Monday, June 4, 2012

Battle Boards For Dummies

Saga is a brilliantly simple game system. Movement, melee, and morale are all handled with simple mechanics. However, if the game's heart lies in its simplicity, its soul is the Battle Board. Each nation (or faction) represented in Saga has a battle board that sets it apart from the other nations. The battle board is where the game scores its seriously cool flavor. For the new player, the battle board can be the most daunting thing to conquer in Saga. So over my next few articles I'll have a quick look at them and I'll share a few tips on coming to grips with your battle board.

First up:

Battle Boards 101

What is the purpose of a battle board?
Simply put, battle boards make your force unique. Each battle board is designed to capture the flavor of the nation that it represents. For example, the Viking one infuses the player's force with those cliches that everyone thinks about when they picture Vikings (except for horned helmets!), such as warriors fueled by rage, meddling Norse gods, and of course Valhalla!

What's on a battle board? 
A battle board has 15 boxes, each with a little special rule called a Saga Ability.

Whats with the grey and brown columns?
You will notice that the first column is grey. I call these the Spam Abilities because you can use them multiple times in the same turn, provided you have allocated them dice. For example, you can load up three dice on the Activation Pool ability and use it three times in the same turn. More on these abilities later. It helped me come to terms with the several boards to find out that these five abilities in the grey boxes are common to all other nations, but they might have different names.

The other two columns are a parchment color. Unlike the grey abilities, ones chosen from this area can be used only once per turn. These ten abilities are unique to your nation and give you some awesome things to do! I'll go into each battle board's ability further down the track.

The Anatomy of a Ability Box 
Each ability's box has its title in large Red text across the top. Below that is a word in bold telling you when you can use the ability. Then, below that is the special rule you can use. To the right of the text are the dice you need to discard to use the ability. If there are multiple dice, you will need at least one of the symbols to use the ability. If there are multiple dice and a big red "+", you'll need all of the dice indicated to use the ability.

Using a battle board
You can find out about using the battle board in the Saga rule book, but basically, you will roll a handful of Saga dice at the beginning of your turn and allocate their symbols to the battle board. You don't have to discard them and you can let them build up over time if you want to pull off a certain combo.

The First Five
The first three abilities on every battle board activate units. The last two in the column are utility abilities that will help you manage your board.

The first one activates Hearthguard and the Warlord. I should mention that you'll rarely use the first ability to activate your Warlord, unless you really need him to do something. Instead, remember to use the Determination (p.37) rule to activate your warlord for free. In addition, you can activate a friendly unit next to him (within S/4"/10cm) using the We Obey rule (p.37). None of these use Saga dice, so keep that in mind when allocating your Saga dice. It will free up dice for other Saga abilities.

The second activates your Warriors.

The third activates your Levies. At first I thought it was odd having to roll a "5+" to activate your crappy levies, but then it occurred to me that getting an untrained rabble to do something useful might be a difficult task indeed!

The fourth is the Activation Pool ability. I call this one the Slot Machine ability. By discarding a "6" from this ability you can roll two more Saga dice. I'll use this one when I'm trying to go for a combo, or make up lost dice due to casualties. Its a handy ability and don't forget to use it! (Anglo-Dane players, prepare to spam the hell out of this one with Noble Lineage!) Remember its a grey ability too, which means you can use it several times in a turn. I once kept rolling sixes and discarding them to expand my pool. But remember that you can only ever have up to eight Saga dice, so there is a finite number of times you can do this!

The fifth ability is Attack Pool, or as I call it, the Garbage Disposal. It will take any dice result and turn it into a bonus Attack or Defense dice (6s give you two bonus dice). I typically put anything I'm not using in this box. Its important to think about your turn's strategy at this point for its far better to have dice go unused on this box than anywhere else on the board. Putting your unused or spare dice here allows you to have something ready in case something goes wrong in your turn or you need to react to something in your opponent's turn. One or two bonus dice may not seem like much, but trust me, its quite helpful to have that extra dice!

I think I'll leave it there for this portion of Battle Boards for Dummies. Next week I'll tackle the Norman battle board in detail with the others to follow as I become more familiar with them. If you would like to share your battle board tips and combos, feel free to post them up in our forum!

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