Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Picts Outmaneuver Vikings in Battle of Heroes


    My Picts and loaned-out Vikings clash in Battle of Heroes at our February Saga Game Day
We had a light turnout -- only six players -- for our February Saga Game Day at the Guardtower East in Columbus, OH. It was so light that we decided to postpone the next turn of the Strongholds & Realms campaign and just play one-off games. Mike K had messaged to say he would be running late, so I volunteered to wait on him and let the other four get started. Bob B and his Age of Invasions Romans matched up against Mike S and his brand new Avar army. They were playing Battle of Heroes. Dave E also ran AOI Romans against Jenny T's Vikings. They also decided to play Battle of Heroes. In fact, all three games that we played this month were that scenario from Book of Battles. Doubtless, all three were different with the random aspect of Terrain, Deployment, Victory Conditions, Special Rules, etc.!

When Mike arrived (6 players -- three Mikes!), I loaned him my Viking army and we got set up. He had not played Saga since October, so I tried to help him through selecting his army and terrain set up. Mike went with my standard Viking army -- warlord, two units of 6 hearthguard, two units of 8 warriors, and one unit of 12 levy archers. I explained that he'd be facing my terrain-dependent, Pictish army of three units of levy (one javelin, one bow, and one of my brand new crossbowmen) and three units of ordinary foot warriors. He won the roll to be first player and I talked him through the choices available in Battle of Heroes. He chose Terrain and Special Rules, hoping to limit my terrain and missile power.

    Picts & Vikings deploy fighting across the width of the table in the special rules for Battle of Heroes
Things didn't work out as well as he might have hoped on terrain placement. I still got a large forest in the center of the board, a small one on the left, and he placed a marsh in his left rear. I placed one final seet of fields before the die roll said we were done with terrain. However, Mike caught a small break with the Refused Flank setup, which shifted board 90 degrees and had us fighting with the short edges as our baselines. This took my woods out of easy reach and left me with only the marsh and fields on my side of the table. Our victory condition rule was "Target," which allowed us to nominate an enemy unit after deployment that would count as bonus points for killing those figures. He chose my levy bow, while I chose one of his 6-man hearthguard units. Since each figure counted as double for Massacre Points, I figured one point doubled to two would give the most bang for the buck, so to speak.

We are also using "Night Fight," which meant any unit without another friendly unit within Short at the start of the player's turn would receive a fatigue. I deployed my levy as far forward as I could so we could be fighting around the large woods as quickly as possible to take advantage of our special abilities on the Pictish battle board. Deployed about a Medium back from the levy was the second line of three warrior units. I planned to shoot, shoot, and shoot again at the Vikings as they advanced. If any charged and pushed back my levy units, I would counter-attack with my warriors.

    Pict crossbow and javelin men veer left around the woods to get a clear shot at the Vikings
On Turn 1, I sent my crossbowmen, who had been in the center opposite the large woods, to the left. They and the javelin levy advanced as far as they could with one move, hoping on the next turn to get a shot at the hearthguard unit we'd picked as our Target. The bowmen, knowing they had a bullseye painted on their chest, scooted to their left to shelter behind the woods. They loosed a volley on the first turn killing one of the Viking archers. That would be the sole contribution of those two units to the entire battle, as it turned out!

    Little happened on the right flank, as my warriors held back and the bowmen sheltered behind trees
The action looked like it would take place on my left, as I'd hoped. Mike bravely advanced his hearthguard that I'd targeted alongside a warrior unit and the warlord. I had made sure my levy ended slightly more than a Long away, so he would have had to use three movement activations to charge them, so was unable to do so. On our half of turn two, I loaded up more Saga dice in my Levy Activations slot than I ever had before -- 4 dice! Both my crossbow and javelin levy fired twice (the crossbowmen having to sandwich the shots with a move partially into the woods, as per the Saga rules). With 27 shooting dice we managed to kill only three of the six hearthguard. Our rolls, especially considering the +1 for crossbow, were quite poor and his saves were spectacular until the final shot.

    Crossbow bolts and javelins flew to try to cut down his hearthguard, but the dice said otherwise
Still, three hearthguard are nothing to sneeze at and they charged into the levy javelinmen, killing eight of them and hurling them backwards. Mike had loaded up his battle board abilities to augment the charge, more than compensating for our Feint ability, which allowed the levy to save on 4-6 on 1d6. What's worse, is we didn't kill a single figure with 8 attack rolls. Dice were definitely NOT going our way, early on! He advanced his warriors to attempt to screen his hearthguard from my retaliatory shooting. However, the crossbowmen moved up further along the woods edge and fired a shot into them, killing two this time and bringing our targeted unit down to one figure. That was better! We followed this up with a warrior charge into the screening unit of Viking warriors. The Norsemen closed ranks, and did a great job saving against our hits. We each took two hits, which meant my warriors fell back.

    Pictish and Viking warriors clash, Celt against Norseman, and fight to a draw
At this point, Mike began to get a little nervous about his warlord's position commanding a dwindling flanking force. He moved him back behind the woods to join the other hearthguard unit, who began to march into the woods towards the crossbowmen, but couldn't reach them. On the Pictish half of the turn, we shot down the sole survivor of our targeted unit, then the crossbowmen beat feet by playing Scouts. I used this Long move to withdraw them out of the woods. Meanwhile, a fresh unit of warriors charged in and massacred the remaining Viking warriors on the left flank. At this point, I knew the game was won on points. I invoked the end of game special rule, which allowed either player after four turns to call a premature end to the game, with their opponent getting only one turn. 

    The Picts pour in more reinforcements against the Viking thrust and begin to wear it down
Mike gamely sent his hearthguard forward to charge into my victorious warrior unit, cutting down more than half of them. His archers lobbed their first shot of the game, but caused no casualties. When counting up the points, the Picts were clearly ahead, 19-8. In retrospect, I pointed out he probably should have played Odin at least once or twice in this game. It is the Viking's best defense against shooting, and though he had it queued up towards the end of the game, he never played it. Exhausting one of my shooting units would have been a big benefit to him -- especially if he followed up on his half of the turn with a charge into those exhausted levy! I really liked the addition of the crossbowmen to the army. Being able to hit hearthguard on 4-6 is nice, and adds another threat to the Pictish arsenal. 

   The Viking warriors and hearthguard eliminated, the Picts begin to pull back, confident of victory
In the other games, it was Rome victorious. Bob chased the Avars off of the board, demolishing them 32-12. Dave was also victorious, with his 8-man hearthguard unit leading the way to a 23-14 victory over Jenny. As a recap, the games were:

  • Bob B's Romans (AOI) defeated Mike S's Avars in Battle of Heroes, 32-12
  • Dave E's Romans (AOI) defeated Jenny T's Vikings in Battle of Heroes, 23-14
  • Mike D's Picts defeated Mike K's Vikings in Battle of Heroes, 19-8

    There was one last Viking charge made, but it could do little to stem the tide of the Norse defeat
In a couple weeks, we have a double bill of Saga here in Ohio (see our Saga Ohio Facebook page). On Saturday, Feb. 19, there will be a Saga Tournament at Battle at the Crossroads convention in Cambridge, OH. The next day, Adrian will be hosting a Saga Game Day at the Dragons Guildhall in Beavercreek, OH. Unfortunately for me, I will be busy both days with my student Model United Nations club, so won't get to attend either. Hopefully, others can make it and both days will be a success!

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Pictish Crossbowmen for my Saga army

    My final addition to my Pictish Saga army - 12 levy crossbowmen from Gripping Beast
I had been using my 28mm Pictish figures as Scots for quite some time before the new Saga: Age of Invasions book came out. Its appropriate, as the medieval Scots were an amalgam of the Pictish kingdoms and the immigrant Scots kingdom of Dal Riata. Together, they formed Alba, or Dark Age and medieval Scotland, which is the period the Age of Vikings book covers. Naturally, when Age of Invasions came out, I was interested in trying out the retooled Pictish battle board. I had never played the other one, content to wait for the new one I'd heard was on the way.

    There were four poses in the 12 figures, but with the tartan and checkers, they look varied enough
Troop-wise, the one thing I needed to get to really take advantage of the new list was a unit of Levy crossbowmen. There is both archeological and pictoral (no pun intended) evidence of the Picts utilizing an early crossbow. The weapon is effective in the Saga rules, and would be a great option to add when selecting my army. Previously, when fielding levies for the Picts, I was using bow or javelin-armed troops. My plan now that I have this batch painted is to field one of each weapon type.

    The checkers and tartans I 'painted' with Micron pens, while the other patterns were done by brush
I got the figures from Gripping Beast. Last summer, I had entered 8 Mongol cavalry figures in the Saga Thorsday painting contest. I was the "random" winner -- not the entry they chose as best painted, but one they picked as a consolation prize, of sorts. I held off for a couple months ordering anything, and Andy from Gripping Beast was patient and said take my time. Once Age of Invasions came out and I got a chance to play the Picts, I knew that was what I wanted. So, I ordered it, and they shipped it quickly from England.

    I found it easier to draw the lines of the tartans with the pens than I have in the past with a brush
The Gripping Beast Pictish crossbowmen are cleanly cast, and consist of four poses. That means there is a repeat of three of each pose in my unit of 12. That's not a problem because I planned on painting them up in a variety of colors, each with their individual tartan, checkered, or cloak pattern. After painting up my previous batch of miniatures (Mongol cavalry), these seemed to go SO fast. There is a minimum of equipment on these -- cloak, tunic, belt, quiver for their crossbow bolts, and the crossbow. I decided that I wanted to keep the cloak colors on a woodland scheme -- contemporary accounts say the Picts were great at concealment and hiding in ambush. So, no really bright colors. I also went with dun to light brown tunic, undecorated. And I decided to use my Micron pens to do the lines and checkers for figures who had a tartan or checker pattern. I wasn't sure how it'd work out, but I was VERY happy with how they ended up looking. These are better than my more recent attempts at checkers or tartans with a brush, by far. The ink in the pens should probably be left to dry on the figures for a couple days before doing a wash over them. I had one that ran a little bit when I washed it the next day.

    This pack of six Micron pens cost about $20 at Hobby Lobby
I also decided to put some flower flocking on the bases, like I did with my Carolingian army. I figured it would make differentiating the crossbowmen from the archers easier when I was pulling miniatures out of the box. Finally, I painted them up in two batches of six. Hope you like how they came out -- I know I did!