Category Archives: SAGA

Big guns never tire

2017-02-25-12-25-40Hu-what?! Two posts in one month?

That’s right, I’ve most definitely entered stage three of my wargaming and hobby cycle. I’m thinking lately that a large part of the wisdom of experience is just being around long enough that eventually, no matter how thick you are, you notice your own patterns and habits – both short and long term. I’ve come to peace with the fact that I like the odd game, and I enjoy painting models (so long as it’s reasonably varied and interesting) but I get to “urgh, too much” quite quickly with respect to both.

In response to this, I seem to have developed an unconscious habit. I get excited by something new about once every two years or so, bite off a manageable chunk, then tweak models and background to my satisfaction so that it can fit more-or-less organically into my existing collection. At the moment I have two manageable chunks in mind, one for SAGA and one for 40k.

I mentioned a while back that I got some Pictish models. Well now my Aetius and Arthur book has arrived, and I realised that with my three historical warbands of Picts, Irish and Vikings, I am now fully equipped to accurately fight petty wars and raids the length and breadth of dark ages Scotland! Let’s hear it for extremely narrow historical/geographic gaming windows! Sorry, I think this is probably funnier to me as an Australian than it would be to a European. I know there were several rich, disparate cultures – entire kingdoms even – fighting for supremacy. But it’s just kind of funny that they were doing so in an area that’s probably smaller than some of the great West Australian cattle properties of the 1800s… which had about sixty people on them. I just imagine that the Picts and the Scots must have been very tiny.

Now, to 40k. I don’t know why and I don’t know how (to paraphrase Nick Cave), but I’ve suddenly become enamoured of the Skitarii. The models look cool, they have a post-human, cyberpunk theme married to the usual grimdarkery, and they look to me as though they even have my preferred playstyle: mid-range savagery a la the Sisters of Battle. Unfortunately in the last year my family has been hit with several huge medical, dental and car-related expenses, leaving me flat broke. And flat broke is the worst state to be in when you get the 40k itch, right?

So I think I’m going to put my Tau up for sale on the local facebook groups. They’re a small, nicely painted allied detachment that are mercenary themed so they can plug into almost anyone’s army. Hopefully I can get enough for them to fund the Skitarii, who will also only ever be a small army that I can plug into my Guard. And maybe if and when I get sick of the Skitarii I’ll sell them to fund the next lot, as I did with my Sisters and my Eldar.

I’m still wary of 40k. The whole thing could go Age of Sigmar mental at any time, and it’s already confusing as all hell. But that’s life I guess, you take your dice and roll ’em.

Oh and I also painted my medusa emplacements for my 30k militia, the Uruq Immortals. That’s them at the top there.

Playing and not

It’s the final day of the Horus Heresy campaign I’ve been playing in, and I’m not going. I haven’t made quite as many games this year as I’d like, but the ones I have made were good fun. The best thing about this campaign I think was the sense of immersion and continuous narrative the organiser created. Everyone who plays has to sign up to this wiki where you make a profile page for your army and track results. The map was a system of planets and when we are all standing around at the start of each day advising our elected warmaster and pointing at the map of planets it feels like a bunch of generals, and if you squint you can see enormous astartes warriors, grizzled auxilia commanders and mechanicum cyborgs in place of the (mostly) bearded and (universally) T-shirted gamers.

You also get one of these little dog tags for each day you play, which gives a once-a-game minor advantage you can use in future events with that army only. Very cool.

I’m not going because my son had a biopsy under general anaesthetic on Wednesday, and his mother had root canal the day after. We’re all a bit drained.

But it’s getting towards the end of the year, and I naturally start to want to recap what’s happened. Gamewise my D&D campaign has continued, since 2014! It’s the longest continuous game I’ve ever played in with the same PCs, which is something to be sure. I played two SAGA games with my brother and then he tried to get me to play Age of Sigmar but Such Things Have Yet to Come to Pass.

I’ve ordered some Picts from Westwind in the UK on the strength of a discussion about Arthurian SAGA I had at the House of Paincakes. I figure even if I never play, it’s a manageable project I’ve always wanted to do so that’s OK. At this stage I’m planning on taking my Irish warband to Southern Fury, a SAGA mega-battle, at Cancon next Australia Day weekend in January.


My fianna (hearthguard) and Irish warlord for SAGA.

Outside gaming, I’ve been art-ing quite extensively. I read a book (I think I mentioned it before) called the War of Art, and one of the sentiments the writer put forward was that trying really really hard to be famous at something creative is self-defeating; success is a by-product of skill, which is a by-product of hard work. It’s a tough balance to strike, to work and work at something while trying not to think about where you expect to take it. But you know what, damn me if it isn’t starting to work. Someone saw my Instagram account and I was invited to showcase at a RAW event. It’s this international artist collective thing where you sell tickets and show at an event in your hometown, and then you can show at any other RAW in the world. So I’m keeping my head down, painting, and going to life drawing clubs at the pub when I can. Getting better, sometimes not as fast as I’d like, but better nonetheless. I’m determined not to jump the gun and make a store and a website and a facebook artist page and all that until it’s actually time to advertise something concrete, like this RAW event. Basically I don’t want two things:

I don’t want to be one of those Deviant Art types with a hundred pictures of wonky elves bragging about how they’re a self-taught artist. I want my art to be under my control, to be able to pick my style based on what the work needs and do it.

And I don’t want to have a bunch of empty, deserted online artists pages and profiles and etsy stores because I jumped the gun and thought I was ready for sustained professional engagement with the world when in fact I wasn’t.

Both those things are tempting though 😀

See you next time,


Walking dead for SAGA?

11130184_867026970009655_674888064492861761_nI saw the above image and some associated teasers for Salute (in the UK) on the blog Wargame News and Terrain. It’s from Gripping Beast, the creators of SAGA.

This is really interesting to me, firstly because it relates to my most recent post about cross-pollination of models and themes in games; secondly, just because I have a keen interest in the boundaries between history and mythology, and what people in the past believed in. Despite being a lifelong D&D player, I much prefer mythology and history to high fantasy, and especially enjoy when the two collide. Think The Thirteenth Warrior or even Hound of the Baskervilles. So a mash-up between historical warriors and the creatures of their folklore sounds like a dream game to me.

Norse, Germanic and Celtic peoples all had folk tales of walking corpses, and it looks like that might be what we’re dealing with here. I’ve heard one or two people suggest that SAGA is ripe for expansion into fantasy territory, and if that’s what’s happening I’m really glad they’ve decided to go in the direction of integrating mythology into their historical setting rather than creating a separate world full of generic Dwarves, Orcs and Elves. At least for now.

Of course it could just be some mini-event for Salute, a one-off fun presentation with limited edition models. And that would be cool too.

Have a good one,


SAGA Irish warlord

IrishfrontHere is the finished Irish warlord. I think I’ll call him… king Dairmuid MacColl. Seen here with his advisor/wife/sorceress, Brigit.

I read that tartan was very simple before the 17th century.  "Like a tea towel" was how I saw it described. So I tried to capture that on Brigit's woollen cloak.

I read that tartan was very simple before the 17th century. “Like a tea towel” was how I saw it described. So I tried to capture that on Brigit’s woollen cloak.

I planned to paint these models very simply, as I did with my vikings, but I developed an ulcer on my eye that made it hard to concentrate and I messed them up. I then had to go back and do a lot of repair work on the paint job, so they ended up taking ages and being a bit more complex than I wanted. But I kept trying to minimise the work, so now they’re kind of in a middle ground for me: not as much effort as I would normally put into a centrepiece model’s painting, but more effort than I put into the vikings.

Still, I’m happy with them. I’ve been trying to find out what the ancient Irish law code says about colours.  I heard that there were strict social castes in pre-modern Ireland and that only certain groups could legally wear certain colours.  But the research is going slowly.  I got impatient and went ahead with the painting. All I know for certain is that warriors were allowed to wear saffron, so I’m hoping King Dairmuid isn’t wearing a nice shade of pigherder blue…

Till next time,


SAGA: Irish Warlord ready for painting

Irishwarlord I had this post scheduled for next week, but since it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought it would bring good fortune to whack it up today. Here you can see my newly-built (and so far un-named) Irish Warlord for the dark ages skirmish game SAGA, undercoated and ready for painting.

The spear-lass behind him is “Boudi” from Hasslefree Miniatures. I did some research and discovered that Irish women habitually fought beside men, until Christianity put a stop to it. Maybe an early example of Christian sexism; maybe early just-war thinking to protect women and children from war.  Maybe both.

My bog-dwelling Irish warband are not pagans, but they’re not far off, so I’m imagining she’s a bit of a throwback, and must be related to the warlord if she can get away with carrying a spear.

Okay so the crop-top may be a tad anachronistic. But I’m being selective with my accuracy here because it’s such a great model. The stone the old fella is standing on is Das air-drying clay. I made a greenstuff mould of an old Celtic knotwork pendant I had as a grungy teenager (still had it in a shoebox, *sniff*), and then pressed the clay into it. His javelins are from North Star.

Like if you like them. Questions and comments are also welcome.


SAGA: Viking warlord and hearthguard

2014-10-10 10.49.08

I haven’t forgotten about SAGA.  Here are my first finished models: the Viking warlord Ragnar the Unlucky, and four of his hearthguard.

2014-10-10 10.48.51

I wanted to try something different in my approach to these guys, so I decided to go with all simple, old-fashioned techniques and not get bogged down in details. The other thing I wanted to do with my SAGA models was something I’ve never done before: no metallic paints at all.  I thought if all the colours on the models were flat it would make them more unified and down-to-earth.

Firstly I sprayed them with Army Painter bone undercoat (which, may I say, is a bit glossy.  But it turned out OK, I guess). Then I washed all the cloth and hair colours in, blocked in the shields with solid colours, then washed the whole lot with brown ink.  Lastly I did the metals.

The metal was the most complex bit, but I went for a very simple non-metallic metal effect. I tried to give the vague impression of metal with a few strokes of light grey and then white over a dark grey base. Finally I washed the metals (after the models were sealed) with black and brown oil paint – a trick I learned from one of those big-ass Forgeworld Masterclass books. It was really easy – mainly because I didn’t stress about accuracy.

The bases were done with Gale Force 9 Marsh Blend.  They’ll be fighting my Irish warband (next up on the table after my Infinity Asura), and since the Irish are the ones being raided, their environment determines the base.  Soooo… peat bog it is!

Ragnar has part of a runic spell I copied from Wikipedia on his shield.  He’s called Ragnar the Unlucky because he and his crew accidentally landed in an Irish bog next to some mean but dirt-poor tribesmen, instead of near a nice fat church.

Ragnar has part of a runic spell I copied from Wikipedia on his shield.  He’s called Ragnar the Unlucky because he and his crew accidentally landed in an Irish bog next to some mean but dirt-poor tribesmen, instead of near a nice fat church.

I like the grim guy all in black.  I shall call him Snorri.

I like the grim guy all in black.  I shall call him Snorri the Happy.

I’m really pleased with these boys.  They look hard as coffin nails, and not sweating the details made them fun to paint.  I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve painted chainmail. Not since Warhammer Fantasy Battle in the early 90s probably.  Too long!

How to paint Vikings?

This morning as I was leaving for work, my friendly postie handed me the box of Vikings for SAGA I’d just ordered.  As usual, I have to recommend the Combat Company in Sydney. I ordered the models at about 10am yesterday, and they were in my hand by 8:30 this morning.  Less than 24 hours is pretty good service I think!  I took them to work to open there, and I have to say I felt a strange excitement I’ve not felt since I was a boy, when nearly all miniatures were metal.  I’d forgotten the weight of a box of two dozen metal warriors, and it felt good in my hand.

The models look really nice.  I’d venture to say they look better in real life than the pictures I’ve seen, but you know, I actually find that a lot with miniatures.  You have to really know what you’re doing to bring them out in a photograph.  The box they came in is cool too – it’s like an old plastic snap-shut VCR case with a full colour cover.  I was a bit put off by the thick weapon hafts in the pictures and was planning on using brass rods, but they don’t look so bad in real life and my brother (who’s been sculpting models for the last couple of years) tells me it’s a structural thing because they’re bendy metal.

It’s funny how quickly I’ve slipped into the niggling historical modeler’s mindset.  I’m becoming obsessed with making sure the colours and designs I choose are historically accurate.  Yes, I read a 30 page PDF about clothing in the dark ages.  And in a moment of insanity I considered using the actual powdered natural dyes available in Europe at that time, and mixing my own paints.

Maybe just for the warlord…

I really enjoy thinking about new ways to paint that fit the models at hand.  What I’ve decided to do for these guys is get some Army Painter bone undercoat/primer.  I think this will be a great base for flesh, hair, and natural cloth.  Then I’ll colour the cloth areas with washes to give a faded natural linen effect.  I’ll paint all the metal dark grey, and subtly highlight with metallics, and then wash the models with blacks and browns and add some weathering (muddy and grass-stained knees, blood spattered shields, that sort of thing).  I’m looking forward to it, and should have some time to start early next week.

Oh, and I just finished a commission – a farseer on a jetbike for Warhammer 40,000.  It’s the first commission I’ve ever done for someone I don’t know, and the customer was really happy with her, so I feel kind of proud.  Photos soon.

All the best,


Ronin Review: SAGA

Hey everyone.  I finally got hold of my copy of SAGA, and I thought I’d do a quick review of it.  I don’t want to get into the habit of reviewing games that have been out for years, and have exhaustive reviews elsewhere.  But I think most of the people who read this blog are like me – not really historical gamers – and so may not have read much or anything about it.  Plus, what else is a blog for but sharing your thoughts?  So I’m just going to say a bit about how the game looks to me, and offer my thoughts on some of the (few) criticisms I’ve read.

Right, so firstly I can confirm that everything I’ve read online about the positive qualities of this game seem borne out.  The rules (not counting faction descriptions, scenarios and the rest) are short; about 30 pages probably. Compare this to, say, the upcoming behemothic 7th edition of Warhammer 40,000, which has some 200-odd pages of rules alone.  The SAGA rules are clear, consistent and look fun.  I read the book through once, and I feel confident that I understand how the game works.  This is much more than I can say for many other games out there.  It looks simple to play and well- balanced.

There’s something I’d like to mention that I haven’t seen anyone else point out: this book is quite funny.  It has that beer-and-pretzels feel that I associate with early Warhammer, and that I think GW still struggles to foist on their players now with mixed results.  For example, in all of the official SAGA scenarios, the rules state “Roll a D6.  The winner goes first.  In the event of a tie, the player with the most impressive facial hair goes first.”  Tough luck for shield maidens I guess!  And the brief background for the Anglo-Danish faction has this to say:

Huscarls of the prosperous Anglo-Danish kingdom were characterised by their use of the latest military equipment: long mail hauberks, the fearsome  Dane axe capable of severing a horse’s head in one blow, and, of course, the magnificent moustache.

Maybe I just really like cracks about facial hair, I don’t know.  But it gave me a chuckle.  The whole book has this rollicking, light-hearted tone which somehow befits a game about Vikings.

What about negatives?  I’ve heard people say the book seems a bit overpriced, and I’ve seen one blogger say they didn’t like the beer-and-pretzels feel.  To the latter concern I’d say it’s probably a matter of personal preference and of  how much you like that style.  But I’d like to emphasise that the game itself looks tight.  The tone of the rules should not be taken as an indication that this game requires something like a “gentlemen’s agreement” to play properly or competitively.  That’s not true at all.  It’s obvious that Tomohawk Studios have put a lot of thought into designing a game that is easy to collect and play, yet deep, and that can’t be won in the list-building phase.

The price is a different matter.  To be honest, I felt the book was a bit overpriced at $55.  It’s full colour, but it’s also quite slim and has a soft cover.  My editor’s eye picked up a few typos, which is unfortunate.   I personally think $40 would be a better price for what you get.  I suppose you get good quality card Battle Boards too, though, so maybe it’s fair.  Some people aren’t going to bat an eye, but my budget for games is not the biggest.

All in all I’m very keen to play.  I’m getting some money together to order some Scots and Vikings, and my brother is going to sculpt himself an Anglo-Danish warlord and start getting some troops together too.  Hopefully more updates soon…

All the best,


Save us from the fury of the Northmen

I’ve put my money down, I’m waiting for the book and I’ve done all the fiddly research we gamer types tend to do before we settle on something, so it’s official: I’m going historical.

Well, I’ve played in a few historicals as a kid, but the fantasy and sci-fi stuff always seemed more exciting. And then when I got older I felt a bit uncomfortable about the very idea of historical games. The closer to the contemporary era they get, the weirder I feel. It’s not a huge deal: if a friend said they had a couple of Flames of War armies and would I come over for a game I’d say yes.  But it’s enough to keep me from starting up myself when there are so many games that don’t make me feel… creepy, maybe?  Anyway these are complex issues with good arguments on both sides so I normally just avoid it all by playing games about space and/or elves. Which is cool.

So why the change of heart? I’m still trying to figure it out myself to be honest. The game I’ve chosen is SAGA, a dark ages skirmish game, and it’s sort of ambushed me.  Admittedly I’ve been watching a lot of the History Channel show Vikings, and I’ve been reading a great series of historical novels set in the dark ages, but it started earlier than that.

Like probably most of you reading this, I love mythology. I grew up reading all sorts, but for some reason my favourites were the Irish stories of Finn MacCool and the Fianna. These works were recorded by monks in the dark ages and really sparked a lifelong interest in the period for me. The Fianna stories were meant to have taken place in the 3rd century, so not far off the SAGA period.

SAGA seems to take some of the mythic elements that make fantasy and sci-fi games fun and applies them to historical gaming. Each faction has powers with poetic names, based in their history and culture, and these powers are activated during the game. So if you’re the Irish for example you might have a power named after the faerie folk that makes arrows and sling bullets shoot out of nearby woods to hit your foes. There’s absolutely no reason why a historical game can’t be presented in this way, and it really made it seem attractive to me, as an experienced F&SF gamer and a mythology buff. It emphasises the way the people felt and saw one another, rather than the dry military history.  And since the period is so long ago, I feel as though I’m fighting mythological battles with larger-than-life warriors rather than historical men who probably weren’t having much fun when the Vikings rowed up the river.

There are a lot of other reasons I chose this game too:

  • Vikings; and Fianna; and Scots (my ancestors).
  • The cheap cost and mulit-faction versatility of dark ages models. For $60 I can get enough appropriate multi-part plastic models for three SAGA armies. Three!
  • The challenge of a different sort of modeling and painting. How do I differentiate my Welsh from my Saxons from my Scots when everyone had a shirt, some pants, a round shield and an axe?
  • People play it, which is always good.
  • I haven’t seen a bad review. I especially recommend this one, which I have to say is one of the best reviews of a game I have ever read: thorough, useful, and not boring.

So there it is. I invite you all to join me on my journey into dark ages historical gaming (once the god-damn book arrives).

Have a good one,


ESO, Saga and musicians

Hey everyone, I thought I’d write a quick post today about something that’s been on my mind the last week or so: Elder Scrolls Online, or more specifically how I WISH I COULD PLAY IT BUT I CAN’T.

Allow me to elaborate. I like a good Elder Scrolls game as much as the next fantasy RPGer, and with all the hype about this one ‘breaking the mould’ and being ‘revolutionary’ and all that PR crap that is spouted every time a major re-hash comes out, I was really looking forward to it. I have many friends and family members who were also looking forward to it, because now we could finally play an ES game as a group. So great – it was going to be awesome. But now it’s out, I’m sad to learn that one thing that is not ‘revolutionary’ about it is the payment model. Oh, so I have to buy the game and then pay a monthly fee? That’s just… I’m just kind of astonished, I can honestly say I didn’t expect this.

Maybe that was silly of me, but I just thought they wouldn’t think I’d stand for that, and so they wouldn’t even try. But apparently they do think I’ll stand for it, and they’re wrong. And the other five people I knew who were planning on getting it won’t stand for it either. And they’re all as sad as I am about it.

We really want to play your game, Bethesda. But how about a variety of payment options, if you simply must charge us after we’ve already bought the game? Which, by the way, is a business practice that St. Thomas Aquinas recognised as dodgy only about eight hundred years ago. He called it “double use” – buying something and then paying to use it – and it was sinful back then, and it’s not nice to expect people to do it now. I accept that’s the way it’s done with these products, but I’m not happy about it. If you’re going to charge a subscription fee then the game itself should be free at least.

Anyway, by “a variety of payment options” I mean that I’m not a single person with regular hours to burn. The main gaming demographic in Australia averages in their 30s! These people have families, jobs, and responsibilities, and paying a monthly fee for something they may or may not have time to use in any given month is not going to seem a good idea to them. So they won’t do it. I won’t do it. If I could instead pay a micro-fee, say $1.99, every time I logged in, I totally would. But I can’t.

OK so I sound like a broken record here: companies are always trying to push us, we have to fight for what we want as consumers, blah blah blah. I’ll stop now.

On a more upbeat note, my brother in law Bones (or at least we would be brothers-in-law if either of us were married to the sisters we’re er… attached to) is in a band, and they’re doing really well. They just played Coachella and are heading to Glastonbury soon, and this morning I watched them play on the Jimmy Fallon show. So yeah. I suddenly realised, out of all the people I know who have ever been in a band (which is a lot), these guys are actually kind of famous. Which makes me feel warm and fuzzy and also like I am cool by association. Anyway good on you brother.  Check it out: they’re called Courtney Barnett and the Courtney Barnettes. He’s the Barnette with the bass.

Oh, and in even more news, I just read Bernard Cornwell’s excellent The Last Kingdom, and watched a whole season of Vikings in one day, and now I find myself investigating the miniatures skirmish game Saga.  Preserve my wallet O wise Odin!