Autumn 1070, somewhere in England: A Norman Warlord assembles a convoy to get winter provisions into his castle. As they approach a road fork near a church, they spot a Viking raiding party. Can they guard the baggage train, or will they lose all their victuals and spend a hungry winter?
Fitting to the local weather, which is ghastly and not at all summery, we decided to play a game of SAGA. It’s been a while! We played the ‘Escort’ scenario from the main rulebook with 5 points each. I positioned my archers and crossbowmen in front of the baggage train, a unit of foot sergeants to their right and the cavalry on my far left – stubbornly refusing to learn from my mistakes, I had planned another one of those elegant outflanking manoeuvres that never succeed. K. faced me with the Vikings pretty much evenly distributed, only one of her Hearthguards were hidden in the woods (she fielded no levies this time).
The scenario meant that I had to cross the table with all three parts of my baggage train (a flock of sheep, a cart and a group of peasants carrying what turned out to be precious stuff), while K. had to eliminate at least two of the baggages. Everything else would be a draw. We followed the suggestions on the SAGA forum and made a modification to the official rules: The baggage did not generate SAGA dice and had instead a free activation for each of the three bases. This, we thought, would make the game more balanced, as the defender would not just spend all his extra dice on pummeling the attacker.
The game started with what can only be called shock and awe. K. had initiative, rolled some fine SAGA dice and immediately threw her pumped up warriors against my levies, killing all save one, who retreated behind the church never to be seen again.
That set the pace. Again and again she relentlessly punched into my lines. The cavalry I had moved over to cover the gap was slaughtered by her Berserkers, my crossbowmen by one of her Hearthguard units. Without hesitation she exploited the gap and came at my baggage train. The cart was easily done with and I almost lost heart. But what happened then is still denied by some Viking officials as ‘Norman propaganda’: Her berserkers drove into my sheep like wolves, but the sheep showed teeth and dragged the Viking elite along into Valhalla! What an embarrassing defeat at the hands, or better hooves of a flock of woolly creatures.
Now my Normans seemed to wake up. With a cry of ‘Sauvez le vin!’, they set out to at least save the last remaining baggage train containing the precious Norman wine. In a bold move, my left flankers rode around the church to attack the Viking Warlord from behind. This clash was inconclusive as the Warlord proved to be resilient and my knights had to retreat. Not for long, though! They threw themselves onto the Viking warriors who threatened the convoy, slaining them all. The remaining foot sergeants closed the front and covered the wine carriers, while the knights again set out to attack the Viking Hearthguard. Another victory for those gallant riders. Now only the Viking Warlord was left, and side by side with his trusty knights, the Norman Warlord punished him for his bold raid onto the winter provisions. In the end, the Normans managed to make off with the last baggage train. This winter they are going to get hungry, but at least they won’t be thirsty.
What an exciting game! At the beginning, I already saw myself losing after only a couple of turns. Only through derring-do and luck I managed to pull off a draw. In the end, K. payed a price for her aggressive tactics: Having sacrificed too many of her troops in the initial onslaught, she had difficulties upholding the pressure over time. It was my flank Hearthguard, which showed unprecedented bravery and commitment, that saved the day.
We both felt that this was a close game and we really liked the scenario, which provided some interesting tactical challenges. We will certainly play it again, this time me being the attacker. I will, however, make sure to beware of the killer sheep.