Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Saga begins

Some weeks back, John Kennedy posted on Facebook about nearly completing a Moorish warband for Saga 2nd edition (Saga 2). That got my brain turning like meat on a spit and it dawned on me that the El Cid retinue I'd created for Lion Rampant could easily be used for Saga 2 as well—without having to paint a single additional mini.

Fueled by this inspirational brain-fart, I jumped at the chance to buy a copy of the Saga 2 rules at The Panzer Depot. When I looked at the price, I thought I'd gone back in time. $15.00! I haven't seen a set of rules cost $15.00 since the 70s. My rejoicing at this bargain, was short-lived as John informed me that the rules were nothing without the supplements, which cost a mere $45.00 per book. And the dice were $20.00 for a set of 8.

So, still firmly rooted in the 21st century.

He was out of the Age of the Crusades book, but expected them in soon. When they came in, I shed $65.00 (not including the aforementioned $15.00 for the core rules, which I'd already spent) and got the Crusades book and a set of dice. (Yes, you can just use standard D6 in lieu of the expensive Saga dice, but the dice are so charming and being a dice fetishist, I can't resist.)

I'm normally very doubtful about spending so much money to buy into a game system that just sucks you into buying more and more. I've been through it before, most recently with Bolt Action and every army list booklet, plus the 2nd edition rules, which made all the army lists obsolete. In fact, I bought the 1st edition Saga rules and one of the booklets, which I eventually sold—having never played it—at the Enfilade! swap tables before I wound up buying more booklets. But, as St. Peter wrote, a dog returns to its vomit...

At our last gaming get together in late July (was it?), Mike Lombardy, Dean Clarke, and I discussed the possibility of a Saga game. Saturday, September 1 was the day.

I'd read the rules and studied the board for the Spanish. I went into the game with only a fuzzy idea of what was supposed to happen. Since I'd never actually played 1st edition, I had no need to make a paradigm shift from Saga 1 to Saga 2, which probably helped.

We played with 6-point warbands. My warband consisted of my warlord, 2 units of 4 hearthguards (armored cavalry), 2 units of 8 warriors (armored foot), 1 unit of 8 warriors (jinetes), and 1 unit of 12 levy (crossbows). I played Dean, who ran a Saracen warband consisting of his warlord, 4 units of hearthguard (mounted with composite bows), and 2 units of warriors (basic spear-armed foot).

I had a slight advantage in that my hearthguards were more heavily armored, but I soon discovered that the composite bow was not my friend. I formed up with my hearth guards in the front, supported by the warrior foot with my warlord just to the left of them. My levy crossbows were on the left in a field and my jinetes were on the right hidden behind a wood.

The warbands deployed
Dean had his hearthguard on his left opposite my hearthguards with 3 units up and 1 behind. His warlord in between the two of the front units. His 2 warrior units were on his right opposite my levy crossbows.

I had first go, which only allowed me to roll 3 Saga dice, but I used one flag die to get a roll of 2 more. So, basically, 4 Saga dice. My first move was to go forward on my flanks. I took first blood when the jinetes shot away one of Dean's hearthguards.

Dean came back by attacking my 8 jinetes with his 3 hearthguards. It was bloody. I lost 5 of my 8 figures in the unit, which deprived me of it generating a Saga die, but I managed to kill all 3 of his remaining hearthguards, thus wiping out the unit and depriving him of its Saga die.

Javelins to the left of them
Dean moved his other hearthguards and warlord up towards my center, ignoring my 3 surviving jinetes—which he would later regret.

The fighting in the center was pretty nasty, especially for me. Both my hearthguards got beaten up pretty badly in the first rounds, although I managed to reduce one of his hearthguards to a single figure (still generating a Saga die, though). One unpleasant surprise for me was a Saracen Saga ability called "Damascus Steel" that gave him 4 or 6 extra defense dice.

Mayhem in the center
Meanwhile, on my left, Dean moved up his warriors into the beanfield to oppress my levy crossbows. I got a shot off earlier that hurt him a little bit. When he came at me, he had a bit of advantage, but we tied in the melee and back he went. I managed another shot at him. He came at me a second time and got hurt even worse than before. I kind of expected the levy to crumple, but they hung in there. He came at me a third time with just 2 figures in his unit and managed to push me back. However, I still retained 6 figures in the levy unit, so it still generated a Saga die.

Action on the left flank
All the while since turn 2, my jinetes hung on Dean's left flank like a gadfly. I only had three figures, but that still gave me a pool of 2 dice for shooting. I manages to take out a couple more figures as the game went on. Annoying as they were, Dean was loth to send off his warlord or a hearthguard to drive them away. Too effective to ignore, too puny to deal with.

Annoying the flank
Still the Saracens came on and it was looking very bad for Team El Cid. His "Damascus Steel" Saga ability made several of our melees lop-sided. By rolling so many extra defense dice, Dean was able to nullify any hurt I did to him, while I was steadily worn down.

4 to 1: Death of my hearthguard
However, the worm slowly turned for me. As a desperate measure, I threw in my reserve of foot warriors against Dean's hearthguards. I managed to kill the last figure in one of his hearthguards by shooting them with my jinetes.  Before long, Dean was down to 1 unit of hearthguards, reduced to 1 figure, and his warlord in the center. At this point, we started bashing into each other with our warlords. Back and forth, Dean charged me or I charged Dean. All to no effect. We each soaked off losses by taking fatigue and never got more than 3.

Nearing the end
I eventually killed off the last figure of his Dean's last hearthguard with my jinetes. By this time, we'd likely gone over the 6-turn limit (we really didn't keep track). When we counted up victory points, I managed to pull off a surprise win at 23 to 16.

I think the jinetes were probably the heroes of the game. They managed to take out one hearthguard unit straight-up and then managed to whittle away at the rest, providing the coup de grĂ¢ce on two of them by shooting.

I have a lot of finessing to do with the Spanish. The Saga abilities seemed anemic to me. They donlt seem to have much that helps in reaction or any really killer combat abilities (like that nasty Saracen "Damascus Steel"). I probably need to paint another unit of jinetes. There are some Saga abilities for them, but with only 1 unit having 3 figures remaining for most of the game, I couldn't take advantage of them.

I really like Saga 2. I'll plan some more warbands with them. I'm also eyeing the Aetius and Arthur supplement. It'll give me something to do with all the Picts I painted forever ago for Pig Wars. I'm also contemplating a Saxon warband for Age of Vikings, if the book ever becomes available again. At this point, no one in the world seems to have it in stock.


  1. Like you, I bought Saga but never played a game with the rules. Saga 2 certainly sounds like fun. Is it different enough from Lion Rampant (and its family) to make the purchase worthwhile?

    1. It is worthwhile. The Saga abilities on a factions battle board make for a more complex game in some ways. Each factions abilities differ. Some can seem atomic, but it comes down to how many dice Saga you throw and what results you get.

  2. Nice! Great to see figures beIng our to good and multiple uses. Enjoy the saga!

  3. Great looking figures and game, David. I must admit that I've not played Saga for some time, but seeing this is very entertaining.

  4. Great looking game! I bought Saga and Dux Bellorum (two games system one set of figures)at the same time, haven't played either yet but building armies for Dux Bellorum, its interesting so maybe I'll give it a go.
    Best Iain

    1. I have Dux Bellorum and the Pict supplement for it. I haven't played it yet. Many years ago, I painted a lot of Picts for Pig Wars. I actually painted a lot of the Old Glory range for Arthurians, Picts, Saxons, and Irish. I've got the Aetius and Arthur supplement for Saga on order. With everything mounted on single bases, I can use the minis for Dux Bellorum, Saga, and Lion Rampant.