Monday, October 14, 2013

Focus On.... Scot Spearmen!

The Scots spearmen in Saga should put fear in the hearts of their opponents! Here is a faction that has one big secret weapon. Men who stand and hold their ground with sheer determination. How do the abilities on the Scots battleboard give so much power to this unit. Are they unstoppable? Not if their enemies can help it! Here is a look at the rules and thoughts for the humble Scots Warband Spearmen....


The Scots were formed over time from a mix of clans and lordships in the North of Britain, being descendants of Irish migrants and the local Picts. The history of the Scots always seems bloody, with usurping and murder being the name of the game!

Scot Hearthguard (Thanes) or Warriors (Soer-Chele) armed with shield and spear making up a shieldwall was a standard tactic of the time. This helped to give some protection from cavalry and missiles. The warriors could stand and hold or push forward, with a mix of experienced warriors supporting the greener ones. Once penetrated, sheieldwalls usually fell apart quickly, as the greener warriors started to panic and flee. Battles of this kind routinely lasted no more than an hour. The Battle of Hasting made an exception to this, lasting several hours almost into darkness.

In Saga terms, some of the foot units are armed with thrusting spears and can make use of the abilities marked in green on the battleboard.The Scots battleboard is very much aimed at the spearman.

The special abilities for Scots Spearmen are covered below....


Hold the Ground: for the cost of one die of any type in melee you can add two defence dice (four for a rare die). The limit on having no more than twice the number of defence dice as hits taken does not apply in this melee as a result.

Counter Attack: costs one uncommon die in melee. Gain one Attack die. Then discard all of your Defence dice to to gain two Attack dice per defence die discarded.

Reach: Discard an uncommon or rare die to get an Activation on one unit. Two units for a rare die! Your unit gains Javelins with range S for this movement. Nice!

Of Wood and Steel: for the cost of one common and one uncommon die you get the following melee ability: Gain two Attack dice and one more attack die per Defence die you have.

A Barrier of Spears: costs one uncommon die and one rare die. In this melee, your unit rolls a dice for each model. If you roll under the models armour you gain one Attack die and one Defence die.

The impact that Scots Spearmen can have is phenomenal. Other abilities are mainly melee based and one gives an out-of-turn mini-orders phase. Your faction can react to the enemy strategy and power up your spearmen ready for melee (using the "Without Mercy" ability).

The main thrust of the battleboard is by using combination of melee abilities. Using those spearmen as a wall of deadly spears.

"Hold the Ground" adds Defence dice. Combine this with "Of Wood and Steel" boosts the number of Attack dice based on Defence dice.

Hearthguard and Warriors can possibly become more than 50% more powerful in combat and with an increased chance of survival.

Hearthguard can be massively boosted. For example, a unit of 12 Hearthguard (24 Attacks) using "A Barrier of Spears" can have up to about 32 Attacks plus about 8 Defence dice. Once you combine this with, say "Counter-Attack", your Attack dice are boosted massively. If you have more Saga dice to use then you can boost those Attacks even further.

A couple of things to remember are that to use those melee abilities you are using up a lot of Saga dice. This will restrict your ability to activate multiple times. Maybe you need to concentrate on being able to use one unit effectively per turn at most?

If your opponent is able to cancel the use of abilities in melee, you may find yourself on a very level or uneven playing field. Watch out for this as your opponent lays out his battleboard and use your "Without Mercy" ability to plan a way out!

Any enemy with bows or slings will be able to hit you from a distance.Your "Keeping the Distance" ability can help with this by giving you heavy cover. But you can only use to once per turn.

Don't forget, there are not enough Saga dice to use all of these abilities together, so plan carefully and keep your options open until you can make that deadly strike with your spearmen! One option may be to spend a point and upgrade your Warlord to Macbeth. With 6 Saga dice per turn while he lives, Macbeth allows you to have fewer large units to make best use of dice for activations and melee abilities.


The Scots represent a good middle-ground faction for the game. They can field a little of everything (cavalry, spearmen, javelins, bows) but excel in turning the foot-slogging spear carrier into a killing machine. Careful planning will reap rewards as you make surgical strikes. Your biggest worry should be those opponents who can cancel out your melee bonuses (the Irish!). Remember that without Saga dice to boost those melee attack and defence dice, you are going to struggle to gain any advantage.


You can find suitable models from the following sources:

Crusader Miniatures: link.

Gripping Beast Starter warband: link

Gripping Beast plastic Dark Age Warriors: link


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