A Hard Nut to Crack: Turns 18-21

Turn 18

Almost two score Sweats I’ve seen now, when the greenland turns to white and the Earth sweats its chill off. And many more score then that I’ve seen through the stones. They tell their secrets to us, they do. They tell their secrets to anyone willing to listen.

Childebert the Earth Reader, First Oracle of the the Ascendant, Pocahontas’s Phylactery

18events.pngQuite a number of things occurred. Arco has reclaimed the Throne of Bureaucracy with their Deity. Ashdod conquers Ultima Delca, a Throne province. I summon an Earth Elemental, 5 Magma Children and discover 3 different sites. A couple mildly inconvenient events occur, and then 2 extremely fortuitous ones netting +30 research/turn, giving an immediate 29% boost in research. My scout dances with Ulm’s troops for the round, hopefully otherwise occupying them.

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The black numbers are my PD. * indicates I got a +10 PD event. Income is approaching 2k.

I capture the underwater indie province with one loss and turn my army around to storm Marignon and salvage Vanhiem’s ill-fated siege. My Earth Reader scries the border Throne between Vanheim and I revealing an Astral gem generator. My Crafts and Shamans also scout out 3 more gem-generating sites, giving an additional 5 gems a turn. The nature gem income in particular is appreciated, but both Earth and Fire gems are easy for me to spend for immediate benefit.

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Vanheim’s siege was a slaughter, losing 1930 gold worth of units and 3 turns worth of capital-only Sacred units for Marignon’s 1025 gold worth of units and recruit-anywhere Sacreds. This is bad news for both of them, which means I am more then happy to step-in and tag-team out for Vanheim. The Siege of Marignon will be a tough nut to crack, but sieging his cap will give me an extra 100 gold or so a turn, more then covering the sieging force’s upkeep while completely stopping Marignon’s production. Its only a matter of time now…

In the battle he held his troops back and lobbed fire evocations on Vanheim’s forces, devastating Vanheim’s elite, yet low HP units. I anticipate a similar tactic in his next combat script and move my handful of Pale One infantry front and center, on fireball-soaking duty. I cancel Albert’s patrol orders and move him to reinforce the Siege of Marignon, at the same time as TURN DOWN FOR BALZAC, taking advantage of his move 2 to close the gap.

I begin recruiting for war, emptying my coffers to fund more troops (+3.7 Defenders/Lithia) with a reserve of Earth Reader researchers (3 total) and 1 Oracle from my cap. The newest Oracle, Pillarheart, spawns with 3E1F1D making him perfect for site-searching water provinces. I look to start expanding my Dominion in time for my Enchantment golem summons as well, so build a second temple next to my Capital city and send Pillarheart underwater to spread the good word.

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My scouts spy a fight in Arcoscephale, showcasing Mictlan’s supremacy and unique double major bless of Blood/Death. His units excel at killing organic expensive units, like Sacred giants. Too bad for him I will mostly employ statue sacreds by the time we border each other. Similarly Ashdod would be able to field his ethereal, undead Sacreds. Regardless Mictlan looks like he is doing well in the immediate scene against Arco.

Turn 19

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Answer my plea Air nations!

Ashdod has claimed the Throne of Water, a powerful throne granting +3 defense to Blessed units, +3 water gems/turn, and the ability to recruit StR 150g amphibious W3 mages. This both gives him a water traversing option, as well as a large number of gems and boost to his Sacred troops. I’m a little jealous, but hope Marignon’s gem and gold income keeps me relevant. My back-up army is 1 province away from quadrupling my sieging forces. I recruit immediate reinforcements in Lithia, move speed 2 Infantry.

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Black numbers are my PD. I am expecting a large force in Agartha next turn; note my Crafter summon orders on the left. My Earth gem production is up to +10/turn.

I again max out with 3 Crafters at my forts, while my Oracle is 1 turn away in Agartha. I build a 3rd temple in the last land province bordering Agartha, The Hidden Way (my first surface province). I order my capital Crafters to properly prepare for my Holy Oracle’s arrival and put my high gem income to work.

Turn 20

20events.pngMarignon sends me a message saying he concedes. I’ll believe that when he goes AI, but I still send him a “GG” message in case. Mictlan retakes the contested Throne of Beuracracy from Arco, and C’tis claims the Throne of Flames. I’d like that throne a lot, but it pleases me it is in C’tis’s hands as they are not normally capable of properly utilizing fire income. No luck site searching, but some revealing exchanges happen with Ulm and Abysia, and I get a pair of Misfortune events.20map.png

“The Crack” showcases “The Brass Throne”, an ideal first throne that makes neither too tempting of a target nor too threatening of a message. I’d love to slide through those caverns first and claim it. I move my Oracle to the surface and put him to work claiming those thrones. I work on sieging Marignon again this turn, and am about to quadruple my sieging forces from 21 Ancient Ones to 71 with an additional 31 infantry.

I build a new temple in the “The Silent Cavern”, a cave province 2 metrics away from Vanheim, Ashdod and Abysia. It also borders one of my capital temples, so will further serve to stockpile and push my dominion. Lastly I instruct Pillarheart to build a second temple. He might not have found any gem sites in the Deep Sea, but its the last province bordering my cap without a temple.

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Ulm and Abysia’s battle was very revealing. Abysia decided to push way too aggressively into Ulm’s territories given Ulm’s garrisoned force. I’m not sure when Ulm’s deity showed up, but I think he might’ve been Dormant which was unfortunate timing for Abysia. Each nation’s force brought only 3 mages to trade, but Abysia brought F2 mages while Ulm brought powerhouses and x2.3 as many forces.

Ulm has 2 heroic abilities: his heroine, Hildebard, has “Adept Researcher”, granting her a huge research bonus. Her research of 21 would be +10% bonus to my current research levels and would give Ulm a large advantage in any early wars that kept side’s mages busy slinging spells. Beyond that she has a bonus against Giants and 3 innate attacks. If he can give her another layer of defense she would make a powerful thug.20ulmdetailHis prophet has Ambidexterous which improves his Attack and Defense abilities. The extra Defense is nice, but the attack is hard to utilize when your HP values can be so zonky in enemy Dominion. Unless you fight defensively only (an option, especially with the Sacred anethma forces of Ulm), its better to plan on standing in the back and spamming Smite.

Lastly his All-Father is just one tough son of a bitch. At first glance he might just seem like a caster, and he’d be a damn good one at that. His stats don’t seem anything special, especially with that affliction. But he has:

  • Glamour, Flying, Sailing, massive HP pool, 3 innate attacks, 2 free Dire Wolves, Stealthy (+65)
  • Buff access:
    • Invulnerability
    • Ethereal
    • Soul Vortex
    • Mirror Image
    • Mist Form
  • Evocation access to:
    • Storm blast shenangians
    • Shadow Blast fatigue shenanigans
    • Wailing Winds
    • Wind of Death
  • Enchantment access to mass skelespam
  • Late game access to Soul Drain and Astral shenanigans

Turn 21

Two diplomatic exchanges this turn. Pangaea reveals himself as a possible trading partner (or more?) for spare Earth gems or gold, both items I have in abundance. That said I am curious where his Air construction would come from, so don’t quite trust the source. Vanheim sends a token of friendship and gives me an Owl Quill this turn.

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Having just hit Conjuration 3, a powerful milestone, and I now head to Enchant 3, for Sacred summons, and then Evocation 3 for Magma Bolts. I find a “Tar Pit” this turn, a basic +1 fire gem site that gives hostile events involving elemental forces like “Mist Covered Highlands”. I don’t have the money to boost my PD to 15, which is the “safe” PD level to handle most event attacks. I move the 6 recently summoned Attentive Statues to the surface to serve on patrol duty with my Attendants. In hindsight this was a mistake:

  • Attentive Statues (Enchantment 1): 2E, 4 gems, x2 Attentive Statues
    • Attentive Statue: non-sacred strong infrantry, does-not-heal-naturally (13 HP), +5 patrol bonus
  • Enliven Sentinel (Enchantment 3): 2E, 3 gems, x1 Sentinel
    • Sentinel: sacred elite infrantry (25 hp), +10 patrol bonus

I assumed the Attentive Statues were superior, since they were non-sacred and otherwise trash, but additional analysis reveals each Statue is worth 2.8 destealth units per gem, while each Sentinel is worth 3.6 desealth units per gem. The only time I should summon Attentive Statues is if I’m pressed for time, as I can summon more destealth units per mage turn with the spell. All other scenarios where I have a bless the Sentinel should be cast instead.

With Pillarheart’s temple erection my temple21temples.png count hits 9. Every 5 temple counts increases Dominion strength by 1. This allows me to recruit an extra Sacred from my capital as well as improve my Dominion spread and utilize that HP boost on my summoned constructs. 110 temples both increases the strength of my Dominion by 2 as well as give me 10 additional temple checks a turn. Soon my Deity will spawn and give another 3, and I will hopefully conquer additional thrones shortly thereafter giving additional candles.

Speaking of thrones… no luck with Blue Water. I built a Merman Captain last turn to ping the throne there, but Abysia claims it this turn running over the 13 elite guard units and powerful water mage with a force of only 20 Icthyids. My troops head to Sombre Pass and will be within range of a throne next turn. Spookily, however, Ashdod arrives on our border with 60 troops en route. Both him and Abysia exchange aggressive messages with me.

I read between the lines with Ashdod: “I don’t really want to invade you at the moment” and then he references marching in and stealing Ulm’s lands the minute Ulm gets attacked. Everything about his behavior screams aggression and control and he never does respond to my offer of allowing him to take The Green Wall, while allowing me Acyste, both uncontested. I make plans for imminent war and begin analyzing my potential allies.

Perplexingly Abysia started off aggressive with me as well. I don’t know who she is kidding, considering her forces just got smashed by Abysia. There is 0 chance Abysia can afford to go to war with me, let alone against my underwater forces. Despite their aggression, I decide to stay the course and respect our NAP while putting her on “gentle” notice that I know she is not as lively as her warning portrays.

21dominion.png

Red numbers reveal dominion in province. When you hit your max dominion in a dominion-generating province, all temple checks will spread thereon out. ‘The Throne of War’ reveals itself.

With Marignon’s capital on siege, I collect half the tax and hit 2,045 income. I am eager to end The Siege of Marignon and rush to Senextro, to crack Marignon’s next fort for Vanheim. He and I have worked out that I will take Marignon and he will take Senextro. After that we will turn our attention fully to Ashdod. I am greedy and want the Astral income to accelerate my goal of 20 water gems. I am also producing an astounding 10 earth gems a turn now, and have 73 stockpiled. Right now my main limitation is lack of mages to spend my gem income on, but I’d also like to research better spells. Either way I want more mages and I want them ASAP. I max out mage recruitment and troop production at all of my forts. Two Golem Crafters and 2 Shaman continue site searching (1 within the tunnels).
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Marignon has been breached.I will storm its garrisons next turn and take its riches for my own!

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Enter the Midgame: Turns 15-17

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Turn 15

Diplomacy

Poor Marignon was behind on his diplomacy game. I’m not sure whether he accidentally sent the message to me and intended to send it to Ashdod, or if he just made a typo and meant “if you’re not busy Agartha”. Either way the play was drawn up several months ago and put into action just last turn. This helps put me at ease, as it means Marignon has no clear allies who will come to his rescue. My greed intensifies a little and instead of stinging his flanks I want to capture his capital.

15panthrone

Pan takes a third throne province, but his empire is still pretty small. I do not envy Astarwulf his starting position.

Another throne will soon be claimed, and Arcoscephale looks like he will be going down soon.

War

I have 22 Ancient Ones, 3 Pale One soldiers and 1 Oracle deep in enemy territory. A critical income province has been seized and Marignon will have to prioritize getting it back as it isn’t just 125 gold, but also giving his capital valuable resources. Marignon is desperate for resources to continue his troop production. I can’t outright fight him right now, but I can certainly disrupt his economy to a large degree. I move to take the forest province bordering his cap. He only has 1 other non-farmland connection, another forest, so losing this territory will be critical to him and cost me very little.15main

I cannot outright fight his ~40 unit force right now, as I would take unacceptable Ancient One losses to his knight’s lances. I wouldn’t put it past him to move a few mages in as well to secure a sneak victory. I would rather raid and retreat to the underwater provinces easily, frustrating his forces, diminishing his economy, and giving Vanheim time to conduct his siege and Southern assault. Meanwhile Albert is coming with my initial starting infantry. These reinforcements can be used to tank the F9 blessed Knight’s lances, which means my Ancient Ones can properly respond rebuke those heathens with some weapons of their own.

15throne

Pebbleborn leads a large force into the underwater throne, with some infantry up front to agro spells and mind blasts.

Domestic

I put all my gold this turn into increasing my mage infrastructure, and max out my Ancient One production again. I have 2 Golems being produced a turn now (or 28 total research/turn) and will have a 3rd production center ready next turn. The remainder of my gold went into building a temple in Lithia. I elect for my Crafter to continue searching North, and am tempted to see if I can sneak in and scout Marignon’s lands out now while my move economy would be efficient. Still no luck with nature income, despite searching 3 separate provinces now. My Shaman continue their quest as one heads to the North, while the other two head into the caves and split up.

I hit 75 total research/turn now and will start growing with 42 extra research next turn (3 Golem Crafters + 1 Magic scale). I am 2 turns away from my main buff, Earth Power. This gives my E2 mages 4 additional reving. on top of the 4 bless reinvig. and increases their Earth magic power by 1, halving the fatigue of any Earth spells and expanding their repertoire. While not a great spell on its own, it does represent a key buff for my mages that keeps them launching Magma Bolts the entire battle. From there extreme temperature conditions will no longer faze my mages, becoming a concern only for my cold-blooded troops.

Turn 16

Too long since TURN DOWN FOR BALZAC and I had time alone. We had almost seen an entire year through before reuniting, our first  departure since the Separation of Youth. He seemed the same, yet weary. ‘The surface is not as we’d like it. She yearns to feel, but there’s a barrier of sorts. We have to get her out, we need to spread the faith.’ Desperation weighed in his tone and before the night was through he excused himself to proselytize to the yet unconverted. I slept deep that night, but with sorrow yet in my heart.

Albert, Boulder of the Caves, First Steward of the Oracle, Summer of 21 A.C.

16thronebattl.pngAnother glorious victory in the name of Pocahontas’s Phylactery, the ancient Mind Lord and his lobotomized subjects were easily shaken from their throne. Losing not 1 Ancient, I felt a little poorly for the opposing forces when their only saving grace, the Mind Lord, proceeded to spam quickness instead of leveraging those water gems into something worthwhile. AI, am I right?

16domestic

My (newly arrived) scout is poached by the  raptors in Old Man Mountain, but they fail to secure the kill before he escapes. I send him back to see if this was a one-time thing, or if Ulm intends to continue patrolling the province.

Unfortunately, dear readers, my hard-fought throne was less then ideal. Granting a single dominion check and +1 magic resistance, I elect to hold off on claiming it until the extra resistance might come in handy. In the interim I’d rather not tip off anyone publicly to the number of thrones I have. If they don’t actively scout, they might lose track of the actual count, securing me an easy surprise win if I sit on a few. My victors head up the passageway to The Leaking Sea. I put my triton garrison to the front of the lines, with some back-up from my ancients. We are against ~30 Amber Guard Tritions, tough critters, so I expect to take a few casualties with my aquatic units. Hopefully this will alleviate upkeep from those useless units.

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Unfortunately Vanheim’s siege of Senextro failed, but he does knock out Marignon’ss temple and other forest province in Gwelledun. At this point Marignon has very limited resources for troop production and is likely running on fumes as far as his income is concerned.

My research is picking up, though I dispatch two Crafters from The Sombre Pass to start site searching my freshly carved empire in the West. I am now recruiting 3 Golems total a turn, and begin coaxing an Oracle from my capital. I continue recruiting 3.8 Defender of the Halls/turn in Lithia as well. These Defenders have Castle Defense and Siege bonuses, making them effective to either repel Ulm’s invaders or break down Marignon’s walls. Albert begins to patrol Lithia and bring down some of that event unrest from 18.

Turn 17

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As you can see having 3 separate scout producing provinces can get you a lot of detailed vision.

I had a couple events this turn.17adv-event

17adventurerI get a free Adventurer and lose some unrest in a province. At 5 gold/month he is pretty cheap and can be used for patrolling, building forts, and reinforcing main armies. His leadership caps at 40, but he’s got crazy high defense, decent protection and solid HP along with Inspirational +1. While I wish he was the Adventurer that had the sailing ability (one of my Sacreds is size 2, so could be sailed with a Prophet to wreak havoc) he is still a pretty flexible unit.

I am still site searching my lands intensively and am looking to jump start my gem income. Conjuration 4 is a ways off still, but I have 8 more turns until I hit 20 water gems (at current gem income). If they’re not looking for sites of power, then my mages are hitting the books hard, racing to leverage a research advantage against Marignon. If Marignon does bounce back from Vanheim and my dual offensives (unlikely) I don’t want them becoming a thorn in my side.

My Oracle is 1 turn out from recruitment and I select 2 Crafters to begin summoning Earth Elementals (2 Earth gems : 1 Elemental per turn) and Magma Children (2 Fire gems : 5 Magma Children per turn). He will be reinforced with some magical beings as well as 20 Ancient Ones. I set the last Earth Reader in my capital to begin scrying. I’d like to know exactly what Marignon is bringing to bear, plus there’s a lot of interesting activity going on in the world I would like to be following. Ashdod’s newest fort is up and recruiting next to our border, which I am displeased with. I also see Ulm pushing the offensive against Abysia.

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I pressure Marignon further to see how far I can leverage my advantage. He decided to turtle rather then reclaim his scattered lands, but now he can be starved out and kept penniless. Vanheim has taken center stage on sieging both forts. I’d be displeased with losing Marignon and a throne to Vanheim if I wasn’t certain the siege would break and I could mop up the survivors in a couple turns.

Karl discovered a fire income site (+1 gem) in The City Without a Paradox and is moving into my recently conquered territory to search it as well. My latest acquisition, Rame, loses its tax of 61 gold this turn but gains a luck and growth scale (along with 3 sloth slides).  Ulm again discovers my scout but fails to kill it. I decided that the pittance of upkeep he costs me is worth occupying Ulm’s forces and sent him back to continue annoying my neighbor.

Lastly I decided to try for Enchantment 3 and my sacred summon before I hit 20 water gems/Conjuration 4. Its a bit greedy of me, but I feel safe now that Marignon is contained and feel like my borders will be more or less stable.

Preparing for War (Turns 12-14)

… how long has it been?

Her Eminence, Savior of the Pale Ones, the Ascendant, First Born of Gaia, Pocahontas’s Phylactery, Early Spring of 21 A.C.

Turn 12

turn12.png

The third throne of the game is conquered. A skirmish in Swynland.

Domestic

“May you live in interesting times.” -Ancient Tien’Chi curse

Interesting times indeed. As the dormant Gods awaken the third throne of the game is captured, the Throne of War. This action was done by the only other giant nation, my neighbor, Ashdod. Unrest increases worldwide as a result, intriguingly reflecting the external state of the game too. Almost all of the indies, san thrones, have been cleared, meaning territory spats will break out imminently. I recruit a Golem Crafter for my capital. I have 1 month left on my fort at Sombre Pass and start building a temple there to prep for Golem Crafter spam.

turn12a

It is apparent Ashdod is building a fort next to me, as 2 scouts are visible. As they are normally stealthy units this almost guarantees that the province is spawning scouts and 1 has paused to oversee fort construction.

My 2nd Shaman spawns at the Monarch Woods and I set him to start searching for nature income, while my 1st Shaman continues to oversee construction on my 2nd fort, due in 4 months. I recruit 1 more Shaman from the province, then intend to let it slumber until the Fort allows mage spam. This will be good timing for both forts (2nd should be ready about Summer Year 2) and I will be extremely difficult to attack from the Western flank. Unfortunately there’s little I can do to alleviate my Eastern flank’s extreme vulnerablity to sailing Vanheim fleets. I hope my NAP stays up with them, at least until my research infrastructure comes through and lets me ready some offensive mages. I also hope he prioritizes fending an Ashdod aggression off over betraying the friendly neighborhood stone giants.

Military

So I have 4 immediate neighbors. Looking over their territories Vanheim is in the weakest position, with Marignon close behind. Ulm and Ashdod seem comfortable with their existing borders, especially given Abysia’s proximity to Ulm’s capital. Ashdod looks pretty strong, especially given his empire’s defensive position. He can comfortably reach 6 different thrones bordering his empire, while quickly reinforcing any existing forces, making him a pain to invade I want to deal with him immediately, but I’m nervous posturing without any scout info. Knowing what, if any, bless  he has matters a lot to my strategy and research goals. Beyond that Ulm is almost assuredly gearing for an offensive against Abysia, while Marignon/Vanheim are similarly posturing. That means if I want either of their land I better get into position now, before the other nation is poised to grab it and reach my size.

a-skirmish-in-swynland

Not a cheap victory for Marignon, losing 9 of their 10 knights and almost all of their blocking chaff for only 7 of the 13 opposing Van.

I think Vanheim has the disadvantage in his engagement against Marignon. Marignon has easy crossbow access, which aids in breaking Glamour. Additionally he can access Flaming Arrow pretty quickly, giving him a huge early advantage. The Fire Bless will also aid his soldiers against the slippery Vanheim, as will fatigue blasts from his mages like Cascade/Fireball. If I don’t intervene Marignon will almost assuredly be my new neighbor, and we will share much more of a mutual border. This does not please me.

My expansion continues to go smoothly; I successfully conquer Cerulean Sea in the north with no losses. I instruct that force to head to land, to the City Without a Paradox. This is an extremely high income province I can’t believe Marignon hadn’t secured yet and will make an exceptional choice for my 3rd throne. From Agartha I send a lone Oracle, Pebbleborn, to ping (Retreat immediately while at the back of the line) the throne next to it. The description notes a Mind Lord and I’d like to see what kind of back-up mage support and resources he has before securing it.

turn12b.png

On the diplomacy aspect I message Vanheim and share what I know about Marignon and the current player’s bless. I tallied up the units lost in the skirmish at Swynland and encourage him by pointing out Marignon took more expensive losses and is in poor shape to reinforce what he has left. We work out that I’ll try to raid Marignon’s coast a little and keep his forces spread thin while Vanheim rolls over his turf in the South. I am pleased to envision both high income provinces, and even potentially Marignon’s capital (and its gem income!), entering my fold.

Turn 13

Domestic

My governor is preparing for war in Canese Plain and has increased the PD  by 10, to a total of 14. My first fort is complete. While my Earth Reader constructs a lab this turn, I build a holy Attendant. Incredibly cheap at 45 gold; besides being the cheapest priest I can buy (relevant for preaching/banishment purposes), the Attendant is a pretty useless unit. Substandard stats, 50% darkvision, and 10 leadership, to his credit he does have 10 hp (18 when blessed), 2 move and most relevant 10 magical leadership. By building his fort Ashdod has shown he has a scout producing province that directly borders me. All of Agartha’s Enchantment Golem summons have patrol bonuses, and coincidentally I wouldn’t even need the full 10 magical leadership to hunt down 50 stealth units. I send my Attendant to blind the eyes of any who are curious.

One of my Crafters found 2 magic sites this turn: a +1 fire gem site, and the Shrine of the Outcast. The Shrine of the Outcast allows me to recruit 2 Foul Spawns a turn. These spawn are standard size 2, 0 protection, 0 upkeep summon chaff with 2 caveats: one has 3 tentacle attacks and resist cold 15 (!) and the other is a decent patroller (.95 desealth/unit) with 10% regeneration (and 12 base HP, so not really significant). The cold resist could be very useful against certain magic and in the interim both will serve as supplement to my patrolling Ascendant(s).

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My scout relieves the Shaman building a fort in Monarch Woods. I send all 3 Shamans to the 3 adjacent provinces to jump-start my nature gem income. My Prophet stealths into Old Man Mountains to try and tame Ulm’s ‘Drain 3’ Dominion away. A scout looks to ping the throne at “Ba’an Kish” in the top-most province there.

Lastly C’tis has 3 different Merc companies out right now, other then that the Ship Wreckers are still up for grabs as well as Dagan, the Renegade Sage. With his 16 research he would jump start my current research for only 40 gold, but I elect to save up and let him go by unincorporated.

Military

My income keeps soaring, hitting 1,328 this turn with the addition of 127 from “The City Without a Paradox”. I trade 2 Ancient Ones for 20 Calvary and an assortment of other units. As shown on my last screenshot, I also dump 12 Sacred Ones from Albert’s guard and have them garrison The Hidden Way for troop relocation. Albert is sent North to reinforce against Marignon, but those Ancient Ones will be sent to deal with the menace next to Agartha herself.

13northshot.png

Frickin’ scout provinces. Other then that wanted to give you guys some idea of what’s going on in the North. For being the first to claim a throne Arco looks rather subdued. I am displeased to see Mictlan building underwater units, though I doubt he’d want to risk war against my much more powerful amphibious troops.

My Oracle reports a powerful underwater force guard the neighboring throne. An S4W3 Mind Lord with plenty of gems and a back-up W1 Lesser Elemental summoner along with over 100 chaff make a cumbersome wall. I up production of as many Pale One soldiers as I can muster without interfering with Ancient One production. They are weak units, and their ferrous armor handles water poorly, but I want enough to handle any “Enslave Minds” or offensive blasts that are launched my Ancient One’s way. Albert’s garrisoned sacreds will be picked up by the Attendants and brought back to Agartha in time for me to break this Mind Lord’s hold on the throne.13uwthrone

Turn 14

My children. This world needs anew. A new God. A new dedication. A new dream for a new life. Too long have we slumbered without dreams, without hope. For those who’ve abandoned hope, we will restore it. We will welcome our dreams again in a great national crusade. What do we want? We will make Agartha great again!

Her Eminence, Savior of the Pale Ones, the Ascendant, Hammer of Gaia, Pocahontas’s Phylactery, Late Spring of 21 A.C.

Domestic

“Oh fortuitous circumstance! Lithia appeared just a connection of Agarthan land, but the Ascendent Pocahontas’s Phylactery had other plans! Using advanced magical triangulation theorems  I found evidence unearthing it as the true origin of the Forgotten Fortress!”

Karl the Golem Crafter, 3rd Sculptor of Our Lady’s Land, Architect of the Forbidden, Late Spring of 21 A.C.

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Pangaea claims his 2nd throne of the game, while Marignon scoops his 1st in the forted Senextro. Vanheim sieges that same province losing 3 basic infantry to the small PD garrison. His 25 Vans, 6 Valkyrie and 2 Vanjarl are untouched.

Beyond a gem income of 3 earth gems and 1 death the legendary fortress of ol’ has been found. While Lithia’s 58 income isn’t as great a location as alternatives, the fact of the matter is I just got an 800 gold, 5 month investment for free, with an insane gem income to boot. I immediately send Karl to build a lab and instruct TURN DOWN FOR BALZAC to move there and start a temple next turn (buying Karl a turn of research). I’m also a little nervous that the flying raptors Ulm has grouped in his castle might scout my prophet out and kill him. Plus I have negative dominion on my new fort, which means I might start accumulating Ulm’s Drain. This is unacceptable for a research haven and is my prophet’s new priority.

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Two additional random events happen as well. A small triton garrison appears at Cerulean Sea. I’m less then pleased about this, as aquatic units are inflexible so rarely worth their income. I work it out and the group is 8 upkeep a month, plus I lose 71 gold for their initial appearance. I will have to do my best to suicide these guys. Pro-tip for any future zealots: don’t put yourself on my payroll unless you bring something worthwhile to the table. Lastly my first fort in The Sombre Pass suffers a poor event and takes 30 unrest and -3 dominion. I have no one nearby to patrol it out, but my 3 Order knocks that down to 25 right off the bat.

Otherwise I have 2 months left on my 2nd.. erg, I guess I mean my 3rd fort. Between the pair of lab/temples I just built on my other 2 fort locations, and the lab I just built on my new fort, my income is stretched very thin. I recruit 7 unarmored Pale Ones from Agartha in preparation of taking the throne next turn and further exasperate my budget. I recruit 1 Golem Crafter from Agartha, and after 1 Earth Reader researcher from The Sombre Pass I am completely out of cash. Hopefully things will stabilize now as I look to turn up my research level and not need many extra troops to soak up gems from the Throne mages.

War

Vanheim begins his siege of Marignon’s 2nd fort. I let Vanheim strike first. Ideally Marignon will direct all his troops southward, then my strike from the water will leave him unprepared. I am not looking to get into a drawn out engagement with Marignon, but force him to play defensively and give Vanheim some openings to expand. If Vanheim is kept happy growing on Marignon, I can continue my conquest underwater unmolested. I wouldn’t mind chopping off some of Marignon’s northern lands either.

The North throne at Ba’an Kish has several powerful mages, and so many gems I could cry. Four wizards guard it with these respective resources:

  • 3W (20+ gems)
  • 4F1A (15+ fire gems, ~5 air)
  • 1W1E1D (~7 earth/death gems, ~4 earth)
  • 2F1E (15+ fire gems, ~5 earth)

The dominant threats I see are fire and water elemental summons. Unfortunately ~30 fire gems is too many elementals for me to combat right now. I will leave the throne until I have Magma Children to assist with tanking the fire summons.

Ulm continues to muster troops on our border, but still makes no offensive actions. Ashdod is also concerning, but I have not seen his main battalion yet. I assume it will consistent of his Prophet and as many Sacreds as can be supported by his scales’ supplies. This likely means he will be hitting thrones up and otherwise too occupied for me to expect a sudden attack. Time to bite into Marignon a little, work on taking underwater provinces, and get serious about my research goals. Mid game has begun!

Preparing for War (Turns 9-11)

Turn 9

“It smells of dust and the soon. Once, where a council divided, we could have changed this. Now we live in it. No more do the Olm wander in lust. No more do the stones drip a melody of tomorrow. We are the Fallen Watchers. Repentance is all that is left to us. Repent of the past. Repent of the future. Save the now.”

Caveborn the Oracle, First of the Flame Hall, Early Winter of 20 A.C.

Domestic

turn9-messages

So far the plague event has given me +1 unrest, -50 population and now a free temple. This more then offsets the prior turn’s omens and are a sign we are the chosen nation! The people correctly suspect that Pocahontas’s Phylactery will protect them in their time of need.

turn9-sites

Aww, yesssh. I want to synchronize my research and water gem income so that I hit Conjuration 4 the same turn I accumulate 20 water gems. This will allow me to immediately cast Olm Conclave, with my first source of water income starting the countdown (with a +3 jump-start from an event)!

My income is 1,119. I am building a lab and a fort this turn. Otherwise low on cash, I recruit an Earth Reader from my capital while my new Oracle goes forth with 24 Ancient Ones and 3 Infantry to conquer the water provinces.

turn-9-orders

War/Diplomacy

I’m pretty sure this is my first turn without a battle.

I decide not to push my luck with the surface dwellers and leave Ulm to expand further south of his capital unimpeded by my conquering forces. Instead I move my army back to reinforce my 3rd fortress’s production and see if I can secure that far north clump of income after all.

I have 3 scouts in Ulm now, 2 in Abysia, and 1 each moving into Marignon and Ashdod. Ashdod has further expanded and secured the Eastern Vanheim’ borders I had left untouched for Vanheim. This is concerning because it leaves my territory open to Ashdod, and also means he is nearing maximum size and will want to devour a neighbor soon. Even if he leaves me alone, if he notices Vanheim’s size he will surely take his territory. If he takes over Vanheim’s turf he will be in a much superior position to me.turn 9 ashdod.PNG

Turns 10 & 11

turn10.png

Turn 10

Excellent. I have had prior games ruined by plague events, but in this one I received -50 population for a free temple, and now the plague is cancelled.on account of winter. This doesn’t necessarily mean its over (spoiler alert: in this case it does) but at least I get a break until it starts up again come Spring.

I’ve got 3 months left on my first fort, meaning it will get done right on the start of the 2nd year. I also finished a lab and temple down at Monarch and am building my first Nature mage, the Shaman. I recruit a 2nd oracle to lead troops out of the caverns. I have 3 Earth Readers and 1 Crafter researching giving 39 points a turn now.

My spy network grows to include Marignon. Ashdod is scouted in the West as well. Vanheim conquers a nearby throne with minimum losses.

turn11.png

Turn 11

I immediately set my newest pathed mage to build a fort at that location and recruit another Shaman. Finishing the fort and jump starting research is more important site searching for N1 paths right now, plus I have an excess of money to burn on mage production. Once I get my mage infrastructure established I’ll start worrying about gem income.

Ulm has done something that is a minor faux pas when you have a NAP, building not just a fort but also a temple right now to our mutual border. There’s two issues with this: one forts are less efficient if you don’t own the surrounding territory. That means there’s an economic benefit for Ulm to conquer my land. Additionally he is garrisoning large numbers of troops right on our border. I message him about this inquiringly, but he is dodgy and wants me to commit to a longer NAP. His story also doesn’t really check out since he never moves the troops closer to Pangaea. This makes me think he meant to go on me but got involved in a war with Abysia instead. Whatever, NAP 3 isn’t that much longer and it would be inconvenient for me to war right now too.

Small Sea is worth 83 gold and I suffered no losses in its recent liberation. I move to the middlemost underwater province, Cerulean Sea.I really like this territory because it borders 9 different provinces. Its a nightmare to defend if you’re against multiple opponents, but as long as I control it I have the outlet to deliver an offensive to whomever I so choose. This allows me to have an active global presence very early and potentially bid my services to opponents who otherwise couldn’t touch me. If someone is about to secure the game, I can also interfere with and disrupt their plans. Additionally the Ship Wreckers are now on an open contract. I need to claim territory before anyone else lays stakes down with them.

My site searchers found another site. My earth and fire income is growing rapidly now, hopefully becoming a nice nest egg for summons if necessary. I take 1 Earth Reader off library duty and send him out with 14 Ancient Ones to reinforce my Northern territories. I’ve decided to make a bid for the Northern city, and perhaps test my mettle on a Level 1 Throne too. My spy network continues to expand with a total of 11 operatives:

  • Vanheim: 1 current agent, 2 entering
  • Ulm: 4 current agents, 1 exiting, 1 entering
  • Ashdod: 3 current agents, 1 exiting, 1 entering
  • Pangaea: 1 current agent

Midgame Research Targets

My initial income is +3E,+1D, +1F. Here’s my expected expenditures ranked from “most to least” in use prediction:

  • Fire/Earth Gems: used to fuel summons big battle magic or items, spend freely
  • Water Gems: use to summon Olms for native W2 access and Claymen for defending in high dominion, also for Boots of Quickness, “Rain”, and the occasional Living Mercury
  • Nature Gems: if no other contenders are candidates to cast it, grab Mother Oak, otherwise shoot for an early-ish “Gift of Health” and basic thug items
  • Death Gems: used for thugs, summons and items; can break into late game death magic once I get high level conjuration
  • Astral Gems: use sparingly for big moves with my God (boosters, teleporting, Communion Matrix if I find indie Astral mages, Shroud if I get non-sacred thugs) and alchemizing for critical power timings
  • Blood Slaves/Air Gems: mostly used for trades; Quills and Winged Shoes are really nice for Agartha

The spells I mostly intend to employ in the midgame are as follows. Main combos will usually consist of blessing my mages, followed by Earth Power into Magma Bolts, buffs or summons. Please note I am not recommending you research all these paths prior to accessing late game magic, in all likelihood I will get a few lv 4’s, a couple lv 3’s and push on to level 7 in Enchantment.

  • Conjuration
    • 3: Earth Power, Barathrus Pact, Rhaux Pact, Summon Penumbrals, Dark Knowledge
    • 4: Olm Conclave, Voice of Apsu, Summon Flame Jelly
    • 5: Summon Umbrals, Revive Bane Lord, Acashic Record, Summon Fire/Earth Elemental, Will o’ the Wisp
  • Alteration
    • 1: Earth Grip
    • 2: Earth Meld
    • 4: Curse of Stones, Destruction, Blight
    • 5: Maws of the Earth, Shatter, Iron Warriors, Lightning Resistance, Mother Oak
  • Evocation
    • 2: Rust Mist, Rain
    • 3: Magma Bolts
    • 4: Blade Wind, Bane Fire Dart
    • 5: Earthquake
  • Construction
    • 3: Legions of Steel
    • 5: Wooden Construction
  • Enchantment
    • 1: Attentive Statues
    • 3: Raise Revenant, Strength of Giants, Enliven Sentinel, Claymen
    • 4: Terracotta Army, Living Mercury, Vile Water
    • 5: Flame Ward, Winter Ward, Enliven Granite Guard, Faery Trod
  • Thaumaturgy
    • 3: Haruspex, Teleport
    • 4: Gnome Lore

While we have a NAP 2 in existence, I will prioritize defending against Vanheim. Even if he honors the pact, there’s no telling that he might break it with notice any turn now. I want to be prepared. Tangentially most of the summons that are good vs. Vanheim would also be good versus others too. My priority is Conjuration 3 for:

  • Rhaux Pact: x5 Magma Children for 2 fire gems
  • Barathrus Pact: x1 Earth Elemental for 2 earth gems
  • Summon Penumbrals: x4 Penumbrals for 6 death gems

unit summons.png

Penumbrals have Drain Life and are ethereal, which means non-magic attacks have a 3/4 chance of missing, greatly frustrating his Van. Magma Children have AOE melee attacks. Earth Elementals are powerful amphibious tramplers (yes, he is 1 size larger then Van so can trample them). AOE and trample ignore Glamour. What is Glamour?

Glamour is a trait unique to many of Vanheim’s most elite. Basically these units have an innate illusion. If a melee attack would normally land and deal damage, it instead has a % chance of hitting one of their 2 illusionary copies. So my one-eyed giants will be hopping around trying to just hit these guys, and if a blow would normally land it instead has a 1/3 chance of landing. Once an illusionary double stops an attack, it disappears. The next attack has a 1/2 chance of landing, and if the remaining illusion takes the damage its gone as well. A very powerful and frustrating defensive buff when paired with already slippery units.

Want to know how frustrating? Here’s a comparison of our main elite units:

comparison van.PNG

My units are a lot bigger and stronger, but Vans are slippery foes that specialize in giant-slaying. A difference of 9 DRN (19 def – 10 atk) gives my giants a 5% chance of hitting with their spears. A water bless puts them at sub 1%. Stack the Glamour ability on top of everything else and its impossible to outright fight them until they near triple digits in their fatigue score. Granted Vans are much more expensive then Ancient Ones, but ultimately we’re both putting out as many sacred units a turn as we possibly can (~5/turn depending on our dominion score).

Beyond Conj 3 I intend to hit Conj 4 as soon as I have 20 water gems and can summon Olms. The first Olm can go to work spamming Voice of Apsu and increasing water gem income to summon more Olms. The Olm Sage is notable for his extremely high magical leadership of 55. Late game you will be summoning more troops then your conventionally recruited mages can readily handle, so Olm Sages will be the most turn-efficient reinforcement leader you have.

Olm troops are especially strong against small squads of elite units, giving me an edge over Vanheim should relations sour. They also serve as a measure of defense against the athletically-inclined Ashdod giants. Magma Bolts are a solid and easy to access battle evocation for my massed Golem Crafters to spam. Magma Bolts do not deal fire damage, so it is viable against the fire resistant and heavily armored Ashdod and Abysia. From there I can stall against most any invading force and go for the big spells unmolested (hopefully).

olms.png

Mind Blast is a 10-paralyze, 100 range, 100 precision, 10 ammunition, psychic damage attack. If units with minds are small in number, Olms will ruin their day.

Establishing Borders pt.2 (Turns 7-8)

Turn 7

Domestic

Nothing big happened this round, no magic sites were found, no funky events unearthed. I have been training 6 Ancient Ones a turn and 12 are currently garrisoned. I send my 3rd Golem Crafter to site search the Western cave provinces. Now that all 3 routes from Agartha are being traced I discontinue recruiting Golem Crafters and switch to recruit my first Oracle of the Ancients. Since he is slow-to-recruit I will have 24 total Ancient Ones for him to lead to victory upon his arrival. Where this small force will be led is yet uncertain….

War

Turn7Battl.png

As shown above I scripted my Sacreds poorly (set them to Fire, while the Shamblers were on Hold-and-Attack) and they wound-up intercepting the initial charge, which cost me both Hurlers and an Ancient One off the bat. I lose another Ancient One in the ensuing melee, until the mercenary force turns it aside with only 1 Shambler loss on their part.

The Shipwreckers again prove their value and aid a small force of Sacreds in conquering a heavy Calvary province worth 73 income. I decide against expanding further in the surface, as it would most likely lead to Vanheim becoming surrounded and making me his first target, as well as making other surface walkers aware of my size. Given Vanheim’s apparent slow expansion, I feel confident I could win a war against him but I’d rather not force aggressive actions until I hit Conjuration 3 and can use magic to leverage an advantage over his slippery units. As a result I also elect not to renew my contract with The Shipwreckers. I instruct them to patrol my new province with their last month, as it has 13 unrest and I’d rather not suicide Y’gologna and weaken one of the indies for my neighbors to take advantage of.

turn7-merc.png

A minimum bid at 220 means you’re paying roughly 18 gold a head for the remaining 12 Pikeneers. Not a bargain bin price.

Despite me not renewing his contract Bernard shows his professionalism and conquers one last territory for me prior to his departure. Amusingly Abysia “steals” him from me this turn, bidding full price for (or higher) a paltry 12 Pikeneers (out of an original 30).

Diplomacy

turn7.png

A wild challenger appears! Pangaea AKA Astarwulf, the host of this game, and he’s surrounded by thrones! Abysia’s lone commander in the “Hole of Motivation” is obviously building a fort on our mutual border.

I have gone from having no neighbors to having 4, with a 5th close by! Starting to rub elbows indeed. I am doing my best to avoid having a bulls-eye put on my back via  rapid, greedy expansion. If I take all of these choke-hold provinces I will be forcing my neighbors to combine forces and war against me to maneuver, as well as leaving my empire strung out and poorly defended. Unmeasured expansion should only be done if you’re in a position to snowball with and, unfortunately, I lack the experience with MA Agartha.

Out of game Abysia and I sign a NAP 2 and exchange some role-played pleasantries. We agree to a potential future deal of a Blood Stone for some Earth gems and trade harmless information regarding the neighborhood. She tells me the Ulmish’s lab burned down. Excellent, the suffering of my neighbor’s economies and research is my boon. Otherwise I continue recruiting Chiefs and Spies to collect information regarding my neighbors and our mutual borders. Until next turn.

Turn 8

A chill has tainted the air. It pains me to say TURN DOWN FOR BALZAC has announced our imminent separation. ‘Pocahontan’s Phylctery has plans for this land’, he says. ‘I’ve a need to see it primed proper. No doubts, the Oracles left me, none at’ll.’ A new type of barbarian awaited our arrival- smaller then the Ursauxs, though with matching ferociousness. We observed a nature mage among their number; this new captive appears to have been the catalyst for these recent “plans”. TURN DOWN FOR BALZAC is hard at work converting these people to the Faith.

-Albert, Boulder of the Caves, First Steward of the Oracle, Late Fall of 20 A.C.

Domestic/Diplomacy

It is still the first year and I am rocking 1,084 income. Despite this surplus of cash, Ancient Ones ain’t cheap and my Oracle recruitment is robbing the bank. Besides this my most recently acquired province puts me at almost completely fixed borders with Ulm. I am cautious about rocking the boat too hard until I get Vanheim contained, especially since Marignon borders ‘Heim and I already. An alliance between Vanheim and Marignon would likely mean the end of my game.

I’ve now searched 3 provinces and found 0 sites so far, but I confident my Crafters will strike a vein soon. I instruct my Prophet to build a temple in Monarch Woods. It is not directly on our border but, combined with my Prophet’s influence, should ensure this valley has strong Dominion for me in the near future. I also succeed in NAP negotiations with the peaceful nation of Ulm.

ulm nap.PNG

Beyond religious influence there is shamananother explanation for my new temple as well. I send an Earth Reader to join my prophet (though first he jettisons his cargo, a force of 12 Ancient Ones sent to relieve my infantry). I send Cave Captain Albert to retrieve the force. I intend for the Earth Reader to build a lab next turn, so that I can begin recruiting a handful of Wolf Shaman.

As you can see Shaman are terrible units for the expense, but they are the only access to nature gems I can find right now (though I have 3 separate locations to recruit them from). Since I will already have 900 gold sunk into this province for a  lab and temple, and have no desire to produce Shaman in mass, forting it will allow me to immediately start producing worthwhile mages with my sunk Shaman investment. However, before I start my 2nd fort I first want a fort in a richer province closer to my cap…

fort choices.png

Yellow numbers are province income. Ulm is recruiting Raptors in Old Man Mountains.

These are my fort candidates (narrowed down to the 3 circled in orange). I already intend to build one in Monarch Woods. Halbathria would make a poor selection due to being easy to bypass, minimizing its strategic importance relative to the delay the mountainous terrain would cause any my reinforcements. Hidden Way would sap too many critical resources from my capital, interfering with Sacred warrior production. Lithia and Anvast are too far away to safely commit 5-months of fort production (though are great candidates for #3) when bordering 3 potentially hostile nations with no ability to immediately reinforce.

Despite being a native scout province I settle on The Sombre Pass due to the high income and superior strategical positioning. The recruited scout for this turn plops his butt down and starts studying architectural designs and bossing men around in the name of Pocahontas’s Phylactery. Fort construction begins. In one turn I can disrupt any invading forces that cross the bridge from accessing my capital, while also being one turn away from local throne access. I can always proceed West to contest the chokepoints between me and Ulm as well.

Spymaster Report

Vanheim and I neighbor Ashdod. I’ll be losing my sole scout production province to fort mages soon, so I ramp up Bakemono Chief recruitment in the Caves of Umbor. I want to feel out my new foe, Ashdod, as well as get a further read on Vanheim. I’m not sure if I’d like to pick an early war with Vanheim or not. While their territory might be small, their sacreds are intended to carve mine up; any victory will be bloody. By next turn I’ll have 4 scouts within Ulm’s territory. If Ulm has an expansion similar Vanheim’s and can’t readily produce crossbowmen they’d make a far easier year 1 conquest.

nyxnyxnyx.png

One last note I’d like to make is regarding the season. It is currently Late Fall. Starting next turn the temperature  will shift towards cold by 1 or 2 scales until Spring. This is significant for a variety of reasons, chief of which are my scale of Heat 3 and my cold-blooded malus.

To start with, despite their cold-blooded trait, Agarthan’s favored temperature is neutral. This means that the extra heat burdens them with additional encumbrance, additionally giving 5% less income per heat scale in the province. While my capital started with Heat 3, now that Winter is coming it will drop as low as Heat 1, reducing my income malus from 15% to 5%. Additionally the cold-blooded trait make certain Agarthan take great fatigue and will almost certainly ensure they collapse from exhaustion in any sustainedheat fights. For this reason Winter is a poor time to fight in opponent’s territories, but a great time to develop my economy.Cold Blooded.png

Diplomatic Summary

It is apparent that borders are being finalized and open warfare will break out soon. While my Northern flank is a little thinner then I’d like, so far I’ve seen nothing indicating  early offensive action will include me. I definitely feel out-classed early game versus most of my neighbors’ units, but my strong expansion helps me feel confident I could win almost any 1 on 1 due to the sheer mass and tankiness of what I could recruit. What would be concerning is an alliance, which is why I need to make sure my expansion remains tempered and unnoticed. The water provinces are still untouched, so unless I really see someone floundering and I want a piece, I’d rather continue to conquer indies and watch that income and research score go up, up, up.

diplomacy

  • Ulm – Andyman the Magic Horse, Prince of the Four Winds, the Eternal Judge, King of the Open Road
  • Marignon cleft_lick, Master of Light, God of Many Names, Devourer of Sin, He Who Stole the Fire, Master of this World
  • Abysia – Anathema, Tower of Strength, Drinker of Blood, Prince of Might, the Invincible and Ever-triumphant
  • Vanheim – Son of Son of Kujo, Lord of Plants and Trees, God of Insects, King of the Harvest
  • Ashdod – Eddie Carmel, the Essence of Fertility, King of Fertility, the Unsleeping God

Looking over the other Pretender titles it looks like Ulm has a pretender with wind and maybe death magic, Marignon has a major fire bless, Abysia’s pretender has Fire and Blood magic (potential minor bless?), Vanheim has a major nature bless (and almost assuredly at least a minor bless in either Water or Earth), and Ashdod has a major nature bless. Ashdod’s sacreds will school my poor imitators of sacred giant units, so I need to ensure I have a magic or number leverage prior to spilling any of his blood. Based on this analysis I’d like to keep making peace with my neighbors and look for opportunities as they war with each other with an eye towards going on Ulm or Marignon, provided they cannot leverage large crossbow armies. While I fear a Marignon N9 bless, as I would struggle to damage their Knights, a F9 is not as concerning to me as I will still be able to snap their puny human necks. Ulm concerns me only in that his chassis indicates he chose an awake or dormant combat God, complicating who has the advantage in early war.

I reach out to Vanheim and make a NAP 2 with them as well. Through our discussion in a couple game threads I discern that they are a newer player who is untested with expansion. Looking at the map I can tell they have maybe 4 provinces right now, almost 1/3rd of my empire. I don’t have the heart to backstab or crush them this early when I could be doing similarly productive things on other players, besides which Owl Quills would be very useful to jump start my research. The longer the game goes the better my magical options to deal with Vanheim become, so I am confident that either way keeping him around won’t be too bad for me. Since they are new it is much less likely he is trying some shenanigan to backstab me, meaning my thinly-stretch Northern provinces are that much more likely to remain intact and continue financing my empire.

I should note here that I favor NAP 2’s for this game. I haven’t broken a NAP yet and ensuring I have relatively small terms means I can keep that flexibility without compromising the NAP. Additionally it will take almost 2 turns for me to reinforce anywhere in my immediate empire with troops from my capital, so the number has strategic significance as well. Let’s look at the world map and see where the Thrones are concentrated:

Thrones.png

The Oracles were needed to juxtapose the current turn’s position with knowledge of several different nation’s capitals.

11 players, 11 lv1 Thrones, 11 lv2 Thrones, 17 points to win. Yep, the least amount of thrones you need to win is 9 and more likely you will need ~12 total to secure victory. In the next couple of turns Pangaea starts capturing several thrones and generating buzz, but something to keep in mind is that they have 5 thrones within 2 provinces of their capital. They pretty much have to take thrones or not expand period, and it definitely stunted their growth. Additionally the thrones are sparse in the North, meaning wars will largely be settled before Thrones start getting claimed by the victor. Another thing to keep in mind is that heavy throne games tend to favor sacred units, as they can wind-up picking up several buffs from captured thrones throughout the game’s duration. Here are the sacred buffs possible for this game:

  • The Throne of the Second Age: +1 strength
  • The Throne of the Moon: +3 precision
  • The Throne of Water: +3 defense
  • The Throne of Ice: +5 cold resistance
  • The Throne of Stability: +1 magic resistance
  • The Throne of War: +1 attack skill, +1 morale
  • The Throne of Flames: +5 fire resistance

Nothing game breaking like delivering awe or fear, but some pretty solid boosts that help eek out even more value from a bless based strategy. The Throne of War would be useful to address my sacred’s abysmal attack scores, as would the Throne of the Moon for my mage’s precision, but ultimately wouldn’t make or break any particular kind of playstyle. As of turn 8 only the Throne of Bureaucracy had been claimed, by Arcosphale:

arco-yolk

I make yolk.

Establishing Borders (Turns 5-6)

Expansion Plan

In my tests on this map I noticed certain provinces were more income-rich then others, indicated with a gold star. As you can see that made expanding into the surface from my capital a priority (#1), so as to either lay claim to those lands or posture defensively in anticipation of sudden war. In particular the 2 cities near the North-most #3 were the richest locations on this whole map, often giving 300+ gold between the pair. I tried to mark each territory group with its appeal for me ranked from most pressing to conquer, #1, to least #5.

#2 are more defensive positions then industrial ones, as I do not want anyone in my cave network. #3 are for income, while #4-5 mark my planned water expansion once the land borders are sealed (and assuming I’m not at war). By the time I reach #5 I will definitely be in reach of at least a couple tasty targets. My rough fortress plan is guided by the pink stars; any of the noted locations would derive benefit both from the fort’s admin bonuses, as well as the ability to rapidly deploy troops near these key choke points.Expansion.png

Vanheim’s location bodes poorly for the Eastern tunnels as their positioning indicates they are likely above the cave network. This means I need to heavily focus on developing infrastructure above my capital’s lands. I decide to stretch myself thin along the Eastern river and head North, ensuring Vanheim must go all-out war against me if they want more favorable borders. With a cold dominion and sailing things aren’t great in this match-up, but I hope my size serves to kowtow and bully them into submission.

I doubt I can reach the richest pair of cities noted earlier, or defeat the indies there if I do (often guarded by wizards or large numbers of heavy cav), or even hold the land if I do manage to conquer it (as my forces would then be weakened and in poor position for reinforcement). Regardless there are some good provinces along the ways, so I can cut my losses pretty easily and stop heading North anytime. Ideally a weak nation or C’tis (who will be easy to coordinate a gank on) will be guarding them, allowing me to plunder their riches to fund lots of mages early game.

Turn 5

I’ve been hearing Cave Songs lately. Dreaming of singing with the voices of the mountains, painting with the colors of the caves…  All me and TURN DOWN FOR BALZAC have seen lately are these ignorant barbarians. I long for home, but harden my resolve. As much as I grow to loathe this brightly lit place, it is imperative we bring the Truth of the Ancient Ones to all who are yet imprisoned by their preconceptions. TURN DOWN FOR BALZAC has been in communication with our homeland, using homing moles who burrow straight through this chalky dust the surface walkers call ground. Other civilizations have been discovered. Our orders are yet unchanged, but I hope in my heart that we shall liberate worthy foes soon.

-Albert, First Captain of the Caves, The Brand of Light, Late Summer of 20 A.C.

Domestic

diseaseSomething wicked has befallen my lands. The dreaded plague events have begun to unfold, and as early as turn 5. This is most unlucky (future edit: actually it was pretty fortuitous, stay tuned!). Right now I had only a simple event increasing unrest; this can potentially lead to a much vaster array of terrible results, including but not limited to death cults and immigrants spreading the disease to surrounding provinces. I’m mostly powerless to do anything about it this early, but will have to keep an eye on things. I recruit a 2nd Golem Crafter from my capital and send the 1st to site search and jump start my magic gem income.

While I’ve had the ability to do this for awhile, I wanted to spend gold on mages and troops so neglected purchasing scouts from a couple provinces. Now that I have some more free income and know where my neighbors are I immediately recruit 1 Bakemono Chief from Umbor and a Scout from Sombre Pass. The cave chieftain will scout out Abysia for me and watch for incoming armies. The scout will head Westbound and see who is on my last border. Chiefs are 160% as expensive as scouts (40g vs 25g) and have 10 less stealth (40 vs 50), but the provinces are on opposite ends of my empire and the immediate scouting need is too deep to hold-out for more efficient methods. I intend to recruit at least 2 chiefs and will likely seek more as the game progresses.

War

I intend no immediate offensive action regarding Vanheim or Abysia yet. For one, it might be suicide against a much larger opponent- that’s why I’m recruiting scouts. For another I’d prefer to establish borders prior to offensive action. Too often you see someone pick an early war against another, only to be unable to finish it in satisfactory time. Meanwhile everyone expands into those provinces the warring nations might otherwise have claimed, and ultimately mid-game starts with both warring nations weaker and smaller then everyone else. If I pick a war this early, I want to suffer minimal losses and have it over within a year.

Otherwise I lose 6 total mercenary units with no other losses this turn (2 Shamblers from the Ship Wreckers, and 4 Pikeneers from Bernard’s Brave Men). I send Bernard further North, the Ship Wreckers through the caves to combat heavy calvary on the surface, and my Prophet and Albert with my infantry army to clear a mountainous terrain. Hopefully I can wraparound Vanheim and punish them if they want early war (which is what I would do in their shoes). It is my hope one of these terrains contains nature mages. While they are typically not worth it due to their expense and research malus, landing early GoH.PNGnature income now all but guarantees my Diety comes out swinging with Gift of Health. Gift of Health is a nature global that helps my elderly Golem Crafters, fixes up my expensive sacreds, and stacks multiplicatively with with my Golem Cult specialty meaning my golems possess up to x4 as much HP.

Turn 6

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Orange shows my spies movements. Light-blue my site searchers. Red are my armies. Yellow is for neighbors with bordering provinces.

I had 2 neighbors last turn, now I have 4. Unfortunately they’re all tough cookies to crack as they either have giant-slaying ambidextrous soldiers or easy crossbow access with Production scales. The flip side of this is that there are still plenty of indies to conquer. I send scouts through Abysia’s lands to give me a read on his military, and begin investigating Ulm. I leave the East of the river unmolested for now and send a Golem Crafter top-side to look  for sites of magic power. I consider it highly unlikely I’ll be able to take the Northern-most city now, as Marignon has to be in a superior position and, if not him, perhaps Ulm.

site-searching

Only map move 1, but Golem Crafters are much cheaper then Oracles and have overlapping paths. Agartha is gem hungry enough you want to eventually fully search everything, making the E3 expensive Oracles inefficient to site search with. Golem Crafters’ paths give access to 36% of all sites possible (and 59% of all Earth gem production sites). Besides nature mages, Golem Crafters will be my only manual site searchers; everything else will be done via spells.

My losses in battles this turn were 3 mercenary pikeneers, and 3 of my starting infantry in exchange for 2 provinces. The only losses that are significant to me are sacred, right now anything else is readily expendable. Bernard is down to 22 pikeneers (from 30). Deciding not to press my border with Ulm I send them one province further north to suicide against a province full of heavy infantry. I do not intend to renew my contract as otherwise he would be stuck inefficiently against Marignon, Ulm and a throne.

A note of interest this turn is that my dominion is doing a great job of spreading. My cap only has 4 candles, but I have 1 candle 4 provinces away my capital, and candles 2 provinces away from my cap in both other directions. The way this spread is occurring means my provinces will flood with candles once I get a few temples up, as its easier to increase your Dominion in a province with position candles already. I am not concerned about a weak Dominion near my cap either, as I can recruit my Oracles with Holy 3 to quickly preach it up high if need be.

Things are proceeding smoothly, though the disease event in the prior turn was concerning, as is this  event. Relatively minor as far as its impact on my economy (loss of ~20 gold). But the Agarthans are a superstitious people and the omens are not favorable.

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