Monday, February 10, 2014

Challenged by The Norse-Gaels!

by Mike Wood

The Norse-Gaels, as their name suggests were Norsemen on the lookout for land and riches and a better climate! In the 9th to 11th Centuries they colonised areas of Ireland, the Orkney's and the Isle of Man. They merged and mingled with the local populations but by the time of the Normans in England, they were all but gone as a separate entity. Lets take a look at what this Faction can do in Saga...

Norse-Gael 4 point Warband  (Copyright GB)


Rules for the Norse-Gaels can be found in the Saga supplement "The Raven's Shadow".

Apart from a Warlord called a Jarl, you can take Hearthguards (Huscarls or Hirdmen), Warriors and Levies.
Warlords, Hearthguards and Warriors can take Dane-Axes which give a bonus in combat at the expense of armour. Otherwise, Warriors and Levies will have to take javelins (useful as a short range missile weapon at the end of movement for no extra shooting Saga dice!)

Special Abilities:

The Norse-Gaels (NG) have a distinct in-game personality by the use of a little "trick" called Challenges. They can issue challenges in close combat as a melee/reaction ability. This can give them some advantage in combat such as Fatigue on their enemies.


The mechanism of conducting a Challenge is pretty straightforward. The NG player chooses one of his units in the combat (usually only one, but you could be using 'Side by Side' with the Warlord).
The opponent chooses a unit to take the Challenge (again there may be a choice). If they refuse, the Challenge is automatically lost and the NG unit wins the Challenge! Once accepted, one model from each side fights the Challenge. You only get to roll your base, unmodified Attack dice in Combat (Levies would get one dice as you round fractions up in Saga). The NG player may use special dice (see below) and abilities to bolster their Challenge.

The Attack dice are rolled. The highest dice roll from each player are compared. The highest roll wins the Challenge. The losing model in the Challenge is killed and removed from the game.
If the rolls are the same, it is a stand-off. Each unit gets a Fatigue and the Challenge is repeated until someone wins. Exhausted units cannot provoke challenges but can accept them.

Norse-Gaels do not have a Combat Pool on their battleboard, instead they have a Challenge Pool. During a Challenge, the dice in this Pool can be used to bolster their effort in combat for the duration of a Challenge. This boosts the Attack dice that can be used and give Norse-Gaels and advantage.

The battleboard once-per turn ability "How brave are you?" (used in the Orders phase) also boosts the Challenge by giving a +1 or +2 on the Attack dice roll to hit. You are spending a Saga dice to give more advantage over you opponent.

For example, a NG Hearthguard would roll two Attack dice in combat. He could spend say, two Saga dice from the Challenge Pool and also a dice from "How brave are you?" and get four Attack dice at +1 or +2. If you face a Warrior on one basic Attack dice, who do you think should win the Challenge! then you get to spring that ability on them (see below)

Once a Challenge is won, the Combat continues as normal - minus the dead enemy model(s)!

You will then gain an advantage the of Challenge based ability you used from the mid and right of your battleboard...

"Duel": (melee step 0): if you win the Challenge, the enemy get a Fatigue die, lose and your unit get one. Using it to get or reduce a point of armour can be a serious advantage (as the author knows too well!)

"Show of Strength": (melee step 0): ends the melee immediately and the Challenge loser's unit must disengage. Good for pushing away the enemy if you are not ready for the fight here and now. Gives you a chance to take stock and Attack in the next turn!

"Unbowed": (melee step 0): the winning Champion can re-roll the Attack (and any Defence) dice once in this melee. Powerful, but you need to win the Challenge!

"The Ostmen's Fury: (melee step 0): if you win the Challenge, the enemy unit only gets a half or possibly a third of its attack dice in the combat. Ouch!

"Who's Next?": (melee step 0): gives your opponent the choice of removing three figures from their unit or resolving a challenge they cannot refuse. If you win, this ability is resolved again and so on. If the enemy can't win a Challenge, their unit is doomed to attrition... It's not cheap as it requires two Saga dice (uncommon and rare).

Norse-Gael Warlord (Copyright GB)

Other Abilities:

"Howling Axes" gives a +3 Attack dice bonus to a unit in melee, +5 if they have Dane Axes. NOT to be ignored!

"Like Stones": (Orders or Orders/Reaction): until the turn end, Fatigues on your units cannot be spent. A VERY powerful tool in the NG arsenal.

"Slaughter": (Melee): applies to the Attack dice of both Sides. Hit roll results of a 1 or possibly a 2 as well are counted as hits. If you have more Attack dice to roll than the enemy, this will help... it's a bit like sending a glass cannon to do the job. The cannon will probably be destroyed, but it will hopefully take its opposite number with it by sheer weight of hits. Combined with "Howling Axes" (preferably of the Dane variety) this is the nearest you are probably going to get to the Viking Berserker effect in this faction.

"Death Dance": (Melee): if you are desperate then this will add up to four Fatigues to your unit in exchange for which you get up to four extra hits in combat on each engaged unit. You cannot go over your exhaustion threshold. If there is nothing to lose other than the unit being wiped out (or your Warlord!) then this could give an extra boost at the right time but at some cost.


The Norse-Gales are not to be overlooked. The Challenge mechanism gives flavour to the force and more importantly, tips fights a little in the favour of the NG player. Add to that a bonus in combat from "Howling Axes" (Dane Axes an advantage!) plus the "Like Stones" denial of spending Fatigue and you can do some reasonable damage from hand to hand combat. If getting 'stuck in' is your thing, or maybe you want to try something a little different from, say, Vikings, then please give these fellows a look. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Norse-Gael Warriors (Copyright GB)

If you have any thoughts about the Norse-Gaels please use the link to the forum below....

Mike has his own blog at The Old Giant.


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