Monday, October 28, 2013

Defeating the Pagan Rus

by Mike Wood

Here's a look at the abilities that make Pagan Rus hard to deal with and how you might stop them or at least neutralise their strengths in your  Saga games.

There has been some discussion on the forums about the abilities that Pagan Rus have and how they seem more akin to a form of fantasy "ice magic" than to real life. Each Saga faction is built around the tactics and flavour of the places, culture and time that they were found in. As a result, each faction is very unique (so far) and the Pagan Rus are no different in that respect. They can be seen as very defensive in their abilities. I have read that the "Byzantines had the measure of the Pagan Rus". If so, how? Here is a look at the Strengths and any Weaknesses of the Pagan Rus and how to work around them in battle!


Using "The Great Winter" ability can reduce move and shooting to 4 inches per turn for all players and units. This greatly affects cavalry based armies like Normans, Bretons, Strathclyde, Byzantines.

The "Endless Wastes" ability makes use of the enemy fatigue to kill off models in units (the fatigue still stays, ouch!)

"Fear of the Dark" will exhaust an enemy unit that is more than "M" distance away from any other.

Other abilities either play on the effects of weakness by either adding or using Fatigue or by reducing armour.Some of them being specific to melee combat.


No mounted units. Levies only can have javelins.

Using "The Great Winter" ability to reduce movement and shooting ranges also affects you!

Slowing down play may not win you a game. Not that many missions rely on the enemy coming to you. They are usually focused on fulfilling a mission.

Forces with War Banners will be able to reduce Fatigue which will and help to neutralise some of your abilities.

What can opponents of the Pagan Rus do...

Welsh - can become immune to movement penalties. See their ability "Children of the Land". EDIT: sadly, the official forum has a thread that backs up the argument that this ability does NOT counter the maximum move of S from the "Great Winter". The Welsh "Hit and Run" and "Taunting" could both be used to either react to enemy activation or move the enemy respectively. These are situational but may make the enemy more cautious.

Franks - using "Adaptation" to get extra Saga dice to use to counter some of the abilities played by Pagan Rus. "Domination" can remove a single enemy Saga die from their battleboard(!) "Oppression" activates some units but with no Fatigue generated. "Interdiction" allows the Frank player to target specifically the Pagan Rus "The Great Winter" ability and make it painful for the Pagan Rus player to use its effects. If they do, then it makes it less likely they will also want to use "Endless Wastes" as it piles on Fatigue.

Irish - have an ability ("Blade of Truth") that cuts out step 3 in melee so that no player can gain any bonuses from abilities or fatigue.

Strathclyde - can enter the table from an edge with off-table units. Useful in a mission like "Battle at the Ford", once on the table, slow movement will help the Strathclyde who are already on the other side of the river using off-table entry to far side! Keeping the units off-table means they are not affected by Pagan Rus abilities and they can be used to bolster the Strathclyde abilities.

Scots - one or two abilities that react that can offset the effects a little. "Without Mercy" offers an Orders/Reaction that gives the Scots three Saga dice to perform an out-of-turn Orders phase. "Tireless" reduces by 1 the number of fatigue the Scots unit takes at the end of melee.

Anglo-Saxon - the "Truce" ability allows a unit that has not been activated this turn to remove one or two fatigues. "No Surrender" also reduces fatigue on multiple units.

Anglo-Danes - can use "Trapped" to add fatigue to enemy units, making it less likely the Pagan Rus will want to use their "Endless Wastes" ability.

Byzantine "Scouting" gives some levies Fatigue-free activations. The way Byzantine close support abilities work in their list does help guard against the Pagan Rus "Fear of the Dark" ability.

Rus Princes - the "Parting Blow" ability allows the activation of one unit but does not generate Fatigue, useful versus the Pagan Rus "Endless Wastes".


Being able to slow down movement doesn't really help if your own force needs to move.

In "Clash of Warlords" slowing down all movement is likely to bring on a Draw. In this case higher victory points wins, so try and kill as many points of enemy as you can if it looks like the Pagan Rus are slowing the game down"

In "Battle at the Ford" it will not help the Pagan Rus move across to the other side of the river if they suffer from their own self-imposed movement penalty! "The Great Winter" ability is neutralised.

In "Sacred Ground" it will not help the Pagan Rus move across the board onto a scoring scenery piece if they suffer from their own self-imposed movement penalty!  "The Great Winter" ability is neutralised.

In "The Challenge"basically similar to Clash of Warlords. Any ability that affects movement or fatigue ridden troops can affect the Pagan Rus as well.

In  "Homeland", you should try to force the Pagan Rus to be the attacker if you can. They will be less likely to slow down movement as it helps the defender if they take too long to get to the objective. Shooting isn't much use against infantry in buildings, but will be worse if the range is only 'S'!

In "The Escort", try and force the Pagan Rus to be the defenders who will then have to get the baggage off the other side of the table. They will be less willing to play their "The Great Winter" ability that slows down movement!


It has been said that abilities that slow the game down reduce the enjoyment in the game. To some extent that is true, but the opponent needs to work on making it so that his opponent will not want to play "The Great Winter" every turn. 

As a Tournament Organiser you need to have lots of different scenarios that challenge the Pagan Rus so they don't just sit and wait for the other guy to come to him. Slow games with predictable outcomes are not what Saga is about!

Remember that all those "ice magic" abilities are soaking up Saga dice that cannot be used elsewhere on the Pagan Rus board. The opponent should try to keep their force Fatigue free, keep all units within 'M' of each other and move to their objective as quickly as they can.

If you are a cavalry based force, try to have some units that are foot based, especially in a tournament setting where you might have to bring a 7 point list and choose 6 points for each game. Swap out those cavalry when facing the Pagan Rus!

To go back to the introduction, I can't say that the Byzantine army would have it all their own way, but then it would not be a balanced game if one force could completely walk over another one in a wargame!

The Pagan Rus will try their best to separate enemy units by use of terrain and mission objectives. As an opponent, you need to try and keep your force concentrated. This can push you to the limit with a small force when trying to play "Battle at the Ford" or you try to move baggage in "The Escort". Read the enemy battleboard, think things through, focus on the objective, neutralise those powerful Pagan Rus abilities!


Top Posts Within 30 Days

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...