Part 145: Hinnom - Strategy
You're a peaceful nation of giants, intent only on slowly battering your ancestral enemy into the finest of mush. For years your world has consisted entirely of a long, slow war against horrible monkey-enslaving demons. When, suddenly, from out of nowhere, news reaches you of the greatest threat the world has ever known. Your archaic strategies have no hope of success against the harbinger of doom that is the Zmeywaffe (and neither did Arcoscephale or T'ien Ch'i ). In a matter of months, the fearsome Zmeywaffe have overrun two of the world's mightiest nations without a single casualty and now they have come knocking at your door. What do you do?
Aside from fling your keyboard against the wall in a fit of rage, scream fuck this shit and go AI (still in a fit of rage), of course.
Step One: figuring out what the problem is.
Well, that was simple, wasn't it?
There are three units that Lilli is using to raid. Zmey, bane lords and Nahuatl (turkeys).
Zmey are problematic. They cause fear, have three lives, one for each head, they have high strength and a ton of attacks plus an AoE attack. They're all immune to fire, regenerate and never run away.
Bane Lords are the gold standard of vanilla thugs. They have pretty good HP, a cold aura, are immune to cold and poison and have decent strength. The bane lords are all equipped with a frost brand, vine shield and flying shoes.
Turkeys are along for two (potentially three) things. They're there to buff the Zmey and bane lords with body ethereal or luck and to defend against mind hunts. If they have any pearls they're also able to magic duel.
Lilli's setup is cheap. Her Zmey cost (25+7) 32 gems each and her bane lords cost (12+3+7+7) 29 gems. Those are good prices for a raider.
The raiding groups also all fly That means they're capable of hitting anywhere within three provinces. As a result, all of her raiding groups are cheap enough that she can afford to really churn them out and mobile and tough enough to just decimate an opponent with five or six raiding groups. And that's exactly what happened with Arcoscephale and T'ien Ch'i.
Now, on to the weaknesses.
The big weakness I saw was that nobody has any extra magic resistance. That would be more of an issue without the turkeys along to provide mind hunt protection(remote attack spell that zaps someone's mind, but astral mages provide a 33% chance per level of astral of stopping the mind hunt and feebleminding the mind hunting mage).
Second, Zmey can be fatigued out by chaff. I discovered this in a game where my blood hunters weren't scripted and they summoned imps until the Zmey fatigued out and died. But, you need either a lot of chaff or fire immune chaff.
Third, bane lords are undead. There are a number of spells and weapons that target or do additional damage to undead.
Fourth, the only magic they have is from the turkeys. So there's very little flexibility.
Step Two: figuring out what you have to address the problem.
My options are hitting them in the face, battlemagic or remote attack spells.
I don't want to ruin the perception (reality?) of being terrible at battlemagic so let's put that nonsense aside. Then it's remote attacks or punching.
Turkeys provide decent cover against mind hunt, one of the best remote attack anti-raider spells out there. One alternative attack spell is send horror (I love this spell so much), which, oddly enough, sends a horrible creature from beyond to attack a province, but it's in blood which I haven't researched and my slaves are going toward blood stones so that cramps that option a bit. There aren't really any other remote attacks I can think of that stand a chance against Lilli's raiders.
That's how we end up with punching.
I need to either kill the Zmey straight up or fatigue them out and kill them. One of the options here is using horite hunters. They're burly and they come with nets and 50% fire resistance. I can up that to 100% with fire ward (like the thunder ward I tried vs Lanka, but fire) which F Ammi can cast. This seems like a decent option, but they have serious mobility issues and I'm concerned about their ability to stand up to 6+ Zmey.
On the fatigue front, I could research blood and use summon imp spam. I like summoning imps a lot, but, again, I have that pesky drain on my slave income and they aren't mobile enough (I can forge flying boots for any casters but if I'm bringing four or five to a battle that's a lot of boots). My skelespam options are nonexistent, so it looks like fatigue by chaff is out.
That leaves thugs/SCs as the final option.
Hinnom is running a bit short on Melqarts, but let's see if there isn't anything else we can scrounge up.
I can forge lots of gear at very cheap prices, but don't have any conjuration research to speak of so any chassis I use will have to come from elsewhere. I have fantastic earth income so, ideally, I will use mostly earth gems for this.
So, what's a chassis that uses earth gems to summon, can take decent kit, can survive a Zmey's five attacks without dying and is immune to fire? The cyclops of course! Too bad it's at conjuration eight and I am stuck here at three.
But there's another chassis available that costs E gems and is, conveniently, in construction. The mechanical giant!
He's big and beefy at 80hp and, with a bit of kit, I think he should be able to take on a Zmey and win. He has the added bonus of never getting tired, and we all know how much I have been screwed by fatigue. Finally, in addition to being fire immune he's lightning immune which ought to be helpful against Lanka. My big initial concern is that Lanka can cast shatter with his pretender which will absolutely ruin mechanical giants. Shatter does 20 + 5xearth magic level of damage (required 3e to cast so minimum of 35) at 100% accuracy to lifeless beings and constructs like the mechanical giant. It's fairly short range but that doesn't matter too much because of both scripting shenanigans and the fact that the only way a mechanical giant can do damage is punching.
Still, using these against Lanka is, potentially, a ways off and the first priority is not dying to Lilli. Mechanical giants meet the chassis requirement of being able to soak damage and costing earth gems, now what to kit them with?
I want to target magic resistance first and fatigue for Zmey second (as undead Bane Lords don't get melee fatigue, and they're far more susceptible to being straight punched to death than the Zmey are).
I also need to somehow survive the Zmey's tremendous damage output. There are a couple of ways to avoid damage. High defense (not good vs Zmey because they have five attacks and each attack reduces defense), high protection (not good vs Zmey because with their strength they will punch right through it), magic that lowers damage like mistform and ethereal, magic that lowers attack like darkness or blinding, and luck which avoids all damage 50% of the time. Mechanical giants can't cast anything and I don't have good death access so mistform and darkness are out. Mistform is also popped by high damage hits so it wouldn't work well by itself anyway.
I plan on using robes to get ethereal because Zmey attacks are nonmagical so that will make 3/4 will miss. Then, I plan on using the high number of Zmey attacks and the low magic resistance of Zmey and Bane Lords against them with an eye shield. They might get in a few good knocks but they'll quickly blind themselves and be helpless for the rest of the battle.
For offense I plan on using frost brands (Zmey take 50% extra damage from cold) and flesh eater axes. The frost brands will do damage and cost W gems which I have tons of. The flesh eater axes will cause chest wound afflictions which will make the Zmey get an extra five fatigue a turn, rapidly increasing fatigue until each hit from my mechanical giant does tremendous amounts of damage.
I was still concerned about the survivability of a mechanical giant vs a Zmey and after discussing with Schneeble and irony or death we all agreed it was best to be safe and send them out only in groups of two. One might die, but two really ought to kill a Zmey.
I know it's a better narrative if I'm incapable of using battlemagic and don't ever plan around it. But I had been thinking about it because Zmey are scary and Lilli is scary and I was going to need everything I had.
The first problem is that Zmey fly over on turn one to eat your poor pixel mans. That can easily be remedied with a staff of storms which autocasts storm in battle so it's up before the Zmey gsts to fly and which Ornias, my hero with A4, can easily forge. When I get artifacts he forges Tempest instead because it also autocasts storm but is otherwise way cooler.
The second problem is killing the Zmey before it kills you. TheDemon has been using thunder strike quite well, but I don't have the high level mages to spam it the way he can. I do, however, get Ammi with A2. They can cast storm power to get up to A3 and can then cast orb lightning. Orb lightning is a short range spell that shoots your level of air magic number of lightning bolts at a target. This does damage and fatigues the Zmey because elemental damage also fatigues. A Ammi can also spam ghost wolves (as we've seen TheDemon's guys do when off script) to slow down the Zmey's march across the field, ensure it doesn't just run up and chomp my mages and begin to fatigue it out.
The third is catching the Zmey. Fortunately for me, A Ammi can cloud trapeze and catch it that way. A ring of lightning resist will kill this plan, but I hope to catch a few Zmey out in the field with it first.
Step Three: asking for help.
I will cover this more in my diplomacy post, but the gist of it is that I initially had a defensive alliance with irony or death/Pan and Schneeble/Sauro. We escalated to an offensive alliance when Lilli absolutely rolled through half the world in four turns.
Step Four: achieving secondary goals.
Certain players are colossal stabbing robots made of knives that transform into giant death trains fueled by tiny monkey souls. Their only goal is to win
Step Five: planning.
This will, I hope, be a good example of exactly what a dogpile on the leader looks like. Lilli has grown dangerously quickly and now has a commanding lead in provinces, gems (not counting gemgens) and research. She also has the advantage in that she is currently fielding a large, capable force and nobody else is. But, there are three nations who were almost as strong five turns ago and the gap isn't so large that we can't recover.
The general plan, such as it is, is that Pan will push both from his North into her circle masters and on toward Mictlan itself and from his South into former Arcoscephale, Schneeble will attack the water and provinces bordering him and I will try to kill Zmey and raid into former TC and Arco with mechanical giants. Countering each nation will require vastly different resources and hopefully it will all prove too much for her to handle.
The other part of the plan is globals. Schneeble is casting burden of time which should put a serious dent in her mage corps over time. And me? I'm casting forge of the ancients. I'm also revealing my construction site in the thread right around this time so Lilli will almost certainly come straight for me. She'll want the construction site and she won't want to let me keep forge up. That's the diplomatic trade off I've made. I will bear the brunt of the war in exchange for my two allies not jumping me when I put up forge. Whether it's a good trade off remains to be seen.
Step Six: execution.
I've already messed up the initial execution by sending out my mechanical giants one at a time (and not giving them luck amulets, a two gem item that would have reduced hits by 50% and potentially saved both). However, both forge and Schneeble and irony or death's initial attacks have all gone off without a hitch.