Part 45: Chapter 4, Part 2: Border
Today Alm and his rather small, outgunned army begins the invasion of Rigel. Handily, Rigel has stationed its troops in a spread-out manner all over the kingdom rather than concentrating them at the border where they could easily crush us.
Before I go into the map overview, let me explain the colored circles and how this map tries to screw you. Starting in the blue circle, exposed and alone, are the bottom three units on the roster. Since the bottom units on the roster are the ones dropped when a battle has a unit limit, you've probably put your worst units here. And now they're all alone and about to get charged by the entire western flank of the enemy. Obviously I re-arranged my roster here, so that all my horse-riders are in this group and can quickly rejoin the others.
A more subtle screw-job is the yellow circle, where the next-lowest three units are placed, ready to take the charge on the eastern flank.
Fortunately despite the enemy pretty well outnumbering us, and with entirely promoted units, there's a pretty simple divide-and-conquer strategy in play on this map.
The knights and snipers are all level 5, a bit of a step up from what we're used to for Alm's group. The knights in particular can hurt if they're allowed to gang up on someone, but the entire group is weak to magic.
The paladins are all basic level 1 units, but the boss is something new. Shizas is a Gold Knight, the second promotion on the Cavalier/Paladin path. He's faster, stronger, and tougher than anyone in Alm's army. Fortunately he's all the way at the top of the map and his group won't be inclined to chase us down until we get in range.
The wizards are mostly the generic Dora-slingers, but the one in the center has a few more levels and the more-deadly Slime spell, along with Fortify.
The knights and snipers are the only ones who will aggressively pursue us, so everyone shifts over to the right to try and take out that group before the left group reaches us. Claire is positioned to draw out the eastern paladin as well.
The northern group hides in the forest while the western group advances.
Claire takes a hit but she's got the Holy Lance so will heal up most of the damage next turn.
The tactics for this turn are to take out the paladin while preparing for the arrival of the rest of the eastern group. Python takes a shot at the paladin and misses.
Cliff follows up with two shots from the Bolt Sword to wipe out the paladin.
End of the second turn and we're already pretty much back in one group. Two of the knights will attack Alm and Ryuto, while the third can't reach anyone. I'm not sure who the sniper will attack but the only one he could really hurt is Silk, who's safely tucked away.
Ryuto gets impaled a bit but lands a good counter-fireball.
Alm actually takes more damage from his knight, but a crit gives him an even better counterattack.
I probably shouldn't be surprised that the sniper also went after Alm - his Defense is pretty low, and the AI knows that the battle ends if he falls as well as we do. Alm dodges the arrow anyway.
The western group gets a little closer....
Python starts up the turn by softening up the sniper a bit.
Ryuto then steps back a tile and blows away the knight in front of him with two shots of Excalibur.
Dyute sees her first action, weakening another knight with Aura so that Cliff can grab the kill.
The knight had just 12 HP left, so I wanted to see if I could get Silk to land at least one hit of Nosferatu to weaken it even more. She ended up landing both and getting the kill for herself.
Matilda and Alm then tag-team the sniper, and the eastern group is wiped out.
Alm also gets a pretty fantastic level.
There's a bit of a problem here since the western group is going to run right through the mages to get to us, so if we move up to engage we'll draw in both groups.
Surely, though, that eastern battle went so well that I can handle both of these groups together, right? Let's be aggressive and wipe out that sniper while it's all isolated (more like acting as bait).
It worked out well last time, so Matilda and Alm team up to take out another sniper. Alm's now exposed to the lead three wizards, while Matilda will have to fight off a knight.
Claire moves in for anti-magic support, while I realize that my own mages are stuck away from the battle since they had been busy fighting off the eastern knights.
Two wizards each attack Claire and Alm, but only one attack on Alm succeeds.
Matilda's got the Knight Killer. Unfortunately it doesn't work on this type of knight, only the horse-riding kind.
Well, now we have a mess. And Ryuto can't actually reach any of the knights, either, so it's about to get worse.
Alm stays aggressive, taking out a wizard in one round, intentionally targeting one not getting an evasion boost from a tree.
Claire makes a similar target choice, but isn't strong enough to finish it off alone.
She does get a little bit stronger as a result, though.
Cliff is tough enough to take on all comers, so he heads out alone to challenge the knights. Unfortunately the knights have a ton of HP (40), so even Cliff's 28 damage isn't enough by itself. The knights can only do 8 damage a piece to him, and he'll counter each one for 28 and hold his own against the wizards as well. Really, it wouldn't have been a bad idea to have everyone else retreat instead of trying to also challenge the wizards at the same time.
Matilda challenges a wizard-in-a-tree, landing one of her two attacks. She's taken a bit of a beating in this battle so far, though, so will need some healing soon.
Python actually does something useful, finishing off the wizard that Claire had left on death's doorstep earlier.
He's rewarded with additional Power.
How much damage do you think two wizards and three knights can do? Oh, by the way, Alm is awfully exposed right now....
So, I thought that the wizard in the recovery fort couldn't reach Alm, since it only has 4 Movement, is 4 tiles away from attack range, and there's a tree in the way. But guess which class doesn't have a movement penalty through forests?
Really I should've retreated at the start of last turn, drawing the western group forward more without bringing in the wizards. Anyway, Alm counter-kills a knight, which really just lets in another knight to attack him. And he doesn't have a whole lot of HP left....
Alm also gets a death-quote. But there's more!
Celica shows up out of nowhere to mourn Alm's loss. She seems a lot more self-aware in this throwaway line than in anything she's said so far in her own story.
Anyway, losing Alm is Game Over. You have to start over from your last save point, which is at minimum the start of this battle (although you could also retreat in the middle of the battle and then save, I guess). I'll skip over the near-identical first few turns, bringing us back to....
About where we were before, a turn before I screwed everything up. No one's gained a level yet, so you can throw out all those level-up screens you saw earlier in this update. No doubt we won't be getting anything nearly as good now.
As before, we drew in the paladin on the first turn and finished him off on the second, while preparing for the rest of the eastern group to rush us. Ryuto gets in the first shot on the knights here for 32 damage, but his Excalibur doesn't trigger a crit.
Alm weakened this knight with his counterattack on the previous turn, allowing Cliff to get the kill again.
As before, Matilda and Alm team up to take out the sniper. Notice how the sniper was hanging back this time, though. Matilda and Alm are now close enough to draw in a couple of the wizards before the western group gets here.
Alm gets a level that's not quite as good as the first time around.
One of the knights has just 8 HP left, which happens to be the exact amount of damage that Silk can do.
Dyute is then free to blow away the remaining knight, and the eastern side is clear (again).
Cleive is going to draw the sniper in further to the south than last time, so that it can be cleared out without bringing in the Slime wizard, at minimum.
Two wizards come out after Alm, though he dodges one of them.
And the sniper moves out ahead of his knights to take a couple shots at Cleive.
I'm actually in much better shape this time around. Two wizards are already out an exposed, and I can get to the sniper without drawing in any others and with only one knight able to reach the sniper area. And my own mages are much closer to where we'll be engaging the knights this time around.
Cliff takes out a large chunk of the sniper's HP. Technically one of the wizards can now reach him, but that one will end up going after Alm anyway.
Python and Matilda take out the wizard not hiding in the forest,
Alm gets lucky and lands both of his attacks on the wizard. That luck frees up both Ryuto and Dyute to move further west instead of backing up Alm.
Cleive and Claire are both too slow to double-attack the sniper, so both are needed to finish it off.
She gets a level out of it, at least.
The enemy phase shouldn't be too painful here. Only one knight can reach either Cleive or Claire, and one more wizard will go after Alm.
We've still got the three knights to deal with, but we're still in much better shape this time. Our mages are all in range to help out, there are fewer wizards floating around to complicate things, and we have much more room to attack without triggering the Slime wizard.
As usual since Cliff is such a heavy hitter and can survive whatever he's thrown against, I move him out first to start the turn. He doesn't disappoint.
I even let Gray in on the action this time.
Ryuto is put in the best situation to succeed - wielding a spell with a high crit chance against a full health tank that's weak to magic. It works out beautifully as he crits on the first attack.
Dyute then immediately finishes off another knight, leaving only one remaining.
Her first level isn't too bad, either.
Matilda is ready to double-team another target with Alm, but her crit renders his help unnecessary.
No one's entered the slime zone, and the knight is isolated with no soft targets around.
Alm takes another hit but only one this time.
The knight rips into Claire but is too slow to get in two hits, so she's fine.
Cliff doesn't mess around, finishing off the knight right away.
The level isn't great but at least we're alive.
Dyute and Matilda have the best Magic Defense, so they enter the slime zone together to finish off the last generic wizard.
Matilda is also fond of the almost-useless Skill/HP level.
Two enemies remain outside the northern group, with no one-round kills for the enemy in sight.
Matilda dodges the Slime attack, though she would've tanked it just fine anyway.
The paladin comes out to harass Cleive, who actually gets the better of the exchange.
Python, Dyute, and Ryuto team up to take out the last wizard.
And Cliff gets another kill, finishing off the paladin.
There's a nice path between the trees leading straight to the boss group.
So the plan will be to draw them out one at a time along the path, using the trees to our advantage. Also Dyute gets in a shot on one of the paladins from the safety of the recovery tile - they don't react.
Dyute finishes off her target. Cleive is ready to draw out the lead paladin.
Success! Also, all three attacks miss.
Ol' reliable Cliffy starts things again, softening up the paladin, but he only gets in 10 damage when one of his attacks actually misses.
Cleive gets in some extra retaliation with the Knight Killer in hand, but it's still not enough.
Alm finishes off the paladin while getting in position to draw out another enemy. All three enemy units can reach Alm in this position, but only one at a time. And the boss will move first - Alm has no chance of starting a counter-kill chain with that one.
Here he comes....
Not too bad with Alm dodging once, though he'd have survived two hits as well. The Gold Knight sprite and animation (one of the new ones for this game) is pretty impressive, you really get the feeling that you're facing a powerful unit here.
Cliff and Ryuto start off with ranged attacks, doing a total of 20 damage and bringing Shizas down to just 11 HP left.
Python missed again, so Gray is our last ranged attacker in the area due to me messing around with Dyute earlier. He connects and brings Shizas down to 4 HP, low enough now for our stronger melee units to finish off in one hit.
Cleive gets the honor this time.
Nothing like a redundant crit to finish off a boss that took a combined five units to kill.
And some Speed for Cleive.
Time for Alm to draw another paladin into the death trap.
Alm's fast enough for two attacks on these guys, and just barely strong enough to bring them from a full 28 HP down to zero with those two attacks. Guess what that means?
With one paladin cleared out of the way, the other paladin is free to come in and impale itself on Alm's sword as well.
Already we can see that this chapter requires far more careful planning as a single lapse can cause a unit to get swarmed and overwhelmed pretty quickly. It doesn't help that Alm's group was (and will be from now on) facing an entire army of promoted units, with only one of their own (Matilda).
Celica combines the worst of both worlds - a swamp and a graveyard, all in one.