VII. The End Game


A. Pillage

He saw his allies fall. One by one, darkness came upon then…and as he saw his last friend crumble — despair overtook him…The Pillage had begun.

While most of The Banner Saga: Factions will play with alternate turns (players each taking a turn), once one team is reduced to 1 remaining unit, the game transitions and the other team then gains the ability to have their units go consecutively, before the 1 remaining unit can act again.

Mechanics-wise this prevents the 1 remaining unit from abusing being able to act much much “quicker” than the other team, which has more units (but needs to go through more turns before the same unit can act again).

Obviously, this means that the 1 remaining unit is left at the mercy of the enemy team (though he/she does get 1 last chance to act, before the Pillage/consecutive turns begins). This mechanic, along with the horn, creates clear benefits for killing enemy units…we want to get the enemy numbers down quickly in order to gain willpower and also to secure pillage.

Of course, because of the turn mechanics before pillage, we still need to balance weakening the enemy, while killing targets. Otherwise, the opposing team will have more turns with strong units and our own team will end up crippled and the advantage eventually overturned.
When at a disadvantage (outnumbered), this also means we need to be careful about losing units even if we may want to leverage gaining more turns from losing a crippled/maimed unit. As much as possible it is best to either secure a unit number and stat advantage (a clear winning situation) or to try to hit pillage with a unit strong enough to withstand it (kill 1 unit and end up with an even or favorable 1v1 or so strong and the enemy so crippled to withstand 1v3+).

B. The See-Saw Analogy

To maim(/hobble) or to kill, is clearly one of if not the most important strategic dichotomy that exists in The Banner Saga. After discussing many elements of strategy and the various mechanics, we can break down the dynamics of the game into two flows or forces. One is the force that creates an advantage due to the alternate turns – the team with less units but with stronger stats, can (if able to remain intact) deal more damage or be more effective. The second force creates an advantage in the opposite direction, the team with more units has and gains more willpower and can take advantage of pillage in the end-game.

The two forces which swing between the two teams, and the various situations you may find yourself in, form something much like a seesaw. It is important to judge and see which dynamic you can best use to turn a disadvantage into an advantage or an enemies advantage into a disadvantage.

When outnumbered, leverage the alternate turns and execute blocking to evade enemy approaches and attack until you can equalize the situation (in either stats or numbers). When outnumbering your opponent, weaken strong threats and steadily whittle down your opponent to end with a solid pillage.

In both cases, it is important to identify which unit/s you can rely on to see the game through. In the early game, keep your vital units as strong as possible (the ones you know that will be able to eliminate other units or remain robust the longest), and use them effectively. In the midgame, survey the damage done to your team, and choose which unit or set of units will be your “trump card” for the endgame – prioritize and whittle down important targets and set-up foes to take a mortal blow once the end-game arrives. Once in the endgame, be sure you can close in on your targets, and in a close/tight match, block as much as possible to minimize the damage your champion unit receives, so you’re sure he can land the victory blow!

In summary, we can gauge the state of battle on unit numbers, and on whether our strongest unit can last through/kill whatever else the enemy has left. The main consideration we need to make if we're outnumbering our opponent is that we need to keep our enemy from wearing down our strong unit using their turn advantage. If we're at the disadvantage, we need to use the turn advantage to kill and weaken as many enemies before pillage, and hope we have a stat advantage great enough while the unit number disadvantage is close enough, to withstand pillage.

With all that said for now,
  I bid you good fortune on the fields of battle…
    The gods may be no more, but stories will be told of your valiant feats
      And even should you fall, your memory shall be engraved upon the victor’s Banner.
  Tis our saga, The Banner Saga.
Skal!
(as has become custom to depart with :) )

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