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Old January 4th, 2009, 04:14 PM
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Default Niefelheim - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

It’s really a shame that the Niefel giants are so good, if they were just a tad less awe inspiring Niefelheim would be more feared than it is. Come again? Yep, that’s exactly what I meant, the Niefel giants as they are tend to hinder Niefelheim. Anybody who’s had to fend off a triple blessed Niefel rush is probably thinking I’ve lost it, but stop a minute and consider how often Niefelheim is a scary late game power. Those Niefel giants start being a whole lot less scary as research ramps up, and the mandatory dual (and often triple) blessing that you have to take for this nation really hits the opportunity costs not to mention the immense costs of each of those jolly blue giants. Bad scales, crappy PD, focusing on capital only troops, struggling outside of your dominion and lackluster research all conspire to make the giant usually fall hard before the race is over. I mean really, what the heck do you *do* with Niefelheim once construction is done being researched?

Let me introduce you to the other Niefelheim, the one geared to win the game rather than scare the crap out of everyone for only the first couple years. Niefelheim has some amazing tools in its chest which are usually completely overlooked in the all consuming quest to field the most optimized Niefels. First, consider that regardless of your bless Niefel giants are not what you want to use for indie expansion.

Blasphemy, I know. Now I admit, Niefel giants make great indie stompers, but my goodness don’t you realize you’re paying retail!?!?. You’ve got another all star player on your roster who would be a defining characteristic for this nation if only those big blue spotlight hoggers weren’t around. I’m speaking of course of the Jotun Skinshifters.

Now, on first glance it’s maybe not apparent how incredibly awesome this guy is, but consider the following. He’s got 35 hitponts, then he changes into A GIANT FRICKING WEREWOLF. This second form has 48 more points, raising the total to bring this guy down to 83 points (compared to a Neifel’s 66…but of course you’re fielding two skinshifters per Neifel so it’s more like 166 to 66). Further consider that they regenerate quite nicely in both forms without requiring a bless, and that 11 body protection (human sized troops have trouble hitting giants in the head I think) starts looking pretty nice when you realize how many times they have to be hit round after round by spear wielding humans (the overwhelming bulk of indie troops) further compounded by that length 5 Jotun spear and 12 attack skill (which quickly builds up with stars) doing a good job of repelling. Of course they’re nowhere near as tough as the Neifels in a cold-3 fight, but how much of your initial expansion does that describe? I’m not exaggerating when I say just 3 of these guys can reliably conquer weaker indies, and 6 of them will take any but the toughest. They don’t need a blessing so can be herded by cheap indie commanders and require barely any resources so there’s no reason at all you can’t rapidly be fielding 3 expansion parties per turn from your capital. Try that with Niefels! Now, I would like to point out that they have no shields and can struggle against heavy archer concentrations, but just use one or two Jotun Militia set slightly ahead of them set to hold and attack as arrow catchers – your werewolves will run forward and do the killing while your otherwise useless militia does an outstanding job of completely ignoring any arrows.

Now, you don’t have to think too hard to come up with some very, very nasty ways to use these werewolves as your research progresses using Gygja buffers. Protection/Wooden warriors brings these guys up to a 15 protection in human form – which given their regeneration essentially means they can’t be stopped by normal troops in any reasonable numbers. You’re using them in smaller numbers, so body ethereal & luck likewise tip the scale in their regeneration’s favor, bringing them well up into the “absurdly hard to stop” range using fairly modest research. They’ve even got a 14 MR, so are relatively resistant to typical big unit counters. Now note, you can do all that with Gygja buffers, but it’s usually not too hard to line up some indie n1 and s1 mages to do all that buffing which is a good bit more economical – that is until you start getting into will of the fates/mass protection/mass regeneration (yes, it stacks nicely) range….but then I’m guessing you’re not gonna balk at splurging on a Gygja or two there. These guys hit like a ton of bricks from turn one and only get better as research progresses, and you’re basically only constrained by gold to recruit them so as your nation grows you can rapidly recruit a fearsome force in one turn if an unexpected threat materializes. They’re capital only, but costing 5 resources and not being holy even with sloth-3 you can pretty much have as many as your heart desires.

So, now freed from having to cater to those big blue prima donnas lets see how this versatile nation unfolds. Another great strength to Niefelheim is that the cold from their dominion pushes out past their dominion. This lends itself fabulously to having a strong dominion push, even if your neighbors manage to push back to a dominion stalemate they’re gonna be bleeding gold from the temperature drop all along their border. If (in the much more likely case with you actively pushing your strong dominion) you manage to push your dominion into their territory it doesn’t take much to cover half their nation in a wintery blanket with devastating impact to their economy. Note, using skinshifters instead of Niefels also means that while fighting in your dominion is nice, it’s not crippling to bring the fight outside of it so pop those temples he’s trying to put up outside his castles!

Now, since we’re intending to actively push our dominion to the unbelievers anyway, let’s consider the impact of the scales. Ideally, we want a dominion that is great for us and terrible for anybody else. Cold-3 is obviously mandatory. Luck-3 I think fits wonderfully here, as the way the game mechanics work a hostile dominion with luck functions as misfortune (my good luck is my opponent’s bad luck). So pushing our lucky dominion is pushing misfortune-3 to them! Death -3 I think also fits perfectly in that it doesn’t really hurt us too much but death-3/cold-3 scales make plenty of armies get reeeeeal hungry, and makes old mages real irritating. Sloth-3 probably won’t hurt your neighbors too much, but it’s basically free points and it’s not gonna help them any. Finally, we’ll want fairly standard magic-1 and order-3 scales so we’re very happy to have our dominion all over our own territory (they won’t benefit our neighbors). So, we’re pushing cold deep into enemy territory, and death-3/misfortune-3/sloth-3 following on its heels accompanied by all those really nifty random events those scales unlock. Meanwhile we’re sitting pretty in an order-3/luck-3/magic-1 dominion not really noticing the death/sloth scales. Huff and puff and blow that icy wind straight to the bone. BTW gold income events from luck will hopefully supercharge your initial skinshifter expansion – you’re only constrained by gold.

So, without having to bend over backwards to afford a ridiculous blessing lets see what doors our pretender can open. Niefelheim has some pretty decent magic diversity, landing level 3s in Death, Nature, Blood & Water, with a few level 2 astral Gygjas and a Niefel Jarl or two with level one air. The glaring deficiency there is earth, which also of course fits nicely with our sacred troops (which we will eventually be using). Still, instead of going for the very expensive E9 bless, lets say the primary point is magic diversity and go with a much more modest E4 which will give your Niefels plenty of staying power in cold-3, we’re planning on having gygja’s buff regeneration when it matters anyway. This covers the most urgent thing your pretender needs to do, but to really get diversified into earth you’re gonna want to start out awake so you can site search in the turns before you really need your pretender to be doing other things. This fits well with an early dominion push, an awake pretender pushes your dominion early in a way that’s hard to match.

Looking at using a high dominion score and an awake pretender, I originally really wanted to use the bog mummy – few things are as nice as a high hitpoint immortal SC on turn one. Thing is, I can’t think of a nation that needs extra SC chasises less than Niefelheim and there are other things your pretender can contribute which add much more.

Taking an awake master lich with a dominion score of 9 and magic paths of E4 D5 S4 buys us a lot of things. First, as mentioned you start right out the gate pushing your dominion and site searching. Having a W random Skratti and a 3N gygja accompany you on site searching and you’ve got a very impressive spread of E/D/S/W/B/N. Next, your immortality and astral magic folds right in with your intent to push your dominion far and wide – you’ll be teleporting in to lay the smack down wherever needed with no fear of death. Speaking of which, the smack you can lay down is impressive – imagine something like soul drain, undead hoard (yep, those are Jotun skeletons), marble warriors, weapons of sharpness, darkness. Or invulnerability, earthquake X4. Or power of the spheres, soul vortex, bone grinding X3. Or use him to drop in and buff those skinshifters for important fights – you thought they were tough with barkskin? Or…well, just use your imagination, there’s loads of fun stuff to do in battle and he’s like the energizer bunny – he…just…keeps…going.

Now, this pretender is going to give us several very nice things outside of combat as well. Obviously earth magic gives us dwarven hammers which is a massive benefit to cranking out large swarms of SCs. Combining with the astral gives us a very important access to crystal coins – low and behold with a coin and cap each of those very common astral-1 gygja’s is up to that critical S-3 level suddenly becoming a very capable air drop thugs and able to spam vengeance of the dead. The less common S2 random Gygjas are now gatewaying troops around (there goes the last objection to tying yourself to cap only skinshifters) and laying down will of the fates which is kinda nice for highly regenerating troops. Crystal coins are huge for Niefelheim, you’ll be spending several turns forging them with your pretender. Crystal shields also work great for the widely diverse Gygjas, not only allowing the lowly S1 gygja to lay down will of the fates, but also making it easy (along with a thistle mace and moonvine bracelet) to lay down all those really big nature buffs.

Another thing you’ll be doing with your pretender which is not typical pretender work is summoning ghosts. With a skull staff and cap plus ring of sorcery (which you’re gonna want anyway) your pretender gets up to an impressive D8 and can spit out ghosts very economically. Ghosts are generally not the most cost effective thing that you can spend D gems on, but they are a marriage made in heaven for skinshifters. If you position your troops right your size 2 ghosts will filter in among your size 4 skinshifters. The skinshifters, being larger will take more of the hits, while the ghost’s etherealness, high hitpoints and life drain will give them incredible stamina for the amount of attacks each is taking. What you’ve essentially just done is not only add another damage sink to make your skinshifters last longer, you’ve added a cold and fear aura to your skinshifters…! Throw in that wooden warriors you were gonna cast anyway and the ghosts are every bit as tough to bring down as the skinshifters. Half a dozen skin shifters plus a like number of ghosts and a buffing mage is *terribly* effective for the cost. You can of course summon ghosts with mages other than your pretender, but it’s tough to scoff at getting ghosts for about one gem apiece. Used like this ghosts make great counters to any SCs which don’t have morale-30, they’ll whack a few skinshifters then quickly get surrounded by ghosts and run off with a negative 20 something morale.

Now this brings me to the next prong of Niefelheim’s strength – fear. Ghosts adding a fear aura is good. Ghosts adding a fear aura while fighting troops starving in cold-3/death-3 hostile dominion territory is very good. Ghosts doing that while supported by both terror and panic is very, very good. Ghosts doing all that under blood rain…well, you practically don’t get to kill anybody. If you do this while cutting off their retreat though…. (did I mention ubiquitous teleporting Gygja thugs? But wait, there’s plenty more to come). Wailing winds stack this to ridiculous proportions if you’ve got an air random Jarl.

At this point you’re probably thinking Gygjas are the centerpiece of this Niefelheim strategy. Far from it, you’ll have to appreciate this especially in light of the immensely useful purposes I’ve suggested so far they’re the second best mage you’ve got, and the other isn’t blue. You thought those skin shifters were badasses, let’s look at the real big bad wolf.

Before I start waxing poetic about my love for the Skratti, let me set the stage so you can really appreciate the scale. 250 gold a pop is mid range for a mage, but they don’t need a temple and you’re not going to really be recruiting many troops so you should be aiming to crank out a hell of a lot of Skratti, they’re the bulk of what you’ll be recruiting. For everything I’m about to lay out, remember you’re gonna have a bunch of them.

I wanted to point out a potentially game breaking exploitable bug. It’s listed on Edi’s short list, but I think it’s not been apparent how game breaking it can be. Normally I’m all for playing the game as it is, but I can’t in good conscious suggest that anybody really exploits what I’m about to point out. Skratti in werewolf form have no upkeep. They go from 8 research to 6, but if you really ride this and switch all your skratti to werewolves while recruiting nothing else you quickly overcome this and the consequences are nauseating. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the student the implications of doing this in conjunction with the next few paragraphs I lay out.

Alright, so in general what’s the bottleneck to Neifelheim’s power? 1) You can only recruit one Jarl per turn 2) You’ve got only so many gems to equip SCs. Let’s design this from the ground to get rid of those two factors and see where it takes us. Fairly obviously by this point I’m going with giant werewolves to get around #1. To get around #2 what I’m gonna do is to see how few gems I need to get a real workable SC out of a skratti.

First off I wanted to illustrate how awesome Skratti are at blood hunting. The ones with a blood random are B3, which means with no need to forge a sanguine rod they can optimally blood hunt in a province using just 2 of them (rather than the 3 blood -1 guys with rods which is typical). The fact that you can recruit them out of every castle and only need to recruit 2 per blood hunting province with no need for rods I think really puts Niefelheim up into the real blood powerhouse category. With a little effort you can rival Mictlan and Lanka for blood slave generation – rapidly having the optimal blood hunters in every province you want to blood hunt.

As you’re closing in on constr-4 (your first research target) you’ll start gearing up your blood hunting – no reason to wait for sanguine rods. Once you get to constr-4, why you’ve got a practically never ending supply of dirt cheap flesheater axes. Flesheater axes give you +3 berserk, which not only nicely helps your protection, but also raises your attack (with the axe) to an awesome 19, it raises your strength to 28, adding in the 14 damage from the axe and your 42 damage is cutting most humans in half even if they make a shield block. Dual wielding two of these, plus your natural bite (doing a “measly” 30 damage), then throw in a quicken self buff and you pretty much disintegrate two tiles of units per turn. You’ve got a protection of 12 and a regeneration of 6 so this is not a SC, you’re not going to be able to solo against real troops. Used in conjuction with troops though, where you’re not being singled out and swarmed you’ve got plenty of staying power and an immense amount of damage outlay. Not bad for not using any “real” gems. You should be able to crank out plenty of lucky pendants to, your pretender has been out site searching at astral 4 and has supplied hammers so they’re only 3S. Just imagine what 5 or 6 of these playing support would do in a big fight – trust me nothing is gonna last long enough that their lack of reinvig makes any difference at all. Use those big blue jocks as the big bull’s-eyes while the wolfmen take out the trash.

As awe inspiring as thinking about those guys is, realize this is just a stopgap if you get pinched before you can make it to constr-6. Once there, oh my are you sitting pretty. Empower a blood random skratti up to B4, who then starts cranking out blood thorns. Pass the first blood thorn to another blood random skratti, repeat until you’re spitting out as many blood thorns as your heart desires. Now, your standard werewolf is going to have a flesheater, a bloodthorn, a lucky pendant, and one of the following – rime haubrick, hydra skin, armor of souls, black steel plate, copper plate, fire plate. Other than the lucky pendant (which is nice, but optional) your only gem outlay is for the armor so you’re getting darn near perfect efficiency for whatever gems you’ve scraped up, or just going with the armor of souls if all you’ve got is your very solid blood income. The hydra skin works particularly well as it stacks with their regeneration, making it the best choice if you’ve got the N to burn.

Now, these are real SCs. Their berserk protection is around 20, they’ve got solid regeneration which their life drain stacks on as well as reinvigging them. They’re doing absurd amounts of damage and are immensely hard to stop, each can easily solo up to moderate strength armies and chew up SCs. Realize this – you’ve only researched to constr-6, alt-2 and can basically field one from every castle you own every turn.

The one real weakness is swarms of lifeless troops. Still, they’re not quite the silver bullet because the damage outlay of these beasts is so immense they can easily overwhelm moderate skellispam before it can build up steam. You’ll be fielding so many of them that you’ll be using several together for any significant resistance, good luck trying to withstand that fury. Note, if you are having trouble with fatigue, consider foregoing the quicken self and use boots of the messenger and a lycanthrop’s amulet for really sick regeneration and an auto berserk rather than waiting to be hit.

This guide is getting on the long side, but I’ve got so much more I want to say, the next few things I’ll try to say briefly, realize there’s several implications to each of them.

Illwinter folds perfectly into your strategy. So does dark skies, if you manage to luck into a mage and gems to cast it.

2 Gygja steadily casting curse of blood will very rapidly build up an immortal flock. What’s that? You already pushed your dominion all over the place? Hoard from hell is a great spell you should use liberally with your solid blood income. Use the devil leaders to fly vampires around. With wooden warriors & rush of strength these guys are fabulous flankers for the bigger fights.

Blood vengeance. Yeah, this is a bit more micro than you’re gonna want to do for all your raiders, but just thinking about using this with a bunch of Skratti in a big fight makes me drool. Use reinvigoration to get rid of the fatigue incurred.

Sabbath – you’ve got no excuse for not having mass protection/regeneragion/will of the fates for big fights once they’re researched. You can also do some *wicked* skellispam with Jotun skeletons, darkness, and reinvigoration. Don’t forget, darkness works great with demons to, mild mannered “summon imps” turns rather viscous when your opponent can’t see the little size one 14 defense buggers to hit and you’ve charged them with blood lust.


A few of your mages will be old, use boots of youth or rejuvenate to take even that little sting out of your death-3 scales.

There are worse uses for death gems than skull mentors using hammers when constr-4 is your first target.

In wolf form + black heart skratti make wicked assassins. Options include hellbind heart, leech, life for a life, frozen heart, falling frost, summon water elemental, or just shifting a second time into a giant werewolf and eating everybody.

Water breathing items + skratti = water expansion before all the indies are taken. Strong water mages and income means some teeth in real fights. Ice elementals make nice mindless answers to R’yleh and buffed krakens work great against Atlantis/Oceana. Check out my MA Atlantis guide for tips on underwater combat.

You should be pretty competitive at landing the blood unique summons. When you’re pulling in 100+ blood slaves per turn don’t balk at empowering. Your pretender can easily summon father illearth and crank out the infernal crusades (more fear aura) as well as a few blood stones.

You’re forging astral boosters for your Gygja anyway, it’s a shame not to gear up for some horror spam as well. Works very well with your fear strategy.

Dome of corruption isn’t too bad an idea when all your mages can eat horrors.

Gift of health is of course fabulous with giants, it’s double fabulous with the regeneration slant you’re focusing on.

There’s worse uses for the earth gems your pretender shakes up than summoning a troll king to add earth buffs to your werewolves (both skinshifter and skratii. Try tossing iron warriors on that skratti for some fun). Hidden in the snow is expensive, but can also land you some earth mages which will add a lot to your strength.

Don’t forget all the obvious stuff like grip of winter, falling frost, shadow blast, etc. Also foul vapors works well with your high hitpoint regenerating troops even without poison resistance.

Rain of toads spam is wicked awesome in the right circumstances. Cut off your opponents cap only troops, neuter his best income sites…heck, lock down all his castles if he’s only got a few. This is a single handed game winner spell under the right circumstances.

Skratti with a blood thorn and armor of souls gets +2 to a potential base 3. No point in not leading that fight with a couple bloodlettings before rampaging into melee.

Last edited by Baalz; January 4th, 2009 at 07:20 PM..
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  #2  
Old January 4th, 2009, 05:32 PM
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Default Re: Neifelhiem - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

This is wicked.

wicked (adj)
1. terrible, severe: intensely or extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality; "under wicked
fire from the enemy's guns"

2. impish, mischievous: naughtily or annoyingly playful; "worrysome with impish laughter"
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Old January 4th, 2009, 05:35 PM

Redeyes Redeyes is offline
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Laugh Re: Neifelhiem - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Terrible & extremely bad in quality?
Why, has some rolled you over with this strategy already?
It hasn't been out for a day yet!
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Old January 4th, 2009, 05:55 PM

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Default Re: Neifelhiem - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Jesus, do you sleep? This is what, your 3rd or 4th guide in less than a month? Keep it up!

Yomi next maybe, or EA Ulm...
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Old January 4th, 2009, 06:06 PM

rdonj rdonj is offline
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Default Re: Neifelhiem - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Make sure to leave at least a few nations without guides though - we need some nations we can beat!
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Old January 4th, 2009, 06:07 PM
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Default Re: Neifelhiem - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Redeyes View Post
Terrible & extremely bad in quality?
Why, has some rolled you over with this strategy already?
It hasn't been out for a day yet!
I didn't mean that the guide is terrible in quality, or bad in any way. It's the idea of playing against Niefelheim that's like the one Baalz described that is terrible and unpleasant. Baalz's guides give me this two-way feeling: on one hand, it's really awesome that I learn to do this, but on the other hand, I have no idea how to counter it!

P.S.
Oh, Baalz might want to edit the title to read Niefelheim.

Last edited by Endoperez; January 4th, 2009 at 06:18 PM.. Reason: major editing
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Old January 4th, 2009, 06:16 PM

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Default Re: Neifelhiem - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

At this rate every nation will have a guide by Baalz by the end of the month , keep it up.

Last edited by hunt11; January 4th, 2009 at 06:20 PM..
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Old January 4th, 2009, 06:40 PM
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Default Re: Niefelheim - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

In my opinion, Niefelheim has always been, potentially, one of the best late game powers who also happen to have one of the best early games as well. This view of Niefelheim is virtually identical to the one I envisioned. I can't count the number of times I cringed whenever someone said there was nothing to do after construction 8. I thought perhaps the bluish glow coming from the Niefel Giants made people blind and stupid. (No offense I hope.)

The only amendment I would make is to add 'Relief' (Enchantment 6) to your list of battlefield spells. It's not a spell that your wolves need all the time, but it is the answer to long drawn out fights with swarms of undead. Its also not out of your way as you'll have it long before you have mass regeneration.

Thanks for the guide and good luck to all those not playing Niefelheim, as you are going to need a lot of it now.

P.S.: I heart master lich with any combination of earth, death, astral, and/or nature. Another reason why I feel my mind has been read.
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Last edited by AreaOfEffect; January 4th, 2009 at 06:42 PM..
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Old January 4th, 2009, 06:53 PM
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Default Re: Niefelheim - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

I've never understood why people buy Niefel giants when there are skinshifters. Thanks for telling everyone, Baalz. Now I'll have a hard time stopping a Niefelheim rush even with an awake Gorgon
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Old January 4th, 2009, 08:09 PM

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Default Re: Niefelheim - Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Quote:
Death -3 I think also fits perfectly in that it doesn’t really hurt us too much but death-3/cold-3 scales make plenty of armies get reeeeeal hungry, and makes old mages real irritating.
I didn't think oldage was affected by province scales, only by national scales.

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Last edited by MaxWilson; January 4th, 2009 at 08:11 PM..
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