Welcome reader to this my first article on Saga for the lovely people here at Footsore miniatures. I probably should introduce myself I'm James, 30 something geek who enjoys a game of Saga as often as I'm able to.
I'm going to talk about the army I took to the UK Grand melee last year, I chose Byzantines and picked the cracking range from Footsore. Why Byzantines? Well I was going to take my Vikings but after a long time playing them fancied a change and after reading the scenarios I decided that my other faction of Steppe tribes should be left at home. I wanted a mixed arms force with a little of everything and narrowed it down to the Byzantines or the Moors. In the end I couldn't decide so got my other half to pick for me and she chose the 'Roman looking ones' so I was set.
I knew very little about the Byzantine empire when I began other than watching a few programmes on Constantinople but what I did know is I wanted Cataphracts, to me that that symbol of near eastern cavalry (even if historically speaking saga is set a little to early for what most people think of when it comes to cataphracts but there is lots of debate so figured I'd get away with it!).
I took a look at the army options the Byzantines and they are quite flexible the warlord must be mounted and the you get mounted Hearthguard either normal or with bows ( both types known as Kavallaroi) Warriors with spears and shields known as Kontaratoi) or bows (known as Toxatoi) and then levy armed with javelins (know as Psiloi).
I thought cataphracts are best represented by Hearthguard so I began with two units of four as I knew I had to have them (I should mention of course strictly speaking cataphracts can only be taken when you use the Basileus however I thought as there is only one type of mounted melee cavalry in the list I'd get away with it)
Next I took a look at the battle board, the Byzantine board is very different compared to others I have played with. It benefits units supporting each other with abilities like Friendly shields to transfer hits from one unit to another in a manner similar to Warlords resilience and Strategikon that gives extra attacks to a unit that has a friendly unit close by. However the main ability that caught my eye was Basileus which allows you to load up fatigue on your warlord for one big push activating one unit per fatigue your warlord takes importantly your units don't gain fatigue for this activation.
With this in mind I went about picking my list, a warlord to join the Hearthguard followed by two foot warrior units with spears and shields, a unit of Levy with javelins and third a unit of Hearthguard on horse with bows, the historical names were hard to remember so I discarded them quickly!
The plan in my head was the cataphracts would deploy behind the wall of spearman and could break left or right to strike where needed. The levy would be broken down into a unit of 5 and a unit of 7 this maximises the number of shots (as you always round up so it gives 7 shots vs 6 for one unit of 12) and with Scouting letting you to activate up to 3 units of levy without fatigue allowing them to shoot twice and not end up with fatigue. The Horse archers would then move to support where needed the idea was the movement of 12" would let me get into position to use the situational abilities.
I placed an ordered with Footsore and got cracking with the practice games and painting, I used the the late Roman range of models to construct my army, with some minor conversions. I was impressed by the foot warrior sculpts the most with a black spray and simple dry brush with silver and a light silver to finish the armour came up great. For colours I did a lot of googling and found a ton of inspiration the Byzantine army could be super colour full! I opted for neutral colour tunics and robes with simple red and blue trims that let me pick the units apart. Unlike most armies in Saga it was nice to have a uniformed look to the army. The cataphracts where done in a similar way but finished with gold to befit their status. I'm not the best painter but I was really happy how they came out in.
You will notice in the photos there are no painted horse archers and a unit of regular warrior with bows takes their place. In the next article I will discuss how the practice games went and why I made this change before the event.
Author: James Blair
James Blair is a 30 something wargamer from Coventry UK. He has played miniatures games for over 20 years, is a passionate hobbyist and enjoys a wide range of games from Saga to X Wing. He also writes for the Konflikting Opinions blog. Having played Saga got 3 years it has become his favourite game with the Steppe tribes being his preferred faction.