Saga Classical Indians

The Classical Indians appear in the Age of Alexander book. Historically they did fight the Persians, Alexander and Seleucus. The Greco Bactrians could also run as a Seleucid list, earlier or later Greek settlements in the East might also run under the Greek battle board. In both cases the non-phalanx ‘Greek’ figures could be represented by Indian or Persian models. Geography makes any other match up tricky. The Maurya period (322-185 BC) was a period of stable government and the best guess is that troop types over this time would change little. If we move to the Gupta era (319 to 467 AD) and a Parthian list were to appear in a later antquity Saga book there could be opportunities. Pushing the envelope and lose the Chariots these Indians could fight Sassanids or even the Mutatawwi’a from Age of Crusades.

Geography or even the march of time is often given a light touch by Ancients gamers. A Classical Indian army was popular in the old WRG Ancients days as they could field longbows and two handed swords on the same model. The WRG rules treated these in the same manner as British medieval longbows and heavy cutting weapons such as the halberd so they were useful fellows to bring along. The counter attraction under almost any ruleset, including Saga are the expensive elephant and chariot models. In Saga a 4-horse chariot is the same cost as 2 foot hearthguard; the 2-horse is an equivalent to 2 foot or horse warriors. Elephants are not so costly as they could swap out for 8 warriors but in all cases the expense is going to be more than an army relying almost entirely on foot models. On the other hand the basic foot model is only going to need a weapon, some facial detail and a white kilt so would be quick to churn out.

Unlike many armies there is no host of Osprey type books with a pile of pretty pictures to follow. Duncan Head’s Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars is probably the most accessible source. The older Phil Barker edition is best avoided as it contains less information and makes little attempt to justify what it does include. Classical Indian art does illustrate battles and parades but as with some Western pieces it may show a literary ideal rather than what might be seen in life. Note that at this period the Indian Mauryan Kings were Buddhist as Porus may also have been. Many of the soldiers could still have been Hindu but best not go overboard on Hindu motifs in the army.

Gateway at Buddhist temple complex, Arch Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India. 3rd century BC to 1st century AD.

Book X Chapter 6 of the Arthashastra gives some idea of the tactical use of Elephants, Chariots, Cavalry and Infantry from around our period. Book II Chapter 30 onwards governs acquiring and caring for elements of the army. Chariots are defined as a range of sizes with the widest being 12 purushas, 9′ plenty of width for 4 horses abreast.

The Anabasis includes details of Porus’ army and the battle at the Hydaspes. It is not stated how many horses pulled the chariots but they were heavy and slow and less than effective due to the mud.

He then took all his cavalry to the number of 4,000 men, all his chariots to the number of 300, with 200 of his elephants and 30,000 choice infantry, and marched against Alexander.

Anabasis of Alexander by Arrian Chapter XV

Arrian’s Indica Chapter XVI also includes a description of Indian dress and of infantry weapons and shields.

The Saga Indian list options are in some ways relatively accurate as they encourage a variety of troop types. Not only in the actual models that can be fielded but with benefits on the battle board from having a mix. This fits in nicely with the Arthashastra and the Saga concept of the game being more about the story than strictly historical. It makes sense to field elephants, chariots and infantry. As the infantry are Levy there are likely to be quite a few of them. Only cavalry get a short shrift. A single unit can be fielded as Hearthguard or Warriors but they have no specific advanced Saga ability benefit. They have some attraction as only cavalry and light chariots fill the Warrior slot and 8 cavalry models will be cheaper to buy than the equivalent 4 light chariots.

Only half of any Saga army can be elephants (including the general) and only half of the units in an Indian army can have resilience (not including the general).

Elephants by Newline (Metal) Aventine (3D print), Aventine (Resin). The armoured Indian elephant is unlikely and may later be converted for Successor use.

A viable list would be 3 elephants (3 units), 2 heavy chariots (1 unit), 1 Hearthguard and 12 levy. If taken as a general an elephant costs 1 point but does have better stats than ‘your average’ elephant. Elephants are best used as single models rather than units because a single elephant can take 7 hits (6 as resilience) but a pair 8 hits (6 as resilience) in a single round. Also 2 units could both rest stripping 2 fatigue, a combined unit could only rest once per turn. If running a standard Warlord at 0 points with a single heavy chariot model an extra point is freed up.

Newline heavy chariots, the reins are strips of plastic from a document wallet.

Our Indians take a run out against Macedonians who move first sliding up the slow moving phalanx. There are 2 areas of swamp and sections of rough and also rocky ground. This match up will involve some careful dancing around as the elephants are vulnerable to sarissa but the cavalry do not like elephants.

The Indians move up their elephant line with the aim of knocking out the Macedonian archers. They hit home with hearthguard cavalry but the results are middling.

The Macedonians push the phalanx up against the Indian archers and chariots. Chariots are poor in defense but with resilience and buffs from the Indian battle board can hold out well. The Indian bow retreat into the swamp. It might be argued that they gain an additional fatigue for that. It depends on a if a retreat is a move (so they probably should take an additional fatigue.)

The Macedonian archers are getting slowly mashed but manage to hang on.

The heavy chariots also beat the odds and are still on the pitch.

The Macedonian archers are gone and the elephants move in on the phalanx.

The chariots are also off for an early bath.

It would be easier if the elephants were not so slow. One does not want to pile up the fatigue on them.

Some solid sarissa action and the Indians are an elephant down their Hearthguard are also off the field.

The Indians take out a unit of mounted Macedonian hearthguard.

A sarissa assault on the Raja’s elephant does not go so well. A key tactical issue here; sarissa have a +1 vs mounted and elephants if they have no fatigue themselves. So if defending against fatigued sarissas it makes sense not to strip their last fatigue.

Game winning moment here. The Macedonian Warlord is within charge range of the Raja. The Indians can buff their defense but have resilience 3 anyway so take him out for a final score of 20 to 15 in their favour. If the Warlord had moved ‘L’ away rather than stripping his own fatigue in the previous turn he would have been safe and the game almost certainly a draw.

The Indian board compliments the elephants and chariots as REINFORCED ARMOUR, GREAT SIZE and DYNASTIES all buff models with resilience making it easier to keep them on the field. Indians are capped at 3 elephants (including the Warlord) and half with resilience (not including the Warlord) this makes it hard to field both types of chariot if the full 3 elephants are on the pitch. Even with 1 as the Warlord the maths needs 8 units for 4 resilience and at 6 points that probably means some weak units to pad out the points. The heavy chariots are much like elephants with no missiles but a unit of 2 will throw down 12 dice and 2 automatic hits if it is charging in. Although elephants can move 3 times (adding up to L) without fatigue through careful use of the Indian board the chariots can do that in 1 activation rather than 3. A missile armour of 5 (compared to 4 for elephants and light chariots) also keeps them alive unitil they get into melee).

The light chariots are missile platforms so are perfect for NO WAY OUT (as are elephants) but do lack punch in melee. A unit of 4 light chariots will cost more than the Victrix Republican Roman army boxes that make an entire army for Saga so chariots are far from an auto-choice. On the other hand any Indian army should have at least 2 elephants.

The optimum Macedonian ability ought to be SLAYER OF KINGS as it allows all misses in a single melee to be re-rolled if the defender has resilience but it is a one-off advanced Saga ability. Compare this to VARIA that allows the Indian to re-roll 1 attack and 1 defense die in every single combat. While the Indian and Persian boards have clear synergies with their troops the Macedonian board still seems to be a collection of useful abilities that may not gel with their troop load outs. There could be a benefit in deploying some or all of their Hearthguard as sarissa when facing Indian or Persian armies where the cavalry might be less useful.

Saga Macedonians vs Persians

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.

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.

Saga Urban Uprising

Urban Uprising is a scenario from Book of Battles. It is not well-named as there is no uprising beyond a possible event from 1 encounter. The board below loosely represents a Greek colony in the Crimea about to be fought over by the Last Romans and Pagan Rus. The buildings stand in for periods from Roman times through to the modern day but are good enough for the period. Units cannot move into or through built up areas, only keeping to the streets and courtyards. The terrain layout seemed about the minimum to drive the game mechanics. The 2 forces set up and enter at opposite board corners. The 6 yellow crystals mark encounters that will be revealed when a unit is activated to move within ‘Very Short’ of each.

Neither full force fits on the table at set up. Units will be moving in on the first and second turns. The game takes place at night so there are no charges or shooting at ‘Long’. Units must stay within ‘Medium’ of each other or suffer a fatigue at the end of a turn. A unit can take a 4th fatigue this way and will be removed from the game. This all seems to imply that an army should be in a clump with no units more than ‘Medium’ from any other. More than 1 clump could exist but the owner would have an easy choice of which to pick as the main force. It quickly becomes apparant that units will be doing a lot more dice-free manoevre moves than usual due to the distance between set up points and almost all moves being at ‘Medium’ or less.

The Last Romans start with some serious problems. If their cavalry move ‘Long’ they are likely to take additional fatigue through being lost in the dark. Their missiles can only shoot ‘Medium’. Finally they do not have space to spread out so will be taking constant losses from the Rus FROZEN WIND ability. This would usually be mitigated by moving away from table edges and getting in close with the Rus so any use of this ability will hit both sides.

Both sides move on. The Last Romans come across some civilians that they need to protect so these are sent to the rear out of the way.

The Last Roman slinger Levy are attacked by the city guard. They take some losses but being Levy generate more than enough victory points to offset any loss. The Rus uncover a couple of monuments that need to be guarded. 2 objectives remain to be revealed.

The Last Romans uncover a vital road junction but their fatigue is piling up. Their board has no way to remove fatigue except by a single rest action for each unit.

Turn 3 (out of 6 or 7) and we finally have some combat. The Rus Warriors load up on Saga abilities and wipe out the Last Roman levy. Losing the Levy is not a big setback but it causes nearby Last Roman units to take an additional fatigue, a commodity that they are already knee deep in.

The Rus push forwards aiming to drive the Last Romans off the objective near their Warlord. The Last Romans strip what fatigue they can and load up on defensive abilities. There are not enough dice left to move the archers forward.

A clash of warlords follows. The Last Roman Warlord is destroyed with 5 hits. He could have taken 1 as a fatigue (up to 3) and then another 4 on the nearby Hearthguards. Taking it on himself left the Hearthguard with the possibility of a counter-attack on turn 7. The game ended on turn 6 with the Rus controlling 4 objectives and the armies dominating 2 table quadrants each.

The final scores on the doors are Rus 18 and Romans 16. If the Romans could have held the final contested monument and pushed a Hearthguard into the North West map quadrant they might have pulled off a win. The mass of fatigue they were racking up would have made this unlikely. Some nations will do a lot better in this scenario than others, cavalry and missiles are definately on the back foot. Movement is more important here than in many Saga games where the tactic of loading up on Saga abilities and charging in is unlikely to do any harm. The difference in style of play does make this one of the more interesting options in Book of Battles

Saga – Eastern Princes Warwagon Tactics

Only the Saga Eastern Princes list includes a warwagon. General opinion is that it is or was close to useless. The unit has been buffed twice since first described and there might, just might be some light on the horizon.

The latest errata reduces the warwagon cost to half a unit, it generates a Saga die and has determination. If the determination is the only activation taken up by the unit then in effect the army has a free Saga die for use elsewhere. This is the same cost:benefit ratio as a half unit of 6 levy but loss of a single levy figure will knock out the die engine. With resilience 2 a warwagon will hold out far longer than a single levy figure. The warwagon is still vulnerable to missile fire, 2 shooting activations from 2 separate units should rack up the 4 fatigue in a single turn and put the model back in the box. Eastern Princes do have the advanced Saga ability GALVANISED that if the enemy has 3 or more fatigues will strip their own fatigue. This is an ORDERS ability so is one of the few advanced abilities that will work on a mercenary unit. This could keep the model on the table longer. It is also specified that destruction of the warwagon only deals 4 massacre points. There does not appear to be an additional massacre hit for being mercenary.

Armed with these conclusions the new warwagon plan is to activate it as little as possible and use its Saga die elsewhere. Where sustained incoming shooting is expected the model needs to be in the second line or behind cover but it can hold its own against a single shooting unit. If the warwagon can tie up more enemy activity than a single half unit of levy so much the better. Charging is off the agenda (specifically banned for the unit) but a weakened unit could hide behind the wagon, denying massacre points for being wiped out. The final decision is what to do with the other half point from the unit cost. Eastern Princes have abilities that benefit cavalry and hearthguard so any extra 2 (out of a purchase of 4) hearthguard will roll up.

As a rough plan to try it all out the Eastern Princes line up against Ordensstaat. Terrain is sparse, 2 regions of small broken ground and a large wood. The knights are on foot (no repeat of riding over thin ice as in Sergei Eisenstein’s film) to enable their levy to keep up and be ruthlessly burnt up by Saga dice buffs. The Eastern Princes hope to hit hard and fast with their cavalry then pull back to the infantry line if losses are high. The Ordensstaat will grind forward sacrificing their own levy without mercy. Their crossbow could inflict costly losses on the Princes’ cavalry if they are not ridden down too swiftly. Unless Saga dice are really tight the Princes will be using HESITATION frequently to block the knights NACH OSTEN ability for a free move of ‘S’ across the entire army.

The Princes move a single mounted unit around the rear of the Teutonic line. The Germans move most of their line forward and take out 3 cavalry with crossbow shooting.

The Princes slam in and wipe out the crossbow unit. DRUG is a powerful ability as it can added 10 combat dice from the Hearthguard to the Warlord here. It is not so easy to line up as it requires a support unit to be in place before the melee takes place.

Meanwhile the bulk of the German line slides forwards. The big peasant levy unit are not too bad at shooting and are kept up with the line to provide fodder for the Teutonic abilities that sacrifice their own models.

The Teutonic line spilts, some chase down the Princes’ Warlord. The rest aim for the weaker Russian centre. Without guaranteed use of NACH OSTEN the Germans are having difficulty shifting all their units. Sage dice being put to better use in combat buffs. The Princes’ cavalry is not as exposed as it appears because FEINT will allow a single mounted unit to move in the opponent’s turn. Getting away from declared charges and avoiding the fatigue hit for multiple moves.

Careful use of the warwagon restricts where the Germans can charge but by sacrificing an additional move they can go round the side, keep out of ‘M’ and charge something else.

The Princes’ Warlord comes over to help in the centre but is eventually caught and destroyed.

By game end the Germans are still generating 5 Saga dice. The only Russian Saga die is from the wagon. 2 Warrior units, both too small to generate dice cower behind it.

The Germans have already won but to see what happens the knights charge in on the wagon for the final turn. 2 Hearthguard models are well buffed up but bounce off. The Warlord then goes in but with no useful abilities left on the Saga board. He too bounces. The wagon has 3 fatigue, it can’t take another from the combat so holds in place.

As all the toys are out we give the battle another go but with the Princes’ cavalry staying closer to the main line and the warwagon up in front. The Russian levy archers are enough to neutralise the German crossbow and take the missile pressure off the warwagon.

This game ends as a narrow Russian victory. The warwagon even manages to get off some ineffectual shooting. The Russian Warlord is just off camera.

To conclude the warwagon could be a cheap Saga die generator. It has minimal offensive capability but might not be worth the enemy’s efforts to destroy it. Sustained bow shooting might be its Achilles heel.

Saga – Epirotes vs Syracuse

Saga Age of Hannibal has 3 Greek factions, the Epirotes, Syracuse and Italian Greeks. Although Pyrrhus came to Sicily to aid Syracuse they later fell out so here we have a battle between Epirus and Syracuse. They both use the same battle board but Pyrrhus has access to elephants and must field his phalanx as Sarissa. These move ‘short’ except when they charge. Syracuse can field old style hoplites who can move without restriction but do not have the short range shooting (or poking) ability of the Sarissa. The Syracuse leader has the ability to cast Resilience on a nearby unit once a turn. Unfortunately it cannot be combined with LEGACY OF THE ANCESTORS to upgrade a unit to Resilience(2). As the ability requires use of a rest activation and the Graeculi have no relevant reaction ability the Resilence cast will only be used in a friendly turn and only if the target does not rest. Overall this ‘bonus’ is not going to see a lot of use.

Pyrrhus fields 2 units of 4 mounted Hearthguard, 2 units of phalangites, an elephant and 1 unit of javelin Levy. Syracuse has 1 unit of 8 Hearthguard, 3 of Warrior hoplite, 1 mounted Warrior and 1 Levy bow. The faction can field up to 8 Hearthguard models but only as a single unit. Victory is based on massacre points but the total is capped based on the number of enemy objectives destroyed. The Epirotes use sheep and Syracuse uses cattle and pigs as objectives. Both sides minimise terrain as the cavalry and phalanx units are all penalised outside of good going.

Both sides deploy ‘long’ in so there is not much room for manoevre moves early in the game. On turn 1 the Epirotes shuffle up what little they can. Syracuse shoot their bows and with some lucky rolls remove 3 of the unit of 4 mounted Hearthguard figures.

On the following turn things go poorly on the other flank. The elephant shoots at the Syracuse cavalry and the Hearthguard charge in but the melee is a draw and they bounce off.

The Syracuse horse Warriors wipe out the last Epirote Hearthguard putting a pin on the elephant. The nearby hoplite Warriors charge in, bounce off but add 2 more pins (1 combat and 1 melee).

The elephant rests and tries to finish off the Syracuse mounted Warriors; it does not go well. On the other flank Sarissa Warriors push back the Syracuse Hearthguard and kill their Warlord; a tricky use of THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL. Looking back Syracuse should have taken a bodyguard loss onto their Hearthguard from the Warlord. A Syracuse special rule is that now every Syracuse unit takes a fatigue.

The following Syracuse turn is spent with their few remaining dice stripping fatigue.

The Syracuse Hearthguard are finshed off and both sets of Levy come to blows in the ruins.

The Syracuse forces fail to destroy an Epirote objective.

The Epirotes have more luck on the other side of the table. Parts of the ruined terrain have magically moved to one side making room for the continuing Levy brawl.

Syracuse forces take out an Epirote objective and shuffle their Warriors to protect their own threatened objective. Objectives are impassable so it is tricky to move from one side to the other.

The Epirote general makes an end run for a distant Syracuse objective and whiffs the combat. Although another Syracuse objective was much closer it was blocked by Syracuse Warriors. Saga units move in straight lines. The best the general could have done was a dog leg of 2 Medium moves; not good enough to get into position on the nearby objective.

In the last turn of the game Syracuse Warriors make a similar run for an objective on the other side of the table and manage to destroy it.

The final scores on the doors see 1 Syracuse objective destroyed to 2 Epirote. Massacre points are capped at 16 for Epirus and 24 for Syracuse. Counting up points the Epirote total of 26 is reduced to 16 but Syracuse only scores 15. The elephant has presence but that does not affect massacre points so losing it only costs 1/2 for the Warrior and 1 for the unit. STOP PRESS – the elephant counts as 12 levy, working out to 4 massacre points and 1 for the unit pushing Syracuse into the win following this late judges’ ruling.

Looking back the Syracuse force do rather better out of the Graeculi battle board than Epirus. The board has no ability to specifically buff elephants. HETAIROI benefits mounted troops best (of which elephants are not) but both forces can field cavalry. The Epirote mounted Hearthguard being more useful than the Syracuse mounted Warriors. Syracuse are the only Greek faction that can load up on phalanx benefits although none of these abilities are major game changers. Syracuse might have been better off only fielding 4 Hearthguard and buying another 8 Warriors with the points saved to get a little more benefit from the phalanx rules but more importantly another Saga die. The Epirote Sarissa is a disappointment; it should be better than a hoplite spear because of its historical success. The medieval Scottish spear was not as long as the Greek Sarissa but the Scots Saga list has some useful advanced abilities loosely based on the long spear. The Epirote Sarissa has none of that; in the long term improvements might come when the Age of Alexander book is released.

Saga Gauls

Memories of Asterix and Co’ as we look at the last of the Age of Hannibal factions. There are no rules for secret potions but gaining ‘Fervour’ gives units a useful if temporary boost. Gallic Saga advanced abilities can be improved by taking on ‘Fervour’ up to a limit of 3 per unit. If the unit is not able to take on ‘Fervour’ without going above the limit of 3 then that additional battle board benefit is lost. All ‘Fervour’ is lost when a unit is exhausted or it can be reduced through the TUMULTUS GALLICUS or PERSEVERANCE abilities. Unlike the guerilla markers of the Iberians some means of marking what ‘Fervour’ each unit has built up will be needed on the battleboard. In the game described below tufts mounted on plastic counters have been used. Green (1 ‘Fervour’), yellow (2) and red/brown (3) remember the ditty ‘what makes the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood’.

The Gauls, Numidians and Iberians all use the same Saga dice. To provide some dice variety here is an A4 printable Saga Barbarian and Greek dice label sheet.

These Gallic infantry are Warlord plastics. Bought partly because they are slightly cheaper than Victrix and partly because the box boasts ‘decals’ for the shields. 2 sheets of ‘decals’ were present but there was no way to pry the allegedly sticky part off the backing. They could be cut out and glued on but considering the time involved in cutting around the shield boss and the need to touch up the cut edges it proved easier if slightly less artistic to simply paint the shields. On the positive side the Warlord minis glued together well and did not have any of the insanely thin parts that sometimes come with the Victrix sprues. There were not enough shields for the warriors to have 1 each but suitable substitutes were gleaned from the parts pile, the Levy getting small round shields.

A box of Victrix cavalry provided 8 Warriors or Hearthguard and a mounted Warlord with 3 left over for future projects.

An alternate Hearthguard and Warlord choice are chariots from Newline who sell 3 models with the same bodywork but ‘Chariot I’ has an armoured warrior. These are by far the cheapest 28mm chariots. The 6cm by 8cm base is expected to be the Saga minimum for light chariots but is rather too wide for these Gallic models. The warriors are Warlord plastics, a tad larger than the supplied Newline crew. The drivers are excellent poses but the Newline warriors were rather wooden. The reins are florists wire and in retrospect probably not the best choice, rather too narrow and bendy.

Caesar describes how the British used chariots:

This is their manner of fighting from chariots. At first the charioteers ride in all directions, usually throwing the ranks into confusion by the very terror caused by the horses, as well as the noise of the wheels; then as soon as they have come between the squads of horsemen, they leap from the chariots and fight on foot. The drivers of the chariots then withdraw a little from the battle and place the chariots together, so that if the warriors are hard pressed by the number of the enemy, they have a safe retreat to their own. Their horsemen possess such activity and their foot soldiers such steadfastness in battle and they accomplish so much by daily training that on steep and even precipitous ground they are accustomed to check their excited horses, to control and turn them about quickly, to run out on the pole, to stand on the yoke, and then swiftly to return to the chariot.

[De Bello Gallico, Lib. v, cc. 12,14; Lib. iv, c. 33]

This does not entirely fit in with Saga chariots which are banned from entering uneven or dangerous terrain. The Gallic chariot Saga benefits are not as good as the Carthaginian 4-horse chariots, bought at the same points cost although the Carthaginians are pinned at a single chariot unit. Riding in a Gallic chariot grants javelin missile shooting. 1 chariot replaces 2 Hearthguard but does have resilience 1. The Warlord does not get an extra increase in resilience above that for being a Warlord but in a chariot. With the resilience giving the ability to absorb up to 3 additional losses and each chariot counting as 2 Hearthguard they are best used in units of 2 where 4 Hearthguard losses translate to 2 plus 3 potential losses in a chariot. Chariots are a good choice to support the Warlord as he can use his own resilience and pass losses onto nearby Hearthguard chariots who in turn will use their own resilience (I stand corrected of FAQ’d here, you can’t cascade Warlord losses to resilience on Hearthguard).

Here a vanilla Saga scenario has been set up. The Romans have a Tribune, 4 Hearthguard, 32 Warriors and 12 Levy. This is organised to generate 8 Saga dice. Together with the 2 ‘We Obey’ activations of the Warlord the hope is to maximise dice on advanced abilities and still have some means to move the army forward. The deep Roman formation is to take advantage of their advanced ability to move through friendly units. Even so the board has no ability to move the whole army so keeping the whole set of blocks together is tricky.

The Romans move up, hoping to get to the Gallic chariots before the Gauls can optimise their battle board. The Hearthguard take fatigue from Velites shooting.

The Gallic Hearthguard hope to drive off the Velites but are themselves pushed back out of melee.

More skirmishing in the Roman turn as they try to put fatigue on the Gallic Hearthguard.

The Gauls knock out 4 of the 6 models in the Warrior unit. Meanwhile the Gallic cavalry approaches the action.

The Romans finally eliminate the Gallic Hearthguard but lack the punch to finish off the Warlord who has 2 fatigue and a ‘Fervour’. This is the trade off from the Tribune. He can get units into combat but has to keep himself out of the action as he only has an aggression of 2. A Consul in the same situation would be lined up to finish off the weakened Gallic Warlord.

The Gauls pull their Warlord back to recover and push a unit of Warriors forward to protect him.

The Romans push the screening Warriors back but 2 models remain. Other Roman units move up.

The flanking Gauls finally get into the action but bounce out of melee.

The Romans move their Tribune out of danger.

The Gallic cavalry make use of their mobility, ignoring the rear Roman units and heading for the Tribune. The Gallic Warlord also risks going back into the battle line.

The Tribune again bravely runs away. The Gallic cavalry are reduced to 3 figures.

The final turn and the Gauls only generate 1 Saga die. Their Warlord destroys a unit of 3 Roman Warriors.

It all looks close but a final count of massacre points comes up at: Roman 19 to Gaul 23. This was caused by the smaller Roman units being relatively easy to wipe out. There were several Gallic units that no longer generated any Saga dice but were still in play. The Gauls also saved 2 points because ‘Presence’ does not count for victory points so the Chariots count as 1 Hearthguard each.

Managing ‘Fervour’ went smoothly. The Hearthguard was the only unit to get to 3 ‘Fervour’ that was in a melee that ended with the unit being exhausted and hence losing all their ‘Fervour’. A few other units crept to 1 ‘Fervour’. The lesson being to take on ‘Fervour’ in all cases except when there is no possible benefit to the action. The odds on being at 3 ‘Fervour’ and still having the unit in a usable state are relatively low.

Saga Iberians

The last of the painted but unplayed Age of Hannibal armies finally gets a run out. These are all Victrix figures, from the armoured Iberian infantry and Iberian cavalry sprues with a few additions from the odds and ends of other sprue sets. The armoured and unarmoured sprue sets are identical in pose and weapon layout apart from the chest armour. Everything else being equal the unarmoured set is the better buy as both share the same armoured command and the chest armour modeled may skew the models to the earlier part of our period. The Iberians could be seen as generic European minor nations and run out as Sicilians, Samnites, Illyrians or whatever. Spain was the major setting of the Sertorian War (80-72 BC) with the Roman rebels aligning with native Iberians so the Iberians should still run well in the promised Age of Caesars book. Another plus to running Iberians is that they could make up the majority of a Carthaginian army; add a Punic unit and you are done. The final cherry on the Iberian cake is that through a 3-point ruse the Iberians can run with the Gallic battleboard acting as Celtiberians. It is even possible to swap from the Gallic to Iberian board (but not back again) within a single game although the board options opened up would be best for an experienced Saga player.

The Iberian board is rated as the most complex in the Age of Hannibal book. Some activations gain or require guerilla markers of which the Iberians can hold a maximum of 10. Two guerilla markers can be spent to activate a unit in the opponent’s turn after their unit activation is completed. There are few limitations; a unit can only be activated once in the enemy turn and a unit cannot be activated to rest if it also activated in the previous friendly turn. If there is no obvious activity to be reacted to any unit can be activated; at the very least it is good value to use the otherwise sluggish Levy. Having some guerilla markers stacked up at the end of the Iberian turn (a minimum of 4 is good) affects how the opposition will be able to act. A unit will often start a turn by resting to remove fatigue then charging into melee. After the rest activation the Iberian unit could move out of range. This forces the enemy unit to charge in without resting to keep the target in place but leaves them with any fatigue from a previous turn. A Warlord will often be accompanied by a unit of Hearthguard. If either is moved the Iberian could charge in and attack the Warlord when he is out of support range from the Hearthguard. This requires the movement of the Warlord and Hearthguard to be in a zig-zag with the Hearthguard always shielding the Warlord. An easy way to build up guerilla markers is TAUNT which requires a common die face. An Iberian cavalry unit can be activated to move up to within ‘M’ of several enemy units, activate TAUNT to gather guerilla markers then activate again to move away. That is 3 Saga dice spent and a fatigue gained for perhaps 4 guerilla markers, gaining 2 activations. Although an overall loss in Saga dice the reaction abilities are easily worth the trade off.

The Iberians can run a single unit of Warriors with slings. This is the only non-Levy and non-Mercenary missile unit in Age of Hannibal except for those running with javelins. The slings take the unit’s armour down to 3/3 which is pretty squishy. The Iberian advanced abilities only has FALARICA to benefit missile shooting and it also benefits melee; trading guerilla dice for combat dice. An 8 model slinger unit could use this ability for 4 more missile dice once a turn but this does not make slingers a game winning choice. They do have some additional benefit through using 2 guerilla markers to shoot in the enemy turn and SECOND WIND to remove fatigue both optimise the number of shots a unit could make.

To try out the army we have Warlord (mounted), 1 Hearthguard (mounted), 1 Warrior (mounted), 3 Warriors (on foot, no slingers) and 1 Levy (javelins). Opposing them are the same Romans as in the other Saga reports. Although that list has lost every single game so far they provide a constant against which the other armies in the book can be measured. The Iberians are at the top of the table, the Romans are running units of 8 Hastati and Triarii together with a unit of 12 Velites.

The scenario is based on the random generation tables in Book of Battles. Victory will be on survival points with an additional 2 points for units that end the game further than ‘L’ from their own board edge.

The Iberians move first. Warrior cavalry and Levy foot move to the edge of the woods. The mounted Hearthguard ride up to the Triarii, TAUNT, throw javelins (SOLIFERRUM, no fatigue cost and you get a free guerilla marker) then ride back to their own lines.

The Velites attempt to shoot at the Iberian horse but although the shooting activation is free it is a separate activation and the horse move out of the way.

The Iberians shift around with some taunting and missile shooting.. The only melee action is in the woods where the Velites are driven back.

The Romans push into an Iberian Warrior unit but a single model still holds out.

The Iberians push into the wood and tidy up their lines. Their problem is that loading up juicy advanced Saga abilities leaves few dice to move the army about.

The Romans finish off the lone Warrior model but then the Iberian Warrior cavalry reacts and hits the Hastati unit in the rear and wipes it out albeit with heavy cavalry losses. The Triarii then move up but the Iberian Hearthguard react and charge the Roman Warlord who is more than ‘S’ from his Hearthguard. He is eliminated for no Iberian loss.

It is now the Iberian turn and with a clear advantage in numbers they avoid combat as they want to minimise losses and maximise survival points.

The Romans are short of Saga dice (3) and men. The only hope of doing any good being to attack the Iberian Warlord with the Triarii. He takes fatigue and loses 2 Hearthguard bodyguard but is otherwise unharmed. Ignoring the bonus for being more than ‘L’ from the home edge the Iberians are 20 to 15 up on survival points and 5 to 3 in Saga dice. There is no hope of the Romans evening up the game so the end is called here.

The Iberians caused as much trouble to the Romans in the Roman turns than the Iberian. The Roman board does depend heavily on the Saga dice rolled. Very few uncommon Roman dice were rolled in this battle. They were never able to put the dice together to allow them to run STABILI GRADUI; close ranks and reduce casualties.

The Romans are consistently doing poorly in these test games; their board does seem expensive in Saga dice. EXHORTATION gives 2 attack or defense dice to units within ‘L’ of a consul but needs 2 Saga die to activate. The Iberians can neutralise this by spending 1 guerilla marker per combat if they activate LIKE SHADOWS which only requires a single uncommon Saga die. STABILI GRADUI is another 2 Saga (uncommon) dice Roman activation. It allows a unit to close ranks, ignore their first casualty and if not forced to retreat ignore the fatigue from melee but only works in the opposition turn. Of all the Roman advanced activations 4 can be used on a common die alone. This compares to 6 (Gauls), 5 (Iberian), 5 (Numidian), 4 (Carthaginian) and 4 (Graeculi).

Clash of Spears Numidians

Another Clash of Spears game ‘mirroring’ a Saga playthrough. The forces are Numidians and Romans but because the Numidians are relatively cheaper in Clash of Spears than Saga the Roman points have been reduced to match up the forces. This was achieved by reducing the number of Velites figures. In retrospect light troops are useful and the points would have been better saved somewhere else. Another approach would have been to leave the Romans alone and use Numidian noble cavalry instead of the basic version. At 21 points to 17 you get +1 to shooting and grit (morale). Anyone trying for a cost effectiveness force would find the regular cavalry more than sufficient and the elephants an expensive luxury.

Here is the position after the pre-battle manoeuvres. One of the three baggage areas contains the loot. Capturing the loot and taking it to the possessor’s table half will count the same as losing as single break point for the other side.

Both sides move up and the Numidian’s speed shows. They have won the race to all three objectives and identified where the loot is. The Romans should have risked trying for at least 1 objective regardless of the fatigue hit they would take.

Both sides divert units to the side of the battle closest to the loot. The Numidians are able to outflank the more exposed Roman right. One elephant pushes back the Roman Velites.

The Numidians pull back with their loot. One elephant is rampaging off. The other threatens the Triarii. The Romans push after the loot with whatever they can spare.

The Romans inflict 3 wounds (needing 4 for a kill) on the nearest elephant. The Triarii push into the Numidian light infantry who retreat with minimal losses. The Hastati push the flanking Numidians out of the way but are diverted from pursuing the loot by the need to keep secure flanks.

One elephant has rampaged off table the other is taken down by the Romans. The Romans are starting to sort themselves out, the Numidians pull back.

The game has run to six turns but the Romans can’t catch up with the Numidians. The Triarii make a valiant attempt to take out the Numidian general hoping to reduce the Numidian command ability and to notch up some losses. The general is too tough and the nearby Numidian units finish off the Triarii.

The Numidians pretty much ran rings around the Romans throughout the game. If it were allowed to continue for an unlimited number of turns they would have pinned the Numidians up against their board edge but this scenario runs for 5 or 6 turns. Units can take up to 3 actions in a turn and after the 2nd or 3rd an enemy unit can attempt a reaction. This led to the Romans catching nearby Numidian units on their 1st activation but losses were always light and the Numidians were subsequently able to move away. The elephants caused few losses but did tie up Roman actions in trying to take them out or at least moving to the elephants’ flanks where they could be threatened. The Romans only made limited use of their pila as these take an action to re-load and without the pila the Romans are more vulnerable to cavalry. If commanders can be taken out the owning side will count each wound as a loss and will lose the linked command points. This gives an incentive to taking out commanders but these figures are tough and take several wounds to eliminate making eliminating them a long odds shot.