Map 5 - The Vampire Lord
Size - Very Big
Level Cap - 40
Last Updated: October 14, 2006 to patch 1.3.
Welcome to the Night of Ashan, the final showdown with Nicolai the Vampire Lord. This mission is probably one of the most, if not THE most intimidating in the entire campaign story, as Findans around the world are crushed by tens of thousands of skeleton archers without a chance. Indeed, the necromancers continuously gather masses of skeleton archers from the zounds and legions of neutrals surrounding their towns. You can't wait too long... or you can't wait at all.
There are eight towns, all in all, on this map, six above ground and two underground. You control two Sylvan towns at the beginning, starting in the NE corner. Nicolai controls six Necro towns. There is only one entrance to your base, and the Necro towns are rather spread out. For the rest of the map, you should be able to conquer the Necro towns one by one, without having to worry about the safety of your base.
Other than the useful "Summon Creature" spell, another very handy spell here is "Town Portal". Town Portal + two-way portals = very fast fresh troop supply. As your town number grows, you will be able to Town Portal back home (to upgrade troops, complete quests, etc.) from places far away, and come back after only a few days.
Please note that the surface and underground maps are actually overlapped when considering which is the closest town for Summon Creature and Town Portal. Even if you are underground, you might portal to an ground-level town because it is more or less directly above you. To see which is your closes town, you can just cast Summon Creature which will give you the name of the nearest town. In this walkthrough I will mention a few useful Town Portal spots.
Throughout the map you will find a lot of decent artifacts, and two artifact merchants. The Unicorn Horn Bow (negates all ranged units' over-range penalty) is undoubtedly the best. Another artifact that might save the day is Sandro's Cloak, which allows a hero to cast mind-affecting spells (such as Frenzy) on undead units (the hero has to know these spells already, of course). This might be the only way to beat an army that has grown impossibly large - but you can prevent that happening by moving quickly. In addition, a Sandro's Cloak Expert Mass-Confusion (no retaliation, no ranged attack) may be extremely effective against an extremely huge, but still slow undead army.
You can also attempt to dig up the Tear of Asha, which is NOT required to complete this mission. Prior to patch 1.2 there are three obelisks on the map, and more after patch 1.2.
Some people have reported that they have seen a bugged 20K spectral dragons in Nicolai's army. Not sure whether this is fixed in the patch, but it doesn't hurt to have the latest one installed (currently 1.3). Personally I have never seen this bug (used patch 1.1 and 1.3).
In the following walkthrough I will call the towns by an assigned letter: town A, town B... etc. (the pink alphabets on the map). Here is a list of the original town names:Town A: Nargorad
Town B: Rael
Town C: April-S n
Town D: Shagarakti
Town E: Nabu-shuma
Town F: Eriba-ishkun
Town G: Nabu-shuma (Er... that's same as town E!)
Town H: Abi-libur
The map has two undocumented side quests: Defeat Shadow Dragons, and Dig up the Tear of Asha.
Part 1 - Isolated HQ
You start with town A and B. If your Findan knows the Resurrection spell, you really don't need to pick the green dragon for the bonus as you can pull out every single fight here unharmed anyways.
The town Hall bonus, which is to be built in town B, would cost 5000G if you build it yourself later. Although this is clearly not as economic as the 7500G bonus, you will end up with one more creature building when the second week comes. As you need more creatures than money, the Town Hall bonus seems to be better.
Your home base is a long way away from the evil Necromancers. There is no place for a ship to dock (in fact, no sailing at all in this mission), and the only entrance to your isolated HQ is a garrison north of town A (1). Findan starts with the two heroes he rescued back in mission 3. They both carry the Ranger's ultimate skill, which is very handy in this mission.
The female hero, Dirael, is a Summoning Magic grandmaster. Prior to patch 1.3, if you've given her Expert Light Magic (with Resurrection spell) and possibly Enlightenment, then you've got yourself a perfect solo mine-flagger. Just give her all your treants to soak up the damage, and instruct her to summon an endless supply of fire elements to wear down the neutral creatures, all the while resurrecting your treants. (Note: Patch 1.2 removes the stacking nature of summoned elementals, so every time you summon again, the new stack replaces the original.) If you are playing on patch 1.3, then you can still use Dirael on some easy tasks. Just give her a few sprites (to flee around the map), and let the two dozens of fire elementals to do the job (give them a Mass Haste).
The male hero, Talanar, is a typical might hero. He is best with a huge army. However, your huge army would probably go to Findan. Don't feel bad if you are not going using Talanar at all, because he will be very busy shuttling troops back and forth town A and B. On patch 1.3 Talanar still suffers from poor ATK and DEF, so even with Nature's Luck he is not as devastating as Findan.
Your top priority is to flag the mines, and send Findan, or your best hero, with a good army to conquer Necro towns. Cash all treasure chests as you really need the gold to quickly build up. Your most scarce resources is ore (up to patch 1.2) or wood and crystal (patch 1.3); thankfully there are more mines coming ahead. A neat combat trick here is to split up your hunter stack into two or more. Not only you waste less arrows on smaller stacks, but also you multiply the chance of warding arrows (pushing back the target's action).
The garrison at (1) consists of wights, (regular) vampires and plague zombies. You can conveniently make them all your favorite enemies by building an Avenger Guild in town A on Day 1, Week 2, and beat the garrison on the same day with the new troops from both towns. A lot of players have complained about the difficulty of this mission, mainly because they push out way too late. If you've built a good Findan, you should have no problem to flag all mines during week 1. Unfinished local business can be left to Dirael and Talanar. Resurrection is definitely NOT your only way to pass this garrison early, but it is the most straight-forward. Resurrection will save you numerous hunters in subsequent castle sieges, though.
It is a little tricky to ship troops from town B to town A within a day. You need a mule hero who knows both Summon Creature and Town Portal. Let's have an example:
1) Before a week ends, this mule hero should be somewhere between town A and B, but closer to town B.
2) When Day 1 comes, buy troops from town B.
3) The mule hero cast Summon Creature to gather troops from town B.
4) Move this mule hero towards town A, and cast Town Portal. (Don't leave Findan at the town gate, as that blocks Town Portal for the mule hero.)
5) New creatures arrive at town A!
By the way, there is an obelisk (Magenta O1) in this area, revealing part of the puzzle map for the Tear of Asha. The grail helps a lot in this mission, but it is not required to win. I dug the grail up twice, and they are both located beside the sulfur mine west of town C. More on this later.
If you visit the Hut of Magi just south of town A, you will see six groups of shadow dragons. (Yellow S1-S6) This is another optional side quest. By defeating all six groups of them, you restore light to the world (and your eyes will hurt because they left lamps on!). This enables you to directly defeat the mission boss - Nicolai.
Before rushing out with all you have, you really want to come back to town A and target skeleton archers as your favorite enemy. You will be fighting tens of thousands of them. On my heroic 1.3 run, I battled more than 20,000, maybe 30,000 of them in total. Spectral dragon is another nice victim if you wish to complete the dragon side quest. When you are ready (perhaps get rid off some stackgins blocking the two abandoned mines), enter the two-way portal (T1) which leads you to the SE portion of the map (look for the other T1).
Part 2 - On to the Necro Towns
Findan emerges at (T1) of the SE land mass. Directly north of you is a Seer Tent (2). Findan's visit to the tent triggers a side quest. In short, there are four Dwarven King artifacts in this mission. You have to collect them all, and hand it back to the Seer by Findan himself. (You can collect the artifacts with another hero, but you have to let Findan give them back.)
Being a Vampire Lord, Nicolai always respawns after being defeated on the battlefield. There are two ways to stop his resurrection and win this mission (either way is fine):
(Option A) Collect all four Dwarven King Artifacts (Green D1-D4), put them in Findan's inventory, and visit the Seer Tent. You will receive five phoenixes. Bring them to fight Nicolai, and survive the battle with at least one phoenix alive.
(Option B) Destroy six designated groups of spectral dragons (Yellow S1-S6), which are revealed by the Hut of Magi just south of town A. Then defeat Nicolai.
Either way, you win this mission and thus the campaign.
Now head straight to town C, probably hitting the obelisk (O2) and a sulfur mine along the way. You should be able to reach town C before Week 2 ends. The enemy hero there, Raven, will have a pathetic little force if you rush out this early. On patch 1.3, Raven is scripted to rush to you no matter how good her chance is, making the issue even simpler. If you have trouble winning the Raven battle, you come out too late.
Note: Just NW of the Seer's Tent, you can find a Sylanna's Ancient. There are two of them on this mission.
Sooner or later, you can kill the first group of spectral dragons (Yellow S1) west of the Seer Tent. You can pick up two relic artifacts there. I'd give this job to Dirael prior to patch 1.3. If you are lucky, you can pick up one or two very useful artifacts here already.
On the way to Town C, you will see the "Tear of Asha" Sulfur Pit that I just mentioned. Now if you check your Puzzle Map, you might accidently see your trail show up... You know what to do, right? :D Now who needs the rest of the Obelisks?
After taking town C, immediately march Findan towards the next two-way portal (blue T2) in the north, flagging the long-waited ore pit on the side. On patch 1.3 don't miss out the crystal mine at the river crossing. After entering the portal, you will emerge... err, submerge, in the NW corner of the underworld. The underground portion of this map is large, but relatively simple. When I say simple this time I do mean it is easy! Just note that there are several passages across the underground river that are not quite visible.
Since you are now on the NW portion of the map, you can summon creatures directly from town B. Also, some point in the near future you'll want to swap your army for the upgraded version. (By the way, to save resources, you only need to build the upgrade facility in one of your starting towns.) You can Town Portal Findan back to town B from this spot, and make him come back a few days later through portal T1. Alternatively, instead of going back yourself, you can use your secondary hero to swap Findan's un-upgraded army with some fresh upgraded ones. Then you can send this secondary hero back (with the Portal spell), upgrade the army, and catch up Findan in just a few days. As explained above, you can check where you are going by casting Summon Creatures first, which reveals the destination.
Now go straight south as you want to recover the first Dwarven King artifact (D1), as well as the Unicorn Horn Bow (3). Moreover, there is a stat +2 arena on your east down the road, which is definitely worth a day's travel. There is another two-way portal (T3) on your way down, leading you to the SE area of the underground (T3). Nothing critically important is to be found there, except another stat +2 arena and an artifact merchant nearby. It is going to cost you more than a day, so I would leave it till later.
After taking the Unicorn Horn Bow (3), you have a choice of heading towards town D, which is located on the SW corner, or town E, which is right at the center. Since your exit to the ground level is a two-way portal at the NE corner (T4), you will save a few days by taking town D before town E. You can also defeat a group of shadow dragons (S2) close to town D.
Normally, there are two good Necro heroes roaming underground, but if you get here quickly, they shouldn't pose any threat. They will either try to have a run at your undefended new Necro town (thus you must try to intercept them), or hide in their own castle. After taking town E, it is time to push on and leave the underground.
On patch 1.3, a roaming Necro hero is scripted to attack you when you are in sight, no matter whether he has a chance or not. This Necro hero may already carry more than 3,000 skeleton archers, so if would be safer to start exploring when you are confident. Later on I met another one here some time during Month 3, and she has a whopping 9,700 skeleton archers!
Now go straight east and make a turn north at the end. Take care of another group of shadow dragons (S3) along the way and head for portal (T4). Just before passing this portal, you are actually directly below your Sylvan town A. This is another good place to Summon Creatures!
Note: Don't worry if you haven't had Findan collect all four Dwarven King artifacts by now. You can leave the job to Dirael, or do the alternative quest by defeating three more groups of spectral dragons, which actually saves you some travel time.
Part 3 - Showdown with Nicolai
If you made it this far before Month 3, then you should pat yourself on the back.
The fourth pair of two-way portal (T4) lands you right in the middle of Nicolai's territory. There is town F just north of you, which is usually an easy target if Nicolai is not around. If Nicolai is blocking your way, then you have a choice whether to take him down, or avoid him by taking Town G and H first.
There is also the fourth group of spectral dragons in the east (S4), and the 3rd, final (before patch 1.2) obelisk (O3) somewhere to the West. You will also see an artifact merchant nearby that the rich AI loves to visit. If you have lots of cash, send a secondary hero here to see if there is any good deal.
Now be prepared to see armies having more than 3K skeleton archers following any major Necro hero. However, you should be more than capable to handle them because you haven't lost any single hunter so far due to your mighty Resurrection spell, right? :) If you come here really late, then you will see much more skeleton archers. If your feel completely powerless, and you don't have Dark Magic and Sandro's Cloak, then your last hope is to outgrow Nicolai with your five towns versus their three. Hire undeads to boost your army (such as skeleton archers). Theoretically, you will outgrow these necromancers eventually.
Note: On patch 1.3 heroic, the AIs were smart to pool all of their army into one place. Some time in Month 3, I had to assault a castle with Nicolai and 8,000 skeleton archers plus other huge numbers of undead creatures. The game becomes quite challenging now.
The only trouble here is Nicolai. Before patch 1.3, Nicolai really, really likes to Phantom Force his strongest stack, and that usually means his skeleton archers. Try to kill his skeleton archers as fast as possible, and use a direct damage spell (either from your hero or the druids) to make short work of the clones. If you come here very late, Nicolai might have a huge number of skeleton archers that makes him almost impossible to defeat. However, if you happen to have Dark Magic and collected the Sandro's cloak artifact somewhere, you can really do some nasty tricks (such as Frenzy) to his skeleton archers, and the clone of them, too!
Note: Nicolai never casted Phantom Force on my patch 1.3 game. He casted Puppet Master (which is really nasty on patch 1.3) on my Emerald Dragons! Luckily Findan's Mass Cleanse took care of it. Nicolai also casts Confusion and Circle of Winter.
If you have successfully taken town F, you must decide to take either town G or town H next. The catch here is to avoid facing the little iron man Nicolai as he will respawn to some annoying spots (such as the entrance of town E) with an army about 5 weeks of a fully-built town production. If you have fought Nicolai and he has respawned away already, then feel free to grab both town G and H, and leave Nicolai busy underground. (He'll never walk pass portals that transport between the surface and underground, but he can Town Portal up and down just "by accident".) Town G can be easily accessed by the final pair of two-way portal (T5) NW of town H. Be prepared to fight thousands of skeleton archers again, too. Should be an easy job for you now, right?
With your hard work, Nicolai is finally catching his breath in his last town somewhere. Your rush is done! If you want to finish this mission as soon as possible, then kill off the final 2 groups of spectral dragons (S5 and S6), and then Nicolai. If you want to take your time, then you can bring your secondary hero here, swap an army to take on the defense job, and let Findan visit all the stat bonuses around the map. Findan is going to play a part in the next, final campaign, so it might be worth boosting him. By the way, there is another Sylanna's Ancient on the surface, roughly in the middle of Nicolai's continent. It is located with other stat bonuses. You can level up Findan to 32 in this campaign, possibly the highest level ever reached by a campaign hero!
You can also attempt to kill the insane number of Wights (700+) just south of town C. It guards a Vitality Ring that gives +2 health to all troops. This ring is far less impressive than the Wights.
If you have collected all four Dwarven King artifacts (D1-D4), then you can give them all to Findan, and let him visit the Seer Tent (2). You are going to lose these great artifacts, but you will get 5 phoenixes. If you don't kill all spectral dragons, you can also win this mission by bringing these phoenixes to fight Nicolai, and survive the battle with at least 1 of them.
Town F is located in an interesting spot. First, you can summon troops easily from town A, by entering the portal (T4) down the road. You can also Town Portal back to town F in the NW portion of underground, some distance south of the (T2) portal. This means that you can make a quick round trip back to the Seer Tent:
Day 1 -- Start from town F, head South towards portal T4.
Day 2 -- Enter portal T4. Cast town Portal to return to town A.
Day 3 -- Enter portal T1, run to the Seer Tent.
Day 4 -- Visit the Seer Tent. Cast town Portal to town C.
Day 5 -- Go north towards portal T2.
Day 6 -- Keep going.
Day 7 -- Enter portal T2, go south, and portal back to town F.
Congratulations for winning this long and difficult campaign! Now if you look at your last autosave, you can see an easter egg - a funny typo of somebody's name (still there in Patch 1.1).
By the way, some people like to mix necro troops (usually skeleton archers) in their army. By providing some extra ranged power you will lose 1 point of morale for the Sylvan units (so they get high morale 10% less of the time). If you rush this mission, you probably won't have enough undead units available to make the trade worthwhile, though.