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Raiding the British Isles for Fun & Profit

A Forgotten SAGA

If you follow me on Instagram or have seen my latest painting guide you’ll no doubt be aware that I’m going on something of a historical detour from our regular programming.  Flicking through a copy of Wargames Illustrated is what set me down this path and there’s no turning back now. One of the things that kept me from exploring this particular niche of our hobby was the misconception that you needed to paint massive armies of tiny (or tinier than usual at least) miniatures. So colour me surprised when I found out that the 28mm model is very much welcome and some skirmish systems have been designed with this scale in mind.

SAGA is one such system and I was delighted to find that it covered the Dark Ages – a period of time that I am in the process of researching for my DnD setting.  Another plus is that the size of the warbands involved isn’t too daunting for someone who has no historical miniatures to their name. Four units a side is the recommended number for your first few games and the maximum number of models in a unit is twelve. For certain armies, I imagine that a box or two of miniatures will be all that is needed to start playing.

After pitching the system to my fellow contributor Wash, we’ve decided to create a narrative scenario set during a Viking raid. I’ll be playing the unwelcome Scandinavian visitors and he’ll be representing the home team as the Anglo-Saxons.  In the current climate it will be some time before we can meet in person to actually play the scenario but I plan to run through a few of the premade scenarios in the meantime. I don’t live with any other hobbyists so I’ll need to get creative with my army lists and try to rope some family members into playing with me!

Assembling the Raiding Party

My own research into the topic has highlighted the prevalence of the shield wall in Dark Ages warfare. Men would form into ranks with the most armoured and experienced of them at the front. These were armed with axes and shields whilst the men behind them used spears. Swords are expensive and reserved for the wealthiest warriors. Bows also play a part though I’ve yet to find conclusive evidence of their positioning in battle. Towards the end of the Viking Age, two-handed Dane axes are introduced to chop through shields and the poor sods behind them.

I have two lists in mind – one that is a jack of all trades and another that is made up of more elite warriors:

List 1

  1. Huscarls
  2. Hirdmen
  3. Hirdmen
  4. Bondi with Bows

List 2

  1. Huscarls (fielded as Berserkers)
  2. Huscarls
  3. Hirdmen
  4. Hirdmen

Like any good hobbyist I bought far more miniatures than I actually need for this project. I am now the proud owner of Gripping Beast’s Viking Starter Set, Viking Archers from Warlord Games and a bag of Victrix’s suitably named Vikings. I tell myself that all of these minis will find a home in a larger army one day. Perhaps we’ll have a go at a larger system like Hail Caesar later on down the line.

Painting Northmen

I began by painting a Warrior unit comprised of plastic models from Victrix. The detail on these is exceptional and the amount of bits crammed onto a single sprue is comparable to what you would find in a GW kit. I do have a couple of criticisms of the kit, however. My first is with the packaging. The models are supplied in a bag rather than a box and some of my sprues arrived bent. Thankfully nothing was damaged but I wonder if this is the case for everyone. The instructions also leave a lot to be desired. They are very much a “back of the envelope” affair and figuring out exactly which parts work with each other is made tedious by the lack of actual instructions or diagrams. Both of these issues could easily be remedied – hopefully this is something that Victrix addresses sooner rather than later. The models themselves were a treat to paint and I was very impressed with the sculpting on the maille. 

Next, I tackled the metal Warlord archers. My experience with these was the exact opposite of my experience with the Victrix minis. The bows snapped under a stiff breeze and the detail appeared to have melted in some places. After doing my due diligence and painting five of these models I decided to call it quits and ordered some plastic Dark Age Archers from Gripping Beast to replace them. The Dark Age kit is very generic but hopefully I can take a leaf out of conversion maestro Wash’s book and swap some bits between kits to make them look more like Vikings. The guys that I don’t end up using should also come in handy if I decide to make a second SAGA force.

I hope that you enjoyed this look at my SAGA Vikings and my future plans for them. Join me again next week when I’ll be showcasing the leader of my force and provide an update on those pesky archers. If you have any comments/queries/feedback let me know in the comments here or on Instagram. If you’d like to show your support for Disordered Retreat we have recently started a Buy Me a Coffee page. A donation of any amount is greatly appreciated and goes towards the upkeep and improvement of the site.

Model Sources

Recommended Reading

  • Williams, G. and Dennis, P. (2017). Viking warrior vs Anglo-Saxon warrior : England 865-1066. Oxford: Osprey Publishing.
  • Williams, T.J.T. (2018). Viking Britain : a history. London: William Collins.

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