Saga – Epirotes vs Syracuse

Saga Age of Hannibal has 3 Greek factions, the Epirotes, Syracuse and Italian Greeks. Although Pyrrhus came to Sicily to aid Syracuse they later fell out so here we have a battle between Epirus and Syracuse. They both use the same battle board but Pyrrhus has access to elephants and must field his phalanx as Sarissa. These move ‘short’ except when they charge. Syracuse can field old style hoplites who can move without restriction but do not have the short range shooting (or poking) ability of the Sarissa. The Syracuse leader has the ability to cast Resilience on a nearby unit once a turn. Unfortunately it cannot be combined with LEGACY OF THE ANCESTORS to upgrade a unit to Resilience(2). As the ability requires use of a rest activation and the Graeculi have no relevant reaction ability the Resilence cast will only be used in a friendly turn and only if the target does not rest. Overall this ‘bonus’ is not going to see a lot of use.

Pyrrhus fields 2 units of 4 mounted Hearthguard, 2 units of phalangites, an elephant and 1 unit of javelin Levy. Syracuse has 1 unit of 8 Hearthguard, 3 of Warrior hoplite, 1 mounted Warrior and 1 Levy bow. The faction can field up to 8 Hearthguard models but only as a single unit. Victory is based on massacre points but the total is capped based on the number of enemy objectives destroyed. The Epirotes use sheep and Syracuse uses cattle and pigs as objectives. Both sides minimise terrain as the cavalry and phalanx units are all penalised outside of good going.

Both sides deploy ‘long’ in so there is not much room for manoevre moves early in the game. On turn 1 the Epirotes shuffle up what little they can. Syracuse shoot their bows and with some lucky rolls remove 3 of the unit of 4 mounted Hearthguard figures.

On the following turn things go poorly on the other flank. The elephant shoots at the Syracuse cavalry and the Hearthguard charge in but the melee is a draw and they bounce off.

The Syracuse horse Warriors wipe out the last Epirote Hearthguard putting a pin on the elephant. The nearby hoplite Warriors charge in, bounce off but add 2 more pins (1 combat and 1 melee).

The elephant rests and tries to finish off the Syracuse mounted Warriors; it does not go well. On the other flank Sarissa Warriors push back the Syracuse Hearthguard and kill their Warlord; a tricky use of THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL. Looking back Syracuse should have taken a bodyguard loss onto their Hearthguard from the Warlord. A Syracuse special rule is that now every Syracuse unit takes a fatigue.

The following Syracuse turn is spent with their few remaining dice stripping fatigue.

The Syracuse Hearthguard are finshed off and both sets of Levy come to blows in the ruins.

The Syracuse forces fail to destroy an Epirote objective.

The Epirotes have more luck on the other side of the table. Parts of the ruined terrain have magically moved to one side making room for the continuing Levy brawl.

Syracuse forces take out an Epirote objective and shuffle their Warriors to protect their own threatened objective. Objectives are impassable so it is tricky to move from one side to the other.

The Epirote general makes an end run for a distant Syracuse objective and whiffs the combat. Although another Syracuse objective was much closer it was blocked by Syracuse Warriors. Saga units move in straight lines. The best the general could have done was a dog leg of 2 Medium moves; not good enough to get into position on the nearby objective.

In the last turn of the game Syracuse Warriors make a similar run for an objective on the other side of the table and manage to destroy it.

The final scores on the doors see 1 Syracuse objective destroyed to 2 Epirote. Massacre points are capped at 16 for Epirus and 24 for Syracuse. Counting up points the Epirote total of 26 is reduced to 16 but Syracuse only scores 15. The elephant has presence but that does not affect massacre points so losing it only costs 1/2 for the Warrior and 1 for the unit. STOP PRESS – the elephant counts as 12 levy, working out to 4 massacre points and 1 for the unit pushing Syracuse into the win following this late judges’ ruling.

Looking back the Syracuse force do rather better out of the Graeculi battle board than Epirus. The board has no ability to specifically buff elephants. HETAIROI benefits mounted troops best (of which elephants are not) but both forces can field cavalry. The Epirote mounted Hearthguard being more useful than the Syracuse mounted Warriors. Syracuse are the only Greek faction that can load up on phalanx benefits although none of these abilities are major game changers. Syracuse might have been better off only fielding 4 Hearthguard and buying another 8 Warriors with the points saved to get a little more benefit from the phalanx rules but more importantly another Saga die. The Epirote Sarissa is a disappointment; it should be better than a hoplite spear because of its historical success. The medieval Scottish spear was not as long as the Greek Sarissa but the Scots Saga list has some useful advanced abilities loosely based on the long spear. The Epirote Sarissa has none of that; in the long term improvements might come when the Age of Alexander book is released.

Chain of Command – Saipan Day 3

The final day of the Saipan campaign begins with a Japanese night attack on the last table won by the Marines. So this means setting up a table that has been already used. Luckily there are the images from this blog to help although some of the terrain may have shifted by an insignificant amount. Jump off points are shown with patrol markers. The big building is also a Marine jump off point.

The Japanese have a full platoon together with 3 tanks. The scenario rules are based on 4 tanks but that and the Marine support has been reduced to reflect the models available. The Marines have a full platoon, an anti-tank gun plus, embedded within 1 section, a flamethrower and bazooka.

Turn 1 ends on the first phase again making the Japanese pre-game bombardment worthless. Nevertheless the Japanese advance steadily, keeping their tanks together with the infantry. The night rules restrict visibility but it is relatively easy to see a unit that has fired in the previous phase. The Marines can call in star shells to light up the table but they are not accurate and reduce visibility away from where they land.

The tanks bombard the Marines in the building. One Japanese section has had good movement rolls and overrun one of the Marine jump off points.

The Marines deploy their gun and the gun versus tank duel is off again but the Japanese have 2 tanks in on the action. The Marines charge in and wipe out the Japanese section at the bottom of the table. They then take cover in the wooden building. A Japanese tank moves up and gradually shells the Marines off the table. The Marines drop a bazooka squad in ambush by the Ha-Go. They hit but amazingly fail to penetrate the little tank’s paper thin armour.

Eventually the Marine gun is lost and only the senior leader is left of the Marine section at the bottom of the table. The game is called with the Marine morale at 1 and no hope of breaking the Japanese.

The campaign rules state that the Marines always have the initiative but the night fighting section explains that the Japanese are buying space not time. This will be taken to mean that the next battle will be fought on this board again with the Marine force bonus as if they had fought and lost here on the last day battle. It also saves having to set up the next board yet again.

The beach assault and night attack do not count as games for campaign victory. 7 valid games have been played. To win the campaign the Marines must win on the final map by game 9. They could still do it but it will be tight.

Daylight on day 3 and we have an attack and defense battle on the same map. The Marines have 2 more points of support since they last fought this battle. They take a pre-game bombardment, off table mortars and a HMG. The Japanese have 2 anti-tank guns in support. Both sides have enough men left from disbanded platoons to run at full strength again. The Marines deploy a senior leader, HMG team and the mortar observer in the top story of the big house. A Marine platoon advances towards the hedge line. Turn 1 ends and with it the pre-game barrage effects. The Japanese first deploy a gun; leaving the mortars with a lack of targets. The mortars aim for the gun and spectacularly miss; landing on the top jump off point. The mortar shelling will make use of that jump off point very risky so the barrage is left in place. The Japanese gun is eventually neutralised by Marine HMG and rifle fire. The Marines move up one of their jump off points and drop a platoon close to the edge of their bombardment. The Japanese deploy another platoon and exchange shots with the Marines at the hedge line.

The Marines call off their barrage and run a platoon to the now exposed Japanese jump off point. The Japanese have to shift their line to make the best firing line against them. The mortar section is deployed to add to their firepower. The Marines by the Japanese jump off point shift to tactical movement and creep up to it. A key moment as the Marines might be able to destroy the jump off point or the Japanese might be able to move it back out of the way. This all depends on how many 5s each side roll in activations allowing the purchase of a Chain of Command point. Unfortunately requests for another mortar barrage have been refused so the Marines cannot bomb the Japanese off the board.

The Marines earn a Chain of Command point first and remove the Japanese jump off point. Japanese morale drops by 1 and they are down to 3 dice. This could be a good point to withdraw but with the campaign drawing to a close and the Japanese still relatively strong they carry on and deploy more troops in the hopes of maximising Marine losses.

The Marine section that captured the Japanese jump off point soon breaks. The Marines deploy their final section. A firefight ensures with but the Marines gain the better of it and the Japanese have 2 broken sections and elect to withdraw.

The campaign rests on the final battle. Both sides have enough replacements to field full platoons. The Japanese support is a field gun and entrenchments for 2 sections. The Marines will rely on a mortar battery, bazooka and flamethrower plus a red command die.

The Marines advance a section to behind the clump of trees where there is some break in the line of sight to the Japanese jump off points and some hope of staying away from being shot for longer. A team of 2 Marine rifles can just be seen behind the middle small building. They had moved forward with the hope of moving up a Marine jump off point behind them. Unfortunately the dice did not turn up in time to do that. A Marine section, senior leader and the mortar observes sit in the big building to the rear throughout the game providing long range fire support. The Japanese have deployed a gun to shell the Marines in the house and their mortar platoon to prevent the rightmost jump off point from being overrun. The Marines call in their mortars on the Japanese little mortars. Unfortunately they inflict few hits. The barrage is soon called off by a turn end and no further barrage calls are available.

The Marines do get a 2nd section, senior leader, bazooka and flamethrower team up to support their assault. The Japanese deploy an infantry section in front of their mortars and a 2nd in the bunker.

The Marine assault seems to be slowing so, chancing their luck the Japanese deploy their 3rd section behind the bunker and move to outflank the Marines. Note that the Japanese forgot to deploy their entrenchments, this proved to be unwise. The general firefight broke the Marine section that deployed first but the senior leader managed to rally them.

The Marines wipe out the closest Japanese infantry section. The mortars start to take losses and break. The Japanese are now down to 3 command dice. The Marines sections are all weak but morale is still good.

Another Japanese section breaks. The Marine fire from the house (to the left of this image) helped here. The turn ended abruptly and with 2 sections broken but not rallied the Japanese morale drops to 0 and the Marines pull off a win. Note the heavy Marine losses, the 2 prone figures to the right of the board are all that remains of a section. Another Marine section is dangerously weak in the woods. If it were not the final game of the campaign the Marines might have pulled out long ago. The Japanese in their bunker are unharmed but only contributed 8 shooting dice at any time due to the restricted vision of the bunker. The Marine section in the house is also relatively unscathed but they were continually put out supporting fire. If the Japanese had sat still in their 2 unused bunkers they might have pulled off the defense.

To finish up here are some general comments on the campaign. All the games were played down rather than across the table. The patrol phase and jump off point mechanism led to a good 2′ of table space only being used for the attacker’s deployment. The core of the battles took place on the remaining 4′ square of table. If possible it made more game sense to keep units off board until jump off points had been moved forward or backward during the game then deploy units. This does depend on having 1 or 2 Chain of Command points in hand and that is a consequence of rolling lots of 5s. At least 1 unit does need to be on the table to prevent the opposition overrunning jump off points. It also prevents a flurry of early game dice rolling to rack up those Chain of Command points. A point can be used to end a turn which will stop a barrage either on table or a pre-game barrage. If the attacker has bought either he will need to get boots on the ground before the opposition ends the turn wasting the points spent on the barrage. The off table mortar barrage was a chancy buy, as seen by its effects either being devastating or far from effective. It is guaranteed to come in once but after that the odds are against repeated use.

The campaign as a whole did work and one can’t argue with it being free. It does require a table being left alone for some time or taken down and reset for each game. The night actions require resetting a table out of sequence. There is some advantage in running the night battle in advance of schedule while the last victorious Marine table is still set up. There would of course be some drop in surprise as both sides would know the future. The replacements available, 1 Japanese and 2 Marine platoons are more than adequate. The only casualty worries were in losing just enough plastic men to allow a platoon to be disbanded and to make it available for reinforcement use. This is akin to throwing Gandalf the Grey under a bus because you know that the improved Gandalf the White will then come along. The rules for commander’s opinion from ‘At the Sharp End’ were not used and might have helped to reduce the butcher’s bill throughout.