October 13, 2015

Matt Koltonow's Historical Gaming Observations: Running a Historical Wargaming League

Running a Saga League
Thursday night Saga League
As some of you may know, every Thursday night here at Michigan Toy Soldier, I run a game night. As the group began to grow we figured it would make sense to either start a group project or a tournament or campaign of some sort. Something to cut down a little bit on the prep time I needed each week. We have a lot of gamers in our group who are either new to the hobby overall, or new to historical wargaming in particular and as such we needed a game with a relatively low model count. We don’t usually get started until 7 so the game needed to be quick. After some deliberation (and a couple of well received demo games) we settled on a Saga Escalation League. The idea behind this was that, with the way the army lists in Saga work, players would have a pretty low amount of figures to paint, and a very modest amount of paint work to expand as the games got bigger each month.

Part of what I love about this hobby is the painting and modeling. I wanted to come up with a scoring system to incentivize painting as well as playing. Players should want to win obviously but I wanted new players to stand a chance and I wanted it to feel less like a tournament and more like a series of games. My original plan was as follows:
1 point for showing up
3 points for winning
1 point for a draw
1 point for each painted unit

This plan was a start but because of some late additions to the group, the painting bonus was far more to keep track of then I thought it would be. Short of having players “register” painted figures there was no real way to figure out who painted what when. Factor in the fact that out of the 18 players who made up the final number, some would of course have armies from before the league. The painting bonus eventually turned into a possible 7 point addition at the end of the league. 

The next problem we ran into was the point for showing up, and ideally what to do if players don’t make their game. Because we have limited space and people tend to have busy schedules this time of year, we needed a very loose format. At the beginning of the month I emailed out a list of everyones match ups (created by pulling names out of a hat). Players would then have until the last day of the month to get their game in and report back. The final decision was that players should keep in touch with me to schedule games and what not. If a player showed up here and another did not, the player who was here would get the point for showing up, and the point for a draw. The player who didn’t show up, gets nothing. So far in the middle of the first month of the league, most of the players have managed to get a game in. 

Heres the technical stuff for people interested in running their own league. The first scenario everyone played was a modified version of Clash of the Warlords, pulled from the core rulebook. Players had 6 turns to kill the enemy warlord. If both warlords were alive at the end of turn 6, it’s considered a draw. This was simple enough that even players who were getting their first games in here, could get a feel for the rules and be able to play without too much difficulty. The next 3 games will be scenarios pulled from the book. For the first month, play a 3 point game. This is less then what the book recommends (4-6) but its enough for this demo type situation. The second month increase to 4 points, the third 5 and the fourth 6. Finally we limited the heroes of the viking age to any game after the first. In a 3 point game the heroes tend to be very over powered. I kept in touch with everyone via email, and tracked the points in excel. 

The final advice I have is read the book cover to cover, read all the supplements, read all the faqs. Re-read all of it. Saga is not an overly complex game, but 18 players have a way of making it one. Questions that never came up in a year of demos and multiplayer game night and convention style games, came up almost instantly. One of the shining moments so far was when 5 of us needed to pour through the books looking for an answer to what seemed like a simple question. If theres any confusion on things take the time to write down what ever solution you come up with, and be consistent. When trying to get a big group on the same page, try not to use house rules or anything that can’t be looked up. Keep it simple. Even with a smaller player count, it doesn’t need to be overly complex to be fun. The league runs until December and there are people playing most Thursday nights at the shop. Stop by if you’re interested in seeing how it all works. 

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