Early Saxon Army In A Week

A new wargaming project can have one of several results. It can be a glorious addition to your ever growing collection, a poorly painted, disappointing blot on the hobby landscape or worst of all a box of treasures consigned to the ever growing pile of stuff that has been earmarked ‘to paint’. As a hobbyist who has made a habit of always having far too many amazing figures in that final bracket and a graveyard of unopened boxes nagging at my conscience every day, I was determined that my next army would not fall to the same miserable fate. So after ordering my brand spanking new Early Saxon Skirmish Warband, I set myself the somewhat ambitious goal of completing the whole lot, from bare metal to ready for the battlefield, in a week. Not as easy as I thought……

The Early Saxon Warband is a perfect starting point for someone wanting to explore the new Aetius and Arthur saga army list, a leader and four core units to provide you with a solid four point army with which to get started. My army arrived on the same day as the accompanying shield and banner transfers I’d ordered from Little Big Men Studios, and I set about getting my project underway. The army consists of a Saxon Warlord and his attendant Banner Bearer, suitably resplendent in the finest armour available and two figures I had wanted to paint since first laying eyes on them a long time ago. They are joined by two four-man units of Thegns (which count as Hearthguard units for Saga) – spear wielding, chainmail clad brutes ready to defend their Lord and punish his foes. The set is finished off with two eight-man units of Fyrd – unarmoured spearmen comprising the bulk of the force and giving you two solid units of warriors for your Saga battles.

Unpacking the box and cleaning the figures up, I was happily impressed by the lack of flash and minimal mould lines on the figures themselves, whilst being equally happy with the range of figures in the set that ensured my units would not look too similar on the battlefield. After a few hours spent cleaning up and basing the figures, a black spray undercoat had them ready for day two and the beginning of the basecoats.

I grew up as a Warhammer painter and had the discipline (and lack of money!) to be content painting figures one at a time, completing one blister pack of minis whilst saving up for the next one. Batch painting was never even a thought for me, but the benefits certainly became more obvious as I moved on to larger and larger projects. I’d recently finished my Late Romans (featured in my last article) using the same method, so decided to stick with the same formula.

Over the black basecoat, I gave all the figures a solid drybrushing with silver to highlight all the metal areas - armour, buckles, rings, sword and scabbard parts, which makes the rest of the model much easier. I then painted the flesh areas (26 faces and 52 hands over the course of a couple of hours and my vision began to blur) which brought me to the end of day two.

Day three saw the boots, pouches and spearshafts all done in various shades of brown, before beginning work on some of the large cloth areas. I tried to stick to the colours from the excellent demo figures on the Footsore website, with the mix of pale, natural tones a good representation of the natural dyes that would have been available at the time. Finishing the trousers, cloaks and tunics took me through to the end of day four, and the figures were really starting to come to life.

Day five was “beards and hair morning”, various tones to offer enough variety whilst being realistic, and I began work on the shields in the afternoon, firstly applying a white basecoat before adding the shield transfers over the top.

Day six I began to panic that I wouldn’t get finished – there still seemed so much to do. The morning was spent starting the bases – I use Army Painter basing materials and began with their Brown Battlefield gravel to start with, before spending the afternoon checking through all the models and painting over any slips or bits I had missed (including, unbelievably, two pairs of trousers), before giving all the figures a liberal dark brown wash and leaving them to dry overnight.

Day seven came and I had plenty of little finishing off jobs to do. I started by completing the bases – I used a mix of flowers and tufts to add some colour and match the figures up with the Late Romans they will soon be battling. Next task was completing the shields, painting the metal bosses before carefully completing the rims in colours to match the transfers. Gluing them to the figures they began to feel complete, and as early afternoon came I took my foot off the gas a little as I applied the excellent standards to the warlord and banner bearer and sat back to look at a job well done.

I’m delighted with the outcome. They’re far from ‘pro-painted’ as so many eBay listings will claim, but I’m happy with how they look and the figures were an absolute pleasure to paint, as I’ve found all Footsore minis have been in the past. This month, I’ll be adding to the force by picking up a unit of 12 Early Saxon archers to give my spearmen some missile support, and another point of Warrior Fyrd with 8 of the Young Saxon Warriors. I’m going to mix these in with my current warrior units to add even more figure variety to them, and those extra units will bring me up to a solid six-point Saga force. While the new recruits are getting trained (painted) up for war, we’ll see how my new army stand up to the challenge on the battlefield as they try to carve out a new kingdom for themselves on the British shores. I’m looking forward to taking these guys out onto the battlefield and seeing how they stack up with a new Aetius and Arthur campaign, they have a date on the battlefield with some Romans and possibly a horde of marauding Picts…..

And as a final thought, never let 8 year old daughters near your gaming table, or cantankerous droids might lay waste to your forces in double quick time…… thanks to Seren for the Star Wars invasion……

 

 

Author: Carl Marsden

I'm a writer based in York, UK and have been painting and wargaming for the last 25 years.

My main project currently is Saga, fuelled by an (un)healthy history obsession and the occasional drift into Malifaux and Guildball. 

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The Moors

My adventure with SAGA begins four years ago in the house of a friend, with the supplement “Northern Fury” strategically abandoned on a table so that when I passed by its side I noticed of the cover and its bloody attractive, then I get hooked to the wargames again after ten years without touching a miniature.

And this is saga, hook fast but difficult to master. Get the most of a warband is very complicated with all the possibilities that you have due to the high number of bands that you can face combined with all the available scenarios.

Take, for example, the band that I’m playing with nowadays, the Moors. It is a band in which the warlord is mounted, the HG are armed with javelins and mounted on horse and the warriors have the option of riding with javelins or fight on foot with spears. The levies have the option to go armed with bows or crossbows, with extra fatigue in the last case.

A fast look to the moors battleboard and immediately we will realize that the maximum match to the abilities is taken away having units of warriors on foot, since we have two types of abilities at our disposal, those that serve us to strengthen infantry units not armed with ranged weapons (Song of drums, Impaling spears, Dance of spears and Fury of swords) and those which serve to hinder the orders and plans of the enemy warlord (Discord, The Moors gold, Doubts, Friendly fire, and Betrayal). Apart we have a special ability: Corruption a skill that will have to be used with care since although it is very useful at some point in the battle, it can also favor our enemy...

Not forgetting that we have at our disposal a hero of the crusades as Ben Yusuf and the Black Guard, in addition to the dogs of war that would be the daylami, naffata, trucomans...

On the other hand you have to keep in mind that if your army is mostly cavalry you can turn it into an Andalusian band in which your riders will be able to fire their javelins before or after the movement as if they were compound bows.

All this said I tell you how I have evolved my band.

At first and while growing my collection of figures I started using 2 units of foot warriors and 2 units of guards on horseback with javelins. With this arrangement I faced the Milites Christi several times, and despite hampering the plans of the enemy, I was overcome by the hardly offensive abilities of the Milites, and is because you need 3 or 4 saga dice  to screw the enemy plans which left me few dice to activate offensively the units during my turns besides the weakness of the cavalry of hearthguards in front of the crossbows.

Then I tried the option to use the Blackguard, for 3 points I had a unit of 8 Heathguards armed with spears plus another 2 points of warriors on foot and a unit of levies with bows, playing six points already, but it was such a disaster the first time I faced Milites again and have not used that warband again.

At this point I thought I need more dice so I started using the Priest (Religious Advisor), 3p of warriors in 2 units of 12, 1p of levy archers and the last point as a unit of mounted hearthguards or mounted warriors as bodyguards of my warlord. This disposition was the first that began to give me some victorys, using less offensive tactics each time, reserving and remaining defensive until the moment of making decisive charges when the enemy was sufficiently diminished ... Until I faced the Spanish  and discovered that the Priest was completely useless because having many dice on the board did not bring me anything good and needed to counter the harassment of jinetes’ light cavalry. So I changed the priest for 4 naffatum (thanks to the advice of Monty Luhman)

The naffata have not stopped giving me joy and have helped me to get some victories although I am still finishing to determine my moors warband and my style of play. Being more and more defensive and trying to find the ideal moment to go on the offensive, depending on the opponent and the scenario at stake.

Nowadays I’m using 4 units of 8 warriors with 1 naffata each (5p) and another unit of warriors on horseback with javelin although I am studying the possibility of using Turcomans in their place since the fact to shoot before the move and move + C in each activation can be very unbalanced against certain enemies...

As a conclusion I can only say that it is difficult to get bored with this game, the possibilities offered by each band, considering the combinations that occur in the scenarios are many, I would dare say infinite if I take into account the time that leaves my “normal” life to dedicate to the game, without going any further I tell you that I already have one eye on the armies of the caliphates mounted figures from Footsore to prepare a 6 points Andalusi-Moors warband and increase my collection of Moors to 8 or even 10 points!!!

 

Author: Carlos Caston
Civil engineer by day, painter of miniatures by night. Family man at all times and wargamer when it's possible. Collector of Dark Ages 28mm scale miniatures mainly. Sagaholic and trained to survive in a zombie apocalypse.
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Painting the dark age Irish Warlord and companion

Recently I’m working on a larger project of a dark age Irish warband for Saga. It is about 10-12 points with lots of options for various equipment for hearthguard (javelin/great weapon/horses), curaidhs on foot and mounted, a unit of dogs and other goodies. It enables many different warband compositions.

My client mostly ordered figures from one specific manufacturer but thought to spice up the army by adding more characteristic and individual looking models. Thus he chose a handful of dark age Irish models from Footsore miniatures. The sculpts are great and each of them is truly an individual character. What a pity that there’s only 10 of them. They were a joy to paint so far. (I still have to finish the shields but otherwise they are done.)

Irish of the dark ages are well known for the intricate tartan design on their clothes which Is quite difficult to paint on a 28mm figure. On the other hand these figures were chosen to make the army look more interesting and they are supposedly the welthier ones given their clothes and equipment so I had to try to do my best when painting the designs in order to represent their higher status. They want to show it off after all I guess.

When it comes to dark age color schemes I try to follow the rules to paint the clothes mostly using beige, light brown, light grey or olive green giving a more natural, dull or worn look to the figures. But for the fancy guys I went for a bit more interesting color schemes using more vivid colours blue, green and in some cases red while having some of the more natural colors also maintain consistency with the rest of the warband. I tried to pair more contrasting colours for the stripes and checkered patterns on the clothes to make them more visible from a tabletop distance.

In terms of their hair, moustache and beard the aim was to paint them mostly with reddish, brownish colours (the only exception is the venerable druid like guy with the grey hair and beard). The sewered off heads some of them are holding is on the contrary was painted blond and light brown as I imagined these are the heads of some rather unfortunate vikings from a recent raid.

Shields in my opinion really set the look of the dark age figures in general so it is important to make them look striking. These guys have smaller shields then I got used to so I wanted to paint simple designs rather than anything too intricate. Just to be on the safe side and not to mess up things. Thus I simply quartered or halved them or painted a cross into the middle. I think they turned out ok.

In terms of basing the whole army has an autumn theme so I needed to keep that one here as well. Modelling sand was used to cover the surface of the bases. These are painted with dark brown and than highlighted with a beige color using a drybrushing technique. For vegetation I always use various static grass and/or tufts of at least 2 colors. I often go for the ones with a contrast next to each other. Let’s say a yellowish or beige tuft and darker green static grass or brown tuft and a lighter coloured static grass. Clump-foliage and flowers are also added to finish it off. In my opinion it provides a quite compact and natural look.

The warlord and the banner man that comes in the blister based individually in order to have an extra standard bearer who could join a unit of warriors or hearthguard by replacing another figure.

The command group blister contains four figures, one hornblower, a standard bearer, a veteran soldier and a venerable druid looking guy. Plenty of options here. The druid could be easily used to represent one of the priest figures in Saga if mounted on a larger base (40 mm in most cases) or could be also added onto the warlord’s base acting as an advisor for the chieftain. The veteran guy looks perfect for add-on to a hearthguard unit or even a curaidh on foot.

The other two blisters are Irish heroes two of them equipped with great weapons the rest is with hand weapons and shields. These are obvious choices for curaidhs but also perfect additions to hearthguard units.

All in all, these figures are great additions to any dark age Irish warband. With some additional purchase from Footsore miniatures (e.g. adding some Irish warriors) could make up their warband on their own.

 

Author: Márton 'Marcello' Megyeri
Marcello is a wargame enthusiast and hobby hero for 14 years (and counting). Passionate for painting, modelling and tabletop wargaming. Co-organizer of the Saga focused club event and gaming community, Friday Night Holmgang located in Budapest, Hungary.
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Coming back to SAGA

SAGA is a game that I have not played for some time. A few years ago I picked up an Anglo-Danish warband and fought many battles against my friends Vikings. But with so many games to play, SAGA ended up taking a back seat to Warhammer Fantasy and Bolt Action. That is about to change. Next month, Gripping Beast is releasing a new supplement for SAGA - Aetius & Arthur and Footsore Miniatures has a perfect range for the new book - the Romano-British.

 

The combined powers of my interest in the Arthurian legend, a desire to paint historical models in bright schemes and the excellent SAGA game have created an irresistible pull to dive back into SAGA. But not just yet. With Adepticon less than two months away I am buried in Bolt Action and Warhammer 40,000 prep. Luckily SAGA has a large presence at Adepticon and I will be able to not only pick up a copy of the Aetius & Arthur supplement but I will get to chat with both players and organizers of the various SAGA events. Armed with the knowledge of tournament players I will be more than equipped to pick out the models I need to start a well-rounded warband.

That being said, no matter the recommendations of other SAGA players, my warlord be mounted on horseback and will be none other than Footsore's fantastic King Arthur. Thinking back, it was the release of this King Arthur model that first rekindled my interest in SAGA. And once I got word of the Aetius & Arthur supplement and the realization that I would be able to play an Arthurian warband, well, I am all in. Maybe my love of the Rohirrim from the Lord of the Rings movies draws me to this warband and these models. The vision of the white and green banners waving in the breeze along with green and gold shields shinning in the sunset is an evocative image and I hope to capture just a bit of the majesty.

As for painting I’d like to go for a classic green, gold and white. I tend to over exaggerate my colors when painting historical models to achieve a vibrant look on the table top. In the great debate between painting miniatures in the actual colors used versus painting miniatures to look sharp on the table, I am firmly planted in the latter. Look no further than my Bolt Action Chindits, no combat troop would were a uniform that bright in the heart of the Burmese jungle, but boy, did they stand out on the table.

  

Without the rules I cannot go much further on what my warband will contain. That being said I will surely feature multiple unites of Hearthguard (at least one will be mounted) and multiple units of Warriors. I feel that thematically an Arthurian warband would be centered on mounted veterans with little in the way of Levy support. But then with the rules still a month away that could all change. I am by no means a Win At All Costs player but I do not want to bring an unbalanced warband either.

Although I cannot wait to get started with this project it must wait until after Adepticon. There is simply too much left to do in preparation for the largest miniatures event in the United States.

 

Author: Andrew Verticchio
Andrew has been collecting and playing hobby games for over fifteen years. As the founder and editor of ChicagoDice.com Andrew continues work on an ever increasing amount of projects and that pile of unpainted miniatures never seems to get any smaller. He can be reached at andrew@chicagodice.com
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Why are we called Footsore Miniatures?

It's an odd name for a miniatures company to be sure, so why was it chosen. Well when Bill Thornhill was in the process of forming the company with Donald Hauser a few years back, they had a long conversation on the phone about the setup and obviously the name they would work under. Going through the usual styles of names beloved of miniature companies, which involved something to do with war and battle nothing jumped out at them.


As they were prone to, they digressed into other topics and it led onto their mutual experiences in the military. Both having served in the Army (Don in the navy too), the discussion drifted onto the subject of humping large weights on their backs over long distances and how glad they were not to have to suffer sore feet anymore. Simultaneously they both shouted "Footsore!!" down the phone at each other. After much laughter the decision was made that it had to be the name of the company, it was fate obviously!


Footsore (Miniatures) is named after the plight of the millions of men (and women), who have humped their paraphernalia of war along the long dusty roads of history.


Now with a manufacturing business in the US with it's own webstore https://footsoreminiatures.com and the same in the UK run by Mark Farr and Andy Hobday Footsore Miniatures is going from strength to strength.

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Starting Normans

My interest in SAGA first started with its unique premise. SAGA is a game about exploring the Dark Ages as your alter ego, who leads his own personal warband of followers to victory.

What makes SAGA stand out against its competition of miniature wargames is quite simply its great ruleset. The game is easy enough to learn which lends to its accessibility. However it has enough depth through the use of its unique board system so that mastering the game is always a work in progress. 

The battle boards are what test your abilities as a commander in SAGA. They focus your mind into considering what you want to accomplish with your battle plan against the reality of your ever dwindling resources that are your SAGA dice. 

Something that elevates the accessibility of SAGA over other miniature wargames is its simple list building mechanics. Instead of the game being decided on how many hours you spent constructing your list beforehand. A full tourney legal list can be created within 5 minutes, simply by considering quality vs quantity of troop types. What follows now are some of my thoughts when I put together my first SAGA army at around the suggested 6 point game value.

When I first started out in SAGA, I was attracted to the Normans. Anyone with some basic knowledge of English history knows that the Norman invasion of 1066 and the Battle of Hastings changed the future of England forever. William the Bastard used a combined force army and with a little bit of luck managed to break the Anglo-Dane shield wall. I hoped to do something similar with my own war band of Normans.

 

Here is my full 6 point Norman army ready to take to the field of battle.

Warlord – 1pt (Hero of the Viking Age: Ivo Taillefer)

Priest – 1pt

Hearth Guard – 2pts

Warriors –1pt

Levy – 1 pt

The Warlord in my army is represented by a fallen soldier as inside joke to Ivo Taillefer; the Norman knight who charged the Anglo-Danish shield wall and was subsequently hacked to pieces. Ivo’s special rules allow him to remain unaffected by fatigue and he also helps take off fatigue from units within M range of himself. Heroes of the Viking Age cost 1 point versus your normal Warlord’s free cost. However they bring with them certain rules that can bend the game to your benefit and should always be considered a viable alternative.

The Priest is an optional supplement from the Crescent and the Cross rulebook. He brings in the utility of being able to take fatigue himself in exchange for rolling more SAGA dice at the start of your turn. I often find that Norman abilities on their boards are quite expensive for what they do. Any chance to increase the efficiency of my SAGA abilities is a trade worth taking in my personal opinion. I combine this with Ivo Taillefer’s ability to take away fatigue from units close to him in order to create an almost consequence free priest cycle.

The Hearth guards are the elite of my army. I tend to keep them in a large block of 8 models within 1 unit. This creates a scary, mobile, and most importantly hard hitting unit that can take full advantage of the Norman’s battle board abilities.

The Warriors I spilt into 2 units of 4 models each in order to generate initial SAGA dice. In addition to this, their smaller size allows them to quickly seize areas of importance for when you are playing scenarios as well as act as bodyguards for my Warlord.

Last is the unit of levies made up of 12 models. The Normans have unique battle board abilities that favor ranged units to add into their combined arm effects. The catch of course is that you cannot use these ranged abilities if you do not bring any ranged units. Hence the purpose of bow armed levies.      

The Normans have a tendency to be harder to play due to many of their better SAGA abilities requiring rare dice or double dice to use. This war band relies on maximum generation of SAGA dice so that you can power your units to their max potential. In addition to this, Normans have no real help to get rid of fatigue other than their standard rest. With Ivo on the field he can provide some form of fatigue management in addition to being a hardened fighter on the field, especially when you consider the Norman’s Dex Aie ability with Ivo’s fatigue exceptions. 

Normans more than anyone require a little bit of luck and quite a bit of forethought on how to best use your battle board to maximum effect on individual units. Similar to the plight of the actual William the Bastard, you will have to consider how to best impact the battlefield. Should you keep focused and the dice fall in your favor then you will find the Normans to be a challenging yet rewarding faction that brought a swift end to the Viking Age.

 

Author: Jeffrey Sithi-Amnuai
Jeffrey Sithi-Amnuai is a college student who has been playing miniature wargames for well over a decade. With a keen interest in history, writing, and painting he has been exposed to all sorts of different types of tabletop games. While he still struggles to pick a favorite, there are certain games that regularly make the rotation. He has become quite infamous among his local hobby shop for his inexplicable ability to roll lots of 6’s when the dice gods deem it necessary to intervene on his behalf.
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My Thoughts on Saga

“I drink to your safe return in English ale.  I wish that it were English blood!”  with a hearty cheer from the surrounding villagers  the warrior on horseback swigs from a barrel of beer then smashes it to the ground.  The warrior is Kirk Douglas and this is a scene from the 1958 swashbuckling classic ‘The Vikings’.

Like many other historical movies from the fifties and sixties, The Vikings is a glorious Technicolor romp, which like Saga (the game of Dark Age skirmishes) has a grounding in history but doesn’t get bogged down in the detail. 

I’ve been gaming for a few years and always preferred smaller skirmish games to big battle games.  I’m not an early adopter, so Saga had been available for a couple of years before I picked up my copy.  I’d heard positive reviews and the relatively small starting forces didn't seem too much of a painting commitment to take on.

I convinced my friends to give it a go and we’ve been playing at home, using proxy models and primed models at first, but slowly building our games up.  We tried the game at 4 points, and are now playing 6 points each where the game really comes alive.  Good tactical awareness and forward planning become much more important, but the game is as fun and bloody as ever.

The rules of the game are simple and fun.  Reviews of Saga often talk of ‘innovative activation systems’ and ‘resource management’ and they’re right, Saga offers these.  But it’s not just one for statistics nerds; it’s also a set of rules which gives advantage to the player with the most impressive facial hair!  This mix of simple rules, supplemented by options on the battleboards creates a game which is easy to learn but where the tactics of a warband can take many games to fully understand. 

My choice of warband is the Anglo Danish, but since I have as much respect for historical accuracy as the makers of The Vikings film, they don’t look like Anglo Danes.  Just like the costumes of Kirk Douglas and his fellow Hollywood Vikings, the colour is cranked up to make the make the models pop on the table.  

Warbands don't contain hundreds of figures, so it’s possible to collect a number of forces.  Saga has many available making it easy to find a couple to recreate any pre-gunpowder period of your choosing.  I’m tempted to use the latest Roman rules to represent early republican Romans and refight some skirmishes from the Punic Wars (can I fit an elephant into my warband?), or even find a battleboard which I could use for a Samurai warband.

That's the story so far and I’ve already got some plans for the coming year. The Anglo Danes are fun but defensive, I need something fast or aggressive so an Irish warband with packs of dogs is likely to be next onto the painting table.  Until now I’ve only played single unconnected games, but there’s also the ‘Age of the Wolf’ campaign rules, which I’m planning to try out this year.  Maybe I need to start building some more terrain as well?

That’s my history with Saga and why I enjoy the game so much.  It’s about smashing barrels of ale and running headlong at the enemy, it’s about bright colours and glorious tales of victory.  The game doesn't claim to be a true depiction of life in the dark ages; what is delivers, like the Hollywood films of old, is fun, action, and a sense of adventure which will leave your head spinning. 

 

Author: Frugal Dave
Frugal Dave lives in the south west of the UK and can be found on twitter @thefrugalgamer.
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SAGA, Simplicity, and Salience

I’ve played many miniature games in over a decade within the hobby: Warhammer, 40k, Lord of the Rings, Warmachine, Guild Ball, Hell Dorado, Relic Knights, Anima Tactics, Muskets and Tomahawks, Judge Dredd, Wild in the Streets, Of Gods and Mortals, X-Wing, Mordheim (plus its fan-created variants), and Infinity for a short list. SAGA will likely never be my primary and only miniature war game. SAGA contains many translation, editorial, and typographical errors to the point of annoyance. Yet, in the past 5 years, SAGA has never left my cycle of games. I’ve never gone more than a few months without pulling out my Jomsviking warlord, Heri Tyrsson, and adding another verse to his poetic epic. Very rarely do I spend as much time, research, and attention to painting an army for any miniature wargame as I did with SAGA. With this medieval-themed game, Studio Tomahawk created a magnum opus that teases the dichotomies of simplicity and complexity, ease of comprehension and strategic planning, and historical accuracy and accessibility.

Firstly, please let me indulge in a bit of biography so you may understand my perspective and reasoning that SAGA rates so highly in my large repertoire of wargames. I entered the war gaming scene, as so many war gamers do, with Games Workshop’s series of games. Sometime in high school, my preferences changed to Privateer Press’s flagship Warmachine. In college my attention and preferences grew to encompass more skirmish-level wargames. I graduated with two Bachelor degrees in 2015, one in Comparative Literature and another in French Modern Language and Literature. To date, I continue my studies through graduate school. I’ve studied Medieval Literature, Scandinavian Sagas, Faroese dance-ballads, the political and social efficacy of the English and French applications of the knight throughout the Middle Ages, among other interests. I write this not brag or a failed attempted to impress the reader but rather to stress the following.

Through my studies and playing many different games, I have thought a lot about this time period (more than any other era), and SAGA provides an unequaled fun and balanced view of the “Dark Ages” without bogging itself down in the unnecessary complexity of other war games. The flavorful, (and at the time of its release) rarely-explored time period and simple gameplay mechanics makes the game easy to learn, simple to remember, yet difficult to completely master.

Heri’s hearthguard face down a Norman charge desperately trying to dislodge the Vikings from their hill.

Why you should play SAGA

This will provide the briefest of introductions to why myself, my friends, and many people I’ve met through the war gaming hobby fall in love with SAGA. All the following points will hopefully be expanded upon in further articles.

Simplicity

The required reading for SAGA rules number less than 50 pages. The game takes less than 3 hours to read, a half-dozen games to comprehend fully, and yet years to master. Most game mechanics are based on a simple progression or equivalence system (one hearth guard is about the equivalent two warriors or three levies, and all three tiers of warrior cost the same in army composition). Each bonus in army composition will likely also net you a penalty (ex: heavy weapons will make it easier to hit your opponent but also means it’s easier to hit the unit). Taking a few months’ break from the game won’t hinder your enjoyment; the basics will be easily remembered and the specifics will return after a 30-minute review of the rules.

The battle boards are probably the most difficult thing in the rules to understand (and it’s just assigning dice to abilities). Most people will understand in just a few games.

Cost

I’m a sucker for good looking miniatures. I’m an even bigger sucker for cheap good looking miniatures. This is especially important as I’m a graduate student with only a part-time job in Southern California. Many producers, from our own Footsore, to Deus Vult, Wargames Foundry, Warlord, V&V, and Perry make inexpensive Medieval models in plastic kits, resin individuals, white metal blisters, and everything in between. You can be up and running with a SAGA army for less than a month’s worth of gasoline or a half-dozen meals at a restaurant. If you’re like me, you may start inexpensively with a plastic kit and slowly add characterful units in resin or white metal to differentiate your units and warlord, spreading out the total price for the army over several months or more, and at the same time adding variety to the war band composition. To field the vast majority of battle boards, you can get away with two dozen generic cavalry units and just as many infantry models. How much you spend is entirely up to you, but the frugally-minded can easily obtain a full, tournament worthy 6-point tournament army for 60 USD or less.

Army Size and Time Requirements

The time for both game play and painting are minimal for most SAGA armies. Most players will field 25-40 miniatures. This game belongs to the skirmish-level of wargame which allows minimal effort when compiling and painting a war band. The maximum unit size fielded is 12 models. This means, each unit can be assembled, painted, and fielded with less effort than games where unit composition starts at 10+. Also, due to the simplicity in army composition and game play, the longer SAGA matches will rarely last more than 2 hours. This means that the competitively minded can have a full four round tournaments in a single day and those with limited time can play several games during an evening or weekend.

Jarl Heri Tyrsson leads his fellow Vikings in a Saxon raid. Unfortunately, like his namesake, Heri lost his arm in the pursuit of justice.

I hope this provides a solid introduction to why I play SAGA as both a scholar and hobbyist and why you should too. It is my hope that through my articles, I help you develop your understanding of the game so that when we meet on the battlefield, you may prove a challenge and may prove worthy to become one of Heri’s trophies. To Valhalla, friends!

 

Author: Gareth O’Neal
Gareth O'Neal is a Southern Californian who has for over a decade glued his fingers to little metal men. He shares his passion for table top miniature games and painting through conventions and hosting tournaments with his local club, Play it Painted. He studies Medieval Literature and History.
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Alternative Basing & Roman Roads

Basing in wargaming is one of those underrated secrets for really making your miniatures stand out. Some careful basing techniques can make an average looking figure shine and is an extra avenue of creativity in our hobby. Historical miniatures can sometimes seem to fall short in this avenue. To maintain historical accuracy we are denied the option for biowaste spills or glowing mushroom forests to base our fierce little Romans through and are instead  usually shoved into the option of  Romans marching through green grass field A, Mongolian Cavalry charging through gratuitously flowered field B, or the occasional Sassanid riding across arid desert C.

There is of course nothing instinctively wrong with this, however as with all other aspects in our hobby the smallest details in our miniatures tell a story and basing has the potential to really set an army apart. The dreaded accuracy police surprisingly have the direction for creative basing - our sources. There are countless tales from our collective history to draw inspiration for alternative basing types, from Caesars beach landings to Romans on stilts wading through the Pontine Marsh. Even the ridiculous, like Caligulas half mad campaign against Neptune.

One such alternative are Cobblestone roads, which were a common feature across Europe from the dawn of the Roman Empire and are still in use today. There are sources of resin cobblestone bases but it is not difficult to create your own if you have any extra basing material.

I had a surplus of square  bases due to using only rounds for SAGA and other systems, these were a great thickness and toughness that would sit well and permanently on the base while not raising them a center meter above other figures. Cobblestone can be uniform but in ancient times it seems to be more common to have varying sizes which fit together beautifully. To get the right sizes I initially started just pulling parts off the base with a pair of pliers.

This resulted in a lot of tearing and odd looking shapes so I instead scored the material with a hobby knife first before using pliers to pry the pieces which resulted in much cleaner shapes.

These were then glued down around then miniature to try fit the pieces as best you can. Here they are assembled

And then painted.

This is where an idea struck. Initially the idea was to have the figures marching along a roman road, however these were Goths! Not some normal rabble mind you, but a detachment from the Visigothic King Alaric himself, storming through the streets of Rome. I had some miniature pots available which I added to the base with one spilling wine as the horrid horde rampages across the city. There is a multitude of different decorations this setting allows to be added to the base, dropped fruit, dropped shields, severed limbs - there is no end to the fun!

Tips:

- Once the peices have been glued down, cutting of any overhang really does help clean up the base

- Bases usually have a smooth and a rough side, the later makes a better stone face

- If your miniatures feet are attached to a base  rather than filing it off I’d suggest cutting the base down to look like a cobblestone.

 

Author: Damian Zamprogno
Historical entertainer and Roman helmet enthusiast, Damian spends most of his time yelling mercilessly at paintbrushes and animation software. A recent migrant to the desolate end of the earth known as Tasmania he now has a new found respect for Migration era German Tribes, but may never actually admit that he wants to play as anything other than Roman.
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Shadows Of Rome: Building a Saga Byzantine Warband

Having been a geek of history and an avid figure collector and painter as a kid, it was only a matter of time upon reaching adulthood that I would discover Saga. Growing up in York immersed me in the Viking and Roman history of the place and after a childhood spent collecting dwarves and undead, the discovery that I could collect and paint the very warriors who had lived and fought in and around my city was a revelation – and Saga was the game for me. I began with good old Vikings – a forgiving battle board that gave me a great starting point in the game to get to grips with the system and after many tries, eek out my first elusive victory. From starting though my attention had been drawn to the Byzantines – I had seen the Footsore range of Late Romans and always loved them and the chance to use them in my favourite gaming system was too good to pass up. So, my trusty Vikings were consigned to the figure cabinet, and a new warband was mustered from the mercenary bands and city levies of the successors of Rome…..

 

The Footsore range ticked all the boxes in terms of matching the models up to the army list and the Late Roman theme really resonates with me. One of my favourite book series as a teenager was the Warlord series by Bernard Cornwell, and the figures remind be of those Romano-British warriors fighting a long, brave defeat against the invading Saxons. Those stories have remained favourites all through my life and it’s an area of history that has always fascinated me as a result……. But Byzantines….. Saxons I will come back to!

 

The Byzantine battle board is a deep one as most of the Saga army rulesets are, and despite their obvious strengths I found them a challenge to balance into an effective force. Looking at the army list (and with a very important eye on which models from the range were my favourites!) I plumped for a balanced mix of Warriors, Levy and Heathguard. Two units of spear armed Kontaratoi and two of javelin-weildng Psiloi were a great starting point and gave me the opportunity to pick up a good number of the Armoured and Unarmoured spearmen to represent them. Byzantine Warrior units can also be armed with bows (Toxatoi) so I grabbed a unit of Archers to represent those too. The Hearthguard units are always mounted and come with swords or bows – I already had units to represent these Kavallaroi but will soon be adding a mix of the Heavy, Light and Cavalry archers to match them up with my beloved infantry.

 

So how do they play? Balance is the key with Byzantines and unlike many other forces in Saga they have no main strength, and the key to success for me has been hitting upon a blend that utilises their shooting, melee combat and cavalry speed to the greatest effect. The warriors form the backbone of the force and as much as a bristling shieldwall always had its appeal for me, a mix of bows and spears has always given me the necessary flexibility. Byzantines have a unique ability to be able to shoot into combat without hitting your own troops, meaning that your missile troops can give effective support to your combat troops without thinning their ranks out too.

 

While the Warriors are the mainstay of the army, my Levy units have been key to several victories due to their Scout ability. Using just one dice can activate up to three Levy units at once and as they generate no fatigue, that hail of javelins pelting down on your opponent suddenly starts to look quite formidable. The Massed Archery and Support Archery abilities help you maximise the effectiveness of your missile troops and found them invaluable in supporting your infantry units against superior warriors or numbers.

 

Hearthguard units have been the key for me, their mounted movement always a key in managing the battlefield effectively and being able to get these guys in the right place when needed is always a challenge! Byzantine cavalry can be a bit squishy (I have never had any success with Kavallaroi archers) but the support that the Lancers can give and in turn receive makes them the key to victory. I’ve found gaming with these guys to be fun, but challenging – at times they can be mediocre and ineffective, their numbers quickly dwindling as units get isolated and destroyed, however with practice and learning how to get the right synergy out of your army it can bring you some spectacular – and very personally rewarding victories.

 

So, back to the Saxons……. February sees the release of the Saga Aetuis and Arthur supplement and I could not be more excited. This will bring together my favourite time period, my favourite skirmish game and a great opportunity to begin a new project with my favourite figures, so what’s not to love?!? I’ve decided to mark the occasion with a brand new force, one that can challenge my existing army as it transitions from representing the forces of Byzantium to defending the shores of Britain against the waves of howling invaders breaking upon its shores. I’ll be unboxing one of the superb Early Saxon Skirmish Warbands next month and exploring how it will fit into the new ruleset, along with (hopefully, kids allowing!) getting some of these Seax-Wielding warriors painted and out on the battlefield.

 

 

Author: Carl Marsden

I'm a writer based in York, UK and have been painting and wargaming for the last 25 years.

My main project currently is Saga, fuelled by an (un)healthy history obsession and the occasional drift into Malifaux and Guildball. 

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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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My Anglo-Saxon SAGA Warband by Dom Sore

My Anglo-Saxon SAGA Warband by Dom Sore

This article is looking at my 6 point Anglo-Saxon warband for use in Saga, the Dark Age skirmish game by Studio Tomahawk/Gripping Beast. It will be expanded at a later date for another game I'll come to later.

First up a little about the Anglo-Saxons in Saga, the main point is they use big units, a lot. Seven of the slots on their battle board effect (or have more of an effect) on units of ten or more figures. And two Sutton Hoo helmets on your dice will let you move ALL your units with ten+ figures. This won't generate fatigue either, powerful if used right or just used! For the Anglo-Saxons larger units are the order of the day.

 

I'm going to start with my Warlord and Ealdorman/Thegns (Hearthguard) and I've decided to make them mounted. Mainly as my other factions have no cavalry. I'm taking two points of Ealdorman/Thegns so I need nine figures altogether, easily done using the Early Saxon Cavalry Command, Early Saxon Noble Cavalry and Early Saxon Cavalry.

One pack of each and I have one Warlord and two points of Ealdorman/Thegns. Whether I use them as two 4-man units or one 8-man unit will depend on if I feel I need the two dice or not, they will normally be used as one unit!

My next decision is how many points of Fyrd (Warriors) do I take, three or four? It's a difficult choice, I'm going to end up with two units of twelve Fyrd (from three points) or two units of ten Fyrd and one unit of twelve Fyrd (from four points).

Now Saga events often have six point warbands with the option to swap a point between battles. With that in mind I'm going for four points of Fyrd. I'll start with three packs of Early Saxon Infantry, add in two packs of Late Saxon Thegns, and finish off with three packs of Late Saxon Fyrd.

That gives me 32 Fyrd, mix them up between the units I use. I am happy to mix between the Early and Late Saxons, not everyone updates their weapons and armour the century they became available.

 

Finally I'll get myself a point of Ceorls (levy) for when I want some ranged ability. They can be armed with spear and shield for extra melee and are a good choice but for now I'm going with bows. Simply take three packs of Late Saxon Archers, paint and there you have it, one point of Ceorls to shoot Vikings.

So that's seven points of Saxons without using any Heroes of the Viking Age. I could have introduced Aethelstan or Alfred the Great and there is even Aella of Northumbria available (no rules for him yet). I might get some different Ealdormen using the Early Saxon Heavy Infantry and Early Saxon Heavy Infantry Command. I likely will as I have an interest in playing Hail Caesar from Warlord Games, meaning the warband will need to become an army in the future. The options for command, chieftains and priests will provide plenty of options.

 As for playing the Saxons in Saga you want large units, as already mentioned, and you want to keep them that way. Saxons don't get the use of the Activation pool as most other factions do, however they have an ability called The Fyrd which allows you to roll a dice for each unit of ten or more, very useful! With big units you roll a lot of dice in melee, keep units close to each other for support and you'll be doing well. You want Sutton Hoo helmets, hopefully you can get them.

A great way to get started with an Anglo-Saxon Warband from Footsore is our Anglo-Saxon Skirmish Warband for Saga it will save you money on buying the units individually too. 

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