Thursday, March 28, 2013

Latest SAGA news: Varjazi & Basileus

The Muskets and Tomahawk blog has announced the next SAGA release, and I am certainly pleased with these developments.

Titled Varjazi & Basileus, this expansion will contain the Byzantine faction (from Wargames Illustrated 301), the Pagan Rus and the Rus Princes.  New Swords for Hire units will be released including Steppe Nomads, Wandering Bard and Vengeful Monks. 

Without further hints or details, it sounds like the Pagan Rus could be the mostly Slav or Finno-Ugric people of Russia's forests and the Rus Princes will be the Viking traders who built the cities of Kiev and Novgorod, then mixing into the mostly Slavic population.  Steppe nomads such as the Khazars, Cumans and Pechenegs were rivals of the Rus for control of the pasture lands south of Russia's forest belts.  Some of these provided their skills to the Rus Princes for a price, and influenced the development of the Druzhina, Russia's noble cavalry. 

Wandering Bard and Vengeful Monk mercenaries sound interesting but no details are offered.  It could be some type of outlaw/rogue addition to a warband, or an ability to provide benefits to including musicians or priests in your warband.

Figure Sources

Sourcing figures for the first SAGA factions was not a difficult task.  Normans, Saxons and Vikings are thick on the ground in the miniature world, available in a variety of prices and quality, as well as in metal and plastic.  For the more Easternly factions, there are fewer options but it should not troublesome to acquire few units of Rus are Steppe Nomads. 

Gripping Beast - probably the best early Rus figures available, and very close to their Jomsviking line.  In fact, anyone with Jomsvikings already can probably use them as Rus hearthguard. 

Magister Militum - the sculpting quality of Magister's Rus is not as sharp as Gripping Beasts, but their nicely priced Rus line includes spearmen and levy archers.

Acquiring Steppe Nomads before the game's arrival might be chancey.  What sort of abilities, armor and weapons will the rules account for?  Essex has some of the most varied Asiatic figures, and since they sell by the figure, one could put together an appropriately mixed group of mercenary horsemen.  Old Glory also has some packs of Asiatics, including this set of Pechenegs:

The announcement also says that this release will mark the end of their Viking age products.  Looking forward, Mike Hobbs' Twitter feed less than cryptically adds "on to Jerusalem." Time to buy some Fireforge plastics.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Torn Armor on Kickstarter

I have been following miniatures on Kickstarter for the better part of a year, and finally jumped in this week as a backer for the first time.  Torn Armor is a fantasy skirmish game with some interesting variations on the familiar tropes. My daughter (and my frequent Song of Blades and Heroes opponent) was attracted to both the Greek inspired army and the almost-but-not-quite-cute animal faction.

After a great opening day, the funding slowed, but it has had a strong run the past few days.  A big reason for the increased enthusiasm has been the announcement of an inclusion of Reaper's Clockwork Dragon for the first 500 backers at the game level, along with some other options that have been announced.  I hope this funds, but if it doesn't, it will be increasingly clear that the Kickstarter game community wants to see more physical products before backing, no matter how great the idea - witness Rick Priestly's recent Gates of Antares project.

Torn Armor on Kickstarter

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SAGA Warband Reference Sheet

I put together a quick reference sheet to quickly check each unit's armor, movement, attack and shooting.  Probably not necessary for experienced wargamers, given the standardization of the three basic units in SAGA, but still handy.  Also posted on the Download page.

Monday, March 11, 2013

El Cid and King Alfonso VI

I thought the parallels between El Cid and King Alfonso effectively paralleled the often contentious relationship between the dukes of Normandy and their lords, the kings of France. The quickest and easiest way to get these two leaders of Spain into SAGA was to use current battleboards. El Cid and his great cavalry seemed a good match for the Norman battleboard. King Alfonso VI, who outmaneuvered his brothers and brought the force of Spain upon the fractured taifa kingdoms, should play the Frankish battleboard. To preserve game balance, El Cid and King Alfonso's abilities are closely modeled on William the Bastard and Charlemagne.  

Norman dice made for King Alfonso's Spanish warband

El Cid

Like many great heroes of the Dark Ages, there is much we do not know about the life of Rodrigo Diaz and what is known has become entangled with legend. The hero of the Poema de Mio Cid (The Lay of the Cid) was a valiant warrior whose tragic flaw was being right when his king was wrong. While more realistic in tone than many medieval epics, the Lay of the Cid has the protagonist and capturing lions barehanded. Historically, Rodrigo was certainly a great warrior who was respected by both Christians and Muslims in eleventh century Spain.  He also had a great many enemies, and was dismissed by some as a mercenary with little loyalty or conviction.  


He was born in 1143 or a bit later, in the village of Vivar, not far from the town of Burgos. This was during the reign of King Ferdinand, who united most of Spain before his death in 1065, and the division of his kingdom among his sons Sancho, Alfonso and Garcia.  As the son of a nobleman, Rodrigo was raised to fulfill the duties of a king's man on the frontier.  While in his teens, Rodrigo became attached to the household of Sancho and rose to the position of alferez, or armiger (Latin), the trainer of Sancho’s household troops.  He served Sancho for six years, until the King was killed outside of Zamora.  Sancho’s murder possibly involved his sister Urraca, as well as his exiled brother Alfonso.

After Alfonso’s ascension to the throne of Castile and Leon, Rodrigo took a position in his court, though not one as high as in Sancho’s administration.  After his unwelcome obstruction of a Christian led raid in a Muslim kingdom, Rodrigo was exiled by Alfonso.  He quickly took up employ in the court of al-Mu'taman of Zaragoza.    

Rodrigo later returned to the service of Alfonso, but his fame and independence made him a difficult vassal to the king.  Rodrigo later took the city of Valencia, and for the last years of his life, held the realm as an independent sovereign.    

Hero of the Reconquista: as a hero of Castile, Rodrigo generates three SAGA dice at the start of each turn, instead of the usual two for other Warlords.

Duelist: As a frequent champion for his lord, Rodrigo was a master of single combat.  When engaging in melee with another Warlord, El Cid gains an extra attack die, allowing him to fight with six attack dice, rather than the five of other Warlords.

Campeador: As a recognized leader of men, El Cid can attract a variety of units to his warband. Any Warriors or Hearthguard units in Rodrigo’s warband may have bows.  Bow equipped Warriors and Hearthguard have an armour characteristic reduced by one (bow equipped Warriors have an Armour of 3 and bow-equipped Hearthguards have an Armour of 4) due to their lack of protection.  These models may be fielded as Christian or Muslim, and generate SAGA dice as any other unit.  

Alfonso VI

The second of three sons, Alfonso inherited the heartland of his father's kingdoms. An uneasy peace existed between the three brothers, but when their mother died in 1071, open warfare broke out.  At first, Sancho and Alfonso allied together and split Garcia's lands of Galicia and Portugal.  After turning on each other, Sancho defeated Alfonso and exiled him to Seville.  While dealing with an uprising in Zamora (not far from Seville, it should be noted), Sancho was murdered and Alfonso took the throne, declaring himself emperor of Spain in 1077.

Alfonso was a strong and effective ruler, and although he was dedicated to the reconquest of Spain, he did not believe in persecuting his Muslim subjects. He also cultivated close ties with France and brought to Spain Cluniac monks to standardize religious practices and rites. He died in 1109, leaving no male heir.
Hero of the Reconquista As the heir of his father Ferdinand and ruler of Spain, Alfonso must lead a Spanish warband and generates three SAGA dice at the start of each turn, (not two as other Warlord).  Alfonso may be represented as either mounted or on foot.  Any warband led by Alfonso must include at least one point of mounted Hearthguard.

King of Castile and Leon: Alfonso only generates four Attack Dice in melee and not five as other Warlords. His subjects expect him to lead the army, not exchange blows with the enemy.  While recognized as a capable warrior in his own right, he may not voluntarily engage in melee combat with enemy unless accompanied by friendly units.

Charisma: When Alfonso uses his We Obey special rule, he may activate up to three friendly units (if on foot) or two friendly units (if mounted).  The range of his activation is extended to M, and not S as with other Warlords.  

Alfonso, from Crusader Miniatures, warriors from Gripping Beast

In a few days, a battle report El Cid v. Alfonso will be posted, along with my reactions from my first play-through on the Frank's battleboard.