Battleshed Diaries

Saturday 4 April 2015

Never walk away from home ahead of your axe and sword

The test of steel is underway. The Warlords are facing each other in a duel. Their retainers are fiercely fighting to decide the day.

A sizable force of Jomsvikings have been spotted off the north-western Scottish coast and a local warband has been despatched to intercept before the brutal pagans can push inland and plunder the peaceful villages in the vicinity. Late in the day, on a clear patch of scrubland under a leaden grey sky with a persistent, cold drizzle soaking leather and fur, the warbands finally faced off. Both sides have similar numbers and no useful terrain advantage either way and so the rival warbands embarked  upon a protracted exchange of insults and crude mimicry.  

Eventually the Scottish warlord issues a personal challenge which is diffidently accepted by the Jomsviking chief. The Two chiefs stride into the centre of the contested ground between the two jeering warbands and after a another flurry of verbal abuse, weapons are drawn.

And so begins another 6 point game of Saga against the notorious Jomsvikings, suitably all dressed in the colour of night. Now, as my regular reader knows, I hate the JomsvikingAnd I'm not alone in this prejudice by all accounts. They have the dreaded 'Wrath' system where they can build up some ridiculously powerful 'abilities' - and I use that term hesitantly. More pagan dark magic in my book! This time however, the Scots have learned from their initial, brutal encounter with these northern monsters from the far Ice Lands. They have a cunning plan.

In this scenario, each warlord starts with 12 'Wound' markers with each non-cancelled hit reducing his wounds by one. When this reduces to 0 the warlord is killed. At the end of 7 turns, the warlord with the most Wound markers left wins the battle.

The Jomsvikings won the initiative as their force deployed first, having fewer units. So given their uncompromising reputation it was a surprise to see their Jarl using this turn to 'strategically withdraw' from solo combat towards the safety of his own lines. However, with the Scots fielding a large unit of 8 mounted Hearthguard only a couple of moves away, this was excusably wise!

By the end of the second turn the Scots strategy was clear. They were lamentably sacrificing their poor levy archers to the vile Icemen, I mean 'ability', Northern Tempest, and begrudgingly allowing their mounted Hearthguard to be deterred from advancing, relenting to Punishment - all to stop the Jomsviking from accumulating any Wrath!

The Jomsvikings, frustrated by this tactic arranged their lines and advanced their Hearthguard on both flanks, ever wary to keep the dangerous mounted Scots unit at bay.  The Scots advanced their large unit of 12, banner-bearing warriors to block the advance with support from their other warriors units, their Mormaer deciding it was also time to find a move defendable position.

By mid game, there were a lot of Scot levy causalities - all victim to Northern Tempest and their mounted Hearthguard were still frustratingly stationary. Eventually the Jomsviking attacked, with two Hearthguard units pincering to threaten the Scots Mormaer. They were both intercepted by the supporting Scots Soer-chele and a real, melee battle was finally underway -  none of this aberrant sorcery! Meanwhile the large Scottish banner-bearing Soer-chele unit was resolutely holding ground checking the advance of the Jomsviking Dreng units, the extensive Scots defensive abilities coming into play.

Then followed a flurry of separate running battles, with the previously stationary mounted Scots finally gaining enough momentum to interdict a Jomsviking Hearthguard unit pummelling a defending Scots support unit shielding their war chief, with a very similar engagement on the other flank. 

The Jomsvikings, stymied by their lack of Wrath - which effectively negates all six of their most powerful abilities, (seven, counting the wrath-reliant Activation Pool) - decided to form a massive shieldwall for their vexed Jarl to stand behind, much to the amusement and vocal taunting by myself, which involved clucking chicken impressions! Not very mature, but hell, it felt good!

On the last turn, with both war chiefs still on 12 Wound markers, it was looking like a draw. Which, frankly, against the Jomsviking is still a 'win' in my book! However, fortuitously for the Jomsvikings, one of their battered and reduced Hearthguard units, having lost a combat broke off but stumbled into the lone Scots Mormaer taking time for a drink after all his shouting! The Scots Mormaer fought them off but, crucially, took a single wound. With only the Scots turn left to play, It was now all down to a possible last ditch charge by the remaining mounted Scots Hearthguard, using multiple movement activations to flank and bypass the Jomsviking shieldwall to reach their Jarl. After a bit of double-checking and discussion between myself and my opponent, I rolled the 5 remaining Scots Saga Dice and loaded up the mounted Hearthguard activations.

They made their long, flanking move, repeatedly reduced to medium movement through accumulating fatigue but finally two of the mounted Scots made contact with the Jomsviking war boss. In a last desperate melee, with 4 attack dice only needing two undefended hits to get at least a single wound, the game was in a tense balance.

The Jomsviking Jarl checked the hits. They had won the game by a whisker. 12 wounds to 11. Drat.

This proved to be a great game, and special thanks to my opponent, GF (Livingston Battleground), for being such a great sport. I have learned that, as with most things, 'knowing your enemy' is key to victory. The Jomsviking, as long as their Wrath is contained, are pretty vulnerable in melee. And with a couple of fast moving units deployed against them, countering the use of Punishment which cancels activations, they are potentially in real trouble. The victory here is that I no longer think the Jomsviking are 'broken'   - too overpowered compared to some other factions. Indeed, I know look forward to playing against them!

"Never walk
away from home

ahead of your axe and sword.

You can't feel a battle

in your bones
or foresee a fight."

- The Havamal