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.