6 of us showed for the Saga Iron Man event at Element Games in Stockport on 11/2/17. The big pull for me was not needing to bring any figures, dice or whatever. It was all provided at the competition. I had played Knights of Christ and Normans before but all against the same opponent and my knowledge of the rules was sketchy. 1 player had never played the game before and he became the eventual winner. Another had played about the same number of games as myself. The other 3 players seemed well versed and the organiser was on hand to sort out any rules issues. I came a resounding bottom (Straw Man) but did clear up some rules that I had got wrong although my tactics did not get any better.
All the warbands were of 5 points with a similar loadout where the factions allowed this. 2 points of hearthguard, 2 of warrior and 1 levy. All the figures were painted up, measuring sticks and battle boards all to hand. We each moved through the 3 boards playing a different faction and opponent each time. Saga factions do vary in ease of use. The boards from the base set are possibly the easiest to use. These armies were from later supplements and might be described as medium difficulty in terms of knowing where best to use the unique Saga abilities of each faction.
In all of the summaries below my army is listed first and the views are from my side of the table. The original plan would be to have before and after pictures for each game but in most cases the after would only include images of my opponent’s troops.
Irish against Anglo Saxon
The Irish seemed the most conventional army of the day. Javelins gave the ability to shoot in the movement step and the wolves were fast if brittle cavalry. It did seem as if I was getting somewhere against the Anglo Saxons but my advance ran out of steam.
Strathclyde Welsh against Norse Gael
I have played against Strathclyde Welsh before but now was handling them myself. They have the ability to inflict hits on enemy units at the edge of the table or fatigue on enemy troops away from the edge. The effectiveness of this ability depends on the number of units the Strathclyde keep off board. To bring a unit onto the board needs 2 dice (4 or 5 face each) and those off board units do not generate Saga dice. I kept 3 units off board but only got 2 onto the table. As the on table units go down the chances of rolling the right dice to bring more units on also drop. At the final whistle I still had 1 unit off table (counting as destroyed). Based on my limited experience 2 units of 4 warriors each is probably enough for a beginner to keep off board.
The Norse Gael make a lot of use of challenges, a rule that is not in the main book. The Gael picks a figure in the combat and challenges 1 enemy. Both sides in the challenge roll their normal compliment of dice and the low roller is removed (no saves). Both sides then gain a fatigue. If there is a draw the challenge can continue. If the Gael wins the challenge they gain a battle board ability further rubbing it in on the loser.
Steppe Tribes against Pagan Rus
Steppe tribes were the hardest faction for me to work out. They have use of the excellent composite bows but have only 1 reaction ability (using their levy archers). The majority of their special abilities take some setting up to get right. My troops made good use of moving and shooting but were gradually caught and taken down.
Each faction has 8 Saga dice but can only initially roll 6, less any that are still on the battle board. Many factions have the ability to roll more dice as a battle board action. The most common being to use a rare face (6 pip) dice to roll 2 more dice. So you roll a 6 and spend it to roll 2 more dice. the key fact is that the spent dice can be one of those rolled again, it is not lost. Roll 6 to start, 2 are unused, spend 1 to roll that dice and 1 of the unused dice. 1 dice is still not used. If another rare dice face is available that can be spent to roll the final unused dice and itself for a maximum 8 dice on the battle board.
A unit may remove 1 fatigue as an activation but only as its first activation of the turn. It gains fatigue for each activation after the first movement or shooting activation of a turn. This means that a unit can be activated to rest, then activated to move or shoot for its second activation. It has removed 1 fatigue and not gained any additional fatigue that turn. A subsequent movement or shooting in the same turn will generate fatigue.
Fatigue is generated at the end of movement or shooting. So on the second activation of a unit that began a turn with no fatigue any shooting will not incur the fatigue until after that shooting is resolved. This is a fatigue that could be spent by the target to increase its armour value. This rule is particularly useful for javelins and composite bows who move and shoot. A mounted composite bow can shoot before or after moving so can move up and shoot on its first activation. It is then activated again and shoots (with no fatigue penalty yet) then moves again, possibly back to its original position. It then picks up the fatigue for the second activation. When combat occurs the fatigue penalty for moving is applied before combat is resolved.
Clearly I did not learn much about tactics except possibly what not to do. I had concentrated on small units to maximise dice count even going for a starting 7 dice when only 6 could be rolled. The idea being that as the sides attrited away my dice count would stay higher for longer. In practice my small units were rapidly lost leading to a low dice count. It could be that at 5 points 6 dice is more than enough and 5 will do. On the case for unit strength a unit of 8 hearthguard is a mighty beast. Units of 4 anything are vulnerable to a few ‘unlucky’ figure losses. A full block of 12 levy is not too bad. They push out 6 missile shots and take some whittling down. Even when destroyed you do not lose a die as levy do not generate dice.