Byzantium invades Malmö (SAGA Tournament Report)

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The Byzantines assembled and ready to crush barbarians.

Took the Byzantines out to their 4th SAGA tournament. I’ve been playing the Moors a lot in our Age of the Wolf campaign, but external circumstances forced my hand to pick the Romans. This AAR will describe my army, the scenarios we played, how the battles went, with focus on the important tactical decisions I remember. Lastly, a short evaluation of the tournament and my army will be presented. The initial strategy behind my army selection was to use Turcoman mercenaries and switch them with Javelin Levy. I totally failed to paint this as I needed  more practice games. I ended up with:

7-point Byzantine Warband
Warlord- Strategos on Horse
2 points of Hearthguard Cavalry
4 points of Warriors
1 Point of Levy

We bring 7 points to the tournament, but only play with 6. This time I had enough models to arm the Hearthguard with both Bows or Lances depending on the opponent. I ended up playing this composition in every game except one:

8 Hearthguard w bows
10 Warriors spearmen
10 Warrior spearmen
4 Warrior spearmen
5 Levy Javelin
7 Levy Javelin

Game 1 – Pagan Rus – The Challenge 

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The Pagans assembled.

First game was against Freddys Pagan Rus, who came in all the way from Denmark to join the fun. Rus Pagans are a very historic but somewhat difficult army to face with Byzantines.  Their durability and strong counters to shooting and mounted models can cause problems. He had:

Pagan Rus
Warlord- Khagan on Foot
8 HG
12 Warriors
12 Warriors
10 Warriors

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Overview of our deployment. Our lords face off in the middle.

The game starts with the Khagan charging my Strategos (I had one dice in the Combat Pool, Withdrawal and Support Archers). The Rus Khagan has an ability that if the opponent scores no hits, he can do up to 6 automatic hits. I opted to attack but failed to land a blow with 6 dice, Support Archers all missed while the Pagan Rus did 7 wounds to my Byzantine Warlord. A total frickin’ disaster. If he did three more wounds to me, he would immediately win the game so I took a conservative approach.

The Pagans sent a 12-man flanking unit which I hoped the chase down, remove a SAGA dice and did it after two turns. After this the Pagans moved towards their own edge, sacrificing units along the way. Only in the last turn I could mount a charge on the Khagan with a reduced unit of mounted Hearthguard. This was not enough to bring him down. I unintentionally cheated in the last turn by using the Kontos ability on my bow-armed hearthguard. Sorry for that Freddy.

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I decide to smash the Pagan flankers.
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The Rus retreat, I use Basileus a lot to follow them, hence the fatigues on the Strategos. The Frozen ability slows me down.
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I managed to get a charge off in the end. But it couldn’t get past the defensive abilities of the Pagans.

Results: Overall victory for my opponent but I got points for some secondary objectives.

And intense game to the end but 7 inflicted wounds in turn 1 was nothing I could come back from easily.  Their anti-shooting ability was especially unpleasant and they could shut down the game without using Great Winter. I made a big mistake in army composition by not running the cavalry lancers. The Rus are good at slowing the game down and surviving, somewhat like the Moors. The way to beat these durable forces is by focusing on scenario objectives. Killing all of them is way too much hassle. The cavalry lancers have a lot of attacks and could put the Rus Khagan in serious hurt after he mauled my Strategos. Ranged capability could be maintained by opting for bows among the Warriors squads.

I had a fun time during the entire game, my opponent was a great sportsman and I bet he was in some difficulties himself. He never faced Byzantines before and the Battleboard has a lot of hard to spot tricks. Freddy came from Denmark and we joked that the Danish reconquisita of Skåne was underway, one SAGA game at a time. He will arrange a team tournament in Copenhagen which I really look forward to play in.

Game 2 – Norse-Gaels – Champions of God

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Norse-Gaels deployed and ready to ravage the lands.

Second game was against another Dane, he also used a Viking faction (noticing a trend here), the Norse Gaels. In this game switched out one of the Spearmen units to archers, to shoot as much as possible. I am quite scared of the Norse-Gaels, the do massive damage to anything they touch. However, Byzantines are strong in scenarios like this where I can castle up and go full DEFENSIOR. My opponent had:

Norse-Gaels
Warlord (Dane Axe)
8 HG (Dane Axes)
12 Warriors (Dane Axes)
12 Warriors (Dane Axes)
10 Warriors (Dane Axes)

My strategy when dealing with Norse Gaels is killing all their Hearthguard as soon as possible and making sure the Warlord can’t trash my best units in a challenge. Their Hearthguard are particularly nasty because they win challenges easier and can make themselves hard to kill in combat. The Norse-Gael warriors can still do damage but are a lot more brittle in melee. They also need more support from the Battleboard to reliably win challenges.

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Overview of our deployment. The angle on this photo is designed to make you seasick. I had the first turn so the mounted archers are deployed forward.

The game starts off by having my mounted archers doing massive damage in the first turn and my opponent pushing hard to catch on and even out the numbers.

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My opponent tries to charge one of the Levy units. Byzantine shooting reduced his 12 man Warrior squad to 6.
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The Levy survive the charge. I hoped to shoot the remaining 3 guys down. Charging is a bit risky as his Hearthguard will move closer to me.
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All of my shooting fail to take the 3 Norse-Gael warriors down. My opponent charges the last Levyman, but he defiantly refuses to die. I don’t know why he did this, he should have charged my warriors. It looks pretty good for me, as he can’t really engage from this distance.
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Which turns out to be wrong. His Hearthguard crash into the other Levy-unit but more importantly, the NG warriors completely wreck my archer unit. His hearthguard end up with two fatigue and I hatch a devious plan.
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Through intense measuring and general Byzantine trickery, I send in the Strategos together with 10 spearmen supported by Strategikon and Support Archers from the nearby Hearthguard. My opponents Hearthguard wisely choose to defend.
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But after I throw buckets of attack dice, the Norse-Gael Hearthguard are annihilated. The NG Warrior unit continue to cause damage but the Byzantines dominate game after this.

I lost the Levy and the Bowmen in this game. The Bowmen on foot are a brittle unit, if they fatigue themselves just once, their survival in melee becomes VERY difficult. Especially against opponents with Dane-axes. Should have used more spearmen here. My opponent was quite a fun guy, made great jokes but he was new to the game. He should have deployed his army centrally and avoid going around the forest. He also didn’t use the scary Norse Gael Warlord at all, who hung back with a 10-man warrior squad. Had he been closer to the front, he could have served some revenge for the Hearthguard.

Result: Win for me.

Game 3 – Moors – Into the Slaughter

 

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The Moors prepare themselves to unleash a Ramadance of Death and Destruction. Bedouins on Camels take up position on the far left flank. The tokens on the table represent mission objectives.

Third game was against Moors led by Jonatan the tourney organizer. I didn’t expect an easy win because Jonatan is a very good SAGA player, only one so far who netted a win against Saracens led by Alex the One-Man Jihad. My shooting gives me a slight edge in this game that I have to exploit. I’ve also been playing the Moors a lot lately so knew the board well. The mission was to kill the enemy Warlord while being within M to one of 3 tokens placed along the central vertical axis running across the board. He had:

Moorish Warband
Warlord (mounted)
10 Warriors
6 Warriors
12 Warriors
12 Warriors
8 Beduins on camels

I move up quickly and start raining arrows.

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The plan is to shoot as hell before they close in but I don’t do enough damage. Moorish combat capabilities are dependent on unit size, the smaller they are the weaker they get.

Unfortunately, as the lines close in, Friendly Fire makes shooting much riskier. We kind of charged each other back and forth, the Support Archers ability being incredible as it goes right past shooting reaction abilities.

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The mounted archers destroy a Moorish unit who went after my Levy.
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I stupidly went after the Bedouins and tried to reduce them in strength. Their shooting had killed all my levy. This left my warriors on the left flank in a vulnerable spot from the Moorish 12 man phalanx.
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My left flank is rolled up and only one guy survives. Despite being showered by rocket propelled javelins from the nearby Beduins for almost every turn here on, he never fails a save. Ever. I spend a lot of combat power to destroy the 6-man unit guarding their Warlord. Their deaths cause widespread fatigue.
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A Moorish attack reduces my second spearmen unit to two sad Greek dudes. The strength of my army can be compared to a wet paper-towel bag filled with poo. Except for the Hearthguard. They have a clear lane to the Moorish Warlord, successfully cast Support Archers on themselves and win me the game.

A hard fought game, Jonatan has not been playing the Moors much and I think he will do much better with them in the future. A mistake I made here was underestimating the Doubts ability, it led to my 4-man fatigue sink unit falling far behind. Moorish abilities make resting difficult so I needed those fellows further up the board to use Common Efforts. Jonatan joked that he let me win because otherwise I would get butthurt, take the models I borrowed to him and run home crying. All I can say is, it’s not within the realms of the impossible.

Result: Win for the Byzantines.

Game 4 – Crusaders – Battle for the Hoard

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Even though he will never admit it, Fredriks Crusaders are well painted and are a fine looking SAGA army. They are in the process of being rebased here. Protip: use the same bases as Gripping Beast unless you hate generating attack dice.

Last game was Battle for the Hoard against the Crusaders run by Fredrik, some schmuck who spams the 40k articles around here. The scenario is about securing a central hoard token in difficult terrain. The army was:

Crusaders
Mounted Warlord
8 HG mounted
8 HG w dane axes
9 Warrior Spearmen
7 Warrior Crossbow men

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In this scenario, the players start far from each other. The deployment area is within S from the table edge. My cavalry boys are too far away to to damage turn 1.

My standard plan against the Crusaders is to quickly reduce the Knights before they could unlock their entire board and do a heckin’ lot of damage. On the left flank, I intended one unit of Levy supported by Warriors to grab the hoard.

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I move up slowly, most defensive abilities are prepped and ready to go. The Latins sit back and unlock the Pain Train side of their Battleboard.
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In this crucial turn I only roll shields for SAGA dice, I was hoping to pull off Basileus and shoot a little. The Latin Pain Train can confidently blow the whistle for full steam ahead.
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Latin Axemen charge into my warriors and wipe them out. I had defensive abilities stacked and take them out in turn. I did a hit and run with the mounted archers on the Knights but they laughed at me. By being a fucking idiot, I put my HG perfectly within S of the Levy.  MOM, STOP THE TRAIN I WANT TO GET OFF. MOM!!

In the next turn, the Crusader Knights charged the levy, wrecked them and then went after my HG. After they were reduced, I really struggled to do anything the game. I did manage to destroy all the Knights but my army was beyond ravaged. The Crusader Warlord and the foot sergeants, wiped the rest of my dudes out.

I made a lot of mistakes in this game with unit placement and didn’t support my army properly which my opponent was able to exploit. And even with good SAGA dice in the end, it was very painful loss as all my models were destroyed on the table. They are tricky to face the Crusaders, ideally you want to start near them, get the first turn and pick off some knights before they power up.  I should have been able to do so with my Hearthguard  but I put them too far back or put shit in the way. Second thing I will take away from this game is not to split the levy into 5+7 when facing this type of aggressive ultra violent factions. The small units get wiped out too quickly and the opponent can exploit that in the same turn to cause more headache. A proper 12-man levy unit takes more effort to chew through. It didn’t help me that Fredrik plays his Crusaders well, he has a good strategy for generating Virtues and manages his dice allocation skillfully.

Result: You can always count on latins to ruin all the fun. A big fat zero points for me.

Some final words

It was a good SAGA event, well run by Jonatan. It was fun to play against new dudes and their armies. The Danes who came over to game, were a super fun bunch to play against. I particularly liked their habit of picking up your “to hit dice” when rolling for defence, this allows for no errors.

Jonatans selection of missions, terrain and overall rules was perfect, in no game I felt disadvantaged by the scenario or board. The only thing that got a bit difficult was time, no game reached the end turn. It could be the schedule but I had one of the larger armies coupled with a complicated Battleboard. Need to work on a better army composition next time, right now it feels like I am running a warband with complex solutions to simple problems. When the different scenarios are factored in, the workload from all the micromanagement becomes simply too high. With two wins, I got in the upper half of the scoring table.

Out of 10 participants, the top 3 was:
1. Alex the One-Man Jihad (Saracens with Kilij Arslan)
2. Johan (Milites Christi with Raymond de Puy)
3. Fredrik (Crusaders)

Really hope SAGA takes off here, two tournaments planned so-far in the fall. Until next time.

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