The One Game Week 2: Tapping the Horn

I’m dedicating time to one game in order to try and master it. I’ve chosen The Banner Saga to be that “One Game”. Each week I’ll be reporting on my progress within the game, as well as things I’ve learned outside of it. You can follow my progress via this tag.

Week 2.
Total time played (according to Steam): 78 minutes.
Matches Played / Won: 1 / 0
Achievements unlocked: 0.
Rank: 1814.
Rating: 0.
Team Power: 66.
Renown: 1000.

The first thing I notice is that my renown has not increased from the kills made in the last match. I guess this must be something to do with the game still being in beta. In any case, I’ve been busy since last week, doing a lot of reading. Knowledge, is after all, power. And with great power comes great responsibility. As such, I now feel responsible for the Nordic men and women of my team. But more on that later.

My aim this week was mostly to try and answer the questions I had last week. Right now I’m trying to avoid any of the more advanced topics, because I want to nail the basics before thinking about specific builds or strategies. With that in mind, I found this thread to be the most important thing to read as a beginner. It’s well written and includes images, and covers the basics of the interface, as well as some of the specific character classes (although some of the information appears to be out of date and contradictory).

So, here’s what I’ve learned since last week:

  • There’s a help button on the screen during a battle that I somehow missed completely.
  • “Shield”, “fist”, and “star” are actually “armour”, “strength” and “willpower” respectively.
  • Armour blocks incoming damage. As an attacker, if my damage is 10 and my target’s armour is 7, I will only do 3 damage.
  • Strength represents damage output (as an attacker), but also health (as a defender). So as a character gets injured, they will do less damage!
  • You can choose to target either a character’s armour OR their strength when making an attack. When attacking their strength, the damage is based on your strength and their armour, but when attacking their armour, it is based upon your “break” stat.
  • Willpower is a limited resource. Each character has a set amount that can be consumed during the course of a match, and used to move an additional tile (the gold tiles shown on the grid), power up an attack (+1 for each star used), or activate an ability. There’s a limit to how much willpower can be used by a character in a single turn, which is derived from the “exertion” stat.
  • A character can recover one point of willpower by resting for a turn, but it means they can’t do anything else.
  • I found out what the horn button is for (thanks, MrFusion). Whenever you kill one of your opponent’s characters, you gain one point of willpower, which are stored in the horn at the top of the screen. You can give willpower points to a character on their turn by clicking on it. I hereby name this process “Tapping the Horn”.
  • Characters take turns based on the order you set in the Mead Hall. You can change the order mid-game (you can see the running order at the bottom during a match) through some abilities, but only ever have one turn at a time. This means, amongst other things, that if you only have two characters in play, then those character gets to move every other turn (as an aside, this does make me wonder if there are viable builds that use less than the six available characters in a match).
  • There’s a recently introduced game mechanic called “Pillage!” whereby if you reduce the opponent’s team to just one character they will lose the ability to move each turn (instead only moving once when you’ve played out each of your character’s turns).
  • There’s still a few things I haven’t found out, such as what can make a character miss their attack.
  • It seems to me that comparisons with The Banner Saga to chess are flawed. In chess you win by taking a specific piece. In The Banner Saga, you are trying to take all of them.

What’s particularly interesting to me about the strength/armour system, is that it means there are mathematical absolutes. For example, assuming that my character has a strength of 12, and is attacking a character with 6 armour and 12 strength, then it makes sense just to attack their strength regardless of my character’s break stat (either way they will be killed within two turns, but their damage output will be halved on their next turn). However, if my opponent is alert to this tactic, they can deliberately try to reduce my character’s strength (rather than armour) to ensure their character lasts a little bit longer. All of this makes me want to go and tabulate data and draw graphs. But there will be time for graphs later!

On to the characters then. To begin with, I feel it’s important to stick with the starting characters and learn them thoroughly before moving on to other types. These are characters I will be obsessing over, thinking about whilst eating lunch, having a shower, or making– well you get the idea. They need names. Conveniently enough, one of the new features added to the patch that came out this week was the ability to rename characters. I thought about using Marvel’s Thor series as a source for the names but decided that would be too on the nose. Instead, I’ve opted for my default source over the past few years, the Gobliiins series.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce the team:

Fulbert (Warleader)

Fulbert, Warleader (WL)

Abilities: Forge Ahead! (active, can make targeted character the next to move, and boost their initiative), Heavy Impact (passive, enemies adjacent to attacked enemy will take 1 strength damage)

  • Armour: 7 (max 12)
  • Strength: 12 (max 15)
  • Willpower: 7 (max 9)
  • Exertion: 3 (max 3)
  • Break: 2 (max 4)
  • Attack range: 1
  • Size: Large

Blount (Thrasher)

Blount, Thrasher (TS)

Abilities: Bloody Flail (BlF; active, does multiple hits to an enemy for 1 strength (bypassing armour) or 1 armour damage, with the last hit getting bonus damage per adjacent ally), Shield Wall (passive, increases armour of self and each adjacent ally, and this effect can stack)

  • Armour: 9 (max 13)
  • Strength: 9 (max 11)
  • Willpower: 7 (max 12)
  • Exertion: 2 (max 3)
  • Break: 2 (max 2)
  • Attack range: 1
  • Size: Small

Fingus (Shieldmaster)

Fingus, Shieldmaster (SM)

Abilities: Bring the Pain (active, attacks enemy for armour damage and boosts damage caused by Return the Favor), Return the Favor (passive, adjacent attackers take 1 point armour damage per hit)

  • Armour: 12 (max 16)
  • Strength: 11 (max 14)
  • Willpower: 4 (max 8)
  • Exertion: 2 (max 2)
  • Break: 3 (max 3)
  • Attack range: 1
  • Size: Large

Ursula (Siege Archer)

 Ursula, Siege Archer (SA)

Abilities: Slag and Burn (SaB; active, creates an explosive slag trap that detonates on character’s next turn, doing strength + armour damage to any character on it, as well as detonating any other overlapping slag traps), Puncture (passive, does bonus damage to characters with reduced armour, provided the SA did not move that turn)

  • Armour: 6 (max 10)
  • Strength: 7 (max 7)
  • Willpower: 8 (max 12)
  • Exertion: 3 (max 3)
  • Break: 2 (max 2)
  • Attack range:
  • Size: Small

Bizoo (Bowmaster)

Bizoo, Bowmaster (BM)

Abilities: Bird of Prey (active, gives bonus to range of shot, and never misses), Puncture (as for SA)

  • Armour: 7 (max 9)
  • Strength: 7 (max 8)
  • Willpower: 7 (max 12)
  • Exertion: 3 (max 3)
  • Break: 2 (max 2)
  • Attack range:
  • Size: Small

Tibo (Backbiter)

Tibo, Backbiter (BB)

Abilities: Run Through (RnT; active, runs across board behind target character, doing strength damage to them, and 2 armour damage to each character on the way), Shield Wall (as for TS)

  • Armour: 7 (max 12)
  • Strength: 11 (max 12)
  • Willpower: 6 (max 11)
  • Exertion: 2 (max 3)
  • Break: 3 (max 3)
  • Attack range: 1
  • Size: Small

So what can I take away from all this? Well, firstly, there’s no character in the team that excels at armour-breaking. There are 2 characters (Blount & Tibo) that get bonuses for adjacent allies. Fulbert is the strongest, but not by much (he could potentially dish out 15 damage in a single turn once you factor in exertion). The two archers are the weakest of the bunch. Fingus is the most heavily armoured (and by a significant margin), SA the least (as an aside, even with those stats it wouldn’t be possible to kill her in one turn with anyone on my team). Overall, Fingus is the most resilient, with combined armour+strength of 23.

Enough theory for one week. To battle!

NinjaFoodstuff vs. TheRaven

Well, this battle went extremely badly. I spent a lot of it fumbling around, unable to generate any synergy whatsoever. TheRaven was able to kill Fulbert within a couple of turns, and later elimitate two of my number in a single turn. I was unable to score even a single kill before it was all over. So well done to TheRaven, I didn’t stand a chance.

Things I learned:

  • I need an actual strategy, preferably one that makes use of the different strengths of my team.
  • I need to think about formation more.
  • I very much dislike the pillage mechanic. It greatly breaks the pace of the game, as all you can do is watch yourself lose at that point. I can’t believe it’s that much fun to be given  free turns with which to win. Maybe it will grow on me.

Your thoughts on this?