Wait, what did I just say? The Saxons are back? Oh, shit!!!
Yes, almost exactly a year after last Saxon raid, H. apparently run out of cow meat and decided to return to the British coast to have another go at it. This time around his goal was a church conveniently located near the coast. Even more conveniently, the church in question was fully stocked with enough loot to justify the travel expenses for H.’s merry Saxon band.
The initial setup
Gods certainly smiled at H. during the generation of the field and initial dispositions. The church was placed in the middle of the board, while entry point of my brave Britons was decided by a dice roll to be on the exactly opposite side of that of Saxon entry point. If that wasn’t enough, the raiding Saxon party obviously arrived without being noticed and was given three movement rounds before I was allowed to make an appearance with my vanguard force.
All said and done, this one seemed like a Saxon cakewalk.
H. didn’t waste any time and rushed in the direction of the church at full speed. Two of his units accompanied by a leader barged into the church, giving the resident priest barely enough time to grab the crucifix of the wall and make his getaway. The rest of H.’s band decided to wait outside and keep watch for the inevitable arrival of local Briton response team.
In my first turn I was allowed to deploy only three out of six of my bands and opted for leaving the peasants behind. Thus, my hearthguard and warrior bands became the first wave, while the levy brought up the rear. The warriors moved very quickly… as it turned out, some of them were too quick for their own good. Unwisely, my two warrior groups rushed ahead of the hearthguard elites (not very odd if you think about it, chainmail isn’t made by Nike!) and had barely time to set up a shieldwall (very nice card!) before they were jumped by H.’s horde of elite troopers. The fight was brief, but decisive nonetheless – five out of my twelve warriors were unceremoniously butchered before the rest broke rank and scurried away, followed by scornful Saxon yells. Round one of the contest went without a shadow of a doubt to H.
Things were about to get worse as my peasants froze in their tracks by the sight of a single group of Saxon warriors appearing in front of them. I had the advantage of numbers, but peasant levies are really like lambs being led to the slaughter when confronted by better troops. Having already suffered five casualties, I was unwilling to take any chances and a confidence-busting shieldwall was promptly set up. This act gave my peeps decent protection, but also effectively immobilized them as levies in sheldwall can only move 1D6 inches and only straight forward. In other words, my force was now split in two!
By the same time my decimated warriors found their way back to my hearthguard group and formed another shieldwall. This formation then proceeded advancing toward the Saxon horde in front of them, me fully intending to charge the enemy as soon as I was close enough. H. would however have none of it. With peasants cowering behind their shields, he swiftly moved the group that threatened them into perfect position for a flanking attack in case I would engage his main host. In response, I broke up my formation and rushed toward the H.’s flanking group with my hearthguard warriors. Imagine what… the sneaky git played a card of his own, allowing his exposed rabble to scurry away all the way back to his main group of warriors!
In next turn the starring match was resumed – H.’s force consisting of his chief, another leader and fifteen warriors vs. my host of chief, another leader and eleven warriors. Numerical advantage was at H.’s side. Furthermore, I had blown my card hand in previous rush. On the other hand, my guys were protected by their shieldwall. Saxon standoff, anyone?
While the events above took place, the Saxons in the church frenetically looked for the loot and apparently couldn’t find anything even remotely shiny! The condition for finding the loot were two rolls of six on three dices they had available to them (one dice each for two groups and one for the leader. Five rounds into the search… not a single six was rolled. Then… boom… first one, then another result of six and the Saxons were good to go back home.
Personally I was more than ready to say ‘Good riddance and may your boat leak like a sieve’ at that point – the cost of breaking through the mass of warriors in front of me seemed to high. H. could have made clean getaway, but the temptation of superior numbers must have been too much for him. Even as his looting party run away with the booty, he charged my formation… and was soundly repulsed. Strength of the shieldwall proved its superiority yet again and the Saxons bounced back, leaving three of their comrades dead on the field.
This proved to be enough excitement even for H. and we agreed to call it a day.
And so, the Saxons won again, giving H. enough hard cash to pay off his boss and advance on Saxon social ladder if he chooses to do so. Perhaps even more importantly, the bastard is becoming famous and will have two additional warriors in his next visit to Britain.
I should have slaughtered his host when I had a chance. Luckily there is always the ‘next time’!
Musings after the battle
Two note-worthy observations; First of all, this game was perhaps the most smooth-flowing and ‘logical’ I have ever played in all my wargaming years. The rules are rock-solid, simple to understand, easy to remember and very clear in most circumstances. This in turn allowed us to play in extremely rational manner. Both H. and I constantly evaluated pros and cons before committing to violence, which is a phenomenon I haven’t seen in many games.
Second, and I guess it’s a repetition of my previous opinion – the campaign setting makes all the difference. Both H. and I agreed in the opinion that if it weren’t for the possible future consequences, we would not hesitate to try to beat each other into pulp. But since the consequences of a defeat carry a potentially disastrous penalties, both of us acted much more carefully than we’d do in a ‘one off’ scenario.