Here’s a few things I’ve been up to over the last couple of weeks.
First up is a tower.
Actually, I did this earlier in the year. It’s made from two tubs of healthy snacks – cheeselets (the wider, shorter, tube) and a Pringle tube (smokey bacon flavour – lovely!). The stairway is made from balsa that was skinned with miliput and then scribed to make it look like stonework. Then a few barrels and sacks were added to make it looked lived in.
Next up are some wall bits. I bought these at Cavalier from Debris of War. I already had some walls, bought many moons ago, so I had to paint these to fit with what I already had. Either that or re-paint the whole lot. I’m not a big fan of stark grey stone. It looks artificial and most stone is actually a brown colour of one sort another. Certainly the stone someone builds a wall out of, anyway. Back when I did the first walls grey is all I knew. So these had to be done like that as well.
Another purchase at Cavalier (this time from Scotia/Grendel) was a dragon. I ummed and ahhed for quite a while about what colour to paint it – I prefer to steer clear of bright red or green fantasy dragons. My preference is for a more believable colour (given it’s a dragon). I already have a brown dragon so I couldn’t do that again. Instead, I decided to go with green but a more drab variety like you see in nature. Once done, though, it looked too green, so I decided to add some patternation to the scales – some brown stripes. I’m not entirely happy with the result, to be honest. I think it may get a re-paint at some point.
And yet another purchase at Cavalier, and another from Debris of War – a ruined…thing. Church? Building? Something.
The tiles were a print out of a medieval tile texture I found on the internet. This ruin is going with other ruin bits that can be put together to form a ruined church or abbey complex.
Last up is a scratch build. I’ve tentatively called it a ‘Templar Hostel’ because that’s what it was made for. I don’t know what they would have really looked like, so it’s quite speculative. It was built for this year’s Open Day (presuming that still goes ahead).
Under Saga 1 the Irish were just too over-powered.
I always thought they’d be a good warband to play but the gross nature of some of their javelin abilities left them too powerful and, to be honest, it wasn’t fun playing them for that reason.
The good news is that under Saga 2 the Irish have been seriously nerfed, meaning it’s not so embarrassing fielding an army of them.
So I’ve revisited my Irish and the intention is to use them more often now they are a balanced force.
Fergal mac Amlaith’s mother is an Irish noblewoman and his father is a Viking Jarl.
He was brought up on the shores of Lough Ceagh where he looked after his father’s dogs. This love of animals has lasted into his adult life and now he has a large kennel of his own.
Since taking over his father’s lands he has demanded the fianna bondsmen swear fealty to him. They have all, both local noblemen and norse colonists, agreed to do that. This means that Fergal has a good many hearthguard to protect him and these men are led by Connor and Rory, the tribal champions – the feared curaidh.
The land tenants make up the rest of Fergal’s force. These bonnachts are well trained in how to use their javelins and hatchets and are prepared to fight to the death for their lord.
Looking over everyone’s pastoral needs is Father Padraig. He is a very spiritual man, though he is worldly too – he knows enough to know that peace is sometimes best achieved by knocking a few heads together.
They have all now sharpened their spears and swords and are ready to go roving.
I’d enjoyed using Norse Gaels in Saga Version 1 and was interested to know how they might fare under version 2 of the rules. I thought this faction was one that had changed the most under version 2 so decided on a new build based on the Footsore Irish and Viking ranges, taking advantage of the 3 for 2 offer they had running at the time. All figures painted using Artist’s acrylics.
Warlord – Hakon Maddadarson (The Hall Burner) – front pictured above
“Die bravely my slaves and I will take good care of your Dottirs!”
I mounted the Warlord on a piece of slate for a more imposing look. He has a rare and highly prized white Icelandic Gyr Falcon on his shield.
In version 1, there was an additional Saga ability bonus for taking Dane axes. This has gone in version 2 so only 1 point for this build.
I added 2 points of standard Heathguard. In version 1 Dane axe armed Warriors were the best option. In version 2 a powerful ability, Norse can only be used by Heathguard and Warlord so these appear to be a better option.
These are fearsome mercenary warriors for which I used the Footsore Scots/Picts
Levy – Slaves
I used the Footsore Irish warrior range for these. Of limited use in Version 1 of Saga, they are a key part of my army in version 2. I painted 2 points of these.
The History of the Norse Gael Earls of Orkney is detailed in Orkneyinga Saga, an epic tale of bravery, treachery and Sainthood as rivals vie for the Earldom, raids in Russia, raids on Sicily, The First Crusade and an encounter with a Byzantine Dromon! How would the 28mm metal version fare on their debut?
The answer was rather well (see Jeremey’s battle report), despite misreading a SAGA ability and missing out on the chance to trap Andy’s Warlord, I really enjoyed the faction and the battleboard mechanics. Well worth a celebratory snifter or two of Highland Park ”Viking Honour”.
Long had the Welsh Warlord Owain the Wolf Tamer been sat brooding in his hall. Never far from his thoughts were the crushing defeats he had suffered at the hands of the Anglo-Dane Warlords Andraes Vilhelmsson and Erik Uhtredson. But with Vilhelmsson held up in his hall to see out the winter months and news of Uhtredson forging alliances with the wretched Northmen. It was time to go on the offensive. But wary of fighting prowess of his enemies Owain knew he needed support, and so he had dispatched offers of gold and glory to other lesser warlords before setting out on campaign.
As dawn broke across the land, the armies of Andraes Vilhelmsson and Erik Uhtredson marched boldly marched onto the field. No sooner had they done so when the Welsh war horns were joined in their challenge by those of Hakon Maddadarson the Hall Burner and his army of savage Norse Gaels.
Surprised by the Norse Gaels, but not surprised Owain would not have the confidence to face them alone, Vilhelmsson and Uhtredson concentrated their forces against the Norse Gaels with the aim of routing them off the field before Owain could bring the full force of his army in to effect.
Although the Anglo-Danes concentrated on the Norse Gaels, the swift Welsh cavalry managed to get within javelin distance of Vilhelmsson’s archers, drawing first blood.
Over on the other side of the battlefield Uhtredson’s Fyrd charged against the Norse Gaels. Hoping for a decisive conclusion to the fight the Fyrd won the fight but failed to inflict devastating damage on the Norse Gaels.
Forced to retreat from the fight and with Vilhelmsson’s Huscarls closing in, Hakon Maddadarson strengthened his line for the expected onslaught.
Meanwhile on Vilhelmsson’s left flank the Welsh Cavalry were still picking off the archers, but not without suffering losses of their own. Seizing the initiative Owain pushed his forces hard to get within javelin range.
With his left flank now threaten Vilhelmsson sent a unit of Huscarls to fend of Owain’s forces. Having been abandoned to his fate in on the right flank Hakon Maddadarson was beginning to realise the pact he had entered into with the Welsh was misguided. Uhtredson threw everything at the Norse Gaels, Dane axe armed Huscarls and the Fyrd charged in. The fighting was fierce but the Anglo-Danish attack seemed to just bounce off the Norse Gaels and they were forced to retreat.
With the battle against the Norse Gaels not going to plan and the Welsh making gains against Vilhelmsson’s left flank the Anglo-Danes could see the battle turning against them.
But there was to be no retreat, lured to battle by the treacherous Owain, the forces of Vilhelmsson and Uhtredson would carve an epic poem this day. Launching charge after charge the fight against the Welsh ended with a wimper of pushing and shoving while once again the Norse Gaels proved to be a tough nut to crack.
The battle ended with the exhausted Anglo-Danes having been narrowly defeated, made even more painful by the knowledge that the Norse Gaels and done more of the fighting than the Welsh, who could claim victory having shed little blood that day!
Thoughts on the Game
I cannot remember which scenario we played but points were scored by causing casualties and points deducted if any units were still close to their own baseline at the end of 6 turns.
Myself and Andy were both using the Anglo-Danish for the first time with the 2nd Edition Saga rules. Facing off against Steve’s Welsh and John’s Norse Gaels. Each side had 6 points.
Andy and I decided to concentrate both of our armies against one enemy army to destroy it in detail and then move onto the other. The Norse Gaels deployed first and so that was our target. This left the Welsh out on their own and away from the battle for a few turns.
Being the first time a few of us had used our armies for 2nd edition a few mistakes were made. On a few occasions we were a bit lax with the movement rules and getting units into combat. The Norse Gael ability to raise their armour was exaggerated somewhat which contributed to the lack progress by the Anglo-Danes. I also found the Anglo-Danes a bit boring in 2nd edition. Some of their abilities appear to have been reduced, which I felt was unnecessary as they weren’t an unbeatable faction in 1st edition. But that’s enough of the excuses. The Anglo-Danes lost and so now must regroup and take the battle to the Welsh, whether they run cowardly to their new found allies or not.
Last meeting we had a game of Saga based around control for the western isles of Scotland. Whoever came out victorious could crown their warlord the Laird of the Western Isles.
The idea was that we would play two games. Each player would keep the same warlord but could change army composition between games. We would be using warlord experience from the Book of Battles. Players were allowed to use warlords who already had previous experience. Players and their warlords were:
Jeremey – Uhtred Siggurdson (Viking)
Tony – Boe Vandradson (Norse Gael)
Eric – Sigvald Ironhelm (Viking)
Stephen – Siward Dunbar (Scots)
Each player would keep a running total of their victory points across both games. The player with the most at the end of the day would win.
The first scenario we played was the Battle Royale – all against all.
This was only the second time Eric had played Saga so he was naturally a bit cautious as he worked out how to use his Saga dice and the subtleties of the game and the use of the Battleboard.
Boe Vandradson had deployed his troops quite wide apart, threatening both Uhtred and Siward. The wise and wily Uhtred, a veteran of the battle of Lintonsfjord, had been equally cunning and had managed to get some of his bondi around the back of Boe’s axemen.
Siward Dunbar’s men deployed between some rocks, which the norse gaels had occupied and some woods, which were also home to some skulking norse gael hearthguard. The Scot’s archers went forward and showed Sigvald’s raiders what they were made off with a deadly flurry of arrows. Sigvald moved his men slowly forward, using some of his bondi as a spearhead to chase the norse gaels out of the rocky ground, presumably with the intent of occupying this himself so he could harry the Scots.
A steady, unspoken, truce existed between the Scots and norse gaels, who saw the vikings as the greater threat to their lands. How long this truce lasted is a moot point – eventually the norse gael hearthguard came out of the woods and charged the Scots archers!
Boe Vandradson showed his heritage by taking the fight to Uhtred and his men. This wouldn’t pay off though, as Boe was cut down by the vikings and had to be carried off the battlefield with grievous wounds.
At the end of the game the results were close but the winner had been Sigvald.
The second scenario we played was the team game. Since Eric had won the previous game then he could choose another warlord to swear fealty to Sigvald. He turned to his fellow Dane, Uhtred, and the two viking armies formed an alliance. This left the norse gaels and Sots to unite against the invaders.
Things moved a bit quicker this time. Uhtred had left his bondi back at their longboats to guard their plunder, with just him and his hirdmen to fight this time. Siward moved his archers forward again and they once more let fly at Sigvald’s troops. Sigvald was a little wiser this time so moved his troops up quickly to get into combat with the Scots sooner than later.
Boe Vandradson, having recovered from his wounds from the previous encounter, kept up with his aggressive reputation and repeatedly charged into the fight, with his bodyguard doing all they could to keep up with him. Uhtred was happy with this and he and his hirdmen drew their blades and joined in with the fight.
Sigvald, exasperated at the casualties his men were taking from the Scots archers, acted rashly, and out of fury charged forward of his men toward the Scots. The archers were defeated and fell back but this left Sigvald out on his own. Seeing his chance, Siward took firm hold of his spear and charged the viking warlord. The last that was seen of Sigvald was him falling under Siward’s blows.
When finally the dust settled and the ravens had glutted themselves on the corpses it was time to see who would reign.
Victory had gone to the norse gaels. The lands had a new master – Laird Boe Vandradson of the Western Isles!
The game had been a close one. No one was trounced and no one had an easy time of it. We all had our bad dice rolls and we all had our good ones. How long Vandradson will keep his title as Laird remains to be seen.
At MHWC’s Broadside show in June I was glad (and surprised!) to see that Scotia/Grendel would be there.
What I bought off them was a resin ruined chapel, which would make a great piece of terrain for medieval games.
I cleaned up the pieces, cut some ply for the base, and glued the pieces together on the day after buying it. It then sat on the shelf for a few weeks. But last Sunday I finally got around to slapping some paint on it.
Before painting I thought I’d make a bit more of it. The first thing to do was create a tiled floor. I made the tiles out of thick plasticard. I chamfered the edges roughly and then scratched and gouged the surface to make them look worn and damaged. I then needed some more rubble. I made this from a mixture of sand and dried plaster broken up into bits. Though you can buy some rubble scatter mixes.
Once this was all dry I gave it a spray of dark khaki. This was then washed with my favourite all-purpose brown wash: GW’s Agrax Earhshade. I decided I wanted it to look like it was made from sandstone, so it was drybrushed with a khaki-heavy mix of khaki and grey.
An important thing to realise about medieval churches is that they were very colourful places. It was only with the advent of the Reformation and Protestantism that church wall paintings were considered idolatrous and were chiseled off or painted over. So I scoured the internet for pictures of surviving painted medieval church walls and then printed them off.
These were then glued to the walls. To make them look like they belong there and look a bit damaged and eroded by time and weather I splotched (that’s the best way I can describe it) the edges of the pictures to make it look like they belong on the walls and blend in.
Some staining and damp was added with a very dry brush using dark green and brown.
The model was then based with some mixed ballast and static grass.
The result is a ruined chapel worth fighting over!
More Open Day updates from Stephen as he wows us with the size of his tower
I’ve been lucky for this year’s Open Day – I more or less had everything I needed for the game.
There’s been just a few jobs that needed doing – some Norse Gael axemen and an Irish round tower.
The game will be set in the early 12th century with the Normans raiding an Irish religious community. A key feature of early Irish monastic sites were the needle like round towers. These were built as safe places during earlier centuries when Viking raiders made their way around the Irish Sea. A few were also built in Scotland, mainly by the Irish settlers.
Entrance to the tower was on the second floor via a ladder. The ground floor was often solid stone to resist being battered down.
I made a few concessions with my model. It is to scale height and the ground diameter is also to scale. The actual towers converge which mine doesn’t. This is because of what I used to make the tower – three empty (Christmas) tubs of cheeselets. So it had to have parallel sides.
I also decided to use more elaborate windows. During the period when the towers were constructed the windows were just plain openings. I went with a Gothic window frame, which is out of period. I did this to make it more interesting to look at, so it can be used for other periods, and maybe fantasy games as well. I also went with a tiled roof rather than a stone roof. This was done to create a different surface texture and colour again, to keep the model interesting.
The windows were spare castings I had from a previous project.
The tubs were glued together using internal tabs. I then chose to hide the external joint using pieces of card to look like bricks – it makes it look like a decorative feature.
Individual bricks were made using heavy duty water-colour paper. This is ideal because it has a textured surface. These were stuck in groups and clumps all over the outside.
The tiles on the roof were made using the same card.
The ladder is made from styrene sprue.
The entire model was given a spray with a dark khaki colour. This was then washed using GW’s Agrax Earthshade. It was then dry-brushed using a mix of khaki and light grey, with a bit of white added for subsequent highlights. To create damp patches and mould I used both a brown and a dark green, paying attention to windows and doors (where people are likely to throw things out of) or around the base, where the damp could be.
All that was left to do was decorate the base with odds and ends.
Andy weaves a lengthy tale of two recent Dark Ages games involving himself, Jeremey and Stephen. Clearly there are axes to grind here…
At a recent meeting Jeremey and I took on Stephen in a couple of games of Dux Bellorum.
Before we get to the day’s games, we need to set the scene. Last year Stephen ran a SAGA: Age of the Wolf campaign, in which we all participated. Jeremey and I both chose Anglo Danish factions, so naturally we were quite often allied. On one campaign turn we decided to focus our efforts on Stephen and his Welsh army, and both of us attacked him that turn. Sad to say Stephen beat both of us, and he was not reticent about broadcasting that fact to the world. He also built a little diorama to celebrate the victory, a large banner placed over the bodies of two white wolves. You can read Stephen’s diatribe, and see the banner, here.
Truly the man can prattle on.
So, back to the Dux Bellorum game. We had agreed 50 points a side, with Jeremey and I sharing command of one side. I chose a Late Saxon army, comprising
1 Shieldwall Companions
1 Noble Shieldwall (Veteran)
2 Noble Shieldwall
6 Ordinary Shieldwall
2 Foot Skirmishers (Javelin)
I also gave all the Shieldwall units Hurled Weapons, giving them an advantage in combat if they were charged from the front, and I bought an extra leadership point to complete the 50 point spend. In Dux Bellorum leadership points can be used to modify Bravery rolls (to move units), increase the number of dice rolled in melee, interrupt the opponent’s movement or to cancel hits suffered.
Stephen chose a late Welsh force, comprising
1 Warrior Companions
2 Noble Warriors
6 Ordinary Warrior
3 Ordinary Riders
The Monks gave Stephen two additional leadership points, and he also chose to give all his units javelins, giving them a short-range missile option. One characteristic of Warriors is that if they get within 3 base widths and line of sight of the enemy, they have to test for an uncontrolled advance; if they fail, they don’t move at all.
We rolled the dice to determine the Aggressor and Repeller, the Saxons had a slight advantage in Aggressor rating, and won the die roll.
As Repeller Stephen chose the terrain, all placed near the centreline of the field of battle, a wood and hill close together to our left, and a marsh to our right. And on the top of the hill he placed the banner trophy from the SAGA campaign!
Jeremey and I split the Saxons into two roughly equal commands, I had the Companions and Jeremey had the Veteran Shieldwall. Jeremey took the left, behind the woods and the hill, and I took the right facing the marsh.
Stephen deployed his Riders, Companions and Noble Warriors facing me, and his Ordinary Warriors, supported by the Monks, facing Jeremey, separated by the woods and the hill.
Stephen’s Riders advanced, I sent my Skirmishers forward, which was a classic mistake as they were soon ridden down and routed from the table; one leadership point lost, but they don’t count towards the army morale tests, well, they aren’t trained warriors now are they?
Stephen continued to harass my Shieldwall with volleys of javelins from his riders, as his companions and noble warriors expressed a distinct lack of enthusiasm and declined to advance. For several turns.
Eventually some of Stephen’s noble foot got their act together and advanced on my line, when they eventually got close enough Stephen let their uncontrolled advance rule take over and sent them in.
Stephen got tired of lobbing javelins, and sent his Riders in against my Shieldwall.
After a couple of rounds of combat, I beat them off.
On the other flank, Stephen’s ordinary warriors advanced towards the woods and hills, and Jeremey’s forces waiting beyond. For some reason the Monks didn’t seem that keen to approach the Saxons, and stayed where they deployed. As the leadership points they bestowed could only be given to units within 5 base widths (about 24”), the number of potential recipients gradually reduced.
The warriors on this flank now suffered the problem of the uncontrolled advance; the units on the ends of his line could see Jeremey’s units, while those in the middle could not. As a result, the end units charged in on their own while the central units plodded through the woods. And the units that did charge in, lost.
Stephen did achieve one unlikely event; during one attack, he rolled six dice for an attack on Jeremey’s untested Veteran Shieldwall unit, and all six came up sixes. That’s a 1 in 46,656 chance! Six hits inflicted wiped the Veterans from the face of the earth. I hope he bought a lottery ticket.
Stephen seemed to have the overall advantage, having lost fewer units, but whereas our losses had been concentrated on a few units, destroying them, Stephen’s were spread out across his units. Eventually the losses caught up and Stephen lost several units in the same turn, in fact both sides reached their 50% loss point in the same turn. So, both sides had to take morale tests on all remaining units; the steadfast Saxons stood firm, while the weaselly Welsh failed their tests. With these units routing Stephen’s army reached the 75% of units lost point, ending the first game in a Saxon Victory.
As we had plenty of time left, we decided on a second game. Both sides decided to tweak their army lists. Stephen was less than impressed with his Monks, so sent them packing back to the monastery. He was a bit cagey on what he would add to his army with the 3 points the monks had cost.
I decided that the 3 points used to upgrade one of the units to Veteran might be better spent on another unit of Ordinary Shieldwall. So we had the Companions, three Noble Shieldwall and seven Ordinary Shieldwall. That meant we would need to lose 6 units before we had to take a morale test, and 9 units before losing the battle (excluding skirmishers of course). Jeremey and I split the forces pretty much as we had before, but I got the additional Ordinary Shieldwall unit.
We rolled the dice and this time the Welsh won and became the aggressors. We deployed the terrain, only 2 pieces for us; we went for a wood on the left and a marsh on the right.
Stephen split his Riders between the two wings, two facing Jeremey and one facing me. He deployed his Companions and Noble warriors on his left, opposite me, and the ordinary warriors opposite Jeremey.
Once both sides had deployed Stephen then revealed what he had spent his 3 points on, a Champion’s Challenge! Each side sent forth a champion to fight; the loser’s side would forfeit a leadership point. Had we refused the challenge we would have lost the leadership point through shame. Unfortunately for Stephen he lost the Champion’s Challenge (simple die roll), and so he started the game with 5 leadership points available, the Saxons had 7.
Stephen sent his lone left flank unit of Riders forward, hoping to ride down my Skirmishers, but this time I pulled them back behind my Shieldwall. The riders stood off for a while, but as the Welsh Companions and Noble Warriors were more motivated in this second game, and were quick to advance, Stephen sent them all in against my Shieldwall.
On the opposite flank Jeremey nailed his units to the floor and refused to be goaded into attacking. As with the first game this forced the Welsh to move through the woods in a haphazard manner. After a closer than expected fight between Jeremey’s units and the Welsh riders he was able to concentrate on the emerging Welsh warriors from the wood and deal a decisive blow.
This time the battle was not so close, Stephen’s Welsh reached their 50% morale test point which several units failed, ending the game in a Saxon victory; leaving the Wolf tail banner safely in Saxon hands.
For this year’s Open Day I will be doing a 28mm Saga game. It is based on the Norman invasion of Ireland.
I have a large collection of dark ages/early medieval stuff. However, I thought the Norse Gaels would better reflect the military style of the later Irish warriors than the actual Irish battleboard in the game. Whilst I had most of the necessary troops what I was lacking were some two-handed axe armed warriors – so that’s what I’ve painted up.
These are all Gripping Beast figures. I am pleased to say they have now blooded their axes! We recently had a game of Saga and I brought the Norse Gaels out to give them a try.
The Open Day game will centre around a Norman raid on an Irish religious community. This means I will have to build a round tower for the game as well.
If you’ve never played Saga before, or if you have but have yet to try Saga 2 (because that’s what we’ll be using) then come along and enjoy a game – whether wildly swinging axes is your style or if you prefer mounting a good cavalry charge.