Sunday, June 23, 2019

Saga: AoM AAR - The Dead Don't Die

I played my first game of Saga: Age of Magic on Saturday. Overall it was enjoyable, but I played against the evil dead—or whatever they're called—and that's one nasty lot of ghouls to have to deal with. I think I officially hate them and I think the rules authors must have been on crack when they designed the faction. Nevertheless, I managed to pull out a tie, so not a complete fiasco.

We made 8-point warbands. I used my lady centaurs that I painted for Dragon Rampant. It turns out that they make a decent warband for Saga: AoM. My Lords of the Wild force was the following:

1 x Warlord, mounted on animal (i.e., centaur)
2 x 3 Creatures, on foot (lady minotaurs)
3 x 4 hearthguard, mounted on animal (centaurs) with composite bow
1 x 4 hearthguard, mounted on animal (centaurs)
1 x Sorcerer (Ursula)

I played Ken Kissling, who ran The Undead Legion, composed as follows:

1 x Warlord, mounted on animal
1 x Lieutenant, mounted on animal
1 x 4 Hearthguard, mounted on animal
1 x 2 Creatures
3 x 8 Warriors
1 x 20 Mindless (20!)
1 x Sorcerer

We played the Clash of Warlords scenario from the main rules. Ken was first player using setup C (L distance from baselines with no units closer than M to another). For terrain, there was a marsh on Ken's right baseline, a steep hill on my left just on my side of the centerline, a wood just over S distance to the right of that, another wood just over M distance towards Ken, and finally my sacred totem (proved to be worthless) just about M distance to the right of the first wood.

Four-hooved ladies of the wild
I wasn't really sure how to proceed against the evil dead. I think I was a bit intimidated by the Mindless. In sheer numbers, they're frightening. The most intimidating—and frustrating—aspect of the Dead Can Dance crowd is the awful way that they can be re-spawned using their Tide of Re-animation and Necromancy Saga abilities. I wish I could un-die my dead like that. Ken used those abilities every turn like the freakin' Night King.

The only way to make headway against the army was to manage to entirely kill a unit in a single turn, which I didn't figure out until too late. Also, the Mindless don't suffer fatigue. You pretty much have to kill them in numbers too big to reanimate.

Bows don't kill enough Mindless to matter
I started out by doing a lot of shooting using my hearthguard with composite bows to sort of spar with his warriors. In a normal Saga game, the results would have been very satisfactory—even against other Age of Magic warbands, they would be good. But the dead don't die. If any part of the warrior or mindless unit remains, some of the dead can be re-animated. I wound up killing some figures many times over.

I had some stand up fighting early on with on of my creature units. I charged them into a unit of Ken's warriors and managed to win, but didn't inflict much hurt. I was unharmed, due to my resilience, but had 3 fatigues. Ken responded in his turn, by attacking with his nasty flying creatures. I managed to win that fight, too, but without inflicting loss other than 3 fatigue, due to his resilience.

Nasty, wighty, flyty ghouly things begone!
I, however, lost a figure because I started the fight with 3 fatigue and took another 2. Ken's creatures went back exhausted, but whole, while I stayed out there exposed exhausted and diminished. At this point, Ken started vexing my creatures with his sorcerer, which made it difficult for me to recover much from my fatigue.

Frustrated by my inability to inflict enough lasting harm by shooting, I decided to start charging in with my hearthguard. As hearthguard go, bow armed horsemen aren't the bee's knees in a mélêe.

This tactic does not appear to be working...
In one regrettable fight, my 4 hearthguard charged 6 of Ken's warriors. I had a small advantage in attack dice (8:6), but wound up rolling very, very poorly. I think I killed 1 of his, but lost 2 of mine—mine being more valuable and less reanimatable. I charged another hearthguard into the Mindless. I won, but it was Pyrrhic. He could easily reanimate the losses he took, while my lost figure was gone for good.

Holding off the ungrateful dead
In the center, my bow-armed hearthguard were doing some damage to the warriors—though always mitigated by a bit of reanimation. By rights, I ought to have shot at least two units to oblivion, and did shoot them to ≤4, but of course they reanimated back to a number that would let them generate a Saga die again.

The evil dead
Ken finally had enough of me and charged me first with his warriors, then with his hearthguard. That unit went poof. However, I managed to kill off his surviving 3 hearthguard with my non-bow hearthguard. We broke even in the fighting, which wiped him out and left me with 1 remaining figure. Ken also charged some warriors against my other bow-armed hearthguard, which had already been reduced to half strength in my own foolish charge, and wiped it out. My left was looking seriously diminished.

Ken's hearthguard: Bones to be chewed
Ken and I both had a sorcerer in our ranks. I'm kind of so-so on the value of magic. I had one nice spell in Spear of Light, which can cause a lot of damage if done right—although that's the maximum effect and comes with a warning label. I used max effect with it twice, the first time to no harmful effect, the second caused me to forget the spell, but that was turn 6, so it didn't matter. My other spells were kind of meh. One protected my sorcerer (which I never remembered to use) and one might cause a charge to fail. I typically used a Saga die to generate extra magic dice, but never used magic to its full potential.

About mid-game, I started moving units from my right towards my left. Ken had stacked most of his strength against my left, which eventually became critical. On my right was the Mindless, his warlord, and his sorcerer. The Mindless move slowly, so I figured I could just move away without being seriously challenged by them. At one point, Ken brought forward his warlord, but retreated him back after my remaining minotaur ladies came out to play.

Ken about to choose the better part of valor
I think I like the creatures. My minotaurs were bipeds with a 5 aggression for mélêe. A unit of three rolls 15 attack dice. They're pretty much warlord killers, if they get the chance.

With Ken's warlord skedaddling, I moved the cow-ladies against the Mindless. I figured that rolling 15 dice against 4 (or fewer) would reap a reward. It did. It took some follow up, which generated fatigue, and an attack by my warlord, but I managed to kill the whole unit of mindless. I ought to have done this earlier.

Cow-ladies with Mindless on their minds
In his part of turn 6, Ken managed to get a charge against my sorcerer. Having the unused magic die that I might have used to try and protect her, I was a bit chagrined when his warriors charged home. However, resilience saved me. I lost the fight and became exhausted, but I was still alive on my part of turn six. I rested away 1 fatigue and then fired off my Spear of Light to max effect, taking out 4 of Ken's warriors—but sadly not killing the unit.

At the end of turn 5 and more so after Ken's half of turn 6, I thought I might be badly beaten. However, I managed enough killing in turn 6 to make a slight comeback. When we counted points, Ken had 22 and I had 20. Killing all those Mindless accounted for 7 points and made a big difference. Of course, I killed many more warriors than I was credited with. They just kept growing back like lizards' tails and you only count the dead at the end of the game.


I like Saga: Age of Magic. It's a nice variant on Saga, but not a radical departure. Taking away the magic spells—and that fearful reanimation groove thing that the undead do—and it plays like any other Saga encounter.

I recently bought a lot more centaurs and friends from Shadowforge/Eureka in Oz. However, I'm not sure how much I need to change my list for now. I'll have to get another few games under my belt, hopefully not against the evil dead again. I could add another sorcerer, but I found the one I had to be sufficient. I need to study the spells a bit more to see what will work. One the whole, however, I think the spells in Dragon Rampant are more effective, and being universal, you don't your options to blame when you use lame magic against powerful.

1 comment:

  1. From my experience, if you take on Mindless, you have to hit them hard repeatedly in 1 or, at most, 2 turns to wipe them out. Otherwise, as you found out, they just keep on coming back. You can always try to avoid them as they are SLOW!