Saturday, 15 February 2014

Playing Lord of the Rings using Saga rules

Last year I enjoyed many a game of the Lord of the Rings strategy battle game. It's not a complex ruleset, there are few stats to memorise and just one chart in the rulebook. So it's simple to learn and provides a couple of hours of relaxed gaming, especially suited to scenario driven encounters. It works well at about 30 or so figures per side, though in theory it can be more than this. A couple of times I fielded my orc horde of about 70 figures, which slowed the game right down. The main problem is that each combat is treated separately, there is no aggregation into units, so it can get a bit bogged down into endless dice rolls when your horde starts swinging their rusty weapons. In summary, it's a nice easy system for small skirmishes, but struggles a little with bigger encounters.

Saga is a similar game to Lotr, it's a dark ages skirmish game (and let's face it, Lotr is basically dark ages warfare with a little extra magic and the occasional monster). Saga is primarily designed with six point warbands in mind, which translates into 24 elite warriors, or 48 average warriors, or 72 levy (poor) warriors - obviously most players take combinations of these, so a typical warband is around 40 or 50 figures. A game can be easily fought in an hour or so and there are half a dozen scenarios and four distinct factions to battle with in the basic game, with about another dozen in the expansions.

While the Saga rules are very, very simple, with no real stats even, the clever bit is that each force is made unique by the special abilities that can be called on using the Saga dice. The vikings, for example, have many abilities that allow them to boost their combat potential, while the Welsh faction are more suited to hit and run guerilla tactics. Each faction has it's own flavour and fighting style, more fantasy-historical than historical, which suits me down to the ground.

Inevitably, gamers across the web have designed their own Saga boards to field their own factions. There are historical factions, from ancient Greeks and Thebans to Crusaders. There are also fantasy battle boards around, I have seen discussions on Game of Thrones battle boards, but of course my main interest has been in the Lord of the Rings. I found a great blog, Figures and Stories, which not only has battle boards for the main Tolkien factions but also some quite fantastic painting and pictures, well worth a viewing. I have downloaded most of the pdfs and hope to give a few of them a trial in the coming months. The Saga continues!

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