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.