Every now and then you come across a game that really makes you stop and pay attention. A game that has such clarity of vision and purity of undertaking that you actually feel like you’re in the presence of genius.
SAGA is one such game.
To fill you in, SAGA is a skirmish game set during the age of the Vikings on our fair isle written by Studio Tomahawk.
Just because I have to cover this; SAGA is a gorgeous little book. Glossy, well laid out, great photography but the artwork is just a little bit lovely and conjurs the same responses in me that Warhammer Fanatsy use to. It’s simply lovely.
But on to the game…
The fact that it’s a skirmish game isn’t what makes SAGA special. Or the fact that it focuses on the wars and events that led up to the Battle of Hastings. It’s the simple fact that the rules are a little bit genius.
For one thing SAGA uses a unique dice set that not only allows you to place special orders that’ll either boost a unit’s performance or make them more resilient to damage but activate your forces too. This rather elegantly represents the fact that your warlord is bellowing orders or strategies and so doesn’t have time to direct all his forces before the arrows start falling or axe heads biting.
The other touch of genius is the simplicity of the combat rules. Attack and defence. Easy. Shit warriors hace to babd together to deliver the same amount of punishment as good ones. Makes complete sense. But through in Fatigue and all of a sudden you’ve got an agonising decision to make as you’re constantly torn between trying to press the advantage but at the risk of tiring your men or using those valuable dice to help your men recover.
And, again, seasoned veterans can fight harder and longer than press ganged farmers and so fatigue doesn’t aflict them as quickly. But there’s fewer of them and being forced to fight a larger unit for longer is costly.
There’s something to be said for elegance in simplicity because it means you can get down to the task of caving in skulls. Which is sort of the point. That’s not to say that SAGA is a simple game. The tactical decisions that are at its heart see to that but where it succeeds where so many other games fail is that it keeps it all very very fun. And something the Games Workshop should remember when they write the next edition of Warhammer.
The rules also contain force lists, special characters from the pages of legends, and scenarios that allows you to plant your game firmly in a narrative which always does it for me.
But the cherry on top of this rather spectacular sundae is that the rules allow for just about any kind of models to be used with relatively little tweaking. So, all of a sudden, those random sci-fi models you bought at Salute now have a purpose which you simply cannot put a price on.
Go and buy this game or I’ll simply have to come to your house and slap you in your face.
It can be purchased from the fine chaps over at Gripping Beasts.