Battleshed Diaries

Saturday 28 May 2016

Angry Monks

With the first season of the Dance of Power SAGA campaign on the starting blocks, we've had two late entries from the Irish and the Norman factions, bringing the impending medieval rumble up to ten determined Warlords! A few pre-campaign training manoeuvres has also let me try out one of the new scenarios in the Age of the Wolf campaign supplement - and let loose a mob of Angry Monks!

Dance of Power campaign news

Continuing the precedent set by the other players in this campaign, the two new factions are led by Warlords with suitably unpronounceable names. In fact, the Irish leader is way ahead in a category all of his own;  Abhartach MacLaren, Ri Tuathe, First of his Line, Father of War, Drinker of Blood, Sword to the High King, Warden of Ulster. I hope he can live up to that impressive list of titles! Not only that, the Ri Tuathe insists he's formerly announced by an expensive and extraordinary excessive retinue of Bards, (struggling to be heard over the howls from a pack of barely controllable Wolfhounds), employed to orate his extensive personal history and achievements. Absolutely no embellishments whatever, they insist.

In contrast, the typically restrained countenance of a second Norman Warlord, Duke Thibaud De Payen, has thrown his helmet into the ring (to be retrieved by a slave and polished later), shunning the brash ostentation of his Gaelic rival with barely concealed contempt and indifference to the Irish king's enmity.

Since no campaign battles have been fought yet (the first are scheduled in the next few days), there were no objections for two more players. It's certainly going to be an intriguing test of the Age of the Wolf system's flexibility - and my campaign management skills, such as they are. It truly will be an epic saga for the Warlord eventually crowned King! I've updated the dedicated Dance of Power Campaign page and, usefully - for anyone following the campaign - includes a schedule of the battles (campaign events) for this season.

Angry Monks

One of the practice games I played recently was a 6 point game between the Viking Warlord Torstein "Hammeren" Skjeggestad and my Scots Mormaer, Fearghas MacCoinnich, using one of the new scenarios from the campaign book called Forest Road Ambush. And what an interesting set-up it is too! This has one warband traversing a rough road through enemy territory, straight guessed it... an ambush.

Viking lines south of the road as the ambush is sprung
As it wasn't a campaign game, we rolled for the ambusher (Torstein Skjeggestad) and followed the terrain and deployment rules provided in Age of the Wolf. Without going into full details - you'll have to own a copy for that! - the ambushed player (me) has to first deploy a 'vanguard unit' on the road followed by all his remaining units facing the same direction - basically in column - with the Warlord, Fearghas MacCoinnich, placed last in the centre of the column.

Then it was over to the Ambusher, my opponent (Ian C) to deploy his forces anywhere on the table 'in terrain' and no closer to L of an enemy unit. Victory Points are totalled up in the usual way per model after 7 complete turns, although the ambushed player gets bonus points for any models that manage to escape from any table edge. If it's the Warlord, the ambushed player automatically wins. But...there's always a but...the ambusher gets the first turn and the ambushed player (me) only gets half the SAGA dice that would normally be generated. This is where I had a cunning plan!

SAGA Angry Monks
The Angry Monks, all stirred up being...angry.
Angry Monks. Who would have thought!? Only recently painted and already let loose on the battlefield. And his scenario provided the prefect opportunity to try these clerical levy with their very useful God's Shepherd trait; as long as they are within S of their warlord at the start of the turn they generate one SAGA dice! So my first turn SAGA dice would be 4 instead of halved to 3 (from 6) during the initial ambush. Nice.

My rather compact little column comprised of eight Hearthguard in the vanguard, followed by 12 Warriors including a Bannerman (a marching column isn't right without a flag!), a small unit of 4 warriors escorting Fearghas MacCoinnich, the mob of Angry Monks and 4 mounted Hearthguard forming the rearguard. The Vikings were all around. Hiding in the woods and lying low behind hills. Units of warriors, some with Javelins, levy slingers, and lurking somewhere - the dreaded Berserkers!

Torstein "Hammeren" Skjeggestad holding his own against the survivors of the Scots mounted rearguard and the mob of Angry Monks
A turn in and the Vikings, aided by their extra SAGA dice, were soon screaming out of the thick woods on both sides of the road, warriors hurling javelins at the mounted Scots Hearthguard, followed up by another unit of warriors with Torstein "Hammeren" Skjeggestad close by urging them on. 

The Scots had a decision to make. Which was the best way to get their warlord to safety? South of the road there only appeared to be a unit of warriors and the slingers but slightly rougher terrain. To the north, the Viking main strength. South then. However first, the Scots had to deploy from the column. Well, more of a scramble really. They were hemmed in by thick woods and a steep ravine. The Vikings had chosen their ambush well.

The next few turns turned into a pretty ferocious fight, with the Scots Hearthguard, Warlord and warriors breaking south in and around the woods and hopefully through the waiting lines of Viking warriors and slingers. Close on the Scots' heels came the Viking Berserkers, Hirdmen and warriors. The Scots mounted Hearthguard and the mob of Angry Monks quickly established their rearguard duties, attempting to hold up the enemy. 

Viking slingers frantically slinging at the advancing Scots Hearthguard
This let me consider another useful Monkish' trait - Martyrdom. Each time a Monk is killed during the enemy's turn, their controlling player (me) may immediately take one unused SAGA die, roll it and place on the Battleboard! I was soon taunting my opponent with, "Go on, attack the Monks...I dare you!" This was particularly useful in the latter stages of the game when both sides were low on SAGA dice due to unit losses. The canny Viking Warlord though was soon wise to this trick and kept his distance from the Monks as best he could, however they served their purpose as a human roadblock!

These 'Swords for Hire' Monks - the same as basic levy - were proving a very useful addition for this scenario at least. On the downside, their God's Shepherd trait is only available if they start their turn within S of their Warlord and they are worth half a victory point (like a warrior); so martyring them for extra SAGA dice could be dangerous where victory points are tight. Nonetheless, bloody good fun to use!

The Scots (top) cutting a path south through the Viking lines
By turn six it was pretty much game over for the Vikings. Their initial onslaught had petered out with Torstein Skjeggestad frustrated by the Scots rearguard and losing his vaunted berserker unit in heavy fighting. Lots of casualties on both sides though, the Scots warriors forcefully cutting through dense woodland and their Viking counterparts to establish safe passage for Fearghas MacCoinnich, helped by the mostly intact foot Hearthguard. After all, Fearghas must survive. He's got a campaign to fight!

Post match thoughts had us both musing the impact of heavy casualties in a campaign match battle with restricted recruitment. Something we are all going to have to be mindful of. So, onwards and upwards. Season 1 of Dance of Power is just about under way and the next SAGA post should be a report from the front lines. 

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