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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review of the SAGA: The Crescent & The Cross Rulebook...




Recently I picked up the SAGA: The Crescent & The Cross rulebook, and I figured sharing my overall thoughts on the book would make a nice first post on here for the game.  Now I realize the game and the book has been out for a long while now, but what's the harm in having just one more review out there?



I've read through the whole book now, and while I have a good sense of how the game works, I have not actually played.  Thus, this review will not be going too deep into the rules and overall gameplay, as I have no experience.  Rather, this review will mostly just be going into what someone can expect to find within the book, the book's overall quality, etc.  Let's get started!


First off, the SAGA C&C book is a good quality hardback book.  The cover design is nice, with a couple of raised up areas, that provide a bit of texture.  The overall cover design manages to look professional and eye-pleasing, without being too gaudy.  The book also came wrapped in plastic, and on the backside of the book, there were a handful of battle boards used by the factions within.  SAGA in general has an interesting mechanic for deciding which tactics, options, and strategies can be utilized each turn, and the battle boards are how you'll keep track of those.  Without going into too much detail, you roll a number of special dice, based on which units you took, and you'll decide your strategy for the turn by placing those dice on the board, matching the symbols rolled to the symbols needed to activate an ability.  But, I digress, back to the book!

This guy's face... "OMG, ride faster!"
Inside the book, the page breakdown looks like this:

120 pages total.
Page 1-65:  rules
Page 66-105:  factions + dogs of war
Page 106-116:  scenarios

The final pages are basically just an "in closing statement", a few commonly overlooked rules, and a page with copiable templates and tokens.  I was really impressed with the book overall, I'd almost say one of the best rulebooks I've come across for a couple of reasons.  The page layout and design looks really nice, some pages appear as if written on pages resembling illuminated Christine text, which was a nice touch, while others appear to have more of an Islamic style border and background.  Throughout the book are large pictures of miniatures and dioramas, along with plenty of diagrams, which you'd expect from a miniatures game rulebook.


Common in game rulebooks nowadays are the little blurbs which feature a bit of extra information to the reader, and this book has them as well... only improved!  Usually I end up skipping these sort of things, in favor of just strictly reading the rules, but this time I found them rather entertaining as well as informative. (Just like the rest of the book). There are two different characters shown, one is to help existing SAGA players see the difference between the original rules and the newer C&C book, while the other goes the more expected route of offering little tidbits of useful info to the reader.  What makes things interesting is the fact that they both speak in character, which were often times pretty witty and entertaining.  This brings me to another point, the overall writing.  I'm used to reading super tight rules, lots of math involved, lots of facts, lots of diagrams... Lots of boring!  Reading rules is often a cold, mechanical experience, but this one was different.  You could tell an actual person was behind the keys!  Yes, there was still plenty of rules explanations (and math/numbers) as you'd expect, but there were a lot of jokes mixed in, and witty comments.  It reminded me of just sitting down with a gaming buddy to have them explain a rules system to me, as opposed to listening to a dry, college lecture on a gaming system.  This is probably the first time I've been somewhat entertained by a rulebook!


Example of a Faction Page...


Following the main rules comes the individual factions, and once more the book delivers a good experience.  It goes over a brief bit of what each faction could *potentially* represent on the tabletop.  I say it that way because they leave the decision up to you to decide what you are actually representing.  Take the Saracens for example.  The term "Saracen" was often just a catch all for anyone of middle eastern heritage, and thus your Saracen army could represent a number of things, a rich man's private army, freedom fighters, a city militia, etc, and they tell you this.  They start you thinking about what your force could be without saying it IS this, or it IS that.  Same with the Milites Christi, they represent the "soldiers of Christ" we often associate with the crusades, your Templars, hospitilars, etc, and they leave it up to you what you want to represent and how.  So, after the brief faction history/review, they go into the special rules and army selection rules of each faction.  Following that, is a break down of all the abilities on the battle board itself, and just as the main rules, they are written as if a gaming buddy is explaining each one, what makes them cool, and some potential uses for each one.  After that comes the heroes, or "special characters" that could be taken for each faction.  Really, I don't think most people take them, unless they really want to run some historical battle.



Scenario example...
After the rules and the factions come the scenarios, 6 in all, plus a multiplayer scenario.  Pretty straightforward, typical scenario stuff.  Now, here's my first (and pretty much only) complaint.  The pages all feel like they have a bit if dead space, especially when you look at the rest of the book.  I'm used to seeing some sort of diagram to visually explain set up dimensions, but here, there are none.  It feels like outside of the multiplayer scenario, which fills the whole space with rules text, that there would have been enough room for a simple set up guide.  The set up rules are straightforward enough that it is not really necessary, just something I've grown accustomed to seeing, so it's strange to not have diagrams here.  Not a whole lot to really say about the final pages, except I imagine most people find their own measuring device and token solutions...

There you have it!  All in all, I was really impressed with how they developed this book.  The layout and design was well executed, the writing was informative, entertaining, and easy to follow.  I cannot speak for certain, but I've heard that the C&C book is a general improvement over the original rulebook, so if you are looking to get into SAGA, but do not plan on playing one of the factions contained in the old rulebook, I highly suggest you opt for the C&C one!  The game seems fun, with several interesting mechanics, and I cannot wait to get my hands on some Teutonic Knights and start crusading!  I highly recommend this game and the C&C rulebook!

Look for more posts featuring SAGA in the near future!  Let me know if there is anything in particular for SAGA you'd like to see...

-WuhSawBe-

4 comments:

  1. Nice simple review, thanks.

    If you're interested in another dark age/medieval type skirmish rules set (Also written in a VERY easy-to-read format.) look up Lion Rampant by Osprey.

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  2. Yep, Lion Rampant is definitely on my list to check out! (along with a few other Osprey rule sets)

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Great review of the rulebook. You made me consider this game system. I would love to read in the future your review about the gameplay. All the best

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    1. Glad you liked my review! Now that I have about 15 games under my belt, I definitely feel comfortable and experienced enough (experienced at losing) to do a gameplay review. Thanks for the suggestion, and thanks for stopping by! Look for a gameplay review in the near future!

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