Ulfried’s Saga — The Battle of the Bog

After successfully campaigning against Jarl Erik and winning new farmland for his people, Jarl Ulfried’s scouts came across the infamous Shamus McUgly and his men near a stone cottage perched on the edge of a bog deep in the wild lands. They sent a runner back to call for the rest of the warband then approached the cottage to see what they could see.

Shamus’ archers let loose a volley from across the bog, felling a few scouts. Ulfried’s Raven War Banner accompanied by a group mail-clad hirdmen sprang into the clearing. Then, Shamus himself appeared from the other side, commanding his archers to let their arrows fly again. This time, though, Odin heeded the scouts’ call and the Scots fell back instead.

Ulfried’s hirdmen made for Shamus, keeping the stone cottage between them and the archers. As they rounded the rear of the building, they were surrounded by Shamus’ spearmen. Battle was joined and the spearmen were driven back — only one of their number left standing. Within moments, the Viking hirdmen were surrounded yet again. This time by armored thanes.

Ulfried and his berserkers rushed into the clearing and sprinted to the aid of their fellows, but they were too late. This time each and every hirdmen was slain, and the Raven War Banner fell to the ground to be trampled in the blood and the mud.

Instead, Ulfried gathered his berserkers and what was left of the scouting party into a line and charged the Scots on the far side of the cottage. Steel rang, blood flowed, the cries of battle were said to reach Asgard itself.

In the end, Ulfried was the last man standing. He could see Shamus, archers arrayed beside him. Ulfried pointed his blood-soaked sword toward Shamus and cried, “Next time the day shall be mine.” He then dashed into the forest to regroup his warband and head home to Kaldaross.

Rules in Review: Saga Age of the Wolf

Image courtesy of Studio Tomahawk

I’m a little late to the game when it comes to Saga, Studio Tomahawk’s excellent Dark Ages skirmish wargame. I bought the main rules early on, played some demos, bought some Vikings, then let them sit on a closet shelf to gather dust. I finally got around to painting them last spring during a gaming hiatus imposed (cutely albeit) by my newborn daughter. I played almost weekly for a few months after and, as you Saga players out there know, I had a blast.

That newfound love of Saga coincided with the release of the Age of the Wolf campaign rules. Being a long time fan of roleplaying games and campaign driven wargames such as Mordheim and Frostgrave, picking up Age of the Wolf was an easy decision. Playing a campaign game, on the other hand, was another matter altogether. As is often the case, I read the rules as soon as they arrived then was off to play other games and read other rules.

With the recent release of the Aetius and Arthur supplement, which brings Saga to the Age of Arthur, I decided it was time to finally play an Age of the Wolf campaign. Otherwise, I’d find myself picking up Aetius and Arthur and starting the vicious cycle all over again. So, I reached out to the Saga players at the club and got a few takers for a campaign.

It’s time to reread the rules to prepare. This article will then attempt to break them down as clearly as possible. Coincidentally, this will be the first installment of a new column I call Rules in Review here on Little Wars…

Creating a Warlord and Warband

Image courtesy of Studio Tomahawk

An Age of the Wolf campaign begins by rolling (and/or choosing) a Warlord’s Motivations, Traits, and special rules.

The Motivations are King’s Domain, Dragon’s Hoard, and Skald’s Song which translate to the pursuit of land, wealth, and renown respectively.

Each Warlord begins the campaign with two out of seventeen available Traits with the opportunity to obtain more through the course of play. Traits are randomly determined with the roll of 2d6 with double 6’s allowing the player to choose freely. They have names such as Blood Feud, God’s Eye, and Troll-hide. Mechanically, Traits increase starting Land, Wealth, and Reputation scores, influence post-battle Fate rolls, and more.

As detailed in the core Saga rules, Warlords possess five special rules. In Age of the Wolf, Warlords roll for an additional, new special rule. They have names such as Son of Odin, The Bastard, and Steel Cannot Bite and range in effect from ignoring hits and fatigue to generating extra attack/defend and Saga dice.

Instead of going through the process above to create a Warlord, a player can choose one of the Heroes of the Viking age to lead his warband. If this choice is made, however, the player starts with a 3 point as opposed to 4 point warband and must use pre-determined Motivations, Traits, and special rules.

Once Motivation, Traits, and special rules have been determined, starting Land, Wealth, and Reputation scores are calculated. Each Warlord starts with 2 in each unless otherwise specified by a Trait.

Next, the Warlord creates his starting 4 point warband (again, 3 point if the Warlord is a Hero of the Viking Age) using the core Saga rules. Due to restrictions imposed by starting Land, Wealth, and Reputation, the warband cannot contain more than 2 units each of Hearthguard, Warriors, and Levy unless otherwise specified by a Trait

A Warlord’s starting Power is then calculated by adding Land, Wealth, and Reputation with the number of units in his warband. Most Warlord’s will start with a power of 10.

That’s all there is to it. Now just give your Warlord a suitable name (so far, there’s Ulfried, Erik, and Shamus Macnasty in our game at the club), and you’re ready to start your first campaign season.

Playing a Campaign Season

At the start of a campaign season, each Warlord chooses between the Raid, Campaign, and Defend actions. Warlords choosing the Raid and Campaign actions also choose a target. Once actions and targets have been revealed, the players consult the Campaign Events Table to determine if there will be a battle and, if so, which scenario will be used. The scenario itself is determined by rolling on one of five tables.

To make it interesting, a Warlord who meets certain conditions can attempt to form an alliance with another Warlord. If an alliance is formed, the Warlords cannot Campaign or Raid against one another during the current season. What they can do, though, is include 2 units of Hearthguard or Warriors from the allied Warlords roster while ignoring restrictions on Land,Wealth, and Reputation. As I think you can see, this makes alliances a powerful aspect of campaign play.

Battles are fought using both scenarios from the core Saga rules and five new scenarios found in Age of the Wolf. These scenarios are Forest Road Ambush, Harry and Burn, The Burh, Scouts, and The Hazel Wands. I haven’t played all of them yet, but they’re a welcome addition to Saga, and the ones I have played have resulted in tense, pitched contests — just the sort of tabletop drama you want from a Dark Ages skirmish game.

A Warlord facing a Warlord with a larger force may hire mercenaries to make up the difference. Hiring mercenaries costs 1 point of wealth regardless of the number of points required. A unit or mercenaries consist 8 warriors on foot. However, Pagan Rus, Rus Princes, and Byzantine Warlords can hire 8 mounted Steppe Nomad levy instead. Another available option is to hire Jarl Sigvaldi and the Jomsvikings as detailed in the core Saga rulebook. But, this optioncosts 2 points of wealth and is discouraged in the official Age of the Wolf FAQ.

Once the battle is fought, both players go through the post-battle sequence. This involves determining the effects of Warlord and warband casualties, recording increases in Wealth, Reputation, Land and/or Campaign Victory Points, recruiting new troops to replace those lost in the preceding battle, and, saving the best for last, rolling on the Fate table. The results can be be either good (better units, a good marriage, reinforcements) or bad (famine, flood, revolt).

In a recent game that I won, I rolled Revolt! on the Fate Table while my opponent rolled 2D6 reinforcements. So, while I gained 1 Land and 1 Campaign Victory Point, I lost 1 Reputation and some warriors. My opponent, on the other hand, gained a new unit of warriors. The Fate table, therefore, introduces an element of uncertainty and can serve as a balancing or determining factor in campaign play based on the results.

Other activities that can be performed during the post-battle sequence include dealing with the death of a Warlord and buying land. If a Warlord is slain, a player can disband the warband and rejoin the campaign with a Warlord and warband from a new faction or continue on with the warband and create a new Warlord to represent an heir or new leader. A point of Land can be bought for 2 points of Wealth.

If, for some reason, a player cannot play his campaign battle, he can pay Danegeld in the form of giving 1 point of Land, Wealth, or Reputation. I particularly like Danegeld concept as it leverages historical flavor as a mechanic to keep campaigns moving.

End Times

At the end of the 6th season, the campaign ends, and the victor is determined. First, 2 bonus Campaign Victory Points are awarded to the Warlords with the highest Land, Wealth, Reputation, and Power scores respectively. Then, the Athleing Warlord (i.e. with a Power of 15 or more) with the most Campaign Victory Points is declared the victor.


I love mechanics that encourage and support narrative gameplay. In wargames, campaigns can do a great job of doing just that. Age of the Wolf does this in a manner fitting of Saga by keeping the system simple while providing at the same time enough depth to create engaging, narrative-driven gameplay. Mechanics such as Motivations, Traits, Special Rules, and named Warlords help to bring the game to life in the imagination of the players.

At the club, we’re currently using a Google+ Community to share the tales that will comprise the sagas of our Warlords. I’ll share it here on Little Wars as our campaign progresses.

Until next time…

The Week in Games, March 13, 2017

When I look back at this phase of my life — working as a partner in a creative agency and raising two girls in Brooklyn, I’m pretty sure that one of the things that will deserve credit for helping me manage the stress will be gaming. So, I’m going to have a go at chronicling my gaming life week to week. I should probably be writing about my kids or technology or something. But, hey — I’m writing, and, since no one is probably reading, I won’t be overly concerned about the subject matter.

Early in the week I worked on some Wargames Factory Woodland Indians and Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors, pretending that I was going to get in some more points before the close of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Alas, I did not. Better luck next year perhaps…

Wednesday I played a solo game of Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! It had been a while, so it took me couple of turns to get the hang of things. Hopefully, it won’t be long before my next game. Thursday I played a solo game of Soviet Dawn from C3i magazine. I picked that one up right away. Remembering how much I enjoy the States of Siege games, I decided to order Empires in America.

Friday, I played Hogwarts Battle with my wife Sam and my friend Marco. We beat game five fair and square. It was a blast. I read the next day that an expansion is on the way. Given that Hogwarts Battle is a game my wife actually wants, this was welcome news.

Saturday, I visited Gamemaster Games in Hicksville, NY. It’s a Magic supported FLGS with a great selection of boardgames, cards of sorts, RPGs, and wargames. Somehow I made it out of there without spending a fortune.

Sunday, I played another game with Marco. It was the Mines of Moria box set for the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. That was probably my favorite game of the week. I’ve had that box set for years and have never had a chance to play it. I’m looking forward to more games soon.

Backstory: Glirhuin

Glirhuin is my character for a recently kicked-off The One Ring Darkening of Mirkwood campaign. He is a Woodman of Wilderland and named after a seer and harp-player mentioned briefly in the Silmarillion.

The opening paragraph is a riff on the Fairy Heritage background from The One Ring core rulebook.

Glirhuin’s harp is inspired by this excellent painting by Stefan Meisl.

It was said that Glirhuin’s mother, Idril, was as fair-skinned and dark-haired as the Elf-maiden Luthien Tinuviel and that his father, Berengar, spirited her away from the Wood of Sorcery far in the South. Growing up, Glirhuin often doubted that this was true as there was nothing sorcerous in her true love for him and his father. True love aside, her sharp senses seemed to bring her a deep and abiding grief. She departed one spring morning after Glirhuin had grown into manhood, never to return. His father will not discuss it with him to this day, saying only that she has departed Wilderland, and he should not expect her to return.

Glirhuin travels across the Land of the Woodmen working as a guide, shepherd, and, when the need arises, a warden driving spiders and other fell creatures back into the shadows of the forest. He is never without his traveling harp on which he plays Elven ballads and lays that he learned from his mother and, more recently, from Wayward Elves on nights spent beneath the eaves of the forest gazing at the stars above.

Glirhuin seeks the company of the Wayward Elves of Mirkwood often and has become close with one of their number named Belegorn. He and Glirhuin spend days walking the eaves of the forest singing songs and telling tales of the earlier ages of Middle-earth when the alliances of Elves and Men wrought deeds of great valor. They’re particularly fond of the Lays of Beleriand as they pertain to Beleg Strongbow and Turin Turambar fighting orcs in the northern marches of Doriath.

Glirhuin was born and raised an only child in Woodmen-town and returns to spend his winters there with his father. The rumors and gossip surrounding his mother kept Glirhuin from having many close friends.

Evoric, his friend since childhood, was the one exception. The two remained close into adulthood and regularly traveled and worked together until Evoric went missing early in the Spring of 2947. His body was found weeks later at the bottom of the Well of Tears by Glirhuin himself. That discovery has cast a shadow on Glirhuin.


Every year my wife and daughters head down to Florida for the February break. I stay in Brooklyn and work and, more importantly, play games.

This year, based on the sheer number of games I’m getting in, I’ve dubbed this tradtion JamoCon. Here’s a list of the festivities.

  • Tuesday, February 21 – Frostgrave
  • Wednesday, February 22 – Mouse Guard
  • Thursday, February 23 – Game Prep
  • Friday, February 24 – Muskets & Tomahawks
  • Saturday, February 25 – Adventures in Middle-earth
  • Sunday, February 26 – Saga, Torchbearer
  • Monday, February 27 – TBD
  • Tuesday, February 28 – Frostgrave
  • Wednesday, March 1 – Closing Ceremony

Wow! That a lot of games. I’ll try to post some updates as the week progresses

Live from the Battlefield

This post originally appeared on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge Blog on February 17, 2017.

As we get into the year, work has picked up considerably for me. That said, I’ve been more or less sticking to my painting schedule.

Given the recent demands on my time, the five figures below didn’t get to make a stop in my tabletop light box before ending up on the tabletop battlefield at the club.

Here we have more figures from the Conquest Miniatures French and Indian War line. There’s an officer to the left. three marching soldiers in the center and an ensign on the right who, without a flag, makes a good unit commander.

The expeditious deployment to the field saw these figures routing some British regulars and colonial provincials in a Friday night game of Muskets & Tomahawks. It made for a rousing end to a long week of work.

I have six or seven more of these left to paint along with some Woodland Indians and Canadian Militia from Wargames Factory before I move on to another genre.

Until next time…

More Tales from the Frozen City: Vororte

The Great Northern Inn
While I don’t pay a lot of Games Workshop games, I appreciate the level of effort they put into their settings. Being a fan of fantasy RPGs and skirmish wargames, I’m particularly fond of Mordheim and especially the apocrypha and detail developed over the run of Town Cryer magazine.

The locations, scenarios, warbands and more described in the pages of Town Cryer brought so much narrative context to the game. Even though the action at the table could be a dice-driven slugfest, you really had a sense of the place in which that slugfest was taking place.

I’ve been playing Frostgrave since it came out. And, while it aims to do something different than the Mordheims of the world by only providing a vague sense of setting, there’s something to be said for that as well as it gives the players room to tell their own stories.

Here’s one such story that I wrote about Vororte, a small settlement just outside the South Gate of Felstad.

Without further ado…

Not all fled when Felstad froze. In the villages south of the city, some remained to scratch out an existence in the frozen ground. The North was the only home they had ever known and fleeing to the South was not an option.

Centuries passed, and, while the Northfolk did not flourish, they also did not falter. In the South, they became the stuff of legend like the Frozen City itself.

When the thaw began and the Wizards returned, some saw an opportunity to rise above a hard life of mere subsistence. At first, this took the form of leading the Wizards and their retainers into the ruins. Those that made it back out were then put up in makeshift boarding houses to recuperate and plan their next forays into the city.

More wizards arrived, increasing the need for guides and accommodations. The Wizards who remained also needed supplies and hirelings to replace those who perished in the ruins of Frostgrave.

Many of the Northfolk became discontented with the seemingly endless stream of Wizards and unsavory retainers who had come to flood the villages. Recognizing this, a particularly enterprising Northman by the name of Yezdan saw an opportunity to continue to better his fortunes.

While leading expeditions into Felstad, Yezdan observed that Vororte, a small settlement just outside the south gate, was in a considerably better state of repair than the city itself. He teamed up with Kertner, a hedge Wizard who arrived with the first wave and kept Yezdan on retainer as his principal guide, to transform Vororte into a bustling base of operations for those who ventured into the ruins.

The Northfolk who relocated to Vororte to work in the inns and shops are the hardest bitten of their lot, willing to do most anything for a few gold crowns. Combine that with the temperaments of the adventurers, professional soldiers, thieves, thugs and zealots who make up the Wizards’ expedtionaries, and you have the foulest district this side of the Black Den of Amarantos.

The next step will be to name and more fully describe the homebases from Frostgrave as these make up the majority of the buildings in Vororte. I’ll post the results here to Little Wars when I get around to it.

As always, I’m happy to field comments and questions over on Twitter

Basing 15mm American Civil War Miniatures

My 15mm American Civil War collection has been growing over the past year. Given my nearly lifetime interest in the period, I imagine it will continue to grow over the years to come.

When I recently added Union forces to my collection, I decided to revisit how best to base my figures. My original Confederate units were based for the introductory scenario from John Hill’s Across a Deadly Field. Based on a possible misreading of the rules, I went with two one inch square stands per regiment with two to five figures per base, one being a standard bearer. While this works well for ADF, it’s not necessarily the best solution for playing multiple rulesets.

Confederates based using two stand method from Across a Deadly Field
After reading ADF and playing it a few times, I decided to pick up War in the East which expands and clarifies the rules and provides detailed scenarios for Gettysburg day one as well as a few other historical and hypothetical scenarios. One of the rule expansions involves mounting figures on generic stands. Two stands of two or more figures are still used. However, instead of one stand containing a standard bearer, the standard bearer is mounted on an additional stand along with another figure — the book recommends a drummer or an officer. This also leaves room for unit identification on the back of the stand.

Using this method, has a couple of advantages. First, it’s easier to prepare for new scenarios as all you need to do is create new stands with a standard bearer and unit identification. If you’re thrifty, you could surely find an easy way to switch out identification. Second, it’s easier to use your figures with other rulesets.

I’d been thinking of converting my Confederates soon after I picked up War in the East but always ended up working on other projects instead. So, over the holidays, I posed the question over at the Johnny Reb III Yahoo group.

My question:

Is anyone using generic stands as described on page 12 of War in the East? I based my Confederates for the T’ain’t No Militia scenario in the main rulebook using two stands with one containing a flag bearer. Now that I’m working on Union forces, I really like the idea of using generic stands and may go back and convert my Confederates.

The prompt reply from Patrick O’Neill (thanks again, Patrick!):

My 15mm ACW figs are based for Johnny Reb III. Mostly 3 and 4 per stand, with a few 2s and 5s. I have not had any trouble using figs based that way for ADF. John Hill’s original thought was to use 2 bases to represent a Regiment, but few people liked the look, nor the brittleness of 2 stand units. Patrick LeBeau and Dean West hosted many convention games using 3 stand units and it played well and everyone liked it.

Long story short… If it’s good enough for those guys, it’s definitely good enough for me. You can see the end result below. I used a Brother P-Touch for the unit label — not the most elegant solution, but it’s certainly effective. Let me know you think over on Twitter.

A unit stand for generic basing from War in the East

Branching Paths

This post originally appeared on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge Blog on January 13, 2017.

I jumped the gun earlier this week with my first entry into the challenge for fear of missing next week’s deadline. Now, that I’m more in the swing of things, I wanted to try to get a few more figures in this week.

First up is Snorri the smith, leader of our traveling trio of itinerant craftsdwarves.

Next up is Hár the stone mason. Both he and Snorri are from the same Games Workshop Dwarf Rangers box set from which their friend Borri hailed. I love the cloaks and the poses of these sculpts. My only complaint is, as they’re one piece figures, it’s difficult to field more than one box on the table and not have things look redundant.

Finally, here’s a French Regular from Conquest Miniatures. I’ve been slowly working on my Canadian wilderness force for Muskets & Tomahawks, but it’s been slow going. I think I first got started on a militia unit in August of last year. Well, I just found out that my friend Brian is moving back to the UK soon and that we’ll be sending him off with a big game of M&T at the club, so there’s no time like the present to get these Canadians done.

My previous experience painting uniformed troops involved ACW Confederates and WWII U.S. Paratroopers – i.e. lots of butternut and olive drab respectively. Eighteenth century regular units are an entirely different challenge. I can’t wait to see a finished unit in formation!

Next week will be more of the same branched paths with dwarves, wargs and Dark Ages/fantasy warriors on one hand and French regulars on the other.

And, He’s Off… Finally

This post originally appeared on the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge Blog on January 10, 2017.

Our 2016 addition to the family added to both the enjoyment and exhaustion of the holidays. After an equally exhausting week back at work, I’ve finally returned to my nightly painting habit.

I thought I was going to start with something from my historical backlog – French Regulars for the French and Indian War or American Airborne for WWII. However, a recent game of Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-earth has got me painting Dwarves. This figure is from the Games Workshop Dwarf Rangers box.

I call him Borri the whittler after an NPC from The Eaves of Mirkwood scenario for Adventures in Middle-earth. I have his friends Snorri the smith and Hár the stone mason on the bench. I’ll post them in the next day or so.