Jarenth Plays: Warlock: Master of the Arcane — Episode 2: Veni, Vidi, Vampiri

In the previous installment of Jarenth Tries His Hand At Warlocking, I started turning St. Mouseberg, Greatest City In Pretty Much All Of Ardania, into a city worthy of that (admittedly self-appointed) title. I explored a little, built and recruited, killed some giant spiders, and I’d just found some Imps ripe for the slaughter. Crucially, I hadn’t found any opponents of significance yet, which surely implied that everything was going well and would remain well forever.

Of course, peace, in a game such as this, can never last long. I’m surprised it made it into the second episode, to be honest.

As turn 5 rolls around, my first Settler is completed. Yeah, expansion!

For reference: this is where we left off.

I want to settle a new city next to that white circus tent, because I’m curious what it does. Settlers are slow buggers, though, so with their two points of movement, it will take them three turns to get there.

On the western front, I move my army into position. I allow the Robbers to rest, which drains their movement points to immediately heal them. Finally, my Spearmen corner the mountain range, and… hello!

Strange borders in the mist.

The dull black border informs me that this is most likely a Neutral town: a single, unaffiliated town that will attack anyone and anything that comes within range. They exist primarily for the Great Mages to take over, to give the world map some colour and excitement and to reduce dependence on grinding Settlers to progress. Plus, combat! Everyone wins.

With my Settlers done, I queue up another Goblin Archer, then end turn. The other Great Mages move, then the Neutral faction, and… well, there’s my second surprise:

A dash of purple in the white unknown.

Ok, that’s definitely another Great Mage. I’ll probably meet him, her or it somewhere in the next turn.

Before that rolls around, however, let’s return to the western front. My troops in position, I decide to try out that starting spell I got before sending them in. I click the Spellbook, then Sunstroke, then the Imps, and an massive orbital strike of solar energy all but obliterates them entirely.

All my worries about selecting this spell were instantly vindicated.

After that, it’s a simple job for the Robbers to clean them up. They loot the Imp Portal, and I receive some mana, and the Summon Imp spell. Sweet! My choice of picking hardly any spells at the beginning of the game is totally validated.

My little brother, visible in the lower right corner, agrees by starting Stronghold Kingdoms.

My Lesser Death Bolt research is done, so for my next target I select the Healing spell, one of the game’s more useful, utilitarian spells. Then, I decide I’ve put the matter off long enough, and move my Spearmen to meet this rival Great Mage. This rival, it turns out, is a Human-leading ghost called Elpiritster the Eternal.

Fun fact: while creating this episode, I must've accidentally typed 'Elminster' over a hundred times.

Now, Warlock has a lot of strong points, but diplomacy is not one of them. Sure, there is a diplomacy system, but it only really pertains to warfare. You can give gifts or make demands, request a non-aggression pact or an alliance, or declare war. That’s it. Furthermore, the game will always tell you whether or not a given AI will accept any treaty offer or not, making gaming the system incredibly easy. Still, it’s there, so I might as well run with it. I offer Elpiritster a non-aggression pact, and after a hefty bribe of five mana, he agrees. Diplomacy, ho!

PREPARE TO BE DIPLOMATIZED.

The threat of war averted for now, I move in to attack the city of Krypthall. I also queue up a Summon Imp spell for next turn. The way spellcasting works in Warlock is that every turn, you have one time unit of casting available. Spell casting times run the gamut, with weaker spells requiring less than one unit (Lesser Deathbolt, for instance, takes 0.4 units) and stronger spells often requiring multiple units (that is, turns) of casting. The Sunstroke spell I just cast took 0.8 units, leaving me with 0.2; the Summon Imp spell requires 1 unit. By queuing the spell up now, I’ll only use up 0.8 units in the next turn, allowing me to carry those over into a different spell if I want. You can’t save time units, obviously, so if I don’t queue up a second spell next turn, it’ll have been wasted effort.

In the interlude, Epiritster and the defenders of Krypthall fight, as I expected. I really want that city, so I’m moving my newly-created Archer unit down (which, incidentally, gives me the opportunity to show you the advanced Unit screen)…

Feast your eyes on this knowledge.

…and I’m summoning the Imps I queued, too. They and the Spearman further knock Krypthall down a peg.

They work for me now, ok?

In the west, I move my troops up. I find more monsters: Rogues and Flying Serpents. The Serpents might be troublesome, because melee units cannot attack flying units, but I have Archers, so no biggie. Finally, I queue up another Sunstroke for next turn.

Elpiritster responds by pulling his troops out, leaving me the sole recipient of Krypthall fire. Coward. Ah well, I don’t really care: I attack the city with Archers, Spearman and Imps. This causes the Spearmen to level up. As in Civilization, levelling up grants access to a number of pre-defined perks. In Warlock, these perks are both level- and class-based. Spearmen are a melee class, and these Spearmen have hit level 2, so they get a choice between three certain perks: more defense on rugged terrain, melee resistance or melee damage. Level 3 Spearmen would get different perks, as would level 2 Archers. I pick the increased damage perk, because damage is awesome.

CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY.

Finally, I unleash my Sunstroke spell, bringing Krypthall to near-defeat.

I will never get bored of using this spell, ever.

Only after casting this spell do I realize this was probably a dumb move: with the town this low, Elpiritster’s troops could swoop in and take it right from under me. …Woops? Let’s hope he doesn’t. I quickly queue up a Lesser Deathbolt, but that won’t do anything in this situation.

In the west, I discover more monsters, including an Ogre. This is not particularly good news, as these ogres look bloody tough. I hope he won’t walk down and smash my army to bits, but there’s a definite chance of that happening. Wow, I’m doing well.

This image represents my units in the west being boned.

To end the turn on some bright news, my Settler finally arrives at her destination, founding the town of Oddich! It’s a small town, one population so far, and each town starts with one Farm by default, so I won’t be able to build anything there yet. It does allow me to demonstrate the nature of special resources, though. See, Oddich was founded right next to that odd tent, which turns out to be a Halberdhall. Almost all special resources in Warlock allow you to construct two distinct buildings on them: on the Halberdhall, I can either build a Halberdiers Guild, allowing me access to certain special units…

Humans, though. Blegh.

…or a War Academy, allowing access to special unit training.

Get your MWr.

I opt for the latter, though the point is moot, as I can’t build anything in Oddich yet. Human halberdiers would feel out-of-place in my army, anyway.

As the next turn rolls around, two things of note happen: my Robbers in the west get near-slaughtered, and Elpiritster decides not to take Krypthall. Well, fine by me. It’s mine now, then.

Welcome to the empire. Work hard and pay your taxes and you won't be exterminated.

Now, Krypthall had some buildings when I started attacking, but taking a city incurs a random chance of any building there turning to dust. This happened with Krypthall’s one building, so I’m free to start immediately. I decide to build a Mana Trap there, because more mana is better mana.

I start consolidating and healing my army and train another Settler. On the western line, I somehow manage to defeat all attacking monsters, though a new Rogue has spawned from the base and the Ogre is still there. He has’t moved, though, so I’ll leave my Robbers and Archers there to heal. This proves a predictable mistake as the Ogre waltzes in and smashes my Robbers to bits. Time to retreat, there, and come back later. I mop up some monsters, research the Holy Word spell and explore a little farther to the east, where I find some interesting resources.

Afterwards, Elpiritster surprises me by building a town quite close to me. This is a risky move: we’re on non-aggression now, but Warlock only really offers conquest-based victories. That town, very close to my troop-producing capital, will likely be my first conquest once war does break out.

'Doomford', indeed.

In turn 11, I receive my second quest! Wait, ‘second’? Yeah, I received a quest a few turns earlier, but forgot to catalogue it and subsequently forgot about it. Quests in Warlock are fairly simple affairs: you get a set number of turns (20, usually) to accomplish some simple objective: capture a city, kill a monster, build a building. In this case, I’m to capture the neutral city of Webshire, indicated on the map by a large floating scroll.

Welcome to scenic Webshire, home of the This Town Is Doomed scroll.

The earlier quest was something about building a harbor, I think. Quests are tracked on the top right portion of the screen, but they’re incredibly simple to overlook. Failing quests sometimes carries some penalty, especially when given by the Gods, but these quests are all neutral and boring. We’ll see if I get to it.

I start moving my armies towards Webshire, a little wary of Elpirister’s soldiers everywhere. It could be he’s also interested in capturing that city, or it could be he’s setting up an ambush.

The next few turns go by in a blur, as I move my troops towards Webshire, retreat my Archer from the west, train new troops and dick around with my Settler in an attempt to figure out where exactly you can build cities. It turns out that a city cannot be built within a four hexes of another city: both the old and the new city need a circle of two hexes wide to be empty. Cities also can’t be built on ‘unsuitable terrain’, which aside from impassible terrain also means squares with resources on them.

In turn 13, I start research on the Lesser Flame Bolt spell (a spell that will probably get even less play than Lesser Death Bolt), attack Webshire some more and send troops to the southwest, as I hadn’t explored there yet. Turn 14, more of the same: Webshire takes hits, while the southwest turns out to be a sandy tongue of land containing some skeletons and wolves, which I resolve to take down. Finally, Oddich increases in population, and I start construction on the earlier-alluded-to War University.

This image presented without comment.

Turn 15, more fighting, and research into the Lightning Bolt spell. I also receive a quest to ‘found a city’…

"Please build a city as quickly as you can!" -- Advisor.

… and proceed to immediately do so.

"Yo." -- Me.

I also start building a Mana Farm in Krypthall. This building has the Mana Trap as a prerequisite, and leads to the Mana Vault, so you can probably see where I’m going with this path. Mo’ mana, less problems.

Turn 16, at last, brings a welcome break from the relative monotony, when my Goblins clean up the last Skeleton lair on the sandy beach. This rewards me with some gold, which I expected, and some swanky Vampires, which I most certainly didn’t expect.

"Blueh! Ve vere so impressed vith your mighty might, ve decided to join you! Blueh!"

See, this is what I love about this game: I currently don’t know what’s even possible. I incinerate Imps and get a spell; I smack on some Skeletons and get Vampires for my troubles. The sky’s the limit, and there’s magic dragons behind every curve and bend.

Webshire still stands, but Elpiritster has withdrawn his troops, and with these new Vampires on my side — who are tough, strong, and ranged spellcasters to boot — I can’t imagine it being ‘independent’ for much longer.

Next installment: I flounder along, conquering some more cities and fighting some more monsters. Who knew this world-conquering gig was so stress-free?

4 comments

  1. I had little interest in this game to begin with, thinking it was little more than a cut-down Civ game, but you’re making it sound very entertaining. Downloading the demo now. :)

    1. The entertainment value of this game depends sharply on how amused you are by armies of skeletons and solar orbital strikes. As you can see, it works for me.

      Trying the demo is always a good idea, and it’s what convinced me. It’s also what turned my brother off this game, but he’s a philistine anyway. I mean, he plays Stronghold Kingdoms.

  2. Instead of Masters of War I’d rather get Bachelor’s degree in Mastery of War, or BMW for short.

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