Monday, February 11, 2013

Focus on... Strathclyde off-table units

The latest supplement for Saga, the Raven's Shadow from Gripping Beast, has four very different lists of factions to play. One of these is the Strathclyde Welsh. Though one of their key differences is the fact they are basically a mounted mid-level attack force, the main tactical difference is their ability to provide off-table support using some of their cavalry units. This article is going to take a look at this the combination of cavalry and off-table units and tie it in with the Battleboard to see where the strengths and any weaknesses of this force are.

Gripping Beast Strathclyde 4 point Saga starter army

The first thing to note is that for the Strathclyde faction, the Warlord and Hearthguard (Teulu) MUST be mounted. The Warriors (Priodaur) CAN be mounted. Levies (Bonnedig) are NOT mounted but do have Javelins to harass the enemy with.

Units of Mounted troops (maximum 6 models per unit) can be kept in "off-table" Reserves at the setup stage of the game. These can be used later by putting Saga dice on the requisite ability on the Battleboard.
Note that the Warlord cannot start the game off-table. Also, the mounted units do not have javelins that can be thrown (see the italic section midway down The Raven's Shadow page 20).

You begin to see that the value of this force is in its ability to harass the enemy and to enter the board from any table edge. Outflanking is the order of the day. Beware though, any units off-table at the end of the day count against you for Victory Points.
Gripping Beast Strathclyde Warriors for Saga
Here are the Battleboard special Abilities and their effects:

Flanking Manoeuvre - Activation - two common dice - Activates for movement one off table unit. That unit measures its move from a tables edge and moves onto the board. It can't move within S of an enemy unit.

This is how you arrive from off-table. You can't charge into combat the same turn, so either be prepared to fend off an assault for at least one turn, or have another plan such as running away (see the Outmanoeuvring ability). With no Javelins to throw, the mounted Strathclyde really need to get into combat (the Wild Charge ability will help here). Another trick is to lure or force your enemy to within L of the table edge. Now you can use the next ability...

Harassment - Activation - one dice of any facing - you can attack with shooting any enemy unit within L of the table edge. This is done by generating 2 attack dice per unit that is off-table plus 2 more if the dice you discarded was a Rare symbol, up to a maximum of 8 dice.

The Doomriders - Melee - one common die - You gain one attack die and one defence die. Also, if your unit is within L of any table edge (any single model in that unit is within L) you gain one more of each of those dice for each off-table unit.

You can see a theme in the above. Keep to the edges of the board where possible and harass and assault with support of the off-table units.

To help with stubborn enemy units who realise you are using the table edges to your advantage:

Cornered - Activation - one uncommon die - this gives Fatigue to the enemy, you can give one Fatigue to each enemy unit (up to a maximum number of units equal to YOUR off-table units). Only those enemy units more than L from any table edge can be targeted.

To help with your Fatigue and flight from fighting:

Whirlwind - Melee - one uncommon die - at the end of step 7 of the melee you can remove ALL Fatigue markers from your unit. If you disengage from melee your unit can move L not just S.

Swiftness - Shooting/Reaction - one uncommon OR one rare die - as a reaction to enemy shooting you can play this one to move your unit so it is no closer than S to any enemy units. If you end up with all your models in this unit out of range or sight of the shooting unit, the shooting is cancelled.

Outmanoeuvring - Activation - one common die - activates one of your mounted units for movement -. You MAY move through friendly units and MAY move within S of an enemy unit at the START of your second or subsequent movement.

There are some risky gambles to aid in combat:

Wild Charge - Activation - uncommon and rare - activates for movement one mounted unit - if that unit engages in melee with this activation it gets one extra Attack die per model. (note: risky as its the most difficult ability on this factions Battleboard to get off and therefore you cannot rely on getting it when you need it)

Bold Attack - Melee - one rare die - you drop one Armour point in this combat but in return you can re-roll your failed Attack dice.

War Spears - Melee - one uncommon die - your unit gets an extra point of Armour but if the enemy Attack beats your Armour by one, you take two hits not one. Ouch!
Gripping Beast Strathclyde Hearthguard for Saga
The number and type of Saga dice you need to activate is not really too harsh. There are only two combination abilities that are harder to launch and only one that requires a rare dice as part of that combo. The rest are almost exclusively for common or uncommon dice. This should suit the player who can't get Rare rolls for toffee, or has reduced dice from losses in the game or for playing lower point games.

Remember that off-table units cannot be affected by some of the Activation/Reaction abilities as the unit is technically not on the table when it is Activated. E.g. Anglo-Dane Intimidation, Frank's Planfication, etc.

All in all, the player who likes fast units, outflanking, aggressive play may well enjoy the Strathclyde.

The bane of this army may be too much eneven terrain that slows it down and makes it a target for shooting.

I imagine the first few times you use this faction, your opponents will be caught unprepared. One word of caution, once you foes get wise to their tactics, the fact that so many of their Saga abilities are based on off-table rules and being in or out of L of the table edge may start to work against you. Be prepared to adapt your strategy or you may well be caught out! Good luck.

About the Author: "ambler" / Mike lives in the North West of the UK. After years of RPG's and GW wargaming he now plays in a long running Amber Diceless RPG and plays Flames of War at the NWGC in Stockport. Saga is a recent addition to the games-under-the-belt collection. Check out his blog: www.not2oldtowargame.wordpress.com


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