The Banner Saga Warbands

The Banner Saga Warbands

Crowdfunding is realistically one of the best ways for developers with even modest followings to find the financial support to make the games they want to make. Not surprisingly, working with a small team means that budgets are often tight, but at the same time they're often quite a bit smaller as well. Some of the strangest, heart-filled, and entertaining games come from indie developers who try to find support directly from their audience, and we like to find those games and give them a bit of visibility to our readers.

Today we're looking at The Banner Sage Warbands. Warbands is a tabletop version of one of 2014's most-loved games of the year. I played the game quite a bit last year, and I felt at the time that the combat wasn't entirely satisfying and some of the decisions you would make in the game seemed to lead to similar ends, but for the most part really loved the setting and sense of desperation the game created with a relatively simple reputation mechanic.

Now the game is getting a physical tabletop release with Warband. The thing about The Banner Saga is that the video game was initially prototyped as a tabletop game of squad tactics. If you've played the grid-based combat encounters in the game, it's pretty easy to see how the game could quickly and easily be replicated in a physical space. The strength rating of a character determines their total health and offensive power. As that character takes damage, their strength goes down, both reducing their health and ability to attack. Armor negates damage against a character's strength as long as the armor rating is greater than that of the attack. So players have two choices when attacking a subject: attack the armor, reducing the opponents ability to negate future damage, or attack a target's strength, reducing their overall combat ability. It's a simple, functional system that just works. And while combat in the game had a few other issues, I liked mechanically how skirmishes were handled.

I'm still a little wary about the skirmish game, though. One of my criticisms of the game was a distinct lack of interesting terrain and elements on the battlefield that would help break up combat. It usually ended up with my squad charging forward, creating a line of combat, and then sending faster units around the flank to engage and surround enemies. The tabletop game (and The Banner Saga 2, coming this year) could learn some things from other tactical skirmish games. Playing on a grid map is fine, but at least make the battlefield something that players have to think about. Make it an important part of the tactical game. This is one of my biggest hopes for The Banner Saga 2: that they will make the tactical combat a little more fluid, and a lot more varied from encounter to encounter.

The Banner Saga set itself apart from other tactical skirmish games because it required party management and narrative decisions that would affect the future of the game, as well as introducing a really cool setting with beautiful cel animation. It was a formula that worked in early 2014 because it was different than anything else being made. But now? It's been quite some time since the game came out, and is The Banner Saga Warband going to have a long life in stores? I'm really not sure. They've already hit their Kickstarter goals, but will the makers of the game be able to provide an experience that gamers are looking for, especially since The Banner Saga 2 is so close to release? I mean, enough people want it to fund the project. I just wonder what we'll be saying about The Banner Saga franchise in another 18 months. I wonder if a physical tie-in game will still be something we're playing and excited about.

What do you think? Are there tabletop games based on video games that go beyond the scope of the video game, offering players a reason to invest in both?

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