Part 22: Turn 20 RetrospectiveAh, confidence. I know you well.
So let's take a look at what's happening. I'm stomping Agartha pretty handily at this point - yes, he's got two forts and a few provinces left, but fundamentally he has nothing compared to me. I'm trying to grab territory north of Agartha while I can, hoping to secure the lines before T'ien Ch'i decides he'd rather have that area. I'm still worried about the buildup around C'tis and Midgard, and being a bit paranoid about that.
What am I fucking up here?
Well, actually, there's a few things I'm fucking up, but I realize most of them later so I don't want to spoil it. Suffice to say that I'm not making proper use of my available resources. I should be keeping a much closer eye on what tools I have available and where they need to go. This will, eventually, be explained in more depth. I promise.
You might have noticed I'm not really talking about ethereal elephants anymore. The Ethereal Elephant gambit was really in response to Agartha's Cave Drakes. Those Cave Drakes are really really damn good, and Agartha should be using them. In my singleplayer tests, I found that, gold-for-gold, an Agarthan army with a bunch of crossbowmen and cave drakes would roughly equal an Arco army with a bunch of hypaspists and elephants. Making even slight use of ethereal elephants turned the tides strongly in my favor.
But he's not using cave drakes and so I've really just stopped worrying all that much. I probably should still be trying to minmax my forces, technically, but do you have any idea how annoying it is to align your casters to reliably hit elephants? Ugh. It's like a five- to ten-minute process with every single squad. That is just not happening. (Another Dom3 problem: your strength is kind of directly proportional to how many hours you can put in to tweaking things at excruciating detail. Dom3 does an amazing job of catering to the unemployed.)
If I had to point to something I'm screwing up now, without spoiling anything: it's the damn province defense. I've lost two provinces stupidly to Agarthan attackers so far. Half a dozen extra PD at a few important spots and that wouldn't have been a problem. For all that I'm stealing Agarthan provinces with scouts - and, holy crap people, always put at least one PD in every province just to avoid that, at least that is a mistake I never make - I'm doing nearly as badly myself. It just shouldn't be that easy to conquer territory, and I should be making it much tougher on Agartha to get anything back.
It's kind of mentally difficult to voluntarily spend 25 gold on province defense that may never matter, especially when that's like an entire Cerulean Warrior, but consider that Cun Aral is generating about 65 gold per turn - even ignoring the logistical difficulties of recapturing it, I could bring its PD up to 11 and break even if that had meant I kept the territory for one more turn.
But my strategy is mostly going exactly as planned. Agartha's getting little-to-no opportunity to reinforce, and I'm taking all of their production capacity. Three cheers for that!
On a slightly more meta level, and based off people's commentary, I may have figured out what Agartha's fundamental strategy errors are. From what people have been saying, Agartha is a strong, strong force in the mid- and late-game, with powerful recruitable mages, heavy shock troops, and access to some truly nasty summons. This is tempered by a relatively weak start. The troops are expensive and difficult to muster in bulk, and those mages - while strong - aren't all that useful until you've got significant research going on. I'd guess a good Agarthan strategy would involve picking up a supercombatant for some extra early offensive power, and probably either burning down Evocation or Conjuration to get some early magical support as well. This Agartha player seems to be leaning even more heavily on the mid- to late-game with his Forge Lord pick, which means that if he can make it through the early game he's in great shape . . . but he's not doin' so hot in the early game.
A risky strategy, and so far, it appears to not be paying off.