I had played Saga a few times at the club I go to, always as the Vikings and usually against the Skraelings. This was fine and I enjoyed the games a lot, but I didn't have the overwhelming passion for it that I do now. The reason for this is probably that the Viking battleboard is fairly simple and the Skraeling one tends to focus on using the enemy's abilities against them, so I wasn't getting a real feel for the way other factions played and the interesting challenges this provided. (If you don't know about the battleboards used in Saga, click here for a useful overview.)
Enter the Welsh...
One evening I played 2 three way games and in the second I got to try the Welsh. This totally changed the way I saw the game. The Viking abilities are all about getting stuck in and timing attacks so they are backed up with some good effects. The Welsh on the other hand are sneaky ****s who disrupt enemy movement and stay out of reach whilst peppering their foe with javelins. So much more my style!
I suddenly found that I absolutely loved this game. I immediately texted a friend to see if he would sell me his copy as part of a clear out he was having and he was happy to oblige. We played a couple of games one day and found I liked the Normans almost as much as I liked the Welsh...
|Norman Knights holding a hill and awaiting a Viking onslaught!|
|Vikings advance towards the protection of the woods|
What is excellent about the system, in my opinion, is how the abilities of each faction act to make each of them unique and all this information is gathered on an easy to read board without the need to flick though a book for charts, tables or lists of abilities. The core rules themselves are really quite simple and effective, to the extent that you may read them and think 'what's the point of cavalry, they don't get anything except a move bonus and an armour penalty from shooting?'. But when this is combined with the abilities on the board which reflect how the various factions fought, you end up with a game of considerable depth and interest to it: Norman cavalry are deeply scary when they charge into you, whereas Welsh mounted are used to conduct hit and run missile attacks while staying out of reach of foot troops. It is a rare thing that I play a skirmish game and feel I have a great deal of options and tough decisions to make, but this is something Saga does very well indeed.
The downside of this is that it becomes really hard to resist wanting to try a new army when you read what their abilities are. So far I am working on Vikings and Normans, but have plans to collect Welsh, Anglo-Dane, Breton, Jomsviking and possibly Scot armies as well... Oh and for those of you who are wondering, no I am not doing it in 15mm. I have found a game which has made me break this promise to myself, mainly because I want to play against other people's warbands at the club.
So do give Saga a go if you get the chance. Don't expect a 'historical simulation' if that is your thing, but if you like games where your decisions really matter and are rewarding to play, you might just find yourself with a new gaming addiction!
(PS: I'm going to be selling things on eBay to fund my new Saga habit!)