Part 7: 3-2: You're Still the Worst Goddamned WarleaderUPDATE 7: YOU'RE STILL THE WORST GODDAMN WARLEADER
Remember last update, most of which was spent fighting various dredge on identical snowfield maps?
Well I hope you liked it because that's what the rest of this chapter is. But then everything's good from here! Consider this the Babylon 5 season 1 of The Banner Saga.
Well hey, more varl are always good since I kinda got a lot of the old varl killed.
: You must be with Vognir.
: Was. Vognir didn't make it.
: You're serious? It's getting grim out here, but...didn't expect that.
: You're flying the Schlid banner. What's happening? Isn't Ulfar in charge there?
: I'm Fasolt. Ulfar's still in Schlid. In case he needs to be. He sent me to meet Vognir...well, you. We've seen nothing happening in Schlid, yet.
: What do you mean?
: No dredge. They never came through Schlid. They're all pouring out of Ridgehorn. We only just found out about it. One group went that way. We came here.
: Ridgehorn? The fort on the bay? That place has been abandoned for hundreds of years.
: Yeah. Maybe that's why they're there. By all accounts it looks like another damned invasion.
Ludin forces his way into the conversation.
: Wait a godless minute. What did you do?
: Careful now.
: You be careful! What did you start? You think men don't remember history? The Long Banner hangs in Arberrang! The second great war nearly screwed us all. What did you do this time?
: Who the faen is this?
: Nobody. No one to worry about, anyway.
Ludin's head swivels in your direction, eyes wide. He seems uncertain whether to be insulted or threatened.
: What orders did Ulfar give you, Fasolt?
: I'm supposed to offer any support you need. I've got three hundred thirty varl behind me, and Ulfar wants to know what's happening at Ridgehorn. What's your plan?
This is a choice that matters in that I can send Ludin and his retinue away, but I really need them. So I'm taking this choice away from you all.
As you try to give the orders to go to Grofheim, the words catch in your throat. You need to go to Ridgehorn.
: We're going to Ridgehorn. You're coming.
: I'll have my varl fall in line. Yours to command, Hakon.
: Are you insane? He just said an army of dredge are pouring out of that fort!
: Go on to Grofheim then, prince. Having your blood on my hands would be worse than doing nothing.
That shuts Ludin up a moment. You can see the battle raging in his head. He looks desperate for safety, but he didn't expect to look like a coward. He expected you to come along. He glances at his men.
: We're already this far. If this is the varl's doing I'll know if it, and so will my father. Besides, you need my help, and my fighters. If I go, so do Yrsa and Bersi.
Ludin's unexpected flip-flop catches you like a swift kick to the shins. Mogr can't contain a chuckle.
: Hah! The prince has courage!
: Do whatever you like, Ludin.
: Paint me the villain, Hakon! What do I care? I'm sick of you being the only one to do as he pleases in this alliance!
: These are varl lands! We're facing an army of dredge! How much experience do you have in these matters?
: True, mankind has never provoked them into a war! You're going for a third! Is taunting the dredge into genocide a game for your kind?
Believe me, I wanted to. But...Hakon walks away.
You curse and threaten pandemonium. The prince has chosen to be no responsibility of yours. If Ludin stays, so do Fasolt's warriors. They join the caravan.
Another war battle before we reach the next godstone. This one's...at least a little different.
You know the routine.
Fasolt stays on the bench. He comes with enough to promote to level 2 immediately, but we don't really need him.
Fasolt's a "Provoker," a kit of the shieldmaster. Same passive as Mogr and Iver (and Griss ). His active, "malice," taunts an enemy and forces it to make a strength attack against Fasolt on its next turn.
Which would be really useful at level 5, as level 3 malice lets you piss off something in the back line and have it march all the way up to you. But at level 1 it's only useable against adjacent foes, and you might as well attack an adjacent foe.
In short, he sucks at low levels and as such it's not really feasible on Hard difficulty to get him to high levels.
Meet the bane of all varl: dredge slingers. They're ranged units. All really weak. But they have better movement than varl do, and they're really just a pain to fight.
All slingers have the "back off" passive: when they take armor or strength damage, they take 4 random steps AWAY from the attacker. Which makes Ludin's impale great, since it's a free +4 damage.
There are different varieties of slingers.
Some can drop explosive stones on your tile, which does 2 armor and 2 strength damage in a plus pattern around the explosive stone. It doesn't detonate until the slinger's next turn, though. So you can move away. Or kill the slinger.
Some can do an attack that makes you unable to use exertion on your next turn. Great for locking down poor mobility units.
I...think that's it. Later games have other varieties.
Bersi shines here. Enough mobility to get into tempest range, so he can maim multiple slingers at once.
This doofus was impaled, and used his turn to move into attack range, at which point he died of the movement.
Mogr takes out the big guy. This is going well!
Let's push my luck. I really want the guaranteed item that a wave 2 gets me, and surely nobody ELSE can die...
Tough luck for Bersi, had the enemy spawn in right by him.
Hakon has been maimed for a while, but Sundering Impact gives him 1 armor 2 strength minimum so he's still useful.
Eventually, though, he succumbs. Down to Gunnulf and Ludin.
Gunnulf is at 13 strength, which is a TON at this point in the fight.
We've got this.
Gunnulf finishes off the last slinger, and we get the Sprddrekt Bur, a weird little item that I've never used. I like it. A lot.
Not sure why some varl died. Maybe because we were outnumbered heading into the war fight. Still, 26 casualties is pretty good!
Oh right, nobody can die in the fight but now there's this bullshit.
Surprised varl pull weapons, but not before the whole cart slides off slick rock and a sheer drop, stopped suddenly by a low growl.
Gunnulf is just gonna keep the entire goddamn wagon using brute strength. Or die trying.
We order him to let go, because, uh...he'd die trying.
Gunnulf is simply too valuable to lose trying to save gold. This game doesn't even let you pay for shit in gold! It's worthless!
With a roar that sounds more like you stabbed him in the side than gave an order, Gunnulf lets go of the cart. It flips over the side in a flash, followed much later by a dull thud and a crack.
At the base of the steep cliff, hundreds of yards below, the treasure cart has exploded into a frozen firework of gold, valuables, and yox and dredge gore. "That was a costly mistake," grits Ubin between clenched teeth.
You wonder why the dredge went after the yox in the first place. Then you realize the bigger problem is the vast fortune now lying at the bottom of a cliff.
You try to recover what you can. You gather ideas for hoisting the loot, all of them difficult and time consuming. Eventually you settle on lowerin ga man by rope into the valley. He grabs a few valuables and covers up the rest, but not much else. You face the fact that you've got nowhere to put them and nothing to pull them with, even if you managed to recover them. A day later you're back on the march without much to show for it.
Au contraire, game! We have this artifact to show for it!
The 5% dodge str is as low as dodge goes, and I'd never bank on it. But +2 aggro...that's enough to make the AI do stupid shit, like attack Mogr's armor instead of try to maim one of my units.
At last, we reach Godstone Stravhs.
Hakon is many things, but he's no grave robber. He searches for the necklace.
In the midst of the pile of bodies a glitter catches your eye. You fish a gold necklace out from a jerkin to find five golden rings strung on it. The merchant's brother. "Guess he didn't make it," you mutter.
You toss the necklace to Mogr and tell him to hang on to it. If anyone can be trusted, it's him.
We don't get the necklace as an item, but we *do* get 10 renown for our honesty. It's actually a pretty even trade; the necklace is a very good artifact.
Every godstone in this game has an item associated with it. We punted on the item here--it was the necklace.
Fuck sending scouts. We do everything ourselves!
Oh, of course it's another fight. Not a war, though. 1 wave only.
Nothing too dangerous here. And our spawn point is such that we can set ourselves up to have Yrsa rain fire on people from safety.
I've been trying to get an image of this for a while. Dredge stoneguards (the 2x2 big guys) have a move called "Tremble." They slam their shield on the ground, and any adjacent units to the stoneguard take 1 armor damage and are pushed back up to 3 tiles, doing 1 armor damage per pushback tile.
It's devastatingly good when deployed against multiple units. But the AI is weird and it'll use it in the dumbest circumstances. Here, breaking Gunnulf and Hakon both is smart.
I did good at the captures here. Ludin impales the stoneguard, and then KICKS it onto the hot coal 2 tiles back.
I really am pretty good at this game. I can almost always finish a wave with no injuries. It's just...the second wave that's really screwed me.
Another 280 varl join our ranks. We're at 1000 fighters between man and varl now.
Ludin's still going back for the gold. I wish we could pummel him in his stupid face, but no. We just threaten him if he doesn't stop.
Stupid jerk. Really good and necessary-in-combat character. But a jerk.
As we get closer to Ridgehorn, this happens. Uh...ok.
Between that vision and not being able to avoid Ridgehorn in favor of Grofheim, something's not quite right.
That tower in the background is Ridgehorn. But, uh...we're not getting there without a fight. Several, in fact. So let's get this one out of the way.
"OK," says Mogr. "I'll ready the warriors. Careful Hakon. This isn't the time to start taking risks.
This is a war battle, and one with very favorable placement. With them surrounded I can bomb the shit out of them with Yrsa, use splinter when I break armor, and have my warhawks and Hakon do adjacency damage with heavy impact.
Pictured: a stoneguard slamming the shit out of...another Stoneguard in an effort to get Gunnulf. Except that stoneguard that's going flying was impaled, so he takes a lot of strength damage (and will take more when he tries to walk back.)
You know the routine.
The reinforcements are pretty weak. And slow. And don't spawn in on a side where I can't react in time and let them get the first hit.
Still, Mogr with that +2 aggro thing is a magnet for all attacks. He tanked very well but eventually he succumbs.
Hah, nevermind. I suck. No deaths as a result, though, and we sleep off the injuries.
At least it's not as bad as it could have been if you hadn't taken out a good portion of them already, you think to yourself.
: Get the others ready to fight, Mogr.
With the warriors readied, you burst from the woods at full tilt, weapons and shields at the ready, battle cries on the wind. The dredge may have known you were coming but still found themselves surprised. As you cut one wide-eyed slag nearly in half, you bark orders and engage!
Despite failing the previous battle, we split enough dredge and kept enough varl alive that we have a significant numbers advantage. Enough that CHARGE! is actually a smart move here, and not the role playing move.
That's...a really shitty spawn. Damn.
We split the party, Bersi can tempest the upper two to death, Mogr can tank the big guy while Gunnulf gets into position, and the others can impale, heavy impact, and ignite the grouped up slow stoneguards.
Piece of cake.
Wave 2 isn't bad at all, and most of our units are at full health.
Everyone remains standing, and I get the Eyeless Rift as my prize.
A flawless victory.
The closer we get to Ridgehorn, the more lightning we see. It's only striking the top of the tower.
Tons of lightning strikes later, we arrive at the abandoned fortress, Ridgehorn.
But nobody's here. No dredge. No varl. Nothing.
: What is this mess about? Looks like a full-scale battle happened, and recently.
: But only dredge bodies remain.
: Maybe we'll see something from the tower. Have varl search the buildings and make sure there's no dredge waiting to spring on us.
: On it.
: And don't set up camp or make a fire. We'll take a look and then get out of here before anything else goes wrong.
: You mean MORE wrong...
The Eyeless Rift is a nice little relic. Never getting deflected means we can make strength attacks (with exertion) against an enemy regardless of its armor and always connect. Good for units that don't have strength-guaranteed attacks AND have high exertion.
Which to be honest doesn't really describe anyone in this caravan. It'd be quite nice on Iver, though.
We take a war party up the tower.
We find a bunch of dredge slingers and one stoneguard.
Oh, and 2 dead humans right at the top middle of the screen, nearly obscured by the horn.
This battle is a bit of a pain because the tower has holes in it, and your giant varl have a tough time navigating around them. The smaller ranged units on the dredge side don't, and a lot of units get pretty injured before they can close in. Poor Mogr got picked apart and is now running away as best he can, for example.
Yrsa is SO worth leveling up.
Eventually Eirik puts down the last enemy.
Well, maybe this man will know what happened. But first we have to do some more fighting!
While we were up in the tower, somehow a SHITLOAD of dredge showed up.
There's no opportunity to rest between fights, so staying healthy in the tower fight is a necessity.
You can see Ubin carrying the sole survivor of whatever happened here in the background.
The battle itself is pretty straightforward. No clever positioning tactics.
It wasn't necessary, but Bersi's Eyeless Rift procs its crit cahnce and he does 15 damage (double strength) to some poor bastard.
Mogr's drawing TOO MUCH aggro with that item, I think.
Who needs Mogr, though?
So Hakon and Mogr are hurt, but everyone else emerges unscathed. I hope I get something good for my trouble.
Huh. Well...interesting. It's a -2 aggro item. Meaning you can make things NOT attack you. I guess that could be good for Yrsa. Or Bersi or Gunnulf--get them into melee range for a nice big tempest without getting maimed.
: What's going on?
: I had one eye on the fight. Next time I looked down dredge are swarming into the courtyard. Can't tell how many more are waiting out there.
: But it's a lot. If we're getting back across the bridge it'll be a fight.
: Any options?
: Not really. Unless you want to wade into that valley we're going to have to leave the same way we came in.
: Hakon, I think you should take a look at this.
Nearby, the man rescued from the tower had been bundled and laid near a short wall protected from the wind.
: I think that man is a mender.
: That raises more questions than it answers.
: That's right. I knew his look was familiar.
: The spell weavers? In Ridgehorn? Why?
: Maybe they knew something about what's happening. If he's going to tell us anything we need to get out of here alive. Let's go.
: Hold on. We've got a lot of tired and wounded, Hakon. This is going to be rough.
: Each day we wait means more dredge. Or another ambush. Or we get snowed in.
: A heavy snow may act in our favor if we can get past the first line of dredge and lose the rest.
: I agree for once. I don't have any intention of staying here.
: Er. Look. It's your call, Hakon...but we can't run on this one. There's one way out. If any varl fall...if ANYONE falls fighting here, they'll be left behind.
: Ludin, what would you do?
: You want my opinion? How unexpected. I think there's no point in waiting. Let the wounded ones fall behind. If you've got any sense we'll get out now before they bury the rest of us.
: OK. Let's prepare to fight.
: Good. That wasn't so hard, was it?
NOTE: Had we elected to rest, we'd be able to, but Ludin would piss and moan and try to fight his own way out. This will get him, Bersi, and Yrsa killed. You can avoid this by PUNCHING HIM IN HIS STUPID FACE and knocking him unconscious. You lose him for the next fight since he's incapacitated. But it keeps him alive, and Yrsa and Bersi will still fight for you.
: If we're doing this now, we need an approach. We can't just go up there swinging.
Nah, Mogr. We're going to go up there swinging.
None of the plans work particularly well. You want something done right? Do it yourself.
Fasolt will take the place of Hakon this fight. Mogr is still useful at -6 strength since he can still tank for a while. A maimed Hakon is pretty useless. Sure, he still has sundering impact to do guaranteed damage, but his armor is low enough that he'll probably die pretty quick.
The 2 16 strength big guys are a problem. As are the slingers who have pretty good strength and we won't be able to get to for a while.
I miscalculate and Gunnulf takes a nasty wound.
A slinger puts some explosives around Yrsa, but Ludin responds by killing the slinger. So they'll never detonate.
Gunnulf goes down.
Slingers are an enormous pain, as Fasolt learns.
Team Arberrang finishes things off, with Bersi, Ludin, and Yrsa.
You know what's happening here. Unlike other fights, though, I can swap out units and everyone starts fresh.
One last hurrah.
Gunnulf is pretty useless, and Fasolt is useless when NOT injured, so this is what we'll do. I toyed with just going with 5 party members, but Hakon's the leader!
Yrsa hits rank 5 before we start, though.
No slingers. This'll be easy.
Yep. Easy. Except for Mogr. But that's kind of what he does. Tanks until he dies.
We slaughter our way out of Ridgehorn and we're in the clear.
So in the clear, in fact...
That we just sorta fast travel to Grofheim.
Some time later, we're on the outskirts of the varl capital.
: Hakon, join me a moment. There's something I thought you'd want to see.
: Is it a welcoming party from Grofheim, bearing mead? That's about the only thing I want to see.
: No such luck. The mender from Ridgehorn woke up. He says his name is Eyvind.
: Sounds like a mender name. How is he?
Editor's Note: It's also the name of EYVIND EARLE, who did a lot of the old Disney artwork in the mid 20th century. The art style in this game is modeled after his work. I really want to get an Eyvind Earle print but his estate apparently never sold out and Eyvind Earle artwork is ludicrously expensive. A pity.
: Not well. Where are we?
: A day or two from Grofheim. We found you at the tower of Ridgehorn. What were you doing there?
: Grofheim...no. No, no, that's the wrong way. Juno. Where is she? Where's the woman who was with me?
: She didn't make it, my friend. We only brought the living with us.
: No, we have to go back.
: I don't think so. We barely made it out two weeks ago. Do you know why the dredge were crawling all over Ridgehorn?
: Dredge? WE HAVE TO GO BACK!
: It's a damned graveyard, boy! I'm sorry, Eyvind, the girl was dead when we got there! What we have to do is tell Jorundr what's happening and prepare for a bloody war, so if you...
: She is dead. I couldn't save her. I couldn't save her.
Eyvind suddenly looks spent. He slips to the ground and you motion for some varl to help him onto the cart.
: Not what I had hoped to hear. Not sure what I was hoping. Come on, Ubin. Sooner we get to Grofheim, the better.
Ubin narrates this next section, despite it being Hakon's caravan.
That's, uh...that's the varl capital.
And on that happy note, we're back to Rook's party next time!