Battleshed Diaries

Tuesday 23 May 2017


Anglo-Danes attck with captured Scots warlord

The Scots Warlord, Fearghas MacCoinnich, has found himself in the outrageously humiliating predicament of being ambushed, captured and held to ransom by a bunch of raiding Anglo-Dane barbarians! Wild speculation and baseless rumours abound regarding the circumstance which led to MacCoinnich’s abduction, from illicit liaisons with a notoriously wanton temptress to a particularly drunken and debauched shindig after a successful hunt. Regardless the truth, the Chief’s Hearthguard and loyal household retainers are brutally attempting to quash any dissent whilst the warband is hastily assembled to attempt a rescue.

This is the setting for a Saga scenario played recently at my local club. I’ve added the Aeitius & Arthur supplement and The Crescent & The Cross expansion (aka Saga rulebook 2.0) to my collection and this scenario, appropriately titled ‘Captured!’, was taken from the latter. I plan to post my thoughts on both books once I’m more thoroughly acquainted with them – which will mean I’ll probably have to source and build at least two new Saga warbands first! Oh yes. Briefly though:

Aetius & Arthur is set around 410AD and covers the barbarian invasions and the subsequent collapse of the Western Roman Empire. It includes 6 faction battle boards: Romans, Britons, Saxons, Goths, Picts and Huns along with new Heroes, Legendary and Mercenary units, 4 scenarios and a mini campaign system where a lone frontier post must hold out against waves of barbarian raiders. This supplement can be used either with Dark Age Skirmishes or The Crescent & The Cross

The Crescent & The Cross introduces the Age of Crusades from Pope Urban II initial eastern expedition in 1096-99 and includes faction battle boards for Crusaders, Saracens, Milites Christi, Mutatawwi’a, Spanish, Moors and the ‘Dogs of War’ mercenary unit options, along with six new scenarios. The Crescent & The Cross is also a defacto ‘Saga version 2 rulebook’, bringing together all the various errata and rule clarifications since the original rulebook (Saga – Dark Age Skirmishes, well thumbed and in regular use by me!) was realised back in 2011. Saga players who already have the original rulebook do not need C&C though, as a combination of free FAQ/errata will suffice. Both books are beautiful, high-quality productions with alluring photos and are very well laid out. 

That’s all very nice, but what happened to old Fearghas MacCoinnich then? Well, the scenario (6 points, 8 turns ) has the ‘Raiders’ (Anglo-Danes) thwarting the Scots if they manage to either exit the opposite table edge or kill all the Rescuers, otherwise they lose. The Raiders deploy first, followed by the Rescuers (Scots), then the Raiders deploy the hapless Scots Warlord, MacCoinnich, along with two chosen ‘escorts’ to form the hostage unit.
Scots warband depoys for the rescue mission

For some inexplicable reason, I decided to include a unit of Angry Monks as part of the hastily assembled Scots rescue. These are Levy, so don’t generate any Saga dice. And the Scots are obviously without their boss, so they’re bereft of two more Saga Dice from the outset. Maybe I was hopeful that the Monk’s Martyrdom trait, where unused Saga dice are rolled and allocated for every deceased Angry Monk would prove useful. Er, no. Only if I could sufficiently activate the cowled-ones and get them moving. Which of course I didn’t very much. In fact, they spent the entire expedition ambling about, enthusiastically intoning prayers from a discreet safe distance!

The Angry Monks advance
Not so Angry Monks

The rest of the Scots were comprised of a large (2 point) force of mounted Hearthguard (Thanes) and three units of Warriors (Soer-Chele), one proudly carrying the War Banner. Which at least enabled me to start with four Saga dice and the dim hope that I could roll a few ‘Stags’ to get extra dice through the Activation Pool. This plan only partially succeeded at best. In fact, for most of the battle it was the valiant Hearthguard, supported by the single warrior unit under the banner, that did all the fighting! The other warrior units, shadowed by the allegedly angry monks, spent the entire time hurling abuse at the nearest Anglo-Danes but otherwise avoiding any encounters with sharp and pointy things.

The Anglo-Danes - the majority warriors (Ceorls) with some supporting Hearthguard (Huscarls) of their own and a usefully dangerous unit of slingers - set off confidently with the red-faced Scots Chief in their midst, his humiliation compounded by being shepherded by two lowly seconded slingers. The enemy Warlord was in buoyant spirits marching to meet the desperate Scots, screened by his slingers and supported by a great wedge of armoured men. It wasn’t long before the crux of the battle was reached. The Scots mounted Hearthguard spotted a gap in the dense hedge lining the road the enemy were using to hasten their march. They Scots suddenly charged, surprising a unit of enemy warriors, thundering pitilessly into them with brutal war cries and spears and swords slicing and thrusting. The enemy warriors were completely decimated!

Scots mounted Hearthguard charge Anglo-Dane warriors
The Scots Hearthguard charge!

The enemy warlord attempted to rally for counter-charge but he found himself frustratingly blocked by his own screen of nervous slingers! Fortunately, his remaining warriors and Hearthguard soon recovered from the shock of the Scots charge and, taking the initiative, engaged in a bitter battle between the hedgerows. The mounted Scots put up a valiant fight but with their numbers dwindling and near exhaustion they eventually pulled back to safety. 

Meanwhile, the large unit of Scots warriors under their war banner quick-marched to try and intercept the enemy warriors making a wide flanking manoeuvre, along with the complaining hostage and his taunting escort. By now, other than the weary mounted Hearthguard, the rest of the Scots warband were too far away to possibly support their colleagues. A small contingent of Scots warriors did try to advance but their approach was hindered by deadly barrages from the enemy slingers.

Scots warriors with a war banner
"Well, we didn't get dressed up for nothing..."

By now, the Anglo-Danes had rallied along the road and viable options were closing for the rescuers. A desperate attempt by the Scots mounted Hearthguard to cover the distance and intercept the hostage unit only ended with them being engaged in yet another vicious fight. Although they took many enemies with them, they were themselves decimated. Even though their own situation was grave, the Scots under the banner were fortified by witnessing their colleagues fall in heroic (for that is what the Scalds in the Scots employ will say) battle with the Anglo-Danes, they threw themselves at the enemy column in a last-ditch sortie. 

More hard, desperate fighting. In the end, only two Scots warriors survived the melee, one still courageously gripping the war banner! Their resolve still not broken, they attempted to valiantly hinder the enemy’s march in the forlorn hope that the remaining Scots units could reach them in time. But it wasn’t enough. The Anglo-Danes just managed to push through to with their sullen Scots captive in tow.

Scots warriors attacking Anglo-Danes

A cracking scenario! It’s the first time I’ve played Saga without my Warlord. Selecting the large mounted Scots Hearthguard unit was a good choice as their speed and fighting impact very nearly turned the battle quite early one. On the flip-side, taking the Angry Monks was a very bad idea. They cost too much to activate with limited resource to make their unique traits useful. This scenario is a great lesson in Saga dice management for those playing the rescuers though! Thanks to Jamie Mitchell, my opponent for another testing battle!

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