The Saga of Ceallach ui Móráin

I got a little time to jet up to Your Hobby Place recently and was able to get in a Saga game against the store owner Dave at the head of his Normans.  I almost had enough Irish for a standard 6 point warband for Saga, so recruited a few Viking mercenaries to fill out the ranks and away we went.

I set up the table while Dave was doing store owner things and placed a low hill in the center and woods on the flanks, figuring this would not overly penalize either force, giving the Norman horse room to operate in the center and the Irish light foot terrain to operate in on the flanks.  Unfortunately I didn’t see the nice ground cloth Dave had set to the side, so set up the game right on the green carpet of the tabletop, so the table could easily have looked a lot better.  The photos of the battle are camera phone photos, so those definitely could have been better…

Ceallach’s band included two small 4-man units of his household troops, the caimteglaig, two large 12-man units of lower class freemen, the clíathaire, and a 12-man  unit of peasant slingers, the táibleóir.  As there is not currently a Battle Board and rules for Irish, I used the Welsh rules for the Irish.  Both had similar fighting styles, relying on hit and run tactics with javelins.

Dave fielded his Normans in large units, with a 12-man unit of sergeants with crossbows, another 12-man unit of mounted sergeants, an 8-man unit of mounted knights, and a unit of 12 peasant bowmen.  With only 3 non-levy units, Dave was starting with only 5 Saga dice to my 6.

I had the first turn and surged forward on each flank using the Battle Board ability that allowed my foot troops to move through terrain without movement penalties.  Dave had missile troops on each flank and my own troops are especially vulnerable to shooting as they are less well armored than their contemporaries, so I hoped to use the cover of the woods to offset my vulnerability.  As I moved up Dave was content to hold tight and start plucking away at me, inflicting a couple of early casualties.

On my right, the warriors there were opposed by the levy bowmen.  The Norman Battle Board can turn these otherwise irritating troops into deadly troops, so I wanted to get them cut down to size.  I used the Taunt ability off of my Battle Board to induce them to charge forward into javelin range, but my attack dice and especially Dave’s defense dice conspired to inflict minimal casualties.  On his turn then, the evil little cubes conspired to inflict several kills on my warriors.  The 12-man unit was now down to only 6 or so when I launched my main “attack” by using Taunt to lure the levy into melee and then Ambush to give myself extra dice.  The losses on the approach meant I didn’t wipe out the unit, but they were whittled down and would play little role in the rest of the fight.  My own unit would play no further role as on the next turn Dave spurred the knights forward and wiped out the remaining clíathaire on that side, although one Norman knight was lost.  I had managed lose an entire unit and a Saga die each turn for the price of 7 peasants and a knight.  Not good.

On my left the other large unit of warriors approached through the woods and began a missile duel with the Norman crossbowmen.  This protracted fight would last throughout the game.  The power of the Norman crossbows was partially offset by the cover provided by the woods and the Irish Deadly Strike ability.  As the game wore on this stalemate slowly began to favor the Normans, but both sides were being bled.

With the right flank eliminated and the left embroiled in a slow death, I had to make a move in the center.  I used Taunt on the Norman knights to get them to charge up to within range of my missile troops.  The action of the slingers and javelins from the warlord and one unit of the household guard eliminated 3 knights.  On his turn, Dave loaded up the Battle Board and charged the knights into my caimteglaig.  All four Irish nobles fell as did two knights.  Ceallach ui Móráin briefly stood alone atop the hill as his remaining household troops had lagged behind, but Dave chose to retreat the two remaining knights.  On the next turn I Taunted them forward again and finished them off with missiles.

At this point I had to jet home so we called the game and added up the points.  Dave won on victory points as the loss of the large warrior unit more than offset my 2:1 advantage in dead nobles.  A great time with no thought given to the stresses and worries of the rest of my life.  Thanks to Dave for taking some time to play the game with me.

The Welsh/Irish are definitely interesting to play and very different from the hyper aggressive Vikings I played in my first game.  I consistently made the mistake of committing all of my Saga dice to attacks and not leaving any for the abilities of the Battle Board that allow me to live longer by slowing an enemy’s move or allowing my troops to fall back away from them.  Taunt was the gold winner though, allowing me to keep the Normans from just hanging back and using their superior ranged fire to puncture my poorly armored Irishmen and forcing them into fights on my terms.

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6 responses to “The Saga of Ceallach ui Móráin”

  1. Andy says :

    A game where taunting is a winning tactic and not a ticket for a punch in the nose…sounds fun!!

    • Brian says :

      I’m not sure I’d call it a winning tactic for a bunch of barefoot farmers with javelins and a little buckler to hurl insults at a Norman knight in chainmail and sitting on top of a stallion, but it is definitely fun (for the player, not the farmers).

      It’s definitely a fun game, especially if you want to create heroic epics to be retold in pubs and romanticized by Keats and Byron and not refight the slog at Hastings or something.

      • Andy says :

        Hey Brian, I was looking at Muskets & Tomahawks which is apparently based on SAGA. Any exposure to that yet?

      • Brian says :

        I have not seen Muskets and Tomahawks, but I have a friend who was thinking of getting it, so if I get any insight I’ll let you know.

  2. shermon15 says :

    Brian how do you like Saga so far? I am intrigued by it and might pick up the rules this summer.

    • Brian Cantwell says :

      I think it’s a really great game. While it is probably not an “accurate simulation” of early Medieval warfare, it’s a great “simulation” of the sorts of battles described in the epics, poems, and sagas of the era and that’s what interests me most. The game play is really innovative and interesting and it’s relatively easy to get started in terms of #s of minis required.

      Highly recommended

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