The Celestial Heavens Team
Welcome to the second expansion of Heroes of Might and Magic V - Tribes of the East. The new expansion pack introduces another new faction - the Stronghold (Orcs). There will be again a total of 3 new campaigns, plus a little bonus -- a prologue mission where Nival lets you test drive the Orcs.
The intro cutscene made me think we are going to play Kujin the Shaman (WOW, they got a ESRB Teen rating for this?), but you actually control Quroq, the clan general(?) who has decided to rebel against slavery. Apparantly, the Orc's fate hasn't been too bright up to this point.
Too bad it isn't windy.
So what do we know about the Orcs? Like previous Strongholds, this is a prototype Might race. In fact, Orc heroes can't cast any magic at all. No more Resurrection, Mass Slow or Fireball. Instead, the Orcs consume mana to perform War Cries to boost and to damage. In this mission, Quroq won't be able to learn any more war cries (He knows two from the start. None of them very helpful.), so the focus is primarily on unit tactics. You will be able to see 5 out of 7 Stronghold creatures here.
The stats distribution for Orcs is quite biased towards Attack. This is very nice for an army that consists of predominately melee units. The creatures' iniative is actually average, but their speed (moving range) is quite miserable. In order to reach the enemy before getting shot to beehives, you need some feats and artifacts to increase your speed. Another way to do it is through the high morale effect (the Eagle, ATB reset to 50% instead of 0%) to keep your units moving. High morale also has the benefit of increasing your Rage Points (through a feat, and simply more action).
The new Blood Rage system is unique to the Orcs. Rage Points are like experience points for each individual stack during the battle. When a stack reaches a certain amount of rage points, its Rage Level goes up - and the units' ability also elevates. Different creatures gain different bonus. For more details please see this excellent website hosted on Age of Heroes:
There are many ways to increase your Rage Points, such as melee attacking, defeating a stack, losing a friendly stack. (Losing 1-unit stacks also helps.) On the contrary, you can lose rage points by being damaged (but your damage is reduced) or simply waiting. Waiting is really bad for the Orcs. Your hero waits without penalty, though.
In a short, neutral stack battle, it is sometimes OK to wait since you can still kill the stack in the next blow before getting retaliated. Rage levels make a good difference in a long, difficult battle, where you probably never wait anyways.
So which skills are good for Quroq? This is a one-mission campaign, and it is fairly easy. If you'd still like to optimize him a little, I would highly recommend Expert Leadership and Luck. For a might hero you can never go wrong with eagle and rainbow. Each skill point gives you roughly 10% more damage. And did I tell you that you can now reach more than +5 of morale and luck? Quroq already starts with Attack, Logistic and Leadership. So you can just wait for Luck.
Another thought is War Machines. You have very weak ranged power, no magic and no flier in this mission. However, the last battle (a siege) is quite easy so you can probably still do well without it.
For feats, under Leadership pick Recruitment to fulfill the requiremtn of Aura of Swiftness (all units speed + 1. This is THE FEAT!). Also pick Battle Elation for faster rage point charging. This feat then leads to Retribution under Attack (5% damage bonus for each point of morale.) For more details of the skill paths you can refer to the brilliant skill wheel hosted on this site:
A Murder of Crows
Map Size: Normal
Level Cap: None
Difficulty Index: 2/5
Last Updated: October 18, 2007, Patch v3.0
You start at the bottom right corner (1) of the map. You have two main objectives (no sidequest). First, take Town A. Second, rescue 4 groups of Orcs. By visiting various Hut of Magi on the map their locations will be revealed. The Red AI (Renegade Haven) is not aggressive. Your strength mainly comes from the 4 groups of Orcs that you will rescue along the way.
Resources (wood, ore, etc.) are totally useless in this mission, so don't bother picking them up. You will need some cash to recruit troops but there will be a gold mine to flag, and a gold bag artifact to pick up. That's more than enough income. Therefore, all the treasure chests can be converted to EXP points. There is no level cap on this mission. In my run, I leveled Quroq all the way to Lv24.
Quroq starts with a fair number of Warriors (tier 3), which is a slow melee unit. First, go back a little to recruit some more. Head north to (O1) and you will be able to rescue a large group Centaurs (tier 2) - after dispatching a swarm of peasants. Like always, split out 1-unit stacks to block the enemy / absorb the retaliation, and you should win the fight with a minimal loss.
Even better, a Centaur creature building is now added to your starting area (1). Don't hurry to go back yet as the weekly growth is rather insignificant compared to your current stack size. You will have more creature buildings here as you rescue more creatures down the way.
The Centaurs are your only shooters. They are big (2x2) and quite vulnerable, so you have to protect them with some 1-unit stacks. Most of the neutral stacks in this mission can be effectively thinned down by the Centaurs before your melee units swarm up for the kill.
Keep heading north. Instead of travelling on the paved road (tougher enemies), take the grassland route (3). Pay some special attention to the Renegade Battle Griffins. They can now battle dive as well. The Imperial Griffins dive to a specific spot like a vertical punch from above, while the Battle Griffins dive as a horizontal lawn mower. Everything in the 2-tile line gets damaged a little. It is still very easy to dodge their dives, though. AIs always pick your largest stacks (preferably shooters) to dive, so just move everything away from the two tiles of your likely targets (see the picture on the right for details).
On your east lies a two-way portal (II) guarded by some Zealots (shooters). This portal leads to a top-notch artifact, on a little island in the middle of a lake. Your army is not powerful enough yet, so leave it for now and keep heading north. You will see a Peasant's Hut (P). Approach it to blow it up (seriously you can hear the explosion) for great cash and EXP rewards! There are a total of 3 peasant's Huts on the map.
From the hut, go west and return to the paved road, and keep heading north. At the end of the road (O2) you will be able to rescue the second (and very large) group of Stronghold units - Goblins (tier 1).
The swarm of goblins will become your primary damage dealer for quite a while. They are fairly fast and powerful, but they never retaliate (because they run away when getting hit). Don't forget to flag the gold mine here and stay worry free for the rest of the mission.
There are quite a few stat boosters and artifacts in the area SW to (4). The guarding Champions are quite powerful, but with good 1-stack Goblin tactics you shouldn't take a serious blow. Note that champions' charge can penetrate one unit, so don't place any suicidal Goblin directly infront of your main stack. Once the Champions get close, your main Goblin stack + Centaurs should be able to take care of them. Sweep this area clean for a lot of goodies (a great artifact, too). You probably want to avoid a shooter stack around (5) to maintain your Centaur numbers. You can access the other half from the other side.
Once in a while, you can also return to your home base (1) to recruit more units. There is a short cut, an one-way portal at (I), marked in orange. The portal brings you directly back to your base (I'). Too bad there is no quick way back.
Wait -- Now you took the workers away, so who is going to mine your gold?
On your way to the one-way portal you can see a new type of building at (6). This is a sacrifice altar where you can trade unwanted units for EXP points. The large peasant stack in front of it will offer to join. Forget about their tax value (you did flag the gold mine, right?) and sacrifice them all for a nice EXP boost. Bye fatty!
There is another large stack of skeletons that offers to join just SE from here (7). It is tempting to keep them because their numbers are so great, but Stronghold units live on their morales. Bye skelly!
There is an isolated area SW of where you rescue the Centaurs. There is a Peasant's hut to be blown up, a Sylanna Acient (level up tree, (S)), and some good artifacts.
When you are ready, go back to your base to recruit whatever you can find, and follow the paved road west. There is a Witch Hut (W) on the south, which might teach you something. Crush the resistance along the way, and go south at the T junction. At the end of the road you can break the prison (O3) holding your third Stronghold units - Slayers (tier 5). These guys are very powerful and fast. From now on you no longer have to rely on Goblins.
The last group of Stronghold units, Cyclops (tier 7), is contained north from here, at (O4). You have to battle some high-tier Haven units, but your Slayers should take them out easily. Too bad you don't get the Cyclop building in your base.
By now you should have seen Red heroes roaming around, picking up resources. They are not really a threat to you. The weaker ones will actually flee.
There is another two-way portal (III) that brings you to a small isolated area with some reasonable rewards. It is now the time to pick up the good artifact on the little island (II) as well.
When everything is done, recruit your last batch of units from home base and go straight for Town A. The AI usually splits up its army to two heroes. Half of them wait outside to be slaughtered on the grass. The other half hides behind the wall, which gives you headaches because your army does not have good ranged power. In my game, the enemy hero casted Divine Vengeance on my Centaurs right after they devastated the defending Crossbowmen. I immediately lost half of my 200+ Centaurs!
If you picked the War Machine skill and go for the Catapault feat things should be easier. In my game the AI was still foolish enough to open its own gate by placing a blocking stack at the center. When the blocking stack got killed the gate remained open. My cyclops rushed in and wiped everything out.
Congratulations for winning the Prologue! By the way, there seems to be a bug that you have to reach the Cyclops (O4) before Month 2 Week 4 Day 1, or the game will freeze. There is no solution when it happens - so better get there fast!
The cutscenes are very well done!