Monday, November 30, 2020

Check out my Podcast - Saga Ohio!

My Saga Ohio podcast is now live with its first episode!
After many pleasurable hours of listening to the Northern Tempest Saga Podcast while I paint, I decided to take the plunge and create my own Saga podcast. To me, it's the perfect accompaniment to a painting session. Joe and Jim's conversation is always funny and informative. They sound like guys you'd want to have in your game club. Plus, the "Saga talk" inspires you to keep painting. Once I'd run through all of their episodes dealing with Version 2 of Saga, I also started watching/listening to Saga Thorsday on YouTube. Rodge and Monty are like the Upper Midwest version of Joe and Jim. I particularly love their discussions of their own painting projects, dealing with long periods of no production, what inspires them to finish off that army -- great stuff!

I tossed the idea out on our Saga Ohio Facebook page, and got positive responses. Jim Beegan from Dayton was the most enthusiastic, so I invited him to be my first guest. I did some research and decided to use Cleanfeed for us to "meet" and record our session. The quality of the audio is superb. I am hosting my podcast episodes on Anchor, as their service is completely free. Plus, they push your episode out to other podcast channels, such as Spotify, Google Podcasts, RadioPublic, and more. You download your audio file from your Cleanfeed session easily, and can then upload and edit it on Anchor's software. I ended up doing my editing on my MacBook in Garage Band because I wanted to "talk over" the intro sound effect. I then exported the file as an mp3 and popped it into Anchor. Boom...done! 

Click here for the link to my Saga Ohio page on Anchor.

I hope to do episodes once every two weeks or so. Local Saga guru Andy Swingle is slated to be my next guest. I'd like to be able to use the guest slot to eventually introduce all of the Saga Ohio members. I had a blast talking to Jim, and he was the perfect, easy-to-talk-to person to help me host my first episode. So, check it out, and stay tuned for more episodes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tangle in the Terrain with the Pagan Rus

Moorish mounted hearthguard skirt the edge of a forest in an attempt to encircle the enemy
 Reining in his horse, the warlord Majik ibn Battuta al-Waqaa shook his head as he regarded the hostile lands all around his small force. A giant rocky hill loomed on the left, while a dark, tangled forest to his right. Ahead, where his army had to pass through to get home, were two more wolf-haunted forests. The howls of the packs roaming beneath the tangled branches made his cheetah Scirocco pace nervously, the delicate links of her chain scraping against the rocky ground. This was not the type of terrain that favored his mounted Moorish warriors. He prayed that Allah would see he and his men through, and that they could find a way to return home to Cordoba.

The core of Adrian's Pagan Rus - 8-man hearthguard, warlord, Shield Maidens
For what may have been the first time, Jenny and I stayed for a second round of Saga Gaming at the Dragons Guildhall during our November meeting. Six total players stayed (of our original eight), so we matched up against new opponents. It had been awhile since Adrian J and I had played, so we selected a table and began to set up. Adrian is one of the top players in our Saga Ohio group, having been playing the game longer than just about anyone except maybe Andy S. He racks up victories with regularity, too, and is also the one many of us go to for that rules question we aren't certain how to answer.

Two 6-man units of Pagan Rus warrior infantry creep around the edges a wolf-haunted woods
Adrian enjoys scenarios from the Book of Battles Saga supplement, particularly Battle of Heroes -- which randomizes Scenery, Deployment, Game Length, Victory Conditions, and Special Rules. Players roll 1d6 for each and can add or subtract one from the roll for a selection they prefer. As first player, Adrian rolled for "Hostile Land" (which makes all uneven terrain Dangerous) and "Sacrifice" (bonus if your unit is destroyed by some means other than melee...shooting, perhaps?). I rolled for the other three categories. I chose Unknown Land (which allowed Adrian to set our four terrain pieces), "Confusion" (resulting in a diagonal deployment), and "Pitched Battle" (5 turn limit, but I begin the game rolling 4 Saga dice and placing them on the board before his first turn).

Decisive moment - the Moorish Cavalry prepares to charge the Pagan Rus' toughest unit
As Adrian had switched from his Anglo-Saxons to Pagan Rus, he set up a death trap of terrain for my mounted units. Throw in the "dangerous" rule -- which I rationalized by saying the forests were wolf-haunted -- and there were LOTS of places on the board my mounted couldn't go. Knowing he has the "Frozen Wind" ability on his Pagan Rus battle board, I tried to spread myself out as much as possible. However, the terrain kept me constricted. Adrian is a master at devising a pregame plan for a Saga encounter. I had a feeling that my undefeated streak was going to take a lot of Kismet (Fate) to survive this encounter! Little did I know, Adrian had other plans for me to make it even more challenging!

After the charge, the victorious Moors have pulled back on the left to regroup, enemy eliminated!
Adrian's Pagan Rus warband was an interesting mix of troops. Besides his foot warlord, he fielded one 8-man foot hearthguard unit (his hammer), and one unit of mercenary Shield Maidens. The other 3 points were foot warriors divided into four units of six. These "penny packets" of warriors he kept hidden as much as possible for the entire game. They scurried into the woods whenever my mounted warriors headed their way. Essentially, they were simply Saga dice generators for the three main strike units of hearthguard, warlord, and Shield Maidens. I used the same breakdown as I have in my previous two games with the Moors: mounted warlord, two 6-man mounted hearthguard units with javelins, two 8-man warrior units, and one 12-man levy archer unit.

Adrian's final gambit falls short - Moors withstand the charge of his warlord and Shield Maidens
I deployed my archers in the forest on my right to cover the front of his army. In fact, due to his "Long Winter" ability on his battle board, they would shoot only once the entire game. Still, their threat kept his troops shying away from the center of the board, and made his maneuvers much more cautious than I would have expected. In fact, I thought Adrian played a very cautious game throughout, which meant we had about as few melees as I had in my first "Ambush" game with Jenny's Vikings earlier. I placed one of my warrior infantry units to cover the central gap between the marsh and rocky hill, while the second one supported it from a distance in reserve. I placed one mounted unit on the far side of the rocky hill on my left and the other poised to skirt around the marsh on my right. The warlord kept his distance from his troops in the center.

Jim B, left, teaches his friend Mark the finer points of Saga in a first-round game
Adrian began with a tentative advance in the center with his hearthguard hammer unit, his warlord, the Shield Maidens, and one supporting warrior infantry unit. The other three crept forward on the flanks, though the two on his far left darted back into the woods when my mounted hearthguard galloped around the marsh on my turn. Majik ordered the left flank cavalry unit around towards the right, as I planned to sweep around on that flank to attack his center and rear. When one galloped forward to hurl javelins on turn two, Adrian sprung his "trap." Having played the Pagan Rus, I knew about "Biting Cold" -- which freezes an enemy unit after any activation. What I didn't realize was that my free shooting activation with javelins on a movement was a separate activation. Thus, I could move up, yes, but not shoot.  
Second round action: Bob's Crusaders tangle with Jenny's Vikings in the woods

Majik stroked his beard and gazed across at the burly Pagan Rus warlord with new respect, "Hmmm..." One of my mounted hearthguard units was hung out to dry, frozen, and facing his Shield Maidens. Knowing his cavalry would be left within the maidens' charge range, Majik ordered a warrior infantry from the center to support them. Shield Maidens, in general, don't like to sully themselves against warriors, receiving no bonuses against them. All that succeeded in doing was pinning a giant bullseye on them for his hammer unit. The hearthguard double moved forward, laughing off the extra fatigue as they eyed all the melee abilities Adrian had lined up for them on his board. I forget how many dice he ended up rolling, but he fueled it with a succession of abilities, beginning with "Wrath of the East," "Blood Feud," "White Wolves," and "Black Bears." In the end, he inflicted 20 casualties and also had five bonus defense dice. The warrior spear disappeared under their flashing axe blades. However, Adrian chose not to charge the frozen cavalry unit - having used all his Saga abilities in that melee. He did pull the hearthguard back a move, leaving them with two fatigues.

Toward the bitter end of a slugfest - mounted Crusades charge Vikings on foot
Both of my cavalry units galloped forward to toss their javelins at the murderous Norsemen. Of course, "Biting Cold" stopped one unit from throwing, and the other's shooting rolls caused only one kill. To make him think twice about using the hearthguard again, I played Discord for the first time. This requires me to place a fatigue on any three of my units, but I get to choose three of his to place on him, as well. His hammer unit entered his turn Exhausted. I thought he would charge with either his Shield Maidens or Warlord, but he played cautiously, and loaded me up with as much fatigue as he could with Frozen Wind. 

Consistently difficult opponent on Saga Game Days -- Jenny's Vikings (with new measuring sticks!)
On my turn, it was decision time. Shooting was not going to win me the game (again!). I played Discord again, exhausting his hearthguard once more, and then charged in. I played both "Torrent of Iron" (my bottom right corner "alpha ability" on my board). This gives me a +1 on all attack dice, in addition to "Inspiration's" rerolls of any ones on the dice. He reluctantly closed ranks, which turned out for the best for him as I manipulated the fatigue to give me armor of 6 -- which meant he couldn't hit me as an Exhausted unit. I also made his armor a "2", so that I scored hits on everything but 1's (and rerolled those!). Needless to say, I hit with all 12 dice. The moment of truth came and Adrian passed on only five of his saves, which meant he lost seven figures -- the entire unit! His hammer was broken!

The next turn was the final one - Turn 5. Adrian knew he was down on points. Of his two remaining major weapons, he trusted his warlord the most. He sent him in to charge one of my cavalry units (the victorious one had actually pulled back to stay out of any charge ranges of the Rus). The warlord killed four of the Moorish riders, but Adrian has played Saga enough to know that would still leave him short on points. He sent the Shield Maidens in, as well. They were unable to cause any casualties, whereas we killed one of them. Adrian conceded at that point, but I played out my final turn to see if we could rack up any shooting kills. Par for the day, our shooting was poor and the score did not change. Majik pulled off a narrow victory, 9 1/2 to 8. 

In the other battles, Bob's Crusaders continued their slugfest run. He and Jenny played Clash of Warlords, with the Crusaders outlasting the Vikings, 26-22. In the third battle, Jim B had also switched armies. He commanded Vikings against Dave E's Romans. They ended up in a 24-23 tie, with the Romans up by one point but not enough to avoid a draw. It was a long day, but fun. With COVID getting worse all throughout Ohio, who knows? It may be our last chance to enjoy some Saga fun on the tabletop for awhile. Crossing our fingers, though, and we can meet again on the first Sunday of December in Columbus!

Here are the results of the Round 2 battles:

  • Mike D's Moors defeat Adrian J's Pagan Rus in Battle of Heroes, 9 1/2 to 8
  • Bob B's Crusaders defeat Jenny's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, 26 to 22
  • Dave E's Romans and Jim B's Vikings fight to a tie, 24-23, in Clash of Warlords

Monday, November 16, 2020

Feast of Saga at Dragons Guildhall

My Moorish warlord Majik ibn Battuta al-Waqaa leads his warband to ambush a convoy
We had one of our largest turn outs so far at the November Saga Game Day at the Dragons Guildhall in Beavercreek, Ohio. Three players made it from Columbus, while another came from the Springfield area to join four Dayton area gamers to bring our gathering to eight. What's more, six of the players stayed for a second round, giving all participants the chance to truly glut themselves on Dark Age slaughter! I brought my Moorish warband, while other armies included Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, Pagan Rus, Romans, Normans, Crusaders, and Skraelings.

Jenny's Vikings appear across the road to contest our ambush of the convoy - eager for the loot!
One of the things we like to do on our twice-monthly Saga Game Days is to give players a chance to match up against opponents they haven't played (or haven't faced in awhile). Not only is matching up against a variety of armies an enjoyable tactical challenge, gaming with a number of different people makes for a pleasant time, too. Since Jenny and I had not played each other in quite some time, she decided to use her Vikings to take on my Moors. I let her choose a game from the Book of Battles and she picked "Ambush." 

Moorish cavalry circles around to get behind the wagons, while Vikings emerge from the woods
Moorish warlord Majik ibn Battuta al-Waqaa's raid into Christian Spain had gone well, so far. He had located the merchant convoy he'd been tracking and had hidden his forces behind a gentle rise, out of sight. Dust plumes showed the convoy's progress towards him along the road where his forces lay ready in ambush. A glint of metal on the opposite side of the road caught his eye, though. Beside him, Scirocco made a quizzical chirping noise. "What do you see, girl?" he asked the cheetah. After a few moments of watching, he recognized the fur-clad warriors striding through the trees, setting up an ambush of their own on the convoy he'd been tracking! Majik had clashed swords with the heathen Norsemen before, and knew them to be fierce foes. But he would not return empty handed to the Emir of Cordoba, inshallah!

The Vikings eschew missiles and charge in against the wagons and strike it rich first!
In this game, three wagons begin on one short edge in the center between the two armies. Their goal is to march across the board, attempting to reach the opposite edge. Of course, both armies want to loot them and prevent that from happening. The wagons count as a Hero (armor 5), but Unarmed (+1 to your melee save), and have only 3 Attack dice. Those attacking the wagons do not get to play Saga abilities in melee, but can when shooting. However, as I found out, with their Resilience (1) they are pretty much not going to be taken out by shooting. With average die rolls, you would need to amass 24 attack dice over the course of your turn to take them out with shooting! My Moors have nice shooting, but not that deadly! Shooting can soften them up, though, for a later melee charge to take out -- which is what I did on both of the two wagons I would successfully attack.

The rest of the Moors on the right wing, ready to block the escape of the wagons
The wagons have a random die roll to determine whether they move or pause, and also whether they remove fatigue accumulated from earlier attacks. They do this prior to EACH player's turn, so any fatigue you put on them will likely be gone before your next one rolls around. Knowing my toughest units were mounted, Jenny messed with me on the terrain, placing two marshes in my deployment area. In this scenario, the player's army "marches on" to the board from any point on their board edge not within 1 Long + 1 Medium of a wagon. This had the effect of scrunching my arrival point down to the right hand 1/3 of my table edge.

A unit of Moorish spearmen emulate the Viking success and charge in to seize the loot!
My plan was to move my infantry warriors forward to block the path of the wagons, while moving the archers towards the center to put hits on them (and Jenny's Vikings, if they came within range). I sent one of my 6-man mounted hearthguard units around the swamp to come in behind the quickly-moving wagons. The other cavalry and my warlord, Majik ibn Battuta al-Waqaa, would provide the reinforced punch on the right. I had placed a gentle hill in Jenny's area opposite my right. My plan was to race across and hammer her warriors on that flank where they had no cover to hide in.

After two rounds of melee, my Moorish hearthguard still have 4 troopers whittling the Vikings to one
Jenny marched her archers onto the center of the board, supported on their right by one of her 6-man hearthguard units and another unit of warriors. The other 6-man hearthguard unit came on towards her left, supported by her second warrior unit and the warlord. Looking at her army's breakdown, I realized that our armies were identical - except that my hearthguard units were mounted with javelins! Oh, and my warlord was mounted, too.

Chasing down the final wagon of the convoy, javelins and bows attempt to soften it up
Jenny struck first at the wagons when one passed close to the woods her archers were moving into. The 6-man hearthguard unit raced out and walloped the wagon hard enough on their charge to destroy it. They grabbed the loot, but did lose one veteran Viking in the process. This left them with two fatigue markers since they had done an extra move to charge the wagon. My Moorish horsemen circling around behind the wagons licked their lips in anticipation. Jenny sensed this, though, and used a third order on them to withdraw them into the woods, exhausted (but carrying their ill-gotten loot!).

On the final round of the game, Majik and Scirocco charge in and seizes the wagon and its loot!
I considered following up and harassing them anyway, but decided it would be ineffective shooting at them (armor 5 and in cover in the woods). Charging into the woods seemed suicidal, so the riders chased down the wagons instead. On the right flank, though, my other unit of cavalry galloped forward and charged her 8-man warrior unit that had come into my "Horse of the Maghreb" extended range. My horrible dice rolling continued, though! Despite the "Inspiration" of their warlord behind them, my attack killed only five of their eight. As always, Jenny had the "Loki" Saga ability in waiting, so his warriors garnered enough attack dice (and rolled well enough) to cause four casualties on my 6-man unit. I pulled the unit back with "Perseverance," stopping them in the path of the final wagon just short of its escape point. Jenny's unit of warriors also retreated towards their rear, happy to have survived the encounter.

Dave E (left) matches up against the steamroller of Bob B's Crusaders
Around turn 3 (of only five in this scenario), I realized shooting wasn't going to get the job done against the wagons. So, one of my 8-man warrior infantry units charged a wagon that had been softened up a bit by incessant shooting. They destroyed it, and eagerly plundered the wagon, equipping themselves with an objective marker. I foolishly left my outflanking cavalry unit in the center of the table, close enough for her archers to get a shot at them. For the first time in the game, though, my dice were good and I saved all hits she put on my vulnerable (armor 4) mounted troopers.

The Crusaders gallop in, eager to close with the Romans and their armored infantrymen
Jenny wasn't done with them, though. She raced her other 6-man hearthguard unit out to charge them. These mounted Moors continued to bless Kismet (fate), and rolled incredibly well on their saves again. The hearthguard backed off, having lost one trooper. When our turn rolled around, we loaded up on Saga abilities and sent the charmed troopers in again. Alas, their luck had run out. With a rare dice on "Inspiration," they would reroll any misses on 1, 2, or 3. "Wholehearted" gave extra dice for the enemy's fatigue, and I was sure I would eliminate them. Needing 4's to hit, I managed only a few hits on 14 dice. I rerolled and totalled exactly half -- seven hits! Luckily, Jenny flubbed her saves, and only one figure was left.

Jim B's Skraelings call for their totems to protect them against Mark's Viking invaders
That would end the actual fighting between Vikings and Moors. On my final turn, I had all of my javelin-armed cavalry and my levy archers shoot the wagon, then followed that up with a charge by the warlord. With Majik's pet cheetah savaging the horses, the warlord struck down the last of the guards and the loot was ours! With six points per wagon looted, this gave a big advantage to us on final points. The Moors triumphed in their second encounter, 37-29.

Just a small part of Adrian's Anglo-Saxon horde - six points of levy = 60 figures!
Elsewhere in Round 1, Bob B and Dave E were playing their first match against each other. Dave's Romans and their ballista faced Bob's Crusaders led by the legendary warlord Prince Henry. A bloodbath ensued, and Bob edged out Dave in Clash of Warlords 34-29. The genial Jim B was teaching his friend Mark in his second game of Saga. Mark was playing Vikings again, while Jim through a historical but unusual matchup of Skraelings at him. Despite Jim's encouragement and coaching, the Native Americans drove the Vikings from the field in Clash of Warlords with their archery, 22-9. In the fourth game of the first round, it was brother against brother as Adrian battled his brother Aaron in Prized Possessions. It was a close-fought struggle, but Adrian's Anglo-Saxons came triumphed in this historical matchup against Aaron's Normans, 15 1/2 to 9 1/2.

This game also saw the first use of my newly-created, custom-made Moorish measuring sticks!
 Round 1 Results

  • Mike D's Moors defeat Jenny's Vikings in "Ambush," 37-29
  • Bob B's Crusaders defeat Dave E's Romans in "Clash of Warlords," 34-29
  • Jim B's Skraelings defeat Mark's Vikings in "Clash of Warlords," 22-9
  • Adrian J's Anglo-Saxons defeat Aaron J's Normans in Prized Possessions, 15 1/2 - 9 1/2.

Mark and Aaron decided to head home, which left six players to get in a second round. I decided that I would go ahead and write up a second blog post for the second round. It is rare that I get to play twice in one game day, so I will take advantage of that and get two entries out of this day! Stay tuned for the next update!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Moors Beat Back Night Raid by the 'Rumani'

My Moorish warlord Majik ibn Battuta al-Waqaa and his cheetah pet, Scirocco
Majik ibn Battuta al-Waqaa leaned forward in the saddle and squinted into the darkness. He heard the high-pitched chirp of the great cat beside him as it also peered into the night. Watching the ears of the cheetah's spotted head slowly track then stop let Majik know his pet had spotted the intruders. "You see them even in this darkness, Srirocco?" Another chirp confirmed that he could trust the cheetah's tracking senses to lead his warband towards the incursion. 

I like the look of a large warlord base with a bodyguard, banner, and animal companion on it
 As they paced forward, Majik heard the soft hoofbeats of his cavalry following. His lieutenant whispered, "Who are they, al-Waqaa?" Behind them, two squadrons of veteran Moorish cavalry paced in single file on either flank. Between the horsemen, two files of spearmen followed in their warlord's footsteps. Bringing up the rear were the archers.

The battle after my first turn - my Moorish cavalry have returned to shelter behind the infantry's lines
"Rumani," Majik whispered in return. Romans. Or what remained of that fallen empire, who would be called in later tomes the Byzantines. Its still mighty navy could put raiding parties ashore in Andalusia, though, and that was what Majik guessed had happened. Why they were here in Spain he could only guess. The emir of Cordoba had decreed that the foreigners must be driven off, though, and Majik and his men would do that, inshallah, or die trying.

End of his 2nd turn - note my depleted levy and 2 fatigue tokens on his archers
I was almost as uneasy this past Sunday as Majik would have been. After a year of planning and painting this army, I was finally getting to play a game of Saga with my Moorish warband. Though not complete, I had enough figures ready to play a 6-point game if I used the cavalry as mounted hearthguard. I split three points of them into two units of six. I supplemented this force with two units of 8 warriors and 1 unit of 12 levy bowmen. My warlord base had been finished the night before and dullcoated that very morning.

My opponent was Mike S, who was using his Last Romans, again. He was still tweaking his list, not content with previous versions of it. The one I would face also included 3 points of mounted hearthguard, but deployed in three units of four. Two were armed with composite bow, while the third had standard melee equipment. Mike also brought two units of warriors to the field, one of which was bow armed. The final unit was composed of 12 levy javelinmen. A very similar composition to my force, but who would prevail?

The Byzantines strike back! Javelins and Byzantine cavalry charge whittle my 6-man unit to two
Mike S wanted to play "Battle of Heroes" from the Book of Battles. Our rolled variations were Night Battle (which means each unit that starts its turn without a friendly unit within Short distance suffers a fatigue), and Unknown Lands, which meant Mike set the terrain with four small pieces. I rolled Meeting Engagement, which meant he deployed his entire army after setting up terrain, while I got to set up second. I rolled Pitched Battle, allowing me to roll and place 4 Saga dice prior to his first turn. The final special rule was Show of Force, which would reward us for melees won and getting units within a Medium distance of the opponent's baseline. With my Horse of the Maghreb ability, I thought this would be a cinch for me to do - though that's not the way it turned out! My cavalry was way too busy to go on an end run in this battle.

Mike S deployed with his warrior archers on his right, backed up by the levy javelinmen. In the center, he deployed one unit of Tagmata (hearthguard horse archers) and another with melee weapons. They were backed up by his warlord. On his left, he deployed another unit of Tagmata, backed up by his remaining warrior unit. Called by his troops "al-Waqaa" (the Shield), Majik had a plan to use his infantry battleline as a wall from which the hearthguard cavalry could emerge, attack, and fall back behind. Very historical tactics for Moors, and I thought quite possible with the extra distance move provided by Horses of the Maghreb (Long+Short move), and Perseverance (activate two mounted or two foot units) each requiring only one Saga die. After Mike S trotted forward on his first turn, but staying outside Long range, Majik waved his horsemen forward to try. The attack actually began with a volley from the levy archers at the Tagmata horse archers, who were my target with their low armor class. That was followed up with one 6-man hearthguard unit racing forward and tossing their javelins, then the other. Finally, Perseverance allowed both to return behind the spearmen with only one fatigue.

The battlefield prior to my 6-man cavalry unit charging (and destroying) another unit of cavalry
My dice were terrible, though. With 18 shots needing a 4+ we killed only three of the four figures in the unit. Mike S quickly wisely pulled it back to the rear, where it would remain for the game (but continuing to provide a Saga die!). Next, the Byzantine strategos waved forward his foot archers. They advanced and took two shots at my levy archers. My saves in the cover were as bad as my shooting and we lost five figures. We did NOT use his fatigue on the second shot - I had plans for those two tokens in my turn!

That warrior bow would be our target for turn two. Once again, the archers began the attack. This was followed up by one cavalry unit riding forward and throwing javelins. We used the Wholehearted ability to gain 2 attack dice per enemy fatigue (so +4 dice). The second unit then crashed into the remaining warrior archers, with me playing Inspiration (reroll of 1's in combat, or 1-3's with a Rare die). The last of the warriors fell, though they did kill one of my hearthguard despite my bonus defensive dice. The theme continued - my abilities were giving me lopsided attacks in my favor, but my dice rolling was not fully taking advantage of them! However, Mike S had enough of my shooting and scooting and used the fatigue on my victorious unit to limit its pull back move to a Short. Oops. He had spotted a flaw in my strategy that I hadn't seen coming!

One of my Moorish spear units hurries to support the exposed cavalry
Mike S countered by targeting my exposed hearthguard unit. He moved up his javelin levy to shoot, and then followed it up with a charge by his melee cavalry. Once again, my dice were pathetic and this time his dice were very good. He didn't suffer a casualty and my unit was cut down to only two figures remaining. I knew that the Moorish cavalry with an armor class of 4 were vulnerable. That's why I wanted them shielding behind my warrior spearmen - not exposed out in front of the army! Mike S decided to pull the victorious Byzantine cavalry back to his center, which left them with 2 fatigue. Majik stroked his beard, eyeing them as a target, "Hmmm..."

This was not necessarily the battle I wanted to get into - charge and countercharge. However, with a chance to take a fresh 6-man hearthguard unit against a double-fatigued 4-man unit, the Shield of Cordoba decided to cast caution to the wind. I loaded up my board with Inspiration and Wholehearted and shouting praise to Allah, the Moors rode in! Despite receiving four defense dice in bonus from his fatigue, my unit still lost four figures. My dice were dependably below average all game. However, we did eliminate the Byzantine cavalry which scattered a fatigue onto the warlord and two other units. Of course, Mike S cleverly used my unit's fatigue when we tried to pull back!

Last gambit - Moorish cavalry attempt to put enough javelins into the enemy warlord to soften him up!
At this point, my primary attack arm was blunted - each down to 2-man units. I couldn't even do the run to the opponent's board edge because it requires a unit of at least four men in the victory conditions. Majik had no choice but to order the spearmen forward. It would take three charges by the two units to finally destroy his remaining warrior unit, as my dice continued to suffer. Luckily, neither of us were rolling particularly well on Saga dice. I think we rolled two rare dice between us all game! Mike S decided to use his remaining horse archer unit to do the end run and scoop up 4 victory points. 

Majik had one last gambit - try to shoot down the enemy warlord on our final turn. I tossed both 2-man units forward, using Wholehearted to gain 2 extra dice for his fatigue. Six dice = no hits. If I had managed to exhaust his Warlord, Majik was going to charge in and finish him off. However, with only one fatigue on him, it wasn't worth the risk. I thought I was up on points. So, I let the game end there, and we counted it up. As it turned out, Majik did emerge victorious, driving the wily, determined Byzantine Strategos from the field, 18-14. 

Close up of the Majik ibn Battuta al-Waqaa's banner (pattern looks black but is actually blue)
I really enjoyed playing the Moors in my first game. I was excited that historical tactics - sending cavalry out from behind an infantry battle line then returning them - worked well on the table with Saga. Mike S and I discussed that perhaps I shouldn't have been so impatient, and simply shot instead of charging in. That might have been enough to wear down the vulnerable Byzantine units and force them into doing something rash. 

Of course, I realized much later that evening that perhaps my dice wouldn't have been so bad if I had remembered something that I also forgot over and over in my games with my Welsh: Javelins receive +1 to attack dice when charging! I never used that the whole game!! I don't know the Arabic word for "D'oh!" but maybe I should find out! That gave me a goal for the next game: paint a marker of a javelin-pierced miniature with "+1 when charging" on its base to keep with my combat dice...ha, ha! I look forward to two week's from now, though, and our Saga Game Day at the Dragons Guildhall in Beavercreek, Ohio. Majik and Scirocco are looking forward to matching wits with another enemy!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

13 Players Try Their Luck on Saga Game Day

Anthony B's Welsh were one of the 13 armies that gathered on a blustery November Saga day
We had such a great turnout at our November Saga Game Day that I am going to have make two separate posts about it! Thirteen players showed up on blustery, chilly first day of November for masked, socially distanced (as much as possible) skirmish wargaming. The armies arranged from our first Age of Hannibal army through Age of Vikings to Age of Crusades. Our breakdown was 4 Viking armies, 2 Last Romans, 1 Pagan Rus, 1 Irish, 1 Scots, 1 Welsh, 1 Crusaders, 1 Gauls, and introducing my first-time ever playing my new Moorish warband!

Dave E's Roman Cavalry were matched against Anthony B's Welsh in the first round
I sat out the first round to facilitate all the matchups. I try to encourage pairings with opponents who haven't played each other, yet. Luckily, we have new players coming in (welcome, Steve C!), so that I can get at least a handful of the matchups being new ones. In addition to Steve playing for the first time, we also had Lee P for the third time, and Jason S returned to the fold (now that he's moved to Columbus). 

First-round action with (from left) Lee, Adrian, Mike S, and Tyler preparing for battle
We also had our first Age of Hannibal warband take the field. Although the rulebook recommends playing these warbands only against those of the same era, Andy S wanted to try out his Gauls. Bob B was game to take them on, though, so we did a little Ancient vs. Crusades game. Although it wasn't intentional, all four Viking armies ended up in a Norse Civil War on one of the three 8-foot tables we use at the Guardtower East. Jenny T was teaching Steve C how to play, while Jim B and Jason S were trying out Battle of Heroes. 

Tyler's fierce Irish war dogs charge into Lee's Scots levy archers
Another fun thing for me was how many of my armies were playing even though I was taking a bye in the first round. Lee P was using my Scots, Anthony B my Welsh, and Steve C my Vikings. I was looking forward to getting my Moors on the field in the second round, but filled my time enjoying the action on the six tabletops and taking photos. Thus, this post will be mostly photos with an overview of the games. Later this week, I'll add another post about my game with Mike S's Last Romans.

Bob B added Western Knights as a mercenary unit to his Late Roman warband
Here are the results of the two rounds:

November 2020 Saga Game Day Results

Round 1

Jenny T's Vikings defeated Steve C's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, 26-22
Adrian J's Pagan Rus defeated Mike S's Last Romans in Battle of Heroes, 7-4
Andy S's Gauls defeated Bob B's Last Romans in Clash of Warlords, 34-27
Dave E's Romans defeated Anthony B's Welsh in Clash of Warlords, 29-15
Lee P's Scots defeated Tyler P's Irish in Clash of Warlords, 17-11
Jason S's Vikings defeated Jim B's Vikings in Battle of Heroes, 11-7

Jim B's Viking warlord charges into Jason S's unit of warriors
 Round 2 

Adrian J's Pagan Rus defeated Jim B's Vikings in Clash of Warlords, 27-22
Mike D's Moors defeated Mike S's Last Romans in Battle of Heroes, 18-14
Jenny T's Vikings and Tyler P's Irish tied in Clash of Warlords, 18-16
A horde of Scots warriors was a daunting sight for Tyler's Irish
Notable was the absolute slaughter-fest between Andy S's Gauls and Bob B's Last Romans. Bob started the death-dealing off with a charge of his 8-man, mounted hearthguards unit against a unit of 8 Gallic mounted warriors. One charge and the knights rode them down to a man. Andy returned the favor by charging a 12-man Gallic warrior unit into Bob's victorious hearthguard. Andy stacked up several battle board abilities and destroyed the Roman cavalry to a man. I was walking by when they rolled their dice and it was something like 17 dice vs. 18 dice.

The Viking table with 4 Viking warbands (from left, Jenny, Jim, Jason, Steve)
Adrian continued his victory streak at our game days, and seems to be enjoying playing the Pagan Rus. In the first game, he edged out Mike S's Last Romans. In his second game, he won the Norse blood feud with Jim B's Vikings. Along with Andy and Jim, Adrian is probably one of our most veteran "Saga Ohio" players.

Bob's Crusaders and Andy's Gauls close in what will become the biggest slaughter-fest of the day!

Andy's Gallic warriors counter-charge Bob's Crusader knights and exact revenge

Charge and counter-charge went back and forth between Gauls and Crusaders till the bitter end

Adrian's Pagan Rus continued their rampage through our Saga Game Days going 2-0

The Saga Ohio group does its best to stay safe, masked and tables spaced as far apart as possible

The Viking battleline of Jim B - one of the most laid-back and friendliest of our Saga Ohio players

Jim's round 1 opponent - Jason S's Vikings and their hulking warlord

Lee's Scots await the approach of Tyler's Irish through the bogs and fens between them

Dave's ballista is a regular feature of his Roman army- frustrating his opponents with large units!

Jenny's 6-man hearthguard unit slams into Steve's Bondi warrior unit in a 1st round civil war