I recently met up with Dave for a game of Saga. He brought 6 points of new (and therefore unpainted) Norse-Gaels (NG). They were made up of some Crusader and Gripping Beast metals along with a few GB plastics. They were mainly Dane Axe Hearthguard and Warriors along with a unit of Javelin armed levies. Dave chose to keep some of the units small as “kamikaze Axes”.
I ran my Norman models as a Capetian brand of the Frank faction. Three points of hearthguard, mounted. One unit of crossbows, one of spearmen and one unit of levy bowmen.
Neither of us had used these armies before, so the battleboards were new to us. We kept things simple with the “Clash of Warlords” mission. Five pieces of scenery found their way onto the table, mainly in the middle of the table to really block things up (uneven ground).
The NG got to deploy three scenery items and chose very much to centre it all as per the photo below. The Franks won the roll to deploy first and so gained the advantage of putting their Caballarii (mounted Knights) down last in two blocks of six. The Frank bows went to the left flank, the crossbows to the right flank. The Warlord and spears kept to the centre.
The NG made a large block in the centre as they didn’t fancy the missiles or cavalry on their flanks.
The Franks won the roll to go first. We used the optional rule from Raven’s Shadow to give the second player three Saga dice. The NG used these well to prop up their Challenge Pool and one die onto the “Duel” ability I think (this can remove or add a fatigue if the challenge is won). The Franks put three dice onto their Battle Pool, one onto “Oppression” to get a second turn of Fatigue free activations and the rest onto Activations. The aim was to use the Frank ability to really push around the board with some fatigue free movement.
The Franks moved their crossbows up toward the NG’s and out of the way of the Caballarii. On the left flank, the archers moved up and the Caballarii also pushed to within L of the NG right flank. The Caballarii then moved again and charged the NG Dane Axe unit of four warriors. The Power of the NG Challenge shone through as they Challenged and killed one Caballarii then they used one melee ability. They did well on their rolls and killed three more Caballarii. The Caballarii killed all four warriors, so the NG “won” on Victory Points. So far the small “suicide units” of NG Dane Axes were doing well! On the downside, four other NG units were within S of the wiped out unit and so took a Fatigue each (see the Viking Meeples in the photo below!) The NG Warlord (the black undercoated figure in the photo below with the larger round base) looked very exposed.
The NG reacted by attacking en-masse with all their Saga dice(!) plus the fatigue point on the Caballarii from the previous combat and killing the last two Caballarii. This reduced the Frank Saga dice pool to five for their next turn. Ouch.
The NG have a clear flank but no Saga abilities left to capitalise. Later, Dave said that he kept clear of the flank with the Frank archers, so I guess they did their job!
The crossbows that moved up are attacked and with no dice in defence, they are in trouble from the Dane Axe boys. The lose a challenge and suffer six casualties for three in return I think.
The Frank survivors keep out of the way for the rest of the game and are left alone. The lack of dice for either side to “mop up” is an issue. These two boards really are Saga dice hungry!
The NG push forward to try to get to the Frank Warlord, or at least provoke an attack by the Franks!
The Franks respond by pushing forward with the eight spearmen warriors. These guys get really lucky and kill all but a few of the NGs!
The partying does not last long. In their part of the turn, the NG’s make use of the fact that the Frank spearmen are now in range of 11 of the NG levy javelins. These are thrown with gusto and kill three Franks. Ouch once again. If only the Franks had left a dice on their “Protection” ability.
The NG Dane axes now charge in to finish off the Frank spearmen. At this point, the NG Challenge does not go to plan, but still works in the end. For three turns, the Challenge is stood off until the NG’s become exhausted and the spearmen close to that. The melee goes ahead and the spears die. Another Frank Saga dice is lost. Worse, the Caballarii nearby pick up a Fatigue for witnessing the death of their battle brothers.
Things are not looking good for the Franks. With only the Warlord and one unit of Hearthguard cavalry (these are tired now) the question is what to do. The Saga dice at this point for the Franks do not work out. I chose to take off two of the three Battle Pool dice. Big mistake. I roll three dice and get two Rare dice. I put on the “Adaptation” ability to get two dice. These two dice both come up as Rare two. I am now stuck with three Rare dice and one uncommon dice. I decide that using my tired Caballarii against an enemy that can exploit this fact is not good. I decide to charge the Warlord into the four Dane Axes, tired from their assault on the spearmen. The NGs have two fatigues, the Warlord is fresh. If he dies, game over. I put enough (three Rare!) dice into the Combat pool to give me three extra Attack dice, and one dice into “Protection” to help reduce the hits taken (but only by one). IF I had rolled different symbols, I could have bumped up the Battle Pool again and really made a difference. The Warlord charged in to the four NG’s. The NG’s Challenged the Warlord. Five Frank dice versus two for the NGs. The NGs won and put a Fatigue on the Warlord. The Warlord now has to fight with Armour 5 not 6 as he wanted. The Warlord gets eight attack dice, the NG’s eight as well. It’s all down to who rolls best for one turn of combat. The Warlord kills some of the NGs but in return, they do three kills. With no bodyguard around (he was out of range of the Caballarii to have used “We Obey”) the Warlord dies a brave death and goes down to the biting Dane Axes….
Victory for the Norse-Gaels.
This was a good learning game for these new factions. We both enjoyed the game.
The Franks seem to be interesting, with a little opportunity for combat, but mainly a reactive force that can redeploy quickly if needed. There never seem to be enough Saga dice to roll. Using the Warlord to get his free activation and his “We Obey” rule is helpful for this list.
The Norse-Gaels (NG) ‘Challenge’ ability seems subtle, but is very useful for forcing the opponent into moves they may not like. Being forced to have fatigue for example if you decline a challenge is not a good way to start a fight.
I like the NG list and thought Dave’s army was well constructed. His small units of Dane Axemen killed more points worth than they suffered and his levy got a round of useful javelin shots into the exposed Frank spearmen after they did well against the NG hearthguard. In general, the NG seem to be able to get an advantage in kills over larger units of Franks due to the bonuses of Challenge based abilities and some good melee abilities. The limitation seemed to be that all the NG Saga dice were needed to make one good attack per turn. The standard “How Brave Are You” ability gives the NGs the edge in Challenges (+1 or +2 bonus) along with extra dice drawn from the Challenge Pool. The structure of the “suicide units” of small bands of NG’s armed with Dane Axes also meant that the Saga dice pool could be kept up longer than the Franks. Always useful to have lots of Saga dice being generated!
Next time out, the Franks I think need to make more use of their limited melee abilities. Being able to use the “Battle Pool” dice to multiply up hits negated in the “Protected” ability and the number of combat dice as well in the Combat Pool. That added with the Fatigue free movement for “X” number of units with the “Oppression” ability. I think the Franks will take some time to master.