Tuesday, 18 October 2011

SAGA my first impressions

For those that aren't aware what Saga is follow the link for more information:
Or pick up a copy of Wargames Illustrated Issue 288 for an excellent feature by none other than gaming genius Mr Rick Priestly.

This is the first time I have written a review of any sorts, so apologies for the lack of sense and poor grammar that is likely to follow.

For the most part the rules follow standard fare, so movement and shooting have their own sections as does combat, all of which work as you would expect. The only real thing of note is a unit is activated and completes its move before you deal with the next unit you wish to activate.

What makes Saga so good in my opinion is the use of a battleboard, fatigue and the warlord himself.
You have a number of dice dependent on how many units you have at the start of your turn, they act in a similar way to card games in so much as 1-3 is common 4-5 uncommon and 6 is rare.
The dice are placed the board at the at start of your turn to activate a unit or give bluffs and de-buffs to your units and your opponents respectively. 
Units can also be activated multiple times in a turn at the cost of giving them fatigue, which in itself adds a layer if tactical play (more on that later)
Each factions board is different and reflect a general trait for that group. The Viking one is largely melee based with some nice options for reducing fatigue.

At first glance the board seemed gimmicky, but once I experienced it first hand I found it added a nice tactical element to your turn and I was always holding out for a great dice roll to implement a heroic maneuver. I found the combinations work much like the ones in Warmachine, although in Saga you are very much in the hands of the dice gods. I guess some will find that a turn off? but I never felt powerless to act even when I rolled lots of common dice scores.

Fatigue is gained for different reasons, activating a unit more than once incurs it, fighting in melee, having a friendly unit removed from play in close proximity also gives you a fatigue token. The system works very well, as you use your opponents fatigue to buff your unit or de-buff his. 
By using one of your opponents fatigue points (which is then removed) you can raise your armor by one point, in addition if he has another fatigue point left you can reduce his armor by one, either of these options is available to you. 
You an rest a unit to remove fatigue, but I found I didn't have the time to keep a unit stood around for a turn to achieve that.

The warlord is a real powerhouse and a true hero in game, he can move a unit and himself for free once a turn and he gets to ignore the first wound caused in any shooting or melee. Coupled with his ability to transfer wounds to his troops around him, he is highly survivable and tip the balance in combat. However left on his own he is pretty vulnerable.

In conclusion, I really liked the risk and reward aspect of the game, pushing your troops that extra step can bring great benefits, but ask to much of them and they can really suffer at the hands of the enemy. Only once or twice did the rules make it unclear as to the correct coarse of action, but that could also be down to lack of experience on our part.  
Although Saga leans towards historical gaming for obvious reasons, it's main focus is on playing a super hard warlord and his band of 'merry men', recreating the heroic tales of bearded men having what amounts to a Friday night ruck in some parts of the world ;)

For those that are members of the Brighton Warlords or can make it to the club on a Monday, I will be only to happy to give you a demo game once I have some opponents for my Vikings.

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