Moors versus Jomsvikings (SAGA Age of the Wolf)

Our SAGA campaign steams on and here’s a short battle report of Moorish volounteer warriors facing the illustrious Jomsviking brotherhood. This battle took place in the third campaign turn (out of six possible). Since we were both raiding this turn,  Battle at the Ford was rolled as the scenario.

The Jomsvikings were lead by the infamous King Fury who took over the reigns once the previous leader was killed. Driven into the fray by his lust for riches, the Jomsviking leader had many scars from previous battles represented by the Trollhide ability, requiring two wounds to be slain. The force consisted of:

Warlord
5 Hearthguard
4 Hearthguard
5 Warriors
6 Warriors

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The Jomsviking assembled for glorious battle.

My Moorish Warband is led by a tough Sub-Saharan former merchant calling himself al-Battal Ghazi, who sold as all his property and took up the Jihad of the Sword. While lacking serious religious credentials, few can doubt that he doesn’t receive what he asks from Allah. His sense for business and logistics has led to the employment of northerners with various faiths, despite grumblings from his more puritan warriors.

The Moorish warlord has the Son of Odin (heh), Eye of the God, Scout and the Great Special Rules. In game it means he is requires two unsaved hits to die, Levys generate SAGA dice, the post game progression table can be rerolled (very useful this one) and up to 7 SAGA dice can be rolled each turn. He’s a total beast in the game. The Moorish Warband had:

1 Warlord
1 Bard (Christian nobleman)
9 Levy Archers
11 Warriors
7 Warriors
8 Warriors (saxons)

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The Moors together with some Saxons. Because of our house rules, my Warband had a Bard in this game, represented by the Christian nobleman on the armored horse. To get some sweet post-battle effects, it was paramount he survived.
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The Jomsvikings deploy in a tight formation on the left flank. In this way, they would avoid the nasty abilities of the Moorish board. But this allowed my Saxons to advance unopposed over the bridge. I need to secure the left flank quickly though.

Early Turns

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The Jomsviking dreng, eager for battle, are the first unit to cross the bridge. My opponent also played the Northern Tempest the first turn. This time, I really wanted my levies to fire off 5 shots so I gave him the Wrath.
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Saelred the Saxon, preferring to fight for the Charred Men from the south over the ferocious viking pagans, leads his men dutifully across the bridge and secures the other side.  The rest of the Moorish Warband scrambles left to challenge the fearsome northern mercenaries.
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The Moorish volounteer warriors steel themselves before the coming storm. As my opponent usually has the activation blocking Punishment up, I can’t use Song of Drums to activate everything. However, the fact that I roll 7 dice and have a bard allow the Moors to move quickly.
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The Levy close in to fire at the bridge while the rest of the Moorish Warriors move in as a reserve.
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But even with 7 dice is not enough to move the Warband and stack up abilities to fight in combat. I decide to wait for my opponent to make the first assault.
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My opponent doesn’t engage yet but moves up his Warband further up. The Moorish Archers shower the Jomsvikings with arrows but fail to make a dent.
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Since the jomsvikings have some Wrath up, they get access to their powerful rightmost column. However, my Moorish phalanx is prepared with dice on all the combat abilities. My opponent plays Dance of Steel a lot this game,  granting the Jomsvikings extra armor. He then shouts praises to Odin and attacks.
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And it is a disaster for the Jomsviking drenge. The muslims fight with skill and faith, but also by rolling very good attack and defense dice gained by the Fury of Swords ability. A strong melee ability to play on large units of spear men.
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The Jomsviking hearthguard are a lot tougher and force the Moors back. With Dance of Spears played, I reduce our casualties. Being true to their Viking tradition, the Jomsvikings easily remove fatigue gained from combat. Any counter attack will be costly.
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I roll two 6s and decide to play the Betrayal ability first time ever. If I took over the Dreng, I could crash them into his hearthguard nearby. Of course my opponent opts to put 3 fatigues on King Fury, the Jomsviking Warlord. My other dice are spent on defensive abilities and resting.

Late Turns

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My Moorish spear men and the Jomsviking hearthguard fight again. I deny my opponent some activations, giving him more wrath. Hopefully, I would be able to destroy the Jomsviking vanguard before it is reinforced.
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My Moorish Spear men crash into his weakened warrior unit and cuts them down. Al Battal Ghazi unsheathes his sword and charges the fatigued Jomsviking hearthguard on his own. I even bought an extra attack dice. But this time he is an african’t and does little damage.
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The Moors are attacked again by the Jomsviking Hearthguard. My Levies dropped one of them before, but they still slay 5 of my men.
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The fearsome Jomsviking assault leaves my 11 man warrior unit with only 2 fighters left. However, my opponent suffers from some terrible luck here as my 2 fighters survive another round of combat. The Jomsviking Hearthguard are angry enough to sit on +1 armor in their turns, but my dice are rolling a lot of sweet 6s.
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The Moorish archers aim more carefully this time and bring one of the Hearthguard units down. The bard has fallen behind way down to be of any use.
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And a final charge from the righteous believers finishes the last Jomsviking Hearthguard. King Fury shouts insults on the bridge before he turns back. Unfazed, Al Battal Ghazi offers a silent prayer as his victorious forces control both bridges.

Some finishing thoughts

The Moors had a stronger Warband in this game, and together with some above average dice rolling, they were able to reel in a victory. With few losses too. I really shouldn’t have played Betrayal though. A weak ability to play on Jomsvikings who can easily remove 3 fatigues from their Warlord with a common dice and free rest.

My Jomsviking opponent didn’t blame his dice. He found his plan flawed as he expected to move my men out of the way with Jomsborg, but this ability could only be played in my turn. He told me he could have played more cool, there was no need to rush into battle.

Post battle, the Jomsvikings faced another revolt at home, as the inhabitants of Jomsborg expect victories. Al Battal Ghazi gained some additional warriors and levies were bulked up to full strength.

I am surprised to like Age of the Wolf as it has the faults of classical British game design. These are characterized by eccentric rules married with random charts, where rolling double ones can totally ruin your life. But unlike my experience Flames of War and Warhammer 40k, where the campaigns are basically marketing ploys requiring  huge amount of product to play, Age of the Wolf offers interesting games and characterful Warband development. Just don’t expect it to be fair.

I would recommend fans of SAGA to try it out but consider two things before hand. Firstly, roster management is a huge part of the campaign and there needs to be a way to update it easily and keep them accessible to other players. For gaming balance reasons, the roster management is quite complicated so prepare to dumb it down a bit.

Secondly, try to figure out some way players can get more games in regardless of their chosen campaign actions. Now, back to painting.

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