Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saga First Game Impressions

The miniature gaming scene has witnessed a wave of exciting new rulesets over the last few years. We've seen some, like Hail Caesar, that are appealing but very traditional in nature. And others, like Saga, that really put a new twist into play. I've been wanting to play Saga for some time now and got my first chance last night. 

Saga is a skirmish game set in the dark ages. Translated into English this means that the game is about small bands of Vikings, Scots, English and French fighting with spears and axes. These are really less battles and more good sized brawls. Skirmish gaming makes historical sense for this time period and it lets you play with forty or so miniatures per side.

Photo courtesy Robert D.
In a game of Saga you command a warlord and a group of troops. You may have well armed nobles, fairly well armed warriors, and unreliable peasants. Troops may fire arrows, move here and there, and eventually engage in hand to hand combat. The basic premise of the game is traditional and, for players with even a little experience, intuitive. Saga throws a twist into the mix with its dice. Every turn the player rolls a number of dice. The dice are then used to activate special powers. The better the power, the harder it is to activate. A mild power might require you to set aside any die. An awesome one might require you to set aside two sixes. Players have up to eight dice to roll in each turn and the game forces you to pick and choose which powers you are going to use. If you roll one six only you won't be able to activate the awesome power and will have to choose what use to put your single die to. In a sense it's like getting a random amount of money each turn to spend on special abilities. Further, you can save certain dice for use in later turns (like saving money) but then you will be able to roll fewer new dice.

This all boils down to a very fun, fast moving, and pleasantly tense game. We had the basic rules memorized after maybe two turns. After that we just agonized about never have Quite enough dice of the right sort to unleash the powers we wanted to unleash, and agonized about how to spend the dice we did roll and should we save some for later or would we wish we had spent them now etc etc. Each faction has different powers and that was fun to see in action. The Vikings specialize in just plowing ahead and shrugging off fatigue. The Scots have great defensive abilities and then can deliver some strong counterattacks. The other factions look like they'll play very differently too.

I felt pretty good about Saga. The rules are simple. The dice mechanic is fun and engaging. You need about forty miniature soldiers per player which is more than some people may own (hard as it is to believe that) but in the scheme of miniatures games that's pretty manageable. Saga is certainly more of a game than a realistic simulation but as games go it's terrific fun. We'll be playing more in the near future I'm sure.


  1. I always appreciate your reviews, Mike!

  2. Well thanks. I really struggle to describe rules and gameplay in some sensible way. Probably that's why my friends look baffled when I introduce them to some new game!

  3. Just found out about this blog from a member at the Black Powder New England yahoo group, nice review thanks,