Feb 11, 2013

Blood in the meadows, a SAGA battle report

On Friday evening John de Terre-Neuve and I met for a quick SAGA around the table, at aperitive time. We had but two hours to game, so we wanted something effective. Our last SAGA games being aimed at searching and looting things and chasing and capturing warlords, we felt that this time we would like to play a direct and brutal way, where SAGA dice would be more spent at triggering abilities than moving around the battlefield.

We settled on regular 6 pts warbands. John brang his Vikings and I deployed my Anglo-Dvergish (Anglo-Danes battleboard). We also agreed to try the new rule for banner barers. John’s Vikings consisted of 1pt of levies with bows, 2 pts of warriors, 2 points of hearthguards, 1pt of Ulfhednars and was led by Freidis Eriksdotir the fabulous female warlord he has created. John organised his warband thus: 1 unit of twelve levies, 1 unit of six warriors to accompany his warlord, 1 unit of ten warriors with banner, 1 unit of eight hearthguards and 1 unit of four Ulfhednars. My Anglo-Dvergish warband was led by the legendary Harald Dwarfinson (Harald Godwinson) and his double-handed-axes jousters brothers, and was putting together 1pt of levies with bows, 2 pts of warriors and 3 points of hearthguards with double-handed-axes. I organised them into 1 unit of twelve levies, 2 unit of eight warriors, 2 units of six hearthguards, with one carying the army banner.

The battlefield was a 4x4 game board. The terrain featured two hills and two elements of rough terrain, also a farm in one corner, but only to frame the battlefield and please the eyes. We both deployed L distance from our respective edge of the table. John had his levies covering his right flank, the units of ten warriors with banner occupying the center and the units of eight hearthguards at his left wing, his Ulfhednars, warriors and Warlord were held behind to fill the gaps. My frontline was build around my levies archers, flanked on both sides by my warriors, when Harald Dwarfinson his brothers and hearthguards were kept behind in reserve. Then, between the two facing warbands, a fresh breeze swiftly began to comb the grassy meadows of September…

Turn one & two

The Anglo-Dvergish battleline at the end of turn two.
The first two turns were spent moving our troops towards each other, and redeploying a little. I moved my levies forward to shooting range and could start harassing the Vikings warriors in the center by taking one down, while a unit of hearthguards was brought to the frontline to fill the gap between the archers and the warriors to their right. On the Viking side Freidis had some hesitation from where she would best support the attack of her clan. While on her left flank the thralls archers came close enough to shoot a deadly volley at my warriors, and take a good half of them down… Ouch!

Turn three

The Anglo-Dvergish push back the Viking's archers...
While Freidis builds her attack to the right.
On their right flank the Anglo-Dvergish fearing the constant threat ot the thralls arrows decided to move forward and charged to push them back. They eventully managed to kill three of the archers without suffering an injure. Meanwhile Harald’s archers knocked their arrows at the Viking center again and killed one more warriors. Freidis worried of the retreat of her archers send out her fearsome Ulfhednars to plug the gap and chop some heads… And, in a breath, the remainings dvergish warriors were desmembered to the ground, blown away like unsignificant dust… Well, significant enough to take down two Ulfhednars with them. And Freidis continued her advance towards the Anglo-Dvergish right flank.

The Ulfhednars charge from the right. In a short while,
eight dvergish eyes will be shut for ever...
Turn four

The Dvergish hearthguards push to the center
and wash away the Vikings warriors. Hurrah!
Freidis warriors had move to the middle of the battlefield bravely raising their banner over head. Harald decided this pennon at too long been seen and that time had come to take it down. To start, the dvergish archers sticked two more arrows between the chops of the Viking bondis. Then Harald’s trusted huscarls fell on them with their double-handed axes to finish the job. Only one Viking survived. He stood firm against the Anglo-Dvergish push at the end of the melee, and managed to escape… with the banner… For all the huscarls survived, Harald felt proud of his men, but he could not withstand the vision of his ennemy banner still high in the sky.

Harald watch the Viking bannerman escape, and think:
God damn it!
For one second Harald thought he could triumph today. But the second after, Freidis hirdmen were upon his warriors on the right flank. And in no time the Dvergish ceorls were scatered, all cuted down to pieces, not inflincting a single wound to the Vikings. John had been lucky enough to get eight SAGA dice this turn, so the bloodthirsty hirdmen were now turning against the huscarls. And again… The huscarls were all crushed to the guts. This time the hirdmen lost four brothers of arms, but they left no survivor on their path of blood. By the beards of the Gods! Cursed Harald. He could not believe his army had vanish so easely.

After having literally harvested the Anglo-Dvergish line,
the four victorious hirdmen present their swords to Freidis.
Turn five

The last stand. The Anglo-Dvergish regroup,
 while the archers take down the last two Ulfhednars.
Harald in need for vengeance was about to through himself in the melee, but his brothers reasoned him, and pull him back to regroup and reform a line with the last unit of huscarls. In fact, I had so few SAGA dice to throw this turn, that I could not figure a plan to seize revenge efficiently. Instead of what, the geburs fearing an other bloody assault from the Ulfhednar, turned their bows to the left flank and killed both remaining wolfskins.

The viking archers having been reforming their line, moved forward again and shoot a volley at the Dvergish geburs, killing one. Freidis now totaly confident in her success, decided to throw an ultimate charge of the hirdmen against the geburs archers. But the levies proved more resistant than the huscarls and lost only two when they could kill two hirdmen in return. Freidis elite was driven back. As sun was setting, time had came to count the deads and heal the survivors.

The last view of the battlefield,
 after the ultimate charge of the hirdmen has been driven back.


During this violent clash,
The Viking have lost 3 levies, 9 warriors, and 10 Hearthguards including 4 Ulfhednars.
The Anglo-Dvergish have lost 3 levies, 16 warriors and 6 Hearthguards.

Even if John had lost more elite troops than I, we called it a narrow victory for the Viking, since they clearly had the initaitive at the end of the game, with 4 units still on the field, when I had only 2 left. Also, John clearly wrote the SAGA this day with his unbelievable breach through the Anglo-Dvergish line.

All in all we were both quite satisfied with this battle, for we both felt that we really fought it by the book (the rulebook), and felt at ease with the game mechanisms.

One lesson learn here though. In SAGA the way we group our points to create units is critical. The effectiveness of an eight hearthguards unit says it all. And I am now thinking about the damages three combined points of hearthguards could inflict.

A question now. We couldn't really see the advantage of having a banner in a unit. Any thoughts?

Feb 7, 2013

The Bogatyrs, the back is revealed...

In order to put an end to my Russian Folkhero fancy, I thought it would be fun to show you a group picture of Ilya Mouromets, Alyosha Popovich and Dobryna Nikitich (click the names to know more about their respective story) and compare with the original canvas from Vasnetsov. I mean... It is not so often that we paint figures taken from a painting masterpiece.

Also, what I realised while painting these horsemen, is that Vasnetsov clearly avoided the hardest part by showing them stricly from a frontal point of view. In fact, I have put most of my efforts on items that are barely visible on the panel. So much, that I could have easely let these shields, scabards or kaftans completly bare of color.

Viktor Vasnetsov, The Bogatyrs, 1898
Well, I guess easy is not the way I see things when it comes to painting, hence my poor score in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. But at least I get to show you something that even the painter did not really care to pay attention to. For the first time (and probably the last) in my modest painter career, lets reveal the back!

Oh no, not this one... That one!

Now, I won't probably paint something related to russia for a while. And yet, I hope I could do the same one day with some other pieces of Art from the master Vasnetsov. His work is truly a well of inspiration for anyone who likes Russian Middel Age and Myths.

Viktor Vasnetsov, The Bard Bayan, 1910

Quite evocative isn't it? Only the miniatures haven't been sculpted so far... Well, who knows what the future holds...

Feb 5, 2013

Dobryna Nikitich, last of the bogatyrs

Dobryna your mother warned you, don’t go to the river for “the first wave belches fire, the second wave brings sparks and the third issues steam”. The summer day was to hot and Dobryna did not really care. He could only forsee a bath of cool water. Long did he ride trough the steppe, and reach the river at last. Burned by the summer sun, his armor was hot as a caldron. Dobryna took off his armament and jumped in the refreshing water.

Suddenly the sky turned to black and Dobryna could hear again the warning of a loving mother. Indeed, it was no cloud nor night that darken the sky, but the immense shadow of the three-headed dragon Zmei-Gorynych. The dragon was once prophecised that a knight responding the name of Dobryna would eventually kill him. Instead of waiting for is faith, he faced it and caught Dobryna in a rather embarrasing situation.

Dobryna fearing no danger swam to the bank but his horse had flee with all his equipement, only the helmet that had fell on the ground remained. The knight filled it with sand and threw it at the dragon, thus blowing one head. He then jumped at him and grabbed him by the remaining necks. Zmei-Gorynych clearly saw the exit door, and started crying and pleading for life. Dobryna felt pity for the dismembered creature and let him go.

But dragons are not the kind to be trusted. Damn it! Dobryna! lessen to your mother! The minute Zmei-Gorynych was free, he flew to Kiev, abducted the niece of the Tsar Vladimir and took the maiden to his cave, deep in the mountain.

Out of guilt or maybe in need for a good meal, Dobryna rode back to his mother to seek some advice. Lessen carefully son: “here is a seven-fold silky whip. Now go get the horse of your grandfather, the one that has been neglected for ages, and you'll be able to ride to the dragon's cave safely”.

When Dobryna broke into the cave, Zmei-Gorynych protested that the knight has no word and that he broke an oath. Well, it takes some guts to be so  arroguant. Guts and blood and venom that would soon cover the floor after Dobryna chopped the last two heads and slayed the dragon for good. After a bath in the blood of the beast, Dobryna eventually found the pincess attached with gold chains in one of the many caves of the lair. He took her back to her uncle the Tsar Vladimir of Kiev. The two fell in love on the way, and Vladimir wouldn't have been a sovereign of tales and legends if he wouldn't have offer the hand of the princess to the deserving knight.

With Dobryna ends the serie of the Bogatyrs, the three russian heros, taken from the canvas by Viktor Vastnetsov and finely rendered by the manufacturer Plastic Miniatures. With the two extra points added to retribute my effort to render the patterns on his kaftan, Dobryna has earned me 12 more points in the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, which lift me up to a total of 33 pts, and a well deserved bottom line on the scoreboard.