Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saga - Norman Wisdom

I assembled my first scratch force for Saga last week for a try of the rules in person.  Rummaging through my Carolingians (actually a mixture of figures from all over Europe - and Middle Earth! - between 500 and 1100ad) I was able to assemble enough singly based models for a 4 point warband:

This exposed a couple of points, firstly that my old painting techniques - apply paint, stop - do not look very nice unless masked by being part of an army of 200 models.  And secondly that my choices were compromised by a lack of heavy infantry on single figure stands.  I may need to invest in a handful of new figures and some repainting time for this game.

The next thing one learns in a new game, is generally how to lose at it.  To introduce the rules mark suggested the basic 'Kill the Warlord' scenario, the equivalent in the rules of a straight battle.  We deployed and lined up for action.  I sent my cavalry round the flanks hoping to surround Mark and roll him up.

Mark went straight for the jugular, chancing exhaustion to get his warriors and warlord into contact with mine whilst he was exposed.  The effect of leading a personal charge was such that my commander was soon surrounded instead, and pounded in to the ground.  Game one was over in ten minutes!

We reset and tried round two; this time I revised my plan, placing the warlord with a guard of mounted men; my levies deployed in the spinney to my left, whilst the rest of my troops broke to the right.  In effect I refused the centre with the hope of over extending his lines and using my superior mobility to avoid trouble.

Mark picked one flank then the next to chase, and I was able to use hit and run tactics on the ends of his over-extended lines to some extent.  Even the levy bowmen played a small part in this action, getting off occasional volleys of arrows into the confused Saxons.

Mark regrouped and advanced his men in two groups to the left and right.  Diving back my infantry at heavy loss but faring badly against the levy, who appeared to have created some sort of defensive obstacle in amongst the scrub.

The lesson here is that a well rested force in defensible ground can wear down better troops.  By this stage we had long overrun the number of turns set as a game limit in the rules, but had spent only an hour and a half playing.  Clearly it was going to go down to the bitter end!  Marks Warlord ran himself ragged chasing down my Warlord, who horse game him a serious advantage here.  And in the final conflict a small advantage of numbers allowed my commander to edge a victory.

Here he taunts all the remaining enemy, from behind the remains of his own force.  Yes, it was that bloody.

A fast paced game where the tactical subtlety is all in the use of your saga dice on the playsheets.  Mark was constantly using his higher initial dice allocation to intimidate my troops in to missing turns, which meant I had at times to commit three of my five dice to one critical unit to ensure it did what was needed.

For my part I was committing dice to increasing the effect of bow fire and cavalry charges, and as these wore Mark down I was less effected by the intimidation and was able to turn the battle.  Still the second round was dependent on my flighty tactics and refusing to fight fair.

A good steep learning curve.


  1. Great report!!! But I'm disappointed, there's no mention of Mr Grimsdale!!

  2. Normans at 4pts is a tough force to use. Especially if you don't have the full six SAGA dice. As you've discovered, a wise Saxon will deprive you of at least one activiation with Intimidation and then you lack the weight to punch through.
    Combo charges with units of knights are where Normans really excell - one to weaken and take the fatigue, then a fresh unit to follow up and finish off - but you need to have the dice to do that.
    At six points they're a much more effective kettle of fish. I don't think I've lost against 4pt Normans (nor won with them) - its much more even at 6 points.
    Paint some more knights!