Monday, 15 August 2016


 That's such a horrible title for what went on last Saturday at the Hamilton Road Games Group in London, ON. That was not the title chosen by the organizer, but I needed to get your attention. For those who don't know, SAGA is a dark ages/Crusade-era skirmish game that pits various "factions" against each other in small battles. It started as a Viking-era game that branched out into the Norman Conquest of Saxon England, the Viking influence in what is now Russia, and finally the Crusade period as it's know in the West.

(Photos courtesy of Andy and my cell phone.)

At Andy's invitation, 8 players came together to play SAGA. (More were invited but could not make the event.) A few others came a played a WWII game under Wayne's watchful eye. Here were the SAGA factions represented:
           Matt                                  Anglo-Danes
           Tom                                  Normans
           Derek                                Normans
           George                             Milites Christi
           Martin                              Pagan Rus
           Ralph                               Welsh
           Duane                               Mutataw'wai
           Your humble Blogger       Irish
Andy was gamesmaster/cat-herder/time-keeper. Kevin, Bear, Tyler (and his son, Thomas), and Wayne were at another table playing a WWII tank game.

The SAGA tourney was to be won on points. Each scenario includes victory conditions and there are point values for any casualties from the opponent's hearthguard, warriors, levy, or warlord. Extra points were awarded if your entire army was painted and if you brought all the items needed to play the game (rules, measuring sticks, fatigue markers, etc.)

We were more-or-less randomly matched up and I faced Tom in the first match, using the "Kill the Warlord" scenario. The goal is simple: kill the opponent's warlord.

Tom moves some of his mounted hearthguard up.
The movement continues. Matt and Martin hack at each other in the background.
Norman knights, mounted sergeants, and foot sergeants with crossbows face down my scattered
kern (levy) and Fianna (hearthguard). My entire army is armed with javelins except for one unit.
Tom's bow-armed levy and his cavalry again.
Here you can see my bonnachts (warriors) armed with the Danish axe.
The Irish warband is very lightly armoured and the axemen are even more vulnerable.
They do pack quite a punch in hand-to-hand combat.
My Warlord and his closest unit of Fianna (hearthguard).
Tom points out his warlord.
Tom's foot sergeants face off against my warriors. Both units have fought and taken casualties.
The accumulated fatigue markers are laid behind the units.
My one unit without javelins.
The Irish are permitted to replace one unit of warriors with a unit of wardogs and a handler.
They move as cavalry and ignore all terrain restrictions, except for totally impassable terrain.
There were not well used in either game, but they seem to confuse my opponents.
Well, Tom killed my warlord very late in the game - probably turn 5 out of 6. It was a hard fought game and my javelin armed levy did much better than I expected. It's hard for fighters in their underwear to fight armoured cavalry on equal terms. It was a hard-fought game and a very clean one. I have to say that there were not any of the usual arguments that often happen on the wargames table. Everybody came to play and not necessarily to win at all costs.

In the second game, we all changed opponents and played the same scenario. I faced George and his Milites Christi (Knightly Orders) warband - a faction that does not field levy! Again I was faced with a mass of cavalry. I did the best I could.

I have no idea what I was reaching for.
George's foot warriors/sergeants emerge from the woods.
Crossbow armed foot warriors, knights, and mounted sergeants.
No levy at alll
More mounted sergeants on the other side of the line.
Knight vs. bonnachts - If I recall, I gave them a bloody nose, but got hurt too.
George's mounted warriors from Conquest Miniatures.
They look ghostly here, but I believe they'll be choice when fully painted.
I surprised myself in this game. I actually killed George's warlord toward the end of the game. A warlord can take two hits before they're out, and somehow I dealt three in one turn. So I got the points for this in another hard-fought game.

The third "heat" was four players in a scenario called "Feast of Crows", which is basically a four-sided free-for-all. George, Tom, Ralph (Welsh) and I hammered each other for 6 turns. We didn't bother with any type of negotiation or allies; everybody was fair game. I tried to use my special ability of being able to missile attack an enemy unit within 4" of rough terrain even though I have no figures in that terrain! I suppose it's leprechauns or the Sidhe or something like that, but it's fun. We hacked at each other for 6 turns and George came out on top, primarily because his warlord survived. Tom and Ralph often asked me to deploy Shawnessy and the boyos against George and I did what I could. Again the javelin armed figures did better than I expected.

The match-up for "The Feast of Crows"
Here we are with Bear observing.
It poured rain outside, so much so that the storm sewers backed up into the parking lot and the men's room.
I'm making some vital move, but no one cares! 
Each faction starts in a corner of a 4"x 4" field and we take it from there.
Tom's mounted and foot sergeants face my warband.
My Fianna and Bonnachts follow up the kern as we attack Tom's crossbows.
The wardogs hold their position and more levy come up.
George's crusading order troops race toward Ralph and demonstrate toward my Gaels.
In the end, the ultimate winners were announced at supper at a local eating place. Tom was second place, and Martin took first place with his Pagan Rus. He was Crouch King! (We play at the Crouch Branch of the London Library.)

Vive l'Roi!
He'll never wear that crown again, I bet!
I was named "jester" since I finished dead last in points. Such is life.


  1. Nice. How easy are the game rules to pick up and play? I was thinking about playing at Guns of August in Williamsburg next week.

  2. The table-top mechanics of the game are simplicity itself. The use of the battle board for your faction is a lot tougher. It takes experience and judgement as well as a bit of luck to do it right. That's what really makes the game. Give it a try! Go for the early lists - Vikings, Normans, Welsh, Anglo-Danes. Some of the special lists - Jomsvikings, Rus, Byzantines, Anglo-Saxons, Franks - take more than a little study.