With the excitement on monday about the imminent arrival of Saga , the new Dark Ages rule system from Gripping Beast , I couldn’t resist giving the game an outing tonight with 2 gaming friends away from the club, especially as I won’t be down on 3rd October when we all plan to give it a run out.
The scenario a slight variation on Clash of Warlords from the scenario section with a force of raiding Vikings looking to get to the Priest’s residence near the Church and the Anglo-Danish force looking to stop them.
The Rules suggest using 4 points for a starting game with 1 point being either 4 Hearthguard (Hirdmen or Housecarls) , or 8 warriors (Bondi or Ceorls) ,or 12 levy (Thralls or Geburs) . The hero or warlord comes for free.
Having unpacked the basic 4 point forces as in the book 2 units of Hearthguard and 2 units of warriors each and characterised them by converting 1 unit of Viking Hearthguard to Beserkers ( it just had to be done) and 1 of the Anglo-Danish Hearthguard units to having 2 handed Dane axes, I decided it just didn’t look enough for an evenings play so upgraded to 5 points by adding 8 more Ceorls to the Anglo-Danes and 4 more Hirdmen to the Viking marauders.
Steve and David diced for sides with David winning the Vikings. They then deployed with Steve spreading himself across in front of the buildings with the Ceorls to the fore the Housecarls acting as a mobile reserve with his warlord. David opted to reorganize his forces combining all the Hirdmen into 1 larger unit( the units bought as points don’t have to stay as they were purchased but can be combined or split as desired, as long as the same type of troop is in the unit on the table and the size is between 4 and 12) and using these with the Warlord and nearby Beserkers as a core depolyed to punch up the centre whilst screened by the Bondi on the flanks. With that we were off!
The first turn for both sides was used to familiarize all 3 of us with the use of Dice and battle boards with David managing to use the leader’s special abilities ,” Determination ” and “We Obey” to move the Warlord and his Hirdmen for free he then moved them both again acquiring both a fatigue point for undertaking a 2nd action. the Beserkers also moved forward as did the Bondi on the flanks with 1 unit moving twice to get into the small wood also acquiring a fatigue point.
The Anglo Danes just used their activation to move themselves around slightly adjusting their initial deployment to meet the threat with 1 unit of Housecarls moving o cover the edge of the wood. They didn’t acquire any Fatigue points.
A few words on fatigue points here, they are used to represent both fatigue due to activity , being acquired for doing lots of activity and also fighting in melee, as well as reflecting a degree of morale as they are picked up when nearby friends are cut down. Units can carry so many before the effects are felt and they are used up by your opponent to his benefit, more on this later.
The second turn saw a further general advance by the Vikings , but the saga dice were used to activate the “Njord” effect which removes 1 fatigue from the warlord and any unit within M ( medium distance or 6″) of him, making the formidable Viking centre refreshed as it arrived within charge distance of the Anglo Danish troops.
Anglo Danish activity in Steve’s 2nd turn focused on moving his troops up to support his threatened Ceorls and pushing the Housecarls into the woods on his right flank to stop a sneaky Viking outflanking manouvre. he also noticed the chance to pop the threatened leading unit of Ceorls into “Shieldwall” in front of the Beserkers by discarding 2 of his Saga dice. With them bolstered he sat back and awaited the inevitable onslaught.
Not wanting to disappoint David promptly moved the Besrkers into contact as well as the Bondi in the woods , but misjudging the distance slightly and also by totally losing sight of 1 figure in the woods didn’t manage to get all his figures into combat (base to base or within Very Short distance or 2″ of an engaged enemy model).
Following the Melee procedures the Bondi in the woods managed to generate 5 attack dice with 5 of the 8 figures engaged, but the Housecarls were all engaged allowing them 8 dice for their 4 figures. David rolled well needing 5’s and 6’s to hit the superiorly trained and armoured Housecarls managing to get 3 hits Steve meanwhile got 4 hits needing 4’s or better. the Vikings activated their attack pool to boost their defensive pool and so saved all but one of the hits on 5 or 6 as did the Housecarls without any boosting of their dicepool. As it was a tied melee the Bondi bounced off with both sides gaining a fatigue point.
We now resolved the Beserkers charge expecting great things. 3 engaged Beserkers generated a whopping 12 dice against the Ceorls 8 for the whole unit however the Beserkers offensive prowess was offset by their armour value and hence target number being a mere 3 to hit! A rather below par set of rolls by David resulted in all 4 Beserkers dying as even unengaged models can be killed against 5 of the Ceorls , rather a disappointment. the consequence of this was that the Hirdmen and Warlord both acquired a fatigue point for seeing their mates cut down.
Steve at this point chose to adjust his deployment and remove fatigue points as well as set up some nasty surprises using his Saga dice abilities., for Davids next turn.
The Vikings , completely in character charged in wherever they could except for the leader who rather Cravenly hung back ( Not favoured of Odin this one methinks!) although he did use “Loki” in the orders phase to force the remaining Ceorls of the Beserker combat to flee. The combats went in favour of the Vikings this time with the Housecarls in the woods being cut down but being too far away to have any adverse effects. A unit of Ceorls in the centre losing the melee but due to the “Unforgiving” trait (the nasty surprise mentioned above) popping an extra 2 fatigue points onto the Hirdmen on top of the usual 1 for melee making them now exhausted ( different quality troops can accumulate different amounts of fatigue before becoming less effective or exhausted).
Sensing that the tide was turning as the elite of the Viking Raiders were now exhausted or dead in the centre Steve moved in for the kill. His warlord and the Dane Axe armed Housecarls charged the remaining untouched Bondi on Davids right wiping them out without any losses to themselves and heaping more fatigue onto David’s Hirdmen and warlord. He also used the “Exhaustion” ability to remove 2 of the exhausted Hirdmen making the Viking centre very weak.
With the grand plan crumbling around his feet and the Bishop’s house a distant objective David desperately removed as much fatigue as he could and tried to move around the Bondi in the woods. However it wasn’t enough as the next turn saw the Anglo Danish warlord and his accompanying Housecarls with their Dane Axes charging into the remaining exhausted Hirdmen and Viking warlord and using the fatigue points to drop the armour value of both Hirdmen and warlord so that they could hardly miss, while the exhausted Vikings could only fight back with half their attack dice pools and found it harder to hit. ( Fatigue points are used by the enemy to boost their armour and to drop yours so you really don’t want to carry too many into a melee!)
The result was almost predictable with the Viking Hirdmen being cut down , the warlord now finally involved in the fight, but exhausted from controlling his forces had little chance and perished taking 5 hits although he saved 2 of them with his defensive rolls the resulting 3 hits together with having no living friends nearby meant that even the “Resilience” ability couldn’t save him and he went to Valhalla sword in hand. He did however manage to finish off the Anglo Danish warlord as Steve had a horrid set of defence rolls failing all 3 so even the presence of 1 nearby Housecarl couldn’t save his own warlord.
A clear Anglo Danish victory as the surviving 4 Vikings were in no position to continue heavily outnumbered and still a long way from their objective and leaderless, while the Anglo Danish forces were still over 50% strong despite their warlord’s noble sacrifice.
All in all a fun nights game. There is a lot of complexity in the battle boards and it would pay to stick to 1 faction for a while to learn how to use them. Management of fatigue is absolutely key as we found out when the Hirdmen got slaughtered due to their accumulated fatigue levels rendered them ineffective. It will be interesting to play with some missile troops to see how they can break things up , but that will involve some more painting on my behalf as I don’t have enough at present but now I have the incentive to do so as this is one set of rules that I want to play a whole lot more.