The Let's Play Archive

Might & Magic: Heroes VI

by ApplesandOranges

Part 7: Stronghold Campaign, Map One, Part Two

Neutral stacks can have 4 types of encounters: attack you on sight, attempt to flee, offer to join, or offer to join for a price. In the last 3 cases, letting them do what they want gives you 10 Tears reputation points and avoids the fight, but you only get a fraction of the EXP you would have earned. Attacking them anyway gives you 8 Blood points.

There are a few more stacks of free Maulers and a stat boost along the way, and we get Sandor to level 3.

The Stronghold is the only faction that has access to 6 of the 7 spell schools; everyone else gets 5. This also means they are the only faction with access to all 3 healing spells: Heal, Regeneration and Drain Life. However, they miss out on the Prime school, which is one of the most important ones at high levels for its utility and mana conservation spells. Sandor's a Might hero, so we won't have to go that far to see the detriment, thankfully. I pick up Drain Life, which converts 25% of the selected stacks' damage into health, and it doesn't work on Undead. Perfect for our high-offense troops.

Our first town is right around the bend (a Haven one, but we'll soon fix that) guarded by a small army.

The Stronghold's racial ability is Blood Rage. Unlike Guardian Angel, which had a uniform buff on one unit that required higher levels to be cast on stronger units, Blood Rage applies its buffs to all your units at once, with the strength of the buff improving in levels. At its first level, it gives a +5 initiative bonus for one turn. At the second level (available at level 5), it also gives them a +10% boost to Might damage.

It's also fairly easy to fill the gauge, as it's boosted by damage; whether your units get hurt or the enemies get hurt, it'll fill the gauge, and Sandor's own melee attacks will fill up the gauge (and fill it more as he grows in levels).

One convert later...

The Stronghold town screen.

There's a small cul-de-sac just south of our starting town. Approach it and we see some Praetorians guarding our next Core unit.

Really? I thought Orcs just ran in screaming and went crazy.

Only the young ones. Heh heh heh.

Choosing the Tears option skips the fight entirely, but loses us a Sawmill (not that important in the grand scheme of things). Choosing Blood forces us to fight them anyway. The Blood option would be the smartest choice, since we get more exp and a resource, but we're going Tears, so Tears it is.

Name is Sandor. Son of Griffin duke. Enemy of Wolf duke.

Uh, Sandor... Orcs and Goblins call Humans 'babyteeth'. Laught at useless little Human teeth Humans. Insult. But uh, nice insult.

I've been called a lot worse. Hey goblin, what's your name?

Ah, yeah. You call me 'Goink'.

(Stifled laughter)

Goink, have you heard about a captive woman? Wife of the Wolf duke? She maybe came through as a prisoner?

Nah, Goink knows nothing. Sorry, Shangy. Will go ask around.

Hey, Sandor. In goblin tongue, 'Goink' means 'handsome'.

We can now also build the Goblin slums in town. But first, time to check our new Core troop.

Biography posted:

Goblins are “degenerate” Orcs, who were originally “failures” in the Orc experiment, born from the blood of lesser demons (mostly Imps). Their fertility being inversely proportional to their physical and intellectual capacities, they have multiplied like rodents. Goblins are small, scraggy, physically weak, but very swift and agile. Devious and cowardly, they rarely attack unless they greatly outnumber their opponents, preferring sneak attacks and
(poorly constructed) booby traps. They will usually run from any show of force. In the Orc armies, Goblins serve as servants, scouts and skirmishers.

    Damage: 2-3 (Might)
    Defense: 3 (7%)
    Magic Defense: 3 (7%)
    Health: 19
    Initiative: 40
    Movement: 5 (Walking)
    Range: Half
    Destiny: 5
    Morale: 4
    Cost: 75
    Growth: 12/week
    Abilities: Crippling Traps, Demonic Lineage, Living

Crippling Traps posted:

“You don’t fight Goblins, you hunt them down. They have no sense of honour, and no proper place on Ashan.” The Emperor Connor III, who is famous for calling an end to the Orc Crusades, had initially wanted to exclude Goblins from the treaty. He had nearly lost a leg in a Goblin trap, and whenever he had encountered them on the battlefield, he felt there was no glory to be had in besting them.

Crippling Traps is our first ability to have a cooldown - after you use it, you have to wait 3 turns to use it again. It sets a trap on any tile of your choice that triggers when an enemy stack walks over it, dealing minor amounts of damage and slowing the enemy down by 4 tiles for that turn.

Goblins are not strong creatures. Their damage is pretty low, and they also suffer from half range. They do have upsides. The first is their high initative, allowing you to more likely make the first move. The second is their high growth rate. For comparison, Maulers have a growth of 6/week. While this doesn't make them as strong as Maulers, Goblins are decent once you pick up certain artifacts, and at the very least they have a lot of health for the enemy to burn through.

We also get a main quest at this point, to free 3 other slave camps, before the gate to find Irina opens.

The game intends us to head south of our first camp to free two other sets of slaves. Instead, we're going to head east, because the Red Haven faction is right there, and if left alone too long they're going to start hounding us.

Aside from standard stat boosts that give +1 to a stat, there are also Arenas like these, that offer a +2 to either Might or Might Defense, and gives 25 reputation points as well (Blood gets Might, Tears get Might Defense). You don't get any exp from Arena battles, but you also don't lose any troops (any troops lost from the arena are returned to you afterwards, and the same goes for mana). This one's too strong for us now, but we'll come back to it later.

Maybe Sandor is curious. Many years ago Orcs were created by Wizards of the Silver Cities to fight Demons. Goblins created first, though. Wizards say failed experiment. Too stupid, too weak. But Goblins are tough, goblins are loyal. Maybe mean, maybe dumb, but loyal. Orcs have saying. 'One goblin better than three husbands.' Heh heh heh.

I don't like slavers any more than I like the Wolf themselves. We'll free all the Orcs we come across, Kraal. And kill all the jailors.

Just into Red's first territory are a group of friendly Stronghold troops, guarded by a mixed neutral pack (Earth Elementals, Air Elementals and Wolves).

Careful, Kunyakti. Harpy-birds and Centaur horses poop all over the place!

The battle's not too hard, though troop conservation for the Stronghold starts to show at this point. In any case, we rescue both troops and can take a look at them.

Biography posted:

In the year 512 YSD, the Wizards of the Seven Cities created the Beastmen as guards, servants, and “playthings”. Half-human and half-bird of prey, Harpies were originally used as scouts, messengers and skirmishers in the Wizards’
armies. They won their freedom along with the Orcs, who adopted them as allies, considering them to be favored children of Father Sky. Very different characteristics have evolved in Harpies born from such diverse species as ravens, eagles, or vultures. The Harpies who settled in the Pao islands were created from various tropical raptors native to the Eastern jungles, which explains their multi-colored plumage.

    Damage: 4-6 (Might)
    Defense: 2 (5%)
    Magic Defense: 4 (9%)
    Health: 29
    Initiative: 45
    Movement: 6 (Flying)
    Range: None
    Destiny: 7
    Morale: 7
    Cost: 110
    Growth: 8/week
    Abilities: Strike and Return, Living

Strike and Return posted:

“Follow them to where they nest! Or you’ll never be rid of them.” The Barons and Dukes of the Holy Empire know the tactics of the Harpy all too well. During the Orc Crusades they were a detested opponent, harassing both reserves and front lines at will. One had to observe closely their position and rush them to their point of origin in order to fight them effectively on solid ground.

Strike and Return causes the Harpy to return to its previous location after it attacks. Retaliation is suffered first if there is one.

The Harpy, to be honest, is not a very good creature. It's essentially a weaker Mauler, with the added advantage of being able to fly and have better movement and initative. They are the only Stronghold flyer, which means they can travese walls and obstacles, and their high initiative is an advantage. However, they are too weak to carry out any form of serious siege offense, and high initiative doesn't help them too much when they can't take retaliation hits other than magical ones as well. They do have one good use though, which I'll talk about in a bit. One other note is that the Harpy is one of two Stronghold troops without the Demonic Lineage trait, which means they won't have that vulnerability to Light.

The main Stronghold Core isn't too much to boast about. Maulers are really the only solid troop, while the Harpy is too weak and the Goblin suffers from range issues. You'll rely mostly on keeping your Maulers alive early on.

Biography posted:

Like the Harpies, Centaurs are Beastmen, created by the Wizards of the Seven Cities in the year 512 YSD. Half-human and half-horse, the Centaurs were originally given the menial tasks of carrying messages, pulling carts and
working in the mines. They willingly joined the Revolt of the Orcs and scattered across the face of Ashan, seeking space, dignity, and freedom. They get along well with Orc tribes and have become their most valuable allies, out of common interest and likemindedness.

    Damage: 14-16 (Might)
    Defense: 8 (18%)
    Magic Defense: 10 (21%)
    Health: 70
    Initiative: 50
    Movement: 6 (Walking)
    Range: Full
    Destiny: 7
    Morale: 7
    Cost: 625
    Growth: 3/week
    Abilities: Manoeuvre, Vigiliant Scout, Large Creature, Living

Maneouvre posted:

“Both our flanks were chasing centaurs and our lines grew too thin. When the center broke, the battle was over in three short breaths.” The Wizards of the Seven Cities recorded numerous battle reports in the years following the Orc rebellion. These lines were of note, because the first to mention what would appear to demonstrate tactical intelligence on the behalf of the Centaurs. They refused to fight hand-to-hand combat, and chasing them down considerably weakened their enemy’s lines.

If the Centaur suffers a melee attack from which it can retaliate, it will attempt to Maneouvre to a safe spot and shoot at the attacker for full damage.

Vigilant Scout posted:

“Charge with your shields raised high!” This command usually means one thing: Imperial Sentinels are being asked to charge a contingent of Centaurs. The Centaur Beastmen were created by the Wizards of the Seven Cities originally to pull carts of supplies on the battlefield, but when trained as archers their true utility was quickly discovered. They are among the best harassing units on all of Ashan, and it takes tactical expertise to outflank them.

Vigiliant Scount allows the Centaur to get a free unprompted shot at the first enemy stack that moves within range (walking distance). Multiple stacks can fire at the same stack. This only works if the troop stops at a tile that is not directly around the centaur. If the enemy would strike and return like the Harpy, they are shot at mid-flight before they attack.

Hey, our first Elite creature! And Centaurs are finally female, after 3 or 4 games of being an all-male race.

Centaurs are solid ranged creatures with an offense to boot, though they suffer from poor defenses. Their initiative is fantastic and their abilites allow them to always realiate for full damage. While they are solid (if frail) creatures, they are an absolute magnet for enemy attacks, as the AI will almost always target Centaurs if able to, and their low growth rate is also discouraging.

You can also build both Harpies and Centaurs in town, though the Centaur requires Crystal (which we don't have a realiable source of yet) so it'll have to wait.

At least my garments will be replaced. You'll be burned in yours.

We're not attacking the town just yet, though. We go around and fight off an enemy stack (getting to level 5 in the process, and picking up the Toughness passive skill, which improves the health of all our creatures by 3%), and freeing another group of orc slaves.

I don't like that... weapons!

And after the fight...

Kraaal! Good to see you! Good to be free under Father Sky. Who babyteeth?

Sandor. Son of Slava.

You're free to go, or come with us. I'm looking for my sister. Slava's daughter, Irina. She was forced to marry Gerhart.

Nn. Even in mines, hear story. Don't know where Irina is. But orcs follow Sandor. Find Irina. And if Orcs kill Wolf fighters to find Irina, is okay. Orcs still sleep well.

Maybe sleep better. Heh heh heh.

There's a subterrainean tunnel just behind them that leads to two stacks of free Maulers, and an Ore Mine and Gold Mine (they're under our territory, too, so they're free to grab). I only grab one stack before heading up though, since if the enemy AI doesn't see your hero near his town he thinks he's free to leave it and chase after yours (which we don't want). As long as we have a hero near their town, the AI will park theirs in it, thinking it will give them an advantage.

I'm going to be honest: the Orcs are terrible at siege combat. Goblins do 1/4 of their damage thanks to Half Range and castle walls. Centaurs are better, but we only have low numbers and we don't have Reinforcement II yet. Drain Life is also less effective since we're only doing half damage. Harpies are too weak to fight over the walls, and Maulers are stuck till the walls go down, and even then, you're somewhat at the mercy of the luck of the Catapult. The solution?

Click here to watch the full battle (YouTube via Polsy)

Maulers. Maulers are our sturdiest troop, thanks to their high health, high damage, and a 25% resistance to ranged attacks. By deploying them as our main stack to draw enemy fire, we greatly reduce loss of troops. You might also notice the three 1-unit Harpy stacks. Other than giving us an initiative boost to ensure the first move in every round (handy for using Reinforcements or Bloodrage), the Harpy is also, oddly enough, the perfect troop for breaking down walls. The Strike and Return ability means you don't have many troops clogging up the walls, and since each stack deals the same damage no matter what, you can just have multiple weak stacks doing your work. The Wall has 9 health, so 3 rounds is all it takes for 3 Harpies. After that, charge your Maulers in, throw on a Drain Life and play clean-up. As you can see, I had minimal losses after the battle.

Next time: we free the rest of the slaves, mop up the rest of the Red troops, and go rescue Irina.