Pulp Alley Dark Truths

This is part of chapter 2 in the ‘Tomb of the Serpent’ campaign.  I trotted out the same league as in my last report and played solo against the depicable cultists.  This scenario is set in a warehouse so I used some old GW floorplans from Dungeon Bowl and set up crates and such as perilous areas and plot points (the 3 smaller models).  The blacked off areas of the board are impenetrable stacks of filled sacks.  There is no penalty to open doors beyond being the only way to get into certain rooms.

The cultist ensemble can be seen at the bottom of the image.  One horrfiying resurrected priest, 3 middling cultists and 3 sets of gang members.  The 5 strong gangs are close to useless for fighting or solving plot points.  In a heavily built up locale such as this they were incredibly useful in spreading out and making it hard for the good guys to get to the plot points.  The scenario was played in dim light so sight was limited to 12″.  I also forgot that failing to solve a plot point does not cause a health check.  This failure saw several weaker cultist members seemingly wander off when they failed their test.  It was dark, possibly dangerous, they probably sneaked off home for an early night. In the image the 2 characters on the board are plot points as well as the 2 piles of ‘stuff’ in the orange and blue rooms and finally the pile of crates closest to the bottom edge with a green marker on it.


The key to this scenario is that there are 5 plot points but one is a trap and another is a red herring that vanishes when solved.  When a plot point is solved a reward card is drawn and the game begins with a stack of 7 reward cards.  This does not include an additional reward card that will become the artifact that both sides are looking for.  When the first plot point is solved and its reward issued the major reward card is then shuffled in.  So we know that the first plot point solved will not be the artifact.  There is also a chance that the artifact will not show up at all in this game.  No hostile action is allowed for the first 3 turns of the (6 turn) game, this will not prevent running around and trying to solve plot points.  In this playthrough a card forbade any combat on turn 4 as well so there was very little fighting throughout the whole game.

With only 4 figures compared to 8 cultist units our heroes were on the back foot when covering ground.  The situation became worse when our trusty native guide (Mazumbo) tripped and hurt himself on turn 1 leaving just 3 characters to solve 5 plot points.


Two cultists and Charles Horton, our leader, attempt to attract the attention of the warehouse guard.  Another clue might be found in amongst the chests in the blue room behind.


Classic blocking tactics by a cultist mob enable the robed cultist to move up on the chests unopposed and inspect them.  He fluffs it and in a case of getting the rules wrong sneaks off home.  In a solitaire game both sides are facing the same incorrect penalties so this should not affect the overall result.


Our hero gets some useful information from the guard but not enough to track down the artifact yet.  The cultists check out the room behind but later found this to be a red herring.


Captain John interviews another warehouse official but neither does he know where the artifact is.  I have had NPC plot points being dragged along by their new owner when they are solved.  Willingly in the case of the good guys and literally with anyone else.


Mary Williams attempts to inspect the crates are foiled by the impolite crowds who always seem to be blocking her way.


The crates in the yellow room might be useful.  There is a race to get there.  The cultist priest gets in first, he shoots, he scores, its all over.


Unaware of this our hero makes a bee line to the final artifact.  We have already opened some cases in the stack (1 out of 2 successes passed) but we hear police whistles outside (end of turn 6) and have to get out of here before they show up.  We learn that the cultists have got away with something and that we are empty handed.



Saga Iron Man at Element Games

6 of us showed for the Saga Iron Man event at Element Games in Stockport on 11/2/17.  The big pull for me was not needing to bring any figures, dice or whatever.  It was all provided at the competition.  I had played Knights of Christ and Normans before but all against the same opponent and my knowledge of the rules was sketchy.  1 player had never played the game before and he became the eventual winner.  Another had played about the same number of games as myself.  The other 3 players seemed well versed and the organiser was on hand to sort out any rules issues.  I came a resounding bottom (Straw Man) but did clear up some rules that I had got wrong although my tactics did not get any better.

All the warbands were of 5 points with a similar loadout where the factions allowed this.  2 points of hearthguard, 2 of warrior and 1 levy.  All the figures were painted up, measuring sticks and battle boards all to hand.  We each moved through the 3 boards playing a different faction and opponent each time.  Saga factions do vary in ease of use.  The boards from the base set are possibly the easiest to use.  These armies were from later supplements and might be described as medium difficulty in terms of knowing where  best to use the unique Saga abilities of each faction.

In all of the summaries below my army is listed first and the views are from my side of the table.  The original plan would be to have before and after pictures for each game but in most cases the after would only include images of my opponent’s troops.

Irish against Anglo Saxon

The Irish seemed the most conventional army of the day.  Javelins gave the ability to shoot in the movement step and the wolves were fast if brittle cavalry.  It did seem as if I was getting somewhere against the Anglo Saxons but my advance ran out of steam.

Strathclyde Welsh against Norse Gael

I have played against Strathclyde Welsh before but now was handling them myself.  They have the ability to inflict hits on enemy units at the edge of the table or fatigue on enemy troops away from the edge.  The effectiveness of this ability depends on the number of units the Strathclyde keep off board.  To bring a unit onto the board needs 2 dice (4 or 5 face each) and those off board units do not generate Saga dice.  I kept 3 units off board but only got 2 onto the table.  As the on table units go down the chances of rolling the right dice to bring more units on also drop.  At the final whistle I still had 1 unit off table (counting as destroyed).  Based on my limited experience 2 units of 4 warriors each is probably enough for a beginner to keep off board.

The Norse Gael make a lot of use of challenges, a rule that is not in the main book.  The Gael picks a figure in the combat and challenges 1 enemy.  Both sides in the challenge  roll their normal compliment of dice and the low roller is removed (no saves).  Both sides then gain a fatigue.  If there is a draw the challenge can continue.  If the Gael wins the challenge they gain a battle board ability further rubbing it in on the loser.

Steppe Tribes against Pagan Rus

Steppe tribes were the hardest faction for me to work out.  They have use of the excellent composite bows but have only 1 reaction ability (using their levy archers).  The majority of their special abilities take some setting up to get right.  My troops made good use of moving and shooting but were gradually caught and taken down.

I did have some rules queries that were worked out.

Each faction has 8 Saga dice but can only initially roll 6, less any that are still on the battle board.  Many factions have the ability to roll more dice as a battle board action. The most common being to use a rare face (6 pip) dice to roll 2 more dice.  So you roll a 6 and spend it to roll 2 more dice. the key fact is that the spent dice can be one of those rolled again, it is not lost.  Roll 6 to start, 2 are unused, spend 1 to roll that dice and 1 of the unused dice.  1 dice is still not used.  If another rare dice face is available that can be spent to roll the final unused dice and itself for a maximum 8 dice on the battle board.

A unit may remove 1 fatigue as an activation but only as its first activation of the turn.  It gains fatigue for each activation after the first movement or shooting activation of a turn.  This means that a unit can be activated to rest, then activated to move or shoot for its second activation.  It has removed 1 fatigue and not gained any additional fatigue that turn.  A subsequent movement or shooting in the same turn will generate fatigue.

Fatigue is generated at the end of movement or shooting.  So on the second activation of a unit that began a turn with no fatigue any shooting will not incur the fatigue until after that shooting is resolved.  This is a fatigue that could be spent by the target to increase its armour value.  This rule is particularly useful for javelins and composite bows who move and shoot.  A mounted composite bow can shoot before or after moving so can move up and shoot on its first activation.  It is then activated again and shoots (with no fatigue penalty yet) then moves again, possibly back to its original position. It then picks up the fatigue for the second activation.  When combat occurs the fatigue penalty for moving is applied before combat is resolved.

Clearly I did not learn much about tactics except possibly what not to do.  I had concentrated on small units to maximise dice count even going for a starting 7 dice when only 6 could be rolled.   The idea being that as the sides attrited away my dice count would stay higher for longer.  In practice my small units were rapidly lost leading to a low dice count.  It could be that at 5 points 6 dice is more than enough and 5 will do.  On the case for unit strength a unit of 8 hearthguard is a mighty beast.  Units of 4 anything are vulnerable to a few ‘unlucky’ figure losses.  A full block of 12 levy is not too bad.  They push out 6 missile shots and take some whittling down.  Even when destroyed you do not lose a die as levy do not generate dice.

Kings of War Orcs vs Humans

A 2,000 point game at the club of humans against Orcs although in practice the Orcs ended up a few points light.  I thought that I had 5 units of Orc regiments but on laying out the models that turned out to be 2 regiments and 1 horde.  My opponent had no experience of Kings of War so took the theoretically stronger human force.  All the figures (except the giant) are Games Workshop that were originally signed up for  Warhammer armies.  With the introduction of Age of Sigmar classic Warhammer games are no longer in vogue over here.  The 2 obvious alternatives are the fan supported 9th Age or Mantic’s Kings of War.  With the exception of the trolls and some individual pieces the models are on magnetised movement trays.  Some of these are commercial MDF others made from bits of wood and floor tile.  All my trays used to be optimised for Warhammer unit sizes and some have now been cut down for Kings of War.  I can also do Kings of War using Warmaster based 10mm figures.  These are a tiny bit fiddly but a lot easier to transport than 28mm armies.  I only just made it to the club with this lot.

A view of the human army from the Orc lines at set up.  The Orc archers have used their free vanguard move to get into the trees on the right before turn 1.  Just off camera to the left is a giant signed up with  the Orcs.  The brown areas are wooded broken ground.  They have no significant height.


The Orcs took first turn and made a cautious advance in the centre while pushing forward on the right wing.  Good shooting and a poor nerve test saw the human shot unit that used to be where the yellow die is now take an early bath.


The rest of the Orc army moved forward cautiously except on the left wing where units advanced to deny the rough terrain to the humans.


Human turn 1 sees shot and reitiers manoevring to block the Orc flank attack.  All yellow dice are unit losses, green dice are rolled for combat.  The giant takes a single hit.


A view from the human lines at the end of their turn 1.  Most of the action is on the human right but human berserkers are moving up on their far left.  The cannon only shot once through the entire game and even then inflicted minimal damage.


Orc turn 2 sees the Orc archers repositioning to shoot at the human knights.  3 chariots will not fit onto the approved base size so the chariot unit is made up of only 2 chariots but with a boar mounted outrider.


On human turn 2 there is more shuffling as the humans rely on firepower alone to halt the Orcs.  The results are disappointing.


Orc turn 3, the giant charges in hoping for an easy kill but inflicts minimal losses and is driven back.  For a repaint of a £1 store toy figure he is still holding his own against those flashy Games Workshop castings.


The beginning of human turn 3 shows the steady Orcish advance.


The humans go for it.  Their knights and general slam into the Orc horde but only cause 5 hits.  We learn that Orcs are tough.


The steamtank also charges into the trolls, again the enemy is not destroyed.


Orc turn 4 sees massive and devastating Orc counter-attacks.  One unit of reiters is lost, another is shaken by a boar rider atttack.  The steam tank and knights are down.


The human flanks are looking weak.  The Orc chariots charge into a unit of shot but the defenders stand.


Human turn 4 sees some good news for the humans as a unit of berserkers sees off the Orc chariots and the human general flies out of danger.


Orc turn 5 sees a steady Orc advance.  The human shot hold out due to the nearby very inspiring leader on his winged beast.  The cannon should have gone at this point but we forgot to treble attacks against war engines.


At the end of human turn 5 the berserkers have destroyed the last unit of Orck bowmen and have turned to face the expected troll onslaught.


Orc turn 6, with the berserkers wiped out by trolls the humans concede.


The spear and halberd hordes in the human centre never got into the battle.  The humans frittered away their excellent knights and the steam tank in unsupported attacks.  The flying general did OK but as a model was a nightmare.  He looks the business but bits stick out all over requiring and unreasonably large box to transport him to and from games.  I will be tidying up the army lists and taking the Orcs up to the full 2,000 points then trotting the armies out again hopefully swapping sides to see to what degree the lists or the generals’ ‘tactics’ had to do with the overall result.