Monday, January 27, 2020

New Record Number of Players for Saga Game Day

My newest Saga army - Picts (Scots from Age of Vikings) marches cautiously towards Joe Merz's Anglo-Danes
We had 16 players show up for our monthly Saga Game Day at the Guardtower East, Sunday. As usual, this included new players who seemed excited about coming again for more fun next month. I took one of the players, veteran DBA Ancients gamer Bob Boggs, under my wing and coached him through most of his first game using Normans against Jason Stelzer's Vikings. Bob has played Ancients (and other) games in our area for years. He seemed to pick up the mechanics and tactics pretty quickly
Dave coaches his son Alex along in his first game against Adrian's Normans
Dave Eblin brought his son Alex along, and similarly helped coach him through his first game using Vikings against Adrian John's Normans. In another first, we had four players that wanted to play Sage: Age of Magic (game day organizers Andy Swingle and Steve Phallen, along with John Meier and Jeff Fletcher). The other dozen of us were playing Age of Crusader (three players) and Age of Vikings (the rest). For me, this was an exciting day. I would be running my Viking age Pictish army (using the Scots list) for the first time. I'd been working off and on over the past six months to finish off the figures I needed for the list. I cut Bob free in the last half hour or so of his game and sat down against Joe Merz, who had just won his first match.
My small unit of four Pictish, hearthguard cavalry
My Pictish list is a very warrior-heavy one, with four points worth (32 figures). I would organize them into one unit of 12 figures and two of 10. I also had one point of 12 Levy bowmen and a small, mounted hearthguard unit of Pictish cavalry. With my Warlord, who received his final Dullcoate spraying that morning, it made for my six points of Picts. My friend Jason Mirosavich plays Scots regularly, and I'd hit him up for ideas. His recommended list also relied mostly on warriors, but differed in some respects. The strength of the Scots battleboard appeared to me to be in its solid, defensive infantry. The strategy seems to be to wear the opponent down by closing ranks when charged, and using the battleboard to receive so many defensive dice that you take few casualties.
Joe orders his Anglo-Danes forward in his first game against Mike Stelzer's Last Romans
Joe and I set up Clash of the Warlords, and we deployed a few large forests on the flanks of the battlefield. Rolling up Version "B" meant we'd be fighting diagonally across the field, which threw a slight kink in a straight-up scrum. I deployed my largest warrior schiltron (the name the Scots gave to their long spear-armed infantry formations) in the center, along with one of the others on its left. The third schiltron deployed to advance through one of the woods, guarding the left. The right was guarded by the levy archers, while I kept both the Warlord, King Nechtan Mac Fergus of the Pictish subkingdom of Fortrieu and the Pictish cavalry in reserve.
Mike Stelzer's warrior bow take aim at an advancing unit of Anglo-Dane warriors
Joe's Anglo-Danes deployed in one long, thin battleline. On its left flank were an 8-man warrior unit, along with 12 levy slingers. Next to them, in the center, was his killer unit -- a double-size, 8-man unit of foot hearthguards with Danish axes. Guarding their right were two more 8-man warrior units. I have been playing the Anglo-Danes almost exclusively for the last 4-5 months, so I was well aware of how tough they could be. True to form, he threw Exhaustion at my units, scattering fatigue across my front line of units on two of the first three turns. We advanced cautiously towards each other until my largest warrior unit edged within two moves of his Danish axemen. The schiltron had just suffered an abnormally effective volley of slingers, causing four casualties. The initial die rolling made me a little apprehensive about the outcome. A normal roll would cause three hits on my unit, when adjusting for the heavy cover of the woods, I would save on against on rolls of 3-6. Joe did five hits and I saved only one of them. So, he was rolling way above average to start the game.
My warlord Nechtan, with his trusty deerhound, ponders how to respond to the surging Anglo-Danes
The hits kept on coming when his hearthguard charged my unit, which had been whittled down to eight figures by the slingers. I had stacked up my defensive abilities, closed ranks as I should have, and expected to weather his storm with my defensive capabilities of my battleboard. Even though I know a double-strength hearthguard unit is the toughest killing machine in the game, I was stunned to lose five more figures, inflicting only one. My biggest unit recoiled out of combat down to three casualties, too battered to generate any more Saga dice. On the same turn, Joe's eight-man warrior unit charged through the woods at my 10-man schiltron. Joe rolled significantly above average here, too, while I continued to roll below, and my larger unit was hurled back. This was not looking good. My archers were inflicting next to no casualties on his warriors, who advanced steadily towards them, seeking to savage another of my units.
According to Mike S, right, Joe's hot pink dice were...well, HOT against him in his game, too!
So, this was the vaunted defensive capability of the Scots Saga list? We were getting shredded! I had yet to roll a "Stag" (the rare Saga die, or 1 in 6) on any of my command rolls. In fact, through six turns I would roll the equivalent of one six on my command dice over the course of the entire game! It was at this point, when things looked the bleakest, that the wyrm began to turn. His Danish axemen had thrust forward, creating a dent in my battlelines. I decided to give the battleboard ability "Reach" a try. This allows all non-missile armed infantry to make a missile attack as if armed with javelins. I *think* this is supposed to simulate us edging forward, thrusting with our long spears, then withdrawing (though Saga is not the most historical of games, at times). So, I closed into Medium range with all available units and showered his axemen with missile attacks -- or poked them with our long, pointy sticks, if you prefer. Joe's dice began to falter. Our attacks whittled his hearthguard down to one figure remaining -- causing six casualties.
Jim Randall's Byzantines were the big winners of the day, going 2-0, triumphing in both of their battles
I followed this up with a charge by my small band of Pictish cavalry against the sole survivor. He was ridden down, which put a fatigue on two of his remaining warrior units.  I had also rolled my lone Stag die of the game, and used No Respite to restock my defensive abilities for his turn. Joe decided to press his advantage on my left, and his fatigued victorious warrior unit sprang from the woods and charged my warrior unit, which was down from 10 to 7 figures. I threw my battleboard at him, so to speak, even finally being able to spring Counter-Attack for the only time in the game. This destroyed his unit, and suddenly the tactical situation looked a lot different.
Packed house with 16 Saga players, including Jim R, left, against Jim B. Meanwhile, Bob Boggs picks up the game
On my turn, we used Reach again, and my cavalry followed up against his whittled down warrior unit in the center. King Nechtan and his companions charged into the woods and ran off his warrior unit, which had chased off my levy archers. At this point, I felt the Picts were obviously in control of the battlefield. On my final turn, I decided to edge backwards onto the center hill. I didn't want him getting a lucky shot with his slingers, who were having a bonanza day on their die rolling (on Joe's turn, they eliminated my remaining three Pictish cavalry!). Nothing more happened, and I was happy survive this first encounter, count up the points, and likely score a victory. The score was 22-17, and King Nechtan Mac Fergus did indeed emerge the winner from the bloody fray against his Anglo-Dane neighbors to the south.
Jenny's Vikings battled Thomas' Crusaders to a bloody draw in a first round game
I was happy that I was able to find a way to scrape together a counter-push and finesse my way to victory after the horrible way the battle began. On turn 3, I was thinking that perhaps I'd made a mistake in selecting Picts to play. They rely on good saving rolls (usually being able to adjust their number needed to 3-6 on 1d6). However, I have never been consistent on my saving rolls, so I was thinking along the lines of "Big mistake, Indy!" Still, I felt they looked really nice on the battlefield with all of their tartans, checks, and stripes. King Nechtan's men beat a very tough army in the Anglo-Danes, and a player who was hot with his dice rolling for most of the game. So, I will definitely count our maiden battle as a success!
Adrian's Normans ride towards Dave and Alex's Viking Warlord in the scenario 'Prized Possessions'
Elsewhere around the room, we had a few players leave after our first round of games. Though we had five games in round one, there were only three in round two. A good quarter or more of our players drove from the Dayton area, and two more from Springfield. So, we were all very pleased with the turnout. Bob said he'd definitely be back, though I did not get a chance to ask Dave what his son Alex thought of the game.

First time I had seen this army fielded -- Jim Beegan's Pagan Peoples (Baltic tribes) from Age of Crusades

Here were the stats for the day's games, according to what I was able to record:

Round 1
  • Jim Randall's Byzantine army edged out Jim Beegan's Pagan Peoples army 17-14, in Clash of Warlords.
  • Joe Merz's Anglo-Danes crushed Mike Stelzer's Last Romans, 21-12, (in honor of drummer Neal Peart), in Clash of Warlords.
  • Adrian John's Normans clinched a victory over Dave and Alex's Vikings, 14-12, in Claiming Territory from Book of Battles.
  • Thomas Moehn's Crusaders battled Jenny Torbett's Vikings to a 14-12 Draw in Clash of Warlords.
  • Bob Boggs' Normans also fought to a draw against Jason Stelzer's Vikings, 22-20.
Jeff Fletcher's Orcs advance towards their goody-two-shoes foes in the Age of Magic game
Round 2
  • Jim's Byzantines triumphed over Jason's Vikings, 27-20, in Clash of Warlords.
  • Mike Demana's Picts (Scots) slogged out a victory over Joe's Anglo-Danes, 22-17, in Clash of Warlords.
  • Jenny's Vikings hammered their way to another Draw against Bob's Normans, 20-19, in Clash of Warlords
Close up of Jim Randall's Byzantines, the day's big winners at a 2-0 record
Here were the records for the day's historical Saga games:
Jim Randall, Byzantines, 2-0
Adrian John, Normans, 1-0
Mike Demana, Picts (Scots), 1-0
Joe Merz, Anglo-Danes, 1-1
Jenny Torbett, Vikings, 0-0-2
Bob Boggs, Nornmans, 0-0-2
Thomas Moehn, Crusaders, 0-0-1
Jason Stelzer, Vikings, 0-1-1
Dave & Alex Eblin, Vikings, 0-1
Jim Beegan, Pagan Peoples, 0-1
Mike Stelzer, Last Romans, 0-1
In the Age of Magic game, Steve and John's Forces of Order, from left, battle Jeff and Andy's Forces of Chaos
The Age of Magic games were played on the same board, but as two separate one-on-one clashes. The "good guys," or forces of Order, won over those of Chaos. Steve's Dwarves and John's Human Great Kingdoms triumphed over Jeff's Orcs and Andy's Undead. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

First Playtest of Samurai Rules

Brother against brother in Japan! Allen-san and Joel-san prepare to engage in battle in our Samurai rules playtest
I had been urging Mike Stelzer to bring the Samurai miniature rules he's been working on to one of our Sunday evening gaming sessions. He's been revamping the rules to simplify them from his first iteration years ago. Once Mike explained everything to us, they definitely seemed fairly straight-forward. We learned the rules as he had as fill in our card for our force of ashigaru, samurai, and lord.
A peaceful village - but not for long! Six gamers are about to engage in some serious playtest mayhem in Japan
He and Keith had set up a peaceful village for the six of us players, and it was our job to wreck that peace -- and incidentally, chase off the enemy clan opposite us. My force was composed of five ashigaru (ordinary soldiers) with bows, two samurai with katanas, and a samurai lord in full armor with katana. In Mike's system, each class of troops (he uses the term "rank"), uses a certain size dice for activation. My ashigaru would roll a d6 to activate, samurai a d8, and the lord a d10. The number you score determines how many actions you receive for your activation, from one to four.
My enemy crests the hill in the distance -- Keith's clan! Hated rollers of average or above-average dice!!
Mike's intention is for those using larger dice to receive more actions, and for the most part, my opponent Keith adhered to his direction. On the other hand, I proved to him that -- no matter what size dice you get me to roll -- I can find the "1" on it! I thought I was being clever seeking out the high ground as a firing platform and shooting at Keith's yari (polearm) ashigaru and samurai as they closed with us. Keith took advantage of the +3 Mike gave to troops hiding behind a tree, and darted from tree to tree, affording us almost no chance at inflicting hits on them as they closed. Under this playtest version, missile troops need to triple the score of the target to cause any hits. Since even a roll of a "1" meant he scored a "4", it didn't matter what I rolled on my ashigaru's d6 attack. We were just hitting a lot of tree trunks! Mike agreed we probably needed to look at that chart for the next playtest.
On my left, my ally Joel-san moves up...destined to receive the same smack-down the my troops are about to receive!
Once Keith got close enough to charge into combat, he proved that his yari-armed ashigaru were pretty good at slicing and dicing my troops. He used the rules effectively, ganging up on lone targets and inflicting hits on them. I foolishly ran my lord up into combat against a lone ashigaru and promptly rolled a "1" to the ashigaru's "6". We misread the chart and said the result was my lord was knocked down, when it should have been a recoil. The way Mike had structured the combat results, the worst that can happen to the attacker (I believe) is to recoil out of combat. He agreed that the chart needed to be streamlined for the next game and the results more simplified.
My samurai lord in the bottom center proves his tactical ineptitude -- being engaged by four enemy!
Either way, my lord's face plant was symptomatic of the way my dice were going, this evening. One by one, Keith ganged up on and sliced and diced my clan to ribbons. When both of my samurai were down and one or two of the ashigaru, the lord (he had survived, amazingly!) decided we had diced with fate long enough and ordered a retreat. Keith was kind, and let us abscond from the field, with the loss of only one of his ashigaru.
Fratricide in action! Things are getting ugly as older brother Allen puts the hurt on younger Joel-san
In the middle of the table, brothers Allen and Joel had waged a bitter, gang-fight. As the elder, Allen got the better of my ally Joel, and his survivors were also soon retreating alongside me. On our left, Steve had decided to make things difficult for Bruce and defend the walls of his lord's home. This meant Bruce had to do end arounds and leap over the walls to engage him. Their battle was somewhat indecisive at that point when we decided that the good guys had had enough.
Alarmed at the way Joel and I are folding like a house of cards, Steve would soon retreat behind his walls
The rules were easy to learn, and played very quickly, which is what Mike was hoping for. We discussed tweaks to them for future games for awhile. Keith and I felt that a differential chart would be better than one that provided results when you scored 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x your opponent. With wounds being a cumulative -1 to your combat rolls, there is a distinct possibility of rolling negative numbers. I think you'd want to avoid arguments of how many times a roll of "2" beats a "-1" by, or results like that.
It's time to cross the bridge and draw the bamboo curtain on this sorry disaster...!
This is the first time we've played this iteration of the rules, though, so it provided a good playtest of the system. Mike is a bigger fan of samurai movies than I am, so I feel handicapped at making suggestions to give it more of a samurai "feel." The fact that my lord survived, despite his horrible luck (he rolled more "1's" than all other numbers combined, I think!), shows me it has a cinematic feel. The heroes don't necessarily die, but escape to fight another day. 

The fact that we all knew what to do and just asked Mike for rulings on minor matters showed that the system certainly flows well. I look forward to trying it out again.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Lord Gwendawg Rides West to Fend off Viking Incursion

Vikings at top face off against Lord Gwendawg's men of Gododdin (Welsh) at the Dragon Guildhall in Beavercreek
Adrian and Jim from Dayton were hosting a Saga game day at the Dragon Guildhall, and things worked out for Jenny and I to be able to drive over from Columbus and attend. Jenny wanted to play Vikings, so I picked out her army list from the Viking and Saxon figures I have available. I decided that I would pull out Lord Gwendawg, Guardian of Gododdin (Welsh Saga list), and let him and his oft-victorious warband ride again.
I decided to bring out Lord Gwendawg and my victorious Saga Welsh list since Jenny wanted to play Vikings
As it turned out, four of the six players wanted to do Saga: Age of Magic. So, that left Jenny and I as the only Age of Vikings armies. Our hosts apologized that we drove an hour and a half to play against each other, but I'd never been to the Dragon Guildhall, and was interested in checking it out. What's more, Jenny needed to exchange some Christmas presents with her brother in Dayton, so we visited him before the store opened. And we finished off the afternoon with a visit to her favorite pizzeria -- Cassano's, in Dayton.
The Welsh left, with the levy javelins advancing into the woods, while one of my large warrior units marches forward
Jenny and I set up the Clash of Warlords from the rulebook, and I threw out three medium to large woods. Jenny placed only a gentle hill, perhaps realizing that one of my Welsh battleboard abilities allowed my foot units to move through terrain at no penalty. So, terrain is good for me -- but not too much, as my strongest unit is a double-size (8 figure), mounted hearthguard unit. Rounding out my six points were two 12-man warrior units, a 12-man levy unit, and my mounted warlord. All figures were armed with javelins, which I've found to be very useful with the free shot when moving.
The standoff between the Welsh javelinmen and Viking archers was precisely that -- neither unit driving the other off
I deployed half my army first, intending my levy javelinmen to sweep around the woods on my left, but she blocked them with her own 12-man Viking bow levy unit in the woods. In the center, I placed both of my large warrior units, backed up by both my mounted troopers and my warlord. Jenny deployed her berserkers on her far left, with two additional small units of hearthguard on the center left. Her two 8-man warrior units guarded the center, with the warlord in reserve.
A mistaken charge by one of Jenny's warrior units left her right vulnerable to the Gododdin counterattack
I sent my javelin levy forward to exchange volleys with her archers, successfully soaking up her very nasty battleboard "Odin" ability. I brought my mounted hearthguard up to fill the hole created by the right hand warrior unit moving to a woods on the right to await the certain charge of the berserkers. As the berserkers ran foward, taking two moves to engage, I used my battleboard ability to get a shot in on them at the halfway point, killing only one of the four (disappointing die rolls). However, it was enough to lessen their impact. The berserkers died to a man -- as they seem to do in every game -- while my large warrior unit was whittled down from 12 figures to four (juuust enough to generate a Saga dice...whew!).
The 8-man, mounted hearthguard ride down the remaining Viking warrior unit in the center with a "Wild Charge"
In an equally aggressive spirit, she launched one of her warrior units forward to take on my 1/3 larger warrior units. With no dice left on her battleboard, it was a straight roll of 12 dice vs. 8, which she lost horribly. I lost only one, while she lost all but two. The same warrior unit immediately followed up and charged the survivors next turn, slaughtering them. This put a fatigue on another 8-man, Viking hearthguard unit. Lord Gwendawg waved forward his mounted riders to seize this opportunity. With the "Wild Charge" ability on my battleboard, we rolled 24 dice and wiped out the outnumbered Vikings.
After evading the Viking counterattack, the troopers returned to ride down a Viking hearthguard unit next
Jenny tried to counterattack with a fresh hearthguard unit, but my mounted troopers pulled back with "Evade." Why give them anything close to a fair fight, when I can go back in on my turn with overwhelming attack dice? Which is exactly what the mounted nobles of Gododdin did on the next turn -- after the Vikings had been softened up by javelins volleys from Lord Gwendawg and the depleted warrior unit on the right. Another Viking hearthguard unit was eliminated. Desperate to counterattack, the remaining unit of hearthguard ran foward to engage my larger warrior unit on my left. We once again threw volleys of javelins to soften up their charge in between their two moves.

Jenny cleverly used the "Loki" ability on her battleboard to limit my use of her unit's fatigue on her turns, as well as the advanced ability I'd saved up to defend against her counterattacks. However, even that couldn't save her last unit of hearthguard, who were swarmed under by overwhelming numbers of Welsh javelinmen. We called the game at that point, as only her levy archers and warlord remained. All Welsh units were still on the board, though a few were getting chewed up in the process of defeating the Vikings.
A picture of the Age of Magic game going on at the other table, where Adrian and Jim taught two new players
Adrian and Jim VERY generously gave both Jenny and I $25 gift cards to the Dragon Guildhall for driving over. Each of us picked out some treasures, and then celebrated our bounty with pizza at Cassano's. The guys say they want to have a regular monthly Saga game day there, so players of the game will have yet another venue and date to get in more games of Saga. A fun day, and successful day, as once again Lord Gwendawg and his doughty warriors protected their kingdom of Gododdin.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Last of the Pictish Warriors for Saga

28mm Pictish long spearmen muster in front of a monastery chapel, obeying the summons of their warlord
A gaming group in Chillicothe, Ohio, runs a "Pledge of the Brush" event on their Facebook group. Gamers are encouraged to make a vow to finish a particular project by a certain date, and then upload pictures. I decided to join in, making a pledge to finish my 28mm Dark Ages Pictish army for Saga by the end of January.
I mixed in three Foundry Ancient Germans to give the units some more variety of figures, like this guy in the center
First, this meant that I had to figure out the composition of my army. I am leaning towards 4 points of warriors, which means 32 figures. Counting up the long spearmen I had painted already, adding in my standard bearers,  horn blowers, and figures that could be unit leaders, meant I needed eight more to finish. That would be my first batch, and what I am posting pictures of with this blog entry. I also plan on having 2 points of Levy archers, which meant I needed to paint up six more archers. That would be the second batch. The final batch will be a Warlord stand, with a Warlord, standard bearer, and trusty dog. That would be the third and final batch.
Here are four of the cloaks -- each figure in the army has its individualized pattern on his cloak
Today is the 15th, so I have just over two weeks more to get the remaining two batches done. However, I would really like to have it done by our next Saga Gameday at the Guardtower East, which is Sunday, Jan. 26. That shortens my time to 11 days. I think it will be close!
The final two Pictish long spearmen (the guy on the right actually a German) -- glad to be done with these!
To add some variety into my warrior units, I tossed three Ancient Germans into this group of eight figures. The remaining five were two poses from the Picts that I have been painting for the last two batches -- the ones where I have to carve out the cast-on lead spear so I can give them wire long spears. There is a bit more repetition of poses in this group of 25 long spearmen, but I alternated different shield types to give them some difference. I even tried to angle the long spears differently, but there is only so much you can do. Finally, the tartans, checks, and stripes should make them LOOK like they have more variety than they truly do.
Judge for yourself -- are my tartans, stripes, and checks subpar and evidence my painting skills are in decline?
Speaking of tartans and such, I used three basic types of patterns. The simplest is alternating two colors of wide horizontal stripes. The next most difficult is the tartan pattern, which is simply a series of horizontal and vertical stripes creating a "window pane" effect. It uses only two colors, but gives the effect of a more complicated tartan pattern. The third style is a checkered cloak. This one probably takes the longest amount of time, and seems to be hit or miss with my declining painting skill. Take a look at the photos, above, and you can judge for yourself or not whether my skills are deteriorating or not.

Next up, six Dark Ages archers for the Picts!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Stone Age Safari

Keith watches and enjoys the players attempting to survive their Stone Age safari
We hadn't played one of Keith's Dino Hunts in a long time. So, last week, we decided to schedule one at Keith's house for this Sunday. Keith suggested that instead of Victorian era hunters going back in time on a safari, that we do a Stone Age hunting scenario with all of us playing small bands of anything from Neanderthals to Stone Age human hunters like my Adena group. Keith set his usual magnificent board up, chocked full with carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores.
Our tribe gets its first kill -- a Macrauchenia brought down by our two bowmen
The game drew out some of our formerly regular Sunday night games that we hadn't seen in awhile. Both Tom and Steve V showed up, and we ended up with seven bands of hunters on the table while Keith was GM. Each primitive band started on the edge of the table with the mission of bringing back some meat for the table. We were armed with anything from clubs to thrusting spears, javelins, atl atls, and even bows. Both Steve and Allen to my left were very primitive, with Steve's apparently the most primitive with no missile weapons, and Allen only slightly more evolved. My group was one of the more advanced, and our four included two armed with bows and the others clubs.
Steve's neanderthals spot some game in the distance and run howling towards it
We knew predators lurked throughout the brush and swamp, with many hanging out near the swampy river in the center of the table. We veered away from the swamp, and moved to cut off some Macrauchenia -- large tapir-like animals grazing towards the center of the table. Our movement spooked them, but we were able to race forward and our two archers shot and killed one as it crossed between clearings in the woods. We moved up and cautiously began to butcher the kill, which was too large for us to carry away.
Our brave hunters take down a bull of some sort dangerously close to the central swamp
Unfortunately, we had been watched by a huge bear, which decided to dispute our tribe's kill. Rather than tangle with such a fearsome beast, we took what we'd butchered so far and abandoned the kill to the bear. Moving through the woods towards a small herd of cattle-like creatures close to the river. Our archers once again brought down one, and we encircled the kill and began to butcher it. Before long, another predator was drawn to our kill -- this time a leopard. Even though we could probably have defeated it if it chose to attack, we had 50 pounds of meat for each to carry, so we backed off and abandoned the carcass to the big cat.
Allen's "Ginger" neanderthals were very aggressive, engaging in melee with wolves, bears, and giant vultures
Elsewhere on the board, others were faring similarly. Tom and Allen each lost a man to a counter-attacking animal. Tom ran afoul of three terror birds, and eventually managed to kill all three, but at the cost of one of his hunter's lives. Allen lost one of his neanderthals to a swat of a short-nosed bear, who had disputed their kill of a wild horse. Perhaps unwisely, Allen's band of doughty prehumans fought back against the bear. Drawn by the sound of conflict, Steve's neanderthals joined in the encircling the bear. One well-placed spear thrust by one of Steve's neandertals brought down the largest carnivore in North America.
We shook our head ruefully when Allen's tribe disputed a kill with a short-faced bear
Across the table, Mike S was becoming the first "colonel" and slaughtered a flock of aggressive, man-sized chickens. Brian was wrestling with gators in the swamp, and actually coming out on top. Joel, on the other hand, was ambushed by a giant warthog, who his group managed to dispatch. All bands of hunters retreated from the field once we had our maximum amount of meat we could carry.
Allen's foray with the bear began when they speared one of these wild horses, and refused to be chased from their kill
We agreed afterward that this version didn't seem as "dangerous" as the dinosaurs -- what with T-Rexes and velociraptors on the tabletop. Keith was using a modified version of Saurian Safari rules, and said he planned on tweaking them to ante up the level of danger for the players.  It was good to game with Tom and Steve, again, though. We all enjoyed the various puns and ridiculing the situation each other got themselves into.
A Deinotherium (I believe) grazes peacefully by the river -- safe with this size from any crocodiles
A ground level view over the should of my archers, who's deadly accuracy brought home meat for our tribe

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Adding to my Pictish Warband for Saga...and some carts!

Two of my Pictish long spearmen (I believe from Foundry)...the guy on the far left is my favorite
One of my long-term plans for Saga Dark Ages miniatures is to field a Pictish warband. I've always been interested in the Picts ever since reading about Robert E. Howard's fantasy depiction of them in his Conan the barbarian stories. Learning about the historical kingdom is even more interesting, though. They ruled what is now Scotland for many centuries before merging with the Scots-Irish, who'd immigrated from Ireland. Many of what we think of as "Scottish" names are Pictish, such as McNaughton (after the Pictish name Nechtan) and McBride (Brude, or some form of it, was also a Pictish one).
Judge for yourself my job on the Pictish checkered, tartan, or stripe cloaks
Back in my 15mm DBA Ancients days, I fielded a Pictish army, too. In fact, I still own them, and don't ever expect to get rid of them. WAY too many checkered and tartan cloaks, and tattoes (i.e., Picts, or "painted people"). I also remember vowing NEVER to do that army, again. So, here I am, creating them once more, but in 28mm! It is also interesting comparing my painting skill back then to what it is now. I honestly think I had a steadier hand and a better eye for fine detail then. I know and use more techniques now, such as washes and dry brushing, that I didn't use back then. But it could simply be the difference between a young man and a 56-year-old one!
I decided not to replace the horn blowers spear, while all the others have been cut out and replaced with wire spears
Anyway, the Saga list I will be using for the Picts is actually the "Scottish" one. Their actual Pictish list in Aetius & Arthur is meant for the early Picts that fought the Romans - not the ones who fought the Vikings, Saxons, etc. The early armies of Scotland actually had more in common, fighting style, I feel, with the Picts than with the Scots-Irish armies of Dal Riata. They used closely huddled masses of infantry armed with long spears, so I have been painting more and more infantry armed with long spears.
My newest-painted 28mm Essex, 2-horse wagon
In fact, I have been modifying the figures -- cutting out the cast-on lead spears with an X-acto knife and then replacing them with copper spears from North Star Miniatures. This has been a lot of work, but I am almost done. I have one final batch of long spear armed Picts on my painting table now, ready to be primed. These pictures are of a batch of six I just finished. I kept the lead spear for the guy blowing the horn, as I rationalized he might be towards the back and perhaps wield a smaller spear.
A close up of the loads I created for each of my three wagons, which can be popped in and out easily
One thing I also finished recently was an 28mm Essex 2-horse wagon. I've had it in my unpainted drawer for years, having finished off the two others I bought at the same time. A Saga scenario from Book of Battles called for three baggage elements (Prized Possessions), so I decided to see if I could get it painted up in time. When I first painted the other two wagons/carts, I left them empty, rationalizing that would give me good flexibility using them for various scenarios and periods. This has been true, as I even put French & Indian War women and children in them for a scenario where the menfolk are trying to escort their families to the local blockhouse. Well, I decided that while painting this last wagon I would make some bundles of goods that I could place in the wagon (or leave out), as the scenario dictated.
The load I created for the Essex two-wheeled cart I painted up years ago
I used some of the resin or plaster-cast scenery that I've obtained from various sources, epoxying the pieces down onto pieces of bass wood that were trimmed to fit exactly into each cart or wagon. Besides the treasure chests or sacks of food, I added a few beads from the local craft store that look like amphorae. I like how these pieces turned out, and think they add a lot to the look of the wagons.
Besides sacks of food and a treasure chest, I also included beads that looked like amphorae
The wagon itself was not too difficult to assemble and paint. I scratched my head a bit over how the pieces all went together, and still have one long pole I ended up not using because I could figure it out. Once it was all epoxied together, I spray-painted the bottom of it with Krylon acrylic black. I went over it with a 50/50 mixture of black acrylic paint and water, to make sure all the cracks and crevices were covered. Then, I did dark brown wet brush followed by a medium brown dry brush after the first coat had dried.

For the sides and top of the wagon, I used brush on black paint as a primer, then repeated the next two layers. I topped it off with a Khaki dry brush for highlights to bring out the wood grain. I know that an older wagon would end up being more gray than brown. I just like more how my version of wood looks than real life...ha, ha!

This burst in painting progress has been aided by my two Winter week break from school. Sadly, it is drawing to a close. I expect I can get started on the last of the Pictish long spearmen before class begins, again, though. Stay tuned to see!