Two
  • Mike D's Anglo-Danes defeated Adam's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, 20-16.
  • Jenny's Vikings defeated Lowell's Anglo-Saxons in Clash of Warlords, 29-20.
  • Christian's Normans defeated Mike S's Last Romans in Clash of Warlords, (no score tabulated).
  • Dave W's Welsh defeated Steve P's Romans in Clash of Warlords, (no score tabulated).
  • Jim's Byzantines defeated Anthony's Anglo-Danes in Clash of Warlords, (no score tabulated).
  • Andy's Anglo-Saxons defeated Daniel's Norse-Gaels in Clash of Warlords, 33-20.

For those counting, we had two players each using Anglo-Danes, Vikings, and Anglo-Saxons. We had all varieties of Rome, with one player each using Romans, Last Romans, and Byzantines. Representing the Celts, we had Welsh, Norse-Gaels, and Irish. And finally, one player used Normans. The bulk of the armies continue to come from the Age of Vikings book, with only the Byzantines being from the Crusades book. The Romans are from the Aetius & Arthur book, of course.

Another great day of Dark Ages wargaming -- worthy of the sagas! We look forward to welcoming back our friends who were under the weather, today, and growing even more!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sunday Evening board games with Zeke

We eventually ended up with 10 players for Sunday night board games
We had a pleasant surprise and our old friend Zeke was able to make it again for Sunday Night gaming. He had a board game, Wingspan, that he wanted to introduce to use. I brought along some extra games, knowing we'd likely have more than its five-player maximum. With eight of us in attendance, we split into two groups of four. Zeke, Keith, Joel, and Mike W played Wingspan, while I trotted out Pandemic for Allen, Brian, and Mike S.
Looking at the thinking going on, it is tempting to make a "bird brains" comment, as Zeke teaches the Sunday evening crew how to play Wingspan...
Everyone seemed to be having a good time learning Wingspan, so much so that Keith planned to pick up the game soon. I told Zeke that made him 2-for-2 on introducing new games on our Sunday nights, as the last time he brought Imperial, two of the players ended up going out and buying it!
In our Pandemic game, we b-a-r-e-l-y squeaked out a win. Mike S found the fourth cure and we did not have enough cards to complete his two-card draw. So, we won by one card! I think having the Dispatcher, Researcher, and Scientist is a great combination. The Dispatcher regularly moved the Researcher to the Scientist so that he could give him cards, enabling us to find the cures with four cards rather than five. My role was the Medic, so I could bounce around the board tamping down the worst disease outbreaks. It was a tense ending to the game, because we did not have enough cards to win the original way we planned it, so we had to come up with an alternate idea.
The other group ended up playing three different games - Pandemic, Splendor, and finally Tsuro
As the birders were still birding with Wingspan, we broke out Splendor - an awesome four-player game. I am used to playing it on my ipad, though I hadn't in quite some time. As such, played my worst game of it in awhile, ending up vying for last place with Allen. Mike S stomped us on points, though it really looked like Brian was going to win the game for most of the later part of it. I feel Splendor is a completely different game head-to-head, as live players are so much better at spotting what cards you're gathering chips for than the A.I. can be.
My diabolical plan in the second game of Tsuro works out as four of my opponents crowd together, facing elimination!
Since the Wingspan game wasn't quite finished, we broke out Mike W's copy of Tsuro -- my all-time favorite "Introductory" game. Jenny and Mike's wife Tammy had been going for a walk while we were gaming earlier, so joined us on two quick games of Tsuro. Jenny and I ended up tying the first game, and I won the second outright.

All in all, a fun Sunday evening of board games. It was good to connect with Zeke, again. I hope to see him again, soon!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Second Gladiator Playtest Proves Small Arena

A general melee breaks out in our "Heavies vs. Lights" gladiator game using my 28mm Crusader Miniatures figures
 I have 33 gladiators painted now, more than enough for my very large History classes that I plan to run it for the week before winter break. But what to use for arenas? I figured that I needed at least three (which would be 10 students per arena in my largest class), so I wanted to do something inexpensive -- a scratch-build, of course. I scoured Hobby Lobby for ideas, and found a circular wooden sign that was about 15.5" across. I bought it, marked its surface up with 1.25" hexes (my gladiator bases are 1" hexes), and we gathered for a playtest Sunday evening.
Donal the Gaul, right, a Provocator, mixes it up with a heavier Dimachaerus, Jugula the Numidian
We were seeing if a much smaller arena meant matches would go too quickly. We had six players and played two games using the small arena. All of us felt that it was a good length of game -- especially considering my classes are only an hour long. In the first game we had three teams of two each. Each team had a heavily armored gladiator paired with a lightly armored gladiator taking on the other teams.
3 heavier armored gladiators at top face off against 3 faster, lighter-armored ones at bottom in my small arena playtest
I played Massinissa, a heavily armored Provocator from Numidia. I was teamed up with Syphax, a Carthaginian Retiarius. I don't seem to have a lot of luck at this game, for some reason. In my first exposure to it at Advance the Colors 2019 when Randy Miller an a pickup game, my die rolls were abysmal and my opponents' were on fire. It was similar with Massinissa. Jenny's Laquearius, Gilgamesh, lassoed my Numidian and he was nearly helpless as the other two teams took turns hacking away at him. In the end, Bruce and Brian's team of Simba the Retiarius and Brennus the Gaul were declared the winners, as only one gladiator remained standing to fight them.

Syphax, left, and Simba, two Retiarii, square off while Brennus the Gaul trades blows with a Cruepllarius
In our second game, Keith suggested we do two teams -- one heavy vs. one light. I took Donal the Gaul, a Secutor who was a more truly a medium gladiator (Armor of 7 instead of the Retiarii armor of 9 -- higher numbers are worse in the rules). I figured my two allies, Brian's Simba the Retiarius and Keith's Mikipsa the Velite, needed someone who could trade blows with our heavier foes. It was an interesting matchup, with our lighter gladiators dashing in to strike a few blows, then withdrawing to force the slower, heavier gladiators to use up their action points closing with us.
Mikipsa the Velite, left, is the epitome of a light gladitaor, moving around the arena and tossing his 3 javelins
Jenny's gladiator, Lucius the Scissores, was heavily wounded in the leg early on and was only able to hop one hex per phase. Mikipsa ran around hurling javelins, while Brian and I tried to remain elusive. I had battle royale with Jugula the Dimachaerus. In one turn I scored about 7 blows against him, all turned away by his armor. Simba took advantage of his distraction and struck him from the side, though, and eventually, Bruce's gladiator went down. With one heavy out, another severely wounded, we called it a victory for the lights.

So far, three of my friends (Jenny, Keith, and Bruce) have volunteered to come in to the school that day and help me run the games. That will allow me to run four arenas, which will mean we will have 6-8 gladiators per arena, instead. That should make the game go faster, I think, and hopefully finish within an hour's period.

Keith and Jenny also had another suggestion for what to use for my circular walls of the arena -- quilting hoops. That means another trip to the craft store and hopefully I can find something even more suitable for an arena. Either way, with my gladiators all painted, it's time to begin working on arenas!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

"Those About to Die, Salute You!"

My Lead Painters League #11 photo of my first batch of 28mm Crusader Miniatures gladiators
Earlier this year, I made the decision that I wanted to bring a gladiator game to my 7th grade students when we study the Colosseum during our Ancient Rome unit. Since my classes are around 30 students each, that meant I'd need a lot more gladiators. So, I have been painting a lot more up, lately.
So, this round of the league needed a "large figure," so I went out and bought a 54mm gladiator to use in "Who's Got the Big Guy...?"
My first batch were from Crusader Miniatures 28mm line. I really like the look of these figs, and I painted 16 of them up awhile back as part of the last time I entered the Lead Painters league. Since it was part of the league, I took even more time on details - especially the shields, which are all hand painted and came out nicely, I thought. I had two more packs left -- pack ANG003 - Retiarii & Laqueaius and ANG009 - Sagittarius & Velites -- which would still leave me short of the minimum 30 I'd need. Luckily, my friend Keith had a number of unpainted 28mm gladiators, so I picked up 10 more off of him (which are on my painting table right at this moment).

One of my retiarius gladiators from Crusader Miniatures -- Hephaistos
I decided NOT to paint the archer (Sagittarius) because I didn't want to deal with bows, so had seven gladiators in that batch, which I finished just in time for last Sunday's playtest. It was quite the rush getting not only the figs done, but marking out a hex mat using a Litko template. I also wanted to make individualized character sheets for the gladiators with a picture of the miniature on it. I decided to go all out (of course!), and gave them names, as well.
Another lightly-armed gladiator -- Gilgamesh the Laquearius

Of course, after our playtest, I came up with a couple changes I needed to make on the character sheets, which meant going back and adjusting 23 sheets. However, I think I have them down well, now.
Tiberius the Velite was one of the gladiators I ran in our playtest, though he survived he did not do so well
I also am pretty happy with the Arena Games rules, which can be downloaded on Wargames Vault for only $10.  These are the same rules that my friend Randy has run successfully at area conventions for a couple years, now. I did modify them a bit to make them even more simple for my 12-13 year old students. I also wanted them to move fast since we'll have only a one hour class period to play the game.
Mikipsa the Velite was MUCH more successful, Brian causing a lot of damage with him
So, it's been a lot of gladiators on my painting table, of late. When I am finished, I'll have 33 to choose from. There is no "point system" in the Arena Games rules. I like the balance of how the more lightly armed gladiators tend to move fast and get more action points (APs) then the heavier armed ones. However, they take less damage, of course, so there is a balance. Is it 100% equal and fair? Of course, not. However, there is a fair amount of die rolling in this game, so it should even out.
I painted my gladiators in a variety of nationalities, from Africans to North African/Arab to European
I've included some pictures of my first batch of 16 gladiators from the Lead Painters league photos, as well as the more recent batch of seven. Once I finish my last 10, I hope some people can help me identify the manufacturer(s), because Keith had them glued onto bottle caps and primed already when I purchased them.
Donal the Gaul here looks like he was plucked straight from a line of Ancient Gauls (not gladiators) -- I like how his shield game out, though!
Perhaps we will do one more playtest because -- shocker, I know -- we made a couple key mistakes when playing the game the first time. If so, it'll be in the next couple weeks because I want to do this before winter break. So, to paraphrase from the movie Airplane: "Billy, do you like gladiator figures...?"

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Battered and bloody, Sigurd's Anglo-Danes survive

The hardest-fought and bloodiest battle Sigurd Skullsplitter's Anglo-Danes had faced was against Thomas' Crusaders
One of the things I am enjoying most about getting our Saga group together here is the interest we're getting from the next generation. My friend Mike's son Jason, along with his twin cousins Daniel and Thomas, have been enthusiastic about playing the game since we first coaxed them into trying it out. All three have bought figures and are painting armies (or getting them painted). My second matchup in our November Saga Day at the Guardtower East was against Thomas and his newly-painted Crusader army.
The deadliest of troops in Thomas' Crusader list, I felt, were its Fanatical pilgrims
Since this was a second game, we agreed to do Clash of the Warlords so we could get started right away. Our first round of games had taken close to two hours and learning a new scenario would take extra time, we felt. In the first round, Thomas had defeated his brother (who was running Romans) 6-5 in The Crossing scenario. Daniel was saying how tough Thomas' army was, and I had heard that the Crusader army -- especially one with fanatical pilgrims -- could be nasty, indeed. Never one to back down from a challenge, when some suggested me being the next one to take it on the chin from the buzzsaw of an army list, I agreed.
Thomas' mounted warriors prepare to charge my hearthguard as my whittled down units of warriors have fallen back from the crusader onslaught

I put more terrain on the table than Thomas did, expecting him to have crusader knights, who would struggle with that part of the board. However, there was an open middle, with a pond on one side and groves of palm trees on the other. I deployed with both of my large, 12-man warrior units guarding the center. The smaller, 6-man hearthguard units were deployed on my right. The left was safely blocked by the impassable pond. My warlord stayed near the joint between the warrior line and the hearthguard column. Sigurd would be the linchpin between the warriors in the center and the hearthguard racing through the palm grove on my right.
My hearthguard have stood like rocks, driving off both warrior knights and his double-size foot knights, while Sigurd stands ready to back them up
Although I'd read about the crusader list (and played it once), and even listened to a podcast which extolled its deadliness, I was NOT prepared for the avalanche about to descend upon me! The Crusader battleboard is viscious. It has a perfect balance of potent attack capabilities that boost their attacks, along with maneuver abilities which allow it to launch attack after attack, and even defensive abilities which ward off a major strike by the opponent. With my large units, I love to stack up the abilities on my battleboard to launch a major attack on my opponent which is capable of wiping out his unit.
Meanwhile, on Andy's gorgeous desert town board two pairs of opponents were fighting the Urban Uprising scenario
Thomas advanced quickly, and hurled both of his pilgrim units (one of which was fanatical) against my warriors. Thanks to his abilities, I could do little damage in return. Both of my warriors were recoiled. Meanwhile, my hearthguard units were hurrying through the palm grove to launch our counterattack. The lead unit was attacked at the same time by a unit of foot warriors, which we drove off. When it was my turn, I launched my own assaults. It was a dizzying affair of charge after charge. No fancy maneuvering - just load up on the battle board abilities and close to contact and unleash them upon your opponent.
Andy's Anglo-Saxons prepare to face Jason's Anglo-Danes in the narrow streets of the town
When it came to number of dice rolling, I thought I was setting up fairly favorable matchups. However, Thomas' die-rolling was phenomenal. Time and again, I would use the fatigue I had placed on his units with my abilities to raise my armor class to "6". He would still manage to get 50% hits (rolls of "6" on a six-sided die). I would also unleash upon him and do half a dozen or more hits, only to see him save three quarters of them. It was the first game where I honestly felt my army was going to get out pounded. It seemed there was no way I could stand up to his battering, especially while he was saving so well against my own lethal counter-attacks.
Vikings rampage through the dusty streets of the town, fighting both city guard and Anglo-Saxon foes alike
In the end, I figured out how to face the Crusaders. You must hit them hard when their battle board is empty of Saga dice. When they have nothing left to save themselves, throw everything you have at them. Also, I learned to avoid the fanatics. Do not charge them. Withdraw. Make them spend activations to close. In future games, I will close ranks against them (I didn't think of doing that). The main reason you don't necessarily want to kill their fanatics is because they get a Saga dice for each casualty, which they can immediately place and play. Another thing, on a technical side, is to keep track of which advanced abilities they have played to help make sure they don't accidentally use it on their turn, and then put dice on it again and use it again on YOUR turn. The rules state you can use advanced abilities only once per turn.
Thomas' first round opponent was his brother Daniel's Romans, who he triumphed over in a close-fought river crossing

When it came to the bitter end, both of my hearthguard units had been eliminated. Each warrior unit was whittled down to half of their figures or less. Only they and Sigurd stood to contest the field. But we had inflicted heavy casualties on them, as well. On the final turn, Thomas had his warlord charge mine, with each of his going into the clash with two fatigue. Neither used the opponent's fatigue to affect armor clas. We rolled our eight dice and counted them up. Each inflicted three hits. Thomas -- for once (I felt) -- muffed all three of his saves. His warlord was dead. I had to save two of my three to survive. I had been rolling terrible on saves all game. I tossed the dice after seeing his failure, and watch two saves come up. Sigurd had survived!
Another first round game was Dave's Romans against Mike's Vikings in Feasting & Pillaging, which Dave won
With few troops remaining, we called the game. It was the narrowest and bloodiest of victories for my troops from Jorvik. Bloody and battered, our survivors withdrew - full of respect for our Crusader foes...

In The Crossing, Thomas' knights prepare to cross the river to face his brother Daniel's Romans
As for the other games among our 12 players, I did not do as good of a job as last time in keeping track. Here are the results I am sure of:

1st Round
  • Urban Uprising: Jason M's Anglo-Danes and Andy S's Anglo-Saxons tied at 8-8 
  • Feasting & Pillaging: Dave E's Romans defeated Mike S's Vikings 20-8
  • The Crossing: Thomas M's Crusaders defeated Daniel's Romans 6-5
  • Pillage: Mike D's Anglo-Danes defeated Jenny T's Vikings, 15-4
  • Urban Uprising: (Score and player names not verified: Vikings vs. Anglo-Saxons

2nd Round
  • Clash of Warlords: Dave E's Romans defeated Jenny T's Vikings 20-16
  • Clash of Warlords: Mike D's Anglo-Danes defeated Thomas M's Crusaders (score not tabulated)
  • -- Not sure if there were other second-round apologies! Nor did I get the score in Steve P and Jeff F's Age of Magic game. I guess my second round game wore me out...!!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sigurd Skullsplitter drives off Viking raiders near Jorvik

Vikings get ready to attack two village buildings not far from York during our monthly Saga Game Day
We met for our November Saga Game Day at the Guardtower East in Columbus, this past Sunday. I took my Anglo-Dane army again -- the Viking Lord Sigurd Skullsplitter of Jorvik (York). We had 12 players again -- a good handful of those from Dayton, Springfield, and other area locations. We have made it a goal to start playing more of the scenarios from Book of Battles. We gamed Urban Uprising, Pillage, The Crossing, and Feasting & Pillaging, in addition to the standard Clash of Warlords. Steve and Jeff also played a game of Saga: Age of Magic.
After three turns, the Vikings at right are well into the village, while the Anglo-Danes at left are arriving
My first matchup was against Jenny's Vikings in the Pillage scenario. Her Vikings were raiding an Anglo-Danish village not far from York, and we would be hurrying to protect the hapless peasants from their deprivations. Her army marches on from one short side of the board, while mine has to roll dice using the Reinforcements rule to arrive. In the meantime, four units of four civilians huddle in fear inside the buildings.
Viking warriors charge into the village, looking forward to a day of slaughter and pillaging
One of the Anglo-Dane's biggest strengths is their ability to throw fatigue on the enemy. I started loading Jenny's units up with fatigue markers from the very first turn. Meanwhile, my troops started showing up on Turn 2, with my Warlord, one unit of 12 warriors and another of 6 hearthguard arriving from the opposite short edge and hurrying towards the village. I knew I'd be able to use my units with the free Maneuver rule, so kept my Saga dice from loading up my Battle Board and continue to beleaguer Jenny with more fatigue. The Vikings successfully stormed the first two buildings, slaughtering all peasants (or so they thought) easily.
The spitting-mad Crone surprises Vikings inside her home, killing three hearthguard before being taken out
The most humorous point of the battle (for me - not Jenny) came when she searched the houses for loot (which counts as victory points). In one building she did very well, discovering two treasures. For the other, though, she pulled "The Crone" marker. This infuriated Saxon matron attacks the unit with 3d6, scoring kills (no save) on sixes. Guess what Jenny rolled? Three sixes! What's more, it was three hearthguard that the Crone killed - almost an entire point of her six point army!
A unit of Anglo-Danish warriors catches an exhausted Viking warrior unit trying to break into a building
Two turns later, my last two units arrived (another 12-man warrior unit, and 6-man hearthguard). I was getting closer to intercepting the raiders, but couldn't prevent a unit of Viking warriors from attacking the center building, where four monks were praying for God's to rescue them. I decided not to use the fatigue I'd loaded the Vikings up with, and surprise of surprises, one monk survived, leaving an exhausted warrior unit outside - still trying to get in.  On the same turn, my hearthguard charged a unit of Viking warriors in another building, but was repulsed, suffering five of six casualties. Yikes!
The Vikings set fire to the two closest buildings while carrying two loot tokens
On the next turn, my warlord took matters into his own hands and routed the remaining Viking warriors from the building. Meanwhile, Jenny brought a fresher unit to take out the last monk. My warlord then charged that Viking unit, sending it fleeing from the structure. At the same time, my unit of warriors charged the exhausted Viking warrior unit that had failed against the monks, sending them reeling backwards with heavy casualties.
Anglo-Danish warriors prepare to receive the charge of a much smaller unit of Viking hearthguard
The Crone-ravaged Viking hearthguard bravely charged the much larger unit of warriors and died to a man. The handwriting was certainly on the wall, and we agreed to call the game. We said Jenny would get away with her two tokens of loot, as well as burning the two original buildings she took. It was a rout on points, though, as my "massacre points" more than quadrupled her victory points from the loot and burnings.

I will follow up this post with another detailing my much deadlier and close second game against Thomas's Crusaders. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

First flight with Star Eagles

A star fighter moves (being placed beyond the template) and measures range against the closer of two targets
I think my buddy Keith is Ganesha Games' best customer. I honestly don't know if there is a title that they have put out that he hasn't bought. So, it was no surprise that shortly after Star Eagles -- there is Star Fighter space combat game came out -- that Keith suggested he run it for us on a Sunday evening. Apparently, there were enough budding Luke Skywalkers among us and we agreed.
Although we don't look like the cast of a Star Wars movie, we were ready to become star fighter pilots
It was an interesting "wrapping our heads around the rules" time prior to the start of the first turn. We realized that we weren't really sure how to move the ships. In this case, our extensive experience with Ganesha Games products (makers of the Song of Blades and Heroes -- and incidentally, co-publisher of my own Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules) actually worked against us understanding the rules! A staple feature of this engine is different size of movement sticks (Large, Medium, Small). As it turns out, these sticks are only for the weapon ranges. There is a hexagonal template that is the movement template for all the star fighters.
You move by placing the template in front of your fighter, then moving the base to the opposite site (paying extra for tight turns)
Another interesting variant is that rolling for activations -- another staple mechanic of Ganesha -- has almost zero effect on the distance you move. It simply provides you with actions you can use to shoot, do evasive maneuvers, or take tighter turns. Otherwise, if you get no activations, you still move the designated number of movement templates for your ship class. You just don't get a chance to do anything other than move straight ahead or make a gentle turn.
Keith bought into a kickstarter and received all kinds of ships and flight stands, and even dice which didn't quite fit!
Once we figured that out, we were off and, flying! Keith started us off each with a fighter (smallest ship) and divided us into two teams of three. He warned us that ships were fragile and we discovered that quickly as the game lasted less than an hour. We decided to play another game with medium ships, and let Keith play for a seven-player, free-for-all. The medium ships were a little more survivable, but not much. Most of the time, one good hit blew up a ship.
A couple medium-sized ships from Keith's collection close to extreme close range
I really liked the way you roll to shoot another ship with your weapons. Essentially, you get a certain number of d6 depending on your weapons or defensive situation (evasive maneuvers, etc.). Your score that you need to hit is your pilot's quality. Keith had given us all Veterans, which meant we needed 3's or higher. A better shot (lining up on the tail of an enemy ship or closer range) gives you more dice. Once hits are scored, you need to roll armor saves -- if your ship has any. Some ships have the"Rugged Construction" trait. which gives them an additional 1/3 chance of saving vs. the hit.
In our first game, my blue fighter takes evasive maneuvers just in time as the fighter piloted by Mike S cruises in
We all saw possibilities with the rules. There are four sizes of ships (I believe), and four different qualities of pilots. There are a wealth of weapon types and special traits for weapons, so there is a lot of granularity going on with the rules. After the free-for-all ended with Brian blowing up the last two ships, we declared it would be worth playing again.