The Dark Ages, Saga, 28mm
First of all, my apologies for the poor photo quality. What sort of idiot goes on holiday and forgets to bring their camera. Er, that would be me. I went up to Orkney for two weeks, staying in a cottage by the beach, and forgot my camera. This trip also involved a game with my buddies from the Orkney Wargames Club, albeit in a game staged in my pal Joe’s house. So, they were taken on Joe’s mobile, which, frankly, isn’t up to the task. Either that or Joe is a lousy photographer. Still, four blurry images are better than nothing, and at least you can get the gist of what went on. If you haven’t played Saga before its a Dark Age skirmish system, rendered different from the rest by the use of battle boards and funky dice. You’ll see a blurred image of the Viking battle board in the next picture – this game pitted my Vikings against Alan’s Normans, who have their own battle board.
Each board has its own characteristics. On the left side of it you allocate the quirky dice to activate units, while the centre and right hand columns contain characteristics, such as fiving your leader the opportunity to remove fatigue from nearby units, bolstering attack or defence dice, and other useful attributes. You get a finite number of these battle dice – in my case they contained Norse runes – so you have to allocate these resources carefully. The Normand had an attribute which gave their archers an extended range and hotting power, and another that made their knights extra deadly. My favourite was “Valhalla” – you sacrifice a figure, but in the process he gets a whole bunch of extra attack dice. That came in very useful as the games – we played two – reached their climax. I have to say, I’d never won with the Vikings before – the Normans always kicked my butt – but this time I had a new unit of levy archers, whose job was to soften up the enemy before we got into contact.Both games started the same way. The Norman crossbowmen and my archers peppered each other, but I got the drop on Alan, and caused the first casualties. After that his crossbowmen were at a disadvantage, and melted away after a few turns. My archers then loosed a few arrows at the approaching enemy cavalry, then fled into the woods. Once a unit is wiped out you lose a battle die, so you really need to keep weakened units in the game, and protected. Then my bondi spearmen clashed with his cavalry, and the two units wiped each other out. All that was left was to demolish his last elite cavalry unit. Alan’s knights charged my second unit of bondi, who held their ground – despite heavy casualties. That let Earl Sigurd and his bodyguard to charge home in support, and they routed what remained of the Norman knights. In the final moments though, the Earl of Orkney and the Duke of Normandy killed each other in a crazed personal duel to the death – which effectively meant we both lost the game.We reset the table and played again. This time Alan left off his crossbowmen, and added more cavalry. He formed up a killer two-un it block of knights, with which he hoped to steamroller the opposition. However, my levy archers emptied two saddles before the Normans drew close enough to charge, and as my spearmen saw off a block of orman foot on the edge of the wood, I threw in my small unit of four berserkers in a counter-attack. Effectively they charged the Norman knights, who were massing on to p of a small hill, ready to launch their charge. My chances of victory were enhanced when I opted to play the “Valhalla” attribute. So, my four berserkers would go down under the hooves of the Norman horses, but they would inflict some serious damage in return. The Normans played an attribute which saw one of my berserkers kicked to death before he got into contact – those Norman horses can be deadly! Then though, his remaining three colleagues completely eviscerated the five Norman cavalry, and Duke William who was leading them. So, the game ended with a glorious Viking victory – one that’ll be sung about around the fireside during the Orkney winter. All in all it was a great little game – and a chance to use a set of rules I haven’t tried for ages. It even fired me up to paint more Vikings – I forgot my camera but brought paints and some of my lead pile with me – and with luck I can have another go next week, before I head back to Edinburgh at the end of the month.