Sunday, April 22, 2012

Trying out Saga at Barrie's

Saga is a ruleset for Dark Age skirmish games.  It's been getting good reviews so I was keen to take up Barrie's invitation to try it out.  For armies all you need a couple of dozen 28mm barbarians.  I made up my own passable Anglo-Danish force by selecting suitable figures from my Hail Caesar Celts.  Barrie had  a force of Vikings - his first painting effort for a long time.

The rule book include 6 scenarios - we fought the smallest one - a simple free for all where the aim was simply to kill the enemy's Warlord.   We fought two battles going one-all before adjourning to watch the football (where Barrie lost again).

Our first game took about 2 1/2 hours due to extensive rules looking up.  It ended with the two Warlords in single combat with Barrie's winning.

Barrie's force is on the far side.  His have cute movement trays, but with such small forces, individual figures are fine.

The second one took less than an hour - we knew what we were doing already & were feeling gung-ho as well.   I added a standard bearer and one of Boudicea's daughters as cheerleader to support my Warlord & it seemed to inspire him.  With just one game's experience we were beginning to get into a few of the tactical nuances the game provides.   This time  the Anglo Danes cunningly outflanked the Vikings and won a decisive victory.

The force selection, movement & combat mechanics are dead simple - the unique features are the Battle Boards and the Saga dice that drive them.  There are different battle Boards and dice for each type of force.  The rule book has Vikings, Anglo-Danish, Welsh & Normans.  More are, or will, be available in supplements.  The dice each have 3 symbols, 1 of the first, 2 of the second, 3 of the third (you can fake them with standard dice).  Each turn you have a command phase where you throw a certain number of the Saga dice and place the dice on the Battle Board.  Your options are limited by the dice results as each symbol can only be placed in certain places.  You then take the dice off as you use them to allow you move, shoot or provide tactical options.  It sounds weird and artificial and it's difficult to describe, but it works surprisingly well.   Every turn you have to look at the tactical situation, look at the dice you have rolled and make a plan.  Then you implement it (using normal dice in the combat).  It takes a little while to get it, but when you do, there is a surprising number of tactical options (which are different for each type of force).

I've never liked skirmish games previously (being too much of a meglomaniac), but I like this one.  Easy to play, but fun and challenging.

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