Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Trying Out Solo Saga Raid Scenario

    Half of the Saxon Raider force who were feeling very lucky that day apparently!
I am normally not the type of guy who plays solo wargames. Sure, I'll do a computer boardgame against the AI. But solo miniatures? I honestly don't think I've ever done that - mostly because I'm blessed with a regular gaming group. However, when Joe of the Northern Tempest Saga Podcast posted about a solo scenario for Saga, I was intrigued. 

My Britons' compact deployment to ensure all units were Galvanized & the Saxons opening rolls
As the defender, you are trying to turn back a raid. The raider's units use dice and the scenario rules to determine what they'll do. There is no battle board for the raiders. Instead, you roll a Saga die for each unit. A Common gives them one action, Uncommon two, and Rare two plus bonus attack dice when shooting or in melee. The defender (you) uses his battle board to the best of his ability.

    An omen of things to come - Saxon archers defy odds and hit 5 of 6 times and I save only 2 of 5
On the face of it, that sounds easy, right? You can make plans, but the raiders must follow a predetermined series of actions that you know will happen. However, Joe didn't make it THAT easy for you! The raiders have significant advantages in this game. Number one is there is no terrain on the smaller, 3'x3' board. They deploy 12" forward, so they're more than 1/3 of the way across already. The defender can't deploy within a Short of any edge, so no hiding on the base line, either. What else? All raiders clear one fatigue marker at the start of their turn for free. Anything else? Do they NEED anything else??

End of Saxon half of turn 1 -- they are already in my face and ready to continue their havoc
I decided to handicap myself even more, choosing to play a new army -- Britons from Age of Invasions. After my recent guest (Adrian) on the Saga Ohio podcast said they were way under powered, I sensed a challenge (and a chance to prove him wrong?). So, I was playing a new board. Also, the battle is a 4-point one rather than the usual 6 points. I had never played a 4-point battle. I did study the Briton board and thought I'd come up with a number of great defensive combinations for them. One problem, though. A number of the abilities on the Briton battle board require two dice, and also a Rare die. My 4-point warband would generate only four Saga dice. Wait a minute...does it sound like I am making excuses before giving my report??

  My 6 mounted hearthguard launch their spoiling charge on a Saxon warrior unit on my turn 1
My plan was to take advantage of the special "Galvanized" ability for the Britons. They are considered Galvanized when they are within Very Short of their Warlord. I also took advantage of the Companions rule, which lets two hearthguard join the warlord and form a Heroic unit. So, I chose two units of 8 foot warriors, 1 unit of 6 mounted hearthguard, and then the Warlord's Heroic unit. I deployed the two foot units side by side up front, with the mounted hearthguard and Warlord directly behind them. All were within Very Short of the Warlord. All Galvinized...all doomed, haha!

    The result of the charge - even though loaded up, I lose 3 troopers while the Saxons lose only five

Two of the Saxon units (foot hearthguard and levy archers) rolled Uncommons, the rest rolled Commons. Raider units activate in order of largest unit first, then next largest, and so on. The levy were out of range (I was just outside of Long), so they advanced then fired at my right hand foot warrior unit. At this point, I should have realized something was about to go wrong - very wrong! The levy scored 5 out of 6 hits (needing a 4+ on 1d6). I failed 3 of 5 saves (needing the same 4+). First shot and one of my units is almost at half strength. Note that there is nothing you as defender can do defensively on turn one -- you haven't rolled any Saga dice. 

    Things look bleak for this Briton warrior unit, facing off against Saxon warriors and hearthguard!
Both warrior units advanced towards my block of Britons, followed by the hearthguard who went screaming across the table with two advances, ending close enough to my warriors to smell their breath! At this point, I realized this wasn't going to be easy. I rolled my four Saga dice and scored 3 Commons and 1 Uncommon. A terrible roll, really (again?). Too many of the good Briton abilities require either a Rare or Uncommon. I decided to use my mounted hearthguard to do a spoiling attack on the oncoming Saxon warrior unit on the right. I essentially gave them all four dice -- the Uncommon for Brittania! (which activates them to charge and gives them 3 bonus attack dice, plus makes them Galvanized for the melee). I also used two of the Commons for No Pity, which gave them +1 to attack, and meant they would discard one defense dice that saved a hit. Surely with 15 dice I would eliminate the 8 figures in the Saxon warrior unit? 

    The warriors close ranks against the second charge and will end Saxon turn 2 with one figure left
Once again, the Saxons were on fire with their die rolling, and mine was terrible. They lost only five figures while I lost three! The fourth die on my board was to pull them back after the combat, which I did, stunned that one of my most powerful units was brought down to half strength while barely making an inferior unit slightly less than half. Uh-oh, this wasn't going to be good! The Warlord used his We Obey order to send the shot-up warrior unit away from the center and the impending charge of the Saxon hearthguard. The Warlord's Heroic unit also pulled back so that they couldn't be hit by less than two moves. That was it for my first turn. I was down 3 hearthguard and 3 warriors, and the Saxons had lost only 5 warriors.

    A ray of sunshine in dice luck when 3 warriors drive off the Saxon warlord with no losses!
Turn 2 began equally well for the Saxon raiders. The levy shot again at the unit they'd savaged last turn, causing two more casualties. The full strength warrior unit had rolled an Uncommon, so they raced forward and slammed into my full strength warrior unit. Since the battle turned on Survival Points, I decided to close ranks. It didn't matter. Once again, the Saxons rolled great and the Britons poorly. We lost four figures (I failed 4 out of 5 of my 50/50 save chances -- 4+ when closing ranks), and caused no casualties. Then the Saxon hearthguard followed up and slammed into the remaining four Briton warriors. We closed ranks again, and were left with one figure left, once again causing no casualties. Um...Joe? This was not going well!

    After resting up, the mounted troopers charge back into the fray to pick off a lone Saxon warrior
And then the dice gods sent me a ray of light and hope. The Saxon warlord charged the arrow-riddled Briton warrior unit. Once again, we closed ranks. It has to work sooner or later, right? It did! The Saxon warlord hit with only two of his eight dice (we missed, of course). We actually saved both, and he recoiled a Short distance away. What?? A paltry, three warriors stood up to the Saxon warlord? They weren't out of the woods, yet, though. The Saxon unit that had been attacked by my mounted troopers of course had rolled an Uncommon, allowing them to charge my Britons in a three-on-three, warrior fight. The dice continued to wink at me, and we scored two hits to their one, pushing these Saxons back, as well. It was the end of Saxon turn 2, and we were down a total of 12 warriors and 3 hearthguard. They were down 6 warriors. I would need a lot more than a nudge, nudge, wink, wink from the dice gods if the Britons were going to prevail!

    Towards the end game - I have one mounted hearthguard and one warrior left
For my second turn, I was down to just 2 Saga dice. I rolled a Rare and a Common. I was very tempted to reroll my Rare to give me a third dice. However, one of the fiercest attacking threats on the Briton board is the Warlord. I placed the Rare on Pendragon, which allows the Warlord to reroll all 1's or 2's in melee. Then the common went on Dux Bellorum, which for a single die allows the Warlord to activate as many times as he wants till he's Exhausted. I figured if the troops weren't doing the job, it was up to the Warlord to inspire them.

I charged the Saxon hearthguard first. Even after my rerolls, I had four misses. The Saxons were unable to save enough times, though, and their unit was eliminated. Woo-hoo! This caused a fatigue on the nearby Saxon warrior unit, giving it its second fatigue. I had lost one of my hearthguard from my heroic unit, and had a fatigue from the combat. Still, I slammed into the Saxon warriors next. I had used one of their fatigue to raise my Armor to 6, which SHOULD mean I would take, at most, one or two hits. What did the Saxon bastards roll? Four sixes! Although I whittled them down to one figure, my remaining hearthguard died and my Warlord was left hanging there, Exhausted. I had planned on NOT being Exhausted, and activating again to move close enough to my double-fatigued mounted hearthguard and Rest them. No dice, though...I was in a bad place for turn 3 with my two toughest units loaded up with fatigue!

Apparently, I was so depressed with how things were going I forgot to take pictures of Saxon turn 3. As expected, my warlord was charged by the Saxon warriors and I was unable to make my saves. The levy shot and destroyed my small warrior unit, but little else happened. On my turn 3, I was down to a single Saga die (my 3 mounted hearthguard). I decided to rest them and hope they could do more again on turn 4. The dice gods tried to say they were playing fair when the Saxon levy followed up and unleashed a volley at my remaining warrior guy. I made all three saves.

On my turn 4, my mounted hearthguard charged the single Saxon warrior and killed him. This put a fatigue on their warlord, who we also charged. The Saxon warlord killed two of the mounted troopers and easily survived, driving them off. At this point, it was all over but the shouting. The archers finally killed my last warrior, and my warband ended the game with a single mounted hearthguard. I had whittled the Saxons down to their warlord and the 12 levy archers. So, after an abysmal start, I guess that is some compensation. The Saxons won, 6-1, on Survival Points.

What did I think? Joe has designed a fierce Raider force that will be quite a challenge to defeat. I wouldn't mind taking them on with an army that I am more practiced at...maybe even my Moors, next. To analyze it a bit, I think any battle board that depends on two Saga dice abilities is going to struggle in a 4-point game. I found that I definitely don't like 4-point games as well as 6-pointers! I think that in future games I will not deploy in a solid block and try to stretch all of my units back as far as I can. That way, maybe I can have turn one to build up some Saga dice on my board. I'm looking forward to trying again. Thanks, Joe -- I like how you made this tough and no cake walk! By the way, this is the first game of Saga that I have lost in awhile. So, congratulations on commanding these Raiders in spirit for your victory!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Anglo-Saxon Huscarles Finish off Intermission

    Four 28mm Anglo-Saxon huscarles from Gripping Beast to complete my 6-point Anglo-Dane army
With this small batch of four Anglo-Saxon huscarles ("hearthguard" in Saga), I am now finished with the intermission between the completion of my Moorish warband and the start of my next painting project: Carolingians. These were the four armored figures in the Gripping Beast 4-point Anglo-Saxon starter box that I bought from Game Table Adventures in Newark awhile back. I now have more than enough figures in that box for a loaner army of Anglo-Danes or Vikings. That was my goal when I started this painting intermission -- fleshing out my 6-point armies so that I didn't have to swap figures back and forth to field an army. That brings me to a total of five separate 6-point armies: Moors, Picts (Scots in Age of Vikings), Welsh, Vikings, and Anglo-Danes.

    My two favorite from this batch of four - I love how the dusty purple and faded dark green came out
I like these four poses - they are all significantly different, with their own helmet styles, tunic lengths, and way they are wielding their weapons. These were cast "open handed" -- which I prefer. So, I chose to give two axes and two swords. To this day, epoxying weapons into hands is probably my weak point in modeling. If you look closely, you can see they're not perfect fits, but I hope that the overall look of the figures stands out more than the figure's sometimes awkward grip. For three of these, the shields were cast on. The fourth (with the maroon and yellow cross shape), I needed to glue on. I substituted an Anglo-Saxon style, rimmed shield divided into eight sections. Seemed a perfect fit for Anglo-Saxons.

I used brighter or richer colors in general for these wealthier Saxon nobles
I wanted the colors to be a bit brighter than the faded colors I have been mostly painting on the warriors. I used the "Yew Green" (darker pine green), dusty purple, blue, and a striped red and green for the tunics. I normally avoid stripes, but since most of the tunic was concealed by their armor, I figured I could handle doing their arms and the fringe peaking out beneath the chainmail skirt. Each tunic got a contrasting or matching edging, too -- I particularly like how the green one's decorated border turned out. All of the sield designs are hand-painted to give the effect of ones I found researching Anglo-Saxon shield patterns on the web. They turned out okay -- certainly not my most impressive.

    My next project: Carolingians -- the army of Charlemagne!
As I mentioned above, I begin my Carolingian army next. The 4-point Gripping Beast starter box will be the core of my army. However, I dug through my unpainted lead drawer and found a bunch of Dark Ages archers to use to supplement the box (which contains 8 mounted troopers, 16 foot, and one mounted general). I use two points of warrior bow in my Carolingian army, so I would need 16 of these, as well. Some of the archers look like Franks, others more like Vikings or other random Dark Age figures. However, Charlemagne's empire was very cosmopolitan, so a mix of clothing and armor styles seems a good fit. I am starting out with a small batch of four mounted troops, and I just finished painting the base color on the horseflesh before starting this update. 

So, look for more updates soon (hopefully) -- especially if we get that snow the weathermen are forecasting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Anglo-Saxon Warriors Ready to Take the Field

    Eight 28mm Anglo-Saxon warriors from Gripping Beast to augment my Saga forces
My painting intermission between finishing my Moorish army and beginning my Carolingians is nearing its end. The next-to-last step was the completion of 8 Anglo-Saxon warriors from the 28mm Gripping Beast 4-point starter pack. I had purchased the box because I was short of unarmored Dark Age infantry, which I use as "Warriors" in Saga. I like to use the guys in chainmail as "Hearthguard," if possible. When I started playing Saga, I had lots of armored guys, but few unarmored ones.

    Each of the figures in the box had a nice variety of poses, clothes, and overall looks.
I love the variety of poses in this pack. I've yet to see a duplicate model, all of them have noticeable difference. The eight figures I chose to paint out of this box all were bareheaded. I'd used the guys with helmets as Vikings in the previous batch. Like I tell a lot of people starting to get into playing Saga, many Dark Age warriors looked somewhat similar. In fact, these figures were going to be part of one of my loaner armies which could be fielded as either Vikings, Anglo-Danes, or heck, why not Pagan Rus? Most of them I armed with spears, although there was one guy who looked better suited to holding a sword. Thankfully, the Gripping Beast box contained a handful of swords and axes I could use. The spears were the normal wire spears I used from North Star.

    I painted the warriors in muted or faded colors, such as these faded greens
I painted them in a variety of dull, faded, or muted colors. I know that I am in a minority in using craft paints as opposed to the hobby varieties out there. I really enjoy the huge amount of choice in tones and shades in greens, blues, reds, yellows, purples - you name it. And at only $1 or so a bottle, I can afford so many more shades than my usually cheapskate nature would let me purchase if I used Vallejo or some other manufacturer. Of course, each base color gets its dry brush to make it look more faded and worn. In fact, I have steadily expanded the parts of figure that gets a dry brush. It used to be just the main areas, such as tunics, cloaks, etc. More often now, just about everything except a tiny bag or pouch will get dry brushing or highlighting. Once the lines of the dry brushing are muted by the brown or black wash I apply, I really like the effect.

    I really like the action of the pose stabbing with the spear

There were a couple poses that I'd picked out that were stabbing with their spears held two-handed. I could have put a shield on their back, but liked the variety they gave to this batch. One of my favorites of the batch was the guy above stabbing overhand with his spear. As another example of the variety, this guy was shoeless, but had leather wrapping around his legs. I've always been amazed by the idea of ancient or medieval warriors running around barefoot like Hobbits. I can't imagine the effect of stepping on an unseen rock might have as he was charging into combat!

    The guy in the pale blue was one of my favorites from this batch -- I really liked his facial features
Of course, all of the shields were hand-painted. One of these days, I'll get around to trying decals, again. I thought these attempts turned out okay. I didn't try anything particularly fancy with these - they were common, run-of-the-mall warriors, after all! I did cheat and mix in a couple Foundry (I think) shields with this batch from my large supply. All in all, it was a fast and easy group of miniatures to paint up. I highly recommend this box to anyone looking for some Dark Age warriors.

Next up? Four chainmail armored hearthguard to finish off the 6 points (plus) for this army. And then, finally, the Carolingians!