Archive for SAGA

Vinland Saga – An inspiration to paint

Posted in Blather, Historical, Review with tags , , on January 6, 2014 by stingersix

I’m setting up the next installment of the SAGA campaign at the store (kicking off on Feb.9) and looking at my Jomsvikings that are in need of priming and painting. But, I was given an inspirational kick in the pants by a co-worker who left a couple comp copies of the superlative viking manga, Vinland Saga, on my desk at work. Vinland Saga is, hands down, one of the best manga I have ever read.

20140106_125214Creator Makoto Yukimura (who also did the sci-fi epic Planetes) isn’t writing some silly bastardization of history – the man’s done his research. It’s set in early 11th century England, during the period when the Danish Vikings under Sweyn Forkbeard were trying to consolidate their territories in England. The story is about a boy, Thorfinn, who has a serious deathwish, trying to avenge himself on Askeladd, the man who killed his father. Their relationship is a complex one, and Thorfinn’s development as a character is as difficult as they come.

This story is set against a grand historical backdrop, and brings in the rise of Canute the Great, who later ruled over the North Sea Empire of the Danes. It’s well done on all levels – the art, the background, the characters, the story, everything. The depiction of Danish, Saxon and Scandinavian culture is extremely well done and respectful.

It’s also gritty and bloody as hell too, on the level, occasionally, of Berserk (if you know that one) but not gore for gore’s sake. It’s bloody because it has to be – I mean, if you chop someone in the collarbone with a sword or an axe it’s not going to look very pretty is it? This story shows how brutal and tough life was for people back then. Many characters are traumatized or hardened by the violent world they live in, including Thorfinn. It really gets into the characters’ heads and how the harsh and violent culture they live in shapes their way of thinking.

In Japanese, the series has about 12 volumes out right now and it’s still going. Kodansha is putting it out in English and while they’ve done a good job, I SO wish we could have done it. I know I would have devoted everything I had to making it the best ever. Anyway, if you’re interested in Vikings, Dark Ages history, Saga, minis wargaming, manga, and graphic novels, seriously, ALL the stars have aligned for you right here. Vinland Saga even features the Jomsvikings! Even if you don’t like graphic novels and/or manga, if you’re into Saga, I highly recommend reading this series.

And that has all inspired me to get busy on my Jomsviking minis for Saga! As the sort of Delta Force of the Dark Ages, I like the sheer range and awesome power of the abilities they have in the game. I should also be able to have the ready relatively quickly, since their army doesn’t have a high model count. It’s also got me reading a bit about the Varangian Guard, and whoever the Jomsvikings might have been. Anyway, it’s cool when your interests, hobbies and work all line up!

20140102_075729

Advertisements

SAGA Anglo-Dane warband complete!

Posted in Games, Historical, Minis with tags , on March 7, 2013 by stingersix

I’ve finished painting my SAGA warband (in time for game day on the 10th!). The minis are all by Gripping Beast. They painted up extremely fast compared to the time it took while I was doing my 40K minis, so quite pleased with that. It’s freed me up to start thinking about another project. Anyway, my Anglo-Danes are comprised of: the Warlord, 3 points of Dane-axe huscarls, 1 point of regular huscarls, 3 points of ceorls, 1 point of sling equipped geburs and 1 point’s worth of assorted bannermen (huscarls).

SAGA1 SAGA2 SAGA3 SAGA4 SAGA5 SAGA6

I’ve enjoyed playing SAGA a lot so far. My first few games I had to figure out how to play the Anglo-Danes and I think I at least understand them, though I’m far from mastering the way they play. I was way too aggressive at first – fighting like a Viking really, and that didn’t work. Now I want to skirmish a bit with the slingers and maybe a unit of warriors, hold the main striking force of huscarls in reserve and position them to go where they’ll do the most damage. Get Fatigue markers all over the enemy, and then when they’re wheezing and blowing with exhaustion, slam into them with a hefty unit of Dane-axe wielding huscarls and the warlord!

SAGA: Win one, lose one

Posted in Battle Report, Games, Historical with tags , on February 20, 2013 by stingersix

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!

In the grip of Odin

Posted in Historical, Minis, WIP with tags , , , , on January 24, 2013 by stingersix

So, the SAGA game has got its axe in me and I’m furiously working on my Anglo-Danish army. I just finished basing them all and I hope to get them primed this weekend so I can start painting them proper. I did finish a unit of Huscarls, which you can see below.773641_10151243626881915_1319189045_o

These guys are by Gripping Beast and I like them a lot (the minis that is). Painting these was a nice change of pace from doing Space Marines. So much so that when I got my SAGA minis I put aside the 4 leftover Space Marines I was working on so I could get started on these! And wow, these huscarls painted up quickly! Took me about one evening each, and only because I was working out my color schemes and taking breaks for dinner and whatever TV show I wanted to watch that night.

I got myself one of the 4-point starter warbands from GP, a pack of geburs (levies) and an extra pack of ceorls (warriors). That will give me a 6-point army, the standard size for SAGA. I have to admit a great fondness for the axemen though, since they look like a bunch of frothing psychos (guys going into battle wielding a 5-foot long axe I wouldn’t exactly call restrained). Not as dirty and broken as Viking berserkers of course – at least these dudes look like they might be decent fellows after they’ve calmed down a bit. Anyway, I’ve ordered two more packs of them, so I can have 3 points of Dane axes charging into my opponent! A glass hammer I’m sure, but why not try it anyway!

So, I have about 45 or so minis to paint, but I think they will go very fast, even if I spend some time detailing them a bit. Looking forward to getting this army on the table!

2013 – And now for something completely different!

Posted in Blather, Historical with tags , , , on January 7, 2013 by stingersix

Right, 2012 is in the bag. As far as miniatures go for me, last year was all about 40K and Space Marines. I finished the 40K Fight Club 2012 Painting Challenge, which you can see at this link.

Here’s a shot of the Command Squad I did to finish things up.DSC00605

With this lot done, I’m throttling back on my 40K painting. I’m still going to do it, but not at the same pace as last year. Look for a Daemon army from me starting maybe in the spring.

What I am hot for right now is SAGA, the Dark Ages historical game. I’ve linked to the entry on Boardgame Geek mostly because the actual manufacturer’s site isn’t so exciting, frankly, even though they have an exciting game on their hands. My Christmas present to myself was an Anglo-Dane army with all the trimmings (wire spears, shield decals, etc) and I will be getting into that as soon as it shows up in the mail. I’ve played one game of it so far (and got crushed) but I really liked it nonetheless. Building an army for it is stupid easy, since you don’t need that many figures, and the miniatures are relatively cheap and easy to get since there are so many companies that make them for this time period. Plus, there are no big vehicles to build – about the most complicated weapon system is cavalry, and my chosen army, the Anglo-Danes don’t use them (which is fine because I hate painting horses).

Plus, I like the flavor of the period. The more I read about the Dark Ages leads me to realize they weren’t really that dark – there was still a lot of societal and cultural development going on – it just wasn’t recognized by those chroniclers whose work survived to this day. It’s all really quite fascinating.

I believe I have also mentioned the WW2 game Bolt Action? I’m currently painting up some of the American G.I.s from the basic set that Warlord Games produced. These are going to be for the store set. I’ve put together the minis which are plastic and they’re pretty good. A definite aesthetic difference from the cartoon-like proportions of GW Space Marines!

I think the biggest thing I learned last year is that I absolutely hate painting to a deadline, even a self imposed one, which probably means no more challenges, or if I do one, I’ll be very slack with getting things donex. Miniatures painting is a way for me to relieve stress and when I have to get something finished by a certain date, it’s stress that I don’t need to have. I mean, I’ll get the job done, but only on my own time. That is why I will not do commissions and only offer to paint stuff for friends if I am absolutely sure I will do it. I admire the discipline of the guys who take commissions – I just couldn’t deal with the pressure.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to painting at my own pace this year, and getting back to playing around with other game systems!

So, that’s it for now.