Goonhammer Historicals: SAGA Faction Review – Anglo-Saxons

Who Are The Anglo-Saxons?

The Anglo-Saxons were the Germanic peoples who inhabited England in the late Dark Ages. Originally hailing from mainland Europe, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes settled what is now known as England, carving out petty kingdoms and forging a unique cultural identity in tandem with (and sometimes in opposition to) the Romano-British peoples predating their arrival. They were the dominant culture of the British Isles before the arrival of the Vikings, and fought many brutal wars in defense of their kingdoms against the Norse invaders.

Editors note: It’s SAGA Summer! Enjoy our coverage during the raiding season as we take a look at the factions, miniatures, and everything else you need to get started playing SAGA and earning massacre points. 

Why Play Anglo-Saxons?

The Anglo-Saxons are one of the most archetypal Saga warbands. In parallel with their sworn foes, the Vikings, the sight of an Anglo-Saxon warband is a familiar one to every Saga player. Why play them? You’re looking for a warband that’s a classic and can hold its own against pretty much every faction from every Age out there. You probably grew up playing Medieval: Total War – Viking Invasion and need two hands to count the number of times you united Britannia under your iron rule.

And if we’re being honest: you probably really, really like forming shieldwalls. Like, if you watched The Last Kingdom and your biggest issue was there weren’t enough shieldwalls, then this is the warband for you.

Shieldwall, assemble! Credit: Si Barge, London SAGA Mead Hall

How They Play

Sworn to defend hearth and home from the ravages of Viking invasions, the Anglo-Saxons are a warband that’s all about the power of the little guy! Your Levies – the fyrd, a peasant militia called up in times of war – are the lynchpin of the faction.

You’re playing a warband that’s characterised by strength in numbers; most of the Anglo-Saxon abilities on their battle board revolve around making their units fight harder as long as they have at least 10 figures. The signature ability of the Anglo-Saxons, Call to Arms, even makes Levies fight as if they’re Warriors.

Anglo-Saxon warriors defend a thorp from raiding Vikings. Credit: Si Barge, London SAGA Mead Hall

But how does the rest of the warband play? Well, the Anglo-Saxons weren’t historically known for their dazzling cavalry charges, or harrowing archer fire. They were known for masses of peasant Levies supported by a select fyrd of highly trained, elite veterans protecting an Anglo-Saxon warlord. And that’s exactly how they play in Saga; masses of peasant infantry punching well above their weight in melee, boosted by Valiant Hearts and Closed Ranks, with a small core of elite Hearthguard protecting their liege lord. And the lord is no slouch; the Bretwalda ability makes him even tougher than most Warlords, and allows him to benefit from other abilities on the Anglo-Saxon board usually reserved for large Levy or Warrior units. He’s a real warrior-king – no armchair general here.

Defensively, there’s no one out there in Age of Vikings who can go toe-to-toe with the Anglo-Saxons. Give an Anglo-Saxon a hill to die on, and he’ll grimly refuse to fall, outlasting everyone and everything his foes can throw at him. These guys love closing ranks and forming a tight shieldwall, using No Surrender and Crash of Shields to make the fiercest enemy charges simply bounce off their shields. In their own turn, they can launch a devastating counter-charge with Call to Arms, inspiring all their Levies to hit as hard as Warriors for a whole turn!

If we’re honest, the Anglo-Saxon preference for defense is something of a two-edged sword. They’re really, really strong defensively, but they suffer for mobility as a result. They’ve got a couple of abilities which let them get rid of pesky Fatigue, and activate multiple units at the same time – you’ll want to be playing Unison and Truce virtually every turn – but they don’t have much else to support a mobile warband. Also, they’re not very shooty; like most factions, they can take archer Levy, but they don’t have anything on their board to make their archers hit harder.

Those aren’t game-breakers; you’ll find that your opponent will be sweating bullets in scenarios determined by Conquest or Massacre points, as the Anglo-Saxons have no problem grabbing an objective and holding it. They’re also frustratingly hard to kill, as Levies only count for 1/3 of a Massacre point per model. But this does come at a cost – you’ll often be slower than your opponent, and find yourself playing reactively.

Where Do I Begin?

So if that’s the playstyle for you, you’ve come to the right place. But where to start? Well, the Anglo-Saxons really do like their Levies – so much so, in fact, that in tournaments you’ll sometimes see Anglo-Saxon armies comprised of nothing but Levies. Which, to be honest, can be a little boring to face, and maybe to play with. You don’t need to commit to a whole force of nothing but Levy, but you’ll definitely want to take a lot of them, at least a couple points’ worth.

For a fun start to the Anglo-Saxons, try a build that’s true to history with a reliance on peasant fyrd:

  • Anglo-Saxon Warlord
  • 1.5pts Hearthguard (these can even be mounted if you so wish – a rare sight in an Anglo-Saxon force) [Editor’s Note: for more on half-points, you can see the 2022 SAGA FAQ, page 5. Essentially you can take two hearthguard and turn them into four warriors or six levy, etc.]
  • 1.5pts Warriors – no special equipment (deployed in a big block of 12 – these guys are going to take that objective and hold it)
  • 2pts Levies – no special equipment
  • 1pt Levies – bows

That’ll give you a little flexibility and, if your Hearthguard are mounted, a bit of extra speed to catch out those Vikings players who really aren’t expecting to fight cavalry south of the Danelaw! From here, you can experiment with a lot of different builds – playing with more Levy if that suits your playstyle, or experimenting with various mercenary units (more on those another time). You can also (if you can face painting that many models) experiment with the infamous 6-point Levy build: a list that goes all-in on the Anglo-Saxon defensive abilities and presents an almost impenetrable wall of bodies that most opposing warbands won’t be able to break.

Victrix Saxon Priest. Credit: Alex Smith
Victrix Saxon Priest. Credit: Alex Smith

As for models, you’re really spoiled for choice; Gripping Beast and Victrix both do great quality affordable plastic Anglo-Saxons, although Victrix’s offerings are more suited for Warriors and Hearthguard. Gripping Beast does Anglo-Saxon Thegns, perfect for Hearthguard, and a generic Dark Age Warriors box which is ideal for Levy with no special equipment.

So there you have it – the Anglo-Saxons are a classic choice of warband, and have some really strong options on the tabletop appealing both to beginners and Saga veterans alike. You can’t go wrong with them. Give them a try!

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