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"Saga 2.0 Critique" Topic

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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callidusx313 Mar 2018 1:43 p.m. PST

I was hoping to initiate a discussion about the merits of, and perhaps reasons for, the changes made to Saga with the 2nd edition rules. I do not consider new nomenclature (e.g. "Aggression") to be a rules change.

I would like to tackle each change, one by one. I will refer to each with as specific a header as I can, along with a page reference. Do add to this list if I have missed any changes, or correct me if I misidentified a rule as new.

I am not interested in exploring changes to the Viking-era factions. So, let us begin…

[Page references are for the new rulebook]

1. Formations, p. 8.

New Rule – All models in a unit must remain within S (M for mounted) of the first model deployed or moved.

I am of two minds about this change. I believe it is appropriate for most early Middle Age, European warfare as units tended to attack as a mass instead of in rank and file formation. However, this is a general rule that will be applied across eras and factions, and I do not see it applying to all situations. One cannot even create a basic line of levy archers with this rule.

2. Generating Saga Dice, p. 10.

New Rule – Warlords generate 1 Saga die and Levy units of 6+ generate 1 Saga de.

I despise this rule change (which is closely tied to other changes to the Warlord, see #37 below). I could see some factions, those with a strong warrior ethos and command & control issues, having this new rule as a special faction rule. But applying this across the board removes the thematic element of one's Warlord as a commander and levies as untrained peons that need constant direction.

I also have doubts about what a levy-heavy army list will be like (just imagine those Anglo-Saxons with every unit qualifying for those battle board abilities).

3. Rolling Saga Dice, p.11.

New Rule – Saga dice can be left on one's battle board from turn to turn.

I am not against this change. It will help to ensure more abilities are used from turn to turn. However, I think this was a missed opportunity to distinguish the more strategic factions from the impulsive ones.

I would like to see this rule available to such factions as the Late Romans or Byzantines. Naturally, this would unbalance the factions. I might suggest that factions that gained this rule would retain the old Warlord statistics for Saga dice generation and combat, as well as Levy non-generation of Saga dice.

4. How to Move, p.16.

New Rule – Movement must be in a straight line

This rule makes absolutely no sense except to simplify the game. Why can my unit not skirt around a piece of terrain? Whatever savings in time gained by this rule does not overcome the loss of thematic engagement in the game. The allowance for L-move units to turn after moving M is not enough of a relief. I will not be playing with this.

5. Effects of Models on Movement, p.18.

New Rule – Gaps in formations of greater than S can be moved through (possible with mounted units)

I have no problem with this change as it prevents a small mounted unit from controlling too large an area of the field.

6. Maneuvers, p.18

New Rule – Free move activation for unit's first activation if starting further than L from enemy and never moving within L of enemy or through terrain.

I suppose this helps armies close in with each other quickly. Yet, speeding this skirmish game up is not one of the problems I thought this game needed fixing. I do not know if this minimize significantly the tough command decisions one must make in using one's Saga dice. I suspect it might. If so, I won't like it as maneuvering is one of my favorite aspects of miniature gaming.

I also wonder if creating this rule partly led to the "move in a straight line" rule above. If so, I'll like this rule even less.

7. Charge, p.20 & 14.

New Rule – Charge activation and movement must be in a straight line.

Now, here is a place where I can accept the idea of a unit needing to move in a straight line. If one wants to engage an enemy, then one runs full-bore at that enemy.

I also appreciate the design space created by separating charge moves from regular movement.

8. Shooting LoS, p.22.

Questionable Rule – The space between two figures in the same unit obstructs line of sight.

Though this is the same as before, because of the new rule (see #5 above) allowing movement through a formation with gaps greater than S, one must wonder why such a large gap blocks shooting LoS but not movement. The large gap exception should apply to shooting.

9. Shooting Dice Generation, p.23.

New Rule – Combat pool at step 1 cannot exceed 8 dice. [This limit includes bonus dice granted by special rule or Saga abilities done prior to step 2 of this Shooting activation.] Final Combat pool at step 3 cannot exceed 16 dice.

Was there a problem in the past with 12-man HG units wiping the table with people during 1st Ed.? My breadth of experience against different factions has been limited, so I may simply have not seen this problem. In any event, I do not see myself making bow-armed HG units of larger than 8 models.

10. Shooting Defense Dice Generation, p.25.

New Rule – There is no longer a limit to defense dice generation of twice the number of hits inflicted.

Apparently shooting was deadlier than I had experienced if Tomahawk felt the need to limit shooting attacks and bolster shooting defense.

11. Beginning a Melee, p.26.

New Rule – A single unit may never be engaged in Melee with two or more units.

This removes the two situations that allowed for 3+ unit engagements, i. attacking a building defended by two or more units and, ii. using a Warlord's side-by-side rule to have your leader join a unit in a Melee. This certainly is a simplification, but only scenario ii. arose with any regularity. Was it so burdensome to resolve these types of combat? I do not see the need to dispense with it.

12. Melee/Reaction, p.26, 42.

New Rule – No more Melee/Reaction Saga abilities, so no Step 0.

Here is a simplification that makes sense. Why have two different steps in which to resolve Melee abilities? Of course, one cannot retroactively apply this new rule to older, non-Aetius&Arthur factions.

13. Who Fights in Melee, p.26

New Rule – All models in the Melee generate attack dice. Distance from enemy model no longer matters.

This probably makes sense given the new formation rule (see #1 above), and it does simplify. However, I had crafted a weapon (elven spear) with a unique bonus that related to distance from an enemy model, so I like it the way it was.

14. Defender Option, p.26.

New Rule – Defending unit can elect to ‘close ranks' to gain solid cover in this Melee while generating half its normal number of Attack dice.

‘Close ranks' replaces the ability to lose half of the unit's Attack dice to gain half this number in Defense dice. Though I do like the thematic name, they both seem to be attempts at capturing the same thing. Did matches become too bloodless in 1st ed.? I did not think so. I am partial to the old mechanism, but not overly so.

More problematic is how mounted, bow-armed and heavy weapon armed units cannot close ranks. Though a thematic restriction, it greatly weakens the options available to these units. I feel that, as to heavy weapons at least, this makes their inclusion much less likely.

15. Melee Dice Generation, p.27.

New Rule – Maximum combat pool is 16 dice.

Were "death star" units of 12 HG that much of a problem? Or is Tomahawk trying to get people to field units of 8 HG for some other reason? As an Anglo-Saxon player, I do not like this change nor see its need.

16. Melee Defense Dice Generation, p.27.

New Rule – There is no longer a limit to defense dice generation of twice the number of hits inflicted.

I simply cannot tell if Tomahawk felt attacks were too deadly in this game. Some changes seem to support attacking more and others defense more. I liked the simplicity of knowing that for all dice generation, Saga abilities could never do more than double one's pool of dice.

17. Saga ability and Fatigue use, p.27.

New Rule – Players alternate electing to use a Melee Saga ability or an opposing unit's fatigue marker, one at a time and with no limit on fatigue uses.

I prefer the escalating use of Saga and fatigue markers. It adds tension and that is always good. I never saw a thematic reason to limit spending an opponent's fatigue.

18. Withdrawal, p.28-29.

New Rule – Defenders benefiting from solid cover never withdraw if they outnumber the attacker; withdrawing units may end within VS of the opposing unit if restricted.

A solid addition that is thematic. The first new rule noted here, oddly, is a rule that runs counter to Tomahawk's trend of simplification.

19. Fatigue Limits, p.30.

New Rule – All unit types exhaust upon accumulating 3 fatigue.

This is simplification for the sheer sake of simplification. 1st Ed. unit distinction with this rule added a lot of character to the game. This needlessly takes away theme.

20. Using Fatigue, p.31.

New Rule – After a unit has been activated, and a target has been selected if charging or shooting, the opponent can spend 2 fatigue markers on this unit to cancel the activation.

I like the idea of providing more uses for fatigue, but I feel this can lead to gamey situations. Moreover, from my general gaming experience, anything that allows one to prevent the basic mechanic of a game from being executed by a player kills the "fun" of the game. Yet, I should play with it before dismissing it. Given that exhaustion will happen at the end of most activations where this is an option, it may end up being better to let the unit exhaust itself.

21. Using Fatigue, p.32.

New Rule – One can spend 1 fatigue during an opposing unit's move/charge action to drop its movement to S.

This rule severely impedes mounted units, as they now go from L to S instead of to M. It does help foot units moving through uneven terrain, as their movement cannot fall below S (so no dropping movement to VS). Changes that take away nuance in the game are not my cup of tea, especially when I cannot fathom a good reason for it.

22. Using Fatigue in Shooting, p.32.

New Rule – One can spend more than 1 fatigue to increase the defending units armor.

Shooting units are going to be taking many more rest actions than before. Coupled with the removal of the cap to defense die generation, shooting is getting considerably weaker.

23. Using Fatigue in Melee, p.32.

New Rule – One can spend more than 1 of the engaged enemy's fatigue to either in increase one's units armor or decrease the enemy's armor by 1.

This change will likely make players more cautious in approaching the enemy, so one goes in with few fatigue markers.

24. Exhaustion, p.32.

New Rule – A unit starting Melee exhausted suffers a -1 to all Attack dice in Melee; and a unit cannot accumulate more than 3 fatigue markers.

This first rule is a different way of penalizing attacks by exhausted units (arguably simpler since division is harder than subtraction). I am not sure there is a need, but Tomahawk has removed most instances of division in the rules.

As for a cap on accumulating fatigue, I guess it does not matter too much as an exhausted unit was always prohibited from activating again. It does mean that a 2-fatigue unit might recover quicker from engaging in Melee, as the fourth fatigue marker given at the end of Melee will be ignored.

25. Cover, p.34.

New Rule – To benefit from cover, all figures in the unit must be within the terrain piece.

This again is Tomahawk simplifying by removing division, as a unit can no longer can benefit from cover by having 2/3rds of its figures being in the terrain.

26. Terrain Difficulty, p.35.

New Rule – Dangerous terrain type slows movement like uneven and also inflicts 1 fatigue.

More variety in terrain types is always welcome!

27. Terrain Size, p.35.

New Rule – Small terrain can be larger (M+VS), but large terrain cannot be smaller than M (where Brush and Rocky Ground could go down to S before); also, there is a typo here where I believe "S" was typed as "C."

Not sure the reason for this, aside from standardizing sizes instead of linking size to type of real-world terrain. Does not seem to have a negative impact in my view.

28. Resilience, p.36.

New Rule – It now is broken into two rules: Resilience and Bodyguard; Resilience allows ignoring of un-cancelled hits at a rate of 1 hit per fatigue taken (up to unit's exhaustion limit); Bodyguard extends the range of the "sacrifice" to S but only can remove HG figures.

I am okay with these rules, though it does kind of force the mustering of HG units (at least 1). I would prefer to have the Warlord with an exhaustion limit of 4 though.

29. We Obey, p.36.

New Rule – The unit bearing this special ability need not be activated at the time of electing a friendly unit to activate; and the friendly unit may be activated for free as to any type of activation, not just Movement.

I like the flexibility introduced by these changes.

30. Special Rules, p.36.

New Rule – There no longer exists "Side-by-Side."

Bah! This removes one of the stronger thematic elements in Saga, likely for the sake of simplification. I would surmise that by electing to remove this, Tomahawk was forced to increase the Warlord's attack value (and the range of the Bodyguard rule).

31. Special Rules, p.36.

New Rule – Presence: apparently the number of models in a unit is important now; Heroic Unit grants all of the Warlord's usual abilities to a unit that contains a hero.

This could lead to some fun new rules, like fear/terror, and greater use of unique units. I approve.

32. Equipment, p.37-39.

New Rule – Equipment specifies its penalty to armor, unit type restrictions (like bows only for foot and composite only for mounted).

I like the clarity here and its standardization by weapon type.

33. Composite Bows, p.37.

New Rule – Shooting activations are free and do not generate fatigue; the unit cannot activate to shoot consecutively in the same turn.

This is an interesting change. It basically breaks up the activation sequence (move/shoot or shoot/move) permitted by the prior rule. I do not see a downside. Here is a prime example of simplification done right.

34. Crossbow, p.39

New Rule – +1 to shooting Attack dice results instead of -1 to Armor; the unit cannot activate to shoot consecutively in the same turn.

The first change is a non-change (save for occasional interactions with fatigue). The second change is substantial

35. Javelins, p.39.

New Rule – +1 to melee Attack dice on the Charge.

The bonus to melee helps counter the inability to close ranks, a compensation that heavy weapons did not receive.

36. Improvised Weapons & Unarmed, p.39.

New Rule – IW: Range S, target gains +1 to Defense dice results. UA: target gains +1 to Defense dice results, cannot close ranks.

A new weapon types are always welcome.

37. Warlord, p.44

New Rule – Saga die generation: 1, Attack dice: 8(4), Armor: 5, loses Side-by-Side.

As I mentioned above, the change to the Warlord is overall for the worse. I would like to see this Warlord as being one of two options for Warlords (the other option being the 1st Ed. version).

38. Levies, p.45.

New Rule – Saga die generation: 1 for units of 6+ models, Attack dice: 1/2 in Melee if non-range armed, Armor: 4

I am okay with this change, but would prefer this version of levies to be present in factions allotted the new Warlord (to distinguish impulsive/barbaric nations from more strategic ones).

Personal logo Tacitus Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2018 1:53 p.m. PST

Love your passion! I've never even played SAGA, but I read through your entire post because of the thought you put into it. It also gave me a flavor of the game. Thanks.

Zagloba13 Mar 2018 8:34 p.m. PST

Just played my first game with the new rules, my take on some of your responses

1) I like rule one, as long as you're careful you can still have a 8" line of figures. My group has an Irish player who would stretch a unit out to block off a corner then use the abilities where you couldn't shoot or charge the unit. Lame.

8) I think you're reading this wrong- this refers to the VS gap between figures in the non-shooting unit, same as before.

I have a few more observations I'll add to the thread tomorrow.


callidusx313 Mar 2018 10:32 p.m. PST

Thank you for the kind words, Tacitus.

Rich, I appreciate your input. Under #1, one could have a 9" line even, since it is not required that a model's base fall completely within S. The other odd thing here is that it is the only place in the rules where one measures from the center of the base instead of the edge. Why I wonder? But I see what you mean, as to the old rule, about being able to control large swaths of the table with one unit chaining out to cover 24".

As for #8, I presented that one incorrectly by calling it a "New Rule." It is the exact same rule as before, you are correct. What I meant to point out is that it is arguably inconsistent with #5.

Also, I did forget one change, that falls within #2 above – Generating Saga Dice.

New Rule – Warrior units of less than 4 models do not generate Saga dice.

I am fine with this given the Levy rule. To keeps things balanced, I would have added a similar restriction for Hearthguard units where HG units of less than 2 models do not generate Saga dice.

Interestingly, my own rule construction (for my LotR factions) prior to reading the rulebook was that units of less than 2/3/4 (HG/WR/LV) models do not generate Saga dice.

callidusx313 Mar 2018 10:38 p.m. PST

Rich, I think I see what you mean about my interpretation #8 (and by extension, #5 and #1). I completely overlooked p.8 of the new rulebook where all models must be within VS of another model in its unit (same as the old rule). However, the second bullet of "Effect of Models" on p.18 makes no sense since it is a situation that can never arise.

Dexter Ward14 Mar 2018 3:54 a.m. PST

Number 21 isn't new – Saga v1 already has that rule.

Nick B14 Mar 2018 6:58 a.m. PST

Callidusx3 – how many games have you played with the new rules to give you a proper impression of how the rules work or how often they may come into play? or are your toughts based soley on a read through?

Zagloba14 Mar 2018 7:02 a.m. PST

One thing I don't see mentioned is the rule that Fatigue is always gained after the second activation is complete, no matter what the activation is. This makes missiles a little deadlier as they can move and shoot for full effect, then gain the Fatigue.

I thought movement in Saga was always straight line, but I don't have the book in front of me to check.

I'm ok with the new dice generation, though I still think the rules need to spell out the difference between a unit and a 'points worth' of troops a little more- things like splitting Warrior units to gain 2 dice and units of 8 hearthguard. I like the 4/6 figure limit as it means if you want to have 'dice farm' units you really need to keep them out of the action.

I kind of miss the Warlord Side-by-Side rule, though in practice it was something of a mess between dividing dice and whatnot and it could lead to some gamey situations with movement and formations.

I'm not sure about 'Effects of Models', I'll have to check my rules tonight.

Zagloba14 Mar 2018 7:28 a.m. PST

The main difference I noticed in our game last night was how wimpy the Saga abilities are now, at least for Anglo-Danes vs Vikings. Most seemed to involve fiddling with Fatigue- between the rule changes and the abilities I'd say the game is as much about fatigue management as glorious charges and whatnot. Ironically, I probably would have liked this game better years ago when Saga first came out- at first I resisted the 'Special Ability' approach and was really looking for more of a 'Shieldwall Simulation'. But now that I've accepted Saga as more about heroic combat, it makes a lot of changes that to me mean the game is more about attrition and fatigue management, and careful timing of a charge for best effect.

Furthering this is the fact that Warlords are basically just another unit combat-wise. 8 dice is cool, but you're pretty brittle unless you drag along a unit of hearthguard to sit behind you and die, and you're unlikely to do more than damage an enemy unit. It used to be that committing your Warlord (with side-by-side) meant that you wanted a particular attack to succeed now and was worth the risk. Now he seems best used as a backup, hanging around to finish off units that are already hurt and fatigued. Which may be rational, but well, boring.


callidusx314 Mar 2018 9:44 a.m. PST

Hello Dexter,

#21 is new in that the old rule lowered movement by one band for 1 fatigue. So cavalry would go from L to M and foot moving through uneven would go to VS. Now all moves drop to S (& never to VS), irrespective of the unit's move rate.

callidusx314 Mar 2018 9:46 a.m. PST

Hello Nick,

This is a theoretical exercise based on my v1 plays (which were with the Aeitius & Arthur factions). I only picked up the new rules last week and have not had a chance to play yet.

callidusx314 Mar 2018 10:20 a.m. PST


In your first comment, do you mean that under v1 a fatigue was gained after the first activation?

On your third point, I agree clarification on Saga die generation by unit would be helpful. I do wonder what impact these caps on units will lead to. Will games devolve into players operating with very few Saga dice? Or will games focus more on large globs of units?

As to the Side-by-side loss, I did not find it all that complicated in relation to other miniature rulesets. I can believe that others experienced gamey-ness with it.

Thank you for your impressions of your v2 gaming. I will see how I feel after playing it. But I am not keen on wimpy Saga abilities. I liked how Saga represented heroic combat in v1, strong but not GW' LotR SBG levels of Herohammer.

DeRuyter Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

IMO SAGA v1 was fine the way it was. I fear the GW style rules creep here in particular with heroic characters and a multitude of special abilities.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2018 11:49 a.m. PST

I'm glad I never took up so I'll do it in the first place, as I would have so many new rules to learn. People complained about Phil making some changes to DBA but nothing compared to this.

Zagloba14 Mar 2018 12:00 p.m. PST

In v1 there was a lot of back and forth on when fatigue for second activation occurred- at beginning (so it could be used immediately) or at end. The way we interpreted it, it was available immediately for move and shoot, at end for melee. But we may have been wrong, in which case it's clearer now.

I came to Saga from Pig Wars, and was always disappointed that it never supported the free-wheeling pillage and plunder type of game that Pig Wars did, but liked the heroic aspect of the abilities and Warlord rules. Now it feels more 'historical', but that's not really what I was looking for, I have other rules for that.

callidusx314 Mar 2018 12:43 p.m. PST

DeRuyter, we will have to see about creep with heroic characters. I haven't seen the new Viking-era book and any heroes found therein. And there has not been an explosion of special abilities, we lost Side-by-side and gained Presence & Heroic Unit.

callidusx314 Mar 2018 12:45 p.m. PST

Bobgnar, there has been a lot of push back here. I need to play v2 before condemning it, my concerns are currently and mainly just that… a concern.

callidusx314 Mar 2018 12:48 p.m. PST

Thanks for the explanation Zagloba. I only got into Saga with the C&C ruleset, and that makes it clear that one receives fatigue after fully resolving the shoot or move activation (but before a shooting takes place due to javelins or the like).

And perhaps I should look into Pig Wars.

coopman Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2018 2:01 p.m. PST

I feel like I just wasted $48 USD….

Zagloba14 Mar 2018 8:18 p.m. PST

I'm probably sounding overly critical- it was still a fun game. It may also be a side effect of playing with Vikings and Anglo-Danes, which never had really interesting Saga abilities to begin with. I have half a feeling that the powers were nerfed to have room to move to in other books- the powers in the fantasy book will probably be much more interesting.

I think all of the core rule changes were for the better or at worst neutral, with the possible exception of losing side-by-side. And with the core rules solid it will really depend on the individual period rules/Saga Abilities to provide the color and flavor. My first impression is the Dark Age book is a little off target, but we'll see after a couple more plays.

Joe Legan Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 5:49 p.m. PST

Can't you and your opponent agree to what V2 rules you want to use? I plan to try it out several times and then pick out any that seem to enhance the play and trash the ones that don't. ( For example, I love side by side and can't imagine leaving that out so I won't. Will use the old warlord rules.) I will admit I will wait for the crusades book to start so maybe all this will be worked out by then.
My point is if you like SAGA v1 just play that. Am I missing something?


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