Leofric of Glastonbury, The Book of Days, Spring 1068
"Deliver us, O Lord, from the fury of the Northmen!" wrote the blessed monks of Holy Lindisfarne, and yet more than two centuries later they still plague our shores!
Only a few days ago did several of their longships draw up on the coast of northern Somerset to spill forth the pagans. The first of our villages to feel their wrath was Swyneford; the only survivors were those carried back to ships. Every other man, woman and beast were butchered and their corpses defiled. Other villages suffered a similar fate, but forewarned by the columns of smoke from burning thatch, many of our people were able to flee to safety - thank the Lord!
Be it known that those who carry good Saxon spears and swords were not slow to come to the defence of our borders. The faithful Ealdorman, Aethelwold of Byrnsege, battle brother to Eorl Hrothgar Godwinson, gathered his housecarls and raised the fyrd. Barely had he gathered his strength than the northmen fell upon the village of Byrnsege. Perhaps in their lust for gold and slaves they did not expect to be met with stout spears and even stouter hearts!
But the tale of that day is full of woe! Aethelwold ordered many of the villagers to flee in to the woods, taking with them the relics of St Agnes the Wise, fully three feathers from the Dove that brought the olive branch to Noah. Yet they are as white as any new-plucked feather! Truly they are a wonder to behold!
Then those who could bear arms, from the most fearsome Housecarl to the most humble shepherd boy carrying nought but a sling and handful of stones, were arrayed to defend Byrnsege. At first the fighting, though fierce and terrible, went in favour of the brave Aethelwold. Even the Danish leader, Snorri Ragnarsson felt the edge of Aethelwold's blade, though he did not perish. But as the fight ground on the ferocity of the Danes proved the greater. Farmers and simple village folk are no match for bloodthirsty pagan beserkers. Aethelwold fell to the enemy blades alongside many of his most trusted warriors. The few surviving villagers fled leaving the village to the Danes. Yet the invader had paid a terrible price in blood and slaughter to capture their prize.
Even now messengers are crossing the country, at the behest of Eorl Hrothgar, summoning warriors and the fyrd, so as to drive the pagans back in to the sea. Aethelwold's brave sacrifice, may he rest with the angels, has given the Eorl enough time to muster a most formidable army. Praise the Lord for the victory to come!
Yes, the Northmen have arrived (again) and I can assure you dear reader, they are absolutely furious!
Continuing with the Three Kingdoms campaign, my wife decided to dust off the her longboats and head across the North Sea and round to the Severn estuary for a spot of pillaging. After all, with the population in revolt against their Norman oppressor, is was an opportunity that no self respecting Dane could miss out on!
As a prelude to a larger game of War & Conquest, we played the SAGA scenario "Homeland", where a smaller force of Saxons would defend their village against a marauding horde of hairy Vikings.
I had 5 points as follows
- Warlord - Aethelwold of Byrnsege
- 12 Huscarls (Hearthguard, 3 points)
- 8 Ceorls (Warriors, 1 point)
- 12 Geburs (Levy, 1 point)
The Viking raiders were 6 points
- Warlord - Snorri Ragnarsson
- 16 Hirdmen (Hearthguard, 4 points)
- 16 Bondi (Warriors, 2 points)
The brave Saxons of Byrnsege ... Hurrah!
The pesky Danes ... Boo! ;o)
After turn 1. As you can see the Vikings are not wasting any time closing in on the village. Amazingly, my Levy actually managed to kill a Hirdmen. Something they repeated several times during the battle - I knew they'd be useful ... eventually!
A closer pic of the Warlords and their retinues facing off across the village track.
Ouch! The end of turn 3 and there has been plenty of action in the centre of the field. The Viking Hirdmen accompanying Snorri have been slaughtered, though only a few Saxon Huscarls are left. The Bondi have also been rather battered. Both Warlords are fatigued (the wounded markers) after an heroic but inconclusive fight.
In this game we both seemed to make better use of our battle board abilities. Me, to add fatigue to the Vikings, Jenny, to shake off the fatigue and still fight ferociously.
In the pic above you can see that the Hirdmen near the church have been further whittled down by some fairly good shooting from the Saxon levies. Well done lads! Extra turnips all round .. if you survive the battle.
On the right there had been rather less action, with Hird and Bondi readying themselves to take on the Ceorls and Huscarls holding the buildings.
More shooting from the levies reduced the Hirdmen's numbers further still.
The next two turns saw some particularly fierce fighting, and some good use of both our boards/abilities. So much concentration was required that I forgot to take any more more pics until the end of the game! Aethelwold fell to a group of Hirdmen, having first lost his accompanying Huscarls to a frenzy of axe-work from Snorri (in SAGA, if a Warlord is wounded but has Warriors or Hearthguard within 2" then they can 'absorb' the wounds instead. After all no true warrior would see his Lord injured if he could prevent it!).
In the penultimate turn I had only a few Levies and 2 Huscarls left which meant only 2 SAGA dice for me. The resulting roll meant that if I'd have had my wits about me then I could have advanced the few Levy into the Church and stood a good chance of winning the game! But instead I took the fight to the few Vikings left on the table. Doh!?
In the final turn only Snorri remained to chase off the Saxon levy. They tried shooting but inflicted only one wound (in SAGA, a Warlord can only be slain if he suffers two consecutive unsaved wounds). He closed in on them, slaughtering as many as he could reach with his mighty axe.
And with that, the dust settled on what was an absolutely superb game of SAGA. Possibly one of the best ever games. A closely fought contest that could have gone either way, and came down to almost the last dice roll of the game.
Rest assured that Eorl Hrothgar Godwinson will summon his men and defeat the Danes in glorious battle!