I've had my first opportunity to get my warbands onto the battlefield. Nothing painted yet, I cleaned up and glued the figures together for now. I think I will make some slight modifications before I paint them. With a bit of care, I should be able to open the weapon hands a little so that the spears fit better. The contact area for glue is rather small and the spears are prone to breaking off, so I will use a little green stuff in order to extend the fingers slightly. This will mean the spears will be harder to break off, especially if painted and varnished (I don't varnish plastics, but I do metals). I will put a small piece of green stuff behind the shields too, where it will be hidden but greatly increase the strength of the bond.
Anyhow, the compositions of the warbands are as follows
Warlord, mounted with javelins
4 Hearthguard, mounted with javelins
4 Hearthguard, mounted with javelins
8 Warriors, mounted with javelins
12 Levy, with javelins
The Scots face off against the Jomsvikings across the river. Yes, I know they're not painted, leave me alone, stop bullying me!
I arranged to play my first games against Greg, who decided to use Jomsvikings (Warlord, 2x4 Hearthguard, 2x4 Hearthguard with Dane Axes). The Jomsvikings are an interesting faction, they don't have any Levies and have the WRATH mechanic. In effect, when they use some abilities, you can choose to allow the ability or give the Jomsvikings player WRATH points. These abilities can be more powerful than similar abilities on other faction battle boards, but you can always give them WRATH instead. But if you do that, other abilities get stronger, so you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
In the first game I opted for the Scots, who excel at defensive abilities. The objective was to have the most models on the far side of a river running across the middle of the board. Sounds ideal for Scots, who ideally can stand on the two crossing points of the river and weather the enemy attacks. Except theJomsvikings have an ability that allows them to activate opposing units in their Orders phase. Not only can they move them out of position, but into difficult ground. Not only that, but it's an activation, so any further activations for those units generate fatigue, but also if a unit starts a second activation within 4" of the enemy, it must engage them in combat, so you can either not activate the unit and leave them next to the enemy, or activate but be forced to engage a unit you don't want to engage.
So I had a choice here, allow Greg use his abilities to kill my troops and cancel my activations, or give him WRATH and let him generate lots of extra SAGA dice and move my stuff around. My troops ended up with lots of FATIGUE while Greg got to pick who fought and when. Not a good combination.
So I switched over to the Bretons for game two. This time we had to have troops in or on terrain features to score points. The Bretons are about hit and run javelin attacks from mounted models. They have an ability that allows them to activate all mounted units in the opponent's turn. Of course, the Jomsvikings can negate all these activations for a single SAGA dice. (Or gain two WRATH. Hooray for choice). The problem is also that the Breton cavalry don't like combat (so they have one less armour than usual in melee), but the Jomsvikings can force them to move near the enemy, then either charge in and die, or stay still and die in the Jomsviking turn. I did get off one nasty shooting combo, but didn't have many shots,which combined with good rolling for saves by Greg meant I got slaughtered again.
I'm not sure what to make of SAGA yet. I found most of my important moves and abilities got countered, or my troops got moved by my opponent. I've never liked any game mechanic that involved someone being able to move their opponent's units, and I'm not sure I like it any more here. There's probably ways around it, but it's going to take more time to figure out.