Friday, 29 April 2016

A tale of 3 gamers - no apologies for ripping off the title!!!

Hi all

as I stated above i refuse to apologise for ripping off the title from a series of articles published by White Dwarf magazine (back when it was good) titled "A tale of Four Gamers".  The articles took the reader through the construction of Warhammer Fantasy battle armies, the purchasing and painting of, by 4 Games Workshop employees.
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So what? you may be thinking. Well prior to this year's Salute I had received numerous texts/emails from my gaming buddy Rich about embarking on some kind of new project.  now it has to be said that Rich is the ultimate gaming butterfly, fluttering from project to project, seldom completing many (if any at all!) and encouraging me to collect the armies/factions and spending my hard earned cash on shelf fillers and dust collecters. Because of this I was dubious, added to this he wanted to involve Chris into his latest reckless venture who was in the midst of spending a fortune on Napoleonic wargaming.

Many ideas for projects were bandied about by the Richster - English Civil War, American Civil War, Team Yankee were all thrown into the mix and in desperation I managed to stave off the pressure by persuading Rich to wait till Salute to see if anything jumped out at us.

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Fast forward to Salute and the "Nerd Herd" (our group name :-) ) descend on the largest wargaming show in Europe and start to play some Demo games, wander the stalls and generally mooch about, when we land up at the Gripping Beast stall and the many SAGA playable games and let me just say - WE HAD FOUND OUR PROJECT!!!  SAGA for those that don't know, is a skirmish game set in the Dark Ages around the time of the Viking raids and up to 1066  with the Norman Invasion. We all purchased the main rule book and decided on a faction each, with Rich and myself buying some figures there and then and with Chris holding fire until he could have a good look around.

So to the title of this post then.  We decided, mostly to motivate young Richard to keep going, but also because we were for once starting at the same time to make the project into a blog project with our thoughts on purchases and painting and all that good stuff published right here on da Gobbo's Grotto.  Rich wanted to base the warbands around the Norman Conquest, which was fine by me as it is a part of the Dark Ages that I'm particularly fascinated with. Unlike the original article, there is no monthly budgets, we don't have to use only Gripping Beast figures or any of that other restrictive nonsense.  We can buy all of the figures at once or in drips and drabs but we do have to complete (fully painted and based) a unit of troops every fortnight. The total army cost will be 6 points meaning that the project should be finished in 3 months. Because Chris hadn't purchased any models we decided that the first deadline (i.e today!) would just be an introduction and background "fluff" for our factions.  In two weeks we would show our first completed models.....

Andy's Faction

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not my models! taken from northstar miniatures website
I knew exactly who I wanted to collect right from the get go - The Anglo-Danish.  I'm a massive fan of Bernard Cornwell's books in general and the "Warrior Chronicles" in particular and the main protagonist of the books - Uthred of Bebbenburg is awesome, the Northumbrian noble raised by Danes who fought for Wessex....
My warband would be as hard hitting as I could make it focused around a core of hurscarls, the well armoured professional soldiers used by Anglo-Danish kings to enforce law, collect taxes and act as personal bodyguards in battle.  I would have 12 I think either 3 units of 4 or 2 of 6, one or two units would carry the deadly "Dane Axe" a large two handed weapon capable of cutting a horses head off in one strike (so legend tells us...) and the other armed with assorted hand weapons. In addition i would have 2 units of Ceorls (warriors) to pin units in place and soak up any missle fire.  Finally a single unit of Geburs (Levies) to provide a little ranged capability, im not too worried about losing the levies in battle as they don't generate SAGA dice. My warlord is based very loosely on the notorious pagan, although later than the setting for the books which were around Alfred the Great's unification of England. I wanted my hero to be a pagan stuck in a Christian world, frustrated and angry at the situation he finds himself in. Unlike Uthred who was from the North East, Waelwulf (Wolf Slaughter) is from Canwareburh (Canterbury) in the South East and the kingdom of Kent.  Here's my "fluff"

Waelwulf the Fierce scowled as the muffled sounds of dirge-like hymns drifted over to him from the huge building that dominated Cantwareburh. The fortified capital of the Kingdom of Kent was the seat of Earl Leofwine, brother of Harold II, newly made "King of England".  Although ostensibly under the rule of Wessex, Kent was still fiercely independent, that said the church and in particular the Archbishop of Cantwareburh held vast power in the town and its surrounding areas and was the real power behind the throne. 

A pagan in the most pious part of England, Waelwulf faced no end of frustration as decisions were prayed over, action was prayed over, in fact every little bastard thing was prayed over, at length and at volume and by everyone, or so it seemed. Urgent decisions and swift action was desperately needed now though, Northmen were raiding vast tracts of the south east, rumours of a Viking army gathering in Northumbria and rumblings of an imminent invasion from William the bastard of Normandy.

Storm clouds were gathering across the breadth of England since the death of Edward the Confessor and these fools were praying for deliverance instead of re-calling the Fyrd!  Waelwulf snorted in contempt, the pompous turds looked down on him and his warriors, preferring to ignore the need for steel until the enemy were at the gates, then and only then was he and his brothers tolerated.  Let them pray away the pagan Norse, Waelwulf and his hurscarls would rely on more earthly means. Looking across the courtyard at his burly, mail clad retainers lounging in the weak spring sunshine, quaffing ale from clay pots and drowning out the strained singing from the church with bawdy songs about a farmers daughter, Waelwulf knew where he would place his trust.  Striding across the yard in quick steps he snatched a pot from Edgar, his second in command and drained the ale in two mighty drafts wiping the dripping foam from his beard.

“Drink up boys” he called out to his hurscarl “once the dress wearing boy fondlers are finished imploring the Almighty for aid, they'll soon look to us to save their silver!”

Chris's Faction

Having seen Saga being played at Salute this year the faction to choose was for me really a no brainer. Vikings!!!
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yep, they look violent....
Intimidate, charge, bash heads in then jump up and down on the dead whilst quaffing (yes it's an art form) copious amounts of ale.....not lager. Actually that's highly simplistic but I like it. I've always been fascinated with Norse mythology since I was a child...I demanded a Viking longship as a birthday cake for my 6th birthday...and my mum bless her rose to the occasion.....lollipops for oars...brilliant. My love of the Norse continues, in both literature and in my music tastes (Amon Amarth \m/) and their culture and past permeates through our land, Europe and even America today. Would LOTR (the book) have been so epic without Norse inspiration and Tolkiens love of Norse mythology. To go berserk ....who hasn't heard of the Norse berserkers and their shield wall crushing exploits. William of Normandy.....Normandy...North Mans land. The Waffen-SS used Norse runes as divisional symbols. Nordland, Wiking and their sun wheel insignia, the twin SS sig runes - the old Norse runes for victory (still used by US SEAL snipers).
So I guess there's just a frustrated Viking somewhere in me and yes I am partial to quaffing, I've just missed out on the whole pillaging thing.
I also love the whole idea of shield walls, don't know why, I just do. Weird.
So how to use Vikings in Saga....a skirmish game where shield walls are irrelevant. Well firstly no archers so no Levy troops.The bow was mainly a hunting weapon and girly Normans use bows as well as riding around on the post fight feast. Real men put an axe through your head. So it's going to be small in numbers but very, very hard hitting.....maybe.
I am aiming to total between 6-8 points. The core will be mail armoured Heathguard (Hirdmen). One or two units units 4-8 strong depending on points. If Heros are used and I choose Hardrada then will upgrade one of these to Varangarian Guard with Dane axes. (Why Dane axes aren't allowed in normal Viking lists is a point for debate and only fault I have with Saga so far).
Berserkers are a must....vulnerable but so hard hitting. Two to three units of Warriors (Bondi) 8-12 strong, again points depending and of course the Warlord, the boss, the Jarl.......

The Legend of Jarl Ingulf Thornisson Hammer of the North

Jarl Ingulf braced himself against the heavy swell at the dragon headed prow of his longship. Seemingly impervious to the lashing rain and biting wind, as motionless as a statue always staring forward for hours on end, staring into the blackness ahead. Beside him and to his right, shivering imperceptibly in the wind stood another younger man, long blond platted hair whipping in the wind. Too long in the Levant, too long in Byzantium had left him weakened to the rigours of an autumnal sea crossing. He was one of Hardrada's men, a Varangarian, the Norse bodyguards of the Byzantine Emperors. Educated, fluent in Latin and Greek and the only Christian on the sleek, black longboat. He steadied himself, shifting his footing slightly and holding onto the head of his great axe with both hands and pushing it onto the slippery wet decking that little more firmly.
A sudden coughing spasm ripped through the Jarl, wracking the huge failing body into spasms. "Father" spoke the younger man, respect and fear trembling in his voice, he didn't dare reach to support the older man. The spasm subsided......but not the trickle of blood seeping out of the corner of his mouth and into the great beard, a beard not yet fully grey. A peel of thunder echoed across the sky. "The Valkyrie do not ride ...tonight belongs to Odin." The younger man smiled, he knew better than to become embroiled in theological debate with his father. His father, last of the Pagan Jarls, clinging to the old ways that were disappearing as quickly as his strength. Exiled across the Baltic with his retainers. Only his sons return and the chance of one last raid on the land of the Angles had brought him back. Only his sons friendship with Hardrada had allowed the Jarl to partake in Hadradas conquest of Angleland. One last raid, one last chance to die in the old way at the head of his men and eternal feasting in Valhalla. Even the younger man would rather see his father die in battle, not devoured from inside by disease. Perhaps some things from the old ways were right.
"Jarl....drink this". Only Olaf the Ugly could speak to the Jarl so informally. The sweet aroma of the horn of warm mead and milk smelt warming and invigorating......"Make your own Christian" snarled Olaf, drool and pus dribbling from his shattered face and rotten toothless mouth. No matter what substances they took, no matter how impervious to wounds and pain they were, a shield hub in the face left its scars and some wounds would never heal. Olaf and his three companions, last of the berserkers in his fathers retinue. Maybe the last in the lands of the Norse since the cult was outlawed fifty years ago. The Jarls son stepped back, the smell emanating from Olafs mouth, was still the most offensive he'd experienced since the slave pits of Byzantium. Olaf attempted to grin, but his shattered face did nothing more than spread a rictus of pestilence across his face. How he managed to form words was beyond comprehension.
"There" shouted the Jarl..."there.....a Odin and Thor I can still find my course!" Imperceptibly the rowers began to pick up the pace, the longships sleek shape slicing through the waves, leaving the storm behind them. Before dawn they would land south of Lindisfarne and behind Harold's army. Then the Jarl and his men would unleash the fury of the Northmen in a trail of endless blood, destruction and fire. Then Harold would come and when he came the Jarl would die and so would his men. But the Jarl would die with axe and shield in hand. But one would live, his son and he would write the final Saga of Jarl Ingulf Thornisson the Hammer of the North.

Richard's Faction

Saga is a game I have been keen to try for a long time, but as Andy will tell you I have always had so many games buzzing round in my head to try, it never quite made the cut. However with the three of us recently visiting Salute at Excel it gave us the opportunity to all commit to a new project and Saga was the one we settled on. There were a few reasons for this, firstly it’s a period of History the three of us are interested in and also due to the fact it can be played to its full without a huge investment in figures. This means that the two resources we all have the least of, namely money and time were less of a consideration than would have been for other games.

So with the decision made to make Saga our tale of three gamers project the next choice was which factions to pick. Fortunately there were no arguments and we all had a different idea of who we wanted to focus on. My choice were the Normans, an easy decision for me as they combine the two elements of an army that have always suited the way I like to play, namely shoot from a far to thin the ranks then mop up with the Cavalry.

Loads of Normans (sorry Rich)

Having now read through the rules I have been pleasantly surprised with its simplicity and surprising amount of tactical flexibility due to the unique game boards that accompany each army. These boards reflect the different factions unique abilities and by rolling faction specific dice you can choose which skills and tactics to deploy each turn.
My experience in skirmish style games is limited, being Lord of the rings and bolt action. What I enjoy about both of these games are the unique elements of each, these are might fate and will in LOTR and the unique turn activation sequence in BA, so another unique game system like saga will I am sure lead to some enjoyable games.

Image result for the normansSo now all I have to do is paint my first army ( you can stop laughing Andy and Chris I will hit the deadlines!!) My army consists of four units, my Warlord, my mounted knights some crossbows and Archers. I will of course keep you up to date with some pictures of my progress.

Now men it is time to prepare the great invasion of England. The crown will be ours!

Richard – nerd4life

Hugh Fitz Baldric surveyed the scene, the bile in his mouth still tasted of the sea after his uncomfortable voyage from the Norman shores. Long sandy beaches stretched out in front of him almost a vision of his long forgotten and brief childhood, had it not been for the English drizzle and gusting driving winds he could have been at home hiding in the dunes from his father.

The youngest son of a Baron, Hugh was used to being a disappointment but this time it was different, this time he was in control of his destiny. He had borrowed a small fortune to escape from his family’s yolk. No longer was he destined for some low born marriage and small holding, this time he was a free man. His father had been furious of course although the old mans fury didn’t fill the adult Hugh with the same fear he had known from that snarling beast he had ran from as a child. The old man was dying and his elder brothers were scrambling for his fortune. Hugh knew that what ever was to come his way would have set him to a course he could not face and Hugh was not going to be told what to do anymore.

The money lenders in Caen had been only to happy to finance his expedition, the Dukes Invasion plans were no secret and the greedy old men were fighting over themselves to get a piece of the likely fortune that would return to Normandy after the Duke had stripped the English land bare. The Bastard Harold, the pretender, the false king would pay and every subject would pay dearly too for accepting an imposter when the rightful King, for everyone knew the Duke had been promised the English crown, would pay dearly many with their lives.

Hugh had worked tirelessly for this moment he had to pay to join the invasion force for he had not been invited, but the Dukes staff had been happy to accept him when he arrived at the port with a boat and most importantly 30 men ready to fight. At least ready to take the coin Hugh had given them and the promise of a share of English spoil. Two of the fools had got themselves completely drunk and fallen over the side on the journey although Hugh had been happy to let the rumour grow that he had thrown the no good scum into the churning sea. A little fear of his temper would help him gain respect and his men seemed to hold no grudge for what they believed. In fact they seemed to admire him more for it. Hugh knew at that moment that fear of him would inspire loyalty in his men, perhaps that was what his father hoped he would achieve when he beat his sons day after day for the slightest reason. His brothers seemed to love the old fool, but in Hugh raged a bitter hatred that no ailment could sooth.

And so the day had come. As he stood on the English sands with his men at his back he had never felt so powerful and so free even the fear of banishment or even death back in Normandy should he not make his first interest instalment in time held no fear in his mind. Hugh Fitz Baldric was a man on a mission a mission given to him by  William the Duke of Normandy and he wasn’t about to fail his liege lord. He was to advance with his retainer in land scouting for Saxon scum. The Normans knew the Saxon army was in the North dealing with the even more villainous Vikings and the Duke knew he needed a quick engagement with Harold before supplies ran low or worse his army became distracted. He needed to face Harold soon and to do so he needed to ensure the Bastard King marched quickly to face him. So as he spoke to his men before they embarked four nights before now the Duke had laid out his plans to burn every village and kill every Saxon man that they encountered. He needed Harold to be angry he Needed Harold to march to the south and face him. William was too canny to exhaust his men chasing Harold’s army around terrain they had no knowledge of. He needed the pretender to face him before his rag tag army lost motivation or worse he couldn’t afford to pay them any more. The Duke had risked everything on this invasion and Hugh admired that greatly. They had never spoken in fact Hugh had got no closer than 50 paces from the Duke but in his heart he knew they were men of equal measure. But for the great random nature of birth Hugh would be in the Dukes retainer. This position was filled by his arrogant brother Peter a man in Hugh’s opinion of about as much morale standing as a piece of turd. Yet he held the Dukes ear and Hugh did not.

“Give it time” Hugh muttered to himself, he was sure, never had anyone been more sure, Hugh knew he would rise to his rightful position. Between gritted teeth the words “Hugh Fitz Baldrick, Baron of England” were formed. He marched forward waiving his men on as he spoke to himself. No man had ever been more sure of his future. The game was afoot.

“There men the church steeple ahead, that is our prize tonight, on me and stay alert these Saxon scum are treacherous sons of whores! Tonight we dine on their flesh and sleep with their women. Onward to glory!”

So this is the start of our new project hope you have enjoyed it so far, next time we bring you some of the models...