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Old December 22nd, 2008, 11:53 PM
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Default MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

CUnknown’s guide to Ulm is solid, and a bit similar to what I write here, but I have several other angles I want to explore particularly since Ulm’s face lift. Ulm fits right into my usual guide MO, an under appreciated nation who can be a real gem once you polish them up and present the right angles. Many people consider Ulm a very weak nation without much flexibility. Line up a bunch of slow, tough guys and march around casting the same 2 or 3 spells until somebody exploits your weakness and squishes you. Or you could just be a forge ***** the whole game, that’s always fun. And that’s exactly what’s gonna happen if you don’t anticipate your weaknesses and have a plan.

As I’ve said elsewhere I think the strongest choice for Ulm is an awake rainbow pretender. Many fear a rush when playing Ulm and think a combat pretender is necessary, but with Ulm’s new units and a little planning there’s no rush you need fear (more on this in a moment), and lets look at what a rainbow pretender gets you.

1) The most obvious is magic diversity. Ulm doesn’t have terrible magic diversity as far as the spread goes – you’ll get F/E/S/A and N indies are easy to come by. The problem is most of those are level one and insufficient to site search. With a booster though things rapidly start opening up, and for the paths which you can’t easily forge a booster (generally air) a modest income will pretty quickly build up to 30 gems for a cheap empowering. Which leads us to…

2) Gem income. Everyone knows Ulm is the forge champion, and this is a critical national advantage you can’t afford to neglect for lack of gems. You need a constant stream of gems from an early point through the whole game and manually site searching with level one mages is *not* going to cut it. Having your pretender prime the pump by site searching is pretty much the difference between having access to that path or not (other than earth).

3) Initial research. This is the thing that requires you have an awake rather than sleeping pretender. You could probably scrape by with no site searching until the second year. What you can’t do is fight off certain kinds of rushes with no research. An awake rainbow pretender is going to give you a powerful jumpstart on research in the first couple turns, easily clearing a level three school before even the fastest rush could possibly materialize, and into level 4 if you push before much can materialize. At this point your mages are better support than a poorly equipped and buffed SC pretender would be.

As with any good strategy, design points get very tight at this point. You need an awake pretender. You need production 3. You want order 3. You want on your pretender A4 & F4 (for boosters), S4 (rings of wizardry, golems, end game astral), W3 & D3 (for site searching to prime the pump), N4 & E4 (for reasons I’ll explain in a minute). Good news is of course you’re taking drain 3 and death is a good option, and you don’t need a high dominion. Still, you can’t afford all the things you want so you’ll have to decide what’s most important to you. With a rainbow chasis though, there’s really no reason to not take at least 1 in every path (with the exception of blood) since you’ll be site searching anyway and 10 design points buys you a modest income in that path.

For initial expansion against the indies, you can’t go too wrong with any of Ulm’s troops. Still, your troops take so many resources (and thus time to mass) it’s good to steadily build up the army you’ll want when you start fighting another player. This is going to vary depending on what you’re anticipating facing in the near to mid term.
You’ve got good, cheap units, but they’re not holy and you’re gonna be cranking out a lot of them. Be mindful of the upkeep, I generally only recruit 10 gold units unless there is a specific need I’m addressing. After the first couple turns I always recruit the black plate infantry rather than the chainmail guys – resources don’t have upkeep.

Pikes are probably the best general use weapon, with a good attack, damage, and a repel that does a surprising amount against rank and file troops (particularly combined with the armor). Flails are good against high defense guys as they give you a second attack (try to land a strength of giants to compensate for the lower damage). Battleaxes are made for giants (strength of giants….well that basically goes for everything). Tower shields are of course where you’re gonna want to go vs heavy ranged attacks (keep in mind shields can block some mage spells to), but they do give up a good amount of offense so it’s often best to try to use the shields as archer screens while the two handed weapon guys do most of the damage (bonus, the shields make them move slower so its not hard to accomplish this). Arbalests are *devastating* to anything without a shield. Unfortunately, most things you’ll be worried about will have shields, so I don’t tend to recruit these guys for general use. Start cranking them out though when an enemy dragon or wyrm pretender tries to bully you, or somebody actually believes the elephant vs Ulm propaganda. Heck, even with a shield 50 guys firing at point blank range will land enough AP damage to cause considerable pain. If you do use arbalests consider trying to scrape up an air mage for wind guide – it’ll help considerably, and flaming arrows should be a no brainer if it’s researched.

The knights can be very good, but they’re too easy to counter. The only solution I’ve really come up with is to use them sparingly enough that your opponent doesn’t invest in a counter to them – just a few on the flanks or supporting a black lord. If your opponent has counters anyway, just shelve them and consider their job done in tying up your opponents resources in their counters.

I wanted to make special note of the black halberd guardians. They’re capital only and pretty expensive relative to your other troops, but with good reason. This weapon will handily dispatch any sacred unit in the game, including fully decked out SCs. It does AOE 1 fatigue damage to holy units…which means there’s no way to dodge, block, or resist it. Against cheaper masses of units like eagle warriors it’s merely very good, but
against high end sacred units like Vans, Knights of the Chalice, or Black Spiders it is retarded good. I pity Pythium’s angels, or Bandar Log’s celestials should they decide Ulm looks like easy pickings. A surprising amount of SC/thugs are holy, all of them are neutered against a prepared Ulm. Note, the guardians are not sacred so you can crank them out at whatever your production limit is, which means you’ll want to wait until you’ve got a good use for them before building them (and paying their upkeep). Use your much cheaper general issue infantry for most tasks.

But what about non-sacred bad guys? Baalz, didn’t you know Ulm is the poster boy for elephant bait! I’d like to go ahead and lay this myth to bed for once and all. Yes, Ulm will get slaughtered if you just line up all your troops and march towards a bunch of tramplers. Why in the world would you do that? With the early research push by your pretender you need never face anybody without Evo-3 researched, and really you’ll have evo-4. This gives you magma bolts, iron darts, and then blade wind. Elephants do not have a remote chance of overrunning ten smiths spamming these spells with a couple score arbalests playing backup. The smiths are awesome battle mages once your research matures, with reinvig from earthpower, blade wind, magma eruption, destruction and earth elementals. They are the answer to most things which would otherwise give Ulm problems. They’re cheap for mages, so make sure you use them, send a couple with any moderately sized force. If you’re pressed into an early fight you’ll probably want to research evocation with a laser beam focus until you get magma eruption – with it every one of your cheap smiths (well, with earthpower which you’ll want to pick up immediately after) is a top of the line carnage machine. The other option depending on what you’re facing (ie abyssia) is to switch over to alteration and pick up destruction. Also, don’t forget about iron blizzard, it’s easier to spam than blade wind, is AP, and slaughters magic beings, but its only castable by your cap only holy smiths and has a shorter range so it’s a niche spell.

So, focusing on recruiting 10 gold high resource troops, with order and production scales you’ll be putting castles 2 and 3 up pretty quick, which is good because that’s urgent. Once you’ve got 3 castles though, you’re sitting pretty with a steady flow of infantry and mages, your urgent research done, and gold piling up – pretty much before any real rush can materialize.

Now, unless you’re fighting off somebody who thought you’d be easy pickings you’ll want to shift into second gear and you’ve got a couple options on where to go. You’ll very likely have a research lead at this point, possibly a production lead, have been focusing on combat spells and have good combat mages. It’s certainly possible to rush someone yourself, particularly if they’re reliant on sacred troops (honestly I don’t see how ie Vanheim has a chance against a good Ulm rush with the addition of black halberds).

Equally effective is to go the opposite direction and turtle up. Solid scales and modest upkeep will let you put up castles at a good rate (with a research surge to match), and your pretender out site searching will give you a very respectable gem income. You’ll be hitting the construction research now, which is an investment which pays dividends.

You’ll want to aim for a couple things at this point. Dwarven hammers, lots of them. Unless it’s an emergency you never ever want to forge anything without using a dwarven hammer. The strength of Ulm is efficiency, don’t squander that. It’ll take a little bit to build up your hammers, but that’s alright because it gives your gem flow time to establish itself. A single 30 gem empowering in Air for a smith with that random should be affordable fairly early, which is a bargain because you’ll probably want to crank out a steady flow of flying boots.

As I mentioned above smiths need nothing but a few PD blockers to lay a ridiculous hurt on people. If you’ve got a dozen winged boots in your lab, and several castles spread around you’ve got the capability for a very rapid response force anywhere in your nation. This is critical as your nation grows, your infantry just moves too slowly to counter a nimble opponent and none of your mages are inheritably able to teleport.

Ulm’s forge bonus lends itself to many things, but perhaps the most obvious is a fire brand and golden shield combo, for the hammer forged price of 8 gems. Black Lords scream to be used as mini thugs with this, and they do work very well with nothing else provided they don’t need to make MR checks and you use more than one together (I also generally include some black knights set to guard commander). Using your pretender to create a revenant, and then black servants is also a good choice which yields a stealthy thug. What I prefer though is what nobody expects from Ulm – a highly mobile flying swarm of thugs.

Take one smith with the aforementioned firebrand and golden shield. Add in a pair of winged boots you’ve been stockpiling. Mix in black plate and a girdle of strength. Garnish with a lucky pendant and fire helm. Price: 21 gems. Summon earth power, invulnerability, hold then attack. That will get you a very respectable raiding thug, but you’ll still get unlucky with the fatigue you built up causing you to take critical hits, and a point here and there will slowly add up to bring you down. What you really want is just a touch more reinvig and a bit of regen, which is why I suggested E4 and N4 were very nice things to have on your pretender. Substitute in a holy smith and add a blessing in for a dish that’s best served hot – just that little bit extra goes a long way. I mean honestly, who expects Ulm to air drop a dozen thugs on them in year two? Raid aggressively while your behemoth mage supported infantry army grinds its way up to deal with the real resistance.

Now on top of the air, you’ll want to seriously consider empowering smiths in death (can immediately start dark knowledging, crank out fire skulls), water (water braclet, then voice of tiamat, boots of quickness, rune smashers), and nature (half price fever fetishs which will eventually let you crank out a steady stream of phoenix rods and flambeaus).

Now, Ulm’s got a couple strengths which are often ignored because you’re always recruiting a smith from every castle. For that reason I like to dedicate one castle to not having a lab so I recruit a steady stream of spies, black lords & siege engineers. Black lords are used as outlined above, and siege engineers are great to support your attacks – outfitted with cheaply forged range weapons they can contribute to the fighting (piercers, banefire bows, vision’s foe, bows of war, ethereal xbows, etc.) and make sure enemy forts fall instantly (use them with flying boots in combination with your smiths to take enemy forts without using any troops!). Spies people seem to underestimate, thinking that a scout does the same job unless you’re trying to cause massive unrest. It seems ridiculous to underestimate the benefit of accurate information! You can see exactly the PD you’ll be facing to drop your relatively fragile thugs into, if your opponent has 1 PD all over you can hit him with call of the winds, arouse hunger, etc. You can see where their gold income centers are to focus on raiding those, with spies adding unrest – and even better popping out with implementor axes to pillage when a response is not coming in that turn. And of course you can use them to incite unrest, which is nothing but an annoyance at peace time but can quickly become game changing if they can’t respond to it because it just started on the same turn a war did (an evil person would goad an opponent into patrolling for spies then teleport a golem in to squish the patrollers who are probably without magic support).

Blood is a very good thing to bootstrap into for Ulm. Set 10 scouts to bloodhunt and they’ll eventually scrape up 50 blood slaves to empower a smith. Forge a sanguine rod and you’re quickly up to popping out a blood stone every couple turns at half price (also slap boots of youth on any of your smiths who are old and have a good random). If things are going well set up another scout bloodhunting province and you’ll get to the point you’re cranking out multiple blood stones per turn. Blood stones are very, very good for Ulm, giving you the earth income to forge everything you want and boosting your mages (earth random + boots + blood stone = E5 = earth attack, petrify, weapons of sharpness, etc.). Tip: you can often trade a blood nation for your initial 50 blood slaves – Ulm should be a fantastic trader. Your pretender was E4, so with a solid earth income you should look at earthblood deepwell, it’ll turn your strong earth income into a torrent.

Now, what to do with all those earth gems? Mechanical men, buffed with weapons of sharpness & strength of giants are pretty difficult to stop once they hit critical mass. Add in almost any elemental battlefield enchantment (heat from hell, firestorm, wrathful skies, foul vapors etc. etc.) for heavy lifting.

Earth attack is probably the best assassination spell, set yourself up to spam this incessantly and it’s pretty crippling against most opponents.

And enter the iron angel. The perfect complement to a surging earth income and forging focus is a SC chassis for a reasonable earth gem price. It’s not unreasonably you might be summoning and equipping two of these guys per turn by the early end game. While they’re not top shelf SCs, they’re definitely solidly in the SC category and can’t be beat for the price. Their lack of magic and thus lack of need to buff, with their strength, flying and toughness makes them excellent anti-SCs who fly in round one to whack the guy trying to buff himself. A couple of these guys with flambeaus set to attack large monsters is exactly what everybody wants – a very effective budget tartarian counter, and their heretic abilities will make them quite effective against sacred SCs like most of the various high end national summons (and they’re *much* more mobile than the guardians). Heck, with that ubiquitous fire brand & golden shield (throw in a girdle of might) these guys will whacking anything large for 37 AP damage before chewing up the chaff with the flame blast and will chew up most anything without counter-SC tactics. Not bad for under 35 gems apiece. For real anti-SC though use boots of quickness and go with either the aforementioned flambeaus against undead/demons (for double 114 point AP attacks) or a gate cleaver (for double 54 AN damage attacks) which will explode pretty much anybody even if they manage to make a shield block.

Let’s see, other fun stuff to do with Ulm. Your focus on construction will give you early access to golems which is one more thing to add to your mobility. Gargoyles are good to, either have your pretender gift of reason a couple or just lead a flock by ye old fly booted smiths if you're short on N gems. Earthquake – each cheap smith with a 5 gem pair of earth boots is like an IED in the path of any big army. If you get prissy you can slap some armor and iron skin him and he’ll probably even survive unscratched. Don’t be shy, use several of them! Similarly rain of stones is open to your air random smiths, and it works very well with your heavily armored troops (enemy mages are likely not so lucky). You’ll certainly want to crank out a steady stream of 2 gem lightless lanterns. Crystal/slave matrixes can be forged cheaply and open up a whole lot of options I won’t explore here but keep them in mind if what you’d really like is something Ulm can’t otherwise do easily like foul vapors for your mechanical men to play in. If your blood economy ramps up well look into robes of the magi, they’re actually affordable at half price (and can often be traded for a huge profit).

Finally, I wanted to point out that putting up the forge of the ancients can generally pay for itself even if it is dispelled after one round. With smiths, any item costing 5 gems only costs 1 under the forge – without even using a hammer! Fire brands and golden shields for 2 gems apiece. Plan on forging 50 items the turn the forge goes up, and you’ll easily save more than you paid for it, not even counting the benefit of being able to forge items you weren’t able to before. Careful though, the forge has been known to start wars!

The Ulm caricature is a big lumbering beast, unable to move or respond to its nimble opponents. Keep that picture in your mind, and don’t play like that! Your heavy infantry will take care of itself, focus on mobility and flexibility to transform Ulm into a very competitive nation.

Last edited by Baalz; December 23rd, 2008 at 10:58 AM..
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  #2  
Old December 22nd, 2008, 11:53 PM
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

*****. Had to do it.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 01:42 AM
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

Baalz, the Lord of Strategy, Master of the Hidden Strength strikes again!

Thanks for this great guide, MA Ulm is one of my favorite nations of all time thematically and it's the first one I ever played a Dominions game with (back with Dom-PPP).
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 04:46 AM
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Horst F. JENS Horst F. JENS is offline
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

great guide. Was ther not a thread once in the dom2 forums about flying smiths casting fire shield and double-wielding axes of sharpness ?
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 05:35 AM
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

Smiths-thugs! That sounds like a great idea.


A rainbow with N4 E4 S4, A3 F3 D3, W2 would be able to do the same stuff as N4 E4 S4 A4 F4, D3 W3, given few extra turns and gems after constr 6. It will take few more turns and little more gems to get there, but it will save you some design points. I don't have Dominions here, so I can't test if it's necessary or not. Details:

A3E4: even a single Staff of Elemental Mastery will help you boost all the elemental paths, and you need A4 to forge Air boosters. On the other hand, the pretender will have the paths to forge Ring of Wizardry and the F/W Staff of Elemental Mastery, so as long as you get enough gems A3 would be enough... You really do want those Air boosters, because with two boosters an Air-random-plus-empowerment Smith can forge Staves of Elemental Mastery for half the normal price, so I could see A4 as well. It would also let you forge Staff of Storms much earlier if you need it.

F3D3: A single Flaming Skull will get you access F4 and Flaming Helmets, and furthermore, Flaming Skull and Flaming Helmet on a Fire-random Smith will let you forge Flaming Helmets for half-price. Death 3 is much better than D2 for bootstrapping into Death as well.

W2: Since you'll get F4 (as I explained above), just forge the two Water boosters to access W/F Staff of Elemental Mastery. If you need any higher Water, you could summon Naiads or Kokythiads, who are also good for the Death. You might miss some Water 3 sites, though.


Is the artifact sceptre that gives +3 Death magic one-handed or two-handed? If it's one-handed and MA Ulm gets to Constr 8 early, the Death-empowered Smith could change from half-priced Flaming Skulls to half-priced Standards of the Damned...
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 09:01 AM
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

Major complaint:
This guide isn't linked in your sig!

Awesome stuff, as usual.

If I can humbly suggest adding a mention of Living Statues:
Compared to Mechanical Men, Living Statues have nearly double the HP, higher Attack, higher Protection, lower AP (a bonus when employed as blockers), a MUCH better shield, and a longer weapon while still having strat move 3 and being mindless/lifeless. In other words, they make awesome offensive linemen (blockers to the non-US folks). Sure they lack lack fire resistance, but that doesn't help vs. friendly Magma Eruptions anyway.

Especially if you're taking A4E4 on your pretender, you can make the oft-forgotten Staff of Elemental Mastery...give one to that pretender, add Earth Boots & a Ring of Wizardry for E7, and each 20E Enliven Statues casting gives you 14 Living Statues, which is conveniently more efficient than Mechanical Men.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 09:03 AM
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horst F. JENS View Post
great guide. Was ther not a thread once in the dom2 forums about flying smiths casting fire shield and double-wielding axes of sharpness ?
Yeah, that's what put the germ of the idea in my head, but it didn't quite work until you could stack a minor bless on top. Fire shield + 2 axes of sharpness = a fun gimmick, awe + regen + reinvig + 29 protection + AOE damage = single handed crowd clearer. With your hps being so low you really need your fatigue to be near zero as critical hits will quickly drop you, and you're still gonna take a couple points of damage every now and then so you really need a minor regen. The holy smiths are what make this work, without the blessing you've got a good chance of going down vs strong PD.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 09:41 AM
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cleveland View Post
Major complaint:
If I can humbly suggest adding a mention of Living Statues:
Compared to Mechanical Men, Living Statues ....
Yeah, the thing is one of the big advantages of mechanical men is the synergy with your research goals. Cons-6 is one of your first research goals, one more level buys you golems, weapons of sharpness, and mechanical men - all very beneficial. And the other real benefit to mechanical men is that they're immune to most magic. Certainly there are some nations that can counter them easily enough, but there are plenty of nations reliant on elemental damage who don't really have much at all to throw at a bunch of mechanical men buffed with weapons of sharpness - which is oh so conveniently unlocked at the same time.

Living statues on the other hand are all the way out at ench-6, which you're probably not going to pick up very early (the only real thing you want down there is Deep Well, and it's not an early target). They can be taken down by anything from lightning strike to frozen heart to falling fires and basically fill the same niche as Ulm's infantry - tough things for the bad guys to whack on in melee but who won't last too long against a magical barrage.

Throw in the possibility of several different battlefield enchantments (heat from hell, etc) which are not an option for living statues) and they just don't seem in the same league IMO.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 01:46 PM
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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

Well, I messed around with this guide trying to create a pretender to specification. In order to buy all the paths recommended on an Enchantress I had to pick up Heat and Misfortune while leaving dominion at a mere 2. I agree with Endoporez that some scaling back on paths is necessary and you do not loose much in the process. F3 from F4 is obvious, especially when your pretender will already have death to build a flaming skull, and you plan on empowering a Smith with death anyways. I also shudder at the thought of spending the 82 points to give a nation strong with Earth magic E4 on their pretender to help create a marginal thug when there are other ways to get revigoration (items and Earthpower). Similarly, N4 to get 5% regeneration on a low HP unit is probably also a waste. N3 should be all you need for diversity.

When messing around with early expansion, I noticed gold was already almost always a bottle neck. Switching to Turmoil-3 Luck-3 might be viable, and in the long term gives Ulm a lot more magic gems and helps him avoid the crippling plague events. Use the 40 points saved to bring your temp scales closer to normal.

Of course, this is just based on an hour of play last night and I assume Baalz has put a lot more time into developing his strategy.
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Old December 23rd, 2008, 02:28 PM

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Default Re: MA Ulm - you called me a forge what?

I agree that Turmoil-Luck is a good choice with MA ulm, particularly if you are playing CBM. Ulm has relatively cheap mages and troops, and a forging strategy loves more gems. It also gives you some more design points to play with and taking death becomes a lot more attractive.
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