View Single Post
Old January 1st, 2009, 08:01 PM
Baalz's Avatar

Baalz Baalz is offline
Major General
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 2,435
Thanks: 57
Thanked 661 Times in 142 Posts
Baalz will become famous soon enough

[Edit: I wanted to make it clear that the specifics build I use here is with the CBM mod, though it shouldn't be too difficult to do something similar in vanilla]
Once upon a time, Helheim was one of the real EA powerhouses. Then the double nerfbat came across their shoulders and they were humbled. The Helhirdlings were drastically reduced in power with the nerfing of glamour, glamour no longer protects against ranged effects or spells. The once terrifying sacred cavalry now often struggles against mere javelin PD in sufficient numbers and archers – both of which are common in PD and indies. The more grievous of the nerfs though was the plague which wiped out most of Helheim’s dwarves. The Svartalf became capital only and Helheim lost its only cost effective non-capital researcher. Leaning on sacred units for early expansion means sending priest/mages out rather than researching, leaving a research gap that is impossible to close with their very expensive and ineffective Helkarl/Vanheres researchers who add insult to injury by requiring temples as well as labs to recruit. Finally, your opponent pretty much knows what to expect so they can start working on counters the second they realize they’re your neighbor.

Since the double nerf Helheim’s dominance has drastically waned, their usual pattern is an aggressive dual bless rush which quickly fades as their research struggles and their glamour fails to protect them from a variety of counters. I haven’t seen Helheim do impressively well into late game since this massive double nerf, so I figured they needed a guide.

To properly play Helheim, you need to get into the right mind set. Whereas Ulm is the model of German efficiency, Helheim is a V-12 American muscle car. You’re lacking the AC, and you’re not paying attention to your abysmal gas mileage because you’re all about raw, concentrated, glorious *power*. Some of the suggestions I put forth in this guide might make you wince a bit because they perhaps feel wasteful, perhaps they feel like a bit of a loose cannon, but you have to play a nation with the grain, and injecting nitro is not about efficiency. It’s about leaving the poor schmuck sucking your exhaust at the light.

So, I’m gonna go ahead and lead with your pretender, and you’ll have to bear with me a bit as to why I make some of these uncommon choices. As with all my guides, this build has some room to be tweaked once you understand the song we’re trying to sing and you want to try some harmonies of your own. Lets take an awake master druid 2F 4W 9E 2S 4N, with Order-3, sloth-3, cold-2, death -3, luck-3 and drain-2 with a dominion score of 3.

Eeeek! Not only high death with a blood hunting nation but drain! Didn’t you just get through lamenting their difficulty with research? The thing to keep in mind is you’ve got to embrace your strengths and play the way the nation naturally flows. Some people look at a weakness and try to directly compensate for it. They see a nation vulnerable to a rush and thus want a SC pretender. They see a nation with weak research and think that means you have to take a magic scale, maybe even look at the terribly expensive magic-3 scale. Me, I’d rather set the tempo so the dance never hurts my lame foot. If all I’ve got is terribly inefficient researchers, then I’m not going to use them.

Now, I’m betting some of you are confused at this point. The blessing I suggest is not something that lends itself to a standard bless rush, particularly with a dominion score of 3. But I’m not using my non-capital researchers. So, no rush and extremely weak research….what the hell do I have in mind? Raw, concentrated, power my friend, listen to the growl of that beautiful engine.

With this blessing you’re going to be able to expand against moderate to weak indies using just a single Helkarl with a single Helhirding and a half dozen huskarls. Set the Helhirding to guard commander and he’ll be permanently wedged into the same square as the commander, thus halving the number of attacks he’s fending off and the blessing is giving you extra defense, and a high enough armor that your one point of regeneration will cover the odd hit that does land while the reinvig makes sure you keep on kicking. The huskarls are there to take the attention of the indies, catching the arrows, javelins, etc on their shields and tying up the infantry with their high defense and glamour, while your two mounted guys attacks the rear. You’re gonna take a casualty here or there but your expansion will be reliable enough and a bargain for the price.

You’re fielding a cheap expansion party every round for the first couple. Avoiding the tougher indies shouldn’t too much of a problem because your primary goal is not the high income, well defended territories, it’s the much more modestly defended mountains and wastelands. That raw power at this point is concentrated in just a handful of guys in each squad, and with those nice order/luck scales you won’t have any problem with cashflow despite sticking to the lower income indies. Don’t hesitate to use your stealth to sneak on by anybody that looks like they’ll give you too much of a fight – you’ll be having a very brisk expansion even if you’re picky about where you attack.

This isn’t just to make your initial expansion run smoothly, it’s also exactly what you want the most. After the first two turns you’re going to switch to fielding an expansion party every other turn, alternating with recruiting a dwarf. The dwarves are going to go our site searching in those mountains and wastelands, forests and swamps. What you need the most is earth and death gems, and conveniently every dwarf will hit both of those with at least level 2. Meanwhile your very modest gold outlay and very nice income scales will let you pop up a second castle pretty quickly, along with a lab and temple. If you’re doing well you’ll likely get castle three up pretty quick as well, but really it’s only the second one which is urgent. Out of every non-capital castle you ever put up you will do exactly the same thing every turn, recruit a Vanjarl and nothing else (if you’re pinched you can recruit some troops, but that’s just an emergency measure). Unmodified, the Vanjarls have 4 research points in drain-2 at a staggering 280 gold. Ignore that, just assume they can’t research and mentally put them at 0 research points. These guys aren’t meant to research, at this point every one you recruit should be set to blood hunt. This is also immensely expensive for a blood hunter, but just ignore that little voice because we’re interested in power, not efficiency. You shouldn’t have any probably affording two Vanjarls and a dwarf every round which is really all you should care about. Meanwhile, your pretender solidly researches construction. Your pretender has 29 research points and doesn’t really care about the one point he loses from drain.

So, how does this all come together around the end of year one? You’ve done an above average expansion against the indies, respectable but not flashy enough that your neighbors are talking about ganging up on you. Your income, likewise is modest with your good scales being more than compensated by your focus on lower population indies. Your research, carried almost completely by your pretender is solid, among the leaders but likely not first place. Your gem income is probably at an impressive lead, heavily weighted to earth and death gems. With your very nice capital income of 4 death gems and having spent none, you should be looking at 60-80 death gems unless you’ve just had abysmal luck searching, and you’ve turned your earth gems into a couple hammers - if luck is with you, you might have as many as four by now, don’t hesitate to alchemize anything other than death to get those initial hammers.

Right around the end of year one is when you’ll finish research on construction-4. Now it’s time to feel the rumble of that engine, let’s get to concentrating that power. You’re gonna start cranking out skull mentors like there’s no tomorrow. You’ll almost certainly have a death gem income in the double digits by now, with your capital income just two nice magic sites practically get you there. Given the death gems you’ve stockpiled at this point you should be able to easily crank out 3-4 skull mentors per turn for a good while. Make sure you’re only doing this with hammers, because of the way the rounding works out you’re getting three of them for 21 gems instead of 2 of them for 20, so it’s essentially a 50% increase in mentor production for a given amount of gems.

Burn that nitro baby. Plenty of people are reluctant to forge skull mentors, of the mindset that this uses very valuable death gems to do something you can get done other ways. Stop thinking like Ulm! Gun that engine and, well, lets do some math. With a skull mentor those dwarves are spitting out 15 research points and once you run out of dwarves to stick them on the Vanjarls are clearing 13 (hey, the skull mentor is doing the research, so I maintain I’m not using *Vanjarls* to research). Impressive! Another way to look at this is you’re forging 9X3 = 27 research generators plus the mages you’re recruiting (2 Vanjarls + a dwarf = 14 points), so 41 research points per turn out of three castles. That’s the research generation of *ten* castles for some nations in magic-1 scales. Simple arithmetic means that if you can keep that up you’re pulling in over 500 research points per turn *by the end of year two*! That’s more research than some people pull in by the end of the game! 40+60+100+160+260+420+680+1100+1780 = 4600, so to put this in perspective you can research all the way from 0 to level 9 of a school in 9 turns. Damn the efficiency, I’m winning the race.

Research alone isn’t gonna win for you, and that wicked hockey stick turn in your research graph will most definitely start giving you problems from your neighbors. That’s ok, because as of this second you are ready to go on the offensive just as your research is starting to gear up.

You’ve hit construction 4, and hopefully have managed to scrape together a couple of fire gems with your site searching from fire random dwarves. You’ll want to send your pretender out to site search now and let the skull mentors take over in the lab. This will give you a very nice spread of magic diversity for your income, which is the reason you’ve got F2 on him. A few fire gems are going to go a long way because with a golden shield and almost any weapon you want to stick on him every one of those Vanjarls you’ve been cranking out is a thug. Your rapidly exploding research will get you to alt-3 in no time, and blessing (reinvig + regen), air shield, plus mistform along with the awe from the golden shield will leave the Vanjarls essentially immune to anything short of anti-thug tactics. A short hop (for your rapidly increasing research) up to ench-4 means each and every one of them is able to cloud trapeze. Check out my guide to Eriu for some detailed suggestions (I use a very similar setup in it), but suffice it to say that this is a whole solid strategy by itself. This is why we took that expensive E9 blessing, that reinvig plus regen means you practically don’t need to put any items on them at all, and in fact they can be used “naked” in a pinch, just field more than one together. You should be fielding dozens of thugs in year two, each with the utmost mobility and stealth. You’ll also want to start recruiting Hangadrotts, they make even better thugs than Vanjarls – once soul vortex is researched you don’t even need to give them a magic weapon.

This is just the opening act though. You will find that you’ve got no problem setting up 3 provinces each with Vanjarls bloodhunting (all with sanguine rods now). This will pull you in around 50 or so blood slaves per turn, which means it won’t take long to empower up 3 dwarves to crank out bloodstones. Three bloodstones per turn is gonna start adding up really fast, you should be looking at most of your people with skull mentors and bloodstones before you know it. Once you’ve got those dwarves empowered you’ll probably find that you’re pulling in more blood slaves than you’re using, that’s good, just let your bloodslaves pile up for now – we’re gonna use them later. Any Vanjarls who don’t have a skull mentor or a golden shield should be blood hunting so depending on how stuff plays out you may find yourself with quite an impressive stockpile of blood slaves. One thing to remember, you can easily blood sacrifice out of each of your castles (who all have temples of course) so there’s no reason to fear a dominion push even with your dominion score of 3. There’s also no reason not to make sure that order-3/luck-3 combination is pushed to all your provinces.

Now that ever growing pile of earth gems is going to solve several problem for you. Crank out several gate cleavers and you’ll have no problem with people hiding in castles when you raid – just cloud trapeze in a half dozen gate cleavers who can sneak wherever you want them. Crumble is also easy to do once you’ve got it researched (your pretender casts it gloriously). It’s also going to fill in some mass for you when your thugs aren’t the right tool for the job. Your E9 pretender (plus boots, bloodstone of course) can very efficiently pop out a bunch of enliven’ed statues (who fit a lot better in this context than for Ulm because they fill a niche so far vacant) and hidden in the sand also makes sense when the earth gems start flowing. Gargoyles of course as well round out some nice choices all in one path, so that’s where you’ll want to bend your research if that’s what you’re wanting. Earth gems, boots & stones also of course turn your dwarves into earth monsters with all the yummy straight earth stuff from earthquake to petrify. As MaxWilson points out in the Helheim Dirty Tactic thread rain of stones is in easy reach and can be devastating using a Hangadrott with an earth random and a blood stone, but in general your combat mages are going to be your dwarves and summons while the Vanir are your thugs. In a pinch all those Vanjarls you’ve been massing can spam thunderstrike if you can lay down a storm for them to power up, and don’t neglect fun blood combat options like leech and hellbind heart.

What I’d do if you can get away with it though is focus on that concentrated raw power rather than diluting it by spreading out. Lean on your thugs for a bit and drive straight up to const-8 where your pretender forges the chalice. You shouldn’t really have any problem snagging it with your blazing research and early focus on construction. Then straight into conjuration research while of course snagging any other artifacts that appeal to you (snag the unique death boosters). Your nitro powered research will let you blaze up the tree faster than you thought possible. As you gain momentum, stop forging more skull mentors and stockpile some death gems. You shouldn’t have too much trouble hitting conj-8 with the 80 gems necessary to cast the Well of Misery (Hangadrott with a death random, staff and skull cap can cast it).

That same Hangadrott with one of the death booster artifacts (or a ring of sorcery your pretender forged) can then start dropping tartarians. You’ve now nitro boosted your way up into a very early tartarian factory as your Hangadrott’s start cranking out a couple per turn, while you use the water income your pretender scraped up while site searching to summon a couple niads to cast haurespex with the gems your pretender lined up, then gift of reason. You’re gonna be constrained on the nature gems, but between casting gift of reason every few turns and the lucky natural tartarian commander you’re gonna build up a fleet of SCs before anybody can believe you’ve got them. You’ll also have an easy time summoning all the elemental royalty other than fire, as many as you can afford.

This also is a solid strategy in its own right, but why stop now? As soon as you start raining tartarians at an absurdly early time, anyone who’s so inclined will be mobilizing against you. You’ll want to strongly consider leveraging all those death gems into burden of time, all your guys are practically immortal but it’ll royally screw with plenty of your rivals. Burden of time is one of those very situational things, there are some nations it really hurts, some it doesn’t hurt at all, and some who it’s more an annoyance. It’s not hard to line up other people who would like to see it up, so don’t think you necessarily need to declare war on everybody to put it up. Plus, what’s more thematic than Helheim breaking down the gates of Tartarus and releasing death to stalk the land? Continuing in the same vein you could throw in foul air, you do have the chalice after all for your own owies.

Rounding out this brutal research blitz is all those blood slaves burning a hole in your pocket. You’ve slammed down on the gas pedal and never let up, so that death dominion probably hasn’t been hampering you much but when provinces do start burning out it’s time to conquer some new lands! If you’ve done everything right you’re probably sitting on several hundred blood slaves at this point, and with that nasty research engine blood-9 is not that far away. A couple boosters and cheap empowerings and you’re going to be adding infernal crusade and infernal tempest to your monthly ritual list. Skip the blood SC’s, you’ll be competing with the other blood nations for them and tartarians will cover that role.
A blazing blood economy, game leading research, obscene amounts of earth and death gems, the ability to simultaneously raid every single province in an enemy nation simultaneously, and a tartarian factory before anybody else can even think about it. Lets see you manage that efficiently.

So, I hope I’ve illustrated how driving Helheim like the muscle car it is can be immensely satisfying though you’re gonna be disappointed if you’re trying to drive her like a commuter car, watching her gas mileage. Don’t worry about using 280 gold bloodhunters, it’s far worse to ignore your blood roots. Don’t worry about taking drain and death scales, it’s far worse to try and nurse along what will never be good. Don’t worry about efficiency (well, at least all the time), worry about power and let that nitro burn!

Last edited by Baalz; January 5th, 2009 at 10:32 AM..
Reply With Quote
The Following 19 Users Say Thank You to Baalz For This Useful Post: