Sunday, October 16, 2011

First SAGA game: Isildur the Victorious

With fresh copies of the SAGA rules in hand, Chris and I decided to start learning the rules using miniatures from his extensive Lord of the Rings collection. Chris played Numenor (Anglo-Danish) and I played the Goblins (Welsh). Here's the basic run of how things went. Lessons and impressions at the end.

We played the river crossing scenario and used a 3x4 mat as outlined in the scenario. Chris and I each brought our Armorcast bridges.

The bulk of the goblin force prepared to cross the right bridge...

...while a large unit of 12 warriors and some levies were deployed near the left.

As the Goblin (i.e. Welsh) player, I used the Taunting ability on the battle board to draw the Numenorean archers towards the bridge. I charged my warriors in and caused some serious damage.

In response, Chris sent Isildur and his elite bodyguard in to deal with the goblin warriors. When the smoke cleared, both units were wiped out and Isildur remained victorious on the bridge.

My goblin warlord and his elites prepared to counter-attack.

Meanwhile, the other bridge was less active for both sides. I used archery to try and hold back the Numenorean advance.

My warlord and his bodyguard stormed the bridge.

The goblin bodyguard died but, in true goblin fasion, my warlord charged across the bridge and tried to take down the enemy warlord. As expected, the goblin warlord died...

...and Isildur and his men crossed to the goblin side where Isildur annihilated the goblin levies.

The victorious warlord and his men.

My warriors were doing a good job of holding the Men back but, by this point, the game was over and it was too late. It was a crushing victory for Isildur and his men.

SAGA is a brilliant game - let's just get that out there first. All of the hype is well-founded. Here are some basic observations from the two games we played:
  • Ranged combat is far less powerful than in other systems. For the most part, the real damage is done in close combat. This is a game where history was/is made by those who were/are man enough to pick up a sword and stand in the shieldwall, not by the skulking peasants.
  • Warlords are powerful but far from invunerable. Without the support of their men they can easily be swarmed and taken out.
  • The battleboard provides almost all of the faction-specific information you'll need as you plan and play your turns. Spending all of your SAGA dice to activate units is one option, but the game (or at least the turn) often goes to the player who allocates dice to special abilities, especially those that allow you to react to and interfere with your opponent's turn.
  • The way in which miniatures engage in combat is very smooth. Figuring out who's fighting and who isn't is so simple yet definitive. There's not screwing around (read:40k)
  • The game has depth so it rewards a good plan and cunning play, however, the rules and faction-specific abilities are limited enough that gameplay is very intuitive and decisive. Our learning game was around 90 minutues, our second game was less than an hour.
  • Finally, playing without SAGA dice is very straightforward and not at all required. That said, I will be buying the SAGA dice for my Vikings as I see LOTS of games in my future.
If you're on the fence about this game, get off and go buy it. I expect to get an awful lot of replay from this one. I think that the guys from Tomahawk have hit on a winner. I could easily see a series of rules in the future covering other historical periods.

Thanks for reading,


Christopher(aka Axebreaker) said...

Well it looks like I should get busy reading my copy. Very nice report!.


Rodger said...

Great report, thanks.

Thomas Nissvik said...

Brilliant stuff. Are you on the SAGA forum? This report deserves be in the Battlesongs department:


jmilesr said...

I am becoming a big fan of SAGA also - I've got two games under my belt and really like the depth of the battle boards. Like you, I agree you can play without the special dice but it's a bit more fun (if expensive) to use them. It's seems to be rather bad form to cry out for Odin's favor when one is not rolling the Viking dice!

Christian said...

Great read, thanks. I'm waiting for my copy to arrive and my first Viking warband is almost complete.

JET (aka Jason) said...

Thanks for your replies gentlemen.

I tried to join the forum a little while back and it kept giving me grief. I'll try again.

wardy-la said...

Excellent report thanks for this.

We definately have been on the fence with these rules (we have started using Strandhogg) but on reading this I think we will be giving this a go pretty soon!

Love your blog - keep up the good work :)


Scottswargaming said...

Nice report, (and nice looking figures!). Since you used the LOTR figures, how would you say the style of gameplay of SAGA differs from the LOTR SBG game? Which would you say is better?

Kevin Barrett said...

Absolutely love SAGA, and up here in Edmonton, we've been intending to convert to LotR as well. Great report.

Wailslake said...

"I played the Goblins (Welsh)"

Bit harsh on the welsh... :P

Lovely looking game and sounds like a really interesting system.

JET (aka Jason) said...

Thanks yet again gentlemen.

@Scott - We played a lot of Legends of the Old West (which is exactly the same as LOTR rules) and I have to say, I don't think that the LOTR rules are optimized for playing games with more than 8 or 10 figures. In other words, it really worked for Old West (Lawmen vs. Outlaws), but I would say that SAGA would be a better rule system for handling the mid-sized engagements typical of most LOTR scenarios. The only downside (which wouldn't matter at all to me) is that SAGA wouldn't represent special model rules (Nazgul, Gandalf, etc...)

Pacific said...

Thanks for the write-up! I was previously sitting on the fence about this one, but your battle report has swung it for me :)

Dalauppror said...

Thanks Jason for an exelent AAR.

I to have placed a order for SAGA and some Viking dice... just in the progress of expanding my skirmish based Vikings in to a 6point warband...

Looking forward to heare some "songs" about your Viking raiders in the future:)

best regards Dalauppror