Last month John and I gathered for a somewhat momentous game of Saga: Age of Magic. At long last, after plenty of worldbuilding and painting, we were beginning a narrative campaign set in my club’s homebrew fantasy world. Specifically, we’d be playing out a series of games during the War of the Coins, a particularly devastating conflict between a wealthy dwarven empire and a loose alliance of feudal human noble houses.
We knew from our worldbuilding efforts (guided by the excellent Microscope RPG) that the decade-long War of the Coins ended with the dwarves being defeated after a great siege at their capital city, and summarily expelled from the continent and sent packing over a land bridge into an icy, windswept wasteland. But while the outcome was predetermined, we were very eager to play out a series of games to determine the exact nature of the dwarves’ defeat and the humans’ triumphs.
The conflict was named after the vast amounts money (coins) spent by the human feudal states in hiring mercenaries to fight on their behalf. It was also so named for the round shields carried by the stout dwarf warriors into battle. As the war progressed, the hard-pressed dwarves took to hammering copper coins into their oaken shields. So the name works on several levels!
The game took place outdoors, on John’s covered patio, with masks and plenty of physical distancing. I was running my dwarf army using the Masters of the Underearth battle board, and John was using the Great Kingdoms list for his human militia.
In the War of the Coins, the dwarves were the aggressors, launching several border raids that culminated in a full-blown invasion of the human city-states. Our game took place in Drazenko, a border outpost controlled by one of the minor human princes. John’s faction, House Begovic, had selected Drazenko as the first location to oppose the the dwarves’ advance.
As the game began, the dwarf army had just succeeded in pounding Drazenko with long-range cannon fire, reducing much of the village to rubble and clearing the way for the dwarven advance. The dwarf king Nicodemus II, the Anvil of Dawn, had taken to the field to lead his army into the village in what everyone assumed would be a low-stakes mopping up action. Good for propaganda, especially if the king was careful to get a bit of dust on his cloak as he strode through the streets.
Unfortunately, House Begovic had other ideas. Mobile reserves arrived to challenge the dwarves as they marched triumphantly into the smoking ruins of Drazenko.
John’s army was well organized and (thanks to several mounted units) quite speedy. He was able to blunt my initial advance quite handily. Within a few turns, the dwarves hadn’t been able to move very far into the ruined village.
John’s opening turn was brilliant; he managed to get his paladin into combat with my frost giant, and actually killed the blue-skinned monster in a single combat! Talk about a huge blow to morale … it died without ever activating!
With my preferred avenue of advance closed to me, I fell back on that tried-and-true dwarf tactic: close ranks and prepare a stout defense. John’s units had the mobility to surround my force on two sides, but I’m pleased to say that I proved to be a tough nut to crack for most of the game.
An early win came when my two cannons succeeded in knocking out his catapult. These units had been conducting a long-range artillery duel for the first few turns of the game. With the catapult out of the way, the cannons were free to rain fire down on virtually any target on the battlefield. Fire at will!
Back in the center of the battlefield, the dwarves stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they weathered devastating charges by John’s mounted heroes. Dwarves fell by the score, but they managed to take a few humans with them … just enough to prevent the game turning into a total and complete rout.
It was clear that I was not going to be able to pull off the victory, but once again Saga provided a fairly close game once all the victory conditions were calculated. This is a game that rewards players who pay close attention to the parameters for winning.
One key play that kept me in the game in the latter turns came when the cannons managed to land two shells in the vicinity of Field Marshal Bartholomieu Begovic, peppering the well-heeled noble with shrapnel and forcing him to retire to the rear to recuperate with a strong cup of brandy while an attaché documented his heroism in a letter sent back to the home front.
But back on the front lines, where warriors were fighting and dying, it was anything but glorious. Drazenko was a smoking ruin of churned mud and shattered masonry, strewn with the bodies of the dead and wounded. The dwarves were pressed back as House Begovic’s pegasus cavalry flew in to cut down the cannon crew, effectively silencing the big guns.
At this point, we had reached our turn limit, which meant that King Nicodemus was able to quit the field with some dignity intact, having been stung badly by his first encounter with House Begovic.
As we counted up victory points, we found that the game wasn’t a total rout for me, so that was nice. John has a very good handle on how to play the Great Kingdoms battle board, and his army list is versatile and well tuned. For my part, my list wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be (due to painting queue obligations) so I had a bit of work still to do.
I also decided that I wanted to go all in on the “big guns never tire” theme for my army. So in addition to my two static war machines, I’ll be taking two destruction teams (to be represented by some multi-barrel organ guns I have in my collection) to really max out of the number of shooty stuff on my side of the board. Thankfully, Saga is versatile enough to allow me to achieve this goal in short order.
Now that the War of the Coins has begun, we can’t stop now! Let’s see what King Nicodemus has in mind for his next move. And how bold will Field Marshal Bartholomieu Begovic be when he returns, refreshed and healed, to resume his command? Only time will tell. Stay tuned for more!