So I've been playing MA Arco almost to exclusion in about 4 MP and a few SP games here and there.
This is a light heated guide and by no means have I explored all the strategies and possibilities with this race and I'm pretty much useless at crunching numbers etc.
But I'll share a few things that have worked for me and what I think might be MA Arco's prime strengths and weaknesses.
Pretender selection -
Right now I'm favouring two distinct types of pretender -
Dragons or even a wyrm simply because they allow for quick expansion in the early game, your neighbours who don't have early game SC pretenders tend to be quick to offer/accept NAP's but more importantly that quick expansion allows you to develop a strong economy for Arco's greatest unit...but we'll come to that soon. Your Dragon/Wyrm will probably gain quite a few afflictions the more fights they get into ...try to keep them away from Heavy Cavalry...pick and choose your indy fights, anything to tough bypass and hit with your ele*cough...mumble* legions later on.
The Rainbow guy, yeah grab a sage or other low cost pretender....this guy does one thing...follow your early armies around and site search, try to give him at least one path preferably two paths in all magic discliplines except blood. Gives you those magical gems you'll need in the mid-late game, which you'll be in desperate need of if you want to remain competitive when Summoned SC's start appearing.
Your going to need cash and resources.....So....how about -
Order +3 Plenty of gold, Negates misfortune scale a little
Prod +1 Extra resources and supply help with you ele*cough* legions.
Misfortune -3 The odd curse and barbarian invasion, annoying but manageable
Magic +1 Gives your Astrologers a bit more of a research lead....they'll need it Mid - Late game.
Yeah the scales can be messed around with a bit..depends on choice of pretender I guess....mainly I like good income and resources with a little extra magic mojo.
I love bless strategies as much as the next Vanheim vanboy, but I'd rather paint my scrotum with napalm then use a bless strategy with MA Arco...EA Arco yes....but not MA.
Heart Companions are a good unit...good but not great. Nice Morale (14) Long spear reach (5) and great protection (17) but their movement? (1/7) urgh! Sure you could for a W9 bless..but why bother. Maybe if they were like Mictlans jaguar warriors where they could be mass produced in every city it might be worth having a huge phalanx of these incredibly slow but heavily armoured guys until then....no.
MUAHAHA! ELEPHANTS THE SECRET REVEALED!!!
Thats right...as soon as possible start producing elephants. Tough (64), big (6) and quick (3/18)...and they trample!!! Yes they there is nothing quite like the sight of 50+ elephants trampling an enemy army into dust. Early game 2 15+ mobs of elehpants roaming around will fix most indies.....if your neighbour gets cheeky just crush him under the weight of your elephants.
Cost - 100 Gold 20 resources mean that you won't be pumping much more then 5 - 10 at the very most in your early game...don't worry though, as mentioned above they are pretty hardy and you don't need hundreds of them to get the job done (though it would be nice to have a few hundred
Morale...yeah elephant morale could be better...and if they break theres the added factor that they will turn tail and trample any units behind them....so leave the path of retreat clear in the event the trunked ones flee.
Improving Morale - Strategos have banners for a reason...yes stick a strategos or three in the middle of your elephant wedge...it boosts their morale incredibly and very rarely will they flee unless you come up against something really worthy.
I only bother with Strategos...120 Leadership and a morale boosting standard..good command unit...I don't normally kit them out, rather save the gems for mid-late game summons/globals etc.
Priestess....Great unit....you want at least 2 or 3 to heal all your mind hunters from feeblemind..its remarkable how quickly they do it too if they are scripted to heal every turn. Oh these are your only priest types too....so don't forget to build the odd temple here and there too. Nice to have following your elephant leigons around too....as the trunked ones tend to accumulate afflictions via combat but also starvation tends to rear its ugly head often too.
Can be empowered to cast high end nature spells etc.
Powerful capital only astral mages....you really want to research soul slay and mind burn...then mind hunt ASAP. Probably 1/3 tp 1/2 your astrologers will be A4 right off the bat meaning you can be doing a lot of mind hunting in the right circumstances (ie. enemy doesn't also have astral mages) as mentioned above keep some priestesses handy to heal the feebleminded ones ASAP. I like to slowly upgrade one or even better two up to A8 or A9 so that spells like Arcane Nexus and Wish are able to cast....mmmm....Wish = SC of your choice. I like Seraphs with nice gear....others like Doom horrors (can backfire though....not nice)
Another tactic that works is while your elephant legions are off conquering....or whatever and need some magical backup, teleport as many of these guys as you can spare...20 is nice....sit them at the edge of the battlefield and script them to soul slay. It whittles down the enemy nicely.
In a big fight, casting Doom ( curse the entire enemy army) followed by Will of the fates (Luck for your whole army)...nice when you have a giant elephant legion with luck.
Recruitable from any city, they also give more magical diversity if needed. I tend to use them where needed...I like Astrologers better.
Well the other units are okay....they really are just fodder compared to the ELELPHANTS PHWAHAHER! ahem...anyway use them where needed to fill out your armies etc but they ain't that special. I've never used the chariots, I figure why bother with a size 4 trampler when I can have more ELEPHANTSS!!!!
One parting thought...
I've heard people say the sound of a 300 Maenads in battle can set your teeth on edge after a 50 turn SP session.....you ain't heard nothin yet....100 elephants is a sound for sore ears indeed.
Thanks for reading and any discussion is welcome : )