I've now played Banner Saga: Warbands a total of five times, with two different gaming groups. We've played the scenarios in order, from 1-5.
Scenarios 1-2, we got through too easily to even think of them as games. They were over too fast. That's reasonable; we just assumed they were tutorial games so we could learn the mechanics.
Scenarios 3-5, we got our butts handed to is in ways that seemed completely arbitrary and unfair, and usually right off the bat. In particular, the skirmishes "Bandit Ambush" and "Bandit Encounter" seem to come up frequently, and being told to resolve either of those is basically a "You lose the game," card. In some events, such as "Oath Breakers", ever option leads to one of these encounters, so as far as I can tell, drawing the Oath Breakers card, at least during the first 3-5 encounters of the game, is just an immediate "You lose the game," card.
It may be possible that we're doing something very wrong. In fact, I expect that it is, and in particular, I expect that we're doing Combat wrong. However, repeated perusals of the rulebook (which seems to be a mess) and online FAQs reveals not only no obvious errors, but nobody asking the same questions.
Since I have no specific idea what we're doing wrong, it's hard to zero in on a particular question. However, I'd like to know if others have felt the same way about the game, and if others have resolved the Bandit Encounter or Bandit Ambush (particularly the latter) skirmishes successfully.
The only specific question I can think to ask, other than those, is:
In Combat, does the turn order proceed like this?
1. A player (selected in the Skirmish play order) activates a bannerman if possible, or a follower otherwise.
2. Go back to step 1 until all bannermen and followers have had a turn.
3. An enemy unit activates (selected in the order they appear on the skirmish card) if possible.
4. Go back to step 3 until all enemy units have activated.
5. Go back to step 1.
Is that correct (i.e. all bannermen act, then all followers act, then all enemies act)? That's how we've been playing. We find that in the Bandit Ambush and Bandit Encounter skirmishes, no matter what we do, by the first instance of step 5, i.e. the first full turn of combat, all or almost all of our bannermen have been removed as wounded and our followers killed. Also, the Thane's pyres have filled up 2-3 times, causing us to lose almost all of our Varls and whatever-the-normal-troops-are-called. Then we're defeated and have to resolve the defeated card, and that pretty much (or actually) finishes us off.
I had a similar experience with the elite bandit skirmish. I drew it on the starting location for the 3rd mission, so there was very little I could do to prepare. I tried it a couple of times and got wiped out each time. It didn't seem possible, and it didn't seem like there were enough options to try other approaches. I was concerned that a bad draw with your first card could lead to a very negative play experience.
Then it occurred to me that I didn't even think I could do much better even if I'd had a chance to buy some upgrades, so I figured I must be doing something wrong. I tried again the next day and used a very different approach. It played out differently than I expected, and I ended up pulling it off. I had 2 wounded bannerman, and 3 of my 4 followers survived.
I don't have the skirmish cards in front of me, but I have a couple of high level questions:
1) Are you ever using willpower to upgrade your silver attacks to gold?
2) Are you ever using the defend action?
3) Which special abilities are you using?
4) Have you been able to keep out of range of any enemies on their first turn?
5) Did you know that enemies can't disengage with any bannerman or follower?
I have played one thing different than you, not sure that I'm right on this though: I have all bannerman activate before any followers, so if a bannerman is wounded the player's turn is skipped.
I've played the game 5 times now, with the same group and we've fought the dredge Elite and Bandit elite encounters a couple times, some things that you need to do, especially if you know that they're coming, is try to get your ranks up. You don't need everyone with a follower either, we beat the bandit elite with the Warmaster at Gold, Thane at Gold, Quartermaster wounded, Keeper of names Silver, and the Warmaster had a War leader? and The Thane with a Hunter (both ranked at silver).
We usually end up defending the first turn in order to get shields on everyone.
The Thane can pretty well kill a gold rank on his own with his special ability, and you can get the Warmaster to destroy shields and a rank of people adjacent on two sides.
Use that willpower to move into positions where they can't reach the rest of your troops. If you have to spend it all on turn 1, then do it.
If you can keep the gold ranked units in the heat of the battle, and basically try to whittle everyone down to bronze rank, then they can't hurt you.
I think the biggest thing to remember is, is that you really need to defend sometimes on the first turn, especially if they have the numbers advantage on you. Allow yourselves to get shields which is one extra health, and you can position yourselves better too.
If you're able to get to gold rank as well, remember when you attack you destroy a shield and take down the rank by 1 as well.
** I should note, in the five games we've played and about a dozen skirmishes, we have yet to lose one. We've come close on the hardest dredge one (lost 4 followers and wounded two bannermen) but that was in the first game we played and we didn't know what to expect.
- Last edited Mon Nov 14, 2016 9:19 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Nov 14, 2016 9:17 pm
New South Wales
How are your group liking the game, Anthony? I was never really interested in it, but just jumped on the KS out of curiosity. I'm not sure now whether I should spend my limited time learning/playing this or just sell it and spend the time on my other unplayed games.
My group likes it actually quite a bit. But we do get into a bit more role playing then most groups probably do.
As others have mentioned the whole thing with bidding for re known doesn't make a whole lot of sense in a co op. But it does if you are role playing the roles.
We do like our coop games though and I find that this is a nice break from other games we have. It's not overly complex and it doesn't take too long to play either.
I do wish that it had more of a semi coop take to it rather than coop. It would make it feel better thematicly I think. But it's still fun.
If you already have coop games that you enjoy. I don't think this is going to bring anything too different to the table. But if you really like the banner saga I do think it brings enough from the video game over to the board game to have a go at it.
I am thinking of writing a review for this game after I get a couple more plays in too. It'll be my first one. Mostly because there doesn't seem to be much out there for banner saga yet.
I'd recommend investing in it. The rules are difficult - won't lie there - but my group had a wonderful time once we got the mechanics down. As Anthony said, getting into the role-play made the game a ton more enjoyable.
The combats are tough, but require a lot of planning. We kinda balked at the Bandit Ambush, but with our combination of followers we were able to clear it with only one follower's death. But it's supposed to be a right hard challenge - the combat is very cut throat and punishing of mistakes. I think our success was from taking a lot of time to discuss and pre-plan our combats so that we were maximizing our moves/attacks/defends before allowing the enemy to go. The combat flowed easily - although figuring out how the dredge would move/attack took a bit of deduction to find the right balance (i.e., they'll always attack, and the target of their attack / who the move towards is what changes based on range and proximity.)
The items we dabbled with (having only played missions 1 and 8) and in Mission 8 my quartermaster had a grand time one-shotting silver dredge.
It was a lot of fun - kind of like the Battlestar Galactica board game: there's a lot to learn and decipher, but once we had it down, Banner Saga was a hit with me and my two compatriots - inspiring one even to move the PC game up on his Steam backlog!
Give it a go - work through the rules of phone a friend - and get into the roles. I didn't regret this purchase (although, yea, the rule book could be light-years better than it is.)