In the previous installment of Arcane plays Jarenth: Master of the Warlock, I conquered four Frost-aligned cities in the span of a few turns, even scoring a city-hattrick on turn 71. I also found Frost’s capital of Millpool, and decided to assault that after taking over every other city I could see. That time is now here.
If all goes well, at the end of this episode we should be down yet another Great Mage.
Content with my progress, I do one last routine army check before charging Millpool. My Vampires are present, my Earth Elementals are serving as an admirable vanguard, and… where did all my Archers go? I’m sure I had two units of regular Archers here two turns ago. And why are my Elven Archers so incredibly near-death? I had an army here, capable of conquering any city. Where did it go?
For those of you who haven’t played Warlock yet, there’s a certain thing this game does. Whenever you end your turn, the camera starts following the movements of any enemy units you can see, in order. In theory, this would mean I get the see whatever Frost does, followed by any Neutral and Monster movements. In theory, that is. What sometimes happens in practice is that the camera flits all over the place like a hyperactive amnesiac, showing me everything and nothing and these cool mountains it found, aren’t they awesome?
What I’m saying here is that I goofed. For the last couple of turns, I’ve been moving units to Frost’s capital, but I haven’t actually ever stopped to watch Frost’s turn in all this. I have a Magic Tower within city fire range, so I stupidly assumed that would take care of all dangers, ever. But Frost has some more tricks up his sleeve: he has a retinue of Ghost Wolves in his territory, and I’ve seen him cast some sort of area-blanketing fire spell last turn (which, apologies, I have no screenshots of). I didn’t pay attention to what was going on, and now my army’s below half strength.
What should I do in this situation? I could press the attack, but Millpool’s a level 11 city: It will take some serious punching to get through these walls, and I don’t know what else Frost has cooked up. I could retreat, but that just feels weak, and it would make for a very anticlimactic episode. What to do, what to do?
Frost himself offers an admirable solution: why not take 50 of his Mana in exchange for ‘peace’? A plan forms.
I accept the proposal, and Frost retaliates by casting that area-burning spell again. What the hell, dude? I didn’t know you could do that! It certainly doesn’t break the terms of our treaty, because when my turn rolls around again, I find I cannot counterattack.
I don’t know how Peace works in this game, to be honest. Does it have a set time limit? Does it actively prohibit nasty things? I know for a fact that both Neutral status and Non-Aggression Pacts do not prohibit moving through AI-occupied lands: it incurs a diplomatic penalty, but that’s about it. So here’s what I’m going to do: I will use this lull in fighting to strategically situate my troops throughout Frost’s lands. You might have noticed a lot of Millpool’s surroundings is hills and/or lava, which heavily impeded movement, so this will take a while. When my troops are in place, I will either manually break the peace treaty (if this is allowed) or wait for it to time out (if it isn’t) before resuming the strike.
Yes, this is a mean and underhanded tactic. Frost is a mean and underhanded bastard, so I thought it fitting.
In happier news, I found a new city right in the heart of Monster County! I fully expect the city of Vaindryn to thrive and prosper, and to not be overrun by monsters within seconds of founding. But even if it does, I built this city mainly to satisfy a money quest, so who cares?
In Frost’s next turn, an absence of wolf attacks and fire clouds implies the peace treaty has now well and truly taken effect. I use this short interbellum to cast the population growth-boosting Prosperity spell on St. Mouseberg…
…research the mana production-boosting Mana Spring spell (not affiliated with any of the gods, oddly)…
…and build a second Elven Bungalow on Globmarsh. While I like the attitude of Goblin Archers better, Elven Archers are powerful enough that I’ll overlook their annoying voices.
Then, it’s time to move my army into position. I am like the shadow of a ghost in this moment of subterfuge: Frost will never know what hit him.
I also start casting Elemental Resistance on my troops. Frost was inordinately fond of that fire cloud spell — he’s starting to act like me, really — so I figure I might as well be as prepared as I can get.
During positioning, I discover the almost-aptly-named ocean port city of Riverport. It sports a Magic Tower in the most useless location imaginable, but it’ll still be able to fire on some of my troops. I make sure to place a few heavy hitters near this city, so I can take it in one or two turns when the fighting breaks out.
What more can I do to buff up my chances of victory? It is at this point I remember I built a whole load of perk-granting buildings. I have almost no money, having spent my last couple of hundred gold pieces on more Shamans, Trolls and one pointless unit of Human Rogues, but I can at least lovingly gaze at the ever-increasing list of for-sale power boosters. Look at what my Halberdiers have on offer:
Armor, Life and Spirit Damage, Elemental Damage… Drilled increases ‘Unit Power’ whatever that may be, and Tried by Labyrinth increases Melee Damage by a whopping 30%. I’m starting to regret not building a Donkey Knight order in Grasshill: A unit of Stubborn Knights with a free Tried by Labyrinth sounds like an excellent investment. I make a mental note to build a barracks of some kind in Grasshill later. I expand this mental note to find where my various perk buildings are located, and investigate whether or not barracksing those locations up is a good investment.
Turn 76 brings another Divine quest with it! Still no quests from Helia, sadly, but this one luckily isn’t from Agrela either: the quest giver is Krypta, Goddess of Death and Agrela’s opposite. This puts me in an annoying position: declining the quest nets me -5 Krypta favour, which translates to +5 Agrela favour, which translates to No Rune Of Protection For Jarenth. On the other hand, succeeding in this quest grants me +10 Krypta favour, which causes me to overshoot the Helia-favour sweet spot by five points. It’ll be five points in the direction of Krolm, though, not to mention the gold and the (probably uncastable) spell I get. So all right, Krypta: I’ll run your little errand.
The quest orders me to slay some Agrela-aligned Paladins of Life. I scope out where the little buggers have appeared, only to find them standing right next to the city of Icelake (one of the previously ghost-owned cities that I conquered back in Episode 8). That is to say: a unit of powerful divinely-aligned Rat Paladins is standing in the middle of an otherwise completely abandoned offshoot of my empire. They are standing within city fire range, of course, but somehow I don’t think level six city damage is going to deter these guys from turning my city into a smoking crater.
I start looking around for any troops I might have missed, but predictably find none. I momentarily get distracted by a Shrine of the Rotting Pumpkin in Los-Agrelas, which I know from earlier experience to give a regeneration-boosting perk…
…before accepting that, no, I have no troops in the direct vicinity, nor do I have the money to make some. Dejected, I build a University in Burnlin and move my troops further in position around Millpool, content with the knowledge that I can try to summon some troops next turn. If the city still stands at that point in time, of course.
More good news, as the city of Vaindryn is attacked by three Flying Serpents simultaneously! Ok, that city is probably just doomed: I still don’t have any troops nearby, and whatever I can summon next turn is going to Icelake first. Sorry, Vaindryn: I’ll try to make your city fire count, but it’s starting to look like you should just make your peace with Helia now.
I research the dispelling Nullify spell and queue up a Summon Fire Elemental spell, but that’ll take three turns to go into effect. I amuse myself by offering Frost a non-sweetened Non-Aggression Pact, which for the first time in game history he would actually be willing to accept! Oddly, Frost doesn’t really seem to have any beef with me right now: -15 ‘Envy of the Leader’ is balanced out by +10 ‘Religion’, and that’s about it. He’s not even mad about the Drought spell I cast anymore, nor is he too peeved about my trespassing. I’m starting to suspect that, if I pulled out my forces now and buttered up to him just a little bit more, I might actually be able to get him to agree to an Alliance later down the road: I’ve been told the AI actually respects alliances fairly well. With just a little investment on my end, we could end this conflict without any more bloodshed.
I kill Frost’s ghost wolves without effort and smash his city of Riverport in two turns flat. Millpool proves to be tougher: because it is both uphill and set on lava, the city has a +100% defense bonus. My Goblin Spearmen, level 5, armored and Elemental Resistance-enchanted, would die in a single attack. Luckily, I have regenerating Trolls, hardy Halberdiers, and ranged units. Sorry, Goblins! Looks like you’re sitting this one out.
The first opposed turn of this second war outs Frost as a dirty cheater: He summons a new unit of Ghost Wolves and casts his fire spell on my Magic Tower. What the hell, Frost? I don’t think an area spell of that magnitude would have a casting time below one turn, and I know Ghost Wolves don’t! How are you even pulling thi…
…a thought occurs. A terrible, head-smacking thought, the kind of realization that leaves you silent for a few seconds before muttering ‘why didn’t I see that before?’. That area-of-effect fire spell isn’t a spell at all, is it? It’s Frost’s capital city’s basic attack.
This was actually pointed out by Vipermagi in Episode 4’s comments: Capital cities deal Elemental Damage and get a splash attack at around level 10. I’d read it, but I hadn’t actually read it, because at that point I’d already conquered ghost-boy’s capital city easily and I felt on top of the world. The mystery of the missing Archers is now explained, at least. But how am I going to handle this situation?
I despair for a few seconds before realizing that no, wait, I can still win this easy. Amazing splash attack or no, Millpool is still operated by Warlock’s insane AI. Which means it will keep firing on that Magic Tower for as long as that’s there. I just need to keep units away from that tower as much as possible, and use heal spells and my Shamans to counteract the damage. Wew! CRISIS AVERTED.
It’s pretty much downhill from here: Frost puts up a good fight, but with only the occasional Ghost Wolf to fight for him, this battle is pretty much a foregone conclusion. He lasts another four turns, during which I research the Counterspell spell and build another Vampire Mansion in Webshire, a magical Convertor in Lichwald, and a Harbor and supporting Magic Tower in newly-occupied Riverport. I summon some Fire Elementals and train some Shamans to bring down the Paladins of Life in Icelake, saving the city at about half health…
…and, to my surprise, find the city of Vaindryn to be actually alive! While the Flying Serpents certainly had the damage potential to bring the city down, they refrained from attacking simultaneously for some reason, preferring to queue up one at a time to get shot and killed. I’m not complaining, though it feels like a cop-out.
Finally, on turn 82, after weathering Fire and Earth Elementals, Halberdiers and Donkeys, and Archer fire and Magic Tower fire and Vampire fire, Millpool finally falls to a charge from my nigh-unkillable Trolls. They tear down Frost’s tower, and with that, an era ends.
I am now the master of all I survey. I know there are two more Great Mages on this world, likely to the south (as I’ve explored the north, the east and the west already). I’m not going after them now, though. Let them fight their own battles. Right now, I intend to let my curiosity take the reigns, to spread my empire to the stars, and to deliver some much-deserved justice to those who hide beyond the veil of time and space.
It’s time to traverse the Mystic Portal and claim Ainadra as my own.