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Magical Hobbits, Corruption of Save Files: Let's cancel Master of Magic :/

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Let's Play: Master of Magic

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Do majestic 1994-fireball-animation attract any attention? I sure hope so, because as a newcomer in this forum in general and the LP subsection in particular, LPing a 22 years old strategy game might not be a good marketing decision. Still - I'd like to enter the fray with this oldtimer, hoping that some of you will enjoy its phenomenal graphics and polished gameplay awkward animations and questionable game balance.

So what is this game?
In short, it's basically Civilization I, but MAGIC! Its mechanics for science, infrastructure and (especially) combat are different enough to make MoM a unique game, but an experienced Civ player should be able to get into this game rather quickly. Like probably every Civ spin-off in history, MoM is all about expanding and developing an empire before you eventually murder your opponents.

Is it still any good?
Well, yes - I wouldn't do this otherwise. The graphics haven't aged well and the first thing I did was muting the sound, but the gameplay itself is very enjoyable, even by today's standards. 4X games like this usually have a good replay value in general, and compared to (at least the first) civ games, Master of Magic has even more parameters to make every playthrough unique. Unfortunately, it shares another trait: the AI in this game is hilariously weak, so the higher difficulty setting put the player at an equally hilarious disadvantage to make up for it.

Is there more of this awesome intro?
Yeah, I only sewed together two small parts of it. Here's the whole thing (not my vid).

Do you want to get started already?
Yes.

[spoiler=Getting Started]

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Just going over the settings real quick:

Hard is only the second-highest difficultiy because 1) I am a filthy casual, 2) I haven't played this in a while and 3) I don't enjoy if my opponents summon the Armageddon on me while I teach my guys how to use a halberd. 'Powerful magic' means that the main sources of magic power yield more mana, but are also guarded by more powerful monsters.

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There are 14 prebuilt wizards to choose from (Here's a list)...

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...but being a filthy casual, I prefer to go with a more optimized build. The game includes five magic realms (afaik directly ripped off Magic: The Gathering) and quite a few special abilities of varying power. I'd like to go though those as well:

[spoiler=Magic Realms]
hYQt7Xp.jpgSomewhat surprising, very few of the Life magic spells are healing spells. Instead, this realm focuses on supporting spells, making the common troops of a Life wizard quite terrifying. Other than that, it has a few spells to improve your empire's economy and some direct counterspells against the Death and Chaos realms.

Wd4To1R.jpgDeath magic is the polar opposite and one wizard cannot learn spells out of both of these realms. Death spells do what you'd expect: Weakening the enemy, both in combat and on the world map. The more advanced spells can get really devestating, so a Death mage can be a really annoying opponent. Not by power, but by efficiency, Death also features the best summoning magic in the game.

I4H74H6.jpgChaos is the reason why I don't like to play this game on impossible. Most of its spells are combat related: Quite a few Summons (including the powerful but expensive Great Drake), a lot of directly damaging spells and very little else. At the very end of the spell list, however, you'll find a few global spells that can be summed up as 'fucks up the whole world, except the caster's cities'. On impossible, an enemy Chaos mage will grab one of these fast and that's just no fun.

ODumLuG.jpgNature is the Jack-of-all-trades of the realms, unfortunately including the Master-of-none part. It has spells of every kind (supporting and damaging, both for combat and for infrastructure), but they tend to be nice instead of powerful, making this (in my opinion) the weakest realm in the game.

qvTeTkQ.jpgSorcery has a few vaguely wind-related spells, but the strengths of this realm are illusion (like invisibility) and meta-magic (starting with powerful antimagic and ending with acutally stealing global enchantments). In my experience, Sorcery gives you a rather slow start, but later not only are some of the advanced spells really powerful, but the AI gets boned hard by invisible and/or flying units.


Every realm includes 40 spells, divided into four tiers. The number of books picked determines how many of them you'll find (and be able to study) in your library: ten books give you every spell of the realm, fewer books randomly remove some, starting at the most powerful tier.

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Even though some of the special traits are really powerful, they're less impactful for the overall game. So I'll just link a short summary instead of going into detail here. I'll just explain my final build:

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With this combination, I'll get a lot of value out of my non-magical units, hopefully to the point where they're as strong as the most powerful summons (and way less pricey).

Alchemy allows me to convert gold and mana without losses in either direction, giving me a lot of flexibility throughout the game. Warlord boosts the experience level of all non-magical units, even giving them an additional combat rank above the usual maximum. The downside of taking both these traits: I can only hope that I will have all of the more important spells in my library. Fortunately, the three spells I'm really looking forward to are only in the second-highest tier, of which I'll only be missing three...

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Picking 8 books of only one realm also gives me seven of the basic spells at the start of the game. I'll go over them when I actually start playing.

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And finally I get to choose which race populates my capital. This decision mostly affects the earlygame since you'll be able to capture neutral cities (although occupying a dwarven city as a elven ruler will result in angry dwarves), but the difference can be quite significant.

I'm picking Halflings because they have the strongest combat units in the game while also being able to build up a decent infrastructure.

I'm not kidding, by the way. Hobbit units are pretty insane. But again, I'll go into detail when I actually play this game - in the next update. This one's long enough, but I hope that I managed to keep a few readers going up to this point.



As an addendum: This is only my second LP and the first one was in a smaller forum and in my native language. So I'd really appreciate feedback, especially if some passages are phrased weird or just plain wrong. As long as it's not "EVERYTHING SUCKS!", feel free to be critical. ;)

Edited by ping

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honestly i think master of magic still looks really fucking good considering its release

i'll be watching this shit like a hawk, mom is my favorite game of all time and its strategy guide was like the second full book i ever read

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teach me the way to play, master

I CANT HANDLE THAT PRESSURE! So I guess it's a good thing I already prepared another update.

@Integrity: I was thinking of the (minimalistic) battle animations, but I guess that's better than having animations as long as PoR's map animations. ;) Other than that, you're not wrong. The game is very pixel-y, of course, but not ugly and it's easy enough to spot what you need to spot. And that's something many newer games seem to struggle with...

[spoiler=Update 01]

Alright, let's have a look at our starting location!

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It's quite nice, all things considered. Unlike in the Civ games, you do not 'work' the tiles in your city borders (the fat cross that is visible on the map right now); instead, every tile contributes to the max population ('food' - grassland and rivers give the biggest bonus here), gives a small percentage bonus to production (woods, hills, mountains mostly) and/or to the gold it generates (river and sea tiles).

You can increase max pop by 5 points via buildings and there's no way to get more than 25 population, so this city combined with its nice production bonus is pretty powerful.

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In addition, having Nightshade in range will protect the city from harmful spells (although not reliably) and the two Iron Ore tiles will reduce the building cost of most units by 10%. Neither of these are gamechanging boosts, but hey - they're nice to have.

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Capital cities start out with a little bit of infrastructure, as well as the wizard's fortress.
  • Barracks are the basic military building and they're needed to build most of military units.
  • The Forge unlocks Swordsmen (the second-weakest military unit), but it's also needed for some infrastructure upgrades.
  • The Builder's Hall itself is useless to us, but it's needed to unlock most of the non-military buildings.
  • The Fortress itself is obviously unique to our capital. It produces magic power equal to the number of spellbooks (8 in our case).

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Here are the cities overall yields from top to bottom: Food (the city needs 1 food per pop, the surplus is fed to the military), Production (it produces things), Gold (this city generates 4 gold, but its buildings cost 2 gold in maintenance), Magic Power (I'll come to this later) and Science (which is zero right now).

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Citizen management is rather easy: You must have enough farmers to support the city and every additional citizen can either be assigned as a farmer (to feed your military) or a worker (to build things). As the city growths, rebels will appear. They don't do anything special except not giving any yields, though, and can be placated by military presence and religious buildings.

The (potential) infrastructure of a Hobbit city is somewhat mediocre - no Universities means that they're also locked out of quite a few strong buildings. Their new cities will grow nicely, though: They don't have a growth penalty (those are very common otherwise) and their farmers produce one additional unit of food.

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The latter honestly isn't that big of a boost. Food is little more than a restriction on how many workers you can afford, so I believe a direct boost to production is more powerful overall.

By the way - note the production boost from the city's terrain: Two workers and two farmers produce 5 hammers, so 28% of that gives the city one additional hammer right now.

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I'll go through all of the buildings as I build (or conquer...) them, hopefully covering all of them eventually.

I literally always start my building order with a granary in my cap and will most of the time open with Builders' Hall --> Granary in freshly settled cites. The food boost is more impactful in new settlements (because without it they're stuck with a farmer as their first citizen), but the growth bonus is strong and even better than the game tells us: Granaries (and the Farmers' Market that it unlocks) also increase the population limit. And since the distance to that limit factors into pop growth, the granary actually adds +30 to growth.

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Other than that, both of my military units start scouting the area. In general, leaving any city unguarded is a very bad idea because of roaming monsters potentially plundering them, but to my knowledge those don't spawn at the very start of the game. So right now, it's time to look for potential city locations and actual (neutral) city locations, while also checking the ruins, dens, ancient temples etc.pp. that are scattered across the map.

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You start the game with the two weakest melee units in the game, both weaker than any monsters you might find. This also applies here, even though I have a few things going for me:
  • The Alchemy trait actually gives all of my troops magic weapons, allowing them to hurt monsters immune to normal weapons. It also improves their damage output by one third, but I'll put the details off until we'll see actual combat.
  • The Warlord trait improves their EXP level from 'Recruit' to 'Regular', increasing their attack by one point. Given that this is a Small Numbers Game at the start, this is pretty impactful when fighting other non-magical units.
  • Halfling Swordsmen lose one point of attack strength, but have two additional fighters per unit (6 --> 8; Spearmen have 8 fighters in general). Right now, this evens out (6 fighters à 4 strength = 8 fighters à 3 strength), but at higher levels, this will favour Halflings.
  • And here's why Hobbits are absurd: Being Lucky is fucking HUGE in this game. Again, I'll spare you the details for now, but this ability gives the same offensive bonus as the magic weapons do, gives a similar boost to defence AND a similar penalty to attackers in melee.
The TL;DR: We'll avoid fighting monsters for now, but if we stumble across a neutral city (which we won't, sadly), we could easily defeat its defenders, even if they were twice our numbers, and do a little expanding that way.

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We'll still enter the ruins and back out without a fight. Not only to scout what kind of enemies we'll eventually fight...

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...but also because some ruins (or keeps or whatever) actually contain unguarded treasure. 50 Mana isn't a huge bonus, but right now,

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...we can use oure Alchemy trait to transform almost all of our gold into even more mana...

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...which in turn allows us to make our swordsman even more awesome.

Heroism is an amazing spell during the earlygame - Elite troops gain a second attack point, yet another of those 33% attack boosts (they add up, unfortunately, instead of multiplying), a defence point and an additional hitpoint (which is pretty strong when you started with a single HP).

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The Warlord trait boosts this even further, making my Swordsmen officially ULTRA. This gives them a second bonus point on defense, but more importantly adds a final 33% attack boost to the stack. Adding up all of these make the swordsmen hit 2.33x as strong as another unit with identical stats, but without these multipliers. Being a bunch of Hobbits doesn't affect this unit's offence that much anymore, but the two defensive boost out of the Lucky trait are still unique to them (and harder to enhance in general).

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So - let's put this into use! Unfortunately, your scouts don't tell you anything about the numbers of the monster, just one of the monster types inside of the ruins (usually, but not always the strongest). In this case, our two units might have been strong enough even before the Heroism spell.

Anyway, this is how combat works in Master of Magic: Unlike the Civ games, you actually direct your troops during the fight, while also being able to cast spells on your troops/the enemies/the whole battlefield.

The starting posisions of the units is alway as shown: the defender to the upper left, the attacker to the lower right, five tiles between the frontline units.

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Our opponents are the two most basic monsters of the Death realm, both being appropriately harmless. Both have a bunch of immunities that are completely irrelevant to us right now, so the Skeletons are little more than slightly improved swordsmen. Zombies hit a bit harder and can tank quite a lot of punishment, making them stronger than most basic units - at least until those go up in their experience levels.

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At the start, most fights start with both parties slowly marching towards each other one tile a turn.

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The fight itself is slightly one-sided... Only two out of eight Hobbits fall and unless the whole unit, they will just respawn as the unit as a whole heals.

Now, without context, this doesn't really tell us much about the Hobbits as fighters. Maybe it's just the Heroism spell that does the trick? So to compare, I started another game with the same setup, but with High Men in my capital. Their basic units are basically the default, not receiving any boosts at all. So how do they fare in a comparable situation?

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...Huh. Edited by ping

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[spoiler=Update 02]So the last time, I hurried a bit ahead to include at least some actual combat. In this update, I'll start slow again and go over the 'Magic' aspect of the game.

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I already went over Heroism (awesome spell earlygame, keeps being useful to have throughout the game), but I ignored one thing about unit spells in general: Most of them can be cast either during the battle for the lower mana cost, only lasting until the end of the fight. Casting a unit spell on the worldmap is more expensive (I believe it's always 5x the cost) and also requires a litte bit of mana per turn, often making it less cost-efficient than just re-casting it every battle.

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However, MoM has a rather neat system to prevent you to blast out all of your mana at once. First: During combat, a wizard can only cast one spell each turn. Second: Other than your total mana, your 'Casting Skill' also limits you in your spellslinging. I start with a Skill of 16 (visible in the lower left corner - this is turn 2, so my total mana is only 3 and I earn 8 Power each turn from my fortress), so I can only spend 16 mana each battle. That's not much - I couldn't cast even one Heroism spell in combat.

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Increasing your Skill is one of the three uses your power base has. It's a rather slow process: to increase your Skill by one point, you have to accumulate twice your current Skill in Power, so even though I completely neglect my science game, it will take eight turns to gain my 17th Skill point.

Neglecting Science is how i start most of my games. While leaning more powerful spells is obviously very important, the spells I really want cost about 1000 research points, making the initial research via Power mostly irrelevant. Right now, the faster increase of my Skill and my mana pool seem much more important. Later, I might change my power distribution, but even then Libraries (and their upgrades) are a more efficient way to gain research points.

One last thing: Skill also limits the mana per turn I can put into spells outside of combat. Heroism costs me 90 mana (I get a 10% discount for having 8 Life spellbooks), so even if I had the necessary mana, it would take me 90/16 = 6 turns to enchant a unit right away.

So let's go through the spells I chose during wizard creation:

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Holy Armor is a decent spell early on, but I tend to ignore it in favour of more Heroism casts. Defense boosts are even more effective against units with multiple figures (read: most enemies you'll face right in the earlygame), but it's hard to justify using it while Heroism is available at almost the same price and while Mana is actually a scarce resource.

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+1 Movement is obviously helpful on the world map (keep in mind that foot units start with only 1 Movement), but it's also surprisingly powerful on the battlefield as soon as ranged units come into play. Reaching them twice as fast means only half the number of shots in the face and that sure is helpful. It's worth noting that Endurance is one of the few Unit Enchantments that can't be cast in battle.

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Bless is a very strong defense boost for its price, but of course it's a bit situational. It'll trigger more often than you'd think, though, since quite a few magical ranged attacks are chaos-based, even if the user himself isn't connected to the Chaos realm otherwise.

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The Magic Spirit is the first spell we encounter that is part of the 'Arcane Realm'. There are 14 Arcane spells in total; a few basic anti-magic spells, a few basic summoning spells and a bit of utility. It also contains the 'Spell of Mastery' which is basically the 'science victory' of this game, being extremely expensive both to research and to actually cast, but also instantly winning the game when finished.

The Magic Spirit is slightly less powerful, but at the same time a lot more useful: While it's basically worthless in combat, it can meld with magical nodes (a special kind of monster lair) to extract their magic power (as in 'the resource that can be refined into mana, research and skill').

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I have no idea why the Guardian Spirit's summary is longer without actually mentioning its advantage over the Magic Spirit. When melded with a magic node, it also protects it from being captured by another wizard. A Magic Spirit can just be kicked out by another spirit as long as there are no units (left) to defend the node in combat; a Guardian Spirit has a 75% chance of killing the 'attacking' spirit instead. It's nice when it works, but a Fire Emblem player should know better than to rely on a 75 in a game without true hit.

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Fame is usually gained by winning large battles (at least four enemy units), capturing cities and beating opposing wizards. A +10 boost is OK early on, but nothing too special. Fame does have some nice effects, though - it reduces unit maintenance and attracts higher numbers of more powerful mercenaries.

More impactful, however, is another hidden effect of this spell: Just Cause reduces the number of rebelling citizens in every city you own by one.

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If you don't mess around with your tax rates, every 5th citizen spawns as a rebel but can be pacified by 2 military units stationed in the city or by (mostly religious) buildings. Just Cause might enable you to roll with a higher tax rate without losing productivity, but I personally don't bother min-maxing here.

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And finally, my spearmen stumble across another Arcane spell in an unprotected monster den.

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It's a 2nd-tier spell (out of 4) and my bane as a dedicated Life wizard: It can also be cast during combat and will attempt to dispel each and every unit enchantment the opponent has active.

The chance of any Dispel variant working goes down the more expensive the targeted spell is, but can increased by pumping more mana into the Dispel. The despelling power gets down for every spell after the first targeted with a single Dispel.

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And finally, the monster den cleared out by our Ultra Swordsman at the end of the last update nets us the Summon Hero spell which Summons a Hero, but is (at 300 mana) a bit expensive at this time.

We will meet some heroes shortly - they're basically units with unique abilities that can accumulate way more EXP than regular units do, potentially making them the most powerful fighters in the endgame, but pretty terrible when they first join.

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Meanwhile, our capital finishes its granary, recruiting two spearman units afterwards. They offer decent protection (for this point in the game at least) because they're hobbits, but more importantly, they'll pacify the fifth citizen that will pop up in the near future.

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Next up is the Marketplace, giving us one whole gold per turn, but more importantly unlocking the Farmers Market, the second (and last) food+growth building.

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It's basically 50% stronger than the granary, providing +3 food, +3 max population and (despite the game telling otherwise) +40 - +50 population growth.

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Meanwhile, the spearman explores further to the west, backing out of every monster den without a fight.

While it is possible to enter the dens and then flee immediately, doing so puts the scouting unit(s) at risk. There is a random chance for every unit fleeing a battle to just die and I'm pretty sure (even considering confirmation bias) that the odds are rigged terribly against the player on higher difficulties.

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Between the monster lairs, he stumbles across what is probably the most valuable ressource he could find. Other than the (very minor) power bonus, every unit built in a city with mithril in its borders will gain a +1 bonus to melee attacks, physical ranged attacks and defense, as soon as the city has constructed an Alchemist Guild (a mid-tier building). Hobbits appreciate mithril even more than any other race, thanks to their units having 8 figures and each figure gaining said +1 bonus. I'll scout around the area first, but securing the mithril as soon as possible is definitely a top priority right now.

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The swordsman's currently running around in the cap's vicinity, mostly to clear out some weaker monster dens. Here, he discovers that I overlooked an undefended dungeon (technically, dens/temples/abandoned keeps/dungeons/... all have different possible inhabitants, but it's really not that important) with the Star Fires spells inside.

The spell isn't impressive at all and I deselected it from the default spell selection at the start of the game. It's a comparatively cost-effective combat spell, dealing 4.5 points of damage (minus defense) on average against creatures from the Death or Chaos realms, at a cost of 5 Mana. It's 3x as strong as comparable combat spells of other realms at base, but unlike those, you can't pump more mana into Star Fires to increase the damage, making its damage per turn rather pitiful.

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After that, he gets interrupted, though: The spearman just found troops of our nearest opponent northwest of our captial.

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Their threat level only reaches 'angry caterpillar' level though: two unexperienced heroes and one summon that isn't even made for combat. He did put a spell on Salkirg - probably Guardian Wind (protects agains physical ranged attacks), but I can't check that in this screen (and forgot to check later).

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You will not be allowed to infringe upon my territory!

He's super happy to see a fellow practitioner of the art.

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The 'Magic' screen doubles as this game's diplomacy screen, giving us a quick overview of the AI controlled wizards, their mood towards the player and their diplomatic relationship with any other (known) wizards.

Pre-rolled Jafar as the player's choice is the Sorcery specialist of the game, having all of his realm's spells in his library (and the Alchemy trait for his remaining pick). On hard, enemy wizards get two additional picks that he filled with two Death books. Since I'm playing as a Life mage this gives us a quite relevant diplomatic penalty, setting his initial mood to 'tense'.

I'll say this right now: Any effort to try and reason with Jafar is completely wasted. In theory, there are a few diplomatic options available: A wizard pact (basically a peace treaty) or an alliance as signable treaties, gifting gold or spells to placate the AI, bully a weaker AI into giving tribute, exchanging magic spells... But even though there are a lot of Numbers dictating AI behaviour, it mostly boils down to this:

  • Choose number 1<N<50.
  • Wait for N turns.
  • Declare war on the player.
N might increase if the wizard in question has a peaceful nature or if he shares a few spellbooks with the player, but in general, it'll save you a lot of frustration if you just try to exchange a spell or two as soon as you meet a new rival and just assume he's about to attack you immidiately afterwards.

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So I'll just start moving my Ultra Swordsman northwest (I suspect there is a land connection in the fog NW of him) and just attack him myself before he can say 'self-fulfilling prophecy'.

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Around the same time, the capital finishes its Farmers Market, starting to build a swordsman...

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...to escort the settler it'll produce afterwards (and to protect the outpost the settler is going to create).

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This is going to be the expand's spot, having both the mithril and some useful terrain inside its borders, even though the population cap isn't too great. I was kinda hoping to get mithril and silver (+2 gold; the resource to the northwest) into one city, but both possible tiles for that are water tiles. Oh well!

In hindsight, I still chose the wrong spot, though. Settling one tile to the Southwest would give room for a second city to the north of the mithril, possibly allowing me to the mithril-boosted unique units of another race. Also oh well! I might find some other mithril sources, though.

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The cap goes back to building up its infrastructure after finishing the settler (which by the way cost one citizen upon completion). The info text about the Sawmill once again blatantly lies to us - the building gives a flat +25% production, but can only be built in cities with a forest in range. It's a nice and rather cheap building that unlocks another (more expensive) +25% productions through the Foresters Guild, making forest a very helpful terrain.

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The spearman made contact with Jafar quite close to his capital, so I find it very fast...

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...just to be sorely disappointed. Not only by Jafar's ability to do anything (seriously, he hasn't built any building in his cap, despite his big production boosts), but also by his capitals' inhabitans. Klackons (Master of Orion player might recognize the name) are close to Wendy-tier, being the worst race to either start with or conquer. Well, at least they'll be able to build roads between my cities...

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Speaking of roads - following the one Jafar built reveals not only that there is indeed a shorter route between our capitals...

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...but also one of his expands...

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...and the opportunity to abuse some mechanics. Outposts are what settlers initially create, basically zero-pop cities that can produce nothing and only wait until they create their first citizen. For some reason, the AI doesn't count them as proper cities...

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...allowing us to just waltz in and raze it to the ground. Jafar's AI won't even recognize this as an aggressive act, while accidently walking into an opponent's troop (the pathing in this game is pretty terrible) would give a major penalty. Abusing this is quite strong on impossible difficulty, allowing the player to (mostly) shut down his neighbors without declaring war.

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In this case, it's not as big a deal, since I plan to just march into his capital anyway, as soon as the swordsman arrives. The powermeter might consider his troops stronger, but I don't expect too much resistance. Killing Jafar before meeting another wizard has the additional advantage that this won't upset anyone - for some obscure reason, the AI doesn't really appreciate if the player runs around murdering capitals.

But since I plan to go into detail about combat mechanisms, I'll close this update with a false cliffhanger and start murdering in the next one.

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[spoiler=Update 03]Time to murder something!

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And since Jafar didn't seem to bother building up any kind of defense (which is a bit unusual at this difficulty) I in turn don't bother to be subtle about my offense. Attacking another wizard's troops does not count as a declaration of war, although it does piss them off (and breaks a wizard pact if you managed to sign one).

The engineer is hardly worth mentioning as a combat unit - they're the only unit weaker than spearmen. Their only real job is building roads, reducing the movement cost of the improved tiles to 1/2 point, regardless of terrain. They do have the ability to break down city walls, but they have to get into melee range to do so, making this a completely worthless gimmick.

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More interesting is this spell Jafar throws at the swordsmen: Psionic Blast is the basic damaging spell of the Sorcery realm. It deals 1.5 damage on average for 5 mana (much weaker than Star Fires), but ignores enemy defense and can be boosted by spending additional mana (0.3 damage for 2 mana, up to 40 mana).

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The turn after, Jafar throws all three of his heroes at us. It looks like he spent all his mana enchanting them, probably with the protection spell against ranged attacks and/or a small boosts against spells and magical attacks. As I said in the last update, I forgot to check, but those are the two favourite spells of a AI Sorceror.

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To try and hide my forgetfulness, I'll at least steal the heroes' portraits from the MoM-Wiki. From left to right:
  • Abdul Shaza the Dervish is a very weak archer who doesn't take maintanance and gives his employer 10 GPT instead.
  • Salkirg the Beastmaster is a equally weak melee fighter with a little bit of mana to cast spells on his own. Outside of battle, he (and the stack he moves with) can move though forests unhindered and has an increased sight radius.
  • Lauren the Bard is another weak melee unit who can cast a few spells in battle, but with a support ability that boosts the (physical) attack of every unit in her stack. Quite handy compared to the other heroes you can get this early!

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Here's the not-so-flashy attack animation for bow users, perhaps made a bit flashier by using a very short (5 frames) loop.

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The result of the fight is a bit surprising. Not that the unexperienced heroes are no match for basic, but more experienced halfling units, but that Jafar decides to see the fight through at all. Usually, the AI will flee if they have any hero face an unwinnable fight (and it should have recognized this as one) and because the AI is a fucking cheater, their heroes to my knowledge never die during retreat. This can get annoying if they have a single hero running through your lands - you can't kill it unless you block every possible retreat tile on the world map with your troops.

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Moving on the Jafar's cap, he has actually recruited a few units as garrison. They also ruin his infrastructure even further because he has to assign every citizen as a farmer, just to keep them fed (unless the Hard AI also has some food bonuses that I'm not aware of).

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He opens the fight with the Counter Magic spell, another AI favourite. It will attempt to dispel every spell I will try to cast during this fight, slowly getting weaker if I attempt more than one spell.

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2nd turn, he casts Dispel Magic True on my swordsmen; basically a much more potent version of the arcane Dispel Magic False spell. It's not the end of the world for me (or the hobbits) - they have collected enough EXP by now to reach the Elite rank (the 2nd highest for a Warlord's unit) and the difference to Ultra Elite actually isn't that huge.

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Case in point.

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That gif seems to show a lucky roll, though, because my units get beaten up a bit by the next two opponents. So this Healing spell not getting blocked by the Counter Magic might have been another important streak of luck.

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The rest of the fight is pretty one-sided, though.

In general, I dislike razing cities (it reduces my fame!!!) and I do keep this one, too. Klackon cities are the only ones that might make me reconsider, but in this case I'm actually happy to get a few engineers out of it.

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But that's the first wizard down! And honestly, that also means that the game is pretty much in the bag. We're now pretty isolated, probably alone on our island, and the AI can only be dangerous rather than annoying if they can march their troops directly to our capital. But frankly, winning never was the main objective of this game - it's all about making overpowered hobbit units and in that regard, we still have some way to go.

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Jafar unfortunately doesn't have any spells for us to plunder. Capturing an enemy fortress can net you up to two spells from their repertoire and I was silently hoping for some basic arcane spells.

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Looking at our conquered city, it sucks. It also give us indication for another settlement to the north (it shares three tiles with it, giving both cities only half of the yields), but this city will never be any good, even though its placement isn't terrible.

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The reason are the inhabitants, of course. The Klackons are a gimmicky choice for your capital, but the gimmick works against us because we conquered them and it wouldn't even make the Klackons any good if it worked in our favour.

You see, Klackons are a bunch of racist bugpeople probably supposed to have some kind of hive mind, reducing unrest by +20% in their own cities, but increasing it by the same amount in every conquered (non-Klackon) city. I'll admit that this seems like a pretty sweet bonus, and Klackon cities can indeed pump out quite a lot of gold (because you can raise taxes without creating rebels) and production (because their workers produce 50% more hammers). However, the tech tree of Klackon cities is fucking terrible - they can only build the most basic mana and science building, something gold and hammers cannot replicate. And because cities of other races will have crippling unrest, the Buglord will have trouble trying to earn these two (really important) resources in captured cities.

Because increased unrest in conquered cities is symmetrical, captured Klackon cities get the same +20% unrest, unless the conqueror has a Klackon capital, of course. So yeah, roads are literally the only thing that this city is good for. I will get its infrastructure up, though, to at least get some GPT out of it.

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Finally, the military options for a Klackon ruler are pretty limited, too. Their basic units get an OK bonus of +2 defense, although I don't think that's really stronger than the hobbits' defensive boosts (not even mentioning the increased offense). They're also twice as expensive which is ridiculously overpriced, considering that another race gets +2 melee strength for free.

My main grieve with klackon units is their total lack of ranged units - the combat system heavily favours those over almost every melee unit. So basically, their basic units are overpriced, no ranged units is a Big Deal and even their unique unit (which I'll probably build at some point anyway, just to show it) isn't very impressive outside of its decent tankiness.

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When a wizard's capital is lost, he gets banished, but may start casting the Spell of Return, a rather costly spell that does exactly what you'd expect. This prevents you from overthrowing a 20-city-empire just by winning one fight, but since a wizard can't cast any spells while in the otherrealm, it would make taking the remaining 19 cities much easier.

Jafar had only this city left and probably not much of a manapool, so he didn't bother to try and recover. As a result, his city became neutral which in this game basically means 'barbaric' in Civilization terms. You can conquer it without any diplomatic penalties with anyone and you should, too, because neutral cities will occasionally send out small groups of soldiers trying to free one of your cities from your tyrannic rule.

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This particular city is even more horrible than Jafar's cap (it has mostly tundra and ocean in its borders, both being absolutly worthless), so this time I rather suck up one point of lost fame and just burn the city down.

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Around the same time, the first hero appears to apply for hire. B'Shan is actually the same hero the late Abdul Shaza in Jafar's ranks had been - there is one (potential) dervish/sage/bard/whatever the hell the other 32 heroes are called, so killing enemy heroes doesn't prevent you from hiring them yourself.

So as his counterpart, B'Shan is a fairly useless fighter, but since his ability will pay for his hirement cost in ten turns, I'll get him anyway and just park him in the capital for the rest of the game.

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Thanks to my Warlord trait, he instantly promotes into an overrated swordfighter. Heroes have 9 Experience Levels to gain (including the basic one) compared to only four on normal units. They also gain more stats per level (the first normal level-up nets only +1 attack and +1 magic resistance) and tend to have special abilities that get stronger with increasing XP, making high-leveled heroes quite powerful.

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Reywind and Theria soon follow, although I pass on the latter. She can become quite durable - Agility increases her Defense by one each level and Charmed makes her immune to most harmful magic that doesn't directly deal damage (we haven't seen such, but it'll become more and more common).

I would have kicked Reywind too, if it wasn't for his randomly chosen ability. Most heroes have at least one of those and Reywind got pretty lucky. Leadership doesn't have any effect right now, but as Reywind levels up, it will grant every unit in his stack up to +3 melee strength. Other than that, he's not very good, even though he's a bit more expensive than Theria is and B'Shan would be without his Nobility. He does have a small mana pool to cast some spells in battle from, but neither his melee attack nor his magical ranged attack are particularly strong.

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Our first own expand, Sacred Vale is founded and will hopefully gain its first real population point soon. An outpost has a chance each turn to fill up those housing symbols by 1-3 (modified by its maximal population, special resources in range and the settling race), but also a (fixed) chance to loose 1-2 housings. If it reaches 10 housings, the outpost grows into a town; if it falls to zero housings, the outpost is lost.

For some races (including Klackons), this mechanism makes settling new cities in non-optional spots quite the gamble. Hobbits are tied for the best outpost growth in the game, though.

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Sacred Vale does get its first population point pretty fast. As you can see, cities have a very slow start, simply because the first citizen usually must be assigned as a farmer since food doesn't get shared between cities.

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As such, it's helpful to have some gold ready just to kickstart a city by buying at least the Builders Hall and the Granary. The Granary's food boost allows the first two citizens to work hammers, allowing the city to get to libraries and shrines faster and actually contribute to the empire with their science and power output.

In this case, I keep hurrying building just to get the necessary buildings up to use the mithril faster. It's too expensive to just buy one building each turn, though, so I'll keep this city's development in the background unless it'll overtake the cap at some point.

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Meanwhile, the cap detours a bit from improving its infrastructure. The Armory doesn't have any yields itself, but it unlocks the Hobbits' unique unit, the slinger.

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(little fast forward here) Their raw stats don't seem particular impressive, but I think they might be the best all-around unit in the entire game. They're available pretty early (the Armory only requires Barracks and a Forge, both of them are prebuilt in the cap), they're lucky (one of the best unit abilities in the game) and they're 8 slingers per unit, making offensive bonuses (though XP gain, mithril and/or magic) more powerful.

So basically, they're great both to mass-produce and rush an opponent, but if you can stack a few offensive boosts on them, they can also be a terrifying endgame unit. And guess what kind of spells I'm waiting for?

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And with a little overview of the known world, I'll close this update. At this point, it's almost certain that we won't find another wizard or even a neutral city on our starting island. This means that I'll probably fill up possible city spots with Hobbit cities, something that I usually avoid. I prefer cities that can build Universities, simply because they not only provide a sizable science boost, but also unlock a few building to further enhance gold output. It's not at all crippling, though. Hobbits do at least have access to all the mana building in the game, so their cities turn out quite alright.

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[spoiler=Update 4]And back we are! Before getting into the combat mechanisms of this game, I'll start with a little summary of the more peaceful stuff that's going on right now.

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Some random, unguarded monster lair nets us the weaker of the two artifact-creating spells. Artifacts are the third and last reason (next to more bonuses through XP and to special abilities) why heroes have more potential than normally recruited units. They can be enchanted to give the wearer increased stats and/or the effect of a magic spell without paying maintenance or risking a Dispel.

Creating an artifact can get extremely expensive, though, if you want its effects to be meaningful. And since you can find some really good items in monster lairs, I rarely create any even in the lategame.

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Our future military production city is still slowly building up its infrastructure. I want it to get its hammers up through population growth (and maybe a Sawmill afterwards) before getting the necessary stuff to produce mythril Slingers.

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The cap starts building a Shrine, the first of four religious buildings. All of them only pacify one rebel, but their mana gain (more accurate: power base gain that can be refined into mana, science or skill) goes up for the more advanced buildings. Halfling cities can build all of the religious buildings, producing up to 13 mana power per turn. It's their biggest conomical strength by far, fully developed Halfling cities will be comparatively weak in science and hammers.

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Back to fighting: My military forces are now ready to start clearing out some of the more dangerous monster lairs or, in this case magic node.

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The Phantom Warriors waiting at the first Sorcery nodes right outside our capital one of the two most basic monsters of the realm. A wizard can only summon them during combat as a disposable unit that disappears after battle anyway. They're extremely frail (no defense whatsoever and only one HP per figure), but if they manage to get into melee range unharmed, they can deal quite decent damage for a rather low mana cost.

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Their big selling point is the Illusion ability, allowing them to deal their damage (on average 5.4 damage if all 6 figures are alive) fully regardless of the opponent's armor.

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When fighting on Sorcery nodes, they suddenly get significantly more dangerous. Every type of node (there are Nature, Chaos and Sorcery nodes in the game) will boost the attack, armor and magic resistance of every unit of its realm by two points. This increases their average damage to 9 points, easily one-shotting unexperienced units and even Elite troops if the RNG wills it so.

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For completionist's sake: Their other new ability (the immunities still do exactly what you'd expect) is completely useless in combat unless City Walls are involved. The movement bonus only applies to the world map.

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Phantom Warriors' biggest weakness are ranged units, which is why I built two Slingers (and cast Heroism on one of them) before entering the node. And since I now have all three attack types on my team, this is a good time to go through the (in my opinion less than great) battle mechanisms. I'll actually start with magical ranged attacks because they're actually the easiest to go through.

Basically, every point of attack strength has a base 30% chance to connect. Reywind here has 5 Attack right now, so he'll deal 5*0.3=1.5 damage on average, but the damage actually dealt is hugely RNG dependant, sometimes making a fight between two equally strong units completely one-sided.

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Physical ranged attacks basically work the same, but the chance To Hit gets reduced by 10% for every three full tiles of distance. However, there are much more ways to improve physical attacks (Mithril for example doesn't affect magical attacks), especially on normal units, easily balancing out that disadvantage.

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By the way, remember all the "30% damage boosts" I mentioned earlier? This is what I was talking about. ;) "+1 To Hit" for some reason is code for "+10% to hit" and for yet another reason, not all +x To Hit bonuses are displayed.

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My Halflings, for example, are at displayed +3 To Hit as Ultra Elite troops (the screen is from my swordsmen, but it's the same for all Hobbit units), when it should be at +4 (+2 via XP, +1 via Lucky, +1 via Magic weapons / Alchemy trait).

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Anyways, those To Hit bonuses are especially valuable on ranged units to counteract the weakened accuracy on large distances. Shown: Proof. :]

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And finally, Melee combat. Mechanically, it's not too different, either, but two points are worth mentioning.
One: Attacker and defender will strike simultaniously. So even if an attack is fatal, the attacker will still get hit back by all the figures he attacked.
Two: While ranged units use up all remaining movement points, melee attacks only cost half of your maximal movement, allowing any stationary unit to attack twice a turn. This makes 3 points of movement (or more) pretty strong, as it allows the unit to attack twice after moving; to attack, move to the next target and attack again; or to move in, attack once and move out again. Reaching ranged units before they unload their whole ammo on you can be a real lifesaver, too.

There are a lot of special abilities that may change these rules, but as usual, I'll cover them as they show up.

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All three of these attack types go against the Armor score of the defender - and this is where calculating average damage rolls stops being an option. (By the way - War Bears are the weakest Nature realm summon. They suck pretty hard because they only have two figures per unit, so I just give them this passing notice)

Things remain rather rather tame as long as a single-figure unit attacks another single-figure unit: The amount of blocked damage is determined exactly the same way. If Reywind attacked this lonely War Bear (his buddy already died. It was very, very sad), he'd deal 5*0.3=1.5 points of damage on average; the Bear would block 3*0.3=0.9 damage on average, so Rey's lucky if his attack even gets through.

However, let's assume the 2nd War Bear would still be kicking with one remaining HP. The way the game works, all damage taken gets focussed on one figure, so if Reywind is lucky and deals 3 damage while the War Bear doesn't block anything, the first Bear dies, while the remaining 2 damage get relocated on the remaining Bear. That Bear then rolls for defense again, potentially taking only one or even zero damage.

This means that a multi-figure unit is more bulky than a single-figure unit with the same stats and the same total HP - but it will lose offensive power as its figures die.

Remaining is how the game handles multi-figure units on the offense. This is easier - every figure's attack is calculated seperately, so when Slingers attack a target, all eight of them have to overcome its defense on their own. This hasn't been an issue until now, but (unboosted) Slingers do struggle against high-defense unit because of that.

Useless trivia: The manual explains the defensive part of multi-figure units right, but not the seperate attacks. In an otherwise very detailed combat illustration, it very consequently adds up some Elven Lord's damage rolls before subtracting their target's defense.

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Moving on!

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Melding a Magic or Guardian Sprit with the node lets you extract its magical power. The amount varies depending on the beaten defenders' strength (well, technically it's the other way around). This node nets 8 Power a turn, which is quite a lot at this stage, but still a rather weak node.

It's helpful to always keep at least a token unit on guard on your nodes. I'm pretty sure the AI registers unprotected nodes even if it hasn't explored the area yet, so it will send some spirit to claim it. I'm not too keen to meet another wizard that way because I wouldn't know where his lands are and if he's feeling like it, he'd cast harmful spells on my cities or lands (I'm also pretty sure that the AI cheats with city visibility).

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I use the additional mana per turn from the node mostly to cast Endurance on my troops (note the boots symbol on the right). It'll be helpful to clear the lairs on my island faster, but during combat, it'll also allow the slingers to kite slow melee units and to get another shoot in before 2-move or 3-move enemies can reach them. The initial distance in combat is 5 tiles, so they can move back and shoot to gain another turn.

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The next monster we encounter is the Basilisk, a mid-tier unit from the Nature realm.

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It's not super powerful (15 Atk isn't that impressive when my slingers are at 8*4), but it is fairly bulky and has the ability to petrify its enemies by looking at them.

Gaze attacks in general deal additional damage during a melee fight. They're applied before the actual exchange of punches, so if it kills some of the enemies, their damage will be reduced accordingly.

The Stoning Gaze is a resist-or-die attack and as such the first good occasion to explain the Resistance stat in this game. It works different (and simpler) than the physical Armor: A unit has a (10*Resist)% chance to block an incoming spell that checks Resistance (Magical Ranged Attacks do not, neither do directly damaging spells). Many spells and special attacks (including the Basilisk's Stoning Gaze) reduce the Resistance by increments of 10% before rolling against it, so two Basilisk facing each other would have a chance of 70%-10% = 60% to petrify one another.

Multi-target units have to roll for every single fighter, so it's theoretically possible that a Basilisk petrifies a whole Slingers corps without taking any retaliation. However, Hobbits have a +3 bonus to Resistance (including one point by being Lucky) and Ultra Elite Hobbit troops reach 11 Resistance, making them completely immune to this particular special trait.

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In general, Slingers can beat Basilisks quire reliably, assuming they aren't terribly outnumbered.

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Heck, even the melee units do pretty good here. Once again, Hobbits prove their superiority! (No, seriously, between their high resistance and their Lucky trait, they do much, much better against monsters with these insta-death abilities than most other fighters)

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Next up, the other two Sorcery nodes close to the cap. Both have Phantom Beasts as their known defender, those basically being upgraded Phantom Warriors.

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The first one has one pair of Nagas supporting the three phantom beasts...

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...which is the other lowest-tier Sorcery summon. They do have two special abilities, but compared to the Phantom Warriors, they're bulkier, but very harmless offensively.

First Strike would be an amazing ability on a unit with actual offensive strength. It only works when attacking, but then it allows the unit to strike (and hopefully kill at least a few figures) before the defender can retaliate. It's mostly wasted on the Naga, but many mounted units also have this ability and can make much better use of it.

Poison sucks. It's another ability that activates in melee combat and goes against resistance, but instead of killing, it just deals one point of damage if the (unmodified) resistance roll fails. Nagas make their target roll four times, but since unmodified Resistance tends to be around 7 or higher, especially as the game progresses, the additional damage is too small to make a difference.
Poison damage is dealt during the melee combat, not before, so it only reduces retaliation when First Striking. (Thinking about it that way, this combination isn't terrible, although "unmodified Resistance roll" still makes it situational at best)

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In Sorcery nodes, the Phantom Beast doesn't deal much more damage than one group of warriors (25*0.4=10 vs. 30*0.3=9), but it doesn't die as fast, it will reach your ranged units faster and it doesn't get weaker when its HP go down. Quite decent, all things considered.

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The general strategy, surprisingly enough, is to shoot them until they die...

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...and, because that doesn't work quite fast enough (it takes all three ranged attackers to kill one Beast in one turn), run away.

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It works! Once again, cowardice saves the day. To make it even better, at 2 tiles distance ranged attacks keep their full accuracy.

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Finishing the battle nets us the first artifact for our heroes to equip...

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...and it's a pretty good one! Flight on a ranged hero can break the combat system pretty hard, because (grounded) melee units have literally no option to defend themselves until the hero runs out of ammo. And since heroes with magical attacks use their mana to attack (3 points per shot, while normal units and physical ranged attackers usually have 4-8 ammo per battle), they can keep shooting for a long time as soon as they've collected some XP.

The three symbols next to the portraits are the slots for artifacts. Every hero can equip one weapon (a bow or a melee weapon for B'Shan; a staff or a melee weapon for Reywind) and either two accessories (for pure mages) or one piece of armor and one accessory.

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Lookin' ...eh, not great, but decent!

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The remaining Sorcery node is a bit more heavily guarded, so that even after backing up, one Phantom Beast comes close enough to attack the swordsman.

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But luckily, the MoM AI tends to be rather single-mindedly (and stupidly) persue ranged units. I mean, in a way it's sensible, but very often, enemy units will just try to walk past melee units even if they can't attack any ranged unit in the same turn. It's quite abusable, so even though our swordsmen and even more so our spearmen aren't really needed as fighters, they still make decent meatshields.

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This fight, I actually do run out of ammo/mana, so the slingers have to do some knifework. Note the additional point of melee strength on the slingers - that's Reywind's Leadership at work. It goes up to a +3 bonus and half of it gets applied to physical ranged attacks as well. Rounded down, unfortunately, so it doesn't help at all right now and won't give a second point of ranged attack ever.

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Our loot is another great weapon, although it only boosts Reywind's less important physical attack. It does so by quite the margin, however (Giant Strength is a basic Nature spell that adds yet another point of attack) and gives Rey a bit more mana to spend on spells or ranged attacks. insert Elibe joke here

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Anyway, I think this is a decent point to end this update with another infrastructure update. Jafar's old capital has constructed few buildings, but interrupts its SimCity for a bit to produce a few Engineers, just to get our road network rolling.

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Our gold and mana income looks pretty good as well (it's actually 16 mana per turn, the display just doesn't update immediately after melding with a node), so I feel pretty good about...

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...well find me in the alps.

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Sound about right :D It's more two artifacts carrying a hero than the other way round, though.

Anyway, sorry about the delay. Last weeks were rather busy, so I didn't find the time to finish that. I hope the screenshots are enough for me to remember what was going on without looking at the recording again. ;)

[spoiler=Update 5]

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So last time, our designated unit forge decided to go rogue. This is one of the more annoying random events in the game - others range from gifted items or gold to all global enchantments dissipating to a meteor dropping on a city. And looking that up just taught me that parking B'Shan (or any other hero) in the city would have kept it from rebelling. Live and learn, I guess.

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I make this event a bit more annoying myself because I decide to run my entire army to defeat the one spearman guarding the city instead of just having Reywind fly over and do this on his own. Well done, Past Me! But to be fair, I'm not exactly on a turn limit right now.

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In the meantime, the spearman remains behind to scout around the rest of the island for a bit and since I do have my impatient moments, he attempts to clear a monster lair containing War Bears and one group of Sprites.

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Those are the two lowest-tier Nature beasts, although Sprites are quite a bit more dangerous, especially if they appear in groups and/or in Nature nodes. (Yeah, this pic is from a later fight for a node) Their magic attack isn't too strong, but it will wear down weaker units.

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Their combined effort is ultimately still not enough to kill a spearman (Weakest unit type in the game! Hobbits are awesome.), but at least it calls for a Healing spell. In case I forgot to describe it before: Healing restores up to 5 HP to a wounded unit, reviving fallen figures as long as at least one stayed alive. It's quite powerful early on when basic units only have 6x1 (or 8x1) HP, but it loses its usefulness over time and the Life realm unfortunately doesn't really have any spells that heal more HP on one unit.

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Stab! As most (or every, can't remember) magic attackers, Sprites have only 4 shots per fight and as soon as they're forced into melee, they go down pretty easily. Still, before you get ranged units on your own, multiple Sprite groups have a good chance to get some kills.

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Still in the meantime, the Nature node next to Jafar's cap spawn some raging mosters who instantly attack the city.

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It's only two War Bear groups, though - nothing a Heroic Klackon spearman couldn't handle.

Another not-so-important detail about the game: The Heroism spell is slightly bugged if used during combat. Despite my Warlord trait, it only boosts troops to Elite level instead of Ultra Elite, missing out on one defense point and +1 To Hit.

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Some time around the recapture of Sacred Vale, I decide to found a few more Hobbit expands after all. I usually hope to find a neutral city of a race with more long-term potential (read: Universities for the science), but it's not like Hobbit cities are a waste of resources.

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In other news, the next contestant has arrived.

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Oberic sent a few Sprites out to scout, so I have no idea where to find his cities. As such, I'm not too thrilled about this encounter - his Sprites will potentially be annoying because the AI doesn't always seem to check the tiles they move through so they sometimes just move into their opponent's troops. And since he has a few Chaos spellbooks in his library, I don't really want to make him declare war on me by chasing down his scouts. I doubt that he has the big global spells ready yet, but even the lower Chaotic spell tiers contain a few annoying options.

On the bright side: I eliminated Jafar fast enough to not let Oberic (and everyone else) notice, so he might stay peaceful for now, even though he doesn't react to any diplomatic stuff.

Oberic actually rearranged his library a little bit. He used his two additional picks for two Chaos spellbooks, but in addition swapped out one Nature book for yet another Chaos book. His ability, Mana Focusing, is unchanged - it allows him to gain 1.25 Mana out of 1 Power, instead of the usual 1:1 ratio. It's an alright trait, but unfortunately horribly outclassed by the Alchemy trait. In general, gold is a lot easier to come by, so an Alchemist's ability to transmute it into Mana is more powerful all around and the Alchemy trait also grants magic weapons.

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Since Oberic shouldn't be aggressive right away and would have to cross the ocean to attack me directly, I don't think I have to rush my military. Instead, the cap pumps out a few more settlers...

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...before returning to infrastructure for a bit. Science buildings give a fair bit more research points than the same-tier religious buildings give Power, which is why I often put all of my Power into Mana and Skill while relying on Libraries etc. for research.

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The Sages Guild unlocks the Alchemist Guild which in turn equips all new units in the city with magical or (if the city has some in its borders) Mythril weapons. The Alchemy trait gives troops magical weapons in all cities but doesn't seem to let you process Mythril ore, so Sacred Vale starts to work on the buildings tree towards the Alchemist Guild, even though there are still the Foresters Guild (food and hammers) and the Miners Guild (even more hammers) available.

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The next fight is against a few monsters of the Life realm:

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I already mentioned how crappy the Guardian Spirit is at fighting. Its stats might be higher than the Unicorns', but since it's only one spirit per unit, they're still pretty harmless. Unicorns aren't terribly strong either, but thanks to their Teleporting ability, they can reach your ranged units instantly and deal some decent damage to lower-leveled troops.

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Their Resistance To All trait surprisingly increases everyone's magic Resistance by one (Guardian Spirit) or two (Unicorns), but doesn't stack.

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Frankly, these monsters are just a bit too little too late to be challenging, so I'll just skip to the reward:

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The Staff of Odin instantly goes to Reywind, even though his magic attack isn't really high enough to make use of the +3 To Hit bonus. But the defensive bonuses (guess what Magic Immunity does?!) make him harder to kill and that's what I want him to do: Not die while providing some additional ranged damage and/or cast spells and his Leadership bonus to all the other units.

And by the way (next mostly-useless mechanical detail): While Magic Immunity blocks almost every harmful spell in the game (it doesn't save the hero from, say, falling into a magically created crevice), it does not completely protect from magical unit attacks. Instead, it give the unit a fixed Defense score of 50 when hit by an appropriate attack - so it can still be harmed by extremly powerful attacks or by an attacker with the Illusion ability (ignore defense).

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That's quite tanky! He's also able to outrun melee attackers that can hit him (Gaze attackers like the Basilisk, for example, can initiate melee combat against flying units) and just kite them.

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Still, the strongest Summon in the game does seem to be out of reach at this point of the game. I intend to clear out the node at some point, of course, but since there is a bit more on the continent to explore...

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A little word about roads since my Klackon Engineers are working on connecting my cities:

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Connecting your empire does increase your gold output, depending on how many citizens the connected cities have (and even more if said citizens are of another race). Unfortunately, the Road/River/Ocean multiplier is capped at the city's own pop, so it's only really relevant in well developed cities.

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Speaking of gold: Here's another, nicer random event. :)

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Researchwise, I'm not exactly rushing towards the good stuff.

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There are a few useful spells available right now, but I still think that building up our Skill base is more helpful right now. Still, Holy Weapon (gives +1 To Hit and is cumulative with the Alchemy magical weapons) is a nice little spell that I probably should use more and I spot at least four spells in the research list that might come in handy.

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Clearing out another lair gives me yet another staff for my heroes -

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- well, a wand to be accurate - that gives its wielder immunity to physical ranged attacks through the Guardian Wind spell (which for some reason is a very common Sorcery spell). But since Odin's Staff is a lot better overall and Reywind only has one weapon slot, it goes into the vault for now.

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Next fight: The Nature node next to Jafar's capital. It's guarded by yet another one of the many Nature realm monsters, the Cockatrices.

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The game consideres them to be around as strong as Basilisks - in reality, they're very reliant on their Stoning Touch ability because neither their physical attack nor their durability are very impressive.

But to be fair - the Stoning Touch is quite dangerous. "Touch" abilities in general are a bit weaker than "Gaze" abilities like the Basilisks petrifying gaze because they're triggered during and not before the regular melee combat. However, not only reduce Cockatrices the enemy's chance of survival by 30% (compared to the -10% of the Basilisk), but they also make them roll Resistance once for every Cockatrice (i.e. up to four times).

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Their biggest weakness is the same as almost every melee unit in the game: It's not that hard to just shoot them before they can do any damage at all.

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The reward is Really Broken Shit. Lionheart is a 3rd-tier Life spell (which is the 2nd-highest), but the bonuses it can give to a unit are pretty ridiculous.

How ridiculous you ask? I'll cover that in the next update. :p This is actually the end of a playing session and while I have already played a bit more, I still have to extract the screenshots out of the recording. So before I throw out the numbers, I'll make sure that I also have a decent target to demonstrate it.

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So I wanted to finally pick this up again and immediately after loading the save file got kaputt. :/ As soon as I choose any production in any city, the game crashes; reloading doesn't help and neither does reinstalling the game while keeping the save file.

It's too bad, but I have to cancel this LP. It's just before I've reached maximal Hobbit Awesomeness, too - one-shotting dragons, git gud, Bilbo - but I don't really want to start another game without knowing when this error will occur again.

There's a lot of bonuses to stack when you're playing as a Life wizard, and Slingers are particularly good at exploiting them thanks to their 8-figure-units. Some stuff I was still looking forward to: Adamantium ore (another resource like Mythril, but with +2 to attack and defense), Prayer (a combat spell that improves the To Hit and To Defend of all units even further), Crusade (a global spell giving all units another level of experience), Incarnation (summons a pretty darn strong hero who is immune to almost everything except melee damage), Invulnerability (not quite what the name suggests, but it does reduce the damage taken by a lot), Charm of Life (+25% health on all units) and Cheesy Exploitation (there's a spell that doubles the gold output of a city. It only costs 2 mana per turn and since I can convert gold into Mana...).

OH WELL. I'll probably try another game at some point, because I do like fiddling around with screenshots and trying to record some nice-looking gifs. But until then - thanks to those who followed this!

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