Saga “Age of the Wolf” Campaign Supplement Review

Tomahawk Studios’ Saga has captured my imagination and attention lately. Last summer I finished a six-point Anglo-Dane warband before we moved to a new state in hopes of finding gaming partners through the popular system. I recently connected with a few other new players. When Age of the Wolf (AotW) released, we bought up a copy as quick as possible. While we have had a great time playing one-off Saga games, AotW‘s campaign system adds a whole new layer of enjoyment. Now my Anglo-Danes have names and histories! Their heroic deeds and unfortunate failures echo from game to game, and my collection is starting to grow again. With our first campaign season complete, it is time to deliver a short review of AotW.

Campaign Mechanics

AotW‘s system is highly abstract and asynchronous. There are no meta-maps to track, no wonky points values to move around, and no need to have every player in the room at once. While campaigning on a big map where territories grow and shrink is a lot of fun, my experience is that complex campaigns peter out quickly. I have very little time available for my hobby these days, so I appreciate the flexibility of AotW. Armies don’t march across maps in AotW, but the campaign adds some extra meaning to game outcomes, a little character to your warband, and a lot of motivation to keep building and playing. The system’s flexibility is also a major asset. Players can easily jump in to the campaign, drop out, or temporarily withdraw without disrupting play.

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Anglo-Danes catch a Norman supply convoy in a classic hammer-and-anvil ambush

In short, the campaign plays out over six “seasons.” In each season, each player chooses one action (raid, campaign, defend) and one target. Everybody’s actions are compared together on a simple chart that generates the types of games to be played in the season. The whole process takes just a couple minutes. Players are then free to schedule their own games at their convenience within the realtime limits agreed to by the group. Can’t play a game this month? No worries…just pay the Danegeld in money or land and move on to the next season.

The campaign is built around the saga of your warlord. A few die rolls at the beginning of the campaign generate unique skills and traits for your warlord that turn him into something akin to a “Hero of the Viking Age” character. For instance, Tostig Bloodeaxe (my Anglo-Dane warlord) his favored by the gods (and so may roll twice on the post-battle fate table and choose his preferred result) and has a blood feud with another player’s Viking warlord. Tostig also has a “Conqueror” ability that adds attacks to units within M distance if Tostig himself is not in combat. Your warlord’s warband will grow and shrink each season depending upon casualties taken in combat and the result of fate rolls between games.

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Anglo-Dane hearthguard clear the woods of pesky Norman crossbowmen

Campaign scores are based on your warlord’s accumulation of land, wealth, reputation, and campaign victory points. The first three are usually earned as a result of successful campaigns, raids, and defenses respectively, though there are other options too. For instance, Tostig can gain reputation and wealth if he slays his blood feud target in combat. Pursuit of these various types of points adds depth to individual games. Take our last game for example: though my warband won (leaving behind several burning Norman supply wagons), my opponent actually walked away with bigger gains in reputation and wealth because he fulfilled his blood feud by wounding my warlord.

I won’t go in to all the details of campaign mechanics here. If you want more of those details, you can check out an extended run-down at the Harold’s Revenge blog.

Warbands start at four points, and the composition is limited by the amount of land (levy), wealth (warriors), and reputation (hearthguard) that you warlord collects. Ordinarily, warlords start with two of each (land/wealth/rep), so may select up to two of each type of unit. Players receive limited reinforcements at the beginning of each campaign season. After games, warbands lose figures as permanent casualties at a rate of one for every four models removed during the game. In the post-game phase, some fate roll results deliver reinforcements or unit upgrades. I am still confused about how “units” in the campaign tracker and “units” in the game relate. Can players balance their units in games for optimal dice generation or pursuit of mission objectives, as in a normal game? If so, how does one track which campaign “unit” took casualties? I need to do more reading. For now, we’re letting players reorganize their warbands in game. We then track how many of each type of unit (levy/warrior/hearthguard) took casualties and let the player decide which campaign units lose models permanently.

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Rogbert the Handsome and his warrior meat-shields go in for the kill against Tostig Bloodeaxe, the Anglo-Dane warlord and unlucky target of a Rogbert’s blood feud.

 

 

So, after our first season, would I recommend purchasing AotW? YES! The system is straightforward and simple to manage. Although built for the 1066-set, it could easily be translated for Crescent & the Cross. Plus the price is right at less than $20. In all, we have already gotten a fantastic return on investment in this supplement.

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The crucial moment. Tostig desperately fights for his life at the top (he escaped with a flesh wound) while the elite Norman knights confidently ride in for the kill in the center…a little too closely to some Anglo-Dane warriors. The subsequent Lords of Battle assault devastated and exhausted the knights.

 

Review of Fernando Enterprises Commission Painting

A while back I was seized by the urge to build up some Civil War forces for epic tabletop clashes. Big blocks of black powder troops called out to me as a wargamer in a primal way. But while I love the spectacle, the painting load is way beyond me. So, for the first time in my life as a wargamer, I put some figures out for commission painting. Some web searches and TMP scrolling turned up several solid options, from which I selected Fernando Enterprises. Below is a review of my experiences. Bottom line: I will use them for my future commissions!

(NOTE: All figures are from the superb 15/18mm Blue Moon range)

Who are they?

Fernando Enterprises is a commission painting group out of Sri Lanka. According to their website, they have been in the business since 1994 and employ upwards of 75 painters. I can’t verify any of that, but I have seen some of their work posted on TMP over time and read good reviews. Fernando Enterprises provides a range of services including painting (posted examples include every scale from 6mm to 80mm), assembly, basing, and more. They provide three levels of painting quality in most scales: showcase, collector, and wargamer. My commission was all at the collector level, and I’ll discuss my impressions later.

Price

The price here is about as low as you can find, and certainly lower than you can find in the USA. As might be expected, the costs break down for foot troops, cavalry, and cannon primarily, but FE recognizes several additional categories too, such as camo/highlander. FE’s website includes a nice painting cost breakdown here. For my 15mm ACW “collector” level troops, the price came out to $1 a figure. FE is currently offering a discount of 10% on orders over $300 — get your order in before 31 December 2016 to take advantage of the offer.

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Keep in mind that you will need to factor in the postage cost to get your models to Sri Lanka. That’s a little steep, but the size of my commission still made this by far the cheapest option I found. I was not charged any extra for the return postage.

Customer Service

In my experience, FE’s customer service was superb. They responded quickly and accurately to my request for a quote. They provided thorough instructions for mailing the unpainted figures to them (even if they could use another English translator to improve the clarity of the instructions). FE notified me upon receipt, then sent me updates every week or so once the models hit a painter’s table. In these updates, FE included pictures of example models and asked for feedback in case I wanted to make any changes. I was happy with what I saw, so I did not request changes, but I got the impression that FE would have been responsive.

Timeliness

Not bad! Postage took about a week on either side. FE painted my full commission of over 300 figures in about two months. I was happy since I was not on a schedule of any kind. I’m not sure how much longer a commission would take if painted to a higher quality.

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Product Quality

I was impressed overall with FE’s painting quality. They were not up to the quality of figures I paint myself, but frankly they were of a quality I wish I could paint so that I could finish large projects fast. The figures are not individually worthy of museum display…but as a group, and especially from wargaming distance, they look great!

I asked for FE to make my Confederates look like a motley collection with an emphasis on gray and brown colors to tie them together. FE used a lot of colors I would not have thought to apply, but I like the end result. My only regret was that I was not more specific about officer uniforms. The officers I received are wearing a lot of different, a-historical colors…but I can live with it. From a distance, nobody will notice.

If you want something specific, consider sending an example figure, or at least some pictures. I will send some more detailed images with my next commission. Be specific with your requests–FE is responsive!

Shipping/Packaging

Shipping costs were reasonable. I paid postage on the front end (around $30), but the return postage seems to have been wrapped up in the commission cost. Take care sending the figures because a few of mine arrived broken, though admittedly I had not taken many precautions. FE’s return packaging is superb. I sent mine divvied up by regiment, and they returned my figures in the same batches. Each batch was individually sandwiched in a folded cardboard shell with foam sheets between. More foam sheets buffered the cardboard-and-foam sandwiches from one another and from the box itself. All my figures arrived very nicely organized and in great condition. I’m taking notes for my future eBay sales…

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Bottom Line: Great service, good product, price is hard to beat. I will use Fernando Enterprises again, and I recommend it strongly.


Quick Note on the Project: This is part of my ongoing build-up for Black Powder (ACW variant). I’m aiming to commission the bulk of a division for both Confederates and the Union, then fill in interesting or scenario-mandated units myself. As a bonus, Dan Brown’s new Pickett’s Charge rules were just released, and my basing will work well for it. I’ve read through the rules and they look fun — can’t wait to give them a shot!