Stephen reports on a game of SAGA: Age of Crusades fought at a recent meeting, with occasional comments from his opponent, Andy, the editor. For those whose schoolboy Latin is a little rusty, the title translates as “But give glory to your name”…
Sir Fulkes LaMont was awakened early by the wailing of the muzzerain. He calmly threw aside the tent flap, the sun still low and it’s warm glow lighting up the sky like molten metal. There was no breeze. Nothing. Just the call to prayers carried across the still air. Sir Fulkes looked out to the silhouette of the distant city walls, the tall towers of the mosques rising above all, and the cries of the muzzerain carrying far…
It’s been the best part of 18 months since I have had a game of Saga. During The Great Plague I painted a Saracen army and since we agreed we’d have a game of Saga at the club, it was time for them to whet their blades.
Andy took the Saracens and I had the Templars (Milites Christi in Saga: Age of Crusades terms). We went with 5 points each. The Saracen force was entirely mounted and had a warlord, three points of Ghulams (hearthguard) and two points of Ghazis with composite bows (warriors). The Templars had a mounted warlord with three points of mounted knights (hearthguard), one point of crossbows (warriors) and one point of foot sergeants (warriors).
The table was set up and then, using the Book of Battles, we made a roll for deployment (Confusion), Duration (Cautious), Special Rules (A Dash of Nostalgia), and Victory Conditions (Overrun).
So, Andy took first move. And forward the Saracens went. He took quite a wild move on my right flank, obviously trying to outflank the crossbows, and maybe come around the back. (Andy: I was trying to draw one or two of Stephen’s units off to counter the Ghazis leaving him weaker in the centre). On my turn I put the crossbows on top of the hill where they could have a good field of fire. The knights went forward, and I repositioned the warlord behind some rocks – a defensive position until I could see what Andy intended on doing (Andy: Leading from the back eh?).
What I noticed was that Andy had shifted his warlord forward, just ahead of the rest of his army. I’m sure Andy will claim that’s because he was bold and daring, but I reckon it was because he wasn’t concentrating. (Andy: I’d like to claim that too, but Stephen was right). This was too good a target to ignore, so Sir Fulkes ordered his knights to charge and in they went!
Fortunately for the Saracen emir he had a unit of Ghulams nearby, which is just as well because otherwise he would have ended up dead! Instead, those bold warriors laid down their lives for their leader. Badly shaken, badly beaten, and badly fatigued, the Saracen warlord boldly fled to the rear of the table, as far away as he could get from the knights.
Now, one should keep in mind that we’d never played Age of Crusades before and not only that, but we seldom, if ever, use mounted troops in previous games of Saga. That, added to the fact that it had been a long time since playing, meant there was some learning to do. Andy’s Ghazis also had composite bows, which activate differently to regular bows. (Andy: These units have free Shooting activations, but cannot do two such actions consecutively). So there were some inevitable teething problems. From my perspective I felt that Andy, initially anyway, was using his Ghazis like regular fighting troops. Although as the game progressed he seemed to get the hang of using them to skirmish – dashing in, loosing their arrows, then off again. (Andy: I was trying to combine Shooting and Movement, took me a few turns to get it right).
The Ghazis on my right moved within crossbow range and took a salvo for their troubles. Not too damaging, but enough to make him start to think about the Saracen battleboard properly. Meanwhile, on my left where the other unit of Ghazis were, they started harrying my spearmen. Still can’t think what made me take dismounted warriors when I had the option to have them mounted. Oh well. They were always going to be out of their depth and prone to attacks from all the fast moving cavalry around them.
Realising the game was going to be won or lost in the centre, I pushed my two units of knights forward. This would mean I might get outflanked on both sides – my hope was the crossbows would tie Andy down on the right and the spearmen would hold him off on the left. I was partly right.
We had an almighty clash in the centre. My knights had gone forward. I’d combined my three points of hearthguard into two units of six, whilst Andy had kept his three points in three units of four. One of those had been decimated whilst saving the skin of the Saracen warlord. But now the other two units took it in turns to charge my knights. Andy came out slightly on top of that one (he lost four models, I lost five). And then I sent my spearmen in, trying to take the heat off the knights. But that didn’t go too well for them (Andy: I managed to follow up a Shooting attack by the Ghazis with a subsequent charge from the Ghulams).
So we had a five turn game limit. Along came turn five and, to be honest, it was looking fairly even to me. You normally expect your opponent to throw everything at you on the last turn but Andy was surprisingly restrained. (Andy: I’ll blame my SAGA dice).
‘I’ll show him,’ I thought. I loaded up my battleboard so my few remaining knights could charge in to his unit of Ghazis. It went alright – the Orison ability of the Templars saved their skins, and sent some of the Saracens packing.
And that was it. Game over. We totted up points and the final result was…5 points to the Saracens, and 11 points to the Templars.