In the previous installment of All’s Fair In Love And Warlock, I killed every hostile living thing on the world of Ainadra, with the notable exception of some giant Leviathan fish. They don’t pose any threat to me anyway, and I didn’t feel like diverting any units to the paltry task of annihilating them. I guess they will clog up my Alert queue with An Enemy Has Been Spotted Near The City Of Hornaxe every turn, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
During troop retrieval, I met the Great Mage Rjahk and found a third Mystic Portal. Choices were inevitable. Which path to pursue? Magical, unknown riches, or wiping the smug grin off of a face technically not possessing any mouth? King Solomon himself would’ve thought this a serious dilemma.
So what did I end up deciding? Well, here’s the thing:
We’ve reached the point where the game gets kind of stale.
This problem is endemic to all large Civ-likes, of course, especially in games played against the AI. I currently own half the map, plus one entire other world, and I know of two more Mystic Portals squarely in my domain that I could exploit if I wanted to. Even if I only had one remaining enemy, and even if that enemy somehow controlled all of the remaining map and the last other world, I’m pretty sure I could still abuse Warlock’s madcap AI routines to win without too much of a hassle. And I have two remaining enemies, who’ve very likely ignored the other worlds entirely, and who kinda likely still have significant problems with expanding and fighting off monsters.
So the decision is made: I’m going for the win. I’d love to explore the magical sparkle-worlds some more, but it’s ten-to-one they’ll just contain more monsters, anyway.
With this in mind, I send my army south, to start the arduous task of seeking out my remaining enemies. Before I actually reach the shoreline, though, Rjahk decides to be sensible and back out.
Has the AI finally come to its senses? The answer is no. This fragile peace lasts for only a couple of turns, after which Rjahk makes some outrageous demand again. A few turns later, peace. A few turns later, war. This cycle keeps continuing for the rest of our mutual interaction.
I get the option to research the Agile Mind spell, which looks like the first really interesting spell I’ve seen in ages: it promises to increase my casting speed! In the queue you go, little spell. It only takes three turns to research, but for some reason I fully forget about actually casting it until a little while later.
Finding Rjahk and The Other Guy, who by process of elimination must reside on the southern part of the map, involves crossing the water by magical boat. I highly dislike this, because the sea has gone completely mad over the last dozens of turns. I’ve mentioned the Invasion Of The Sea Serpents last installment, and there’s Leviathans and Serpents on pretty much every shore. I suspect this is a function of the fact that I haven’t really done anything at sea, allowing the sea-borne monster spawners to just go nuts. Now, this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but when units enter magical boats, they actually summon and enter a level 1 transport ship. An unarmed, weak, can-be-killed-in-two-hits-by-pretty-much-everything transport ship. And when the ship goes down… early on in the southward migration, I lose some high-level Shamans to what’s essentially a giant fish. I decide to play it safe, after this: I scout out routes with disposable units and walk over land as much as possible.
The upshot of this is that the next couple of turns are rather remarkably boring. So, instead of boring you with endless repetitions of troop movements and build orders, let me just highlight the interesting bits, in not-necessarily-chronological order.
My Wolves of Helia are finished! As expected, they’re pretty amazing already, with a Cleave ability (that allows them to attack multiple hexes at once) and full immunity to all Elemental Damage. I immediately kit them out with every upgrade I can purchase, more than doubling their attack damage and boosting their resistances to ungodly levels. Then, as I start dropping buff spells into the spellcasting queue, I set them to move to Ardania.
My first group of units is sent south, directly down from the Mystic Portal. They land in an area that’s absolutely littered with monsters, but then again, what else is new? The Seasoned Goblin Spearmen who make the first landing are almost killed in a single turn, but by strategically moving them onto a Bad Terrain Hill (and maybe casting some healing spells) they survive, to later clear the coastline for my more fragile incoming units.
Moving the Spearmen in that direction has the unexpected side effect of running across unfamiliar green borders. I’ve finally met my fourth foe: Ash-Haar the Wisest, Favoured of Grum-Gog and only other native Monster Player in this game.
As Ash-Haar is devoted to Grum-Gog, the god at the bottom of the God Wheel right next to Lunord, I have a feeling we probably won’t be getting along terribly well. I offer him an unsweetened Non-Agression Pact, just to see how he reacts, and find myself utterly baffled when he accepts without hesitation. The turn after, I offer an actual Alliance — again, without any deal-enhancers — and watch in amazement as he accepts that, as well.
I’ve heard (citation needed) that alliances in this game can actually be kind of stable, which means that I probably won’t have to worry about this guy for a little while. He even sends me trade requests! Not demands: actual, honest-to-Helia trades. Terribly lopsided ones, true, but I accept them anyway for the sheer novelty of it.
The portal-guarding city of Dreadspell is still under monster attack from all directions. Wolves, Ogres, wild Werewolves. I left one unit of Elder Vampires there, so the city is probably safe, but it’s them and the city fire versus a large amount of monster spawners, which means I can’t really clear them out. I attempt to counter this by building some Death Magic Towers. The game attempt to counter this by sending some Earth Elementals through the nearby Mystic Portal. Earth Elementals, of course, are immune to Death Magic, and highly resistant to the city’s Missile Damage. My Elder Vampires deal a little bit of Elemental Damage, but a) Earth Elementals are highly resistant to that, too, and b) the Vampires rely on dealing damage to stay alive in the tougher fights, which they can’t really do against these guys. The situation has suddenly turned a tad grim.
I decide to Teleport in my Wolves of Helia to help. In the process, I learn something about the differences between the Teleport spell, which I’m using now, and the Meta-Teleport spell I used earlier. Meta-Teleport is basically the ‘go wherever you want, yo’ spell, while Teleport is single-planar and has some pretty strict range restrictions, too. Interesting, wouldn’t you agree?
I bring this subject up because I feel it explains why I chose to Teleport my Wolves of Helia to the west side of Dreadspell, right across some impassible mountains separating them from the city. My finest moment, it’s not.
Luckily, there are plenty of monsters to kill on this side of the city as well. I summon some Fire Elementals to help the Elder Vampires out instead, which takes the pressure off enough to stop worrying.
Ash-Heer hasn’t really exploited the lands to the east of his domain yet, so I take it onto myself to assist my new-found ally. There’s a real plethora of new and interesting monsters hanging out here: Blademasters, Old Wolves, Black Bears, Demons. There’s even some Greater Fire Elementals, guarding the first ever Ardania-bound Holy Site I’ve managed to find, as well as a special resource called Nevril. Ánd the last Mystic Portal.
I really have no idea why Ash-Haar has chosen not to exploit this land, but I’ll gladly keep him safe from the encroaching monster hordes. Because we’re allies, you see.
I still have no idea where Rjakh is. Advisor, that always-helpful-but-somewhat-shifty fellow, seems to know more than me, though: the ‘capture the city of the Great Mage’ quest I receive has a Giant Floating Scroll floating far out in the fog of war. Interesting.
My cities in Ainadra have expanded enough to let me see my new lizard-related options. The Gold Dragon Eggs in Hornaxe allow me to train Gold Dragons, as expected. The Red Dragon Eggs in the new city of New Bigden actually give me two options: either train Red Dragons (geeh) or build a Dragon Farm to turn those Dragon eggs into food. Quick research shows that this is race-specific, and follows the three-races-three-resources trichotomy: Humans get a building that produces Gold, Monsters get a building that produces Food, and Undead get a building that produces Mana. But why would I sacrifice Dragon eggs for mere Food? I have plenty of Food.
On the other hand, New Bidgen is in range of two patches of Red Dragon Eggs, and I’ll only be able to build the Dragon-training building once. That’s what I’ll build for now, though: let’s stick with live Dragons first.
Or, well, I’m saying that, but in Lichwald, my undead servants have been looking into new and interesting ways of using dead Dragons as well. Specifically, in the form of two-headed Dracoliches.
While all this is going on, the game gently flows on around me. I kill monster after monster after monster. I capture so many cities, I’ve forgotten to jot all their names down. Snakegate, Baytown, Bearling. Axelos?
And my research continues at a similar pace. Turn after turn, I pick an option from the five presented, that only takes one or — Gods forbid! — two turns to complete. After the excitement of Agile Mind, the following spells are just kind of bland. Thunderstorm, Rune of Wrath, Summon Serpents, Greater Dispel, Ice Trap, Global Dispel, Water Walking. Ok, I’ll admit that last one sounds kind of useful.
Finally, after the Haste spell has run the queue and entered my spellbook, I open the research screen again to find an interesting sight.
I’m running out of spells to study. Guess that Tech Victory possibility is closer than I thought. Only Weakness, Basic Dispel, Fist of Krolm and Berserk stand between me and… what, exactly? I hope to find this out later.
I eventually remember to cast Agile Mind, too.
After the appropriately purple spell effect has ended, I check my spellbook to see how much my casting times have decreased. Five percent? Ten? Twenty?
Try fifty percent. As in, Agile Mind has doubled my spellcasting speed. I can summon Elementals in one turn, now! Meta-Teleportating units has suddenly become a snap! I can cast two Sunstrokes in one day!
Invigorated, I redouble my efforts at everything. I bring my Wolves of Helia over to the Dreadspell fight proper, and between them, the Vampires and the Magic Towers, everything falls in a single turn. The Earth Elementals get the distinct honour of being on the receiving end of a Sunstroke spell:
Near Ash-Haar’s territory, I proceed to annihilate every monster and monster spawner I find. The very last monster spawner rewards me with a random unit of Paladins of Death. I immediately send these to their death through the nearby Mystic Portal, because I think that’s really funny for some reason.
Fed up with the sea’s uppity business a little, I send a few Fire Elementals into magical boats to deal with the giant fish infestation. The sea responds by sending more giant fish to deal with the magical boat infestation. The giant fish win, because as I’ve mentioned, the magical transport boats are incredibly weak, and the resident Fire Elementals are turned into hunks of sentient orange coral.
Frustrated, I bring up some more Fire Elementals, cast Water Walking on them, and send them out into the ocean. Warlock’s AI does not know how to deal with this. Even the mighty Kraken, who is able to pull a Flying Galleus out of the sky in a single hit, cannot bring itself to attack the water-walking Fire Elementals. This doesn’t make any sense, you can almost hear it mutter: Water-walking Fire Elementals? What’s this world coming to?
Unfortunately for it, I’ve never been above abusing AI quirks for my own gain (as, hopefully, this LP has already demonstrated clearly). Besides, it had some vengeance coming.
A Dracolich is ordered into production to celebrate.
Finally, following the Scroll’s beckoning call, I finally encounter the ominous purple borders I’ve been looking for all this time.
During this episode, Rjahk has offered peace, then demanded tribute / declared war no less than four times in a row. This situation must all be terribly confusing. Let’s go over to his territory and help her make up its mind, shall we?