The Saga of Ceallach ui Móráin – Battle of the Three Crossings
A couple of buddies came over to my place for a game of Saga recently. After a short learning game in which Brett learned the dangers of leaving your warlord alone in a field with no lifeguard around him, we set up for the main event using the Battle at the Ford scenario from the Saga rulebook.
Brett and Brian played the Vikings, each with 4 points of forces and their own Battleboard. I played my Irish (using the Welsh Battleboard) forming an 8 point band. The two smaller Viking bands were individually less robust than my larger group. but had better access to the Saga abilities, with more total dice to start and with each player being able to use the once-per-turn abilities on their boards. My force was more robust (more and larger units) and at 8 points, I benefited from my warlord being able to do two free actions instead of one, but I would have fewer total dice and only be able to use the Saga abilities once each.
My band consisted of a 12-man unit of levy slingers, two 12-man units of warriors, an 8-man unit of warriors, a small 4-man unit of hearthguard, an 8-man unit of hearthguard, and of course, Ceallach ui Móráin. Brian’s Vikings had a couple of small warrior units, an 8-man hearthguard unit, and a couple of 6-man archer units. Brett had two 8-man warrior units, a 4-man hearthguard, and a 4-man unit of berserkers.
Both sides opted for similar deployment, with holding forces on their right and stronger forces on their left and center. A classic wheel battle was about to unfold. The objective of the game was to get more of your troops over the three crossing points of the river and onto the opposite bank than the enemy.
The Vikings had the first turn and started out fast. On my right, Brett pushed a unit of warriors over the bridge and into contact with my warriors manning the low stone wall. While I had cover, the Vikings had Saga abilities and were able to push back the defending Irish and seize the wall. More Vikings poured over the river behind them.
In the center, Brian pushed his large hearthguard unit over the bridge only to be met my a hail of Pointy Sticks (aka javelins) from my warrior unit. Aided by The Deadly Strike, three of the Viking elites fell and Brian retreated back across the bridge.
On my left I had a large unit of warriors arrayed against a small (4-man) unit of Viking bondi and a 6-man unit of thralls with bows. I loaded up the battleboard and charged across the ford, killing the bondi, most of the archers, and completely exhausting myself. While I was across and in strength, those troops would take no further part in the fight. I tried to get them rested enough to come back to the fray, but Brian cleverly charged with his two remaining archers and used them to add more fatigue. By the time I had them rested enough to move, the battle was decided.
On the right, Brett continued to push his numerical advantage, wiping out the small band of warriors and forcing back the slingers. He used his defensive Saga abilities (yes, the Vikings actually have some) to limit my shooting ability and methodically mopped up that flank and turned toward the center.
In the center I had followed up the first success against the hearthguard by pushing the warriors across the bridge and bringing up Ceallach and his nobles. The warriors caused some damage, but were themselves mauled and forced back across the bridge, where the remnants turned to the right to try and guard the flank along with the small hearthguard unit. Ceallach and his nobles then came up, flinging javelins and forcing back the foreigners. Evetually, the warlord and his hearthguard crossed the bridge and wiped out the Brian’s remaining Vikings.
The few remaining Irish on my side of the river fought a valiant action against a superior number of Vikings (including a heroic stand by one surviving hearthguard), but were eventually cut down. At the end of the game, I had a couple of units across and Brett had a few units across. We added up the points and it was a Viking victory, 13-10.
The game was a close affair and definitely turned on a few decisions and a few die rolls. I overextended on my left and ended up with a significant chunk of combat power standing around panting for most of the game. Brian and I both had some runs of good and bad luck in the center, but my ability to inflict damage with my javelins eventually carried the river, but at a high cost. Early on I had some runs of mediocre Saga dice, which meant I didn’t have the dice to use many of the abilities to run away found on the Welsh Battleboard. That allowed Brett to engage my lighter troops on his terms – always a bad idea. Everyone had a great time and the newcomers were impressed by the game as they were able to pick up the rules easily, but had lots of decisions to make and such.