Saga Thracians vs Successors

The Tracian models shown in the Age of Alexander book are in their traditional tribal dress but looking at evidence from modern Bulgaria there is a good case for running selected Greek figures as Thracians. The historical thread is that as Macedonian and Successor influence spreads then the Thracian tribes adapt Greek weapons and costume. It can even be argued that to provide sufficient ‘loyal’ manpower the Successors hired Thracian mercenaries and settled Thracians in military colonies; resulting in Successor and Thracian equipment influencing each other.

This assumption is based on a number of tomb paintings in Bulgaria dating around the 3rd century BC that give a good idea of at least how some Thracians looked like around the time of the Successors. Possibly the mother load is at Kazanlak but there are other tombs with military and domestic images from the same period. The images from the tombs indicate an obvious Greek influence and show that Greek or Successor models can be repurposed as Thracians in Saga. In particular those with lighter armour and bearing Thoreophoroi (θυρεοφόροι) style shields together with shieldless cavalry.

The Thoreophoroi style of weapons and armour is nicely described with original illustrations and modern interpretations at ‘ancientbattles‘. This all seems a fair match for the later style Thracian javelin warriors. The 28mm Polemarch successor Thoreophoroi and Thracians with rhomphia seem to the same base sculpts except that the Thracians wear greaves. The Aventine Thoreophoroi can also be converted to rhomphia wielders by swapping out weapons with the only major difference from their Thracians also being a lack of greaves.

The Rhompia (ῥομφαία) is still good to go (possibly more so if it is a more recent weapon development) for the later Thracians. We have this from Plutarch of events about 168 BC but written around 110 AD and quoting an earlier source possibly Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Corculum who was there:

First the Thracians advanced, whose appearance, Nasica says, was most terrible,—men of lofty stature, clad in tunics which showed black beneath the white and gleaming armour of their shields and greaves, and tossing high on their right shoulders battle-axes with heavy iron heads.

Plutarch, Aemilius Paulus Chpt 18, section 3

Looking at the original Greek we have at the end of this section ὀρθὰς δὲ ῥομφαίας βαρυσιδήρους ἀπὸ τῶν δεξιῶν ὤμων so rhomphia rather than battle axes.

The Thracian board is unusual in that it depends on plunder. The gist is that a Thracian unit without plunder wants to get some so is looking to attack. A Thracian unit that already has plunder is keen to hold onto it so is better in defense. In Saga terms some advanced abilities are better with plunder and some better without. Luckily Thracians can remove plunder with ‘We Obey’ (instead of moving) or their INSATIABLE ability.

To keep with the timeline of Greek influenced Thracians here they will face up to Asian Successors in a similar match up to the game at Iron Man in Leeds. In that game the Tracians did not make optimal use of plunder (assuming such a goal is possible) and were run over by the Successors. There have been a couple of clarifications to the Successor board in the latest FAQ but only to confirm what had been the most logical interpretations. The Thracian board has a clarification to top row Saga combat dice bonus.

Thracian Warriors can run with rhomphia or javelins. The rhomphia are buffed by RHOMPHAEAE and the javelins by ELUSIVE so having 1 unit of each makes best use of the board. On the other hand javelins get a free missile shot and melee attack at +1. This seems a better deal than the heavy weapon +1 in attack or defense as both types are penalised -1 melee armour.

The Thracians are the defenders here and have attempted to maximise terrain to disrupt the Successors. There is a large patch of uneven ground, small areas of woods, rocky ground and marsh. The phalanx do not like poor going, the levy and elephants don’t care so much.

The Successors are using the scroll variant and can fairly shift with HEGEMONY which will activate 3 units, 1 of which must be a phalanx. They shift up as far as they dare.

The Thracian plan is to get round the Successor flanks and harry their centre. The Successor levy have unwisely moved to the edge of the uneven ground and a rhomphia unit catches them but only kills 5 so they still generate a Saga die. Worse still as Levy the Thracians do not gain a plunder for winning. The Thracian javelin and bow units shoot with limited results.

One phalanx charges the Thracian mounted warriors and beating the odds manages to lose. The other phalanx and elephant send the foot javelin unit off for an early bath.

The rhomphia units fancy their chances but one bounces off the elephant although leaving it with 3 fatigue. The other unit pushes the Successor Levy further back. The mounted javelins knock out 2 mounted cataphract Hearthguard.

The Successors tidy up. PANTODAPOI will remove a fatigue at the end of a turn, resting (which could be part of HEGEMONY) will remove another at the beginning so the elephant can drop back to 1 fatigue.

The Thracians finish off the Successor Levy and with some exceptional dice rolling and a couple of Saga dice combat bonus wipe out an entire phalanx by bow shooting.

The Successors are running out of targets so about face and go after the Thracians to their rear.

Some mounted Warlord and Hearthguard action ensues. The rhomphia unit has a go at the elephant and whiffs it.

The Successors tidy up their fatigue again and have a go at the Thracian Warlord. This does not work out and the Thracians get their first and only pillage marker of the game.

The Thracians make a bold move with their 2 remaining Saga dice and take out the opposing Warlord.

Running through the massacre points:

Thracians: 4 (Warlord) + 4 (HG) + 6 (W) + 4 (L) + 4 (units) = 22

Successors: 10 (W) + 3(L) + 2 (units) = 15

A Thracian win although the Successors could probably have pulled it off if they had finished off a lone rhomphia model and pulled back when they had smashed the Thracian centre rather than turning and trying to take them all out but what would be the fun in that?

Saga Macedonians vs Athenians

Progress has been middling with the war in the East. The local Greeks are getting uppity so the Macedonian home guard now square off against the Greek City States.

A brief digression on the rules changes in 2022. With a bit of cutting and gluing these will fit on top of or at least close by the errata’d rules sections in the base rules book. Most changes are minor but the free shooting of javilins and composite bows have been clarified. These and the shooting of sarissa are free activations that cause no fatigue but the red box on page 30 still stands. ‘An activation that does not cause fatigue does count when working out whether later activations cause fatigue.’ The implications of these rules together is that a javelin unit could shoot or a sarissa poke once with no activation die required. If the unit were to move then shoot there would be no fatigue. On the other hand if the unit shoots then moves there will be a fatigue because the shooting still counts. This chaining of fatigue and non-fatigue action crops up in other situations notably when the Greek City States activate their line of battle as a single line. There have also been changes to the battle boards and army rules but thankfully none for either the Greek Cities or Macedonians.

The core to the Greek army is a line of battle. That is a cluster of phalanx units that are all within VS of each other. This give a number of useful Saga board benefits. The phalanx units are generally hoplites but some of the city state boards give the bonus to other unit types as well. If the line of battle breaks into smaller groups then the relative benefits will be fewer. Hearthguard and larger units count as more for the size of the line of battle but that only affects ORACLE. All other abilities depend on the number of units in the line not the size of each. This makes the size of the line less important than it may appear and could benefit having more smaller units in the line but not too small as a unit needs to generate a dice to act as a phalanx. The Greeks are about to learn this the hard way here.

It makes sense for any opponent to try to break up the line by inflicting casualties on the central units so these no longer generate Saga dice, do not count as phalanx and drop out of the line of battle, making 2 shorter and less effective lines. This will encourage putting the best units in the centre of the line of battle not in their historical place of honour on the right. Uneven or dangerous terrain will also break up the line. Unfortunately for the Macedonians they too want a relatively uncluttered board for their phalanx and cavalry. To get good with these factions might involve working out how to deal with bad terrain and use it to their advantage rather than hoping it goes away.

The Macedonian list will stick to the same load out as the Indian and Persian games. There must be a better force choice but keeping to a consistent army makes it easier to get a feel of how their board handles. With some commitment to the cause Victrix Greek Heavy cavalry that had previously been modeled as javelin and shield have been re-built as Macedonian lancers. The Greeks run as Athenians which makes their Hearthguard deploy as a single unit. The Macedonians also maximise a unit of 8 Hearthguard; both with a base of 16 melee dice.

The armies line up, avoiding the bad terrain. In the latest rules the 1st player gets a full dice pool but the 2nd player has 3 dice to roll and put on their board before the game begins.

Both sides move up.

The Athenians are not quite close enough to get into melee on their turn without pulling a fatigue first. This may have been a mistake. Sitting just in sarissa range of a phalanx can hurt. The only loss so far is a bowman to javelin shooting.

This is rough, with a combination of shooting from the bowmen, a poke from the white tunic sarissa, a charge from the red jackets and then another poke from the reds and an entire unit of 12 hoplites is off for an early bath.

The red jackets are pushed back by the Athenian hearthguard.

The Macedonian hearthguard charge into the other unit of 12 hoplites, 1 survives. With only 1 decent phalanx unit many of the Greek battle board abilities are of little use. The writing is on the wall.

The Greeks go for the Macedonian warlord but only push him back.

It is only a matter of time. The Macedonians tidy the line and engage in some prodding.

The Greek hearthguard push through and take out the Macedonian warlord with the help of some javelin shooting

The Macedonian hearthguard return the favour and its game over.

At last we seen Macedonian units doing what they are supposed to do. Some effective prodding by the sarissas and serious melee work from the mounted units. The Greeks have little choice but to close in and that is what Macedon wants. This was not so easy against enemies who stood their distance and shot or kept running away. Mounted hearthguard can be very powerful especially if their board has the right buffs (Macedon does, SLAYERS, XYSTON and PRIDE) but can suffer badly from bowshot due their missile armour of 4.

As for the Greeks units of 12 are wasted in battle lines FORM LINE will move the lot with 1 die of any face and MARATHON will let it run once without generating a fatigue. Save the dice for combat abilities rather than moving. ASPIS is almost always worth putting up if the enemy has any missile units and the die can be spared. Alas in this battle a poor choice of big phalanx units and a lack of rolling rares (to activate ORACLES) meant that the Greeks were constantly low on Saga dice.

Star Wars Legion

Star Wars Legion can be seen a a source of free resources or a hefty money pit. There is not a lot of give in the middle. The rules are available on-line and all the unit attributes and scenario cards can be printed out from the Tabletop Admiral list builder. The system uses D8s and D6s with special symbols but a crib sheet for the pip icons could be created. The only element that is close to esential are the measuring sticks which consist of 2 straights with a rotating joint. These fit around the circular bases and enforce turning angles and distance between turns so would make a useful aid in any home-grown game system. At a pinch a set of sticks (there are 3 movement speeds) of appropriate lengths could fill in.

At the other financial extreme the minis are expensive and being 35mm do not fit in well with most other ranges. Each figure pack comes with cards for the unit stats and expansion cards some of which can be used on other units as well as those in the pack. A strict tournament setting would require players to provide cards for all the units on the field and their upgrades. This would lean towards needing to buy figures that are unlikely to be in play merely to unlock enough juicy upgrades to use them on additional units. All these card images are on Tabletop admiral so it would be hoped that this can be avoided unless there are sufficient event freebees to make it worthwhile towing the line even with a possibly sub-optimal list. There are 2 boxed core sets each with 2 armies, dice, rulers, cards and so on but these are not enough to field a pair of workable armies even at the smaller 500 point skirmish level game. Another option is the battleforce boxes that have just about enough content for a full 800 point force but no dice or measures. Buying a single core set in addition to a battleforce will be enough for a full army with a duplicate commander and a small set of units for a second faction.

This can all be avoided by proxying models from other sources as long as the base sizes between 2 opposing sides are consistent. The rules are relatively easy to follow but list building could be a big element of success. In a game such as Saga almost any list that roughly follows the benefits of its battleboard should do OK. In Star Wars Legion certain upgrades benefit others so just throwing down a set number of points may not work out. There is a lot of on-line discussion about what goes with what and some thought needs to go into the best upgrades to buy. These will soak up a lot of points so a small number of heavily buffed units may suffer against greater numbers of cheaper units.

The scenario system helps out here and is one part of the game that deserves attention. It is possible to win by destroying all the opposition but a more probable outcome is that some other factor will determine victory. 3 sets of 4 cards are laid out before the game. One set is the scenario, another the deployment zones and the 3rd game conditions such as limited visibility. The cards are in 3 rows of 4 and the players take turns in removing a card from the left until 4 cards in total have been taken. The remaining 3 leftmost cards then form the game scenario. This does give the players some chance to scope the game to the list they have bought. For those wanting to splash more cash various official objective packs include models and additional sets of 3 cards. This can allow a player to skew the deck by removing some of the scenario options available in the base game. Luckily all the cards are on TableTop Admiral so cash is not strictly necessary.

Another clever pre-game element is the command cards that each player uses. A game lasts for 6 turns and each player has a hand of 7 command cards. One card can always be re-used but almost all the others are played at the start of each turn and are spent. The cards determine the number and type of orders that can be given at the start of each turn. The core sets have 4 common cards and each leader or battleforce on the table adds another 3 to choose from. Most cards have some additional effect beyond giving orders, usually some special power linked to a leader. The choice and timing of playing order cards has an impact on gameplay. A force will have at least 1 leader but the limit is the points invested in them. A leader costs more than the most expensive ground units. Some work best with others, Chewbacca certainly benefits with Han Solo around. A command card allows up to 4 units within a set distance of the issuing leader to be given an order token for the turn. Players alternate activating units starting with the player who ordered fewest with the command card. When activating a player can either choose an ordered unit or have another random unit to act. The random factor is created by pulling a chit of 1 of the 6 units types and choosing a unit from within that category. With a little list work and careful issuing of orders the random factor can be reduced. For example all the un-ordered units might be of the same category.

This all works rather well. Combat is a simple roll to hit and roll to save with 3 strengths of hit dice and 2 of defense. 1 of the die face categories is a ‘surge’ which better units are able to convert to a hit, critical hit or save making the same die roll more efficient for some units than others. Movement involves measuring for the unit leader then piling the rest of the unit within short range around it. Line of sight is based on what the unit leader can see but any model needs line of sight to shoot. A model that is fully out of sight cannot be harmed by shooting no matter how deadly the dice rolls. The unit leader is the last model to be removed within a unit. If the model has to be removed to satisfy a casualty then it simply swaps with another out of sight mini.

The system compares favourably with 40K in gameplay. There is less dice rolling and less to look up although there are still a good few special rules. Lists and models are available for Rebels and Empire in the later films and Republic and Separatist in the early films. There is also a mercenary faction and Imperial remnant option. Disney is still churning out media for the franchise and Mandalorian options are available. To some extent Legion shares the unlimited universe boundaries of 40K. The publisher can bring out new units with new stats that might make older models less efficient and encourage the gamer to throw more money into the pit. Thankfully the Legion models could be proxied and there are no necessary army Codices to buy. It is a shame that no one has written up full Legion lists for other universes or pulp settings.

Saga Classical Indians

The Classical Indians appear in the Age of Alexander book. Historically they did fight the Persians, Alexander and Seleucus. The Greco Bactrians could also run as a Seleucid list, earlier or later Greek settlements in the East might also run under the Greek battle board. In both cases the non-phalanx ‘Greek’ figures could be represented by Indian or Persian models. Geography makes any other match up tricky. The Maurya period (322-185 BC) was a period of stable government and the best guess is that troop types over this time would change little. If we move to the Gupta era (319 to 467 AD) and a Parthian list were to appear in a later antquity Saga book there could be opportunities. Pushing the envelope and lose the Chariots these Indians could fight Sassanids or even the Mutatawwi’a from Age of Crusades.

Geography or even the march of time is often given a light touch by Ancients gamers. A Classical Indian army was popular in the old WRG Ancients days as they could field longbows and two handed swords on the same model. The WRG rules treated these in the same manner as British medieval longbows and heavy cutting weapons such as the halberd so they were useful fellows to bring along. The counter attraction under almost any ruleset, including Saga are the expensive elephant and chariot models. In Saga a 4-horse chariot is the same cost as 2 foot hearthguard; the 2-horse is an equivalent to 2 foot or horse warriors. Elephants are not so costly as they could swap out for 8 warriors but in all cases the expense is going to be more than an army relying almost entirely on foot models. On the other hand the basic foot model is only going to need a weapon, some facial detail and a white kilt so would be quick to churn out.

Unlike many armies there is no host of Osprey type books with a pile of pretty pictures to follow. Duncan Head’s Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars is probably the most accessible source. The older Phil Barker edition is best avoided as it contains less information and makes little attempt to justify what it does include. Classical Indian art does illustrate battles and parades but as with some Western pieces it may show a literary ideal rather than what might be seen in life. Note that at this period the Indian Mauryan Kings were Buddhist as Porus may also have been. Many of the soldiers could still have been Hindu but best not go overboard on Hindu motifs in the army.

Gateway at Buddhist temple complex, Arch Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India. 3rd century BC to 1st century AD.

Book X Chapter 6 of the Arthashastra gives some idea of the tactical use of Elephants, Chariots, Cavalry and Infantry from around our period. Book II Chapter 30 onwards governs acquiring and caring for elements of the army. Chariots are defined as a range of sizes with the widest being 12 purushas, 9′ plenty of width for 4 horses abreast.

The Anabasis includes details of Porus’ army and the battle at the Hydaspes. It is not stated how many horses pulled the chariots but they were heavy and slow and less than effective due to the mud.

He then took all his cavalry to the number of 4,000 men, all his chariots to the number of 300, with 200 of his elephants and 30,000 choice infantry, and marched against Alexander.

Anabasis of Alexander by Arrian Chapter XV

Arrian’s Indica Chapter XVI also includes a description of Indian dress and of infantry weapons and shields.

The Saga Indian list options are in some ways relatively accurate as they encourage a variety of troop types. Not only in the actual models that can be fielded but with benefits on the battle board from having a mix. This fits in nicely with the Arthashastra and the Saga concept of the game being more about the story than strictly historical. It makes sense to field elephants, chariots and infantry. As the infantry are Levy there are likely to be quite a few of them. Only cavalry get a short shrift. A single unit can be fielded as Hearthguard or Warriors but they have no specific advanced Saga ability benefit. They have some attraction as only cavalry and light chariots fill the Warrior slot and 8 cavalry models will be cheaper to buy than the equivalent 4 light chariots.

Only half of any Saga army can be elephants (including the general) and only half of the units in an Indian army can have resilience (not including the general).

Elephants by Newline (Metal) Aventine (3D print), Aventine (Resin). The armoured Indian elephant is unlikely and may later be converted for Successor use.

A viable list would be 3 elephants (3 units), 2 heavy chariots (1 unit), 1 Hearthguard and 12 levy. If taken as a general an elephant costs 1 point but does have better stats than ‘your average’ elephant. Elephants are best used as single models rather than units because a single elephant can take 7 hits (6 as resilience) but a pair 8 hits (6 as resilience) in a single round. Also 2 units could both rest stripping 2 fatigue, a combined unit could only rest once per turn. If running a standard Warlord at 0 points with a single heavy chariot model an extra point is freed up.

Newline heavy chariots, the reins are strips of plastic from a document wallet.

Our Indians take a run out against Macedonians who move first sliding up the slow moving phalanx. There are 2 areas of swamp and sections of rough and also rocky ground. This match up will involve some careful dancing around as the elephants are vulnerable to sarissa but the cavalry do not like elephants.

The Indians move up their elephant line with the aim of knocking out the Macedonian archers. They hit home with hearthguard cavalry but the results are middling.

The Macedonians push the phalanx up against the Indian archers and chariots. Chariots are poor in defense but with resilience and buffs from the Indian battle board can hold out well. The Indian bow retreat into the swamp. It might be argued that they gain an additional fatigue for that. It depends on a if a retreat is a move (so they probably should take an additional fatigue.)

The Macedonian archers are getting slowly mashed but manage to hang on.

The heavy chariots also beat the odds and are still on the pitch.

The Macedonian archers are gone and the elephants move in on the phalanx.

The chariots are also off for an early bath.

It would be easier if the elephants were not so slow. One does not want to pile up the fatigue on them.

Some solid sarissa action and the Indians are an elephant down their Hearthguard are also off the field.

The Indians take out a unit of mounted Macedonian hearthguard.

A sarissa assault on the Raja’s elephant does not go so well. A key tactical issue here; sarissa have a +1 vs mounted and elephants if they have no fatigue themselves. So if defending against fatigued sarissas it makes sense not to strip their last fatigue.

Game winning moment here. The Macedonian Warlord is within charge range of the Raja. The Indians can buff their defense but have resilience 3 anyway so take him out for a final score of 20 to 15 in their favour. If the Warlord had moved ‘L’ away rather than stripping his own fatigue in the previous turn he would have been safe and the game almost certainly a draw.

The Indian board compliments the elephants and chariots as REINFORCED ARMOUR, GREAT SIZE and DYNASTIES all buff models with resilience making it easier to keep them on the field. Indians are capped at 3 elephants (including the Warlord) and half with resilience (not including the Warlord) this makes it hard to field both types of chariot if the full 3 elephants are on the pitch. Even with 1 as the Warlord the maths needs 8 units for 4 resilience and at 6 points that probably means some weak units to pad out the points. The heavy chariots are much like elephants with no missiles but a unit of 2 will throw down 12 dice and 2 automatic hits if it is charging in. Although elephants can move 3 times (adding up to L) without fatigue through careful use of the Indian board the chariots can do that in 1 activation rather than 3. A missile armour of 5 (compared to 4 for elephants and light chariots) also keeps them alive unitil they get into melee).

The light chariots are missile platforms so are perfect for NO WAY OUT (as are elephants) but do lack punch in melee. A unit of 4 light chariots will cost more than the Victrix Republican Roman army boxes that make an entire army for Saga so chariots are far from an auto-choice. On the other hand any Indian army should have at least 2 elephants.

The optimum Macedonian ability ought to be SLAYER OF KINGS as it allows all misses in a single melee to be re-rolled if the defender has resilience but it is a one-off advanced Saga ability. Compare this to VARIA that allows the Indian to re-roll 1 attack and 1 defense die in every single combat. While the Indian and Persian boards have clear synergies with their troops the Macedonian board still seems to be a collection of useful abilities that may not gel with their troop load outs. There could be a benefit in deploying some or all of their Hearthguard as sarissa when facing Indian or Persian armies where the cavalry might be less useful.

Saga Macedonians vs Persians

Thank you to Gripping Beast for providing the Age of Alexander supplement gratis, time to start working through the boards.

Greeks are relatively good value army builds in the recent Saga books as many similar models will work as Graeculi, Macedonians, Successors and Thracians. The major differences hinge around the use of shields and their shape together with helmet and armour differences that are less apparent at arm’s length on the gaming table.

The Macedonian board is rated 1 star so should be easy to play, the problem is choosing the right models to make the best of it. They need to get the painfully slow sarissa phalanx into action. SEIZE THE INITIATIVE allows 2 units to move a second time without fatigue but is going to chew up 4 Saga dice (or we obey and 3 dice) in total. It will at least get 2 sarissa units up to M (or M + S with a charge) in a turn without fatigue. Take another activation (and its fatigue) and a phalanx can get into melee with any pesky Persian shooting at L in the previous turn. It will, however burn a pile of Saga dice leaving very little for additional buffs and possibly nothing on the board to react with on the next Persian turn. Any 2-unit advance will also leave all other sarissa troops well behind. This is an incentive to only run 2 units of sarissa, either Warriors or 1 Warrior and 1 Hearthguard. If running Warriors there is some benefit to buying 3 points and deploying as 12s or 10, 10 and 4 (the latter hiding at the back). These are the sort of deployments that Scythed chariots are built for. Hearthguard cavalry are good and can also benefit from the SEIZE THE INITIATIVE double advance so 2 units make sense as does dragging along a unit of Levy. If not running 3 points of sarissa a single point of Warrior javelin (peltasts or hypapists) is a good buy to fill out the army total of 6.

The Persians are relatively easy to point up as the troops available gel well with the board. This game will run a late Achaemenid force with the option to take Greek mercenaries. These are tough hombres although they get no benefit from advanced Saga abilities. A unit of 8 is a good start. Greeks require an equal number of Persian cavalry so another point buys 8 Warrior cavalry. The Persian board has buffs for combined arms units so these are a must but are only available as Hearthguard. With the attractive missile buffs of the Persians a Levy unit makes up 4 points. To benefit from COMBINED ARMS the Persians need an equal number of infantry and cavalry. Units of Warriors are pretty squishy so another point of Hearthguard, as cavalry is the easy choice. A variant would be to buy 3 units of Warriors and run 2 as Greek and 2 as cavalry all of 6 figure strength. The final point will go into Hearthguard infantry or possibly 2 additional Hearthguard models and 1 scythed chariot. The scythed chariot needs to get into combat without a fatigue to be much use and generates no Saga die. It will be hard to get one in the right place at the right time, very tricky to get any use out of two. The Persians can field an elephant but look good enough without going down that path.

The Persians will be looking to grind the Macedonians down with missile shooting, taking advantage of the slow sarissa units although Persian mixed units are even slower (they both move and charge S).

Here we go, the Macedonians are first player. Terrain is 2 small swamps and an area of ruins. The plastic box lids in some images mark the edge of the gaming area.

The Macedonians put up a few buffs but advance cautiously. One unit of Hearthguard cavalry moves up the flank using manoevre. This proves to be a mistake as it stays out of the key parts of the battle being too far away to do any good.

The Persian Levy is in the ruins and the red shielded unit beside them are 8 Hearthguard with combined arms. Key Persian tactics are to use a use a mix of ONE VOLLEY AFTER ANOTHER on 1 shooting unit and double activating the other to put a hail of arrows on one unit at at a time. Shooting is quite random but put down enough dice and the effect will start to tell. In turn 1 they both have to squidge up a bit to get in range.

The Persian Hearthguard cavalry charge the Macedonian Levy and defying the odds lose a figure in melee.

The Macedonians use SIEZE THE INITIATIVE and shoot/poke with their sarissa on the way in to get up close and personal with the Persian Hearthguard. They melee twice and use CONQUERORS to strip their melee fatigues but 2 Persian models still stand. A benefit in always keeping some defensive buffs charged up on the battleboard.

Intensive Persian shooting and a spot of luck eliminates one Macedonian unit and throws fatigues on its nearby comrades.

The Persian infantry Heathguard are finally wiped out but a a Hearthguard on Hearthguard cavalry melee goes poorly for the Macedonians.

The Persians clear up what is left but at at some cost to their own Hearthguard.

The Macedonians jiggle around the 3 units they have left hoping to to wipe out the Greek mercenaries.

The Macedonian Levy now no longer generate a Saga die.

The Macedonian Warlord tries to wipe out the mercenaries and fails leaving himself within bowshot of the Persian Levy.

He is swiftly shot down. With only a single unit generating dice and a slim chance of doing any good without losing the last Macedonian Hearthguard unit to bowshot the following turn the game comes to a Persian victory.

What if the Persians had deployed first? This gives the Macedonian some foresight when deciding where to deploy the phalanx. The Persians have taken the chance to place another wood. This turned out to be more use to Macedon than than Persia.

In brief a close run thing but the Macedonians managed to run down the combined arms Hearthguard unit before it did too much damage. The Levy bow were partly neutralised by staying out of range and the Macedonians pulled out the advantage in the cavalry melees for an eventual win.

Lessons learnt include the benefit of dragging a piece of ruin terrain along with a a bow heavy army. Uneven ground and hard cover is no bad thing for bows. The Macedonians avoided going in after the ‘dug in’ bows but sarissas are not too bad in uneven ground on their board. The models only go S anyway so are not massively slowed and can still benefit from FAULTLESS MASTERY as it is not a phalanx ability. They can also still use their sarissa shooting ability from outside the uneven ground into it. The Macedonians do seem harder work than the Persians but that could be because of the difficulty in finding the optimum unit type loadout.

Sharp Practice at Steel Lard

Off to Patriot Games in Sheffield on 19th November 2022 for Steel Lard. The morning was taken up by a 4 player (2 a side) French and Indian War Sharp Practice game. Lovely terrain, the figures are Galloping Major. This was a relatively small scale affair. The models were mostly working in groups. Only 2 or 3 formations each of 2 groups came into being during the game. With small sized units and most of those being skirmish or light troops in cover a lot of the dice thrown had no effect. A unit of French Marines were, however, wiped out by long-odds missile fire. In the ACW and Napoleonic games previously described here there were big formations throwing out a lot of dice and consequent losses and shock building up. Here the pace was quieter with a lot of shots going nowhere. Close combat was more deadly but its a risk often not worth taking.

I commanded the boat on the left below. Both were full of 3 groups and a leader but it would be a push to cram them all in. Redoubt do some lovely period boats with rowers but how often would these get used in games?

The plan is to sail down the river, get out, burn down as many of the 5 buildings as possible and if there’s time find and rescue our commander’s lady friend. The British only have 1 man and a dog on the board. If the dog did not detect us in theory it is possible to do all that without anyone getting hurt.

Our luck went the other way and the boats did not get far before the dog heard our oars and the British cropped up all over the the shop. Time to get out of the boats but even that took longer than it ought to have done.

After some sorting out 1 house is on fire and the inhabitants of the other are heading for safety.

Our Milice think better of that, charge in and slaughter the lot. They later set the house on fire to rub it in. Redcoats have formed a good line behind the next fence making any further progress difficult.

Both sides settle into a firefight. Some of the British mission Indians break and run. Rogers Rangers dance about with little effect and our Coureurs du Bois loose off long range rifle shots with similar lack of result.

The end of game sees a stagnating firefight and the British decide to concede. They were 2 points lower in morale and in danger of breaking. Our French were not in a much better position and had only burnt 2 of the 5 buildings and failed to find the lady. On points I would have given it to the British.

The ‘winning’ French tactic had been to continually hammer the 2 badly hit British units (Indians and colonists) and see the British morale drop as they ran further away.

Rumour has it that the French also won the afternoon game,not that it really matters as long as everyone had fun (except possibly the British colonists).

Saga Age of Alexander Iron Man

October 30th 2022 at at the FIASCO show at Royal Armouries in Leeds saw an 8-player Iron Man tourney using armies from the new Age of Alexander book. I had been to an Iron Man before but back in the old Saga v1 rules days. The plot was roughly the same with 5 point armies all provided by the Iron Man and metal to boot; no plastic here. Age of Alexander had only been out a few days so these were new forces and we had little time to get acquainted with the battle boards.

First up my Antigonid Greeks face Gauls (from the Age of Hannibal book). The Sarissa and Phalanx rules have not changed from Age of Hannibal but the Successor battle board makes them easier to move about and better at shooting (stabbing at short range) than the Graeculi board. The Successor line is mostly phalanx with some levy on the end and Illyrian mercenaries in the centre. They are deployed to take advantage of the rough ground ahead of them. Illyrians are especially good against Levy but the Gallic Levy are deployed well away from them.

It all starts reasonably well, Gauls pushed back, favourable loss ratio although 1 Successor Hearthguard unit is down to a single man due to constant Gallic shooting. Seeing the Gallic board almost empty I buff up the Successor general and charge his Gallic counterpart. Statistically this should work out well but both generals end up alive but exhausted and the next player turn is Gallic. The result is to be expected.

Still the Successors has done relatively well up to losing the leader and managed to keep up the momentum enough on the opposite flank for a very narrow win.

Next battle saw my Spartans taking on Persians. The Spartans gain advantages from having large hoplite units keeping very close together. There are 2 such blocks here although the single unit of 4 models is little more than a dice generator. The blocks will break up with losses and charging into combat but it is not too hard to keep them intact for most of the game.

The Persian commander was less experienced and we both forgot which Persian units were mixed spear and bow and hence could shoot but only move ‘short’. Persian bowfire was relentless but the Greeks have an advanced Saga ability to take missile shots as if they were protected by light cover so are able to withstand it. The Spartans gain an advantage after combat if they lose a melee but as they never lost one we did not get to try it out. A Persian cavalry attack from the rear did not work out and the hoplite line plodded forward for another win.

The last battle sees me field another Successor army; Seleucids against Thracians. This army has the same battle board as the Antigonids but includes an Elelphant, cataphract horse and thureophoroi mercenaries. The Successor boards have 3 sets of enhanced Saga advanced abilities depending on the attitude of the general. I picked the same set in both Successor armies so as to minimise the new things to learn.

The Thracians made good use of hit and run, quickly putting 3 fatigues on my Warlord. They also managed to take out the elephant although with a little more effort expended. The Successor line plodded forwards and steadily took the Thracians apart.

A clear win here with much of the Thracian army off for an early bath. As much a case of bad Thracian die rolling as to my generalship, he deserved to do much better.

The final count was 3 wins. Overall tourney victory was based on the massacre points of each player and I came 4th out of 8. We had played 3 games each over 5 1/2 hours with a single coffee break of about 30 minutes included. Although there was a leader board and prizes (although not for me) the event was a case of moving around the toys and having fun rather than trying to be top of the leader board. Some mistakes were probably made with the basic and army specific rules but not enough to affect the games or the overall enjoyment.

Iron Man himself is available for similar events within the UK. Everything is provided, figures, rules, dice, markers and terrain. Gripping Beast provide the wherewithal to make this possible. A club or shop wanting top set up a similar event should track Iron Man down through Facebook. Here is an overall view of how it all looks:

Plastic Achaemenid Persians for Saga

The Achaemenid empire flourished for over 200 years and during that time there will have been changes in costume and styles of warfare. To keep matters simple this exercise will concentrate on the later empire that would have faced Macedonian pike phalanxes of Alexander III or Philip II. The Empire was pretty much shattered by Macedon although the satrapy of Cappadocia was bypassed and survived long enough to become a Seleucid, Pergamine then Roman client state and finally a Roman province in AD 17. The Gallic migrations that led to the establishment of Galatia occurred about 40 years after the death of Alexander. After that time Cappadocia came under Gallic influence. Livy (writing about 35 BC but probably with older sources to hand) describes the Cappadocians at the battle of Magnesia in 190 BC.

On the left flank, next the phalangitae, were posted fifteen hundred Galatian infantry and two thousand Cappadocians similarly armed —they had been sent to the king by Ariarathes;

Titus Livius (Livy), The History of Rome, Book 37 Ch 39

Some of the other Persian types could crop up as allies or levy in Successor armies also with increasing Greek influence over time.

For general ‘army building’ reading we have various Osprey titles, WRG’s Armies and Enemies and Duncan Head’s Achaemenid Persian army. Useful original coloured images are obviously less common although there are at least 2 good examples.

Below is a colourised view of the sarcophagus of King Abdalonimus [Ἀβδαλώνιμος] who was awarded the throne of Sidon by Alexander the Great. In some scenes (not the battle below) Persian and Greek figures are hunting animals together. The original colours have faded but were recorded when the object was first unearthed. Thank you to Dick Osseman who has hosted some good images of the original on the web.

Colourised rendition of the Abdalonimus sarcophagus hosted by D Osseman
This is the Alexander or Issus mosaic. Although dating to many years after our period it is assumed to be an accurate copy of a near contemporary picture.

From these and other sources we can look to Persians in trousers and bright patterned clothes. Greeks on the other hand will be bare legged although not necessarily in the buff.

The thifty gamer should go for Wargames Atlantic infantry and Victrix cavalry. The cavalry come in 12s so a general will need to be sourced from elsewhere. Armoured and unarmoured cavalry come as separate sets. An economical solution is to give 4 cloaks and make them the Hearthguard leaving 8 as Warriors.

The Victrix armoured cavalry sprue. The horses that come with it are not armoured.

The Wargames Atlantic sprue. 40 figures in a box allows 3 sets of 8 Warriors, 1 group of 12 Levy and 4 spare for spares, conversions or possible elephant crew.

These models match in size with the Victrix. Only the crescent shields fit with our period. The big squares and figure of eight styles are from an earlier date. The poses are middling but the variety is good. To get armoured and unarmoured spear and archer poses would require 4 different Victrix sets. Buying individual Victrix sprues would get round this if a supplier is found with all the variants in stock. The Wargames Atlantic heads are poor compared to Victrix except for the useful bareheaded Wargames Atlantic head. Fortunately the Victrix heads fit on these bodies better than those provided by Wargames Atlantic. The ‘bowl’ hatted heads are, however, most useful as that type of hat can be seen in 19th century photographs so can be used for generic Eastern levy after the end of the Achaemenid empire.

Here are the 4 Victrix armoured cavalry variants. There are bow cases for all the models but no arms with bows and no shields. The ‘no shield and javelins’ loadout below is probable for late Achaemenids.

Now the 4 or 5 Wargames Atlantic infantry; some may have Victrix heads. The round hoplon shields are Victrix spares as there are none on the sprue. Victrix spear infantry does come with the hoplon shields included. There are 2 figures with quilted jackets but the only difference is that 1 has a cast on left arm and the other does not. The unarmoured guy with no arms is the most useful as he can be made up as a spearman or archer. The archer with cast on bow could be sliced up and made into a spearman but the pose is not ideal for that. Enough bow cases are provided for all the infantry but only 1 in 5 has a moulded on bow. So there are not enough to model all infantry with bows (sheathed or in use). Luckily the Vicrix cavalry have ample spares.

With any Persian model there will be some tradeoff in details in the embroidery and making the patterns blocky enough to give a feel for a pattern at arm’s length. True scale decoration would just show up as tiny dots.

Saga Urban Uprising

Urban Uprising is a scenario from Book of Battles. It is not well-named as there is no uprising beyond a possible event from 1 encounter. The board below loosely represents a Greek colony in the Crimea about to be fought over by the Last Romans and Pagan Rus. The buildings stand in for periods from Roman times through to the modern day but are good enough for the period. Units cannot move into or through built up areas, only keeping to the streets and courtyards. The terrain layout seemed about the minimum to drive the game mechanics. The 2 forces set up and enter at opposite board corners. The 6 yellow crystals mark encounters that will be revealed when a unit is activated to move within ‘Very Short’ of each.

Neither full force fits on the table at set up. Units will be moving in on the first and second turns. The game takes place at night so there are no charges or shooting at ‘Long’. Units must stay within ‘Medium’ of each other or suffer a fatigue at the end of a turn. A unit can take a 4th fatigue this way and will be removed from the game. This all seems to imply that an army should be in a clump with no units more than ‘Medium’ from any other. More than 1 clump could exist but the owner would have an easy choice of which to pick as the main force. It quickly becomes apparant that units will be doing a lot more dice-free manoevre moves than usual due to the distance between set up points and almost all moves being at ‘Medium’ or less.

The Last Romans start with some serious problems. If their cavalry move ‘Long’ they are likely to take additional fatigue through being lost in the dark. Their missiles can only shoot ‘Medium’. Finally they do not have space to spread out so will be taking constant losses from the Rus FROZEN WIND ability. This would usually be mitigated by moving away from table edges and getting in close with the Rus so any use of this ability will hit both sides.

Both sides move on. The Last Romans come across some civilians that they need to protect so these are sent to the rear out of the way.

The Last Roman slinger Levy are attacked by the city guard. They take some losses but being Levy generate more than enough victory points to offset any loss. The Rus uncover a couple of monuments that need to be guarded. 2 objectives remain to be revealed.

The Last Romans uncover a vital road junction but their fatigue is piling up. Their board has no way to remove fatigue except by a single rest action for each unit.

Turn 3 (out of 6 or 7) and we finally have some combat. The Rus Warriors load up on Saga abilities and wipe out the Last Roman levy. Losing the Levy is not a big setback but it causes nearby Last Roman units to take an additional fatigue, a commodity that they are already knee deep in.

The Rus push forwards aiming to drive the Last Romans off the objective near their Warlord. The Last Romans strip what fatigue they can and load up on defensive abilities. There are not enough dice left to move the archers forward.

A clash of warlords follows. The Last Roman Warlord is destroyed with 5 hits. He could have taken 1 as a fatigue (up to 3) and then another 4 on the nearby Hearthguards. Taking it on himself left the Hearthguard with the possibility of a counter-attack on turn 7. The game ended on turn 6 with the Rus controlling 4 objectives and the armies dominating 2 table quadrants each.

The final scores on the doors are Rus 18 and Romans 16. If the Romans could have held the final contested monument and pushed a Hearthguard into the North West map quadrant they might have pulled off a win. The mass of fatigue they were racking up would have made this unlikely. Some nations will do a lot better in this scenario than others, cavalry and missiles are definately on the back foot. Movement is more important here than in many Saga games where the tactic of loading up on Saga abilities and charging in is unlikely to do any harm. The difference in style of play does make this one of the more interesting options in Book of Battles

Saga – Eastern Princes Warwagon Tactics

Only the Saga Eastern Princes list includes a warwagon. General opinion is that it is or was close to useless. The unit has been buffed twice since first described and there might, just might be some light on the horizon.

The latest errata reduces the warwagon cost to half a unit, it generates a Saga die and has determination. If the determination is the only activation taken up by the unit then in effect the army has a free Saga die for use elsewhere. This is the same cost:benefit ratio as a half unit of 6 levy but loss of a single levy figure will knock out the die engine. With resilience 2 a warwagon will hold out far longer than a single levy figure. The warwagon is still vulnerable to missile fire, 2 shooting activations from 2 separate units should rack up the 4 fatigue in a single turn and put the model back in the box. Eastern Princes do have the advanced Saga ability GALVANISED that if the enemy has 3 or more fatigues will strip their own fatigue. This is an ORDERS ability so is one of the few advanced abilities that will work on a mercenary unit. This could keep the model on the table longer. It is also specified that destruction of the warwagon only deals 4 massacre points. There does not appear to be an additional massacre hit for being mercenary.

Armed with these conclusions the new warwagon plan is to activate it as little as possible and use its Saga die elsewhere. Where sustained incoming shooting is expected the model needs to be in the second line or behind cover but it can hold its own against a single shooting unit. If the warwagon can tie up more enemy activity than a single half unit of levy so much the better. Charging is off the agenda (specifically banned for the unit) but a weakened unit could hide behind the wagon, denying massacre points for being wiped out. The final decision is what to do with the other half point from the unit cost. Eastern Princes have abilities that benefit cavalry and hearthguard so any extra 2 (out of a purchase of 4) hearthguard will roll up.

As a rough plan to try it all out the Eastern Princes line up against Ordensstaat. Terrain is sparse, 2 regions of small broken ground and a large wood. The knights are on foot (no repeat of riding over thin ice as in Sergei Eisenstein’s film) to enable their levy to keep up and be ruthlessly burnt up by Saga dice buffs. The Eastern Princes hope to hit hard and fast with their cavalry then pull back to the infantry line if losses are high. The Ordensstaat will grind forward sacrificing their own levy without mercy. Their crossbow could inflict costly losses on the Princes’ cavalry if they are not ridden down too swiftly. Unless Saga dice are really tight the Princes will be using HESITATION frequently to block the knights NACH OSTEN ability for a free move of ‘S’ across the entire army.

The Princes move a single mounted unit around the rear of the Teutonic line. The Germans move most of their line forward and take out 3 cavalry with crossbow shooting.

The Princes slam in and wipe out the crossbow unit. DRUG is a powerful ability as it can added 10 combat dice from the Hearthguard to the Warlord here. It is not so easy to line up as it requires a support unit to be in place before the melee takes place.

Meanwhile the bulk of the German line slides forwards. The big peasant levy unit are not too bad at shooting and are kept up with the line to provide fodder for the Teutonic abilities that sacrifice their own models.

The Teutonic line spilts, some chase down the Princes’ Warlord. The rest aim for the weaker Russian centre. Without guaranteed use of NACH OSTEN the Germans are having difficulty shifting all their units. Sage dice being put to better use in combat buffs. The Princes’ cavalry is not as exposed as it appears because FEINT will allow a single mounted unit to move in the opponent’s turn. Getting away from declared charges and avoiding the fatigue hit for multiple moves.

Careful use of the warwagon restricts where the Germans can charge but by sacrificing an additional move they can go round the side, keep out of ‘M’ and charge something else.

The Princes’ Warlord comes over to help in the centre but is eventually caught and destroyed.

By game end the Germans are still generating 5 Saga dice. The only Russian Saga die is from the wagon. 2 Warrior units, both too small to generate dice cower behind it.

The Germans have already won but to see what happens the knights charge in on the wagon for the final turn. 2 Hearthguard models are well buffed up but bounce off. The Warlord then goes in but with no useful abilities left on the Saga board. He too bounces. The wagon has 3 fatigue, it can’t take another from the combat so holds in place.

As all the toys are out we give the battle another go but with the Princes’ cavalry staying closer to the main line and the warwagon up in front. The Russian levy archers are enough to neutralise the German crossbow and take the missile pressure off the warwagon.

This game ends as a narrow Russian victory. The warwagon even manages to get off some ineffectual shooting. The Russian Warlord is just off camera.

To conclude the warwagon could be a cheap Saga die generator. It has minimal offensive capability but might not be worth the enemy’s efforts to destroy it. Sustained bow shooting might be its Achilles heel.