August 22, 2014 by brennon
SAGA is one of those historical games from both Gripping Beast and Studio Tomahawk that seems to have gripped people (no pun intended) from a variety of different spheres. Historical gamers enjoy it, fantasy gamers enjoy and fans of anything skirmish based and cinematic love it too. Not to say these spheres don’t intertwine of course! With a simple mechanic, the added bonus of the battle boards and a rich tapestry of Dark Age legend and tales to draw on you have the makings of a good game. But, how do you get started?
Mustering the Warband
You could start off getting into SAGA by picking up some of the existing 4pt or 6pt warbands from Gripping Beast. These all metal collections that come with a full compliment of warriors, hearthguard and a warlord for your force and are a great way of kicking things off. They are however somewhat pricey and while we don’t like to mention price as everything is relative here on Beasts of War we do have a couple of interesting choices for you to consider when you make up your next band of Vikings or Anglo-Saxons. I’ve even got a few helpful hints for Crescent & Cross too which just launched not long ago.
The first thing you’re going to have to check is the make-up of your force at 4pts and this is entirely dependent on the force you’re looking to collect. Vikings and Anglo-Danes for example from the core rulebook are on foot and don’t feature any ranged weaponry. The Welsh by contrast have a good number of bows to bring to bear and the Normans have a mounted contingent of knights. Mark down what the recommended starting force is from the book and then you’ve got a good starting point. Then you can go hunting.
The example I’m going to use as a starting point is my Vikings and Anglo-Danes that I’ve picked up for SAGA. I had a look at the boxed sets from Gripping Beast, in all metal, and realised that they were a little bit too expensive for me just getting started. My eye then turned to their plastic range and here I think we’ve got the one stop shop for starting up either of these warbands.
The two plastic sets they do are chock full of miniatures, just over forty in fact, and come with all manner of weapons and options for you to make up a warband. With a typical starting warband only being twenty five models or so, with one of them being your warlord, you will have only used over half of the box and will be left with a whole load of miniatures to build units in the future when you need them.
You can almost do the same for the Welsh by picking up the Dark Age Warriors boxed set however you are missing bows in the set but you do get slings and javelins. If you really want bows you can scrounge them from your bitz box or indeed buy some of the metal models Gripping Beast have in their range. The example 4pt force is armed with javelins however so you won’t be too put out. You can also mount your Welsh so this may indeed be one of those warbands where you look at the metal force to get you started.
Normans are also a bit of a harder placement compared to the Vikings and Anglo-Danes/Saxons. They come with crossbows and a lot of mounted knights as well. This is where the 4pt Warband from Gripping Beast is a good choice but you can also find some miniatures elsewhere to get you going and this leads me onto other companies that do some great Dark Age figures.
Looking Further Afield
Scouring the internet for news means that you find a lot of hidden gems on the internet that can help bolster an existing collection of miniatures or indeed get a new one started. As I mentioned in the previous section one of the problems with collecting Normans is that you might seemingly only have one choice. Thankfully a couple of companies can help in that regard!
Drabant Miniatures do a series of metal miniatures for the Dark Ages and at their core are some very nice looking Norman miniatures. If you want some very cool looking figures then you can check them out for not only Normans but also some Anglo-Saxons and Vikings too.
Conquest Games also do some superb looking Normans and they make their kits in plastic! They have a Norman Knights plastic boxed set for your mounted miniatures alongside a plastic set of on Foot Infantry too. Twin that with a range of metal Crossbowmen and Archers and you have the makings of a Norman warband for relatively cheaper than you would have done through Gripping Beast. You get fifteen Knights per box and forty four on foot infantry so you’ll once again be left with a lot of spares for when you want to expand your army.
If you’re looking for other companies that make Dark Age period miniatures then I suggest checking out Eureka Miniatures for their range of characters as well as Wargames Foundry as they do some neat characters that could easily be used as Warlords for your various forces. Musketeer Miniatures also do a range of Dark Age warriors and even post Saxon with some very cool Romano-British troops too. If you’re looking to theme your force a bit more ‘old world’ then this is the place to look.
Another company that makes Dark Age plastic sets is Wargames Factory. I picked up their range when I was first interested in SAGA and at the beginning I thought they were very good indeed but I soon ran into some problems. The miniatures have very stilted and awkward stances, the hands look like Lego men, and the necks of their heads are strangely elongated. I am not a fan but I know a lot of people who really like them.
All of this talk of looking further afield makes it sounds like I don’t approve of the Gripping Beast range but that could be further from the truth. The selection they have is great, even if the website is insanely hard to navigate, and they have great metal sets that would be perfect for using as alternative Hearthguard units and such. I have a set of their Berserkers that I use with my Vikings. They also make some of the coolest looking heroes out there too and they range from heroes from history to just basic warlords that you can name and write their deeds at your leisure.
God Wills It!
Gripping Beast and Studio Tomahawk have also recently collaborated on Crescent & Cross which is them taking SAGA into the Middle-East and the conflict between the Christian Crusaders and Muslims of the region. Once again a good place to start is with their 4pt warband selection over on the website but there are some alternatives if you want to look a bit further afield.
FireForge Games have their own game, Deus Vult, set during the period of the Crusades and while their game is good if you like the SAGA mechanics you’ll want to check out their rather amazing range of plastic miniatures for your European knights. They do some great mounted warriors, on foot infantry and even some Teutonic Knights as well if you fancy glamming it up a bit.
If you want to keep things metal then the Perry Miniatures range is another great resource to draw from as it comes with some Muslim choices alongside the Christian Crusaders. It’s a real shame that FireForge haven’t actually cracked on with their Muslim forces just yet in plastic but I’m sure they will get around to it.
Gripping Beast also do a plastic boxed set full of Arab Spearmen and Archers that you could easily use to bolster the large contingent of Muslims you’re bringing to the table on horseback.
There’s also Crusader Miniatures who, aptly, also make some great Crusaders in metal for use as characters and such. They even do some nice Dark Age miniatures as well if you want to peruse their range.
So What Next?
The next thing to do is of course play the game! The rulebooks are great and easy to read and the new Crescent & Cross one looks amazing from what I’ve seen of it. The Battle Boards come as part of the rules and the only other things you’ll need to do is pick up the dice packs and make yourself some fatigue tokens.
On the subject of the dice to begin with they might seem like an extravagance since you can use regular d6 but translating them to the symbols and then working out where to put them on the board adds a hell of a lot of down time to the game. Pick up the appropriate dice, that don’t really cost much more than the Order Dice from Bolt Action, and you’ll soon see why they are a good purchase.
Fatigue Tokens are supplied by Gripping Beast as laser cut discs but you can easily make your own. Cut out all the shields you’re not using from a sprue of your Dark Age warriors, paint them up to look bloody and battered and there you have it. I made twenty great looking fatigue tokens with this method.
The ranges for movement in SAGA are also tied to VS, S, M, and L which is Very Small, Small, Medium and Long, and a lot of SAGA players like to use little range rulers or pieces of wood shaped into particular designs to show this. You can of course just use a tape measure, that’s what I do, but it could be another cool project to work on. I had a cool idea to make each range rule in the shape of a different weapon from a small dirk all the way up to a spear at ‘Long’.
So that’s my little guide to getting into SAGA and Ragnar Lodbrok above approves! If you have any companies you think deserve a mention or indeed want to share your own thoughts on starting this game let me know in the comments below!
Go forth! For Odin! (Or God if you are one of them Crusader types!)