Will the fearsome Byzantines under Strategos Dwelisarius sack Copenhagen in the final round? Hold on to your butts and read on as Samuel Jackson in Jurassic Park, might have said.
Last Game 4 – Byzantines – Escort
This time I faced off against another Byzantine player, in what can be considered as a historical match up too. Civil warfare among the East Romans wasn’t uncommon and even Emperors ended up on the wrong edge of an executioners blade sometimes. My opponent fielded:
The Byzantines of Severinus
1 Warlord Severinus
8 Mounted Hearthguard w lances
8 Toxotai (Bow armed Warriors)
8 Skutatoi (Spear armed warriors)
A well rounded force with 4 units of warriors and the cavalry as vicious counter-punch. We rolled off for defender and attacker, and I was chosen to attack. His mission was to escort two out of three carts off the table to win the battle. I had to destroy all three to win. This looked fairly difficult to accomplish, because I don’t know how to play aggressively with the Byzantines.
My opponent set up an unit of Toxotai and Skutatoi guarding each cart deployed on the far flanks. In the middle, 8 Heartguard and his warlord were put down guarding a cart.
I really had no plan on what to do, but hoped for some kind of pitched battle and reacted to my opponents deployment accordingly: on the far left I deployed mounted archers and Skutatoi. In the middle I put the Toxotai, 5 Levy, 8 Heartguard and my warlord. Slightly to the right, I put 7 Levy.
My opponent moved his forces up cautiously, I drove my archers and Levy forward to attack the Hearthguard. If I could reduce them, I would dominate the battle. But my shooting did not do much and next turn his Hearthguard charged my archers and reduced them to 3 models.
I decided to activate my cavalry twice and attack his Hearthguard in a full frontal charge. It was a brave thing to do – brave in the sense of driving a car full speed at the biggest tree. I should have known better because his cavalry charged my Toxotai without killing them off, the turn before. I needed a dice miracle to make it happen, but this strategy (if you can call it that) didn’t work out. I think we lost the same amount of models in this charge, but I ended up with more fatigue. In my opponents turn following turn, I learned of the rule that allows units to activate after resting….. After losing my Toxotai and Hearthguard, I could not stop the opponent from moving the carts across the table.
Result: A well deserved victory for my opponent who won the tournament.
Right now I can think of two grave errors committed, besides an insane cavalry charge. First one, never give away SAGA dice for free. I mistakenly sent a lone cavalry man to his death. Second is to focus on the carts. My opponent lured me into a pitched battle, degraded my forces which allowed the escape of two carts. But it was an interesting fight, this scenario has a lot of depth and it is great learning experience to play against the same faction.
The tournament was quite small but the organisation was efficient. A interesting feature was that each table had a specific scenario with preset terrain, except the Last Stand which played out according to the rules. The end result is players don’t need to bring the extra models for baggage trains, terrain and buildings. I think this is a good thing, especially when most players are about to start up. It can probably screw up the swiss pairings but at a small tournament, that doesn’t matter.
In every war gaming event I’ve been to in Denmark, they like to head out all together for a dinner before the final game. This builds narrative and character, to borrow vocabulary from 40k. Our customs, in the gray and philistine place called Sweden, are different. After the game is solemnly played to finish, every man fends for himself and wanders off. By making all participants hang out, the atmosphere softens up a bit and strangers like me can show up, get to know the people and have a good time. It is as they say hygge, danish for chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool.
8. Anglo Saxons
Three losses and one victory put me in the lower end of the pack (maybe 6th place?). But I brought plenty of intelligence to the Office of Barbarians for analysis. Certainly the military strategy will be improved in further battles. My opponent from the last game, won all his games and was the overall victor of the event. I am way too fresh at the game for some in-depth analysis of the meta, factions, missions. It would surely come out as dumb.
A small and cozy event that I was very happy to have attended. After coming back home, there has been a frantic stream of intro games for beginners and painting of SAGA miniatures. Not only from me but also the other co-authors of this blog. Hopefully there will be enough players to arrange a spring tournament here, with many warbands painted.
SAGA is a great game system, and the Byzantines are a fun faction to run. Their game-play rewards thinking, as Battle Board abilities are complex, requiring good relative positions of units. I sometimes wish for some simple offensive abilities, in the style of “take two million attack dice and re-roll misses” deals that Crusaders and Vikings get.
The most common abilities I used were Support Archers and Scouting with the Levy. Before I threw my Hearthguard in, I made sure to have Withdrawal available. The difficult things were abilities that demand good anticipation and understanding of the game like Strategikon, Friendly Shields and Basileus. The only ability that I dislike is Kontos, it is too expensive demanding a rare and an uncommon dice.
I’ve played some more games of SAGA since (think it is about 10) and so far two things bother me:
a) the inconsistencies between the SAGA Dark Age Rules and the Crescent & Cross Rules.
b) Wordings on some of the abilities.
The first example can be illustrated in some scenarios, at times it isn’t clear like how to calculate victory points, does the Warlord give points in Sacred ground or not? According to Dark Age yes, but not in Crescent & Cross. Some of the wordings on the battle board abilities are vague, like the Byzantine Support Archers ability. How does it work exactly? I feel the game shifts many things for the players to resolve, which shouldn’t be a problem with the crowd that plays historicals.
Lastly, I want to thank Tordenkugeln and Fris for arranging the tournament and for allowing me to user their beautiful pictures. I hope you enjoyed this report.