Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Another Bonus Saga Night to Welcomes Our Co-founder Back

    Saga Ohio Cofounder Steve P, left, gets in a game against Keith F while visiting for a few days
Our growing group of Saga players here in Central Ohio owe their thanks to a couple people who did the necessary hard work of hosting games, teaching, and providing loaner armies. One of those is Steve P, who was back in town for a few days after moving to San Diego last year. Eight of us met at our usual haunt, the Guardtower East game store in Columbus, to welcome with a little war, Saga-style. He had not brought an army with him, though, and said he wanted to play something he had never tried before. So, he borrowed my Scots/Picts and matched up against Keith, who was also trying something new. Keith wanted to see how the Huns from Age of Invasions would play. I had warned him previously that mounted horse archery armies are hard to win with in Saga, but he wanted to see how the whole composite bow thing worked in the rules.

    Keith's Huns close in on Steve's Scots, who proved a very difficult nut for the horse archers to crack!
Two of our long-time players, Jenny T and Andy S (the other Saga Ohio co-founder), had yet to play each other in any of our meetings. So, they matched up, with Jenny using her Vikings. Andy also had a case of the "try something new" bug, and used his Norman figures to field a Polish army from Age of Crusades. He had a few questions about how the battle board abilities worked, and we did our best to figure out what made the most sense. It was the first Polish Saga army that had taken the field so far in our game days.

    Jenny & her Vikings take on Andy (wearing an appropriate shirt) as he tries out the Polish faction
Jeff F, a good friend of Steve's, also put in a rare appearance at a Saga game night. He had played extensively in version 1 of the rules, but only sparingly in version 2. He was fielding Normans against Dave E's Romans. Dave E changed up his list and decided not to use the manuballista this time, substituting in a unit of mounted hearthguard instead. Afterwards, he said he'd wished he'd gone with the ballista to be able to engage the elusive Normans. I have noticed that many Norman players really play in a Breton historical style -- skirmishing with javelin-armed cavalry. Although the board allows you to charge home in true, impetuous Norman fashion, many players are drawn to the abilities which allow your mounted troops to scamper away whenever an enemy tries to engage.

    Trying out new armies was the theme for the night. Here are Andy's knights standing in as Poles
The final match was between Lee P and myself. Lee is working on a Milites Christi army, but isn't quite finished painting it, yet. Jeff and Andy graciously lent troops from their Norman armies to allow him to field the list he is planning on running. Lee's army list included two units of 4 mounted knights (hearthguard), 3 units of ordinary foot warriors, and 1 unit of warrior crossbowmen. I was facing him with Count Drogo's Carolingian army (two units 4 mounted hearthguard, two units of 8 foot warriors, and two units of 8 warrior bow). I had never before played against Milities Christi -- nor even read through their battle board, honestly. This would come back to haunt me this game!

    Jenny's newest unit of Vikings warrior women advances towards the mostly mounted Poles
We decided to play Old Feud so we could get another game of that Book of Battles scenario under our belts. It will be one of the scenarios we are playing in the Advance the Colors Saga tournament, Oct. 2. Even though I was "first player," I let Lee choose his character first, and he chose the Soldier. I chose the Counselor - mainly for his extra "We Obey" ability. With three Saga dice sitting idle in the Proelium section of my board, I essentially end up fighting the battle with only five dice. I figured the extra "We Obey" activation would be helpful, and it definitely was!

    Dave E's Romans have faced many foes since he has been playing them, including Jeff's Normans
For terrain, I placed a ruins in the center of the battlefield, on my side of the midpoint. Lee countered with a gentle hill opposite it. Next, I placed a rocky area to the left of the ruins. He passed on placing another piece of terrain, and scooted my ruins back towards my baseline a Medium distance. For the final piece of terrain, I placed a forest on my right, also just short of the midpoint. Old Feud has an interesting deployment, with each side placing their character first, then alternating one unit at a time. Units must be deployed within Very Short (2") of another friendly unit. This means the armies end up grouped together closely.

    Count Drogo's Carolingians deployed against Lee's Milites Christi (note t-shirt!) in "Old Feud"
I deployed my two warrior bow units in the rocky ground and ruins. The warrior spear units were behind the ruins and in the open area between it and the rocky ground. My two units of mounted nobles were in the rear in reserve with my warlord. I placed my chosen character, the Counselor, in the ruins with the archers. 

    Lee's stand-in Milites Christi army (Normans borrowed from Jeff), deployed for battle in 3 lines
I had warned Lee prior to deployment about the very dangerous shooting ability of the Carolingians. He took my caution to heart, and arranged his troops in three lines. In front were the warrior crossbowmen and a unit of warrior spear. The middle line was composed of another unit of warriors and both of his units of mounted knights. The reserve line consisted of the third unit of warrior spear and his warlord and chosen character, the Soldier. Like me, Lee was intent on protecting his character. In Old Feud, if your character is killed and the opponent's survives, you lose. Otherwise, the game is decided by Massacre Points (killing enemy troops).

    Count Drogo's army was forced to abandon its excellent defensive terrain and march to attack
Count Drogo noted the arrival of the well-disciplined warrior monks, and how they kept their distance from his lines. He sent each of his noble cavalry to guard a flank. The archers edged as far forward as they could in their ruins and rocky ground, but the enemy remained frustratingly out of range. The foot warriors edged forward only enough to guard the flanks of their archer brethren. Would the enemy Knights of the Hospital advance? Or would they remain out of range and try to lure Drogo's Frankish warriors forward?

    Though not exactly "corner sitting," the Milites Christi were very reluctant to advance into battle
On his turn, Lee made it apparent he had no interest in advancing down the center into bowfire range. His army relocated towards my right, massing in the corner of the battlefield. Count Drogo watched the enemy movements with a frown. Beside him, Griffo the Doberman Pinscher growled. "Indeed, my sharp-eyed friend," the Count rumbled. "These knights appear craven." He waved towards his unit commanders on his left, and the archers, spearmen, and noble cavalry on that side advanced towards the center, forming a hinge with his archers and spearmen near the ruins. The noble cavalry on the right galloped out further to guard against a sweeping maneuver around the woods.

    Impatient at his adversary's caution, Count Drogo orders his troops forward into the center
Across the battlefield, the cautious Hospitaller Lord directed his troops, as well. The crossbowmen and warriors advanced to just outside of the archer's range. Meanwhile, another unit of spearmen followed a unit of knights galloping towards the woods. "Ah," Drogo nodded. "The monks do plan on trying to turn our right." Drogo let the enemy creep ever nearer. He even waved his line of troops in the ruins forward to make it look like he was focused on the center. The archers crowded behind the spearmen, ready to loose their arrows if a target came within range.

    Avoiding the deadly Carolingian archery, the Knights Hospitaller sweep around the woods
At this point, Lee struck. His flanking unit of knights swept around the woods and then charged into my mounted nobles guarding against such a move. Neither of us had faced the other's battle board, and were not fully aware of the ramifications of the advanced Saga abilities we had queued up. I played Vinco and Potentia, which gave two automatic hits and let me reroll up to six misses. Surprisingly, Lee played "Lamb's Peace," which raised both of our armor classes from 5 to 6. This meant I would very likely score more hits than him, which I did. Unfortunately, he absorbed all four of those hits with the Orison BASIC Saga ability, where he had two Uncommons and one Rare stacked. Lee rolled only one six, which I failed to save against, of course.

Drogo sends the archers forward behind the spearmen, keeping an eye on the flanking movement
In fact, his Orison ability would bedevil me all game long. There would be only one combat or shooting that occurred during the whole game when he did not have have at least three dice sitting on Orison (ready to cancel up to 4 hits). This is mainly because the board has three separate advanced Saga abilities that allow him to restock Orison in either the Orders, Shooting/Reaction, or Melee phases of the game. This is a VERY tough defensive ability, and unless you are hitting the Milites Christi with multiple shooting or melee attacks in a turn, they will likely cancel much of the damage you inflict without even having to roll saves!

    Contact at last! The warrior brethren's knights charge the Carolingian noble cavalry
Since my noble cavalry took a casualty, we recoiled. Lee did not intend to leave his knights over-extended on my half of the battlefield, though, and activated them to pull them back. Count Drogo was having none of that, though! I used the fatigue he received from the melee to reduce their move to a Short. This left them potentially in range of my archers. Count Drogo's trumpeter Ranulf blew a loud blast on the horn and both units of archers turned and moved quickly towards the right and rear. With the help of the Ardor ability, I was able to loose three volleys of arrows from the archers, which killed the knights to a man. 

    The archers redeploy to the right and rear and riddle the knights with arrows, killing them all
Infuriated at the loss of his brethren, the Hospitaller warlord charged into one of my units of spearmen. We closed ranks, but rolled horrible saves again, losing four figures. In Old Feud, the game can end on a die roll after the 4th or 5th turn. If I had been trying to just go for the win, I could have (and probably should have) hunkered down and made him come to me. I was way ahead on points. However, this was only Lee's fourth or fifth game, and I wanted it to be a learning experience. This is the army he is building, so the more practice he got using its battle board and troops, the better.

    Although I should have hunkered down for victory, I sent the archers to engage their crossbows
On Turn 5, I moved the archers to the front and they loosed two volleys at the enemy crossbowmen. Aided by automatic hits, I should have killed quite a few of them -- even with the four cancelled hits from Orison (or Ray Orbison, as I called it!). However, my rolls shooting rolls all night were awful. Only one crossbowman was killed. Knowing he was down on points, Lee sent his remaining knights into the archers, killing five. He followed up the recoil of the surviving three and charged them again. My rolls resulted in a total of only two knights dying (even with using his fatigue to lower his armor).

The store was closing shortly, so we had to call the game at this point. Both our characters had survived, so we counted up the points. I had killed six hearthguard (6 points), 1 warrior (1/2 point), and destroyed one unit entirely (1 point). Lee had killed one hearthguard (1 point), 12 warriors (6 points), and destroyed one unit (1 point). So, I told him he won by 1/2 point. However, when I got home, I double-checked the rules. It turns out you round up any fractions. There are no half points in final scores. So, the actual score was an 8-8 tie. It WAS a very defensive struggle, so the close score was not surprising. I had once again made the mistake of not looking at my opponent's battle board prior to a game and analyzing what he could do with it. I was focused on what I could do to him, not how he could either counteract it or do damage in return. 

Still, it was a fun game, and Lee is a great guy to play with. The only problem is that, seeing how his battle board performed, I now have another Saga army that I want to build! Thanks, Lee, for the great game!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Bonus Saga Game Day & Debut of My Newest Warband


    A new Viking army invades central Ohio as Adam brought his army from New York to learn Saga
There are good and bad aspects of just about everything, Facebook included. However, there's no denying how Facebook has helped our Saga Ohio group grow and keep everyone informed about gaming opportunities. Less than a week ago, Adam M posted in our group that he was back in Central Ohio from New York and wanted to get in a game of Saga, if possible. We were able to get a group of six of us together on a Wednesday evening at the Guardtower East game store. Adam had not played a full game of Saga since Version 1, so I paired up with him to help teach him through the mechanics.

    Tyler, at left, deploys his Irish as he finally faces Dave E's Roman army
Tyler P and Dave E had yet to play each other during any of our Saga game days, so they paired up, Irish vs. Romans. Another relatively new player, Allen S, borrowed my Vikings and matched up against Jason S and his Romans. This was only Allen's third game, so Jason helped refresh Allen on the concepts and the two were soon setting out terrain and deploying their armies.

    Tyler's Irish were able to use their considerable missile power to whittle away at Dave's Romans
To make it easier on Adam, we played Clash of Warlords so he could concentrate on my army and not worry about objective markers or other victory conditions. I was fielding my brand new Carolingian army. The warlord stand was flocked and clear coated earlier that afternoon. I showed him my order of battle -- mounted warlord, two units of 4 mounted hearthguard, two units of 8 warrior spearmen, and two units of 8 warrior bowmen. I've always maintained that warrior bowmen are underpowered in Saga rules, but the Carolingian battle board has a number of advanced abilities that really augment their archery.

    Allen, at left, moves his Vikings forward to engage Jason's Romans
Adam fielded a foot warlord, 3 units of 8 warriors, 1 unit of 4 berserkers, and one "hammer" unit of 8 foot hearthguard. That meant he was fielding two hard-hitting melee units with the berserkers and hearthguard. I would have to do my best to keep them from charging my archers. Hopefully, we could attack them with our missile fire and at least soften them up before impact. To that end, I would also need to use terrain to my Carolingian's advantage.

    Romans form a battle line as the Vikings edge closer and ready to charge
Next, I walked Adam through the terrain laying process. He was first player and placed a large woods in the center of the board (I'd warned him about my archery beforehand). I placed an area of ruins in the center right, just short of the middle of the table. He countered with a gentle hill in his center. I added an area of rocky ground on my right. He added another woods on his baseline. At this point, I took the option to move his large woods towards his right, away from the center. Adam decided that was good enough for terrain, and we began our deployment.
    Adam's Vikings swarm between the woods and hilltop towards my waiting Carolingian troops
Adam deployed his three warrior units as a screen across his front, shielding his hearthguard from my archery. They began their advance between the woods and hill, pouring towards Count Drogo's Carolingian border force. The spearhead of my force was one of my archer units in the ruins. The second unit was sheltering behind the ruins. I'd placed them there rather than in the neighboring rocky area because I didn't want them to be far out on the right away from the enemy. The plan was for them to sweep right or left depending on which group of Vikings I wanted to concentrate fire upon. 

    After Carolingian turn 1, the Viking warriors have been whittled down to 3 figures by archery
To the left of the ruins, stepping back towards my baseline were my two units of warrior spearmen. In the rear, my mounted hearthguard were my reserve. I envisioned using them in a "linebacker" counter-attack mode. If a vulnerable target presented itself, they could use their Long movement to charge them. Otherwise, I wanted them to be something my opponents would have to worry about and maybe make them more tentative in their attacks. Count Drogo, the warlord (his banner just attached hours earlier), sat atop his horse behind the ruins, his trumpeter Ranulf holding the leash to his Doberman Pinscher, Griffo.

  Viking counterattack is swift and fierce! 8 Viking hearthguard smash into my archers in the ruins
"Norseman, Count -- so many of them!" Ranulf whispered. Count Drogo nodded in response, scanning the woods and hilltop for signs of more invaders. "They're here for plunder, lord. Should we offer them spoils to leave, like our neighbor Count Nardwin did?"

 "Nardwin's a fool!" the Count growled. "What happens when the raiders return home with tales of easily-won plunder? More will come! There will be twice as many...threefold! There numbers will be uncountable..."

Ranulf sighed. "Yes, my lord. You are the count." Drogo cocked his head at his trumpeter, while Griffo barked, "Woof!"

    After the archers in the ruins recoil the hearthguard, both my units loose arrows - look at this roll!
Adam's first moves used both "Maneuver" free moves and Saga dice to advance all of his troops forward. The foremost unit of warriors had advanced within range of my archers stationed in the ruins. On my turn they loosed their arrows, while the counterparts behind the ruins advanced out to the right and let fly a volley of arrows, too. On turn 1, there was no danger of the Viking's "Odin" ability on their battle board, as the first player gets only 3 dice. Odin is a reaction to an enemy shooting and makes the shooters Exhausted. I wanted to make this first shot count, so maximized the abilities on my board for shooting. I played both "Vinco" (which inflicts two extra automatic hits), and "Potentia" (which lets me re-roll misses). I even used a Saga die on combat bonus, which added more attack rolls. After the first two volleys, I played "Ardor," which let me shoot again for free with those units.


 Viking warlord takes matters into his own hands and chases the Frankish archers out of the ruins
We scored 5 hits on the Vikings, which meant Adam's unit would not generate a Saga die next turn. The Viking's response was aggressive and dramatic. The 8-man hearthguard unit double moved into the ruins and crashed into my archers. Uh-oh, I thought. His toughest unit in melee just slammed into my weakest. I had queued up Defensor, which gave me 3 defense dice. I used his fatigue to lower his armor in hopes of whittling his hammer unit down a bit. Surprisingly, my archers gave as many casualties as they received -- aided, of course, by the heavy cover of the ruins and the bonus defense dice. The Viking huscarles recoiled, surprised by the ferocity of the Carolingian archers' defense.

    Count Drogo unfurls his dragon banner, alongside his trumpeter and Doberman Pinscher
This opened the door for me next turn to pour more archery fire into the huscarles. Adam had Odin queued up and made my full strength archer unit Exhausted. However, we shot with everything we had, throwing every Saga ability I could into the attacks. What's more, where my dice were below average in the first round, they were WAY above average in the second. One one shot, I rolled four "6's" out of my four dice! When my archers were done shooting, there was only one lone Viking hearthguard left. While concentrating on archery, my reserve noble cavalry was riding to the left and right to threaten the Vikings flanks. My thought was they could pick off any weakened units he tried to withdraw, or any that ended a turn saddled with fatigue markers. 

    Close up of Adam's Viking warriors, who were next to throw themselves into the attack
Adam knew the Vikings were an attack army, so came right back on his next turn. A second unit of warriors charged into one of my warrior units. The Carolingians closed ranks and played Defensor again, resulting in no casualties. The Vikings lost one and withdrew. Next, the Viking warlord charged into the ruins to take on my archers himself. He triumphed where the huscarles did not, and my battered unit withdrew with only three figures remaining. The Viking hero was Exhausted, though. This presented an opportunity I could not pass up, though.

    The Frankish warriors repel the charge of the Viking warriors
Once again, we concentrated our archery fire. The Warlord was a difficult target - his armor being raised to 6 against shooting by the ruins. Still, with the aid of Vinco, we score 4 hits on him. Adam picked up the four dice to roll. I reminded him that his lone hearthguard was within Short distance, so he could soak off one casualty by sacrificing him if he failed. But he needed to save at least three of the four. In payback for my earlier roll against his hearthguard, Adam saved all four shots! That's was one tough Viking warlord!

 Count Drogo shook his head and growled, "That Norse bastard is still alive in there, Ranulf!" He watched as the massive Viking taunted his archers, using his sword to snap off several of the arrow shafts embedded into his shield. "I wonder...should I send in the spearmen to corner the rat and skewer him?"

Ranulf curled Griffo's leash around his wrist. "Lord, remember when we watched the movie, 'Conan the Barbarian'? That hero was holed up in an old temple, too. He took out so many of his enemies and never was slain."

The count frowned as he scanned the battlefield, tabulating his surviving Frankish warriors against Vikings remaining alive. "You're right, Ranulf. We could lose more warriors sending them in...not sure how many more losses we can really suffer..."

"You are the count, lord." Ranulf nodded. Count Drogo and his Doberman Griffo both cocked their heads and looked at the trumpeter.

    Late in the game, Carolingian noble cavalry mop up the scattered survivors of Adam's warrior units
Count Drogo ordered the unit of mounted nobles on the left to charge the Viking warriors who'd been pushed back. They spurred their steeds and shouted their warcries. I played my usual Vinco and Potentia, which resulted in all 7 of the Viking warriors being ridden down. The count then waved his victorious troopers back towards the center, knowing the Viking wolf was cornered, but still had teeth.

Adam knew it was time to unleash the most fearsome of his wolves, though - his berserkers. He moved them up and hurled them at one of my units of warrior spearmen. I'd been coaching him on which of the many melee Saga abilities to use when he charged me. I did  NOT close ranks because I wanted to make sure I killed all four of the berserkers. He chose good advanced abilities to augment his attack and eliminated my warriors, with two of his own guys surviving. Next, the frothing at the mouth berserkers piled into my unit of mounted nobles. The nobles were able to slay the last of the berserkers, but at the cost of two of their three remaining figures.

At this point, Adam had played his 6th turn. I offered to forego my final turn and count up the points. Since the other games were finished, and he'd learned quite a bit in this game, he agreed. Count Drogo had repelled the raiders with a 24-14 victory. Sure, I could have racked up a few more points on my sixth turn, but the important thing was that learning game was a success. Adam said he understood the system so much better after this teaching game. He was very enthusiastic about it and was looking forward to more games of Saga.

On the other tables, Allen and Jason had battered each other to a tie, with the Vikings scoring 15 points to the Romans' 14. Tyler's Irish had triumphed again, surprising yet another opponent with their potent missile power. He defeated Dave, 29-10. It was a great midweek bonus night of Saga. Count Drogo's Carolingians had made their debut a victory, and everyone seemed to have a great time.

Stay tuned to my blog for a final painting update with pictures of the last unit of archers and the warlord himself. There's also a chance we may get in another bonus night of Saga, as one of the Saga Ohio group founders, Steve P, is visiting from San Diego for a few days.


Monday, June 21, 2021

Trying out the Saga Tourney Scenarios at Dragons Guildhall

Father's Day matchup between father and son - Mike S advance his Vikings while son Jason watches
One of the disadvantages of having a set date for meetings is they sometimes fall on holidays. That was the case this past Sunday at the Dragons Guildhall when our third Sunday also happened to be Fathers Day. We had only nine players show up, down from our usual dozen-plus of the last few meetings. Regular meeting days help everyone stay on a schedule and probably increase attendance long term, but holiday hiccups are always a danger. Our next meeting on the first Sunday at Guardtower East falls on the 4th of July, so we may see a fall off that day, as well.

    Jason's Byzantine Saga army patiently waits for the Viking advance, ready to counterstrike
I'd been suggesting to our Saga Ohio group that we should use our game days to test out the Book of Battles scenarios that are planned for the upcoming tournaments at Advance the Colors (Oct. 2) and Cincycon (Oct. 23). At ATC, I will be running Feasting & Pillaging for Game #1 and Old Feud for #2. At Cincycon, Adrian is planning on using Desecration, The Crossing, and Claiming Territory. The attendees must have taken my advice to heart and four of those five scenarios were played in the games at Dragons Guildhall that day. I think playing them in advance will not only help players do better in their games, but it will also make things go more smoothly as more players have some experience in the scenario. Otherwise, mistakes may be made, questions need to be asked, and in general, more time will be taken figuring out the scenarios. As a group, we are not used to timed games, so anything we can do to streamline the games is a plus.

    Adrian's Epirote Greeks (and cool objective marke) make their first appearance at a Saga Game day
One of the first games to get underway was a Fathers Day special -- Jason S challenged his dad Mike S to a battle. Jason was playing Byzantines from Age of Crusades and Mike had chosen Vikings. The two were playing Old Feud, so discussed the various characters first before making their choices. Mike was looking for a little revenge from earlier this month when the two squared off in the Epic Saga game. Jason was not influenced by it being a holiday to honor dads and promptly dispatched his father 20-5 in their game.

    Aaron moves up his mounted Normans while his brother, Adrian, makes plans to counter their move
Not father-son, but the next match was brother vs. brother. Adrian and Aaron J had yet to play each other in any of our Saga game days, so figured it was time to rekindle the sibling rivalry. They selected Claiming Territory as their scenario to fight out. Adrian was fielding his Age of Hannibal Graeculi (Epirote faction) for the first time at one of our meetings. His brother fielded his Normans, which grow closer and closer to being fully painted. I chided him that he has a deadline of ATC to get them painted by if he wants to enter the tournament. I'm being a bit of a purist and insisting on painted armies. I know other game systems (and other Saga groups) allow unpainted figures on the tabletop. However, I have always held the line on that and insist in my tournaments that armies must be painted. This is miniatures, not board games. And if you can play with them already, what's the real incentive to paint them up? I know others may disagree, but it's just the way I feel. 

    Aaron's Normans charge across the bridge into their second opponent, Jim B's Vikings
Adrian defeated Aaron 12-0 in their game. I think Claiming Territory is one of the stranger scenarios from Book of Battles. The only real incentive for engaging your opponent's army is to push them away from Objective Markers. You score points only by laying claim to the markers and keeping enemy away from them. It will be interesting to see how the games with this scenario play out. I'm worried that there won't be a lot of action, and instead we will see armies squatting on markers instead of charging their enemies. I could be wrong, though. I did suggest that a scorecard is included on the tabletop for players in this battle, due to the frequent times you count up points in this game.

    Dave E's Romans deploy to face Jenny's Vikings in one of our two Claiming Territory scenarios
Another of the battles featured Claiming Territory. This was between Jenny's Vikings and Dave E's Romans. There is a definite learning curve in some of the Book of Battles scenarios. Jenny said that Dave seemed a bit reluctant to move to claim markers and spent a lot of his time sitting back and firing his manuballista at her Norsemen. There were a limited number of melees, she said. Jenny quickly caught on to how to score in this scenario and won handily, 22-11.

    Mike S's 28mm Vikings charge across the battlefield, eager to come to grips with their Byzantine foes
There was only one second round game today, and that was Jim B (who sat out the first round) matched against Aaron J. Jim fielded his Vikings and Aaron was trying again with his Normans. They played The Crossing, one of Jim's favorites, he said. He enjoys it so much that all eight of his battle boards that he constructed are two-sided. One one side they have a standard flat surface and on the other it is carved to represent the river going across the center of the table. Jim did an amazing job with these, putting in model railroad water material and sculpting a ford for each board. All of his modeling mastery did not help him in this matchup, though, as Aaron was able to defeat him. The Normans got their revenge and Jim got a chance to play on one of sculpted river boards!

    Moorish deployment in my game of 'Desecration' against Bob B's Baltic Crusaders
My own game was against Bob Boggs, who I have faced only once previously. I apologized to Bob for the ATC tournament's ban on Legendary Units (or leaders). Every tournament I found except the Saga World Cup seemed to ban the use of legendary units or leaders. Bob really enjoys playing these, whether Henry the Lion with his Baltic Crusaders or the cataphract unit with the Late Romans. I suggested he begin tinkering with his army and get some practice games in without his armies without them. Since armies will be permitted one mercenary unit at my ATC 2021 Saga Tournament, he wanted to field his Baltic Crusaders with Western Knights. I helped him create his list, and he decided to go with 3 points of mounted hearthguard knights in a unit of four figures and eight figures. He chose the Western Knights (mounted warriors), and two points of levy crossbowmen. 

    Crusader crossbow-armed levy guard two of the objective markers that Bob placed
I would be facing him with my Moors. My Carolingians are down to the warlord stand left to paint, so I will likely soon switch over to playing them for awhile. I went with my usual list of 3 points of mounted hearthguard with javelins divided into two units of six figures. I also fielded my usual two units of foot warriors and one of levy archers. We would be playing the Desecration scenario, which I think I had played -- at most -- only once before. It took us awhile to realize that the Objective Markers are not ones you are trying to seize control of and drag off, like in Feasting & Pillaging. Nor are they the Claiming Territory markers you are trying to stand next to and fend off enemies. These you are literally trying to destroy, or desecrate. The rules encourage you to melee them not shoot at them. Their armor vs. shooting is a "6", while it is a "5" in melee. Furthermore, your opponent rolls twice as many saving dice as you inflicted hits. With shooting, that means they SHOULD save every hit. With melee, the odds are reduced because you save on a 5 or higher, not 4. I thought they would be tougher to take out than we found in our game. No marker ever saved all of its hits and went down immediately when attacked in our game.

    After Bob's uneventful turn 1, my Moors charge across the battlefield to slaughter the unclean pigs!
Another provision of this scenario is that the first player (Bob's Baltic Crusaders) can't shoot or melee on the first turn of the game. Nor are they allowed to use any advanced Saga abilities. They received their full first roll of dice, but wouldn't be able to use any advanced abilities. This meant I felt safe to put my entire army as far forward as allowed (Long distance from my baseline). Normally, my mounted hearthguard would be sheltering behind the infantry or sitting in reserve on my baseline for fear of an opponent's double move spoiling attack on them. This game I would not have to worry about that. So, I placed one on each flank of my center, which was composed of one of the warrior infantry units and my levy archers. My far left was guarded by the second unit of warriors, who on the far left guarding one of the three objective markers we had placed. My other two were in the center behind my army and on my baseline on my right. 


    Our plan was to toss javelins at his large mounted knight unit, but they danced away as we arrived
Bob was also protecting his objective markers. One was located midway towards his baseline in a large woods in the center of the board. The other was near his left baseline, protected by all of mounted knights and warlord. The final one was the furthest forward -- in the center just outside of his large woods. Was this bait to draw me in? He did have both of his crossbow levy deployed to fire on anyone in contact with the objective. One levy unit was sheltering in the woods while the other was advancing towards the plowed fields on his right. His Western knights also guarded the gap between the woods and the fields. On his first turn, Bob marched his levy unit towards the fields and his Western knights began plodding forward. Though mounted, they move only Medium distance (but charge the usual Long). They would actually never get into contact the entire game, which I felt was a mistake on Bob's part. Then again, with an armor value of 4, maybe he was worried about them shot to pieces by my Moorish cavalry? His knights did not move much and remained a solid presence near his baseline, guarding his right.

Unable to hit the knights, we threw javelins at the warlord then charged into, destroyed a 2nd objective
I measured and saw that the "bait" objective marker just outside the woods (a herd of pigs) was within a Long + Short distance of my cavalry on the left. Majik Ibn Battuta al-Waqaa waved his noble cavalry forward and they charged into the squealing pigs. With our javelin bonus when charging, we should have scored six hits, but rolled only four. Bob picked up eight dice to save, but could not roll enough 5's and 6's. The Moors had seized the first objective! My other cavalry unit galloped forward, intent on throwing javelins at his powerful, 8-figure mounted knight unit. However, Bob had queued up God of War on his battle board. He cleverly played this as an Activation/Reaction AFTER I had moved my unit within range, but before we took our free shooting activation with our javelins. The armored knights nimbly danced out of range, relocating towards the corner and out of our range. We switched our target to his warlord general, but once again rolled poorly, inflicting only one fatigue on him. I had another hearthguard activation dice on my board, so thought why not? We charged the objective marker that they knights had been protecting and destroyed it, as well.

    Satisfied desecrating two objectives on turn 1, my Moorish cavalry pulls back to the rear of our lines

I am pretty sure Bob thought I was playing into his plans at this point. However, I played Perseverance and pulled back both of my mounted units. The left-hand unit returned near my baseline with one fatigue on the left hand one and the right-hand unit with two.  Next, I was to learn how aggressively Bob plays with his mounted hearthguard. In our only previous game -- his Last Romans vs. my Carolingians -- he had even charged his cataphracts into the woods! Bob launched his 8-man hearthguard unit on an across-the-board charge against my cavalry, j-u-s-t under 24" away. Yes, he arrived in melee with a fatigue from his extra move, but mine had two already. Plus, my battle board was empty and his loaded up. This was NOT going to be pretty, and was definitely not the way my cavalry were used to fighting! Bob used Find Chinks in Their Armor to raise the number of dice he rolled to 21. He also played Blessings of the Righteous, which allowed him to reroll a number of defense dice. The knight's charge slew my Moorish cavalry to a man. He did lose several, even with his rerolls.

    Infuriated, the Baltic warlord shouts for his knights to charge and avenge the Moorish insults
On the next turn, I fired my archers into the over-extended knights. However, he immediately played Gods Host, allowing them to back up out of our archery range after our first shot. I also pulled back my foot spearmen to block any double-move charge on my remaining cavalry unit. On his turn, the knights came charging back in, this time against my levy unit. I decided to not use any of the knight's fatigue, so that they would be easier to counterattack on my turn. The Moors have some good abilities that can gain extra attack dice on units that are fatigued. Surprisingly, Bob did not kill all 12 archers -- three survived. Even more shocking, the archers inflicted two kills on him in return. The 8 figures had been whittled to this point down to three. On the other flank, his crossbowmen began raining bolts into the ranks of my other warrior spear, who were rolling very poorly on their saves. They would be slowly whittled down until only one remained at the end of the game. He also charged his 4-man knight unit across to support their brethren, and they easily destroyed my objective marker on my baseline. 

    ...and they JUST make it! A big mistake leaving my mounted javelinmen open to countercharge
Although I had destroyed two objectives and he only one, I had a feeling that the way his crossbowmen were rolling that he would soon get another. Majik knew that to win this battle he HAD to kill the crusader knights. To kill the remaining three figures in his first knight unit, the warlord of Cordoba galloped forward and waved in the foot warriors. I played Inspiration, and galvanized by their famous warleader's presence, they charged in. I used fatigue to lower his armor. With my rerolls of misses from Inspiration, the warriors scored eight hits. The knights went down, slaying three Moorish footmen in return. 

    On my left, Crusader crossbowmen whittle down my spearmen while Western knights plod forward
Bob responded on his turn with a countercharge of his remaining knights against the victorious warriors. The spearmen closed ranks and were able to repell the knight's charge. Enraged, the Baltic crusader warlord joined the fray and charged the warriors, as well. We closed ranks again, and though one warrior was slain, the warlord had to recoil. My goal at this point was to kill not only his remaining unit of knights, but also his warlord. However, the casualties inflicted by Bob's units meant it was going to be difficult to do. Luckily, I rolled a rare and could launch a Torrent of Iron charge with my full-strength mounted javelinmen into his knights, who had two fatigues. Torrent of Iron gave them a third, exhausting them, and my Wholehearted gave my cavalry a bonus 6 attack dice. I rolled 18 attack dice, and as expected, slew them to a man. This left their warlord exhausted now, as well. I had PLANNED to have Majik charge in and slay him, but simply did not have enough Saga dice for the final activation.

    His knights are worn down to just three after being shot & charging (and killing most of) my levy
On his turn, Bob rested his warlord and then tried to withdraw him. I one of his remaining fatigue to lower his move to a Short distance. Meanwhile, his crossbowmen charged into my objective marker on the left flank and destroyed it. We were now even on markers. It would come down to slaughter points -- whoever caused more enemy losses! I felt that if I could kill his warlord, I would win. If not, it would be a close call on who'd be the winner.

    A rare honor, the foot warriors were given the task of charging in and finishing off the knights
On my turn, I was fortunate to roll both a rare and two uncommon dice. This meant that I would be going in with a final Torrent of Iron on his warlord. The Moorish nobles shouted their battle cries to Allah and hurtled forward. Adrian gasped as I used all of the warlord's fatigues to make my hearthguard armor 6 (thus, could not be hit by an exhausted unit), and lowering his armor to a 4. He said that he NEVER takes fatigue off of a warlord prior to melee. I reminded him that I had 18 attack dice, hitting on 4+, which should produce 9 hits. We rolled well and scored 10. Bob was unable to save seven of the hits, meaning his warlord went down at the end of my turn 5.


    My Moorish cavalry hurl javelins at the Western knights, who never were able to make it into contact
Fittingly, Bob then rolled to see if we would play a turn 6 but rolled a "3" meaning the game was over. We counted up the points, and the Moors edged out the aggressively-played Baltic crusaders, 20-16. Both of us agreed it was a great game, full of triumphs for both of us. My shooting and saving dice were subpar, but my melee dice made up for it by being usually above average. When Bob took his second objective marker, tying us up, the match hung on a knife's edge. My infantry had done well against his knight's charges, and inflicted hits on them. We suffered casualties, but drove them off. My mounted javelinmen were perfect in the last two turns of the game, too. They destroyed his last knight unit and his warlord. If I had had rolled poorly and flubbed either of those charges, the game might not have ended in victory. Bob is a dogged, tough opponent, and I felt fortunate to come out of the game with a win.

    The Moorish cavalry unleash Torrent of Iron upon the remaining knight unit
Here are the compiled scores of our Fathers Day Saga game day:

  • Adrian J (Graeculi - Epirote) defeats Aaron J (Normans) 12-0 in Claiming Territory.
  • Jason S (Byzantines) defeats Mike S (Vikings) 20-5 in Old Feud.
  • Jenny (Vikings) defeats Dave E (Romans) 22-11 in Claiming Territory.
  • Mike D (Moors) defeats Bob B (Baltic Crusaders) 20-16 in Desecration.
  • Aaron J (Normans) defeats Jim B (Vikings) in The Crossing.

   Next turn, they do the same against the Crusader warlord, winning the day with their charges!