The Gesta Owaini

Stephen regales us with another saga of the SAGA campaign

There is safety in numbers. Mind, there is also cowardice and dishonour.

It happened that Fritjolf Erlandsson had been raiding the coasts of Britannia and his raids took him north, around the rocky shores of Cape Wrath, and down through the Hibernian seas and the Isles of Manannan. He took landfall at Anglesey before heading down the Conway and harrying the good people who lived in the fertile valley.

This news soon passed to the bishop of Bangor who called upon his bondsman, Owain the Wolf Tamer, to fall upon the norsemen and bring slaughter to them. Owain was pleased to do the bishop’s bidding and he said his prayers unto the Lord that he may prevail in this endeavour.

It was in the woods of Tal-Y-Bont that Owain found Fritjolf and his men lurking, taking camp amid a collection of hoary stones engraved with the symbols of the ancients.

Fritjolf bellowed out to Owain, challenging him to a duel. But Owain was known for his wisdom and canniness, and he knew the deceit of the Vikings, and he was cunning in his actions for he made the leader of the Norse think he had been fooled, but he knew that Fritjolf had hidden his men in the woods and would lay upon him when he drew near. In his turn, Owain had arranged his own warriors and loyal bondsmen, so that Fritjolf would be trapped and Owain could take him back in chains to the bishop in Bangor.

Owain drew his javelins and let a flurry fly at Fritjolf and such was the accuracy of his aim that he pricked the Norse leader terribly. At this Fritjolf showed his true self and hastily fled from Owain and sought sanctuary amongst his men, too cowardly to take the fight to Owain as man against man,as he had entreated. Oh no! This Norse warrior, who had boasted and goaded the bold Owain, soon hid behind his men whilst Owain stood firm, alone, without need of hiding behind the men he was responsible for. So much for heroics when this cursed raider could do nothing more heroic than use his own men, men who had come to his banner, as a shield to protect his own dishonourable hide.

Owain had long since inspired devotion and loyalty in his followers who willingly moved forward to engage the Norse raiders to protect their lord and land.

Many times did Fritjolf and his raiders know the bitter taste of Welsh iron and fell sorry sore at the points of their javelins.

Owain danced around the raiders, his knowledge of the land of his fathers playing into his hands, and the vikings were at a loss at what to do.

And so it happened that Fritjolf and his raiders were sent packing. Lucky them that they were not sent in chains to the bishop, but with their tails between their legs they were beaten off and they made for their longships and took to the seas once more.

They would have no joy in the lands of Cymru!

The Age of the Wolf – The Last Rites

With just one campaign season left in our Saga: Age of The Wolf campaign we are reaching the climax of the struggle for Britain in 1070AD. It’s been quite a year, with famine, recrimination, and sorrow besetting the North.

Our campaign has six players (well, seven, since one player had to pull out and a replacement took over):

  • Andy – Anglo Danes
  • Jeremey – Anglo Danes
  • Tony G – Normans
  • John R – Normans (had to pull out)
  • John L – Norse Gaels
  • Stephen – Welsh
  • Paul B – Vikings

It wouldn’t do to say what the rankings are at this stage (not least because I don’t know!) but I am pleased to say that, like a school sports day, everyone has had at least one win so far!

We’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our friends at Gripping Beast who have very generously provided a discount on a prize for the winner – the Saga 2 rulebook plus the Age of Vikings! Very kind and very generous. So, by the time Christmas gets here, the winner will not only have bragging rights over the others for the following year, but will also have an early Christmas pressie.

Keep an eye out for Turn 6 campaign stories and we’ll also be following up with a ‘Spoils Of War’ post, with stories about war trophies gained, blood feuds, murder, and worthy victories.
If you’ve not started your own Age Of Wolf campaign then we heartily recommend you do!

Again – cheers to Gripping Beast.​

The Saga of Fritjolf Erlandsson

Paul B begins the story of his SAGA campaign…

Book one.

There was a man named Fritjof, son of Ake, and Eerika, daughter of Gudbrand the fearless; she was sister of Gull Half-aelf in Keflavik, and he the father of Kettle Hæing. Fritjof was a man so tall and strong that none could match him, and his bravery won him the hand of Gunborg; A volur, by the grace of Freyja. Fritjof sailed the ocean as a freebooter. On the counsel of his huswife Fritjof sailed his longships to the shores of Anglalond, seeking there wealth and renown in battle.

Fritjof and his forces fell upon the Angles and there was fought a great battle. Fritjof and the Angle lord fought manly, beard to beard, and Fritjof was sore wounded. The Angles saw victory and rushed to the fray, but the strength of Fritjofs huscarls pushed back the Angles and their lord was captured. An arrangement was made and kept, and much gold was exchanged for the return of the Angle lord who departed with little affection. Fritjof, his name feared amongst his enemies, turned north as the summer wore on, to other battles waiting for him.

Entrance of the Vikings.

Coming late to the campaign, I had a few strokes of luck. I got to roll a few times on the fate table as a way to catch up with the others in the campaign, and managed to avoid any negative results, picking up several new hearthguard recruits and nearly a full new unit of levy. I can therefore afford to be somewhat reckless with my warriors, which plays to the strengths of the viking battleboard. This, combined with the fatigue negating abilities of the faction allowed me to put in a good showing against Andy’s Anglo-Danes in my first battle, capturing and ransoming his warlord. All of this good fortune combined just about pushed my warlord over the threshold of 15 power points needed to become an aethling.

The vikings have landed, and are on the move…

Cutthroats And Bushwhackers

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.

The Welsh warband marching to war

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.

Javelins are ready to fly!

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!).

Welsh cavalry

The Saga Of Owain of Bangor – An Extract From The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Whilst conducting research at the Bodleian Library I stumbled upon the following extract. It was found in a loose-leaf manuscript with the hand-written title ‘The Bangor Chronicle’ but I think it should more properly find its home with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and so I have titled it ‘Chronicle J’.

It is a single, short, entry and I quote it here in full…

1070 – In this year there was a poor harvest. Such was the upset and worry this caused that many men did steal from their neighbour. The Norman lord, De Gislebert, sought loot and plunder rather than fair exchange and he took from the gentle people of Bangor their harvest so they would have no bread and would starve. It did happen that Owain of Bangor, upset by the distress this caused his people, took himself into the lands of Gislebert and took back the grains and chattels that had been taken from them. De Gislebert, learning of this daring raid, fell upon Owain and his men as they led their carts back to the lands of their fathers.

But Owain had his war banner, Wolf Tamer, with him and this did raise the spirits of his men. Despite the pitiful rain of Norman arrows the men of Bangor prevailed and they in turn did find their mark with their javelins and spear points. The field of battle did belong to Owain on that day.

And Owain took back the grain to his people and he passed it out to them. And they were grateful to him for this and they hailed him as Owain the Great. In his humility Owain did give prayers and thanks unto the Lord at Bangor cathedral and he thanked the Lord that he was able to give food and succour to his people though it did cost him the lives of his men and did cost him coin to do so.

Dark Age Vikings

The first of a trio of painting updates from Andy

These are Artizan Design figures, six Hirdmen with two handed axes and two Hirdmen “with spears”. I bought these second hand from Colonel Bill’s.

The spearmen didn’t come with spears, so I gave one of the spearmen a standard, using a brass spear and a “Raven Standard” drawn up in PowerPoint; the other I decided to make a Jarl and gave him a spare sword from a Gripping Beast Plastic Saxon Thegn boxes.

The figures were undercoated black and then block painted in various shades of Vallejo browns, greys and greens. They were then washed in appropriate Army Painter washes, with the quilted leather armour getting a couple of coats.

The two shields were painted plain white on the front and transfers from Little Big Men Studios and Battle Flag applied before varnishing.

The Saga of Iomhar MacAuley

John La continues the saga of his SAGA campaign following two battles against Jeremey’s Anglo Danes

War comes to the Isles

Winter has been kind, fresh recruits flock to our holy war banner, blessed by the Saints. Strong men from Steornabhag make up the most loyal retainers, wielding their great axes with strength and speed. Whilst travelling to market in Steornabhag, We were surprised to find the army of Beornsen blocking our path. Danish witchcraft perplexed our brave warriors as though they had drunk too much Uisge. The bravest of the brave, stout axemen of Talisker charged forward to remove the irritant bowmen, these cowardly men afraid of steel met the edges of mighty axes. What was this ! More witchcraft and sorcery or was it too much Uisge as the axes failed to meet their mark. Enraged our brave and mighty lads charged Beornsen himself who luckily survived the frenzied onslaught. A way had been cleared for our goods but Thornstein The Slaver’s path was blocked by cowardly bowmen. Single handed He took them on but the brave Slaver was finally overcome by the Milksop wretches. Beornsen was knocked to the ground from a challenge, badly wounded and he would pay dearly for this arrogant invasion of our peaceful realm.

Einar ‘Buttered Bread’ becomes a Man

Weakened by his ill considered attack, Beornsen’s lands were ripe for raiding. More new recruits had joined and our fleet of Birlinn’s was now three. We sailed east until we sighted Beornsen’s land. There was no resistance to our landing as the Danes fled in fear of our Mighty host. Beornsen’s men were waiting by ford to ambush us. More witchcraft made our mean hesitant but this time there was a steely determination. Beornsen’s best men and Beornsen himself charged the stout axemen of Talisker, steel met steel, steel met flesh in a whirring frenzy of axes. The fight finished with Beornsen in control of the ford and the waters ran red with the blood of brave warriors. Seeing Beornsen isolated on the ford, our viking cousins from Orkney issued a challenge and callow youth Einar ‘Buttered Bread’ was pushed to the front to take on Beornsen in single combat. Hampered by a serious wound, Beornsen failed to land a blow. Einar closed his eyes and swung his mighty axe, it shattered Beornsen’s helm, cleaving him in two, kicking the remains of Beornsen’s head into the waters below. Arise Einar ‘Skull Splitter’! whose reputation has spread far and wide across the lands. With the death of their impulsive Leader, the Danish resistance crumbled beneath a hail of javelins and axes. It had been a profitable raid and Ui Naill cousins from Donegal have joined our growing army. Much Uisge was drunk in celebration. We spend time planning and training as the nights draw in.

Meanwhile storm clouds gather to the south and east. Winter is coming.

The Raid on Owain the Cantankerous

We recently published a report on one of the actions from our SAGA:Age of the Wolf campaign. In the spirit of balanced reporting, here’s the view from the other side of the battlefield…

Andraes Vilhelmsson and Uhtred Beornson let it be known that they would form an alliance.

Andraes gathered his men and went forth to teach that Welsh curmudgeon Owain the Cantankerous not to meddle in the business of the rightful rulers of this land.

Leading the way was Berwulf’s Levy, followed by Wynbald and his Warriors and the Hearthguards of Beorhtel and Ordlaf escorting Andraes himself.

Making their way through the valley they came across Owain’s men hiding among woods and tors. Berwulf’s Levy lead the way showering the Welsh with arrows, but the trees gave them protection, and few fell.

Wynbald’s Warriors then entered the woods and drove out some of the Welsh, while more Welsh knaves, knowing the secret ways of the woods, attacked showering them with javelins.

The Welsh sent some of their better men against Berwulf’s scouts, perhaps with some druidic sorcerer among them, as against their will the scouts were drawn towards the Welsh swords and axes. Many of the Scouts fell in that unequal fight, but a few survived and managed to resist the Welsh siren call, falling back to engage the Welsh with their bows.

Ordlaf’s Hearthguard charged from the woods, attacking a group of Welsh warriors in the rocky ground, surely the skills of the experienced blades would carry the day, but Welsh sorcery struck again and Ordlaf’s men were beaten back with heavy losses.

The Welsh sorcerers then tried to cloud Andraes’s mind and draw him away from his Hearthguard to attack a group of Welsh warriors, but he proved to be of stronger mind than the scouts and stood his ground.

As the battle progressed, casualties mounted on either side with the Welsh benefiting from the cover of the woods and rocks. It came to the point where the weasel Welsh sensed they had perhaps inflicted enough damage on Andraes’s men to carry the day and began to withdraw as fast as they could to save themselves from the cream of Andraes’s Hearthguard.

And where was Owain during this battle, you ask? He was fleetingly seen from time to time, hiding behind his men.

On returning to his hall, Andreas received word that Uhtred Beornson would continue the campaign against Owain, and sought aid under our alliance. Ordlaf’s Hearthguard were sent to join Uhtred’s raid, but that story is another man’s to tell.

Scenario Note

The Scouts Scenario starts the game with each side having one unit on the table, this must be Levy, Mounted or missile armed Warriors. The remainder of the Warband’s units enter the table one unit per turn, determined by the roll of a die. It requires opponents to keep track of VPs inflicted during game, when a side suffers 10 VP it must roll a number of SAGA dice, the same as would be rolled during the orders phase, needing at least one “6” to continue fighting. Stephen (Owain) inflicted 10.33 VP on me while I had inflicted 9 VP on him. I passed my first morale roll, but failed the second, ending the battle.

The Red Dragon And The White Wolves

Hark now and listen to yon bards!

Listen as they stretch the strings on their harps, as they tell their tales, for this is a story that children of the land must know.

Out there, there ‘pon the hill of dreams. There lies the Red Dragon, restful in its slumber. Though listen keenly and you will hear the howl of the wolves. Two vicious wolves, Guttersnipe and Ragamuffin by name. Though these are no ordinary wolves, these are the very worst kind – White Wolves!

These White Wolves looked on the Red Dragon’s hill, and their lusts and craves led them to steal the Dragon’s sheep, the Dragon’s wealth.

But this Dragon would have none of it.

Guttersnipe and Ragamuffin crept viciously in the dark, keeping low and trying to look innocent, they wished their white hides would make others think they were peaceful sheep – such is the treachery that these two knew.

What they would come to know all too soon, though, was the might and power of the Red Dragon who, upon seeing the two White Wolves making for his wealth and sheep, he rose up and with keen claws and fiery breath he did smite the two wolves! Harken and listen, I tell you! Harken and listen, for the Red Dragon’s wrath was furious and righteous.

And there lie the remains of the two White Wolves. The two wretched carcasses. And the Red Dragon, as a show of his power, did rend their tails from their hides and he did place them upon his war banner so that all would know that any who dared meddle and steal from the Red Dragon would meet an equal fate.

Arise now. Arise and go.

Go out into the land and the people will know thy name. For thou art no longer just Owain of Bangor, thou art OWAIN THE WOLF TAMER.

The Untimely Death of a Warrior King

Heading home to the Hebrides, King Olaf spotted an opportunity to raid the lands of Andraes Vilhelmsson near the coast. Charging into the village of Lindahl, he spied that there was just enough room in the Birlinn Nathair Mhara to load additional booty. The defending bowmen were quickly dealt with by the mercenaries from the King of Norway but the mighty host of Danish warriors took longer to break down and the heavy rains prevented the burning of the village. Sensing defeat, the cowardly Vilhelmsson fled the fight. Alas, Olaf’s warriors were tiring and failed to land a blow on the advancing bodyguard. Olaf leapt into the fight with against the bodyguard challenging them, He had dispatched many noble but foolish men this way before and the first man fell swiftly to his flashing blade. Then, witchcraft struck as Olaf’s blade shattered leaving Him defenceless and outnumbered and he fell, a warriors death. Thus died Olaf a Mighty Warrior King. His warriors returned to the Hebrides with his body and He was buried at sea from whence He came, flames flickering and spluttering in the night skies in the shadow of the stones of Callanish as the Nathair Mhara sank below the waves.

The Saga of Iomhair MacAulay

I am Olaf’s eldest son and claim the Title King of the Hebrides following my Father’s untimely death. I had spent several years of life on Iona where I was educated by the monks, now a man of faith I set out to rule the lands in a different way from my father but am bound by our culture to be at feud with Vilhelmsson. New recruits have joined from other islands and during the long autumn nights We are patiently sharpening our axe blades, waiting and planning. Winter is coming.