Monday, October 25, 2021

Gangs Taking Over the Streets of CincyCon 2021

    A half-dozen Flippos surround a couple Eastmoor Kings while the Santanas get ready to wade in

Sporting their leather jackets and colors, rival gangs took to the Mean Streets to rumble for control of turf and put a beat-down on their rivals at CincyCon 2021, Oct. 22. The Franklinton Flippos, Indianola Mohawks, Hilltop Highlanders, and other gangs brought clubs, blades, chains, and bare fists to take control of businesses, steal cars, and help themselves to brews on a day of mayhem and urban warfare. Just as often, the gangs ignored their planned missions and threw themselves into spilling blood of their hated rivals when they felt they deserved a little payback.

    The Linden Daos martial arts gang gathers by a building splattered with graffiti by them previously
The last time I had been able to run my new gang warfare rules had been the previous Cincycon, 20 months ago in March of 2020. A long, Covid-induced layoff of cancelled conventions had kept me from taking my rules on the road to promote at gaming shows. I was actually scheduled to run it three weeks earlier at Advance the Colors 2021, but my dad's passing that week led me to cancelling both events. Here I was, though, nearly two years later at the same venue where I had done my final playtest prior to publishing the rules in summer of 2020. 

    I had 5 players for my four slots in the evening game, and six in the afternoon one...scheduling oops!
I planned small, shooting to run it in the afternoon and evening on Friday for four players each time. Cincycon's website and scheduling woes led to both games being oversold. I had six players for the afternoon game and five for the evening. Luckily, I had brought most of my gangs along so had spares that I could toss out on the table. The hardest part was where to place their starting areas, as the table was 4'x4' and each gang was supposed to start in a corner. My players would good sports and understood I was making changes on the fly to keep from turning people who had registered away. 

   Jeffe, El Lobo, and Julio of the Santanas spot rival gang members and get ready to rumble!
It felt good to be running games at a convention, again. I felt bad that the stresses of the last few weeks had caused me to forget that I hadn't done certain things to prepare. Gone were the cards with pictures of the gang member that I'd created but forgot to print out. That meant I had to scrap the Special Abilities for the gang members and ran all figures as "base" Gang Bosses, Warchiefs, or Punks. Also gone were the gang member's names I planned to write with the Micropen on the edge of each miniature's base. Sigh. At least the player's didn't seem to notice or mind that missing touches. Everyone said they had fun and enjoyed the rumble.

Franklinton Flippos stalk past Jack & Benny's Old Time Diner intent upon Friday night mayhem
The planned scenario had each gang -- the Flippos, Highlanders, Santanas, and Mohawks -- starting in their respective corners. They were given a mission to achieve that was diagonally across the table. It might be stealing a car from the Shell station's service department, beating up the owner of Jack & Benny's Old Time Diner to get put on the "take," or similar missions. In addition, each was given two secondary missions. One was to give some payback to a rival gang who'd recently put a beat-down on them. That target gang was the one to each player's left. Gang members were also supposed to "tag" buildings with their gang logo to get the word out on the streets that they were there.

    Patrick and Andrew's gangs mixed it from turn one, both ending bloody and battered
In the first game, most players made an attempt to complete their missions. I doubled up on one mission, and gave the sixth player a different mission. Both had their objectives across the table from their starting points. In the evening game, all but one of the five players abandoned their missions and immediately barrelled into melee with each other. The Hilltop Highlanders ignored the provocations of the Santanas and continued to move through the streets till they arrived at Jack & Benny's Old Time Diner. Poor Benny (or was it Jack?) had no chance as he was mobbed by the street toughs from the west side of Columbus. Josephine, who was playing the Highlanders, scored double the points of her more belligerent fellow players who simply beat the snot out of each other instead.

    The bitter end of Archie of the Eastmoor Kings, encircled by both the Flippos and Santanas
I like to give players some choices when setting up a game. I did leave out the "home turf" element that I sometimes throw in. Often I will task a gang with the secondary mission of protecting their home turf (a designated building near where they start) from being tagged or harassed by rival gangs. This will tend to force players to consider splitting up their gangs. Each gang has a Gang Boss and a Warchief, so players are given the resources for doing so if they desire. Most of the gangs in both games kept themselves in a fairly cohesive group, this time around. So, I will probably add that back in the next time I run it.

Santanas pay a visit to the kiosks -- are they looking for some smutty magazines or some robbery?
This game also featured the unveiling of my new "streets" for Mean Streets -- vinyl 1' square floor tiles that I'd purchased this summer that conveyed the look of a faded asphalt street. The mottled gray pattern looked good, I thought with all the buildings, scatter terrain, and miniatures on it. I got some nice compliments on the look from players and passers by alike. Yes, vinyl floor tiles are heavy, but I thought they looked better than the charcoal gray felt I'd been using and a lot better than my scratch-built MDF concrete squares I had previously placed buildings atop. The tiles were the "peel and stick" type that Jenny attached black felt to the bottom of to make them sit well on the tabletop and stay in place. All in all, I was pleased with both the look and functionality of the new tabletop.

Flippos check out a cool convertible before sauntering down the street to engage in some mischief

As intended, the rules were taught quickly and questions were at a bare minimum. Mean Streets was written to be a fast-play rules set that is easy to learn for a convention game. The system allows you to tailor your gang how you like and individualize the figures with special abilities. There is a campaign system included in the rules, if players want their gang members to grow in experience and become tougher as the games progress.

Flippos jump a couple of Eastmoor Kings who they suspect of messing with their building 'tags'

I hope to run more Mean Streets games, but likely will not be doing so at any conventions over the next few months. School has been keeping me ridiculously busy (as usual), and my Dad's passing and helping my mom deal with it has been consuming a lot of my free time. So, I would love to hear from anyone who purchases Mean Streets ($20 print, $10 PDF) and how their games are progressing. It might give this stressed gamer a chance to live vicariously through your gaming opportunities. The links to purchase Mean Streets are on the First Command Wargames website.

    The Santanas and the Hilltop Highlanders mix it up when the two gangs bump into each other
I hope you enjoyed the pictures of the gangs and their rumbles! Feel free to comment either on my blog or on the Mean Streets: War in Gang-infested Cities facebook group. Hope to hear from people soon!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Hell of a Squabble Over Relics

    My Wendigo leader, backed by skinwalker bears and wolverines, battles the leader of an enemy cabal
Much to my surprise, our regular Reign in Hell players decided to count our last game as "Game 1" of the campaign. So, we began our evening working our way through the effects of the last battle, "Two Kings of the Hill." First off, all demons who died had to roll on the Soul Loss table. This could end up having a negative, positive, or no effect. Then they roll once on the "Reward Table" -- and a second time if they won the scenario. My Wendigo Cabal won our 4-player half of King of the Hill, and picked up a Lucky Charm relic. I gave this to my Skadegamutc Devout, since I use him so aggressively in combat. This would enable him to reroll any one die in all combats.

    The leader of Mike S's cabal and two of his lesser demons swarm Jenny's Devout
I hadn't lost any demons, so all received 2 experience points, except my Wendigo leader who received a third one for leading the cabal to victory. One or two players were starting anew, but most of the eight players went through the steps of rolling for their outcomes. We had decided earlier to skip the "Titles" aspect of the campaign, as it seemed to laborious to track. Now that I have looked at it closer, I am also going to propose that we skip "Expeditions" in between turns. At least for now. Once everyone was ready and their cabals had received whatever benefits their rolls garnered them, we began deploying for Game Two of the campaign.

    The cabals advancing towards the relics at the end of Turn 1
I suggested Relic Hunters for this campaign. It seemed relatively balanced and should involve us getting mixed up in combat quickly. We also decided to use one of the optional rules from the first issue of the Demonomicon, Snarling Badger Studios' blog. Instead of using 6" deployment areas in the corner, it suggests enlarging them to 9". We did find this meant we couldn't place the relics the mandatory 6" away from deployment areas, board edges, and other relics. I think we shrunk that down to 5" and each player was able to legally place a relic.

    On the other table, Andy's Dryad Leader proves that SOMEBODY cares about the trees!
Directly across the table was Jenny T with her Judges Philosophy cabal that she had borrowed from Keith. To my right was Allen S, who was also playing The Empty -- the same philosophy as my Wendigo Native American themed Cabal. Diagonally across was Mike S, who was playing Earth-Bound. Mike and Jenny were the first to seize a relic, snatching them up with a speedy flying Mephit lesser demon. On my turn 1, I perhaps unwisely split my forces. I sent two of my Skinwalker Bears (Armored Demons) towards the relic between Jenny and I. They were supported by the Skadegamutc shaman (Void Demon, my devout second-in-command) who teleported into the rough terrain towards the center of the table in our quarter. The rest of my force, two Wolverine Skinwalkers (Corpulent Demons), the remaining Skinwalker Bear, and my Wendigo leader began lumbering towards the relic between Allen and I. 

    End of Turn 2 - my cabal has seized two relics, but the other players are trying to wrest them away
I rolled really good initiative on turn 2. In Reign in Hell, players roll 1d12 per demon in their cabal at the start of the turn. In an interesting mechanic, all 12's move first, then all 11's, and so on. Players choose which demon to move when their turn comes up. A demon cannot move on two dice, but is limited to using one. So, once you move them, they're done for the turn. My good rolls allowed me to seize both of the relics I was advancing towards. Jenny's disgruntled sound made me realize that I'd have to fight for it, though. About 2/3's of Allen's troops were marching towards me, so I knew this would not be a repeat of King of the Hill, when I really had to face only one other player, Allen. I'd whomped on his pretty good, so I imagined he was going to be up for revenge this game. That's the way Allen rolls!

    Splitting my cabal proves perilous, as Jenny's Leader & Slaughter Fiend attack two skinwalker bears
My Wendigo leader must have succumbed to hubris, as fighting two other cabals wasn't enough. My Skadegamutc shaman teleported into contact with Mike's Mephit (who had been advancing towards one of the relics I seized). Mephits can take only 7 hits, so I knew my shaman had a decent chance of killing it outright in one attack. We succeeded, and rolled a lousy "3" for our Soul dice. In my opinion, you want to roll a 1 or a 6 on that 1d6, because you can utilize Soul Dice to substitute for either your rolls or your opponents. You need natural 6's to save against hits, so those are very useful. Ones are great to substitute for your opponent's to-hit rolls. Still, killing one enemy demon early in turn 2 was a great start.

    End of Turn 3 and Wendigo cabal is best on both flanks by Allen and Jenny's cabals
Wendigo Cabal was able to follow up its success on Turn 3. First, my three lesser demons accompany my leader ganged up on and killed one of his Slaughter Fiends. Then, when Allen's leader waded into the fray, I brought Wendigo in to hopefully kill him off with one lucky roll. I would be rolling 10 dice, hitting on 2+, AND getting double hits on natural 6's. It was not to be, though. We badly wounded his Leader, causing him to take advantage of the "One With Nothing" immediately on the following turn and disappear from the board (reappearing on the subsequent turn). Allen struck back, bringing in his own Void Demon to kill off one of my lesser demons. My shaman gave him a taste of his own medicine, though, and teleported in and wounded him grievously. A follow-up by a Skinwalker Bear killed off his demon...well, kind of. Void Demons have a great special ability that allows them to reappear after being slain, albeit in a wounded state with only 5 Life left. That was TWO of Allen's demons we had in our grasp only to have slip away by his clever use of the Empty's special abilities!

    My armored demon Grisly doesn't give up, chasing down Jenny's leader & seeking revenge
Meanwhile, Jenny was making due on her unspoken threats. My two Skinwalker bears planned on making a dash back to the terrain with the relic. However, her Leader and a Slaughter Fiend jumped on them before they could make good on their escape. One bear went down, and the one with the relic was able to limp into the terrain. The next turn, Jenny's leader chased it down and finished it off. I was rolling terrible on my saves (armored demons have a high Life and good saves, but mine were beginning to die in droves. The skinwalkers' support of the Skadegamutc had departed to assist against Allen, so I had lost all my forces on that flank.

    The battle rages as Skadegamutc shaman, Wendigo, and skinwalkers attack Allen's cabal
My next turn, I believe my highest 12-sided die roll was a "6". Things looked bleak for the Wendigo Cabal, which had previously won both of this battles. Allen redeployed all the forces facing Mike S, and my demons were being ground down between two enemy forces. My wolverine skinwalker who had the relic tried to withdraw towards my corner, but was too slow. Allen was able to chase him down and kill him when both his weakened leader and void demon reappeared. One subtle mechanic of Reign in Hell is that when a demon is slain, the player losing the demon must discard an unused initiative d12. That usually means you have one demon who is unable to move (and thus strike back). If you lose two in a turn, you have two who are unable to fight back. I was on the losing end of this ebb and flow as my Initiative die rolls were low, and both Allen and Jenny were killing off my demons, meaning I could do little in reply.

    Jenny made it an early goal to kill Mike S's devout, a Succubus which can take over enemy demons
My only measure of revenge at the end of the game was Skadegamutc was able to slay Jenny's devout and take back the relic my bears had seized. My Wendigo died, though, before he could utilize "One with Nothing" himself. I had set up my Wendigo to be tough to kill. He has the Essence Regenerating Soul, which heals 1 Life upon activation. He also carries the Soul Drinker relic, which also heals 1 Life if he slays an enemy demon. However, I seem to have gotten very little use out of either of these abilities in my three games with the cabal. I am considering giving Skadegamutc the Soul Drinker, and giving Wendigo the Lucky Charm. I use my shaman in a much more aggressive role. Even though he can't roll as many combat dice as the leader (meaning fewer natural 6's), he tends to attack every turn, unlike Wendigo.


    If you enjoy Reign in Hell, check out the optional rules in Snarling Badgers blog, Demonomicon
We ended the Turn 5 with each of us in possession of 1 relic, so there was no game winner. I had lost way more models than the others, but my bad luck turned to good luck when I rolled on the Soul Loss for my slain demons. Two of my Bears rolled "Twisted", which allows the player to reduce either Move, Life, or Combat by one and add one to one of the other three. I chose to lose Life (Armored Demons begin with 13, and I feel 12 is still pretty good) to lose it from and Combat to gain it. One of my Wolverines rolled Chaos Power for Soul Loss, which I used to increase their Combat by one also. All of the other slain demons, including my Wendigo, rolled "no effect" for their Soul Loss. I did flub my Reward roll and score a "no reward found" not ALL my post-battle rolls were killer!

Finally, we totaled up our Soul Dice we didn't use for rerolls on the Soul Loss table or during the game. Those become "souls" which we can use to buy new demons. I think that I will buy a Spined Demon as Uktena, the horned serpent of Native American legend. I'll also buy a Mephit as (good luck pronouncing THIS name) Kanontsistontie -- giant, floating heads of powerful village elders returning from the spirit world. I know that Flint & Feather makes an awesome miniature for that as part of its boxed set, but I am currently balking at the price on that one. Who knows? Maybe I'll scratch-build or find something at the convention I am attending this weekend. 

    I'd love to buy these minis, but Flint & Feather figs are NOT cheap...

Which makes a great segue! Next update will be my report from Cincycon 2021...

Monday, October 11, 2021

Two Kings of the Hill in our 3rd Reign in Hell Game

    The Wendigo Cabal stalks Allen's faction of demons in our third game of Reign in Hell
We had eight players show up for our third Reign in Hell evening a few weeks back. Rather than do one-on-one games like last time, we thought we'd try two 4-player matchups. The simplest of the scenarios in the rule book seemed to be "King of the Hill." It is exactly what it sounds like. You want as many of your demons on the 6"x6" hill, with the player having the most on it winning the scenario. 


    The mayhem on the neighboring board where the other four players were battling it out
Keith rolled out a nice, new battle map that we split in half with terrain and then set up for the games. Each of the tables had a big scenic piece in the center for the "hill," and then I plopped down smaller pieces in the center of each of the four edges of the battlefield. Each cabal deployed in a corner of the battlefield, so that gave a little bit of cover between each (besides making the battlefield look more interesting). Terrain is not a big part of Reign in Hell games, but it does give some ability to utilize the terrain to your advantage. We all agreed that the "hill" or center terrain piece would not slow down movement. Reign in Hell is all about engaging in melee with your opponent, so we felt a hill that slowed movement would not be in the spirit of the rules.

3 lines of demons from right - 2 Wolverine Skinwalkers, Bear Skinwalkers, Devout shaman & Wendigo
I brought my Wendigo-led cabal that I played in our last game. I'd convinced the guys to go back down to 100 points with no Greater or Superior demons. So, my list included:

  • Wendigo (Leader), Zealot with an Essence of Regenerating Soul (which I have yet to use in a game), and Relic of Soul Drinker, which has come in quite handy. Natural 6's causes two damage instead of one is always useful when trying to finish off a damaged enemy demon.
  • Skadegamutc (Devout) - he's the "hammer" of my force. I like to teleport him into contact with an enemy who's vulnerable -- damaged already by one of my lesser demons or weak like a Mephit.
  • 3 Armored Demons - my Splintered Light Miniatures bear Skinwalkers
  • 2 Corpulent Demons - my Splintered Light Miniatures wolverine Skinwalkers

    Two Armored Demons & my Cabal Leader gang up on one of Allen's demons -- our first victim!

My table had Mike W in the opposite corner, Andy with his Dryad cabal to my right, and Allen with another "Empty" faction like mine to my left. My plan was to advance my slow-moving cabal (both my armored and corpulent demons move only 4") cautiously forward. The wolverines with their 15 life and regeneration are the tip of my spear, as they are VERY survivable. Supporting each are a pair of armored demons, who with one automatic save each turn and 13 Life are almost as survivable, but better in hand-to-hand. Sheltering inside the wedge of the first and second line are my Wendigo leader and Skadegamutc devout. 

    Other opponents Andy and Mike W mix it up immediately with demons massed in close combat
Typically, I move steadily forward (some might say "waddle") until an enemy comes with in range. Then, one wolverine and one bear will charge the enemy. Next, my Skadegamutc will teleport behind the target and that is usually enough to kill the enemy. If another enemy comes within range, another group will charge in and the Wendigo will swoop in on them. The Wendigo is a great third strike, too, with the natural 6's resulting in double hits.

    Start of turn 3 just before the melees began, with all four cabals edging towards the hill in the center
By turn 3, my cabal has usually have killed a couple enemy lesser demons. Our excellent defensive abilities mean I have lost no figures, which was true in this four player mixup, as well. I also went out of my way to NOT antagonize Andy and concentrate instead on Allen's cabal instead. I will tend to have 2-3 Soul Dice by this point, as well. I've found a good tactic is to use any 6's I've rolled for the Wendigo's attacks, and use low numbers rolled on Soul Dice to substitute out my enemy's good hits (especially if they have any extra hits on natural 6's). I always try to keep a couple Soul Dice left over for the campaign section of the game, even though technically we haven't started our campaign yet.

    The towering leader of Andy's Dryad Demons wades into the combat against Mike W's cabal
In our 4-player game, Mike and Andy hammered each other mercilessly. This left me free to focus my attacks on Allen. Luckily for me, Mike and Allen also engaged each other where their flanks joined. This meant my opponents were steadily losing troops while the Wendigo cabal had yet to lose a figure. I kept moving my demons forward, too, wanting to make sure they were all within range of moving onto the hill in the center by the end of the five turns. 


    The battlefield looks very different at the end of Turn 3! Demons are being slain left & right!
My Wendigo cabal killed at least five of Allen's demons, while Andy and Mike had whittled each other's numbers down. So, it was a no-brainer that my 7 surviving demons were the winners on having the most on the hill. I know that I probably have spent a lot more time than the other players thinking of tactics to use that compliment my choice of demons and their special abilities. Eventually, the other players will get their head wrapped around their cabal choices (for example, both Mike and Allen were using cabals created by either Keith or Mike S). 

    Skadegamutc, my Devout, and a Wolverine Skinwalker (Corpulent) team up against Allen's Devout
By the end of the game, I still had all seven of my demons surviving. All were on the hill, too. We also finished with five Soul Dice at the end of the game. One of my wolverines was badly injured, having taken 13 of his 15 hits (but regenerated four of them back!). One of the bears had taken 9 hits of his 13, but otherwise the Wendigo Cabal was in good shape at the end of the game.

    Some of Allen's demons have engaged Mike W's as well, as the forces close in on the hill on Turn 4
We were planning on this game to start our campaign, but when we looked at the campaign rules again, we were a bit overwhelmed by the "Titles" section. With 12 things to keep track of for each of your demons in the Titles section alone (how many enemy demons killed, devouts or leaders slain, times in a row killed, etc.), we may hold off on starting it. I am leaning towards trying to talk the other players into not bothering with the Titles and just use Experience, Awards, and Soul Loss steps and skip the fourth one. 

    At the end of Turn 4, all of the Wendigo Cabal is on the hill or within movement of it
Either way, I am looking forward to the next game. We are planning on next Sunday being our four go at the Reign in Hell rules. Hopefully, it will also be the start of our campaign. Stay tuned for more details!

    All four cabals try to claim the hill at the end of the game, but my seven outnumber them

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Advance the Colors 2021 Saga Tournament

    Lee P's Hospitallers and Bob B's Baltic Crusaders clash as tourney co-GM Jason S watches
The Jomsvikings run by Adrian John came out on top in the first-ever Saga Ohio tournament at HMGS Great Lakes' Advance the Colors 2021 convention. At the end of three rounds of play, Adrian's Jomsvikings were the only warband to win all three games among the 16 entrants. It is fitting that Adrian was one of the top finishers as he has been in the forefront of Ohioans promoting Saga for the last several years. He and Jim Beegan host a monthly Saga gathering at the Dragons Guildhall game store in Beavercreek, OH.

    Steve S's Scots advance to close with Mark B's Normans during the 'Old Feud' scenario
Although we had 20+ people committed to play at one point, life intervened as it has in these past two years to drop our numbers to an even 16. Myself and co-GM Jason Stelzer decided to abandon our plans for a two bracket tournament when our Age of Crusades entrants dropped to only three players. The rest of the armies were all from Age of Vikings, and included four Viking armies, two Norman, two Anglo-Saxon, two Scots, and two Welsh. Our three armies from the Crusades book included Baltic Crusaders, Milites Christi, and Arpadian Hungarians.

    16 players participated in three rounds of Saga battles at Advance the Colors 2021
Many thanks go to our generous sponsors that allowed every player to take home two picks from our prize pool. Hats off to Shieldwall Gaming Club, Gripping Beast, Game Table Adventures, Saga Ohio, and Tim Peaslee for their generous donations. Shieldwall Gaming Club and Game Table Adventures were both in attendance at the convention as vendors, and did very well on sales if my own purchases of more than $200 are any indication amongst the many Saga players in attendance!

    Adrian J's Jomsvikings hold off a charge of Mike S's Vikings in the final round of the tournament
The tournament went three rounds on one day and featured two scenarios from Book of Battles and a final round of Clash of Warlords from the rulebook. All three rounds had preset terrain. I had run my potential terrain maps past an experienced crew of UK Saga players, who gave me great suggestions and feedback. The tournament opened with Feasting & Pillaging, with rules modifications that disallowed moving a unit with an objective marker on the opponent's turn or off-table. We followed up with Old Feud. A surprising fact was only one of the eight battles had its victor decided by one challenger dying and the opposite surviving. All three rounds allowed the "first player" (the roll everyone in Saga wants to lose...) being allowed to choose his table edge AND move one of the terrain pieces.

    Mike S and Steve S battle it out in a tough-fought scenario of Feasting and Pillaging
Although our Toledo contingent was unable to show up for the convention, we did have a three-player group drive down for the day from Fort Wayne, IN. It was really nice to meet Mark Bishop, Troy Hill, and Phil Keifer in person. They all proved to be gentleman opponents, as has come to be expected of Saga players -- at least what we've seen here in Ohio. The other 13 players came from Ohio -- most from the Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, or Springfield area. For most players, this was the first time they had played three games in one day. The tourney GMs did their best to relieve their stress and streamline the games, giving two hours for each round and giving a lunch break of 45 minutes after round one. I honestly think that -- along with the friendly camaraderie among the players -- helped make this a more easygoing and fun experience than many may have been expecting.

    Warbands from Age of Vikings predominated among the 16 entrants -- including four Viking armies
A really cool factor was that we had two players who had participated in Friday night's teaching session decide to join the tournament. In other words, their second, third, and fourth games ever of Saga were in this tournament! So, thanks to Steve Smith and Ron Nassif for being great sports and willing to learn the game in a tournament format! Steve borrowed my Scots army while Ron used a loaner Viking army. Vikings were very popular in this tournament, but that was partly because it is our favorite "teaching army" here in Saga Ohio. The only experienced player among the four Vikings was Mike Stelzer, who made it to the Final Four and was only edged out by tourney champion Adrian in the final round!

    Adrian J, left, and Andy S's wage battle in Round 2 'Old Feud' - Jomsvikings vs. Anglo-Saxons
My thanks to Jason Stelzer, my tourney co-GM, for his tireless work resetting the terrain for each round and constantly circulating around the eight games being played to field any questions. This allowed me to focus on figuring out each round's matchups and not worry about monitoring the games themselves. Early on, I decided to make sure that our visiting players did not end up driving 2+ hours to play each other. None of our Fort Wayne, IN, players were matched up against each other. In fact, I tried to also not match up our regular Saga Ohio players against each other whenever possible. Still, I was able to preserve a "Swiss Chess" format and have winners playing winners, losers playing losers, and those with similar records in later rounds matched against each other. I also made every attempt to give our brand new players a good teacher as an opponent in all three rounds.

    The black-clad Hospitallers (Milites Christi) of Lee Parker advance upon their Norman foes
It was fun to circulate amongst the tables and watch the games going on. Mark Bishop received lots of praise a great and fair teacher from less experienced players. No one seemed to angry with one another, nor did anyone complain about the matchups. Having abandoned a book bracketing method, I was able to use the diversity of armies to my benefit in hopefully providing interesting and challenging matchups for everyone. In two dozen games of Saga being played over the course of the tournament, I heard only one player complain that the matchup severely disadvantaged their army. I considered this a success, as everyone seemed to have a great time and enjoy their day of Saga. Our first round began at 9:30am and our last ended before 5pm. Jason and I could have squeezed the games and tried for 1:45 minute games, but we decided that the extra 15 minutes would come in handy to finish games that ran long. This definitely proved to be the case, especially in Round 2.

    Prizes donated by Shieldwall Gaming Club and Gripping Beast

    Prizes donated by Pulp Figures, Saga Ohio, and Gripping Beast

    Prizes donated by Game Table Adventures and Tim Peaslee
I was pleasantly surprised to see our Saga Ohio regulars performed very well. Adrian John and Mike Stelzer, who have been playing in our group from the beginning, both were in our unofficial, undefeated "Final Four." Equally, I was happy to see some of our less veteran Saga Ohio players rose to the challenge of the tournament. Both Lee Parker, running Milites Christi, and Joe Dihrkop, playing Normans, were also in our Final Four. Congratulations to all four of them, as well as the other participants who performed well! It was interesting to see that Adrian -- who claims the Jomsvikings are one of the most deadly armies in Saga -- was vindicated in his ATC victory. Equally, it was fun to see Lee's Milites Christi -- who are on no one's list as the killer, unbalanced armies -- performed so well in the tournament. Modest as always, Lee attributed his winning to great dice rolling. But honestly, would it really be possible to win a Saga tournament (or any wargaming one) without average or above average die rolling?

    Phil K and his Welsh take on Joe D's very successful Norman army (3rd place finish)
I really enjoyed to see the mix of armies being played in the tournament, as well. With 16 participants, we had nine different armies being played. It IS interesting that with 13 of 16 armies being from Age of Vikings, we had NO Last Romans or Norse-Gaels on the field. The Last Romans get beat up on a lot in commentary as one of the weaker Age of Vikings factions. And despite their ability to roll bucket loads of combat dice, I honestly think Norse-Gaels are the other weaker faction in Age of Vikings. Otherwise, I feel 10 of the 12 factions in that book are strong -- very strong! No one played Carolingians, but I understand that as the Proelium part of their battle board makes them a high-skill level army. Our main Irish player, Tyler, was unable to attend, otherwise that army would have been represented. One shocker may have been the absence of a Pagan Rus player. That army is always one of the most frustrating to play against. We also did not have an Anglo-Dane player because of a positive Covid test the week of the convention. All in all, though, I was very happy with the variety of armies that were played!

   Mike K's Vikings advance towards their white-cloaked foes - Bob B's Baltic Crusaders
With only three Age of Crusades armies, I feel I should probably talk about that, as well. We lost two players the week of the convention -- Terry Doner was going to bring Mongols and Shane Evans was planning on Byzantines. Since I was GM, my Moors weren't going to see the field, either -- unless someone wanted to use them as a loaner, which no one did. Perhaps it is just a sign that Age of Crusades hasn't caught on as much as Age of Vikings? Bob Boggs did come and represent the Baltic Crusaders -- doing very well with them (as was to be expected), finishing 2-1. 

    Dave W's moves his Welsh warband forward to engage Troy H's Scots
Maybe this will give some folks ideas for new armies, too? I think a lot of people, like me, enjoy fielding those under-represented armies and winning with the "lower percentage" armies. I know that is why I am eventually going to field a Mongol army! Plus, I purchased a 4-point Gripping Beast starter set of crusader-type figures (the Spanish box, actually, though I will likely field it as Crusader or Milites Christi). Either way, I hope the exposure to so many different army types leads our regulars to field some new armies. I know Andy Swingle bought an Eastern Princes starter set, so it sounds like this movement is underway!

    The mounted swarm of Jim R's Hungarians prepare to encircle Lowell L's Anglo-Saxons
Here were the final standings of the ATC 2021 Saga Ohio Tournament
  1. Adrian John JOMSVIKINGS, 3-0, 17 tournament points
  2. Lee Parker MILITES CHRISTI, 3-0-1, 15 tournament points
  3. Joe Dikrkop NORMANS, 3-0-1, 15 tournament points
  4. Dave Welch WELSH, 2-1, 12 tournament points 
  5. Bob Boggs BALTIC CRUSADERS, 2-1, 12 tournament points
  6. Andy Swingle ANGLO-SAXONS, 2-1, 12 tournament points
  7. Jim Randall ARPADIAN HUNGARIAN, 2-1, 11 tournament points
  8. Mike Stelzer VIKINGS, 2-1, 11 tournament points
  9. Mark Bishop NORMANS, 1-2, 9 tournament points
  10. Troy Hill SCOTS, 1-2, 9 tournament points
  11. Lowell Lufkin ANGLO-SAXONS, 1-2, 8 tournament points
  12. Phil Keifer WELSH, 1-2, 8 tournament points 
  13. Steve Smith SCOTS, 1-2, 7 tournament points
  14. Mike Kennedy VIKINGS, 1-2, 7 tournament points
  15. Jason Viner VIKINGS, 0-3, 5 tournament points
  16. Ron Nassif VIKINGS, 0-3, 3 tournament points


    Lowell L, left, and Jim R battle it out in Round 1, Feasting and Pillaging
Here are the results of the first round battles using Feasting and Pillaging from Book of Battles

  • Andy Swingle's Anglo-Saxons defeated Mike Kennedy's Vikings
  • Adrian John's Jomsvikings defeated Ron Nassif's Vikings
  • Dave Welch's Welsh defeated Troy Hill's Scots
  • Lee Parker's Milites Christi defeated Mark Bishop's Normans
  • Joe Dihrkop's Normans defeated Phil Keifer's Welsh
  • Jim Randall's Hungarians defeated Lowell Lufkin's Anglo-Saxons
  • Mike Stelzer's Vikings defeated Steve Smith's Scots
  • Bob Boggs's Baltic Crusaders defeated Jason Viner's Vikings
   Mark B's Norman spearmen move past rocky ground, ready to engage with the enemy
Here are the results of the second round battles using Old Feud from Book of Battles
  • Lee Parker's Milites Christi defeated Bob Bogg's Baltic Crusaders
  • Joe Dihrkop's Normans defeated Jim Randall's Arpadian Hungarians
  • Adrian John's Jomsvikings defeated Andy Swingle's Anglo-Saxons
  • Mike Stelzer's Vikings defeated Dave Welch's Welsh 
  • Troy Hill's Scots defeated Ron Nassif's Vikings
  • Phil Keifer's Welsh defeated Jason Viner's Vikings
  • Steve Smith's Scots defeated Mark Bishop's Normans
  • Mike Kennedy's Vikings defeated Lowell Lufkin's Anglo-Saxons

    Jason V, left, ponders deployment of his Vikings to face off against Bob B's Baltic Crusaders
Here are the results of the third round battles using Clash of Warlords

  • Adrian John's Jomsvikings defeated Mike Stelzer's Vikings
  • Lee Parker's Milities Christi tied Joe Dihrkop's Normans
  • Andy Swingle's Anglo-Saxons defeated Phil Keifer's Welsh
  • Bob Boggs's Baltic Crusaders defeated Mike Kennedy's Vikings
  • Jim Randall's Arpadian Hungarians defeated Troy Hill's Scots
  • Dave Welch's Welsh defeated Steve Smith's Scots
  • Lowell Lufkin's Anglo-Saxons defeated Ron Nassif's Vikings
  • Mark Bishop's Normans defeated Jason Viner's Vikings

    Joe D's Normans advance towards their foes
For those interested in joining in the Saga tournament action, there is another Saga tournament planned for Cincycon 2021. It will be a three-round, Age of Vikings tournament on Oct. 23, 2021. There is a $5 entry fee and the tournament is being run by John Loy. I planning on attending, as are a number of others from the Saga Ohio group.

   Mark B measures his advance against Lee P's Milites Christi, who would go on to win 2nd place

    Mark B's Normans surge toward Steve S's Scots in the 'Old Feud' scenario in Round 2