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.

Cracking new desert bases! – an Agrellan Earth tutorial

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how to do the cracked, dry earth bases for my Moorish volunteers for SAGA. While the application of Agrellan Earth is simple, there are some mistakes that can be made. And I pretty much made all of them when painting 50 minis with this technique. By reading this guide, you won’t have to. This is what you will need:

Tools
Acrylic Spackling Paste
Sculpting tool
Super glue
Galeforce Nine Rocky Basing Grit (or any other rock material for basing)
Warlord Games Sandy Tufts
A really sharp scalpel

Paints
Red wash (Army Painter – Red Tone)
Dark Brown wash (Army Painter – Strong Tone)
Orange Brown wash (Vallejo Model Wash – Dark Brown)
Dark Green wash ( Citadel – Athonian Camoshade)
Ivory (Vallejo – Bone White)
Dark Grey (Citadel – Eshin Grey)
Stone Grey (Citadel – Dawnstone)
Brown (Citadel – Mournfang brown)
Texture paint (Citadel – Agrellan Earth)
Drab (Vallejo – Earth)

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1. We will start from the beginning. Glue the miniature to the base. Before moving to the next step, make sure that the sanding, sculpting, drilling and other steps that involve putting high force loads on the miniature are done. This is because the spackling putty used in the next step is brittle and can easily flake off when subjected to shear and tension.

picture 32. Apply the spackling putty with an old sculpting tool. Aim for an even coverage because the texture paint used later does not fill up or cover holes and recesses well when it dries. Don’t worry if the putty gets on the miniature.

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3. Once the spackling putty is dry, use the sculpting tool again to push and scrape off dried putty from the rim of the base and from the miniature’s legs and clothing.

picture 54. Now, undercoat the miniature and start painting it. I changed minis here because I finished the other one without taking pictures. SORRY!

picture 65. Paint the base in a dark brown colour. This will show through the texture paint. I use Mournfang Brown in 2 or 3 layers. I also finish painting the entire miniature before going to the next step.

picture 76. Apply the texture paint in a thick layer with an old brush, preferably with long bristles. You only have one chance when doing this but don’t stress as the drying time is quite long. I leave it to dry over the night. If the paint gets on the miniature, you can quickly try to soak it up with a clean brush dipped in water.

picture 87. After the texture paint is dried it should form cracks. Sometimes, the white from the spackling putty shows through. In that case apply some dark brown wash to hide it.

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8. Drybrush base with an Ivory colour to increase the depth of the khaki. By careful when doing this as the texture paint can flake off.

picture 109. In this step, the aim is to increase the realism of the cracked earth by adding additional colours to it. Apply the red, green and orange-brown washes sparsely in patches on the base, push some of the color away from the flakes and into the recesses.  Apply the washes one by one in different areas, don’t mix them. You can paint the rim of the base in drab and call yourself done after this step.

picture 1111. Extra shit can be glued onto the base to make it look more fab. I add grass tufts and single basing grit to represent stones. Use them sparingly and pick a grass tuft that looks dry and sad. Lushy greens would ruin the immersion. Warlord products come with the stupid self-adhesive sand texture that needs to be cut off with a scalpel. Paint the stones in a dark grey-brown color, layer it with some ivory mixed in and highlight with pure ivory. I go for cream coloured stones as they have been out in the sun a lot.

picture 1313.  Paint the rim of the base in drab (2 or 3 layers) and the drummer is finished. Early Islamic armies sent Mubarizun (champions) accompanied with drummers ahead of the army to raise morale by challenging infidels to deadly dance-offs. Now you can too!

This is the first time I’ve done a tutorial here so hit me up with critique in the comment section below. Until next time.

Brand Nubian(s)

Trigger warning: This post contains shitty references to 90s hiphop. 

Another wave of recruits for the Moors arrives to shake the funk in our Age of the Wolf campaign. Had a good time painting these fellows. Tried for a mix of clothing here, a couple of veterans “acquired” flaunty Moorish dress but the new recruits from Africa came with plain clothes. My only regret is giving them those long ass spears. It looks cool but they tend to impale scenery on the gaming table and are a bitch to pack. Models are from Gripping Beast and are on the bigger side of 28 mm.

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Until next time, stay beautiful, black and bold.

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.

The Second Clash (SAGA Tournament AAR)

I brought my trusty Byzantines to test their mettle in the brutal fighting grounds of A Clash of Dice and Men II. God willing, the burning shame of placing last at the spring tournament will be avenged. I got to play 3 out of 4 games (had to omit one to make up for uneven number of players).

The tournament was 6+1 points, meaning that we brought 7 points but only 6 fight on the table. I ended up with:

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The Byzantines assembled and ready to kick some pagan and latin ass.

Byzantines of Komes Dwellias  (7 Points)
1 Mounted Warlord
3 Points of Hearthguard (8 Mounted Lancers + 4 Mounted Archers)
3 Points of Warriors (10 Warriors w Bow + 10 Warriors w Spears+ 4 Warriors w Spears)
1 Point of Levy (12 Javelinmen)

Game 1 – Jomsvikings – Battle Twilight

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The Lord of Jomsborg, Sigvaldi Strut-Haraldsson leads his fearsome warriors against Byzantium.

I got to face the winner from the last tournament with his army of invincible Jomsvikings. It consisted of:

Jomsvikings 
Jarl Sigvaldi
20 Hearthguard (split into 6+6+8)

Special Rules: Armor 6 against shooting attacks. Starts the game with 1 Wrath.

My opponent plucked his boys near the center lines of each quarter. I put some the cavalry and 6 Warriors in one quarter, the levy split and took the lower quarters. The last quarter was occupied by 10 Archers and 8 spearmen. Foolishly, I put my lord with the infantry and not with the cavalry.

A possible weakness of the Jomsvikings is Sigvaldi who generates 3 SAGA dice by himself. If I could knock him out, the Jomsvikings would run out of steam. Without having my Warlord nearby, there was no way of using double cavalry activations moves from Basileus.

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I gained a lead from the beginning by controlling more quarters but my Warlord was exposed. The archers on the left flank were previously destroyed and came back in.
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I held the cavalrymen back to secure quarters and score points. I couldn’t reach Sigvaldi without making two moves which would dull them in combat.
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As the brutal Jomsvikings close in from two sides, the Byzantine Komes faces a very desperate situation.
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In the last turn I tried a desperate charge but to no avail. However, victory was secured victory on mission points. The barbarians wrecked my warlord though.

The Jomsvikings are very scary in combat. Their defensive abilities can subdue everything thrown at them. They can activate easily and are completely immune to shooting.

My opponent was determined that he could not win this mission from the start but he made things easier for me by splitting his force into 3 units and not 4. In this way, I was guaranteed to score in at least one quarter. Unfortunately, my opponent did a good job exploiting the bad positioning of my Warlord, netting him one victory point.

While my army had the advantage of many units, it had the disadvantage of them having specialized equipment. It was hard for me to utilize the Endless Warband rule compared to an Jomsvikings all Hearthguard army with uniform equipment. As the Byzantine battleboard demands close inter-unit-cooperation, using it in this scenario is quite a challenge.

Result: 3-1 for me. (3 points for me by winning the mission, 1 point for my opponent for taking out a Warlord). Won the battle by not fighting, the proper Byzantine way.
Game 2 – Anglodanes – The Challenge

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Travelling all the way to Byzantium,  Guthred son of Helgi finds no sour dough rye for his Smörrebröd and declares war on this cursed southern land and all her inhabitants.

In this mission we used the revised rules where the objective is to get 10 wounds on the opposing warlord first. Units cannot engage an Warlord unless your Warlord took more wounds than the opponent. The secondary objective is to get 4 conquering points in your opponents deployment. The Anglodanish force arrayed against the might of Byzantium consisted of:

1 Warlord
8 Hearthguard
8 Hearthguard with Daneaxes
4 Warriors
12 Warriors

With a quick glance, the obvious mission plan is to avoid the 8 Huscarls with Daneaxes smashing into my Warlord and chopping him up like firewood.

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The Byzantine Komes and the Anglodanish Jarl face off in the middle.

Initially the Danes were able to play Trapped for a couple of turns, sprinkling fatigue all over my army (mostly the cavalry). I should have really found some time to paint up some banner-men.

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The Danes surge forward while the Byzantines sit back and shed fatigues from Trapped. The Anglodanes roll well, dish out fatigues like crazy and my Komes gets very tired. I avoid punching the Jarl until the axe wielding Huscarls are taken down.
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The Anglodanish press forward into the Byzantine shield wall. Not happy with the bowmen in terrain. They couldn’t impact the game later on. My cavalry is slightly out of position from where I want it to be.
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Here the luck turns for the danish. My shooting reduces the Huscarl axemen in half and the Levy defeat a couple in the coming close combat. The Jarl has attacked my Warlord and slammed 4 wounds into him, while taking one.
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The axe wielding Hearthguard are taken out by my Spearmen with Strategikon from the nearby cavalry. The Archers take a huge toll on the other unit of Huscarls. Things look grim for my opponent.
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The nooze is tightening. All I have to to do now is to move the spearmen up and support the cavalry with Friendly Shields. However time is running out.

The Danish defenses turn out to be impeccable. Exhaustion and defense dice hamper my horsemen’s efforts while the Jarl and his men run towards the woods. In the last turn of the game, I put all my activation on the Hearthguard, it’s Now or Never! and..

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It turns out to be a dead ender comedy skit, I only manage net 2 wounds. All of the Danes were expended either blocking my movements or as extra wounds to their Jarl.
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The Jarl looks on as the Byzantines argue among themselves about whom should get what bodypart mutilated.

I can’t believe I snatched defeat from the Jaws of Victory here. Short term gratification of killing models took precedence over long term victory conditions.

But it was an enjoyable close and tense game to the last dice roll. Anglodanes are a good opponent for the Byzantines. Their fatigue and activation blocking shenanigans can throw plans off and they are surprisingly durable in combat. However, the Danes have to watch themselves from the Byzantine shooting and avoid losing too many men breaking the shield wall. Their slow pace allows cavalry to hit them in bad places. My opponent won the tournament. Congratulations Alex!

Result: 0-3.

Game 3 – Crusaders – Champions of God

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The Crusaders march through Anatolia but fail to salute a local Byzantine Strategos properly. Such behavior cannot be permitted and the incensed noble sends his men to teach the arrogant latins a lesson.

The final opponent fielded Crusaders. The force had:

Crusaders
Godfrey de Bouillon
8 Mounted Knights (Hearthguard)
4 Foot Knights with Heavy Weapons (Hearthguard)
8 Crossbows (Warriors)
8 Spearmen (Warriors)
Special Rules: de Buillion can use We obey! twice, and starts the game with the Temperance virtue unlocked. de Bouillon can also allocate wounds to nearby models within 4″ instead of 2″ thanks to him being a knight exampler. Everybody wants to take one for team Bouillon.

I have played this type of mission a lot and the terrain was suitable for my army.

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The flat piece on the left is actually a small Wood with trees momentarily removed. My plan was to shoot the crusaders until they engaged or died.
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And here they come, by unlocking Fortitude their most deadly virtue ability, the Knights  hit like trains. They slam into my 7 man Levy, who with a bit of luck, survive reduced to a man.

My opponent held off his close combat abilities waiting for my inevitable counter attack.

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I get lucky with activation dice and throw every stick, stone, spear and arrow at the knights. With 5 left, I send my cavalry in with Friendly Shields loaded up. But not before using Basileus to move the spearmen up.
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I only manage to kill two knights. The crusaders unlock the full might of their entire Battleboard  by turn 3, by rolling only two dice for virtues each turn.
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My opponent actives the entire army from the Siege and hits my cavalry and the Levy. De Bouillon leads the charge personally. My cavalry is almost destroyed but I manage to wipe out the knights!

My opponent also attack my levy with his spearmen but they refuse to die. In my turn I counterattack with my spearmen and push his back. De Boullion stands alone..

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I use Common Efforts and Strategikon and slam my Warlord with his armored horse into Godfrey de Bouillon. With 10 attacks and two fatigues in my favor, the famous Norman lord was knocked out. The Byzantine Komes was then able to return to Constantinople, tell his Saga, snag an heiress and never had to work again.

After this huge setback, the crusaders were out of the game. My opponent was a new player, having borrowed his army. I felt like an total ass for wiping out all of his miniature dudes. A real “That Guy” way of introducing someone to a game.

I was however impressed with my opponents decision to follow the game through until his last man was cut down, without a word of complaint. It was no surprise he won Best Sportsmanship.

Result: 4-0 to the Byzantines. I finished 3/9 place overall.

Closing thoughts

My Warband did a good job most of the games but I need to play other missions than just slay the Warlord. I like the flexibility of the Byzantines but its not an easy battle board to use. Overall it was a great tournament.

Some quick words about organization. As each game had to completed within two hours, the terrain was pre-placed on each table by the tournament organizers. To avoid unfair advantages, we decided also that buildings (one of our common terrain pieces) was impassible terrain. We also had only one mission where Slaughtering Victory Points were counted at the end. Avoiding them seem to speed things up.

It was great to see new players showing up with their warbands. Also shout outs to Pedro for coming here all the way from Denmark. I suspect watching me getting molested by a piss drunk stag party later that night made up for the long trip.

Byzantine tactics and reinforcments (SAGA)

Been taking the Byzantines out on campaigns during the summer and found out some things that I want to share with my fellow Strategoi. In this post will describe what army compositions I’ve been using and some tactics that I learnt.

Initially I was fielding this 6 point force:

1 Warlord
8 Hearthguard Lancers
4 Hearthguard Mounted Archers
8 Warrior Spearmen
8 Warrior Archers
12 Levy Javelins

An army made from the Starter Warband with a few additions. It lacked offensive power and most abilities on the Battle Board were quite weak with it. The strength of the Byzantines in SAGA is their ability to activate multiple units, usually for shooting with easy to get dice. After being unable to win 10 or 15 games, I decided to take out the mounted Hearthguard archers. They were too few to do damage and easy to kill. Switching them out for 1 point of warriors I could instead bring:

1 Warlord
8 Hearthguard Lancers
10 Warrior Spearmen
10 Warrior Archers
4 Warrior Spearmen
12 Levy Javelins

This army performs much better, it can pump out more shots per activation and it is more survivable. The small 4 man warrior unit, is just as tough as the mounted Hearthguard archers. The 10 man warrior unit can be powerful in close combat when attacking together with the Warlord.  Some of the abilities, like Strategikon and Support Archers work much better on large units.

The 4 man unit works as a fatigue dump from the Archers and the Warlord with the Common Efforts ability. The only difference is Massed Archery becomes weaker, only one strong shooting unit is there to use it. Didn’t count the levies as they become casualties too quickly. Massed Archery is somewhat expensive, can be stopped by cancel activation abilities which leave the shooters in a bad position. It could probably work with a large bow armed hearthguard unit or two large warrior archers.

My favourite abilities are Basileus and Support Archers. Their flexibility and low cost is fantastic. Support Archers is somewhat poorly written, but it is a good offensive and defensive ability. Basileus has a lot of use, usually it means a second shooting activation or repositioning. But it can launch the cavalry L+L away and hit units that thought they were safe and then Withdrawing to a safer position.

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I replaced the mounted Hearthguard Archers with these newly painted warriors. These are all Gripping Beast miniatures.

 

For 4 point games, I ditch one point of Cavalry and the Levy. The levy are excellent, they can throw a fair number of javelins with Scouting but most importantly, stand in the way. I usually split the 12 into 5 and 7 man units. Byzantines are weak too shooters, blocking sight with Levy or placing dice in the Combat Pool are usually the best options. This is why I prefer the Psiloi to Steppe Archers.

As for tactics, the battle board abilities require units to be bunched up but do it sparingly. When close together (i.e within S),  traffic jams occur (no moving through your own units in SAGA) and if something gets wiped out in assault, everybody gets fatigues. The Cavalry unit is used for counter attacks and require gaps of atleast S between the units to manouvre. When the horse mounted nobility fights, Withdrawal sees a fair bit of use.

I try to keep everyone important within M of the Archers and L from the Warlord to use Basileus and Support Archers each turn. The small 4 man unit stays close to the Archers or Warlord to soak up fatigues. I only bunch up if the Cavalry gets involved and I need to use Friendly Shields or Strategikon.

Can’t wait to bash some heads in our mega cool upcoming November Tournament.

 

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Patterns were kept simple as the padded armor provides plenty of intricate detail.
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The Kentarchos looks badass enough to led the 10 man warrior unit.
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The fellows with raised spears are the 4 man warrior squad.
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Next up in the are the Psiloi Levy. I kitbashed this one from Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors and the head is from Conquest Games Medieval Archers. The shield is a metal one from the Gripping Beast range. I also gave him an axe to misrepresent an tzikourion.
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I intend to keep the color palette a lot more simplified for the Levies. It means 12 of them will (probably)  get painted this year. The javelin is painted in a lighter, freshly cut wood scheme to differ from the spears. I also used different shield design on the Psiloi.

Romania Campaign Wrap Up (Flames of War)

As the fog of war clears and the fighting fades away, the campaign in Romania ends with the Axis and the Allies grinding each other to a draw. The Soviet team suffered an initial series of setbacks in Grupul de Nord, Grupul Central but were able to decisively defeat the Axis in Grupul de Sud. The big boost to the defending Axis was winning drawn areas. Not a fair rule, but it represented the need for the attacking force to punch trough quickly and avoid being tied down. It ain’t much of a victory otherwise.

The historical restrictions on force selection allowed for interesting army compositions. The fighting around Targu Frumos in 1944 saw the first use of the IS-2 and their dreaded impact of the IS-2 was keenly felt by the German players. The Soviet heavy tankers won all battles but one. The Axis brought heavy tanks of their own. I got to fight both Tigers and Panthers with my Strelkovy and their armor is tough to face without easy access to the 1945 arsenal. Tigers were especially bothersome as only specialist infantry can take them down.

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IS-2s wrecking an SS Panther Company. Pilloried on the interwebs for their low RoF and high points cost, the IS-2s were keeping Team Red afloat by scoring victory after victory.

About 16 games were played over 5 sundays but considering 6 people signed up in the first week, that isn’t bad. Almost no whining from the players (remember that almost), so I am satisfied how it turned out. Even if it involved map making. The players enjoyed the pace of the escalation in the campaign, except for the first weeks of 750 point games. These were not fun as tanks could quickly dominate the game with impunity. What we missed was some kind of campaign finale, a collective ritual mourning of its passing so to speak. Hopefully this will be amended by a themed tournament I will be running later.

Momentum
One thing that stood was how important momentum is in wargaming. As the crowd’s enthusiasm rises, it pays off to look for ways to draw upon it and convert it into something useful. This needs be looked at before the action starts. How much hobby time can the players get out of each round? A good feature of the ruleset is the lack of limited games during each round. And for the team to win an area, every game was is important. This lets hyped up players fight 3-4 battles during a day. As people would stay longer and fight during club meetings, beginners could come in and be shown the ropes. Some people came just to watch the battles.

I tend to focus on drawing people beyond the local scene by for example having one day only-events, but this has been hard without having a strong reliable gaming brand. Gamers are a conservative bunch and they tend to avoid travelling if they can. It is better to plan the campaign for the army of players you have, instead of the army you want.

Keeping things simple and in one place
I tried a few channels to draw in players but it resulted in fragmented information and increased work load. While reaching out to potential FoW nerds is important, the essential information should be in one easy to find place. I intended for people to use the 15mm.se forum for reporting but almost nobody bothered.

Next time I will try handling everything from the blog and just pass links out in different places. As for keeping things simple, I wrote some brilliant extra rules trying to link games together but my genius writing was unappreciated. Probably because I failed to present them in a clear and accessible way. The extra Battle Skill rules were stashed on an uploaded document that had severe privacy settings. Putting those directly on the dedicated campaign page, ditching all the historical background, could solve the accessibility issue for next time. Or making sure printed copies are found at the club.

The map was a surprisingly helpful tool for explaining scoring and victory conditions. The campaign didn’t require people bringing a ton of extra shit to each game, an annoying flaw found in the Firestorm campaigns put out by Battlefront. So to conclude today’s sermon:

1. The campaign rules should be simple to find and understand. If there is a lot of them, consider using other modes of explanation besides walls of text. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, save yourself work by modifying an existing campaign system.

2. Make sure to eliminate bottlenecks so enthusiastic players can get a lot hobby time done during the campaign.

3. Pacing it is important as well as having a clear finish and an end. There should be some kind of finale to mark the campaign conclusion.

A short campaign AAR Soviet Guards Strelkovy (attacker) vs Panzergrenadiers (defender) – 1350 points – Pincer

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The Heer Panzegrenadiers were supported by Panthers, Pak40s and a small platoon of mortars. I had two small Guards Strelkovy platoons, ZiS2s, SU85, Heavy Mortars and the 45mm obr 1942 guns. I had imited Sturmovik support on call, holding them off until the cats got in sight.

 

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I deployed the guns in line abreast to see where reserves would come from. My infantry  doubled towards the other flank once he declared his reserve arrival. Initially, there were problems attacking as my firepower failed and infantry got pinned in the worst places. However, the Strelkovy would refuse to leave the battle, regardless of losses. My opponent put his Panthers and Mortars in reserve. He also brought those souped up PaK43s guns from reserve.
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The worst part was when a single PaK40 took down all of the SU-85s. My opponent made two mistakes here by over extending his Infantry and Panthers. The Panzergrenadiers jumped out of their foxholes and assaulted Strelkovy in the open. The Panthers advanced north to provide support but got flanked by ZiS-2s. Without the Panthers, I overwhelmed the northern objective. Don’t mind the Soviet objective on the left corner. it’s just gaming debris.

A sweet victory for the red team.  The army above was fun to play (fun for a Soviet Flames of War army). The hardest working proletarians were the ZiS-2s, they made an impact in every engagement. I also tried out the wretched SU-85, with its flimsy armor of 5 and no machineguns. Sending them against Tigers and Panthers was pointless so they spent most games hidden or shooting at infantry. I once tasked them with a real target: a pair of outflanked PaK40s. A fatal mistake as the guns rolled up and cut them to ribbons in 2 turns. Lame.

 

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I finally picked up my brush and completed a 122mm Heavy Mortar battery. I find that 4 of them are enough to get the job done. While kicking them up to 6 gets that sweet re-rollable template, one stray bullet finding its mark and its all over. I try to mix up the colors when painting Soviet uniforms. A battalion with the same shade of mustard yellow gives Soviet factories far too much credit.