Each faction has its own unique flavour, typified by Battleboards, but what about the general makeup of an army for Saga? Is there a "best approach"?
There are five general types of force you could use in the game...
The infantry horde typified by Vikings, Anglo-Danes or Anglo-Saxons. They are not strong in missile weapons but can pack a punch on foot.
The cavalry horde - these are fully mounted and very mobile. Able to navigate the board well. Examples would include the Strathclyde Welsh and the Spanish.
The mixed force - these use a mix of foot, cavalry and missile weapons to achieve their aims. These are typified by Normans and Byzantines who can use combined arms to good effect.
The foot skirmisher - typified by Welsh but could also include the Bretons.
The horse archer - typified by the Steppe Tribes. Could also include Bretons.
All of the above dispositions CAN play well (due to extensive play testing of balanced armies) but is one 'better' than the others?
All forces have their abilities and special rules that can dictate the way they behave, but does cavalry or foot or missile give any advantage?
Cavalry is able to move around the board twice as quickly, as long as there is limited uneven terrain.
Boards that slow cavalry down or provide places for foot troops to shelter make cavalry less effective.
Cavalry is also easier to hit with missile weapons, making them more vulnerable than their slower foot-based counterparts.
If getting to a place quickly, or just plain outflanking, is important then a cavalry force is useful, but keep out of uneven terrain.
Since the introduction of Saga: the Crescent & the Cross cavalry gain an extra fatigue point if any part of the unit ends its turn in uneven ground.
Infantry could be seen as the mainstay of the army. Slower moving but with decent armour. They don't need to worry about missile fire quite as much as cavalry so are a better way to deal with enemy shooting.
Foot troops have the advantage of being able to cross uneven terrain (slowly) but without the fatigue penalty of cavalry if they end their move there.
Infantry can also occupy buildings, something to bear in mind if you need to claim an objective or shelter from an imminent attack.
The ability of missile armed troops to force troops away from an area (area denial) is useful in the game, but an enemy may well be able to keep away from a single unit and make those troops of little value in terms of killing (though tactically they may have been useful - the value being more than the cost or the direct effect).
Giving javelins to any troops type increases their value as not only can they move and fight but as part of the end of the movement they can hurl their weapons for no extra cost. Important when Saga dice are limited.
A number of the levy units in Saga can take missile weapons. They may be cheap on terms of bang for buck, but you don't want to get your levy in combat - unless that is part of your grand strategy.
In general, it would appear wise not to put all your eggs in one basket. Neither all cavalry or all infantry may well be the key to the game. A little missile fire, whatever type, never harmed.
Remember that Saga like any good wargame is a kind of elaborate 'rock, paper, scissors' and as such, having something in your army that can deal with each situation that arises is important.
If you are a beginner then straightforward forces like the Danes and Vikings may appeal. For a mix of approaches how about the Irish as a start...? Using cavalry effectively along with combined are probably best eased into as you get into a few games.
What do you think? Feel free to comment on the forums...