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Rank the pre-time skip chapters on difficulty

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I think this could be a fun exercise. Despite there being four routes in Three Houses, the first thirteen chapters (including Prologue) of the game are almost totally identical besides what units the player has access to. Here's my list, ranked hardest to easiest based on maddening mode silver snow, no NG+. But you can focus on any route, any difficulty, or any other stipulation for your own list.

Disclaimer: Difficulty, at least the way I see it for this ranking, considers also the disparity in unit and enemy strength and the range of options the player would have in customizing units by that point of the game. In pre-time skip, you start about seven levels behind the opponents (and you're also level 1 classes vs level 10 classes by chapter 2). But by the end of pre-time skip, the gap in strength has almost entirely been filled - perhaps not in terms of level, but in stats, abilities, and equipment. Also, these ratings assume the player is attempting (though not always succeeding) to go for any optional objectives/chests to maximize rewards. In other words, this is not an LTC ranking, though I wouldn't mind any of our LTCers providing a list of their own.


  1. Chapter 2: This is the first battle where you're given divine pulse, but the month leading up to this fight doesn't leave a lot of room for customizing your units.  One explore, one seminar, one auxilliary battle, in that order. You can buy weapons at this point, but you're stuck with the first three battalions. Hopefully none of them got too banged up in the auxiliary battle since they can't be replenished. On maddening mode, your units are unlikely to have picked up more than a couple levels to patch up their base stats. Enemies without swords all have 8-10 AS, while the thieves have 14. You only need to fight enemies in waves of three, and you can take your time chugging vulneraries to heal up between fights, but each fight feels like a new nightmare. they can outrun you, so you must commit all your units to doing damage and setting up linked attack bonuses. And an unlucky miss can throw the whole encounter instantly. Kostas moving honestly makes him easier to deal with, especially if Byleth has a gambit saved up for him. Maybe I'm overrating this chapter because the black eagles crew is so garbage in the early game, but I think it's the only chapter that brought me down to 0 pulses.
  2. Chapter 8: this is a tricky one, though player strength can vary wildly based on how many paralogues you've done this early, so your mileage may vary. I think I had just two under my belt by this point (Sothis and Ingrid/Dorothea), so I had more pulses and some good accessories to work with. in addition to some extra levels. According to my notes, this month is also where shop stock finally updates. If you're low manning, you may even have some level 20 classes by this point, and your first three buyable advanced seals show up this month as well. But even with all those bonuses I think this chapter remains formidable. There's a lot of side objectives between saving the villagers for a better reward, and popping the two chests. So the map is kind of splitting up the party before converging together to kill the bosses. You also have to contend with ambush spawns in the middle of the map every two turns, though the green unit soldiers tend to draw their attention and kill them without much issue. Solon can move, but he chooses to retreat behind the Death Knight's crew, making a confrontation with both pretty inevitable. If you can't meet DK with your whole class, the fight can get messy with Solon's crew following close behind. You could push for an early kill on Solon before he retreats, but any non-rescued green units are counted as "dead" as far as rewards go, so this ranking assumes the player won't.
  3. Chapter 1: The mock battle is tough and caused me the most resets as I tested AI. You don't have shops of any kind unlocked yet. While your students don't have permadeath, Byleth or the house leader dying is a game over, and divine pulse isn't unlocked yet. Thankfully I did find a consistent strategy. The trick is of course to deal with the left house first, and then manuela. Make her use up her nosferatu charges, but don't kill her. If you leave her alive, the right house won't aggro over to you, allowing you to take them on one by one. You can even sit on manuela's fort for free healing each turn to conserve vulneraries. Still though, even with this foolproof strat, turn 2 is scary as you have to deal with three opponents. And unlucky misses could mean an immediate reset depending on the situation. Dimitri is also an insane opponent, handily one rounding any of your units unless Byleth had a level up in speed if I remember correctly.
  4. Chapter 5: The Miklan chapter is memorable for its ambush spawns and Gilbert's uselessness. But really I rank it this high due to the chapter's length. There's so much walking and so many encounters with enemies that have overlapping ranges that any of your units getting hit with a gambit will cause the AI to focus down that target for the kill. You also have to take care not to bait the archers in the middle, as aggroing them has a tendency to aggro other groups as well. Saint statues are unlocked in this chapter, so you should have at least one extra divine pulse to work with.
  5. Chapter 12 (non CF routes): While not nearly as hectic as the chapter immediately following it, Chapter 12's got some nasty scenarios to contend with. Your units no doubt have a lot of great gear and abilities by this point of the game, but the battle preps are moreso for chapter 13, than this one. Your units may not be totally optimized as the player may end up making a few concessions here or there. The first few turns are a gauntlet, with the Death Knight on the right and bird monsters on the left. Individually these enemies can be dealt with if you have a good plan, but your units are spread very thin across this wide battlefield. There may be some merit to turtling strats (I didn't try), but I imagine you'd be at the mercy of the mob of pegasus knights who are already at your doorstep, terrorizing your green units. They're all packing 42 atk and 29 AS. Along with a madwoman wyvern boss who's equipped with a brave axe. Once the beginning onslaught is dealt with, you can proceed at your own pace. There's no side objective or time limit in this chapter, nor any enemy reinforcements. Also, killing the Death Knight spawns a green unit swordmaster who deletes just about anybody she comes across. Hubert also stands as a miniboss, but even on maddening mode he won't move and he's a pushover to any physical attacker.
  6. Chapter 3: Even if you pull up a map to know where enemies are, I couldn't get through the first half of this chapter without turtling behind Catherine and her green units. I also couldn't keep more than one of the two green units alive, though the rewards for saving one or both are underwhelming enough that you can pass them up. A mission assistance healer can keep your crew topped off as spell charges are still at a minimum by this point of the game. The Dark mage makes for a tricky miniboss due to his terrain, and the last enemies are in a tough formation that tanking them almost seems out of the question with all their gambits. So I let Catherine tank them instead lol.
  7. Chapter 6: The bulk of the map isn't too tough. First turn of fighting there looks scary, but the enemy lines up perfectly for a Blaze gambit. I recommend Byleth and an archer for the right side. Byleth's ability to lift vulneraries and keys from the convoy lets him do all the work pretty easy. And unless you're confident you have a plan for the Death knight, routing all the other enemies is the safest bet through the chapter.
  8. Chapter 11: Collection of the crest stones should pose little issue, but a sense of urgency is certainly a rarity for these later maps. The terrain surrounding the gravestones can be awkward for your non fliers to navigate as well. The boss gauntlet at the end poses little issue, as you can snipe them with archers and thyrsus mages as they slowly run for the steps in a single file line.The Flame Emperor has counterattack, but low enough AS that you won't be killed for the pleasure of cheap shots.
  9. Chapter 4: The Death Knight is a force of nature for your underpowered units, but don't let him intimidate you. If you can't troubleshoot a way to kill him, then ignore him by doing a clockwise half-lap around the map. He'll only aggro if you enter his range. 25 turns is a very reasonable amount of time. With good striding, you may even loop all the way around to the east chest (intermediate seal), but starting on the west side is a good deal when that chest has spirit dust. I don't recommend splitting up for both, if only because of the ambush spawns that show up on turn 7 that can box in one of your crews very fast - a situation you can't reverse by just turning back one or two turns.
  10. Chapter 10: Nothing is hurrying you forward in this map, despite what Kronya's taunting suggests. Phase 2 of the map has a new pair of monsters and Kronya herself has pretty insane stats, but really nothing is primed to go wrong here.
  11. Prologue: They really take it easy on you. While there is no leniency - any unit dying triggers a game over, enemy strength is just not that much stronger than your guys. The boss' crew patiently wait for you to mop up the mooks, so there's no urgency. An unlucky miss may cause a restart, but the map's short length keeps it from being frustrating. Cherry picking kills for Byleth and your lord of choice shouldn't be hard. The sword enemies doubling Edelgard is unfortunate, but I think you could trade her dimitri's lance to help with that? I don't remember. Not much strategy to employ.
  12. Chapter 7: The Battle of the Eagle and Lion is a bit of a let down in terms of challenge. The AI opponents kill each other off pretty thoroughly before you can get there. There are some nasty surprise skills on the enemy students but all the enemies are spread out so thin you never have to deal with much at once. Try reclassing Byleth to a thief to nab those evasion rings on the enemy house leaders.
  13. Chapter 9: Not much going on in this map. It's very short and you only fight monsters. As long as nobody has to tank two at once and you're always ready to throw a physic Jeralt's way, this is a pretty chill chapter. The healing staff chest is close by for a flier as well. The monsters do have renewal, but are otherwise not too threatening.



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Hmm, neat idea. Basically making the same assumptions (secondary objectives are important, we ain't warpskippin'). I'll just talk about the universal Part 1 maps, though both Chapter 12s would probably be mid-high if I included them, would have to think about it. In many ways they feel more like part 2 maps.


1. Chapter 1: I used to consider this map ridiculous, but then I realized you can go around the west to not have to worry about aggroing both houses at once. Still, it's probably the hardest. A lot of the enemies have crit, you have no Divine Pulse, you're frequently just small one mistake away from getting destroyed, your team is shorthanded so you actually run out of spells, and some of the enemies just have really nasty stats. And you have no get-out-of-jail cards via gambits, which are so hugely helpful in tough situations in later fights.

2. Chapter 5: The Pass reinforcements are one of the rudest in part 1. If you're not careful it's possible to aggro the entire enemy formation and get like a dozen enemies at once descending on you at the map's north.

3. Chapter 3: Fog sucks. I don't have much more to say about this, it'll probably drop as I steadilly manage to remember where more and more enemies are. For now it along with the above two are the only part 1 maps that have ever made me see a game over screen.

4. Chapter 2: It's tough for sure but manageable if you don't aggro to groups at once. Just have to be ready to meatgrind each trio as they descend on you. The map that really made me learn just how much a carefully planned player phase matters.

5. Chapter 4: Those mage reinforcements put multiple terrifying ripples on the battle. Their atk/speed lets them threaten a huge amount of your army, and they even have batallions which makes baiting them chancy. But if you DON'T bait them, they may end up wandering into the Death Knight's range, which sometimes (due to a bug, surely?) causes him to randomly aggro and give you a bad time.

6. Chapter 6: The time limit makes things a bit more interesting, though nothing about the fight is too overwhelming, there are lots of tricky parts.

7. Chapter 8: Mostly a joke on lower difficulties, Solon running away makes the fight infinitely more interesting... now the Death Knight might actually reach you, and catching Solon is a pain because you don't want to bait someone with Death. That said the fight doesn't have much else... except for the a bit of pressure to save the southeastern most villagers.

8. Chapter 7: The casual mode part makes it not so bad, you CAN lose people at least. The enemy stats are frightening in many cases (the lords, Ingrid, Petra in particular) but a bunch of them kill each other for you, but never enough to threaten that you'll win the prize.

9. Chapter 10: Kronya seemed nasty on a first playthrough but there are so many tricks to deal with her (her low charm, forced movement, Impregnable Wall baiting, etc.). Solon is a joke, my last playthrough got him one-rounded by a double from Wyvern Annette's Iron Axe and she was surely close to the class minimums. Otherwise the enemies are okay but nothing out of the ordinary.

10. Chapter 11: The secondary objective feels pretty relaxed (there's one brigand on the east who would have been hard to nab except that he gets greedy), and past that there aren't many especially threatening formations. The ending could have been tough if the boss had had stats more in line with her Chapter 7 or part 2 appearances, but she's a bit underwhelming here - not much crit to worry about and easy to double so two decent attackers at most should end things for you.

11. Prologue: It's not totally trivial and I guess the lack of Divine Pulse is enough to get it out of last, but it still always manages to feel pretty routine, to the point where the most interesting thing is focusing as much exp as possible into the two characters you're gonna keep and swiping the stuff of the other two at the last moment.

12. Chapter 9: Yep, as long as you've learned how to fight monsters, this one's pretty easy. Relatively relaxed even compared to the fight right before it, and doesn't have the shenanigans with a boss.


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I'm currently doing a maddening run with the Black Eagles, so all of my opinions here are based on that route. I'll give a difficulty ranking for every chapter, and base the final ranking on that. I'm only at the battle of the eagle and lion though, so I will update once I've done the rest of the pre-skip chapters. 


Prologue (1/10): You can complete this map with just Byleth and the lord you want to use. Give Claude's bow to Byleth and let him hug the lord you want to use for the entire map. Have your lord hide in the forest with a sword equiped. You can then use the other lords as meat shields. I tend to reset for non-shit levelups in the real early game, so I have done this map very often with all three lords. Once you have one specific strategy that works, this map becomes really easy. 

Chapter 1 (4/10): This map gets much easier once you know the triggers for the AI. First beat all the Golden Deer, then the Blue Lions. Beat the teachers last. I think the BE have it the easiest here thanks to Dorothea's healing and Bernadetta's high damage output. Before I knew how to bait the enemies one by one, this map was hell. Now it's pretty easy.

Chapter 2 (8/10): You have to be very careful not to trigger the group of bandits near the chest. With that contraint in mind, there is not a lot of breathing room on this map. You don't have any good options against the archers yet, except for hopefully dodging them. Healing is also very limited because you main healer has only 5 uses, though Dorothea's personal really helps in this regard. Overall, I think it's one of the more annoying chapters simply because you don't have many options yet.

Chapter 3 (7/10): Most of the enemies aren't very threating by themselves, but they surround your starting area. The fog is really annoying, but using torches helps a bit. The dark mage that controls the fog is also really annoying because he stands in the forest, making him hard to hit. I suppose you could let Catherine do some work for you if you really struggle with this map, but that means less exp. In short, the map is more annoying than anything. At least Lonato is an easy boss. 

Chapter 4 (5/10): In my current playthrough, I came 2 damage short of killing the death knight with gambits plus knightkneeler from Ferdinand. I was so afraid that I just couldn't beat him, but then Ferdinand clutched it out with a crest proc, preventing counterattack. After that the map was easy tbh. Dorothea, Hubert and Linhardt all have plenty of resistance to bait the reinforcement mages. The boss mage is also laughably weak. If you can't beat the death knight, you lose a lot of breathing room though. Overall, I don't think it's a very difficult map.

Chapter 5 (8/10): I like to bait the archers here to trigger all the enemies to move. Have one half of your army fight off the reinforcements at the bottom of the map, and have the other half bait the archers with thoron/mire/bow range +1 and some healing support. This way, you get to fight most of the enemies in the big open space below the ambush spawn, which means they are perfectly lined up for some gambit action. You might still get overwhelmed though, especially if you miss some of your gambits. You also need to preserve some gambits because you'll need them against beast Miklan. I think what makes this map hard is that it is very long, so there are a lot of instances where things can go wrong. 

Chapter 6 (6/10): Non of the regular enemies are very threatning. The timer though... The death knight is much harder to beat than last time because he shows up in a very cramped space, which means that you can't surround him with gambits. I find beating the chapter not extremely hard, but getting all the rewards is challenging because of the turn limit. 

So here's the final list of the first batch of the chapters, from hardest to easiest:

1. Chapter 2

2. Chapter 5

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 6

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 1

7. Prologue

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I don't find any of them all that hard anymore now that I've played them a few times and know what to look out for. 

Now going in blind...on the first playthrough....  (assuming you didn't look things up ahead of time and get spoiled on what the maps are throwing at you)

Chapter 1:  This chapter will kick your ass the first time around and be the cause of multiple trial-and-error restarts, if you don't know how the AI is going to behave and you try to go up the center instead of around the side. 

Chapter 3:  Another chapter that will kick your ass the first time around going in blind off of playthroughs on lower difficulty. Takes a few tries to figure out where NOT to put your units, to avoid getting immediately ganked by enemies hiding in the fog

Chapter 5:  Again--going in blind on your first playthrough--those ambush spawns are gonna get ya. And you don't know that if you aggro the archers in the center, they pull the entire map. Huge learning curve, and probably at least one full restart needed to figure everything out.

Chapter 6:  Not hard per say. But one of those chapters that forces optimal play + efficient turn use, and punishes you really, really hard if you don't.  The fact that you lose your main AND have to split your remaining team between the left and right side of the map to collect the treasure + win via route ups and do it all without turtling while on a timer ups the challenge level considerably.

And if you're short an extra healer or a reliable 3-range attackers here, you're kind of boned. 

Now of course by this point in the story you're allowed to ask students from other houses to assist you for the month. So if you just wander on up to Linheart/Marriane/Mercedes to pick up an extra staffbot or something or Ashe/Bernadetta/Ignatz if you neglected to build an archer, you can always patch up any gaps in manpower.

(I've found that this chapter jumps from "challenging" to "legitimately maddeningly hard" if you neglect to max out your deployment slots with assistance or recruitment from students outside your house, and just try to tackle it with Byleth + 7 students) 

Chapter 7:   You do kinda have to be careful here with how many kills you let the other houses get against each other and make sure you aren't letting one house get completely wiped out + the other house get fully buffed before you have to 1 v. 1 them.  You can get into some pretty sticky situations if that happens. 


Those are the ones that stood out to me as being "hard" on first impression.

The caveat of course being that their difficulty comes largely from lack of familiarity. And declines considerably over multiple playthroughs, as you learn the maps

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From Easiest to Hardest

13. Prologue: You can solo this with Byleth and who the house leader you choose on most paths, even taking the other two's items is a good idea.

12. Chapter 9: Yeah a pure on monster battle isn't tough, especially if it is all Altered Demonic Beasts. Still if you don't have the right battalions or renewed them it might become a slow battle.

11. Chapter 4: The only real threat is the Death Knight after him it is easy. This map gets even easier if you recruited Lysithea, even if you don't have Dark Spikes you can still kill him with the help of battalions.

10. Chapter 3: Lotano is actually pretty strong for such a early game boss but beside him and the fog of war you have little to worry about.

9. Chapter 11: Isn't really that hard, the only thing I found hard was the center of the map as some of my units were ganged on but after that it is kinda easy.

8. Chapter 10: Solon is just about the easiest boss in the game here, though there may be a reason, and everyone beside Kronya on this map was easy to deal with. Kronya herself I usually defeat with a battalion and Byleth.

7. Chapter 1: Can be hard if you don't know what you are doing but once you learn it is like going through the motions. The 4 bosses are always tough, though sometimes I can rush Claude before he can do anything, especially Dimitri if you aren't playing BL.

6. Chapter 5: The left part is the hard part while the right can be pretty simple sometimes. Still the left part and the center make up for it.

5. Chapter 2: Found it easier than some others but maybe it is because I haven't played Maddening yet. Still the hardest early game map due to all your units most likely being nobles/commoners.

4. Chapter 7: While the bottom side most of the time kill themselves, I even had Edelgard get critted by a Leicester General(that was supposed to be Marrianne), but still if you aren't careful you might lose a few units. Even if winning the map isn't all that difficult.

3. Chapter 12: It is really hectic and will force a death if you aren't careful. Still, isn't enough to enter the true tier of difficulty

2. Chapter 6: Ambush spawns, Gilbert's AI, first monster battle, all that and more makes this not only a hard map but a drag.

1. Chapter 8: The real difficulty is the saving the allies and attempting to get DK and crew's droppable items. But, the rest isn't easy and making sure all that can be done, not to mention saving Jeralt from killing himself, makes this the hardest White Clouds map.

Edited by Deathcon

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