Dark Age Wales could be seen as the wild west of Britain from the point of view of the Anglo Saxons. The Country as we know it today didn’t exist then but was a mixture of small fiercely independent kingdoms which were the descendants of the Romano British and Celts that had been pushed west by invading Germanic tribes. These kingdoms were just as likely to fight each other as an invader and were always under threat from Viking raids and Saxon invasions. This turned the Welsh into fearsome warriors who were the masters of guerrilla hit and run tactics. This was also largely down to the rugged landscape of Wales. They very rarely fought pitched battles but would prefer to choose there skirmishes, using there knowledge of the Welsh terrain to spring ambushes on weak and unwary targets.
This form of welsh warfare was very effective and was still in use over 600 years later in the Welsh Revolt of the early 1400’s. Here under the leadership of Qwain Glyndwr the Welsh using there Guerilla tactics came very close to driving out the English from Whales for good.
The Welsh hit and run tactics are reflected in Saga, so get ready to ambush and bring death to your enemies.
Organising a Welsh Warband
As with all Warbands in Saga you have three options to select from (Hearthguard, Warriors and Levies). When selecting a Welsh Warband with a average game being 6pts, I would choose 2pts of Hearthguard in a unit of eight, 3pts of Warriors in two units of Twelve and 1pt of Levies armed with bows, all units would then be on foot.
The unit of eight Hearthguard will be your main melee unit going for harder targets like enemy Hearthguard or assassination attempts on your opponent’s Warlord. Remember to soften up a target with javelins before engaging in melee as your Hearthguard have a point less in armor. It doesn’t sound like a lot but it can hurt if you’re not careful!
The reason I went for units of twelve Warriors is to maximize your ranged attacks and to benefit from strength in numbers.
I have also taken a unit of Levies with bows because they can be great to use as a screen for your warband and to lure enemy units to were you want them. Your opponent has to make his move or just sit there like a rabbit in the headlights getting javelins thrown at him!
All Welsh units can be mounted, but I would only have that option for my Hearthguard. Mounting these fellows gives you some flexibility to deliver a hard hitting punch where its most needed.
The Welsh in Saga are very much a hit and run faction and there battleboard reflects this. Key to success is keeping the foe at arms length while you pelt them with your javelins and moving in for the kill when he hasn’t the strength to defend himself. The Welsh are not a faction to be making headlong charges into combat due to their low armor and limited melee abilities.
The Welsh strength lies in being able to dictate your opponents moves and being very hard to pin down. The Welsh battleboard has some great abilities that when used in the right combination can be extremely effective and very frustrating for your opponent.
Some of the most common abilities on the Welsh battle board involve activation that are key to using the Welsh effectively. Take abilities like Answering The Call, Rising Out and Holy Ground for example. Rising out lets you activate all Warriors and Levies in your warband. Answering the Call does the same but effects all units within L (Long 12″) of your Warlord and doesn’t generate fatigue. Holy Ground reduces also helps in that it reduces your enemies movement.
Why are these type of abilities key to using the Welsh I hear you say? Well they are perfect for keeping the enemy at arms length. One of the great ways to use these abilities is as follows. Turn one you have an enemy unit with in M (Medium 6″) of a unit of your warriors. You activate this unit to shoot with there javelins (hopefully causing some casualties) then you activate them again and move M away so your out of range and add one Fatigue. Hopefully in his activation the enemy will pursue (even if they don’t just move back into range). Turn two you rest, and remove that fatigue. Then in the enemies turn they might charge to try and engage you in melee. Here you use Holy Ground once again to keep them from charging and allow you another turn of shooting. It’s quite possible to rotate this tactic between your units of warriors while one shoots and falls back the other rests. Once you have managed to whittle down there numbers move in for the kill, this will be the perfect moment to use the ability Strength in Numbers, which lets you add an attack for every model you out number the enemy by so you can really add to your attack pool.
As you can see the Welsh can be such a frustrating faction to play against. It’s soul destroying to see your units slowly being cut down by javelins knowing full well you have a slim chance of catching them.
Another advantage for the Welsh is terrain; unlike other factions uneven ground is your friend. There are some abilities that let you use uneven ground to your advantage such as Ambush and Children of the Land. Ambush is a great ability as it lets you receive three attacks and three defense dice in melee if your entire unit is in uneven ground. Your enemy will suddenly think twice about perusing you into the woods and marshes. I would keep this ability in mind when using the tactic I mentioned earlier, try falling your units back towards a piece of terrain if possible just in case you fail to inflict as many casualties as you would of liked so you have a bit of a back up plan if you have no other choice but to engage in melee.
The other ability I mentioned is Children of the Land, which lets any of your foot units have unrestricted movement for that turn for whatever reason. This is great for nipping in and out of uneven ground when you’re facing fast mounted factions like the Normans or other Welsh Horsemen in fact.
The other ability I want to mention is Taunting which lets you activate an enemy unit for movement. This is perfect for making an assassination attempt on the enemy Warlord. Most players will have there unit safely out of harms way behind there battle line. Try and have a unit of Hearthguard at the ready for this, preferably a unit of eight. Then with Taunting move out of the way their unit which was protecting the Warlord and you should have a clear run for your burly Hearthguard to move in for the kill. That will leave you with sixteen attacks just against the Warlord. You must make sure that when using taunting for this trick that you have a unit closer to the Warlords body guard than your Hearthguard as you have to move the enemy unit to your closest unit and always leave a clear gap and enough distance for your Hearthguard to make the charge.
As you can see the Welsh can be a very strong faction if used correctly, which will drive your opponent mad. The key is keeping the enemy at arms length and knowing when to move in for the kill. You have to be one step ahead literally and metaphorically.
So sharpen your javelins and prepare to bring death to he who goes unwary into the Welsh valleys.
Gripping Beast Welsh 4pt Starter Warband
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