Saturday 29 December 2018

Wow: gold-making

I've been playing and researching World of Warcraft a lot in the last few months. I returned in September after not really playing for about 10 years so I had a lot to catch up on.

I found the conventional end-game somewhat frustrating. Each hard fight is an exercise in moving in the correct manner, a kind of dance. I felt like I was always the dance partner with 2 left feet. I know from past experience I do eventually master these dances and then I become one of the people other players look at and feel frustration but that doesn't especially appeal to me as a goal.

So I looked into other ways to enjoy this complex game and particularly gold-making.

Gold-making is in some ways a more fun minigame than the "proper" game of dungeons and quests. It's much more strategic (for a line member, for a raid leader I can see that there's a lot of interesting strategy). It improves almost every other aspect of the game, for instance you can burn consumables like flasks and goblin gliders without worrying about the cost. And it's been utterly transformed by something that has developed in the game since I last played.

Traditionally gold-makers got rich then ran out of things to spend it on. Now with the addition of the WoW token which is a bit like Eve's plex you can turn gold into real money - sort of. You can turn it into Blizzard balance which can only be spent on Blizzard stuff. So becoming a Wow billionaire has the added perks of being able to buy Blizzard games and store items and account services.

The other great change to the gold-making playstyle is the addition of sellable Battle Pets.

Battle Pets are one of WoW's minigames. It's a Pokemon clone and quite good fun if perhaps a little slow in the gameplay. However the pets can be sold cross-realm. If I have a cageable pet then I can sell it on any EU server. If I have alts on multiple servers I can buy a pet cheap on one server and sell it high on another server.

This is way way better than any other market.

In a sense as a gold-maker I don't care what I sell. If I can buy a thing for 1 gold and sell it for 1000 gold I don't care if it's a sword a herb or a battle pet.

Compared to other commodities Battle pets have very cheap auction house fees (1 silver), high prices, slow turnover, and the cross realm aspect I've talked about. They're also immune to obsolescence - a battle pet from a level 20 zone is just as valid as one from a 120 zone unlike, say, a sword.

Here's my plan: to build a trade empire of alts across multiple servers, possibly multiple regions and buy low, sell high. It's pretty easy to get money across to new alts - I let them take pets from the journal to sell. Eventually I want to use the TSM addon to run efficient shopping searches and fast listing but for now I'm doing it manually to help me learn and understand the market.

I have 6 alts camping vendors and buying pets. I have 2 other alts camping vendors who don't have any money yet - they'll become active buyers once one of their auctions sells. I do a run of buying, logging in to one vendor after another which gives me 3 copies of 13 vendor-sold pets. I then log into a separate series of alts who list 1 copy of each unique pet on their server's auction house.

The beauty of this system is that it's multiplicative. Currently I have 13 pets times 8 servers offering people sales that will make me a couple of K each. Eventually I could have 50 pets across 50 servers as I build up the trade empire. As I build up the gold I can do other schemes such as camping the Black Market auction house as a source of big ticket pets, developing garrisons on my alts which allow daily pet quests, etc. When I become rich enough I could consider boosting some random alts so they can do dailies.

One thing about this strategy is that it incorporates some rather predictable price changes. For example right now at the heart of the Winter's Veil event there are lots of very cheap pets from this event. In a couple of days supply will cease until next year's Christmas period. So price will slowly go up as people stop listing them and most people's copies sit forgotten in their banks. For example the Festival Lantern from a Spring event is worth 40k now because people don't seem to have farmed that many last Spring and steady demand has pushed the price up. We can be 99% sure that this price will drop like a stone as soon as the next Lunar Festival goes active.

The Winter's Veil event has a particularly interesting feature in that it's in two stages. The event is live from mid-December but we don't get our presents until the 25th. So next year I plan to be showing off and advertising cool present-sourced pets from about the 19th December, steering people to my auctions as auctions will be the only way to get one before the 25th.

Barking (advertising) is an important part of the strategy and I hit a macro after I list my pets on each realm, encouraging people to get into pet battles. Currently I can point out that pet battles give triple exp because of a weekly event.

It also has made the game in general more interesting to me as I now look for ways to collect new and interesting pets and understand their markets. Island expeditions for example introduced a lot of new pets and recent patch changes made them drop more. In fact even if you don't want them you can't help but get them because people run these islands for azerite power and the weekly mission, occasionally earning a pet as a by-product. This creates an ability to see the future of this market, fun for any speculator. The market will become more and more swamped as people run this, eventually seeing these pets sell for under 10g, possibly under 1g. As soon as the new expansion drops and people aren't motivated by AP these islands will almost never be run as they're quite dull. This will mean the pets slowly gather value as supply is effectively zero, they won't really be farmable as old content and demand remains a trickle but greater than supply. This is a very long term investment but a year or two after the next WoW expansion hits these pets which will be bought in 2020 for 1-2g will sell for 5000g+.

So there we have it: gold-making through pets, a complex and interesting minigame within a minigame.

Friday 9 November 2018

RIP Test FC Swet Maggs (Cody)

I'm very sorry to say that one of our players passed away at the unimaginably young age of 23.

Swet Mags (Cody in real life) collapsed at work and died shortly afterwards.

Dreddit CEO Cornak Firefist posted this:

Cornak Firefist

@everyone Good morning friends, As you may have heard, our good buddy Swet Mags, or Cody, was taken from us last night. He was a pillar of our community, and was the only thing that kept a lot of us going even when things seemed like they weren't going to work. Swet never stopped looking to do better and achieve more. He was the core of our fc team, the bossman of our mentors, and the inspiration for everything we did. Without Swet Mags, I can safely say Dreddit would not be anywhere near where it is today. He was a force that would not stop going, no matter the odds. The Battle of 46DP was one of the best examples of this, where despite having a full hostile fleet, then caps, then supers, Swet kept pushing through, and managed to win despite the odds. His joy after that was one of the greatest feelings I've known, and he showed us all what it really means to play EVE. He was an icon, and possibly the best known member of Dreddit. Everyone, from the newest newbro to the bitterest bittervet knew Swet, and everything he did. We will never forget him, nor should we. Without Swet, our lives will all be missing something we cannot get back. But one thing that's important to learn from Swet is to never stop looking up. Always keep going, even if things look dark, or you feel like you're up against a ceiling. Swet didn't just break through those ceilings, he didn't even acknowledge that ceilings can exist. There was nothing that was too high for Swet to strive for, and he, often unexpectedly, would always manage to hit that target. He will be missed.

Test Alliance are holding a cyno vigil in our home system of D-PNP9 in Esoteria. People are very welcome to come down and light a cyno in Swet's memory.

Swet Mags Cyno vigil D-PNP9

Swet was a delight and an inspiration, one of those few people you meet in life who were permanently sunny. Last time I flew with him I cocked up lighting a cyno (not enough Liquid Ozone) and Swet handled it with competence and calm while an angry titan pilot yelled at me. We also did quite a lot of flying together to promote corp ops and Swet Mags was the driving force behind an invigorated corp fleets drive that has transformed Dreddit from a corp people joined just to be in Test to a corp that is fun and impactful in its own right.

I'm heartbroken.

His family have started a gofundme for his funeral expenses.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Blaugust reviewed

I think the Blaugust project, to get bloggers from various mmos to blog once a day, was pretty successful.

Personally I got distracted - by the AT at the start of the month then by World of Warcraft at the end of the month.

Still a discord was set up, there were some pretty  interesting blogs to read and a chance for bloggers to build their sites by adding and being added to each others' blogrolls.

I'm pretty satisfied. I got a few posts up in August after a rather dry year till then and if I didn't blog every day then it was because I was absorbed in other ways to spend my leisure time.

Wilhelm (who didn't miss a day) has a more detailed analysis. It's definitely worth checking some of the listed blogs.

My favourite new blog is a Wow one:

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Reviewing Abyssal site running

Phew, coming up for air after being immersed in the Alliance Tournament I can now think about picking up where I left off with other Eve projects.

I tried running abyssal sites tonight and lost a Gila on the second site. Luckily it was only a T2 fit ship so it wasn't too expensive. So I sat down and reviewed the theorycraft.

First point is clouds. Clouds are bad. I didn't pay attention to clouds and honestly don't know if I was in one which is doubly bad. I ran out of cap booster charges so it's likely I was in the cloud that makes active shield tanking much more cap expensive. Doh!

Next I'm not really min-maxing the weather effects. From E Uni's excellent wiki page we see that Electrical weather gives a bonus to cap which is good for active tankers, particularly those using Cap Batteries rather than Cap Boosters. And Gamma weather gives a bonus to Shield HP which is good for passive tankers.

I decided I'd like to test if a passive tanked Gila is comfortable in level 4 sites, specifically Raging Firestorm sites. The thing with passive tanks is that they're all or nothing - either you tank like a boss or your tank collapses and you die really quickly. The fit I've made tanks 214 ehp/second and has 56.4k ehp. In Gamma weather that goes up to 50% more of both I think I'll need to check.

It's a lot more resistant to being neuted than my previous fit which so far has been the reason I die. It's a little more expensive but because it doesn't use Crystal implants it's not too expensive, Pyfa shows 508m for ship + implants.

This is the ship fit I'm going to test on sisi, the test server.

[Gila, passive abyssal]

Damage Control II
Drone Damage Amplifier II
Drone Damage Amplifier II

Republic Fleet 10MN Afterburner
Republic Fleet Large Shield Extender
Republic Fleet Large Shield Extender
Republic Fleet Large Shield Extender
Adaptive Invulnerability Field II
Thukker Medium Cap Battery

Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Nova Fury Light Missile
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Nova Fury Light Missile
Small Energy Nosferatu II
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Nova Fury Light Missile
Rapid Light Missile Launcher II, Nova Fury Light Missile

Medium Core Defense Field Purger II
Medium Core Defense Field Purger II
Medium Anti-Explosive Screen Reinforcer II

Valkyrie II x2

Eifyr and Co. 'Rogue' Navigation NN-603
Zainou 'Gnome' Shield Management SM-703
Inherent Implants 'Squire' Capacitor Management EM-803
Zainou 'Gnome' Shield Operation SP-903
Zainou 'Deadeye' Rapid Launch RL-1003

Effect management

Orange cloud - mildly good
Blue cloud - sig bloom (bad against battleships, good against frigates)
Towers - all bad, Deviant Suppressors have an edge case use against drone swarms.

Kill order

Neuters (Nullcharge, Dissipator, Firewatcher, Sentinel, Starving)
Webbers (Snarecaster, Entanglement, Entangler, Warden, Upholder)
if Battleships present Paints (Spotlighter, Illuminator, Deepwatcher)
Reppers (Fieldweaver, Plateweaver, Preserver)
Disruptors (Fogcaster, Confuser)
High dps (Aegis)
DPS ( Spark, Ember, Strike, Blast, Escort)
Irrelevant ewar (Gazedimmer, Nullwarp, Spearfish, Obfuscator)

Saturday 11 August 2018

Alliance Tournament: blogger showdown

In a couple of hours the team I fly for will face A Band Apart, the alliance run by and represented in the AT by the incomparable Rixx Javix, writer of the Eveoganda blog. You can watch it on Twitch here.

Both teams made top 16 last year. This time only one will, the winner of this match makes it to the crucial benchmark that guarantees seeding for next year's tournament. Seeding is very important because it means you won't face another top 16 team in your first two matches so generally (but not always) you will face teams weaker than yourself.

I briefly joined ABA earlier this year while looking for a new home but it wasn't quite right for me. I'm happier in an alliance that is busy in EU timezone and the patient low sec pirate style wasn't quite what I was looking for. Also they generally don't hop on comms for brief skirmishes which was something I'm no longer accustomed to. I can see a case either way but personally I'm very much inclined to communicate on comms while fighting in a gang.

Those things said I'm an enormous ABA and Rixx fan. I hope they'll forgive me if I don't wish them luck today ;)

Thursday 9 August 2018

The Battle of X47

I had the pleasure of going on my first serious capital op tonight, a major fight to kill the Keepstar owned by NC. in X47, a nullsec system up north in Pure Blind.

The first stage was actually yesterday evening when we did a move op that took almost 3 hours, delivering 38 Test titans plus supercarrier and fax support to a nearby Keepstar.

This is a two front war with the North being the Goons' front but tonight we came to help them against a massive NC., PL and Darkness titan fleet with several other alliances in support.

This evening we jumped in after Goons had established a presence already and killed about 3 titans, losing 1. The evening proceeded to be a real struggle to stay logged in, I didn't actually see much of the fight, spending most of my time logging back in. That took 15-20 minutes each time.

The fight peaked at about 4200 in Local but what made it particularly difficult for the server was a decision by Gobbins of Pandemic Horde to spam frigates and interceptors with ECM Burst modules. When a ship gets jammed by an ECM burst the server has to recalculate its ability to use its modules afterwards so as people got jammed then tried to relock and start shooting again they were getting messages "You don't have the skills to use that..."

The wits over at /r/eve were not slow to put their amusement that this dirty tactic backfired into meme form:

The effect was devastating, with Imperial Legacy kiling 19 titans and a keepstar to losing 1 titan.

Test FC ProGodLegend had this to say after the fight.

PL leader Doomchinchilla had a number of things to say, none of which are repeatable on this mild-mannered blog.

Thursday 2 August 2018

Why blog?

If you've been idly considering starting a blog this month is a good time to put your toes in the water and see if you like it.

Blogging is about getting your opinion out there. For some of the best bloggers it goes beyond opinion and towards journalism where the writer is sourcing his information and checking financials etc: this guy is Eve's best exponent of that style at the moment.

Blogging has advantages over other forms of expression.

- Control. This is my blog, I control what appears here, I can publish guest articles from other writers, I can delete comments I don't like, etc.

- Community. Typically other bloggers will make up a lot of your active community. All blogs have a majority of readers who quietly absorb the articles and never comment. The people that interact with you tend to be other bloggers. For instance Ancient Gaming Noob and Rixx Javix, two of the most admired Eve bloggers commented on my last post. We're a community and in some ways quite like-minded.

- Archiving. By google's grace these blogs endure indefinitely. I can go back to my articles from about 10 years ago when I started blogging. That's probably more enduring than if I saved them to a hard drive unless I maintained a collection of detachable drives or something. In an ephemeral age these free blog platforms are very persistent and it's very nice to be able to look back on what I wrote years ago. (And how right I was! ;) )

- A place to start. It's very easy now to write for the semi-professional Eve sites like INN or CZ. But if you're new it might be nice to blog first, find your writing style, then publish on a site that will draw a wider audience but potentially more criticism.

- A diary. Blogging has its origins as online diaries, the word literally comes from "web log." Diarising your game activites helps you keep organised and abreast of activities and decisions. It can be particularly useful for people whose actions impact other people to be able to go back and check things you have decided before.

- CV/Resume item. If your cv is very light you could put your blogging on there. Be sure it's a blog you're happy for employers to look at (eg no NSFW stuff) and that establishing yourself as an Eve nerd may be helpful to your application. (It probably does for a job in the games industry, it probably doesn't for a bar job). Just bear in mind that to most employers writing about a video game makes you a less interesting person, not a more interesting one.

How do you start?

Think of it like a diary but maybe a bit more freeform. Any time you're stuck "today I did this..." is a usually a good blog article. You can also post whacky armchair game design ideas or soapbox rants. The Blaugust requirement to blog daily is a good starting point because your writing will get better the more you do of it.

Frequent regular blogging is a hallmark of many of the most successful bloggers. People like Ancient Gaming Noob and (historically) Gevlon and Jester publish(-ed) pretty much daily.

Some people use blogs to produce very infrequent but extremely expert articles such as Suitonia and Capri

Promote your blog by commenting on other blogger's articles and politely mentioning you have just started a blog. Don't be too pushy, I'd probably delete a comment that just pimped a blog without any interest in commenting on what I was writing about but I do look at commenters who take an interest in what I write.

There's a Eve blog sites collator, get yourself on that. There's also the My Eve section of CCP's official Eve forums.

You can also post your blog article as a link on /r/eve although you might get some rather brutal feedback.

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Writing for Crossing Zebras

I'm going to make what will probably be a somewhat half-assed effort to keep other writers company with this Blaugust initiative.  Not sure I'll write a post a day but ho hum.

Blogging tends to be both reflective and personal and proper journalism is less forgiving of either. Writing for someone else's website falls somewhere in-between.

I put out a piece on Crossing Zebras last week which sparked a somewhat hostile reaction on /r/eve for two reasons. The silly reason is that I was rude about Barcode Alliance, well blunt perhaps rather than deliberately rude. I thought they were over-hyped and some of them took great offence. They all shut up though once they lost their first match to the unfancied Japanese language alliance Samurai Soul'd Out.

The more significant issue is that some people felt I hadn't done enough background research.

Now here's the thing - people who do significant levels of background detail on the AT teams are usually spies working to give advantage to their alliance. The information they find is not for public consumption - it's an edge for their own team. Had I put the work in to track the pilot movements and sisi matches that other teams revealed I would not be using that information for a public article, I'd be my team's Master Spy.

Instead it's an appraisal based on past form and I got 12 out of 16 calls right.

Now this does highlight an interesting dilemma about the Tournament. Anyone who really knows their stuff keeps it private.

There are some exceptions: Apothne, Elise Randolph, Nashh are all focused on the event and the community rather than a particular team. CCP Fozzie has previously been knowledgeable and forthcoming although he's unfortunately become much less outgoing with the community since a section of it decided to blame him for the perceived shortcomings of the new sov system and try to get him fired.

So we're in a This is why we can't have nice things situation. The determination of the Eve community to be hostile towards content providers and obsessively competitive to the point where leading AT players would rather keep under the radar even if it kills off their tournament is clear.

There's no obvious route in for new captains. Where do you start? 

I'll still write anyway but one of the things I miss from the days when we all had blogs and there weren't these professionalised sites was that readers were polite. If someone rage posted their comment would get deleted and they'd get banned. Truth be told it virtually never happened (except to Gevlon). Commenters didn't feel the sense of entitlement that perhaps shapes the modern Eve commentariat.

Saturday 7 July 2018

Testing the anti-entosis griffin (ship cost 1.5m) NSFW

I piggybacked a strat op to test out my new Griffin fit. The video contains some swearing from a rather stressed FC.


0.00 The main fleet took a fight, I jumped back to help them out. I kept a Lachesis permajammed until we bailed. I probably bailed a smidgin too early. When I sensed the FC was about to leave instinct took over and I warped off. It would have been better to stay on grid an extra 2 seconds to make sure the Lach didn't point something.

03.04 I blithely cross-jump a 70 man HAC fleet and go for their toasters. Pre-heat my mids and warp in at range. There are two Nereus supported by a frigate. The sequencing is quite important: align, lock, turn modules on, add jam one by one. My first jam hits so I target the second Nereus and my first jam hits on him too. That'll do, I leave before the frigate can get to me.

I then make a mistake and warp back to the same node. One of the Nereus is leaving, I re-jam the other one and warp off. My first two jams fail and it takes the third one to get him.

06.37 I warp to the node I previously wanted and it's quite well defended with several combat ships as well as the toaster. I jam the toaster but their interceptor gets a point on me. I manage to jam him with off-racial jams and escape.

I take my leave, the nature of entosis timers is that fleets spread out, particularly the toaster and there's no need to risk losing my ship in a system that's become too hot. Besides I've stopped them there, they won't be finishing the nodes for at least 2 cycles. A cycle is 5 mins on a T1 entosis module. Hopefully I'll have looped back around just in time to jam them again before that finishes.

09.16 There's places to dock and repair all over space. I use a citadel in NPC Curse to get rid of heat damage. This would also be a good opportunity to change my jammer loadout but I'm happy with 4 gallente.

09.59 Oh did none of your friends stay to protect you? An easy score for The Lone Jammer.

10.40 Spirited attempt by the Slasher pilot but he's not quite fast enoough to stop me warping in and jamming his friend. I warp off with him 44km and closing fast.

11.16 Hmmm, maybe this was a bit too much, I'm a little slow finding the Nereus and the fleet pops me before I can jam. With hindsight I probably should have avoided the very heavily defended nodes but I wanted to test the fit.

11.38 There's the loss mail from which you can pause the video and take the fit. 1.5m isk very well spent.


[Griffin, anti entosis]

F-89 Compact Signal Amplifier
Damage Control II

5MN Quad LiF Restrained Microwarpdrive
BZ-5 Scoped Gravimetric ECM
BZ-5 Scoped Gravimetric ECM
BZ-5 Scoped Gravimetric ECM
BZ-5 Scoped Gravimetric ECM

[Empty High slot]
[Empty High slot]

Small Particle Dispersion Projector I
Small Particle Dispersion Projector I
Small Particle Dispersion Projector I

Hypnos Scoped Magnetometric ECM x4
Enfeebling Scoped Ladar ECM x4
Umbra Scoped Radar ECM x4

Friday 25 May 2018

Eve Online: Planning my Abyssal Tech module business

Next week's patch brings a new type of module upgrade process to Eve. From the patch notes.

Mutaplasmids and Abyssal Tech:

Mutaplasmids are a new type of item which can be used to permanently alter specific attributes on existing modules.
  • Mutaplasmids can be found in Abyssal Deadspace
  • All quality levels can be found in any difficulty tier, though the chances improve dramatically at higher difficulties
  • When a Mutaplasmid is used on a module, both the Mutaplasmid and input module are consumed and an Abyssal Tech module is created
Mutaplasmids come in three quality variations:
  • Decayed: Lowest range of effect
  • Gravid: Best average resulting effect
  • Unstable: Largest range of effect

Each Mutaplasmid can only be used on a specific corresponding module group. The following groups have been added:
  • Warp Scramblers
  • Warp Disruptors
  • Stasis Webifiers
  • Armor Repairers
  • Armor Plates
  • Shield Boosters
  • Shield Extenders
  • Energy Neutralizers
  • Microwarpdrives
  • Afterburners
  • Mutaplasmids alter attributes unpredictably by a percent value that falls within a specific range described on the Mutaplasmid
  • Once an Abyssal Tech module is created, it cannot be reverted to its components or rerolled with additional Mutaplasmids
  • Mutaplasmids can be traded on the market under the Ship and Module modifications section
  • Abyssal Tech modules cannot be traded on the market but can be traded in contracts or trade windows.
I plan to do  the following when the patch goes live:

- run the sites in a cruiser.

- buy faction, deadspace and officer modules. Enhance these modules using the new process.

- sell enhanced modules on contract and on forum wts boards.

- buy underpriced modules off contract.

Instead of covering all enhanced modules I'm going to focus on that subsection of modules that can be used on Alliance Tournament flagships. The obvious uses for expensive over-priced modules are AT flagships, supers and titans and the subsection I'll be covering is of interest to both user groups. After the AT I'll probably broaden my coverage.

These are the modules permitted on AT flagships as per the new rules.

  • Flagships may ignore meta level restrictions for the following module types (this means they may fit faction, officer, cosmos, deadspace, and abyssal (mutated) versions):
  • Turrets and Missile Launchers
  • Smartbombs
  • Afterburners and Microwarpdrives
  • Warp Scramblers, Warp Disruptors, and Stasis Grapplers
  • Target Painters
  • Sensor Boosters and Signal Amplifiers
  • Overdrives, Nanofiber Internal Structures, and Inertial Stabilizers
  • Weapon and Drone Upgrade Modules
  • Armor Plates and Shield Extenders
  • Damage Controls
  • ONE Shield Booster or up to TWO Armor Repairers

These are the modules in both categories (except Warp Disruptors which are irrelevant in the AT.

  • Warp Scramblers
  • Armor Repairers
  • Armor Plates
  • Shield Boosters
  • Shield Extenders
  • Microwarpdrives
  • Afterburners

What I now have to figure out is how to value each module. For some modules I think cap is the only thing that matters. No one's going to care  too much about the CPU or  capacitator usage on an 18km range scram that is destined for a Barghest flagship. For an armour repper though a module might be less valuable if it gets a bad roll on a secondary stat even though what most people will care about is amount repaired.

 I'm going to start my spreadsheet by using the Jita sell values for the various modules that exist unmodified. I anticipate that people will value based on the number regardless of how it got there, eg all 15km scrams are worth about the same even if one is Officer and one is Abyssally enhanced deadspace.

I'd love feedback on this project.

Tuesday 17 April 2018

MTG Arena: my mythic tracking spreadsheet

I've played Arena quite a lot since I got into the closed beta in February. It's come to me that one of the trickiest questions is how to spend your hard-earned gold and that led to me writing a spreadsheet to track my mythics.

Here's my thinking:

- a collectible card game limits you by limiting your access to the rarest cards.

- commons, uncommons and to a lesser extent rares are cards you're quite likely to get anyway and so shouldn't be the focus of how you build your collection.

- wildcards can and should be used pretty freely with the more common cards and help you to quickly build playsets of the ones you want. Mythic wildcards are a much rarer and more precious resource.

- mythics include some of the most interesting and flavour-rich cards.

- mythics include some of the most powerful cards.

- therefore it's best to spend your gold on packs that will most improve your mythics collection.

The spreadsheet has 5 columns.

Column B is personal. You should copy the sheet and edit in your own values. For me if a card is Legendary I'll usually limit it to 1 because drawing two means a dead card in your hand, if a card is confusing I'll limit it to 1 until I understand it better and if a card is expensive I'll limit it to 1 because I don't need many top end finishers in a deck. By all means start with my numbers if you're lazy but it really is better to look through Gatherer and make your own list. (Links to the Gatherer search for each set's mythics are in the spreadsheet).

Column C is where you keep track of your mythic collection. Don't put a bigger number than Column B so if you want 1 but you have 3 put 1 in this column.

Column D calculates the total mythics you want from that set but don't have.

Column E calculates the total mythics you want from that set but don't have as a percentage,

The best way to develop your collection is to choose the set with the highest column E number in the purple box, the set most likely to provide you with a Wanted Mythic. Over time as you open packs of the set with the best Column E number that number will drop until a different set now has the best column E number.


- copy the spreadsheet.

- use the Gatherer links to browse the mythic cards in each set and change the numbers in column B to reflect your own preferences.

- in Mtg Arena edit a new deck and search for rarity = mythic and status = owned. Put your numbers in Column C. Going forward amend this column every time you get a new mythic.

- Compare the number in the purple box for each set. The biggest number shows you which set is best. If in doubt avoid the set that is currently being used for prizes as you'll collect this set passively. (Currently Rivals of Ixalan). In my own case (at the time of writing) it's still worth opening RIX because there are so many mythics I want from it.

- make decks, pwn noobs.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

MTGO: Rivals of Ixalan Friendly Sealed Leagues After Action report

I've mentioned before on this blog that at the beginning of each new Magic The Gathering expansion I try to cram in a bunch of Sealed Leagues as the return on investment is very high. This is unusual for a hobby that generally bleeds money, albeit for a very intense and enjoyable competitive experience.

Rivals of Ixalan, the latest set, launched 2 weeks ago on Monday 15th Jan and I've decided that it's time to cut my losses on this particular run. I'll go into MTGO hibernation until April now (probably.)

I played 7 leagues of 9 matches each, each match a best of 3 so that's somewhere between 126 and 189 individual games of Magic which is quite intense. I'm about $8.70 down. Looking at this another way I paid on average 5.5 cents per game which as they're pretty fun is perfectly acceptable.

I decided to stop fairly early in this Magic season because I wasn't that thrilled by the format. Here are my specific gripes:

- 2 packs of the new set and one of the old set (Ixalan) knocks significant value off the cashouts after each league. They're changing from this system and good riddance.

- the very overpowered bomby rares reduced the fun. My most fun plays are where he attacked, anticipating that I would block just so, which allows him to play surprise combat trick which (plot twist) I countered by playing a trick of my own which (double plot twist) he had allowed for and then in a shocking denouement it turns out I had just enough mana to cast a Spell Pierce, a very crappy counterspell that managed to be just enough. Those plays are fun. What is not fun is "You have X overpowered card, you win."

In this picture I actually have played three such cards and you'll see my opponent shares my views about overpowered rares.

More salt than a CODE mailbox

- another issue for me is that for some reason I was off my game. I seem to have just about played through it but I was making uncharacteristic mistakes, unforced errors. I think what it might be is that previously when not playing MTGO I played the Free to Play version so I kept my hand in. I came to this having not played Magic for months and it showed with some really poor plays. (The worst was probably letting an opponent play a powerful Enchantment spell, Profane Procession, when I had a Negate counterspell in my hand with mana to cast it and knew I was specifically waiting for a spell like that so I could counter it. Instead I just spaced and passed my response phase. Total punt).

I have other things to do in gaming, I'm really enjoying Dominions 5, I have got into the Magic Arena beta and I want to get active in Eve again so I'll draw a line under this Magic expansion here.

Some people have expressed an interest in my spreadsheet. Here it is, but note the listings of cards from the shows is incomplete (it misses the second LR set review show) and my results are below the card ratings. Older sets you view at your own peril as the info there should not be relied on.

My criteria for ratings is to take the highest rating for a card that any show gives it because it's useful to me that someone thinks it's an A even if the others don't. Ratings are a jump off point for card evaluation, not a guide to building a deck.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Dom 5. Mekone campaign, turns 1-10.

I generate a 4 player map, me vs 3 difficult AIs. It spawns me in an odd place, disconcertingly central. I've discovered the hard way that being in the middle is a way to get invaded from multiple directions. It's tough to be Poland.

This shapes my early game strategy - I need to head south and secure the peninsula behind me quickly before other civs expand to my northern border. If I find a civ on that peninsula I'll have to kill it, their only content would be me.

I send my scout south and turn my free commander into my prophet. I think these commanders make fine prophets rather than queuing a more powerful type then waiting for it.

I recruit a Geronte as my commander, 4 discobolus and then mull over choosing 13 Helote Ekdromos or 4 Gigante Ekdromos. I'm capped by resources, the gigante use up all my gold, the Helotes leave me 56 gold. I decide on the Gigante, I'm hoping they will survive early battles where I'd lose a couple of Helote.

Now for research planning. Here are the givens:

- I'm going for Thaumaturgy 8 to cast our unique spell.

- My mid-game will rely on powerful commander units with magic items so I will need Construction.

- Almost everyone is Fire/Death.

- My Pretender is mostly irrelevant.

Let's see what Thaumaturgy gives:

Thaum 2: Bonds of Fire. Decent single target spell.

Thaum 3: Rage. Single target, berserk enemy may attack friends.

               Augury: Site search ritual.

               Iron will: Aoe magic resistance buff.

Thaum 4: Prison of fire. Multi target spell

               Gnome lore: Site search ritual.

Thaum 5: Pyre of Catharsis. Disease cure ritual. This could be useful with my elderly magi.

                Raging Hearts. Province attack ritual.

Thaum 6: Melancholia. Province attack ritual.

Thaum 7: Purgatory. Anti-undead global enchantment.

Thaum 8: Hydrophobia. Combat aoe, effects multiple units with rabies.

                Gigantomachia. Dominion conflict bonus world enchantment.

OK, looks like quite a nice set of spells, it needs the spell that gives +1 fire skill for my Fire 2 guys like Polemarchs to cast Prison of Fire. That's at Conjuration 3. I like that we've got both our site search spells in this tree as I'll need lots of gems. No gems are needed for combat magic until Hydrophobia at level 8.

Now let's check Construction. I'll ignore the summon creature spells, we need all our gems for ritual magic and item creation:

Cons 2: Lesser magic items.

Cons 3: Legions of Steel. Buffs armour on a squad of soldiers.

Cons 4: Greater magic items.

Cons 6: Very powerful magic items.

Cons 7: Weapons of Sharpness. Combat mass buff.

            Forge of the Ancients. Ritual, improves item creation.

Cons 8: Unique magic artifacts.

It's easy to forget that there's a couple of combat spells in this tree. We will need to make Earth Boots for most of our casters to cast Legions of Steel.

Thoughts: it's weird to play Fire and not immediately rush for Fireball but I think that's how I'll play this. It may not be optimal.

So we'll rush Thaum 4 to enable our site searching, then Conj 3 for the path buffing spells, then Construction 6 for items and Legions of Steel then Thaum 8. I miss out on some useful Alteration buffs like Stoneskin, powerful Fire evocation spells, a few useful Enchantment spells and rituals including Flaming Arrows and the gem fountains. I'm ok with missing out on that stuff, we pick up attack spells and buffs on the way to the high-level stuff we really want.

Our end game is contesting Dominion. Between our high starting Dominion, civ Dominion conflict bonus, global enchantment Dominion conflict bonus, temple spam and stealthed inquisitors hiding and preaching we can wipe out belief in our enemies, the False Gods of humankind.

The game starts in Spring, the best time of year to recruit old commanders. So we'll focus our precious early game commander points on Gerontes unless something goes wrong with the army of expansion.

Let's now review our enemies. We have Niefelheim (frost giants), Yomi (demons) and Pelagia (tritons, heavily aquatic). The tritons must be with me in the south somewhere with the two others probably up north. If that is correct and the giants and the demons find each other before they attack me  then the position isn't quite the trainwreck it first looked. Pelagia shouldn't be very effective at fighting me on land.

OK. We're set.

Turn 3.

I set up my army under the command of my Lochos Prophet. My valuable Gigantes infantry are on the left flank, my expendable Helotes are centre-left, then there's a large gap then my lunatic frisbeers are on the far right flank. 4 Gigante Ekdromos, 25 Helotes, 4 Discobolus. I attack a province with 30 Light infantry.

Troop setup

First battle, initial positions for my army.

My Gigantes make great progress down the left flank, reinforced by the helotes which quickly routs one of the enemy's infantry squads. Those units then march forward to the enemy rear. Meanwhile the other enemy squad reaches my discobolus who despite not wearing much are actually reasonable in melee. We lose one but then the enemy routs. That was our only loss for 29 killed and we capture our first province.

Same battle, halfway through

The next decision is whether to push on with this stack or return to the capital and reinforce. I decide to reinforce as it means two turns' worth of units.

Our scout has checked the peninsula to our south - it's all independents. Phew!

As we've captured a forest I decide to switch over from building Gigante Ekdromos to the better Gigante Hoplites. We only get 3 instead of 4 which saves 40 gold, money we will need soon for castles.

Turn 3

My Prophet becomes famous and gets heroic quickness which allows him to move and attack faster in combat. A little wasted on a general/caster,

He picks up fresh troops and heads for a new conquest. I plan to have him conquer my cap circle, the provinces around my capital in a ring without needing to come home for troops. After that he'll come back to collect several turns worth of recruits then head south to conquer the peninsula.

Turn 4

We win a fight against a group of Barbarians with considerable ease. Barbarians are a hard-hitting independent unit armed with 24 damage great swords. We killed 26 Barbarians and 2 Barbarian chiefs for the loss of 1 Helot Ekdromos. The Discobolus managed to kill 5 of the enemy without killing any of our own guys.

A death match is being held but I'm not ready yet. I probably should get ready to compete in these as Polemarchs are really good against sacreds and many of the powerful commanders people send are sacred. I decide to switch research to Con 2 so I can equip a basic gladiator.

In the capital I am now gold-limited. I have run out of gold before running out of resources. I queue a Geronte and 3 Gigante Hoplites which is all I can afford. I doubt I'll make another Discobolus this game.

Turn 5

An Oni Shugo won the Death Match. A nasty opponent.

My main army fights a bunch of light infantry. Light v heavy infantry in a slugging match. We lose a gigante ekdromos and a helote ekdromos while killing 45 of them. Very light losses, our expansion is going well.

In an event in Mekone my people weren't happy that we had no Ephor to start the krypteion, our national special event that gives us a free assassin. Definitely an oversight, I swap out Geronte for an Ephor in the recruitment queue. That leaves me very short on gold, I can only afford two gigante hoplites this turn. All this unrest is doing my war machine no favours.

We find Pelagia, they're in the sea to our south west. This is good as it's possible they won't be competing with us when we conquer the peninsula to our south east.

Turn 6

We finish Construction 1. Nothing interesting.

Our main army attacks a farm province. On the left our gigantes hoplites and ekdromos progress unopposed, in the centre a squad of light infantry engages our helotes with half its number while the other half moves on our Discobolus. The Discos kicked their arses and routed them, we lost 3 helotes in the centre before the gigantes infantry sealed the deal in the enemy's rear. Another solid win.

In the sea to my south west Pelagia has cleared a throne.

Money's looking better, between the conquest of a 100g/month province and a little less unrest in my capital. I set my recruitment to one Geronte and 4 Gigante Hoplites per turn. I want to get a Polemarch but I'll wait until I can do it without reducing Hoplite production. The Gigante Hoplite is an extremely powerful unit for 40 gold (I haven't lost one yet on campaign) but they are cap only and further limited to 4/turn. I'd like to be recruiting those 4 every turn for the entire game to maximise the numbers of one of my civ's genuine advantages.

Turn 7

We fight a bunch of infantry. Their heavies engage our line while their light storms our Discobolus. We pay a high price for leaving them exposed on our right flank, 3 Discos spin their last. It may not be correct to position them that way but when I had them in a more orthodox position in other games they caused terrible friendly fire. Possibly the correct answer is just not to recruit them.

It was still a sound win, 48 killed for 3 losses.

I have enough gold to recruit a polemarch, looks like we will have a Champion for the next Death Match. I'm also able to recruit 4 Gigante Hoplites, with my excellent Scales and the two forests in my cap circle I have more resources than I know what to do with. Helote Hoplites or Gigante Ekdromos could be an option but I'll need castles soon so I decide to save my money.

My cap circle is complete, my army returns to the capital.

Turn 8

I finish Construction 2 and Thaumaturgy 1. Time to make my Polemarch some items. I look up Oni Shugo in the Mod Inspector. They're sacred and they summon wolves in battle. They use a No Dachi greatsword, throw flames or javelins and get Death 2 plus a random path.. I decide I'll need trampling boots for the wolves. I'm limited to Fire 2 Earth 2 by my cheapo magic team. What I'd really like is morale in case it casts Frighten spells. There's nothing suitable so I make Lodestone Amulet and a Burning Pearl for some magic resist, fire resist and attack.

My Prophet reinforces. He now has 17 Gigante Hoplites, 5 Gigante Ekdromos, 11 Discobolus, and 19 Helotes. That's a very strong army to take the southeast peninsula. I consider splitting it and sending the Polemarch to take provinces in a different direction but decide not to for now.

Turn 9

I accidentally make another Polemarch as I had it on repeat and forgot to change it. It's fine, I'm more than happy to have another. I make the same item set for him.

My scout finds Yomi on the west edge of the map. They don't seem to have expanded much. Unfortunately their natural expansion direction is either south into Pelagia's attempts to take some shore or east into us. That probably means Niefelheim is in the far north east and is very likely to come for me. I decide I need to expand east and simply kill Niefelheim when I meet him. I'll still proceed with the plan to conquer the peninsula.

Turn 10.

My main army finds a bunch of dress-wearers with blowpipes and it goes about how you'd expect.

I finish Thaumaturgy 2 for a nice single target Fire spell.

My scout spots Yomi easily taking an independent province to his south. It does seem he will be on a collision course with Pelagia.

I discover a problem with the peninsula plan. The far two provinces are across rivers. These are currently frozen. But if I invade and the river thaws I could be trapped the far side. I can't take that risk in late winter with my main army. I'll have to come back later, probably with thugs who have rings of water breathing. I turn my main army around and aim for the north east, towards Niefelheim and the fearsome Frost Giants.

My new province might be a good place for a city as it would control the peninsula and it has the potential for the recruitment of Woodhenge Druids which would give me another magic path.

Turn 10 map

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Dom 5: Madness? This is Mekone! part 1 set up

New DLC for Dominions 5 arrived this week which included a race called the Mekone, a race of Spartan giants. I am now leading my awesome giants (and their puny human slaves) in campaigns to conquer the world and slay your puny human gods. When I am in your presence, Mortal, you may call me Argghh, no please stop but otherwise call me Leonidas.

This is my Pretender God for this campaign, an imprisoned scales-heavy statue. (Statue of me of course!)


The Mekone have no sacred units (although we do have sacred commanders). This is our roster:

Helote Peltast: cheap slave light infantry

Helote Ekdromos: cheap slave medium infantry

Helote Hoplite: cheap slave heavy infantry

All Helote units cost 8 gold and 3g/year upkeep. The armoured units cost more resources. Generally I find that a nation starts out resource-constrained in Dom5 then moves towards being gold-constrained. My initial impression is that Helote Ekdromos are good units at the start of the game, giving a lot of bodies for the battlefield pretty cheaply. All helotes can get promoted, the promoted form has 4 higher base morale.

Perioeci Peltast: light infantry

More expensive than Helotes without being better. Freedom is wasted on humans.

Discobolus: almost-naked athletes who chuck discus at the enemy. And at the ranks of Helotes screening for them. Very resource cheap which makes them a decent choice at the start. The discus hit really hard (I've seen several hits over 40 damage). They are very dangerous to friendly melee combatants. I've now started arranging my lines as follows: (troops I care about) (troops I don't care about) (big gap) (discus-chucking nutters in their underpants).

Gigante Ekdromos

Gigante Hoplite

40 gold, 32g upkeep. Very strong, well-armoured giant infantry. The hoplites are better armoured and cost more resources. I prefer to recruit the hoplites and gradually switch over to them as my economy moves from the resource-constrained start to the gold-constrained phase of the game.


Perioeci Scout: typical Dom 5 scout. There's less need to recruit them as our nation gets free stealthy assassins.

Neodamode Commander: human Leadership 60 commander. Cheap way to collect up units and ferry them to better generals. You wouldn't want to fight a battle with one.

Lochos. Our actual cheap commander. Giant, leadership 80, taskmaster 2. Outclassed in every way by Polemarchs.

Geronte: cheapest Priest/FE Mage/researcher. Old. Sadly a full research station of these guys has a winter health crisis that rivals the British NHS. Like most Mekone priests has the Inquisitor skill opening a possibility of sending them in stealthed to attack enemy dominion.

Ephor: Priest/FAE Mage/researcher. Even deeper into old age that the Geronte. (For some reason this unit has shorter lifespans). One is needed in each city for an annual event.

Polemarch: excellent thug/general/FE battlemage. Comes equipped with 4 items including a God-slayer spear which will wreck gods, titans and sacred units.

Archon: powerful FAE mage/researcher. Minor priest skills. Our only robe-wearer that doesn't start out with old age.

Basileus: powerful FAWE mage/priest/researcher. Old.

Cyclops: powerful FAWE mage/researcher/item crafter. Has Master Smith 1 which adds 1 to his path levels when making magic items. So with one point in Water he can craft boosters which will get him up to 4 or 5 skill in Water for crafting certain powerful items, notably items that let you lead land armies into the sea. Not sacred unlike all our other magi.

Laertes (spelling?): stealth/assassin units. Can't be recruited. Generated free by an annual event from any city that has an Ephor.

Old age management: stray thought. Old age strikes at midwinter so there's some play in when you recruit these units. A Geronte recruited in late winter gives you almost a year of service before there's even a chance of his health breaking down. Or you could recruit a Basileus in mid Winter and discover that the month after you paid 300 gold for him he's already dying of pneumonia.

National specials

We get two things that are restricted to our nation only: an item and a spell.

God-slayer spear. Good item but our Polemarchs come pre-equipped with one.

Gigantomachia. Hard to say how impactful this global enchantment is. We'll make it our end-game goal so we can try it out in this playthrough.

Monday 15 January 2018

My favourite magic items so far from Construction skill 0-4

Magic items can be very impactful but they also risk the sinking of a substantial amount of gems and effort into an inconsequential effect so it's important to pick and choose. They compete for gems with rituals and empowers and to my mind, at least in the early game, generally win. I'd rather make a magic item than summon a handful of monsters.

Absolute all-star:  

 Shroud of the Battle Saint (S), Prot 9 (body), unit is always Sacred and Blessed. Depending on how you designed your god this is way more powerful as a buff than a simple Ring of Regeneration which might be the equivalent of one of your blessings. The Shroud gives all of them passively. If your commander is already Sacred then Flask of Holy Water (W) does just as well.

Construction Level 0 stand outs:

For me it's the resistance rings, particularly the poison resistance ring which for some reason does double and gives poison touch too. Once you know who you're fighting it can be very powerful to buff your commanders against them.

Construction Level 2

The magic factory you have probably assembled in your capital can be considerably enhanced at this level.

Dwarven Hammer (EEE) reduces gems used in making magic items by 2. It costs 15 so it doesn't pay for itself until the 8th magic item so you want a couple of guys who craft all the time rather than having everyone on research and then suddenly 7 of them craft an item whenever you roll a new thug.

Owl Quill (A) +6 research. Make one for all your researchers. With some civs this will almost double your research production.

Halberd of Might (E) may be the most powerful weapon stats wise and it has reach so you'll repel a lot of attacks. Other weapons may have fancy effects but this is normally going to be better unless you need an AOE weapon.

Ice Mist Scimitar (AW) decent weapon with AOE exhaustion and +10 resist cold. Well worth considering against Water/Cold races.

Mace of Eruption (FF), Thunder Whip (A) the only Construction 2 AOE damage weapons.

Gloves of the Gladiator (NN) but who needs AOE when you can get 4 attacks?

Boots of the Behemoth (E), Boots of Giant Strength (E). Earth gives the only good lowbie boots. Trample is really powerful if your champion is big (eg Dai Oni) and is fighting lots of weak troops.

Dragon Helm (F) really nice collection of bonuses including great protection and a small morale buff.

Bracers of Protections (E) extra protection and defence for a very cheap price.

Handful of Acorns (E) this is great in a Death Match because 3 little shrublings will really waste the other commander's time and resources. If he hits one of these he's not hitting you. Considerably improves your commander's chance to win.

Construction Level 4

Some decent AOE weapons: Frost Brand (W), Snake Bladder Stick (N)

Various skill booster items which are significant because they unlock items you couldn't make before. Thistle Mace (NN), Skull Staff (DD), Armour of Twisting Thorns (NNBBB), Earth Boots (EE), Flame Helmet (FFFF), Winged Helmet (AAAA), Bag of Winds (AAAAA), Blood Stone (EEBBB), Brazen Vessel (BBBBB), Crystal Coin (EESS), Water Lens (W)

Herald Lance (SS) at last, a good weapon for a general or use Whip of Command (N) if you're leading slaves.

Wand of Wild Fire (FFF) good weapon for a mage, chucks Fireballs, a great AOE spell.

Skull Standard (DNN) is a great aoe fear and panic weapon for a general or his/her support.

Wraith Sword (DD) is our first lifestealing weapon.

Elemental Armour (FEE) is a great suit of plate for commanders who don't need to use Shrouds.

Crown of Command (SS) and Helmet of Heroes (FE) are both great hats for generals

Spirit Mask (DDN) is an absolutely fantastic hat for a Deathmatch duellist.

Amulet of Giants (N) is a combo item with the trample boots or defence against tramplers like Elephants.

Bane Venom Charm (DD) unlocks a behind the lines attritional strategy. It's best with Summon Shade as the shades are immune to the disease. It's not very obvious how impactful it is but it wouldn't take much to do more than the cost of a shade plus this plus a cheap +stealth bonus item. More potent later in the game or against higher difficulty AIs.

Cornucopia (NNN) 2 temporary Nature gems and +50 supply make this a very powerful item for your main armies once you've unlocked strong Nature magic like Haste (Ench 4).

Horn of Valour (N) +1 inspirational leadership. Nothing fancy, but might swing close battles.

Sanguine Dowsing Rod (B) improves Blood hunts. Gotta catch em all!

Skull Mentor (DD) +14 Research, will stack with the Owl Quills if you're both Death and Air, makes a perfectly adequate alternative if not. The cost of 10 gems each and harder prereqs make it worse than the Owl Quill.

Charcoal Shield (FF), Vine Shield (NN) punish attackers, making these shields great for thugs.

Now a few general points:

- it's usually better to make a 2H weapon rather than a 1H weapon and shield. Less crafter time less gems for the set. There can be exceptions if you particularly want a certain set or if cost is no object for this particular commander.

- basic Thug gear is Shroud (or Flask of Holy Water) plus Halberd of Might. You can give them more stuff but they will do 90% of the job with just those two items and it might be better to make more Thugs than to overload one.

- next items to give Thugs in most circumstances are the Boots of the Behemoth and Amulet of Giants.

- Astral items get a bonus because of the way Alchemy works. If I run out of Astral gems I can alchemise any gems I don't need at 2 for 1. If I need Fire gems and I have surplus Earth or Water gems I turn them into Fire gems at a rate of 4 for 1.

- Many commanders start with items. When considering giving a commander a new magic armour, helm, shield or weapons check what mundane armour they're already wearing. 

Saturday 13 January 2018

Dominions 5: EA Ermor, Caligula campaign, turns 2 - 10

Turn 2

Events were quiet, just me and one other declaring a prophet.

Recruitment. I love healers. Passively curing afflictions that would otherwise kill a unit on the march is a wonderful ability. I jam a healer in as this turn's commander build. Eventually I'd like 3-4 per active army stack, it really suits a strategy based around expensive combat units. The healers have some utility in battle too, especially against undead which I expect C'Tis to field. I get all the Sacred Equites I can afford which is 4 this turn. I have enough over to get a rookie heavy infantry, an Accensus.

To battle!

I have intel now on 4 provinces with respectively 20, 20, 40 and 60 troops in each. Naturally I'm looking to attack the weaker ones. Of the two weak ones I'd like to get the one which is due west as it gets me towards where I'd like to make my wall. However those 20 guys are heavy infantry and heavy cavalry which will be quite tough. I decide to hit the other weaker 20 man province, I invade Mireni.

Organising my army is going to be important and here the game rather throws players in at the deep end. I'd advise watching one of the excellent youtubers, perhaps MarcusAureliusLP, to see how he does it. I'll give you the basics here.

Always place your heavy infantry first. They are the anvil you want to break the enemy army on. For this fight I'm putting them to the right edge of the screen which is the front towards the enemy. They will advance and attack the closest, attempting to gum up most of the enemies forces. I've given them the standard to help their morale.

My cavalry are the hammer. I want these to come in a little late and then decisively smash the enemy archers. I place them deep so they won't get shot at before they're buffed and I hold a turn. It's very easy to have cavalry run out too early before the heavy infantry have tied the enemy troops down. You can set either attack archers or attack rear with this tactic. As I know I'm facing archers I select Hold Attack archers.

Pope Iconium will cast Divine Blessing which is a great level 3 Priest spell that hits the whole battlefield. Then he'll do a Smite then he can do whatever. They usually cast their morale buffing spell.

The Legatus will stay safe. Later on I might give him magic armour but for now his one and only job is not dying.

Here's my final army positions:

 And here's my army setup:

I move my scout west and that's my turn done I think. Army invading - check. Recruitment done - check. Research done - check (even though I have zero research). Scout moved - check.

Wish me luck!

Turn 3

Next up is a feature I absolutely love. In the screen that gives you the news for the turn it doesn't spoil what happens. You can click View Battle and watch the carnage with no idea who will win.

OK, we won. The tactics went a bit wrong. My Heavies chewed through the middle and were on the archers before the cavalry arrived and the cavalry decided to hit the flank of the few remaining infantry. They hit hard. So my infantry killed the archers and the cav killed the infantry but I think that was because a hole appeared in the enemy middle so quickly. I'll have a look in another couple of battles, I don't think it's correct to adjust yet.

There was a moment of comedy at the start. I'd positioned my cavalry very deep and my Legatus near the front. I'd told my Legatus to stay behind the troops. So at the start of the battle my general turns like a rabbit and races towards the back to get behind the cavalry. You can see in the screenshot he's halfway there! That's taking things a bit too literally.

Here's the scoreboard:

I'm very satisfied with this, the Leves are expendable units and in any event just losing 4 is very light.

My Bishop is now ready back at base. He'll stay there preaching as the army will come back to reinforce.

I drop 2 points of Province Defence into Mireni and move my forces back to the capital.

I recruit another Bishop, 4 Sacred Equites and 2 Rorarus heavy infantry. This time I did run out of recruitment points but I was also out of resources so I'm still not seeing the way I designed my scales as a limitation.

My scout discovers a problem. Actually a problem that's an opportunity. He can't go to the province westwards because there's a river. Perhaps I should use the river as my wall. It means enclosing a little less territory (but still a lot) but the tradeoff is the natural defensive barrier. I'm considering a wall along the 3 provinces Andoria Ralothia and The Forest of the Lost.

Turn 4

In the capital I reinforce The Legatus' army with sacred equites and more heavy infantry as well as two bishops. The bishops' healing ability is very useful to a battle group. I'd love to give these guys some items or some bodyguards but I can't spare the resources yet.

I recruit an Augur, my first mage, 4 Sacred Equites and 2 Heavy infantry. I send the battlegroup into Sentania where they will face Heavy Infantry and Heavy Cavalry. I adjust the order to my cavalry. I set them to activate sooner, although still from a deep start and target the hostile cavalry. What I hope will happen is that the bad guys will charge my heavy foot then get decimated by my cavalry. Cavalry can be enormously destructive units and I want them dead as soon as possible. Reflecting, I change the orders of the two foot squads to also target the cavalry.

Here's how we look now:

Turn 5

OK, so there's semi-spoilers. We know the priests survived because they cured people after the battle and we know someone made it to become a famous hero.

Let's View Battle

OK, the tactics worked well. My heavy infantry have stopped the enemy cavalry in the centre, my elite sacred knights have moved to flanking position and my leves are doing a decent job throwing javelins in from the far flank. Just after this moment my cavalry flanked in. At first they hit the guys at the very back, I guess because there's a couple of cavalry back there but they quickly killed them, moved in on the enemy cav from the flank and rear and utterly slaughtered the opposition.

In the capital an Augur has appeared. I stuck him on Research which is an order that automatically repeats every turn until I instruct him differently. He will passively protect the city from bad luck.

I plan to use Augurs to build my line of castles, one Augur in each. They can sit there protecting it from bad luck although they can only research if I also build a lab there.

I recruit Augur, 4 Sacred Equites and 2 Rorarus. This time recruitment points is the bottleneck but only just.

Andoria is looking weak, I adjust my army orders to deal with an infantry archer set up and invade.

Turn 6

My cavalry flank was only 70% successful as some of his infantry wriggled through to get in the way of some of them. They died and the rest of the cavalry got around the back to murder the archers. The infantry snarled up in the centre where 3 of his guys managed to get through the centre to attack the Legatus. He's quite well armoured and was fine but I should try to get some defensive items on him. He's becoming more valuable as he gains experience, particularly as he has just gained a Heroic Ability called Valour which gives more morale to him and his troops. It was a crushing win with only 3 Leves dying.

The priests were slacking a little as someone died of their affliction on the march. Might get another priest soon.

I load an Augur with troops from the capital and send him to Andoria. He will build my first fort expansion.

My main army under The Legatus moves south to invade the throne at Ralothia.

I decide to recruit an Archbishop as my third priest that will travel with the main stack as they have better battle magic and don't cost that much more than the vanilla bishops. They do take an extra turn to make but that's fine. The purse also stretches to 4 sacred equites and a Standard.

As my bottleneck for new units has always been either Resources or Recruitment points I've had gold left over every turn. This has now built up into a substantial fort-making fund. I have 614 gold in my treasury with a fort to start next turn.

My scout meanwhile is having a rough time of it. The map is super choked up with rivers. This is great because they're a natural defence.

Turn 7

I got a random event and it looks like my Luck scale paid off this turn. That's a very nice haul.

In the battle the elephants were pretty scary looking. They flanked my infantry heading for my Equites of the Sacred Shroud who charged into them, lances couched. Three elephants went pop on impact, the morale broke and the other two were cut down trying to run away. A very nice result against a powerful unit. In the centre my heavy infantry continued to hold and grind. I only lost 1 leve at the end of this battle which really surprised me as it looked nasty.

My scout found the C'Tis, they're in the North West corner. I really hope that they get emboiled with their southern neighbour who my scout is going to find next. I think the fourth civ must be on the Australia like island to my south.

So I need 4 thrones. I have just conquered one. I have a water throne province next door to my capital which I will attack when I can get some amphibious troops. There's a throne in the north between me and the C'Tis which I don't want to go for yet while I'm still hopeful the C'Tis will fight someone else. And my final throne could be a death stack march across the map to take a throne in the bottom left corner, in the south west. I am hoping to avoid the throne in Australia as the civ there will probably be really strong because he's had no one to fight.

My main stack will pause from constant invading. The prophet claims the throne, the priests with him construct a temple and a palisade, the augur constructs another palisade in Andoria and that's 1600 gold I just blew through.

Recruitment in Ermor: my archbishop is just finishing up, I paid for him last turn and I queue 4 sacred equites. I'm left with 138 gold.

My next objective is to get a palisade built in the Forest of the Lost and then I'll probably build some province defence for my 3 "wall" provinces. I can then backfill pretty easily which will give me 11 or 12 land provinces. I want to conquer the sea throne for my 13th. The map is based on giving people 15 provinces each so that would be about my quarter. If no one bothers me that will be enough to win from, if they attack me then they will find out why the world fears the mighty Emperor Caligula (Praise Him).

I'm a God you know.

By the way. Where's my triumph?

Turn 8

I got 3 positive random events. The best was a permanent +50 gold per turn to the income of a province.

This is another set up turn. Various troops get shuffled between heroes who are basically just carrying them to one central province where they will all get sorted out and assigned to The Legatus next turn. Palisades are underway now in two of my wall provinces, next turn I will conquer the final one and begin constructing its defences. The whole wall should be finished by turn 14, a line of 3 impregnable forts keeping all my enemies to the west and even more important dissuading them from declaring war.

Turn 9

My scout finds T'ien C'hi in the south west corner. C'Tis already has a border with him so those two should be at war soon. No one borders me yet.

Recruitment: Augur Elder. I need another Augur for my 3rd fort but what I'll do is I'll train up a better version to stay at the capital and send my original guy to do prophecy duty in the sticks. He can make a better array of items. Also 4 Sacred Equites.

I reorganise my army and send my invasion force into The Forest of the Lost, the last piece of my wall. I have 19 heavy infantry as my centre, 27 sacred equites as my hammer and I've assigned 1 heavy infantry as bodyguard to each of a Bishop, an Archbishop, a Centurion Prophet and The Legatus.

Turn 9

Another strong win. I killed 58, lost 3 heavy infantry and a sacred cav. My bishop picked up a fatigue recovery heroic ability which is quite nice.

Machaka has put in an appearance, most unwelcomely to the west of my wall. I don't know how he got there. He must have landed then started taking places between me and C'Tis. Either that or he started there and my scout missed him. I really want to scout Australia now.

I start a fort with my bishop. I now have just one healer with the army, the other two stopped to build forts.

I recruit 4 sacred cav at Ermor. I would have got 5 if I'd had more recruitment points so maybe I did lean too heavily on the Turmoil scale. I don't think it matters, soon I'll be recruiting elsewhere. The sacred cavalry are important because they're by far my best units once blessed but there's some merit in making other units and I'd particularly like to have an effective line of magi. Basically if I run out of recruitment points or resources there's other things to do, if I run out of gold I'm screwed.

I splash some cash on Province Defence. A lot of cash, nearly a thousand gold. Here's my thinking. If Machaka thinks I look weak he will attack and I will be in forever war with him. If he doesn't like the look of it he will attack C'Tis and those two will cripple each other. Of the three wall provinces I have 30 PD in Andoria, 30 PD and my main army approaching in Ralothia and 20 PD in The Forest of the Lost. My palisades in Andoria and Ralothia finish next turn. Machaka has the option of attacking either Andoria or Ralothia.

Turn 10

It worked!

He didn't attack. In fact the big army with all those elephants has vanished westwards.

I found T'ien C'hi with my scout in the far south west as I expected and now urgently need him to head back and scout my west flank.

I accidentally moved a guy who is meant to be building a Palisades in The Forest of the Lost so I sent him back. I've also got an Augur going there.

I moved my main force east, it's time to backfill. Now that the forts are up my forces will have a couple of turns to rush to the western front if anyone tries anything and I've got a bunch of juicy neutral provinces to claim.

My Archbishop picked up an affliction. He didn't fight last turn so I guess it's just from being old. He can't self-cure but I'm hoping one of the junior priests can fix him. Otherwise it was a bit of a waste of early game money if he dies from it.

So here is the state of the game at turn 10. Time for me to wrap this up, see you next time.