I broke my Saga cherry this week with my brother Chris. I have been wanting to play this game for some time and finally had all the figures painted and some free time! Our first game pitted Vikings vs. Anglo-Danes in a 6 point match. (Essentially a point is paid for each non-levy unit in your force.) The game is simple and features three types of troops regardless of which faction you play: 'hearthguard', your household and best troops, warriors; armed and armored, still professional soldiers, and levy, the farmers and peasants forced into military duty. each faction is lead by a Warlord, (so I guess there's 4 troop types). He's a bad ass and has some special rules in attack and defense.
The game is unique in that each faction has a 'Battle Board' and special dice with characters unique to their faction on them. A player rolls the die and then places them on his board as he wishes, given their symbol. (Each faction has 15 abilities to choose from and each requires a different combination of symbols.) These abilities then are used through that turn and give certain advantages to attack and defense and some other special abilities. Each faction is different in this way and so therein lies the real dynamic of the game: using you Saga dice and Battle Boards to the best of your ability given what you roll. It's different and well thought out. It's a very popular tournament game and while I eschew competitive gaming, I am already working on some ideas for historical scenarios for one off play.
(Unfortunately, the camera on my new phone sucks, as you can plainly see.)
All games are played on a 4x3 foot surface. There is typically not a lot of terrain. This is our table. For simplicity sake, we played the buildings as 'impassable' just to avoid the extra rules associated with them for our first game. Like wise, the crop fields and fencing are just eye candy; they had no impact on play. The wood was the only 'difficult terrain' that units could enter. This gives you a defensive bonus if shot at, but slows you down to move through it.
Another view from the other side. We played a scenario that was actually a combination of two from the book. We used the alternating set up from one and the Victory Conditions from the other. VC were simple: the player with the most 'Slaughter Points' was the winner, with points being awarded for killing dudes. Better troops were worth more than lesser. No cheap victory for killing the peasants!
Chris' initial set up. He had one large unit of hearthguard (8), closest to the camera, then a smaller unit of 4 with his warlord, then a unit of levy flanked on either side by a unit of 8 warriors. For these two factions, only the levies can shoot, and even then, you get only one shot per two guys, so our units of 12 gave us 6 shots each.
My levies set up to run behind the farm when charged, then some warriors. I bravely set up my best troops behind the woods. Having no idea how lethal shooting would be, I opted to pussy out.
A unit of warriors in the woods and my Warlord flanked by two small units of Hearthguard. The dudes without helmets were a special unit of 'Berserkers'. They get 4 Attack dice per model so can wipe out an entire unit. The flip side is that they have shit armor and are very susceptible to shooting. I had to get them into action as soon as I could.
Anglo-Dane warriors emerge from the turf hut, spoiling for a fight.
Chris' Hearthguard (huscarles) lick their chops looking at the levy unit opposing them.
Chris' warlord and bodyguard. They would ultimately cut down my warlord and earn their seats at the high table in the mead hall tonight!
I spent all the dice on my Battle Board to move my berserkers multiple times and crash into this unit of warriors. It all worked perfectly until Chris played an ability that canceled their last movement. Argh! They were left high and dry, and as feared, his levy shot them all the way to Valhalla before they had the chance to strike a single blow
A unit of my warriors bravely attacks the Anglo-Dane fyrd who were still celebrating shooting down the berserkers. Chris' levies never recovered from this attack, earning multiple 'Fatigues' and hampering their ability to do anything.
Meanwhile, back at the farm. His huscarles try to do the same to my levies and whack about 4 of them and force them back. They stayed in the game but must have brought nerf bullets for their slings as they did exactly two things the rest of the fight: jack *and* shit.
A raven's eye view as the lines move to engage.
My warlord moves to engage the Anglo-Dane huscarles while his bodyguard tries to keep pace. I guess that's why he's the boss.
And my warriors go for his warlord at the same time. Uh, neither fight worked out well for the good guys.
What's this? There's more of the bloody arselings emerging from those woods!
Viking thralls keep the huscarles at bay. Self preservation more than any loyalty to their warlord being a much greater factor.
Einar Bluetooth is about to meet his doom.
At about this point, he said it and then he did it. In his pants. He'll be trading stories in Valhalla tonight. I hope he's surrounded by shield maidens.
Not too many dudes left; truly a feast for crows today.
We called the game when my warlord went down though we didn't tally the victory points. I assumed I had come up on the short end and probably did but in retrospect, it was probably closer that I originally thought. No matter; we were playing for fun and trying out the system, kicking the tyres, you might say. We both came away very satisfied with the game and the tactical decisions it forces a player to make.
There is a Crusades version of the game as well. I am currently working on a 'Saracen' force. Rumors also claim that an Arthurian expansion is in the works. I am anxious to see how the game develops. I'm a big fan.