Gameplay Strategies


Strategy Guide

This article was originally a forum post by veteran multiplayer Jomungur.  I've reprinted it here and have--from time to time--added my own comments and strategies. My comments are in italics.

~ Angel Draco ~

Preface: I’m leaving the AoW multiplayer scene pretty soon, so I thought I’d leave behind a little offering for newbies and anyone who’s interested. Most of the strategies and observations are from numerous multiplayer games, a lot of them from the Starlance League. Multiplayer AoW is a lot different from single player, so the information below may not be helpful for single player games.

Multiplayer AoW games vary widely, depending on the options. The option that will affect the game the most is whether you leave leaders on the map or off. If you leave them on, you have to be prepared for the enemy having a "superhero" unit (i.e., a hero with 10 attack, 10 defense and one or more stun strikes). This drastically changes the game, as many superheroes can wade through armies of level 1 and 2 units and sometimes higher ones. Later on I’ll share some strategies for designing your own superhero leader, but for right now just keep in mind that if you play with leaders on, it is likely you’ll have to deal with it. This can lead to some annoying situations, especially if you don’t like the whole game being centered on a few units.

Leaving leaders off usually results in a slower paced, more balanced game that many find appealing.  Superheroes can develop, but only in the very late game and they will have less deadly special abilities, which makes them easier to take down. The disadvantage of leaders off is it makes it harder for weaker races (either by troop quality or starting placement in a scenario) to catch up with stronger races; leaders can often act as an equalizing factor to help weaker races win a fight.

The other option that will significantly affect the game is whether TC (tactical combat) is always allowed, or only vs. humans. In most multiplayer games, TC is only allowed versus other human players, which means you have to use FC (fast combat) against independents. I prefer the latter only because of time’s sake, and also because if you’re playing with leaders on it keeps people from building up their leaders too fast (by using TC and just using their leader on fights they wouldn’t take on in FC). In any case, it’s worth getting used to FC and how it works even if you choose TC always. If you insist on using TC every single battle, you’ll probably run out of players who are patient enough to play with you. The main thing to keep in mind is that playing with TC always allowed will result in a faster developing game (although ironically the real-time length of the game will be longer) because having to play FC versus independents makes most players more conservative.

Taking down the superhero
There’s no definite way to take out a leader who has 10 attack and defense, many hit points, cold and lightning strike and other goodies. But here are some ways I use that have been successful:

Leader building strategies
If you’re playing with leaders on (and customizing them), it’s important to build the best one you can. Leaders are key not only because of themselves, but because they can help you amass independent cities faster, increasing your wealth and allowing better quality troops to come out faster. Getting out some level four units a few turns earlier than your opponent can make a big difference. More importantly, your leader is your most vulnerable target. If he dies, you’re dead, so it’s worth building a strong one.

There are lots of ways to design a good leader, a lot of which depend on the map and which units you think you’ll face. For example, Snow Concealment is a great pick on the Icedale map, although useless on a lot of other maps. But aside from map specific concerns, the best leaders can optimally handle all kinds of situations.

With that in mind, here a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How is your leader going to deal with flyers?

  • How is your leader going to deal with ranged units?

  • Is your leader going to be able to deal with an early rush of level one units by your opponent?

  • Can your leader handle going 1 on 1 with an enemy leader, both in the early game and later on (this happens a lot in multiplayer games)?

In a competitive multiplayer game, building leaders is all about how fast you can advance them. I’ve found I can build leaders faster than anyone I play, so here are some strategies I’ll share:

There is a snowball effect when playing with leaders that is important to understand, especially in multiplayer. The faster you advance your leader, the stronger he gets. The stronger he gets, the faster you can advance him. So a little edge in the early game can really make a big difference by
day 20, when your leader is level 15 and your opponent is level 10. That’s 50 extra leader points to spend!

Defense is probably the most important statistic for a leader. Assign at least 7 defense to your leader, preferably 9. A 10 defense is not necessary in the beginning, it’s not better than 9 when most troops you’ll face have low attack values. I don’t think boosting Spell Casting is worth it in multiplayer games, until you get to level 12 or so. Spells are not powerful or reliable enough in combat to justify spending points on spell casting.

Spell caster heroes also don’t advance nearly as fast as melee heroes, which will hurt you later on. This isn’t to say that spells are useless—they can make a big difference—but Spell Casting I should be all you need in the early game.

Strongly consider taking either cold strike or lightning strike. These strikes make a big difference at any stage of the game, regardless of whether you’re facing a horde of level 1 troops or a few really good ones. I prefer lightning strike because of its greater chance to stun an opponent. Cold strike disables a unit for 3 turns, but has a much lower percentage of freezing an opponent. If you have leader points to burn, you might consider taking both although I don’t think it’s worth it.

One overlooked skill is Regeneration. I always take it. It lets you build your leader extremely quick, because you don’t have to spend time and mana healing yourself between turns. If your opponent doesn’t take it, you’re almost assured of advancing faster than him.

First Strike is the second most important skill IMO after Regeneration. It is incredibly powerful, especially late in the game with superheroes. First Strike combined with Lightning Strike is an awesome combination and will prevent most of your melee opponents from ever laying a glove upon you! For this reason it is often banned. If you can pick up a magic weapon with First Strike though, hold on to it for dear life!

You may also want to consider picking a resistance depending on the race you’re going up against as they don’t cost many skill points (5-10). If you’re fighting Orcs, take Fire Protection to help you when fighting dragons. If you’re fighting the Undead, take Death Resistance to protect against Reapers and Black Dragons. Take Cold Protection if you’re fighting the Frostlings. Poison Protection is an excellent resistance to have as many races have a race with a poison attack (Orcs, Goblins, Lizardmen, Azracs) and if you’re poisoned, it will disable your Regeneration power.

Lifestealing is a good pick, also, although I don’t take it. It’s 15 points but is superb for those battles when your leader is by himself taking on hordes of level 1 units. It can also be a real lifesaver in the beginning of the game. It’s not so great if you’re facing just a few high level troops or another powerful leader, though, who can dish out 6-10 damage per strike.

Dominate is a favorite skill of mine. At 15 points, it’s expensive but I prefer it to Life stealing. Late in the game, there is nothing sweeter than capturing those level 3 units of the enemy’s and turning them against their former owner. You can also dominate heroes! A favorite tactic of mine is to combine Dominate with First Strike and Lightning Strike. The enemy will attack me, but I will stun it, and can then attempt to dominate it with no fear of retaliation. You really need to have the Bards Skill or a unit with Bards Skill to keep those dominated units of an opposing alignment from revolting on you. Dominate is not as effective in FC because the computer will try and dominate everything, even if the enemy has a 10 resistance. It is much more effective in PBEMs when you will be fighting the computer rather than another human 75% of the time.

A range attack is definitely worth considering. It’s generally more useful in FC than TC, but in multiplayer you’ll have to deal with FC a lot. Not only will it let you deal with flyers in FC (except air elementals, unless you have a wand or doom gaze), it gives you some free shots before you engage in melee. I think hurl stones is the best range attack, since it gives you 4 shots of 5 attack and 3 damage when you get Marksmanship IV. A few of these will help even against Syrons in FC. Experiment with it, but I think you’ll find a range attack really helps in FC. If you get a range attack, keep in mind you need to get to Marksmanship III (preferably IV) as soon as possible. This is because in FC, your leader will use the range attack a lot, even if you have good melee stats; if you don’t get Marksmanship III, you are going to hurt your chances in FC. Also, Marksmanship applies to all your range attacks, so if you choose hurl stones in the beginning of the game and get Marksmanship IV, and then find a magic wand, your magic bolts will now have a 9 attack and 5 damage ... not bad!

Hurl Stones (like Dominate and Lifestealing) is only available in the initial selection processes. If you don’t want Hurl Stones, you can pick up a ranged attack (archer, poison darts) later in the game and spend your initial points on some other skill.

Don’t pick Lifestealing and a range attack, at least not in the beginning of the game. Your lifestealing will be useless in FC, since your leader will always use the range attack on his turn and Lifestealing only works in melee when you’re attacking. Having a range attack also lets you deal with air galleys ... without a range attack you are in serious trouble when facing an air galley.

If you’re going to be fighting the undead, but aren’t going to be choosing any Life magic spheres, consider taking the Path of Life skill so that you can regenerate the land around your cities if a Reaper walks by with its Path of Decay ability. Otherwise, you will be in serious financial trouble long after the Reaper is killed because your cities can’t grow any farms on eh corrupted land and therefore seriously impacts the amount of gold you will get from those cities.

If you get to assign a lot of leader points when customizing your leader (75 or more), consider spending 20 points just on movement in the beginning. It’s really only worth it if you choose air magic so you’ll have haste; a hasted leader with 46 movement and regeneration can fly across the map and build up extremely quick. Because of the snowball effect described above, you’ll advance far faster than your opponent. The extra movement is also handy in the late game; it can bail you out of tight situation and let you defend strategic points with greater ease. And in TC it’s nice because you can move with unbelievable range.

Assigning leader points as you gain levels is a difficult art to master, but usually makes a big difference. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Raise your defense to 9 or 10 as fast as you can.

  • If you have First Strike + Lightning Strike, you should build up your defense to 4 and then pump up you attack rating to 7 or 8, because with First Strike, the higher attack rating means you’ll have a greater chance of hitting the opponent and stunning them before the enemy even gets a chance to swing at you, therefore your defense doesn’t even come into play.

  • If you have a range attack, build marksmanship before melee attack unless you think you’ll fight an enemy leader soon, in which case attack will be more useful than marksmanship.

  • Don’t neglect hit points, they’re extremely important...even having 12 instead of 10 makes a big difference in FC. Basically, if you know it will be awhile before you face an enemy leader, then concentrate on hit points and your range attack: these will help you in FC, which help you advance faster.

  • When fighting an enemy leader, attack and resistance become very important. If you have a low resistance you’re likely to get screwed if you get hit by another leader; they’ll usually have at least one deadly strike ability that will test your resistance (cold, lightning strike, ect.).

  • Do not underestimate the value of Parry and Round Attack. Both only cost 5 skill points and are incredibly valuable. Parry lowers the enemy’s attack by 2, and Round Attack doesn’t let the enemy get in a retaliatory strike. Plus, you can attack multiple opponents when they surround your hero.

  • Your damage value can make a big difference in any combat, but it’s so expensive I wouldn’t focus on it until late in the game. Hopefully you can pick up some artifacts and spells that will help your damage.

  • Think twice, even three times, before going at it with an enemy leader 1 on 1. There’s just too much luck involved to make it a sure thing, even if you have a few levels on him. I almost never attack a leader 1 on 1 even if I’m stronger; I usually try to bring some heavy-duty backup which
    can make a big difference. It just isn’t sound strategy to make a move where you have a 20% or 30% of losing the game due to luck. On the other hand, lots of people seem to like to attack your leader 1 on 1 so you do need to be prepared for such a fight if it happens. And if
    you’re losing big, sometimes you have to roll the dice and just risk it if the opportunity becomes available.

Once you develop a super strong leader, you may find yourself having to deal with the other side of the coin: your opponent also has a super strong leader. Because of what I mentioned, it’s rarely worth it to go 1 on 1 with an enemy leader. Here are some my strategies for tackling enemy leaders that are super-tough:

  • Air galleys. This is the most reliable hero killer I’ve found. It doesn’t have morale, and human cities tend to be on most maps so it’s available a lot. Many heroes don’t have a range attack or high HP, so they are helpless against this level 4 unit. Even with a range attack, heroes find it tough to fight them. A gold level air galley had a high defense, tons of hit points and Marksmanship III with ballista bolts. Ballista bolts, if they connect, do an incredible amount of damage. See more on ballista’s below. It’s helped by the fact that players who go for the superhero strategy tend to go right into enemy territory without backup forces, making them prone to an galley coming at them. If you can, cast liquid form, bless and enchanted weapon on your galleys to make them almost unstoppable to enemy archers and ballista.

  • Entangle spell. A lot of super heroes will concentrate on defense and attack, neglecting their resistance. Entangle has a high attack value, so even with an 8 resist you have a 50% of being entangled. Remember that Entangle can be dispelled by a cleric of a second hero if you have one.

  • Nature Elementals. NE’s have the most deadliest attack in the game: Entangle Strike. It has a high-percentage to hit and incapacitates you for 3 turns. Because of this, NE’s have gained the reputation as "hero killers." A 20th level hero should fear a single NE, let alone a pack of them, who possibly have had Stone Skin, Bless, and Enchanted Weapon cast upon them.

  • Dispel Magic. I’ve won many fights with this spell. Heroes will beef themselves up with spells like Bless, Enchant Weapon, Stone Skin, Dark Gift, and Liquid Form. Dispel Magic only costs 5 mana, has unlimited range in TC, and has the potential to wipe all these enchantments away in one shot. I’ve had leaders who had 10 attack and 10 defense drop to 9 attack and 7 defense, which makes a big difference. Earth magic users seem particularly susceptible, since they often rely on stone skin with that extra +2 defense. This is a perfect spell if you have a secondary caster in the mix. Dispel magic is also useful to take away entangle and other effects from your own leader. If you’re fighting on the water and you Dispel the Water Walking from your opponent, all you have to do is retreat and he’ll die of drowning once the global screen comes up.

  • Ballistas. A lot of heroes also neglect raising their hit points. If you have a defense of 10 and are hit by a ballista, it will do maximum damage every time (try it for yourself). Ballistas get two shots, which makes them good for taking out leaders. 3 Ballistas have an 11% chance of killing a leader with 10 defense and 10 hit points in the first round (if they get their shots off)! This is part of the reason why ballistas are so devastating in FC.

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