Part 13: Nation Overview: KaranaacKaranaac
Another mod by the same creator as U, AetherNomad, Karanaac also rivals U for how unusual it are to play compared to a normal nation. Unlike U however they're not actually all that complicated to play. I played Karanaac in the first mod nation game (the first one made with Domingler anyway, but more on that at some future time) and won it handily. We'll start talking about the rocks since that's what the nation is focused on but there are also some non-rock options I'll talk about at the end.
To explain Karanaac let's just look at the most common "mage".
You'll notice a few things quite quickly:
1) It has 21 protection, which is about as much as the most heavily armoured Ulm knights.
2) It has 3 paths: 1 earth, 1 astral, and 1 nature. Also a 10% chance of a choice from earth, astral, nature, or death. 175 gold for a 3.1 path human mage is about the going rate. Also it has spell singer AND innate caster. Spell singer means it takes half fatigue but takes twice as long to cast, and innate caster means it will continue casting when in combat, when paralysed, when routing, whenever. It's really good.
3) It has 85 hp. 175 gold for a size 6 spell-singer innate caster with 3.1 paths and 85 hp is absolutely not the going rate.
4) It's a rock. It has no attacks and no map move at all. A feebleminded rock has absolutely no way to kill anybody (other than its bless). You need a lab to move. If a rock is in a province with no lab it is stuck there until you pony up the
5) It's a rock. It can be underwater, isn't really affected by poison, swords and spears do half damage against it.
6) Seriously it can't kill anybody without casting and for a lot of the game will mostly just cast poison touch over and over.
7) It costs 2 commander points and Karanaac get only level 1 forts, so takes two turns to recruit.
How do you play a nation where almost all your guys can't move? You teleport, a LOT. Karanaac gets national versions of teleport with a 2 province range and costing only one gem - one version exists for earth, nature, and astral. You will be casting this ritual dozens of times every turn and it's incredibly annoying that features like having arrows on the map or being able to press 'Y' to script all mages moving to the province just don't work.
Going back to the Arcane Menhir specifically, they're definitely your workhorse rock. They're reasonably cheap and have a good smattering of paths. The "typical" script is to boost your protection even more with iron skin and temper flesh, make it hard to hit you at all with astral shield and body ethereal, and then buff up with blessing. Then sit there and don't die, with the combat AI spamming poison touch until the enemy decides they've had enough and rout. With a pearl you can cast power of the spheres and summon earth power, then spam gifts from heaven. Be very careful with this however as I had multiple rocks kill themselves with it in an otherwise easy fight. Incidentally this spell is why I don't like the Blood Vengeance bless on Karanaac.
Next up is the other defining rock:
200 gold for 24 research is both a very good ratio and also an efficient use of commander points. They also get double the effects of the magic scale, so in magic 3 research for incredible rates.
The drawback is that you can only research with a number of these equal to your dominion points in a province. They also can't attack or move or do anything at all. In practice these guys are forced to be spread out due to the divine insights limit so they can be vulnerable to raiding. You max them out in your forts of course but then it's often good to get some underwater research farms which are much harder for most land nations to raid.
The other non-cap rocks seem kind of unimpressive to me, I didn't really use them much. You have a 100g H1 priest Dolmen, the 150g E1+1xE/S/D/N Wise Figure (this guy is an inspiring researcher so you want at least one in most research farms), and then the pricey Speaking Stone with 3 in earth/nature/astral/death for 250g and 3 commander points. The Speaking Stone is good but not enough better than Arcane Menhirs to justify the cost for most of the game and also bear in mind that the death ones can't teleport and so are completely stuck. It also has drain research if for some reason you hated the idea of using the built-for-purpose research rocks??? I guess they are pretty powerful mages and it's possible I should have paid more attention to them. Having easy petrify spammers in the mid-late game for example is actually quite nice.
Next up are the cap rocks. These are really powerful but you'll be limited on capital recruitment points for absolutely 100% of the game as both of them cost 3 commander rec points so that's three whole turns to get each one. Even on turn 50 I did not have more than 1 research rock in my cap because I didn't want to delay these guys one bit although that was probably a mistake in retrospect.
The Elder Stone has 1E1S1D1N base for 400g and some slightly complicated randoms that amount to having +1 to E/S/N, +0.1 D, and then ALSO they become specialised in one of the paths - E/S/N specialised rocks get +3 in that path, and D specialised ones get +1 to all paths as shown on the one below. The main important point is that you often get 4 in one of the non-death paths, and rarely get 5. Death 3 is also pretty rare and valuable - on 1 in 40. You want to recruit enough of these early, maybe 3 or 4, until you get a good spread of the paths, then only pick these guys up again in the late game when you have spells that'll win battles by themselves (although you have to be careful with Rigor Mortis because you can easily fuck yourself up with a draw). Also note that due to the special magic boost mechanics, Elder Stones count has having only S1 (or 1/3 have S2) for the purposes of magic duel.
The other cap only Rock is the Astral Megalith. These are designed less for direct combat and are more for utility. They produce a pearl per turn and spread your dominion as well as being incredible mind hunters (with a booster) but pay for it by costing a massive 700 gold. Karanaac is incredibly desperate for pearls because it costs one per turn to move any of your rocks so even the starting cap income of 6 doesn't go as far as you'd think. They can also teleport into claiming thrones as well as Divine Blessing everybody in a fight. They're too expensive to really make effective Enslave Mind spammers unfortunately so IMO you'll mostly want them sitting in their cap using their meager research when they're not mind hunting.
Karanaac get two "troops", both rocks. They're broadly similar in that they sit there doing absolutely nothing except being communion slaves. You get a non-sacred one for 20g and a tougher sacred for 50g. 20 gold for a communion slave is an incredibly good rate and it's very easy to max out on 64 slaves giving all mages 6 to all paths. It's worth noting that neither of these troops are "true" immobile and while they have a map move of zero (the blesses don't help) they are allowed to storm forts and break sieges. They also have a bit of fortune teller (the sacred more) but won't often be recruiting enough of them for this to matter. A big line of the sacred troops with fire shield, FSR, and then having communion buffs giving them massive protection, astral shield, and even soul vortex to heal them can actually be really scary. Reverse communions are back! Finally they have death curse which is surprisingly relevant because even if your opponent puts together a smasher thug or two they'll swiftly end up afflicted to all hell.
However recall that all the commanders we've seen so far can't do that, or even move with troops - only teleport on their own. This makes Karanaac really vulnerable to enemies just sitting on top of their forts. If you can get a siege on Karanaac's cap early it can be very difficult for them to break out. How might you use these troop rocks then? The answer is Karanaac's first summon, the Ageless Cromlech. A S3N3H2 mage that's an auto communion master these are also not true immobile and so can actually take troops to kick your enemies off your forts using the national research 0 gateway for 3 nature gems. They cost 30 pearls and S3 to summon and it's worth noting that even just getting an S3 as Karanaac is not at all guaranteed - you need a 1/4 Elder Stone (average cost 1600 gold), or a 1/4 Speaking Stone (average cost 1000 gold) or an Astral Megalith (700g). Early on you really won't want to be spending hundreds of gold fishing for an S3 so often just have to rely on patrolling on your cap on the right turn if an enemy force approaches.
Once you get an Ageless Cromlech though they're the main way you'll take enemy forts - load one up with a shitload of slaves and summons (Ogres and Cave Grubs are great for this), and then storm a fort with only one mage. It can be rough, Karanaac much prefer the open field. Also the spell which teleports an Ageless Cromlech with its troops onto an enemy province is unlocked at Thau 5 so before then you pretty much cannot siege down a fort ever. At one point in my game I had rocks sitting secure on upwards of 10 enemy forts that I couldn't really take. A pretty funny thing about the Cromlech is that it has zero item slots so if they turn up to a people's arena they can't be giving a slave collar and cast as normal while everybody else is unable to. Unfortunately they also can't take any winnings home but it's really funny when people forget about this and their champion gets soul slain instantly. I picture the tournament organisers carefully trying to balance these items on top of one of the slabs but they keep just falling off.
The next summon is Karanaac's ace in the hole, the World Shard. For 30 earth gems and an E3 mage you can send one of these into a province. They cast one spell every turn in a fight and that spell is earthquake except 1) only hits half the battlefield at a time, and 2) causes a lot more damage to inanimates. Like the rest of Karanaac they're a bit all or nothing - if the enemy has flying or enough armour on everybody then the World Shard will just kill itself and if they don't they can't hope to ever beat it. In the game where I played Karanaac I put one on the clown cap and after failing to kill it for a few turns they paid the wasps to send one single commander over to deal with it. A wasp extermination service indeed! I found that you want to whip one of these out early to secure a choke point and get everybody scared of them but then hope that the threat is enough to protect you since 30 earth gems is not something that you can afford to throw away very often at all.
If you really need some extra defense there's the Ancient Tumulus. Earth 3, death 3, and immobile even to teleports. These guys sit producing corpse candles and you probably want them only in provinces that are under high threat from your opponents. They're only 15 earth or death gems so you can afford a few of these if you want.
Finally for an incredible 60 pearls you can summon Anu, the Ubiquitous Crystal. You can get other copies of Anu other ways too - it's Karanaac's only hero and you can get multiple copies, you can get it as a pretender, and you can also get a trinity of it as a non-awake pretender. Astral 5 base, teleports anywhere, can storm/break sieges - Anu is great. The lack of earth magic means it can be a bit vulnerable in combat unless it's your pretender though. It even has healer (presumably due to being a crystal) EXCEPT that healer doesn't work on rocks and it took me an embarassingly long amount of time to figure that out.
Karanaac get a few important items too, all at const 6 - some +2 (rocks only) boosters for N, S, D, or E to make up for not being able to use the arm/head based ones, and then the incredible Geodetic Rune which allows a rock to cast Teleport even without a lab. If you take a rock pretender (more on that later) you want to get one of these on them ASAP since it prevents them from being stuck without a lab.
Let's talk about not-rocks for a moment. Karanaac get two sources of not-rocks - faeries and marverni tribesmen.
The faeries you can recruit normally and get an okay mage and some shitty troops however they all have homesickness 20 meaning they'll die if they spend 5 turns away from the province they were recruited in. I did not bother getting a single one of these but I suppose they can be useful if you need to defend yourself from sieges early or for some site searching.
If having 100% rocks is not your style and you don't want to bother with homesickness than Karanaac can also summon up some sites to let you recruit from Marverni. Both spells require N5 to cast which is not trivial to get, as well as draining some gold per turn and granting resources. The smaller site requires only enchantment 2 and 12 nature gems and lets you recruit the non-cap marverni stuff at the cost of 35 gold per turn - regular human troops, and some cool mages while the bigger site takes enchantment 5, another 48 nature gems, and another 35/turn gold drain but lets you recruit the cap guys including the sacred Boar Warriors.
In theory there's a Karanaac build that uses the bigger site to get Marverni's cap-only troop from anywhere (that you have paid 60 nature gems) and floods the world in Boar Warriors but I don't see why you'd bother personally. IMO the main use of this is to get only the smaller site for some nice mage diversity - the druids (S1E1 with 1xWESN) have mostly the same paths as your rocks but can hold Dwarven Hammers for crafting, the Gutuaters (1N with 1xWESN) can cast foul vapours and the humble Stargazer (just S1) is one of Karanaac's best late game tools since you can really get a lot of them and can fairly reliably have 50+ communion slaves backing them up. One nice thing about the site is that it doesn't require a fort, just a lab, and you end up building a bunch of labs just to be able to move around so putting the smaller site in all those meant that for the cost of 115 gold every other turn you can really pump out the stargazers.
Karanaac's pretender choice is also really essential - some of the pretenders (including the Tirwaz of War and the Morrigna trinity) start off with both marverni sites for a more "typical" early game as long as you don't mind reducing your already strained income by 70/turn. Both 1 and 3 Anus are some devastatingly effective rocks since you'll take earth on them which gets rid of the usual low protection issues that most other Anus will have. Karanaac are dying for early expansion so you might say "let's just take the boar then or what's this Rock Of Ages" and well that's been "balanced" by most typical awake expanders gaining special events with destroy your cap temple and large amounts of your cap's pop. In my opinion the best pretender (and the one that I won with) is the First Dolmen who has mason giving you DOUBLE rocks and is a very scary thing to fight later on. Really your pretender choice depends on how vulnerable you want to be early on so against more experienced players the mason guy is quite possibly too risky, and then also if you want to expand with Boar Warriors or not. If you don't go with Boar Warriors then IMO the fire shield bless is 100% mandatory because otherwise you will really struggle to expand and just forget about fighting barbs at all. Additionally you basically always want fire/shock resistances to prevent the easiest ways of rock-killing (note that Frozen Heart can't be cast on rocks) and also the reconstruction bless so that rocks will heal at the end of the turn.
In summary Karanaac are a nation where either you don't counter them and they stomp all over you with invincible rocks, or you do counter them with high MR to beat astral shield, high strength to punch through stone, and by taking out their labs/forts - then Karanaac feel like they're totally helpless and unable to stop this from happening. Later on even nations with weak troops can use weapons of sharpness, forge smashers, and soul slay/magic duel to counter rocks although Karanaac should have their own tools by then.
The vast majority of their fights will be with just a few rock commanders and the troops are generally saved for defense or for having 1 large fort-busting doomstack. Later on having your fort busters be accompanied by 15 stargazers all boosted up to S5 is incredibly hard for people to deal with and mind hunt is an absolutely essential Karanaac tool.
This also should explain 1) why I picked the clown bless that I did, and 2) why I'm itching to bring the nation with an OP reputation down a peg.