[This guide is based on CBM]
EA Arco, the golden era. This isn’t your Arco of later eras with regimented phalanxes and rows of communion mages, this is the time of Hercules. Think heroes and legendary monsters and mage-engineers forging wings that should not fly too close to the sun, the gods taking personal interest in the affairs of men - now you’re getting into the right mindset for this nation.
Now, this wasn’t just a flavorful introduction, it’s very important that you get into a different mindset for EA Arco than you would for it’s later two eras as it plays strikingly different. EA Arco is a land of making mutually exclusive choices, you’re going to have to decide which Arco you’re going to play at the point you’re making your pretender. This guide explores one particular angle, but there are few nations with so clearly marked different paths, you certainly could be effective going a different angle.
That said, I’ll go ahead and tell you that I’m going to mostly ignore 3 reasonably effective units because they don’t fit this angle. The Myrmidon, chariot, and Icarid can all be pretty good units if you treat them right, the problem being that they’re fairly resource intensive. The philosopher unit has a unique attribute that it gets +1 research point for each level of sloth. That’s great, research bonus for gaining design points! The catch is that the real cost of taking sloth scales is effectively deciding not to use these three units in a serious way. I’ll be talking about them in more detail in a bit, realize how much more you could get out of them if you took production scales. I, however, am choosing the philosopher – he’s just too tempting when packaged with the 240 design points for swinging from production-3 to sloth-3.
With a magic-1, sloth-3 scale those 50 gold philosophers are spitting out a jaw dropping 9 research points. Now, the beginner might look at that and think the 9 was the important number. It’s not, the important number is 50. That 50 means we can have extremely competitive research while spending almost no gold. Let’s take this idea and run with it. Since we’re taking sloth-3 scales lets see what we can accomplish recruiting almost nothing in the first year.
The first leg of this plan is to have a pretender who can come out of the gate fearsomely on turn 1. This means with no research or items, somebody who can keep on clearing indies at a steady pace. Additionally, as we’re going to be running light on troops we really want somebody whose power will scale up as the game goes on so he doesn’t loose all usefulness once real armies start showing up. Now, there’s a couple different pretender chassis that fit this bill, but most of them also require having a dominion score high enough to give them awe. Rather than trying to sacrifice my scales for a dominion score I don’t really otherwise want, I’m gonna pick the great white bull.
Now, the bull doesn’t need awe, but he does really need some earth magic. Taking the great white bull I can afford 4E 4N, a dominion of 5 and Order-3, Sloth-3, cold-1, death-1, luck-3, and magic-1. The earth component is critical for a couple of reasons. Right off the bat it gives him +4 protection, bringing his berserk protection up to 16. Against spear wielding humans the difference between a 12 protection and 16 is *huge* it’s going to reduce the amount of damage you take by an order of magnitude. A 12 protection is kind of iffy for initial expansion, 16 you’ve got no problem against most of the stuff you’ll see in inides. Stay away from barbarians, lizards, wolf tribe & heavy cavalry and you’ve really got nothing to worry about with all those hitpoints.
Now, the initial troops you start out with are not great, but they’re actually not completely worthless once you lay a sermon of courage on them. Turn one recruit as many slingers as your resources allow and prophetize your initial champion and between your javelins and slings you should be able to take out a couple of the low protection, shieldless indies. You’ll take some casualties each fight, but that’s ok you only need to take 2 provinces, if you can take 3 with these troops consider it a solid success. If your luck bums out and you lose to your first indie that’s not great, but not the end of the world either because your raging bull is unstoppably stomping around (unstoppable referring only to light/medium indies at this point!).
While these two squads spend the first few turn expanding you’re making (practically free) philosophers and (not so free) Wind Riders. Wind Riders are pretty expensive, but you won’t have any problem affording as many as your resources allow as this will only be 5-8 or so in the first 3 turns. That’s ok, that’s all you want. Whenever your initial (non-pretender) expansion party grinds down to a useless nub bring your prophet back to collect the wind riders. If you got unlucky and your prophet bought the farm, recruit a Wind Lord instead. This handful of wind riders with the modest blessing you’ve got is *bad **** for clearing indies, other than exceptionally strong indies they can clear everything. Meanwhile those philosophers have made it to alt-2 and your bull god is now throwing down a stoneskin (and shortly ironskin) which bumps him up to the level that he can also take out almost any indies. B-line both these expansion squads over to the nearest farmlands, there’s a very good chance you can grab the closest ones before your neighbors.
After you’ve sent out those wind riders you’re going to only be recruiting philosophers. At 50 gold a pop, you’re essentially not spending any money while your research blazes on at the head of the pack. Your 2 expansion parties are both plenty strong enough to snatch the high population indies, and your scales are retarded good – and being spread to everything you conquer by either your god or your prophet. You should have enough money to start construction on your second castle by turn 6 or so, and roughly enough to put a new one up every turn after that. Your income, in fact should be so good that very shortly you’re able to continue putting a castle up per turn while you start doing other things.
Now, I wanted to talk for a minute about castle site selection. Most of the time in dominions you want to take the cheapest castles you can so that you can get as many of them as possible so you can get as many mages as possible. True, that’s an important part of why we’re doing this, but it’s not the only goal. These forts are an investment. Many people overlook the income bonus from forts, which can be quite significant over the long term. A fort increases the income of a province by the percentage of it’s administration value divided by two. Let’s say you put up a forest ramparts with an administration value of 10 in some woods with a population of 5000 and an income of 50. That fort would then generate 2.5 gold per turn. Lets say you put a fortified city with an administration of 50 on a nice farmland with a 20000 population and an income of 200, that fort would generate 50 gold per turn. So, not counting the time value of having a fort up sooner the fortified city (which cost 400 gold more) pays for itself in 8 turns at which point it’s generating a profit for the rest of the game. This sort of investment can make a significant difference if you’re putting a fort up early in year one, it’s not unlikely that gold gain will be thousands per fort over the course of the game on the nice provinces. This gain is even greater with good scales. Most of the time you can’t afford that extra 400 gold in year one, but the philosophers allow us to do it while maintaining our research pace. We’ve got gold and no super urgent need to grow our research, so lets make some investments.
Targeting the highest population provinces first (and gold/gem mines, arenas, etc!) your forts start sprouting like mushrooms. Since you’re not recruiting troops and the upkeep for your philosophers is negligible you’re going to fairly quickly get to the point that you can put up a castle per turn and still pile up the gold. At this point (should be inside of year one) you’re done recruiting philosophers. Whenever you begin to lament the waste of not using your philosophers look at all those castles you have and the money you can’t figure out how to spend fast enough and remember it’s not a waste, that investment is paying fat dividends the rest of the game.
Why do we start ignoring the philosophers who have treated us so well? Because the centerpiece of EA Arco is also cap only, you’re going to only recruit Oreiads from now on. It’s really a shame, EA Arco has several very nice units which are cap only, but they never see the light of day because they’re totally eclipsed by the Oreiad. Your first couple Oreids are going to head out site searching. Oh, and did you notice yet that Arco’s labs only cost 250 gold? Put labs in all those castles sprouting up and start cranking out the mystics. You will have a *lot* of mystics (this is where the majority of that fat income you generated is going to go all game), so you’ll have plenty which are 2e, 2w, or 2f, and of course they’re all at least 1S so you’ve got a powerful battery of site searchers you’ll be leveraging. Meanwhile, your Oreaids are doing solid job manually searching N and A with a trickle of W & E thrown in. You should have a very strong gem income to match your strong research and strong gold income.
Those philosophers are going to make short work of the early research. Your Bull God was most of the way towards being invincible with just iron skin, but once you add in earthpower and personal regeneration he’s going to have no problem splattering anything short of a real army or a SC counter. Your philosophers will have no trouble clearing this bar inside of year one and well ahead of any fighting with other players. For big fights you’ll want to add in some support mages to buff him. I know what some of you were thinking “The Great Bull? Come on, he’s useless after clearing the indies, he can’t be effectively used against a real army like I would with a kitted out titan!”. Well, to that I say bull. Summon earthpower gives him all the reinvig he needs, fatigue from trampling varies a lot but you’ll be perpetually low fatigue. Throwing invulnerability down will bring him to a nice round 30 protection while berserking. In a solid dominon he’ll have over 300 hitpoints, and having laid down personal regeneration will be essentially unkillable by the method of poking him with sharp things. Having self-buffed iron will and hanging an amulet of antimagic off one horn he’s got an in-dominion MR close to 30. With support mages laying down luck, body ethereal, quickness, haste, gift of flight he turns into something I guarantee will cause nightmares in your enemies (note, you’ve just quadrupled his movement which gives him a devastating attack but also causes him to get ahead of his reinvigoration. Skip that part for huge armies where you expect a long fight. Trust me though, not much will last long enough for it to matter). You’ve still got a free misc slot so stick a ring of tamed lighting or whatever seems appropriate given your opposition on his tail and tell me again how he can’t be effective against real armies.
I also wanted to point out that a variation of this same trick is quite effective using chariots. Given your sloth scale chariots are your goto unit when you need to recruit something outside of your capital, and as long as you’re using them make sure to double their effectiveness by dropping haste. As the game progresses tossing in mass flight and quickening is devastatingly effective as a side strategy (as in where your opponent is not dropping storm or fielding chariot counters like anything size 4 or higher). Because they’re fairly easily countered you’re not going to want to lean on them too heavily, but trotted out every now and then they can be a devastating surprise.
As long as we’re on the subject of flying troops lets look at the Icarids. These guys have the potential to be everything Caelum wishes its infantry was. They’re size 2 along with a reasonable weapon and strength. The strength of flying units (aside from strategic movement flexibility) is the ability to swarm which is greatly improved by being size 2 vs size 3. Toss on a strength of giants (and later weapons of sharpness & quickening) along with mass protection and these guys start looking a lot like something your opponent would rather not have jumping into his flank. You’ll probably be disappointed with them if you try and use them without mage support or against very stout opposition, but that’s ok, this is another side strategy you’ll just use when it seems like a good idea.
Rounding out your air force are the wind riders. As your castle building frenzy levels off you’ll want to steadily recruit these guys. You’ll never have enough of them to be central to your strategy, but they are awesome heavy raiders and will contribute greatly to the threat vector your opponent has to worry about. Your first inclination is probably to recruit wind lords to lead them. That would be a good idea if it didn’t mean you had to do without an Oreiad that turn. Instead, send them out in groups of 10 with a priestess with flying boots and a thistle mace. Not only can she bless them, she also can lay down wooden warriors then spam panic. Best of all, she makes sure you get an Oreiad every single turn.
So, I keep going on and on about the Oreiad, I guess it’s time for me to illustrate why she inspires me to poetry. She may be my favorite cap only mage. Why? Because she’s great at *everything*, an amazingly good thug with no equipment and a full fledged SC with equipment you can probably find wedged in the crease of your couch.
She’s got awe, and a powerful one. Powerful enough that even high morale troops will shy off more often than not. She’s stoneskin, which with any armor you stick on her, anything which does hit her will bounce off more often than not. She’s got mistform so those few hits which do cause damage will only cause one point, and she’s got powerful nature magic so her regeneration is about half her hitpoints. Add this all up and it means she needs to get hit more than 5 times per round over many rounds to bring her down. Not many units can do that. Now, if you get rushed into very early fighting (that for some reason your Bull God can’t handle) you can use a priest to bless them to gain the regen and reinvig you need. In most circumstances though I’d suggest just forging her a shroud of the battlesaint, your protection is plenty enough with your buffs and you get the regen without casting the very fatigue expensive personal regeneration. You’ve got all those mystics arcane probing, you shouldn’t have any trouble at all popping out a sacred shroud every turn to match the one Oreiad you get.
But I haven’t told you the best part yet – no need to forge a shield or weapon. Try this script on for size – mistform, stoneskin, resist lightning, cast spells. What spell is she going to cast? Shockwave of course. Now you’ll do plenty enough damage to blast PD around with just this, but with a little more reinvig you become truly unstoppable. Fortunately, 25% of your Orieads can cast summon earthpower, and the rest just need an earth gem, or for just 3 gems you can forge boots of the messenger with a hammer. Oh, also no worries if she runs into somebody lighting immune, the spellcasting AI will automatically switch to something like freezing touch or fists of iron.
But wait, there’s more! Add “resist elements” there and it gives you 50% resistance to everything. This means 100% resistance is as easy as slapping on a dragon helm & frost brand (you’re already scripting resist lighting). You can toss in resist poison if it seems like it’ll help.
So, once you’ve forged 4 hammers, every turn you’re using 3w 3f 3s 3n and have a chick who’s immune to everything, and blasts a huge chunk out of the enemy front lines every other turn while never running up fatigue. You know what’s even better than that? Using three of them together. Watching the enemy try to swarm around this one block of three invincible chicks to have 3 shockwaves blasting out is just an awesome site to behold. For not many more gems you can stick amulets of MR & luck on your lovely ladies so they’re good for all weather. If you’re facing tough astral spam, slap on rainbow armor and rotate in iron will to the buff mix (you’ll also need some extra reinvig and to cast person regen), you’ve no worries from that angle. They also get you into the water very early for the price of a ring of water breathing.
That was just the opening act, my friend. All those Oreiads are stealthy and can cloud trapeze. That in and of itself is a strategy (check out my Eriu guide for details), but lets examine how this looks in light of the other things we’ve got set up and in light of another of the Oreiad’s abilities. Seduction. So, you’ve got forts packed shoulder to shoulder in most of your provinces. You’ve got dozens of cloud trapeze capable SCs. You can seduce from inside a sieged fort. Tell me again how you plan on ever losing a fort? Think about it, those Oreiads are army clearers, how many bodyguards does it take to stop them? They’re immune to everything, so how many mages survive the assassination? Then again there’s the successful seductions. It’s got a low success rate, but it’ll happen often enough to make you gleeful as you round our your national magic with death, blood, or whatever else seems tasty. Plus, you know, that near 100% success rate of killing the guys who don’t join you, that’s a plus to. Now, of course you’ll need to use your head and adjust the equipment/scripting you use based on what your opponent is using, but from spamming endless false horrors to orb lighting to frozen heart to swarm there’s not many opponents who don’t have something deadly to fear. It’s too bad there’s no way you can get Mage Engineers, they would fit fabulously with this strategy.
Now, the obvious counter to this sort of thing is anti-SCs equipped with magic items to pop the mistform. So, why not have some of your lovely ladies equipped with a rune smasher and void eye spamming charm at the same time? Who wants to run their thugs into that? As you start getting into the part of the game where anti-thugs are likely to be used you’ll not want to use Oreiads unsupported except in hit and run operations using their stealth and mobility. Their hitpoints are low enough that there’s not really any way to reliably target them when they’ve got wyvern bodyguards - who make nice anti-anti-thugs with their paralyzing poison while ignoring the shockwaves. Not invincible, but darn hard to get to.
These lovely ladies aren’t done yet by a long stretch. Whenever I see an A/E combo I immediately think stone rain. Every single one of your Oreiads can cast it - 1 gem for summon earthpower, two for casting it. Even better, stick earth boots on an earth random Oreiad and drop it first turn (give her plenty of protection). You also, of course, can drop all those big nature spells from mass regeneration to mass protection and relief. Those Myrmidons start looking pretty darn vicious, particularly when you stack on all those earth buffs as well. Crystal shields are your friend, with one wrathful skies opens up, and any of your water random ones can drop foul vapors. Too bad we don’t have any lighting and poison immune troops.
Dragon master and you’re summoning wyverns for 1 gem apiece. Unlike other drakes, wyverns have a fairly decent MR (12). True, they’re not as physically tough as the better known drakes, but they’re decent enough meat shields for the price, they fly, oh, and they’re lighting and poison immune. They’ll provide some nice bulk to your sloth-stunted armies and compare very favorably to the vine ogres you might otherwise be inclined to build up (who have a MR of 5, don’t fly, and aren’t lighting immune). The wyverns also lay down a paralyzing poison which is very useful against super giants common in EA as it attacks their fatigue rather than their strongly regenerating hitpoints (make sure you drop strength of giants to help that stinger punch through giant strength armor). All in all, EA Arco should be a pretty significant flying nation.
A couple other summons bear special consideration. Sleepers make decent thugs when kitted out. Gargoyles make a solid addition to your air force. Sirrush benefit from your nature blessing and can be pretty impressive when buffed similarly to what I suggested for your pretender. They’re also poison immune so work well with that angle. Kithaironic Lions are not only incredibly thematic, they’re also work very well with some buffing from your ubiquitous astral mages (sense a pattern here?). Remember, you’re going light on the troops so you’ll need to have some summons to make up the difference and buffing them is often a great job for those mystics who were unfortunate in the randoms they got.
Now, you don’t have the same astral strength that the later Arcos do, but you’d be leaving money on the table to ignore what you do have. Part of your strong gem income should be put to forging a steady stream of starshine caps and crystal coins, along with rune smashers and void eyes. Over time you should be able to build up quite a stash of these items (all forgable with mystics) which you’ll stick on double astral mystics which you’ll collect in one big stack in one of your forts. You’ll also build up (over time) 20 or so priestesses in the same block. What’s magic about that? You can now mind hunt with no fear of going feebleminded, that stack of priestesses will heal the feeblemind the same turn it happens. Heck, feel free to shoot at armies with S1-2 mages – you’re only out a couple pearls for failed attempts. You’ll have plenty of seeking arrow casters to, which is a nasty one-two punch taking out the astral mage cover while laying down a devastating barrage.
Finally, all those castles spitting out all those mystics leads to truly really the best communion potential in the game. Read my guide to communions for suggestions, it really is a whole discussion unto itself.
Last edited by Baalz; February 28th, 2009 at 11:22 AM..