Battleshed Diaries

Tuesday 6 September 2016

The Gall-Gaedhil at the Burgh

No, not a Gaelic folk band playing at some bohemian festival. You really wouldn’t want these gentlemen in your band. They’d intimidate the audience. Or worse. No, these are Norse-Gael mercenaries for SAGA, brought in under the Swords for Hire option.

With my Scots warband all done this season for the Dance of Power campaign, a standalone game of SAGA at my club this week offered up the chance not only to try out one of the new campaign scenarios from Age of the Wolf but also field 8 Gall-Gaedhil Warriors for the first time. With The Burgh scenario, my good gaming buddy Jamie deployed his Anglo Danes and assorted farm animals behind the putative safety of the burgh’s walls and prepared for the Scots raiders. 

The set up

The Burgh scenario represents the locals retreating back behind the safety of the local strongpoint having spotted a bunch of marauders heading their way and having to defend whilst waiting for reinforcements to arrive. Eventually. Maybe.

We played a 6-point game with Jamie’s Anglo Danes defending. They deployed first, however a Huscarl (Hearthguard) unit must be designated as the reinforcements, and these may turn up anywhere along the defenders table edge outside the Burgh on a roll of 6 at the beginning of turn 2. The walls provide heavy cover and are low liner, whilst the Burgh’s gate is impassable until destroyed. Additional Victory Points are available for any attacking units (Scots) inside the Burgh at the end of the battle and also if they manage to destroy the main gate. The Scots deploy second, go first and have 7 turns to take the strongpoint. 

How it went

With the Anglo Danes forced to deploy their short-handed warband first, the Scots warlord Fearghas MacCoinnich had time to assess his enemy. The Anglo Danes had spread themselves along the length of the wall, with levy archers and slingers on either side of the gatehouse. 

Fearghas, wary of allowing his men to be pin-cushioned by both these units, opts to concentrate all his forces on his left flank. He's hired some rather expensive mercenaries and is keen to see whether his investment is worth it. If they prove their worth, they may find a place in his campaigning warband. So the warband marches in column, with his two warrior units ordered to shield the Gall Gaehil and his 8 strong Hearthguard from the searching eyes of the enemy archers whilst they hot-foot up and over the walls.

This is a good point for an introduction to the Gall-Gaedhil. An 8 man ‘warrior’ unit with armour of 4 and each generating 2 Attack Dice (like Hearthguards); they cost 2 points to hire and do not generate any Saga dice. Instead their activations are unlimited within a turn and are free, although they get bloody knackered marchers like any other unit. Being a tad cocksure, they’re always activated first each turn and get a free single movement after deployment but before the first turn.
The Gall Gaedhil (bottom) over the wall and charging towards Ubba and the Anglo Dane archers

There’s more. They cannot benefit from any Saga abilities but after step 4 of any melee a unit daft enough try their luck with these roving nutters suffer a number of extra hits equal to half the number of successful hits they scored against the Gall Gaedhil. Painful! So an interesting unit to use, with pluses and minuses depending on the scenario. A bit like the Angry Monks I tried in a previous battle. 

It wasn’t long before these mercenaries, with the Scots Hearthguard close on their heels, were up over the wall and threatening the enemy archers that had been tickling the Scots warriors. Ubba, the Anglo Danish warlord, moves in with his Huscarl bodyguards to intercept and cleverly orders a large unit of Ceorls to open the main gate and charge outside, flanking the advancing Scots warriors.

Fearghas MacCoinnich wasn’t too concerned though (he’s all heart) as he’d planned for his two warrior units to soak up any threats whilst his Hearthguard and Gall Gaedhil get in amongst the villagers. And that they did, the strong, fast punch on Ubba’s right flank seemingly causing him some delay getting his remaining units closer to the action. 
Fearghas MacCoinnich heads towards the Burgh's wall with his Hearthguard escort before Ubba's Huscarl reinforcements arrive

However, once the Gall Gaedhil were in the Burgh, they seemed to spend far too much time showing off and trying to look menacing, standing in a huddle obscenely gesticulating and farting in the enemy's general direction. So much so that after killing all but one of Ubba’s bodyguards they decided they were too knackered and hungover to do any more. Ubba wisely using his Lord of Battle ability to quickly exhaust the volatile mercs and mitigate the threat.

Meanwhile, a unit of Scots warriors are scrambling over the wall to hit the archers who’d turned their backs to get a shot at the wheezing Gall Ghaehil, whilst the other Scots warrior unit goes head to head with their Anglo Danish counterpart. Fearghas and his Hearthguard are cautiously approaching the wall, anticipating the arrival of Ubba’s reinforcements, when they duly turn up, Huscarls screaming from the nearby woods. Fearghas flees…um, double-times…over the wall leaving his Hearthguard to deal with these late-comers. The two elite units immediately clash but the Scots outnumber the new arrivals.
Ubba’s slingers and remaining warriors are by now a little ragged after negotiating various obstacles within the Burgh. Wandering cows, dogs, chickens, peasants and sheep. Not that the sheep were particularly distracting. But the slingers did seem to take their time. Just saying. But by now the raid was nearing its conclusion.
Anglo Dane levy archers under attack from Scots warriors

The fighting outside the walls is proving costly on both sides, with exhausted remnants of a Scots warrior unit and Ubba’s reinforcing Huscarls looking for a way out. Ubba’s remaining warriors are tiring and now too far away to aid their comrades inside the Burgh. The Scots Hearthguard have finally climbed the wall and joined the Gall Gaedhil and Fearghas. Ubba could see the battle for the Burgh was all but lost with the Scots now in strength within its walls. His archers are hemmed in and facing multiple threats whilst the late arriving slingers are having a hard time to get clear sight of the enemy. They have a go at the Scots warriors clambering over the wall but to little affect, the enemy use the cover to their advantage.
Fierce fighting in and outside the Burrg's defensive wall

Ubba prepares for the inevitable fight against the eager, closed ranks of the Scots Hearthguard, but instead they surprising shuffle apart to make room for Fearghas. The Scots leader, Warlord’s Pride foremost in his mind, challenges Ubba to a duel for the Burgh. It was a gamble. His men have the battle. If Fearghas loses the combat and is forced back it would allow time for Ubba’s warriors to rush in. He could even throw away the imminent victory with his life. But these Warlords only think of their place in the histories. Pride over prudence. So the two warlords, with their men looking on, go at it sword and shield. 

Fearghas roars in with a flurry of thrusts and blows, Ubba valiantly fighting back but the onslaught proves too much and he's forced to surrender the duel. The Burgh is taken by the Scots with 24 Victory points against Ubba’s 11!

The Gall Gaedhil have some nifty tricks and are probably better used like Berserkers, your shock troops to hit enemy units fast and hard..The downside is that they cannot be targeted by the controlling player's Saga abilities so outside their inherent traits they're not that adaptable. Plus, having always to activate first lends your opponent a degree of foreknowledge. The Swords for Hire units are obviously the specialist units of the Saga world, ones orientated for specific scenarios rather than as general troop choices. Still, I did like em', if only to for their intimidation value!

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