Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sword of Aragon: A Chronicle of Deeds

My chronicle of deeds grows ever longer.

In my last posting, I noted that "strategy game lovers might actually dislike" Sword of Aragon, a position that I hold more firmly now that I've had a chance to experience far more involved battles. The problem is that the enemy AI is rather awful. Enemy units dither around when they should attack, hole up when they should enter the field, and retreat when they should charge. They send bowmen, who could be devastating otherwise, out into the field in small, easily-destructible units. They surrender with 75% of their force still strong. I've won several combats against cities with tactics no more intense than simply hovering my archers just far enough from a city to hit it with their bows, and raining volley after volley on the stubbornly-entrenched defenders until they surrendered.

Unfortunately, these same AI problems often beset your allies as well. In both my fight against Paritan and my attack on Brocada, many of my allied units just hung around their starting locations instead of engaging.

My units do all the work scouring the city while my "allies" hang around tot he southwest.

This is on "average" difficulty, though. I don't know if the AI might be stronger on "hard"; you have the option to change it every time you start the game, and I haven't experimented much yet.

Despite these concerns, the game continues to delight me with the ways that it breaks common tropes. Other strategy games I've played encourage you to think of some units as essentially cannon fodder. I'm thinking of the infantrymen in Warlords, whom you can create at a rate of 1 per turn, and whom I would gleefully (and somewhat sadistically, in retrospect), send on suicide missions to soften up enemy stacks before attacking with he units I really cared about. You don't want to do that in Sword of Aragon. A unit of 35 mounted infantry costs around 6,000 gold pieces to assemble and equip. No unit is "dispensable."

Creating a new unit costs a quarter of my available wealth.

I had some successes since my last posting, which I will recount anon, but also one big failure. My main army, with almost all my heroes (save my main hero) was moving along a mountain trail when they encountered a "small group" of titans. I expected an easy, quick combat, as random combats usually are, and was careless in my unit deployment and the initial rounds. The titans turned out to be absolutely devastating. I lost five heroes, a unit of cavalry, and two units of bowmen. It was the type of loss from which you seriously think about starting over, but fortunately this game (at least in parts) gives you enough breathing room to recover from such disasters. Particularly notable is that newly-hired heroes don't start at Level 1 but rather about half the level of your main hero. I had lots of recruits waiting to be formed into units in my four cities, and I was able to rebuild my army within about a year.

More on combat tactics at the end, but let me quickly recount what I accomplished since the last posting:

1. Brocada: Joined with the exiled forces and re-took it from Pitlag's army. The old guard took it over, so it's a vassal city rather than a city I control.

2. Pitlag's Army. I heard a rumor that they were camped to the southeast. Took my victorious army from Brocada and found their camp, wiped them out, seized their treasure.


3. Nuralia. I had heard nothing of this city to the east of Paritan, but it was on the dead-end of the road, so I figured I'd have to deal with it at some point, and I might as well do it before I turned my attention south. When I approached it, I had an option I didn't have (or didn't notice) with the other cities: to lay siege to it.


I kept the siege up for several months, but the defenders just "remained firm" each month, so finally I lost patience and just attacked. The battle wasn't too hard. The city had a lot of defenders, but as covered above, they were loathe to leave the safety of their walls. I just shot arrows at them until they surrendered.

4. Horsemen: Around the time I was attacking Brocada, I started to hear about tribes of horsemen in the plains south of Sur Nova. There were apparently several warring tribes, but one leader, Jantri Khali, was said to be uniting them under his banner. (Seven years before the world learned of Khal Drogo!) There were also reports that horsemen--I don't know which ones--were looting merchant caravans. As the months passed, I heard that Jantri Khali had defeated his rivals and was charging tribute to pass through the lands. Eventually, an ambassador from Khali approached me and offered an alliance, which I accepted.


5. Sur Nova. The giants that had given me trouble early in the game, blocking passages south, were a bit easier with my long-range compound bows. I killed them, freed their captives, and gained treasure. The freed captives told me they'd put in a good word at Sur Nova, the next city on the march south. I ended up taking the city without a fight; they simply welcomed me as their new leader. Nice when it's easy.


6. Miscellaneous Monsters. Around Sur Nova, my heroes found some evil cultists and a band of orcs with wizards. In both cases, the heroes had to fight alone, but they were easily victorious. Both produced lots of treasure.

7. Monastery. My court historian told me of a monastery to the east of Sur Nova where the monks apparently know some protective magic. I sent Gideon there alone for some reason, but it turned out okay. He got admitted to the building, donated 1,000 gold pieces, and received some information about an alternate route through the mountains, guarded by a goblin army with a dragon.


8. Tentula. Rumors around the time I was fighting for Nuralia said that this southern city was "once very prosperous" but "has practically withered since the disaster that devastated the world" (interesting hint to a back story not covered in the manual) and would therefore be easy to conquer. Soon, word came of impending collapse and riots in the streets. When I finally arrived, I found it quite well-defended, with 500 soldiers, but I won it with my usual bow strategies. It's a good thing I did: I hadn't been watching the months, and it was December. If I hadn't been able to take the city, my army would have faced a long and deadly march back to the nearest safe city.

9. Trolls. I recount this episode below.

As months go by, in between turns, a lot of random stuff can happen in the cities, some good, some bad, all lending some fun flavor to the game. Hail damages crops and diminishes a city's agriculture. Citizens donate money to help with the upkeep on the garrison. General "unrest" damages production. A "misunderstanding with a powerful merchant group" damages commerce. A prospector finds a new mine and increases mining production, or a bandit raid decreases it. Nice weather improves morale and decreases food use. Food shortages deplete the civilian population. Wandering adventurers give information that helps improve trade. A population surge increase the number of individuals available for recruitment. There are dozens of other possibilities.

Each transition of months brings both random events and intelligence.

All of these events have consequent effects on morale, city production, city population, income, and recruitment. I agree with most commenters that since the overwhelming majority of your income comes from battles, these considerations aren't terrifically important, but it irks me anyway to see cities operating on a net loss.

Okay, on to combat. A 25-minute battle I fought against some trolls illustrates the game's approach to both quests and combat. The episode begins some turns earlier, when hundreds of trolls surrounded the city of Sur Nova and demanded 2,000 gold pieces or else they would "kiill aall humann!"


In most games, you might pause to chuckle for a few minutes before attacking (has anyone honestly ever just given "all their gold" to a wandering bandit in Skyrim?), but Sword of Aragon encourages you to think about the situation with a little more strategy. In the city, I had a garrison of about 35 trained and equipped infantry, a new unit of bowmen, plus two heroes. If the trolls killed them all, it would cost well over 2,000 gold to replace them. Plus, there's the population of nearly 5,000 people to think about--no more recruiting in Sur Nova--not to mention the continued economic cost of supporting a devastated city.

In this case, I allowed myself the rare luxury of trying both options and re-loading, just to properly document the role-playing choices. Fighting turned out to be suicide. There were indeed hundreds of trolls, in dozens of units, and they swarmed my hopeless garrison from all sides. I had to watch as the game told me how many civilians they were slaughtering.

When I intend to leave a hero in a city, I lamely name him as the first letter of his class and then the name of the city.

So I reloaded to try the other strategy: agree to pay. They told me to "havve theee goold ready" when they came again.

Little did the trolls know that I'd already discovered their base of operations, called "Trollhome," and I was waiting for reinforcements to attack.The video below picks up as I muster all of my heroes and forces in front of their fortress and launch my assault. The video is unnarrated, but I have highlights below.


  • 00:07: You see my unit names and statuses. Yes, I'm running out of ideas for naming the heroes and units.
  • 00:17: The game gives me a description of what I'm facing and a chance to attack or retreat. Sometimes these screens give you a better sense of the size of the opposing force, but not here.
  • 00:24: I scan the battlefield before placing my units. Though it looks like the bulk of the troll army is up in their village to the northeast, I know from a previous attempt that the biggest danger us a horde of them hiding in the mountains to the south.
  • 00:39: I start positioning the units. Trolls rarely used range attacks, so the key to success in this battle is strong stacks that can repel melee attacks. I have too many units for fewer than three stacks, and I decide to go with exactly three groups of melee units. (When enemies use ranged attacks, you generally want more groups so they take less damage from arrows.) This is enough to create a wall protecting my archers and mage. I distribute the heroes and ground troops relatively evenly throughout the stacks.
  • 01:40: The trolls immediately start pouring out of the mountains and attacking my groups. I'm able to eliminate or repel all of them. The game won't let the round end with opposing units sharing the same square, so one stack is either completely eliminated or dispersed back to another square.
  • 02:22: Notice how many units are just dithering around the village when they could be swarming me. This is what I mean by the bad AI.
  • 02:24: I finally get the ability to act. I take a look at the army list, and we've both lost about 8% of our effectiveness. This doesn't mean that 8% of the units are dead. These percentages are a combination of soldiers' lives and the hit points of the heroes, I think.
  • 02:38: I begin by having my archers decimate the largest stacks of trolls. Each group gets two shots.
  • 03:15: My plan at this point is to basically entrench in place and let them come to me. But the stack to the far left didn't get attacked in the first round, so I have them charge the group of trolls just to their south, eliminate them, then return to where they came.
  • 03:40: I may not have the other groups charge this round, but I don't want to waste their movement when I can do something. I start by having the ranger in this stack fire a volley with his remaining movement.
  • 04:04: The "2nd Javelins" were highly demoralized by the attacks of the first round, so I have a priest cast "rally" to restore some of their confidence (04:11), and Gideon casts "Heal" to restore their health (04:28). Gideon also shoots a bit at one of the stacks.
  • 04:42: Morganna, my mage, casts "Confuse" on one of the stacks, then makes an attack.
  • 05:10: Pasta, a priest, casts "Exhaust" on another stack.
  • 05:31: Everyone else "entrenches," which protects them a bit in the next round.
  • 05:40: Next round begins. Yikes! Look at all those troll units that suddenly appear! And the ones from the village are ominously beginning to come west (05:45). Nonetheless, my stacks of heroes and soldiers do a good job repelling large groups of trolls.
  • 06:36: My actions in the second round begin. I pretty much repeat the last one: target large groups with archers, charge a couple of weak troll stacks, keep most of my fighting units entrenched but take advantage of ranged and spell attacks when I can. I'm a little worried that at the beginning of the round, we're still even in losses (06:39), but by the end of the round, I've clearly dealt with most of the danger from the south.
  • 09:36: At the beginning of the next round, the stacks of trolls either break themselves against my units or flee to the south. I pick off the remainder with archers, rangers, and one cavalry charge during the next couple rounds.
  • 11:41: Gideon is out of arrows. I have to "resupply," which costs a little money.
  • 13:30: Fortunately, the trolls in the village haven't realized that they could easily overwhelm me if they just had attacked at the same times as their friends. I now start positioning units for what I think is the inevitable fight against them. There are a few rounds as I slowly approach close enough to get my archers in range.
  • 16:00: I check the status. I'm only doing slightly better than them. They could still defeat me if they tried.
  • 18:00: Notice how they spend a lot of time just shuffling around instead of charging.
  • 18:15: I have to "resupply" my bowmen.
  • 18:23: I finish killing the one unit they sent gingerly towards me.
  • 21:28: I'm just in the midst of picking off some other forward units when suddenly they surrender--with 68% of their force left! (Compared to my 80%.) Note how much gold they have. I get a percentage of that gold based on the percentage of trolls I've destroyed. If I quit fighting now, I'll get 22,500 * 0.32, or 7,200. Not bad, but I'd like more, and they threatened to destroy my city.
  • 21:57: When you continue to fight in such situations, you get only one more round. I spend it charging down and shooting as many trolls as I can.
  • 23:44: Satisfied I can do no more, I end the round and the combat. A number of my units and heroes gained levels, and fortunately I didn't lose any heroes, but the combat was otherwise fairly tough on me. I lost 10 of 24 javelins, 4 bowmen, 4 of 22 cavalry, and 14 of 22 mounted infantry. It'll be a while before I can replenish these units with fresh recruits. My extra round ensured I got $8,325 instead of $7,200.
  • 24:16: More important, I finished the quest and got 25 points--the highest I've been awarded so far--for doing so.

A few things that are raised by the video and combat discussions in general:

1. I see the wisdom of spreading out your units in most fights, so you don't lose too many soldiers to arrows and spell attacks that target an entire stack. But so far, I don't see any reason not to start everyone very close together. I wonder if later enemies will be capable of hitting multiple stacks at a time.

2. Spells so far have been under-whelming. "Rally" and "Heal" help a lot to counteract damage from enemies, but it's hard to palpably sense the effects of "Confuse," "Fear," and "Exhaust." I'm hoping some actual damage spells are coming along soon.

3. At the end of each combat, you get a battle summary that shows your "battle score," which I gather is the equivalent of experience points in a traditional RPG. Everyone who participated gets a share, regardless of what they did, and everyone has a chance of gaining levels or (for heroes) spells.


4. I really don't like some of the controls in the game. Consider moving a stack in combat: you hit ENTER to activate the stack, select the one you want to move, or "All" for all of them, hit "N" for normal movement, go where you want to go, hit ENTER to stop, and hit ESC to leave the stack. It doesn't sound too hard, but I find it easy to skip a step and find myself targeting when I want to be moving or (worse) moving when I want to be targeting. It's also not possible (at least as far as I can tell) to select multiple units without selecting all of them. If you want to move just 4 out of 5 units in a stack, you have to either first move the unwanted one out of the stack or painstakingly move the other 4 forward one-by-one, and then join them again.

5. Freeing captives from various monsters increases the number of people you can recruit in nearby cities. This is good, because the number of recruits otherwise grows slowly--maybe 5 or 6 a month--and if you need a unit faster, you have to resort to conscription, which damages morale and costs extra.

6. Garrisons. As I found out the hard way, if you don't leave a big enough garrison in a city, wandering monsters will attack it. I've taken to forming infantry companies out of local recruits and stationing them there. They're the cheapest units (since they don't have horses) and taking them on the road is difficult anyway because of their low movement speed.

Forming an infantry company to protect Sur Nova.

As I close this posting, I have a few options for my next move: 

1. Gernak. A city of goblins in the middle of the map. I can either approach from the direction that has the dragon or go around.

2. Zarnix. The next city on the southern coast. I know nothing about it.

3. Xafanta. This dwarven city lies to the east of Sur Nova, in the mountains. It's very close to my cities and I'd like to count it as an ally, but I've had no emissaries from them yet, just word that they're at war with the orcs. It seems wrong to just attack dwarves, but my ultimate goal is to unite the land...

4. Tetrada. This city is in the far northwest and, judging by the map of highways, probably the last that I'll approach. Word came that the "emperor," Lucinian III, had died, and his son, Lucinian IV, was promising to restore the city's position "as the center of the known world." At first, I thought he might be an ally, but then I got information that he's "ruthlessly suppressing opposition" and has appointed loyal army officers to political positions.

Looks like we'll be facing each other across a battlefield, Lucinian.

I only have 130 out of 500 points, so either I've missed a lot, or we still have 3/4 of the game to go, or the point rewards get bigger from now on (something my battle with the trolls seems to suggest). I wouldn't mind if there was a lot more left to play. This is a very fun game, and I'm glad my coverage has brought so many fans out of hiding to comment on it. A week ago, it was an annoying obstacle between me and the end of 1989; now, it's a reminder of why I started this project in the first place.

42 comments:

  1. Interesting vid. Though I do wonder what sort of trolls those were. Bridge trolls? Forum trolls? :)

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  2. "Praying Guy" lol You really were running out of ideas! Mind, I once named a character Some Dude when I didn't expect him to live in a game once. He ended up winning.

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  3. The structure reminds me of Knights of Legend, but the combat seems simpler?

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  4. The combat is much more like a strategy game, where you have "companies" of units moving and knights charging, etc.

    You asked about spells; the spells are pretty lackluster for a long while. I seem to recall though that my about level 9 or 10 or so your mage starts getting fireball type spells that damage whole stacks at a time. It took a long time to get there, though, as I recall.

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  5. I agree the controls are awkward. But you CAN move any combination of units. Example complex command: "1-3,5,8-" moves units 1,2,3,5,and every unit above 7.

    Heal, Summon and Direct Damage spells are the best. But you will have noticed how entrenched defenders on good terrain are very difficult to assault. Spells like Wither, Grow, Dry, Confuse, and Fear can all be used to alter terrain or soften an entrenched defender. Slow and Mud can keep a dangerous foe out of melee range for an extra round.

    Ages ago I heard the designer talk about different versions of the game, some with better AI. But its hard to track down versions of such an old game. Maybe he was referring to the Amiga version?

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    1. I've been playing along on my Amiga emulator and the AI does not seem any different. In some later battles your allies are slightly more effective but not by much. Main differences are the sound and you can use a mouse, which makes it easy to select units out of a stack to move individually, but I still find I use the keyboard shortcuts %80 of the time.

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    2. I utterly missed that in the documentation. Thanks!

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  6. Cities operating at a loss, that's a huge peeve of mine. In fact as much as I enjoy it I find the whole city building and economy confusing as heck. Generally I start pumping up agriculture, but some seem to max out and won't increase no matter how much money you pour into it. I'm not sure what structure does, it may allow the city to store more food for the winter but I'm not sure. Some turns every city is making profit. In the winter many starve or have to import food, but they still seem to suffer starvation even when I have lots of gold, I don't know if a cities "Commerce" rating has an effect on how much it can import (or export for profit).
    The manual has pages of fiction, I wish they could have added a little more detail on how the economy functions instead.

    This has annoyed me so much over the years I was determined to get it all worked out this time. I'm about 3/4 of the way through the game and I've pretty much stopped expanding, Instead I've been "grinding" a certain location for gold, and sinking thousands and thousands into my cities. I make a large monthly profit now, all cities are productive in the summer, but a few still suffer starvation and operate at a loss in the winter.

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    1. Uggh, what a sloppy comment, my kingdom for an "edit" feature!

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    2. I feel like the main purpose of cities is to produce units rather than be economic engines. So the main purpose of development is to improve morale and loyalty in the city so that you can conscript more soldiers. Think of your leader as a propagandist who injects money into the economy to buy loyalty and young soldiers to die in pursuit of the leaders hunger for conquest.

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    3. Well, it's a fact that some cities just suck. Aladda is a great city with bountiful agriculture, the northern cities are all OK, but once you start moving south the cities are hit-and-miss. This isn't Civilization where you can build any swamp-infested dump into a population 23 behemoth. I remember the goblin city was especially bad. Frankly, some of the cities I'm more interested in the fortification level than the moneymaking. If you're going to get attacked you want that defense up there, and good fortifications really make a difference.

      This is why vassals are great, instead of dealing with developing a city you just get a steady income, summer or winter. No recruiting and paying for a garrison, no monster attacks, no nothing. Just pure gold.

      Yeah, the manual is pretty sparse. It doesn't include any technical details. Sucks.

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  7. You'll get some damage spells later: (P)yro (aoe) and (D)isint (one hex)

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  8. 2. Spells alter the battlefield. You're supposed to use grow to defend your units and wither to denude enemy squares of defense. Fear affects enemy morale and confusion affects unit cohesion (chance to disperse). You can see unit morale on the status screen. There are two numbers, one for hand and one for missile. That's also why units have two numbers for Armor Class. Xhaust affects their endurance, which almost never comes into play unless you force march often. If you had several lower level mages cast it several times, you could make a unit unable to move. Yay. Level 8 is when the mages get Pyro, the first direct damage spell.

    4. The interface is clunky, no doubt. You can use a mouse but it doesn't help that much. If you want the 6 out of 8 units, just write it like 1-3,5,7-8 or 1,2,3,5,7,8 or -3,5,7- and move them that way.

    Yeah, the victory determination algorithm is not the best. It measures the victory points and hit points of each side and decides when the combat ends. You get VP by holding the center of the battlefield and eliminating enemy units. For whatever reason, the longer the battle goes on the more likely it is to end.

    Still, there is motivation to close with and destroy the enemy instead of plinking him until he surrenders. The more destroyed the enemy side is, the more treasure you get! No sense in letting 40% of them go...carrying 40% of the treasure with them! I always tried to smash every last unit to get 100% of their gold. Besides, it's satisfying to squish enemy units, especially the stronger ones.

    Your troops weren't entrenched during the troll ambush at the start. You can tell if they're entrenched becuase their names will be in green.

    If you get stuck outside in December, you can 'encamp' your army and you'll lose fewer men. You get attrition one time per month as opposed to every square moved.

    Heh, don't sweat the colorless names of your garrison troops. We all do it. But don't be shy about your line troops. Give them colorful names according to their deeds, Royal Guards, Trollslayer, etc. You can rename units, you know.

    I don't think I've ever seen such a small force take Trollhome. Wow, I would have had at least 4 bowmen and 6 infantry for that one, plus another mage or two.

    Yes! I'm glad it's been declared a fun game. Becuase it is! Sword of Aragon is awesome. I was sure it was going to be too much wargame and too much strategy for our host and he'd find some excuse to skip it six hours in.

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    1. All right then, dammit. So many statements declaring this to be a good game, even the Addict himself seeming to have fun even if he is a tad confused bout portions of it. I'll try it! Usually, 99% of the games the Addict (and y'all) play I end up being damned glad I decided not to play that game after all. But this one has brought all y'alls outen the woodwork, declaring your love of it. The Gadfly will try it!

      And fail, no doubt.

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  9. This is not for the addict :) it may spoil things for him. I can't find any decent source on the net so I will ask the droves of well versed SoA fans here. I've put many hours in and I'll be damned if I don't finish this.

    V whfg ragrerq gur svany onggyr naq tbg pbzcyrgryl qrfgeblrq.... Penc guvf tnzr unf n evqvphybhf qvssvphygl pheir ng gur raq. V unir bire 1000 havgf. 7 nepure onggnyvbaf nyy ng yrnfg yiy 6 naq 80 fgebat, 3 zbhagrq vas 40 fgebat nobhg yiy 2-3, 1 ert vas 80 fgebat yiy 3, 6 pninyel 33 fgebat nit yiy 4, 3 zntrf, 2 j/ qvfvagrtengr, naq n cyrguben bs zvfp urebrf. Lrg V fgvyy trg encrq va gur svany onggyr. Zl havgf ner jvcrq bhg va 2 varssrpgvir nggnpxf. Gur nepuref eneryl fpber, naq gur pninyel vf arneyl qrnq nsgre n fvatyr rapbhagre....

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    1. V qvqa'g unir zhpu gebhoyr jvgu Whfgvavna VI. Ol gung gvzr, V unq 3 yiy 12 zntrf jvgu Cleb, yiy 10 vasnagel jvgu cyngr naq 2U, qrnqyl nepuref. Pninyel pbzrf va naq pyrnaf hc jung'f yrsg.

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    2. Thrff V unir fbzr genvavat gb qb :)

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    3. Major spoiler - endgame save file: http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?file_id=26214359333986778896

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    4. Nyfb hfvat cevrfgf gb pnfg cenlre gb trg lbhe oyrff yriry gb 100% jvyy unir n uhtr rssrpg ba lbhe gebbcf rssrpgvirarff.

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  10. Word came that the "emperor," Lucinian III, had died, and his son, Lucinian IV, was promising to restore the city's position "as the center of the known world." At first, I thought he might be an ally, but then I got information that he's "ruthlessly suppressing opposition" and has appointed loyal army officers to political positions.

    The phrasing makes Lucinian sound like the "bad" guy, but isn't this basically what you've been doing since the beginning ever since your father gave you the same quest?
    You just happen to be better at it.

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  11. Some comments on your playthrough and writeup thus far. Any spoilers will be ROT-13ed. I will be mainly commenting on what you could have done differently thus far.

    First, about difficulty. The different difficulties don't change enemy AI AFAIK. All it does is change the amount of HP that units have.

    I.e. a single full stack of 20 orcs will have 20 health (easy), 40 health (average), 60 health (hard), IIRC.

    Gameplay difficulty can of course be changed when you run the sword.exe file. So if you find things too tough, you could go for easy difficulty, then load your save game.


    Accomplishments
    3. Nuralia - It's too bad you conquered the city. If the siege had been successful, you could have made the city a vassal. A note here, IIRC how effective your siege goes also depends on how many units are assigned to the siege although there's a random element there.

    I've had sieges end after a month, and at other times, half a year.


    5. Sur Nova - A tip (not a spoiler) because this is something that's easily overlooked. Some time after taking Sur Nova, you'll get an event where your adviser will tell you that taking this city means that Aladda is pretty much safeguarded from any random attacks.

    What this means is that you no longer need to maintain a garrison in Aladda. Yes, you can leave it completely empty.
    (Spoiler: Ubjrire Znynpba fbzrgvzrf arrqf uryc nf lbhe yblny inffny. Lbh fubhyq znvagnva ng yrnfg bar havg urer va pnfr ur arrqf vg.)


    8. Tentula - unfortunately, another city that could have been made as a vassal (although with a pathetic tribute, 250 gold IIRC). Tentula's a real PITA to garrison. Expect annoying and very painful raids to come its way.
    (Spoiler: Pune vf cenpgvpnyyl arkg gb Graghyn. Pbafgnag tvnag envqf, zru.)

    Certain events in the game only occur after you've achieved certain things. I.e. your court historian wouldn't have talked about the monastery/Tentula until you have Sur Nova under your control. So in a sense, the offer to make Tentula as a vassal would have been forthcoming given a bit of time after you took Sur Nova.

    Unfortunately, again there's an RNG here as to when certain events are brought up. In one game I had Pitlag taking Brocada within a year of my starting. In another, it took three years. So yeah, it can be a bit sucky as to whether you should wait for something to happen or just clobber a city. This is for first time players that is. :p

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    1. Combat Tips
      1. Commenters above have already stated about how to move different units in a stick. It's funny how they missed out on putting that in the game manual.

      2. Spells - As highlighted by others, direct damage spells include Pyro & Disintegrate. I think I should highlight something here about spells (wish they'd included this in the manual). As your level goes up the range you can cast spells at increase.

      I.e. Disintegrate is a single hex direct damage spell that mages gain at level 11. At that level, the maximum range they can cast the spell is roughly 4-5 hexes away. At level 20, it's probably about 10-11 hexes away. So levels do help a lot.

      With Pyrotechnics, the same is true, but as your levels go up, the aoe range it his goes up too. I.e. A mage gets it at level 8. When cast at that level, it will hit the hex it's targeted at as well as all adjacent hexes. At level 12, it will hit up to two adjacent hexes away. At level 70(yes, that's not a typo, savegame is available if anyone wants it, and no, no hex editing involved :p) it's something like 7-8 hexes away.

      Also, don't forget your spellcasters also have direct ranged attacks. If your mage/priest just cast a spell, they still have some movement left. Don't waste it, use them to do a ranged attack on an enemy target. Again the range (and damage they do) increases with levels.


      One last bit, this is more spoilerish then anything but I think it's important you follow it and not spoil the enjoyment of the game. There's an unfortunate bug involving Xafanta that the developers missed before the game was released. (and this is something that was admitted on the aragon-online forums)

      Assaulting Xafanta, the defending forces have 84,000 gold. This was an oversight (one zero too many I think) and unintended. So smacking Xafanta will be a fairly large unfair advantage to you. And it's exploitable since abandoning the city will let the dwarves reclaim it. Allowing you to attack it again the next month for another 84,000 gold.

      So the suggestion here? Don't attack the dwarves. :p

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    2. Ooh good idea by Harland above.

      My save game file. :p

      http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?file_id=45943953287708657715


      Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. XD

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    3. Ahh I knew there must be something wrong with that number.... I admit, however, to exploiting the living crap out of it :)

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    4. I've completed the game a few times and I've never known the tricks to making most cities a vassal, so I don't think its that vital. At least the non-vassal cities yield more soldiers.

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    5. V ernq fbzrjurer gung.... fbzrguvat yvxr vs lbh nggnpx n pvgl jvgu lbhe nezl zvahf lbhe znva pune lbh pna fvrtr. Gura zbir lbhe znva ba gur pvgl n pbhcyr zbaguf yngre naq vg fcrrqf hc gurve fheeraqre... Qba'g xabj jurer V ernq gung naq V'ir arire grfgrq vg. V gubhtug vg jnf nyy fpevcgrq nf sne nf jub pna or fhowhtngrq naq jub pbhyq or qrfgeblrq. V arire grfgrq vg. OGJ, whfg fcrag n tbbq 4 ubhef genvavat zl 2000 zna nezl gb na nit yiy bs 15. Urebrf ner na nit bs guvegl-fbzrguvat. NGZ V'z pnzcrq bhgfvqr gur ynfg pvgl. V'yy gel gb svavfu vg gbzbeebj, vg'f gbb ybat n onggyr gb gel gbavtug. Guvf orggre or rabhtu be V'z QY'vat bar bs gubfr raqtnzr fnir svyrf nobir :)

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    6. It's distressing to hear how pumped your units were before the final battle. I like the game, but I don't want to have to spend THAT long grinding my heroes.

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    7. Well, its not that hard really, and I may have exaggerated the time spent :) I simply fng bhgfvqr bs gur Qjnes pvgl naq pbagvahnyyl qrzbyvfurq vg, tnvavat TERNG rkc naq rira terngre tbyq, gur jubyr juvyr genvavat gebbcf fgngvbarq va bgure pvgvrf. V fgvyy unir lrg gb pbzcyrgr vg orpnhfr nsgre ernqvat lbhe zbfg erprag cbfg V frr V zvffrq n pbhcyr guvatf juvpu V jvyy abj gel gb trg. V fcrag nyy qnl ng jbex fb V'z whfg pbzvat onpx gb vg.
      Gurl fnl guvf vf n oht/rkcybvg ohg uryy, vgf va gur onfr tnzr fb ^@#$ vg :)
      V pbhyqa'g oryvrir ubj zhpu uneqre gung ynfg pvgl jnf. V qba'g frr nal jnl gb rnea gur pnfu gb tnva gur nezl bgurejvfr, jvgubhg fcraqvat N GBA bs gvzr ba vg.

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  12. > A week ago, it was an annoying obstacle between me and the end of 1989; now, it's a reminder of why I started this project in the first place.

    It seems like every other game there are comments about wanting to get to the next year, how we've been in 1989 too long, etc.

    But it's the journey that's the entertainment, because the finish line sucks (that means there are no more games to play!).

    I have no problem with your game pace and am enjoying the ride. :-)

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  13. I remember naming some high level soldiers as "Elite Dragoons", "Delta Force", "Black Ops" and some such. Good times! XD

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  14. Your enthusiastic posts inspired me to play this game for about ten hours. It is a lot of fun, but eventually I got frustrated with the interface and quit. I really got tired of having to manually place all my units all the time. Would it have killed the designers to allow you to stack units together instead of having to manually set things up each time?

    This is a game that is begging for a modern remake. It looks like there is a multiplayer version called Aragon Online. It sounds interesting, but I think I'd prefer a single-player game with improved AI.

    http://aragon-online.net/

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    Replies
    1. Thats exactly right TsuDhoNimh. I've also been inspired by this diary to replay. I can adjust to the old school graphics, but the interface for placing units on the battlefield is painful. If they must use this interface, they should have limited the player to 3 or 4 heroes maximum, and adjusted the difficulty of the battles to match.

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    2. If you hit the ESC key it will randomly place them, something necessary when your army gets so large that the allotted number of manual placement control.t hexes is less than the number of units you

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    3. Thanks, Ryan! I knew that ESC did random placement, but I didn't realize it overcame the hex limitation. I was wondering how I was going to deal with that.

      Still, it's a clumsy solution. Ideally, you'd organize your units in the perfect position at the beginning of the battle and not have to shuffle them around in the first round.

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  15. When I play a game with units like this, I look up the names of historical regiments. They're even useful for theme naming: heavy infantry can get the big and pompous names, light infantry the wry or ironic names, skirmishers the names that refer to civilian professions. I keep the numbers to better tell them apart.

    Okay, there was the time in Battle for Middle-Earth when I named all the Rohirrim after My Little Ponies, but that's the time I was trying to make rather a mockery of things. Alas, I failed in my plan to win the Battle for Helm's Deep without using the fortress

    Holding off on naming your units until they've done something worth a name, like Harland suggested, is also fun. I'm sure it's a tradition somewhere in Africa.

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    Replies
    1. I didn't even notice the re-name option until late in the game, at which point it seemed a little late to try to make use of it. It does enhance the role-playing considerably.

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  16. "Seven years before the world learned of Khal Drogo!"

    And six hundred years after Ghenghis Khan.

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    Replies
    1. My point was the similarities in the "Khal" syllable.

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    2. "Khal" is a very obvious derivation of "Khan." They only changed one letter, the last letter of the word "Khan" is basically the only one you can change and retain the punch, and there's not many letters besides L and N that sound right on the end of that word. The upshot of all this being that if you are going to take the name Khan and tweak it very slightly, Khal is one of about four possibilities that someone might end up with. The only other straight derivations I can think of are Khar (could be mistaken for a lame pun), Kham (sounds very similar to the original), and Khaz (sounds kind of science fiction).

      Really, though, there's no reason not to just use the word "Khan." It was a title, just like king or caliph.

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