The year is 871 A.D. and Alfred the Great was beginning to fight back against the invading Norsemen.
Olaf Glumrok and his war band of hardy Vikings are on the move to the next "to be plundered" village in Wessex when they find the path blocked by an imposing shield wall of Anglo-Saxons.
The Anglo-Saxons are a hastily-built mix of tough warriors and levy archers. Their commander, Wolfred the Ready, has resolved to block the advance of these Vikings who have been plundering their way deeper and deeper into Wessex. It was time to throw the marauders out and send them flying !
Wolfred's force is composed of 6 points in the SAGA system. There are 2 large, combined units of warriors (16 figures each; 2 points each), one levy archer unit made up of 12 figures, and one small hearthguard unit made up of 4 figures. Wolfred and his retinue are mounted. In order to block the Norsemen, the archers are deployed in the center and supported to the rear by the hearthguard unit. The 2 large units of warriors are placed on each flank of the archers. Wolfred's strategy is to hold his position firmly and force the Vikings to charge onto his shield walls. Because the Anglo-Saxons were holding their position, any battle board dice could then be used for special melee and shooting bonuses.
Olaf's war band of Vikings was composed of 4 units of warriors (8 figures and 1 point each) and one large combined unit of hearthguard (8 figures and 2 points). None of the Vikings were mounted. His plan was to focus the hearthguard warriors as a hammering attack on the right flank of the Anglo-Saxons. After the flank unit was crushed, the rest of the warriors would envelop and destroy these "farmers."
SAGA is a rules system that uses a battle board for activation of units and special bonuses for melee and shooting. Unique dice are rolled for each faction and then placed on the battle board prior to activating units. It is an easy, yet very subtle, system to spend a great 1-2 hours of wargaming.
The Norsemen advance toward the Anglo-Saxons
Turn 1 began as the Vikings advanced toward the silent shield wall of the Anglo-Saxons. As the Vikings approached within archery range, the Anglo-Saxon archers let loose. The Vikings prepared for this though and used the "Asgard" bonus on the battle board to raise their armor rating one level. There were no casualties.
On turn 2, the Vikings rolled poorly with their battle board dice and were unable to activate the reserve unit of warriors, which was left behind as the front line units advanced. Olaf had to stay to the rear in order to use his free activation for the reserve unit next turn. Also, the Anglo-Saxon archers rolled extremely well for the next volley of arrows, while the center Viking unit rolled incredibly poorly to save any hits. This unit took 4 hits (half of the unit). Not a great start for the Vikings.
The Viking center unit is reduced to just 4 figures due to the volley of arrows
Subsequent turns saw the Viking hearthguard charge onto the Anglo-Saxon shield wall on the Wessex right. Even with help from the adjacent Viking warriors, the Anglo-Saxons held and the hearthguard suffered unaffordable casualties. All of the Viking front line units charged forward, but the Anglo-Saxons used their extra dice for bonus melee dice. The only Viking success saw the center unit of warriors that had taken casualties from the archers; instead of moving to the rear, these toughened warriors charged straight ahead and cut through the archers, forcing them back with massive casualties.
Over and over, the Viking warrior units charged the Saxons. The men from Wessex stood firm though (except for the pitiful archers, who were out of their element in a sword fight with Vikings).
The Norse hearthguard unit charges into the shield wall
Fatigue and casualties begin to mount on both sides
As the battle raged, the Vikings took a rising toll of casualties. The Anglo-Saxons took their share of casualties as well, but their units were larger and could absorb them better. As Olaf made the decision to fall back, consolidate, and plan his next move, Wolfred went on the offensive in a counterattack. The Anglo-Saxon hearthguard charged the depleted Viking warriors on Wolfred's left flank, throwing the exhausted Vikings back. Across the line, the Anglo-Saxons moved forward to attack (with the exception of the feeble archers, who only had 2 figures left). Wolfred threw himself into the fight as well, charging the isolated Viking unit that had charged the archers. The Vikings fought to the death but were eliminated.
The Anglo-Saxon hearthguard unit furiously counterattacks
Wolfred himself mops up an isolated Viking warrior
In light of the Anglo-Saxon counterattack and in true Norse fashion, the Vikings attacked as well, succeeding in eliminating the small Anglo-Saxon hearthguard unit, but suffering many casualties in the process with the only fresh unit of warriors left (the reserve unit).
At this point, the battle was lost for the Vikings. They literally had no offensive power left, and the battle board dice was reduced to just 3 (instead of the original 6 at the battle's start). There just weren't many options left. Reluctantly, Olaf surrendered and the battle was over. The plundering was finally put to an end....at least for the moment.
Considered more of a "game" with historical flavor, SAGA is not really considered a strict simulation of Dark Ages conflict. In reality, this particular battle resulted in a very historic conclusion. The strength of the Anglo-Saxon battle board was to combine units into large masses and play defensively, while the Vikings' battle board favors going on the offensive and charging over and over. Therefore, proper strategy using the battle boards encourages to play each faction in a more historical fashion.
The Vikings used their offensive power and fiercely charged the Anglo-Saxons, who solidly stood and used defensive bonuses to cause attrition in the Norse ranks. When the time was right, the Anglo-Saxons went on the offensive and used the hearthguard unit to exploit any depleted Viking unit that got in its way. Olaf was heard muttering...."if I had only rolled the dice better.....til next time !"