My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Saga – Comparing the Anglo-Danish Between Versions

My favorite faction in the the first version of Saga were the Anglo-Danes. The ability to have those Danish axes were what made it for me. (Of course, that was before The Raven's Shadow and the Norse-Gaels were introduced, which combined two of my favorites: the Danish axe and the javelin.) Other than the Vikings and the Aztecs (I made my own battle boards), they were the ones I played the most.

Naturally, given the cost of the new Saga: Age of Vikings supplement, many people are wondering:

  • Are there really significant changes?
  • Can I get away with just changing a few words on my current battle boards?
  • Do I have to buy it?
So, I decided to drill down and go through the Anglo-Danes faction information and battle board and see for myself. If you do not play Saga, and have no interest in Saga, you can probably skip this post.

Faction Rules

In the original rules, the Danish axe itself was a faction rule. Now it is lumped under the heavy weapons equipment rule. Note that the new heavy weapons rule is slightly different than the old Danish axes.

The selection for troops and equipment is exactly the same between the two editions.

Battle Boards

Basic Abilities

Huscarls had a minor word change that has no effect on play. Ceorls changed to Fyrd, but only had minor word changes that has no effect on play. Geburs changed to Great Fyrd, but only had minor word changes that has no effect on play. Activation Pool had only minor word changes.

Combat Pool was the only significant change amongst the basic abilities. In the old version it could only be played for Melee or Shooting activations, but in the new version it can also be played as a Shooting Reaction. This further reinforces the Anglo-Danes defense against shooting, as several advanced abilities do also. Combat Pool is still not an efficient use of dice, however.

Advanced Abilities

Let's start with the abilities that share the same name between versions.

Noble Lineage had two options in the original version. The new version maintains those two options, but if a Rare die is used, you are granted both options.

Intimidation allowed you to cancel an activation of a specific unit during the Activation Reaction phase in the old version. The new version is less powerful in that it effectively lets your opponent choose which unit is affected (by having you play it in the Orders Reaction phase), and it puts a fatigue on them (two if you used a Rare die) rather than canceling their activation. Given that there is now a general rule for canceling activations using fatigue, it makes me wonder whether you can still cancel that activation if they have enough fatigue (two or more). A close reading of the rule leads me to believe that you can.

Shieldwall now costs less, using two Common dice rather than one Common and one Uncommon, but the effects remain the same.

Unforgiving used to inflict an additional fatigue on the enemy, after the melee had finished. The new version inflicts it immediately, but no longer allows you to spend the enemy's fatigue in that melee. Given the ability for a Warlord to cancel a hit by taking a fatigue, this is equivalent to one extra hit on a Warlord. This is a great ability to use when you are planning to attack the enemy Warlord.

Now let's look at the abilities that changed names.

Trapped is now called Exhaustion (which ironically was the name of an advanced ability in the old version) and are the same.

Hard as Iron is now called Like Rocks. Hard as Iron used two Common dice and was used in the Melee phase. Like Rocks used a Common and an Uncommon die and can be used in both the Melee or the Shooting Reaction phases. The effects, however, remain unchanged. Again, this is another ability that increases the Anglo-Danes defense against shooting.

Stubbornness allowed you to gain one attack die, plus an additional attack die for every fatigue the enemy has, without spending that fatigue. It cost either an Uncommon or a Rare die. Determination gives you, for an Uncommon die, three dice (of any mix of attack and defense dice) plus one extra die (of either type) for each fatigue on the enemy unit.

Now let's look at the abilities that were dropped. 

The Push was a powerful ability that, if the Anglo-Danes won the melee, they could effectively take another swing at the withdrawing enemy. It was a bit of a gamble, as you had to commit to the ability before the melee was resolved, but it only cost a Common die.

The old version of Exhaustion allowed you to target an exhausted unit during the Orders phase, eliminating two figures in the unit in exchange for one fatigue. Although it only cost an Uncommon die, it had limited use because of the requirement that the unit be exhausted and you could not target a Warlord.

Last there is Lords of Battle, which sounds similar to the new Determination, but was more powerful at a higher cost.

Finally, let's look at the new abilities.

Crush the Weak grants you four attack or defense dice if your enemy is armor 3 or less, at a cost of a Common die. This seems to replace The Push.

Shock departs from the other advanced abilities in that it is one of two new abilities that are played during the Activation phase. Basically it allows a unit to charge and the charged unit cannot close ranks. As I am still unsure about the value of closing ranks, I am sure about how valuable this is as a counter.

Lord of War is the other, new ability played during the Activation phase. Given my playtest (last two blog posts) I can really see the power of this ability, all for the cost of a single Rare die. Being able to shed all of your Warlord's fatigue with a single die in addition to boosting the Warlord's armor to '6' (remember he is normally a '4' because of his heavy weapons) is really nice, even if it is pretty situational.

Summary of Battle Board

The Anglo-Danes still emphasize dumping fatigue on the enemy and benefiting from it (four abilities). Given that the core rules now give all factions the ability to spend enemy fatigue to cancel an activation and to slow their movement, those old Anglo-Danish abilities that did that had to change. As indicated above, I noticed that more abilities can be played in reaction (three) and more affect defense dice or armor (four).

The Anglo-Danes remain a melee-oriented army (there are no abilities that affect shooting, save Combat Bonus) that can hit hard and occasionally turtle when needed.

Heroes and Legendary Units

First off, full disclosure: I never used with any Heroes, Swords-for-Hire, or Mercenary units in the original version. It felt too .... Warhammer 40K to me. Maybe if I were doing a semi-historical battle, it might induce me, but I always felt the scale was way too small for using them. Just like I did with Warhammer 40K...

Harold Godwinson, Last Anglo-Saxon King of England

Being a super-Warlord, Harold used to receive one extra Saga die than your normal Warlord, for the cost of one point. That is no longer true. That is still true, except that it is two Saga dice now, rather than three because of the change in the number of dice that a normal Warlord receives in Saga 2. Further, Harold and his two brothers have all lost one in melee and shooting armor, while the brothers still have the same attack dice. The final ability allows the heroic unit to shed the first fatigue, with the difference being that in the old version it was only during your turn, while in the new version it is in both your turn and the enemy turn.

Basically the heroic unit is an understrength Hearthguard unit that still hits as hard as previously (six dice), but with worse armor. They can shed fatigue better, which allows you to turn rest activations into other types of activations, but overall they seem brittle.

Cnut the Great, First Anglo-Danish King of England

For your extra point you previously got one extra Saga dice, and but again, that no longer applies. Also, the ability to roll seven dice initially rather than six has also disappeared. Now, Cnut still gets three Saga dice (which is two more than normal), but loses the ability to roll seven dice initially.

For equipment options he can still be mounted on a horse, but if dismounted he must be armed with heavy weapons whereas previously it was optional.

On a personal level, Cnut is a better Warlord, as his Resilience is 2, so he will be very hard to kill, given a decent unit of Hearthguard to protect him.

The final ability is that he can use either the Anglo-Danes or the Vikings battle board. Originally, he could use both, splitting the dice however he wished each turn, but now he can only use one or the others, with all dice discarded off of the old board when switching to a new board. Definitely less powerful than previously, as it is easier to build up a battle board in the current version.


Well, as you can see, there were changes to the battle boards and to the legendary units, some changes quite significant. Honestly, I don't see you being able to 'patch' the old battle board to match the new. You might forego the changes, but it will definitely not feel like the new Anglo-Danes. It basically fights the same way as before, but gaming in Saga is all about finding those synergies between abilities. Now with the core rules allowing you more basic options than previously, there are even more synergies at play. Better to use the battle board designed for the new rule changes.

Would I go back to Saga version 1? The fact that I stopped playing the rules for five years hints at my answer. In a word: no.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that; Anglo-Danes were my faction of choice as well. I’ll pick up Saga 2 sometime later this year.


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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").