Alright, let’s get this party started! In our previous installment, I introduced the game, then proceeded to set up my character: Jarenth, the bitchin’-wizard-hat-wearing, sun-worshipping, researching boss of the Goblin race. That episode ended with us staring at my newly founded capital, the city of St. Mouseberg. It is my hope that from these humble beginnings, we will eventually end up with all of Ardania living under my iron, mouse-appointed fist.
Either that, or I’ll crash and burn spectacularly. Either thing should be amusing to read.
Now, there’s a lot going on in this screen (which you can click on to see the full-resolution image, ed.), but for anyone who’s played Civilization V, the basic metaphor should be readily obvious: cities, units, hexes, resources, research, diplomacy. Still, for clarification’s sake, let’s walk through the whole thing:
In the top left corner of the screen, we find my resources bar. Warlock has four resources: Gold, Food, Mana and Research. Gold and Mana are your traditional stacking resources; Gold is used for buying things, while Mana’s purpose is casting spells. Food is a non-stacking resource that determines population growth and, for most factions, army size: Food income is calculated globally, and my cities will only grow if I have enough food for all of them at once; furthermore, Food is often required as upkeep for military units, alongside Gold and (less commonly) Mana. Any surplus Food is transformed to Gold every turn (on a 2-to-1 ratio), which is a nice bonus. Finally, Research determines the rate at which I can research new spells.
Below the resources bar are the Research and Cast Spell buttons, along with a small circle displaying my faction colour (in case I forget). The book-icon button allows me to access the Research screen, while the wand button allows the casting of spells. More on both of these when they become relevant.
The bar on the top right displays the turn counter, and not a whole lot else. Later on, my Quests will be shown here too. Beneath this bar are buttons for diplomacy (scroll button), options (gears button) and inspecting other worlds (panorama-I-suppose button), which, again, we’ll get to in the future. Probably not in this installment, though.
Finally, the lower right displays the minimap (black as it currently is), the End Turn button, and a list of news items. The End Turn button changes text to force you to deal with all outstanding issues before ending your turn, but I can always use the Enter button to just bypass all of that. Not that I’d want to, of course. As in any Civ-style game, a quick overview of current issues is essential for dealing with a larger empire. Three of the four issues on display will be common ones, actually: I have construction opportunities in St. Mouseberg, I have two units without orders, and I can research a new spell. The top-most one tells me I can recruit a new type of unit, which’ll be less common.
Let’s tackle these issues in that order, shall we? First up, I open up the City Screen for St. Mouseberg.
In the bottom left, here, you can see this city’s contribution to my global resources: eight Gold, three Food, five Mana and five Research. You may also notice that this doesn’t completely jive with the global resources overview up top, but that’s to be expected: my two units consume some Food and Gold, and I get three extra Research from my Researcher perk. The extra Mana is a weird typo: I only really have a +5 Mana income.
Now then, to building. Warlock uses a very different building system from Civilization V, which might require some getting used to. The gist of it is that you can build many buildings multiple times, as often as you’d like… but each building takes up an actual hex near your city, and each building requires one population from your city to operate. You can see, in the above screenshot, that I have three buildings in St. Mouseberg already: a Farm, giving me extra food, a Craftsmen District for extra gold, and a Goblins Guild, which allows the creation of basic Goblin soldiers. These buildings take up three of St. Mouseberg’s currently six hexes, and three of its four units of population, meaning that, the current situation being what it is, I can only build one more building until the city grows, and three more until its area of influence expands. Area of influence is determined by city population, so for the time being, the population limit will be the major deciding factor, but this does imply that — given that city area growth has a cap — every city I build can get full at some point. Also, crucially, terrain type doesn’t matter, never matters. Want to build a farm on lava-infested death fields? No problem.
What to build? I have three choices, basically. I can build a resource-producing building, like a Farm, a Pub or a Granary. Most resource-producing buildings can be built as often as I want, and they operate on a simple tech three: Farm unlocks Granary unlocks Mill, and so on. I can also build a unit-unlocking building, in this case the Ratmen Guild: these buildings are limited to one per city, which you can see from the check-mark in the option, and they unlock new soldiers to train. Finally, I can build what I like to call ‘Utility’ buildings: these buildings are also limited to one per city, and they unlock additional functionality, and/or upgrades for your soldiers.
In this case, I choose to build a Smithy. The Smithy allows me to upgrade units with Fine Armor, and allows unlocks the Barracks building, required for advanced soldiers. It will take three turns to complete: unlike in Civilization, construction times for units and buildings in Warlock are pretty low. I also decide to build one Goblin Spearman unit. Units and buildings are built in different queues, meaning I can develop my city and build up my army at the same time. Score!
With that done, let’s turn to my army, such as it is. A new game in Warlock starts you off with two units: your race’s basic archer (Goblin Archers, in my case), and your race’s basic scout (Ratmen Robbers).
(Edit: there was a screenshot here, and then there wasn’t. You can find the Ratmen Robbers-overview in the next screenshot, though.)
In the bottom left corner of the screen, we find the basic unit overview, detailing unit type — such options as Melee, Ranger, Spellcaster, and a few others that we’ll see later –, experience level, attack strength and movement allowance. Each unit can have a bunch of inherent traits, perks and upgrades, which are shown in the little squares above attack strength: the Ratmen, for instance, have increased sight range, are classified as Beasts and do… some poison-related thing, I can’t remember. Now, there’s a bunch more going on under the hood: each unit has an enhanced description with perk explanations, flavour text and six types of damage resistance: Melee, Missile, Life Magic, Death Magic, Elemental Magic and Spirit Magic. I didn’t remember to grab a screenshot of this screen in this play session, but it’s bound to come up eventually.
The strength of Ratmen Robbers lies in their 5-point movement allowance, so let’s do some scouting! I plan to use the Ratmen to scout to the west, while the Archers will scope out the east. Of course, this plan quickly falls through when I round the corner and find myself face-to-face with some giant spiders.
The world of Ardania is packed with monsters. Some wander randomly, some originate in other worlds, and some, like these spiders, are spawned by Monster Lairs, which are analogous to the ever-mentioned Civilization’s barbarian camps. Lairs will keep spawning monsters unless you clear them out, which rewards you with gold, mana or other goodies.
These spiders are probably not all that dangerous, but just to be on the safe side, I bring the archers this way as well. They can’t make it this turn, so I put off the actual extermination until next turn.
That’s building and unit movement: all that’s left now is to start spell research!
Every research opportunity in Warlock consists of five semi-randomly chosen spells. You pick one to research, and that one spell gets replaced with another. Simple as that. Currently, I can pick from two single-target damage spells, one area damage spell, an enchantment that imbues units with Frost Weapons, and an enchantment that increases melee resistance for a while. Now, my Favour of Helia perk already affords me a relatively-cheap single-target Elemental Damage spell, so I’m pretty good on that front. And Firestorm, the multi-target spell, is way too expensive for this early stage in the game. I decide to research Melee Resistance, reasoning that ‘taking less damage’ is always a good thing to have.
And that’s it for turn 1! End Turn. The four unidentified other Great Mages have a go, followed by the independent factions, and finally, the monsters. During the monster turn, it becomes clear that the spiders are not content with simply awaiting their impending doom, as they sidle up to my Robbers and proceed to bite their faces off.
Luckily for me, they suck at this.
Most archers have a range of two hexes, meaning the spiders are now well within Goblin Archer range. A quick volley of arrows puts an end to their hissing villainy and affords me my first victory of the match. Woohoo! They’ll probably all be this easy. Afterwards, I send the Robbers in to clear the nest, rewarding me with cool floating money.
The danger cleared, I send the Robbers to scout to the west some more, uncovering some interesting resource buildings that I’ll tell you all about when it becomes relevant. The Archers, having fired, lose all their movement points, so they’re not going anywhere. Note that it’s perfectly viable to move, then shoot, but any type of fighting will ground units for the rest of the turn.
The next turn, my Goblin Spearmen are finished. The game helpfully informs me that, as my city is now a certain size, I’m allowed to create Settlers (Gnome Settlers, in my case). In Warlock, Settlers are created just like any other unit, imposing no special restrictions on your city growth or production queue. And I’ve already spied a good place for a second city, so let’s do that! I can also see St. Mouseberg has expanded in size, opening up some interesting new construction opportunities for next turn (when the Smithy finishes).
I send the newly created Spearmen to the east, where they find free-resource caravans. The Archers go south and encounter nothing of interest. The Robbers keep going west and, true to form, run into a Lair of demonic Imps. Guess I know what I’m doing next.
Lots of action next turn. First, my spell is researched. I opt to research Lesser Death Bolt next, a single-target Death damage spell. Didn’t I just say I didn’t need any of those? Well, yes, but I misjudged how expensive the Helia-given Sunstroke spell is in the early game. That, and Lesser Death Bolt will be done soon, hopefully opening up a more interesting spell.
Secondly, the Smithy is done! Given that St. Mouseberg expanded to five population last turn, that means I can immediately start construction on a new building. Let’s see, what do I need…
Oh. I didn’t notice this last turn, but my Food income has dropped to -1. This is not a good thing. Luckily, because St. Mouseberg is water-based, I can build the excellent Fishing Village Food-producing building. I really would’ve liked to work — and be able to explain — those Silver deposits that are now within range, but I guess that’ll have to wait.
I send my Archers to reinforce the Robbers, and make the Spearmen scout the mountains south of my base a bit. I’d like to have a good lay of the land before getting blindsided by everyone and everything.
Well! I’d call that a pretty decent set of starting turns. I’ve built a small scouting army, researched some useful spells, built a Smithy — which we’ll hopefully see in action next session — and caused a nation-wide food crisis. I guess my next goal will be to smash those imps to the west and keep scouting around my base. I haven’t encountered any serious resistance yet, and… I’m actually pretty fine with that! Let’s see how long this can last.