Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sword of Aragon: Won!

Dad spent his life trying to achieve this dream. I achieved it in eight years.

The final battle in Sword of Aragon was the longest I've ever fought in a game, beating even the endless combats in Knights of Legend. It took four hours, and I fought it three times before I finally won.

When I closed last time, I was trying to figure out how I was going to defeat the vast and combined forces of Tetrada and Estrallah. Your advice was that I needed more high-level mages, so I dumped a bunch of other heroes and hired five mages of Level 5 (the highest anyone would offer), joined them to an army of bowmen who I also wanted to develop, and set about trying to grind their levels. Only I got sick if it very quickly. It was hard to find random encounters, and battles for cities took forever and didn't often level my characters. Finally, I decided screw it, I'd take Tetrada with the units I had.

I conquered Pudwala at one point, but the game made me feel so bad about it that I reloaded. I don't think I've ever reloaded because of a victory before.

I developed a ton of new bowmen to assist in my endeavor and brought armies from all over the continent. I attacked with over 2000 men.

The armies converge on Tetrada.

I lost the first battle--it timed out again while I was dithering around in the background, over-relying on my bows. The second time I took a more aggressive approach and used my heroes, infantry, and cavalry as shields so that the bows could get closer. I had four priests and I had them all cast "Bless" at the beginning of each round, which provides a defensive bonus and greatly minimized my losses to enemy arrows. (In fact, I'd say my victory was due almost entirely to "Bless.") The infantry units remained curiously reluctant to attack. I tried to pick off the smaller groups with my own melee fighters while concentrating my bow attacks on the enemy stacks in the city itself.

My army begins to surround the city.

Eventually, I got to the point where I had driven all enemy units into the city. I got my bowmen right outside the walls, formed a ring around the city, and just spent turn after turn mowing them down. My mages stood in the background and cast "fear" and "confuse" on any enemies that left the city, and my cavalry and heroes rode them down. My foes eventually surrendered when they had about 25% of their forces left and I still had 66%.

There was much jubilation at this screen.

The battle gave me both Tetrada and Estrallah, but I didn't immediately get a winning screen and I started to rage at the game, thinking that I'd have to go and conquer all the other cities. But then it occurred to me to just end the turn for the month, and fortunately at that point I got the winning screen.

Great. NOW everyone gains levels.

I won with 490 out of 500 points, which I think is pretty good for a first time, blind play. The game lets you keep playing if you want to continue administering your lands, fighting random battles, and conquering the other cities. I was happy to retire while I was ahead.

I'm sorry I never got to experience the higher-level mage spells in the game, but damn do I feel like I earned my victory.


Short posting, I know, but it'll take me a few days to put together the GIMLET and I didn't want to delay the good news.

67 comments:

  1. Congratulations!

    You made this sound so interesting that I broke down and started playing it.
    And lo and behold, it is a good game!

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  2. Congratulations indeed. Here's a game I'd never have looked at seriously if it weren't for your posts.

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  3. Way to go! Enjoy that .28 gold piece!

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  4. Nice result! It does seem like a style of game that would be ripe for a modern update.

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    1. Well, actually ... I guess the Age of Wonders and Heroes of Might and Magic series (and a few similar games) could probably come pretty close to this in terms of gameplay, although I have to admit that they are primarily strategy games. Sword of Aragon certainly does seem to provide a quite unique mixture with its dominance given to RPG features (though there's also the Spellforce series - which is completely different to Sword of Aragon, but arguably more RPG than strategy).

      However, as I said, the specific elements themselves have mostly found their way into many modern (and older) fantasy strategy games. Levelling heroes? Virtually everywhere - and quite sophisticated with different classes, too ! Levelling troops? Age of Wonders, Fantasy Wars, Warhammer Mark of Chaos etc. ...
      Inventories - even for troops are also surprisingly common in fantasy strategy games. Both Age of Wonders and the HOMM series feature detailed hero inventories, Fantasy Wars, Warhammer Mark of Chaos and even Warcraft III allow troops to have some kind of inventory (and there are probably a number of others).
      Optional quests and even puzzles of some (usually rather basic) form also appear in quite a number of cases (Warcraft III, HOMM etc.) This is probably not that surprising for strategy titles - after all, you can consider optional quests as some sort of secondary military objective. Scripted storyline events - they are everywhere! In Age of Wonders 1 you even get to choose between different branching storylines after each mission following certain global decisions (do you help the dwarves or the lizardmen etc.).

      Over the years RPG and strategy games seem to have grown increasingly close to eacht other (at least in the fantasy genre - which, after all, is by its very nature already kind of RPG-ish). I'm certainly not complaining - I love both and am also a fan of genre-mixing - I wouldn't even mind a dose of action game elements thrown in now and then ... ;)

      -Knurrhahn

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    2. I disagree. I have played all of the games you mention and to be honest I didn't really any of them. I loved Sword of Aragon. I would love to see a modern update. Sure some of those games you mention have some elements that are similar to some of the elements in SoA, but none of them even remotely play like it at all.

      I really can't think of anything close to it I've ever played. Maybe the closest is Fantasy General and that's really only on the combat side (and even that's not very close), it has none of the city management. Master of Magic also seems like it would be close (and I did love that game), but it really ends up as more of a fantasy-Civilization than really feeling like SoA.

      I wish I could put my finger on what elements of SoA make it so unique. Anyone have any thoughts? If you were going to make a modern version of it, what would it need to have to feel like SoA and not end up just being HOMM or Age of Wonders or Warlords?

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    3. Things I wouldn't change in a remake:
      1) The city management - it is interesting enough without interfering with the core gameplay, which is the tactical combat and developing of units. The Sword of Aragon online remake added way too much city management for my taste.

      2) Tactical combat: the core gameplay is awesome. Add in modern interface features and that's it.

      3) Hero and unit development: Some minor tweaks could be made here, but most of them are more interface-related.

      Things I would change:

      1) Add unit templates so you don't have to manually equip units more than once.
      2) Add default unit positioning templates so you don't have to manually place your units at the start of every battle, but you would have the option to do it for important battles.
      3) Less random encounters - these are tedious and don't add much to the game.
      4) Modern interface and graphics (duh)

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    4. A modern remake exists. It is even by the original authors I think. Aragon Online. I don't think its MMultiplayer, just a score leader-board type deal. I have not tried it yet but it looks very cool. I think it's still being developed but is entirely playable.

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    5. I have never played Sword of Aragon - this blog contains all the information I have on this game. Therefore I can hardly make a truly accurate comparison with other titles. It was just my impression that the gameplay - while certainly unique - didn't appear to be THAT radically different in concept to more modern fantasy strategy titles. At least much of the stuff sounded rather familiar.

      As I said, I can't truly judge exactly how unique Sword of Aragon is. Apart from a slightly stronger focus on storyline, what exactly seperates it from
      ... say, Master of Magic or Age of Wonders?
      I'm a bit surprised by the claim that the former is a closer match to SoA than the latter as I think that MoM and AoW are actually pretty similar in many ways. I would have guessed that AoW would be even closer in some ways to SoA than MoM - after all, MoM completely lacks scripted events or a proper storyline.
      True, AoW features several scenarios and thus lacks the focus on one large fixed map for the entire game, but I'd consider that a relatively minor point as the scenario maps can be pretty huge and there is a campaign map (though the strategic decisions there are limited).

      Sword of Aragon, by contrast appears to be extremely storyline driven and relies heavily on scripted events. Which, of course, is an interesting approach - yet on the whole the game seems hardly that alien and strange. Isn't it more of a subtle difference in the exact percentage of strategy and RPG in the mixture?
      Of course many of the games I mentioned were hardly a perfect match to SoA - especially the real time strategy ones or those with an extreme focus on tactical combat (Fantasy Wars)- but on the whole I believe that the fantasy strategy genre has moved pretty close to RPGs. You are certainly going to find scripted events and a good deal of attention to storylines in many of those strategy titles. Again - I'm not saying that they would be a perfect replacement for a modern Sword of Aragon version ... which could indeed be neat. I must admit that I'm not that interested in the original version due to what sounds like severe issues with the ai (not that that's unheard of in strategy games ;) ).

      -Knurrhahn

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    6. Would the original Dune game be closer to the SoA idea? It has a storyline, there's strategy involving holding parts of the land, but it's not a pure strategy game the way Dune 2 was. Dune might not have enough sidequests or RPG elements to count, though...

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    7. The original dune game, I barely remember that, not sure I remember it well enough to answer this. SoA is more like Dune 2 than Dune the original, but with much more epic battles and a leveling system for your units... and heroes. Also, Dune 2 is a map crawl... where SoA you have more paths despite some key points and events.

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    8. The original Dune game was one of my favorite games actually (and I love the whole Dune universe). I had to think of it repeatedly during my walkthrough of this blog. It's indeed somewhat similar to SoA - especially because there is a "you" character that you, the player, have to move around. Scripted events, a strategic component...but... the strategic component is very light. There are almost no battle tactics. There's a bit of logistics involved. Yes, you can compose your own party, but, no, there are no stats involved. And the composition of the party is often dependent on the current stage of the plot. I've never played JRPGs but I guess that Dune might fit in there, at least from what I've heard... In the end, I would consider it an adventure/strategy mix. It certainly doesn't fit the Addict's criteria - no stats, no inventory puzzles.

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  5. Well done and holy hells, you got 490 out of 500! Meaning you missed out only on the demigod encounter (worth 10 points) to round it up to 500.

    That's incredible for a first time playthrough. Congrats!

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    1. Was it the demigod encounter? One walkthrough I consulted indicated the demigod encounter didn't offer any points, and the 10 points I was missing was from Pudwalla.

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    2. Hmm, you might be right there. I can't quite recall if the you get points for allying with the Puds. Either way, still impressively done!

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  6. Congratulations, Chet.

    I'm looking forward to your posts on Sword of the Samurai; I haven't won it yet, but have played the early section of the game quite a few times. I think you're going to really enjoy it - although its RPG credentials are a little questionable to be honest.

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    1. SotS isn't a CRPG. Simple as that.

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  7. Hurrah! I must say, this entire series on Sword of Aragon has been most triumphant.

    It's great that people actually like the game. I was expecting a hatefest based on the graphics or the fact that it doesn't fit into one of the mental pigeonholes that modern gamers have. It's heartening to hear that people are starting to play.

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    1. T'is true! Even ye Gadfly hath begun his own game!

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    2. It's strange. Even though I like both RPG:s and Strategy games and the positive posts by the Addict I still am not very inspired to play this game.

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    3. If you can get past the graphics, it'll either be one of the funnest and most challenging games you've played or impossibly frustrating.

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  8. As interesting as this game sounds, I admit I was mostly holding out for Sword of the Samurai; it's one of my favourite games.

    -BelatedGamer

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  9. Congratulations on completing the game at such low levels. Truly a hard earned victory. So close to closing out the year. Keep up the quick pace and you may be done by the end of summer.

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    1. That's actually kind of pessimistic.

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    2. Actually, that's true. Somehow I had it in mind that summer ended next month. So unless work or a general dislike of the games (*cough*Keef*cough*) cause a delay you'll be done well before summer ends.

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    3. Screw Keef. I've got $50 to anyone who can get me out of it without violating my rules.

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    4. Challenge accepted!

      I'll play through this weekend and see if I can't tear through the mechanics so they don't fit your criteria.

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    5. I don't think that's going to work. I've played it enough to know that it meets the criteria. I was thinking about D-DOSing every site that has it available for download.

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    6. Yeah, definitely a CRPG; although the interface is more like an adventure game. I couldn't get through it this weekend. I think I'll just enjoy it at the same time you start to play through.

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  10. PetrusOctavianusJuly 25, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Congratulations on the victory, and I'm glad you enjoyed the game.
    I only wish I could remember more from my own playthrough and be able to compare notes.

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  11. Congratulations! :)

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  12. It's interesting the herd mentality of people such as marketing types. Here we have two games that are more strategy than rpg, same year and both start with "Sword of.." in their title...

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    1. If you still think SoA is "more strategy than RPG," I didn't describe it very well. I would say that about SotS, though.

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  13. Congrats on a hard fought victory. I like that ending better than if you'd grinded mages up. I've completed the game a few times and never scored 490.

    Funny that you should be playing Sword of Aragon and Sword of the Samurai one after the other. For a decade those were my two favorite games.

    Sword of the Samurai doesn't meet alot of the traditional definitions of an RPG (inventories etc) but its the game where I felt the most like I was actually "playing a role". The mechanics, music and campaign structure really make you feel like an ambitious young samurai.

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  14. Congrats on your hard fought victory! Can't wait to see the gimlet for this one, I think it will score well.

    Just got Sword of the Samurai up and running, haven't played it much yet but it looks interesting.

    -Cheers

    (If I had a dollar for every time I mess my post up and lose it!)

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  15. Great job! I'm about to march into tetrada myself. It SHOULD be easy... I attacked the dwarves at least 20 times, and have massive ranks of mages, priests and bowmen. I'm eager, very eager, to see how you rate it.

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  16. Ahhhhh sweet success :) They dropped like flies in under 15 min. I can only imagine what it would be like without 10 lvl 14-35 mages etc... priests didn't even come into play. or the melee fighters. Good stuff. Eager to see the Samurai posts. Checked a youtube lets play out about it and concur with Anon. It's def not really an CRPG.

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    1. Well, now we know what happens when you spend the time grinding 15 minutes versus 4 hours.

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    2. Ha, yeah. :) but not just grinding. Grinding the cheap way. I admit that I abused the Dwarves quite a bit throughout this entire game. I almost feel sorry for them. 20 times they were kicked out of their homes and into the wilds, each time thinking it would be the last. Poor guys.
      I respect the effort you put into playing fairly. I respect it enormously. I cannot imagine playing as you do, staying true to your creed of 'cheap is not fun or fulfilling' (something like that)
      I hope you understand it was in no way derogatory or any kind of comparison. I actually feel for yah, buddy. My rules allow for a negation of some of the more tedious aspects of play while yours force you to endure the true nature of the game. Much respect.
      Anyway, looking forward to your thoughts on SotS (Although perhaps not a true CRPG it STILL looks fun, and I'm about to DL it) and your rating of SoA.
      Three cheers for roughing it!

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  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Dude, that's not cool. Delete your posting and don't ever refer to my wife using those terms again.

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  18. 490 out of 500 is a big deal, well done! I love that game, and have completed it at least 4 times, but never with that many points.

    Also really never utilized bowmen, just vast amounts of infantry in 100 men groups.

    Was a pleasure reading your experiences with it.

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    1. As a strategy game neophyte, it always slightly sickens me to throw units into battle knowing many or all of them will die, just so I can "soften up" the enemy for the next unit. I think that's why I favored bows so much in this game. I'd be a lousy general.

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    2. You'd be a horrible Soviet general.

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  19. Just out of curiosity, what list did you get SotS off of? Neither Wikipedia nor Mobygames include "RPG" in their description.

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    1. Wikipedia has "RPG" listed among the "Genres" on the right-hand side, and the first paragraph says "features a combination of role-playing and strategy elements."

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  20. Interesting; I think I'll have to check this one out!

    An idea occurred to me for your sidebar list (or perhaps a list on a separate page)...it would be great to see a list of your "Underdogs" (ie, "Unexpected Gems"), defined as the biggest surprises. That way, we could see a list of the games that you didn't have high expectations of, but that ended up being rated fairly well.

    I'm excited for you to get to Windwalker very soon...not that I think it'll blow your socks off, but I did spend some time on it when it first came out, and although the quest is short, it is one of the first games I know of that uses a few certain elements (which I will save for you to discover). It will also probably be a quick play for you.

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    1. I'll think about it. Depends on if I can come up with a good definition.

      I like the sound of "quick play."

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    2. I really like this idea, but how would you be able to accurately reflect on earlier games? I think tricks of the memory would make you think you knew you would like Omega (you were expecting rogue 2) and Starflight (you discussed not being a fan of sci-fi RPG and doubted if this game even fit the criteria). I guess you could go through all your old posts, actually you seem to express your expectations more in comments, but with so many games back in the past that seems like a bit more work than worth.

      Thinking back how many games do you think fit the bill?

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    3. I think it would be relatively easy to come up with a definition for future games. In you next post you say it would be fun to talk about your expectations of games in your first post about it. Go one step further and create a mock gimlet as to how you guess it will rate. Compare before and after gimlets and you have your underdogs. The only wrinkle being the problems with older games I spoke about in my last post.

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    4. I love it. A list of (from our perspective) "I've probably never heard of it before but it is the game(s) you missed if you like my overall opinion of things (which we mostly do). A short quick-list of us old timers to check out when we have a spare hour or twenty. Something we know will have at least a 60% of making us think "How did I miss this?".
      This is all, of course, based on the premise that we like your reviews and agree with at least most of your thoughts.
      Fits my bill. :)

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    5. I agree this is hard to do with games already played (although perhaps you could come up with a small list of your biggest surprises of the 1980s, it would be hard to do for every game). That said, maybe coinciding with entrance into the 1990s, you might be able to start an informal rating (ie, I expect this game to be in the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc), as well as a statement on whether you've played it before, in your initial post.

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  21. I like how everyone says "it is unbeatable if you don't have X" and Chet simply goes "I don't have XD, oh well" and wins anyway. I always love it when people who say "you have to do X, Y and Z to REALLY play the game" are wrong.

    This is also why I don't play MMOs where there are mathematically proven builds for every character class, and people will rip you a new one for not following them.

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    1. I agree. I like seeing a game have variable solutions. In the last two games I beat I've seen FAQs say, "you can't beat this boss without X." In one case I never got it, and in another I forgot to use it. May have been easier, but it's not always impossible.

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    2. To be fair, "beatable only in multiple tries and almost a dozen hours of total effort" is not so much different from "unbeatable." In most games, I'd rather spend the time grinding and have a shorter final battle.

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    3. I played the games through 3-4 times. You can minimize deaths by stocking up on priests and mages. The mages get truly epic, dealing area damage that gets as large as 3 hexes from center IIRC. My second game I just built a ton of mages and crushed the dwarves and elves (relative to my first play through, still long battles).

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  22. Just finished Sword of the Samurai. What a nifty game. A bit simplistic, but VERY neat. Definitely a game in which you play a very straight forward role, but not so much a CRPG.
    Still, though, hours of fun. .. Halfway through my 2nd play-through now even :)

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  23. This game is absolutely worth a play... if you like a challenge. I've played this game 3-4 times through. I lost my copy 15 years ago when it ended up on the bottom of a stack of boxes and was mangled, and I periodically search the net hoping to come across a copy of it in the public domain or on ebay.

    A few people asked what makes it better than some similar titles. The battles are truly epic, if you take down the dwarven and elven strongholds... you can expect a 45 minute fight minimum and the battles are quite intricate in their positioning. A mistake 30 minutes in can result in your beloved hero getting absolutely crushed or a leveled up set of bowmen you've had since the begining being destroyed. The heros are truly epic after playing about half the game and quite frankly the mages are OP with the priests being slightly less. I haven't enjoyed a fight as much since I killed the 20+ black dragons fight in Curse of the Azure Bonds.

    The unit leveling is one thing I think what makes you truly invested in the game and your troops. Levels are huge. Letting good troops die, let alone actual heros, costs you huge amounts of power. You can't just go make another set of bowman and continue on your way.

    Another thing that makes the game really special is the well defined campaign events. There is enough variability to make it fun, but not so much as to lose the continuity of the story or say de-evolve into something akin to Civilization (a relentless spread with no real map objective). The 3rd or 4th turn or something Orcs attack and you avenge your father. Down the road a bit is some sort of ruins you stumble on. The replay value may be limited because of this, but you can get at least 3-4 replays out of it by wining as different champs. Even more if you play just to win and travel the map differently instead of my favorite, conquer the whole map.

    Another dynamic is the lack of resources. You never seem to be able to "defend" all of your towns adequately as my empire spread. I got in the habit of saving and reloading because the AI seems to attack you with just enough more that you either lose valuable experienced units or you lose the town and I was quite loyal to my troops. I don't think I ever won without reloading, but then again I never tried to play it without dieing.

    Its a great game. I assume its related to lord of the rings, but I didn't know that at the time.

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  24. Congratulations on this one! Incredible how quick you manage to win both strategy/RPG-hybrids like this one AND adventure/space combat games like Mines of Titan.
    I agree that the concept of this game could be updated well.

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  25. Some belated comments from a longtime fan of SoA:
    Priest spells Bless and Prayer will drastically reduce casualties. With enough casters, you can get a total of 100% blessing from each spell, which tends to reduces losses to close to nil.

    One of the great things about this game is how differently you can design your army and still win. Bow-heavy forces can take advantage of the AI tendency to go to the VP map center instead of rushing your army; heavy cavalry overruns can wipe out stacks of enemy units with few or no losses; legions of infantry in plate armor with pikes grind enemies into the dust but can be expensive to equip and keep topped off.

    You can really cheese the game with high-level casters. Stack casters with a group of bowmen. One mage casts Teleport to drop the stack next to enemies. Casters unload with disintegrate, pyro or ranged attacks. The bowmen fire. Then a second mage Teleports back out of LoS. The AI is rarely smart enough to track you down.

    City income is mainly to cover maintanence expenses; combat spoils should fund your army expansion. If you can keep losses low, and train units over the winter until they get their best equipment, it's easy enough to outlevel the enemies in that "final" fight.

    My favorite thing about this game is the way timing on events and randomness creates different stories, even if it does mean that my attempts to get a perfect score failed twice when I was simply unable to trigger the troll encounter that lets you unite the Khan clans.

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  26. As a longtime fan of the game, I have to say that the only big disappointment was discovering that even if you build an army capable of conquering Tetrada within the first year (no Lucinian III death message, no conquering of Sothold by Tetradans empire) you still get the same battles as if those events already happened. To build such army it's pretty easy even at the expert skill level. Start game as mage (in this way it will be faster) and hire all warriors and make two infantries of 50 mens with MSSST. Move all the troops one hex on the road out of Aladda, but one warrior. Then move the warrior between the city and the units outside to get random encounters. Don't exhaust the warrior moves outside the city, but decommissionate him in the city to hire a new one that starts with new moves ! Gold from the random encounters allow to keep hiring warriors with new moves and you get two extra warriors for each level up of your main character. In this way you can level heroes up to any level in a single turn. Try not to waste too many mans of the infantries until most of your heroes are not level 5. Beware: spell-casting units at level 128 cast spells as a lvl 1 units, but retain a level 128 unit hit points. Beware2: at level 256 the game hangs: never reach level 256 with a hero. You can keep going with this scheme, but to make things way faster, a single caster with Pyrotechnics (level 8) can conquer alone Xafantha and gain many levels in a single month. That's the fastest way to train after reaching level 8 and the reason to start the game with the mage character. As pointed out in other comments high level spell casters can win alone any battle.

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    1. After I won this game, I remember thinking you could have a lot of fun playing it repeatedly, screwing around with it in different ways. Your comment confirms it.

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  27. Thank you so much for posting this - it's awesome to see the discussion it provoked and I'm very excited because it has led me to find out about Aragon Online! I played SoA when it was a year or too old and really loved it, replaying it many times as different classes of leaders and trying different strategies. It's great to see others enjoyed it so much as well.

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  28. Im so glad i found this blog that covered the best game ever. Well atleast i thought so when i was 10 years old in the late 80's playinng instead of doing my homeworks. It's been an hounor reading about your journey to unite the West and the East.

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  29. "Best game ever" is not an absurd designation for this game if you're speaking from a 1989 perspective. I'm glad you enjoyed the posts.

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