Sunday, August 5, 2012

Playing Saga

Saga rules cover
Like most of you, probably, I've been hearing about the Dark Ages skirmish rules Saga lately. I played it at Historicon and was intrigued. It has something of a board game mechanic added to it, which reminded me a lot of Alien Frontiers. It's not strictly historical, outright attempting to recreate the tall tales of the Viking Sagas. The leaders stand head and shoulders above the rest of the field, although we're not really talking the excesses of 40k here.
I was intrigued enough from playing at Historicon that I picked up the rules there. They're not that cheap-- basically $40. The rulebook is full color and very nice looking, though, so there's that. While on vacation last week, I took the rules and read through them, and worked out some 4 point rosters for our club member with Dark Ages figures to put together.

Lo and behold, on my drive home Wednesday, he's suggesting I run it on Friday. What the hell, let's do it. I don't actually run enough games as is, and if I put it off, I'd just find some other excuse not to run it later. So, last night, five players came out as I scrambled to put together dice, rosters, extra battle board, etc...

Saga in action

The game went pretty well. On the left, you have a 4 point Norman band flanked by 4 point Viking bands (nearest are Mik's), facing a 4 point Anglo-Dane and, nearest, an 8 point Welsh band. They basically slugged it out-- I had only read the Feast of Crows four player scenario, but with five I made teams, and they should probably have just done the basic Clash of Warlords scenario, where the last side with Warlords alive wins. Which, honestly, is about what they did, with the Norman Warlord being the last one alive.

Who says these rules are ahistorical?

Reactions in our group were mixed. One player stated, "I don't find these rules interesting at all, but I will play them without complaint." Ah well. I expect I'll run it a few more times at least, although it remains to be seen if I will "champion" these rules in our group.

What I'd like to see happen is Number One Son take up the brush and finish our Romans and Germans. We had been discussing playing Romans vs. Dacians under Trajan with them. On vacation, I picked up Wargames Illustrated 297 which includes a very nice article about the Illyrian revolt of AD 7-9-- which included Dacians, and, as WI notes, "skirmishes are great ways to recreate some of the action of the war." Falx, Dane Axe, what's the diff, right? So, I've just got to get him hooked, get him painting, and convert Saga to Romans.

Fortunately, the club member whose Dark Ages figures we used didn't want to take them home, so I left them out and ran a game for Number One Son today. So, I took four points of Anglo-Danes to my son's Vikings, and we played a game. You can see me below, on the left, explaining how the battle board works, and using Determination and We Obey to run my Warlord up with a unit of Hearthguard. He responds rather devastatingly by jumping my Warlord with his Berserkers!!

Okay, heh heh, now that you've learned the rules, let's play a game that counts! We gather six point armies, and played a much meatier game, as seen below.

That's his Warlord running around in a three sided box of levy archers. I mocked him for hiding behind a bunch of farmers like a woman, but was unable to goad him out. I think we were both surprised at just how effective his archers could be by adding effects from the Battle Board-- he had two units of them-- but we only found that out late in the game. His Berserkers set up at the base of the great Hastingstamford Hill, but my Anglo-Danes had apparently anticipated exactly that and Trapped them repeatedly there. A half-strength unit of Warriors ran the farmer escort off, and the Viking Warlord charged my Anglo-Danish Warlord and Hearthguard. With my Warlord in Shieldwall and Hard as Iron, and his Warlord to Intimidated to rest off his fatigue, he didn't stand much of a chance-- but he went down gloriously, and no doubt the Sagas written of this day will be kind to him!

Did Number One Son enjoy it? I think so. He has not really been the sort to come back and ask me to play games, though he certainly seems to enjoy painting more. Time to get him some paints and let him loose on the Romans, I suppose, and see where it leads.


  1. I if had to pick between Saga and Pig Wars (or whatever else we've been using) I'll go Saga hands down.

    I think we only had one player (Bob) who was rather 'meh' about them, everyone else I got the impression was wanting to give them another shot. The main thing is that the primary mechanic is just different enough that it'll take more than an intro game for people to get the swing of it.

    I enjoyed it immensely, and it gives me a great excuse to finally use all those Vikings I painted up and then sat on a shelf.

  2. Nice review Andy ! I have my Viking Warlord standing on my desk screaming "Paint me for glory!" but my US Airborne stick is looking to get in the plane for the Bolt Action Drop !

    Ugh ... Gamer Woes !

    1. I have found that when the figures on your desk start talking, it is time to STOP painting. ;-)

  3. Nice write up. I picked ups some models this week and going to try. And get my 10 year old to play SAGA. Who doesn't like Vikings!

    You all still playing Friday nights? I miss the nights at Brian's and Bob's. Ventura county, CA has no gaming except a GW store. Say hello to the crew. Cheers Scott

    1. Saga is pretty interesting, I think. It has different mechanics, but at a certain level, it doesn't matter if you're rolling percentile dice vs. a table or customized dice vs. a battle board, it's a randomization mechanic. Pick what you like.

      We are still playing on Friday night, although Brian has moved on to VA. However, at Historicon, Bob ran into two Knoxville players that we didn't know! One came out for this game, and seemed like a nice fit.

  4. Nice looking games, Andy, and great to see you playing with your son! Two new local gamers you didn't know about previously - that alone would make it worth the trip to Fredericksburg!

    Barry and I met after I saw his name in an HMGS directory, both of us living in the same tiny town (pop 1500). That set us down the road to Wagram, Borodino, etc!