Friday, February 12, 2021

Age of Heroes

Along with Revolt on Antares, another of TSR's minigames that I played regularly was Saga: Age of Heroes, designed by Steve Marsh. It's a fun little game about Norse mythology, in which the players play heroes seeking to earn sufficient glory to be welcomed into Valhalla after death. Like all the minigames, it's fairly simple in its design but nevertheless manages to pack a number of fun little wrinkles into it, like runes, magic items, and divine intervention. 

The game is also notable for its artwork, such as these counters, depicting the game's heroes.

There's also this amazing piece by Erol Otus, which demonstrates, as if there were any doubt, that he was capable of far more than nightmare-inducing slime monsters.
The game's map is quite remarkable too, featuring artwork by (I think) Jim Roslof, though I'm unsure whether Roslof is also responsible for the map proper. Regardless, it's a very striking bit of cartography and I can still remember its areas to this day.
There's something incredibly appealing about minigames, not just TSR's but also those designed by Steve Jackson and others: compact, straightforward rules with a minimum of components whose design is still deep enough to hold one's attention for more than a single game. I've thought about designing games like this on numerous occasions and maybe one day I'll get around to it. For now, I'm content to remember how much fun I had with these little games. They deserve more attention than I think they got back in the early '80s when they originally appeared.


  1. The best of the old Cheapass games were like that; they came with a board and a handful of cards, but were clever little things you could play for ages. Witch Trial was a particular favourite of mine, along with, of course, the seminal Kill Doctor Lucky.

    I was also fond of Devil Bunny Needs a Ham, but it can hardly be accused of having "deep design." More like "a charmingly absurdist concept."

    1. When they first started up CAG was definitely channeling the spirit of the old microgames, albeit with even more minimalist components - which is saying something considering what the original Ogre and Melee looked like.

      Myself, I was a fan of Give Me the Brain, Lord of the Fries, and Starbase Jeff, all of which were very good for "recruiting" more people to gaming.

  2. Saga is somewhere around my second or third favorite of the TSR minigames, competing with Viking Gods and just behind Revolt on Antares. I think it's definitely the best of any of them for multiplayer (although Revolt's not bad at it) and does solo fairly well to boot, which are real selling points. The artwork and delightful map certainly don't hurt either.

  3. I'm way late to the party, I know, but I just had to add my anecdotes.

    My favorite TSR minigame was Revolt On Anteres (of course). I had a friend who was studying Poli-Sci who loved it too; funny part, he could rattle off terms like "detente" and "coup d'etat" all day, but struggled with "Anteres", inevitably pronouncing it as "An-trevies". Without embarrassment or shame, I might add, joking that he's using the "proper proletarian term".

    We both enjoyed Saga as well, especially when one of us got a chance to "tease the witch", trying to trigger an Is Spell

    Ah, good times . . .