Chris here with another installment of Weekend Warriors. This time I’m taking you back to the Crusades era with “SAGA: The Crescent & The Cross” by Studio Tomahawk. Studio Tomahawk is responsible for the original SAGA, the Viking / dark ages-era skirmish game. The rules of the two games are similar but there have been some improvements made for The Crescent & The Cross. Also by Studio Tomahawk is Muskets and Tomahawks, their skirmish game set in Colonial-era America. I’ll be talking about that at a later date.
SAGA of all stripes has four essential components: The SAGA dice, normal d6s, the battle board, and their distance ranges. Above is a picture of their SAGA dice. If you don’t feel like buying theirs you can print out paper faces for your own d6. The battle board pictured below uses the SAGA dice to plan out orders for your troops as well as activated special abilities. Each battle board is unique for each faction. Last up is their set of ranges; VS (very short), S (short), M (medium), and L (you guessed it, long). Fortunately for us VS is 2”, S is 4”, M is 6”, and L is 12”. The next step to understanding the game is troop types.
All figures are broken down to 4 troop types. The first is Warlord. Each force contains one Warlord. He’s the boss and fights like it. He has special rules to keep him alive longer and to inspire his troops to charge in with him. Next up are Hearthguard. These elite warriors are better armed and armored than your basic warriors. Warriors make up the average soldier. They have a wide range of equipment depending on your force. Finally, we have Levies. The provide the a lot of bodies, but are poorly equipped and poorly trained.
Armies in SAGA are probably the easiest to build in all of wargaming. You start with a point limit for the game, usually 6. Then you start with a warlord for free, kinda like warcasters/warlocks in Warmachine & Hordes. Then you spend your points. The good news? Everything costs 1 point. You can purchase 4 Hearthguard, 8 Warriors, or 12 Levies for a point. The army lists describe how each option can be equipped. For example my first game was a 4 point battle as Crusaders. I spent 2 points on hearth guard, giving me 8 Hearthguard models on foot with hand weapons and shields. I then spent 1 point on 8 Warriors on foot with hand weapons and shields. I spent the last 1 point on Warriors with crossbows.
The game is divided into turns with 2 phases each. Each player takes their turn by first performing the Orders phase and then their Activation step. The second player then takes their turn. The Orders phase is broken down into rolling SAGA dice and then placing them on your board. You may be wondering how many SAGA dice you roll. Your Warlord generates 2 SAGA dice, and each unit of Hearthguard and Warriors generate one additional SAGA die. While you can use at most 8 SAGA dice during the game, you can only roll a maximum of 6 in the start of the Orders phase. For my 4 point starter game above I rolled 5 dice to start the game. 2 for my Warlord, 2 for my two units of Warriors, and then 1 for my Hearthguard since I combined the 8 models into one unit. After rolling the dice you match up symbols you rolled to where they are on the battle board. This is where a lot of the strategy comes in. During the Orders phase your opponent can use some of the actions on their board. These are marked as Orders / Reactions and can add additional strategy to the game.
After finishing the Orders phase the active player then pulls dice off their board to activate units. A unit can be activated any number of times in a turn but each time after the first the accrue an Fatigue marker (detailed later). The basic activation can be used three ways. The first way is to move a unit. Foot units move M and mounted units move L unless in uneven terrain than all models move S. This movement can also be taken to charge into combat. I’ll describe combat after shooting since it’s a similar process.
The second action is shooting. Bows and crossbows have a range of L, while javelins and compound bows are ranged M. If a model has range and LOS to its target it can shoot. Each model generates a number or fraction of attack dice depending on the model’s class. A Warlord will generate 2 attack dice. Hearthguard and Warriors each generate 1 attack die per model. Levies generate ½ an attack die per model. This game rounds up fractions. Special actions from the battle board can modify the number of shooting dice so be aware. The attack dice are then rolled. Each die equal to or higher than the target’s armor counts as a hit. For each hit the defender gets a defense die. On a 4 or better the hit is cancelled. Any hits that get through then become casualties which are removed from the unit.
The final action you can take is a rest action. This removes a Fatigue marker from the unit. You could do this a lot of times but there’s no point. After the first activation you’re adding an Fatigue marker for each activation so removing one results in no net gain. When I explain Fatigue you’ll see why getting rid of them can be important.
While not a action, melee occurs when a unit moves into contact with an enemy unit. The process is similar to shooting but each side gets to attack and defend unlike shooting. Again each model generates a number or fraction of attack dice depending on the model’s class. Please note that this will be a different number than shooting. A Warlord will generate 5 attack dice. Hearthguard generate 2 attack dice per model. Warriors each generate 1 attack die per model. Levies generate 1/3 of an attack die per model. Once again, the actions from the battle board can mix things up. The defender can turn half of their attack dice into defense dice to help weather the storm. The attack dice are rolled versus your opponent’s armor. Each hit generates one defense die for your opponent. Unlike shooting, a roll of 5 or better is needed to cancel out a hit in melee. You can remove any model from the unit as a casualty, not just those who participate. The only stipulation is that one model must be left base to base with the opposing unit. Whoever causes the least amount of casualties, or in the case of a tie the attacker, has to withdraw an S distance from combat.
The last thing to talk about rules wise is Fatigue. You can spend your opponent’s Fatigue to make this better for yourself. You accrue Fatigue when you fight in a melee, regardless of who wins, when you activate any time after your first activation in a turn, and when an opponent uses abilities to force them on you. When an opponent moves, you can spend one of their Fatigue points to make them move one band slower, going from L to M, or S to VS for example. When you are being shot at, you can spend a Fatigue to increase your armor. In melee, Fatigue can be spent to raise your armor, or lower your opponent’s armor. If you accrue enough Fatigue, based again on your class, you become Exhausted. When Exhausted, the only activation you can take is a rest and if you’re engaged in melee you lose half your attack dice.
For the game here I played the Saracens with a partner while our opponents played Crusaders. We played a 6 point game where the goal was to kill as many enemies as possible in 6 rounds. We took our warlord, 1 point of mounted Warriors, 2 points of Hearthguard on foot, 2 points of Warriors on foot, and a unit of Levies with Bows. We complete the game in about 2 hours. This includes a lot of time for chit chat and fetching beers. It was getting late and I threw our Warlord into a unit of crossbowmen thinking I could wipe the floor with them. A few bad dice rolls later and he bit the dust. That was enough to call it a night. The figures we used tonight are really for the Spanish El Cid era, but work just as well. There are battle boards for the Moors and Spanish, but they are bit more complicated so we stuck with the simple armies. Hope you enjoyed this!