by Jolly Joker
Main page with links to the other factions
It is important to note, that this guide was written for playing on very hard and impossible difficulty. Easier levels with more money and resources to start with allow a more aggressive style of play with more emphasis on early troop build-up, but it is strongly recommended to play at least on very hard and prefarably on impossible difficulty. If there is an abundance of resources and money as on the easier difficulty levels, the differences in built-up requirements for the different towns are obscured, although those differences are clearly part of the overall balancing of towns. For instance, it is rather obvious, that Dungeon has a great line-up with 3 flyers (6th and 7th level creatures included), 2 medium shooters and 2 grunts. Getting all creature structures on impossible difficulty is another matter. The Pillar of Eyes which gives Dungeon its 3rd level creature is a prerequisite for every creature dwelling thereafter. To build the Pillar of Eyes you need 1000 gold and 1 each of the six resources. On easier difficulties it is no problem to build this structure. On impossible difficulty you may find it impossible to build that structure in the first week, because with only a bit of bad luck you simply may not find a stack of every resource.
From a statistical point of view Necropolis is a weak town. Having a fully built up town with all upgrades, you can recruit 2192 Hit Points per week, the second fewest of all towns. (Rampart's got the most with a staggering 2650 HPs followed by Tower with 2420 and Stronghold with 2370, Inferno has fewest with 2035.) You have to pay 26920 gold + 2 M for them, so the average HP cost you roughly 12.3 gold. (The average Rampart HP which is cheapest cost 10.05 gold, while the most expensive is Inferno with 13.8 gold per HP). Those HPs do the fewest Damage of all towns, relatively (on average 0.206 points of Damage per HP) as well as absolutely (on average 451 points od Damage for a week's production of HPs). The average Attack Values of Necropolis' creatures are only slightly better than that of Fortress, so don't expect to blast the opposition away.
Building up your town on the other hand is fairly cheap. To get all upgraded creature dwellings (including fort, tavern, castle and capitol) you need 85400 gold (only Stronghold is cheaper), and you have no excessive need of one resource. You need 105 W and 110 O plus 17 C, 17 G, 32 M and 22 S. Only Castle is as balanced in it's resource needs.
Building every structure in a Necropolis costs 97400 gold which is cheapest after Stronghold and Fortress. The resource demands stay balanced. You need at most 60 (M) of any of the four finer resources which is a good deal less than the 95 C Rampart needs.
Your heroes are the Death Knight (Might) and the Necromancer (Magic). The Death Knight advances his primary skills almost completely balanced, while the Necromancer has a preference for spell power on knowledge on levels 2-9 and is balanced beginning with level 10. A typical level 19 Death Knight looks something like 6 7 6 5 (without artefacts and locations visits), while a typical Necromancer looks something like 4 4 8 7.
All Necropolis' heroes come with Necromancy as a secondary skill. Death Knights can't get Estates, First Aid and Leadership, while Necromancers are bared from getting Estates and Leadership. Death Knights will have trouble getting Air Magic, Diplomacy, Fire Magic, Luck and Scholar. The chances of getting Eagly Eye, Earth Magic, Learning, Mysticism, Pathfinding, Scouting, Sorcery and Water Magic are fair, while you will have no problems acquiring the remaining skills. Necromancers won't get Archery, Armorer, Fire Magic, Luck, Resistance, Scouting and Tactics very often, while the chances of getting Air Magic, Artillery, Diplomacy, Estates, Learning, Logistics, Offense, and Water Magic are fair with remaining skills being easy to get.
As the Death Knight is a might hero with decent chances to get two magic schools you should go for them, while the Necromancer should try to get Air Magic on top of them.
Nearly all Necropolis' heroes have extremely useful specials, for instance: Death Knights: Clavius (+350 gold), Galthran (Skeletons), Isra (Necromancy); Necromancers: Nagash (+350 gold), Thant (Animate Dead), Vidomina (Necromancy).
You probably know, that it is VITAL to get the primary skills of your heroes up. What you maybe don't know, is, that until you have advanced Town Portal as a spell, YOU NEED AT LEAST TWO GOOD HEROES. One for exploration and conquering and one for the defense of your home base. One of the problems of playing on impossible difficulty is the fact, that you can't afford to take the experience, when finding treasure chests in the first week. This will leave your hero(es) at a disadvantage in primary skill advancement and acquiring of secondary skills. This means, you have to do anything possible to train your heroes. BATTLE EVERY FORCE, and be it only for 200 experience. Visit every location. Go for any Mills to get the extra 1000 (500) gold and the resources. Go for every artefact, but take only those that don't cost you money.
As Tactics and Resistance are important secondary skills to have (see Tactics section) and Death Knights will get those skills more easy than Necromancers, one of your two main heroes should be a Death Knight. And as Air Magic is as vital as Tactics ((Mass) Haste is an all-important spell), your other should be a Necromancer because Necromancers get Air Magic easier than Death Knights. With the given statistics of your heroes it won't be easy to develop a hero with both Air Magic and Tactics, but having one out of each class doubles your chances in finding the problematic skill in either a University or a Witch Hut. You should visit any University, obviously. Furthermore you should have a third hero later on (you will need more heroes anyway) to test Witch Huts. If the skill learned there is unimportant or even a liability to have (like Navigation on an all-land map) you haven't compromised your good heroes there.
One of the plusses of the Necropolis town is the ability to build a level five Mage Guild. The first level should be built as early as possible, because you don't want your heroes running around without any magic back-up. It's interesting to note, that the might hero Death Knight comes equipped with a spell book, even though Death Knights have the same six primary skill points to begin with than all other might heroes.
Necropolis can't have all spells. The following spells won't show in a Necropolis town: Bless, Cure, Destroy Undead, Hypnotize, Prayer, Magic Mirror, Summon Fire Elemental and Summon Water Elemental. While the two Necromancer spells Death Ripple and Animate Dead have good probabilities to show up in your Mage Guild, it's by no means a sure thing that they do so. Death Ripple is no important spell for the Necropolis, but Animate Dead is, and if it doesn't show up, this can be very annoying, because only the Mage Guilds of Necropolises can get that spell. If you don't get Animate Dead in the Guild of your Necropolis and there are no other Necropolises around to conquer, try to get that spell by a) hiring Thant and having a hero with at least advanced Scholar as secondary skill or by b) searching all 3rd level magic shrines; you might be lucky.
The undead are immune to mind-affecting spells and can't neither get Blessed nor Cursed, so even though the average Necromancer will have no difficulties learning 3 magic schools and the average Death Knight may acquire 2, there are surprisingly few battle spells that will really help the Necropolis. The most important spell is Animate Dead. As this is a level 3 spell it is easier to acquire than its counterpart Resurrect. Plus the Animation is permanent even if the casting hero has no Earth Magic at all. Once you have Animate Dead you will rarely cast anything else.
Your units are fairly slow, so casting (Mass) Haste is a good idea more often than not. (Mass) Haste will make all of your units 5 hexes faster, so even Skeletons and Zombies will have impressive speed after that. You will probably have (Mass) Slow, too. (Mass) Slow slows all enemy units to 50% of their speed (rounded DOWN), so what shall you cast?
Against wandering monsters (Mass) Slow is right against every non-shooter and (Mass) Haste against shooters. Against a computer player you will wait, until he hast cast his spells, and then cast accordingly. Against a skilled human player, however, it's another thing:
Your magic strategy depends on initiative, and the ultimate question is simply: who has the fastest unit on the battlefield and therefore goes LAST. If you go last in a turn, you can cast the last spell, meaning, you can cast (Mass) Haste on your own units and then beginning with the next round (Mass) Slow, giving you free reign on the battlefield and a chance to attack with all your units, before the opponent can counter. If you don't go last in a turn and you play against a human opponent whom you can expect to wait until the last moment with his casting it might not be possible to push through your (Mass) spells, if the opponent has (Mass) spells, too (of course you never know). It pays to have the secondary skill Tactics in those situations. See for details in theTactics section.
If you are besieging a town and the opposing forces are more than marginal you have a slight problem. Only your Dragons, your VLs and your Wraiths are able to fly over the walls, but you'd like to get your Skeletons and Dread Knights into the fight. Both of Necropolis' heroes have good chances to acquire the Ballistics skill and it won't hurt if they have it. Teleport and Earthquake are good spells for you, if besieging a town. Teleporting your Skeleton Horde right behind the walls is never a bad move (but you need expert Water Magic for that) while destroying the castle walls with Earthquake will bring at least your Dread Knights into play fast, even though you should have at least advanced Earth Magic before casting Earthquake. On the battlefield casting Teleport on your Skeletons may pay, too. You want your Skeleton Horde (ideally you want to hit with Zombies first, but that won't be possible in some situations) to hit the enemy's 7th level unit first, then, when there are survivors, follow up with other units like Dragons. This is possible in the first round, when the opponent clicked his heavy hitters on wait (or have Titans which won't move). As you have clicked your Dragons on wait they can follow up now. On the other hand, when the opponent clicked all his units on wait, you give him an easy target, when you Teleport your Skeletons up to the front. So this may risk unnecessary losses. Anyway, since those spells are both 3rd level it is clear that the Mage Guild of your choice will have Animate Dead, Teleport and Earthquake as 3rd level spells.
(Mass) Counterstrike is quite effective. As all your units gain two additional retaliatory attacks the enemy will have a hard time attacking Skeletons, Vampires, Dragons and Dread Knights. Since this spell will be the more effective the earlier you cast it, it makes you vulnerable against (Mass) Slow/Haste combinations or even (Mass) Prayer.
Shield, Stoneskin and Weakness will be of limited use only, even as a Mass spell. There are better spells available. Chain Lightning does good damage, but that spell is most often used, when you can kill a few enemy stacks with it and have a good chance to destroy the enemy completely before he can flee. As you have only one unit that can reach the enemy immediately the chance to kill an enemy outright won't present itself very often, so Chain Lightning is more often than not a bad choice. Clone might be tempting, especially with expert Water Magic, but what you gain is in effect an additional attack with a unit of your choice, something other towns will get regularly with good morale. So this spell is of very limited use, too, and its main use might be the creation of another cheap kamikaze-stack. If you Clone, you will Clone either the stack that does most damage (most often your Skeletons), or your VLs, because they can hit what they like because of non-retaliation and still require an enemy stack (or spell) to take care of them.
Summon Elemental may come in handy in some situations, because this gives you another Kamikaze-stack and on that's permanent for the duration of the battle at that. Keep in mind though, that the Elementals appear on your side of the battlefield, so this spell is good only, when the enemy takes the fight to you. Otherwise it would take too long to get the Elementals to the front.
Skeletons are what Necropolis is all about. As a first level unit they and their upgrades have high attack values, do good damage and have 6 hit points, so they are quite good. The only problem with them is, they are SLOW. With a speed of 4 you need an eternity to cross the board with them, and this is a pain, especially in the first stages of a scenario where you have no fast units and not many spells and spell points available. Another disadvantage of their low speed is that your heroes have no big movement allowances on the map. On the other hand every battle will provide a steady supply of them. As the number of risen Skeletons depends on the Necromancy skill of the fighting hero, your heroes should take that skill, when they go up a level and it's present as a choice - with the following exceptions: Logistics, Wisdom (Basic only!), every magic school (Basic only!) and Tactics (Basic only). The Necromancy skill will get support via your Necromancy Amplifier (see Built-Up). Expert Necromancy and the Amplifier will allow you to raise 40% of the fallen enemy creatures as Skeletons (artefacts not counted) and that is a lot. Expect your Skeleton Horde to grow fast, once you have expert Necromancy.
Now, when all your slots are filled and there are no Skeletons in your ranks, but Skeleton Warriors, you will raise Skeleton Warriors. The snag is, you will raise fewer Skeletons. Since Skeleton Warriors are faster and deadlier, you'd like to have them. Best would be to have a free slot to raise Skeletons and then upgrade them in a hillfort (for free) or in any Necropolis, but this requires a permanent logistic chain.
In the first stages of a game you will buy Skeletons (because you need them). Later on you should buy them only, when you have money left, because you'll get Skeletons for free via battling.
When a stack is offering to join you for greater glory, you have to weigh the offer carefully. Battling them means a percentage of skeletons plus the experience. Joining means 100% Skeletons via the Skeleton Transformer. As a rule of thumb, the higher the level of the creatures and the lower their numbers, the more reason you have to battle them. It's simply a question of weighing numbers against experience. Say, 70 Gnolls want to join. If you'd battle them, you'd get 420 Experience and 28 Skeletons (with expert Necromancy and the Amplifier). If you let them join you get 42 Skeletons more instaed of 420 Experience. 1 Skeleton is worth more than 10 experience, so let them join. If on the other Hand 15 Nagas want to join, you'd get 1650 experience and 6 skeletons instead of 15. 1 Skeleton is clearly not worth 183 experience, so battle them. Now, what IS a Skeleton worth in experience? It's a bit like apples and peaches, but I'd figure the worth of a skeleton is at most 50 experience.
Walking Dead are even slower than Skeletons and won't deal a lot more damage. They have 15 Hit Points, and even though you would rather sent them back to the Graveyard, they have to fulfill an important task until you get Vampire Lords and have their use even later in the game. In the first stages of a scenario when your hero doesn't have many Skeletons your aim is to lose as few Skeletons as possible when fighting stacks. So Walking Dead have to make first strikes and take as many of the inevitable losses as possible. Your heroes come equipped with some. Take them as cannon fodder, and if they are killed or are down to one or two, don't hesitate to buy A FEW, maybe 5 or so. For 100 Gold they are cheap, and you don't need that much money for the build-up in the first week, so you can afford it. Wait with the Skeletons, hit with the Walking Dead, and then go in with the Skeletons. As you need some Wood and Ore for your build-up you won't have any for the upgrade to Zombies in the beginning where you could indeed put them to good use. The Zombie upgrade gains speed and Hit Points, making them as fast as normal Skeletons, and the Zombies's special is most useful in the beginning. If you have normal Skeletons in your army, Zombies won't slow you down (you are already slow), so why not utilize the Zombies as a first strike force for your Skeletons (and maybe even for your Ghost Dragons)? Place the Zombies left from your Skeletons and right from your Power Liches, and place your Dragons right from your Skeletons. When it's the Zombies' turn, go in and strike at the toughest enemy force (casting (Mass) Haste might do wonders for the Zombies' ability to do that). When the retaliation kills them, who cares? You might even Animate them later on. Not upgrading the Walking Dead and then buying them and putting them through the Skeleton Transformer is a waste of money. Those Skeletons would be too expensive (remember, you get your Skeletons for free). The special of the Zombies is not much (reducing Attack and Defense by two) of a bonus when it happens, but as you tend to attack the toughest enemy units with them it will do a bit for subsequent attacks on them.
So, many people complain that Walking Dead/Zombies are so bad, but in effect this makes them a useful asset. You have no problem to throw them to the wolves in battle, while the enemy will know you won't hesitate a second to use them as Kamikazes. This makes them a menace in battle (you don't want to waste one of two possible strikes a round of your best unit on them Zombies). Unfortunately for the enemy the Zombies are positioned near the Skeletons, Power Liches and Dragons, so if the enemy wants to attack them he has to deal with the Zombies.
Many of your heroes come equipped with a few Wights and that's a good thing, because their regenerating ability is quite useful in the first stages of a scenario. Like Zombies they have to make first strikes for the Skeletons, but because of their ability they won't have that many losses. The interesting thing is, that the Tomb of Souls is a stand-alone building. It's no prerequisite for anything, so you need not build it. Wether you build it or not depends on your ability to get Vampire Lords. If you can't get Vampire Lords fast you will not only build the Tomb of Souls but you'll grade it up and buy Wraiths because you need a faster unit quickly. The Wraith is moderately fast and can cross the battlefield in two turns which is essential if fighting shooters. They cost 230 Gold and are quite expensive, but their ability to suck spell points is a good one for early encounters with enemy heroes (they won't have much spell points, so the special hurts). If you have Wraiths in your army you should devide them in more than one stack, because EVERY stack drains 2 spell points and EVERY stack has the regenerating abilty (Wights should not be devided, because you won't have that many). Later on your Wraiths (if you have any) won't fight that often. They are vulnerable and often there is no need to send them into battle.
The Vampire Lord is an awesome creature, and your aim is to build the Estate in the first week and get the upgrade as fast as possible. They are fast, they have moderate Attack and Defense Values and Hit Points and they have a low Damage value. BUT: With two of the best specials in one unit, no retaliation und resurrection of themselves by doing damage to living creatures, they are together with Mighty Gorgons the most cost-effective unit of the game. The interesting thing is, that the more they are, the more powerful they are. This is due simply to the fact that it is much more difficult for five VLs to resurrect one of them back as it is for fifty to resurrect 10. For example: For 5000 Gold you get 10 VLs and 1 Archangel. If 1 Archangel fights 10 VLs, the Archangel wins (1. round: AA does 100 damage; 8VLs retaliate for 20 to 32 damage and then attack for the same most probably (87.5%) not resurrecting one. 2. round: again 100 damage, so the VLs are down to 6, doing 15-24 damage and then the same again maybe resurrecting one. From then on it goes straight downward). Now let's fight 10 Archangels against 100 VLs. The Archangels will kill 25 VLs with their first strike, but the remaining 75 VLs will do 187-300 damage resurrecting 4-7 VLs and then 198-328 damage resurrecting another 5-8 VLs and killing at least one and possibly two AAs. The second round of fight will see 8-9 AAs against 84-90 VLs, and it's clear the VLs will win (you can do the math youself).
This leads to an obvious conclusion: DON'T BUY VAMPIRES, but if you buy them, keep them in your town. You don't want to lose a single Vampire (and if you fight with Vampires you will oaccasionally lose a few).
Once you have Vampire Lords, your problems are over. Vampire Lords will take nearly everything without losses, and when they do you skeleton army will grow! Once you have Vampire Lords don't buy Walking Dead and Wraiths anymore (if you have them) until later on, when you have the money to do so.
When fighting undead or non-living creatures like Gargoyles and Golems don't use VLs! Use your skeletons. When you hit an undead or non-living stack with VLs make sure you won't lose one. You might want to support them with simple spells like Stone Skin or Shield! Bless would be a great spell for them, but alas you can't neither Bless nor Curse the undead.
Another GREAT unit. Power Liches provide easily the most shooter-power in the game PER BUCK, so this is one shooter that HURTS the enemy. Don't bother to buy Liches, go for the upgrade. Power Liches have 10 more HPs, are faster, have more shots and do more damage for and all that for 50 Gold apiece. It makes no sense, though, to place them left- or rightmost and cover them with other units: Inferno will have Magogs, Dungeon and Rampart will have Dragons for two-hex attacks, Tower, Castle and Stronghold have enough shooters themselves. So only against Fortress units it might make sense to do this. In this case cover them with Zombies (Wraiths) and DRAGONS (right). When looking for a target, hit where they will do most damage, so use that area effect.
BLACK KNIGHTS/DREAD KNIGHTS
Another top unit. Together with Naga Queens and Efreet Sultans they are nominees for best 6th level unit. Once you have the Hall of Darkness begin recruiting Black Knights. Even unupgraded they are quite good. The 4 Dread Knights you get per week will not only have more hit points then your 2 Ghost Dragons, they will also do more damage and that even without their special. Knights have a 20% chance to Curse a stack they hit. Dread Knights have an added 20% chance to do double damage. Imagine a stack of Dread Knights doing double damage and having Luck. Dread Knights will do good damage against every unit, especially when their double damage special is triggered, and they are quite sturdy, so have no fear to use them.
BONE DRAGONS/GHOST DRAGONS
Your 7th level unit is a bit of a weak spot. Bone Dragons are dangerously vulnerable and you shouldn't recruit them at all. You don't need them speed-wise, because they are not faster than Vampire Lords and Dread Knights. The upgrade is better, mainly because of its higher speed, but with 200 Hit Points and Attack and Defense Values of 19 and 17, respectively, they are still, well, vulnerable. They have a 20% chance to age an attacked stack, meaning that the Hits Points of all members of the stack are halved (but only AFTER the damage the Dragons did was applied). Furthermore they (and also Bone Dragons) lower the morale of the opposing units which in itself is useful, because it lowers the opponent's chance to get double turns (if units get a negative morale this way, they might even lose a turn sometimes), but this special is not very spectacular. The aging special obviously only makes sense, when enemy troops remain after they were hit by the Dragons (and the more remain, the more sense it makes). This in itself is no good, especially when it was a first strike, because the remaining enemy troops will probably kill or at least cripple your Dragons when they strike back. To use Ghost Dragons most effectively you have to utilize them as second strike unit against the toughest enemy force - which is obviously not easy. If you can't kill or hopelessly decimate an enemy force before the enemy gets his turn (by casting (Mass) Haste and then attacking with Dragons, Vampire Lords, Dread Knights, Power Liches and maybe even Wraiths or by casting Chain Lightning and then making a kill with the Dragons), don't ever hit with the Dragons right away. Wait with them. Never make a first strike with Dragons against an enemy unit, that will survive in sufficient numbers to hurt your Dragons with their retaliation. Of course, with the special only having a 20% chance, you can use them to kill off lower level units, too.
Let's illustrate what happens with Ghost Dragons, when used carelessly. Ogre Magi, albeit a mid-level unit, are a good example for a unit where the aging special can really do some good, because they have good Hit Points. You have 10 Ghost Dragons and the enemy has 50 Ogre Magi. Let's assume, heroes are equal, so the normal attack/defence fifferences apply. You decide to attack the Ogre Magi with your Dragons. They will do between 400 and 800 damage (already modified), killing at most 13 Ogre Magi. The remaining at least 37 Ogre Magi retaliate for at least 200 damage (killing one Dragon). That's the best case. The worst case is, that 44 Ogre Magi survive and do 475 Damage, killing 2 Dragons. Should they decide to attack the Dragons, when it is their turn you will have lost 3 Dragons on average against a normal (relatively to your Dragons) amount of 4th level creatures, and that's too much. Compare what happens, when 10 Arch Angels battle 50 Ogre Magi. 10 Arch Angels would do 1075 damage killing 17 Ogre Magi. The remaining 33 Ogre Magi will do between 114 and 228 points, killing no Arch Angel at all. Should they decide to attack when it's their turn, they would kill 1 AA on average then. Big difference there. On the other hand, when the dragons attack the 50 Ogre Magi as a second strike there will be no retaliation. Now the aging special would really hurt the Ogre Magi halving their Hit Points, so subsequent attacks on them would do in effect double damage.
Note, that the aging special does not hurt the offensive potential of the aged stack! Aged Arch Angels will still do LOTS of damage.
Ideally you will use Zombies for first strike and after that go in with the Dragons (if the Skeletons were not enough to kill the stack or had to be used otherwise). See there for details.
The tips and hints given here focus on L and XL maps under very hard and impossible difficulty. Smaller maps and easier difiiculty settings will concentrate more on troop raising.
If playing on impossible difficulty setting, you won't have any money or resources to start with (except you got the "bonus" there). So if you want to build something in the first turn you must move out with your hero and collect money and ressources. If you find a treasure chest, take the money. If you locate a Gem Pond or a Crystal Cavern take it immediately because you need Gems and Crystals for the VL-upgrade. Sulfur can't hurt either because you need it for the Liches and you need the Liches for your 6th and 7th level creature. So even though you need Mercury most of all you are more inteerested in the other resources. Keep that in mind. On very hard difficulty you will recruit another hero on the first day. You don't need to buy spell books for your heroes.
If you begin with two towns, concentrate the build-up on one. Build the Necromancy Amplifier and the Town Hall in the second town as soon as possible, but then ignore the second town, until you have enough wood. Then build Mage Guild, Market Place, Blacksmith and City Hall. You can consider the further build-up of the second town, when you have conquered your first enemy town, but then it might be better to go on with that conquered town instead, because it will be fully built-up already.
If you are not playing on impossible difficulty AND in your local tavern is a Tower hero for hire consider the building of the Skeleton Transformer right away. Strip the hero of his Gremlins, send them through the Transformer and you have now 60-70 Skeletons worth 3600 to 4200 Gold for 2500 Gold. This is no cheating! Cheating would be to give that hero 1 Gargoyle or Gremlin, do the retreat/rehire and convert more Gremlins to Skeletons. Don't do that! It's silly and spoils the fun. Simply use the Tower hero or dismiss him (see the TACTICS section for more on this).
1. Mage Guild
2. Necromancy Amplifier
3. Town Hall
You should hire a second hero as soon as possible. A second hero to collect money and ressources will bring in the 2500 gold spent on him in no time and with interest.
Ideally you build the Necromancy Amplifier right before your very first battle. So if you don't have any battles on the second day built the Town Hall. The building sequence may change due do money/resource problems. The Estate is a must-build on every difficulty level. The seven buildings of the first week will cost you 10000 Gold, 20 Wood and 15 Ore plus 2500 Gold for a second hero. If you don't have enough wood, build the Skeleton Transformer instead of the Blacksmith. If you have a strong feeling that it will be impossible to upgrade the Estate in the near future because there are no Gems and/or Crystals you should build the Tomb of Souls on the 7th day and upgrade it on the 8th (you need neither wood nor ore for the upgrade, so that's a good build).
You want to upgrade the Estate as soon as possible and buy Vampire Lords and you have to build the City Hall. Furthermore you need the Capitol. This is all very costly, so you will have to save money and/or resources for some builds. What you should build in the second week is:
You may slip in Skeleton Transformer/Unearthed Graves/Cover of Darkness anytime.
If you can't upgrade the Estate fast, upgrade the Tomb of Souls (you will have built the Tomb of Souls on the 7th day of the first week then). Buy all Vampire Lords/Wraiths, equip one of your heroes with them and flag all mines in the vicinity. Try to flag a second sawmill and ore pit. If not playing on impossible difficulty, you will have the assets to buy the Hall of Darkness. On impossible difficulty this will prove almost always as to expensive for you.
You will have to buy all Vampire Lords. You will upgrade the Mausoleum and build a Capitol and the Hall of Darkness. Furthermore you might want to upgrade your Mage Guild. Go for the third level, then stop building it further up until you've built everything else. IF YOU HAVE THANT AND ANOTHER HERO WITH ADVANCED SCHOLAR YOU DON'T NEED TO UPGRADE THE MAGE GUILD AT ALL UNTIL YOU HAVE BUILT EVERYTHING ELSE. A Resource Silo should only be considered if mines are scarce and you can't get your hands on a second sawmill and ore pit. On impossible difficulty, should you have the money to consider the building of the Dragon vault in the third week, DON'T BUILD IT. Save the money and buy all Vampire Lords, Power Liches and Black Knights. The Dragons are not your main concern.
You will upgrade the Hall of Darkness, buy all Vampire Lords, Power Liches and Dread Knights and build the Dragon Vault. Bone Dragons are not a necessary addition to your army, so you will have to upgrade the Dragon Vault before the Dragons will be a worthwile addition. Once you have Ghost Dragons buy at least one to have a unit with greater speed on the battlefield.
Playing legally (or what I would consider as such, see below), the Skeletons are still your biggest plus, and it is your main concern to get them into battle quickly. Their biggest disadvantage is their slowness, so more often then not you will cast (Mass) Haste in the first round. As your primary concern is the Hasting of the Skeletons, it may pay to cast (Mass) Haste the moment your Skeletons get their turn, except in the first round (if you don't have at least advanced Tactics) and except in situations where you have the initiative because of the fastest unit on the battlefield. You wouldn't want to cast (Mass) Haste early on just to see the enemy cast (Mass) Slow on you. Zombies should freely be used as Kamikazes, Wraiths, albeit much better than Zombies, can be used as Kamikazes, too, should this be necessary.
When battling a town and the opposition is marginal your Vampire Lords, Ghost Dragons and Power Liches are strong enough to kill the defenders alone. In this case most of the time you need not cast a spell in the first round and will then cast Animate Dead in the second round to revive the Skeletons lost from the castle defense. If a town is so seriously defended that your Vampire Lords won't last long even with the support an an Animate Dead spell, you'll have to bring in Skeletons and Dread Knights fast. The fastest way is Teleport, obviously, but you need expert Water Magic for that. If you don't have that, the walls must come down fast, so expert Ballistics is a good thing to have, and a combination of that plus Earthquake and (Mass) Haste will do the trick. Note, that you should have either expert Water Magic and Teleport or expert Earth Magic and Earthquake, because in later stages of long games the enemy might destroy your catapult, before there is a breach in the wall, and that might prove disastrous.
THE MASTER GREMLIN RUSH AND THE SKELETON/VAMPIRE LORD RUSH
Meanwhile probably everyone knows about the notorious Master Gremlin Rush, where Tower just builds the Upgraded Workshop, all money structures, Library, Mage Guild and Artefacts Merchant and then rushes the map with Master Gremlin Hordes acquired via the conscious retreating and rehiring of Tower heroes and in effect investing all money into Master Gremlins and bypassing the production limits. The process of doing that is admittedly stupid and boring and spoils the fun, but since it is possible to do so it has to be seriously considered.
In general every town has the rush option, but the other towns won't be as effective there because of the much lower numbers of first level units their heroes come equipped with and their inevitable losses in fights especially against shooters - with one exception: Necropolis. Especially the Necromancers are well equipped with Skeletons, and getting Galthran (a Death Knight; he comes with at least 50 Skeletons and sometimes even 80+) involved into the retreat/rehire process will boost your numbers greatly. The Necromancy skill gives you Skeletons FOR FREE outweighing by far the losses you'll take when battling stacks of wandering monsters. Plus, you have two more trump cards to play. The first is the quick availability of Vampire Lords. You just need the Necromancy Amplifier (you'll build that anyway) and the Graveyard, and then you have a fast self-regenerating, flying unit against which no retaliation is possible and no mind spells have effect. The advantages of having VLs as support of your Skeletons are obvious. The second trump is the Skeleton Transformer. Not only can you transform all joining stacks into Skeletons, once you can hire a Tower hero you can retreat/rehire him or her gaining 60-70 Skeletons via the Skeleton Transformer for 2500 gold.
Make no mistake here. Your combined Skeleton/Vampire Lord Force is not unstoppable. For the effective conquering of towns you need massive magic support (albeit Animate Dead and expert Ballistics might be enough, too) and conquering a Town on Cursed Ground might prove impossible against a Gremlin Rusher or another strong shooter force and is definitely impossible against Arch Devils, once your VLs are down and there are still Arch Devils left (if you don't know why, try it out. Zounds of Skeletons will loose on Cursed Ground against 1 Arch Devil, town or no town, albeit the fight would take a whole day). Anyway, since it makes no sense for map makers to put every town on Cursed Ground this would be no real problem. Once you have conquered other towns (some of them fully built-up), you can get other forces underway to conquer such a monstrosity.
In later stages of the game, when surviving opponents should have good heroes and good creatures it pays to have a superfast unit in your stack. Like Archangels. You won't see nasty surprises, where a good enemy hero with one Efreet or Black or Gold Dragon attacks you, casts Imposion or Armageddon, wearing down your Skeletons, and retreats thereafter, only to come again until his spell points are used up. A moral-boosting artefact is a good thing to have then, because the Archangels aren't too happy to serve them Skeletons.
Speaking of artefacts, there's a plethora of artefacts that will do you lots of good (rushing or not rushing). First of all there are the three Necromancy boosting artefacts Amulet of the Undertaker (Necromancy +5%), Vampire's Cowl (+10%) and Dead Man's Boots (+15%). These three artefacts simply translate into getting more Skeletons. Then there are the artefacts increasing the health of your units. As your first level unit plays an important role (rushing or not rushing), these artefacts boost your strength greatly. Ring of Vitality and Ring of Life are Helath +1 giving your Skeletons 7 instead of 6 Hit Points, while the Vial of Lifeblood gives even Health +2. The Torso of Legion will give you 3 more Vampire Lords per week to recruit, and that's a good thing, obviously. Last but not least there are those artefacts that boost the combat speed of your units: Necklace of Swiftness, Cape of Velocity and Ring of the Wayfarer. These artefacts are real juwels if you can get them.
Conquering other Necropolis towns pays because of the added effects of the Necromancy Amplifiers.
You should grade your Skeletons up, preferably at a Hillfort (that's for free).
In the first week the build-up of your town doesn't differ from normal. From then on you will build only City Hall, Upgraded Estate, Skeleton Transformer, Citadel, Castle, Capitol, all levels of the Mage Guild, the Upgraded Cursed Temple and the Unearthed Graves. With the rest of the money buy Skeletons via retreat/rehire.
Now, as your 1st level unit is supposed to grow to monstrous proportions anyway, the Skeleton/Vampire Lord Rush is your normal strategy anyway, but since you won't use your money to retreat and rehire heroes to boost your Skeletons further, you simply have money left to build other creature dwellings (building the Upgraded Workshop on day 1 and utilizing the shooting capabilities of MGs is a perfectly legal strategy, too, as long there's no retreat/rehire involved), as it is perfectly legal to hire a Tower hero and then sending his or her Gremlins through the Skeleton Transformer. The snag is the retreating/rehiring of heroes. Albeit possible, it kills the intended production limits on first level units thereby and should therefore be considered as illegal as long as this problem isn't fixed. If you hire a Tower hero, strip him of his Gremlins and then let him or her fight against a monster stack with his Gargoyles only to retreat and rehire him or her to do the same over and over again, while transforming the Gremlins to Skeletons, I would consider this a move of someone not worth to play against, because it is utterly mechanical and stupid. Everyone can play this way and win, right?
Legal and illegal may not be appropriate terms, but ask yourself this question: If you knew, you would get 1 Gold for a double click on the simply ornamental housings on your town screen, would you waste your time with double clicking a thousand times to get the missing 1000 Gold to buy a Blacksmith? If you would do it, you should probably play another game like some real basic action shooter. For the same reason, why should you engage in the boring mechanics of endlessly retreating and rehiring heroes? Imagine playing an XL-map. After conquering a third of the map, your daily income will probably be at least 20000 Gold. This will enable you to retreat/rehire at least six times per turn. You'd need the temperament of a Zombie or Stone Golem to do this. Having a good time with playing? This sounds more like hard work and work at an assembly line at that. Don't get me wrong here. Discovering the mechanics of retreat/rehire, working out the details and then finding a way to use them effectively is a highly creative thing, at least in my opinion. And it has to be said, that it's kind of sad, that it is even possible to use an utterly mechanical strategy that can't be beaten. It spoils the game. BUT: as the utilizing of this strategy spoils the fun out of it, as long as this weak spot is not corrected, simply no one should play it. It's like a cheat code. You are under no compulsion to use it.
Anyway, if you rush, GET TACTICS AND AIR MAGIC. With Tactics, Vampire Lords in your army and (Mass) Haste you won't lose Skeletons when battling wandering shooters (except with Titans, of course).
If playing against a Gremlin ruher, rush yourself. When meeting a force consisting of one big stack of Master Gremlins, you will have the Initiative because of the VLs (or the ArchAngels later on), so simply Blind them, move your Skeletons and that was that. Be careful, though, if the enemy has a Ballista and/or a First Aid Tent. With Artillery or First Aid, respectively, he gets a move and can Dispel. If he has the Ballista and you have the Tactics advantage, Haste your Skeletons and curtains. If not, take the first hit, then Teleport your Skeletons and curtains. With more then one enemy stack divide your Skeletons in as many stacks as he has. With Tactics, cast (Mass) Haste and kill the Gremlins. Without a Tactics advantage take the first round hits, then either (Mass) Haste your units or (Mass) Slow his, if he (Mass) Hasted the Gremlins, and then (Mass) Haste your Skeletons the next round. Now, this SHOULD be fun. At least you will giv the Gremlin Rusher a very hard time.
NECROPOLIS TACTICS AGAINST OTHER TOWNS
The positioning of your troops is important. You should fill the slots the following way (from left to right or right to left): Power Liches, Zombies, Skeletons, Dragons, Dread Knights, Wraiths, Vampire Lords. Your plusses are: Dread Knights will hurt every unit; Power Liches will do bonus damage more often than not; VLs have nine lives and are hard to bring down; Skeletons will have a lot of punch. Remember: if you can't utilize your Skeletons as planned and can't get in Kamikaze attacks on the heavy hitters of the enemy, NEVER use your Ghost Dragons as first striker, except when going for a kill; take Dread Knights instead. They may do double or even quadruple damage.
The Tactics and Resistance skill are most important. There will be occasions, when expert Resistance will counter the ill effect of an enemy spell, and that might happen in a vital moment. More important is Tactics. Get it on expert level as fast as possible. With Tactics the distances on the battlefield are reduced (if you want that!), except the opponent has expert Tactics, too. If you reduce the distance and go first, you may cast (Mass) Haste right away and may kill the enemy before he has a chance to react, because you can arrange your troops so that your 3 troops (and maybe even 5) that will go first now (Dragons, VLs, Dread Knights and maybe Power Liches and Wraiths, too)) will kill the faster enemy units, so that Skeletons and Zombies will have their turn, too, before the opponent gets his turn (obviously it pays to have that skill in case an opponent has it; he might have the same idea). If the opponent goes first, the effect of the reducing of distances is that the waiting game is now off. Because the Dragons are by far your fastest unit you have to position them so that the opponent can't kill them off, if he casts (Mass) Haste right away, so that you can get an early turn in and cast yourself. The other possibility is, that the enemy casts (Mass) Slow. That will reduce your fastest unit to a speed of 7 (so the opponent can move all his units faster than 7, before you get a turn). To cater for this, you have to position your units so that the opponent's units that can reach you with their normal speed (if any), before it's your turn, won't have any good targets (meaning those, he can't profitably attack).
In short, if playing against a skilled human opponent, the Tactics skill is vital.
The most problematic forces for you in this respect are Inferno and Dungeon (with or without Tactics), but their heroes are no favourites for acquiring Air Magic regularly, so more often than not Dungeon and Inferno forces won't be able to cast (Mass) Haste.
Castle's strength is the ability to do MASSIVE damage. Plus it has the fastest unit in the game, so a Castle force will have the last move in a given turn, if it wants to. It is vital to get your Skeletons into position to strike against Archangels and Champions, so (Mass) Haste and/or (Mass) Slow should be cast, but could be Dispelled or even countered, so this might backfire. Concentrate on your plusses. Keep your ranks closed at first, so attacks on your important and vulnerable units (Dragons and Liches) can be countered with your slow units. Cast (Mass) Haste in the right moment, when you can get the Zombies and Skeletons in. Hit Archangels and/or Champions with Zombies first, then go for them with Skeletons and/or Dragons. Kill Crusaders with Dread Knights and concentrate with your VLs on low level units and Zealots. Best target for Wraiths are Marksmen. You may have to sacrifice them for a first attack on a tough enemy stack, though. If in doubt, what to cast, cast Animate Dead.
Zombie attacks on Dragons and/or Minotaur Kings will pay off. VLs have to take care of shooters and Harpies. Your Ghost Dragons can either make second strikes on Black Dragons or Minotaur Kings, fight the Scorpicores or fight masses of Troggies. Dread Knights will go for Minotaur Kings and/or Scorpicores, while your Skeletons (you guessed it) will try to bring down the Black Dragons (supported with Kamikaze attacks by your Zombies). If the Black Dragons avoid the Skeletons, cross your fingers and go for them with the Dread Knights. The best target for your Wraiths are the Harpy Hags. Don't hesitate to use them as Kamikazes if an opportunity presents itself. This is another town, where the opponent has the initiative. An added plus for the Dungeon force is the fact that the Dragons can't be slowed, so (Mass) Slow won't have that big an effect. (Mass) Haste is, as with Castle, recommended to cast in the right moment. Your main spell might be Animate Dead.
Fortress is at a disadvantage against your forces, because the Gorgons's Death Stare won't work against your Undead. Plus you have a far better shooter and you have the initiave, so Fortress units will come for you. Casting (Mass) Haste late in the first round and then (Mass) Slow at the beginning of the second, is no mistake. You can concentrate on bringing down the Hydras, because they are the only real threat, so hit them hard and decisive. Gorgons are sturdy, but won't do that much damage. Greater Basiliks will possibly do more damage than the Gorgons, so they are more of a threat as are Wyvern Monarchs. In general you don't need to fear the Fortress forces, once the Hydras are down.
Because Arch Devils don't do that much damage and have relatively few Hit Points, this is one 7th level unit your Ghost Dragons CAN attack with a first strike, even though your are not required to do so. Your Dread Knights are at least as effective in battling them, but then you need punch for Demons and Pit Lords. As long as Magogs can shoot freely be careful with the positioning of your units. Try to take out Efreet Sultans with Power Liches and/or magic, or kamikaze them with Zombies and/or Wraiths. Vampire Lords do good against all Inferno units, but should go for Cerberi and Magogs. If not striking the Devils, the Dragons should go for the Pit Lords. Your Wraiths can pick on Familiars and Magogs or function as Kamikaze. The opponent has the initiative, so cast (Mass) Haste in the right moment and use Animate Dead.
Because of your Power Liches the opponent will be unwilling to cover his Elves with his Dwarves and Centaurs or Dendroids, so your Ghost Dragons are invited to kill them as are your Vampire Lords and your Wraiths(!). You have absolutely no problem with a battle Vampire Lords against Dendroids. In fact, your Vampire Lords are the ideal force to battle them down. With Gold Dragons it is the same as with Black Dragons, while Dread Knights are perfectly up to the task of killing Unicorns. Pegasi are the ideal victim for your Ghost Dragons, but you are not above killing Centaurs and Dwarves with them. Wraiths should stay away from Dwarves, because more often than not they will come in huge quantities, and they are sturdy. The Dragons have the initiative, so cast (Mass) Haste in the right moment and make use of Animate Dead.
Stronghold has no fast unit. Casting (Mass) Haste (late) in the first round and then (Mass) Slow in the second will give you free reign on the battlefield. Kamikaze Behemoths and Ogre Magi then hit them with Dragons and Skeletons. Kill T-Birds with Dread Knights. Vampire Lords will take out Cyclops and your Wraiths and Power Liches will do good damage against the low level units.
Tower units won't come for you, so you have to go for them. The problem with Tower units for you is, that three of the four non-shooter units are bad for the health of your Vampire Lords, namely Gargoyles, Golems and Nagas. The second problem is, that your Power Liches won't last long against the combined shooting power of Titans, Arch Magi and Master Gremlins, and the third problem is the fact, that Genies provide bonus spells. Your units will take the first salvo of the Tower artillery; there is no avoiding it. Don't panic and move in with your Dragons or something. Your best move is the following: Your Dragons will have the last turn, so you go last in the first round. As soon as the opponent has cast his spell, cast (Mass) Haste on your own units, then in the second round let an immediate (Mass) Slow follow (when attacking a Tower town, you'll have to get down the walls first). Your units can now pick their targets. Hit Titans with Zombies and Skeletons, hit Golems with Dread Knights (but only if there are many Golems; if not, go for the Nagas), hit MGs with Wraiths, kill Gargoyles or Genies with Ghost Dragons (depending on the numbers; if there are MANY Gargoyles, kill them, if not, kill the Genies) and attack Magi with VLs. If Genies are positioned alongside Magi, place VLs adjacent to Magi and attack Genies. That leaves the Nagas and some Magi and/or Genies, and this should be makable. If Nagas are a greater threat than Titans, hit Nagas instead of Titans with Zombies and Skeletons. Use Animate Dead beginning with the third round.