Game Introduction – The Banner Saga
The Banner Saga is a turn-based tactical RPG from Stoic. You play as a series of protagonists, traveling across the world, tending to your armies, and engaging in grid-based battles. Gamezebo’s quick start strategy guide will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to make the good guys suffer for their foolish delusions of heroism.
Quick Start Guide
- The Banner Saga is available on Steam. You can purchase it by going to the Steam store, adding it to your cart, and going to the checkout (use the “Available On” option at the top of this page to get there quickly!).
- The first few stages of The Banner Saga make a tutorial. Follow the onscreen instructions, and pay attention to what you can and can’t do in and out of combat.
- When the tutorial is over, you’re free to play however you like. Let’s keep those banners waving!
How to Play
- The Banner Saga is played primarily in two segments. The first is combat, in which units are moved around a grid to attack one another. The second is the overworld, in which you can train heroes, upgrade their abilities, examine the world, and progress the story. There are also times when you must select between multiple dialogue options, but we’ll get to those later.
- In combat, you can only use whichever character is currently queued for movement. You can select between movement, rest, attacking, and a special ability. To do this, click the corresponding symbols on your character’s action wheel.
- When your party stops at a village or important event, you may select between several services at your camp. “Heroes” allows you to level up your units and equip them with items. “Market” is where you can buy said items, as well as supplies for renown – bear in mind that the same resource used to buy items is used to level up heroes. “Rest” will progress time forward, using up supplies, but will also allow your units to heal after combat and sometimes raise morale. “Leave” will cause your party to drop camp and proceed with their journey across the map.
Tips and Tricks
- Do What You Think is Right – The Banner Saga‘s story adapts to the way you play and the choices you make. Often that means choosing between a set of dialogue options to determine what your next mission will be like. In these situations, it’s best not to second-guess yourself. It’s a lot more fun to simply do what you honestly think is best and live with the consequences.
- Spread the Pain – The Banner Saga uses a unique fighting system. When you do get to the battlefield, you’ll want to spread your damage out among your enemies as much as possible. That’s because the health of a unit is also how much damage it can do. By spreading the pain, you minimize enemy damage output, forcing them to attack your armor and keeping your soldiers healthy.
- Chip Away at Thicker Targets – Speaking of armor, make sure you whittle away at it. It’s tempting to ignore attacking a unit’s armor in favor of health, because only eliminating the latter will kill a unit. However, armor mitigates the damage you can do (damage is equal to the attacker’s strength minus the defender’s armor) and increases the chance of the enemy deflecting the hit altogether (the chance of deflection is 10% for each point of armor higher than the attacker’s strength). Bigger targets can have armor in the double-digits, and these should always be whittled down as soon as possible so that their strength can be reduced, along with their damage output.
- Keep Your Soldiers Fighting Fit – The battle begins before you even step foot in the arena. Morale, injuries, unspent levels, and items will all affect your ability to fight effectively in The Banner Saga. Make sure to visit the Heroes area as often as possible and see where your squad stands before going into combat.
- Use Your Willpower – Willpower is a somewhat limited resource. Each unit only carries a certain amount with them into battle (which can be increased when leveling). However, it’s vital that you apply this balm liberally. It can be used to get a unit out of trouble with extra movement speed, to activate a special skill, or add damage to strikes. Personally, I prefer to blow it early on armor shots, so I can immediately tear out chunks of enemy strength. How you use it is up to you, just remember that you always get a full refill before the next battle, so there is no reason not to use it all every time you fight.
- Body Block! Body Block! – Most units can’t move through one another. That means you can block off enemies from attacking your squishier, ranged units with more heavily armored melee units, like shield-bearers and Varl. In the case of shielded units, it’s not a bad strategy to line them up together and use their blocking ability. It soaks up damage and wastes the enemy’s time while archers pick at them with their high, protected strength levels. You can also use this to protect a resting character (resting recharges your willpower) so that they can drop their powerful special attacks.
- Archers in the Back – As an extension of the previous tip, keep your archers in the back. They don’t have the kind of strength or armor that melee units do, but they can hit just about anywhere on the field. Begin each fight with them positioned in the back so they can chew off enemy armor.
- Tanks in the Front – Beyond just blocking your ranged units, keeping your high-strength units face-front confers several advantages. Varl are slow, so starting them closer to the baddies gets them into the fight quicker. Sometimes your melee units can even sneak in the first hit, giving the enemy less strength to retaliate.
- Take Out the Weakest Units First – As I’ve explained, whittling down the bigger foes is key to victory. That said, if you must choose between killing a damaged unit and damaging a healthy one, always pick the former. Just like spreading the damage across multiple units, this minimizes the opposing force’s output. It also brings you one step closer to Pillage Mode (this activates when all but one unit to a team is dead, and confers several bonuses to the opposing side), which nearly ensures victory.
- Heavy Impact Works Best on Groups – Units like Bersi and Hakon have a passive ability called Heavy Impact. This makes them do extra damage to enemies adjacent to their target, so keep them close to clustered enemies.
- Use Impale on Mobile Enemies – Ludin’s Impale technique is best used against Dredge slingers. That’s because it does extra damage for each step the enemy takes, and slingers always take a free movement action after being hit.
- Use the Horn – During combat, there is a horn-shaped icon at the top of the screen. Clicking on its right-most icon will give one unit of willpower to whichever unit you’re using at the time. It can only hold a finite amount, so make sure to use it regularly to keep from wasting free resources.
- Think Before You Level – Different characters have different needs with regards to leveling. It’s best to max out your archers’ break stat, so that they can soften up the enemy before your melee units make contact. Characters with useful special abilities (such as Yrsa, with her area-of-effect attack) need more willpower. And just about everybody (especially hard-hitting Varl characters) can use a maxed out exertion stat, which allows them to put more willpower into each action.
- Charge! – In The Banner Saga, there will come times when you need to choose how to control your army. The first option – charge – is usually the best. This keeps up your army’s morale and numbers, and gives you the opportunity to earn more renown for leveling up and spending at the market. The only exception is when your squad is in rough shape; losing can be more detrimental than an intelligent retreat or formation. However, if you pay attention, you will almost always have a chance to heal before a fight.
You have completed Gamezebo’s quick start guide for The Banner Saga. Be sure to check back often for game updates, staff and user reviews, user tips, forums comments, and much more here at Gamezebo!