Part 164: Hinnom - Arcoscephale Post-Mortem
Now that Dexanth has been eliminated, let's take a look back at Arcoscephale. Please bear in mind this is a video game and as such is very serious business and that any commentary is meant as a personal indictment. Much like my five years of mistakes posts.
Dexanth opted for a very solid awake quasi-SC pretender and mediocre scales build. It's a good build but there are a few things I would change to really optimize it.
Rest in peace Rainbow Dash. We hardly knew you.
We all know about the mistake he made with not taking enough astral. Let's not dwell on that too much.
Instead let's think about more efficient alternatives that got him what he wanted.
Personally, I like the air Titan as a chassis.
He's much beefier than the virtue and comes with base A7! Easily bumped to A9 for a few more points, he has the benefit of starting with high Dom and only costing 75 base points. He compares quite favorably with the virtue and is considerably beefier with some pretty crazy lightning attacks in exchange for no astral and lower awe. If your aim is deterring attacks, this guy will do the job quite nicely. He's less mobile than a virtue (although, cloud trapeze), but it will be a long time before anyone has anything that can come close to touching him as an SC.
While the virtue is by no means a bad choice, it starts to get expensive for an SC that requires both research and gear to really do a decent job and will never have that many HP. The one big advantage the virtue has over the air Titan is that it can serve as a good astral caster and forger later on. That said, Arco also has easy access to the E/S combo on their mystics to forge a crystal coin which, with a starshine skullcap gets them all the way to S4. That's still an empowerment or being first to artifacts away from rings of sorcery or wizardry but I'm OK with spending the pearls to empower one level for that (assuming you're not using tarrasque or kraken).
Finally, the last benefit the Air Titan has over the Virtue is that he's basically Zeus and EA Arco Greece-ish and that's a neat bit of flavor that I would have liked.
In addition to taking a Titan instead of a Virtue I think it would have made sense to give him Dom 9 instead of 10 and to take him asleep. Dom 9 is one fewer points of awe but that's not a big deal unless you're really stacking awe as one of your primary defenses like the virtue. Asleep is a bit riskier but it's worth almost four scales and that's quite a swing. I would have taken a sleeping pretender because you're pretty unlikely to be fighting someone before a couple turns prior to your pretender waking up on turn 12 and you can throw the extra build points into better scales so you can afford to throw more tiny pixel mans at the other guy before your Titan wakes up. Just generally, I think both awake and imprisoned are rarely worth it. 0 points for awake vs 150 for sleeping (turn 12) and 250 for imprisoned (turn 36).
So, starting out with a sleeping Titan with A9 (might as well get the major bless, it's so cheap and lightning resistance is always good to have) and dom9.
Then, in terms of scales, Dexanth took growth 3 and order 1 for the long term benefit. I have a slightly different playstyle that tends to be more "extract maximum gold now because in the long run we're all dead or focusing on gem income anyway." I would have taken order 3, neutral growth and cold 2. That would have been a long term decrease in income but in the short term it would have been worth +5% income vs. his current -8%.
Next there's the question of luck3. I love luck3. I frequently take luck3. Luck 3 is not worth it. It is not ever an optimal scale. Particularly not when paired with order which reduces event chance. Of course I took luck3 because this is a video game and I don't like getting "an event occurred" messages and having them always be bad. It makes the game less fun for me whereas every time I get some gems from a lucky event it's a nice little present. Anyway, that's why I take luck3, but it's almost never an efficient choice. Arco's PD os good enough to survive a few barbarian attacks and if Dexanth took misfortune 2 he could have had order 3, sloth 3, cold 2, growth 3, misfortune 2 and magic 3. That would have provided a nice boost to his researchers, great long term income and put his total income at +11% at the cost of some gem events and a few barbarian attacks. And all of that is assuming the same virtue build instead of the much cheaper sleeping Titan build!
With a cheaper sleeping Titan instead of a virtue, Dexanth could have had absurd King Hinnomnomnom-esque scales and all the attendant benefits at the cost of (i) slightly increased risk from a really early rush, (ii) reduced pretender mobility, (iii) slightly worse expansion (probably, although the better scales might afford him more expansion parties and more money for merc expanders and early forts so it's not as clear cut as it could be), and (iv) less astral access (note that increasing astral above mind hunt levels is also going to make the virtue's scales worse).
All that said, this is, overall, a very solid build. Rainbow Dash proves quite helpful in expansion and would have been a significant factor in the war with Mictlan but for the turkey death squad. Scales aren't too bad for an awake SC with good paths. Most importantly, Dexanth figured out what he wanted his pretender to do and did it. Like so much else, a poor plan executed vigorously is a lot better in dom3 than running around like a chicken with your head cut off.
Dexanth did really well here, expanding like mad and quickly becoming one of the largest nations.
There are a number of changes I would have made in the fight with Mictlan, aside from diplomacy which is covered below. Please bear in mind that my style of play has more in common with Mao's "we have more soldiers than they have bullets" philosophy than Patton's "nobody ever won a war by dying for his country, he won it by making the other bastard die for his."
1. Be aggressive.
Nobody puts 100 jaguar warriors on your border for no reason. If they tell you "no, they're there for as peace keepers" or "they're on a picnic" then those are lies. Of course, everybody who puts a hundred dudes on your border is always going to tell you they're peaceful. I'm pretty sure it's a rule (page 84 of the rule book). At least prep rainbow dash to do some raiding or serve as a nasty welcoming party. As it was, Dexanth got pushed back and then, when he did win a few victories, he didn't keep pushing on into Mictlan's territory.
2. Oreiads and evocations.
Dexanth led in research for almost the entire time he was alive. Even after Arcoscephale became a vassal state it was leading in research. One of the neatest tools Arcoscephale has is the Oreiad and one of the best things to do with Oreiads is rain of stones. Every single Oreaid can cloud trapeze and, with a pair of E boots, cast rain of stones. By the time Dexanth and Lilli were really fighting he should have had an Oreiad death squad with a staff of storms (or a defensive cloud trapeze and then Storm from rainbow dash) casting mistform and then rain of stones and absolutely obliterating Mictlan's armies of basically anything. Mictlan really relies on big groups of jaguar warriors to do their damage for them and three or four castings of rain of stones will kill approximately infinity jaguar warriors.
Another thing you can do with oreiads is give them a crystal matrix and have them lead a communion. Dexanth only had five Oreiads when Lilli attacked but with judicious use of those five oreiads he could have done a ton more damage than he did. He kept them safe in a fort and, consequently, didn't lose them but they might have been enough to tip the scales.
Finally, you saw how effective the A team was. If Dexanth had rolled out Oreiads in response to the Zmeywaffe he could have, at the very least, significantly delayed their utter domination and more likely actually stopped them in their tracks (in conjunction with W mystics casting frozen heart, no Zmey would have stood a chance).
3. The Zmeywaffe.
When the Zmeywaffe hit, Dexanth just folded. He'd been relying on diplomacy and that didn't work and he gave up. He still had a ton of research and a decent base from which to defend himself but he didn't. Remember kids: never give up!
There are a couple of really big mistakes that Dexanth made, but I think it's important to remember that he was fighting one of the very best players out there.
Nothing in life is free.
I've outlined my thoughts on Dexanth's diplomacy before but it really all boils down to my experience being that he never offers a deal that's not better for him than it is for you. I think there are a lot of places where you can offer someone a deal that is mutually beneficial or even better for them and still come out ahead in the long run. Dexanth just never did this.
When Dexanth was fighting Lilli he kept saying she was going to roll over him without help and that we would all die if she did. Not only was this wrong (although Lilli quitting didn't hurt), but it was asking for help without offering anything in return. For the rest of us there was no benefit in keeping the research leader alive vs waiting for Lilli to kill him and then attacking her. I think the big mistake he made here is in using tactics that he's accustomed to use with newer players who have less of an idea of where each side is in relation to winning and just how good each side of a trade is for them. Look at his interaction with Schneeble where he refused to give up a water province he couldn't even defend and was asking Schneeble to accept some provinces Schneeble would have had to take anyway as incentive. It's a bit silly but, in fairness to Dexanth, it's the kind of diplomacy that worked quite well on Feinne and it's worked really well for him in other games as well.
There is an interesting comparison to be drawn here to the way Incy played things when he took over Mictlan. He was fighting 3v1 when he took over with certain doom (albeit at what cost?) approaching and he happily sacrificed a few provinces and forts to each of us in exchange for peace. Even though he lost six or seven provinces and a few forts he still ended up ahead.
With better diplomacy, Dexanth could have brought me or irony or death or Schneeble in on his side of the war with Mictlan and emerged with his research lead intact, a position at the top (although not necessarily the top) in provinces and gem income and, most importantly, still a viable endgame player.
Dexanth is a very good player. His build was solid but not ideal. He did a great job expanding and a very good job fighting off one of the very best players on SA but he didn't use his battle magic resources nearly as well as he could have and when the Zmeywaffe came he folded. His primary mistakes were in the diplomatic arena where he tried to get something for nothing.
All in all, this was a very solid performance through the first three years and then a collapse in the face of a combined diplomatic failure and Zmeywaffe invasion.