SAGA: Dark Age Skirmishes

Lately, I’ve stepped away from playing big, time-consuming, games and instead have been enjoying lots of skirmish games. My favorite so far has been SAGA, made by Gripping Beast and Studio Tomahawk.

It’s a medium-sized game with 30-40 models per side. You can choose from many different factions including Bretons, Normans, Scots, Anglo-Danes, and of course, Vikings. There are also many others, and more being introduced in a new expansion coming out in May called Crescent and Cross. It will include rules for Saracens, which I’m jazzed about.

Bretons vs. Vikings!
Bretons vs. Vikings!

What makes this game so great? Vikings, obviously. Ok, honestly, it’s not just that you can play Vikings. But really, that’s all I needed to hear in order to try it.

Actually, what intrigued me about the game was the simplicity, the battle boards, and the dice. This game has a truly unique play style, without getting bogged down in overly complex rules that many games suffer from. It’s really quite elegant. Instead of equipping everyone with different weapons, giving them special powers, and carefully tooling your lists within a large points constraint, you get just 6 points.

Your Warlord is free. You then choose to spend your points on Levies, Warriors, and Hearthguard. Levies are the least experienced, and Hearthguard are the most. 1 point gives you 12 Levies, 8 Warriors, or 4 Hearthguard. Now, you don’t have to keep them in units as you’ve purchase them. You could take 8 Warriors and split them into 2 units of 4. Or, you could put 2 points of Hearthguard into a single unit of 8. As long as you have 4-12 models per unit, you’re good to go.

Each army has a unique battle board. The column on the left is for activation, the two on the right are for your actions.

Battle Board

Each faction has their own dice, although a few are shared between different armies.

Breton Dice
These dice work for Normans or Bretons.

These are partly what gives each army their own flavour. Each die has 3 different symbols that match up to ones on the battle board. You get one die per unit, maximum of 6 (Warlord gives you 2, but levies give you 0 because, well, they’re basically peasants). You roll and allocate them to the abilities you want, matching the symbols. Most actions need one die, some need two. Sounds kind of simple, right?

The trick is figuring out how to combine them into some nasty attacks on your enemies. You can also place a die on your board and keep it there until your next turn. One of the symbols is only on your die once, making it rarest, so it can be sometimes advantageous to keep a die or two on your board.

Additionally, each army has their own unique Warlords, called Heroes of the Viking age, that cost 1 point instead of being free. They have some cool abilities that the basic Warlord does not. You could have Ragnar Lothbrok leading your Viking army. What’s not to love about that? [I know what I’m spending some money on at Salute – Ed]

Some armies, such as my Bretons or Normans, are also mainly cavalry based. That makes them faster, but they lose a point of armor against ranged weapons. It provides a good balance, which I find lacking in other games. In fact, no one army is “the” army to have, so you can chose one that appeals to you without concern for competitiveness.

Different armies also have different weapons. Scots have spears, Vikings have swords and axes, Bretons have javelins, and Anglo-Danes have 2-handed axes. All things that lend to their flavour, without making the game overly complex. Everything you need to know about playing the game is in the main rulebook or on your battleboard. Although, each book has additional scenarios as well.

Right now, there is the main rulebook which provides 4 factions and battle boards (Vikings, Normans, Welsh, and Anglo-Danes) and three supplement books: Northern Fury (Anglo-Saxons, Scots, Bretons, Jomsvikinigs), Raven’s Shadow (Irish, Franks, Strathclyde Welsh, and Norse-Gaels), and Varjazi & Basileus (Pagan Rus, Era of Princes Rus, and the Byzantines). The Crescent and the Cross, which I mentioned before, is the latest supplement due out in May.

Gripping Beast also provides some nice and tidy 6-point complete army boxes that cost £50.00-55.00. Not bad for a little box that has all the models you need for an entire army! If that’s a little too much, though, they also have 4-point starter warbands, in the £33.00-64.50 range.

I got the 4 point Bretons starter and some additional blisters to fill out my army. But wait, you thought I was all about the Vikings? I was, I am, but I ended up being the last of my friends to start my army so Vikings (and my second choice Normans) were already taken. No sense in doubling up when I have more SAGA armies to choose from than friends who play it.

They’re fully painted now and I am taking them to Adepticon (in Chicago, IL) for my very first SAGA tournament! I’m very much looking forward to getting in some games with new people and seeing all the different armies, fully painted and in action.

SAGA starter sets and rule books are available from Firestorm Games starting at £10.80

The Shell Case does Salute – Rob

Salute 2014

As the 12th April comes ever closer and the prospect of another day filled with nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of the UK’s best all-round gaming show (and with the recent trend with Games Day, arguably just the outright best) fills our every waking thought (especially Mat’s – it’s his first time and he’s really quite excited), the members of The Shell Case team attending Salute this year (sorry Ashley, next time maybe?) have taken time to reflect on their hopes and expectations for Salute 2014.

Here’s what I came up with and the other’s will be posting their expectations soon. I repeat, Mat is very excited about attending his first Salute. You have been warned.

Rob
This is the first year I’ll be going with a ‘definite’ plan for what I want to pick up (and by definite I mean go and buy all of that stuff, then buy a truckload more stuff, just because it’s SHINY!) I’ll be busy a lot of the day with my ‘work’ reason for being at Salute, fiddling around with tech, so time will be short; at least this year I won’t be running the London marathon the next day, so won’t have to build in time to attend the always amusingly juxtaposed marathon expo next door. All of the extra stuff meant that last year the Salute show side of things was a bit of a blur, I couldn’t even get to the #warmongers meet up at lunch time, which is almost unforgivable! My priorities this year are:
  1. Spend time chilling and exploring the show with The Shell Case crew
  2. Attend the #warmongers gathering
  3. Pick up two or three new skirmish games: Godslayer, possibly a second Malifaux starter and whatever takes my fancy on the day (Dark Age is something I definitely want to take a closer look at if anyone has it there – any ideas anyone?)
  4. Grab some FW goodness. I allow myself one impulse purchase from the FW guys at each Salute and by one purchase, I mean one credit card transaction 😉 Trying to decide whether I want to pick up some heresy goodies, possibly Iron Hands as I like their affinity with the Mechanicum and they have some awesome models.
  5. Get some video of the day for a post-Salute wrap-up for The Shell Case!
That should about cover it I reckon! I’m definitely looking forward to being able to have a few beers this time around without worrying about having to run the marathon the next day!

#ODAM 12 – The Structure Show

ODAMRoundel copyThis month’s installment of everyone’s favorite international podcast coalition sees us being unusually structured. With Jason our newly appointed content manager he tries, and fails, to stop the power going to his head. Ashley is preparing for Adepticon, Phil is babbling about some foreign gathering called Salute which is either a gaming convention or a gay nightclub, and we try to understand the latest bit of nonsense to come out of Nottingham. Nate also announces an important life event, which Jason and the boys promptly mock. Par for the course, really.

As always ODAM contains adult humour and language from the start.

Listen to Episode 12 here.

 

What Kind of Year Has it Been?

The Shell Case has had its third Christmas and 2014 will see the site turn 3 years old. It’s been an eventful 2 and a half years and that certainly goes double for the last 12 months.

So, to repeat the question: what kind of year has it been?

A very mixed one.

In March I became a father. Whilst being a dad is awesome it inevitably had an impact on The Shell Case in so much as I couldn’t write as much as I wanted or as often. I did my best but inevitably I lost readers, some of which never returned. Between my time being hammered more than Charlie Sheen and some truly twatish comments on the posts I did put up I seriously considered closing the site. Until Erin (@sixeleven) suggested that to take the pressure off writing a post a day – which I was doing and then some – I bring in contributors.

It was a painfully obvious solution to the problem and have the added benefit of discussing topics and parts of our wide and varied hobby that I have no experience in. Bringing in contributors has seen mixed success with the initial team signing on and then almost immediately leaving again after they realised that when I said 1 article a week I actually meant it. We’re not quite there yet as all our contributions are a little up and down (mine included) and I’m still on the hunt for a couple more talented people to round off the team, but progress is being made and we’re slowly clawing our way back to where we were. And hopefully beyond.

Three months ago Lee and I, rather ambitiously, began A Tale of Two Armies. It’s been a lot of fun, if slightly stressy at times, to get back into Warhammer and actually do hobby and play games with any regularity. The narrative is developing nicely and as you’ve hopefully seen, Lee and I have been working hard to flesh out the entire thing. Check out our ‘Genesis of a’ posts.

I do have to extend huge thanks to Reece, Mat, Lee & Adam since coming on board. They’re all integral parts to the grand plan for The Shell Case and I’m not joking when I say this site wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. And to Jason, Ashley, Adam (again), Nate & John for agreeing to take part in my hair brained scheme to create a multi-national podcast. 10 shows in we’re starting to find our feet and the new year should bring some more exciting changes and possibly some TSC exclusive content.

I also owe a huge and un-payable debt to my sponsor, Firestorm Games, for supporting me these last 18 months. Again, without them I wouldn’t have been in a position to keep pace with our ever-changing hobby or have been able to run A Tale of Two Armies.

Thank yous also go out to Amera, Chris Wraight, Gav Thorpe, Nick Kyme, Sarah Cawkwell, Megalith, Studio McVey, Ainsty Castings, Avatars of War to name but a few. Getting to know you all has been a pleasure and your support of my humble site rather mind-blowing.

I’d planned on spouting on about the state of the hobby and all that had happened over the last 12 months but actually, what’s done is done. The next 12 months is what interests me with some big releases from the Games Workshop, Spartan Games, Megalith and many others. I can’t wait to get to Salute 2014 and go batshit crazy for the up and coming games. And I can’t wait for my daughter to sleep through the night so I have a bit more energy.

All that’s left to be said is to thank readers of the site, old and new, as you’re the reason I’ve pretty much given up sleeping. I wish you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2014 with many toys, games and, occasionally, some painting.