Part 45: Nation Overview: U, part 2 (guest post by Xanrick)Surviving as U does require catching a few lucky breaks when facing opponents with a power level typical of mod nations. Having survived the immediate threat of Karanaac, there were a few different strategic choices I made to best take advantage of the current state of the world:
1. Since I've failed thus far in getting a gavagai king to upgrade my palisades, top priority would be invading a neighbor who had upgraded forts to steal them. Iram had already built several citadels, including one on my border, which was exactly the kind of infrastructure I needed to boost my mage production and start catching up.
2. Due to going all in on a foot-bless, I effectively could only field one powerful army at a time, since I needed to rely on my Mu-Atlas pretender to bless my hordes of otherwise weak troops. This means that my best bet would be trying to fight a series of pitched battles with large concentrations of troops. I was not well-suited to fighting a raiding war at this point, as attrition would be a problem. A slow-moving, nearly static front focused on siege warfare would be ideal, since I could continue to stream replacement shipments of feet to the front.
My base PG stats, bless and scales:
3. Double-down on my main army by bolstering it with some limited, but powerful battle magic. As I mentioned before, there are a series of commander summons that U gets that are specialized in casting a single type of spell. They excel at that, and often are barely capable of doing anything else. The first tiers of these become available at the 4th research level in several schools. Fortunately, despite my poor infrastructure and mage numbers, Magic 3 scales and focused research had given me access to Alteration 4 and Thaumaturgy 4 before I initiated the war against Iram.
Alt 4 I researched as a way to prosecute my abortive war against Karanaac, due to it giving me access to the shatter-casting mage, the Sophotatos Stone-breaker. Capable of casting shatter twice per turn, or casting it once per turn automatically, any lifeless creature within the short 15 square range of shatter would suffer large amounts of armor negating damage. Barring this, the mage would just buff itself with a few basic earth buffs and then uselessly start throwing pebbles using its terrible e1 magic.
I had a few of these few over after my failed Karanaac campaign, so I included them, placed towards the front of my ranks, surrounded by hordes of feet to help counter any elementals that I might encounter. (Elementals are lifeless as well.) Air and particularly fire elementals would be a massive threat to my forces, and Iram had air and fire mages in abundance. Though I caught a lucky break in that Iram's research seemed to have been mostly focused on evocations and enhancement for flaming arrows.
The other big hitter from Alt 4 was the Sophotatos Diviner. This mage auto-casts just one spell at the start of battle, Solar Eclipse. Solar Eclipse is normally an Alteration 5 spell that is a weaker version of the powerful Darkness battlefield wide spell. Solar Eclipse lowers the attack, defense and precision of troops without dark vision by 3 (half as much as Darkness). U has full darkvision on all of its national troops and Iram, being a nation mostly comprised of normal humans, has no darkvision, making this an important force multiplier for feet. Even after buffing feet with +10 strength from the bless, they don't have very good combat stats, but shave off 3 points from your targets and pummel them with potentially 6 or 12 attacks per turn and suddenly this garbage troop becomes very deadly. This was another major factor of why I went after Iram.
Thau 4 had the mages that I ended up summoning the most of overall in this game. The most important Thau 4 summon for bolstering my forces against Iram was the Sophotatos Fist Master. The punch-mage is fantastic. It takes what is otherwise an amusing, but normally rather poor spell called Farstrike and makes it into a viable and important ranged attack to my otherwise melee-focused armies.
Farstrike: normally a humble, but hilarious Thau 1 spell. Requiring two ranks in earth magic and one in astral to cast makes it extremely limited in the number of mages who can cast it. Earth and astral is generally a a rare and powerful combination in the base game, and is almost exclusively only able to be cast by frail, old, and human-sized mages. Since the damage scales with strength, most mages are largely unable to take much advantage of Farstrike's peculiarities.
Meanwhile, the punch-mage has a decent base strength and can cast Farstrike automatically twice per turn. Furthermore, slap an additional crazy +10 strength hell bless on top and you have a deadly, focused source of long-ranged damage. Perfect for sticking behind a massive horde of chaff that will take awhile to cut through. The punch-mages can also spend turns buffing their protection with ironskin, lightning resistance and temper flesh, which combined with their good hp makes them less likely to suffer casualties from arrow fire and AoE evocations. During the Iram war I end up fielding between 8 to 14 of these in my army.
The Farstrikes attacks will cluster around where ever there is a large concentration enemy hit points on the battlefield. Perhaps a dense cluster of troops, or say, a hostile titan-sized PG frantically trying to cast earthquake a second time after twist fate bless completely negates the first one.
4. Objective: Keep the clowns friendly, playing the useful idiot if necessary. Having seen the clown bless, the high stats on their troops, and my own turmoil scales, I really, really don't want to have to fight them. Fortunately, my prat-falls against Karanaac and comedy of errors in trying to get a gavagai king mason have set me up to play the ineffectual fool. Even more fortunately, while U may have difficulty stopping the clowns at this point, the two AIs should offer even less resistance and have richer territories to boot.
I have enough information to know that the clowns are not able to keep close tabs on my activities up by Iram, which is fortunate since it allows me to keep more about my methods and potential vulnerabilities under wraps. I'm also low-key dropping concerns about the territorial gains of clowns to Chasos and Anglia. Neither have committed any plans of action that I'm aware of, but I'm quietly hopeful that some kind of conflict emerges.
5. Defer on blood and fully focus towards enchantment research. There is something at Enchantment 8 that is absolutely vital to my long term survival, with some other powerful spells along the way. Delving deeply into blood would divert my very limited resources from this important objective, one that will fundamentally change the strategic picture for U...