sunnuntai 11. marraskuuta 2018

First go with Byzantines - review

Testing a new Battleboard from Saga Age of Crusades:

Byzantines vs. Saracens



I've been slowly painting some FireForge Games plastic Byzantines (see review here ) as an allied force for my Rus / Medieval Russian army, that I've been playing our Kingdoms in the East -campaign. As the November Saga Game Night at our Nopat & Taktiikka Club was closing in (I was organizing it), I decided to take a sprint in painting my Byzants and challenged Saracens to a fight.


Battle board

Then I started to study the battle board and it really caught my interest: a challenging board to play, but potentially devastating, when played in the right way - units clearly need to work in co-operation to get the best synergies; many abilities require or are boosted by other friendly units within 4".
As a downside, many abilities are pretty expensive: 3 of them require two Saga dice and only 3 can be activated with the common symbol. As the Warband also only has 1 warrior option: mounted with composite bows, one needs to have levies to bring some bodies and staying power to the field. As we know, levies can't be activated with common die symbol... What's most distinctive in this BB is the Domestikos ability:


So this would really help in getting the needed symbols for the abilities and for playing a levy-heavy  Warband. Then again, at least in the beginning of the game you would first need to "charge up" your board - this could give the initiative to the enemy. In future rounds you can always use one of the dice in Domestikos to Basileus:


And hence keep the Domestikos wheel turning, on a moderate speed at least.

So let's see how all this works!

My warband

I had to build my warband based on miniatures I had already painted / could finalise before the game. A build started to form in my mind... I'd only have one unit of mounted warriors available...

Minis from Footsore

And one shouldn't go overboard with levies due to dice economy...

Levies with shields and spears - just as good as warriors I think!

Levy archers

Plastics mainly from FireForge + some kitbashing

So with 3 points remaining I decided to go all HG... I do have both heavy cavalry
and Varangian Guard painted... this time I decided to go for 8 Varangian guards for 3 points.
In the game I split them to 1 unit of 4 with dane axes and 1 unit with hand weapons.

Minis mainly from Grippingbeast

The Enemy

Kalle fielded a Saracen force with 8 mounted HG, 2 units of mounted warriors with composite bows and one on foot and one unit of  levies with bows.



Scenario

While still waiting for the soon to be available Book of Battles, we played the standard scenario from the Saga rulebook. After the terrain was set, Kallah placed half of his force, then I deployed all of mine and then Kallah finished with the rest. All units had to be deployed at least  6" away from other units, which was annoying, considering my battle board and my battle plan...


Battle begins

Kallah started with 3 dice and redeployed couple of his units from left to right. 2nd edition manoeuvre rule came handy with limited Saga availability. 

Then he proceeded to advance in the right flank and middle


Horse archer unit (warriors) pushed aggressively forward in the extreme Saracen right flank



My counter moves were to move them spear bearing levies out of the woods and to pepper one of the riding warriors units with the Mixed Formation ability


My mounted warriors rode forth to punish the same unit even more and after this barrage 5/8 mounted saracens had fallen - huzzah!


My Warlord Genikos Nikodemus was also moving towards the left flank with Varangian Guard and archers following.



Round 2. Assault of the Saracen elite

 I guess my cavalry was too soft a target to resist and Sheik Kallah hurled his HG headlong into them!

Saracen elite punched through my warriors with ease, losing only one of their number... emboldened by this they continued their charge and crashed against my shieldwall. I closed ranks and increased my armour by spending the enemy's fatigue. Kalle rolled a bucketful of dice, but my my improved armour and saves left my levy unit unscathed! In return I managed to drop few of the enemy - in revenge of my slain warriors!


I then moved my Warlord and Varangians with dane axes next to my fighting levies to boost the Mixed formation ability


So more missiles rained down on the elite and their numbers kept dwindling, even if some excellent saves were made.

In the meanwhile I had sent my Varangian Guard to attack the other mounted warrior unit, whom had already been softened up by some arrows...
Enemy riders were driven of with just one warrior remaining. My elites had lost one of their number... Saracen warriors on foot counter attacked my elite and in a row of charges both my Varangians as well as enemy warriors were hacked to pieces.

Grande Finale

With very few Saracens left in the battlefield, it was time to deliver the final blow. First my Warlord, Genikos Nikodemus charged Kallah, but didn't quite manage to kill him, but left him exhausted. Then the honour of striking notorious Kallah down with a mighty hew of his dane axe!


Decisive VICTORY FOR BYZANT

CONLUSIONS

  • Byzantines faction battle board proved to be as effective as I hoped - even if the deployment hindered it's performance in the beginning.
  • My plan was hold and let the enemy come to me and Kallah played his part beautifully; his two cavalry units rushed forward - to be slaughtered, while the rest of his army was still quite far, for example his levy bowmen didn't really impact the game at all
  • In three rounds I had blunted his army badly - most importantly taken out his fast & shooty cavalry units, that could have (and should have) done hit and run attacks against me and I would have had a hard time catching them, as I didn't have any cavalry left
  • I'm not sure if sacrificing my horse archers was good or bad... they did help in taking out the first enemy horse archer unit, but losing them reduced my shooting badly... I guess his HG would have charged in anyway, but my cavalry unit sure was too much an easy picking to resist
  • Paying 3 points on 8 Varangians is another thing to re-think. Eventually it was one of them, that took out the enemy warlord, but even as good as they are, with the armour save six and all... they still felt like glass fist. I think they didn't earn their 3 points back this time. I'll probably try my heavy cavalry next time
  • Next time I will also have a unit of Crossbow armed levies (now I didn't have proper miniatures ready). That combined with Mixed formation should really scare cavalry heavy warbands
  • I guess Saracens weren't the hardest opposition against Byzantine, so I need to get more games under my belt before the next Saga Tournament at our club in January
Stay tuned for more Saga / Byzantine goodiness...


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