Saga Age of Crusades

Age of Crusades is the second period book for Saga 2 coming out 2 months after Age of Vikings.  The Saga Universe plan is that armies will work against other armies within the same period but playing against armies from different books is at your own risk.  The Age of Vikings book covered roughly the 8th to 11th centuries and at a pinch many figures could be used for more than 1 army.  Age of Crusades spans the late 11th through 14th century and due to more rapid changes in armour and shield shape there is less wiggle room in what figures can be used where.  Normans could certainly be used in Western Christian lists and sundry Vikings or Saxons might step into the Pagan Peoples list.  At another end of the spectrum is the presence of different Byzantine lists and boards in the 2 books.  A probable dividing line being the battle of Manzikert (1071) where the Byzantine defeat led to a loss of recruiting grounds and some re-working of the overall army structure.  The Ordenstaat list represents a force that came into being in the early 13th century.  It would look out of place againt a 1st Crusade force from the same book. Eastern Princes and Polish troops would doubtless change over the book time span but unlike Western armour the changes are less well known by the average gamer.

The book introduces 2 new sets of dice.  One solely for the Ordenstaat.  The other ‘Eastern’ set is for the Pagan People, Eastern Princes and Mongol boards.  The new board structure makes it easy to work out which pip is for each symbol but it does seem unnecessary to bring in new dice symbols.  The Welsh dice are currently only used for the Welsh board and neither are the Irish dice in use in this book so why not bring them back into play?   There are no new scenarios in the book, play still relies on the single main rulebook game.   There are, however, independent 2nd edition scenarios on boardgamegeek.  The book blurb does puff the ability to play a battle of faiths.  This section could do better as it consists of a set of pre-game options for the various religeons.  These provide some action or objective that will give a bonus in slaughter points if it is achieved and a penalty if it is not.  If a game is to be played that does not depend on slaughter points then the battle of faith options as written will not be relevant.

The 6 original boards from the old crusades book have been replaced.  As in the Age of Vikings supplement these are sufficiently different to the originals to merit keeping hold of the old boards for more gaming variety.  The Crusader ability to build up more dice actions as the game progresses has gone.  They can use all their abilities from the off.  The Milites Christii power to build up powers through prayer is also gone.  The Mutatawwia still gain some benefits from sacrificing their own models but the procedure is not as formalised being used in only 2 abilities.

To try out the boards we have a Crusader and Mutatawwia match up.  Despite 3 club games of the new rules there are no shocking tactical insights here. The Mutatawwia have no levies and will rely on actions that weaken their own force in order to improve their inherant abilities.  The Crusaders have 2 abilities that considerably benefit their levy (‘happy are the humble’ and ‘the peasants crusade’) but these are both 2 dice powers (1-3 together with 6 face).  With units of 6+ levy generating dice it makes sense to start with a good few levy but putting them into the maximum number of units will still bind the army by the 8 dice limit.  Having too many dice in combat abilities restricts the number left to move the army into battle so big unit count armies cannot make full use of their numbers.  The Crusader list will take 24 levy (as 2 units of 12), 8 crossbow armed warriors, 12 hearthguard (as 2 mounted units of 6) with the warlord.  There is an alternate ‘fanatical pilgrim’ levy in the mercenaries section that has all the abilities of the regular levy but with some extra bonuses as they get wiped out. To keep things simple this line up will stick with the factory standard load out. The Mutatawwia field 24 warriors (2 units of 12), 12 heathguard (2 mounted units of 6) and the warlord.   The Mutatawwia could take bows for their warriors but they have no useful offensive shooting ability beyond a simple combat bonus so will get stuck in.

The 2 sides line up with the Christians at bottom and Moslems above. There is a 6-man Christian hearthguard together with their warlord just on the left side of the image.

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The Christians move up and shoot with their crossbows while pulling the levy back. The buffed crossbow shooting (‘find chinks in their armour’) does well but pulling the levy back is a mistake (all 3 activations done without fatigue on 1 order ‘the peasants’ crusade’). On their own the levy are unarmed so are +1 to enemy defense rolls. When buffed (‘happy are the humble’)they fight as warriors (melee fighting as 1 not 1/3 figures, so 12 dice not 4 for a full unit) and lose the unarmed but this only works in their own turn. To make use of the ability will take 2 dice to activate it and at least 1 more or the warlord’s ‘follow me’ to charge in. This assumes the enemy is standing around within charge, ‘M’, range. Burning another die to move twice will help closing in although they will pick up a fatigue before combat. If they move a 3rd time they will have 2 fatigue and any sensible enemy will burn 1 of those to drop their final move to ‘S’ and leave them short of contact.

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The Moslems do not hang about and smash into the levy units (‘hijrah’ burn a figure for 3 single activations without fatigue). Neither levy is wiped out but both are now below 6 figures so won’t be generating any dice and even if buffed up to warrior are no longer a serious threat.

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The Christians divert a hearthguard unit to sort out the Moslem successes in front of the levy. Predictably the results are about even. The other Christian hearthguard and warlord are making slow going around the palm groves.

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Juggling and fatigue removal as the Moslems line up for the next action.   Hearthguard against heathguard action in the centre is inconclusive.  Some warriors are fired off as single unit attacks with limited success.  ‘Allahu Akhbar’ throws out Moslem figures at ‘M’ range who kill 1-3 target figures if they beat their armour. This is a better prospect against warriors than the better armoured hearthguard. It is a useful option for very small warrior units who no longer generate dice and would not last long in hand to hand.

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The Christians slam into the Moslem hearthguard at top left. Crossbow fire is ineffectual. With only 4 dice generated a turn the Christian options are limited.

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The Moslems activate 1 unit of infantry to charge ‘L’ and smash into the crossbows (‘like djinns), down to 3 men the crossbows no longer generate dice.

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Another predictable draw with the heartguard battle at the top of the image. Only the Christian warlord is left. The unit of Moslem warriors in the middle has been swapped out for different figures due to a combat error and rollback.

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There is not a lot left on the table and fatigues are all over the shop. Final call a draw but neither side covered themselves in tactical glory.

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