Sunday saw me taking part in my first ever Saga tournament (possibly the first Saga tournament ever) and my first tournament for well over two years. It took place in our club in Attercliffe, Sheffield and was a thoroughly enjoyable affair. It was fairly well attended (12 players) although many of them were from our club - you've probably notice how much Sagaing has been going on in my reports recently - however we did have a few people who'd travelled, including Carl who'd come all the way from Peterborough.
My warband was configured the same way throughout the competition, even though your I've found a set up I'm happy with, and as I was playing Vikings I had: a Warlord, 1 unit of 4 Berserkers, 2 units of 6 Hirdmen and 2 units of 8 Bondi.
Once again, as there were multiple games involved, I'll keep the reports fairly brief with a few comments about what I'd learned from each one. Also, as the games were timed it didn't seem fair to stop the take loads of pictures so I'm somewhat limited in quality and scope.
GAME 1 - You Cnut be serious!
Warband: Anglo-Danes (Cnut the Great, 4 Huscarls, 8 Huscarls with Dane-Axes, 8 Ceorls, 12 Fyrd)
Scenario: Clash of Warlords
Paul got to deploy first and immediately positioned his Fyrd in the big church (clearly a 12 model building) and massed the rest of his warband around the cornfield on his left. Seeing an opportunity I positioned a unit of Bondi opposite the church, which extended quite far forward, and screened my vulnerable Berserkers with the other unit of Bondi. Either side of this I deployed the two Hirdmen units.
Taking first turn, the Anglo-Danes advanced steadily and predictably the Fyrd poured arrows at me before I could get Odin or Asgard loaded for defence. In response (noting that Paul had neglected to set up Intimidation) I poured the Bondi opposite the church across the table with three activation and attacked the Fyrd with Frigg (to lessen the impact of fatigue) and Valahalla (which became my trademark skill for the day) to gain an extra 4 dice and Thor to fight again immediately. In a particularly poor show of defending themselves, the Fyrd were cut down to three and mopped up by the Bondi in my following turn.
Meanwhile, I tried to do something clever on the other side of the table. Making sure that I kept my better troops more than S away from the fight, I rushed Paul's Ceorls with mine and again used Frigg and Valhalla (this time killing two for 6 dice) to decimate the Anglo-Danish unit and reduce them to three men. There were only four Bondi left and they were in charge range of both units of Huscarls - but this was what I wanted...mwahahahaaaa!
The big unit of eight Huscarls with Dane-Axes took the bait and charged at the Bondi. Due to the positioning of the other Huscarl unit, Axe-Men were forced to string out their line. They still cut down the Bondi, but they lost a man and were now in range.
I launched my Berserkers at the Huscarls, I didn't need to use Frigg as the bait had drawn them close enough and I backed the Berserkers up with Heimdall and Valhalla. The trick here is to accept that due to their poor armour, the Berserkers are going to die and inflict as much carnage on the largest enemy unit that you can. I sent three Berserkers to Valhalla and hit the fatigued Huscarls with a whopping 28 attack dice! Needless to say, Paul hadn't encountered this tactic before and was somewhat taken aback as he removed the entire unit.
It was clear now that Paul was in trouble. However, realising that there were points up for grabs he launched the battered remnants of his line at my fresh Hirdmen. There was a moment where I hung my Warlord out to dry a bit, but defensive play and the proximity of the Hird saved the day. At the end Cnut the Great died in a heroic solo charge against my Hirdmen.
So, what did I learn?
- Don't be afraid to attack levies in buildings, the extra pip on their save rolls don't really make a difference to the fight as long as you stack the attack dice in your favour.
- Vikings excel when you are aggressive.
- The Frigg, Heimdall, Valhalla combo on Berserkers to launch a long range attack is utter filth if your opponent isn't expecting it.
GAME 2 - Saxon Drugs and Rock n' Roll
Warband: Anglo-Danes (Warlord, 4 Huscarls with Dane-Axes, 2 units of 6 Huscarls, 2 units of 8 Ceorls)
Scenario: The Challenge
I've played Mal before and know how difficult it is to beak his Anglo-Danes down, and in the Challenge a lot would depend on who chose deployment side and who went first. As it happened, I lost both rolls and so Mal took the table edge which allowed him to mass his warband behind his warlord and forced me to separate my force to find routes through a village and a cornfield.
To cut a long story short Mal was able to get his warband up to his Warlord quickly enough to dissuade me from suicidal charges to cause wounds (at one point I would have need to inflict about 8 wounding hits to even scratch the Anglo-Danish leader. Combined with this I wasted my Berserkers in a charge on a Ceorl screen and the game looked increasingly like I couldn't win it as I was sending single units against the entire warband.
With a human shield move with one of my Hirdmen units I was able to negate Warlord's pride and withdraw. Outnumbered, I hunkered down between the cornfield and a building and dared Mal to come at me. We both knew that with the amount of turns remaining we couldn't get to each other's Warlord, but we both made valiant attempts on the last turn.
As we'd both failed to inflict any wounds on each other's Warlord, the game was a draw, although Mal took the moral victory as I was running away from him...I made the surviving Vikings swear an oath to never mention that battle again...
So, what did I learn?
- I'm not a fan of the Challenge scenario as too much depends on the dice rolls at the beginning. Going first is a BIG bonus as it puts your opponent on the back foot immediately.
- When playing Anglo-Danes, don't assume that they have Intimidation loaded just because they usually do. I wasted several Saga dice by not glancing over at Mal's board.
- Don't waste Berserkers on Ceorls! Listen to your own advice!
GAME 3 - Crossing Norman's Land
Warband: Normans (Warlord, 2 units of 6 Knights, 8 Mounted Serjeants, 8 Crossbowmen, 12 Peasants)
I made a fatal miscalculation at the beginning of this game and elected to attack the baggage rather than escort it. This gave Tom choice of table sides and so he castled up with his Peasants occupying the big building to my left and his Crossbows taking up a position in the woods on my right. With his Knights lined up in the centre in front of of his baggage and staring at me across a great big empty kill-zone. At least I got to respond to his deployment, putting myself just far enough away to cause problems for his missile troops so he'd have to use dice to be able to shoot me - I wasn't giving away free shots.
Turn one and as I guessed, the Knights and Serjeants stood still whilst the light troops rained missiles on me. Tom was forced to use Massed Volley and move his Crossbows closer, but I lost three Bondi and one Hirdman to the opening salvo. It was clear that he wasn't coming to me unless he had to.
Remembering game one, and fortunate to have several sixes to roll for extra dice, I launched a unit of Bondi at the Peasants and a unit of Hirdmen at the Crossbows. I took a couple of casualties but both units were significantly reduced and across the next to turns I used Loki to wipe them both out - much to Tom's consternation. This left both units open to counter attack from the mounted troops and sure enough the Hirdmen were charged by some Knights and the Bondi were hit by some Mounted Serjeants.
Although both units were destroyed, I used Frigg, Heimdall and Valhalla defensively to negate Tom's inevitable use of Terrified and maul his units as they attacked. The Knights were reduced by two and left fatigued although the Mounted Serjeants faired better, but were left severely fatigued (they'd charged something like 30 inches and fought a combat). I had a unit of Berserkers, a unit of Hirdmen and half a unit of Bindi left, things were looking iffy.
However, by attacking the flanks so hard, I'd not only wiped his missile troops out, but I'd also drawn two units out wide meaning that if I attacked the centre in force, I'd briefly have superiority of numbers. The Berserkers now launched my trademark kamikaze attack at the undamaged Knights and wiped them out. Tom countered by attacking the Hirdmen with the fatigued Knights and lost the unit, although only two of the Hirdmen remained.
I could see my chance, although I only had 5 Bondi, 2 Hirdmen and my Warlord left, I could use fatigue to keep the Serjeants out of the fight for a turn and focus on his Warlord. Realising what I was doing, Tom rested the Serjeants but didn't have enough dice to attack. Warlord's Pride forced the Baron to charge my Jarl and again, by fighting defensively I withstood his attack and lost a Bondi. I countered by leading the Bondi in an attack on the Norman Warlord and smote the arrogant Knight in two. There was a ragged cheer as the last 5 Vikings closed in on their prize.
Sadly, in a twist of irony, the last time I played this scenario has resulted in clarification of whether the Baggage generate Saga dice on the Saga forum. They do. The Mounted Serjeants, despite my best efforts to slow them, thundered down on my exhausted Warlord and killed both him and the Bondi as my Hirdmen led a desperate charge on the Baggage.
They mananged to kill one piece and with the game coming to a close I thought I'd missed my chance. However, it was not to be, inexplicably Tom charged my Hirdmen with another piece of Baggage and gave me the opportunity to win the game when all he had to do was move them away. Sadly, with only one Saga dice and no fatigue on the Baggage, my Hirdmen failed to kill the baggage and were killed in return.
A very close game.
So what did I learn?
- Some typically aggressive Viking abilities work well in defence against Normans. You know that they can pick their fights, so it's a good idea to be able to give them a kicking when they arrive.
- Kill the bloody archers! Quickly! Otherwise you be leaking Saga dice defending against them.
- As I did with the Welsh, try to draw them apart from each other. Their long movement means that Normans can quickly find themselves unsupported.
GAME 4 - GET STUCK IN!
Opponents: (Clockwise from me) Carl, Mal and Andrew
Warband: Normans (Warlord, 2 units of 6 Knights, 8 Mounted Serjeants, 8 Crossbowmen, 12 Peasants); Anglo-Danes (Warlord, 4 Huscarls with Dane-Axes, 2 units of 6 Huscarls, 2 units of 8 Ceorls); Vikings (Harald Hardrada, 8 Varangian Guard, 4 Berserkers, 2 units of 8 Bondi)
Scenario: Feast for Crows
The last game was a big free-for-all and a desperate rush for points. When we deployed, Mal and I suggested that we sit opposite each other as we'd already played and utterly frustrated each other earlier in the day. The others agreed and I turned my thoughts to tactics.
Bearing in mind what I've been learning about this game, and feast for Crows in particular, I decided to focus my assault on only one enemy; Carl's Normans. My reasoning was that: if I didn't I'd get shot to death; I could move away from Andrew's Vikings but not avoid the Norman's bearing down on me and sandwiching me between two opponents; he was to my left and there's a little bot of an advantage in that; and having just played the exact same warband, I reckoned I knew how to take them, whereas Harald Hardrada and the Varangian Guard were an unknown quantity.
In short, once I started moving hell for leather towards the Normans, Carl obliged by coming back at me and Andrew realised that trekking across to get me would leave him very little time to amass points (he was tying for the lead at that point) and so he went after Mal.
Mal's Anglo-Danes took continuous fire from the Massed Volleys of Carl's Peasants and was initially bowled over by the ferocity of Andrew's elite troops. However, Harald found himself and his best troops cut off from the support of the Bondi and so over time, continued use of Trapped and coordinated attacks saw Mal kill off Harald, the Varangian Guard and the Berserkers for heavy losses and then edge ahead of Andrew at the end of the game by assaulting the leaderless Bondi.
Meanwhile, Carl and I got up close and personal. To protect himself early on, Mal had used Trapped on Carl and I took the opportunity to launch the Berserker nuke at a fatigued unit of Knights; everyone died. I then moved a unit of Bondi to 13 inches away from the next unit of Knights and loaded Valhalla. The Knights charged, gained fatigue and then the Bondi sold their lives dearly killing this unit as well.
This left Carl's Baron just out of support range from his Mounted Serjeants and so a unit of Hirdmen jumped on him and killed him. They in turn got smashed into by the Serjeants, who were then assaulted by my remaining Hirdmen. We were trading blow for blow and I was coming off slightly better. Realising I needed more points the Bondi who'd been screening the Crossbows all game launched repeated charges on the Normans, reducing them to two.
In the final turn, I triple activated my four remaining Hirdmen to cross the cornfield the Crossbows were hiding behind and kill the blighters. Finally, much to Andrew's annoyance I used Loki (his username!) to kill three Bondi from across the table, and win the game...by 1 and a half points!
So what did I learn?
- My thoughts about Normans from game 3 were correct. They can be stretched and fatigued by forcing them to charge 13 inches.
- Viking need to get stuck in!
- Saga is an absolute blast as a tournament game and all future Saga tournaments should finish with a Feast for Crows.
Overall, it was a great day. The tables were attractive, the participants were all really nice (even the Norman ones!) and the food was suitably atmospheric (half a roast chicken each with no cutlery!). At the end of the day with two wins and a draw, I came fourth from 12 (very respectable), but was unable to overhaul the three leaders who all had three wins by the end of the third game.
The tournament was won by JP on victory points (who won a unit of GB Saxons), and Matt was pleasantly surprised to find that he'd been awarded best painted (and gained 12 GB Norman Milites). Tom won the charity dice roll off and walked away with a drinking horn as his prize - it's worth noting that Tom lost his warlord in all four games so also wins the award of Captain Reckless!
All in all a great day and I look forward the next event with relish.