Sunday, 12 April 2015

Plaid Wars



Another week and another visit to the so called 'Dark Ages' with my Scots SAGA war band, this time having a 'kilt-off' with the Irish.


After the recent skirmish against the Dark Ones, (also known as the Jomsvikings), the Scots were in a buoyant mood. They nearly won! So much so that after numerous prolonged and exceedingly drunken story telling at the Mormaer's Gathering - with Irish guests in attendance - insult was inevitably served after a discussion on wool prices spun out of control. The Irish resentfully returned to their own camp.
A few days later second Irish delegation approached the Scots. The Mormaer was still suffering Hell's Hangover and in no mood for civility. Not that he ever really was. In attendance was Aonghus, one of the Mormaer's Toisech, who was enthusing about the prowess of his mounted Hearthguard. Unfortunately an unguarded remark by one of the Irish regarding the lack of prowess of Aonghus's men fighting the Jomsvikings led yet again to more furious argument, with the Irish delegation being roughly turned away with demands that the Irish return to their own lands, or be forced... 

Irish Wolfhounds and Pack Master
This was the first time I've played against the Irish and I was looking forward to testing my Scots against a more 'traditional' warband; by that I mean the Irish abilities were less outlandish than, for example, the Jomsvikings [mutter, mutter]. Looking at the Irish Battle Board their abilities concentrated mostly on ranged combat with even their Fianna (Hearthguard) being equipped with javelins or Dane axes. Interestingly, they also could deploy a unit of Wolfhounds and a pack master, which my opponent from the Livingston Battleground club (DF) was keen to use!

For this game we decided just to play out a simple 6 point meeting engagement, with a couple of wheat fields providing soft cover and a large hill in the centre. No turn limit.  The game would be decided on kill points if the battle was not completed in time or if either warlords were killed. Initial deployment was rolled and units placed alternatively from levy through to warlord.

The game mostly played out as expected for this type of engagement, with both sides cautiously advancing their units until within melee or - particularly the Irish - shooting range. My Scots made much use of the Keeping the Distance (provides hard cover) ability, although the mounted Hearthguard were vulnerable as they could not benefit from any cover bonuses. The Irish ri tuathe (war lord) and his large slinger armed Kern contingents were clearly making for the hill in the centre of the battlefield, with their remaining Bonnachts (warriors) and Fianna inevitably engaging their Scots equivalent. A typical Saga clash ensued, characterised in particular by two highlights - The Charge of Aonghus  and the Irish Wolfhounds.

Whether the Scots Mormaer was still suffering from a hang-over or not, it might explain why he let Aonghus start the battle with either a bold and audacious manoeuvre or a suicidal-stupid manoeuvre - depending on the outcome! The mounted Hearthguard had split into two units, both being initially deployed on the flanks of the Scots line. After the allotted time for mutual insults had completed and battle commenced the mounted Hearthguard on the Scottish left immediately made a long moved to reach Aonghus's unit, hoping to confuse the Irish. Whether it did or not it certainly confused the rest of the Scots warband! Aonghus, meanwhile, led his unit around the hill, placing themselves between the Irish ri tuathe , his Bard, a large unit of slingers and the Wolfhounds  ensconced in a wheat field, the baying of the excited hounds clearly heard right across the battlefield.

The Irish warlord was accompanied by a Wandering Bard, who provides benefits to the chief such as Storyteller and Inspiration - which allows 'Determination' and 'We Obey' rules a second time every turn. The Scots Mormaer definately must hire one of these fellows! Whilst both sides were cautiously advancing their foot units, Aonghus decided his men would make their own entry into the storybooks and chanced a long, direct charge past the Irish lines straight at the Bard and the nearby Irish warlord! The plan, apparently, was to kill the Bard and then threaten the ri tuathe, holding up their advance up the hill and providing the Scots, particularly the other mounted Hearthguard unit, time to gain the high ground first.

Aonghus and the Wolfhounds
It didn't end as planned. Aonghus's unit, already fatigued by the long charge, were spectacularly defeated by the fighting bard and barrage of stones from the Irish Kerns, with Aonghus himself surviving , battered and wounded, only to be chased down by the snarling pack of Wolfhounds, viciously attacking both horse and rider! Aonghus at least got his wish to be included in the story books!

The remaining Scots mounted Hearthguard, enraged by the felling of Aonghus, charged into the frenzied canines, their howls and barks soon turning into squeals of fear as Scots steel sliced into the pack, scattering them and felling a few of the monstrosities. The riders then turned their reigns towards the Irish kerns but their fatigue and horses made them easy targets for the slingers. The second mounted Hearthguard was down.
Scots Soer-chele digging in

The Scots Mormaer had a dilemma. Now very sober after the defeat of his mounted units, he debated whether to order his last remaining Hearthguard foot unit to dislodge the ri tuathe, kerns and surviving hounds from the hill, or let them provide support to his Soer-chele (warriors) using the cover of a wheat field to dig in and await the inevitable onslaught from the Irish Fianna and Bonnachts. 

He ordered the Hearthguard foot up the hill. More a forlorn hope, they fought valiantly but were repeatedly pushed back from the hill summit by a storm of slinger-shot and wolf teeth. Meanwhile the large unit of Scots warriors also fought a valiant defensive battle under their war banner, with the Mormaer himself joining the melee of spears, javelins and swords.
Scots foot Hearthguard topping the hill
With the Irish lines now split and Death's Toll increasing on both sides, the battle was difficult to call. The Scots Mormaer even started to think he'd done enough to break the main Irish strength in the battle for the wheat field, and decided it was time to provide some encouragement to his forlorn Hearthguard. But disastrously, whilst his bodyguard were providing extra support to the Scots warriors, some of the Irish Fianna caught up with the Mormaer and after a desperate fight, he was down. The battle was lost.

And so another excellent game of Saga ended. If it wasn't for stupidly splitting the mounted Hearthguard and then sending them on demented suicide missions, I think the Scots would have had the advantage in this battle. The Irish wolfhounds, although fast and ignoring terrain, should have been easy kills for the Scots, but with more luck than ability, they were surprisingly effective. The use of a Wandering Bard was also effective in combination with a war lord and levy units, as ably demonstrated by opponent. I'm definitely thinking of recruiting one for the Scots!