Agartha gains a bonus in resources and income to all cave forts. Usually caves have lackluster population, so aren’t great sources of either, but every bit counts. They also have a special national advantage with their Golem Cult buff. My initial army will be almost entirely composed of their sacred Ancient Ones. These units are elderly giants adorned with iron weaponry, large throwing boulders, scale mail, and some thick HP values. These giants have their own unique abilities tied to their nationality. They are cold-blooded, having grown accustomed to the warmth of the underground they will not do well in cold temperatures. They have perfect darkvision, allowing them to see both underground and in the dim of magical darkness. Additionally they do not consume traditional supplies, instead needing only rocks and dirt to sustain themselves. This allows them to venture into normally inhospitable areas with no repercussions like starvation. These are their mages; from left-to-right (ranked in order of both expense and power) we have the Oracle of the Ancients, the Golem Crafter, Earth Readers and Attendants. As religion is integral for Agartha all our sacred priests trained in the ways of Pocahontas’s Phylactery. This means they benefit from any blesses I take, but also require holy temples in fortified cities before I can begin recruiting them. For the most part Attendants will be delegated exclusively to Priest duties and leading small packs of reinforcements. I do not intend to recruit very many. The Earth Readers are minor Earth mages with fortune telling abilities. They also have decent leadership skills and, most importantly, are very cheap. They will form the bulk of my research force and will be used to reinforce existing companies. If I’m low on cash I will usually start mass producing these.
The majority of my produced mages will be the battle-ready Golem Crafters and Oracle of the Ancients. Oracles can only be produced in my capital city, and are slow-to-recruit, so Golem Crafters are the dominant battle mage. Both are very expensive. Golem Crafters will be used for battle ready squads of non-sacred Golems (as they can lead 5 more magical units then most Oracles). Units like Claymen, Elementals, and Magma Children will be their command. In battle they will self-bless (if necessary), cast Earth Power to improve their magical prowess, and then barrage the enemy with torrents of magma or boiling vapor. Occasionally they might be given powerful gems to summon elementals or shape the battlefield to be more accommodating for my troops.
My Oracles will be used as troop leaders, powerful Earth battlemages, and necromancers of some power. They will most often be used to buff and lead my powerful sacred troops, but alternatives for them include summoning golems from the Earth itself, launching masses of whirling clay discs to traumatize unarmored foes, and triggering Earthquakes to wipe out massive hordes of weak units. They are given random paths from each of the cavern elements (fire, water and earth) and can potentially access greater Death magics as well. D2 oracles can be used to raise Revenants, which will relieve my Oracles from casting and forging minor Death components. Eventually D2 randoms can forge a Skull Staff, summon a D3 Mound Fiend, and break into late game death magic. If I get a F1D1 random I can forge a Fire booster to access F2 options. If I’m really lucky and get both a 1F1D and a F2 random I can break into F3 Flame Spirits which will allow me access to late game fire magic.
My scales look to eek as much of an advantage out of my N9E9 bless as I can, while maximizing my mage’s potential. On my tests with this map going any lower then Sloth 1 could mean my starting cap has inadequate resources to maximize Ancient One production. While I’d like to dip as low as Sloth 2, I just can’t afford to take the chance of a bad starting position. As mentioned, I don’t need to worry about supplies and Heat 3 and 0 Growth have the bonus of reducing supplies any invading armies might try to scavenge in my lands. I experimented a little with Death 1 in my test games, but found it was too harsh on the elderly Golem Crafters.
Heat 3, Order 3 and Misfortune all go together. Heat 3 ensures it will be difficult for my opponents to take advantage of my Cold Blooded weakness. Misfortune 1 is largely cancelled by my fortune telling units combo’d with Order 3. I could safely drop to Misfortune 2, but I don’t want to risk it with 0 Growth and Sloth scales (I prefer to have the option of temple spamming, which can’t be safely done in Misfortune 2 without lots of PD). On the surface Heat 3 and Order 3 seem like they cancel each other’s income adjustments out. However during Winter my temperature scales will only be at Heat 1, while my Order scales will stay at 3. This means my income bonus will fluctuate from -2% to the summer to 8% during the Winter, averaging an annual 3% bonus. A starting Dominion of 7 allows me access to plenty of sacreds and ensures my Golem bonus will put in work. Remaining points let me drop 1 into Magic for some better random events and research bonus.
My chassis is the Monolith. She can eventually forge a Crystal Coin to Teleport into other provinces, but in the interim will be unkillable in my Dominion as she benefits from the Golem Cult bless. She is the best candidate for N9E9 with decent scales on MA Agartha, and she gives them an eventual outlet for Astral gem income and receives all the sweet cross-path items for Earth/Astral.
As noted I have an N9E9 bless. This offers significant benefits to all my mages and sacred troops. My human mages are rather frail, so the bonus HP and regen helps bolster them. Additionally the +5 base protection and 4 bonus reinvig. is big too. Since my 2 main mages each have E2+, Earth Power combo’d with this bless gives them 8 reinvigoration. This is especially important as I have a 3 net Heat domain which gives 2 additional encumbrance. My bless is really for my late game summons, but until we get there these will be my main combat troops:
These guys are mammoths. They have thick armor, are huge, tanky, and can hit hard (granted the whole 1-eye thing means they might have some trouble landing those hits). Some of their less obvious advantages are their high age cap (resistance to anyone looking to cast Burden of Time), complete dark-vision, big siege bonus (worth 8.24 total siege points), need-not-eat, and being fully amphibious. Quite flexible units, with or without a bless. As I have a double bless they are quite durable and make me fear nothing early game save for Gods, massed crossbows and slippery high defense units. Unfortunately they can only be recruited in Agartha and, as they are sacred, I have limited recruitment based on overall belief in Pocahontas’s Phylactery as well.
Here are my rivals in the race to claim the Pantokrator’s Throne:
I know 2 of the 10 other players. AstarWulf is the game host and was also in my first ever Dominions multiplayer game. I was very intimidated at the time (I’m still a little intimidated) as I had (and still do) use his channel to guide my initial experience with several nations. He is a solid player who gravitates towards atypical strategies and has a pleasant voice with a heavy accent. Escapement is a vet who hangs out on Reddit and answers people’s questions in scary deep detail- if AstarWulf is intimidating, Escapement is pants-wetting. Even worse remember the Fallen Sons of Nephilim, the cannibal giants? He’s playing them; nothing hurts your chances for victory worse then a strong player on a strong nation.
Beyond Ashdod, both Ulm and Marignon are notable for the ability to recruit crossbows in their forts, a unit I do not want to engage when massed. Crossbows are armor-piercing (1/2 protection values for dmg calc), meaning my tanky sacreds aren’t quite as invulnerable against piercing bolts as they are other conventional weapons. I can weather a few crossbows, but crossbowmen can be recruited in bulk from any of their forts, while I can only recruit my main unit from the starting cap. It would be easy to get outnumbered by them in a war without a quick attack. Even more spooky crossbows combo well with one the of the strongest early-midgame spells in the game: Flaming Arrows. Flaming Arrows is available for only fire mages with 2 paths (1 fire gem lets you lead with Phoenix Fire at Conjuration 3, the other lets you cast the spell) at easy-to-access Enchantment 4. Flaming Arrows makes every ranged spell on your side do magic damage (which pierces certain abilities), and deals an extra armor-piercing Damage 8 roll. Multiple hits can set a unit on fire, which would deal burning damage every turn.
Marignon has easy access to Flaming Arrows and crossbowmen, but there are some issues with their nation too. Their combat paths are almost exclusively Astral and Fire and all their units are feeble humans. I can easily recruit units high in fire resistance to counter most of their combat magics. They can choose to go Astral, which is decent against me, but that likely means forgoing advantageous magic most of the other nations in this game (exceptions Abysia and Ashdod). For this reason they would be a potent mid-game foe, but will be nothing scary late or early game (exception: if they go N9 bless I will have a really rough time killing their knights, but they’d have a similarly difficult time with mine).
Ulm on the other hand… while they lack synergistic magic with their crossbows, they have something worse: Guardians. Guardians are an anathema to sacred-based strategies like mine. They are the worst kind of heretics, powerful ones. Up front they might not seem like anything special, especially for a unit limited to their capital. Well there’s one big thing they have going for them “Bane of Heresy”. On top of their Halberds being magic weapons that deal 11 damage, they also have a secondary effect exclusive to Sacred targets: 15 extra fatigue damage. Ouch. Complete with their relatively cheap cost, decent all-around stats (exception low defense, extremely high protection) and size of 2 they are some of the best giant slayers in the game and can be recruited en mass with no Holy point limitations.
Caelum has a cold dominion and flying units, both of which my cold blooded, slow moving giants hate fighting. C’tis’s dominion reduces opponent’s income and diseases their non-sacred, non-swamp survival units, a national trait similar my Golem Cult. Luckily I don’t need to worry about the disease as much, since I almost exclusively use sacred units. Sucks for the other people in this game though. If I start by him and desire his land it would be easy to cajole our mutual neighbors into joining the fray.
Pangaea and Vanheim are both notable for having sneaky units, plus Vanheim has a cold dominion and the ability to sail. I want to dominate the water provinces in this game which means sailing will be rough to deal with (another way to out-maneuver the clumsy giants). Most significantly Vanheim typically goes for a water/nature bless on their sacreds. Already possessing innate illusion trickery and sky-high defense, any blessed Vanheim sacred will be almost impossible for my giants to touch with their meager attack scores. Vanheim, Ashdod, Caelum and Ulm are likely my worst match-ups here, while I feel neutral about Pangaea and Marignon. The remaining 4 nations (Arcosephale, Mictlan, Abysia, C’tis) I feel I have the edge on.
Lastly here are the new items introduced into the game by the Thematic GemGen mod.This mod seeks to create a couple temp. gem generating items for every path. I’ve brought up detail on all the items I might consider forging above, and will provide detail on any others I witness throughout the game.