Part 22: Mountain BattleTwo days and seven hours left for the vote!
Chapter 15: Mountain Battle
(Or, "Inept Ambush")
Wait, Your Highness. We're moving too quickly, and we're becoming too spread-out. If the enemy were to attack now...
But we must liberate Seine as soon as possible, or we'll be facing a bleak future indeed.
That's true, but...
What!? Blast... Everyone, avoid getting bogged down in skirmishes! Get through the mountains!
I wonder how much training ??? actually has in battle tactics. He's good at single combat, certainly, but I doubt they exactly planned to send him out as a general. Anything that required actual military leadership is firmly out of body double territory.
From this perspective, I guess the more obtuse aspects of the battle system work out. In all likelyhood, a first-time player will be as bad at this as ??? should be!
Kay out, Igraine in. Cotton learns Thunder 3 (+2 levels), bringing it to 5 linear range. Igraine gets the two +4 Magic rings that Cotton's wearing and both a -Fire and a -Thunder medal.
Alhambra Card Quests: 4
I don't think there's another map quite like this one in Rondo of Swords.
You begin the map under siege, and the "deployment based on character recruitment order" detail bites you squarely in the ass here -- if you're using Elmer, Arios or Igraine, one of them is going to be at the very bottom of the map, right next to all of the Swordsmen. Cotton too, unless you're using Alhambra (or, for some bizarre reason, Rukia). The bottom is very definitely a place where you do not want magic-users to be.
It's a good thing Margus is guaranteed to start at the top of the map, because the Swordsmen are the first enemies in the game to have Null ZOC. When combined with their high Move, well, they can be a Problem. Our strongest defense is the strictly one-tile wide corridor, which we can use to cluster the party and decrease the number of enemies that can actually attack. That's part of the reason I'm using so many ranged attackers; we want to be sticking close as much as possible.
The top mage has Spark Edge, the middle two have Fire Raid, and the bottom Mage has White Dust. None of the Archers have skills, so they only have six range.
We also have a character with a unique sprite. I'll talk more about Shino when she joins (because of course she'll join). For now, just know that she's a hybrid Archer/Mage with relatively low attack and six range.
There's two conversations available at the start of this map.
Elmer and Alhambra
Everyone makes mistakes. Even him. So when that happens, we're here to fix it, right?
: Hey, I'm not making any promises.
So you're saying you can't handle opponents of this caliber?
: What did you say!? Who do you think you're talking to!?
: ...Hmph. You watch... I'll beat these Imperial weaklings.
Haha, that's the spirit. With that attitude, we can't lose!
Elmer and Serdic
Hey, this stupid ambush is all your fault.
I'm sorry, Elmer. I didn't think it would turn out this way...
The trouble we're in isn't gonna go away just 'cause you apologize. If you have time to make excuses, you have time to get everyone together and get outta here.
You should go first. It's the adults' responsibility to slow the enemy down.
Are you saying I'm a kid? Haw! Which of us is acting like a kid? You're the one sitting here and sulking, just 'cause you got caught off guard. If you're such an adult, then act lke one.
...You're right. Let's evacuate everyone as fast as we can. Thank you, Elmer.
Serdic begins by retreating to the square north of Marie and Margus moves just north of him.. ZOC priority order on Holy Favor, and if Igraine retreats north as far as she can...
...a level 4 Holy Favor has just enough reach to rescue her and bring her next to Marie.
Cotton and Ansom kill the Fire Raid Mages. It's the most dangerous spell in play, so it's the priority.
During the enemy turn, both mages pass turn without casting. (This is downright bizarre, because the Spark Edge mage is 4 away from Margus and that's very definitely in range. I can only assume that they're set not to act turn one, since the northern enemies don't move either.)
Cotton kills the closer Swordsman and is also wisked to safety by level 4 Holy Favor.
(I picked level 4 Holy Favor more-or-less at random. It was a "sure, seems good!" skill level. I can only conclude that I am even more awesome at this game than previously believed.)
Isn't that range beautiful? Abyss Gate level 3 has as much range and barely less power than level 5 White Dust. Igraine kills the Mage with one spell.
Ansom kills the other northern-most Swordsman. That's two down already. He's in range of arrowfire, but I'm not really that worried.
He also hits level 3 OB. +25% OB is not the biggest card bonus in the world, but there's definitely applications for it.
Margus is not wearing the Black Ring right now because I am a moron (it's still on Ansom), so I shuffle the group around a bit. This will let him move back into place and face the cavalry with his side and front exposed instead of his back and front.
Yes, you can't rotate in place. Yes, this adds kind of a dumb wrinkle to positioning. Just roll with it.
(If you're wondering why Margus can only seem to walk four tiles forward, that's because Marie's standing on a Wasteland tile -- -15% defense, 2 movement cost. This is very much in your favor, making it even harder to attack you.)
Ansom takes a hit. Thankfully, that's only about a third of his HP.
Some shuffling around ensues.
Then Ansom uses a level 3 OB to kill the rest of the Swordsmen and three of the Archers. Then Marie carries him off to safety with Holy Favor yet again.
Holy Favor is really, REALLY good, guys.
Igraine uses a Moon Dew (40% MP restoration) on Marie.
This whole "pincer attack" thing would be working so much better if I hadn't already wiped out your southern squad. And if, y'know, you would actually attack.
I'm kind of underwhelmed.
Oh, Abyss Gate. You are the best.
Two Armors are lined up below Cotton, so this is a good time to show off Thunder.
It's pretty good damage, but you aren't usually in a situation to use it.
Shino is recruited by talking to her with Serdic while Marie is on the field, so Serdic moves down to prepare for that.
I have no idea what additional levels in Martyr do. I've seen it restore 300+ MP at really low skill levels, and Marie really doesn't have the HP or MP to heal more than that -- I'm pretty sure it's a 1-1 ratio even at higher levels. (If I'm wrong, then it's even more amazing and more levels in it should be a priority.) So it's probably going to stay at level 2 for quite a while.
Ansom kills the upper Armor. He's level 15 now; I'll probably send him for promotion next map. If nothing else, promotion means Invoke Might, and he's got a lot of unused skill points.
Shino attacks Serdic for 39 damage. I am unimpressed.
Serdic moves to talk to Shino.
I'm sorry, but your life is at its end. Prepare yourself.
I've never seen such clothes before... who in blazes are you?
Just a mercenary with orders to kill you all.
You may try, but I won't let you lay a hand on Marie!
...She's important to you, is she?
Do you and Marie seriously have to do this every single time someone says the other one is important to you? You're both really bad at this cover story thing.
Wh-What's with that look?
You're a funny one. You make me think of that girl...
That girl? So you have someone dear to you as well.
She's a hostage of the Empire. She's the reason I have to kill you all... but I don't feel like it anymore. I quit. I'll just have to rescue her somehow.
Why don't you come along with us?
Are you serious?
It would be easier with allies than it would be on one's own, right? And for our part, another helping hand is always welcome.
...You're one of the good guys, aren't you? Sure, I'll come along.
Now that Shino's been recruited, two more conversations open up.
Shino and Margus
The east. Are you interested in my clothes?
Not just your clothes, but the woman inside them as well.
You're about three steps ahead of yourself, soldier.
Oh, that's not good. Umm... would you like to have dinner tonight?
It's no use backpedaling!
Shino and Owl
East? You mean the Empire? I've never seen that kind of outfit there.
Further east. Where I come from, even the name Grand Meir is unknown.
That's pretty far. I've heard of merchants coming from the east every now and then, but...
Are you originally from Grand Meir, Owl?
Hmm? Uhh, well, I guess there's no use denying it.
Do you ever feel like going back?
Nah. There's nothing in the Empire for me anymore.
I see. I do feel like going hom sometimes... No matter how far I wander, I can't forget about it.
...Maybe you got a point there.
Cotton uses her OB. She now has the MP for four more Fire Dragons. See what I mean about her MP?
Ansom and Cotton have low range, so I start to rearrange things. Cotton will move next to Igraine next turn. I'll rely on Shino to take care of the Mage; she has more than enough Magic to tank a spell or two.
As a ranged attacker, Shino kind of has damage problems.
Serdic moves up to rejoin the group (and do nothing in particular; I don't want him overleveled).
Ansom uses his OB. Level 1 is weaker than his normal attack, but it brings the enemy down to killable health for Igraine and Marie can heal the scratch. Everyone's happy! (Even Margus; he probably didn't even notice the attack.)
Now, I could show you the rest of what happens, but...
...the enemy barely dents Margus (it'd take 13+ attacks to kill him) and I've got three ranged attackers and a healer. You can pretty much guess how this goes.
(Igraine's low MP means I do have to use a Moon Dew and get a bit creative with Storm Rave, but it's still not very interesting.)
When used, the Hero Gem instantly gives the user one full level of OB. I'm honestly not sure whether Cotton's Blessing (+item healing) works on it.
It's all right, Your Highness. We understand how you feel. If anything, we should apologize for not being able to stop you. Once we cross the Grassgo Plains on the other side of Mount Swain, Seine will be before our eyes.
Before we finish this map, let's take a look at our newest recruit.
Fuuma Kunai: A kunai crafted specifically for ease of use.
A ninja from an island nation far to the east. She travels with Izuna on her wanderings and thinks of her as a little sister.
Card Quests: Move + 1 (3x), OB rate +25% (6x)
Shino is the second of the game's three recruitable crossover characters, hailing from Legend of the Unemployed Ninja. (No prize for guessing who number three is.) Much like Cotton, she never promotes. Shino occupies a very odd place as a character: She's an archer type, working the same way as Ansom, but she learns three spells. One of them is a copy of Storm Rave, one of them is a better Ignite Lore (it hits a square instead of a diamond) and the third is a cheaper Holy Favor with a little less range.
The problem is that she just doesn't have the stats to do anything particularly well. Her spells are decently strong, but they're situational and she has low magic to use them with, her physicals aren't even strong enough to kill mages (unless she crits; she does have a fairly impressive base 15% crit rate), and she's definitely not going to tank. Her skills don't change any of that, at least not by enough. (I'm somewhat baffled by her learning Stand Fast. It doesn't add flat numbers, it's based on a percentage of base defense. She is never going to have the defense to get more than a few points from it, even maxed. It's weird.)
She does have one neat gimmick, should you be of a mind: She learns Sprint, and her combination of ten move and a Holy Favor equivalent means that she's very good at serving as taxi service, helping slower units keep up with everyone else. The problem is that while ferrying a Mage into the middle of a group and then blowing them to hell with a clever AOE is awesome, it's not enough to justify her presence. If you had more than six character slots then it'd be a cool gimmick, but you don't. So she gets benched.
The Pochi Photo in her inventory works like a character-specific Gem, giving OB to Shino and Izuna. I'd sell it instead -- those two have OBs that might be useful, but they're absurdly situational.
Total resets so far: 8 (+0)
Next time: Young Lions