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The Ousebeck Ford, 1066


The Dark Ages, Saga, 28mm

Lately we seem to have been playing games in batches, with two games using the same rules a week apart. That’s so we can get a better handle on the rules. Thus we played another Saga game this week, a clash set in England between Norman and Norse invaders, a few weeks after Battle of Hastings. While historically this never happened, both my Vikings and Alan’s new Normans (bought from Jack Glanville) needed an airing. The Saga rulebook contains a “Battle for the Ford” scenario, with the forces separated by a river, passable only at two fords. The side with the most figures on the far bank after seven turns wins the game.

We played the game on a 6×4 foot table, but because of the fords much of this space was unused. So, we hid our “battle boards” behind screens of trees, and launched ourselves into the fray. We both had four point armies – which means we both chose two units of 4 elite “hearthguard” and 8 average “warriors”. The only difference was that the Norman hearthguard were mounted, and one of mine was made up of 4 frothing berserkers. Oh, and one of the two Norman warrior units was armed with crossbows.We diced to go first, and I won. I sent half my force towards each of the fords, with the berserkers leading the way towards the one crossed by “The Great North Road”. They were in mid stream when the Normans arrived, launching a cavalry charge boosted by a heap of juicy extra factors from Alan’s battle board. This gave him extra attack dice, and as a result my frothing beserkers were hacked to pieces, causing just one Norman casualty in return. Meanwhile the Norman crossbowmen moved up to cover the second ford, supported by the unit of Norman spearmen. The Norman warlord held himself back as a reserve, accompanied by his second unit of Norman knights.Then it was the turn of the Vikings to cause mayhem. My warriors charged into the ford, accompanied by my warlord – Sigurd the Stout, Jarl of Orkney, whose men soon dispatched the three Normans on the far bank. That meant the main ford was now in my hands. Over on the other smaller ford the Norman warlord Alain d’Birsay led his remaining knights across the river, and piled into my remaining unit of hearthguard. The Vikings were chopped to pieces, as again the Normans were aided by a judicious choice of extra factors on the battle board. One of them even caused a casualty before I’d even begun to fight. The knights lost one rider though, but held the second ford, faced only by a Viking warrior unit who kept its distance. Actually that distance wasn’t enough, as they’d been taking steady casualties from the Norman crossbows, who took advantage of another battle board factor – a doubling of their range.Throwing caution to the wind Jarl Sigurd led his Bondi warriors along the far bank of the river, heading towards the rear of the Normans. The crossbowmen moved piosition, to get in a position to shoot the Jarl’s men before they got any closer. Unfortunately for them the Vikings struck first (as I won the initiative roll), and moved fast across the table, boosted by the battle board which relieved the men of fatigue, and gave them multiple moves. They crashed into the archers, and chopped them up, leaving just two survivors who fled for the cover of the nearest wood. So, it was still all to play for. Alan sent in his spearmen, but they were halted by the Vikings. However, by the end of a particularly vicious combat both sides had only two figures left – on the Viking side this meant the Jarl and one sole warrior.Seizing his chance Alain d’Bisray charged the Jarl with his remaining unit of Norman knights. The Jarl went down hard, taking one more knight with him. By now I’d learned to respect the Norman cavalry, and their ability to boost their charges using the battle boards! So, by the close of the game the Normans had three shattered rumps of units, each with just a couple of figures in them. However, they also had their warlord, while the Vikings just had a solitary unit of Bondi warriors left in play, standing in front of the second ford. We ended the game there, as we’d reached the end of the seventh turn.Technically the game was a draw, as neither side had figures on the enemy side of the river. However, having lost their Jarl, there wouldn’t be any celebrating around the fires in the Viking camp that evening! The rules worked well, and while we’ve both got a handle on the basic mechanics, making best use of the battle boards and Saga dice is something that’ll take a few more games to perfect.

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