Thursday, 19 April 2012

Spring Tide: A Tale of Woe

Last Sunday was the second WFC Saga event, Spring Tide, held (after some last minute terrain shifting) at the Green Room in Sheffield. Unlike the previous event, Winter is Coming, held last November, this was a campaign day rather than a straight tournament. There were 12 players divided into three factions: Vikings, Welsh and Anglo-Danes/Saxons, using four point warbands. We fought over the area surrounding Shrewsbury after the local Saxon Cheiftain had died leaving a power vacuum.

I brought along my Viking warband, looking forward to getting stuck in...oh how I would be disappointed...

Game 1 - The Battle of the Pant Mounds
Clash of Warlords vs Carl's Welsh

Vikings: Warlord, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi, 8 Bondi
Welsh: Warlord, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 8 Priodaur, 8 Priodaur

The Welsh Warlord and his loyal retainers stride to the top of a rocky outcrop to survey the field of battle.

Seeing the Welsh position divided by the great hill, the shrewd Viking chieftain elects to mass his warband on the left, facing only half of the Welsh force. His goal was to smash this part of the enemy warband before their Warlord could bring up his support. The Viking also aimed to hit the end of the Welsh line first to avoid the inevitable hail of javelins if the Northmen strayed too close to the heights.

The Vikings advance confidently towards the Welsh. Despite taking a couple of hits from the enemy Javelins, the Bondi smash into the Priodaur and drive them back.

With the Priodaur pushed back, the Teulu were isolated below the hill. The Viking Warlord knew that if he could slaughter these seasoned warriors in full view of their Chieftain, the Welsh leader would surely become dismayed and lose stomach for the fight (I was aiming to wipe them out and spread fatigue to the Warlord and Teulu on the hill), and so he lead his storgest Hirdmen screaming war cries towards the enemy.

A lone Teulu staggered away from the fight (curses!) and it seemed that the Vikings would continue their surge deep into the Welsh lines. However the Welsh Warlord simply seemed more incensed by the slaughter of his men and he and his retainers hurled javelins down upon their foe with great wrath, slaying the greater part of the Hirdmen (I wasn't aware that the Welsh were allowed to be equipped with machine guns!), leaving only one alive.

The Viking position suddenly looked desperate as the Welsh began to press forwards, hurling javelins as they came.

The howling Welshmen savagely hunted down the last Hirdman.

And their Warlord led the chase after the defeated Viking leader.

It was only a matter of time until they caught him.

Ignominious defeat. This game began well, but when my big charge was blunted by the survival of the Teulu and the subsequent hail of death that the Welsh unleashed I was literally caught between a rock and a hard place. I'm not sure what I would have done differently, not having archers meant that I had to go after the Welsh, which plays into many of their most effective abilities. A unit of Levies (that I don't own) would have made the Welsh come to me and the Viking counter-punch is deadly.

Carl said that this was his first proper game of Saga, but I'd say that he'd got the hang of is already, he did everything right to take advantage when I overstretched myself. This game also set the tone of my day against the Welsh. Chase them down, fail to make a significant impact, get whittled down in a hail of javelins, have my Warlord killed by a final charge. Read on, you'll see I'm right.

Game 2 - Dispute at Wem
Challenge vs. Mal's Anglo-Danes

Viking - Warlord, 4 Berserkers, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi
Anglo-Danes - Warlord, 8 Huscarls, 4 Huscarls with Dane-Axes, 8 Ceorls

The Anglo-Danish Thegn strides out from the shieldwall to parley with the Viking raiders.

When talks turn to dispute, the loyal Ceorls rush out to support their lord, driving the Viking back...

...but the ambush incenses the Berserkers who leap forward into the fray...

...butchering the Ceorls...

...and severely wounding the Thegn.

More warriors rush forwards to support both Warlords.

The Huscarls leap towards the Viking Cheiftain...
...but the Bondi leap to his defence and the Huscarls are driven back.

In a last bid for glory, the last of the Huscarls sweep forwards bringing their great axes down upon the brave Bondi...

...yet the arrival of a host of Hirdmen sees off the last Anglo-Danish threat...

...and they surround the Thegn and cut him down.

Victory! From the moment that Mal's initial assault with the Ceorls failed to have a significant impact, this game was going my way. The Berserkers were outstanding, slicing through the Ceorls and then inflicting a massive eight wounds on the Warlord. This put the battle firmly in my grasp and the fact that I still had eight Hirdmen left to bring in at the end is indicative of what was happening to Mal's dice.

To be honest, I feel that of all the factions, the Anglo-Danes are the ones that I've got the measure of with my Vikings. Speed seems key to taking the initiative in the Challenge and the use of Frigg to gain a charge range of L with no fatigue cost, gives the Vikings the edge in speed over the Anglo-Danes, who seem to be at their best when they sit back.

That was the high point of the day in terms of winning and losing, and I went of to lunch feeling full of optimism. Little did I know (as I bought my M1A1 Shermans with the 15% discount JP had arranged for the day at Wargames Emporium - great move) that my afternoon would be full of Welsh, Welsh and more Welsh. And defeat, defeat and more defeat!

Game 3 - The Massacre at Oswestry
4 Players: Viking vs. Welsh

My Vikings: Warlord, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi, 8 Bondi
Gaz's Vikings: Warlord, 6 Hirdmen, 6 Hirdmen, 4 Hirdmen
Mike's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Mounted Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Mounted Priodaur, 4 Priodaur
Dave's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Mounted Teulu, 8 Mounted Priodaur, 8 Priodaur, 12 Levy (Javelins)

The Northmen had learned that a Welsh warband (Mike's) had camped for the night outside of Oswestry, awaiting reinforcement for an assault on the town.
If the Vikings could concentrate their forces before the Warband was reinforced, they could destroy the Welsh piecemeal and so they advances on the Welsh camp from two directions.

Welsh scouts spotted the advancing Vikings, hurled their javelins and fled back to their lines.

The horde of Welsh reinforcements appeared on the horizon to the south, the Viking had not made enough headway.

More Welsh scouts skirmished with the flank of the northern Viking force.
Whilst the massed cavalry ambushed the spread out western Vikings. However, the norther Vikings were now ready to hurl themselves into the Welsh lines. 8 Hirdmen were poised to attack only 4 Teulu and spread fatigue through the enemy lines before pressing on to slaughter the isolated Warlord...

...this picture has been censored due to images of unseemly brutality on the part of the FOUR Teulu agains the EIGHT Hirdmen, however the dice I rolled tell the story of what happened pretty well.

With the loss of the Hirdmen, thing looked grim for the Northmen.

The remaining Vikings were picked of by javelins and coordinated charges.

One Viking Warlord fell.
Quickly followed by the other. A slaughter!

To be honest, I think the Gaz and I were always going to be up against it in this game. We lacked numbers and any ranged ability and were quite badly separated at the start. The enemy had cavalry and javelins a plenty and Mike and Dave knew what they were doing so they used a combination of Taunt, Hit and Run and Holy Ground to isolate and destroy our units one at a time. A spectacularly bad round of combat from my Hirdmen didn't help, but I still think we would have lost.

On the other hand, this game was probably the most fun of the day simply because it was so desperate as Gaz and I tried increasingly futile tactics to get back on terms.

At least having played the Welsh twice and the Anglo-Danes only once I would probably find myself up against a less tricksy Anglo-Danish force in the next game...


Game 4 - The Halls of Valhalla
12 Players across three boards

On my board:
My Vikings: Warlord, 8 Hirdmen, 8 Bondi, 8 Bondi
Mike's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Mounted Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 4 Mounted Priodaur, 4 Priodaur
Andy's Welsh: Warlord, 4 Teulu, 4 Teulu, 8 Priodaur, 12 Levies
Kev's Anglo-Danes: Warlord, 4 Huscarls, 10 Ceorls, 6 Ceorls, 12 Levies

The Welsh had arrived to capture Shrewsbury and the Saxons manned the Church hoping to defend both roads to where other battles were taking place for control of the the town. Initially dismayed by the appearance of Viking on his flank, the Saxon Thegn was relieved when to appeared that the Viking had only one aim, vengeance upon the Welsh.

The Viking line surged forwards towards their bitter foes.

Despite taking losses to the Welsh javelins, the Vikings pushed on...

...and the Hirdmen looked set to isolate and slaughter the Welsh Warlord.

Suddenly, the Welshmen took the initiative and after a withering hail of javelins, their Warlord led the Teulu into the Hirdmen, butchering them and then the Viking Warlord.

The Bondi were left isolated and confused.
Ripe to be hunted down by packs of screaming Welshmen.

Meanwhile, after trading arrow and javelins on the other flank, the stand off was altered by the arrival of another horde of Welshmen.

Despite their stalwart defence, the Anglo-Danes couldn't hope to stand against this new enemy...

...and the end was inevitable.

Aaarrgghh! I had him. I was facing Mike again and I was poised to smash into his Warlord and wreak my vengeance, but on a single dice roll, he seized the initiative and the window of opportunity was closed with javelins.

I really need some bows.

And so ended my day and the campaign. The Welsh had driven the Saxons out of Shrewsbury and into Mercia and what remained of the Vikings returned north empty handed.

Tactically, I don't think I did too much wrong despite getting hammered three times by the Welsh. As I said earlier, I do need to get round to painting some Levies as I was critically short of range a lot of the time. I also think that 8 Hirdmen is too much in a four point game of Saga. I was sacrificing a Saga dice for either complete overkill or total dice fluffing. I probably won't take such a big unit in small games again. I did have some bad dice at some crucial moments, but that's dice games, if your going to complain about dice you might as well stop playing. The key point is that my opponents really took advantage very well when things went wrong for me. I was beaten by good players, not dice.

At the end of the day was the prize-giving. The Welsh players all got one of the Limited Edition Macbeth models for their victory and I fear that the Scottish hordes may descend upon us next time. To my surprise I was given most sporting (it's really nice to know that people enjoy playing against you) and was given the choice of several prizes. I chose this:

This seemed to cause some surprise as I turned down a Jomsviking Warband. My reasons were simple: I'm building a Breton Warband and was planning to convert William as my Warlord anyway; I already have Vikings that I can use as Jomsvikings; the Jomsvikings would go to the back of my painting pile (remember those tanks I bought at lunch?); and most importantly I'd just spent the day being slaughtered with a force very similar to the Jomsvikings...I'd had enough. Give me horses and javelins for the next one please!

More importantly, the Jomsvikings then went to Mike who deservedly won the prize for best painted warband. Given how brilliant his Welsh are (sadly my pictures don't do them justice), those Jomsvikings are going to be stunning. Also, the next time we meet he'll have slow moving chaps with no bows and I'll have horses and javelins...vengeance shall be miiinnnneee!!!!

All in all a great day. Well organised, well run, great location, great games, nice people, cheap figures. What more could you ask?

1 comment:

  1. Great report... So looks like Welsh are a pretty strong warband... bet I still come bottom in Andy's campaign!