After having played far too few games this year we met for a game of SAGA last week. After the resounding defeat my Byzantines suffered against Martin’s Normans a few weeks ago, I was really anxious to cleanse their reputation.
But before we start… sorry for the poor photos! I forgot to take a tri-pod along, so I had to sue flash photography.
In this sense we decided to have another Clash of the Warlords, my Byzantines vs. Martins Normans. This is about the only thing that pains me a bit about SAGA… you always end up playing the same scenarios, since there are so few.
We used a simple set-up… Lots of open ground, a few hills, trees, hedges, some houses and a small fortified village. The gates of the village were closed and I suppose the inhabitants watched the feast for the crows unfolding before their homes!
The Byzantines consisted of four points of Kavallaroi (mounted Heathguards), two with spears and two with bows, which would be amalgamated into one large unit each. There were also one point of Kontaratoi (Warriors with spears) and one point of Toxotai (Warriors armed with bows). As mandatory, they were led by their mounted Warlord. While I felt that more foot troops would stand the better chance vs. Normans I still wanted to try something new. After all a composition with more foot had lost against the Normans the last time and I assumed, that there was a reason for that.
Martin was playing his Normans in virtually the same set-up as last time. A mounted Warlord, four units of mounted Knights (Hearthguard) and two units of Sergeants (Warriors), one of them armed with crossbows. The only difference this time was that Martin amalgamated his Knights units into two large ones instead of one large and two normal ones.
I won set-up initiative and after set-up was completed my forces looked like this (left to right): Kontaratoi with the Toxotai to their right up a hill. Next came my Warlord amidst the Kavallaroi archers with the close combat Kavallaroi to their right. Since I could set up all the interesting units after their opposites, I chose to ignore the left flank, so everything was shifted slightly to the right.
The Normans would deploy their Sergeants with spears to the left (seen from the Byzantines side of the table). since they were deployed early, this took them a good deal to the flank, away from the mass of my troops. the two large cavalry units were deployed in the centre, with the Warlord behind them. The crossbows were deployed on the right flank.
The Normans won the first initiative and began a general advance. Not wanting to be caught under my archers fire without a change to do some damage beforehand, the leading unit of Knights activated a second time and charged the Kontaratoi to their front, just barely reaching them. I decided to use the fatigue they had earned for their double move to lower their armour, but still only three Knights were lost, while five spearmen perished under their hooves and had to withdraw.
But once it was the Byzantines turn they took a heavy beating. The Toxotai activated twice taking out three Knights on aggregate. Now the Kontaratoi charged the Knights causing them one more casualty, sending them fleeing. On the other flank there was a general advance of the Byzantine cavalry. The horse archers activated a second time as well and shot at the Norman crossbows to their front taking out three of them.
With this initiative passed back to the Normans. While the spear armed Sergeants tried their best to get closer to the action, the Knights that had already clashed with the Byzantine spearmen charged them one more time. Neither side took a loss, so they had to withdraw. On the other flank the crossbows shot at the horse archers to their front, but even with crossbows against cavalry archers (which meant a minus three on my armour) they only managed to take out two with two attacks… The loss of their number already showed.
The big action was in the centre though. The un-bloodied unit of Knights charged up the hill and engaged my foot archers. Luckily only a part of the unit managed to engage, but still it left four Toxotai dead at the loss of one rider. The archers recoiled and were eagerly waiting for help. And that help was about to come.
These Knights were still within line of sight for the Kavallaroi archers, which let loose with their arrows… two Knights down. But they were also in range for the Byzantine Warlord and the other Kavallaroi unit and combined with the “Kontos” special ability from the Battleboard charged the Knights. While two Byzantine horsemen died, the Knights were annihilated. The Norman Warlord would have been in distance for a charge, but only two or three Kavallaroi would have been able to get into fighting distance, so I chose to rather take my time and leave the two remaining dice on the Heathguards field of the Battleboard untouched. But the Kontaratoi took another charge at the Knights and caused one casualty at no loss.
With initiative passing back to the Normans, the remaining two knights decided to take revenge and actually managed to kill those pesky Byzantine spearmen now. The crossbows let go with another flight of bolts, but only killed one Kavallaroi archer (the Sergeants fatigue was used to raise their armour rating). While the Sergeants with spears advanced boldly, the Norman Warlord decided that retreat was the better part of valour and out some distance between himself and the battle.
Now things were winding up. The Kavallaroi archers fired back at the crossbows causing them more harm (can not remember how many though) while their close combat brethren, together with the Warlord, charged the remaining two knights, killing them without a loss. My foot archers only rested to recover from the fatigue of the previous battle.
Even on their own activation the Normans could not do much. The crossbows fired once more, but failed to do any damage. The close combat Sergeants chose to charge the Byzantine Warlord twice, but while he only laughed at their attacks, he managed to kill six of them.
So with only a few Sergeants remaining in two units and the Norman Warlord on the horizon already riding towards the setting sun, the few Normans that remained, decided to surrender. A wise decision!
All in all I feel that the Byzantines honour has been cleansed. I am still having great fun playing them, but I am getting ever more disappointed by their Battleboard. There are some good abilities there, but they always seem to be geared towards extreme Warband compositions (either lots of levies, lots of archers or lots of Warriors) do to the fact that you always need to have units cooperating with one another to make use of them. Since you can hardly ever combine all these extremes in one Warband, especially one that lives off its Heathguard horsemen, this means that many of the abilities are denied to you based on what composition of troops you choose. A bit sad, but it can not be helped. Still they work, but I think they are at a disadvantage against those Warbands that have strong Battleboards that work on single units instead of the cooperation approach. I guess I will have to give the Varangian Guard type of Warband (which combines a Byzantine board with a Viking one) a try soon. That should be interesting!