My Introduction to Saga

I was introduced to Saga a year ago by one of my war-gaming friends he in turn by another of our number. I had played Warhammer fantasy battle almost exclusively for nearly twenty years, and was at a loss when it changed to a very different set of rules and background that really didn’t interest me. Saga, however, did, one multiplayer game, Vikings, Normans, and Anglo-Danes, and I was hooked. I ordered what I needed, got playing, and it became my main game out of the three new ones I adopted over the year.

The first thing that struck me about Saga was how easy the rules were to pick up. After one game I felt I had a good understanding of how to play. Once I read the rulebook I felt I had grasped them pretty well, and could play without having to refer to it for every action I performed. Part of this was the freedom of movement and not having distinct phases, the latter being a new thing to me after playing quite a regimented game for most of my gaming life. I enjoyed that I could activate a unit more than once, but if I did so there was the fatigue mechanism to counter balance it. The short range for shooting surprised me at first and often led me to losing my levy unit, until I learnt how to play around it. However, one of the things I liked the most was how no units seemed over powerful, or invincible. I had come out of Warhammer where this had become the norm, and it had sapped my enthusiasm for the game. In Saga I liked that it was a group of men, all of whom could fight and be effective on the table, led by one superior but not god like hero, and all could die if used incorrectly.

The second thing was the battle boards and special ‘Saga’ dice. Each faction generates a number of Saga dice depending on the number of units they have on the table, which are used to activate units and the abilities on a battle board. A player typically starts with five or six Saga dice but can lose them if you lose a unit during the game. Saga is rarely about sacrificing units as you soon become limited in what you can do during the game. Each faction also has their own unique battle board to distinguish them from the next, and it is these that make up the fabric of the game. Different factions have different weapons and some can ride horses but these are not enough to make it more than a once in a while beer and pretzels game. The battle boards give each faction their own flavour and play style as well as an identity other than the historical type of warriors they represent. Anglo-Danes were my first warband, a defensive board that could pile fatigue on the enemy, boost armour, and cancel enemy activations. The board abilities also worked in tandem, I could add fatigue to units with one, and then with another gain a bonus in melee from that fatigue. My friends had Normans and Vikings. The Norman board is very aggressive in combat aiding the cavalry hearthguard with abilities to push them forward, to get them into combat, and trample the enemy underfoot, but also offering shooting abilities to support the warrior crossbowmen and levy archers. However, they have relatively little defensive abilities, and could not remove fatigue short of resting as an activation meaning they could do nothing that turn. Vikings however, do at the expanse of shooting abilities. They could remove fatigue, have some defence against shooting and lots of abilities to boost them in combat. These are three of the first four warbands and were more straightforward in their abilities. Subsequent factions and battle boards become more complex using an ability to support a second, or building on one to boost another to offer players a more rewarding game.

With these in tow Saga continues to be the main game I play. I look forward to each game, and nearly each one is a unique experience. All are fun and offer the chance to play both a laid back game that isn’t dependent on knowing a tome of rules and army specific rules, but also tactical and offering challenges in how you play and respond to your opponent and their battle board. Games are fought on the Saga dice rolled but won with how they are placed on the battle board.

 

 

Author: Andrew Parker
Andrew Parker lives in the South East of England, holds a BA in Ancient History, and has been wargaming for over twenty years. His interest in History spans from Classical Greece to the Modern day with a particular interest in the Medieval world. He has only recently (2016) got into historical gaming via Saga, and is on an adventure of new games and miniatures.
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SAGA Do’s and Don'ts

SAGA Do’s and Don'ts

One thing I love about SAGA is that we’re always attracting new players. I’d like to share some sage advice to help make their transition a fun one.

Don’t field the same warband against the same enemy in the same scenario over and over again. I did this as a new player, only to see my Normans repeatedly thrashed by the Irish. All those losses can lead you to incorrectly conclude the game or your warband is broken. Trust me, they’re not. Every warband has unique strengths and weaknesses that play out differently in each scenario and against each opponent. Change up the scenario and opponent and you’ll change up your results as well.

Do keep it fresh. There are 7 scenarios in the original rule book and 8 more in The Crescent and The Cross supplement. Additional scenarios are posted on the Studio Tomahawk forum with variations on the originals. Try dicing for a random scenario to play and play back-to-back games if you have time. Variety is not just the spice of life. It’s also what makes SAGA shine!

Don’t let your lone warband hold you back from playing other factions. When you get down to it, the Jomsvikings look like Pagan Rus, who look like the Vikings, who look like the Anglo-Danes, who look like the Anglo-Saxons. The Irish look like the Norse-Gaels and the Normans look like the Bretons who look like Spanish who…you get my point. You don't have to worry about insufferable historical purists and button counters in SAGA as they're all playing Napoleonics (kidding!!!). As long as your opponent can tell your warriors from your hearthguard, you’re good to go. Before you paint up a whole new warband, use your current one as a proxy to make sure you enjoy their battleboard and style of play.

Do use SAGA as an excuse to make a deeper dive into history. Thanks to SAGA, I've read about people and periods I'd never read about before. Painting Byzantines led me to Lars Brownworth’s superb Lost to the West. From there, I continue to read and think about the Byzantine Empire. Painting Norse-Gaels led me to the Battle of Clontarf and the story of the Vikings in Ireland. From there, I discovered the fascinating story of the Norse conversion from Paganism to Christianity. Once you start down the rabbit hole, you likely won’t find your way back out.

Don’t judge a battle board by its cover. You can’t see all the strengths and weaknesses of a board without putting it in play. When The Crescent and The Cross was released, I dismissed some faction out of hand because the boards looked weak. The first time I played the Spanish, I complained about their board until suddenly, it clicked. I found a sweet combination that helped steal a victory! The Spanish have gone from "terrible" to my favorite faction. Take a chance and you’ll find a new favorite too.

Do try this game with your favorite beverage of choice. The rules are not so hard that you have to have a Beautiful Mind to manage the rules.

Don't let perfect be the enemy of good enough when it comes to painting your warband. Setting the bar too high for yourself results in a warband that is never painted. Block paint or block paint, wash/dip if you like. The key is to keep moving forward and get a warband on the table, not win "Best Painted of 2017."

Do have fun. After all, that’s the reason we all come out to play!

 

Author: Monty Luhmann
I'm a Minnesota hobbyist who's passionate about gaming, painting and history. SAGA introduced me to skirmish gaming and the Dark Ages. I'm looking forward to the Aetius & Arthur SAGA supplement and the chance to paint and play new warbands.
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