by Jolly Joker
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 expert and preferably on impossible difficulty. If there is an abundance of resources and money as on the easier difficulty levels, the differences in build-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.
Having a fully built up town with all upgrades, you can recruit 2202 Hit Points per week which is 3rd lowest after Inferno and Necropolis (which can boost HPs via Skeleton raising). You have to pay 27205 Gold + 4 S for them, so the average HP cost you roughly 12.35 gold which is not as expensive as Inferno, Castle and Tower, but while the ranking is average the absolute figure is still quite high. Those HPs don't do that much damage either. The absolute damage is low while the relative damage (per HP) is average.
To get all upgraded creature dwellings (including fort, tavern, castle and capitol) you need 90900 gold (which is average and in the lines of Rampart and Tower), but your resource demands are horrifying (which is at least partly due to the fact that you need a 3rd lvl mage guild to get Black Dragons): You need the 3rd most Wood (after Fortress and Stronghold), the 2nd most Ore (after Stronghold), you have the 2nd highest single precious resource demand (64 S, right after 65 C for Rampart) and you have by far the highest overall precious resource demand (127; Rampart that needs to build a 3rd lvl mage guild, too, only needs 110; Tower needs 117 without 2nd and 3rd lvl mage guild).
Building every structure in a Dungeon costs 112400 gold which is 2nd most after Inferno and in a line with Tower and Castle. The Artifacts Merchant is of course a very epensive building here. The resource demands are averaging out and are along the lines of Inferno, Necropolis and others now.
However, the overall resource demands and creature stats paint a somewhat blurred picture here and we'll have to take a closer look at the details later on.
Your heroes are the Overlord (Might) and the Warlock (Magic). Both hero types have clear preferences. A typical level 19 Overlord looks something like 8 8 4 4 (without artefacts and locations visits), while a typical Warlock looks something like 2 3 10 8.
Overlords don't have a fixed secondary skill, while all Warlocks come equipped with Wisdom. Warlocks can't get Resistance, while Overlords are barred from getting Water Magic. Overlords will have trouble getting Air Magic, Eagle Eye, Fire Magic, First Aid, Intelligence, Luck Necromancy, Scholar and Sorcery (with Fire Magic having better chances than Air Magic). The chances of getting Diplomacy, Earth Magic, Estates, Learning, Mysticism, Navigation and Wisdom are fair, while you will have no problems acquiring the remaining skills with Tactics having the highest probability. Warlocks won't get Air Magic, Archery, Armorer, Artillery, Logistics, Luck, Offense, Pathfinding, Scouting, Tactics and Water Magic very often (with Air Magic having better chances than Water Magic), while the chances of getting Diplomacy, Earth Magic, Fire Magic, First Aid, Leadership, Learning, Navigation and Necromancy are fair (with Earth Magic having better chances then Fire Magic). This leaves Ballistics, Eagle Eye, Estates, Intelligence, Mysticism, Scholar, Sorcery and Wisdom as high priority skills which is a bit bothersome. Highest probability skills are Wisdom and Sorcery.
On average an Overlord will have Earth Magic only as a magic school with Fire Magic being not out of reach, while a Warlock will get Earth Magic and Fire Magic with Air Magic being possible. While you may see Warlocks with 3 or even all 4 magic schools it is obvious, that a fully developed Warlock will have some second rate secondary skills like Sorcery, Mysticism, Scholar or Eagle Eye. On the other hand some Warlocks come with awesome specials: Alamar comes with the Resurrection spell and begins with Wisdom and Scholar which is an advantage because he can teach the Resurrection spell every hero with advanced Wisdom once he is expert Scholar. Darkstorm (yeah, I know, it's DarkstorN, but that's most likely a typo) begins with Learning (wasted), but comes with a special in Stone Skin, meaning, a high level Darkstorm will give especially his lower level units + 7, +8, or even +9 Defense when casting it. Deemer begins with Scouting (makes sense in the beginning, but is useless later on) and a special in the Meteor Shower spell (that he comes equipped with), meaning, he can blast away right from the start. Geon has the Eagle Eye special which is no plus, especially not with the strong Dungeon mage guild there to build. Jaegar comes with Mysticism and a special in it, also not a prime choice. Jeddite, now, that guy comes with the Resurrection spell, too, and since he begins with advanced Wisdom he has no wasted sec skill. If you get Jeddite in the first week you will always have the hope of making him a truly outstanding hero. With a special in Sorcery Malekith is the TYPICAL Warlock. While that special is not all that bad, the snag is, he needs the spells and need to cast them to make use of it and more often than not raw damage spells are not the best choice when it comes to spellcasting. Sephinroth is a hero you always have use for because she's a living Crystal mine which can't be bad. She makes an ideal secondary hero because she begins with Intelligence, so a few levels gained are enough to give her the necessary knowledge to be able to Town Portal around later on and do the logistics.
The Overlords will obviously struggle in the magic department, but they will develop to prime fighters. Ajit begins with Leadership and Resistance and has a special in Evil Eyes (good). Arlach begins with Offense and Artillery and has the Ballista special which I don't rate that high, but isn't all bad either. Dace begins with Tactics and Offense and has a special in Minotaurs (great). Damacon comes with advanced Offense and the 350 gold special (great). He will make a great second in command when your first hero is Jeddite, Alamar or Deemer because he has no wasted skill and you will massively profit from his special in the early map stages. Gunnar comes with Tactics and Logistics and has a Logistics special (superior). Lorelei can't quite compete here. Like Dace, Shakti begins with Tactics and Offense and a horde of Troglodytes in which he has a special in, so this is a very good starting hero (the +1 speed for the Trogs is really a big advantage in the beginning). Lastly Synca can't compete (she begins with Leadership and Scholar, but Alamar is obviously the better Scholar here). A further plus of all Dungeon heroes is that they come well equipped with initial troops, but we'll see later on that they are in need of it.
With an impressive collection of first class heroes available it seems that a lot depends on the spells the mage guild(s) will teach your heroes. With the Armageddon spell available a Warlock with his high Spell Power would be the ideal hero especially with expert Sorcery and maybe even a special in it, meaning, later on Malekith would be the best hero to run around with Black Dragons and let fire rain onto the opponents' forces. However, with the Armageddon spell not available and in general only soso spells in the guild an Overlord has his or her uses (see below).
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 until you have the Capitol take only those that don't cost you money.
So you have no problem at all here. Since you don't know what your Mage Guild will give you, and since magic isn't foolproof (Resistance, Artifacts, counter-Armageddon heroes) and since you need two good heroes anyway you should try to develop both a Warlock AND an Overlord.
You can build a full Mage Guild and the Dungeon mage guild is the most versatile. The only spells you can't get are Death Ripple, Animate Dead, Prayer and Summon Air Elemental.
Because of the limitations of your heroes your most important spells belong to the Earth and Fire schools - with one notable exception that is indeed a big winner in the beginning: even though Dungeon is supposedly an evil town you can get the Bless spell. Your heroes won't be able to cast that one as a mass spell, but having Bless in the beginning will be a massive boost for your low level creatures because they do have a high damage range (Trogs 1-3 and Harpies 1-4). Since you begin with a high number of Trogs that spell will massively boost your damage doing capabilities and allow you to take out seemingly tough wandering monster stacks. Later on, of course, it won't be that important because you won't be able to cast it on mass level. Slow, Shield, Stone Skin, Curse and Bloodlust are all impressive mass spells and worth to have and to cast - especially for an Overlord. The Curse-Shield combination, maybe even with the added plus of an expert Armorer skill, will effectively lessen the damage done to your forces and since your opponent won't be able to magically neutralize your 7th lvl creatures (like it is possible with Archangels or Behemoths, for instance), you will be less reluctant to cast those mass spells.
Berserk is a great spell to have when you are likely to get expert Fire Magic!
With Warlocks beginning with Spell Power 3 and advancing very fast in this department, the raw damage spells Magic Arrow, Ice Bolt and Lightning Bolt early on and things like Meteor Shower, Chain Lightning, Implosion or even Inferno later on will be of use to you because they will make a difference in the beginning when fighting wandering monster stacks. The opposite side of destruction, Resurrection, is obviously equally welcome. And later on and with indecent Spell Power available a Horde Elementals Summoned may just decide a tough battle.
If not facing one or more Fluxes the Armageddon spell is of course a magical heavyweight. A Warlock equipped with that spell and a few Black Dragons may single-handedly win decisive victories, but such a hero is not unstoppable. There is the Anti-Magic spell, there are units faster than yours, there are units immune against that spell and there are some nasty artifacts prohibiting its use or making the Dragons themselves vulnerable for it. The big plus of it is, however, that it gives you playing options. Even if not unstoppable, a lone Warlock with as few as 2 or 3 Black Dragons is a serious threat that can't be taken lightly. It will force opponents to react accordingly (if at all able) and may disrupt their plans entirely without sacrificing too much.
UNITS AND BUILDINGS
When playing the Dungeon you have a somwhat special town simply because of the fact that there is no key unit for the early map stages. Every other town has a key unit, meaning, you will go for City Hall and then squeeze in one or two creature dwellings, then maybe grade one up on 8th day, hire out the critical unit and that was that. Key units are for instance the Marksmen for Castle, the Rocs for Stronghold, Master Gremlins for the Tower, Grand Elves for the Rampart and so on.
You don't have such a unit with the Dungeon. First of all, since the building sequence is rather strict (you may build 3rd lvl before 2nd and 6th lvl before 5th, but that's it), on any normal map you won't be able to build more than Harpy and Beholder dwellings in the first week, but even if you could, lvls 4 to 6 aren't key units either. One might think that Harpy Hags would be one, but they aren't: they do not enough damage, are expensive, and their special way to move proves awkward against shooters, so you'd simply have too many losses. Beholders are no key units either. They are way too expensive and don't do enough damage either, so there still would be too many losses. Lastly, if you begin with the Harpy Loft already built you could go for the Chapel and Medusae on day 7, and THEY wouldn't be too expensive, but with only 8 of them available they still wouldn't do enough damage, so there would still be too many losses.
So there is no key unit to go for. But there might be a key building.
With the sole exception of the Black Dragons there is no really outstanding unit either, even though no unit is bad or useless and Minotaurs are quite good. I can see all Dungeon freaks whine at this one, but believe me, it is so. While the Black Dragons are indeed a truly outstanding unit, truly outstanding are also the prerequisites and resources needed to build the dwelling while the actual cost to buy one once they are there for hiring are not that high (at least compared to what they are worth; ignoring the Conflux units the Black Dragons are the unit with the best bang for the buck in the game). The trouble is, you won't get them fast (on any normal map there is no way to get Red Dragons prior to 3rd week), so you have to make do without them for quite some time.
Without the Black Dragons, however, your forces are lacking in many respects. Have a look at the following tables:
|1. Castle||511||1. Inferno||8.36||1. Rampart||2150||2. Fortress||489||2. Dungeon||7.92||2. Tower||1820||3. Rampart||462||3. Stronghold||7.76||3. Necropolis||1792||4. Tower||451||4. Tower||7.70||4. Fortress||1790||5. Necropolis||442||5. Fortress||7.66||5. Stronghold||1770||6. Stronghold||439||6. Rampart||7.46||6. Castle||1745||7. Inferno||419||7. Necropolis||7.40||7. Inferno||1635||8. Dungeon||406||8. Castle||7.24||8. Dungeon||1602|
The first table shows the average (modified) damage a weekly production of (upgraded) unit levels 1-6 does. The second table shows the average speed with which that damage is delivered. The third table gives the total Hit Points for 1 weekly production of unit levels 1-6.
|1. Rampart||984.82||1. Rampart||5.29||2. Fortress||977.64||2. Fortress||4.97||3. Necropolis||968.02||3. Inferno||4.88||4. Tower||958.48||4. Castle||4.87||5. Castle||952.67||5.Stronghold||4.76||6. Inferno||931.60||6. Dungeon||4.67||896.34||7. Necropolis||4.63||8. Stronghold||882.58||8. Tower||4.61|
The first table here shows the sum of all unit ratings (including specials, speed and so on) for one weekly production of upgraded unit lvls 1-6 while the second table is the bang for the buck you get there.
These tables paint a less than desirable picture with the exception that unit speed seems to be a plus, but overall it seems clear that your lower level units lack substance and punch and are not exactly cheap either. (Note, that Necropolis will gain on every table except the speed table with every single Skeleton raised.)
How much you depend on the Black Dragons is further illustrated by the following tables. The numbers show the worth of a weekly production of a given unit level as a percentage of the whole weekly production of that town which is something of a measure for the importance of a certain unit level for that town. (Necropolis' figures will decrease a bit with every Skeleton raised)
|Lvl 7||Lvl 6||1. Dungeon||42.18||1. Necropolis||24.39||2. Castle||41.18||2. Tower||19.62||3. Rampart||39.26||3. Inferno||19.32||4. Tower||38.22||4. Stronghold||17.66||5. Inferno||36.83||5. Fortress||16.47||6. Stronghold||29.48||6. Castle||16.02||7. Necropolis||26.04||7. Rampart||15.40||8. Fortress||25.16||8. Dungeon||14.76|
What that means is the following: your 7th lvl unit is relatively the most important of all (you gain the most of all towns once they are in play) while your 6th lvl unit is relatively the most unimportant (you lose less than any other town when they are not in play). While one could think that because of the high value of the 7th lvl unit all others would have to rate quite low, in reality this is not the case. For instance, your lvl 3 unit ranks 4th with 9.48% (1st is Fortress with 13.74%, 8th is Stronghold with 7.48%.
To give you another idea how much your Black Dragons are worth, dig the following:
1 Black Dragon is worth roughly:
10 Minotaur Kings
20 Medusa Queens
31 Evil Eyes
47 Harpy Hags
143 Infernal Troglodytes
All this leads to some obvious conclusions:
1) You should do everything possible to get Black Dragons FAST (and this has consequences!).
2) You need Magic (you need it anyway for the Black Dragons).
3) The Portal of Summoning may be a worthwile build if there is an outside Dungeon dwelling, boosting your unit production.
All this will seriously affect your building strategy and your unit buyings!
Your first big plus is the fact that all your heroes come equipped with a sizeable force. The average Warlock will come with something like 35 Trogs, 4 Harpies and 3 Beholders. On average you'll get less with an Overlord except Shakti, of course, but the starting troops of any 2 Dungeon heroes will give you a lot to work with. Your aim is to hire as few additional troops as possible, preferably NONE AT ALL. If you have a Warlock to start with magic is your friend and simple damage spells will enable you to take out stacks with what you have without suffering many losses. You may even be able to explore and conquer with 2 heroes without having to combine their forces. Starting with Overlords only, magic won't do you much good. Combine their forces which will be sizeable and conquer what you can. Here you may not be able to get along without hiring additional troops especially if there are worthwile targets like a gold mine or a second sulfur dune or a great artifact nearby. Go for Harpy Hags then, or, if you can afford to wait a bit, go for Medusa Queens or even Minotaurs.
Before we come to the actual building options let's have a look at the Dungeon units in more detail.
This is a reasonable 1st level unit. The big plus is that your heroes will come with quantities of them giving them acceptable punch in the beginning. Note that while the upgrade is worth it in terms of what you get, Infernal Trogs are QUITE expensive for what they are worth. Their bfb value is lower than that of normal Trogs and is the 2nd worst of all 1st lvl units right after Familiars and on par with Skeleton Warriors. This includes the fact that you can't Blind them which will be a plus only when you have virtually Zounds or at least a Swarm of them because no one in his or her right mind would actually waste a spell by trying to Blind a couple of Trogs. Grading the Trogs up is not that high on your priority list and will probably happen sometime in the 3rd week
As part of the whole Dungeon army a sizeable number of Trogs is what I would call a disrupting force. They are fully able to do notable damage to low defense-low HP units like, for instance, Wolf Raiders or Wraiths, all 1st lvl units and shooters (however, it may take them a while to reach the other end of the battlefield in the case of shooters) and they may be used for a first attack to use up retaliation. Their real value is, however, helping you through the first two weeks of a map.
In many respects this is a very interesting unit. First of all a couple of Harpies won't do you much good as a stack in the beginning. They simply don't do enough damage and are quite vulnerable, so you tend to lose a lot when using them for first hits. You may seperate one or two in difficult battles for suicide attacks eating up retaliations, but in general it seems better to use them carefully and with an eye on conserving them.
The good thing is that the Harpy Loft is quite cheap and the upgrade isn't that expensive either, the 2 Sulfur notwithstanding. 170 gold for 1 Hag, however, is a lot of money in the beginning so this is not all that high on your priority list either except if you are in dire need of troops.
Harpy Hags have their uses. First of all this is the ideal unit to equip a scout with because of the high unit speed of 9. With their special movement and the no-retaliation special in reality they are like a shooter unit in many respects, but a shooter unit with a shooting range of 9 hexes that will always do full damage. The disadvantage is that they aren't able to attack and block an opposing shooter unit in one turn. They can either attack or block but not both. Since blocking will lead to the blocked shooter unit moving away this in turn may prove either silly without a supporting shooter force or funny with them, the shooters killing the units chased by the Hags.
Of course Harpy Hags will be a pain in the flesh later on because of their no-retaliation special. They are useful in siege combats because they can attack over walls doing full damage, but will move out again, making it hard for the besieged force to kill them efficiently and without making itself vulnerable by leaving the protection of the walls. Lastly Harpy Hags will massively profit from the Bless spell which will make them much much more deadly.
First of all this unit costs a fortune, upgraded or not. While it is not at all a bad unit it simply does not enough damage for the buck payed. While it is tempting to hire them right on (shooters are always good or aren't they?) they suffer from the fact that they are neither fish nor flesh: as a shooter they don't do enough damage and as a hand-to-hand unit they are too vulnerable and don't do enough damage either. Let's simply compare the average cost of 1 point of shooting damage for each shooter unit in the game (attack value included, but NOT unit speed, which is of course a factor):
Archer: 48 gold
Lizard Warrior: 47
Power Lich: 33
Wood Elf: 54
Grand Elf: 30
Orc Chieftain: 52
Cyclops King: 49
Master Gremlin: 33
Arch Mage: 56
Medusa Queen: 50
This table shows, why Marksman, Grand Elves and Master Gremlins are so great units in the beginning stages of a game: they do cheap damage and if they do enough there won't be many losses. A Beholder will fulfill its task to kill units if those units are slow, but against faster units there will be losses. In any case, the damage Beholders and Evil Eyes do is just too expensive in the beginning. While it is true that Beholders have much more HPs and suffer no hand-to-hand penalty this is not that important in the initial stages of a map where you need stopping power to take out monster stacks without taking any or at least too many losses. Note that even Medusas/Medusa Queens are much better here with 1 damage point costing 46/50 gold for the same attack value, the same no-hand-to-hand-penalty advantage, a nice special plus more HPs.
Hiring this unit early on is not recommended therefore, even though it may be tempting much more so when there is an out-of-town Beholder dwelling. Resist that temptation.
While building the Pillar of Eyes is a necessity to get on to higher buildings, upgrading them is not a pressing business. Should you have an abundance of resources for whatever reasons, well, why not?
Later on, if you have all your builds and enough money, things look entirely different. Masses of Evil Eyes may harrass the opponent from a distance but won't melt away once attacked and will still deal the same damage. Since you produce them in high quantities later on you will have a sizable number of them. The good thing is, they can look after themselves and don't need bodyguards, so they will be a welcome if still expensive addition to your army.
This is a much better priced unit than the Beholder/Evil Eye. For only 50 gold more you gain an average 3 points more of damage, 3/8 more HPs and quite a useful special with the added plus that there is no hand-to-hand combat penalty, too. The upgrade pays for 3 reasons: 1) 5 more HPs; 2) 1 more speed; 3) 4 more shots. This last one is important since the normal Medusa has only 4 shots which is not nearly enough to last through a halfway tough battle. If there is an outside Medusa Dwelling go for it and buy some (breaking the rule of not buying anything). If you have to hire for some reason and already built the Chapel hire Medusas. Building the upgrade, however, may not be advisable in the 2nd week because you simply won't have time with other builds being more important. Still, a simple Medusa for 300 gold is obviously a much better buy than a Beholder for 250 or even a Harpy Hag for 170.
Later on in the game Medusas will do damage as a shooter as well as hand to hand. Since even the Queens have only 8 shots you may not shoot at all with them if no decent target presents itself in the first combat round, but opt instead to move into a better position (which is of course true for normal Medusas, too). Once you begin hiring units which should be some time around week 3 ideally, Medusa Queens should be one of the first units to hire.
Now, this is a very powerful unit. Even a normal Minotaur does awesome damage and it is the Minotaur you will have to use beside the Dragons to really hurt the opponent. With a cost of 4000 gold plus 10 Ore plus 10 Gems the Labyrinth isn't exactly cheap which is the reason why you should build it AFTER the Capitol only. The upgrade, however, is no pressing business. What you gain is essentially speed plus a bit more durability, but the cost may just be too high. This shouldn't be much of a problem, though. The normal Minotaur is a good enough unit until the end of week 3, especially underground (with a speed of then 7).
First of all a stack of Minotaurs not moving because of low morale will be a rare sight indeed which is definitely a plus against Ghost Dragons or after a tomb visit or even after getting useful joins. The high speed of the Minotaur Kings makes them one of the best ground units available and hard to stop. A pack of them will do serious damage to all 6th and even to some of the 7th lvl units, so apart from the Dragons this will be the unit your opponent will be most anxious about. Led by an Overlord (having most probably Leadership) you can count on double moves on a regular basis and with those hitters even one double move may just be enough to tip a close battle to your favor.
Naturally, you want them upgraded and once the upgrade is available go and grade up every normal Minotaur already in your service.
A slight disadvantage is the fact, that they can't fly and consequently will be of limited use in siege combat.
If you have the Resurrect spell available the stack of Minotaur Kings is the prime candidate for that spell.
This is definitely not a unit that will win you any game. The Manticore Lair is extraordinarily expensive to build with 5000 gold and 5 each of the 3 resources you need to build the Dragon Cave and what you get is a somewhat weakish flyer without any special in the unupgraded version. Since the upgrade will again cost 5 each of the 3 resources you need for the Dragon Cave you can't afford it, especially considering the fact that you have to build your mage guild.
On average a Manticore (and also a Scorpicore) will do 1 point more damage than a Minotaur King which clearly isn't worth it in any stage of a scenario where you still have to build, so hiring them is not recommended. In fact this unit should be upgraded AFTER the Dragons only because Black Dragons instead of Red ones will help you much more than Scorpicores instead of Manticores.
Later on, however, Scorpicores will come in handy in siege combats because of the fact that they are flyers and because of their paralyze special if and when it is triggered.
RED DRAGONS/BLACK DRAGONS
Well, Black Dragons are the unit that makes all the difference for you. Get them and get them as fast as possible because you'll need them.
Because of the fact that those Dragons will burn your own units as well as the enemy's you have to be careful with unit placement. When you don't have (Mass) Haste (because in this cases you will be reluctant to attack immediately with your Dragons) or the enemy has a unit faster than your Dragons it is wise to be careful with the initial placement. This is even true with Tactics because the opponent may have Tactics, too. Rule A: Place the Dragons into the middle slot. This way they won't burn your own units even if attacked immediately. Rule B: If moving and attacking with your units, NEVER place a unit so that there is one hex unoccupied between the Dragons and another of your units. Either place them directly adjacent or leave at least 2 hexes unoccupied. This may be awkward once in a while, because you may be unable to make the best possible move, but the alternative is getting your own units burned by the Dragons. On the other hand there may arise opportunities to make double hex attacks. Double hex attacks are most profitable when the unit that is eligible for retaliation is destroyed completely. The best attack is an attack against a low level unit standing adjacent to a high level unit. This way the Dragons blast the low level unit and the high level unit, but the high level unit can't retaliate.
Note, that Mass Slow is a more deadly spell with Dragons to take advantage of it, because the opponent has much less moving options so the chance to get double hex attacks is considerably bigger.
The tips and hints given here focus on L and XL maps under very hard and impossible difficulty. Smaller maps and easier difficulty 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 Sulfur Dune, an Ore Pit or a Sawmill take it immediately, if you have a decent chance. You will need a lot of Sulfur later on plus lots of Wood and Ore in the beginning. On expert difficulty you will recruit another hero on the first day and equip him or her with a spell book. Try to flag a second Sulfur Dune as soon as and if possible. Since you will need Wood in the beginning, but more and more Ore later on a second Ore Pit will come in handy, too.
If you begin with two towns, concentrate the build-up on one. Build a Town Hall in the second town as soon as possible, but then ignore the second town, until you have enough wood (which could take a while). 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 (or nearly fully) built-up already.
Don't forget, that THERE IS NO WAY ON ANY GIVEN HALFWAY NORMAL MAP YOU WILL BE ABLE TO HIRE OUT YOUR WHOLE PRODUCTION IN THE FIRST TWO MONTHS OF PLAY. This in combination with a selection of magic heroes starting with a very powerful spell and a very good force plus the chance to build a very powerful special building early on not only allows different building strategies depending on what HERO(ES) you have available, it gives you an opportunity to do everything possible to get Black Dragons early, so building creature dwellings may be of less concern here!
Since you can't rely on the strength of your low level units alone your building strategy should reflect the fact that you need Magic, the Black Dragons and the benefits of your non-dwelling buildings which are exceptionally good. However, this is only half of the equation. The other half is the following: BUY AS FEW CREATURES AS POSSIBLE AND SAVE MONEY TO GET THE BUILDING GOING! With a Warlock try to get by with no unit buys at all. With an Overlord buy Harpy Hags OR Medusa Queens OR Minotaurs (not Kings) only, if at all possible. Try to get by with your starting forces. Try to get by without buying Beholders. They are tempting to buy but cost a fortune that you need for building.
If you have to hire there may be a cheap way to do it: hiring a new hero! As mentioned Dungeon heroes come equipped with a lot of stuff and it frequently happens that a hero comes equipped with troops worth MORE than the 2500 gold you have to pay. If you have to hire, have a look into the Tavern on day 8. You may find a hero there coming with 37 Trogs, 5 Harpies and 4 Beholders worth 3500 gold. This is a cheap way to hire with the additional bonus of a hero at that!
1. Mage Guild level one (equip Overlord(s) with spell book(s))
2. Town Hall
3. Market Place
5. City Hall
6. Harpy Loft//Mage Guild Lvl II/Citadel
7. Pillar of Eyes/Citadel/ Mana Vortex/Harpy Loft/Castle
On impossible difficulty you may not be able to build on every day and the building sequence may have to be changed due to money/resources shortages (you may have to begin with the Market Place, for example). There is, however, no building after you have the City Hall that you MUST build no matter what. Now, since the building-up of a town should emphazise the strengths (going for key units is nothing else) I recommend the following building strategy which may be radically different then you will feel comfortable with:
With a Warlock as a starting hero AND the necessary resources available, build the Mage Guild lvl 2 on day 6! With Ice or Lightning Bolt or even Blind in the Guild you can now continue with the Mana Vortex on day 7 OR the Citadel OR the Harpy Loft. With the Mana Vortex you will double the spell points available to your Warlock and he or she is now able to do a lot of CHEAP damage with magic alone. The snag is, that you don't need it neither for the Capitol nor for the Black Dragons, so build it only if you a) can make really good use of it and b) your hero is in the immediate vicinity of the town to refill his or her spell points! The Citadel would be advisable with an early found Knowledge artifact or an immediately gained Knowledge lvl and would be the logical build: Go for the Capitol as soon as possible. The Harpy Loft would be something of a compromise. It's a cheap building giving you something to hire "just in case".
With an Overlord (only) magic won't play a starring role, obviously, so Mage Guild lvl II would be somewhat wasted as would be the Mana Vortex. You may go for the Harpy Loft on day 6 or, if you feel comfortable with your troops, the Citadel right away aiming again for an early Capitol. Day 7 may now see the Pillar of Eyes or the Citadel, in case you built the Harpy Loft on day 6, or the Castle. In case you built the Citadel on day 6 and you don't have enough money or resources for the Castle on day 7 you can always build either the Harpy Loft or the Pillar, so building the Citadel on day 6 doesn't commit you to anything.
Note that all building combinations with the exception of the variants with a Citadel will cost you the same in the money department: 13000 Gold (16000 with a 2nd hero plus one spellbook) This is not that expensive and on expert difficulty you will now have some money to begin the 2nd week with ESPECIALLY if you took the money for at least some chests.
You will tend to go for the Capitol, no matter what approach you took in the 1st week. Possible builds are (most probably not in the listed order and definitely not all of them):
Upgraded Harpy Loft (hiring Harpy Hags and Beholders)
Mage Guild Lvl II
Citadel (Harpy Loft)
Chapel of Stilled Voices
If you have to hire (more than the starting forces of another hero(!)or if the new Dungeon hero in the Tavern is not such a good deal), grade the Harpy Loft up and hire Beholders and Harpy Hags, then go for Citadel, Castle and Capitol. If not, you will save a lot of money and may get the Capitol really early. This will give you a chance to not only get in the listed creature dwellings, but it will give you the money to hire the creatures, too, if necessary.
With the magic approach all depends on how well you did until now and how your prospects are. You have no creature reserves to hire should unexpected danger arise und you may feel a little uncomfortable with the situation. A good way to continue after MG II and Mana Vortex on 6th and 7th day would be:
8. Citadel (a moat and a shooting tower for the town and a step to Capitol)
9. Harpy Loft
10. Pillar of Eyes (1000 gold each, saving money for the more expensive buildings)
If you aren't in trouble now continue with
Your main hero shouldn't be far away from your town on days 9-11. One reason is he will have to refill his mana, the 2nd is he may be needed to defend your home town because without your main hero you will be awfully vulnerable there. However, after the Castle build you will be more or less safe because your main hero in combination with the arrow towers and the troops you can muster should be enough to counter every reasonably possible attack.
If you have made good use of magic you will have brought in some additional money and just may be able to build the Capitol on 12th or maybe 13the day. Slipping in the Chapel on day 14 would see you in an excellent position now. If you can build Capitol on 12th day you will even be able to build the Labyrinth and if so your position is even better.
Not going for the Capitol isn't really an option. Without the Capitol you will never be able to build the Dragon Cave not to mention hire any. A gold mine or 2nd town early on won't change anything here. That would enable you to build the Capitol more easily. It makes no sense to build creature dwellings if you don't have the money to hire them.
Your goal is to build the Dragon Cave at the end of this week, so you have to build all mising creature dwellings. There is one dwelling you will upgrade no matter what and that's the Chapel. Shouldn't you have Harpy Hags already you'll grade the Harpy Loft up, too. The rest can wait. Depending on the map the Portal of Summoning may be a worthwile build. IF you build it, ALWAYS hire the creatures out of it with the exception of Trogs. Don't build it, if the only out-of-town dwelling is a Warren. Otherwise build it and hire it out. Don't grade your buildings up mechanically just to build something in case you have enough money. Keep an eye on resources and remember you'll need lots for at least the 3rd lvl mage guild and the Dragon Cave upgrade. If the Sulfur situation is dire, but there is enough money you may slip in the Resource Silo.
After the building of the Dragon Cave there are basically two possible ways to go. First of all, depending on the Sulfur situation, the Resource Silo may be a worthwile build. Now, if you have a good Warlock with a lot of spell power and maybe even one of the Resurrection specialists the upgrading of the Dragons may not be a pressing business. You'll build the 3rd level of your mage guild because you need it anyway. You may then wait with the Dragon upgrade and go for the mage guild instead. A Resurrection hero will be able to Resurrect lost Red Dragons or the 4th lvl may have the spell for you. You may get other decent spells allowing you to hire forces and cast spells.
With an Overlord, however, forget the 4th lvl guild and go for the Black Dragons. You will be outmagicked, but the Black Dragons will compensate for that.
If you play against the AI in a normal scenario and you survive up to a point where decent heroes and decent forces are around you will have not much trouble to win no matter what town you play or what hero you have. However, there's the odd really challenging scenario or MP game you play when a look into the tavern or Thieves' Den shows that there are other heroes around at least as good as yours and you are way behind in Kingdom Army Strength. Now, if you meet a hero of the same or even better quality than yours with comparable forces it will get tough and in those tough fights it makes a hell of a lot of difference if your main battling hero is a Warlock or an Overlord. The following table shows how many primary skill points the hero types will have on average in the might department (Attack and Defense) when they reach lvl 19 including the points they start with:
Barbarian, Beastmaster 17
Knight, Overlord, Ranger 16
Battle Mage, Death Knight 12
Cleric, Necromancer 8
Druid, Witch, Wizard 7
What that means is, your Warlock will be inferior to every other hero type in the might department and he or she won't have Offense or Armorer or even Tactics either. Since with the exception of Black Dragons and Minotaur Kings Dungeon units aren't exactly the best around a Warlock won't make them any better in comparison to another hero of the same level. When Warlocks battle another hero of roughly the same level and with roughly the same amount of troops they have to win their fights with magic simply because they will lose them without. Obviously, since other heroes have magic available, too, Warlocks need BETTER magic then those, specifically magic that puts the Warlocks's strength to good use: high spell power. Resurrection comes to mind, Sacrifice, the Summon Elemental spells, Berserk (as a spell useful without needing spell power) plus, of course, all raw damage spells (with Armageddon as a special spell)! Here it WON'T be the 1st lvl Mass spells that will make all the difference; they are not enough of an advantage and the opponent may just be able to cast one or another, too. No question about it, with expert Fire Magic the Berserk spell is the most effective battle spell around. If you've got it, well, who needs troops when the opponent has them? However, if you don't have the Berserk spell, then what?
First of all it is important to realize that you are indeed vulnerable if you face a hero superior in the might department. Here is an example what may happen to the unwary: You have Alamar as main hero. He is lvl 19 and with Artifacts and location visits he is 9 8 15 12. Among other skills he has expert Wisdom, Earth Magic, Fire Magic, and Sorcery and enough Spell Points after the Mana Vortex visit. His troops are 7 Black Dragons, 12 Scorpicores, 25 Minotaur Kings, 35 Medusa Queens, 70 Evil Eyes, 90 Harpy Hags and 200 Infernal Trogs. He has of course the Resurrection spell, he has Meteor Shower, he has Implosion, he has Armageddon, but no Berserk; you feel quite invincible. Out of the blue Jabarkas the Barbarian (special in Orcs) attacks you! While you wait and watch him arrange his troops as he seems to have advanced Tactics you are quite certain with your 240 Spell Points that you'll win this battle and you just hope you will be able to Blind the last remaining Barbarian stack to Resurrect your losses. Jabarkas has 9 Ancient Behemoths, 14 Cyclops Kings, 30 Thunderbirds, 35 Ogre Magi, 65 Orc Chieftains, 100 Wolf Raiders and 200 Hobgoblins. Since Jabarkas arranged his troops so that no initial double hex attack is possible you just pass your turn with them, belatedly realizing that you better had taken a look at Jabarkas's stats. Anyway, it will be the Scorpicores's turn after the T-Birds, won't it? To your horror you see Jabarkas Mass Hasting his troops and his T-Birds attacking your Scorpicores. You don't believe your eyes, when the T-Birds kill 8 Scorpicores and then their special is triggered killing the rest! Now the Behemoths lumber forward attacking your Dragons and killing 3, for heaven's sake, while the retaliation of your remaining 4 Dragons don't even kill 1 Behemoth! The 14 Cyclops that have been moved within the 10 hex range via Tactics now target the Dragons and kill another one and the Wolf Raiders and Goblins kill the remaining 3! The Orcs now target the Minotaur Kings and you can't believe how many Minotaur Kings they kill. And lastly the Ogre Mages come forward and hit the remaining Minotaur Kings. Only a few Minotaur Kings remain and it is now your turn. You click on Jabarkas to have a look at his stats: 18 12 9 7. Of course he has expert Offense, he seems to have expert Air Magic and he has advanced Tactics. There was no double turn (Leadership) or Luck involved (just imagine a double move or a lucky hit with the Behemoths). You can now Resurrect either the Minotaur Kings or the Scorpicores (but not the Dragons) or you can cast a damage spell, but the damage is already done: your Dragons are dead and you can't profitably cast Armageddon anymore. If you Resurrect, how will you kill the 9 Behemoths? If you Implosion the Behemoths what troops will you have left? And the opponent's troops are still Hasted, of course, and will ALL move before your own in the 2nd round! Frankly, the battle is already lost. You can do some damage to Jabarkas now, but you won't win the battle anymore.
What you should have done, of course, is cast a spell right away. Implosion would have done 1635 damage, killing 5 Behemoths. Meteor Shower would have done 545 damage per afflicted stack, but since Jabarkas rearranged his troops so that the Dragons couldn't launch a 2-hex attack this doesn't seem to be the right damage spell. Armageddon would have done 960 damage per stack, but that would have killed your own troops as well - except your Dragons, of course. What I would do here is Imploding the Behemoths and then move the Dragons to the place on the map where they would be protected best against any attacks (if that was not the case already), trying to conserve the Dragons and preparing the casting of Armageddon. Now, no matter whether you Implode the Behemoths or immediately Armageddon the whole battlefield:
Once you see the necessity to maybe cast Armageddon in the course of the battle, your normal troops are dogfood anyway and you can act accordingly and sacrifice them prior to casting in order to 1) protect your Dragons and 2) attrition down the opposing stacks with the most HPs.
So with a Warlock there's nothing wrong with casting heavy damage spells right away!
Furthermore, with a Warlock battles reduce to the following questions, no matter what town you fight: 1) What spells do I have; 2) Are my troops in combination with the might stats of my hero good enough to win the battle with "constructive" spells alone; 3) If not, what destructive spell is there to cast and when to cast Armageddon; 4) After beginning with a destructive heavyweight spell, can I afford to cast Resurrect in later rounds.
With an Overlord you have to make use of more conventional battle tactics. True, a hero with Spell Power 9 and no Fire Magic or Sorcery at all will still do 480 Armageddon damage, but look what will happen in the above example if your hero is no Warlock but an Overlord. With the same lvl 19, location visits, and artifacts stats may be 14 14 9 8. His skills are expert Tactics, not only negating the Tactics advantage of the Barbarian but giving yourself now the option to arrange your troops(!), expert Offense, expert Leadership, advanced Wisdom, expert Earth Magic, advanced Armorer plus Logistics and Ballistics. The Overlord has a lot of conventional battle options now. The Barbarian's troops will do a lot less damage and yours will do more. Mass Haste won't do the Barbarian that much good while you will massively profit from things like Mass Shield and Mass Stone Skin.
So the following tips and hints are mainly for battles where your main hero is an Overlord.
But no matter what kind of hero you have one thing should be clear: You can replace every troop, especially with the Resurrect spell, but you can't replace a Black Dragon, so be really careful with them and protect them, if necessary.
Lastly, when it comes to attacking towns there is no better force than yours. Only Minotaur Kings and Trogs are not usable as long as the walls stand (so Ballistics is no high-priority skill for your heroes). You have 3 Flyers, lvls 6 and 7 among them and the low level Harpy Hags, while not the biggest damage-doers, may attack from outside the walls and back away right after the attack - which can be really annoying for an opponent.
Dungeon tactics against other towns(follow the link)