Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Another Batch of Moorish Archers

28mm Gripping Beast Moorish archers - not my finest work, in my opinion...
I think slowly, I am starting to rein in the out-of-control horses of schoolwork and the move to the new house. One of the things that has suffered as I try to get my life under control has been painting time. However, in the last week I have been able to snatch an hour here and there to duck down to my new painting and crafting cubby hole in the basement and get some work done. First, of course, was getting it all unpacked and set up. Next, was ordering a seven-level, acrylic nail polish holder to hold my paints on my desk. The last step was actually doing some painting!

The rest of the batch of eight which go a long way towards allowing me to field my Moorish army!
Here is the result of that painting time - my second batch of eight Moorish archers. Although this may seem an impressive output for a few hours, these figures were actually half painted when I moved from my old house to the new one (with Jenny). The tunics were already completed, so it was mainly equipment that I polished off. Either way, this was a crucial batch to get done towards actually being able to field my Moorish army in Saga. I needed 12 levy archers for the list I was planning on fielding, and this brings me up to 16 of the 24 figures that were in the army when I bought it at Advance the Colors in October of 2019.

A picture of my gaming cubby hole in my new house - note the acrylic nail polish rack for paints
 I'm not actually overly impressed with the work I did on these guys. Not sure why...Jenny says they look nice. Somehow, I don't think they are up to the standard of the previous batches of Moors. I'd like to blame on the figures being less inspiring (well, one of the poses). However, I think I am searching for a scapegoat. If I were brutally honest, I would say I simply didn't do as good of a job on them. Maybe I was out of practice? The patterns on the tunics are nowhere near as nicely done as the cavalrymen and spearmen in this army - in my opinion, at least! I'd be interested to hear from readers whether they think they look a bit off compared to the others in the army, or whether it is just me being too critical.

Jenny and my new house -- may look small, but lots of room once you're inside!
The good news, though, is I figured out a way to field my Moorish army this coming Sunday with the figures I have painted! Well, if I finish the warlord's stand, that is! I worked on it tonight and it is more than halfway there. There will be a mounted general, foot bodyguard, and a creature companion. No, not a dog. Muslim society looks askance at dogs as unclean, for the most part. So, I rooted through my figure bins and found a suitably exotic pet/mascot for my army. I'll not spoil the surprise -- that's for the next update! Hope you enjoy this short post. Look for another one soon when the warlord gets done (or after Sunday's Saga game day)...

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Viking Raid Battles Russian Winter & Bitter Resistance

Viking raiders arrive in the lands claimed by their cousins, the Pagan Rus
 It was a lighter turnout than normal at our monthly Saga Game Day at the Dragons Guildhall in Beavercreek, Ohio. An old friend, Joe, brought along his 11-year-old son Jacob and the two wanted to give Saga a try. I offered to play them in a teaching game, while the other four players, Adrian J, Jim B, Jenny T, and Aaron J gave the four-player Brothers in Arms scenario a try. Joe and Jacob chose to play my Viking army against the Pagan Rus warband I was fielding.

Joe and his son Jacob took command of my Viking army to learn how to play Saga
In essence, it was a rematch of my game two weeks ago against Lee at the Guardtower East. We were playing Clash of Warlords and I was first player. I rolled "Method B" so were deploying diagonally across the field. I stretched my four 9-man units of Levy javelinmen across the field with my warlord in reserve in the center. I kept my two hammers -- my 6-man hearthguard units -- to deploy last, after I saw what Joe and Jacob did. 

Units of levy javelinmen screen the advance of my hearthguard at right from bowfire
As expected, they occupied the woods on my right with their Levy bowmen. They placed the their Bondi warriors in the center and right, each backed up in reserve by a 6-man hearthguard unit, as well. I decided to force the issue on the right, and began moving three units, two levy and one hearthguard towards the woods. The rest of the army started redeploying towards the right to assist them with "Maneuver" movement. On the Viking turn, their archers let loose two volleys and devastated my lead screen of levy javelinmen.

The Pagan Rus hearthguard have charged in and chased off the Viking bowmen
Undeterred, I kept the remnants of that unit moving forward, spreading them out so that they covered the approach of my hearthguard following close behind. With two movements, they would be able to charge next turn. In the meantime, I unleashed "Howling Wind" upon the archers and hearthguard who were racing over to support them, putting a fatigue on each of them as the bitter Russian winter chilled the Vikings to the bone. My Warlord and his escort Hearthguard unit moved ever closer to support my attack on the right.

The levy archers entering the woods have hurled their javelins at the Viking Bondi in the center
Joe and Jacob began to advance in the center, while the hearthguard approaching my right stopped to clear the fatigue on them. This would prove to be a crucial part of the game. By playing Howling Wind numerous times on that unit thoughout the game, it was unable to actually enter battle at any point. Or at least, was put at a disadvantage with fatigue so that Joe and Jacob chose not to order them forward saddled with fatigue.

The Bondi drove off the levy, but that left them to be countercharged & slain by Rus hearthguard
On the next turn, I advanced my hearthguard and a second levy javelin unit. I unleashed and The Pack on him which caused a couple shooting kills. I followed that up with a charge by the same hearthguard unit. White Wolves is an excellent ability on the Pagan Rus battleboard which allows them to remove a fatigue in the Melee phase if you use a rare die. In addition, it does its usual lowering of the unit's armor by one, but receiving both attack and defense dice equal to their new armor class. So, hearthguard start at AC 5, but by reducing themselves to AC 4 they get +4 Attack AND +4 Defense dice. A great bargain! Although the hearthguard slaughtered many of the levy, they did not kill them all, as four were left to scurry from the woods.

The Rus hearthguard were in turn charged by Viking hearthguard, who they repulsed, each losing men
The second levy unit had actually tossed their javelins at the Viking Bondi in the center, slaying one. This enraged the Viking Warriors, who charged into the levy. I've found that my levy javelinmen actually make very good bait in the two games I've played so far. Yes, they slaughtered enough of my unit so that it no longer generated a Saga die. However, it left the unit overextended -- just as in the game last week against Lee. On my turn, I countercharged those levy with my fresh hearthguard unit accompanying my warlord. I played both White Wolves again and Khagan (which gives +5 attack or defense dice if using a rare -- +3 if not -- if the Warlord is within a Short distance). Nineteen attack dice later and the Bondi were slain to a man while my hearthguard were untouched.

The climax of the battle occurred when Rus hearthguard charged and drove off the Viking Warlord
The Vikings were not about to let that act go unavenged, and charged my hearthguard with their own 6-man hearthguard unit. Now, wargaming truism goes to never roll dice against kids or women. However, here Jacob's dice deserted him. Despite piling on Thor and Frigg, and my defending hearthguard closing ranks, we each did three casualties. The Vikings had to withdraw to lick their wounds. The Viking warlord had advanced to support their attack, so was somewhat exposed. On my turn, I brought over my full strength hearthguard unit which had chased off his archers and charged his Warlord. It took two moves, but we had White Wolves once again to remove our fatigue before he could use it in melee.

The battlefield after the Viking Warlord was driven off by Rus hearthguard, who lost three men
Jacob chose to not close ranks and the Viking commander roared his challenge, despite entering battle with two fatigue (from my constant Howling Winds). He did have three figures of his hearthguard unit within Short, so he could soak off some casualties. In the end, my combat rolls were good enough to do four unsaved hits on him. The three hearthguard duly stepped in front of my sword strokes and his warlord lived to withdraw, exhausted. That ended up being the climax of the battle. He tried to bring his full strength, 6-man hearthguard unit in to avenge my depleted hearthguard, but we were able to stop them with some of the Advanced Saga abilities which the Pagan Rus can unleash to harass their opponents. His other unit of Bondi were able to charge one of my half-strength hearthguard units, but they caused no kills and lost two of their own. 

It was a bloody battle, with many slain on either side
As turn 6 ended, we counted up points, and it was Joe and Jacob's losses in Warriors that were the difference in the game. That, and the two units they had that were completely destroyed to none for me. The Pagan Rus ended up repulsing the Viking raid 16-10. A key part of the battle is that I was able to use Howling Winds and various other harassing abilities to keep one of his 6-man hearthguard units completely out of the battle. Perhaps Joe and Jacob were a little tentative in not having him make a beeline for my troops, but it was their first game of Saga. It was a hard-fought, bloody battle -- as games of Saga Dark Ages combat should be! I thought they did very well in their first game and hope to see them again at future game days.

The Rus Warlord was victorious, helped by the Russian winter
The other game had to be called early because of time, but Adrian and his brother Aaron were able to defeat Jim B and Jenny T 23-19. Adrian was running Pagan Rus, while Aaron commanded a Norman warband. Jenny was changing things up and trying out the Anglo-Dane battle board, while Jim B ran Vikings. They said it was a fun game and that the four player mechanics worked well. However, it DOES take quite a bit longer as each player's command takes its turn sequentially. One warband must finish all its movement before its ally can begin.

A shot of the Brothers in Arms battle between Vikings & Anglo-Danes vs. Pagan Rus & Normans
It was a great time, and thanks to Jim and Adrian (and the Dragons Guildhall) for hosting!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fury of the Northmen at October Saga Game Day

Four of eight players brought Norse armies, including Jenny's Vikings pictured here
Vikings trampled the battlefields beneath fall foliage at our October Saga Game Day. Of the eight players present, four used Norse lists. We had three Viking players (Jenny T, Jim B, and Lee P), while I was trying out a brand-new list: Pagan Rus. Other armies included Tyler P's Irish, Adrian J's Saracens, Bob B's Last Romans, and Dave E's Romans. 

At left, Lee deployed his armored fist of hearthguard & warlord while Jim and Tyler (right) wage battle
I had decided to change things up originally because Anthony wanted to try out my Welsh, which I use many of the figures for Count Drogo's Carolingians. He ended up not being able to make it, but the more I thought about it the week before, the more I thought I should save playing Carolingians until I actually have my figures painted up! Scouring the Age of Vikings book, I knew I could field Pagan Rus using a combination of my Viking and Pict figures, as well as the handful of Irish and Peasants. My list would be an unbalanced one -- three points of Norse hearthguard (in two 6-man units) and three points of Slav Javelin-armed levy (in four 9-man units). Why so much javelin levy? Well, the combination of their missile power and "The Pack" Saga ability on the Rus board seemed interesting.

Jenny's shield maidens advance through the fall foliage to face Adrian's Saracens
Lee ended up borrowing my main Viking army, but I had enough Saxons and Viking hearthguard left over that I could field my army and his with my figures. He chose two 6-man hearthguard units as well, along with two 8-man warrior units, and one 12-man levy bow. The Viking battle board is a potent one, and I knew the "Odin" ability would give my planned shooting tactics fits. Luckily, the Rus board doesn't rely on chains of Saga abilities, so "Loki" shouldn't be a major worry like it usually is with my Picts/Scots, for example.

Lee's hearthguard and warlord advance through the woods to engage my right wing
Lee placed a marsh in the center of the battlefield, as well as a small woods on the left. I placed a large woods on the right and a smaller one on my left, as well. I had planned on advancing two levy units through the woods, but Lee got the jump on me and deployed an armored hammer of his two hearthguard and warlord to seize it first. For this being only Lee's second game of Saga, he made a number of very astute moves. This also included taking advantage of my split deployment with a quick attack on half of my army, as well as saving his hearthguards and warlord to deploy last after he had seen my full army's array.

"Here they come!" Lee's armored Viking hearthguard advance menacingly through the trees
For a change, I was "second player," and immediately began using Maneuver to move my stranded left flank back across to support my endangered right wing. Lee probably should have advanced a unit in the center more boldly to deny me these free moves (maneuver costs no Saga dice for activation, but cannot start or end within 12" of any enemy). However, his focus was on an aggressive advance through the woods with his armored fist. My right hang back, though, waiting for them to get closer. 

My left wing of two more levy and one hearthguard unit hurry to help the beleaguered right
Once the Vikings appeared on the edge of the woods, my warlord Grimmundir waved the levies and hearthguard in front of him forward. The first unit of levy closed to within 6" and hurled their javelins. No hits. The second unit advanced and did the same - no hits, as well. Plus, he used "Odin" on them to exhaust them. Finally, the hearthguard closed to within 6", and I used "The Pack" ability on my board. This gives two shooting attack dice per unit within a Medium of the designated enemy. Six dice, no hits. I had rolled a total of 16 dice and hadn't scratched his hearthguard! So much for the shooting ability of this army (though, it is true my dice were bad and he was in cover in the woods).

"Odin" does not like it when you shoot at Vikings! Result is one exhausted (and doomed) levy unit

 Predictably, his hearthguard charged on his turn. The first unit slammed into my exhausted levy unit. He also played "Heimdall" to give five more attack dice, which surprised me. He used my fatigue to lower my armor so all his hits were automatic. The levy died to a man, inflicting no casualties. His second hearthguard unit charged out of the woods and slammed into the fresh levy unit. One figure survived, though, retreating away. 

The expected response - hearthguard charge out of the woods and eliminate the Slavy levy

Two units were essentially gone and we'd caused one casualty to his hearthguard. Still, they were out of the woods now, and easier targets. I brought over one of my left flank levies who'd been hurrying to our rescue to shoot at the hearthguard. I followed that up with "The Pack" again. This time, we caused casualties. My own hearthguard on the right followed up with a charge that cut down the remaining Vikings. Skol! Finally, a victory!!

Revenge is sweet, as is our first major success as my hearthguard cut down the Vikings levy slayers!
 Lee was tempted to toss his warlord into the fray, but decided to use his command and control to get the rest of his army (which had been hanging back) up to support the attack. The other Viking hearthguard charged to eliminate the remaining levy, which though it put fatigue on my warlord and hearthguard, meant that he was leaving both my units unbloodied for my counterattack. By this time, my left wing hearthguard had arrived and interposed themselves between the Viking center and my right. 

The center is going in the Rus favor, too, as my hearthguard hurl back his warriors' attack
On my turn, I my right wing hearthguard hurled themselves upon their levy slaying kinsmen, and cut them down to a man, as well. I made sure for every battle Grimmundir was close by, so I could use the "Kagan" ability which gives a bonus 3-5 dice. The next phase of the battle was in the center. One of his warrior units double moved and slammed into my fresh hearthguard who awaited them. For the loss of one figure, we destroyed five of the enemy warriors and hurled them back.

Lee's surviving Vikings begin to withdraw, but not before my hearthguard will chase down the archers
At this point, Grimmundir knew he had control of the battle. I used "Frozen Wind" twice in the final two turns, putting a fatigue each on three of his surviving units. Meanwhile, we advanced steadily to pile up what casualties we could before the sixth and final turn. This ended up being a charge and follow up charge by the hearthguard to completely eliminate the levy bow. Lee was once again tempted to throw his warlord in, but decided that discretion was the better part of valor and fell back to preserve the rest of his troops. Grimmundir's Pagan Rus were victorious 22-14, but it had been a hard-fought battle that saw bodies piling up on both sides. We both agreed that it was a fun game. Lee is a fast learner and will be a deadly opponent in future Saga Game Days.

Jenny puzzles out a response to the speed and shooting of the Adrian's Saracens
Meanwhile, in the other first round games the Vikings were not having a good day of it. The first round results were:

  • Tyler P's Irish outscored Jim B's Vikings in "Claiming Territory," 18-14.
  • Adrian J's Saracens overwhelmed Jenny T's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, 18-8.
  • Bob B's Last Romans won the civil war against their Western Roman opponents in Clash of Warlords, 27-9.
  • Once again, the score in my game was my Pagan Rus defeating Lee's Vikings 22-14 in Clash of Warlords.

Tyler's Irish begin their successful "Claiming Territory" in their matchup with Jim's Vikings
There was only one second round game, though. A few people had to leave and Lee and I got a late start, cutting down on the number of potential players. The second game was a Viking civil war, with Jim B matching up in Clash of Warlords against Jenny's Vikings. Both players fielded lots of shield maiden figures. It was quite the shock for me to see Jim deploy two 8-man hearthguard units. He used those heavy hammers to good effect and out-bludgeoned Jenny in a slugfest, 20-15.

More Vikings become food for the ravens - in this case overwhelmed by Saracen cavalry
We likely would have had more players this time, but several people had last-minute things come up. We are looking foward to the Dayton Saga Game Day at the Dragon's Guildhall in two weeks. My guess is that I'll bring Grimmundir to that gathering of warlords, as well. I had fun playing the Pagan Rus. I don't think they are nearly as tough as the other armies I've played - Welsh first, then Picts (Scots), and Carolingians. However, it could be I just need to wrap my head around the battleboard abilities from the cold northern steppes!

Jim warlord scores a second-round victory - the only Viking success of the day (not counting the Rus!)
Close up of gorgeously painted 28mm figures, in this case Jenny's Vikings and Adrian's Saracens