The Dark Ages, Saga, 28mm
I spent the last week or so painting up a Viking warband – the followers of Sigurd the Stout, Earl (“Jarl”) of Orkney. I even sculpted a substantial mail-covered beer gut on my “Jarl” figure. The reason for all of this is the current popularity of Gripping Beast’s Saga rules. That’s a new Dark Age skirmish system that’s been proving particularly popular in the Edinburgh club.I played my first game with them – and lost badly to my pal Chris, whose Normans rather timidly hid behind a stone wall, and pinged crossbow bolts at me. What followed was more akin to Pickett’s Charge than anything else, but at least we both enjoyed ourselves!In fact, that evening several people fought Saga games, using Welsh and Anglo-Danes as well as Normans and Vikings. Everyone said they enjoyed the experience, even when – like me – their pet figures were chopped up, ridden down or stuck full of crossbow bolts. The basic warband consists of a leader (like my Jarl of Orkney), and a certain number of units. We were all using 4 point armies – which meant 4 units. A 1-point unit consists of either 4 “hearthguard” (the best), 8 warriors, or 12 armed peasants.The game is controlled from a “battle board”. The idea is, you roll your fancy Saga dice, each of which has a side with a symbol on it corresponding to a symbol on your battle board. You use these during the game to activate units, give them extra powers like added defence or attack values, or to remove fatigue, or to do something more than once each turn.The system sounded a little strange, but everyone – even me – seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly, and the game rolled along pretty smoothly. While skirmish level games aren’t really my thing, and I’m not really a great fan of pre-gunpowder periods, this is a great little “beer and pretzels” game to cart out when time or space is limited, or when you want to uphold the honour of the Jarldom of Orkney. I’ll certainly play it again, and with a bit of luck next time Jarl Sigurd the Stout will emerge victorious.