Mere months after its initial release, the second wave of dedicated miniatures for SAGA: The Crescent & The Cross has been released. Soapy has been hard at work increasing the already vast number of models Gripping Beast produce for their popular Dark Age skirmish game, focussing once more on the Holy Land (miniatures for Spain will be following shortly). As usual, the best way to start a warband of Gripping Beast models for a new faction is with their discounted starter sets. This review covers the four point Milites Christi and Mutatawwi’a warbands.
The models in both warbands are great examples of the modern Gripping Beast style – chunky, characterful and with deep, crisp and definite detail. They average just under 29mm foot to eye. All the contents of these starter sets are also available in separate character and unit packs from Gripping Beast and North Star Military Figures, among others. All warbands and blisters come with the appropriate SAGA-style bases for the models within, making a “one-stop shop” very easy to achieve – particularly since bases are included.
Units in SAGA all cost 1pt, so elite models come in fours, average ones in eights and terrible ones in twelves. The crusaders of the Milites Christi are the larger warband, with nine mounted and sixteen foot figures. The warband contains eight knights, eight sergeants with spears, eight crossbowmen and a mounted warlord for £46. Representing the Military Orders that sprang up in the Levant after the First Crusade, these models really look the part of warriors of Christ fighting across the bloody sands of the Holy Land. They wear a mix of nasal helms and more Arabised headgear, with long tunics to protect themselves from the sun. Between their helmets and their kite shields, they are definitely for the early part of the Crusading period. The foot models have an interesting mix of armour styles, which really helps place them in the East rather than the West of the Normano-Frankish sphere of influence. Their mounted warlord is a great depiction of a medieval noble, and with his beard and arrogant pose would be great for any Western noble of the time. The crossbowmen, as was common for light troops back then, look like a mix of local levies and mercenaries.
Their Islamic counterparts in the Mutatawwi’a cost £44.50 for four camel mounted, four horse mounted and thirteen foot models. Alongside the warlord and eight foot archers are twelve “Hearthguard” elites, evenly split between camelry, cavalry and infantry. The men carry a mix of weapons and round or teardrop shields, and are swathed in robes. The elites also wear lovingly sculpted mail and helmets – in fact, they are some of my favourite Arab heavy cavalry in any scale.
The models in both warbands have a mix of open and separate hands, so you have a great deal of choice in how to allocate the white metal weapons included in each boxed set. The horses, while not as beautiful as the Perrys’, are nonetheless nicely proportioned and full of life. The heads of the camels looked a little small in the blister, but when I compared them to pictures of dromedaries, they were in fact in proportion.
My only complaint about these models is that they are a great deal larger than my plastic Conquest Normans – but expecting miniature companies to make sure all their models fit with each other is a hopeless dream. If you are one of the many people building their SAGA warbands exclusively from Gripping Beast and other “modern-sized” chunky miniatures, then you’ll have no gripe at all.
Review by Matt Moran