Monday, July 22, 2013

Sword of Aragon: A Conqueror's Mentality

My vast (and, unfortunately, not very profitable) holdings.

My path to global conquest has progressed largely unimpeded. Since the last posting, I accomplished the following:

1. Defeated a dragon on the way up to Gernok, the city of goblins. It was easier than I expected: it fell in a couple of rounds in which I took virtually no damage. For my four-minute combat, I received 72,000 gold pieces and 50 points.

At least, unlike most RPGs, it seems to be the right scale.

2. Attacked and conquered Gernok itself. There were a lot of goblins there with many monster allies, but like most besieged armies, they were loathe to leave their fortifications and were easy fodder for my bowmen. When I won, I not only got the city but the Crown of the Westrealm.

Who is actually saying that I'm the "rightful ruler of Aragon"? Not that I mind.

3. Conquered and occupied Char, the city of giants, for which I found the Wand of the Lake Goddess. It supposedly caused some improvements to the area around Tentula, but I didn't really notice them. A couple turns later, I had to defend Marinia, my vassal, from another group of giants. I didn't have many forces in the area, but sending a single battalion was fortunately enough. Malacon did most of the rest.

My units face off against giants at Char.

4. Had a few skirmishes with Khalikhan horsemen bands who were angry that I'd sided with Jantri Khali. (From what language or mythology did both this game and George R. R. Martin draw the syllable "Khal" as relates to horsemen?) But after an episode where I saved them from some trolls, they agreed to lay down their arms and join Jantri. For this, the overjoyed Jantri gave me 5,000 gold pieces. I never heard about horsemen again after that.

Jantri Khali will now marry and beget the Stallion Who Mounts the World.

5. Conquered Zarnix from the orcs. This involved two huge battles, one in front of the city and one at the city itself. This was necessary to open the southern pass to the east coast.

6. North of Zarnix, my hero found a clearing with a large stone tablet that called me the "True Heir." The ghost of an old emperor (my ancestor) appeared and told me I was destined to unite the land and become emperor, but I need the Crown and the Sceptre. I'd already found the Crown, and I got the Sceptre in Dersh. He also gave me the Amulet of Aladda and 50 points. I was told that I was compelled by magic to "wear the amulet for as long as [I] shall live."

Can I at least take it off when I shower?

7. Invaded and conquered Dersh from the titans. It was the toughest battle of the game so far: the titans are capable of devastating missile damage at long ranges, and they had a horde of demon allies with tough magic. Shooting at them from a distance didn't work because of poor visibility between my units and the city itself. I lost three heroes in the invasion. My reward was the Sceptre of the Eastrealm and 60 points.

The bloody battle for Dersh.

8. I next headed for Lucedia. There had been constant rumors of fighting between Lucedia and Dersh, and I'd hoped my recent victory would create an ally. Instead, a group of Lucedians met me on the road and demanded the Sceptre. After I slaughtered them for their impertinence, the city offered itself to me without a struggle, and I got 20 more points.

I'd just defeated hundreds of titans and demons. Why they thought 200 cavalry would intimidate me is anyone's guess.

Throughout these activities, I got continued intelligence about Lucinian and Tetrada. I learned that he has been greatly expanding his military, that he installed his uncle as Earl of Estrallah (another city on the east coast) after the previous ruler was assassinated, and that he invaded and captured Sothold.

Well played, Lucinian.

When I'd finished conquering the north, wast, and south, I turned my attention to these cities in the east, of which Tetrada would be the culmination. I started by conquering Sothold with the help of the exiled armies of the former leader, Baron Strumberg. North of Sothold, I met a force from Estallah, who became my ally in exchange for my agreement to attack Lucinian.

With the potential end of the game in sight, I moved my armies up the coast and pounced on Tetrada, but just before I did, I got word from a random wanderer that I'd been betrayed by Estallah; that the leader was none other than Pitlag, who I'd sent packing from Paritan, and that the Estallans actually planned to join the battle against me.

He was "true to his word" that he SENT the troops; they just joined the enemy instead of me.

After defeating an advance guard outside the walls of Tetrada, I attacked the city itself and got my butt handed to me hard. My forces were no match for the thousands of combined Tetradans and Estallans. Their infantry and cavalry units were capable of absorbing ridiculous hit points in damage. Heroes and units that had effortlessly breezed over stacks of titans were dispersed or eliminated by single companies of Tetradan infantry--and there were dozens of them.

Part of the massive defense force at Tetrada.

I had some success hanging back and using bows--my default strategy--but there were too many enemy units, and they were too well-defended. The game automatically stops combat at 24 turns (the attacker "loses" at this point), and I'd only brought the enemy down to 70% by then and had lost more than half my own forces.

I assume taking Tetrada will end the game, but I haven't conquered everything else on the map. I skipped Xafanta, the city of dwarves, hoping they'd eventually offer some kind of alliance, since we had a mutual enemy in the orcs. There's also an elven city off in the woods that I'm not sure if I need to deal with. Finally, I haven't done anything with Pudawala, another city on the coast. I honestly don't know why. It just hasn't been a bother yet.

You'd think Xafanta would be grateful that I conquered Zarnix.

More on Tetrada at the end, but let's talk about a few other things that have been happening.

The conquered monsters don't let me rest easy.

While I was conquering the land and finding treasures: monsters began attacking my cities almost every turn, desperately trying to reclaim them. I had to fight off goblins in Gernak, orcs in Zarnix, titans in Dersh, and giants at Char. They attacked in the thousands, throwing wave after wave at my entrenched defenders, pillaging and slaughtering townsfolk when they could. Since recruitment in these cities was so pathetic (2 or 3 recruits a turn), I had to form units of conscripted infantry (damaging morale) and bring in defenders from other cities. I lost a lot of units and heroes.

Hordes of goblins breach the walls of Gernok.
Late in the process, I began to wonder why I was spending so much time defending the conquered cities of monsters. Why did I even care if they took their cities back? I'd already looted them for tens of thousands of gold pieces, their magic items, and the associated points. Continuing to occupy them was costing as much as I'd won--in poor commerce in trade and in dead soldiers. I'd been assuming that winning the game would involve holding--as a conquest, vassal, or ally--every city on the map, but nothing in the documentation said that, and even if it turned out to be true, it would be easier to re-conquer the cities after dealing with the major foes than to hold on to them for months and months until then.

This made me think of a key paragraph from Stephen Ambrose's D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, which I highly recommend for its prose, even though serious historians tend not to like popular historians like Ambrose.

At the beginning of 1944, Nazi Germany's fundamental problem was that she had conquered more territory than she could defend, but Hitler had a conqueror's mentality and he insisted on defending every inch of occupied soil. To carry out such orders, the Wehrmacht relied on improvisations, of which the most important were conscripted foreign troops, school-age German youths and old men, and fixed defensive positions. It also changed its tactical doctrine and weapons design, transforming itself from the highly mobile blitzkrieg army of 1940-41 that had featured light, fast tanks and hard-marching infantry into the ponderous, all-but-immobile army of 1944 that featured heavy, slow tanks and dug-in infantry.

Everything about this--the mentality, the conscriptions, the change in unit design, the loss of momentum--rang true in my present scenario. No one wants to find out he's been role-playing Hitler. Thus, towards the end of these events, I began to withdraw troops from the monster cities, leaving only a few token forces, with the idea that they could retake them if they wanted

Although it sounds like the game has been encouraging me to think strategically, the analogy doesn't hold up beyond what I've already described. If the allied invasion on D-Day had failed, it would have been devastating to the war effort, and Germany might have held France permanently. (Or, more likely, two million Berliners would have died on a single day in 1945.) In Sword of Aragon, goblins, orcs, giants, trolls, and titans are free to send thousands of soldiers against my cities every few rounds; no number of defeats will deter them, and they never run out.

Aragon thus really isn't much of a strategy game, despite my misgivings in my first posting. I'm not a strategy game addict, so I don't feel qualified developing a list of "core criteria" for strategy games the way I did for RPGs--but if I did feel qualified, I'm sure that one of the criteria would be that every player, human and machine, plays by the same rules. Every player in Warlords has to spend money and time developing units, has the same considerations in their finances, and--most importantly--has to actually move units across the map to make attacks. This isn't the case here, where enemy attacks and defenses are scripted. (There's some randomness to when they appear, but the events themselves are still scripted.) That means that Tetrada can maintain thousands of soldiers in its single city without going bankrupt from the costs. They can send units down the coast to conquer Sothold without encountering any of my units along the road. Hordes of goblins can attack my cities in between turns, but I can't raise some companies of cavalry and go rout them in the foothills before they attack, because until they launch their attacks, they don't really "exist." This is par-for-the-course for RPGs, but it breaks the basic rules of pure strategy games, and it's yet another reason that I'm not sure strategy game lovers would love Aragon.

A few other notes on the game:

  • As my units increase in levels, it's fun to see what additional equipment options become available to them. Most important are the compound bows which become available to archers at Level 5 and have a very long range and enormous firepower. I have six units of 50 with them and have been trying to develop more. 

Somewhere along the way, Wiggins got the ability to use a two-handed sword, as long as I don't assign him a shield.

  • NOTHING in this game is more annoying than repeated messages that the line of fire for my archers is blocked. I can't seem to reconcile such messages with information about the height of the hexes or the number of obstacles in between. Sometimes, they just appear for seemingly no reason.


  • I'm not sure I made this clear earlier, but even when you lose a combat, you don't necessarily lose all the soldiers in the units. Units "eliminated" during combat are simply rendered unable to continue in that battle; they might still have as much as half their strength when you regroup after battle.
  • Unlike some strategy games, there's no way to "vector" forces from one city to another; you have to physically move them. Taking advantage of the plentiful recruits in some of the earlier cities means spending half a year moving them across the continent later.

My main army retreats from Tetrada to lick its wounds.
Okay, so I definitely need to build up my armies to a much stronger position before I attack Tetrada again. I'm going to spend about a year developing cavalry, bowmen, and mounted bowmen in the various cities, training them as much as possible before sending them to join the forces in front of Tetrada. I understand that magic can make all the difference in the final battle, and I only have one mage left, and he's only Level 6, so perhaps I need to hire some more and spend more time developing their levels.

I'm next going to find out what happens if I conquer the traitorous Estallans before attacking Tetrada. I'll also probably conquer Pudawala just because it's there. My next posting will either be a "won!" or a (temporarily) different game.


  1. While I'm sure Lucinian's method of conquering the city via assassination was considered the "dishonorable" method, if I was a peasant in that city it was probably a nice change of pace to not have your family and friends butchered for once when a foreign noble got ambitious.
    (Not to judge YOUR way)

    1. No, that's a fair point. That should really be a theme in more books, films, and games about assassins and assassinations. It may seem like what they're doing is little more than murder, but by taking out a single individual, they forgo the alternative: a war that would cost thousands of lives.

  2. I always held Sword of Aragon high on my list of "best games", unfortunately from the first 30 minutes I find myself constantly replaying. It seems like the promise of city development and army customization doesn't actually materialize like I hoped it would. Ah well.

  3. Sounds like an interesting if flawed game :)

  4. So yes, some more comments from me. :P

    Again on what could've been done different, for your amusement.

    1. Amulet of Aladda - For those who are trying to get the maximum of 500 points in the game, this is one way to mess that up.

    If after conquering Zarnix, you DON'T go and get the amulet, but move your forces to the east one or two hexes along the road, you'll run into the demigod Aragon (yeah, a demigod).

    He'll yell at you saying he won't let you pass until you find the Amulet of Aladda. You can either turn back to go find it, or fight him. If you kill him, you get 10 points. :P And then, you can go and look for the amulet.

    2. Dersh/Lucedia - If you'd waited for a bit after conquering Zarnix, events would come from Lucedia with grumblings from the two factions that control it (the priests and knights). After a while, another event where they claim to have adopted a new stratagem against Dersh.

    Another month or so, and a declaration that they've won a great victory against Dersh, and more hints of frustration between the two factions.

    If you move your forces along the road to one hex just north of Lucedia, you have a chance (a chance, not 100% - to get it, just keep moving in and out of the same hex) of getting a special encounter with the knights from Lucedia who offer you a chance to attack the city together, and become your vassal.

    Move in, take out the priests, the Lucedians then encourage you to take on Dersh since the Titans have already been "weakened". Conquer Dersh, get Sceptre. Move back east along the road, you'll run into the Lucedians and get the same event you experienced where they demand the scepter.

    At this stage, irrespective of what you do, you lose the Lucedians as your vassal.

    3. Pudawala - After conquering Zarnix, given a bit of time, they'd have offered to ally with you against Sothold/Malthorn. The alliance would have come with a payment of 2,000 gold and some forces to attack the crossing north of Pudawala. No vassal options from this city, just a plain green ally.

    4. You've highlighted a good point about the monster cities (Dersh, Char, Gernok and Zarnix). There's no point in keeping them garrisoned since they have virtually no economic activity worth taxing.

    The only one you'd probably want to keep is Zarnix, to allow you to move units from the east and west. You could alternatively choose to garrison Gernok instead of Zarnix if you prefer to use that pass instead.

    Good job on almost hitting the end, Chet!

    1. I don't think I would have tried to kill him, but I wish I'd gotten the demigod encounter. Thanks for helping to fill in all these gaps.

  5. When my heroes get to a high level (eg high enough to cast an important spell), I give them titles like "Lord" or "Archmage" to make it easier to recognize them during the battle setup phase.

    I've never attempted the final battle without high level Priests (for healing) and Mages (for Area Of Effect spells). In fact the only heroes I recruit are Knights, Priests and Mages, plus one Ranger for Wither/Grow. Any other volunteer heroes gets fired to make room for more of the above.

  6. I'm loving your posts on this so far just as much as I'm loving the game. I'm at the same point you are.. stuck after getting my butt handed to me on a pitchfork in Tetrada. I have spent almost 2 years now training soldiers and Heroes of all types. Fingers crossed.
    My experience of the events barely coincides with yours.. things turned out VERY differently, with many events not occurring while many more not described in your posts did occur. This is a mark of a truly great game.

    This is the best 'old' game I have played in a LONG time and I never would have known of it's existence if not for you.
    Thank you.

    1. When I get done, I'm looking forward to reading walkthroughs to see other ways that the game could have gone.

  7. I try to maintain every city once I've taken it, but as people have pointed out you often spend more gold defending the city then it makes for you in profit. The exception I make is for Dersh. Although it takes a massive army to defend it from the titans, every time they show up to reclaim it they bring 15000 gold with them, The city may not be very profitable but defending it can make you a lot income depending on how often they show up. it's also a useful spot for training up new units.

    You are in for one heck of a final battle! 1 mage at level 6, ouch! I've been just grinding my army for the last while, and I'll be going in with 7 mages all of them over lv 20 and the best is lv32 and I'm still unsure. At higher levels Pyro becomes much more effective, it has a larger and more powerful aoe, disintegrate works like an eraser and you're summoned demons can summon even more demons.

    Good luck in you're bid for the throne!

    1. How are you grinding them? I can barely find a random battle no matter where I go.

    2. Dersh, conquer it and keep your army there. The titans or giants show up once or twice a year to re-capture it, all you have to do is wait. in addition to grinding good xp, they bring a lot of gold with them each time.

  8. "...if I did feel qualified, I'm sure that one of the criteria would be that every player, human and machine, plays by the same rules."

    I'm not qualified to develop "core criteria" for strategy games either, but I am pretty sure that strategy games have a long history of cheating AIs, particularly on higher difficulty levels. The TV Tropes article "The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard" goes into detail on this, with lists of examples for multiple video game genres including strategy games.

    Also, if "humans and the AI must abide by the same rules" were a "core criteria" for CRPGs, a great many of the games you played here wouldn't qualify. AI cheating is rampant in RPGs; one of the most ubiquitous examples is monsters that can never run out of spell points like players do.

    Especially in older games, the AI cheats because it's too dumb to provide crafty human players with any sort of challenge otherwise.

    1. I'm mainly a strategy gamer rather than an RPG gamer, and I wish MORE strategy games would openly cheat (or rather, start with an asymmetrical setup so that the AI has a logical story reason for why they play by different rules to the player).

      I'm in the minority though. Most strategy fans prefer symmetrical designs, even though its been proven time-and-again that teaching AI to behave intelligently is rarely possible within the budget of a computer game. Most people don't understand just how much work is required to produce good AI, and its not a feature that can be demonstrated in a marketing trailer to sell more copies.

    2. AI "cheating" is a staple of many strategy games. Since, as Tony said, programming a good AI is very difficult, game designers often rely on other means of providing (a scalable) difficulty.

      A few classic methods that I can think of:
      - giving bonus modifiers for the AI, like faster research, builds or resource gathering.
      - allowing the AI to issue multiple concurrent orders, basically giving it superhuman control of its units (in real-time games).
      - removing the population cap or the unit upkeep for AI opponents, so it can have more units at one time than you can.
      - giving the AI special abilities, or special units that you don't have access to (yet).

      If done right, you'll hardly notice these things or there will be some reasonable in-game reason why these things happen and you'll get a satisfying experience. Otherwise you'll quickly come to the conclusion that the computer is a cheating bastard.

    3. I think most experienced strategy players recognise the difficulties with AI and are happy enough when the computer *pretends* to play fairly in in most respects. [Conversely, computers beat humans at chess, and the best chess programs are the ones that make human-like mistakes at lower ratings.]

      I've no problems with completely asymmetrical strategy games - to me they're just a different type of strategy game. One advantage is that the AI doesn't need to be good - the strategy lies in beating it with lesser and different resources. But I also see the appeal of symmetric games like Civ and HOMM - they make for more personalised opponents.

    4. I guess I used the wrong terms. I didn't literally mean "play by the same rules." Perhaps what I should have said was "play by the same MECHANICS." There might be some cheating, but your enemy has to build his army just like you do, he has to act within reasonable financial boundaries, and in order to get to your castle, he has to physically move there.

      Victar, I realize none of this has anything to do with core criteria for CRPGs. CRPGs are notable for having virtually no variability in enemy strength or positioning no matter what the player does. Tyranthraxus has the same army in his castle whether I attack him in the first hour or the 15th year. The Kreegan in MM6 never show up to attack Castle Ironfist; they stay in their designated areas. I was deliberately making a distinction between CRPGs and strategy games.

    5. Pure wargaming probably does have what you mean, where the computer follows the same rules.

      I mainly have played real-time strategy games, and the computer cheats, all the time. The basic reason is AI is hard to pull off well, and even harder when you make it have to juggle multiple jobs.

      Up until Warcraft II at the least, in single player campaigns the computer starts with its bases already built, and does not build structures at all. Heck, it generally can't even rebuild the things you destroy. It took a long time for there to be any multiplayer bots.

      The basic AI in early games is for it to regularly produce units, and send them to attack your base every few minutes. Often it doesn't bother checking for costs and just builds on its regular schedule. The advantage is a very predictible difficulty, with few parts to go wrong and a chance for the player to learn and adapt to the new unit of the current mission.

    6. An interesting exception to the symmetrical AI setup in a strategy title is AI War: Fleet Command. You start out only controlling a small area while the AI has control over a large amount of the rest of space.

      You're essentially guaranteed to be crushed if you try to assault the AI head-on, so you have to balance your expansion against how much attention the AI deems you worthy of.

      Graphics are serviceable if not mind-blowing, but the asymmetrical nature of the strategy extends to the tactics too - the AI fleets move in statistically determined fashion rather than trying to seem human-like...

      Anywho, sorry, didn't intend to go on quite that much - not a salesman I assure you, just enthusiastic to play anything which differs from the usual setup in game mechanics.

    7. What is odd is early tabletop wargames were highly asymmetrical, as they were trying to simulate historical battles. You didn't build units, you started with a historical force and your opponent started with a historical force, and you tried to outdo your historical counterpart.

  9. Like Victar said, many, many strategy games have the computer cheat in various ways. Spawning units and having a stronger economy and such.

    About "khal", I'm not sure, but I've always just assumed it was an "easy" change to real-world "khan". Unless there's a better explanation out there I'll assume the Sword of Aragon developers and George R R Martin simply chose the same change to khan.

    1. I believe it's kind of a "portmanteau" of Khan and arabic title Khalif (more often spelled Caliph, but the first one is phonetically closer to original).

    2. Good point, that might well be!

  10. Something I wish I had known sooner and wish was outlined better in the manual. Qb abg haqrerfgvzngr gur cbjre bs gur enatre/cevrfg Srne fcryy. jbj. ng yrnfg ng yiy 20+

  11. 1 level 6 mage! Dearie me...that's...that's...bad. You should have at least 3, all capable of casting Pyro. And there's no way to train mages, the only way is to get XP in battle. Ouch.

    Honestly, if Tetrada kicked your butt, I'm not sure there's enough XP left in the game to raise troops to a sufficiently high level. Training can only do so much. Lucinian IV may survive after all. Hey, in Gateway to the Savage Frontier, the main bad guy kicked my butt repeatedly so I never finished the game. He won!

    Estellah as an ally city...I've never seen that before! They sent troops but failed to specify which side they would be on. A classic move.

    Side note: is there any forum on the internet that is a home for SoA? I'd really like to chat with others about the game, these postings have generated a lot of questions.

    1. Chet could theoretically run around looking for random battles to level up his heroes, if he has the time and urge to do so.

      Besides the aragon online forums, don't think so. There used to be a site ages ago that had a couple of useful things, including a detailed list of points in the game.

      Unfortunately, I don't have it bookmarked anymore, can't recall the name of the site and google isn't yielding me with any results.

    2. "Hey, in Gateway to the Savage Frontier, the main bad guy kicked my butt repeatedly so I never finished the game. He won!"

      I found this very humourous.

    3. I'm actually having a lot of trouble finding random battles. I decided to let the monsters take over their old cities so I could attack and sack them again, but after a two-hour battle to reclaim Gernok, none of my units or heroes increased in level, so that's clearly not going to work.

      I think I'll just have to try the final battle with no high-level mages.

    4. 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.

      It may be cheap in a way, but your attack from a distance with pyro and arrows while they sit strategy will work great. Now I can do it with 3 mages while the other 40 units sit back and soak up the XP. Screw the money, the exp is great. each battle lasts between 10-15 min to start, and as little as 3 or 4 near the end.

    5. Chet: With regards to the random battles. If you're sitting outside Tetrada, IIRC the number of random battles at that stage drops to almost none.

      Can't recall this quite clearly, but you might be better off moving them back to the south roads around Zarnix/Lucedia/Dersh to look for the random battles.

      Also I read somewhere that keeping the monster cities garrisoned reduces the random encounters of that race too. Not sure how true this is.

  12. Chet seems to have an odd view of strategy game fans - Not everyone wants a computer controlled board game.

    Victar's covered a lot of this already, but it's not always about 'a fair game'. Sword of Aragon is a scenario title (a big one with a fixed map), the challenge comes from finding a way to beat that scenario with the resources available.

    1. Yeah, I'd be interested in a WWII game where you played sides that had different rules: Germany could hardly recruit new formations after 1942, while Russia could easily recruit new formations the whole war, doubly so after 1942 once it had rebuilt its factories to the east. However the German formations, even the worst ones, were almost always higher quality then the USSR ones (The German army lost less soldier's then it killed, even right up to the final battles around Berlin. It just didn't matter, as the USSR always had more men...)

      What? The Western front? Why would I want a game about that? The war was decided on the Eastern front, with 8 out of 9 German soilders dying in battle with the Russians.

    2. Most of the detailed ww2 sims (on board and PC) require Germany to beat russia fast or face eventual loss.

  13. "10 Khalikha Horsebowmen. There is no city. To get these points, you have to get a very rare encounter with the horsemen, when they are under attack by the Trolls. Attempt to rescue them. These horsemen reveal themselves as Jantri's rival clan, but, since you rescued them, are "Honor bound" to make peace with you and you allies, which includes Jantri. This clears the way for him to unite the tribes, which occurs a couple turns later. This encouter must take place after you agree to be Jantri's ally usually he sends an emmissary after you take Sur Nova).

    To get this rare encounter, you want to march up and down the road about a third of the way from Sur Nova to Zarnix. One way to do this is to split you army into two adjacent stacks, and pick one unit at a time bouncing back and forth between them. Each such move allows a small chance of such an encounter. Without this trick, you may spend years marching the plains waiting for a lucky encounter."

    Very good, our lucky friend, "Chet" the Addict!

    1. I did indeed get lucky. I was just walking down the road. I didn't have to go back and forth or anything.

  14. Haha I really laughed at the comment "No one wants to role play Hitler".

    Loved reading about this game and may give it a whirl myself. I'm not a strategy fan really (At least, I dont think so) but this sounds quite good fun. And thinking about it, i always enjoy the bits in say - NWN2 - when you get a stronghold and have to have a sort of "strategy-lite" bit of gameplay. Maybe i am a fan....?

    1. Though, Chet's grasp of WWII history is....very American. While the fundamental aspect that Hitler was defeated partly because he wouldn't retreat, it had much less to do with France and western Europe, and everything to do with continually attacking into Russia, when his generals told him he was throwing lives away. I recommend 'Stalingrad' by Antony Beevor. To a lesser extend 'Berlin' by the same, though it isn't as good, and there is a fair bit of dispute as to his assertions of how widespread the rape and looting preformed by the Red Army was. If you want something easier to get into then a pair of books thicker then my fist, the Hardcore History podcast did an *excellent* series on the Eastern front called Ghosts of the Ostfront, though it focuses more on the populations involved.

    2. Sorry, more on the populations involved then the military implications of the battles, though it still goes into how much larger the scale of the fighting on the eastern front was then the western front.

    3. Canageek, I don't mind when you criticize me; I'd just rather you criticized things I actually say. I never said Germany lost the war because of Hitler's mentality, just that he had it.

      Everyone who researches the history of WWII understands the importance of the eastern front, but what I think is often forgotten is that if D-Day had failed, Hitler could have transferred hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the western front to the eastern front, where there would have no longer been any certainty of loss. With the allies demoralized and the fight against Russia bolstered, it would have greatly increased the chances that Hitler could have made favorable terms with Stalin and essentially retained control of western Europe--a situation that would have probably lasted until 1945 when a European analog to the Enola Gay would have taken off from some British airstrip.

    4. Ah, fair; sorry if I misinterpreted what you are saying. That said, I think the 6th army (or was it 9th? I never remember) and Stalingrad would be much better examples of his refusal to retreat dooming him.

    5. I think it would have been difficult for the axis to achieve much more than what they did. German manpower and industry had limits, and consolidating mainland europe would, I suspect, have been beyond them.

  15. One thing I just had to take advantage of that's not cheating or cheap and I think you may have mentioned. Once I developed my main to lvl 35 or so I could hire mages/priests who had every spell. I just kept interviewing until I found some that were lvl 14/15. I was seriously lacking in the Mage/Priest department until then. Now 80% of my heroes are one or the other... I had to let several lvl 30+ rangers go. That's OK though because my main is a ranger and I kept a couple more.

    I still have not tried to attack Tetrada again, just been too busy. The army is ready and rearing to go though....Hopefully tomorrow.

    1. That idea didn't occur to me: just keep grinding the main hero and then hire the other heroes. It seems rather obvious now.

  16. There are bases away from the roads, hidden on the map that house evil mages, demons & monsters. These are the headquarters of the monster attacks on your cities in the Westrealm. When you locate these hidden bases and wipe them out, the associated attacks are permanently ended. Each of these encounters also fund your army as they reward you with tens of thousands of gold. If you hit them all (including the dragon of course) you should have over 100,000 gold by the time you hit the Eastrealm.

    You should ferry recruits this way: build a mounted infantry unit with no equipment other than light horses. The next turn you should move these 30-50 unit stacks to your front lines or base of operations. They will have a move of 36! You then decommission the units and supply the target city with new recruits.

    In the tamed Westrealm I keep a single 40 infantry unit to guard each city. In cities that still suffer monster attacks you will need more of course. For the 4 mountain towns which can suffer permanent invasions use 1 of 3 options. Surrender them. Defend them in strength and grind the invaders for tremendous amounts of gold (especially trolls) or use a single immoveable unit. For example I use a 100 Infantry: Plate, Heavy Shield, defender. I Entrench them and then I let the invaders break themselves on this unit. The monsters will retreat after a few turns (of eating townsfolk).

    To maximize income reduce taxation and live off of loot from the hidden monsters & evil lairs. This will maximize population increase, morale & loyalty. Always pay for Agriculture to match resource cap. Always increase Structure which stores Agriculture and reduces the gold loss for importing grain.

  17. I tend to favor Infantry and the last play through I needed to move heavy infantry (Pikes & Platemail) from Gernok to Zarnix in order to take part in the Pudawala & Lucedia events. I sold all of my equipment back so my elite troops were now in robes with swords and nothing else. Their move went from a 10 to a 15 and the travel only took 3 months. I reequipped them in Zarnix with platemail etc.

    Traveling light is safe in the Westrealm if you have eliminated the hidden evil bases.

    A few troop tips - I only know the Warrior builds so I favor Infantry. I use 40 unit stacks so 2 units & 1 leader move as a unit. After lv 3 give up on missile capacity - use heavy shields, plate, swords & spears to safely but slowly assault missile troops. A more vulnerable but deadlier build out is plate, no shields, swords & pikes for the maximum special damage bonus of 6. Remember to always Charge.

    Regardless of your characters type, invest in 1 group of archers. Get 2 forty stacks up to lv 3 and upgrade them to chain & compound bows. This is prohibitively expensive if you’re not a ranger so I only increase this to 4 forty stacks near the end game. Anyway this 2 (40) + Ranger group can devastate fortified enemies. At least soften them up for your infantry to slam into them.

    I use four (40) stacks of Mounted Infantry with mail, no shields, 2-H swords, x-bow, medium horsed & chain. Each unit is size 200 so they have to operate independently without a hero. Use them to pepper units with x-bow fire while your very-very slow infantry advances. Use them to slam into single stack enemy units. Remember that 2-H has no special damage bonus so never Charge or Overrun, only Hand (attack).

    Your heroes tend to be a mixed bag because you are given a random hero after major victories. Feel free to decommission them as needed. For your end game I strongly recommend at least 4 max-spell mages. Use Pyro every turn, & resupply every turn, to soften enemy fortresses. When your troops are in melee range, teleport your hero-stack closer for maximum damage capability. Use clerics to heal your elite troops in real time to avoid the loss of levels you incur when reinforcing lost units. I believe even a single reinforcement to a lv 10 unit will drop it to lv 9 so it’s worth the hassle.

    Be careful with the Quake & Disintegrate spells as they will damage the Structure & Fortification of the city you are about to conquer.

    Finally I recommend you avoid using Horse Bowmen, the math on cost-to-damage on building & training these units shows they are the worst investment. Consider using the relatively cheap Mounted Infantry for fast moving missile troops.

    1. What are these bonuses you speak of? What's a special damage bonus, and why is it 6?

      I never knew about these hidden lairs. Is there a map somewhere that has them? The game never refers to them at all, other than Trollhome and the other marked ones.

  18. The fastest way to win the game by using high level mages. Play either Warrior, Priest or Mage. Teams composition is: (1Warrior, 4Priests, 15Mages) or (16Mages, 4Priests). Grind XP from Aladda till all mages have Pyro and Priests have Bless/Prayer. Move your heroes (and 1 infantry unit) 1hex north of Aladda. Move 1 hero at a time between Aladda and this hex to trigger encounters with monsters. Do this till all mages have Pyro and you have at least 1 Teleport casting mage. Next is to attack Xafanta. Keep casting Pyro and teleport your forces into the centre hex when the enemy is almost completely wiped out. Your heroes should gain 3-4levels from this battle. Exit Xafanta and repeat the attack next month. Experienced players can also grind XP at Medeval (Bring a unit with large shields to be placed near enemy city centre to absorb missile attacks). You should be able to level up to above lvl 50 pretty quickly this way.


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