Mission 26 - Vulture's Claw
Posted on 10/28/04 @ 12:00 AM (updated 11/27/04
This difficult mission pairs the Human Lord and The Snake, Duc Beauregard against three foes: Caliph "The Scorpion", Caliph "The Jackal" and Sultan Abdul. The Human Lord starts with 3000 gold, and everyone else has 40,000. Gameplay begins in 0 A.D.
This is the first mission I've played where my ally has actually been of help. The Snake only asked for a few goods and was usually agreeable to attacking when I requested his aid. He occasionally asked for my aid, which I satisfied by lining his walls with some of my own crossbowmen and archers. I discovered in one early attempt that in this mission it's best not to ignore his request for immediate assistance - he will fall to the Caliphs if you don't help him.
The Scorpion's keep is positioned in the center of the map. The Jackal and Sultan Abdul are together at the top right, and you and the Snake are together at the bottom right. Take advantage of your ally's early monetary advantage by building a wall extending from the walls he builds. Don't try to build your own separate keep - you'll be sharing armies as well as access to farmland and quarries, so it's best to build together.
I started by placing quarries and ox tethers, iron mines, apple trees, armory and barracks. I built a wall from the Snake's tower, going around my keep to the edge of the map. I then began the long slow process of building my army. (Note: I did try early attacks on the enemy with quickly purchased forces, but even very early in the game the odds are too overwhelming.) While your army is building up, there will be a number of small invasions from your foes, but if you have crossbowmen with braziers along all your walls, you should be okay.
The first enemy I attacked was The Scorpion. (Note: On one attempt I marched my entire army around the edge of the map to attack Sultan Abdul first, but as I was doing so The Jackal destroyed The Snake... and I lost against the Sultan anyway.) If you aren't careful, all three enemies in this mission will quickly destroy your forces by burning them. To get around this I set catapults to destroy the towers first, followed by a small ground crew of macemen to destroy any siege equipment outside the castle walls. Then I launched the main offensive. This same strategy worked for all three. When I attacked The Scorpion, I had about 45 crossbowmen, 4 catapults, 15 spearmen, and 140 macemen.
Next in the order of attack (as he was then the weakest at that point) was Sultan Abdul. I didn't place the mercenary post until after defeating The Scorpion. The 3800 gold I acquired from his defeat enabled me to build up my army with Arabian swordsmen. Before marching my army north (to get them out of reach of The Jackal and into position to attack), I had built it up to include: 25 archers, 5 spearmen, 60 macemen, 45 crossbowmen, 31 pikemen, 29 engineers, 5 catapults, 17 slingers, and 235 Arabian swordsmen. I positioned the catapults to the west and northwest of Sultan Abdul's keep and set them to destroying the gatehouse and towers. When they were down, I rushed the army in, and was able to defeat the Sultan.
The strategy for The Jackal was the same, but was a bit more difficult as his castle included an inner and outer courtyard (separated with towers) and two gatehouses. Ask your ally The Snake for help in invading - he will probably agree. His forces will draw fire to the south, allowing you to attack from the north. Again, I set catapults on all sides of the castle to destroy the towers and gatehouses. They will quickly be rebuilt as his quarries are pretty well protected. When the towers are down, go in with your macemen first. They can quickly destroy the gatehouses if they are rebuilt. Then march the rest of your army to the keep to take out The Jackal. I finally beat him with an army of 23 archers, 70 macemen, 45 crossbowmen, 25 pikemen, 14 engineers, 4 catapults, and 180 Arabian swordsmen.
This is a very long game. The first enemy wasn't defeated until year 24, the second in 31, and the final one in year 39. If someone else has an alternate strategy that allows for a shorter game, I would love to see it!