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Old October 22nd, 2008, 06:02 PM
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While reading your Dominions handbook, you might come across the description of Man, Towers of Chelms. Under the strengths and weaknesses section you'll note that they have no weaknesses. This is untrue. Do they have weakness? Yes. Yet that is true of any nation. The question is what is Man's strength and how can it be used to compensate for their weakness. Let's address the strengths of Man first.

The First Strength of Man: Money
Man is good at making gold. Almost any faction can take great scales and have a respectable and reliable flow of money, but Man does it better then any other late-age faction I know of. This is a good thing as they will need lots of money to exploit their next strength.

How can Man make lots of money? Well, for starters, you need the right scales. Order 3 is the no brainer. Growth 3 is also required and anything less will be below optimal. Production, believe it or not, is an option left up to you. While we are on the subject of scales, tolerance to drain is a national advantage of Man's mages and can be used to help pay for the 240 point investment. Taking some misfortune is also not out of the realm of reason. We'll talk more about pretenders later, all you really need to know now is Order 3 and Growth 3 is optimal.

Yet, as I said, it is more then just a matter of scales. The missing piece is the judge. It may not seem like a particularly stellar commander, but it is the most cost efficient patrolling unit in the late age. It's only rivals in my opinion is the Eunuch and Eye of the Lord, both units of the middle age only. At the low cost of 50 gold the unit can single handedly patrol as if it were 21 units. This is enough to tax all of your provinces at 120% while quelling all unrest with only one commander in each province. Only really high populations, like your capitol, might need some additional assistance.

Now, both overtaxing and patrolling kill population, that doesn't mean that doing so lacks sustainability. It just so happens that overtaxing to 120% while maintaining 0 unrest kills off almost exactly the same percentage of population gained from growth 3. For all provinces above roughly 7,000 population, the loss will be around 10 people. That is the least amount of population you could ever lose. Even your capitol, with over 30,000 should only lose 10 pop per turn. Population in the 7,000 and below range should lose nothing at all. The loses are virtually negligible when all told. The gain is that you just converted the population growth from growth scales, which is only part of the scales benefit, into three additional ranks of order scales. Further more, the benefit from taxing like so is compounded by the benefits of order. Unless my math is wrong, you will make roughly 151% income from order 3, growth 3, and 120% taxes. In addition you still have increased supplies and you've mitigated some of the disease chance on your old age commanders.

There will be a small amount of management as you need to hirer judges, deploy them to provinces, and manually control the tax rates. However, the management is no where near as bad as blood hunting or managing fever fetishes in my opinion. Learning to use the nation overview by pressing F1 will make the task even less bothersome. Provinces recently conquered are best to set to 100% immediately. They will have unrest, but there should be a judge on the way to punish the unruly subjects. If it is any consolation, 100% taxes will still allow unrest to drop 1 point per turn and won't kill population. Finally, an investment in a lot of judges in the early game will keep your upkeep down and your treasury stocked.

Now, this isn't without a draw back. The largest hit will be to your early game research. Deploying judges away from your capitol will mean that your not making researchers who stay home and study spell books. The first year will see little in the way of magical advancement, unless you use your god to compensate for this. Now, some judges will have magic paths, but even still I prefer to deploy them as the benefit of doing so will eventually pay off.

Money in-of-itself is useful but, as the AI proves over an over again, it will not win you the game. You still need to use that money in a way that benefits Man most, which leads me to the second strength of Man.

The Second Strength of Man: Forts
If you want to play Man, you have to get use to the idea that you're playing a faction who lives and breaths the stink of castle walls. Building forts for Man is not like building forts for any other nation. Other nations build forts to build more units, protect choke points, and to secure important magic sites. For Man, building forts is a matter of terraforming the landscape in order to give them a strategic advantage. While other factions are given forest survival and wasteland survive, Man was given the supreme advantage over provinces with a castle. While other factions must choose which castles to save and which ones to sacrifice to invading armies, Man can choose to save them all while pressing an assault into enemy territory.

This ability of Man is almost exclusively the responsibility of one versatile commander. The magister. For 70 gold you get a stealthy unit who, for the purposes of sieging and being sieged, counts as 16 units. To top it off, the unit can also be a caster with skill in air, earth, and astral. Being Man's most cost effective researcher, there is virtually no struggle between choosing research or maintaining your castle superiority. Oh, and I here they double as spies too. Trust me, being a spy is their least useful ability, which should say a lot. Their ability to sneak is basic at best, yet a basic ability to sneak still allows the unit to travel in and out of castles that are under siege.

One of the big concerns of Man is that they have few measures to counter a sacred rush. Even a well planned armored elephant rush can succeed against them, spite their ranged fire power. The normal answer to this is to use an awake SC god. Yet, why are early rushes so effective? They are effective because once the enemy has your capitol and has crushed your main forces, their is virtually nothing you can recruit that will help you dislodge them. This is most true in the late age given the quality of the indies. Building additional forts as early as possible will slow these rushes and give you options. Slowing the pace of a rush is always to your advantage as it allows you to continue to buy national units, progress your research, and gain time to change the diplomatic landscape.

Yet, how fast can Man build castles? Both in test games and in real multi-player games, I have averaged 3 new castles in the first year with 3 new castles on the way. That's around 6,000 gold in castles, all while recruiting expansion armies, PD, and several indy commanders. My first castle is always started on turn 4. That includes games where I didn't expand on the first turn and didn't use an awake SC pretender. As long as you know how to expand with Man's troops, their is no need for an awake god. If you do use an awake god, then you can expect to see even better growth by spreading your good dominion faster and by taking more provinces in initial expansion. Tips about expansion can be found further in the reading.

An additional bonus to creating forts in mass is that it feeds back into Man's first Strength, money. Provinces gain a percentage of additional income based on the administration of the fort that occupies the territory. The increase in percentage is exactly half the administration. Administration also increases the amount of resources you can pull in from neighboring provinces. However, you cannot pull in resources from a neighboring province which you don't own or provinces with their own fort. Clearly it becomes helpful to know which provinces give you optimal administration. For Man, the highest administration comes from Fortified Cities (50 admin), which can only be made on farmland provinces. Though the 1200 gold cost of a fortified city, plus the 5 turn building time deters me from choosing farmlands some of the time. Instead I prefer Citadels (40 admin, 1000 gold, 4 turn build time) to fortified cities, which Man can build as their 'default'. As long as it isn't a forest, mountain, swamp, or farmland, Man will build a citadel. This includes border mountains and wastelands. The citadel also has a higher defense then a city. It's only weakness in is food supply, which Man doesn't need a lot of if they plan to defend their walls with magisters. Avoid forests if you can as they net only 20 admin for the same price, time, and defense as a citadel. Mountains are really good for holding a province indefiniately as the fort it produces has an amazing 700 defense but an even poorer admin of 15. Swamps are the only place where you can build a 800 gold and 3 turn build time fort and aren't bad places to stack an adjacent castle as they steal no resources away from surrounding areas and are likely not to have many resources of their own. It's just a fast way to produce more commanders and hold a line.

Money and Forts, those are the strengths of Man. Now let's see how this can help them overcome their weakness.

The First Weakness of Man: Province Defense
Man has very poor province defense. Reading the book you'll see that you get 1xSpearmen and 2xMillitia for the first 20 points. This isn't entirely accurate. Man actually gets 1xSpearmen, 1xMillitia, and 1xSlinger. That's still bad, even worse if your enemy uses any sort of fear effects. The first 20 PD of any nation establishes the basics of whether their PD is good or not. Though in some cases the PD above that might make up for the loss. Mictlan, for example, gets sacred jaguar warriors at 20 and above. This is not the case with Man. Man's PD at 20 and beyond is longbowmen and tower guards. Now Man's PD is likely bugged as the tower guards are leftovers from the middle age era. They don't have crossbows and use regular shields as opposed to kite shields. Some factions, like Abysia, get mages to back up their PD. In Man's case, they might get a mage, though more often then not they just get a frail unarmored commander. This PD doesn't impress me at all.

The one thing about the strengths of Man is that you don't need your PD as much when you have a fort defending the province. By the end of the game, PD gets rolled over so easily that it doesn't matter anyhow. Forts on the other hand forces the enemy to always fight for the province in a way that forces them to take time. This is true at any stage of the game. Also, if you don't like enemy scouts in your lands, 10 PD and a patrolling judge is much better then 20 PD at finding scouts. If you want to support your PD with more reliable magic, you can choose to send a judge with magic levels rather then a plain judge. It may not improve your chances in normal situations, but scripting Dust to Dust (Thuamaturgy 1) on a judge with death magic will stop black servants from being cheap raiders and might even put some real hurt on an enemy's PoD/Bane Lord.

The Second Weakness of Man: The Research Curve
As mentioned before, the only real problem with deploying judges early in the game is that your early game research doesn't go anywhere. At the same time, I would argue that if Man doesn't take the hit early in the game, they will be far behind the research curve by the mid and late game. The magister is a quality buy with just the castle bonus and stealth alone, yet, as an added benefit they are also your most cost effective researchers. The problem is that the level of research they grant may not be enough to keep up with other nations. It is not a matter of money. Clearly Man should be swimming in money. It is a matter of keeping pace.

The problem is that the magister averages below 3 research points a turn. Your chances are 1:16 for 5 research, 5:16 for 4, 7:16 for 3, and 3:16 for no research at all. That places the average research at 2.875 points per magister. Now most other factions have their own cost effective researchers. Atlantis, C'tis, Argatha, and Caelum, just to name a few, all have sacred commanders with 4 points of research. If those factions build two additional forts, they can average 12 points of research a round. If Man wants to beat that curve, they need to be making five magisters a round. The only way to do that is to build twice as many forts as the enemy, or to use precious gems to construct research items.

Man's drain tolerance makes drain seem like free points. Knowing your research will be roughly the same whether you have drain 3 or neutral magic scales makes taking magic 1 seem like it costs 160 design points rather then the usual 40. Most other factions will get magic scales and pay for them with heat or cold scales. If Cealum gets magic 1, then their cost effective researchers go from 4 to 5. With only 40 design points, Caelum now forces Man to buy yet another castle in order to match their research. That's 5 castles to their 2.

Personally I think this is okay. Man should build more castles and be making more magisters anyhow. Even those magisters without any magic skills are a great resource. Besides, Man's best researchers only require a castle. No lab and no temple. Simply build a castle in walking distance to the nearest laboratory and start the research machine. If done right, the slow beginning that Man suffers, and the national research disadvantage they have, should be countered by their massive commander output.

The Third Weakness of Man: Magic Skill
When it comes to Magic, you must get use to the idea of doing a lot with very little. You will have a lot of judges and magisters and likely a handful of magister arcanas. It would be nice to have a lot of mages like the magister arcana, but they are in many cases a huge liability. They are old, frail, slow, and have a large upkeep for very average research. To top it all off they are easily killed off with Magic Duel (Evocation 3). 7 out of 8 magisters will have just enough astral to engage in a duel with the least possible chance of winning. For me, every time I make a magister arcana it becomes a big deal as I just sunk 250 gold into a unit that might get instantly killed in battle or who might just up and die on his own. Magisters and judges on the other hand are cheap and should be in abundance. The problem is none of these plentiful mages will have more then one skill level in any magic path. Aside from forming a massive communion (Thuamaturgy 1), your spell options will be very limited. Finding mages for a communion is also problematic as only 1 in 4 magisters can actually participate.

What about boosting? Well the paths on the magisters and judges are so low that battlefield boosting is extremely limited. Judges can't cast Phoenix Power (Conjuration 3) without a fire gem and there is no magic spell for boosting death. As for the magister, they can't use Summon Earth Power (Conjuration 3) without an earth gem, they can only boost air during a Storm (Evocation 5) with Storm Power (Conjuration 3), which runs counter to longbow and crossbow effectiveness, and though they can use Power of the Spheres (Conjuration 3) to boost all their paths, the wasted round, gems, and fatigue does make it very unappealing. If your casting Power of the Spheres, you are likely to be unable to cast anything else. You could scrape together a communion and then apply the boosting spells. In truth though I don't think that Man can afford to field several dozen communion mages with every army.

The real problem is that Man's strength doesn't really offer an easy solution to this problem. Instead I would say that this problem falls on your god and your research more then it does on anything else. As Man you have to choose your research path carefully and go immediately for army killing spells. Spells like Earthquake, Wrathful Skies, and Rain of Stones (Evocation 5, 6, and 7 respectively) can be cast with just one magister arcana and a handful of magisters in a communion. The trick is that you'll need to guard these mages from their own spells either with items or with buffing spells. Buffs cost rounds and items cost gems, but both cost additional research. 1 in 8 magister arcanas can cast Seeking Arrow (Enchantment 3). Yet, as far as assassination goes, seeking arrow might be the weakest ritual one could cast. Enhanced with a Crystal Coin and Starshine Skullcap (Construction 4 and 6 respectively) 1 in 8 magisters can Mindhunt (Evocation 6 and Thaumaturgy 2/5). Against a handful of thugs you can cast Aim (Alteration 1) and Gifts from Heaven (Evocation 5). If you need a lot of artilary you can improve everyones aim with the classic Man spell, Wind Guide (Alteration 4).

In truth the magister arcana in a communion can cast a great number of spells, but, as I said, large communions are difficult with this nation and so it is best to stick to spells that you only need to cast once or twice so you can keep the communions as small as possible. The one agreement I have with the book is that the magister arcanas are versatile. Yet, as I' have explained, they are more often then not a liability. They also aren't nearly as good on their own. This starts to show when you face up against nations like Vanheim. You've got archers and knights and they generally have skinshifters. You cast Aim and they cast both Mist (Evocation 3) and Storm. Try to match them Thunder Strike for Thunder Strike (Evocation 4) and you will lose. If their units close with yours, you will generally lose. This is just a fact of Man. In my opinion it is better to have your main force side-step nations like Vanheim, have a small communion meet them on the defense,and cast rain of stones several times and retreat.

In my opinion Man needs to play dirty. They need to avoid confrontation and deal with problems using battlefield damage spells and army killing ritual spells. Man's primary forces, after side-stepping, should strike at unprotected provinces and use sneaking magisters to help capture forts quickly. The one helpful thing about the strength of Man is that you can afford to let the enemy stomp around in your own lands more then he can allow you to stomp around in his. This allows you more time to devise a solution to the problem. Even Ermor is limited in what they can do. Though they can still create ghouls, raise taxes, patrol, and preach their dominion in a province with your castle, what they can't do is pillage, which is the fastest way to ruin your province's population with an army.

There is some other good news, magisters and judges are not completely useless. In my opinion, magisters with air or astral, and judges with death are your best support mages. Magisters with air can cast lightning orb (Evocation 5) for short range AN damage support. The astral mages can buff mounted knights with Body Etheral (Alteration 3) and Luck (Alteration 4). The judges with death magic can spam Frighten (Thuamaturgy 1) against regular units and Dust to Dust against the undead. They can also stop most anything else with enough castings of Ghost Grip (Conjuration 5). The magisters with earth can also lend support with short ranged debuffs like Earth Grip and Armor of Achilles (Alteration 1 and 2 respectively). Though I prefer to have them remain as researchers. The judges with fire magic can eventually be real useful once Blindness (Alteration 6) has been researched. If you manage a judge with both fire and death, then you can use a Skull of Fire (Construction 6) to boost a judge to fire 2. After casting Phoenix Power (Conjuration 3) and using 2 fire gems, Man can naturally cast Flamming Arrows (Enchantment 4). If you manage a magister arcana with fire magic, then you can do the same or communion to cast the powerful archery buff spell.

The remaining options that Man has in order to deal with invading armies is mostly left up to their god.

Continued in next post...

Last edited by AreaOfEffect; October 29th, 2008 at 11:07 AM..
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