In the previous installment of The Idiot’s Guide To Warlockery, I’d just stumbled onto a level four city called Inver-On-Linn. This city had limited land space, only one real access route, and was guarded by a group of tough-as-nails Veterans, making it the perfect storm of hard to reach, hard to capture and hard to exploit. Basically, capturing it would be a waste of time, locking up my troops in a long battle of attrition, with the best possible outcome being the capture of a fairly mediocre city.
Of course, I had to own it.
Now, in spite of that gloomy image I sketched in the previous episode, conquering this city is probably not going to be very hard. What it will be is tedious, a long-term project of peppering 1-damage arrow attacks into it until victory happens, but barring outside interference there’s pretty much no chance of me losing. The Veterans guarding the city are tough, true, but a large part of their toughness is derived from them being on guard inside a medium-level city. As you can see in the screenshot, I’ve blocked the one land access route with my Goblin Spearmen. If the Veterans sally forth to attack them, and they have to if they want to get to the Archers outside, my Spearmen will be on much more even footing.
Or, well, they *would*, but I ordered them to attack the city last turn, to see what would happen. Not my brightest idea, but it did some damage. I’ll move out the Spearmen and put my Imps in their place, allowing the Spearmen to heal while the Imps stand in harm’s way. Man, it’s almost like I’m using tactics!
A secondary danger is presented by the city itself. In Warlock, cities (from a certain level onward, I think) have their own innate arrow-based defensive attack, which they can use on enemies in close vicinity (a maximum of either 2 or 3 squares away, I’m not sure). The damage from this attack is not incredibly great, but it does represent something I’ll have to keep an eye out for, lest I suddenly find myself without any Archers. Speaking of which, I’m also bringing in a second group of those and training more soldiers in St. Mouseberg: Inver-On-Linn has four places I can put Archers such that they can contribute to the siege, and I plan on using as many of them as I can bring to bear.
I also move a newly-created Settler down to the southern land tongue I’ve dubbed Vampire Beach, because there’s no real estate quite like lava-covered desert beaches. Finally, I kill more random monsters in the west. I also spot a second glance of our old friend, Terrifying Ogre:
Let’s hope he doesn’t decide to waltz over and smash my Spearmen in the face.
Ok, Ogre. If that’s the way you want to play it…
That problem dealt with, I explore two hexes and find some spiders. I think I’ll dub this western expanse ‘Monster Central’. I also create a Mana Vault in Krypthall, which serves about the same purpose as the Granary in St. Mouseberg: percentually increasing my mana production in a town that’s currently only producing mana. I also start research on the Range Resistance spell, which might come in handy in a certain city siege I’m in. Finally, I notice that I’ve finished construction of a Foundry on the Iron resource the city of Burnlin was built to claim. Remember how I said earlier that, and I quote, “almost all special resources in Warlock allow you to construct two distinct buildings on them”? Iron’s one of the exceptions to this rule, only allowing a Foundry. The Foundry gives me Masterwork Armor, which increases Melee and Ranged Resistance for the bearer. Nifty.
Nearing turn’s end, I bring my settler closer to her eventual destination of Lava Beach. Then, I notice I have a new quest! “Please kill some spider monsters!” it tells me, which, ok, sure, I’ll do. Where are these spiders monsters? Are they in Monster Central somewhere?
I should probably move some troops this way, but everything I currently have is either exploring Monster Central or busy in the Inver-On-Linn siege. That’s a future problem, though.
During my fellow Great Mages’ turns, a giant glowing shield adorns the heavens. Is it a sign? An omen of things to come? Or just the graphical effect of a spell I haven’t encountered before?
As turn 25 rolls around, I build a Craftsmen District in Oddich, move one unit of Spearmen down to deal with my beachfront spider invasion, and shoot at Inver-On-Linn some more. I notice that some neutral flying serpents have flown in to… help, I guess? In Warlock, there’s a distinct difference between the Neutral Towns faction (in grey) and the Monster faction (in brown), and the two factions hate eachother’s guts. So much, in fact, that Inver-On-Linn’s automated city defenses elect to shoot at these flying serpents instead of any of my troops.
All of that is pushed to the background, however, as further exploration of Monster Central reveals an interesting discovery: a Mystic Portal.
You might remember from the opening post that one of Warlock’s features is the inclusion of ‘other worlds’, filled with monsters and danger, that you can explore and colonize. The Mystic Portals form a link between Ardania and these other worlds, and by moving a unit onto them, I’ll be able to visit whichever of the four worlds this game has this portal links to. Sadly, though, it’s guarded by some Earth Elementals, which, much like the earlier Veterans, are pretty damn tough:
Not to mention that actual conquest and colonization of these worlds is no laughing matter, requiring a serious military investment. I’ll put this one on my to-do list for now.
As the turns roll by, nothing incredibly noteworthy happens. I do crack the mystery of the floating shield:
I build a Magic Testing Lab in Webshire and a Harbor in Burnlin, hoping to tame the seas with the latter. I smack some monsters around in the west, and get rewarded with additional spells for my troubles. Doing so aggravates some nearby Skeletons, but whatever, Skeletons, I do what I want.
Aggravating the skeletons, however, has the unintended side effect of aggravating the portal-guarding Earth Elementals. Unintended, but I guess I’m fighting them sooner than expected.
running away tactically retreating from the unstoppable rock monsters, I hit my second surprise for the day: another Great Mage has settled in the lands south of Monster Central!
I try to bribe him into a Non-Agression pact, but his prices are even more ridiculous than Elpiritster’s. Well, I can deal with just being Neutral with this guy for now: he’s far enough away that I’ll see him coming should he try anything. I’ve got more pressing matters right now anyway, vis-à-vis ‘Not getting murdered by the monster hordes’. Judicious use of the Heal spell, however, ensures I won’t have to flee tóó embarrassingly.
As the days roll on, I research the Rune of Protection spell first and the Descending Fire spell second, build a hilarious disco-drome…
…and continue with plan Food For The Masses with St. Mouseberg’s +75% Food Production Mill. I clear the Monster-Eating Spiders from Vampire Beach, construct the city of Scrapburg, and deal with some bears that magically appear in front of Burnlin.
Apparently, whenever you receive a ‘kill some monsters’-type quest, rather than designating some pre-existing monsters, the game spawns in some monsters for you to kill. This can lead to amusing situations when you’ve already got a decent area of the map covered, as it kind of breaks the illusion. In this case, for instance, bears magically appeared very near to my city. Will I kill them, my advisor asks? Yeah, sure, I guess. They’re in city fire range anyway.
Suddenly, extortion happens.
Remember how I complained about this game’s fairly lackluster diplomacy? This, right here, is pretty much the culmination of that. An enemy Great Wizard can ring you up and place an extortion demand, and you can only reply in two ways: ‘Yeah, sure’ and ‘WAR’. There’s no gradual escalation of tension here, no stacking negative penalties that make later diplomatic relations harder: just acquiesce or go to war. Even better, the game treats forceful demands in much the same way as freely-given gifts, giving you positive diplomacy modifiers later on. Apparently enemy Great Wizard appreciate it when you’re spineless? Whatever the case, I decide to play ball for now. Feel free to tell me what a terrible idea this was, later: at the time, I just didn’t feel like going to war.
I finally get around to starting a Ratmen Guild in Oddich, meaning I’ll finally have multiple unit-producing buildings; in fact, the mana-producing Crypt I can build in Krypthall (fitting, no?) offers Zombies as well. I build some more generic resource-producing buildings — Mana Traps, Craftsmen Districts, Farms, you get the idea — as well as fighting in both east and west and exploring along the southern coast.
I also try out the Krolm-affiliated Rune of Protection spell in my western battle with the Earth Elementals, and find out that it summons an actual set of giant floating runes to the battlefield:
I also hit upon an interesting revelation: at one point, I decide to move a unit of Goblin Spearmen to the Inver-On-Linn vanguard. They counter by saying they’d love to walk all around the map, but why not cross the water instead? I decide to let them live their fantasy, and, well, this happens:
Turns out? Because I built that one Harbor up in Burnlin, all my land units everywhere now have the capacity to magically transform into boats. Boats with ranged attacks, no less, even if the unit used was a land unit. I won’t use this capacity right now, because I need a city vanguard, but it’s good to know.
I research the Lesser Heal and Firestorm spells while handily defeating the Earth Elementals in Monster Central. Actually, ‘defeating’ is too grand a word: as the last Elemental got low on health, it hoofed it to the Mystic Portal and disappeared. I call that a win, but I can’t help feeling like I should be keeping an eye on this general area.
Finally, after a few more monster run-ins, some more generic building construction, and one final application of my favourite spell…
…Inver-On-Linn finally falls.
It was turn 22 when this siege started. It’s now turn 37. Fifteen turns is a ridiculous amount of time for a Neutral city siege to last, and I respect the Veterans of Inver-On-Linn for it, but the outcome was inevitable. I actually have to give the AI credit: the city-guarding Veterans stood still and soaked damage for the entire fight, but they did sally out and try force a confrontation when their health became so low that the next volley of Archer fire would have killed them.
After fifteen turns of arrows and misery, I’ve conquered the city. It’s small, poorly situated and filled with Humans, but it’s mine. I can get used to this conquest thing. What’s next?