Stephen reports on his latest tussle in the SAGA campaign
The English menace is never far away. The wicked attacks by Harold Godwineson are hard to forget and so, aware that Andraes Vilhelmson had summoned his troops on the borders of his lands, Owain the Wolf Tamer chose to launch a campaign against the English to once and for all silence them.
The omens were poor. Some of Owain’s men had lost their weapons and Owain, delayed by poor weather, was late to show for his own muster. This could mean only ill.
Against sage advice, and to make up for lost time, Owain decide to lead his men through Coedwig Duach, a large and forbidding forest that is a known lair of outlaws and brigands.
There were many rumblings in the Welsh forces that Owain had been foolish in this campaign, that harvest time was near and the men would be better at home bringing in their crops – it had been a difficult year and famine was known by many.
Though still they set off, and the weather was warm and pleasant and this made the march easier. Then after a few miles the dark trees of the forest could be seen and many fell back on their misgivings and made comment on the lack of preparations and set-backs they had suffered.
Owain was firm in his resolve and argued with his captains on whether to proceed or not. They had with them some pony riders from the mountains of Deheubarth and Owain ordered them into the vanguard to scout ahead.
The apprehensions had proved correct – in the midst of the deep, dark, woods, they were ambushed by Vilhelmson and his men. A brave stand-up fight was not to the English liking. No. Instead they preferred to lurk in the woods, unseen, with sharp daggers and spear points, to fight a cowardly fight!
This could have proven a terrible misfortune for Owain, but what the English cutthroats had not bargained for was the skill at arms of Owain and his men.
Vilhelmson stayed at the back, looking after himself surrounded by his bodyguard. Owain refused to move, standing firm in resolve that he would take care of his own body when that of his men were safe. The Welsh cavalry charged forward along the road so they could encircle the English and the warriors came forward to form a screen in front of their beloved Owain.
The English, under poor leadership, advanced piecemeal. In combat they soon fell under the spears and javelins of the Welsh warriors. Though the fight was a hard one, and the Welshmen, tired and fatigued by the march and battle, also started taking casualties. The riders of Deheubarth saw more English hiding in the woods and they turned around and engaged them so they could not attack Owain’s men in the flank.
And all the while Vilhelmson still hid toward the back, unseen and out of danger. Whilst Owain stood firm, not giving an inch to the English bushwhackers!
Owain’s priority had been to clear the pathway through the forest, so that his men could escape – who knew how many wicked Englishmen still lurked in the forest, and the Welshmen had not been expecting to battle in these circumstances. If the pathway ahead could be cleared then Owain knew he could lead his men to safety. So when that challenge had been completed Owain knew now was the time to lead his men out – there is no wisdom in lives being lost for the sake of it.
Once more Owain had triumphed over the English. Three times they had met in battle and three times Owain had emerged victorious. His dominion over the English malcontents was plain for all to see.
Still, Owain had been foolish in this campaign. His forces are starting to show the ravages of prolonged military activity, and the land he took off Andraes Vilhelmson barely brought in enough revenue to cover his costs of the famine that has gripped the land.
Game details – We played the Forest Ambush scenario, with Andy the ambusher. The actual number of loses was pretty much even. However, the Welsh also scored points for troops they managed to get off the table, and that was the real decider. It was also the first time I’d used Welsh cavalry. I’d ummed and ahhed about it because they’re not the best troops. However for this scenario they proved the ideal choice – their speed allowed them to get away and also encircle the Anglo-Danes (English). Since Andy had no missile troops it made them even more useful (Welsh cavalry being really susceptible to missile weapons). They wouldn’t be my first choice in every game, but in this particular scenario, against this particular opponent, they were ideal.
For winning a campaign I gained a point of Land, but on the Fate table I rolled Famine which meant I also lost a point of Land – so no gain. Added to that, I lost more troops than I managed to recruit – a net loss for me, despite winning (except for the Campaign Victory Points!).