This is not a guide about how to win. This is a guide about how not to lose.
OK, so you’ve downloaded this spiff new game, oohed and aahed at all the graphics and factions, explored a bit, maybe won a few fights, and then got absolutely rocked by an enemy with a MASSIVE army that puts yours to shame. What happened? Let’s run through a few possible scenarios:
1. The Enemy is Better Than You At The Game
Chances are, the AI has played this game more than you. It isn’t wasting turns figuring out where might be the best way to go, whether it’s good to go chase about after which blinky bits, and which fights it absolutely should not take. It’s just playing the game according to a few rules, which go something like this:
A) Easy Fight? TAKE IT
No easy fights…?
B) Unowned mine? TAKE IT
No unowned mines…?
C) Challenging or higher enemy in range? DISREGARD
No big enemies in range…?
D) Units to build? BUILD EM
No more units to build…?
E) Money left over for a building? BUILD IT
No buildings to build…?
F) Got a tavern? HIRE EM
The higher the difficulty is, the more resources the AI has to do this sort of thing. Maybe different factions have different AI, but until proven otherwise I’m going to insist they all do this basic strategy.
If you’re not doing a strategy at least as good as this strategy, You Will Lose. Turns out never building an army and never improving your city Always Fails. Sorry. There are some pretty creative opportunities for self-expression here, but skipping the fundamentals ain’t it.
2. You Took Casualties
You silly, silly, silly goose. You went and picked a fight you couldn’t just stomp, and you had 978 units while your mirror match AI did no such thing and has their full complement of 1000. Bet you feel dumb now, don’t you?
3. You Got Ganged Up On
Three way fight? Sounds fun, right? Wait until your enemies attack each other, then swoop in? How’d that work? Oh, did they *not* destroy each other leaving their realms ripe for plunder? Their big armies each took turns kicking your smaller army until you were so far behind your baby commander can’t leave the safety of the keep? Gross.
This guide will spend a bit of time covering each of these scenarios and how to avoid losing to them. I can’t teach you how to win, because that’s too hard. I can, however, teach you how to lose less, and that’s the first step towards winning.
The Next Bit: How Not to Lose the First Way
OK, let’s start with the easiest one first: Taking Casualties.
The short answer is don’t. Wouldn’t the game be simple if it were that easy? Yeah, no, none of the units really have ‘defense’ scores, just health and attack power. Given enough time, every little stationary army recruits a few more bad hombres into their ranks, so even an ‘Easy’ group can chew up a few of your forces if you’re not careful.
Since we can’t stop it, why don’t we mitigate it? That means MAKE LESS BAD, you illiterate Philistines. There are two ways to mitigate casualties:
—Recruit so many more units that the casualties don’t matter
Healing magic reduces casualties. Increasing health reduces casualties. The Healing skill, the first aid tent, infirmaries and hospitals can even *negate* casualties by resurrecting them after the fight.
How good is this? Let’s say you have 20 lizwarriors but lose 10 lizwarriors in a nasty fight. You’ve got 1 rank in Healing and an infirmary.
2 of your lizwarriors are healed- they’re right with you like they never left! Awwww!
5 *more* of your lizwarriors are back at home, sipping warm tea and itching to get back in the fight.
You’ve really only lost 3 lizwarriors- sure your fighting force ‘feels’ like only 12 instead of 17, but as soon as you resupply your front line army, you’ll be almost as good as new.
Oh, you don’t resupply? You just run back to base every week with your only hero? You’re about to find a new way to lose:
4: You Didn’t Get Enough Heroes.
Ah, beans. Now I have to make an extra bit to cover how not to lose *that* way. Thanks a lot.
The Bit After That: A New Way to Lose, and How Not to Do It
So you’ve got a cracking army, you’ve got a cracking base full of upgrades, and your hero has all kinds of levels and abilities. You ride your army straight to the enemy’s gates, and you get absolutely rocked by an army that’s somehow even bigger than your army- maybe even twice as big!
Why is this way to lose called You Don’t Have Enough Heroes?
Well, chances are you left your base right after topping off your army with the weekly resupply- as much as your gold would allow, anyway. With your new recruits, you bash down a few mines, careful not to Take Casualties, and you make your way almost to the enemy’s base right as the week ends. You attacked at the start of the next week- right as the enemy got *their* weekly resupply! Only they saw you knocking down their gate, so they didn’t dash about Taking Casualties. They hid in their keep with their almost-as-good hero, because they knew they could survive if they could just hold out until next Sunday. And guess what, they did! Even if you had as many troops as they did, they’ve still got all those walls and archery bits atop those walls.
It’s not enough to be just as good as your enemy. You need an *advantage*.
Now, what if instead of dashing out to bash your head against the enemy’s keep, you took your sweet time dallying about, reclaiming some unguarded mines from your enemy? If your enemy rushes out to meet you, you’ve got plenty of space to run back.
MEANWHILE… your Second Hero stocks up with YOUR next week’s worth of troops, and is dashing to support you as fast as they possibly can! Once they arrive, they transfer every last unit to your higher-level hero. Every worm, every little skeleton. “But Amphiprison, my second hero will be vulnerable!” Let me tell you a secret: Your hero doesn’t die if they lose, they just go back to the nearest keep. Where they can, y’know, resupply. If someone kills off that solo dolo hero, they’ve done you a favor by teleporting them back to base to bring next week’s resupply even faster.
Now your enemy has a terrible decision: Leave all their troops in their keep, where they’re safe, or leave some of their troops in their keep and ride out, leaving their keep vulnerable? Hint: If they do the second thing, you’re smashing that keep and forcing *them* to take it from *you*, you nasty nasty brat.
Now, this strategy only works if your Second Hero can get to you in time. If it takes more than a week to get from your keep to theirs, you’re gonna need More Heroes. It’s a good way to not lose.
The Fourth Bit: Okay, Back to the Third Way
So you get Ganged Up On. This is easier than getting better at the game than the AI, so we’re covering it next. It’s actually relatively simple: Don’t be the easiest target!
Remember, the AI looks for easy fights and unclaimed mines to steal. That’s because easy fights can actually leave you stronger than you were before, via experience and/or artifacts, and unclaimed mines mean an income gap that increases over time.
Take a gold mine, for instance. That’s 500 coins a day to whoever owns it. Each keep has some easy mines around it, protected by a gate or portal or on an island, yeh? Let’s pretend each keep has the same number of mines nearby. You get a gold mine, I get a gold mine. We each get 500 coins a day, so neither of us has An Advantage.
Then I sneak into your territory and I drink your milkshake reclaim your mine. Now I get 1000 coins a day to your 0. That’s like having an extra top tier income upgrade in my city, only I didn’t have to sink 4000 or whatever into it! And if it takes you four days to run an army to that mine and take it back, I’ve had a 1000-coin advantage for 4 days, which is 4000 coins for those of you who are terrible at math. That’s enough to buy quite a few more units than you. Enough that if I can turn that gold into units and run it to my frontlines, I’m always going to have more units than you, unless I Take Casualties or Get Ganged Up On or Don’t Get Enough Heroes, right?
So there’s always some juicy stuff in the center. It’s a little harder to hold, because folks are always slipping in there and grabbing it back. But do you really have to *hold* it, or do you just have to keep it long enough to gain An Advantage? That’s right, you really don’t have to hold it. You can dare others to get close enough to your mine to take it, and then punish them for trying. And every turn you scare them away from it is another turn of all that sweet sweet mine income for yourself.
Now here’s where Getting Good at the Game begins to matter: The Wild faction can make mines Overgrown, which does two things:
-Makes them make more wood and less whatever-it-is they make
-Guards them with Wild units, like a gate
If you’re playing Wild, this option is WAY BETTER for you than others, because you don’t even have to be around to punish people for taking your mines! Who cares that they only take a few casualties? They’re still Taking Casualties for something that cost you nothing to do!
So: Claim all the easy mines as soon as you can. Even if they’re Moderate, sometimes. Some Moderate fights are really just Easy fights in disguise. Which ones?
Almost the Last Bit: How to Not Lose the Last Way
Ah, so you’re still Not As Good As The AI At The Game.
Turns out, computers are good at calculating. They can look at the relative power and likely unit numbers and grind out some equations about who is likely to win, and you’re out here eating Cheetos and trying not to spill Mountain Dew on your keyboard. You’re a barely-evolved ape whose species still hasn’t quite figured out that Nuclear Weapons Are Bad and you stopped being able to keep ten-digit strings of numbers in your head the day your progenitors bought you a cell phone.
So, you can either memorize a lot of spreadsheets and research a lot of tools like the very excellent What the Pillar Gives You… or you can do like me, and play dirty.
See, the AI doesn’t think very deeply about what’s going on. The AI doesn’t actually know that the Arcane get a zero mana spell with their Arcane Spire, for example. They’re counting on you to act like they do, avoiding any fight that isn’t easy unless it’s time to swipe an ill-defended keep.
Remember how I said you need An Advantage? There are two sources of Advantages:
oh, and Spells. Don’t forget Spells.
Everyone forgets Spells, it’s okay. They’re not always as splashy as Artifacts, or units. But every single hero has 1 Knowledge and 1 Spellpower, which means every single hero can cast a spell even if they don’t know one off the bat. If you’re not casting a spell, you’re probably not putting that mana to use, and that’s an Advantage you’re leaving at home instead of BRINGING IT TO THE BATTLEFIELD WHERE IT BELONGS.
So: If you pick up a nice Artifact in an Easy fight? Now you can probably take a Moderate fight and Take (Less) Casualties. Sometimes it’s worth it: A gold mine, or an even better Artifact (you can mouse over the Artifact and see whether it’s helpful or whether it’s a slot you’ve already got filled). Sometimes you don’t even need the Artifact- sometimes it’s a Moderate fight with a bunch of archers but you’ve got units with Charge and Warding so you only take half damage from ranged, so you just elbow drop those sad barries into next week for free.
Charge beats Ranged, Tank beats Charge, Ranged (plus a little bit of melee) beats Tanks. That’s the Rock Paper Scissors of this game, there’s not too much to it. If you have an Advantage, you can probably take a Moderate.
This goes the other way as well- if you go up against a Moderate and lose half your army, you probably weren’t paying attention to their unit composition and your hotshot Deadeye snipers got flanked by teleporting bananas or whatever. Owell, live and learn.
The Last Bit: A Little Something for the Road
Oh, Faction Spiffies? They’re things like that bit about Wild’s overgrown mines being painful to take back. Quiet little Advantages that aren’t obvious because there’s no tutorial screaming THIS IS WHAT MAKES THIS FACTION COOL.
Tide’s Aquatic troops can get back on boats and often have Knockback, so they will absolutely wreck any non-fliers in naval combat. (Carceri look super cool in the water btw)
Earthen’s Monument to War has an infinite supply with only slowly increasing costs, so you can get a super big early Advantage by buying out the shop week 1 if it’s an early upgrade for you.
Pyre’s heroes all have Demonology which lets them sacrifice XP for more units, so Easy fights let them ramp up way faster.
Enclave’s Hunting heroes absolutely suck until they find their beast, and then it’s like getting a free Obelisk worth of stuff, so they’re way better than usual once they get those Call Beasts Artifacts.
Decay’s ability to turn living units into undead ones seems useless until you remember that Mastery boosts specific types of units and the Mercenary Hall will just give you living units.
Order is pretty vanilla until you realize you will very soon have too many units to field, and you can sacrifice the units you don’t want to use to Conscription to be able to pay for the units you *do* want to use. Sure it’s like Taking Casualties, but the Hostler mitigates it by speeding up your resupply so you don’t Need More Heroes than two, and if you do it early enough you won’t notice the missing units.
Lament’s Shadowclones are extra units in every fight every 1 day, so if you have exactly 1 fight per day you’ll always have Shadowclones available.
Horde’s hero abilities work the same way, but also their units can upgrade in battle, so why bother buying the upgrade buildings when you can just Hulk Smash your way to competent units?
Pillar’s hero ability is just poor because you want to use it on units with high damage but all the Pillar units are either tanky, castery, or an archer. If only they had some way to bring in a berserker unit from somewhere else, like a Mercenary Hall…
Well, that should be enough to help you not lose. I’m sure someone will come along and teach you how to win vs. 7 Hardcore AI or whatever, and I’m sure it’ll be useful. I’m also sure someone will come along and tell me I’m wrong, that you can do all kinds of fun wins by Taking Casualties or Never Buying Heroes. You’re right, future Internet person. You win the argument, you win the Internet, everyone loves you including me. Go make your own guide.
Did you find a new way to lose? Now that’d be something. That’s worth commenting. Did you find a new cool Faction Spiffie I forgot to mention? Faction Spiffies have to be more in-depth than just something you could’ve learned by reading the in-game descriptions, you know. I don’t make the rules. I just make this guide.
Is this guide out of date? Almost immediately, hopefully. If you find something obsolete, that’s worth commenting too. Make sure you subtly insult me for not regularly maintaining this guide with every new patch when you do. That’s a great way to make friends on the Internet.
Here we come to an end for the Guide about how not to lose – Hero’s Hour guide. I hope this guide has helped you with your gameplay. If you have something to add to this guide or believe we forgot some information to add, please let us know via comment! We check each comment manually by approving them!
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