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Here you learn the rules of battle!

The controls can be found further down the page. Also check out the officialext-icon.png guidesext-icon.png.

Battles take place on a grid of square tiles, with some large characters occupying more than one tile. Maps may contain obstacles or hazards. Battles are turn-based, but players usually use a timer — either 30 or 60 seconds — per move.


The deployment area of the Mead House map

At the beginning of each match, the teams array for combat. In 1v1 matches, the teams are each given a space of five rows on opposite sides of the map. The player on top is chosen randomly and granted the first turn.


The action menu

When it is your turn, you may rest — recovering one point of Willpower for the current character — or move and take another action: attacking an enemy's Armor; attacking an enemy's Strength; spending some Willpower to use the character's active ability; or ending your turn. If the timer run out before a character's actions have been confirmed, the turn ends.

Units have movement ranges and attack ranges. Both of these distances are measured along the axes of the grid; there is no moving or attacking on the diagonal. Ranged-only characters cannot attack adjacent enemies no matter the enemies' size. For example, an Archer cannot fire on an adjacent Shieldbanger.

On a particular turn, movement and attacks of both types (against Armor and Strength) can be enhanced through the expenditure of the character's Willpower, with the amount spent on one action being limited by the character's Exertion.


See the article on units for details on attributes and classes.

Class limits per team

Base class Limit
Archers 3
Raiders 3
Warriors +

Teams consist of up to six characters or units. The total power of the units on your team — calculated as the sum of the team members' Ranks — affects ranked matches found in the Great Hall and the updating of Elo rankings after a match.


Each character belongs to a class and has a Rank. Classes can be grouped in sets of four: a base class, whose Rank is zero, and three promoted classes, whose Ranks range between one and three. In building your team of up to six characters, there are limits on how many can belong to each class, as indicated in the table at the right.


A banner

Each base class has a passive ability which is inherited by its promoted classes. These abilities can take a variety of forms. Similarly, the base class determines size, movement range and attack range. Promoted classes are primarily differentiated by their active abilities; see a particular class's page for details. The unit attribute denoting its progress in the particular class, as well as the potential of the class' active ability, is called Rank. Increasing a character's Rank is called Promotion and requires a certain number of kills.


Characters have five attributes that may be adjusted before battle. Three of them may be depleted during battle:


The values you set for these determine their initial values and upper limits during battle. Their values during a battle are shown on each character's banner. When a character's Strength is entirely depleted, the character is eliminated from the battle.1

The other two adjustable attributes are constant during battle:

Armor Break

Classes differ in the minimum and maximum values which can be assigned to these five adjustable attributes. The number of points which may be allocated above the minima is equal to 10 plus the character's Rank.


Characters are hired at the Mead Hall or Marketplace. In the Proving Grounds, characters are customized and arranged into the order in which they are queued to take turns during battle. Both hiring and customizing characters is costly, while rearranging the queue is free.


Attacks against Strength

If… Damage is…
Attacker's Strength $>$ Defender's Armor ( S - A ) + Willpower spent
Attacker's Strength $\leq$ Defender's Armor 1 + Willpower spent
with probability
max{20%, 100% - ( A - S )*10%}
Quiz: This Warrior is making a Strength attack. What is his chance to hit,
and for how much damage?

Attacks against Strength are blocked by Armor, with each point of Armor protecting against a point of damage, up to the point where the attacker's Strength equals the defender's Armor. Beyond this point, Armor reduces the chance of doing damage, down to a minimum of 20%.2

The effective Strength of an attack can be enhanced through the Exertion of a unit's Willpower, as described above. The Archer's Puncture ability also enhances Strength under certain circumstances.

In contrast, an attack against Armor will always hit and do the same damage to any defender, equal to the attacker's Armor Break. As with Strength attacks, these can be enhanced through the Exertion of a unit's Willpower.

Many units' special abilities also inflict damage. See particular units for details.

Turns and victory

Currently, there are only 1v1 battles.

As in chess, turns alternate between the two players. Unlike chess, on your turn you must use a particular unit. The next unit up is shown in the queue visible at the bottom of the screen. Because turns are alternating, the list you see there is simply made from two separate queues — one for each team — interwoven. The order of your part of the queue can be set before battle in the Proving Grounds.

When a unit dies, the rest of the team moves up in the queue to fill the gap, maintaining the alternation of turns. The Warleader's active ability allows him to pull an adjacent unit to the head of his team's queue.

In the first turn where a single unit is outnumbered by enemies, the game enters Pillage. From this point forward, the lone unit gets a turn, followed by all of the enemies taking their turns (in their old queued order).

The combat of Banner Saga: Factions is turn-based, but players have a time limit on their turns. The timer begins as soon as your turn starts, and the rest of your turn is forfeit once it runs out. The duration of the timer is determined before the match.

Victory goes to the team with the last man, woman or Varl standing; that is, it is achieved when all characters on the opposing team have been eliminated.

The Horn

The Horn. You have 1 star; your opponent 2.

For each enemy killed, a star is added to your Horn (max 5), shown at the top of the screen. These may be allocated on your turn to the active character, by clicking on the large star at the mouth of the Horn; any amount may be allocated at any time during the turn. The stars available in your opponent's Horn are marked with red on the overhanging pebble.


Burning coals in the Great Hall map

Currently, the only hazards are the Skystriker's Rain of Arrows (which is hidden to the enemy) and burning coals, which are either a feature of the terrain or a side-effect of a Siege Archer's Slag and Burn.

Each burning-coal tile delivers 1 Strength damage (per turn) to a unit stepping onto it. This applies to both 1x1 and 2x2 units; however, 2x2 units need more tiles to maneuver and are thus exposed to damage from multiple coal-tiles (e.g. in the Great Hall map). Stepping onto a tile with coals from both the map and a Siege Archer will inflict 2 Strength damage.

Interface and controls


key action
TAB display banners
The active unit's portrait and attributes

The substance of this section can be found in-battle by clicking the "?" icon in the bottom right.

  • Looking around
    Click and drag anywhere to move your view. The map will re-center on the active unit at the beginning of its turn.
  • Units' allegiances
    Your units have blue tiles underneath them, while your opponents' allies stand on red tiles.
  • The active unit
    The ground beneath the unit whose turn it is is covered in a rotating circle, red for an enemy and blue for an ally.
  • Unit banners
    Each character's depletable stats — Armor, Strength and Willpower — can be seen on their banner at any time during the battle. By default, banners are only shown on a unit's turn or when manually selected (either for a standard attack or for examination). Banners for all units can be toggled with the TAB key or the banner icon in the upper right.
  • The initiative bar
    The initiative bar along the bottom of the screen indicates, from left to right, the order in which characters are expected to take turns. As described above, this order will generally change during battle.
  • The active unit's portrait
    The active unit appears at the far left of the initiative bar, and his or her attributes are shown to all players. Above this is the current player's crown and chit, about which the developers will announce more later.
  • Movement ranges
    The currently-selected unit's movement range is indicated in blue and golden tiles. Reaching golden tiles requires the exertion of one or more units of Willpower. Golden tiles are only shown if the unit currently has enough Willpower to reach them. Because it is possible to select a unit before its turn, the movement range observed may not represent the range that unit will have on its next turn.
  • Selecting units
    Clicking a tile outside of his or her range will de-select the active unit. Any other unit may be deselected by clicking an open tile. Clicking an unit's portrait in the initiative bar will select it, showing its movement range and providing a description of its abilities. Units may also be selected by clicking on them. However, if you click on a unit within attack range, the attack menu will come up instead; to select such a unit, first deselect the active unit.
  • Damage potential
    When it is your turn, you see how much Strength damage the active character can do to enemies within attack range (without adding Willpower). By hovering your mouse over tiles within the character's movement range, you can potential damage against units within movement-plus-attack range. During an enemy character's turn, you similarly see how much damage he or she can do to targets within attack range. When an Archer can inflict Puncture damage, the potential damage is shown in red. When successfully hitting Strength is not a certainty (because the active character's Strength is less than the target's Armor), a 1 is shown.


The deployment area is marked with blue tiles, and occupies the first five rows of the battle map. To place a unit, click to select it and then click an open position in the deployment area. During deployment, only your party will be shown on the initiative bar.


The time remaining is shown by the circular meter around the active character's portrait - blue when it is your turn and red when it is your opponent's turn. A drum beat sounds when the timer has nearly run out.

Due to latency issues, it may appear that your opponent's unit is taking their action after their timer has already run out.

Teams have 60 seconds to get into formation during the deployment phase.


At the beginning of his or her turn, the active character will be selected, and his or her action menu shown. Selecting one of the menu items will give further options.

  • Movement
    After selecting "Move" (the boot icon), you can choose a tile within the character's movement range. Upon doing so, the movement range updates to account for how many steps have been selected; and you can click another tile to move further (as long as there are still tiles in the updated range). In this way, you can customize the route your character takes. When you have chosen a path to take, click the check mark.

    Note that there is no action like movement-plus-ability or movement-plus-attack; movement is its own action, which must be confirmed before proceeding to further actions. Also, once a single movement has been confirmed, no further movement may be taken. If the active character is killed or stunned during movement, the rest of his or her turn is lost.
  • Standard attacks
    Selecting the sword icon highlights the character's attack range in red tiles. To make an attack, select an enemy within this range. This brings up the attack menu and shows that unit's banner (if not already shown). The attack menu shows potential damage against either Armor or Strength. Click either icon to initiate an attack. Whichever you choose, you will be given the option to add Willpower to the attack (provided your character has non-zero Willpower and Exertion), and may do so by clicking the hollow stars that appear. When a star is selected, those to its right are as well; and clicking again will de-select a star (and stars to its right). As stars are selected and de-selected, the damage number changes. Click the check mark (over the Armor or Strength icon) to confirm.

    When successfully hitting Strength is not a certainty (because the active character's Strength is less than the target's Armor), the chance of hitting is shown along with the damage the might be inflicted (which will be greater than 1 when Willpower has been added). When the damage numbers have been enhanced (e.g., by an Archer's Puncture) or diminished (e.g., by a Raider's Shield Wall), they are shown in green or red, respectively.
  • Abilities
    Some active abilities (selected via the purple icon, different for each class), like the Raidmaster's Stone Wall, take effect as soon as you confirm them. Most, however, offer a selection of tiles that may be targeted.

    Abilities that have long-term effects are indicated by an icon above a unit's portrait in the initiative bar. The target tile for an allied Skystriker's Rain of Arrows has a special purple marking.
  • The Horn
    The Horn is shown at the top of the screen, with the Willpower available to you indicated by the number of stars filled in; and the enemy's by the red number above. To give Willpower to the active character, click the Horn. This will immediate add a point to his or her Willpower (without a confirmation click) up to the maximum.
  • Canceling
    Any action can be canceled before confirming by clicking a tile outside of range (thereby de-selecting the current unit).
  • Shortcuts to bypass the action menu
    You can take movement and standard attack actions without using the action menu's boot and sword buttons. To do this, just ignore the menu and click on the tile you wish to move to or attack.

Dynamic music

A drum beat sounds for all players during the last seconds of a character's turn.

New music plays during the Pillage phase of combat.

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