by Simone Render
SAGA is a historically themed tabletop skirmish game featuring small warbands of medieval warriors facing off against each other. Depending on the era you play in, your Viking raiders could be doing battle against Saxon warriors or Norman knights, or you could have a Briton warband led by King Arthur driving Pictish invaders back across the ruins of Hadrian's Wall.
A Norman Warband readies for battle.
Players build small warbands of elite warriors, regular troops and levy around their Warlord, a powerful hero of his or her age who fights for honour, glory, wealth or duty. SAGA is a scenario-driven game, and has a full set of campaign rules to tie games together into a larger narrative. An escort or sabotage mission, a raid for plunder, or a simple, if deadly stand-off between two rival Warlords - each of these could form a part of a larger tale.
SAGA is built around a unique new mechanic, the SAGA Dice. These dice represent the training and discipline of your troops, allowing them to access skills and resources unavailable to other factions. These abilities are detailed on a Battleboard specific to each faction, with the results of the SAGA dice roll providing a resource pool to spend during a player's turn.
The SAGA dice mechanic is complemented by an innovative approach to troop morale and stamina, which further expands the resource management aspects of the game. Instead of players constantly having to take morale tests during the course of a game, units instead accumulate Fatigue, which then becomes a resource the opposing player can spend to your detriment.
The combination of SAGA dice & Battleboards with the game's approach to mental and physical state leads to SAGA being as much about resource management and allocation as it is about tactics and strategy. Many factions also introduce unique new resources, mechanics and rules to the game, specific only to that faction, ensuring that no game is ever quite the same.
SAGA Dice - Welsh & Anglo
SAGA is set in the dangerous era of the Early Middle Ages, in the chaos that followed the fall of Rome to barbarian invaders and internal collapse. You can choose to play in any of three different periods, covering by turns the Arthurian Age, the Dark Ages or the Crusades.
Released in 2011, SAGA Dark Ages is the main setting, and forms the core of the game rules. The core rulebook is supported by three additional expansion books that bring the total number of factions to 15, mainly focusing on the various groups and nations of the Viking Age. A fourth expansion book, "Age of the Wolf", adds a detailed campaign system that allows players to link their games together in an ongoing narrative.
The Crescent & the Cross, released in 2014, adds information on the Crusader era and the medieval Muslim world. It includes additional rules options for use in any SAGA game, most notably the introduction of the Priest special unit, as well as detailing the Holy Land and the six main factions involved in Crusades.
The Crescent and the Cross is fully compatible with the core SAGA Dark Ages setting, allowing for interesting new battles and stories. Saracen and Moor armies struck deep into Europe during the Muslim Conquests for example, and were only turned back at great cost by the Franks, Byzantines and others. The confrontation between East and West started long before Pope Urban put out his call for holy warriors.
Aetius and Arthur, the Arthurian Age edition of the game, was released in October of 2016, and covers the tumultuous years during & immediately after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This expansion adds six new factions, including the late Roman Empire as well as the various barbarian armies at its gates.
As with the Crescent & the Cross, Aetius and Arthur is fully compatible with all the other material in the SAGA range.
Studio Tomahawk, the developers of SAGA, makes a huge wealth of additional material available for download from their website. These include special rules & game aids, new heroes, as well as interesting new factions. Amongst others, these include the Skraelings, the Native American warriors Leif Eriksson & his warriors fought when they discovered North America, as well as the Steppe Tribes peoples of Central Asia. There is even an undead faction, the Revenants, for when you feel like injecting a bit of the supernatural into your games!
SAGA is a constantly evolving game that marries one of the most mysterious and fascinating periods of human history with a unique tactical & strategic challenge. Whether you enjoy the modelling aspects of the game, the rich historical setting or the unique game mechanics, SAGA has something to offer every gamer.
Over the next few weeks we will be running a series of articles on the various aspects of SAGA: How to go about putting your army together, what the world in which SAGA takes place was like, great films, books & movies you can enjoy to get into the game & its setting, & much more besides. We really hope you will join us.