Monday, October 8, 2012
Focus On .... Viking Berserkers
Each Warband in Saga has its own unique flavour. For the Vikings Warband, specific rules are on the sparse side. One option you may want to consider is the Viking Berserker. Here are the rules from page 41 of the Main Rulebook.
"One Unit of Viking Hearthguard exactly 4 models strong may be desginated as Berserkers. Each Berserker model generates 4 attack dice in melee (instead of 2 for other Hearthguards) but has their armour reduced to 3."
Importantly, you can only have one unit of these troops in your Warband so using them effectively and definitively is key. Being able to land 12 attacks from a full strength unit as their base can seriously dent an enemy unit. Being able to boost their attacks using Battleboard Abilities becomes awesome! In a recent AAR posted on the Saga Forum, a Berserker unit was used at the right time to perform a surgical strike that gave the Viking player an instant win (killing the Warlord) link to AAR. Clever use of screening units and misdirection will be needed though if this little unit is not to be killed off quickly!
The emphasis is on creating a lot of attacks at the expense of defence. Getting the kill in first is key. With only four models in the unit, you do not want to have them shot at before combat. How can you boost their effectiveness in combat? Apart from just adding Saga dice to your Melee pool other options on the Viking Battleboard inlcude...
Odin - Can turn an enemy shooting activation into a movement. Beware of an enemy that can shoot as part of its movement phase though - that doesn't count.
Asgard - gives your unit a +1 armour against shooting(!)
Heimdal - Not really seeing this one as it reduces your armour by another 1 point but in return adds 3 or 4 attack dice to your melee.
Ullr - allows you to re-roll missed attackes in the combat.
Valhalla - probably the glorious death these characters deserve! For each warrior you sacrifice (1 to 3) at the end of the combat you can gain 3 attack dice.
Ragnarok - the Big One! Expensive but reduces enemy armour by 1 point. If you can't win the combat after boosting your attacks and activating this Ability you need to rethink your gameplan.
Also, consider that if your Berserkers kill a unit down to 3 or less models then in your next Orders phase, you might be able to use the "Loki" ability to remove that unit for the game.
That is how you can boost the abilities and reduce weaknesses of Berserkers in the Saga game, but how accurate is the Saga interpretation of a Berserker with what is actually known about them?
For a start, very little is known about Berserkers for definate. The name derives from ber (Old Norse "Bear" and serkr (Old Norse shirt or coat) - which gives rise to them wearing the bear pelts and with an animal like fury or possibly dressed as wolves and armed with spears. They wore no armour as such; when they went into battle they would psych themselves up into a kind of trance which allowed them to apparently ignore wounds to their bodies while they tore into their enemies with the 'strength of bears' and a demon-like fury. Another view is that they made use of the hallucinogenic properties of a species of mushroom to achieve this state of mind. This style of frenzied bloodlust might help indicate a connection with them being regarded as the 'chosen' (special warriors) of the Norse deity Odin, ruler of Asgard.
Once the combat was over, they would calm down and at this point would start to feel the pain of their wounds or even succumb to them. They certainly became weakened for an extensive time (up to several days are reported, though again this could be as much myth as fact). At this point they would make an easy target for anyone.
Berserkers certainly had a reputation off the battlefield that I won't go into here, but eventually led to the Berserker Cult being outlawed around 1015AD and subsequently dying out.
To sum up, I think that Berserkers have been simplified in a reasonable way within Saga to give them a simulation of their effectiveness in battle while bringing them back down to earth with low armour. Play them well and they can be game changing.
About the Author: "ambler" / Mike is a full time IT worker from the North West of the UK. After entering the grey world of the RPG in the 1980s with D and D, Traveller and Cthulhu he moved on to Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 40K games. After taking a break to work (!) He now plays in a long running Amber Diceless RPG with a group of friends and plays Flames of War at the NWGC in Stockport. Saga is a recent addition to the games-under-the-belt collection. One claim to fame was having the opportunity to play live action roleplay (LARPing) at the legendary Treasure Trap setting at Peckforton Castle, Cheshire in the mid 1980's. Check out his blog: www.not2oldtowargame.wordpress.com
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