Well things have become a little quiet lately. Last month I finished a bigger batch of vehicles for my WW II project and right on the heels it was painting extra minis for the SAGA French Melee.
I had been wondering what to play. Out of my Age of Vikings era armies none were really playable under SAGA 2, so I first has to make the choice which army to expand. Only the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons could be done in due time and I was in no mood to play Vikings, so Anglo-Saxons it was.
I decided to play with a mounted Warlord, two points of mounted Hearthguards amalgamated into one unit and 4 points of Levies (3 of them with close combat weapons and 1 with bows).
What gave me some headaches though, was that I had hardly gotten any games of SAGA 2 in since its release… one in mid-August another earlier this month. So I was not expecting much, except for a good weekend.
Game one (standard Clash of Warlords)
The first game pitted me against Andy Lyons’ Welsh. I have to say, this was the game I had been both hoping for and dreading for years. For those who do not know him, Andy has played SAGA Grand Melees and Iron Mans all over the world and won a good number of them. A former U.K. and German champion and the current French champion, he was quite an opponent for the first match. That being said, I have known him for a man with great spirits for years, so no matter what, I was expecting a great game.
Andy was playing Welsh in an all mounted, all Javelin set-up. There was a Warlord, a Priest, 2 points of Hearthguards and 3 points of Warriors. Unfortunately I cannot remember how he arranged them.
Deployment method was A. Andy was first player and decided to take shots with his javelins at my Hearthguards. Which did not go too well. That turn and the next one too Andy rolled below average on his to-hit rolls, I rolled above average on my saves. This resulted in Andy having to keep his troops closer to mine than he would have liked. By the third or fourth turn my Levies were close enough to his troops and spread out enough to always be able to attack one of his units no matter where he put them at the end of his turn. So it was a close call all the time and in the end Andy won by a point.
All in all I was extremely happy with the result, which put me in the midfield and still gave me chances for a good result in the end. But in all fairness, had the dice been more average, Andy would have won by a bigger margin.
Game two (Clash of Warlords variant)
First things first. This scenario was based on the Clash of Warlords, but both players got to place two objectives each (at least L from a long board edge and at least M from another objective). Being in procession (having a unit within VS of an objective at the end of the game, without any enemy units within VS) gave you another two kill points per objective. This game I was playing a very good French player, who’s name I unfortunately forgot [EDIT: It was Dorian.] He was playing Normans. A mounted Warlord and a mounted Priest, 1 point of mounted Hearthguards, 2 points of mounted Warriors (spread into two units of 5 and one of 6 men), 1 point of Warriors on foot with close combat weapons and 1 point of Levy archers.
Deployment method was B and we both put the objectives in terrain in our home corner close to our respective Levie archers. I began in a strong round defense hidden from his Archers by a large hill in the middle, expecting such a mobile army to go on the offensive. Again I was player two and took a heavy beating for it. My opponent rolled well on his three SAGA dice and together with the use of We Obey managed to send his larger unit of mounted Warriors charging into my Hearthguards using two SAGA abilities (Charge and Pursuit) to beef their mettle quite a bit in additions to the benefits from charging with javelins. This cost me dearly, since I lost a total of 7 Hearthguards. My other troops were able to mop those Warriors of his up once it was my turn, but it meant we had traded 6 Warriors of his versus 7 Hearthguards (and I think a Levy or two) of mine. Which left me down four slaughterpoints on aggregate. Not a good start, since I had to go on the attack now to make up for that. So I left the bow armed Levies alone to guard the objectives, while the rest of my army began their journey to attack the enemy positions. All game long the dice were a reversal of the previous game. This time I rolled sub-par and my opponent better than average. But still my troops kept constantly closing the gap. Things still did not look too good until the fifth turn when he tried to take out my Warlord and failed, loosing a unit of Warriors. My counterattacks cost him his Warlord and now I was in the lead. My plan sometime during the game had become to contest his objectives with my Warlord (the only unit mobile enough) on the final turn, but all this fighting had left him with too much fatigue, so I just scrapped that plan. On the other hand my opponent did not manage to contest mine either since he was kept too busy on his flank. So in the end my lead in slaughter point gave me the victory.
Game three (Clash of Warlords variant)
Game three would bring another Clash of Warlords variant. This time one would only score slaughter point in Melee and each time your Warlord took part in a Melee it would be another two bonus slaughter points. There would be no slaughter point for a unit being destroyed completely.
After having had to play two armies that were either completely or mostly mounted I had been hoping for an all foot opponent. My wish was granted, but one should always beware what you wish for. Emmanuel (who came second overall [EDIT: He came third overall]) was playing Pagan Rus and this was not the kind of game I had hoped for.
He fielded a Warlord, 3 points of Hearthguards (amalgamated into two units of six), 2 points of Warriors (fielded as a unit of twelve and four mean respectively) and a unit of Gall-Gaedhil mercenaries.
Set-up was according to method B once more. Due to the Pagan Rus ability Frozen Winds my units were fairly spread out (but they still suffered from it for the first three turns), while my opponent deployed fairly compact.
I can no longer remember who was player one, but it did not really matter. Emmanuel made heavy use of Blizzard, Long Winter and Biting Cold all throughout the game, which over the first three turns meant that except for a volley by my archers against his large unit of Warriors I did not get any charges or volleys in.
So I simply positioned my units where they would be able to either attack next turn or force my opponent to withdraw. And I made sure I always had Valiant Hearts actived and had a mix of Defenders of the Kingdom, Closed Ranks and Clash of Shields on my board. Which paid off. His large unit of Warriors attacked my Levies with bows in rocky ground and took a heavy beating. Virtually the same happened when his Gall-Gaedhil followed up. They were now attacked by one of my Levies to my advantage. Now I was leading on slaughter points and his board became oriented towards the offensive which meant I was actually able to get two charges of my own choosing in. His attacks met a similar fate as before. But until the end of the game I was unable to attack with my Warlord. His formation was too compact to risk that and the easier targets were situated within ruins, making them too hard to attack. We had to finish the game after the fifth turn due to us taking a little too long, but the result was a solid victory for me.
Fourth game (Clash of Warlords variant)
The second day began with yet another Clash of Warlords variant. Every turn from the second turn onwards, one would get an extra slaughter point for every unit that was completely within the opponents half of the table.
I was facing Simon who was playing Normans as well. His force consisted of a mounted Warlord and Priest, a point of Hearthguards three points of mounted Warriors (spread out in a number units of six, five and four men) and a point of archers.
I was aware that to win this one, had to prevent my opponent from getting on my side of the table as long as possible, since I would hardly be able to contain, let alone catch, this many mounted units once they got to my side. So I tried to make the centre of the table as restrictive as possible by placing a large wood on the right flank, a swamp on the left and a field in the centre. I was player one and rolled a four as our deployment method (method B), but chose to shift that to method C. Due to his large number of units and the large cavalry bases he was using he had to spread his units out a lot, placing some of them either behind terrain the had to move around or at the very edge of the table. All in all this meant that during turn two and three I had more units on his side of the table than he had on mine. Special praise has to go to my Hearthguards who held on to my left flank on their own versus three units of Warriors and later on the Warlord and Priest. I had to laugh when Simon put a lot of effort into attacking them with a unit of Warriors aided by the Charge and Pursuit abilities only to find I still had Valiant Hearts active and had Defenders of the Kingdom and Clash of Shields on my board. All in all this fight cost me nothing while he lost his whole unit. But I also made a stupid mistake when I became greedy and had my last remaining Hearthguard attack his exposed Priest later on only to die in the process without doing the Priest any harm.
Only in turn four and five did the number of units on the opponents side shift substantially in his favour. But during the whole game I had done my best to both keep him back and bring his Warrior units below the four men threshold for creating SAGA dice. Which meant I was in the lead on real slaughter points. In the end he had slightly more points for units on the opponents side than I had while I got more from the kills. Again the game had to be called after turn five and we were equal on points. The tournament did not allow for a draw and since I still had vastly more men left on the table, I it was a minor victory for me.
Game five (Clash of Warlords variant)
This variant would give each player two extra slaughter points at the end of each of their own turns per unit for every unit partially within M of the table-centre.
This time my opponent was Jan who also played Anglo-Saxons. He fielded a Warlord on foot, a Priest on foot, a unit of Gall-Gaedhil mercenaries, 3 points of Levies with close combat weapons and 1 point of Levies with bows. I was expecting this to become a very bogged down game given the defensive orientation of the Anglo-Saxons.
Again, I was player one. I have to say, I did not care much for terrain, except that I wanted a field on my side of the table partially within M of the centre where I could place my archers and that the rest of the terrain I deployed (a hill) did not restrict the movement of my cavalry too much. Jan placed two small woods on his side of the table, also partially within M of the centre, one of which I moved away from the centre. Deployment was according to method C again.
I did not roll too well on those three initial SAGA dice. So there was no way I could do him some harm and I settled for two defensive abilities to get me through the first turn and moved two units of Levies and my Warlord within M of the centre. My opponent tried to expel as many of them as possible (and succeeded on the two close combat Levy units) and tried to kill my Warlord (which he did not, but which left my Warlord with three fatigue).
The next turn my Hearthguards together with two units of close combat Levies managed to push the enemy back, giving them a heavy beating. My Warlord was still very exposed, had two fatigue and had three units of Levies within S of him. Which made him a tempting target (both as a kill and due to the fatigue the other units within S would get upon his death). So Jan tried to brush one unit of Levies away with his Levies and Gall-Gaedhil (which he managed) and kill my Warlord with the later (which he did not). But this had left his Mercenaries with three fatigue and they were wiped out by my Hearthguards without any losses of my own the next turn (I used two of his fatigue to raise my armour to seven). My Levies regained their position against their oposites and the dollowing turn my Hearthguards about faced and pushed another unit of Levies out. From then on it was only securing my position (gaining ten slaughter points per turn) and harressing the enemy. In the end I won by a margin for 39 points, for a superior victory. What really made me happy was that in this very last game, my Hearthguards were able to enact their envisioned role of shocktroops for the first time.
All in all I ended up with 62 tournament points and made fifth place overall. With which I am mighty happy, given both my lack of preparation and the quality of the opponents.
The later was really amazing. I have played in a number of tournaments over the years and always have I had one opponent that only gave me an easier game. Not so this time. They were all very good players and there was not a single game that one could just play it home easily. Even the very last game was much harder than the result would suggest. The general sportsmanship, not just in the games I played but also what I saw on adjacent tables, was very good. Being provided with lunch on both days and dinner on the first day as well as cake was a huge bonus.
So all in all, it was a very taxing, but friendly and enjoyable weekend. One I will certainly try my best to repeat as often as possible in coming years.