Starting Bonus: Speculum or Equestrian’s Gloves or Necklace of Swiftness
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Green - Friendly Town
Red - Enemy Town
Grey - Neutral Town
Yellow - Underground Passage
A# - Allied Towns
O# - Opponent Towns (a,b,c,d,e,f,g indicates which enemy)
N# - Neutral Towns
M# - Mirror Entrances (a) and exits (b). two-way unless stated
E# - Exit (a) entrance and (b) exit
S# - Seer (a) and the location of the item (b)
G# - Guard Tents (a) and the location of the Guard Tower (b)
J - Jail
X - Ambush
The enemy has four cities to your three, and starts with three heroes that are too strong for your starting army to handle. Fortunately, these heroes are guarding the three artifacts you need to win the scenario (behind the G2b guards underlined in red) and they cannot stray too far from them for at least the first month. Your territory has a wealth of mines and external dwellings that can allow you to keep up with early enemy production.
The bonus choice is a close call between the Equestrian’s Gloves or the Necklace of Swiftness. I recommend the Necklace because it boosts Cerberi to speed 10 on native ground. This is a major tactical advantage against the many swarms of Sprites infesting your territory.
Xeron can be built up in this map to make the next map easier, but it may be worthwhile to avoid building him up since you will fight against your Xeron build in the last two maps of this campaign. If you decide to build him up I recommend trying for Expert Wisdom by level 12 since the map offers 7 chances at good level 5 spells. It may be worth restarting until you like the skills that Xeron and Ash begin with.
Note that your three cities all begin with Castle Gates so you can easily shuttle heroes and troops between the three locations.
Start by having your heroes visit the towns to pool their armies and to learn spells from the mage guilds. Upgrade the Kennels in Blackpool (A3), buy all of the Hellhounds and Cerberi in your towns, upgrade these plus your starting Hellhounds to Cerberi, and give all of your Cerberi and Devils to your main hero along with your bonus artifact. This hero should move along the blue path, clearing the way for a scout hero to tag G1a and then claim the gold mine behind the eastern G1b. Have another scout hero depart from Havoc Peak (A2) to pick up the resources behind the western G1b.
Buy a fifth hero in Mourningdale, buy as many Gogs as you can afford, and take the rest of your troops along the purple path to claim two Hell Holes and a Forsaken Palace. Have the last hero follow them to flag the Sawmill then split off on the yellow path to grab the loose gold piles. Have the purple hero move to the yellow hero and hand over the troops to ensure you capture the Fire Lake during the first week. If you kept your losses to a minimum, the purple hero can keep the Pit Fiends, half of the Gogs, and some Imps, and use them to clear the lightly guarded mines circled on the map while leaving enough for the other hero to take the Fire Lake. Your main hero should prioritize at least one Sulfur Mine after finishing the blue path.
- Build priorities in week 1: City Halls in Havoc Peak (A2) and Mourningdale (A1), a Citadel and Fire Lake in Blackpool, a Hell Hole and Citadel in Mourningdale, and Cages in all three towns. If you have sufficient resources (mainly Ore) try to build a Fire Lake in Mourningdale and a Citadel in Havoc Peak.
- Build priorities in week 2: finish building Citadels and Fire Lakes everywhere, plus a Resource Silo, Castle, and Forsaken Palace in Blackpool.
In week 3 (or week 4 at the latest), upgrade the Fire Lake in Blackpool, upgrade all of your Efreets to Efreet Sultans, and give your Gogs, Cerberi, Efreet Sultans, Devils, and whatever other troops you can afford to your main hero. You should be strong enough to take out Fiur and claim O1a and O2a along the green path. Have a secondary hero grab the Shield of the Damned for your main hero. O1a has a Magic University built; I recommend using it to teach Earth Magic to your main hero.
Erdamon hangs out near the Breastplate of Brimstone a little north-west of O2a. If your losses so far have been minimal you can challenge him straight away. Otherwise you can resupply from the Conflux towns and/or have your secondary heroes bring some reinforcements before you attack him. He carries a Tome of Earth Magic that can let you easily resupply with Town Portal if you have Advanced Earth Magic. If necessary you can use G3a to pass G3b to reach G4a so you can access the massive pile of resources behind G4b.
If you don’t plan to build up Xeron at all, you can strike directly towards the final G2b (guarded by Ciele) and grab the Sword of Hellfire to win the map. It is not necessary to have the artifacts together or to have them on Xeron. As soon as any of your heroes picks up the third artifact the map ends—unless one or more of the artifacts is held by a hero in a town garrison, in which case the scenario ends when you end a turn with all three artifacts on non-garrison heroes. If you do want to build up it is easiest to take out Tan entirely, which gives you 7 mage guilds that can all be built to level 5. Leave an artifact on the ground (or in a garrison) until you are ready to end the map.
Even if you plan to leave Xeron weak it may be worthwhile to build him to Advanced Wisdom and to build L4 mage guilds everywhere. One of the fixed heroes on the next map has excellent chances to start with Expert Scholar and Advanced Wisdom, allowing them to learn the spells from Xeron and teach them to your other starting heroes.
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