SAGA Once Again!

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 set-up.
The set-up.

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.

Shock and awe!
Shock and awe!

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.

Beware of the sheep!
Beware of the sheep!

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.

The cavalry doing what it does best.
The cavalry doing what it does best.

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.

15mm Vignettes

I am still making stuff for the Wars of the Roses. Lately, I have tried my hand at making vignettes, as I think those really enliven the tabletop. The first one depicts two guys trying to repair a broken axle while their officer loses his nerves.

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The vignette will be useful for one of the random events from Sharp Practice, which is ‘A broken axle’ and means that your cart can’t move for 1D6 turns. However, I got the idea when I read my favorite wargaming book, Scenarios for all Ages by Grant and Asquith. There is one scenario which features a broken down railway engine and which sounds like fun. Now I don’t play any period that has railways, but why not make the objective a broken down cart?

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For the cart, I used a Magister Militium ammunitions cart I had lying around. The two lubbers trying to fix the wheel are Essex artillerists. The hot head is a disordered marker from Peter Pig’s Wars of the Roses range. I very much like this range, there are lots of original and expressive sculpts to be found.

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The other vignette is an addition to the farm stuff. I bought the small dunghill at TACTICA as it looked nice and I was certain to find a use for it. I had it lying around till now, as it looked kind of isolated and boring on its own. So I finally decided to stick it unto a base, add a pig and a peasant model and paint it up. Looks quite cute.

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Last but not least I stuck the beehives I got from Unit Models some time ago unto a bench made of matchsticks and painted them up. I thought about adding a bear that tries to steal the honey, but K. argued that this would be a little bit too much…

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Aaaah! Bees in my bonnet!

Pirates Ahoy!

With the fabulous pirate game on Crete still in mind, we decided to stage our own swashbuckling extravaganza. Of course, our table can’t compare with Jon’s and we use only six figures a side. But it’s always fun breaking out the crews and having a go with Genesha Games’ great Flashing Steel rules!

We set up a town scene and decided to generate the scenario with our secret mission system, where each of us draws a card which states his or her mission. As I had to get at least half of my crew across the table to the opposite edge, I positioned my shooty guys to cover the town square while the rest prepared to dash along the beach. This also meant that my shooters could cover the treasure in case K. wanted to get it.

Covering the square.
Covering the square.

The first couple of turns saw cautious advancing from both sides, coupled with some shooting. I have to say that my pirates aren’t any better than my Wars of the Roses handgonners when it comes to handling black powder weapons! There was a lot of smoke but no effect whatsoever.

Cornered!
Cornered!

When one of my crewsmembers got cornered by two enemy thugs, I had enough and charged. Brandishing his rapier, my captain headed for Sela, one of K.’s best figures. One round of melee later the brave pirate lay on the ground in his own blood while a grinning K. informed me that killing my captain had been her objective!

As this game was over in a much shorter time then we had expected, we decided to have a rematch. This time, my objective was to take out at least two thirds of the enemy crew. I set up almost exactly like last time, as I was still convinced that the plan to cover the square with the shooters was, in principle, a solid tactic. K. made no fuss and headed for the treasure in complete disregard of my shooty guys, which delivered their usual performance. So I also rushed forward and soon a series of melees erupted on the town square.

Trouble brewing in the town square.
Trouble brewing in the town square.

I managed to bring in my flanking boys from the beach while K. also directed her stragglers to the scene of action. I played quite aggressively and managed to kill off three of her guys, among them her best figure (the one who killed my captain during the last game!). But then her captain really got angry and cut down two of my crewmen in one go! Carrying the treasure chest, she moved back to get to her side. Things were getting close now.

Stop her, she's getting away!
Stop her, she’s getting away!

Soon K. had her captain one move away from her table edge. I had only two options: I could try to stop her by moving into melee with one of my figures – if he managed to get two actions. However, alone he wouldn’t last long in melee and it was quite probable that the captain would get away anyway. The other option was to try to fulfill my objective before K. could fulfill hers by killing off another of her crewmen. The only one in range, however, was Kaballah the Coloss, who, as his name suggests, is very strong in close combat. I rushed him with three figures but, in the end, didn’t manage to bring him down. Another victory for K., whose captain carried the treasure unopposed over her table edge.

Those were two quick, fun and exciting games! Flashing Steel is great as it gives fast games, which allows for the possibility to play more than one in an evening. For the next game though, I might modify my crew a bit: It seems that I should forget firearms and stick to pointy sticks.

Mad Mecha Guy Buildings

The 15mm sci fi project made me revise my verdict on MDF buildings. While I’m still not too keen on the medieval and dark ages versions I have seen, some of the sci fi structures are very nice. Of course the straight angles of metal or plasticoncrete or whatever fancy stuff they use in the future lend themselves better to modelling with the clean cut shapes of MDF than the rickety racks of peasant’s huts.

When browsing TMP, I came across an announcement for 15mm sci fi greenhouses by Mad Mecha Guy. As one of our game factions is a terraforming collective, I could immediately see a use for those. In fact, I had been thinking about building some myself! I contacted Joseph and ordered a set of greenhouses together with some walls. He was kind enough to include two smaller structures for free to give me a taste of his other buildings.

Indeed, Mad Mecha Guy offers a huge range of MDF structures in 15mm and 28mm. You can find barriers, roads and bridges, corridors, different types of modern and sci fi buildings. There are even barges and landing crafts! He also takes commission work if there are some peculiar things you want to have modelled.

The greenhouses have to be assembled, which is best done with PVA glue. There are no instructions, but by having a closer look at the photos on the website and using your common sense one can easily get an idea how the parts fit together. This may also be why I failed the first time. It is very important to dry-fit all the parts before glueing them together, as the side panels of the greenhouses have different sizes which only fit to their assigned positions!

Assembling the greenhouse.
Assembling the greenhouse.

However, I did succeed in the end and was quite pleased with the result. As usual, I gave them a good wash of thinned PVA glue before priming and painting. I also glued thin strips of balsa wood onto the base, drilled holes and attached some plastic plants. There are a lot of windows in the structures that I didn’t want to leave as holes, so I cut transparent sheets of plastic from packaging material and glued it inside the frames. I then glued the whole structure onto the base. One could of course make it removable, but with the plants inside there wouldn’t be space for figures anyway.

Security personnel guarding the greenhouses.
Security personnel guarding the greenhouses.
'Sorry Sir, no visitors allowed!'
‘Sorry Sir, no visitors allowed!’

The other two structures I got were also from the polygonal shelters range. One is a shop, which I want to convert into a bar but haven’t finished yet, the other is a warehouse. I painted it rather plain, but put on a chimney and a ladder just to add a bit of variety. This is one thing I have learnt about MDF buildings: They work much better if you treat them as foundations for your own embellishments. Adding stuff like ventilators, ladders, railings or antennas really makes them look much more lived in and removes the sometimes bland look of MDF.

The warehouse.
The warehouse.

I am very happy with Mad Mecha Guy’s buildings and can highly recommend them for modern or sci fi gaming. They look fantastic and can easily be converted for all sorts of purposes. And now let’s see if the security guys can keep the greenhouses save from my Quar!