My new Anglo-Danes (build posts one, two, and three) fought to victory and glory this week in their inaugural battle! This was both proof of beginner’s luck and of the maxim that painted troops fight harder. The battle was also my first outing with the Saga system. I’ll say up front that I was really pleased with the game, but I’ll save details for later.
My friend invited me over to his place for this game. He had played Saga a few times, so he graciously showed me the ropes and eased me into the gameplay. A full report along with some great pictures can be found on his blog, so I’ll keep the details of the game short. I should note here that I really enjoyed his game board. It was a plywood top with sand glued on, finished with a few layers of thick paint and highlighting. The method is simple, but the effect was great.
We played 6-points using the Clash of Warlords scenario, in which the goal is to kill the opponent’s warlord. I took two points of warriors, three of hearthguard (four models had Dane-Axes), and one point of levy (slingers). I divided them up into two groups of eight warriors, one of eight hearthguard, one of four Dane-axe hearthguard, and the twelve-man slinger detachment. I lined the four larger units up with the big block of hearthguard in the middle. My warlord positioned himself behind the center with his four Dane-axe pals as a reserve.
My opponent brought a hard-hitting Viking list with four points of hearthguard (including berserkers) and two points of warriors. The Vikings felt like the yin to my Anglo-Danish yang. Where my abilities focused on loading opponents with fatigue, his focused on rapid fatigue removal.
During the game, my slingers put an end to the berserkers, though the single berserker who survived ranged fire took three models with him. On my right, one group of my warriors spent the game trading harsh words with a group of Viking warriors, though both
were too busy watching the action in the center to enter the fight themselves. In the critical center of our battle lines, the Vikings carved through my troops. Fortunately, my Anglo-Danes dealt enough damage as they died that my reserve (four dane-axe hearthguard and my warlord) were able to finish off the Viking troops and isolate my opponent’s warlord.
Mustering his last two hearthguard companions, my warlord charged into combat against his hulking Viking opponent. My warlord escaped hits while inflicting four on his opponent. Surely it was the end—but no! Three of four hits saved on a 5+. In our second round of combat, the Viking luck didn’t hold. One of my hearthguard sacrificed himself for my warlord, and the Dane-axes laid low the mighty Viking raider.
I learned a few good lessons in my initial blooding. First, know your battle board! Each faction is capable of some effective combinations, but achieving them requires good dice management. I found that Lords of Battle and Exhaustion on the Anglo-Dane board are one of those combos. Second, play to your faction’s strengths. Third, plan ahead. If you blow all your dice and abilities on your half of the turn, your troops could be hurting in your opponent’s half. Fourth, some battle board abilities are more useful than others (see lesson one)—the combat pool, for instance, is usually an inefficient use of dice. Fifth, consider larger units of warriors. Saga is bloody and troops die fast—having more bodies on the field to absorb blows could prove useful.
Overall, I really enjoyed Saga as a game. It is absolutely not a simulation of “Dark Age” warfare, but that’s fine. I didn’t expect it to be one…I hoped it would not be one. The basic mechanics are simple and easy to pick up—I had it all down within a couple of turns. The different battle boards and the randomized ability and activation availability created through dice rolling add a huge amount of depth and strategy to the simple system.
Saga plays fast, which (along with its points system) makes it ideal for an evening game or a tournament. I finished my first game in under an hour-and-a-half, and that included a break to walk the dog.
I also liked that the gameplay fostered a narrative. With so much emphasis on warlords and scenarios, there’s a lot of character to enjoy. I can’t wait to pick up the new campaign system!
Finally, Saga involves a small up-front investment of time and money. The figure count is low and the terrain requirements are both minimal and clearly articulated. These factors make it easy to jump in, or convince others to do so. The low cost of investment also make Saga an attractive diversionary side game/project.
I strongly recommend Saga! Now I just need to study my battle board and find some players in New York…