Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Yesterday a couple of the locals braved sleet and snow to gather for another game of Pig Wars. The scenario I threw together had the vanguards for two advancing armies converging on the only local bridge across a deep and swift flowing river. A couple of other crossing sites were known, but neither could support the movement of large armies.
I’ve been painting Dark Ages minis at a pretty good clip lately, so had enough of my figures for a couple of bands and Bob provided a couple of other bands from his collection for himself and Andy. My bands consisted of a band of Vikings and a band of Dubliners – a mix of Vikings and the first of my Crusader Irish. Bob had another band of Vikings and Andy had a large band of Saxons. Each band was a mix of quality and included a number of missile armed troops.
The river was set up running diagonally across the table with a fording point on either side of the bridge. We set up approximately equidistant from the bridge and so each had a fording point closer to our own lines. I sent my Vikings straight toward the bridge and divided my Dubliners into two groups, with the Irish crossing the ford upstream of the bridge and moving around the woods to flank the enemy while the Viking portion of that group moved over to the left to challenge Bob’s Vikings where they were crossing the fording point there. Andy’s Saxons made straight for the bridge.
The luck of the draw allowed me to reach the bridge first and I charged up onto the bridge with my speediest troops while the rest straggled behind. The Irish were even more spread out as only a couple could cross the fording point at one time. Seeing that my Vikings had reached the bridge first, Andy’s Saxons pulled up short on the other side and began forming a shield wall. My force was led by three berserkers who had all gone into the rage and now thundered directly into the Saxon shield wall, hoping to break it up and permit my Vikings break through. However the resisted the first attack and soon he had reinforced the initial group with a second line of spearmen fighting from the second rank, making it very difficult to break down the shield wall.
While this action was developing in the center Bob was trying to push across the ford downstream of the bridge to establish a force there. Growing impatient with the slow process of fording the swift stream, Bob had some of his less armored troops attmept to swim the river. The first try wasn’t too bad, but the next couple of rounds of attempts were disastrous and a number of his men drowned. The rest decided to stick to crossing at the ford.
Both side’s missile troops had been busy, mostly firing at each other. The arrival of the Irish slingers and javelin men turned the tide of the missile fight and the Saxon archers were soon dead. A couple of Saxon spearmen gave chase to the skirmishers, who ran to evade them. One got away, but a second was caught and surprised everyone by killing his pursuer.
Back at the foot of the bridge, the Saxons scored a number of successes and killed off a number of the Vikings that had made the initial rush, but the berserkers stopod firm and occasionally killed a spearman. More of my Vikings crossed the bridge and spread to either side, killing off the last of Bob’s Viking archers and a couple of stray Saxons. Andy’s troops then suffered a morale set back and the less experienced ones fell back, leaving only the veterans. My Viking veterans wielding double-handed axes now arrived and attacked the weakened Saxon line, killing a couple but not scoring a decisive defeat. Mounting losses however forced a morale test for my Vikings and they fell back from the foot of the bridge – except for the berserkers, who though all wounded, continued to fight. Andy ran three Saxons past the berserkers and onto the bridge to form a little shield wall in the center.
My Irish light troops chased after the retreated Saxon regulars and took down a couple, but Bob sent over three Viking warrior who caught the skirmishers and took out three of the four remaining. However, the four Irish warriors, including two with double-handed axes arrived and quickly avenged their fallen kinsmen.
Bob’s main force had now crossed the stream in some force and established a line in the woods there. The Viking contingent of my Dublin band arrived finally and set on Bob’s troops. The first arrivals exchanged held their own until the more heavily armed and armored veterans could join the fray. The leader of that band is recorded in the Sagas as having a panoply of great items – a fine great axe, a magnificant coat of mail, a resounding horn, and the Wisdom of Odin (i.e. I had started the game with a number of Saga cards and used them to give my leader an number of bonuses) – and he began to tear through the opposing Vikings. Bob’s own leader was over at the bridge trying to help out against the berserkers. Poor morale tests for each side resulted in Bob’s band breaking off and retreating to the river while my veterans stood firm, although my regulars fell back for a turn. The same morale test resulted in some of the Irish across the field routing because they couldn’t see the group;s standard, but a note sounded from the leader’s horn rallied the Irishmen.
Back on the bridge, the three warriors manning the shield wall were soon swept aside by my Viking leader and two of his veterans and as the bererkers were finally succumbing to their wounds, these fresh troops crossed the bridge to engage the remaining Saxons. With the Irish foot also closing in to outflank the paltry Saxon line, they decided to flee the scene and warn their army that the bridge was lost.
My bands had carried the day, but unfortunately the glory of my victory was stained by my forgeting a rule… The berserkers get multiple hits, but as with all models with multiple hits in Pig Wars, there is a card draw to determine if the are killed outright or only wounded. I forgot to do that card draw and given the number of wounds my berserkers sustained it’s likely that some of them would have been thwacked. Oh well, the Norns wove a different fate for them 🙂
Pig Wars fits my bill for skirmish rules very well, providing a basic engine for combat, movement, and morale that can be tweaked to suit. In my case I wanted to do dark ages as it’s found in the various epics, cycles, annals, and sagas of dark ages Europe. We’ve added a few expanded rules to give a little bit more character to some of the models like Viking berserkers or Irish skirmishers and use decks of cards to provide a few “epic” bonuses and events.
We are planning another game in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping to have enough Irish done to have a whole band of Irish to go with a couple of bands of Vikings.