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.

Dominions 5: EA Ermor, Caligula campaign, turn 1

I had an epiphany while researching the units for this civ. With the Augur unit negating bad events the Luck scale becomes much much better for me.

I also took the helpful comment that Dominion 10 was excessive into account and designed a new version of Caligula.

I went all in on Turmoil which is mostly negative (and is point scored as negative) but actually helps us because we love events. I went all in on Luck. I cut Dominion down to 6 which freed up enough points to give me 3 Production and 3 Growth.

Caligula version 2

My main drawback is a lack of Recruitment Points. There are three bottlenecks when building units: Gold, Resources and Recruitment Points. (Plus a 4th for Sacred units: Dominion) If I'm building heavily armoured units the Recruitment Points probably won't matter as Resources is the bottle neck. (All that heavy armour uses up a lot of metal). I should be ok to increase Resources and decrease Recruitment Points and still not hit the bottleneck. We'll see.

Let's start a game.

Here are my map settings:

Choose participants.

Set victory conditions. I like to add an extra throne in case on spawns in a very awkward place so the wincon is 4 out of 5 available thrones.

Game settings:

And let's fire up a game!

Here's our start position:

OK, we're in the North East in something of a corner. I'd like to get the land provinces around my city and then make a western front where the line of forests and mountains creates a natural wall.

I think I should start by trying to conquer west fast then backfill. I'd like to get provinces before the AI as I don't want any more wars then necessary in a 4 player game.

The diplomacy in this game seems perfunctory. Once they get a border with you at some point they'll declare war and attack. You find out you're at war at the same time you get to read the results of their first assault. They seem to like declaring war if they perceive you as weak. Once at war there seems to be no option to make peace.

What I'd like to do is get castles and Province Defence in a North South line on the three provinces I hope will be my choke then I may be able to get away with being relatively slack behind it.

Sometimes on maps I use my Scout as an extra archer in my initial combat stack. He's fairly safe when he's at the back shooring and an extra archer is pretty nice when I'd otherwise only have about 10 units. On this map I want to check out the "wall" provinces early. I send the scout west.

My other commander is a Centurion. I'd rather use a Legatus as my army commander though as he gives an extra point of morale. The Centurion will make a fine Prophet though so I promote him. Arise Pope Iconium!

We have 15 leves (skirmishers armed with javelins and spears) and 10 Hastati (heavy infantry armed with javelin shortsword and tower shield). I decide to recruit as many as possible of my sacred units then a standard bearer then round out with as many heavy infantry as possible.

In the early game you fight a lot of archers and the ideal way to counter them is to get them shooting heavily armoured units that they don't really damage then flank them with cavalry. Cavalry are a funny tool in most of these 4x games. They are rarely suitable for a meatgrinder role. They need to be deployed with some finesse to get the most from them. It's very bad news if your cavalry get into the enemy army while your heavy infantry are still miles behind as you open your forces up to being destroyed in detail, a piece at a time.

As it turns out I only have enough to get 3 Equites of the Sacred Shroud and one Standard as well as my commander. Luckily after this I'll not be recruiting many commanders who need armour which should free up more resources for the units. Interestingly despite having severely nerfed my recruitment points and buffed my resources I still bottleneck on resources. There are surely some races where recruitment points matter but for me I now feel justified in going full Turmoil scale with my Pretender God design.


The next thing to think about is how to develop my magic. My options are to go Construction to unlock various magic items or go for some battlefield magic. As I will have my Prophet and my Legatus with my army I don't think I'm yet looking for battle magic. I decide to go towards Construction 2, the next tier of magic items.


The three other Pretenders to Godhood are T'ien C'hi (human, Chinese mythos), Machaka (Humans, African mythos, heavy on use of animals including war elephants) and C'Tis (Lizardmen).

I don't fancy those elephants, things didn't go too well for Rome last time.

OK, that's a wrap for turn 1 and this part of the story.

Friday 12 January 2018

Dominions 5: Therodos - first impressions, rookie mistakes

This is a very interesting faction which I tried yesterday and did a lot of stumbling with. Here's what I've learned:

Ephors are everything. Each Ephor is a never ending unit factory, the units they make cost nothing to upkeep. It's far more important to develop this and get this going than almost anything else you can do.

Call Ephor is a Death magic spell, it's level 0 so you start with it but your only units that can cast it are Daktyls who got lucky on their random magic path. It's roughly one in four. They're a cap only unit so you probably want your cap making Daktyls non stop through the whole game. It's quite likely that at some point you'll have enough gems that the chokepoint on building your infinite ghost generators is the number of Daktyls you have with Death magic.
  • You probably want to use all your gems making Ephors. The spell costs 7 Death gems which is a bargain. It costs 14 Astral pearls which is still a bargain. It costs 28 of any other type of gems through alchemy which is probably still better than almost anything else you would do with the gems. I may make a few exceptions like Owl Quills for instance.
  •  Every Ephor calls spectres all the time.
  • Never make philosophers, it costs you one and a half Ephors. There's plenty of other places to get research, notably all the Daktyls you're rolling.
  • Check provinces you conquer to see if they offer magi, particularly Death magi in the recruitment window (shortcut R).
  • It's probably a strong play to design your god to help find suitable sites. If you take him to Death 5-6 and Astral 5-6 he can search provinces that are likely to have high gem density such as throne provinces or woods (or if you're completionist all the provinces) and get all the gem and astral types which are the most relevant fuel for your war machine.
  • Never risk your ephors. I just fought a battle where the AI got a chance to take a pop at my ephors and I lost 4 of them in a fight I otherwise won easily. Damn birds!
  • You probably don't need to buy any unit with upkeep other than a few Kouretes at the start of the game. Save your gold for buildings as you expand across the map. Keep placing temples and your domain will expand killing the living. You don't need to conquer someone to ruin their day.
  • the faction has no need of recruitment points, resources or supply. It's very short of gold.

Dominions 5 EA Ermor Campaign part 2: tactical analysis of units.

When you start a Dominions 5 game you have a selection of units available to you because of your civ. Later on you'll gain access to more unit types. Each province has its own. Generally though these are weaker and I think they're probably not worth building except where they are situationally useful. For example a merfolk village might be great for building an amphibious force that lets you conquer places most of your units can't get to.

With my Pretender God design I'm particularly interested in Sacred units. Sacred units cost half upkeep and don't cost all that much more initially considering their quality. Even if they can't get Bless active they're close to the cost effectiveness of regular units. Once you can get Bless going with my Pretender God set up these units are amazing.

The place to start when analysing a civ's units is the Mod Inspector. Here's what the forces of Rome Ermor look like.

The top 11 units are Commanders available immediately to recruit in my cities. 2 of them will only ever be available at the Capital Province. Another one is available in Foreign provinces, I'm not sure what that means.

The next unit, the Lar, is my only magically Conjured unit. I'll have to train up the Conjuration school of magic to 5 before I can start summoning them. I like the stats so I'll definitely add that as a mini-goal for this playthrough. I think they would make great behind the lines stealthy harassing units.

The last 13 units are the basis of my army. Only one of them has the candelabra symbol showing it as sacred, the Equite of the Sacred Shroud. Annoyingly it's cap only which will make producing them and getting them to the frontline tricky in the late game. I'll need to be on the lookout for options

Among my other units I have a Standard which is worth adding one of to every squad, several types of heavy infantry and several types of skirmisher. My missile troops are rather poor quality.


Let's now look at my commander types.

I have 5 sacred commanders and the powerful defensive buffs are an important consideration on a commander. It's very annoying if a commander dies, especially if he or she was carrying lots of magic items.

The same 5 all have Priest skills allowing them to turn on the buffs I picked when I made my Pretender God. One of them has level 3 Priest which makes him able to bless the entire battlefield with one spell, a significant milestone ability.

The Lar is sacred but not a priest. If I want to use them as soloing thugs I'll have to give them an item that lets them activate a Bless. They will also be a fine addition to my regular army stacks.

The Legatus Legionis has Leadership 120 which makes him an exceptionally fine commander. Most units he commands will get +2 morale so I want these guys running my armies as far as practicably possible. I also want to look for ways to turn this key unit Sacred.

 I have some Commanders with utility abilities. My augur units have fortune telling which is a chance for a negative random event to be cancelled. It could be quite useful to have them around any key strategic province or high income province I'll possibly place one wherever I put a castle, quietly Researching away.

I have Assassins which are great for, well, disposing of enemy commanders. With a few magic items as Assassin can be made strong enough to comfortably beat commanders who would otherwise fight back too effectively or commanders who have bodyguards. However best not to invest too much as it's a risky role.

I also have the vanilla Scouts which are cheap mobile and very useful. The more intel, the better the plan.

Now let's look at magic skills. First let's list out the potential and I'm going to explain my system for doing that.

A Flamen gets one point of Fire skill and then a second point which can be either Fire, Air, Water, Earth or Nature. I list that as FFAWEN (2 Fire, Air, Water, Earth Nature). You'd never see a Flamen with FFAWEN skills - it's potential from my Empire's entire stock of actual and potential Flamen. It's useful in this format because it let's me see at a glance what could be available to me.

For example if I want to cast a Nature Ritual like Contact Lar I will need both Nature gems and a Nature mage with one skill. The only possibility for a Nature Mage in my civ is the Flamen. (Other than getting my God to do it and I'd much prefer not to waste Caligula's valuable time). I am going to have to roll Flamen until I get lucky and get a Nature one. It could also help with site searching.

This is my mage list:

Pontifex F
Augur Elder FFFASSDDD (Note S = Arcane, or Star magic. Note 2 I disregard completely any schools that are listed at 10% chance as it's a mistake I think to try to roll a DDDD Augur Elder. The probability is just too low)
Augur FS
Pretender God (arrives after 3 years) FFFAAAWWWEEESSSDDDNNNBBB

Next I have a hard look at what I can do with the lowest units, the Augurs and Pontifexes. These are my cheap units and I may deploy them en masse if I can find a good use for them.

So let's now look at all the combat spells that can be cast by a mage of Fire skill 1.

OK. So I don't think I can support casting the two top ones which permanently use up a fire gem each cast across dozens of low level magi so we'll disregard those two. I also don't like spells with no range as these are pansy little magi who will die very quickly if they go up close to heavy infantry. The spells that stand out as useful are mostly single target nukes or debuffs. This is my list: Combustion, Blindness, Fire Darts, Bonds of Fire.

Now there are some spells I don't want them to have. If they know how to Resist Cold they will be casting that on themselves instead of nuking a bad guy and 98% of fights aren't against things that will hit them with cold spells. (It's the big bastards on the horses coming to chop your heads off you need to worry about guys). So I'd like to tailor my list to add in the good spells and exclude the self-buff rubbish. I want Alteration 2, Alteration 6, Evocation 1, Thaumaturgy 2. I don't want Alteration 2, Evocation 1, Enchantment 1 and 3. I can research very elegantly therefore by just going to Thaumaturgy 2 which would add a good spell for all my Fire magi without adding in any rubbish or I can bite the bullet and accept that them sometimes self-buffing Resist Cold against a line of Archers is just a price I have to pay to get Combustion.

OK, we've analysed Fire 1 which is relevant to all magi from my civ (except the summons). That's going to be the backbone of my magical support. I did just now consider whether I could base my strategy around Augurs (FS) rather than Pontifexes (F) but there's not great low level Arcane battle magic and the upkeep of Augurs is a lot more which matters when you're thinking about adding 10 to every army. If a tie breaker were needed Pontifexes are Sacred and Augurs aren't.

Next consideration is whether to equip them with items to make them more effective. Pros: same upkeep cost, much better spells. Cons: initial gem cost for each pontifex, will not at first have access to the powerful spells.

It's a midgame/lategame strategy but let's look at it now anyway.

These are the items I'm considering adding:

Let's have another look at the Fire combat spells, except this time our guys will have FF (2 Fire skill) and a free gem to burn (heh).

OK there's now some really nice options. Hydrophobia looks a nice late game spell. Or I can use Phoenix Power which is a self-buff that adds a point of Fire skill and use these lowbie units to cast skill 3 spells such as Firestorm which nukes the entire battlefield or have them each summon a powerful Fire Elemental.

There are other options. I could base my spellcasting strategy around my more expensive mages which would give me other schools to look at and start from a higher skill level but I think we can see that several Pontifexes (upkeep 32 gold/turn) will be more powerful than a couple of Augur Elders (168 upkeep/turn) for gold spent.

Dominions 5: EA Ermor campaign. Preparation part 1, designing my Pretender God.

Ermor is this universe's version of Rome and they seem like a good place to show readers the game. Every civ game has some sort of Rome like civ, (or actual Rome!)

So to start with I'm going to design my god.

I started by thinking about what high level spells I want to cast. While it's possible to cast high level spells with units found in game it's much easier to simply design your God to be able to do it if that's how you want to win.

If I wish to go for a big epic game-crushing spell I also want that spell to suit my empire development so it will help me reach the point of being able to cast it. So because most of my mages do Fire magic I took a look at the list of ritual Fire magic on the very helpful Dom5 Mod Inspector site.

Here it is:

The list is sorted by Path req and the notable spell, at the end of the list, that requires very high skill is one called Second Sun. Sounds suitably epic, can I win the game by casting that?

Let's take a look at it.

 Well that doesn't sound great for me as my Empire is based on human people who would not benefit from such radical global warming. This might be good with a different race but no, I don't really want to cast this and it's certainly not a win condition. (If only I'd picked some sort of magma-born civ instead....)

Looking through the other Fire rituals and also the Arcane rituals I don't see any game winning spell that I'd want to base my whole strategy around so we can go magically wide rather than tall. I decide to make a Rainbow Mage, a Pretender God who is a bit good at everything but excellent at no magic path.

This means I need to pick a Physical Form for my god that supports this by having its New Paths cost only 10 god creation points. Preferably a Physical Form that gives my civ a discount.

Here it is:

I'm going to play Caligula.

He's a bit rubbish looking compared to the many powerful monsters and titans I could have picked instead but we can turn that to our advantage by using a strategy where it's not about having your god physically present for fights. If you watched DasTactic's primer video where he makes his god a dragon and sends it around soloing whole armies this is the exact opposite strategy.

On the form for creating my Pretender God I check the box that says Imprisoned (gain 350 points). I then take all the magic schools to 3.

There's a hidden feature here that wasn't obvious to me before I stumbled upon it by accident. Normally you have to take a school to 4 before it adds free special Bless powers to the deal. However if you take all 4 of the left 4 paths (Elements) or all 4 of the right 4 paths (Sorcery) it allows you Bless powers at skill 3.

Taking 8 schools to 3 then gives you an enormous 24 points of Bless abilities to add to your God's abilities. These will be active when a unit which has the Sacred property either a) has the Bless spell cast on it or b) is fighting alongside the Pretender God. There are a couple of other situations where a Sacred unit will get Bless active, including magic items.

I design this to add a ton of core stats: +1 morale (automatic feature of all Blesses) +2 attack, +2 defence, +4 strength, +10 shock and nature resistance, +2 magic resistance, units will carry on fighting until -6 hit points, +1 extra hit point

That's a lot of buffs!

Next I decide to take an abusive level of Dominion. Dominion is the religion stat, it affects how quickly your religion passively spreads, the cap on your recruitment of sacred units and can overwhelm belief in gods with weaker Dominion in the provinces surrounding my empire. It gradually "terraforms" the lands to my scales which can make provinces very difficult for a civ that likes different conditions. There are several advantages to fighting on "home turf" so having this high means that when I fight people I can usually fight them in my Dominion which is worth a small morale boost for me and a small morale malus to them.

Lastly I have enough to take one Scale. Scales are measurements of how productive your lands are and you can go negative on one aspect to free up points to buff something else. I decide I don't want to tinker with the baselines and simply put a point into Productivity which will help me recruit horsemen and armoured troops.