Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SAGA - a review

I had the opportunity to play my second SAGA game last weekend and thought I'd share my reaction.

We had four players and a referee to keep the two games going, though no real help was needed on our table.  I had Vikings vs. Irish and the other game was I believe Vikings against Franks.  Heroes abounded and had a profound impact.

Todd, Dan and my wife Peg consider the game
First the good parts of SAGA.  It is very much a strategic, thinking-man's game.  Working your "battle board" in conjunction with the SAGA dice is critical.  Each "army" has different strengths to be played up, which are amplified by your board.  I can appreciate a game that has kind of a chess like approach.  But it isn't simply rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock because we still use dice to resolve combat.  The concept of the battle board gives "flavor" to the armies, if somewhat of a Hollywood approach.

Another advantage is the skirmish nature of the games.  For a modest investment, by today's gaming standards, you can have an army in short order and can give in to that deep urge to have several armies! 

On the other hand (you knew that had to be one), some of the strengths can also be seen as weaknesses.  The power of the battle board is considerable.  In this game we used all the heroes that were available.  I think it fair to say that all battle boards are not created equal.  The Irish for and Franks for example were largely able to negate any offensive plans we might have had.  Add in the power of historic characters like Charlemagne and it might need "fixing."  My suspicion, shared by some others, is that new armies need a "gimmick" to make them fun and things are slowly escalating.  I'd really like to know whether experienced players feel that the first issue of armies are competitive with the newest ones.  I've seen a power creep edge into games like Flames of War and of course GW, and wonder if it is in play here. 

While the armies are cheap, the dice required are IMHO spendy when you consider you can't use them for anything else.  I understand that people are working on ways to circumvent the problem.

The other thing that doesn't set well with me is the Hollywood approach.  Using "Odin's Fire" (or whatever) seems more in keeping with a fantasy game than historic ancients.  As I commented to the players, if the armies were called Southrons and Easterlings, no problem.  But again, this is somewhat in keeping with getting to do an extra move just because of your nationality.  What the players want I suppose.  We had a discussion after the games about whether it models historic results and the consensus wasn't encouraging.

So I'm not done with SAGA.  I'll play when it is the game of choice.  However, I don't anticipate running out to buy the latest and greatest supplement or edition or armies.

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