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SAGA German Grand Melee AAR

SAGA German Grand Melee AAR

So after a day of catching up, here is a short recap of the German SAGA Grand Melee that took place this weekend.

I have to say it was a great weekend. For one I cannot thank the organizers (Mirco and Jens) more. The event was run very smooth and in the most friendly manner. Nothing more than could be hoped for. Also Mirco really made a stalwart effort in the past weeks, creating 16 very nice SAGA tables with superb terrain for us to play on. Thanks a lot for all that!!! [BTW: You might very well take a look at his website Stronghold Terrain for some of the very nice terrain we played upon.]

And I could not have hoped for better companions on this tournament. Each and every single game was great fun and I could not have hoped for better people to play against with! Thank you all!!!

Now on to the event itself. As some readers might have realized, I played Byzantines. I have to admit that they were not my first choice, but I felt that most of the scenarios were best suited for cavalry and since Byzantines were my only cavalry army (which needs and will be remedied soon), this was what I had to play with:

1 mounted Strategos (Warlord)

1 unit of 8 Kavallaroi (mounted Heathguards)

[I had contemplating splitting the unit for some scenarios, but decided against it in the end)

1 unit of 4 Kavallaroi (mounted Heathguards with bows)

1 unit of 8 Kontaratoi (foot Warriors with shields and spears)

2 units of 8 Toxotai each (foot Warriors with bows)

So lets see what they were up against:

1st Game (Clash of the Warlords) vs. Milites Christi:

Milites Christi came as a nasty surprise to me. For the first round, only Dark Age armies were supposed to be paired against one another. Unfortunately the Byzantines were put in the Crusades category on historical grounds and I had to find out very quickly, that a Crusader Army was much better suited to this scenario than a Dark Age one. 😦

My opponent used a Warband led by Raymond du Puy, which featured 12 mounted Heathguards (split into two units of 6), 12 Warriors with crossbows and 4 mounted Warriors.

Right up at the beginning of the game I had to pay dearly for my ignorance. I knew that there was an Errata / FAQ for SAGA. I could not find it online on Thursday night and thought “how much can be in there that is not just cosmetic?”. Well turned out, a lot and I had to learn it all the hard way.
But all that being said… it all started going badly from the start. I lost the initiative roll and before I could do anything, this crossbows shot 6 of my Heathguards out of their saddles. The rest of the game did not go much better. My opponent managed to push his Piety high from the start and this meant he could always draw a lot of extra dice from his combat pool. Combined with a SAGA ability that allowed him to turn his own Fatigue into attack dice, this turned into a meat grinder. Neither of us managed to kill the enemy Warlord so the close combat kills decided the winner. I almost managed to get to a draw none the less, but to be honest… my opponent never even used one of his Heathguard units and the mounted Warriors (they protected his Warlord the whole game), while I had to go on an all out offensive in the end.

So in the end it was quite a clear loss for me. Not a good start to the Grand Melee.

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (1st game vs. Milites Christi)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015
(1st game vs. Milites Christi)

2nd Game (Holy Ground) vs. Milites Christi:

I had learned to hate the Milites Christi in my first game and was quite sad to draw them again for the second game.

So what did my new opponent field this time?

The Warband was led by a normal mounted Warlord and featured 3 units of 4 mounted Heathguards each, 12 Warriors on foot with close combat weapons and 12 warriors on foot with crossbows.

From the very start I had a bad feeling. He deployed all his Warriors infront of one of the target woods and his Warlord and Heathguards spread over the middle and on the other flank. I felt my archers would be useless in the woods so I deployed them in the centre with only my spearmen to oppose the enemy Warriors. My mounted archers were deployed on the right flank and the other Heathguards centre. Since my opponent had the initiative, I had expected him to take the hills fast with his cavalry, where I would have had real problems dislodging them, but this did not happen (for fear of my archers, as he told me later) and he only advanced this crossbows into the woods. My spearmen marched into the same woods and even got into close combat with his crossbows. Now over the next few rounds I rolled exceptionally good on all combat inside the woods and both his Warrior units were unable to dislodge them and were only able to reduce them to 3 men (units of 3 men or less were unable to score victory points for holding an objective) on the 4th round.

On the other flank I had all my cavalry and archers on the two hills by the second round. Now he had real problems dislodging my troops. Even when he won a close combat, I was unable to withdraw due to my troops being deployed in lines behind the other and so he had to withdraw. At the same time I was quick to reduce his Heathguard units to 3 or less men. At the end of the 4th round, only my archer units were large enough to still score victory points, but the same was true for his heavily depleted Warriors. Since I was already about 30 victory points in the lead and he only had a chance to gain a maximum of 5 points a round (and only if he was able to reduce my archers further and I did not kill any more of his Warriors), we called the game off with a decisive victory for me.

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (2nd game vs. Milites Christi)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015
(2nd game vs. Milites Christi)

3rd Game (Battle Twilight [10 points for a Victory]) vs. Normans:

[Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of this game!]

For the third game a finally got to play against a Dark Age army… namely the Normans. They were led by a mounted Warlord and consisted of 4 mounted Heathguards, 8 Warriors with Crossbows, 8 Warriors on foot, two units of 8 Warriors on horseback and 12 peasants with bows.

I had deployed my huge block of Warriors right on the border between two table quarters, which meant I could choose which of the two quarters they were supposed to score for. This proved great throughout the game, since they could remain quite stationary, score the victory points where needed most and shoot it out with the enemy archers and crossbows. All in all my opponent and I were on an even footing and for the first 3 rounds we both scored 2 points each (giving each of us 6 points in total). Only then did the scales tip, when I managed to kill his Warlord and reduce his Heathguards below 3 men while my Heathguards managed to stay virtually intact almost for the whole game. So in the end I won with 12 victory points vs. 8.

Something that I need to mention about this game is how much fun it was. As I said before, every opponent I played was great, but I honestly think, I never had so much fun and laughed so much during a game.

So I ended the first day on the 9th place.

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Inside the Longhouse)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015*
(Inside the Longhouse)

4th Game (Last Stand) vs. Norse Gail:

The Norse Gail were a bit of a wild card for. I had never played them and from a quick look at their battle board, I had no idea how most of their abilities worked. The Warband consisted of one Warlord with a Dane Axe, 40 Warriors with Dane Axes (which would be spread over 8 units of 5) and 12 Levies with Javelins (which would be spread over 3 units of 4).

In this scenario, we each had to say, how many rounds it would take us to annihilate the enemy. The player who bid lower would be the attacker and would have to annihilate his enemy during that time, while the other was the defender and had to survive. I had a feeling that even with my cavalry I would not be able to evade so many troops forever, so I did not want my opponent to be the attacker with a high turn count. At the same time I felt that if I really pushed hard, I should be able to kill all his troops in 7 rounds. Especially since he would also lose the game, if his force no longer created SAGA dice, so I could ignore his Levies. So my bid was 7 rounds, his was 8 and I ended being the attacker. And it proofed a hard nut to crack. About half his Warriors deployed within the woods where I would have a hard time dislodging them with my cavalry or archers. And I had to find out, that his battle board could actually deny me entering combat with his troops. Things were only made worse by the fact, that my opponent would always put as many dice on the defense as possible and that he would not use my fatigue to boost his stats or lower mine, but rather let them accumulate to get my troops exhausted.

My first solution was to try to kill the Warlord as fast as possible and take out those Warriors in the open to reduce his SAGA dice, thereby denying him the better abilities on his board. This was easier said than done, since three of his units were reduced to 1 man by the end of the 3rd or 4th turn, but that one man always proofed hard to kill. In the end it was all or nothing, with the Heathguard archers attacking in close combat, my cavalry continuously charging into the woods and the Warlord attacking on his own. In the end it was a very tight race, with my mounted archers killing the last enemy Warrior on the penultimate activation of the 7th round, nailing me the victory. Not that I would have had another chance… by this time all my mounted units (including the Warlord) were inside the woods and had 4-5 Fatigue counters, the Warriors were exhausted, too and my archers close to exhaustion. If I ever played one intense game, this was! And if there ever was a battle worth a song in my Warlords Saga, this was it.

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (final positions vs. Norse Gael)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015
(final positions vs. Norse Gael)
[This is a shot taken after the game,
so the Fatigue counters have already been removed from some of the units]

5th Game (God will recognise his) vs. Irish:

[Sorry, I for got to take a photo of this game!]

For this last game, I faced one of the organisers, who stood in with his Irish since there was an odd number of players. That being said… the stand in player already had quite a track record with three wins and one loss and he did not give me an easy game either. Which was great, since nothing is worse than a victory one did not earn!

The Warband consisted of a Warlord on foot, two heroes on foot, 6 Heathguards on foot, two 12 men units of Warriors and 8 Warhounds.

The battle went in a real see-saw fashion with most the of fighting going on in the centre. Units that were to return using the “Endless Warbands” rule would quickly reenter the fight from the flanks and always make their impact felt. The one thing that was a bit sad was the dice rolling. For the first two rounds we would alternate at rolling bad on the attack and good on the safe in one combat and bad on the attack and good on the safe in the next. From the third round on, this started to change, with my dice failing me completely. 😦

In the end we were half a kill point apart, which meant a draw.

The result

So in the end, I won 3 victories (one of them decisive), had one draw and lost one game. This gave me a shared 5th place out of a field of 27 players.

And I have to say, I was really happy with this. As I said before, I felt the Byzantines were not my first choice for this tournament, but the only mounted one I had painted. And the use of the SAGA abilities vindicated that. While I used the Massed Archery ability quite often, there were few  situations where the others were of use. I used Kontos three or four times, but otherwise it was Support Archers (2x) and Strategikon (1x) and Withdrawal (1x) during the whole tournament.  So not much mileage was gained from the battle board.

Another factor was that I had only played two games of SAGa in 2 ½ years (and both over the last month) and did not know the rules changes from the Errata / FAQ. Combined with the fact that out of all the Warbands I faced I had only ever played Normans it felt like an uphill struggle virtually all the time. So again, I was more than happy with the result!!!

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (group shot of the players)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (group shot of the players)*
[yours truly 5th from right, with the mandatory facial hair and virtually bald head 🙂 ]

Final impressions

First of all, I cannot mention often enough, what a great event this has been and I am really looking forward to the next installment, hopefully at the same great location!

The only drawback was the poor lighting in the longhouse, but the organizers have promised that this will be improved the next time. What really amazed me, was how much such an event makes you want to get new armies done. I already have Normans and Anglo Saxons lying around at home (actually I have had them for over two years) and now the time has come to slap some paint on them. But I also fell in love with most of the other armies I played against. So I definitely want a Milites Christi and an Irish Warband now. 😉

Anyway, I am going to leave you with some photos of the other armies in the tournament (at least those photos the came out OK in the light without a trip-pod) and some impressions from the open air museum park.

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Viking Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Viking Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Viking Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Viking Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Norman Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Norman Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Jomsviking Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Jomsviking Warband)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Impressions from the park)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015
(Impressions from the park / Saxon Longhouse)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Impressions from the park)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015
(Impressions from the park)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Impressions from the park)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015
(Impressions from the park)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015 (Impressions from the park)

SAGA German Grand Melee 2015
(Impressions from the park)

 

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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Byzantines, Medival, Normans, Rules, SAGA, Vikings

 

New Byzantine Strategos and the German Grand Melee

New Byzantine Strategos and the German Grand Melee

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2015 in Byzantines, Medival, Rules, SAGA

 

SAGA: Normans vs. Varangian Guard

After a long hiatus brought on by both the holiday season and work, Martin (with a little help from his son Max) and I were finally able to get another game of SAGA under our belts.

Max and Martin

Max and Martin

We went for a table with open terrain and just a few fields, trees and hills. The most restrictive terrain was a creek cutting off one corner of the table and a Viking village in the other. But to be honest, the terrain played just a small role, except for the fact, that I used the creek to hinge my flank on.
Martin and Max played Normans in what has now become Martin’s signature set-up. A mounted Warlord, four units of mounted Knights (Hearthguard) and two units of Sergeants (Warriors), one of them armed with crossbows. Martin would amalgamate two of his Knight units into a large one.

I wanted to try something new. While the Byzantines are nice, I still feel they lack a certain panache some of the other groups have. So I went for a Varangian Guard Warband (Viking mercenaries in Byzantine service). They were led (as required) by Harald Hardrada. There were two points of Varangians (Viking Heathguards) armed with Dane Axes, one point of Kontaratoi (Warriors with spears) and two points of Toxotai (Warriors armed with bows). As the interested reader will notice, this only adds up to five points, but with the Warlord being a hero of the Viking age, he costs an extra point and therefore only allows for five points of units. I have to say I would have liked a different composition to get away from that huge block of archers, but all Heathguards have to be Varangian and the need to make up less than half the units. Byzantine cavalry was not allowed as well, which limited the choices somewhat. I was also a bit anxious, since a Varangian Warband is played with both a Viking and a Byzantine Battleboard. The Byzantine units only generate Continental (also called Norman dice), while the Varangians can choose to generate either continental or runic (also called Viking dice). The Warlord can only generate one die per round unless he takes fatigue to create on or two extra dice.

As you can see, the terrain was quiet green and the village had a distinct Viking look. So let’s assume Harald was on home leave, taking a retuine befit his status along and those pesky Normans simply could not leave him alone… So much for a holiday. 😉

We decided to play Clash of the Warlords, as we do most of the time. I think we really need to take a look at the homegrown scenarios on the Gripping Beast forum!

We rolled for initiative and rolled a tie. So in other words… I won an account of my more impressive facial hair.

The Normans deployed the large cavalry unit in the centre and one each of the small ones on each flank. The crossbows were deployed on their left flank and close combat Sergeants on the right. The Warlord was slightly off centre to the right. So in other words… The deployment I have come to know.

The Varangians deployed their Byzantine archers in one large amalgamated unit right behind a spearmen screen. As indicated their right flank hinged on the creek. The Varangians deployed one behind the other on the left flank and the Warlord behind the spot where the Byzantine and Norse units connected.

The table

The table
[Normans to the left, Varangian Guard to the right]

The Normans won initiative and started a general advance. Max had been able to roll enough flags on the dice to allow for two re-rolls, so it did not stay there. The large unit of cavalry activated for a second time and charged the Kontaratoi. Aided by some Norman abilities they got a lot of dice and one instant kill, but on account of some good saving throws on my side only killed four of the spearmen, who in turn killed two Norman horsemen before being forced to withdraw.

First Norman charge

First Norman charge

Aftermath of the first Norman attack

Aftermath of the first Norman attack

With initiative passing on to the Varangian Guard, it was time to decide how to spend my SAGA dice. I went for two continental and four runic dice (my warlord had to take one fatigue for that). Now the runic dice went really well. Even after two re-rolls I still had two suwulo dice. So the first thing was for the Varangians to call Ragnarök, which meant one less armour for all Normans for the rest of the turn. While the Kontaratoi only removed the fatigue left from their last combat, their Toxotai brothers shot their bows at the large Norman cavalry at pint blank range… another two horsemen dead. Now the lead unit of Varangians charged the Normans. Bet ween their Dane axes, the Norman fatigue and the Ullr ability (which allowed them to re-roll failed to hit rolls) they scored nine hits. Max failed to safe enough and the four remaining horsemen were on the way to their graves. The Norsemen mercenaries lost two of their own, but in the end, it was a small price to pay, for taking out the largest Norman unit before the first round was over.

Revenge Norsemen style

Revenge Norsemen style

It was a huge psychological blow for the Normans. For the next round they only advanced cautiously, with their foot troops catching up to the horsemen, while the later only loitered around, just outside arrow range of the Byzantines.

The Vikings too used this round to get their formation back in order. Varangians formed a new screen before the archers (the blooded unit to the right, the fresh one to the left) and the archers moved forward behind the mercenary screen. The Kontaratoi moved to the left taking over flank protection.

Regrouped Vangarian Guard

Regrouped Varangian Guard

The next Norman activation saw another advance, mainly by the foot troops, but also by the cavalry on their right flank. The crossbows activated another time and fired a volley at the depleted Viking unit. But on account of their superior armour that unit only took one loss, bringing them down to one man.

Normans inching closer

Normans inching closer

With activation now passing back to the Varangians the Byzantine archers opened up on the Norman crossbows and showed them how to do it… three crossbows down. Otherwise the Viking unit which was still in mint condition moved forward towards the cavalry that had inched forward more and activated for a second time to charge them. Since their Warlord had taken another fatigue to roll and extra die and since I had been lucky with the re-rolls they too could make use of Ullr and annihilated all four horsemen at a loss of two of their own.

Vangarians annihilate Norman Knights

Varangian annihilate Norman Knights

Obviously things were not looking too good for the Normans by now. When their crossbows activated to fire at the archers, the gods intervened and made them move instead (did I mention that I had gotten really lucky when I last rolled the SAGA dice?) the Sergeants charged the Varangians who had just killed their mounted Knights. Now this actually went well for the Normans since they wiped out their opponents (although I can not remember what price they paid, but I think it was only one or two).

Norman Sergeants attacking Vangarians

Norman Sergeants attacking Varangians

But this is where the luck ended for the Normans. For the next activation I decided to put an emphasis on continental dice and the Byzantine archers were able to get two massed volleys. The first one was fired at the Norman crossbows and managed to kill all five of them. I think in about a dozen games played versus the Normans, this must have been the first time, I killed the whole unit of crossbows. So for a lack of targets, they shifted their aim to the Sergeants on the other flank and killed another two. Not much else to do….

Now it was time for one last Hail Marry attack by the Normans. With a double move the Norman Warlord charged the Toxotai and ordered the remaining mounted Knights along. Beefed up by some Norman ability, they hit the enemy archers and inflicted a total of six losses for only one loss of their own. Not content with their success, the Knights charged the retreating Byzantines once more, without their Warlord this time. But now it did not go this well. The Toxotai decided to use the three fatigue the Knights had accumulated at the moment they made contact to lower the Norman armour and this time none survived, while the horsemen failed to make a real impact.

Norman Hail Marry charge

Norman Hail Marry charge

And this set the stage for the final assault of the game. The Varangian Warlord charged his counterpart with a double move and ordered the archers (being the biggest unit in range) to join in. Between the two of them, they scored nine hits (the Norman Warlord still had two fatigue, so his armour was lowered considerably) of which he only saved two and perished. In turn he only scored three hits of which the Norse Warlord saved two.

So some thoughts on playing a Varangian Guard Warband. My decision to try them out had mainly been driven by the fact that the Byzantine Warbands seem to be very defensive. The best you can get from their Battleboard (unless you field an all cavalry force for which Normans would be better suited though) is by fielding a large amalgamated unit of archers or two units working in unison. With the close combat screen they require they become very cumbersome and usually stay in place. Either waiting for the enemy to come to them or for the other units to operate under their screen. As I said very static and defensive.

Now the Varangians do not really change that. All Heathguards in the Warband need to be Varangians, but no more than half the Warband my be Varangians. Given the fact that their Hero of the Viking Age Warlord already takes up one point, this means you can only field a maximum of two points of them. What does this leave you with? Three points of Byzantine foot (no mounted troops allowed in a Varangian Warband). Levies would be bad choice, since you need to split your dice between two Battleboards and the Warlord generates less dice than normal, which means you need every SAGA die you can get. So this leaves Warriors and what is your best choice? Two units of archers and one unit of close combat to protect them. In other words… It is Groundhog Day! Only this time the units operating under their screen are Viking Heathguards, with access to their extremely powerful Battleboard, a heightened armour of six and access to Dane Axes. So the Warband is still static and defensive but with a real über-close combat element. Still not my style of play,

Before I leave you, just some other news. I managed to finish the next generic unit of French Napoleonic infantry the other weekend, but never got around to finish their bases. But at the same time, I made good progress on the next French unit. They should be finished today, so I shall do the bases for both in one go and show them to you this weekend.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Byzantines, Gripping Beast, Medival, Normans, Rules, SAGA, Vikings

 

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SAGA, Clash of the Warlords, Byzantines vs. Normans

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.

Table with deployed forces

Table with deployed forces

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.

Massed Byzantine cavalry

Massed Byzantine cavalry

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.

Do not mess with the spearman

Do not mess with the spearman

Kavallaroi archers taking a shot Norman crossbows

Kavallaroi archers taking a shot Norman crossbows

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.

Norman Knights charging Byzantine Taxatoi

Norman Knights charging Byzantine Taxatoi

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.

Cavalry clash

Cavalry clash

Death of the Norman Knights

Death of the Norman Knights

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.

Norman crossbows firing at Byzantine Kavallaroi archers

Norman crossbows firing at Byzantine Kavallaroi archers

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!

 
 

SAGA Byzantines vs. Normans

Last week it was SAGA time once more and Martin and I met for a short game before he left for Salute in London (lucky him!).

It was quiet spontaneous and due to the great weather we decided to move the game to the outdoors. Hence a slightly simplified set-up, with mainly open ground, a few hills, trees and cornfields and a small village.

We decided to play Clash of the Warlords, my Byzantines vs. Martins Normans.

The Byzantines consisted of three points of Kavallaroi (mounted Heathguards), two with spears which would be amalgamated into one large unit and one with bows. There were also one point of Kontaratoi (Warriors with spears) and two points of Toxotai (Warriors armed with bows). As mandatory, they were led by their mounted Warlord.

Martin was playing his Normans in a new set-up. A mounted Warlord, four units of mounted Knights (Hearthguard) and two units of Sergeants (Warriors), one of them armed with crossbows. Martin would amalgamate two of his Knight units into a large one.

The Normans (after winning set-up initiative) would deploy the large cavalry unit in the centre and one each of the small ones on each flank. The crossbows were deployed on their right flank and close combat Sergeants on the left. The Warlord was slightly off centre to the right.

The Byzantines deployed their archers in two units right behind the other in the centre, right behind a spearmen screen. The Toxotai were deployed on their right flank and the Kontaratoi accompanied by the Warlord on the left opposite the Crossbows and village.

Cavalry... lots of them

Cavalry… lots of them

Again Martin won initiative and for the first round we both advanced on one another. The Normans second activation saw them advance a little more, but no contact was made and no bolts fired.

Now initiative passed to the Byzantines. I rolled really well on the SAGA dice and made my first mistake… I got greedy. The Toxotai fired their arrows at the mounted knights to their front. One Norman dead. The large formation of foot troops advanced in the centre and fired a concerted volley by both units of Archers at the large unit of cavalry bearing down on them. Two dead. Not the best dice rolling, but it was bound to get worse. And this is where I made my big mistake. The Kavalaroi would have been in range to charge the lone Norman Warlord with a double move through the village. But I did not want to end the game after just a half round of combat, so I chose to charge the crossbow armed Sergeants instead.

Byzantine cavalry advancing towards the enemy

Byzantine cavalry advancing towards the enemy

In part this was motivated by me never having annihilated them completely in any game played against Normans before. Plus I felt that the Normans would never charge a double unit of cavalry with just a small cavalry unit and a Warlord at best. And this is where the dice gods struck. Instead of killing the whole unit of Sergeants, only five out of the eight perished. But I lost three Kavalaroi. Not good!

Encircled Crossbows

Encircled Crossbows

Now initiative changed back to the Normans. The remaining Sergeants fired their crossbows at the Byzantine cavalry, but did no damage. But now they were charged by the small unit of Norman mounted Knights, accompanied by their Warlord and under use of the Dex Aie ability. Apparently they did not look scary enough after three losses anymore. There were annihilated for good. Martin did not even need to roll all his dice available to achieve that. And to make matters worse, the Byzantines took not a single Norman with them.

Norman Cavarly against their Byzantine counterparts

Norman Cavarly against their Byzantine counterparts

In the centre the large Norman cavalry formation charged the Byzantine foot. Five spearmen met their fate, but at least this time two Normans paid the ultimate price as well. In a last measure the remaining small unit of Knights charged the Toxotai and the clash ended two for two.

With initiative back in Byzantine hands I tried to consolidate things. My Warlord moved around the village to get himself into a better position for next round. The Toxotai fired another volley at their opposites, but caused no damage. But my main emphasis rested on the centre. The archer loosened off two concerted volley of arrows. One should think the a total of sixteen shots would do better, but they only managed one kill. Now the remaining three Kontaratoi charged in after having recovered their fatigue. Again one Norman dead, but all three spearmen perished… this was getting worse by the minute!

Last Stand

Last Stand

Now it was Martins turn once more. The Knights on the Byzantine right charged the Toxotai and caused them one casualty. Now both units were down to one man each.
In the centre what remained of the large formation of Norman cavalry went for the Archers, causing three losses to the front unit at a single loss of their own. All the other Norman units, with the exception of the Warlord who remained idle, closed in on the centre too.

Norman Cavalry vs. Byzantine Archers

Norman Cavalry vs. Byzantine Archers

So now it was all or nothing and my Warlord charged his Norman counterpart in a double move. What shall I say… He did not cause a single hit, but received five. None of which I saved. And thus ended the game in a Norman win.

Clash of the Warlords

Clash of the Warlords

I have to say… Martin played his Normans really well, while I saw that I really need to get used to the Byzantines. If you add my tactical mistake due to greed at the beginning to the equation, I would not have needed the bad dice rolls to loose this one. Well there will always be a next time.

By the way: at my request Martin got me a more animated looking Warlord for my Byzantines at Salute. Maybe he will put sound tactics over greed! 😉

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2013 in Byzantines, Medival, Normans, SAGA

 

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SAGA, Byzantines vs. Welsh

Last weekend saw my Byzantines vs. Martins Welsh.

Martin played Welsh, led by a mounted Warlord. There were two points of mounted Teulu (Hearthguard) and two points of foot Teulu, one point of Priodaur (Warriors) and one point of bow armed Bonnedig (Levies). The Teulu would be amalgamated into a large foot and large mounted unit respectively, giving Martin only five SAGA dice to roll.

I chose to give my Byzantines their first outing. They too were led by a mounted Warlord. There were three points of Kavallaroi (mounted Heathguards), two with spears which would be amalgamated into one large unit and one with bows. To bring the numbers up there was one point of Kontaratoi (Warriors armed for close combat) and two points of Toxotai (Warriors armed with bows). This would give seven SAGA dice rounded down to the maximum six to roll each round.

The table was set up for a “Battle at the Ford” game. Open terrain with some hills along the table edges, a few fields and small hills and a small village (which would play no role at all). The main feature obviously was the river running through the middle of the table. Seen from the Byzantine side there was a ford slightly to the left of the middle of the table and a stone bridge to the far right.

We rolled for initiative, which was won by the Byzantines. So I set up my Warriors to the left opposite the Ford, with the Kantaratoi up front. Now Martin had to set up all his troops. So he placed his Bonnedig and foot Teulu in front of the Ford as well. His mounted Teulu, Priodauer and Warlord were set up on the other flank, in front of the bridge. As was to be expected, I set up my cavalry and Warlord to oppose any moves made by them.

Welsh closing in on the ford

Welsh closing in on the ford

The first round was quiet uneventful. I had won the initiative and even though both sides advanced at full speed, we ended up without bowshot.

Troubled bridge over calm waters

Troubled bridge over calm waters

For the second round it was clear, that my archers on the left would still be out of range, so I just advanced them further. On the right the lines would be close enough, or at least I thought so. A quick measure showed that the Byzantine cavalry were just a few millimetres short of making contact with the Welsh cavalry and therefore decided to charge the foot warriors together with the Warlord. Technically they should have had a chance to kill them all, but in the end two survived, at the loss of a single Byzantine horseman. Not too bad a result.

Byzantine Cavalry charging Welsh Bonedig

Byzantine Cavalry charging Welsh Bonedig

Well now it was the Welsh turn and as came to be expected their eight mounted Teulu and the Warlord charged the Byzantine riders. The mounted archers fired of a volley in support, but failed to make an impression. Since the Welsh spend two extra SAGA dice to gain extra attacks, I decided to sacrifice half my attacks to gain more defensive dice, but in the end there were enough unsaved hits to kill the Kavallaroi almost twice and they perished. This was not looking good! But at least they had taken three Teulu with them. On the other flank the Welsh just advanced as well.

Closing in on the ford

Closing in on the ford

So at the beginning of the third round it was time to take some desperate measures. As a result the Kontaratoi on the left flank got not SAGA dice at all and the Toxotai just two dice to make use of their support archer ability. While it is not great advantage over activating both units to fire the regular way (you still spend two dice) it allows them to fire through friendly units, which they did, firing through the spearmen to their front to attack the foot Teulu. And sixteen Warrior archers is not too shabby. They scored five hits and the Welsh only managed to save two… So it was three Teulu down. Not a bad start for this round. A quick calculation on the other flank showed, that the Kavallaroi archers would not be able to kill the remaining five mounted Teulu with their bows alone. So led by their Warlord, they unsheathed their swords and charged in. Together they managed to kill all Welsh riders, but when the dust settled only the Warlord and one Archer remained, but at least some releave for that flank.

Desperate measures

Desperate measures

Now initiative passed over to the Welsh. And they were now starting to feel the loss of the Teulu, only being able to roll 4 SAGA dice now. At the Bridge the two remaining Warriors charged the lone Kavallaroi, killing him at no loss of their own. Now the Welsh Warlord decided to charge his Byzantine opposite. But both went into combat with fatigue and decided to use the other ones fatigue to beef up their own armour. In the end neither scored enough hits to kill the other. At the ford, the Teulu advanced and the Levies, now in range, fired a volley at the Kontaratoi, killing one.

Death of the final Kavallaroi

Death of the final Kavallaroi

Now that initiative passed back to the Byzantines. At the ford the Toxotoi used their Massed Archery on the Welsh Heathguards once more causing them a few casualties (unfortunately I do not remember how many) and the Kontaratoi advanced. That was the best I could do, being down to five SAGA dice now and requiring most for for the other flank, where the Byzantine Warlord charged the remaining two Priodauer. In spite his best hopes, he only managed to kill one and decided to withdraw out of range of the Welsh Warlord with his remaining actions.

Now the Welsh Warlord decided to take another stab at the Byzantine one, removed his own fatigue and charged. Due to the distance this took two actions and he arrived with fatigue once more. Again both Warlords chose to use the others fatigue to raise their armour, and again it came to nothing. At the ford the Teulu charged the Byzantine spears, killing three for minimal losses and pushing them back. For lack of dice, the Bonnedig did nothing.

Clash at the ford

Clash at the ford

At the beginning of the fifth round the Byzantines got two re-rolls on their SAGA dice giving them a massive eight dice to draw from. The Toxotoi got the Support Archer ability twice, to take the Teulu out for good, but the first volley already killed the remaining three Heathguards. So the second volley was shifted to the Levy archers killing five. the Kontaratoi, who had been in position to charge the Teulu advanced on the Welsh archers, but were too far away to charge. At the bridge the Warlord removed his fatigue and charged the Welsh Warlord. Now only the Byzantine leader could raise his own armour and scored three unsafed hits, standing victorious over his dead opponent when the dust settled.

This meant that the Welsh were down to one SAGA die. Since the lone Priodauer could never hope to harm the Warlord, this one went to the Bonnedig archers, who failed to make an impression on their target. All that was left to do now was mopping up. The Byzantine Warlord killed the lone Welsh warrior and another volley of arrows from the Byzantine archers killed another four Welsh archers. The remaining three (with no SAGA dice to roll) saw the futility of further actions and bowed to the might of the Byzantine Empire.

Mopping up

Mopping up

 
 

SAGA Byzantine Warband… finally finished

As you might remember, I asked you a few weeks ago, what I should do over the festive season and your choice was Byzantines for SAGA. I was happy to oblige and while I had initially planned to post them by units, this did not work out. Due to the cold weather here in Germany I did not want to spray varnish them, which is the step before doing the basing for me. As a result… no posts by units. But after the whole Warband was finished I lost patience and varnished them in-doors. So as a result they all get presented in one go.

The lowest units are two units of Toxotai or foot archers and one unit of Kontaratoi or foot spearmen (Warriors under the SAGA rules). These are the rank and file soldiers raised and maintained by the Byzantine state. As such I wanted to give them a uniform look, so they all got tan trousers and dark red shirts. This is also meant to show their origins as a successor to the Roman Empire. As such they received the colours historians (tan) and Hollywood (red) associate with the Romans. This is also in line with my Early Imperial Romans.

Kontaratoi

Kontaratoi

Toxotai (firing)

Toxotai (firing)

Toxotai (at the ready)

Toxotai (at the ready)

I guess I will eventually have to get myself another unit of spearmen to give me the flexibility I want for my Byzantines, but for now it shall do. Actually they will have to do for a long time, since I do not have any more spearmen and there is still my resolution not to buy any minis this year (which I have not breached so far). That is unless there is anyone here who has a unit of Byzantine spearmen he does not need and wants to trade them for archers (for some reason I bought one unit more than I needed).

The next highest units are the Kavallaroi or mounted Heathguards. I chose two four men units each of archers and regulars cavalry. While historically these are equipped by the state as well, the were also the most prestigious units in the army. So I wanted them to look like lesser nobles and gave each of them a different tunic with intricate patterns.

Kavallaroi I

Kavallaroi I

Kavallaroi II

Kavallaroi II

Kavallaroi Archers I

Kavallaroi Archers I

Kavallaroi Archers II

Kavallaroi Archers II

Now those of you who know SAGA will realise that these and a Warlord add-up to seven points and are too much to field a regular warband. The plan is that I will use all cavalry and only one unit of foot archers if I want an offensive set-up. By contrast I will remove one unit of mounted archers if I want a defensive set-up. Once the second foot spear is finished, I could also remove a unit of mounted close combat as well, but first I want to see how this one plays out.

All of the above troops were done using the Army Painter Dip and touched up and detailed once it was dry. The shields are transfers from LBMS and applied after the army painted as well.

Last but not least to lead the Warband is the Warlord or Basileus in this case (although I will not use the special rules fo him, since I feel this option actually weakens a Byzantine warband in SAGA). I gave him fine clothing with a purple cape, agin to show the Roman origins of the Byzantines. He was painted the classic way with normal highlights and all to set him apart from the rest of the Warband.

Basileus

Basileus

All in all these are one mounted Warlord, 16 cavalry and 24 foot troops. Actual painting time was about 1 1/2 weeks, plus decals, touch-up and basing. All in all this took longer than I had planned, but I hope it will be a mighty fine Warband on the tabletop! And here they are all together:

Seven point Byzantine SAGA Warband

Seven point Byzantine SAGA Warband

What else is there to say. They were all based in a dryer scheme to represent their south-eastern European and North Arabian setting. The Warlord and foot troops were based on the standard SAGA bases, but I could not stand the square ones for the cavalry, so those are oval bases from Warbases in Scotland (a company I can not recommend too much). The minis themselves are all from Gripping Beast.

 
 

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