Muster Beneath The Banner! SAGA Vikings!

September 8, 2013 in Featured, Historical, Historical Battles, SAGA by crew

“In this year terrible portents appear over Northumbria and miserably frightened the inhabitants; these were exceptional flashes of lightning and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine soon followed these signs and a little after that in the same year on 8 June the harrying of the heathen miserably destroyed Gods church in Lindisfarne by rapine and slaughter”. (Garmonsway 55, 57 Saxon Chronicle).

Viking Longship

The above description is the first to come to mind when we think of the Vikings. Big men with big axes looting and pillaging the local church. This description is true but there’s more to the Vikings than the usual stereotype.

The Vikings were some of the finest warriors of the Dark Ages conquering and raiding all over Europe for well over two centuries. Their martial prowess was rightly feared; they could strike at will due to there superior seamanship, being able to navigate most coastlines and river systems of Europe. There wasn’t a coastal town in Britain that didn’t live under the shadow of a Viking raid.

However they were not just raiders. The Vikings were conquerors too taking over and settling up colonies the length and breadth of Europe. They conquered large areas of Russia from the Baltic to the black sea. They conquered the whole of the east of England destroying a number of Saxon kingdoms in the process and even managed to reach and settle in Greenland and New Foundland in America.

Scandinavian Settlements

The Vikings in Saga fight very much like the Vikings in history. Hard hitting, and brutal in combat. There’s not much that can stand up to a well timed charge from a Viking war band with the right Saga abilities to back it up.

Mustering your Viking Warband

In Saga there are four basic units. A Warlord must always be taken and the rest of the units are made up of Hearthguard, Warriors and Levies. The average game of Saga is 6pts but you can easily start with 4pts and one of the Starter Warbands on offer from Gripping Beast.

Viking 4pt Starter Warband

When selecting my own Viking warband I like to take 3pts of Warriors split into two units of twelve and 2pts of Hearthguard split into two units of four. One unit is then upgraded to Berserkers and the other to be the Warlords Bodyguard. I feel this list gives you the most flexibility. The twelve man units of Warriors will be very hard to wear down and have the advantage of a large attack pool, which will compliment your Saga abilities. The Berserkers are a must have and their abilities will become clear later on!

The remaining Hearthguard are perfect for your Warlords bodyguard making cheeky assassination that bit harder.

Levies, the most basic of infantry in the Saga game are left out of my warband as they don’t really suit the faction and there’s not really any Saga abilities on the battle board to give them a boost! I could be wrong but I have failed to find a place for them. Maybe you could drop a comment below for how you use Levies in your Viking warband?

Using the Viking Battle Board

The core game mechanic of Saga is the Battle Board and Saga Dice. For those of you that are new to Saga each faction has its own unique battle board with many abilities based on how your faction fought in history. Each turn your warband generates a number of Saga dice (one dice per unit and two for a warlord to the maximum of six). These dice are rolled and depending on the results you can spend these dice on your battle board to activate units and to use abilities. Learning your battle board and knowing how and when to use an ability is the key to victory. Many a time I have been totally annihilated because I haven’t taken the time to learn my Battle Board!

Viking Battle Board

To sum up the Vikings their strength lies in all out assault and the Battle Board reflects this. The combinations that can be used from the Viking Battle Board can be devastating in the right situations.

One of the best ways that I’ve found to use the Viking Battle Board is saving up abilities for the right moment and timing your charges correctly. Just having some Saga dice saved on your Battle Board can really unsettle your opponent and it can really dictate how they play because they can never be too sure when you will use them.

A lot of the Viking abilities enables you to build up your attack pool in melee. For example by putting the right Saga dice on the attack pool, Heimdal and Ullr, and combining them would give you up to seven extra attacks with re-rolls! This may not sound like much but a unit of eight warriors with seven extra attacks, giving you a total of fifteen extra attack, hitting Levies on a 3+, Warriors on 4+, and Hearthguard on 5+ with re-rolls. This is just a small example of how you can combine your abilities to dish out the pain in melee and wipe clean the defence that might have been built up.

Harald Hardradda

There are a couple of interesting abilities on the Viking battle board that are a bit different from the norm. The first is Thor. This ability lets you resolve another round of combat in the melee phase. This ability is great for getting rid of large units in one turn or when time is running out to clear an objective. I would normally use Thor against a unit that is particularly hard to crack or one that I know can be completely destroyed out right in two rounds of vicious fighting. As an interesting addition each unit your opponent loses the less Saga dice they can generate, this can really put them on the back foot.

The next ability is Loki. This lets you remove an enemy unit of warriors or levies that only have three models or less left. This is great for stopping a really cheesy player keeping an almost destroyed unit of warriors out of harms way so he can still gain Saga dice from them. This situation doesn’t come up that often but Loki is handy for when its does. I wouldn’t waste Saga dice using this on Levies as unit of three or less as levies don’t generate Saga dice anyway. It’s situational, but very useful when it works!

There are a couple more abilities on the Battle Board that are great for reducing fatigue and protecting your guys against shooting like Odin and Asgard. I have found that they are great for protecting your Berserker which seem to be a magnet for shooting. It wouldn’t be right for a warrior from the Dark Ages to be felled by unhonourable ranged shooting would it!

Ragnar Lothbrok

This brings me to my last Viking Battle Board combination and I have saved the best till last and it has to be one of the best combinations in the whole game and can be near on unstoppable. It involves your Berserkers and is just perfect for them.

A friend of mine has the perfect description for this tactic, a big bearded homing missile! Pick the most threatening or most valuable target you can find, lets say a large unit a Hearthguard or a Warlord. Once you have chosen your target try everything you can to get your Berserkers into melee intact. Then if you have the right Saga dice use Valhalla, Heimdal and Ullr. Valhalla is unique, you have to remove three models as casualties from the unit, but for every model you remove you gain three to four attacks per casualty depending on the symbol.

So let’s do the math here. That up to sixteen base unit attacks, up to twelve attacks for Valhalla, up to four for Heimdal. In the end depending on what symbol you have removed that one guy left in the unit now get between twenty eight and thirty two attacks with re-rolls (because of Ullr) Now that what I call one angry Berserker! There is not much that will survive this tactic if anything (not lying, I’ve seen this happen at Tabletop Nation! – BoW Ben) and is only a one shot weapon but it’s just priceless to see your opponents face when they see there big unit of Hearthguard deleted from the game or seeing there Warlord assassinated along with his bodyguard.

This is just a quick overview of how I like to use the Vikings in Saga but I am by no means an expert. I would like to hear how other people use them or if you’re new to the game I hope this article has given you some ideas you can build on.

Models to help you get started:-

Wargames Factory Hammer of the Gods

Viking Bondi

Viking Huscarls

Gripping Beast Plastics

Viking Hirdmen

Martin Hatt

If you would like to write an article for Beasts of War then please contact me at ben@beastsofwar.com.