Mission 46 - Nightmare
Posted on 10/28/04 @ 12:00 AM (updated 04/12/05
The link above will download a saved game just before victory for you to look over, including the layout I used for my castle. All castles are still standing with each lord still alive and under "house arrest". To mark this map as completed on the trail you can achieve victory by using the group of 20 macemen at each castle to kill each lord. It's highly recommended you play it yourself, however.
Most screen shots are shown with north up, just as the map is presented to you when first loading the mission. A few have different orientations, but all are marked with a compass rose.
You face six lords allied against you in this mission, The Sultan, The Rat, The Snake, The Pig, Saladin and Richard I. They each have 2,000 gold, and you have the same. The map is cut in half by a huge irregularly shaped marsh running east to west. This has left a large desert area in the north central and west, a slightly smaller one in the southwest, and two marsh-surrounded islands, one in the northeast and another in the southeast. You are situated in the north central area closely surrounded by the Sultan, Rat, and Snake. Your more dangerous enemies, Richard, Saladin, and the Pig are more distant and their travel time to you is slowed by the huge marsh.
Resources are scarce and everybody suffers. This means that while you will struggle to build your settlement, your enemies will experience likewise and stay relatively weak. Survive their feeble attacks in the early years, expand utilizing all the available resources, and you will easily reign in this area.
When played correctly this is not a really hard mission. It's not without its pitfalls, however. While early attacks are quite weak, so are you, and without due care you can easily be overrun and defeated or end up in a long drawn out struggle. Fail to build a good economy and you will have an uphill effort throughout. Build well and you can leisurely toy with your enemies.
This mission also presents an additional, rather unique tactic that I stumbled on quite by accident while playing. Have you ever wondered what would happen in a one on one unhindered death match between your lord and another lord? Well if you feel like chancing it, you can arrange it in this mission.
Your challenge here is to get a decent economy up and running despite low starting gold, meager supplies, and difficult to harvest resources. There is a large iron deposit nearby and quite a good supply of trees, but your woodcutters will be chopping under a hail of arrows to start. Securing their safety will be one of your first tasks.
Rather than pull back, take a defensive position, and severely hamper the growth of your economy, I recommend setting up the castle with an eye to the future, challenging nearby lords who try to disrupt production and harass the settlement. Do not move the stockpile to the north, but rather leave it where it is and extended it south toward the iron mines, where, later in the mission, its closer proximity to them will provide greater revenue. Make your stockpile two tiles wide, in anticipation of an overwhelming supply of goods later on, wood, wheat, flour, hops, ale, maybe pitch, and massive amounts of iron and stone. Push your towers out, gradually capturing the resource bearing land that is needed so badly.
The three neighboring lords, the Snake, Rat and Saladin can be destroyed or just left in their sad castles to contemplate their folly in opposing you. In rather short order they will be of little consequence to you. I didn't find moats or walls necessary.
The settlement will grow slowly in the beginning, but will gather speed and soon become a powerhouse. Resources are the biggest problem as all are guarded by enemy bows. First you must secure your woodcutters and insure a constant supply of wood. Then exploit the iron deposits. As you grow stronger and your neighbors weaker establish quarries and wheat farms, even pitch rigs. You should run at full ale coverage throughout, extra rations later on, establish a strong religious presence and I recommend bad things to really make the gold flow.
Use your small stone reserve very carefully to maximize the effect of the resulting towers it can build. Start strong weapons production early, relying on crossbows for training and sale. Leather armor, food, ale, and some wood and stone will have to be purchased. You can produce wheat in later years.
As your castle strengthens begin building an offensive army and when ready, claim all that you see as your own.
It's not necessary to push your economy to the degree I do here, and you are free to bail out of the plan at any point you feel comfortable. If you feel you're ready, go ahead and invade.
I can't stress enough how critical it is to establish the six fletchers right up front. You must have the crossbows they produce in time for the first invasion of July in year 0. Without them you will be wiped out. Yes you could buy weapons, but that's very short sighted. The 1,080 in gold you'll spend for wood and construction could buy 18 crossbows, but those fletchers will provide hundreds and hundreds of crossbows throughout the game, supplying much needed gold and weapons, and making you quite secure after that first attack.
So, to business. The order of stockpile placement matters regarding where goods are placed, so lets add one tile to the southeast, two more attached to that one in a southwest direction, then fill in the other two spaces between them and the campfire. Theoretically this should put wood on the stockpile closer to the fletchers. Site you granary on the northeast side of the stockpile as shown in the Starting Layout screen shot below. Then a marketplace on the northwest side of the keep.
Now place five woodcutters spaced out in the trees to the southeast and one southwest of the stockpile. For a few months many will be killed by the Snake's archers, but we will be dealing with them shortly. Meanwhile the woodcutters will draw some fire that might otherwise go to more vital targets. I recommend shielding two of them with a low wall as shown in the screen shot. This will provide some wood right off the bat. The one in the west takes arrows from three directions. You must leave at least 44 stone on the stockpile to build a barracks and two towers.
Place two hovels north at the map edge and an inn just northwest of the marketplace. Now buy 135 wood and 5 ale. Then site six fletchers on the south side of the stockpile and an armory in the second row (a very important step). Set fletchers to produce crossbows. If you position them exactly as shown, not only will production be quite efficient (three trips to the stockpile for each crossbow), but they will help position the critical first tower in just the right spot. The layout consists of a front row of five fletchers spaced one tile apart and one tile south of the stockpile, with the second from the top one having its northeast side flush with the eastern end of the stockpile. A sixth fletcher is placed in the second row southeast of this same fletcher. The armory is placed in the next position to the southwest of that in the second row.
Next site a lookout tower to provide some general defense, but specifically to deal with the Snake's ground archers, who well outnumber you and are continually reinforced. If placed too close your five archers could well be picked off in the tower, but if placed precisely as shown will take them all down with nary a scratch and enable the woodcutters to operate in safety. Locate it two tiles south of the southernmost fletcher with their corners in line, north and south. Since things are at a 45 degree angle that would be the equivalent of placing them with corners touching, then moving the lookout tower two spaces southeast and two spaces southwest. Place a low wall tile and stairs and send all five archers to the tower. Your archers will also keep the Sultan's slingers in check.
Site an iron mine at the east end of the iron deposit. There's room for 16-17 mines on the ore so place carefully. Place a barracks southwest of the stockpile, at least one stockpile distance from the end. Buy 15 leather armor. You should still be in FEB of year 0.
Now you can take a slight breather since there's only 300 or so gold left and very little wood. Keep your fletchers producing! Buy a little more wood if needed. With the close positioning of the inn from the above steps, the ale bonus should kick in about April. Set taxes to -8. Train crossbowmen as crossbows become available. Send them to the north side of the lookout tower just east of the stairs. I position them this way to keep them in line with, but out of the path of advancing swordsmen from the west who will be making for your archers in the tower. Plus they can target the Snake's spearmen from the east. It's not a bad idea to put a couple on the keep as well.
THE FIRST CRUCIAL ENGAGEMENT:
In July troops will be sent out to attack you, eight spearmen from the Snake, three Arabian swordsmen from the Sultan, and six spearmen and five archers from the Rat. Sometimes the Snake and Rat are a month later. Luckily they arrive at slightly different times. The screen shot is a composite. Attacks may come at slightly different times, but it's basically one battle. Move your spearmen to the southern edge of the stockpile as backup. Set them to defensive, not aggressive stance. Don't waste your ground troops in this engagement. Let your missile troops do their job. Use spearmen only at the last minute to protect missile troops. All new crossbowmen continue to group just north of the lookout tower. Stop them short to fire if they run into enemy swordsmen. You may have to specifically target the three swordsmen as many times your bows will target slingers, archers, and various workers instead of these more important targets.
If all three lords attack together your archers should target the Snake's spearmen early on their own, and with the help of the crossbowmen, should eliminate them just in time to turn and target the western assault. The Arabian swordsmen will head straight for your archers in the tower, a big help.
Battle over? Good. You've been struggling uphill until now, but things have just leveled out and soon will begin a mighty downhill run. Send the crossbowmen to the barracks to join other new recruits as they can target the Sultan's keep from there, eliminating his bows and swordsmen. They will take some hits, however. Continue to watch for more attacks by the Sultan's swordsmen and target them if necessary. I have seen the crossbowmen so busy with other minor targets that the swordsmen walked right up to them and slaughtered them all.
IMPORTANT: Save your game at this point!
THE SECOND TOWER:
Leave five crossbowmen at the barracks and start the rest moving towards a spot just north of your iron mine. This sets them in motion towards the tower we are about to erect. Place a defense turret using the screen shot as a guide. Place it just southwest of one tree and AT LEAST TWO SPACES northwest of the second tree. The reason for my emphasis will become clear in a moment. Place a low wall tile and stairs for access. You should still have 17 or more stone left on the stockpile after this. Redirect your already traveling crossbowmen to this tower. From it they can target archers on the Snake's keep and southern tower, making things much safer for your workers. Had you placed this tower first, the combination of the Snake's keep, tower and ground positioned archers would probably have eliminated all your precious missile troops. The previous battle would have been quite different. With his ground archers gone, your hardier crossbowmen can handle his keep and tower archers.
SPECIAL OPTION - A Lord vs. Lord Death Match:
I don't claim to know the mysterious vagaries of the AI, but I do know that with the layout I present here, the towers, number and composition of troops, etc. (whatever the AI sees as significant), something interesting can happen. If you place the defense turret mentioned above closer than two spaces back from the tree, and put your crossbowmen on it, the Snake himself will come out to kill those crossbowmen in the tower. This is both a danger, and an opportunity. How many times has it been said, if only it wasn't up to the troops to fight, let the leaders have at it and decide things that way. Well, if you're ready to chance it, you can test your mettle against the Snake, one on one, lord versus lord, in the open field, unhindered by superfluous troops and peasants.
As noted above, save your game before placing the defense turret, leaving you in a position to use your lord or not, when proceeding. Your victory is not a foregone conclusion. In order for this combat to take place you must know when the Snake will venture out and your lord must be in position to engage him. The moment you have placed the defense turret have your lord head for the area between your defense turret and the north corner of the Snake's castle by way of your turret. Then send your crossbowmen to the top of the turret. This will trigger the Snake.
The Snake seems to leave his keep in the next month after crossbowmen occupy the tower. The timing should be about right. When your lord gets to the turret, target the Snake and he will turn and head towards him, meeting in the open ground between your two settlements. Should you be victorious, you will have defeated the Snake very early, and without rushing. If you lose, well, you do have your saved game.
If the Snake is triggered and makes for your tower even though you did not intend that, you have two options. 1) Reload your saved game. 2) Temporarily delete a stair tile to bar access to him, or temporarily vacate the tower and wait for him to leave. He will travel to the tower, fight any troops in it, and then return to his keep. Deleting the stair tile is preferable since he will return on a regular basis if there is access to the tower.
GROW YOUR ECONOMY AND TREASURY:
I will continue from here as though you did not engage the Snake and he remains a threat.
Replace any archer casualties in the lookout tower with crossbowmen. Wood stocks should increase a little faster from this point on. It now becomes a balancing act of buying leather armor, training crossbowmen, siting more iron mines as wood is available, adding hovels and inns, and buying ale and food as needed plus a little stone, versus selling crossbows and iron, and adjusting taxes to pay for them. As more and more iron mines are placed, revenue will increase significantly. I ended up with about 16. By keeping all four food types in stock you can bump taxes to -12 and run for quite a while at a -1 popularity. When popularity dips to the 70's or 60's you can ease up on taxes and bring it back up again.
Our immediate goal here is to train more crossbowmen, build more iron mines and erect a few more towers. Add hovels as needed and be sure to stay up with inns (one inn per 30 peasants) to maintain full coverage. Then add a few more fletchers, mace production, religion, and stone and food production.
The crossbowmen assembled at the barracks should be able to target the Sultan's keep and keep it free of Arabian bows. New recruits will strengthen them, and send some more to the defense turret until there are at least ten. A few more could be sent to the keep, also.
In FEB of year 1 send all remaining spearmen to the northeast corner of the Snake's castle and take out any remaining archers lurking by the hole in the wall. Stay tight into the wall when approaching to sneak up on them. Continue east around the moat and south to eliminate the catapults that should be approaching the Snake's east side to target you. Take out a couple of the Snakes slingers along the way. The Snake's spearmen will be busy digging a moat in the south and may make a rush for your spearmen. If they do, run immediately east and they will more than likely retreat back to moat digging. The catapults are a much more important target. When catapults are disposed of hike north a bit and hold position.
Then send five crossbowmen to guard just north of the same opening from above, where they will be able to target Richard's catapults as well as fresh troops inside the Snake's castle and protect your spearmen. Watch out for Richard's archers who approach occasionally.
Continue adding iron mines. Add a few more woodcutters in the southwest. Add some pitch rigs if you like. As soon as you can, site a blacksmith set to maces. Send the first few macemen to support the crossbowmen north of the Snake's castle.
THE THIRD AND FOURTH TOWERS:
Buy enough extra stone to site a second defense turret between the northwestern part of the iron deposits and your barracks. Move all crossbowmen at the barracks into the tower. Use macemen to eliminate any stray archers preying on your workers from the marsh in the south. Send a few macemen to destroy farms and quarries southwest of the Snake's castle. Begin to establish your own wheat farms and quarries. I ended up with seven wheat farms, seven quarries, and about eighteen ox tethers. You may opt out on the quarries buy I really like setting up wheat farms. When bread production is stabilized it runs by itself and you don't have to keep distracting yourself buying in food.
Add two more stockpile tiles. Continue to buy stone until you have enough to site a round tower south of the iron deposits. Site a ballista in it, then build an engineers guild and man the ballista. Add crossbowmen to all towers until they're filled. Belt the front side of the two defense turrets with two sections of wall.
As wheat starts to come in site a mill and add bakeries. Add a church and cathedral as you can afford it. Add chapels after that, aiming for at least 50% blessed. I moved the barracks further to the southwest and added two more stockpile tiles.
OPTIONAL: If you like plenty of gold to build troops very fast, a negative fear factor is the way to do it. By the time it kicks in you'll only have three opponents left so the sprite limit will let you build an excessive amount of troops. Start adding bad things, eventually increasing to a -5 (if you don't believe it's a good thing to have bad things, see my discussion of the benefits of bad things in my Walk-through of mission 36, The Descent). When you get to a fear factor of -5 you should be able to increase to extra rations and adjust taxes.
As soon as you have 20-25 macemen free, take out the weakened Rat, and then the Sultan. Then eliminate the Snake and station the macemen to guard the quarries on aggressive stance. Build a second round tower just northwest of the wheat farms, install a ballista and fill with crossbowmen.
Add a mercenary post. Start training horse archers and send them to the quarries to guard until they are needed in your invasions. Add some hops farms and breweries. Make a few fire ballistae and put them among the rocks beside your central round tower south of the keep.
Build up your offensive force. Due to the large scale and all the marsh land I chose 150 horse archers and 75 macemen for their speed plus two dozen assassins to open gates. Horse archers clean off the walls and towers and as many troops inside as possible. Assassins open the gates and macemen assault the keeps. If you don't want to use assassins, macemen can just bash their way in. But almost any combination of troops you care to use should work in this mission. If you've built your economy as I suggest you'll have tons of gold to buy whatever and however many troops you wish. Play around. Have fun.
Go for Richard first. Sometimes he can't scrounge up enough resources even to build his towers. He's usually quite weak. Then on to Saladin and finally the Pig.
I ended up with a population of 178.