SAGA – Rambling


Back at Historicon, I picked up some stuff for Saga (I almost don’t even want to link to the Studio Tomahawk site, it’s so bad).  Somehow along the way, I managed to get some figures assembled for it (it’s really only been two and a half months?) and have gotten in a few games for it with Casey.

Directionless rambling about the game follows.

Bayeux of the Bayeux God

We’ve played through all of the two-player scenarios (except the wagon-based one) at this point, and although I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the game in any way, I do think I’ve gotten a good feel for it.  

Although I don’t think I love the game, I definitely like it a good amount.  Since I’ve been trying to find a skirmish game I don’t hate, that’s definitely a victory.

If you’re unfamiliar with the game, I won’t try to summarize the rules: you can find overviews at The Wargamer, Boardgame Geek, and  For me, it’s attractive because of the relatively low model count and the fact that the rules are simple, but have some depth.  Yes, there are lists of fiddly damn rules like the ones Warmachine and Malifaux use to turn me off, but they’re scoped to the entire army rather than specific models… and in practice they end up guiding the way the different armies play rather than being building blocks for combos (if that makes any sense).

And the game plays really pretty fast: we’ve done games in 30-60 minutes with extensive digressions into how The Shield is one of the greatest American TV shows produced and how the finale of Breaking Bad didn’t quite deliver.  As 40K games seem to take longer and longer with every new book, “fast” is a value.

Almost all of our games have been unbelievably close, too.  Like, down to a final roll of the dice. It’s very swingy.  When we started, at 4 points, I asserted that it was a game about who could roll dice better… though at 6 points (where it’s actually  supposed to be played) I don’t think that’s the case.

Model count is fairly low: there’s effectively a hard window of between 25 and 73 models (and that 73 models would come in a wildly impractical list).   I’m putting together a list that’s two of each choice: 2x Hearthguard (4 each), 2x Warriors (8 each), 2x Levies (12 each).  My Warlord puts it at 49 models.

This, combined with the relatively low overall cost of historical miniatures, means the game is kind of bullshit cheap.  The rulebook’s almost as expensive as an army.  The Tapestry has a great article about to get several armies out of just a couple of purchases.

I’ve turned to Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Stories for motivation and focus with a great deal of success: despite the books basically being about Saxon Conan the Barbarian (UHTRED OF BEBBANBURG) who rampages across Britain screaming “KILL! KILL! KILL!” (seriously; I think those are actually his first words in Sword Song), the books portray a people (Vikings and Danes) much more believable and interesting than what you get if you start and end with “The Immigrant Song.”  I’ve really enjoyed them.

11th Century Norman Knight

I initially put together some Anglo-Danes, but swiftly ended up putting together a Norman warband. I’m not sure I remember why I made the shift, but I’m glad I did.  Now that I’m digging in on painting them, I’m finding that all that chainmail paints very quickly, and I feel like I can get away with a more regimented, standard paint scheme with Normans than I could with a less organized force.  I’m probably wrong here: as far as I can tell, none of these people had uniforms, but I’m more comfortable painting models uniformly.

The game came up on OGO, and someone brought up a photo from a Viking reenactment group’s website as an example of the sorts of colors used during the Dark Ages.


I’ve used this as a bit of a guide in painting: colorful, but not bright and colorful,  I don’t think I’ve gotten specific colors 100% on this, but what I’ve got is close they’re close (I think), and believable.

Also significant: horses. I can’t say that I’ve ever painted a horse before, which is a little surprising to me. I can probably attribute that to loathsome ratmen and all their vile kin not really having much of a use for them beyond eating.  I’ve done some research, though, and I am pleased with the results.  They’re not perfect by any stretch, but for a first-timer they’re absolutely sufficient.

Anyway, I’ve made really great headway into painting up those Normans: I’ll post some photos in the next couple of days.

  • CaseyVa

    I concur. It’s a fun game and I’ve had a blast playing with you.

    One thing you didn’t mention here, but have mentioned in person, is how freakishly close most of our games are. There have been a few big wins, but for the most part the games are really close.

    It’s a fun game. I’m not sure how much of the game is my making decisions and playing a game, or if it’s just me playing the battleboard the way it should be played with the dice I have but it’s fun all the same. I like fun.

    Also, I want a step by step guide to how you paint your horses so I may steal it for my Welsh. Thx.

    • Dang! I meant to call that out, and it got lost in the shuffle. I’ll update the post.

      I do think it’s a little of both: playing against the battleboard is going to cause problems… but there’s still room, I think, for meaningful decision making about what abilities to choose, and when, and in what order.

      • CaseyVa

        You’re probably right. There is a lot of decisions to be made as to what units to activate, if you should activate them multiple times, and setting aside dice to activate abilities. Plus, when and how to use fatigue and what dice to carry over for defense. There’s a lot going on, but it isn’t cumbersome.

  • Sean Parker

    And here I was going to do a Viking army just because of “Immigrant Song”…

  • Sean Parker

    Oh, and I love me some Cornwell, Sharpes was awesome. The only think keeping me out of Nepoleonics gaming is the money investiture…

    • I’ve enjoyed the Sharpe’s books I’ve done so far, but I think I’ve enjoyed his Grail stuff a bit more and his Saxon stuff is nothing short of amazing.

      • Sean Parker

        I’ll have to look for the Saxon series then. Other than the Sharpes books, I’ve only read Azincourt. Thanks for the recommendation

        • Agincourt is a pseudo-sequel to the Grail Quest books: Cornwell wanted to have Thomas of Hookton murder French in ever major conflict of the period… but that was a bridge too far.

          It’s got more condensed heavy breathing about the superiority of the English longbow than the other 4? books, but I suppose that’s to be expected.

          The Saxon Chronicles start out with The Last Kingdom. Definitely check it out.

          • Sean Parker

            I didn’t mind the Longbow Porn. It was a fun read, even if it did get a little angsty. My local library has the Saxon books, I’ll see if I can get them sometime soon.