Normans in Saga – horribilia belli ratio

It is often said that you learn more from your mistakes and failures than you do from your successes.

In that case, I should be a wargaming genius.

I’ve now played four or five games with my Norman Army for Saga, and whilst a couple of games have been close, I feel that I’ve yet to really grasp how the force works coherently – I have discovered, however, several things that you really really shouldn’t do when commanding Normans – I share this in the hope that those following might avoid the same mistakes I have made.

Force Composition

Looking at the Battle Board for Normans, it is quite obvious where their strengths lie – mounted troops and missile troops. How this works out in practice I am currently finding a little problematic.

If you ignore taking “William the Bastard” as your Warlord (he is always worth considering as it gives you a bow armed warrior unit), my ‘standard’ build for a Norman army has been 3 points of Hearthguard (split into 2 units of 6 knights), 1 point of Warriors (armed with crossbows) and 2 points of Levy, to maximize the bow armed troops in my army.

The trouble is with this configuration is that you only roll 5 Saga dice to begin with. Now, the whole point of this army is to ensure that you activate your Levy troops (preferably with the Massed Volley ability) every turn, but this is almost impossible to do consistently with only 5 dice.

An easy fix would be to split the Knights into 3 units of 4, giving you the extra dice, but that reduces their effectiveness in combat (although, it also means that your opponent doesn’t get to kill 6 Knights in a single combat…I’ve seen it too many times already to say that it can’t happen)

I’m not saying that having two units of Levy is a flawed strategy, but it certainly has it’s challenges.

Another solution would be to replace one of the Levy units with another unit of Warriors – but they would either have to be mounted (as non-mounted Warriors in Norman armies recieve no bonuses whatsoever) or perhaps a unit of Flemish mercenaries – these would certainly be a bonus in any scenario in which buildings are part of the scenery.


One advantage that Normans have is the Gallop ability, which allows mounted troops to interpenetrate other troops – this means that you can freely deploy Knights behind a screen of Levy and then charge the enemy when required. This is hugely useful…as long as you have the patience to wait until the opportune moment to charge (as opposed to just thinking “stuff these tactics, lets just get stuck in”)


A few tips on what and what not to do…

  • Never charge with Knights unless you are using a special ability. Knights are not super-troops, and get no automatic bonuses for being mounted other than boosted movement, but can be devestating if used with the correct abilities.
  • Never charge Knights into woods. It sounds obvious, but they lose their biggest advantage – mobility.
  • Try and keep at least 2 units of mounted troops in a position where they can support each other. Whilst a unit may survive a charge by one unit of Knights, two consecutive charges should deal with most opponents.
  • If you can, try and leave a Saga dice on the Charge! ability if a mounted unit is likely to be charged by your opponent in their turn – 3 extra battle dice is always useful!
  • Where possible, never get involved in combat if your units have 2 or more fatigue. The results are not pretty.
  • Keep your crossbow-armed Warriors out of range of opposing Levy. Since they are hit on 3+, they die very easily under bowfire.
  • When facing Vikings, always try to activate two bow-armed units each turn, rather than just one – the Odin ability is the bane of the Normans.
  • Be careful where you move your mounted Warlord to. Remember, if he is within a L of an enemy Warlord when activated for movement, your Warlord must attack his opposite number.
  • Roll plenty of ‘Helmets’ and ‘Flags’ on your Saga dice!

Finally, the single most important word when playing Normans is Patience. At least half your army has L movement, so use this to your advantage and let your enemy come to you. You should really use the first half of the engagement to reduce your enemies numbers with as much bowfire as possible before you engage the survivors with your Knights.

Bonne chance, mes collègues Chefs de Guerre de Normandie!

7 Comments on Normans in Saga – horribilia belli ratio

  1. Thanks for the tips! My Normans remain in their unbuilt state having recently picked up the Conquest Games cavalry and Infantry sets. I shall endeavour to get them built up and into action!

  2. Hang on, does this mean you’ve painted them???!!

    • There is paint, other than undercoat, on all of the figures, yes.

      • Not quite sure that that means they’re actually finished, but congratulations :). Thanks for the thoughts about using the Normans in Saga. It does take a little time to get to grips with the fact that mounted troops aren’t inherently hard.

  3. That’s right Neil, cheer me up just as I am getting my Normans painted. I had my first (and so far only) game of SAGA at Attack! last month. Triple Helix were running it as a participation game and I fought an Anglo Danish army. I came second!
    If I have them ready – and work doesn’t get in the way – I’m hoping to get along to the Wyvern Wargames Saga campaign day on 15 September. Should guarantee some easy wins for somebody if I do.

  4. Two units of levy is one too many. They don’t generate any Saga dice of their own and eat up dice for which you could easily find better uses.

  5. Agree about one too many levy. You are better off firing the levy you have multiple times in a turn (when you can) and accepting the fatigue.

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