Part 4: Day 2: The Dredge
Vognir releases a caged yawn, and receives a hard-eyed stare in return.
How long to Grofheim?
Haah. We're only two days out of Strand, you know. Come, I'll show you on a map.
The world map! Let's take a look at the route of our journey.
This is the progress we've made since we left Strand. Soon, we will arrive at Vedrfell, a dismal city populated mostly by people who were cast out of Strand. From there, it's north past the Hanged Man to Schlid, a fort that used to be at the forefront of the war against the dredge, before they were pushed far to the north.
From Schlid, it's a long march east, between the Varslmarch and the Brattabreck Peaks, before we finally arrive at the varl capital of Grofheim.
There's a lot of great detail on this map that I'll go over later.
You should have drank last night, Ludin.
Why not take the ships to Skrymirstead? What's the point of marching?
The Silverstone bay is called that for a reason. It stays covered in ice all year, it would tear up the longships.
Too bad, though. We could have shown you all the wonders of Skrymirstead.
A half-sunken city crawling with dredge, prince. Dredge and glaciers. You like glaciers?
Ludin exhales through the nose a poor diguise for his contempt. He turns and bats aside the tent flaps as he goes, barking at his company in the distance.
Don't poke the anthill, Vognir. He seems no happier to be here than you.
Spend a few more days with the boy, old friend. You'll be looking for a tall cliff to hop off, too. Ludin's got a shorter wick than Hakon.
Thanks, Vognir. Let's get moving. Another half-day to Vedrfell if we're lucky.
This is what will replace the town view for much of the game: Camp. From here, we can train in mock battles, upgrade heroes, rest, or get back on the road.
Mock battles I will ignore, because they are basically useless. Resting wastes a day (and a day of supplies) in exchange for improving morale - I don't need to do that right now because our morale is at the highest level. So, let's check out the hero tent!
Remember how Gunnulf went down in our most recent battle? Well, here's the cost of it. If someone drops to 0 Strength during battle, they get Injured, and stay so for a number of days after the fight. Injured heroes can still be sent into battle, but their starting Strength is reduced. The amount that Strength drops and the duration of the injury vary based on factors I totally don't remember, but I'll update later if I figure it out.
For now, let's look at what we've got to work with.
Gunnulf is the only living varl from the group of bodyguards Ubin had when he first became the royal tax collector. As a Warhawk, he has massive Strength and the ability to hit multiple enemies with a single swing of his greatsword.
The number at the bottom of the screen is his kill count - it's reached 2, so I can Promote him if I want. I'll get back to that in a minute.
Ludin is the prince of the kingdom of men, and the only human among my heroes at the moment. While he lacks the great strength of his varl kin, his spear lets him attack at range and impale enemies, causing them to slowly bleed out over time.
Hakon is the muscle behind Vognir's leadership, a legendary war hero with a long history of victories. His axe can strike so hard that enemies near his target are caught up in the impact.
Mogr is the commander of Vognir's personal varl army. As a Shieldmaster, his huge Armor stat makes him nigh-impossible to kill, and he can strike back with Armor damage against every attack that comes his way.
Promoting a hero requires that they have enough kills for their next rank (2, in this case), and also requires spending Renown - 5 times their current Rank. Gunnulf is my only active hero with any kills, so let's make him a bit stronger.
Three things can happen upon Promotion. First, every rank up means 2 points to distribute among any stats other than Ability Rank. Second, at Ranks 3 and 5 (or thereabouts), Ability Rank automatically goes up, making their active ability more powerful - in Gunnulf's case, his Tempest becomes able to hit 3, then 4 enemies at once. Third, they gain the ability to equip more powerful items.
I have a hard and fast rule regarding point allocation that has never let me down: Everybody gets 2 Exertion and 2 Break. Those are the minimum requirements to function as a proper hero in my eyes. Gunnulf still isn't there, but a point into each brings him close.
There is one exception to this rule, but he won't be showing up for a long time.
That's all we can do for now, so time to hit the road once again. We're almost to Vedrfell, at any rate.
Welcome to Vedrfell! It's a shithole.
Couple days back, sent word to Strand about the cattle. Didn't expect an army!
He looks pleased with himself, until it sinks in that you aren't here on his behalf.
Where have you cattle gone?
Wouldn't know. My boys seen men up the hills carrying them away. Don't know many men who can hoist a whole cow by himself.
Skalfings out here, maybe? Could they have varl working for them?
Not from what the governor told me. I'm going to take a look around and get camp set up.
The peasant spits, his eyes anxiously darting about as the caravan sets up tents.
We'll be here no more than a day. There's silver for any food you've got.
For hundreds of varl? Are you serious?
Whatever you're willing to sell.
You thinking of squatting? Not enough room for a couple hunters here, forget hundreds of...
It's faint. Sounds like fighting and... something else. Hakon takes off at a run.
Ludin is getting himself into some trouble!
Starting off with a tutorial about setting waypoints - by clicking multiple times, I can dictate the specific route a unit takes to its destination. Not useful most of the time.
You've heard people talking about the dredge, and here they are. Ludin's attack bounces harmlessly off of the Brute's 15 Armor.
Against human thugs, I've been able to get away with just doing Strength attacks. That's about to change.
And in one blow, Ludin goes down. In case it was obvious, this was a bit of a scripted event.
But then the varl arrive! Now it's three on three, so let's see what we're up against.
Dredge Grunts, the smaller enemies, are only marginally more dangerous than thugs, with no particular special abilities. Their passive, Splinter, they share with all dredge, and I'll touch on it when it becomes relevant.
The Brute is far more dangerous - in addition to its massive 15 Armor and 16 Strength, it can summon more allies to the battle. Taking the Brute down is my top priority.
While I do need to get that Strength reduced before he starts carving chunks out of my army, attacking him right away is useless. None of my attacks will do meaningful damage through that armor.
Mogr and the two Grunts just advance, none of them fast enough to close distance with the other team.
I'd be tempted to break Armor again here, but the Brute's turn is next, and if I leave him at 16 Strength, he could hit Gunnulf back for 9 Strength damage, nearly taking him out in one shot. Fortunately, Gunnulf's massive Strength is enough to break through that thick Armor for 5 damage.
Honestly, the game is still largely playing nice at this point. With that last hit Gunnulf got it, none of the enemies have above 11 Strength - barely enough to scratch Hakon or Mogr before wearing their Armor down.
For some reason, I don't get my team's morale bonus for this fight. These two Armor hits burned through all of Hakon's will.
Just like last time, the enemy sees Gunnulf as the biggest threat and tries to swarm him down. I've got to get that guy some Armor.
Instead of attacking, I use Mogr's special ability, Bring the Pain! It does Break damage to one enemy's Armor, but that's not all...
Mogr's passive, Return the Favor, inflicts 1 Armor damage every time an enemy attacks him. For one full turn after using Bring the Pain, that's increased to 2!
Gunnulf's Strength is getting low, but thanks to the damage I've done to the Brute's Armor, he can still bring some decent hurt against it.
THIS is potentially dangerous. With its Strength reduced, the Brute isn't a real threat, but it still has its active ability, Tremble. If the Brute is still alive by the time its turn comes back up, a new Grunt will arrive on the battlefield.
However, it's worth noting that it only has 5 Armor and 7 Strength left, and Hakon has 14 Strength.
Thank you for cluttering up my screencaps, tutorials!
The Brute is down. the right Grunt carves another chunk out of Gunnulf.
Mogr continues to be unkillable.
That 70% there is the chance that Gunnulf would be Deflected if he tried a Strength attack here. I'd be worried about him suffering even more injuries, but mathwise, there's not a huge danger of it. The Grunt has 10 Strength and 1 Willpower. Gunnulf has 7 Armor and 5 Strength. Even if it goes all out, it can't quite drop him this turn.
While he won't be killing anything anytime soon, Armor attacks are unmodified by reduced Strength, so Gunnulf can still carve a good 3 Armor off.
1 strength left!
9 damage - one short of a kill, and Hakon's out of Willpower.
But wait! I got a star for my horn for killing that Brute! I can give anyone 1 point of will with it!
Grunt down. Hakon rank up. Pillage on.
Fun fact I picked up on while having to redo this fight due to an accidental quit: The AI is fully deterministic. It will always react the same way to the same situation.
I was trying... finding a... trying to get a shot in between the plates.
You never see a dredge before, boy? What kind of idiot... break their armor first!
Where did they come from?
We didn't even see them... they were just... there.
Hakon goes to where Vognir lies face down. The future varl king lies motionless, aside from a spreading pool of blood.
End of Chapter One