Friday, September 6, 2013

Picts, the original Blue Man Group.

Ah yes, the mysterious Picts. Who could forget the memorable interpretation of them in Robert E. Howard's Conan series? Devolved painted barbarians speaking a guttural tongue and could kill you as soon as look at you... Roman interpretations of them being naked savages... Confused Irish accounts of them being lost Scythians... According to long outdated encyclopedias, they were "Mediterraneans" devolved into a lesser race that hid in caves under the hills of Scotland, and were wiped out by the invading Vikings and Gaels.

A Pict according to the makers of Conan the Barbarian, THE MOVIE. (Nice handlebars. Looks like a Victorian Brit gone native.)
Picts of the Bran Mak Morn series. Also by Howard.

Actually they were kin to the Welsh and had several civilized kingdoms in Alba (as Scotland was the called.). Yes it's true they painted themselves in blue woad, but so did every other Celt. Yes they fought naked, but so did...well, actually only one in every other group of Celts fought like that. The biggest kingdoms were Cat (Caithness) in the furthest north, from whom the clans of the Chattan Confederation claimed descent (Cat-Catti-Chattan). It's also where they got their symbol (the cat) from. This kingdom was destroyed by the Vikings and Madoc, last Pictish King of Cat, fled south to Moray and from his son the Chattan confederation gets it's heritage.

The second major kingdom was Fortriu, or Moray. This kingdom lasted until it was absorbed (by marriage and family ties) into the Gaelic Kingdom of Dalriada. The Picts were never destroyed, (I ought to know, I'm descended from a Pictish clan.), they just stopped calling themselves "Picts" when the whole kingdom became "Scots". The royal line of medieval Scotland was both Gael and Pict. Pict is a Roman term applied to these northernmost Britons. It simply means "painted". They were called Cruithni by the Irish (a corruption of what the Picts called themselves, Britons. Oh wait! Who else call themselves Britons? WELSH!!), and Caledonii (also by the Romans.). So simply put there's nothing mysterious at all about them. They're Celts. And they're still with us today.
More Hollywood Picts from the movie King Arthur. (The one in the middle is the Druid Merlin.)

Real, historical, Picts. Funny how they don't look much different from the other Britons/Scots. 
Caledonian Picts charging the Roman lines near Mons Graupius.

A Victorian Pict. Not far off the mark.

Pictish symbol of unknown meaning, officially termed a double disc and z rod. Looks like a lightning bolt to me.
Pictish stag.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Notes on one of the Most Obscure clans in Scotland's History. Clan MacFadyen, or MacPhaiden, or Patton, etc...

In doing research recently for my Bachelor's thesis on Gaelic culture in Scotland and Ireland, and in turn doing some digging into family history, I decided to pursue my Patton roots and look up exactly where and how they became a "sept" of Clan MacLaine. (For those of you unfamiliar with Celtic culture and Scots/Irish history, a sept is a branch of a clan or family. They can be by blood [such as a younger son forming his own branch] or adopted into the clan. Most of the time septs intermarry with the main clan and thus people with totally unrelated names might all share the same ancestor. The most famous example probably being people bearing the name MacDonald, and those ,say, bearing the name Ronald are both descended from Somerled, founder of the clan.)

It turns out that the Pattons of Mull (who in Gaelic were called MacPhaiden, also spelled McFadzean, MacFadyen, McFadden, MacFadden, McPatton, etc... which means "Son of Little Patrick") had been there before the occupation of the MacLaines. In fact (and it took a LOT of research since Clan MacFadyen doesn't have an official website or anything, much less a clan association, having been absorbed by the greater MacLaine clans) the MacPhaiden clan were once loyal vassals of the Lords of the Isles, owning not only Mull, but also Coll and Tiree as well. They helped Somerled come back from exile in Ireland (where there are also MacPhaidens in Donegal.), and fought under him as he regained his kingdom of Argyll and the Isles from the Vikings. In fact Somerled was born in Morvern, right across the Sound of Mull. The retaking of Mull from the Vikings was also Somerled's first major campaign. The MacPhaiden chiefs would almost have to have been major allies for Somerled in the retaking of Mull, yet almost nothing is known about this clan save for a spare mention of them in a MacDonald history from the 1600's, a short piece of Blind Harry's famous poem The Wallace, and an old Gaelic proverb about how apparently cheap they were. (MacFadden of the hen of the house of penury, he stayed till she was boiled, but not till she was eaten for fear of paying for her.) Rather unfavorable if you ask me.

So what happened to them? Where did they go? How did the MacLaine brothers end up with MacPhaiden lands? WELL....

It turns out that Somerled either gave them the Isle of Mull after driving out the Vikings, or they had already been in Mull for some time* and welcomed Somerled's help in driving out the northern pagans. Whatever the case they had been there for quite some time when they reappear again in the Wars of Scottish Independence, sadly, fighting on the wrong side. This was because they were loyal vassals of the then MacDougall Lords of the Isles (the elder branch of Clan Donald.). The MacDougalls in turn supported the Comyn claimant to the throne of Scots, John Balliol because they considered him the lawful King of Scots. The MacDonald chief supported Bruce. When Bruce finally won the throne and defeated the English and rival Comyn claimant at Bannockburn, he stripped the title Lord of the Isles from the MacDougall chief and gave it to the MacDonalds for their loyalty. The MacDonalds in turn cleaned house in the Isles by removing MacDougall supporters and replacing them with their own.

The MacDonald chief subsequently gave Mull to the MacLaine brothers, Hector the Stern and Lachlan the Wily, who drove out or absorbed the MacPhaidens and dispossessed them of their lands and they in turn became landless itinerant goldsmiths. "Sliocht Nan Or-Cheard" or the "Race of Goldsmiths". And that, is the story of the MacPhaidens of Mull. Of course it wasn't all that bad since they obviously were adopted as a sept of Clan MacLaine of Lochbuie and are still around today.

*The MacPhaidens are said to have descended from the famous O'Brien dynasty of Ireland, possibly from one of Brian Boru's brothers, most likely Mahon, King of Munster. The O'Briens in turn were the leaders of the Dalcassian tribe ( a royal "free" aka "landless" tribe of Ireland) whose symbol is the silver arm of Nuada** holding the Claiomh Soulais, or Sword of Light***.  The motto of the MacPhaidens is also the same as the O'Brien clan, "Lamh Ladir An Uachtar", "The Strong Arm Uppermost". The MacPhaidens were known as mercenaries for a time, and thus may have come over after the fall of the O'Briens from the High Kingship of Ireland, or they may have come over with Somerled when he returned from Ireland with men to fight the Norsemen.

**Nuada of the Silver Hand was the ancient High King of the Tuatha de Danaan (the clan of Celtic gods descended from the Mother Goddess Dana, from which we get the names of rivers in Europe like the Danube,  Rhone, from Rhodanus or "Great Danu",  and the Shannon in Ireland.) He lost his arm in a battle with the demonic Fir Bolg and since in Ireland a king had to be whole of body and of mind to be considered fit to rule, had a new arm forged for himself out of silver to be made whole again.

*** The Claiomh Soulis or Sword of Light (also the Shining Blade), was Nuada's chief weapon and one of the mythical Four Treasures of Ireland, against which no enemy ever escaped from it's blade once it was drawn from it's sheath. The other treasures were the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, which cried out whenever a true king of Ireland sat on it (It is now the coronation stone in Westminster Abbey on which all monarchs of Great Britain are crowned.), the Spear of Lug against which no battle was ever sustained or won, and the Cauldron of the Dagda, from which no one would ever walk away hungry or unsatisfied.

Also here is a link to a McFadden website:

On the site is an excerpt from a 17th century manuscript written to King Charles I explaining the MacDonald claim to the Lordship of the Isles. In it the MacPhadin chief is mentioned as welcoming Somerled back from Ireland and serving alongside him in the retaking of Lorne, Mull, and the rest of the Isles and Argyll.

The Battle of Clontarf, fought on Good Friday, 1014. Where High King Brian Boru defeated the Vikings of Dublin, Man, and the Orkneys. And where he met his death at the hands of Brodir of Man.

Ulf the Quarrelsome, brother to Brian Boru finishing off the Sorcerer-Viking Brodir of Man. First removing his "magical" chainmail, before killing him.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Irish Curaidh and the Norse-Gaels. Thoughts on the combat of Champions.

Ok, so I just picked up the Raven's Shadow expansion to Saga and have been playtesting the Irish and Norse-Gael battleboards (both of which I must admit are too awesome, and I think more than a little overpowered against other infantry based factions like the Anglo-Danes or Vikings). I was so inspired that I spent half a night whipping up another point's worth of Hearthguard models that can double as Curadh for the Irish, as well as warlords if I split my now 8 point warband in two. Needless to say, (once I get a camera that works) I think they're my best work yet. My favorite is model is an Irish prince and his shieldbearer, meant to represent Ulf the Quarrelsome if I use him a Hero of the Viking Age according to the ruleset. Stripped to the waist (typical Irish madness) and wearing a black wolf pelt, he might also double as a Viking Berserker were he not wearing blue woad patterns on his body. His spear is painted blue-green based off of a passage I read recently from the Ulster Cycle of Irish myths about a warrior of the Red Branch fianna, one of Cuchulainn's friends. In Celtic culture, swords, spears, and even shields bore names illustrative of their characteristics and of the character of their owner. The most well known example probably being Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur (the most famous of all Celtic myth cycles).

His shieldbearer looks quite nice too, bearing a red and blue old Celtic style long shield with gold bejeweled patterns set into it. My other Curadh also doubles as Brian Boru, Ulf's brother, and High King of Ireland (Ard-Righ Eirheann). I used some old pewter miniatures I found in my attic the other day looking for more Warhammer swords and cloaks to use for my dark age warband. Got them from Disney World actually. Supposed to be from England. Mainly just a few pieces of Celts, Saxons, and Normans who'm I'm using indiscriminately for future villagers and noble maidens. The few warriors that I got with the packs are perfect for hearthguards and warrior units. Brian Boru has Saxon armor, (unfortunately the Celts looked a little too common for the larger hearthguard bases so I'm using them as levies and warriors.) and a Celtic bard playing a harp behind him.

So, finally after painting up my two Curaidh, I also went ahead and made two "maidens" to use in "capture the princess for ransom/vikingbootyslave". One "Irish" and one "Saxon/Norman". I also painted an unarmed Norman/Saxon noble for future assassination/kidnap scenarios. The princesses look alright, the Irish one looks more badass with her torc and sword, and leering old man/adviser/NOTdruid standing behind her. I even played a couple of scenarios with the new minis.

The first battle involved a Norse-Gael invasion of Ireland. I rolled and got the invading warband, my friend was the Irish chief defending his village at the river ford, not far from the coast where my Islesmen landed from their birlinn (a Gaelic variant of the Viking longship, much better at navigation with a rear mounted rudder vs. the older side mounted steerboard [from where we get "starboard"] invented of course, by Somerled, founder of Clan Donald.) and waded ashore to burn and plunder the Irish village. Of course, it wasn't as easy as I figured, once I crossed the river, my friend waited for me near a forest just outside the village with his two appointed champions, a spare point of fianna and a host of warriors/bonnachts (1 point's worth actually), while I came in with my 2 points of hearthguard/ostmen, and 1 point of bonnachts, and of course my warlord. After charging towards the Irish warband unsuccessfully, while being shot at from the woods by invisible Irish fairie folk. (I LOVE that ability on the Irish battleboard, but HATE it being used on me.) Needless to say, the challenges generally went well, except when I fought the Curaidh, which my friend augmented after a couple of lucky rolls with "Seed of Ireland" which allows him to inflict 4 automatic hits and "Blood of the Kings" which with the stag symbol, made his Curaidh almost near invincible, ignoring 3 hits instead of the usual 1. Of course, with my ostmen slaughtered, and my bonnachts caught up in the forest with the fairie curse (btw, the Gaelic word for fairy is "sidh" pronounced "seethe". They were originally the ancient Celtic gods of Ireland, but after the Christianisation of Eire, they became the "fairie folk".) my warlord found himself assailed by BOTH Curaidh, AND the Irish warlord. with two fatigues already incurred from previous melees. Needless to say, he fell beneath the blows and the Irishmen danced over his corpse in traditional Celtic fashion.

The second battle was a lot more interesting. This time we did a capture the princess scenario, with Heroes of the Viking Age for each side. My friend got defender again this time leading an Anglo-Danish warband under King Cnut, which meant he also got to use the Viking battleboard as well. The palace was set up at one end of the beach, with my Irish ship landing at a distance, with no intervening terrain in between the two forces. I had High King Brian Boru and his brother Ulf the Quarrelsome for my warlord/champion combo. Of course we changed the names to protect the innocent/dead. The story being my 80 year old Irish king leading a raiding party to capture the young, beautiful, Anglo-Danish princess Gertruda, whose beauty is famed even across the Irish Sea. Of course the Irish battleboard worked beautifully even without using all the shooting abilities. In fact it worked so beautifully, that, even with the death of both Ulf and my other Curadh, AND my bonnachts, King Brian was able to stand alone (for 5 more turns) against what was left of the Danes' 8 model huscarl unit (hearthguard), and his ceorls (warriors). For those readers who don't know, Brian's rules state that because of his advanced age, he only gets 1 d6 in melee/shooting and can only move 2 inches (Very Short) per activiation. The upside is that he can remove 1 fatigue for free from any friendly unit on the table. So he's like a super standar bearer with really horrible fighting abilites. Also he designates one of the champions as warlord for points purposes if said champion is killed. Which is a crappy rule to be honest, it just makes killing that pesky Ulf all the more attractive to the other player.

But, to my immense surprise, and delight, his Saga rolls (three dice for Viking Age Heroes) turned up mostly stags and geese (really good rolls on the Irish battleboard) and some snakes which allowed me to activate "Blood of the Kings" and the "Seed of Ireland" several turns in a row. I hardly had to roll that 1 die with Brian because he ignored between 2 and 3 hits and returned the favor with 4 automatic hits every turn. This on top of his automatic rest ability made him friggin invincible! A couple of multi activations propelled him into the last three standing ceorls which with another "Seed of Ireland" killed them all. The sad ending to this love story, unfortunately, was that after wiping out the entire Danish warband (did I mention that my warlord was also the last Irishman standing?), my octegenerian reached the top of the steps of the palace only to gaze on the buxom beauty, have a massive stroke, and fall back down the steps and so met his end. So Gertruda didn't have to go to Ireland after all, and was subsequently kidnapped by marauding Normans.

Cuchulain as depicted by Marvel Comics. If only they'd make him his own series, he'd be my favorite Marvel superhero.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Short History of Dal Riata.

Dal Riata (Gaelic for Riata's Portion), was land given to the legendary MacErc brothers (of whom there were three) Fergus Mor, Loarn, and Oengus by the High King of Ireland. They left Ireland's north coast of Antrim (also considered part of Dal Riata) with followers and family and settled in what is now Argyll, parts of Kintyre, and some of the nearby islands from Iona to Mull. From here, the Scots (as they came to be known) spread out into the further islands of Islay and the Hebrides, and northwards toward Inverness. At the time most of mainland Scotland was under the rule of another Celtic peoples, the Picts, cousins to the Welsh Britons and probable descendants of the Caledonii and other ancient tribes of that area.

The Dal Riata Scots were of the Irish royal family of Ui' Neill, said to be descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages. Fergus and his brothers ruled as kings each in turn of this island kingdom, fighting the Picts to the east.

The Kingdom of Dal Riata at it's fullest extent.
At the beginning of the 8th century, the Scots had a thriving kingdom with trade links to both the continent and Ireland. Irish monks built the monestary of Iona under the leadership of St. Columba, or Colum Cille. Further Irish missionaries worked their way into the interior of Alba to convert the Pictish kingdoms to Christianity. Now, many of the Pictish tribes may have already had prior contact with Christianity due to the influx of southern Britons fleeing the Roman persecutions of earlier centuries, but not all the Picts were converts to the new religion. St. Columba famously converted Pictish King Bridei Mac Maelchu (also known as Brude and the alleged founder of Clan Brodie) during this time.

It was in this century that the Vikings sailed over the horizon. The army from Hell, burning, raiding, pillaging all along the Scottish coast, sacking Iona and razing the monestary twice. This forced Pict and Scot to unite time and again against the Northmen, culminating in the kingship of Kenneth MacAlpin, founder of the first recognizable Scottish royal dynasty and the end of Dal Riata as a separate entity.

After MacAlpin, the kingdom would always be known as Alba, or in the English, Scotland. Over time, the MacAlpin dynasty shifted the center of power from the Argyll coast into the heart of Scotland at centers like Scone and Dunkeld, leaving the islands to their own devices. Eventually the High King of Scots would rule only over the old kingdom of Moray and the newer expansions further south. Their place in Argyll would be taken eventually by Somhairl MacGhillibride, or Somerled, King of Argyll and Isles. Thanks to Somerled, the Norse would eventually be driven out of the highlands and islands, thus reviving Gaelic culture and language and creating a vibrant hybrid culture of Norse-Gaels. From his dynasty came the great clans of MacDonald, MacDougall, and others. The old Irish descended clans also revived under Somerled's rule and eventually clans such as MacLaine and Campbell would arise from the old royal kindreds, helping to bring an end to the Viking Age in Scotland once and for all at the Battle of Largs in the 1200's.

Warriors of Clan Gibson. The use of blue paint had gone out of fashion by the 1300's I think.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Going Generic... An all Around Celtic Warband for multiple battleboards.

So, I kind of got tired of the whole Somerled look, as well as I wanted a more "generic" Celtic army that I could field as either Irish, Scots, or Welsh. Pretty much that means that I keep what I've got so far (mostly Viking style chainmail/axe wielding warriors and lots and lots of tartan clad unarmored ones armed with bow and sword.). The next few warriors I'm painting up to finish off my current 4 point warband are more like the Galloglass look I was originally going for. Green cloaks with yellow tunics and vice versa for variety. I also repainted the standard bearer and chief's shield with the Red Hand of Ulster, which, considering that most if not all West Highland Scots of Dalriada were descended from the Ui Neill kindred is more fitting after all.

I really like the Welsh battleboard for this game as the last couple of battles I fought at home involved me sitting in woods or across a river peppering Vikings and Anglo-Danes with lots and LOTS of javelins. Holy Ground and Children of the Land are used almost every turn as well as Ambush once the Northmen start chasing my Welsh lads into the sacred wood of St. David. I can't wait to get the Raven's Shadow expansion as I've heard alot about the Irish and Norse Gael battleboards being centered around champions and duels. I'm already working on some Celtic hearthguard that can double as Irish Champions. Basically I'm using a box of Ancient Celts for these guys. Ancient Celts will work really well for Irish warriors since the ones I am using from the box have tunics and chainmail, a handfull are shirtless, which was not unusual in a Celtic force of the Dark Ages whether Gael, Pict, or Cymric. Now some of my friends have noted that the torc rings on the arms and necks of the ones I'm building are innacurate as that is a pagan symbol and dropped out of use with the coming of Christianity, but surprisingly I looked it up at several online sources and discovered that while they did drop out of fashion after the so called Migration Period, they became popular again in places such as Ireland and Wales during the Viking Age. Perfect timing for me. It means that I can use Ancient Celts to represent Viking Age Irish for one thing.

Apparently, the Welsh still wore torcs well into the Middle Ages, mostly as symbols of nobility and royal status. One Welsh prince named Cynog ap Brychan wore one that was called St. Kynauc's Collar as part of his royal regalia. St. Kynauc lived in the 490's well after the Christisation of the Britons. This "collar" was seen by a Welsh chronicler traveling Britain in the 1180's. And it was still being used as a part of Welsh princely regalia! So obviously torcs on Viking Age Celts is perfectly appropriate and accurate. :P

My next warbands after I complete this one will be a generic Viking/Anglo Saxon/Dane one, and hopefully in the future a Norman/Breton/Frankish/Strathclyde band. But that's a ways off. For now I've got to finish the Welsh/Scots/Irish/Norse-Gael warband first. That means another points worth of 4 Hearthguard, and another group of warriors that can double as levies depending on my mood. I'm also looking into getting some warhounds to give the Irish more flavor when I get their battle board.

Slan! (Irish Gaelic for "see ya!")


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Somerled's first feat. Or, the account of how Somerled lost his distinctive name and gained the generic one of Angus MacLorne.

So I fought my first two battles with the Saga ruleset today. A friend of mine brought the Northern Fury expansion and I ran my warband as a Scots army for the first battle. The scenario we rolled was Homeland, which had me pitted as the defender against a Norman lord taking his "rightful" lands granted by the recently installed King David of Scotland. Of course, he travelled a little too far outside of the king's jurisdiction high up into Inverness country. My warlord made his stand at the little village of Loch-na-Uig, with his faithful clansmen. It was a walled collection of low lying cottages surrounded by fields and forest.

The Normans being the attackers got the first turn and made it a devastating one. Mostly because we were all still learning the rules, so I lost an entire unit of Thanes (Scottish hearthguard) to a Norman cavalry charge. While they were behind a stone wall! Needless to say, the whole warband (mine) died to a man. In five turns. (This game is really short, and can be played in two hours or less.) The last two turns involved my warlord and three faithful warriors (Not Thanes.) holed up in a cottage being shot at by Norman peasants and foot soldiers. Two of the warriors died, at which point my warlord sallied out to the wall with the last clansman to fight off the Norman foot soldier's charge. After they both beat back the warrior unit, the warlord (now the last man standing) singlehandedly drives back the Norman lord and his two knights (Norman hearthguard.). At which point determined to go out covered in glory, the Scottish warlord charges over the wall and engages the Norman lord in single combat in the midst of his army. And he beats him back again! (He would have killed him outright had that pesky unit of Norman sergeants hadn't jumped in the way!) The last turn of course went to the Normans as my Scot went down bravely under a flurry of blows surrounded by the Norman warband (quite literally!). Och! It was a fight tae be proud of!

My second battle caused me to change the name of my Celtic warlord to something more generic as Somerled seemed to be unfitting for a warrior who DIED in every battle he fought, against Vikings. I think I shall call him...Lachlan...or perhaps Angus. Angus MacLorne. Son of the Royal Scottish House of Lorne MacErc and descendant of the High Kings of Ireland. He can also double as Oengus of Ireland, and Angwyn of Wales. Anyway, (Which could also work as a Welsh sounding name...Anywy...hmm...) The second battle involved the Escort scenario with my Celtic warband ending up in the escort, or defender, this time using the Welsh battle board. The Welsh being javeline heavy (compared to the Scots being spear oriented), I thought the added mobility would speed the escort of the holy relics of St. David off the table and into the safe confines of the nearby monestary. Unfortunately, Vikings are a lot tougher than I figured. And faster! (I used Holy Ground almost every turn to slow them down and keep them at javelin range.) Also, the Welsh have less armor which meant that they were crap in a stand up brall with Beserkers (I killed them all though saints be praised!). Needless to say Angwynn and his loyal warriors were beaten back into a hedgerow on the WRONG end of the table! My Welsh all died under a hail of Norse arrows and Bondi axes. It was not a good day to be a Celt. But that's why it's a learning scenario. ;) Better luck next time!

Angus MacLorne. Sheer badassery in a kilt.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Clan MacLaine joins the fray!

So I've been working on painting my warband, not finished yet but getting there. I will eventually get pics up on here as soon as I get a camera that works. I recently finished a handful of MacLaine clansmen (I choose the MacLaine spelling because I'm descended of the MacLaines of Lochbuie, not the MacLeans of Duart.) I made them, because I want to be able to run a 13th century scenario as much as the regular 8th-10th century Viking age ones. So perhaps when I get some scenery and terrain built I can redo the Battle of Largs. That was where the first "MacLean" made his name. Gillean, of the Battle Axe. Scion of the Royal House of Lorne. Gillean is Gaelic for "Servant of St. John" gille= servant, ian= John. from him eventually descended the two branches of Clan MacLean/MacLaine. Both of which became renowned for producing great swordsmen and mercenaries for the Lords of the Isles. And the English, and anyone else with cash and adventure to offer. The beauty of creating a Highland Scots warband is that the arms and armor changed very little from the Viking Age to the early 1600's. A Highland chief in 1544 would have worn virtually the same arms and armor as his ancestor in 844. Usually full chainmail armor, and a two-handed sword or lochaber axe. I have designed Somerled to also be able to double as any later MacDonald laird for the medieval period. He'd just as easily make a very good Donald of the Isles for a Harlaw scenario. I also gave him a standard bearer this week. I promise, pics will be coming soon!

Here's a perfect example of the Galloglas (Scots/Irish mercenary) who's arms and armor didn't really change throughout the entire period:
Here's another example of what the Lords of the Isles would have looked like throughout the entire period of the Middle Ages. Note that this is supposed to be Donald of the Isles who fought at Harlaw in 1411, the early Rennaissance, and how his armor looks more like it belongs in the Viking Age!
So as you can see, playing Saga doesn't have to mean you confine it to the dark ages. In fact the system is open and flexible enough to be used for later (or earlier) eras of history. Which I like alot in a game.