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 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.
Having a fully built up town with all upgrades, you can recruit 2650 Hit Points per week, the most of all towns. You have to pay 26620 Gold + 4 C for them, so the average HP cost you roughly 10.05 gold which is cheapest. Those HPs do average Damage relatively (Rampart's creatures are not the best damage doers), but lots of damage absolutely (due to your masses of creatures and HPs).
To get all upgraded creature dwellings (including fort, tavern, castle and capitol) you need 90500 gold (which is average and in the lines of Dungeon and Tower), but you need 65 Crystals, the biggest single demand for one of the 4 more precious resources, while your Wood and Ore demand is average.
Building every structure in a Rampart costs 106000 gold which is still average. The resource demands grow correspondingly including 95 Crystals, still the biggest single resource demand.
Your heroes are the Ranger (Might) and Druid (Magic). Both hero types have clear preferences. A typical level 19 Ranger looks something like 7 10 3 4 (without artefacts and locations visits), while a typical Druid looks something like 3 5 7 8.
Rangers don't have a fixed secondary skill, while all Druids come equipped with Wisdom. Druids can't get Necromancy, while Battle Mages are barred from getting Necromancy and Fire Magic. Rangers will have trouble getting Air Magic, Eagle Eye, Estates, Scholar, Sorcery and Water Magic (with Water Magic having better chances than Air Magic). The chances of getting Ballistics, Diplomacy, Earth Magic, First Aid, Learning, Mysticism, Navigation and Wisdom are fair, while you will have no problems acquiring the remaining skills with Resistance having the highest probability. Druids won't get Air Magic, Artillery, Fire Magic, Leadership, Navigation, Offense, Resistance, Scouting and Tactics very often, while the chances of getting Armorer, Ballistics, Diplomacy, Earth Magic, Estates, Learning and Water Magic are fair. Druids won't have problems to get the remaining skills with Luck having the highest probability. Note, that both hero types are prime candidates for getting Archery and Logistics (aside from Luck and Pathfinding).
On average a Ranger will have Earth Magic only as a magic school, while a Druid will probably get Earth Magic and Water Magic. It is obvious, that even though the Ranger is a fine hero type he will struggle in the magic area. This is compensated by the fact that every Ranger will get Resistance as secondary skill and that some Rampart creatures have special abilities that support a magic immunity. The latter is quite useful for Druids, too, because the Druid is not nearly the best magic hero available.
Resistance is a useful skill for every hero, but because of the special abilities of the Rampart creatures (namely Dwarves, Unicorns and Dragons) which support or even enhance the effect of Resistance for Rampart it is all the more so. Druids, however, will get Resistance only once in a while (lowest probability together with Artillery, Fire Magic, Offense and Tactics), while every Ranger will either come equipped with it or get it sooner than later.
A look on specials and pre-equipped secondary skills of the Rampart heroes has the same result: While Druids make useful heroes, the specials and secondary skills they come equipped with are clearly not first league. With Rangers it is quite another thing. Ivor comes with Archery and Offense and has the Elves as a special, Jenova gives 350 gold a day, Kyrre comes with Archery and Logistics and has the Logistics special, Mephala comes with Leadership and Armorer and has the Armorer special (meaning a high level Mephala will take increasingly less damage; a level 12 Mephala will take 24% damage less from hand-to-hand combat which is a lot), Ryland comes with Leadership and Diplomacy (meaning, he will get joins and those joins won't hurt the morale) while the Dendroid special will make the slowest Rampart unit faster, and Thorgrim comes with advanced Resistance and the Resistance special (meaning a high level Thorgrim will be virtually immune against magic). Clancy and Ufretin are not as good as the rest, but note that Ufretins Dwarven special might come in handy at the beginning of a scenario because of the increased speed of the Dwarves.
However, there is a third reason to go for the Ranger type. Another key skill - Tactics - is virtually out of reach for Druids, while Rangers will get it more often than not. A Tactics advantage allows you to arrange your troops before the start of the battle, and this is important for you, either to immediately guard your Elves or to decrease the distance to the opposing forces, giving your Dendroids the chance to get into battle sooner.
Once in a while there will be no Rangers available for hire and you have to accept a Druid as your main hero. This may have far reaching consequences. You can't rely on Tactics and Resistance or on high Attack and Defense Values. On the other hand you'll have much more Spell Power and Knowledge (Elleshar might not be a bad choice here). With a Druid as your main hero go for all levels of the Mage Guild before you grade the Dragons up! In fact, should you get Resurrect you may consider not grading the Green Dragons up at all (or much much later in the game; after the building of a full Mage Guild it will take some time anyway, until you have the necessary Crystals for the upgrade!). This will save a lot of money and resources, plus you will be able to Resurrect, Prayer and Clone your Dragons! The only downside is that the Dragons are now affected by Berserk and Armageddon, so be on the lookout for Armageddon forces out there and have a weary eye on Inferno heroes (they tend to have expert Fire Magic). Should your Mage Guild has big damage spells you can use them now with effect (a Ranger won't be able to do that). This will change your battle tactics quite a lot. What is a reasonable tactic with a Druid then, is casting high damage spells and hide behind your HPs.
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.
You can build a full Mage Guild, but since your best heroes belong to the Ranger type BATTLE Magic of the higher levels is not your main concern. Since you need LOTS of Crystals to get your creature dwellings you will have difficulties to build the interesting 4th and 5th levels of your guild.
The Rampart Mage Guild can't get Bloodlust, Curse, Death Ripple, Animate Dead, Armageddon, Sacrifice, Summon Air Elemental and Summon Fire Elemental which is no loss because you won't get Fire Magic anyway.
Because of the limitations of your heroes your most important spells are the 1st level Earth Magic and Water Magic Mass spells. On the higher levels there are 4 good level 4 spells for you (Town Portal, Resurrect, Prayer and Clone). Happy the Rampart player who will get 2 out of that 4.
Should there be a situation in battle when you are not hard pressed to cast a specific spell (Mass Slow, for instance, because the opponent has Hasted his units) and you don't have real burners like Clone or Prayer, but do have expert Water Magic consider casting Mass Bless. Some stats tell, how effective Bless is (what follows is a list of the upgraded Rampart creatures with the average damage one full weekly production does against a stack with attack and defense 10 followed in brackets by the Blessed damage and the percentage gain):
Centaur Captains: 63 ( 100; 58.7%)
Battle Dwarves: 55 ( 92; 67.3%)
Grand Elves: 109 ( 163; 50%)
Silver Pegasi: 68 ( 97; 42.6%)
Dendroid Soldiers: 93 ( 117; 25%)
War Unicorns: 100 (115 ; 15%)
All in all this is a gain of 35% which is not bad at all considering the fact that the low level units including the Elves getting the most out of it
See the Battling Forces section for more on spells.
Let's compare the Rampart units with the other creatures of the corresponding levels (Conflux EXCLUDED). The following table will list 3 figures for every Rampart creature in the form X/Y/Z. X is the rank in abolute strength of a unit, a measure of all stats, where 1 is best and 8 is worst; Y is simply the ranking in price where 1 is most expensive and 8 is cheapest (note that ideally X and Y should be equal); Z is the quotient of both or a measure of what you get for 1 gold, (For example a unit may be best in its level and it may be the most expensive which would be normal. However, it may be much, much more expensive than the others resulting in a bad result here or it may be much better than the rest but only slightly more expensive resulting in a good result.) where 1 is best or most cost effective and 8 is worst.
Centaur Captain: 1/1/2
Battle Dwarf: 5/4-5/2*
Wood Elf: 6/3-6/6
Grand Elf: 3/6/4
Silver Pegasus: 4/7/1
Dendroid Guard: 7/8/2
Dendroid Soldier: 7/8/5
War Unicorn: 5/8/2
Green Dragon (Resources not counted): 4/4/3
Gold Dragon (Resources not counted): 3/4-5/2
*Differences between Obsidian Gargoyles, Battle Dwarves, Magogs and Wolf Raiders are marginal, so rank 5 may lead to a wrong impression.
Now, what does this table tell us? First of all it seems that Rampart has medium strong units on every level except on the first where they have the best and on the 5th where they are 2nd worst (note, however, that Rampart gets 2 more units than normal on the 5th level). However, there is not one single creature more expensive than would have to be expected from the strength ranking. The second figure is either higher than the first or at least equal. This, of course, explains the overall very high ranking in the cost effectivity column where only Wood Elfs, Grand Elves and Dendroid Soldiers are worse than 3rd and most creatures are ranked either 1st or 2nd. So with Rampart creatures you may not get the best creatures overall, but you get the best for your money quite often.
Clearly the best 1st level unit. Even the simple Centaur is better than every other 1st level creature with the exception of the Halberdier, while the Centaur Captain is as good (or in some cases like Archer, Lizardman and Walking Dead even better) as most non upgraded 2nd level units. Considering the high price of them they should be exactly that.
Since the upgrade cost 1000 Gold and 5 Wood and you don't need that much Wood for your creature dwellings you will be able to upgrade them relatively early. Their high speed of 8 and their high Damage Value make them useful even later on in the game. In masses they are able to kill low level stacks alone or to finish off higher level stacks already attacked in a given battle round.
A sturdy unit with solid Hit Points cranked out in sufficient numbers with a Magic Resistance special of 20 and 40%, respectively. With the horde building a fully producing Rampart delivers 20 Battle Dwarves per week or 400 Hit Points. In time this will add up to an impressive number of them, and while they are not the most dangerous unit damage-wise a big stack of Battle Dwarves is a great unit to eat up retaliations. On the other hand Dwarves and Battle Dwarves won't play any role in the initial days of a scenario. The Dwarves would slow your hero down and that's not what you want. So leave all Dwarves at home that come with your heroes. Grade them up after the Centaurs and buy them as Battle Dwarves only.
Let's see, how sturdy them Dwarves really are. 60 Dwarves led by a Ranger face 54 Wolf Raiders led by a Battle Mage. The Attack/Defense differential will probably be around 0. Wolf Raiders are faster, so they wait the Dwarves out and then attack. Their first hit does 162-216 damage killing 9 Dwarves on average. Assuming an Attack/Defense differential of +2, the remaining 51 Battle Dwarves retaliate for 112-224 damage, killing 16 Wolf Raiders on average. Now the remaining 38 Wolf Raiders hit again for 114-152 damage, killing another 7 Dwarves on average. So after the first Wolf Raiders attack we have 44 Battle Dwarves facing 38 Wolf Raiders which is not nearly good enough for the Wolf Raiders.
Using the Dwarves as kamikaze stack you decide to attack a stack of 14 Wyvern Monarchs with your stack of 90 Battle Dwarves. The unmodified A/D differential is -7 and since the opposing Beastmaster will have a higher Defense Value than you have an Attack Value, let's assume an A/D differential of -10. 90 Battle Dwarves will do a modified damage of 135-270 damage, killing just short of 3 WMs on average which is not very impressive. On the other hand you just want to eat up retaliation for attacks with other units of yours, so the interesting question is, how many Dwarves will you lose? The A/D differential is +7 for the Wyvern Monarchs, but this will reduce because of the high Defense value of your heroes compared to the lower Attack value of the opponent, say to +4. 12 Wyvern Monarchs will do a modified damage of 239-316, killing 13 Battle Dwarves on average or around 1 per Wyvern Monarch. Not a substantial loss.
Because of their sturdyness Battle Dwarves would make great guards for the Elves, but as we will see, Dwarves and Dendroids won't always do as guards for the Elves in later stages of the game (neither speed nor hex wise), so you may use at least either Dwarves or Dendroids in other ways.
Grand Elves are a really amazing unit. Their power is the result of a combination of the 2 shots special (making them a 4th level shooter damage wise) and the high numbers generated: 14 per week. Compare the average full damage of one regular weekly production of shooters in the game (against unit with Defense Value 4/against unit with DV12/ against unit with DV 20): Marksmen: 99/76/58; Zealots: 92/66/52; Evil Eyes: 72/53/42; Medusa Queens: 72/53/42; Lizard Warriors: 69/53/41; Magogs: 73/56/43 (including modification for special); Power Liches: 150/109/86 (including modification for special); Orc Chieftains: 58/44/34; Cyclops Kings: 118/90/66; Master Gremlins: 48/38/28; Arch Magi: 89/64/51; Titans: 200/160/120; Storm Elementals: 75/55/43; Ice Elementals: 72/54/42. And lastly Grand Elves: 140/104/81. Expert Archery, a skill both Rampart heroes will get easily, modifies this to: 196/155/121 which is roughly the effectivity of Titans.
So as long as Grand Elves are able to shoot they are deadly, but once the enemy can engage them in hand-to-hand combat they are dead meat. Damage is practically quartered (Archery doesn't help either) and with only 15 Hit Points they are dangerously vulnerable and go down the drain fast even if attacked by low level units. It obviously makes a lot of sense to shield them with other units.
No matter what difficulty level you play, you will build the Homestead in the first week and upgrade the building on the 8th day (on impossible difficulty; on easier difficulties you may upgrade earlier). You will then buy all Grand Elves, form 2 (or maybe even 3) stacks with your Centaurs to shield the Elves and go flagging.
Later on in the game your battle tactics will depend mostly on how well the Elves will do compared to the enemy shooters, so this is indeed your central and most important unit.
Probably the most underrated unit of the game. First of all you get 10 per week instead of the usual 8. And you can hire both Pegasi and Silver Pegasi for a bargain price. Since you won't get Unicorns nor Dragons without building the Enchanted Spring you'll have to invest the necessary 10 Crystals some time in the 2nd week, but you will be reluctant to spend the necessary 5 Crystals for the upgrade because you need them for Dragons Cliffs and Mage Guild. If it is possible for you to grade the building up without having to postpone the building of the Dragon Cliffs a full week, grade it up. It's worth it.
But even without upgrading them the Pegasi are a worthwile addition to your army immediately after building the Enchanted Spring. Their special is useful, especially against might heroes with low Knowledge values, since it makes every spell cast 2 points more expensive for the opponent. This may not be much later on in the game, when high level spells are cast, but in midgame it may make a difference because the casting of low level spells will be quite expensive.
Furthermore, Pegasi and Silver Pegasi are fast and may be used as light cavalry, killing low level units, or even as guard for your elves, blocking 2 hexes and being fast enough to move early on. Since they come in reasonable numbers, they are a threat for every unit, their relatively low Health of 30 HPs notwithstanding, so they are your multi-purpose unit without fixed role.
DENDROID GUARDS/DENDROID SOLDIERS
With the horde building in place you'll get 8 of them every week, and this amounts to 520 Hit Points per week which is the most one single dwelling cranks out with the exception of Ancient Behemoths, Black Dragons, Titans and Firebirds/Phoenixes. Since even on impossible difficulty you will normally be able to build the Dendroid Arches in the first week, chances are that at any given time your stack of Dendroids (once you have hired them all) will be the single stack with the most HPs on the whole map (of course there may always be a stack of Skeltons with more HPs!). However, chances are that it will be the slowest stack on the map, too.
Since it costs no resources to build or upgrade the Arches it is a good build early on, so you may have Dendroids available at the end of the first week. Since Dendroid Guards are even slower than Dendroid Soldiers and you have more important builds than the upgrading of the Dendroids you are better off when you leave them at home initially (and don't hire them at all) because they would only slow your (scouting) heroes down.
Later on you will need those HPs. The natural role of the Dendroids is playing bodyguard for the Elves, but without Tactics you may not be able to get them into proper position before the enemy strikes.
Anyway, be it that the enemy comes to you or be it that you come to the enemy (which you would have to do in case your Elves are outgunned), your aim is to get the Dendroids into action. They have a somewhat low Attack Value so they will do only moderate damage, but this will be compensated by their relatively high numbers. Their special is most useful as it enables you to force opposing stacks to fight either not at all or against the Dendroids which more often than not is a thankless task. 5th and higher level creature stacks will be outmassed while lower level stacks will be outgunned. Provided there are roughly equal heroes it is impossible for any opposing force to reduce the Dendroids significantly with one strike. The heaviest damage will be done by Ancient Behemoths and Archangels, so let's see, what they can do against the Dendroids.
Beginning with the 7th week you may have as much as 46 Dendroid Soldiers in your force. It would be possible to face 9 Archangels and even 11 Ancient Behemoths then. So 9 AAs attack your 46 Dendroid Soldiers. The A/D differential is 18, maybe modified to 16 against a Knight and to 12 against a Cleric because of the high Defense Value of your Ranger. So the AAs do 810 damage with a Knight and 720 damage with Cleric killing 11 or 12 of your Dendroids, roughly a quarter.
With Ancient Behemoths the modified Defense Value of the Dendroids would be reduced to something like 4 or 5, giving the Behemoths probably an A/D differential of something like +24 or so. In this case 11 ABs would do 726-1210 damage, killing 11-18 Dendroid Soldiers. Hefty, but far from deadly. You will have 30 Dendroids left, still a force to be reckoned with.
What about magic? Implosion hurts, right? So you face an enemy hero with Spell Power 15, expert Earth Magic, expert Sorcery and the Implosion spell. Provided he gets a spell through to your Dendroids which is no sure thing - the spell might be resisted -, it will do 1638 damage, killing 25 Dendroid Soldiers, but still leaving some 20 of them.
With normal troops when having a choice what to attack you will almost always make the most profitable attack - doing the highest possible damage and at the same time losing as few HPs as possible. However, with Dendroids this ain't necessarily so. When having a choice with the Dendroids it may pay to make a less profitable attack to simply make the attacked unit immovable. Prime candiates for this are high speed high level flyers like Dragons, Angels, Devils, Efreets, even Thunderbirds, Phoenixes and so on, but also units like Cavaliers (negating the special and reducing damage) and Mighty Gorgons (having the special applied to a unit that can take it), Vampire Lords, Naga Queens and other non-retaliation units as well as multi-hex attacking units like Hydras. Once attacked by the Dendroids they are practically out of the battle, forced to fight the Dendroids when there is no other unit of you adjacent to them. So if you have a choice, choose wisely what to attack with them.
Since the normal Unicorn already has both specials it is no mistake to hire normal Unicorns in case you can't upgrade them immediately and you are in need of troops. The unit as such is average. 90 HPs, average Attack and Defense Values, average Damage value, average speed, average to low price. No strengths, no weaknesses. However, the specials make the Unicorn better than that. The 20% chance to Blind an enemy is equal to a 20% chance of no retaliation with the added plus of taking the unit out of combat for 3 rounds. The second special gives adjacent units a 20% chance to resist spells which adds to the overall Resistance of the hero and/or the Dwarves, so the placement of the Unicorns is not unimportant (see the Battling Forces section).
The upgrade gives 2 speed and 20 HPs while making them not much more expensive, so go for it.
Unicorns and War Unicorns are tank troops that deal serious damage and can take a punch or two. Don't hesitate to attack with them, the more the better, so the special may be triggered. Note, however, that there are some units immune to the special, all undead amongst them.
Once in battle, because of the resistance special it pays to try to keep as many of your troops near the Unicorns provided this won't give the opponent an opportunity for profitable multi-hex attacks. This involves some planning ahead and most probably a concentration of attacks on 2 or 3 enemy stacks.
GREEN DRAGONS/GOLD DRAGONS
First of all the Gold Dragon upgrade is the 2nd best of the whole game (right after the Giants-Titan upgrade) and that includes the Conflux. Hiring Green Dragons and moving out with them is not recommended. While Green Dragons are by no means a bad unit, Gold Dragons are more than twice as effective, so get the upgrade and get it fast.
Dragons can stand for themselves and may attack everything except Mighty Gorgons (provided they can't kill them with one blast). That doesn't mean, however, that they are able to fight a significant enemy force alone and without help. Handling the Dragons and their specials and coordinating the Rampart's units effectively will be an issue in the Battling Forces section.
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 Crystal Mine, an Ore Pit or a Sawmill take it immediately, if you have a decent chance. You will need Crystals, Crystals and more Crystals plus lots of Wood in the beginning and Ore. On very hard difficulty you will recruit another hero on the first day and equip him or her with a spell book. Try to flag a second Crystal Mine as soon as and if possible.
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.
1. Mage Guild level one (equip Ranger(s) with spell book(s))
2. Town Hall
3. Market Place
5. City Hall
7. Citadel/Dendroid Arches/Enchanted Spring/Dwarf Cottage
Note that it makes no difference for you if you got the Dwarf Cottage for free or not because the Dwarf Cottage is a stand alone building. Its only prerequisite are the Centaur Stables while it is no prerequisite for anything. The first 6 builds cost 12500 Gold, 25 Wood and 5 Ore. On impossible difficulty you might not be able to build on every day and the building sequence might have to be changed due to money/resources shortages (you may have to begin with the Market Place, for example). However, you have to build the Homestead in the first week. So, as 25 Wood are a lot, you may change the sequence as follows, when you are unsure if there will be enough Wood. Begin with the Town Hall and slip in the Homestead as soon as possible. Since the upgrade of the Homestead will cost another 10 Wood the Dwarf Cottage is a reasonable build only when you virtually swim in Wood, but money is a definite problem (the Dwarf Cottage costs 1000 Gold + 5 Wood to build). With the Citadel (2500 Gold + 5 Ore) you will raise the immediate Elven output and do an important step into the direction of the Capitol which should be built fast, but Castle and Capitol will cost you 15000 Gold, 10 Wood and 10 Ore, so if you can foresee trouble getting enough Wood and/or money fast enough (think of the Homestead upgrade!) go for the Dendroid Arches (2500 Gold). If you have 10 Crystals already, consider the building of the Enchanted Spring (2000 Gold + 10 Crystals), because the Pegasi are a useful and fast unit you can immediately hire while the Dendroids will only slow you down, so you won't hire them.
On most maps it pays to have a second hero, so if you have the money hire another hero, especially when it is one of the 6 "good" Rangers or if it es a hero with the 350 Gold special.
8. Upgraded Homestead
This build is a must. Grade all Wood Elves up, buy all Grand Elves (and maybe some Pegasi if you did build the Enchanted Spring), equip your most promising Ranger with them and flag everything in the vicinity you didn't flag yet. Build guard stacks with your Centaurs (and Pegasi). If you have Tactics already 2 guard stacks are enough. If you don't have Tactics and the opposing stacks have speed 7 or faster, build 3 guarding stacks. Position the Elves left or right most and give the stack farest away from the Elves only 1 unit (except against other shooters where you should divide your Elves in 3 stacks).
What you will build the rest of the week depends on the money and resources you have and on what you built on the 7th day. Try to get the Capitol as early as possible, so Citadel and Castle have to be built. Enchanted Spring, Dendroid Arches and Unicorn Glades are further builds you'd like to see, so find chests and gold piles. You need money. Once you are sure that you will have the means to ensure those buildings, go for the Capitol. You must plan your builds ahead because you may have to save your money one or two turns, so check out what is possible. If you will get problems building the Unicorn Glade in the 2nd week, GO FOR THE CAPITOL IF AND WHEN THERE ARE CHANCES FOR GETTING THE NECESSARY RESOURCES FOR THE DRAGON CLIFFS UNTIL THE END OF THE 3RD WEEK. If not, build the Glade. Further possible builds are Dwarf Cottage, Miners' Guild and Dendroid Saplings. Forget the Treasury. You won't have money left at the end of the week to take advantage of it. Forget the Mystic Pond, too. The gain is worse than a Windmill and you need 2000 Gold and 2 Crystals (among others) to build it. Which you can't afford. It wouldn't to to get 1 Mercury from the Pond on day 15. Don't make the mistake of building every turn. That way you will never get a Capitol.
If you still don't have a Capitol build it as fast as possible now. Save money, if necessary. As soon as you have the Capitol up build the Resource Silo. You'll need it. Build everything listed under 2nd week not built already. You need a 2nd level Mage Guild for the Dragon Cliffs, so build it. It doesn't matter if you can build the Dragon Cliffs immediately after that or not. Having 2nd level spells available can't hurt. You will have serious difficulties to get the necessary resources for the Dragon Cliffs. After having built the Enchanted Spring you will have to get 24 Crystals and 35 Ore for the 2nd level Mage Guild and the Dragon Cliffs alone and this is a lot. If there is a chance to build it resource and money wise (maybe by way of going to the Market and exchange Mercury and/or Sulfur for Crystals and/or Ore), but you'd have to forego another building because you wouldn't have enough money for both, go for the Dragon Cliffs. Again, forget the Treasury, except with a daily income of 7000 Gold and more (1 Capitol, 1 City Hall, 1 Gold Mine). If you have that income, build it.
The Dragon Cliffs are a must now. 4th week, 7th day is definitely the last day to build it. Grade structures up. What you need desperately is a Hillfort. If there is one, you can save a lot of money and resources and go for the remaining Mage Guild levels. If there is none and if you still get only 2 Crystals per day (and didn't get some at Mills or something) you have a decision to make: Going for the Gold Dragon upgrade or going for the Mage Guild. You need the 3rd level anyway, so build it. Now, how does your main hero(es) look? What Spell Power does (s)he have? 4 or more? What Knowledge? 6 or more? Does (s)he have Wisdom on advanced level? Does he or she has at least advanced Earth Magic so Resurrect and Town Portal would be a big gain? Does he or she have have another magic School, especially Water Magic, hopefully on expert level? If you can answer all of the above questions with Yes, you may go for the Guild! (See under Heroes; if your main hero is a Druid you may go for the Mage Guild no matter what). If not, hey, who needs high level mage guilds when you are as magically resistant as Rampart? Prerequisites for building the Treasury are still the same as in the 3rd week. The snag with the Treasury is, you want to save as much money as possible, but because of the chance of a plague week you will have to buy creatures first. Having lots of money but no creatures wouldn't do.
It may not be obvious but it is definitely possible to frag up with Rampart. Why so? To answer this question let's take a look at the easy situations:
1) You have a distinct Tactics advantage, expert Water Magic and the Prayer spell (since even your Druid hero type is no favourite for getting Air Magic (not to mention on expert level) the Haste spell will do you not much good here. Without at least advanced Air Magic the spell will give your Dendroids +3 speed only (giving the Soldiers speed 7 on non-grass ground) which would be just enough in case of expert Tactics and the full Tactics advantage (the enemy hero must not have basic or better Tactics), but your Dwarves would still be out of battle and the enemy had free magic reign after the casting of a simple Haste). No problem. Deploy your units (against Castle and Inferno so, that Angels and Devils can't reach the Elves, meaning, guarded, on the map fringe, but forward oriented, so that the guards can be used offensively), then, when it's the Dragons' turn and the enemy didn't cast a (lasting) spell, cast Mass Prayer and attack the enemy killing those units first that would get a move before you have moved all of your units and then reducing the units that could reach your (now unguarded) Elves. If there is a next turn cast Mass Bless and that was that.
2) The enemy has no shooter power to speak of and no magic to hurt your Elves. No problem either. Let the enemy come (he has to), harrass him with your Elves and then confront him with the weight of your HPs and one or two spells in the right moment. Case closed.
However, there are situations, when the Elves are outgunned or when the enemy has some nasty spells so that it wouldn't be wise to just sit around. Or you may have no Tactics advantage and the enemy may fly a good unit like Archangels, Efreet Sultans, Black Dragons and so on right to your Elves so you can't shoot with them, while the enemy has shooters himself. And finally there are Towns out there where the guarding of the Elves poses danger in itself by offering a target for surplus damage: Dungeon (Black Dragons' double hex attack), Conflux (Phoenixes' double hex attack), Necropolis (Power Liches), Inferno (Magogs). Furthermore Fortress (Chaos Hydras), Inferno (Cerberi) and Conflux (Magic Elementals) have further units capable for multi-hex attacks. The remaining towns, Castle, Stronghold and Tower, have all good shooters themselves and at least 2 stacks of them at that and their heroes are the prime candidates for getting Air Magic (fast).
The reason why it is so easy to frag up with Rampart is the fact that you have many strengths that are difficult to combine them to a powerful whole, because every strength is linked to a weakness as we will see, and the strengths are somehow contradictory:
1) Magic Resistance. Your biggest asset. This one is of course fully employed only with a Ranger what in turn means that you won't be that strong yourself magically. Your Gold Dragons embody this contradiction. They are immune to most bad spells, but they are immune to virtually all good spells, too.
2) Grand Elves. A real mighty shooter, but shooter power in one stack and therefore more easily to eliminate as a threat. Guarding the Elves binds forces.
3) Hit Points. You produce the most HPs of all towns, but 35% of those HPs are so slow it is difficult to utilize them for offense.
Adding 2 and 3 together leads to the following conclusion: If the Elves are eliminated as a threat the composition of your force is awkward to say the least, because a big chunk of your force is not able to reach the enemy fast. On the other hand, as long as there is the Elven threat you are capable to confront the enemy with the full might of your HP advantage.
If fighting a serious force led by a good hero the biggest mistake you could make would be to divide your troops attacking the enemy directly with your faster units while guarding the Elves with the slower troops. It is obviously a good thing to be able to engage the enemy troops with ALL your forces and not only with a part of it, especially when the part not engaging makes 35% of your HPs. You can't afford that.
So without the right magic support (Prayer) your aim is to keep the Elves intact as a shooting unit and eliminate the enemy shooters. Take advantage of the fact that your high magic resistance will lead to the squandering of enemy spells giving you "free" (meaning in a sense of "not forced to cast") spells. Since every town has its own unit composition Rampart tactics radically differ from town to town and are subject to closer examination below.
On the other hand, should the Elves be eliminated as a threat and you have to come to the enemy, don't rush it! Take a volley or two (your units can take it), but see to it, that your fast units are not fighting alone while your slow units are behind and out of the battle. This would give the opponent a chance to kill your units one after the other.
When playing with Dragons there are some things to consider:
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 have neither (Mass) Haste nor (Mass) Prayer (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.
Gold Dragons are immune against all spells except the level 5 spells. This means, they won't profit from Prayer, Clone and Resurrect, but they won't suffer from Armageddon, Berserk and Chain Lightning either. However, they can be Imploded. Sacrifice is a usable spell, but you won't get it in your Rampart (or in any other town except Dungeon, Inferno or Necropolis) nor will your Heroes get Fire Magic, so the enemy will far more often be able to Implode your Dragons than you will be able to Sacrifice one of your stacks to resurrect them back. Another setback of the Sacrifice spell is the fact that you will have trouble to find the right unit to Sacrifice for the Resurrection of your Dragons. The mechanics of that spell make it more favourable to sacrifice a high number of low HP units than a low number of high HP units. Example: Having a hero with Spell Power 6 and no Fire Magic you'll need to sacrifice 11 Dendroid Soldiers (715 HPs), 20 Pegasi (600 HPs), 26 Dwarves (520 HPs) or 40 Centaur Captains (400 HPs) to resurrect 3 Gold Dragons. Note, that you'd need only 75 PEASANTS (for 75 HPs!) or 58 (Master) Gremlins or Imps/Familiars (232 HPs) to get the same effect.
While this is open to discussion I feel that Gold Dragons are the unit in the game that Magic Mirror to cast upon may make most sense. First of all this is an eligible 5th level spell for your Guild. Secondly it IS indeed a kind of a precaution against the Dragons being Imploded as Anti-Magic is not available. On the other hand your hero will almost always have better spells to cast than Magic Mirror. A situation where it may make sense is one where you have clearly the better forces and/or clearly the better hero in the might department while the enemy does have a formidable magic hero and you can't destroy him immediately. Here it may pay to cast Magic Mirror onto your Dragons because there is no need to cast other spells. On the other hand in such a situation Anti-Magic on the Elves might be the better move.
Another interesting spell to cast is Clone (in the right moment). Even though you can't Clone your best unit, there are situations where it may pay to Clone the Elves, the Unicorns or even the Dendroids(!). A Dendroid Clone will make another stack of the enemy immovable, but it has to be a stack already hit.
What about Teleport? The prime target for Teleport are the Dendroids and there may be situations where it would have good effect. On the other hand Teleporting the Dendroids means wasting a spell right in the middle of a combat round. If the enemy cast a spell already, Mass Slow or Mass Bless will almost always be better. If not, well, don't try at least against the primary Air Magic candidates Castle, Tower and Stronghold. You can't afford to let the enemy Mass Haste his forces freely.
Rampart tactics against other towns(follow the link)