The Barons’ War Conquest Thoughts on Vikings and Normans.

Two games of The Barons’ War at last Saturday’s NWA meeting. One Vikings v Normans using the Conquest supplement and then the Vikings fought an English force using the standard rules.  So this post contains my random thoughts, rambling and report from the first battle with some comments on the second.

I got the Conquest supplement because I have a lot of Dark Ages miniatures and warbands from playing Saga.  I love Saga as a game but got the Barons’ War because I was after a game which didn’t use battleboards, had more variety in retinue construction and a different feel. I have found the standard Barons’ War rules set in 13-14th centuries forces to give brutal, fast paced games so was keen to see how the Conquest version played out.  

I GMed the first game supporting a first-time player and helping with the rules.  Which made it obvious to me that I needed a better quick reference sheet as there was too much referring to the rule book and missing things.  So instead of reporting on what happened I have taken some academic license will summarise my key take aways which will helpfully assist others.

Viking Retinue (700 points)

The Viking force was based of using a variety of warrior types and ensuring that all the groups were WISIWIG using the figures I have.  I want the Vikings to be fast and hard hitting with the warriors out for loot, glory and the chance to capture the eye of their Jarl. 

Command Group

Jarl (Veteran) with Sword, Mail, Medium Shield with Bannerman, Musician, Priest & Seidhr upgrades and Weapons Master ability.  

6 Hirdmen (Regular) with Sword, Mail and Medium Shields.

Warrior Groups

4 Hirdman (Veteran) with Dane Axe and Mail

5 Berserker (Veteran) with Sword with Fast ability

6 Bondi (Regular) with Medium Shield

6 Bondi (Regular) with Spear & Medium Shield

8 Bondi (Green) with Bow 

Basic Tactical Plan

  • Use Surprise Raid to deploy ≥25% of retinue off the table.  So either the Berserkers or Bondi with Shields and Bondi with Bow.  The Berserkers with Fast Move 8 so they can deploy 8” away from any enemy unit from a table edge and charge first turn or run to get position.  Deploying the Bow gives them a good chance to move on 3” and shoot at a vulnerable group and then use the Bondi with Shields to move closer into a protective position.  Either of these options forces your opponent to choose to spend an action, risk early casualties or change their plans etc…
  • The Command group is stacked with the Jarl’s trusted advisors and hirdmen.  The 6 hirdmen allow 2 casualties before losing a command upgrade, so the group will be a major buff for the other groups which will do the initial fighting.
  • The groups not conducting the Surprise Raid deploy within the 12” command bubble of the Jarl and LOS of the Raven Banner. In the first round the aim is to close the distance to the enemy as quickly as possible with no Morale dice.  This could be a combination of Run then Action or Move then Run depending on terrain and circumstances.  The key is that the Jarl can use 2 Command Actions to order the 2nd action and Seidhr so you can move 3 groups a long way forward.
  • Trust the dice for defence rolls, hindering, cover, inspire all reduce the chance of casualties, the Raven Banner ignores the first and the Priest and Musician increase the chance of passing Morale Checks. Two dice and unmodified morale for all tests within command.
  • All going to plan you have no moral dice on any group at the end of the first round and your force is too close for your opponent’s comfort!

Things to consider depending on objectives

  1. Except for deployment map 4 every map has a maximum of 12” between zones and some touch.  So you will be able to close quickly and force a point of attack on your opponent.
  2. Games last 5 rounds.  Some might take the full 5 rounds, but many battles can be completed within 3.  You with limited ranged options, go hard and fast early.  You are a Viking after all.
  3. Try and keep your units within your Jarl’s command bubble.  If you have positioned your groups well then it is feasible for you to initiate a Combat Action, Regroup and initiate another Combat Action on 3 separate groups.  If you have the morale advantage you are still going to be throwing lots of dice and forcing your opponent into Action/Reaction choices.  When weary your Command Group, Hirdmen and Berserkers will still attack on 4s.
  4. Valhalla means you can sacrifice a Bondi group as a meat shield, chew up your opponent’s actions, protect your Hirdmen and setup the counterattack.  Your Jarl can afford to wear the Morale Dice due to the Priest.

Don’t forget 

  • A Defend Action removes 1 point from a Morale Dice on the group.
  • Going into combat with no Morale Dice within LOS of the Raven Banner means your opponent needs to inflict 2 casualties to add 1 point of morale.
  • Ferocious Assault means your two hirdmen units gain 2” when charging any opponent’s group defending an objective.  Giving them a potential charge up to 12”.
  • Ranged attacks are from all in the group so long as one warrior is in range and all warriors have LOS.

Norman Retinue (700 points)

The Normans were also based on my existing collection and being WISIWIG (aside from the Bannerman which I need to paint up). I wanted this to be a combined arms retinue, flexible enough to deal with different objectives and enemy forces.

Command Group A

Mounted Count (Veteran) with Sword and Large Shield with Bannerman upgrade

4 Mounted Nobles (Regular) with Large Shield and Powerful Charge ability

Command Group B

Milites Commander (Regular) with Sword and Large Shield and Priest upgrade

4 Death Squad (Regular) with Sword, Mail, Large Shield and Open Up! ability

Warrior Groups

8 Bowman (Green)

4 Crossbowman (Regular) with Measured Shot ability

4 Mounted Milites (Regular) with Medium Shield and Counter Charge ability

6 Milites (Regular) with Mail and Large Shield

Basic Tactical Plan

  • Don’t be in too much of a rush to close with the enemy until you have dealt some casualties and put morale dice on you opponent’s groups.
  • The Norman’s Able Commanders ability allows the Milites Commander to issue 1 order action with his command range of 6”.  
  • The retinue is combined arms with cavalry, foot and ranged groups. So you are going to have the ranged group with the Milites commander and the Cavalry with a foot group in support with the Mounted Count.
  • Use the Milites commander to Inspire the Crossbowmen with Measured Shot to shoot twice with 6 attacks and once with the green bowmen 9.  Whilst green bowmen don’t hit much, any hits will have their decent share of Natural 0s which will likely cause wounds. This is a potential of 31 attack dice which is a threat to any force. He also has the Priest so that the two ranged units ignore any morale dice they do have in case they do need to make checks.
  • The Mounted Count works as hammer with Mounted Nobles, hoping to get 5 or 6 on the charge for the +1 attack dice using the Noble’s Master Swordsman Parry ability for extra Defence dice.  However you don’t want to have them fighting isolated, so it is important to have the 2 Milites groups in support.
  • The Mounted Milites are fast with a potential charge of 14”, hit on 5s due to Couched Attack but are not great on defence.  They are there to target poor defensive groups, draw out other cavalry with Counter Charge and soften up the eventual target of the Mounted Count’s command group.  
  • The foot Milites are slow but good defensively without the need to spend a defence action/reaction.  You don’t want to leave this group lagging behind and are probably better off leading the way and potentially running when required and you want this when you need the 3 units to move together.

Things to consider depending on objectives

  1. You want to be able to maximise shooting whilst still meeting the scenario objectives.  So you will be looking to minimise the terrain features which hinder or block LOS, whilst ensuring a defensible position.  At the same time preventing your ranged groups from being attacked and fulfilling the scenario objectives.  
  2. You have cavalry, so hate woods and buildings, but you are combined arms so can deal with this.  Just recognise that it will cause problems for you as you can’t enter them.
  3. Your count only has the Bannerman, so don’t get the benefits of the musician or priest when it comes to Morale Checks within his command bubble.  So you want to avoid gaining morale dice early in the game.  If things go south in Combat early you might end up broken and running which is what you don’t want.
  4. Play out the full 5 turns. If you are in melee early then you are missing out on opportunities to shoot.  Ideally you are charging groups when you have a positive morale difference and they are weary and have no actions left.

Don’t forget 

  • If the enemy command group gets with 9-10” of the Death Squad it is charge range irrespective of whether it is the closest, so long and you don’t break the 1” rule.
  • Master Swordsmen give +1 Defence dice to all weapon types which cause a hit in melee combat.
  • Cavalry regrouping after winning combat have 7” or 8” free move.  Use this to your advantage to get out of trouble, reposition to a defensive line or for another combat attack

Finally, I have created my own Barons’ War Quick Reference Sheet which you can download below. The creators have done a great job with the rules, but I keep finding myself flicking back and forth between pages in the rulebook to find the something I keep forgetting.

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