The Eastern Princes list covers the Kingdom of Kievan Rus, its successor states and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania did not exist at the start of the Age of Crusades period. A time when it would more properly sit as part of Rus or amongst the Pagan Peoples list. This discussion will focus on the Rus part of the list as the Lithuanian troop choices are somewhat different and any figure choices there should reflect a 14th century armour choice. Hoping to get the most out of the figures; options here will be restricted to those that might work in the period 1000 to 1100 AD coincidentally overlapping the Saga Vikings and Crusades books. The charactaristic features for any model would be the shield and to a lesser extent the helmet as these would be linked to the time period when they first came into common use. Unlike Western Europe much of the armour and headgear in use in the East could be placed anywhere from the time of the Sassanid Persians to Africa in the 19th Century.
First step in getting Eastern Princes running is the dice, a new set for the Age of Crusades book. As yet there is no template for the Pagan Peoples/Eastern Princes/Mongols dice so here is a printable Saga Eastern Princes dice template.
It is unfortunate that these 3 nations that could historically face each other all share the same dice set. Other plausible enemies from the book with different dice would be the Tuetonic Knights, Poles, Mongols and Byzantines. The Volgar Bulgars are not in Saga but the Cuman list would work for them.
The Gripping Beast 4 point starter warband could be a better selection. No complaints with the 2 units of mounted hearthguard.
2 of the Advanced Saga abilities require mounted units. When running up to 6 points at least another 4 hearthguard models would allow more mounted units. The 12 levy are equipped with bow.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with bow the list has the option of crossbow levy. An attractive choice as crossbows are better against armour than bows and levy shoot at 1/2 figures, as good as warriors but at half the points cost. There is one upside to bow models. The whole list could be run as Pagan Peoples using the bow troops as a unit of 8 Warriors.
The sculpting quality of all the models could also be better. The bow armed levy need their bow hands gluing on, overcoming the advantage in metals over plastic in not needing any assembly. The warriors and heathguard have separate spears. The hearthguard have cupped hands and separate bow cases and quivers. In the Eastern Princes army the hearthguard have no innate shooting ability but can achieve it through an advanced ability. The warriors need their hands drilled out to hold spears. All around the poses are adequate rather than dynamic.
Using plastic to expand the army. Fireforge do Russian infantry in plastic which are clearly aimed at this time frame. Their dress and armour being similar to the Gripping Beast warrior models. In the box are 3 shield types, round and kite (with round or squared top) together with an option for bow and double handed axe load outs. For our 1000 to 1100 AD time span the round topped kite shield is the best choice. Unfortunately there are only 10 of these in a box of 25 infantry. The armour of the models would fit the period and beyond although the lack of unarmoured models makes the box less suitable for a levy unit.
There are enough spare heads to outfit a box of cavalry. Possibly the best choice being Conquest Norman Knights (just swap out the heads) although the Gripping Beast Arab Heavy Cavalry (excellent torsos but robes too long) or Dark Age Cavalry (legs right but unarmoured torsos) could be pressed into service.
Eastern Princes are the only warband to feature a fighting wagon as a levy unit. It is an odd creature with armour as good as hearthguards but is only 1 model albeit with agression 4 and determination 2. Unfortunately it is also unarmed. So it fights no better than levy but being unnarmed any defender is more likely to survive. It can take up to 2 hits as a single fatigue until it is exhausted. This gives the wagon a fair chance of survival if it enters melee with no fatigue, being able to survive 6 hits then fail on the 7th. No sensible attacker would want to burn any fatigue it enters melee with as each is as good as it starting with 2 hits already banked. The final kick in the teeth for the wagon is that it counts as a mercenary so cannot benefit from adavanced Saga abilities. Those are the abilities that can really make or break a game.
There is no recommended approach to model the wagon except that the Age of Crusades book gives minimum and maximum dimensions. Doubtless this is to avoid fielding a wagon unit that blocks off half the board. The dimensions given are, however, an optimistic fit for a 4 horse wagon in 28mm. This is the 28mm baggage wagon from Reiver Castings. The horses and wagon base are metal but the body is a single cast resin piece. The body required some filling but could be replaced by a scratch built cart on the existing metal frame. The price is close to that charged for just 4 draft horses by other manufacturers. The Warlord to the rear shows that this is a good size model. To fit as a wagon in the Eastern Princes army either the 2 front horses would need to be left off or assumed to not exist for measuring purposes.
The Age of Crusades book does illustrate a wagon as a limbered baggage piece with a single guard figure. Another approach is to follow the style of the earlier Gothic and later Hussite, Polish or Russian fortified wagon lagers with protected wagons and armed crew. This representation uses the maximum recommended base and 4 figures from the Fireforge plastic set. The wagon, mantlets, boxes and barrels are 3D prints from Irongate Scenery.
Moving back to the Age of Vkings book the Pagan Rus has very little in common with Eastern Princes except that it should be covering the same period. The Kievan Rus were converted to Christianity sometime around 988 AD so are not necessarily pagan throughout the Age of Vikings book. Troopwise they are based around infantry with no special weapons and levy with javelins. The only overlap with the Eastern Princes being the warrior infantry units. From a gaming point of view the Pagan Rus could be envisaged as a river based raiding party constrained by their boats from taking horses. The later Kievan Rus being land based expanding or protecting their settled lands. Looking for figure re-use only the 8 Eastern Princes warriors could step into the ‘Pagan’ Rus running as 2 points of hearthguard. At a pinch Fireforge Russians could make up the numbers.