SAGA: Win one, lose one

Managed to get in two games of SAGA last night (the short play time of SAGA is very attractive). Got creamed the first time and won the second. My opponent was Aaron G., who helps run the SAGA game days at the store. Aaron was playing a Norse-Gael army (sort of like Irish Vikings) and I was rolling with my Anglo-Danes. The Norse Gaels are one of the later factions for the game, and the A-D’s are one of the first, so I was interested in seeing if there had been any “power creep” with the newer armies, as often happens with miniatures games.

In both games we played 6-point warbands. I had 2 pts of huscarls, 3 pts of ceorls (warriors) and 1 pt of geburs (levy) and the requisite warlord. I went all Dane axes with the huscarls and organized them into one big group of 8 (which definitely packs a punch). IIRC, Aaron had 4 pts of ostmen (hearthguard) and 2 pts of warriors, organized into 2 units of 8 ostmen each, and 2 units of 5 warriors and one unit of 6 warriors. We played the first scenario, Clash of Warlords for both games.

Unfortunately I don’t have any pics of the games to post – forgot my camera! Sorry! 😦

In game 1, I made a lot of mistakes. SAGA is a game that really rewards you for making the other player play your game, and I was playing Aaron’s game. I advanced my whole line thinking to engage his formation. I put the Geburs out front and they got off a volley of stones from their slings, killing one Gaelic fighter, but that was all they got the whole game. It was the first time I’ve used ranged units in SAGA and I learned a lot. My center got into it with the Norse Gaels and there I encountered their Challenge ability. The NG’s can issue a challenge and each side puts a figure forward to fight it. Then you roll a d6 and the high roll wins. If the NGs win, they typically can activate some nasty special ability. You can decline to fight the challenge, but if you do, the NGs get their ability at no risk (they lose it if you win). And they can keep doing this. It’s not terribly huge, but it is disconcerting to have all their little tricks firing off on you.

The fight was going against me, even though casualties were about even. I had a unit of warriors badly out of position on my right, slowly trudging through a field and hopping over hedges, and they never saw any action the whole game. I got other units stuck in but the attrition was high and I didn’t have much left when Aaron charged my warlord with his warlord. I’d been spending more dice on moving forward than on abilities detrimental to the enemy, and when Aaron’s warlord challenged mine, I had to accept. He pumped up his warlord with lots of abilities designed to help in challenges, rolled lots of dice, and even going defensive, my warlord was cut to ribbons and the game ended.

We reset for game 2. I knew the Anglo-Danes were built to counterattack, but had been playing them like they were Vikings – moving forward and trying to get stuck in ASAP. Mistake. The AD’s are a mid-to-late game army. They want to stand their ground, spend dice on SAGA abilities that rack up Fatigue on their opponents, and when the enemy is tired out, run in and bash them. I decided to play it smart and a bit more crafty this time. I began with the geburs on my left flank this time, starting behind a hill. I meant to run them over it and start throwing rocks at the NGs. In the center, I had my huscarls and warlord, with a unit of ceorls on his left and two units of ceorls on his right, in a column. This game would be different.

I moved the geburs out and over the hill. They’re just crap levies and hard to command – you need 2 activation dice to move and then shoot. But, they nailed 3 ostmen with their first volley – very good result! The thing about levies is, they’re crap fighters and they don’t do anything for the command and control of your army since they generate no SAGA dice. But, they can be a threat or a speed bump, and if positioned well your opponent can’t ignore them. Now I was playing my game. In the center, I advanced a unit of ceorls but spent most of my dice on AD special abilities that cause Fatigue. These proved to be very useful in the late game – I laid a lot more Fatigue on the Norse Gaels this game and it really hurt them.

So, after that great volley from the geburs, I sent a unit of ceorls in on the weakened ostmen on my left. I used both Lords of Battle and Unforgiving (which can totally exhaust an enemy unit when used together) and even though I was driven back, I caused a decent number of casualties and put a bunch of Fatigue on the ostmen. Then I activated the same ceorls again for another go, this time crushing the remaining ostmen, whose lone survivor then ran off. That unit of warriors finished the activation with 2 Fatigue and would subsequently be destroyed but I expected that and I knew it was forcing Aaron to deal with them while I did other things I wanted to do, namely, whittling down his left flank. One of the two ceorl units on my right advanced up and engaged an NG warrior unit. I eventually lost this fight but again I was able to easily mop up the reduced NG warriors with my second unit of ceorls coming in behind.

Now, the NGs had Fatigue markers all over the place – at least one on every unit that mattered, and with fewer SAGA dice from losses, were having a devil of a time getting anything done. Now it was time to finish the game. I activated my warlord and he and his 8-man unit of Dane Axe wielding huscarls went after the Norse Gael warlord. I had Lords of Battle ready again, used it and rolled 19 dice. The NG warlord was cut to ribbons. Yay!

Lessons learned:

*The Anglo-Danes are a mid-to-late game army. Rushing forward to get stuck in early is for Vikings.

* The AD special abilities can really wear out an opponent with Fatigue and cripple his freedom of action. Played right, they can totally dictate the game and are the key to Anglo-Dane game tactics.

* Dane axe Huscarls in a group of 8 are awesome, but a bit brittle (just a bit) as they’re Armor 4 instead of 5, and since you typically send them in against the best enemy troops, you can lose them quickly. Used with the right combination of abilities though, they’re devastating. They’re for finishing a game and not so much a vanguard unit.

* Levies suck but can be very useful in the right place at the right time. I will never take more than 1 unit of levies but I won’t discount them completely.

Really digging the simplicity and elegance of the SAGA rules!

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2 Responses to “SAGA: Win one, lose one”

  1. I finally made time away from 40k for some ATZ but now I am getting intrigued with Saga. Is it purely historical or are there any “magic” like powers?

  2. stingersix Says:

    SAGA is purely historical, if somewhat cinematic in its approach. No magic powers – which is actually kind of refreshing.

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