Monday, October 21, 2013

Morale in Saga

The free online dictionary defines Morale as "The state of the spirits of a person or group as exhibited by confidence, cheerfulness, discipline, and willingness to perform assigned tasks".

This time I am taking a look at how the Saga wargame cleverly moves the idea of Morale away from being an "abstract system" for dealing with the "human psyche" and putting it firmly and seamlessly into the hands of the players.

Excerpt from the Bayeux Tapestry

A system of Morale in a wargame is designed to give some element of calculated risk of your army "melting away" and the game coming to a more "realistic" end than just wiping out the enemy. It has been a key of every wargame I think I have played and has become a natural part of the mechanics associated with a wargame. Even if the army itself does not have a breaking point, then the individual units will have a breaking point of some sort.

This system is usually represented by the unit either falling past a way-point, e.g. half its strength, and then a roll of a dice or two compared to factors such as how elite or green the unit is.

Saga is different in that it has no morale system. I have seen forum posts debating this and do not hold with the idea that it is a mistake or a weakness of Saga not to have a system of Morale "bolted on".

Within the Saga wargame, there are several factors that essentially take the place of morale without a clunky bolted on abstration.

First, there is Fatigue. Units build up fatigue and make it harder for them to move and fight. Fatigue builds up and is reduced during normal gameplay.

Second, the opponent can determine how to spend Fatigue. Leave the Fatigue to exhaust a unit or use it to slow them down or make them easier to kill. You have to think about what your opponent might do to your troops and so have to 'watch out' for them yourself.

Third, the Saga dice themselves go down as units are killed off. It gets harder to play your force as your Saga dice go down. Conserving Saga dice (your elites and warriors) becomes a key task.

Fourth, the number of figures left in a unit can fall to dangerous levels. Once they are gone, so are the Saga dice. Levies? They don't usually generate Saga dice and so are harder to motivate anyway as they take dice away from other units!

Finally, there are some battleboard abilities that kill off units with either Fatigue on them or have less than a certain number of models in them (Viking "Loki" for example).

In overall terms, the player of a faction is the one who determines when a unit should retire (perhaps to save a Saga dice from elimination). The player is making the decision to retire troops, not the 'morale' dice mechanic.

I think this is a smooth, seamless and excellent mechanic(or lack of!) and one of the great innovations and strengths of the Saga wargame. No extra dice rolls, no "I lost on a morale roll", just the player making choices based on what he sees going on before him.

What do you think? Follow the link to the Saga forum below....


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