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….
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Beyond religious influence there is another 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…
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.
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.
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 sustained fights. For this reason Winter is a poor time to fight in opponent’s territories, but a great time to develop my economy.
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.
- 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:
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: