Monday, May 18, 2015

What is it about SAGA anyway?

Having seen the posts rolling up on the WWPD Saga forum over the last couple of months I have been trying to work out what attracts people to the Saga wargame.

I wanted to try and find out why and invite some discussion.

Over the last three years there has been a steady flow of people coming into the game. True, it's nothing like the success of Bolt Action for example, but it does constitute quite a lot of people over time.

A while back someone posted on the WWPD Saga Forums 'why are the Saga forums dead?'  Since that time there has been a lot of posts showing that the game is certainly not dead.

One thought posed was that it is simply that Saga is well balanced with reasonably straightforward rules so does not generate the kind of frantic posting that games like Flames of War or 40K do on other forums.

Although there are now over 20 Saga factions they are all pretty well balanced. You don't see half the players running just one or two factions. When I have played I find that games do not necessarily go the way you might think from the start. The fortunes of war certainly switch around in Saga which helps make it an entertaining game for me.

So what elements are there that attract a steady stream of players to Saga?

First off, Saga was designed to be a small scale skirmish game in the 25-28mm scale range and based on a 3' x 4' tabletop.  That certainly helps me.

Cost-wise I find I don't need to spend a fortune on models. A metal starter army from Gripping Beast can set you back just £33 pounds in the UK. You could make do with one or two plastic figure sets and get a decent 6 point army for several of the factions.

The rulebook is in the mid range of prices and contains 4 or 6 factions (Dark Age or C&C variant) and scenarios - you don't need all the "extras" that other games deliver to keep the profit wheel turning for the owner. Even the Saga dice are nice but not necessary.

Financially, it is one of the cheaper wargames I have gotten into. Most games now require an investment of well over a hundred pounds for rules and a "standard" army (whatever the game systems demands). Even starter sets usually require you to buy two to get a reasonable force, plus any extra models and rule expansions that tempt you with promises of getting something better than your opponent (maybe...).

Scenery, if you follow the terrain rules, could be just 6 pieces plus perhaps a river and maybe 3 houses. Some rough ground and maybe a hill or two do not have to be expensive at all and can be scratch built.

Then there is the space required, a 3' x 4' area makes it great for a sit-down game at a small table. I don't have to stand for 2 to 3 hours over a 6' x 4' table, stretching a little or walking around to get a view or make a move. It certainly helps us slightly older gamers! I can also store away a small table gaming surface fairly easily. I doubt many of us can really "hide" a 6' x 4' wargame table away in a house so easily (one without the dedicated games room...)

Time-wise, Saga can be run in 60 to 90 minutes for a 6 point game. That helps to keep the concentration going during the game. Usually after two hours I am getting a bit tired and restless.

The shorter game length also allows for 4 rounds in a day at a Tournament if you want to do that much Saga in a day.

Other games?

Then we have the unique look and feel of the game. Saga has "Battleboards" as well as "Saga dice", standard d6's and Fatigue markers.

Battleboard and fatigue really help make the game what it is. The abilities on the board give each faction it's distinct feel. The Fatigue mechanic controls what can be done at certain points and how well the key actions of movement, shooting and combat flow.

One other thing of note is the skirmish nature of the beast. Some gamers like to depict games of whole armies of tens of thousands, some just a handful of figures. At usually less than 40 or so figures, that keeps Saga in the 1:1 scale - what you see on the table is what you get. A bit like watching "Vikings" on TV - an "army" of 40 per side or so.

There is the attraction of the Dark Age setting that was about 4 years ago pretty unexplored for skirmish games as far as I can recall. Since then, a number of new wargames seem to have used the Dark Age era. It's nothing new, World War 1 and 2 have also come along recently, no doubt in part due to the popularity of Flames of War.

There you have it... reasons for liking a game like Saga - cost of entry, theme, game mechanics, table size, skirmish nature, balanced forces, even popularity at the time - in the 90's you seemed to see "Sharpe's Rifle's" appearing at game shows, in the 2000's it was "Easy Company" from Band of Brothers.

What I would like to hear are everyones thoughts on this. What attracts you to Saga specifically.

Please go onto the forum (link below) and discuss what thing or things really make Saga a game you want to play or carry on playing.



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