Saga: Normans v Vikings – first game

Today I met with a friend and historical gaming affictionado to play a game of Saga, Dark Ages Skirmishes. It was our first game and I have to say, for a first game it went really well! The rules made sense and the game went exceedingly well. In retrospect the errors we made were minor and we didn’t spend a lot of time doing rules lookup. I would say this is a good sign for the ease of play and the quality of the writing in the rules.

We played with 4 point armies. I didn’t have any mounted or crossbows. He didn’t have any berserkers.  It was a straight up fight with no special rules in play. We did the first scenario which is intended to put the Warlords into an epic battle to the death. I tried to reduce him with arrows and win a cheap victory. He managed to get his Hearthguard and his Warlord within range of mne! We had an epic battle and he had epic die rolling. His Warlord shrugged off a 13 die attack from my warlord. That was not pretty! We didn’t do melee exactly right but I think the results were fair. What was obvious was there were a lot of other options we had in initial setup, choices in activation order and so forth that would have made for a much different game. The game is simple, mechanically, but there is a lot to learn and to exploit in terms of tactics. I am really glad I spent the money on this game. I think I’ll end up playing a lot of it!

My next game will hopefully feature some new figures. I ordered a bunch from Architects of War to fill out my Normans and I need to re-think how I will do my Vikings. I also plan on looking at the other armies. Next game I get in I plan on taking better notes and writing up a proper after action report!

Dark Ages Wargaming with Saga


DSC04780I’ve started playing Dark Ages gaming again after a long hiatus. What brought me back in are the rules published by Gripping Beast called Saga: Dark Age Skirmishers.

The rules are a hoot to read. The writing style is presents clear rules but with a great sense of humor. It makes it fun to get through them. The game is pretty simple, mechanically, but the mechanic of the Battle Boards is where it takes on a deep strategic flavor that I think most veteran gamers will really appreciate. The basics flow of the game is I Go, You Go with individual unit activation. A unit activates, does all of its actions then the next unit is activated. All of your units go, then your opponent does the same. The combat is also quite simple, with figuring out attack dice, trying to meet or beat the armor value, then defense dice to try and avoid wounds. If you’ve played any of the Warhammer games, it will seem very similar but not exactly the same.

DSC04772Where the game moves into it’s own greatness is with the battle boards. Each army has it’s own battle board. You roll Saga dice at the start of your turn and these dice help you figure out which of your battle board options you can choose. It’s based upon icons on the dice, with a 3, 2, 1 distribution.  The more powerful options require the icon that only comes up 1 in 6 times. Some options can activate on multiple dice but others REQUIRE multiple dice.

These Saga dice also determine what you can activate. This is where it gets rather interesting. The strongest troops (hearthguard or knights) can use any Saga die. The Warriors aren’t as flexible and levies are much more difficult to activate. AS it should be!

DSC04778Another innovation I like is the armies are really easy to pick out. All armies have three tiers of troops (Hearthguard, Warriors, Levies). Each faction has a few basic rules that allow you to equip your troops differently than the other factions. The benefit here is that army generation is really quite simple and there isn’t a lot of gaming the point system.

Overall, the game looks to be easy to explain, reasonably fast play and has lots of period flavor delivered through a clever mechanism. There is more to it than I’ve written here. I am certain that many gamers, the first thing they will think about is “how can I adapt this system to X” with X being one or more of the following:

  • Zombies
  • Other Ancient periods
  • Star Wars
  • WWI
  • WWII
  • Modern Afghanistan
  • Pod Racing
  • Giant Monster Games
  • Aliens

Ha, you think I joke. Read the rules. You will love them and you will want to find as many uses for the concept as you can. It’s that good!