The Otherworld in Saga Age of Magic

Things that go bump in the night, the monsters under your bed and the night terrors that the worst of dreams are made of.

The Otherworld faction in Saga represents the creatures and beings which live outside the mortal world.  Behind the curtain of reason live the horrors of the mind, both real or imagined, the rapacious, the beguiling, insanity and torment, lust and murder and…. well, anything which just isn’t normal and not quite right.
Back in the early 2000’s I played WHFB Chaos Daemons. 100% Tzeentch my army was full of horrors, flamers, screamers and associated greater daemons and princes etc… Whllst I also have some khorne, slannesh and nurgle troops, they have been sitting in the unpainted lead pile and I need to see if I have enough of them in multiples of 4 to be useful and add some additional options to this faction.  
So my challenge is to see who we can morph them into an effective warband from the Otherworld.

So what is the Otherworld like?

An Otherworld warband is a little different in that you don’t have the Mount:Animal option for any unit.  instead the faction has the special rule Winged which will give any Hero, Heathguard or Warrior units Flight.  This is fluffy and interesting but gives some interesting tactical considerations which we will discuss later.  
You don’t have access to levies or war machines, but you can recruit up to 3 monsters (although no titans) and 2 creatures.  This fits in with the Otherworldly theme of big nasty scary things from beyond the real world nicely.
The faction has the choice of Death and Energy spells and your Lieutenant has the Conjuror special rule which allows them to sacrifice a friendly figure within VS to take two available Sage dice, roll them, choose the best one and add it to your pool of inactive dice.  So you want to keep a warrior unit close as you can use Conjuror ability for 4 turns (without losing a unit generated Saga die) to add an addition die to you pool each orders phase with an additional chance for a Skull (Activation Pool or Portal etc..) or to give you 2 extra magic dice via Magic Pool.
You can convert unto half of your warrior units into Hunters on deployment which makes them Aggression 2 in any combat they initiate and a change distance of L for loss of the ability to close ranks and gaining Primitive. I am not sure that I have the figures to take this as an option currently
Finally the Sacred Ground for the Otherworld is the Unstable Portal.  At the end of every turn (both yours and your opponents, any unit within S will suffer a casualty on a roll of 6 on a D6. Like all pieces of sacred ground, effectively placing this terrain piece will be critical to have any chance of it occurring during the game, but it can force your opponent to clear an area, deploy where you really want them or be used to protect a unit with its 3 x S effective circle. 

Tactical thoughts, OK lets be honest, do I want to play the fluff and to hell with it discussion:

In my previous faction reviews, I have done the musing after looking at the battle board. But with Otherworld I want to consider my available models and how they may play first.
  • To go monster heavy or not? I can field 3 daemonic monsters so this an option. 3 flying or even 2 Scourges flying L and breathing M with 4 ranged attacks and defending with aggression 10 and resilience 2 is not to be sneezed at. Plus it would look really cool.  The downside is that they are monsters and I am going to need a Banner or Skull to activate each of them. on the plus side I am unlikely to try and activate them multiple times which will be good for fatigue management.
  • To go flight heavy or not? Flight gives you increased manoeuvrability and none of the fatigue issues of cavalry, but have no option of hiding behind terrain.  Given that my model selection is Tzeentch flavoured, the idea of everything but my horrors flying around the battlefield sounds really good to me, regardless of whether it is tactically smart or not.
  • Or should I do both?  Well, in for a penny in for a pound sounds like the fluffy way to do it.


Having convinced myself that I am fluff driven first and foremost my warband composition is easy.
Warlord – Winged.  Lest just call him mounted but better and I am going to need the We Obey with all the monsters.
Lieutenant – Conjurer and Winged. Because I can (though it may not be smart) and think I am going to need that extra dice during the game for either abilities or magic boosts. (cull two HG)
Sorcerer – Winged. (Ritual <death>, Mists and Bolt <energy>) (1 point)

6 x Heathguard – Winged and there to make use of all the melee abilities (2 points)

8 x Warriors  (1 point)
2 x Flying Creatures (1 point)
2 x Flying Creatures (1 point)
1 x Scourge Monster (1 point)
1 x Scourge Monster (1 point)

What are the potential synergies with the Otherworld battle board and spells:

So now I have chosen who I am going to play, what do I need to look for on the battle board and spells. To start with, the Otherworld battle board has no shooting or shooting reaction Saga abilities instead you have four Melee, two Activation with the rest a mix of Orders and Orders/Reactions.
  • For spells I am looking for ones which are going to protect my flying troops until they get to dictate shooting and melee on their own terms.  For this I like Mists which restricts LOS until the start of my next turn.  It takes 2 magic dice with the basic ability limiting LOS to L, a Common and Uncommon reducing it to M and Ultimate Power restricting it to VS.  I really want to get the mid level effect and reduce LOS to M whenever possible, so I am going to pair it with Ritual from the Death spell deck.  Ritual’s base level allows you to re-roll up to 2 magic dice on my next spell, the mid level allows me to take a fatigue and choose the facing for one die instead of rolling and the highest level means you just get to choose what want instead.  To use Ritual and Mists in the same turn I am going to have to use the Conjurer and the Magic bonus to get those additional 2 magic dice.  My final spell is Bolt as it gives me that additional ranged attack option since the Otherworld doesn’t have a lot of ranged options. for 6 magic dice I can cast Bolt, then Ritual and then throw 3 dice with 2 re-rolls to hopefully get that common plus uncommon combination.
  • Portal (is one rare) is a great ability as you get to place a unit without fatigue anywhere on the table in open terrain at least M away from an enemy unit. Although you can’t activate to move afterwards you can Shoot.  So you have the option to pair this with Rift (one common) and/or Abyssal Breath  (one of any dice) to deal out some ranged damage. So place my heathguard unit and get 6 shooting attacks, or move in a Scourge who gets their free Breath attack for no fatigue and can then use Abyssal Breath for an additional attack for a fatigue. Of course using portal puts your unit within M of your target and potentially a charge or shooting target.  
  • Dominant Position (one uncommon) played on this unit as an orders/reaction will prevent any unit charging it until they are within S.  Meaning that any unit that wants to get you will need to move once in order to charge and therefore enter melee with a valuable fatigue for you to play with.
  • Astral Bond (uncommon) and Flood of Power (uncommon or rare) are also great defensive spells played as Orders or Orders/Reaction. Astral Bond increases your resilience by 1, fancy attacking a resilience (3) scourge? Whereas Flood of Power increase the units army by 1 for the next melee in the turn.  
  • If by chance you have left a non monster unit vulnerable to a decisive melee charge then Doppelgängers (2 uncommon) will turn all your opponents attack dice into defence dice.
  • And finally, the any dice Supernatural Stature will give all your defence dice a +1 bonus so long as you score 3 hits (which of course your heathguard, warlord or creatures should do) and Might (common or uncommon) allows you to re-roll unto 3 attack dice with your heroes and creatures gaining an addition 3 attack dice as well.

Further tactical musings:

I have come to the realisation whilst writing this (and having played a couple of games) that I am not sure if the Otherworld fits within my playing mentality; and I am a great believer that you always play better with armies that match your personality.  So whilst I can be a comfortable with multiple personalities, the Otherworld leaves me a little dumbfounded.

  • I think you need to be aggressive given that you have no long range shooting abilities and being imposing and/or flying all round means there is nowhere to hide.  So you can’t afford to sit back and bid your time against any shoot warband unless you have Mists up all the time.
  • Terrain is a tricking one as it basically doesn’t do anything positive for you but can be damned nuisance.  So will be temped to place the Unstable portal early and centrally in your opponents DZ and use this to either fracture their forces, risk the chance of losing figures or refuse a flank. I also think that you want to deny your opponent of good pieces which will do you more harm than good if they have them, such as ruins and large woods.  
  • That said how you place terrain for a shooting heavy opponent is going to be totally different for a melee heavy cavalry force.
  • Hiding the 8 warriors with your Lieutenant in a wood or ruin seems like a good idea as it protects them and we recognise that they only exist to provide that extra saga die each turn.
  • 5 units with a charge range of L that ignore terrain and have the potential to shoot as well is scary.  Not as scary as the Horde may be, but still scary.
  • Board management looks really important and rolling 3 uncommon early to place on Dominant Position, Astral Bond and Flood of Power looks to be critical because you don’t really have the hitting power to destroy units and the Otherworld really looks like it is going to have that punch, counterpunch, attrition feel too it.  Which I am just not sure that I am going to be up to with my warband as designed.

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