Thoroughly buoyed up by our last Saga game, Rob and I immediately reset the table and moved on to another game. This time, it was the turn of the Carolingians to face off against those fearsome Anglo-Danes. Would they have the success of their Byzantine colleagues and be able to force the Kings of the Danelaw to accept imports of frogs legs and cheap plonk, or would they be shown the door with the flags of the Frankish Kingdoms trampled underfoot?
This would be the first outing for my Carolingian army, having been painted a good few months prior. Hopefully, the newly-painted model syndrome wouldn’t be too acute!
After a mild success in the previous game, I decided to switch up my army and conduct a more offensive battle this time. The Last Romans are great for ‘turtling’ and conducting a shooting battle but knowing Rob’s love of levy I had a fear I was going to be desperately outgunned in this game.
Looking at my new battleboard I noticed that the Carolingians are very manoeuvrable. Playing to that strength, I chocked the army full of cavalry! I took three points of Hearthguard (12 men), which I then split into two units of six. This is important as there are Carolingian abilities (tied to Proelium… more on that here) that affect a maximum of six models.
With that in mind, I also selected three points of warriors (24 men), split as follows: six on horses, eight with bows and 10 on foot with spears. This would give me the manoeuvrability of the mounted warriors and enable them to make the most of my battleboard’s abilities, as well as giving me some missile support. Adding the extra two models to the foot warriors unit should give me the advantage against Rob’s infantry, who he tends to field as eights.
With the plan made, it was time to deploy! A squishy centre of foot troops with cavalry detachments on the wings made sense, to make the most of my speed (and avoid my cavalry getting shot by the masses of levy). Having forsaken levy myself, I was vastly outnumbered. Once both sides were deployed, I was more than a little apprehensive..
Well, it was an interesting start to this game. I started off looking at the Carolingians, and had more than a few worries about such a large amount of cavalry. From the mounted archers in the Byzantine force, I knew how quickly they could cross the battlefield and cause problems for everyone there, so I was immediately wary. My main concern though, was getting enough fighting men into combat where they could do some damage.
I set up with the bulk of my close combat troops in the centre, with a unit of warriors on the right flank, and a unit of hearthguard on the left. Between the centre and the left flank, stood two units of levy, ready to pelt any enemies in range with rocks. If the last game was anything to go by, there were going to be a few levy-induced headaches by the end of the scrap.
I had to get the foot troops into combat. Everything relied on that, because without it, they would be butchered by a unit of archers and some high-speed horses.
Before the first turn, we rolled for the Random Event… and everyone on the Anglo-Danish side got a free activation in the first round! This made for some very worried Franks who were hoping for a bit more time to construct a battleline.
As the Danes steamed forward, I decided to see what I could do with my Proelium. Stacking it high (two dice locked in), I put all my eggs in one basket to hopefully deliver a devastating punch. To the left of my battleline was a unit of six Hearthguard facing off against one unit of warriors. With the odds in their favour they galloped towards them with the wind in their hair.
The warriors very wisely opted to close ranks (increasing their saving throws in return for halving their attacks) as the cavalry smashed into them. The Danes countered by using SHIELDWALL, which made it much harder for me to hit them. However, with judicious use of the ability FORTIS, which steals enemy attack dice (a number depending on your Proelium), and DOMINE which allows you to use an ability you have already triggered that turn (to use FORTIS again), the sneaky Franks stole all of the Danish attack dice and slaughtered five of them with no possibility of any damage in return!
This left the unit overexposed, so another ability was used to move them back into line without incurring any fatigue. That manoeuvrability seemed to be working for me! With the last act of the turn, the warrior archers let fly, dropping the two Danish warriors who had been shot down in the first turn of our last game, too!
Everyone gets a free activation? Looks like everything was coming up Anglo-Dane. I used this to surge forwards. The Warriors on the right flank moved just enough to be in range of the cavalry, while my central units of warriors, hearthguard and warlord movedthe full six inches, closing the gap between them and the enemy lines. My aim with both these moves was the hope that Adam’s cavalry would charge the warriors, and I could send the central foot troops into their flank on my next turn and wipe the floor with them.
The central unit of levy moved forward into range of the unit of warrior archers, and they let loose with the slings, killing two. The second unit of levy advanced into a small pond, which counted as difficult terrain. Anyone wanting to charge them would have to either use two moves and have fatigue when they reached combat, or pause for a turn and risk being charged by their accompanying heathguard – though in the last battle, the hearthguard would have died horribly no matter what happened…
In order to capitalise on the extra movement, I used the warlord’s ‘free activation’ on the warriors, and one of the activation dice to charged them straight into the archers.This was remarkably successful, and they killed all but three. It was revenge for the other unit of warriors, but it left them hopelessly exposed at the front.
I advanced a unit of hearthguard with them in an attempt to cause a little fear and give myself some comfort, but this left the warlord on his own in the field.
Well, I didn’t expect that! there were now lots of Danes in my battleline that needed removing. My archers were now next to useless, only getting two shots and generating no saga dice. I had also taken some casualties from shooting and was keen to stop the mass of levy wiping me off the board in the following turn.
With this in mind, I needed another sneaky plan. Enter the unit of Hearthguard from turn one, calmly sitting where they started…
First activation was to rest, I didn’t want Rob to be able to reduce my movement distance and stop my plan before it had even started.
Second activation was to hare forward at full speed. It looked like I was going to charge the last warriors and wipe them out. But no! Third activation was the ILLUSIO ability, which allows me to carry out a charge that generated no fatigue! The cavalry threw a handbreak turn and smashed into the rear of the fatigued- and probably rather surprised- levy.
Using the fatigue to make it easier to hit, I had 12 attacks against 12 levy, all hitting on 2+ !
Whilst the levy did manage to drag down two hearthguard, the heathguard slew nine in return, drastically reducing the number of shots I had to weather in the following round…
Oh my sweet, sweet levy. It was a bloodbath, and now the small vegetable garden they’d all been charging through was awash with blood and corpses. I hadn’t counted on the horses doing a hard right, and it left me with an almost useless unit of levy. It would be worth fatiguing the other unit to get the extra shots rather than wasting a die on them. With the unit mashed into insignificance, it meant that with both units of warriors and a unit of levy depleted, I was picking up only four ability dice.
The lack of dice would cause me unending problems, and I could smell defeat only a stones throw away. I needed to try something ridiculous. I rolled my dice, and picked up two helms. Winner! I placed one in ‘Lord of War’ which would both heal and increase the armour of my warlord if all else failed. I placed one die in Noble Lineage, the remaining helmet in the activation pool, and one so that my hearthguard or warlord could activate. Using the activation pool, I re-rolled two unused activation dice, thankfully rolling another helm. I placed this straight back in the activation pool, and added one die to my levy.
Not finished there, I used the activation pool helm, and rolled two more dice, gaining another helm – straight to the activation pool -, and another to activate my troops. I used the activation pool helm and rolled another two dice. My luck ran out, as I rolled two axes. Instead, I used Noble Lineage to change one axe to a helm, and used that to… you guessed it, roll another two dice. With seven activation dice now at my disposal, it was time for mayhem.
My warriors charged.
I was running out of troops fast and my remaining untouched Hearthguard unit had done nothing all game! Clearly these boys needed to be involved, so I used my multiple fatigueless-movement ability to bring them into the centre… I think this is the point where I lost the game. Had I thought about it, I could have used a different tactic and some manoeuvring which would have brought them into the centre whilst remaining safe. Alas it was not to be and the levy were soon to make them pay for their foolishness!
In the orders phase, I also allowed my desperation to show. I used the ability VIRES which allows me to re-roll all my Proelium dice. Without using this ability, those three dice are all locked away in this box and cannot by used to activate units. This could have been quite helpful earlier on but this time the dice forsook me, returning exactly the same results even with the re-roll. Still, I had freed up an extra dice as I only added two back into my Proelium box.
These dice allowed my warlord to keep up the good fight, pushing back the attacking warriors in spite of some dreadful rolling, whilst the injured hearthguard kept up the pressure from behind by standing around looking tough.
It was time for revenge! With the mounted troops just to their left, the warriors had to avenge their pals, and charged straight in.
They failed to do anything other than kill one of their own number, and was a thorough waste of an activation dice. As the two remaining warriors retreated, I vowed that they wouldn’t play another part in the battle.
Seeing the mounted hearthguard within range, the remaining full unit of levy decided to throw caution to the wind fire at them. As the Carolingians pulled DEFENSOR out of the bag they gained four defence dice in addition to their own. What they hadn’t banked on, was another dose of sling fire, as the levy used another activation to fire a second volley, battering them into submission.
There wasn’t a lot I could do here, the warlord had Carolingians behind him and to his right, now, so he had only one course of action he could take. It was time for a warlord off. He charged.
The combat didn’t go aswell as I’d hoped, and although I managed to take three fatigue off Adam’s warlord, he was still standing, and my warlord was now stood on his lonesome with little he could do other than grit his teeth and hope whatever came next didn’t hurt too much. With my remaining activations, I failed spectacularly at doing anything, other than possibly winning an award for terrible rolls.
Last throw of the dice here, I found myself down to two Saga dice with all the casualties that I had taken. Only one thing left to do, which was to kill the enemy Warlord and gather some last modicum of honour. I was under no illusion that even if I were to do this, then I would very soon be wiped out by the onlooking levy and Danish hearthguard units, who had suffered no casualties so far this game!
With this in mind, I first used my mounted warriors, who to this point had taken no part in the game, to charge the Warlord. They took advantage of the fact he was exhausted and so only got four (half his usual) attack dice. Still, he managed to kill three warriors before succumbing.
This left me with one foot warrior, three archer warriors and three cavalry warriors, and my exhausted warlord! Even if I survived the following turn I wouldn’t get another, as I was only generating one saga dice (the limit being two, or the game ends!). Therefore all that was left to do was see who survived to carry the news of my defeat back to the King of the Franks!
Boss? Boss? Anyone seen the boss? Warlord down! It was harrowing times, the warlord was down, the warriors were all but gone, and there were just two units generating activation dice now, the levy and the hearthguard. Regardless of any other possible outcomes, I HAD to do it. I had to give the levy their shot at glory. While the hearthguard could have made it into combat, the levy could stand back and lash rocks at the Carolingian warlord without worry. So they did.
With the levy hitting on a 4+, and the warlord saving from missile weapons on a 4+, it was roughly 50/50 of me hitting, then 50/50 of him saving. They slung (slinged?) as hard as they could, nailing the mounted warlord where he stood, and knocking him from his horse. The warlord was down, and Adam could no longer gain activation dice. The Anglo-Danes had pulled a victory out of the bag.
Wow, that was intense. When Adam’s cavalry charged down my unit of warriors and then nipped back to their own lines I could see a battlefield littered with Anglo-Dane dead and dying. I’d aimed for my central mass of close combat troops to cause some damage, but they succeeded in doing a lot more damage than anticipated, despite the carnage that Adam’s cavalry was inflicting behind them.
I learned a lot here. I was hoping that my use of terrain to almost shield the levy from any cavalry attacks, and, with the unit of hearthguard nearby, it worked like a dream. I felt that the hearthguard were a little wasted for a time, but it kept the levy alive and allowed them to shine once more.
Cavalry… well what can I say. They move quick, and with a full dose of Proelium they could mince an enemy unit and fall back without receiving a single attack against them. Swines! It looked like as the number of dice decreased on Adam’s battleboard, the more his troops suffered, while I had abilities like Noble Lineage which allowed me to change a dice, and the Activation Pool helm, which I could gain two more dice to help me along. This gave me the change to gain more dice than I otherwise would have, and the round where I went from four to seven dice was the turning point.
After the Byzantines missile weapons whittled away my forces in the previous game, I’d sworn to take them out in this game, and it paid off. No more did I have to worry about effective enemy fire picking off my troops as they advanced. This was also helped by the free activation in the first turn. What a blessing that was. It allowed for a swift advance and put me into combat early on, which helped secure a victory.
Levy… Oh sweet levy. Once again, they played a blinder, and they’ll be a constant in my force.
With the game over we shook hands and laughed at how it went, from appalling dice roles from me one moment, to the multiple bonus activation dice the next. Also the pros and cons of Proelium, which, on full dice, can do horrific damage to any army facing it, but later on with less dice seemed a bit of a hinderance. It was a great game though.
The warlord is dead, long live the levy.
What a game! What a change of fortunes! I must say, for the first two turns I felt very much in control. My speed and battleboard abilities focussed on manoeuvre meant I could strike at will. Had the second unit of Rob’s levy not had the foresight to get themselves into terrain, something cavalry hate, I imagine I could have used similar tactics on the other side too and at least prevented losing so many models to shooting.
However, once this unit got in range and could fire at will, I really started to suffer and I could feel the game slipping away. Levy are awesome! Rob’s inspired tactic in breaking my archer unit in his second turn also removed my own shooting ability and all my damage then had to be done in combat, which forced me even more onto the offensive.
Losing a saga dice so early was also painful. Unlike other saga factions, the Carolingians have no ‘orders pool’ where they can generate additional saga dice. This means that what you generate, you are stuck with!
Taking this game as an example, the Carolingians function best in the early game. As they start to take more casualties, Proelium becomes less of a banefit and more of a burden. By the last turn, with no dice in my Proelium pool, I had a grand total of three saga abilities I could use that would give any benefit (out of 10) and two of those would have cost me two saga dice.
I need to work on the interaction of VIRES and the Proelium pool, as locking away my Proelium dice turn-on-turn is definitely restrictive tactically. Knowing when to keep them in play and when to lock them away for bigger benefits probably only comes with practice, but that’s why these guys are one of the two ‘three star’ difficulty factions in the book!
I loved this game! I feel like I have learned how to play all over again as this faction works so differently to my Last Romans/Byzantines, and indeed any faction I have used I the last edition of Saga. Kudos to Rob and the Danes, I’ll get you next time!
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