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"Irish faction for SAGA?" Topic

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2,656 hits since 4 Mar 2012
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

BobTYW Inactive Member04 Mar 2012 11:15 p.m. PST

Does SAGA have an Irish faction or plans for one. Could certain
figs be used for one.
Thanks Bob

Serotonin Inactive Member04 Mar 2012 11:47 p.m. PST

Not as yet but I'm sure given their plans for expansions that we will see them.

Dexter Ward05 Mar 2012 8:35 a.m. PST

How would Irish differ from Welsh, if at all?

Lynchy Inactive Member05 Mar 2012 9:02 a.m. PST

im pretty sure gaelic warfare was very different from that of the welsh

Dexter Ward06 Mar 2012 2:39 a.m. PST

The Welsh are Gaelic too, you know.
Both were similarly equipped.
Both used cover and javelins extensively.
In what way do you think the Dark Age Irish fighting style differs from that of the Welsh?

Shootmenow Inactive Member06 Mar 2012 3:11 p.m. PST

The Welsh are Celtic but not Gaelic – check the languages and you'll find that Gaelic and Welsh are totally different without a common root. As for Saga, as it's a small scale skirmish game, I doubt there would be massive differences in their fighting techniques at that level for the period covered.

Edwulf06 Mar 2012 3:24 p.m. PST

I dunno, the Welsh would be influenced by protracted wars against the Anglo Saxons, as well several hundred years of Roman military, I picture them.

Oh Bugger Inactive Member07 Mar 2012 12:10 p.m. PST

"The Welsh are Celtic but not Gaelic – check the languages and you'll find that Gaelic and Welsh are totally different without a common root."

Same root, Welsh is 'P' Celtic and Gaelic 'Q' Celtic. So son of in Welsh is map, later ap, in Gaelic mac. Head in Welsh is pen in Gaelic ceann. They diverged around 4th -5th century AD.

I think fighting style was very close until the Welsh took up the bow. Anyhow you would often find Irish in Welsh armies and vice versa. The Welsh though do seem to have a much older cavalry tradition.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop07 Mar 2012 1:14 p.m. PST

'The Welsh are Gaelic too, you know.'

Ha ha, Photinus makes this mistake in NOT FOR ALL THE GOLD IN IRELAND. Learns British so he can take over Ireland, then gets all the way there & finds he can't understand a word…

Oh Bugger Inactive Member08 Mar 2012 4:27 a.m. PST

John James takes some beating!

HarryHotspurEsq09 Mar 2012 2:19 a.m. PST

I second all that Oh Bleeped text says, but remember that SAGA is a game that uses abstract dice and battle boards. I'm sure they will develop a faction. How could they not with all the Viking colonisation.

What I want to see are Skraelings. Then I'll pay a little more notice.

CooperSteveOnTheLaptop09 Mar 2012 6:59 a.m. PST

I'm intrigued by these rules, if they'll adapt for Baltic Crusade, which I hanker to play one day…

Dalauppror09 Mar 2012 10:00 a.m. PST


I have thougth of runing a Norse-Irish warband using the Welsh armylist and Battle board. I won´t use bows and not so many mounted men, if any… was aiming for the Gripping beast and/or the crusader minis.

I think that SAGA would work perfect for the Norther/Baltic Crusade, might treat the different fractions as this…

Teutonic Order/Sword Brothers and Danish I would play as Normans

Swedes as Normans at the moment may be as scotts later on depend on how they work…

Early Russians as Normans?

Wends as Welsh

Lithuenians as Brettons

Estonians as Vikings or Jomsvikings

Prussians as Welsh

As I realy don´t know how the new fraction works some of them could probably be used instead…

Some forst thoughts about Northern Crusade…

Best regards dalauppror

Lynchy Inactive Member09 Mar 2012 2:13 p.m. PST

well i thought that the welsh was a lot more light infantry with spears and bows with some cavalry while the irish was more heavy infantry with some javelin infantry

Dalauppror10 Mar 2012 3:47 a.m. PST

I don´t know much about the Norse-Irish bit to my mind it seems OK to picture them using the Welsh list unit they get there own…

I included a article about Norse-Irish, its written for DBA but the facts are still ther.

Best regards dalauppror

Norse Irish (846-1260 AD)

By Tim Donovan

This list covers Irish armies during their three hundred years of incessant warfare against the Vikings and Ostmen, including the epic battle of Clontarf in 1014. The latter part of this period covers the the initial Norman invasion till the Irish recruit large numbers of the ferocious Galloglaich mercenaries and widely adopt the use of Light Horse to counter the Knights, Bills, and Bows of the English.

Historical Context

The Initial Raids: At the time of the initial Viking raids Ireland was a patchwork of around 150 tribal kingdoms loosely grouped into the five provinces of Munster, Leinster, Connaught, Ulster, and Meath.. The Provincial kings and nominal High King had little real power to control their quarrelsome subjects so that effective resistance against any outside aggression was nearly impossible.

The first Viking raid hit Lambey island near Dublin in 795 and for the next forty years small fleets struck at the whole of the Irish coast. The favored tactic of the early raiders was to attack churches and monasteries during religious festivals to ensure a good haul of captives for their lucrative slave trade. The plundered gold and relics were simply an added bonus. This style of raiding continued till around 846 when the Vikings began constructing permanent fortified longhports with the largest and most notable one at Dublin.

Initially all of the raiders were Norwegians, but in 851 a large Danish fleet attacked and captured Dublin. Two years later Olaf the White, son of the Norwegian King, struck back recapturing Dublin and forcing many of the Danes into Irish service as mercenaries. Olafıs and his son Ivarıs ambitions went beyond plunder to conquest and political control with the founding the Kingdom of Dublin. They soon found themselves entangled in the quagmire of Irish politics that ensured fighting for one Irish lord as an ally turned many more against them. The Irish, widely adopting Viking weapons and mercenaries, were very effective in exploiting the competing interests and rivalry of the Norse and Danes and won a string of notable victories following the initial setbacks. By 873 Olaf and his son Ivar were both dead the Kingdom of Dublin went into sharp decline with the Vikings suffering a long series of defeats till their near complete expulsion from Dublin and Ireland in 902.

The Second Onslaught: The Vikings now found themselves repulsed in France and England, so returned to Ireland in force around 914. They established large permanent settlements at Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, and Limerick, from which they launched large raids inland along the major waterways and navigable rivers. The Irish were hard-pressed and suffered horribly in the first years of this second onslaught. However, with permanent settlements, the Vikings lost the primary advantage of mobility and became vulnerable to resurgent Irish resistance. To further complicate matters the principal settlement of Dublin was most often pre-occupied with attempting to conquer York while the other settlements were often at odds with one another. The disunity of the Irish and inherent value of the Vikings as mercenaries and merchants did allow for the enclaves to survive. Now long established, the Norse and Danish settlers, through frequent intermarriage, conversion to Christianity, and adoption of the Gaelic language, lost so much of their old Viking identity with the Irish now referred to them as Ostmen (Men of the East) to distinguish them from the foreign Norse and Danish raiders.

The Epic Affair at Clontarf: By the time Brian Boru lost his life and won the epic battle of Clontarf the power and influence of the Ostmen settlements were in sharp decline. All had been sacked or forced to pay tribute more than once before 1000. Thus the Battle of Clontarf has been relegated to minor significance as simply another battle amongst warring Irish factions when High King Brian Boru defeated an alliance between the rebellious King of Leisnter, the Dublin Ostmen, and their vast host of Vikings allies.

However, if taken in context of the events in the whole of the British Isles at the time, the triumph can become staggeringly important. Sweyn Forkbeard, whose mother was Irish, had often harried the coast of Ireland and most recently conquered England. It is well established that Sitrygg Silkybeard, King of Dublin, offered the High Kingship of Ireland to Sigurd the stout of the Orkneys in return for his joining the attack on Boru. However Sitrygg had neither the power or authority to do so and the only person capable of making such a grandiose offer would have been Sweyn Forkbeard. If Sitrygg was an emissary to Sigurd, and the offer was the kingdom of Ireland in alliance with Sweynıs newly won Kingdom in England then the threat to the whole of the British Isles becomes immense. With Gilli, Sweynıs brother-in-law ruling the Hebrides and Sweyn and Sigurd in control of Ireland, England, and the Orkneys they eventually and almost assuredly could have put the rest of the British Isles firmly in the Vikings grasp. That winter though, Sweyn died. However the armies had already been put into motion and on Good Friday 1014 the Plain of Clontarf turned red in a mutual slaughter that saw all of the major Nobles of this drama, excepting the wily Sitrygg, perish.

In this context Clontarf becomes as important as Hastings with the exception that the native defender won. This could help explain the vast wealth of myth and legend that surrounds the battle and why the chronicles of the times refer to it as "the most famous of battles fought across the sea both because of the numbers who fought in it and the importance of the result." Regardless of its importance to historians and their agendas, it was and still is, "a battle best left to the legendmakerıs hand."

The Norman Invasion: The final part of this period covers the initial phase of the attempted Norman conquest of Ireland. Chaos ensued for nearly two hundred years after the death of Boru with the Provincial Kings slaughtering each other gleefully in vain attempts at securing the empty title of High King. One such loser in these wars was Dermot Mac Murrough, the King of Leinster. In 1165 Dermot was at the height of his power, and controlling Dublin, had lent its fleet to King Henry II of England for his campaign in Wales. By August 1166 Dermot was an exile after being ousted from his realm for defying the High King and abducting a more than willing wife of another provincial King. Destitute, he traveled to France where Henry was campaigning to collect on the debt owed to him.

Henry declined to become personally involved but did allow for Dermot him to recruit mercenaries back in England. In the Welsh marches Dermot found the perfect ally in the person of Earl Richard "Strongbow." The Earlıs Estate, granted to his grandfather by William for services at Hastings, had recently been confiscated by King Henry after the Earl and many of his relatives had opposed the King.

So these two "exiled" Nobles along with a polyglot force of knights, Welsh archers and mercenary Flemish pikemen set out for Ireland in 1169 to win back a realm. Dermot, reputedly handsome and charming, rallied back many of his old allies and together with the Earl conquers Leinster, Dublin and Waterford by force while Wexford surrenders without a fight. Dermot then suddenly dies in 1171, and by agreement the Earl, who wed Dermotıs daughter amongst the ruins and slaughter of Waterford, assumes the throne of the Kingdom of Leinster. The Irish now belatedly realize the threat of a foreigner on the throne of one of the five provinces but even with the assistance of a massive Norse attack against Dublin they are powerless dislodge him.

Unfulfilled Conquest: King Henry of England, fearing the creation of a rival Norman state across the narrow Irish Sea, finally invades in 1174 with a massive host and makes a bloodless circuit of the Island securing the loyalty of nearly all of the Norman and Irish lords. He astutely plays the remaining Irish Lords, by securing their titles and lands, against the conquering Normans to curb their power while taking Dublin, Waterford and Wexford for the crown.

After his departure the Norman invaders, always few in numbers, simply fit into the cycle of Irish politics and war. They never conquer the rugged West or North and further complicate matters by fighting among themselves and forging alliances with the remaining Irish rulers. These alliances, typically through intermarriage, combined with the peculiar effect of Ireland itself on any resident foreigner eventually ensures that they simply "go native" and become "more Irish than the Irish themselves.

As was the case of the Vikings, these new invaders have a profound effect on the style of Irish warfare. The importation of heavy cavalry, massed archers, and castles force a change in the Irish style of warfare (hence a new army list) that brings about the large scale recruitment of the ferocious Galloglaich mercenaries and adoption Light Horse to counter the Knights, Bows, and Blades of the Anglo-Irish.

Style of Warfare

The Vikings made a large impact on the Irish militarily. Until their appearance battles were mainly ritualistic in nature, often with a few champions fighting on foot or earlier from small two-horse chariots. Weapons in general were feeble and archaic and although a few notable pitched battle took place most warfare was predominately small raids and a matter of vengeance, glory, and plunder. With the arrival of the Vikings, and especially from the time of establishing permanent settlements, Irish warfare changed profoundly. Better Norse weapons, especially heavy swords and war axes were widely adopted as were larger an sturdier shields. The best of the noble warriors also adopted coats of chain and metal helms but the lack of iron resources and general poverty of the pastoral culture ensured that the majority of the warriors still fought as unarmored infantry with javelins and occasionally with slings. Mercenaries had always been a prominent feature in Irish warfare and the Vikings and Gael Gaedhil simply replaced the Franks and Scots of earlier times. Many of the Irish rode to battle but the lack of stirrups and framed saddles relegated those few who remained mounted into the role of light horse. War fleets, either built and maintained or hired also became a prominent feature of warfare in this era with the Irish beating the Vikings in fleet actions on more than a few occasions.

The traditional view of Irish warfare was that they preferred to plunder, raid, and harry the enemy while being loath to stand up to them in open battle. It is true that the Irish, in their rugged country, did excel at this style of guerrilla warfare. This is only partially true as the Irish were known to fight a good number of pitched battles against the Vikings. One of the principal accounts of the era "The Cogad Gaedel re Gallaib " relates Brian Boruıs strategy for war. In it he consults with his captains and they discuss the strategy for assembling the forces and supplies necessary to go to war, and then decide to march to a particular place to observe the enemy so as to ascertain if they were able to give them battle and if not to make a wood and camp assault on them. A clear distinction is drawn between offering a pitched battle in the open or to resort to harrying tactics against a superior enemy, advice that every Irish wargamer would be wise to follow.


Norman, Viking, Pre-Feudal Scots, Norse Irish, Scots Isles and Highlands, Anglo-Norman, Anglo-Irish, Welsh, Middle Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Danish,

Painting & Figure Guide

Nobles: The figures are best represented by a mix of armored and unarmored men with large shields armed with a mix of axes, swords and javelins. I use a whole variety of Vikings, Picts, Saxons, Scots, Franks, and Irish figures. They wear saffron or light colored natural tunics while the cloaks are a mix of leather or can be green, blue, red, red-brown, brown or gray with a contrasting border or stripe with a checkered cloaks thrown into the mix. If the Spear option that I despise is used Lowland Scots or better equipped Saxon Fyrd figures would be appropriate.

Bonnachts: Unarmored, barefoot, clad only in a loose fitting tunic and armed with javelins and a small round shield. Gaelic law prescribed the number and type of colors a person could wear depending on their rank in society. I mix figures in the traditional saffron tunics with green, red-brown and blue-gray ones being careful to never use more than 2 colors on a lower class warrior.

Kerns: Similar to Bonnachts or possibly dressed in the traditional trews and a short tight-fitting jacket. They are unarmored with only about half bearing a shield and typically armed with javelin and dagger although a few may have used slings.

Ostmen: Vikings, most in chain and helmets bearing their dreaded axe. The Dublin Vikings are known to prefer red cloaks and often rode horses to the battle and may have on occasion fought from horseback.

Gael Gaedhil: My stands are a mix of a typical Viking in chain or leather, a bare-chested berserker, and a wild Celt in a saffron tunic and armed with an axe. Highland Scots and Galwegians (the area took its name from them) are an easy morph and work well.


A herd of cattle, flock of sheep, beached longship, nobles tent, small circular stone rath, or cattle drawn wagon or praying monks would all make for a suitable camp.

Miniature Suppliers

25mm Old Glory (Arthurian, Dark Ages, and WOTR ranges) provides for very suitable Bonnachts, Kern and Ostmen. Gripping Beast (Scots, Picts) and Foundry (Picts, Vikings, Franks, Balearic slingers) all make suitable figures for the whole range and they mix well together and produce a stunning and varied army.

Tactics (For DBA realy but it might give a ideea)

The Irish are deadly in rough and broken terrain and can be used very successfully with practice. The standard tactic is to use the Ostmen to hold a gap in rough terrain while the Kern skirmish off one enemy flank while the fleet-footed Bonnachts chew up the oppositions light troops and then fall on the flank of the enemies main battleline.

A risky but very effective option against the Vikings or other heavy foot armies, is to place the general in the warband element. Flanked by the Ostmen, charge into the enemies battleline and rip a hole while the Bonnachts and Kern fall on and turn or hold off the flanks. Many a Viking army has been shredded this way although admittedly many an Irish general has died a cruel and gory death this way.

Campaign battles against somewhat similar armies such as the Welsh and Scots require completely different tactics. Neutralize their warbands with the Bonnachts as they are faster and need be only one rank deep while the Ostmen will stand firmly against their mounted troops. If the enemy fields bows these are your main targets as the Ostmen and Bonnachts can chew them to pieces. The numerous Kern (Ps) and an additional Bonnacht or two are the Œkillers" and should use their speed to swarm the flanks of the enemy, attack the camp, and dominate the rough. If the enemy is able to put warbands on the Ostmen and Mounted against the Light troops all you can hope for is high rolls.

Mounted armies, especially the Normans, are a real nightmare and skill and luck still may not be enough to defeat them. Try to chew up any foot accompanying the army with the Bonnachts swarming on the flank while the Kern should back up the Ostmen to hold any open terrain in front the camp and be prepared to fall on an opportune flank. I occasionally will place a lone element(s) far off and slightly behind the flank(s) of the main battleline as a threat to the rear of any flank turning moves by the enemy mounted troops. They must either spend precious pips to chase these loners down or risk them falling on the rear for a risky attempt at a recoil kill. The Irish will always loose troops so do not hesitate to sacrifice them wisely to draw a Knight into the rough terrain or rupture the main battleline.

Regardless of the enemy, timing the main attack is critical. While waiting for the "pips" to swarm, distract the enemy with a lone Bonnacht or Kern rushing the camp and always threaten their General if possible. Dominate the rough terrain and use it to send a swift moving column of Bonnachts rushing behind the main battleline. Victory in half of your battles will be a stunning achievement.

Article from link

BlackKnight Inactive Member28 Mar 2012 6:00 a.m. PST

Dalauppror: Fantastic info! I recent;y acquired enough Crusader Dark Age Irish for a sizeable warband. I am a bit appalled at the fact that almost none of the bonnachta even have shirts! It seems that the Gauls of antiquity were better equipped! Do you consider these Crusader figures inaccurate or possibly from a time earlier than the Hiberno-Norse era you describe?

cookjg Inactive Member12 Apr 2012 6:53 a.m. PST

The current expantion includes the scots who are identified as the Irish scots that defeated the pics to form the base of scotland. The GB facebook page has a breif note that the next expansion will contain an Irish faction (Irish/norse I think). This was from a rep from GB. The saga forum has a discusion of what board to make up for the Irish covering this thread and more. There they go into merging the scot and welsh boards.

Altius Inactive Member12 Apr 2012 8:25 a.m. PST

I've always seen Dark Age Irish as two distinct armies, and maybe that's because I've seen them treated that way by various rules. The first iteration is for the pre-Viking era, when it was mostly inter-clan squabbles, cattle raids, and the occasional boat raid on neighboring shores. During this long period, there was almost no armor and weapons were weak compared to what people were using on the continent. The majority of the warriors were javelin-armed skirmishers, while the richer warriors might also have a dagger or short sword, light shield, and maybe a helmet. I understand they still used chariots long after everyone else had abandoned them. There weren't too many major improvements because what they had was good enough for the way it was used. It is this version that, to me, seems closest to Welsh. I could be way off, however.

The second version came after the Vikings arrived and came from necessity. They could not compete with the vikings using their flimsy weapons, so they began to use more armor and heavier melee weapons, and began to fight more like the vikings, although that javelin-armed skirmisher still played a prominent role. That's the army that they used at Clontarf, and reading up on that battle might be helpful. My impression of that one is that it was an entirely (or almost) infantry army that still emphasized light infantry tactics but included an improved melee element.

Anyway, that's my inexpert opinion.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP12 Apr 2012 12:59 p.m. PST

Fascinating stuff! Cant wait to do Clontarf in 28mm!

Oh Bugger Inactive Member13 Apr 2012 3:44 p.m. PST

Here is a podcast on Clontarf its part of the History Ireland Hedge School series. The format is a panel of academics and an interactive audience.

You will hear that the Irish were regularly knocking 7 bells out of the Vikings in the period leading up to Clontarf. There is also some interesting stuff on the bigger picture and the impact of Clontarf on Cnut's conquest of England.

Anyhow hope you enjoy it.


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