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SAGA -Getting Started


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SAGA: Dark Age Skirmishes is a historical table top skirmish wargame set in Europe's Viking Age (i.e. 793 AD to 1066 AD). Studio Tomahawk and Gripping Beast partnered to develop and publish the game in 2011. Studio Tomahawk appears to have developed the rules, while Gripping Beast published the rulebooks and produces miniatures for the game.


The SAGA Rulebook (sold as softcover only) is the game's primary rulebook. In addition to the basic rules, it includes 6 standard scenarios, a multi-player scenario, Swords for Hire (i.e. mercenaries), Heroes of the Viking Age (i.e. special characters), and the rules for 4 factions: Vikings, Anglo-Danish, Welsh, and Normans. The SAGA Rulebook comes with 4 Battle Boards printed on cardstock.


The first SAGA supplement is titled, SAGA: Northern Fury (sold as softcover only). This supplement includes a fun team scenario that features treason and backstabbing between teammates. Northern Fury also includes the rules for the Anglo-Saxons, the Bretons, the Jomsvikings, and the Scots; along with each factions' Heroes of the Viking Age. SAGA: Northern Fury comes with 4 Battle Boards printed on cardstock.


The second SAGA supplement is titled, SAGA: Raven's Shadow (sold as softcover only). This supplement includes a FAQ/Errata section for the previous books, the rules for War Banners, and four more factions: Franks, Irish, Norse-Gaels, and the Kingdom of Strathclyde. As before, it also includes Heroes of the Viking Age and it comes with 4 Battle Boards printed on cardstock.


The third SAGA supplement is titled, SAGA: Varjazi & Basileus (sold as softcover only). This supplement includes a new Swords for Hire unit and focuses on 3 factions from the east: the Pagan Rus, the Rus Princes, and the Byzantines. As before, it also includes Heroes of the Viking Age and it comes with 3 Battle Boards printed on cardstock. It also comes with a nifty folder that holds all of the SAGA rule books and Battle Boards.


SAGA: The Crescent and the Cross (sold as hardback only) is the most recent SAGA release. The setting for Crescent and the Cross is the Age of Crusades (i.e. 1071 AD to 1350 AD). Like the SAGA Rulebook, C&C includes the full basic ruleset. It's 6 factions (Crusaders, Saracen, Milities Christi, Mutatawwi'a, Spanish, and Moors) are not designed to be matched up against the Viking Age factions; however, it does includes some minor rule changes and clarifications that now apply to both the Viking Age and Age of Crusades versions of the game. Its scenarios, terrain rules, and one new unit type, the Priest, are also completely compatible with both versions of the game.


If you don't want to purchase Crescent and the Cross in order to get the newest version of the basic rules, you can purchase the SAGA Rulebook and download a PDF copy of the SAGA FAQ and Errata HERE.


Downloads for additional Swords for Hire, Heroes of the Viking Age, and two more factions can be found HERE. The rules for these units and factions are generally considered to be official, but they are not found in the SAGA rulebooks.

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GacurM.png... Hmmm? Which faction to play?


If you are trying to decide which Viking Age faction to play, below is a list of the 15 factions found in the rulebooks and a basic generalization of their play styles.


Anglo-Danish: Defensive

Normans : Shooting + Cavalry

Vikings : Aggressive

Welsh : Skirmish / Hit & Run


Anglo-Saxon : Defensive / Large Units

Breton : Shooting / Hit & Run / Cavalry

Jomsvikings : Defensive / Aggressive (special 'Wrath' mechanic)

Scots : Defensive


Franks : Reactive (3 types: Merovingians, Carolingians, and Capetians)

Irish : Skirmish / Shooting

Norse-Gaels : Aggressive (special 'Challenge' mechanic)

Strathclyde Welsh : Cavalry / Hit & Run


Byzantines : Cavalry / Shooting / Unit support

Era Of The Princes Rus : Cavalry / Aggressive

Pagan Rus : Defensive / Control


Skraelings : Skirmish / Hit & Run

Steppes Tribes: Cavalry / Shooting



Below is an excerpt from Studio Tomahawk's article, SAGA for Beginners.


Basic Factions are the easiest to play, having clear strength and weaknesses and generally speaking very reliable. That they are simple does not mean they are less efficient!


Advanced Factions require a bit more experience to be played correctly, sometimes using their own mechanism or special rules.


Expert Factions require an extended knowledge of the rules, of the timing of the different phases of a turn and of the synergies of the Battleboard. We recommend not to start the game with these factions.


For each faction we indicate which supplement featured that faction, and some comments about the choice we made.



Basic Factions


• Vikings (Saga: Dark Ages) : one of the easiest faction to play with. It has plenty of very efficient melee abilities, can handle its Fatigue and some protection against shooting. The Berserkers remain one of the most feared unit in the game!


• Normans (Saga: Dark Ages) : The Normans have two winning engines : devastating charges and deadly shooting. In both these aspects of the game, they are frightening. A common tactic is to soften the enemy units with bolts of your crossbowmen then unleash your knights!


• Crusaders (Saga: The Crescent & The Cross) : Despite their own unique mechanism (the Virtues) the Crusaders are a simple faction to play with. They have a good array of abilities, covering melee, shooting and protection.


• Pagan Rus (Varjazi & Basileus) : Despite being defensive, this is a simple faction to understand, and will prove efficient quite quickly, especially against a heavy mounted enemy warband, that are usually tricky to face for beginners.


• Irish (The Raven’s Shadow) : A popular faction that has a large choice of colourful units, and some nasty but easy to grab combos of their Battleboard.


• Welsh (Saga : Dark Ages) ) : Once the player has understood the way the Activation/Reaction abilities work, this is a simple and interesting faction, as it offers a lot of tactical choices. It can focus on melee, shooting, outmaneuvering the opponent, or any mix of these. We recommend starting with a foot warband, as the Welsh mounted unit are very vulnerable to shooting, and will require some experience to be maneuvered properly.



Advanced Factions


• Anglo-Danes (Saga: Dark Ages) : The Anglo-Danes rely on a proper management of the Fatigue of their opponent’s warband and will take some time to be handled properly.


• Anglo-Saxons (Northern Fury): A faction based on large units, with some tough choice to make during the organization of the units making up the warband.


• Bretons (Northern Fury): With a limited melee potential, the Bretons require some practice to make the best use of their movement and shooting abilities.


• Byzantines (Varjazi & Basileus): A lot of the abilities available to the Byzantine player are based on the cooperation of the different units in the warband, supporting each other. Deployment is the key of the success, and will require practice.


• Rus Princes (Varjazi & Basileus): The Rus Princes have powerful abilities, but a few of them will require some practice to be used properly. Most Saga players who faced them fear their mounted Hearthguards units!


• Jomsvikings (Northern Fuy): This faction uses its own mechanism, the Wrath. Understanding and making this aspect of the faction work will take some time.


• Norse-Gaels (The Raven’s Shadow): Like the Jomsvikings, the Norse-Gaels have their own game mechanic: the duels. As a badly planned duel can backfire, this faction will need some training games to be properly mastered.


• Strathclyde (The Raven’s Shadow): The Strathclyde Welsh take benefit from keeping some of their units off-table. The way and timing of their arrival on the battlefield is crucial, making them clearly an « advanced » faction.


• Moors (Saga: The Crescent & The Cross) : A defensive faction, the Moors like to take advantage of the mistakes of their opponent, and turning back their units against them. The learning curve to use them at their best is steep, but highly rewarding.


• Milites Christi (Saga: The Crescent & The Cross) : In a similar way to the Jomsviking, the Soldiers of Christ use Piety to boost their abilities. The management of Piety and the resources devoted to increase it is an essential part of any game with this faction.


• Saracens (Saga: The Crescent & The Cross) : The Saracens have effective abilities, but as some of them use a random factor to determine their effects, i twill need some time to get used to it.


• Scots (Northern Fury): The Scots have some of the most powerful combos in the game that can produce for their opponent unexpected effects. However, these combos are not immediately apparent, and you will need a few games to discover them.



Expert Factions


• Franks (The Raven’s Shadow): The Franks are one of the most complex and rewarding faction, as it relies heavily on a Battle Pool that dictates how most of the abilities of their Battleboard work. Some abilities need to be closely studied to understand their full potential and there is an unequaled wealth of synergies to explore. Saga veterans will enjoy that!


• Steppe Tribes (downloadable on the Studio Tomahawk website): Another fairly complex faction, that takes advantage of the turn structure and the movement options of mounted troops.


• Skraelings (downloadable on the Studio Tomahawk website): The actual efficiency (or lack of!) of the Skraelings depends a lot of the knowledge their player has of the enemy’s Battleboard. Their main strength is to deny their enemy its best abilities, copy them, turning their strength against their foes. Of course, a extended knowledge of most of the factions is required to make this work!


• Spanish (Saga: The Crescent & The Cross) : The Spanish have an incredible amount of abilities that can be used during their enemies Activation phase, meaning that they play as much during the opponent’s turn as they do in theirs. Of course, these abilities are quite complex to use, needing as much knowledge of the rules as proper timing. But this is a very rewarding faction to play with!


• Mutataw’wia (Saga: The Crescent & The Cross): This faction is based on the sacrifice of your own troops to fuel your abilities. These sacrifice rules are simple, but winning a game of Saga is hard enough without killing yourself your own retainers, so this faction is best left to the most seasoned players!

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As mentioned earlier, Gripping Beast produces miniatures for SAGA. In addition to selling its SAGA miniatures in single model blisters and unit packs, Gripping Beast also sells 4 point Starter Warbands for most of its factions and 6 point Starter Warbands for a select few of its factions. You can browse Gripping Beast's products HERE.


In addition to Gripping Beast, the following companies produce 25mm or 28mm Viking/Dark Age miniatures or models from other time periods that can serve as Viking/Dark Age miniatures. Please note that the quality of the sculpts and casts vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, sometimes significantly.


Artizan Designs

Aventine Miniatures

Bad Squiddo Games

Black Tree Design

Brother Vini

C-P Models

Conquest Games

Crusader Miniatures

Curteys Miniatures

Drabant Miniatures

Ebob Minatures

Fireforge Games

Footsore Miniatures


Musketeer Miniatures (now part of Footsore Miniatures)

Old Glory Miniatures (poor quality)

Red Box Games (do not scale well against most historicals)

Saxon Miniatures

Steve Barber Models

Stronghold Terrain

V&V Miniatures

Wargames Factory

Wargames Foundry


Warlord Games

Westwind Productions





SAGA Measuring Sticks and Tokens



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- The SAGA rules

- The FAQ & Errata

- The rules for your faction

- Your faction's Battle Board

- A tape measure or a set of SAGA measuring sticks

- A dozen or more 6 sided dice

- 8 SAGA Dice

- Tokens or extra dice to keep track of Fatigue points

- Terrain and counters for the 6 standard scenarios

- And of course, a warband of 25 mm or 28 mm models





SAGA uses two types of dice. Standard six sided dice are used for resolving combat and specially marked SAGA dice are used to activate your units and trigger special abilities. Gripping Beast sells 5 sets of SAGA dice. Each set is shared by at least two factions.


Anglo-Danes / Anglo-Saxon / Rus Princes





Norman / Breton / Franks / Byzantine





Scots / Irish / Steppes Tribes





Viking / Jomsviking / Norse-Gael / Pagan Rus





Welsh / Strathclyde





Fatigue Tokens


You can use glass beads, extra dice, or homemade tokens to keep track of Fatigue Points. I chose to keep it simple, so I purchased the MDF Fatigue Tokens made by a UK company called 4GROUND. Gripping Beast and retailers that sell Gripping Beast products also sell 4GROUND Fatigue Tokens.





Terrain and Counters


SAGA is typically played on a 48" x 36" table. SAGA uses the terrain types that experienced table top wargamers are familiar with: area terrain (forest, marsh, crops, etc.), linear obstacles (walls, hedges, etc.), hills, buildings, and impassible terrain.


In the 6 standard scenarios, victory is determined by either victory points or by achieving an objective. None of the 6 standard scenarios requires 40K style objective markers, but one scenario, The Escort, requires 3 baggage pieces. Each baggage piece should be based upon a base no smaller than 4cm x 4cm and no larger than 5cm x 10cm. The baggage pieces can be represent by anything of value, such as carts or wagons transporting goods, livestock, villagers, nobles, etc. Gripping Beast sells a nifty Baggage Kit. For all the models that you get, it's a pretty good deal.





Two of the standard scenarios require special pieces of terrain. The Battle at the Ford requires that a 48" length of river be placed along the center line of the table. For the purpose of this scenario, the river is impassible except for two fords or bridges. You score victory points for having your models on your opponent's side of the river at game's end. In the Homeland scenario, one player defends a village, while the other attacks it. The defender places 3 buildings on his half of the table. The defender wins if at the end of the game, he has at least one model in any one of the 3 buildings. 4GROUND sells some very nice prepainted Dark Age buildings that are very easy to assemble. I purchased my 4GROUND buildings in a 3 pack (2 hovels and 1 dwelling) from Architects of War.


Below is one of the 4GROUND Hovels that I assembled.



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As with most tabletop wargames, play time varies depending upon the players' familiarity with the rules, point value, and the scenario. For instance, last Saturday Fluger and I both played our second game of SAGA. We played 6 point warbands, fumbled around with the rules a bit, and played the scenario Sacred Ground, which lasts 8 game turns. And Sacred Ground isn't a simple pitched battle type of scenario where the only goal is to destroy your opponent. It requires a good bit of stratateegaree. Also, I kept stopping game play to take photos for a Batrep. Overall, it took us a little over two hours to set up, play, and break down.


If we knew the rules and our Battle Boards better, and I didn't stop to take photos, we probably could have knocked out deployment, 8 turns, and clean up in 60 to 75 minutes.

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I really appreciate all the information, Koyote.  I'm intrigued like Spelur and the others.  Now if I can just find a new job so I can spend my commute time gaming instead.


I also (just for grins) want to build a Mayan force and find it an appropriate "counts as" ...  Maybe Norse-Gaels....


What?  I used to play Lizards with a notable Mayan theme.

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I really appreciate all the information, Koyote. I'm intrigued like Spelur and the others. Now if I can just find a new job so I can spend my commute time gaming instead.


I also (just for grins) want to build a Mayan force and find it an appropriate "counts as" ... Maybe Norse-Gaels....

You may find that the Skraelings faction is a better match for your Mayans. They, along with the Steppe Tribes are additional factions published by Tomahawk Studios but not included in the English rulebooks.


LINKY. <-- The PDFs include both a French and English versions of the rules.




In the Norse sagas, the term skraeling was given to the native people of Vinland with whom the Vikings came into contact when they explored the coast of Newfoundland in the 11th century. Later, the Vikings shared Greenland with the skraelings (or skraelingjar in Old Norse,) where their earlier conflicts in Vinland largely seem to have been put behind them, although Viking traders were forbidden to trade weapons with the skraelingjar, no matter how lush and attractively priced the furs on offer were.

If decide that you like the look of the northern native peoples, Gripping Beast, Footsore Miniatures, and C-P Models have Skraelings miniature lines.
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Very well laid out dude. I love this game. The core mechanics are incredibly easy and straightforward but the saga dice and battle boards add an amazing amount of depth. I love my Scots very much. Their strategy of taking a punch and then punching your opponent back even harder is very satisfying. I plan on playing pagan rus and rus princes soon as well. I also have plans to expand my Scots so that they can also be used as welsh and irish.


One thing I will say is that the scenarios in crescent and cross are way better than those in the core book. So if the core scenarios seem a little bland at times I would highly recommend checking out the latest book

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NE Seattle.  Duvall if you know it, otherwise think Woodinville.

Panzer Depot, located in Totem Lake (just off 405's 116th street exit), is a game store dedicated almost entirely to historical tabletop games. I've stopped by a couple of times to purchase minis, books, and dice for SAGA. The owner told me that a group of locals play SAGA at his store. I can't remember how often they play, but if you give the store a call, I'm certain that the owner would be happy to tell you.



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Ok, I was into Panzer Depot the other day and got the poop on how they game...


It's possible that I could make it to their Saga nights so I was looking at rulebooks and stuff in the limited time I had.  Is the main rulebook hardbound or did I really find the right thing that is about the size and thickness of a magazine?

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Ok, I was into Panzer Depot the other day and got the poop on how they game...


It's possible that I could make it to their Saga nights so I was looking at rulebooks and stuff in the limited time I had.  Is the main rulebook hardbound or did I really find the right thing that is about the size and thickness of a magazine?


There are two main rulebooks: SAGA, and SAGA: The Cross and the Crescent. The first is staple bound and magazine-like, the second is hardbound.

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