STRONGHOLD TACTICS AGAINST OTHER TOWNS
Tactics given here are primarily for field battles. While you can take on equal forces on the open field, provided you have a good hero, you need an edge when attacking a town, be it a considerably better hero than the opponent has or a considerably better force or a combination of both. Without that edge you still may take the town, but may pay a too high price for it.
It doesn't matter which town's forces you face - you want to make use of the terrain with the aid of your Tactics skill, cast Mass Haste, then blast some enemy stacks and leave the opponent with some sorry remnants which should ideally be (partially) blocked at that. Since you will attack it pays to at least leave units standing adjacent to enemy shooters (if you don't kill them) and to kill enemy flyers because they can't be blocked. This of course means that you will normally attack just part of the enemy forces in the first turn, but eventually you will have to attack all enemy forces. Consequently the following hints and tips have to be read correctly. What you do in the first attack round will strongly depend on terrain and enemy deployment. But since the move order is alike in every battle there are some rules which units should or should not make a first attack on which enemy unit. When it is your turn with the T-Birds and you can cast Mass Haste you have to plan your whole turn carefully. Remember, your main goal is the killing of stacks in your initial rush.
Even though you almost always will have Tactics the enemy may have Tactics, too, so the initial deployment may be important. Deploy as follows (from top to bottom): Cyclops, Hobgoblins, Ogre, Orcs, Behemoths, Wolf Raider, T-Birds. Another possibility would be: Cyclops, T-Birds, Ogre, Hobgoblins, Behemoths, Wolf Raider, Orcs.
Because the only real threat (aside from being simply outgunned with either troops or nasty spells) is that the opposition casts Mass Haste or Mass Prayer right away and begins slaughtering your troops, you should take some precautions here. Alas this is only possible when and if you have a Tactics advantage so you are able to deploy your troops. The opponent needs either expert Air Magic (Haste) or expert Water Magic (Prayer) to do harm, so it is interesting to have a look at the probabilities for heroes getting that secondaries and towns getting the Prayer spell.
Only the 3 good towns can get the Prayer spell. Chances are that Knights and Clerics will get Water Magic. Rangers and Alchemists only have half that chance with Druids and Wizards being halfway between them. So Castle is the biggest threat here.
With Air Magic it is quite another thing:
2) Alchemist, Cleric, Battle Mage
3) Knight, Barbarian, Heretic, Necromancer
4) Demoniak, Death Knight, Warlock, Witch, Druid
5) Overlord, Beastmaster, Ranger
Overlords, Beastmasters and Rangers will rarely have Air Magic, while Demoniaks, Death Knights, Warlocks, Witches and Druids will have better chances to get it, but the odds are still not good. So Dungeon, Fortress and Rampart will more often not have Air Magic at all than they will have it. Necropolis and Inferno may have it, but it may take their heroes some time to get it on expert level. Tower and Castle are likely to have it and on expert level at that! So Castle is the most likely candidate to have a nasty surprise for you. Now, while Knights are primary candiates for getting Tactics, Clerics are NOT. So you may find that you will have no Tactics advantage against a Knight and that he's beginning the carnage by casting Mass Haste on his troops. Alchemists will probably have Tactics, while Wizards will have not.
To guard somewhat against the possibility of the enemy going immediately on the offense you need a Tactics advantage. If you don't have that, you can't do anything. The higher the probability for the enemy to have expert Air Magic the more cautious you should deploy in the Tactics phase. Be extremely cautious with Castle and Tower, be cautious with Inferno (Heretic) and Necropolis (Necromancer), but forget the rest. What you should do here is deploy your troops so that the opposition has difficulties to get to you or has to face the heaviest of your hitters (this won't hinder you, because your heaviest hitters are your fastest creatures anyway). Use terrain to guard you. Make it difficult for the enemy grunts to reach anything except your best creatures, but take care to not give Power Liches and Magogs a chance for multiple hits. Furthermore you should deploy your troops so that you can reach the enemy AFTER casting Mass Haste, but not so that the enemy can reach you immediately after casting Mass Slow.
Anyway, if playing against a computer opponent he may storm up front with his fastest unit(s) right away and maybe throw in some spell like Blind or something. In this case it makes sense to either unblind the Blinded unit or, if the spell had no lasting effect or was on the enemy to Mass Slow him or Mass Haste yourself. Kill his fast units (especially if they are magically resistant against low level spells), then get the opponent next turn.
On average you will have the Tactics advantage against every Magic hero. Chances are, however, that might heroes do have Tactics, too, so if facing a force led by a might hero you may have to stick on your baseline. In this case it makes no sense to cast Mass Haste in the first battleround because not all of your units will be able to reach the enemy (except with a higher level Terek, of course). Since the opponent will be able to cast the last spell anyway, against a human opponent try Mass Slow immediately. Chances are he won't have Mass Haste, then you can shoot with your shooters and get your slower units into position for a next round strike. The opponent may now either Slow your units or cast Mass Cure or Mass Dispel, maybe even Mass Bless or something. Comes the next battleround cast Mass Haste once it is your turn and attack.
Note, that Resistance is a big help for you. In most cases you really would like to deploy your shooters inside the 10-hex range to do normal damage with them, but since the opponent will have a chance to cast first because of initiative Mass Slow will enable the enemy shooters to go first (and do full damage, too). What Resistance does when the opponent casts a Mass spell, is sparing part of your stacks from the effect which comes in handy. All shooters except Titans (and Cyclops Kings) have a speed of at most 7. 5 of your stacks have a speed greater or equal than that. This means, chances are that one of your faster stacks won't have to suffer under the effect of the Slow spell so you can get a move in before the opponent's shooters are able to do their dirty work. You can cast Mass Haste then and voila, so get Resistance.
The same is true for the opposition, especially for Rampart forces. Mass spells on the opponent may not have the desired effect, so cast spells on yourself, if possible and useful.
There may arise situations where it is your turn with the T-Birds and you feel anxious to just cast Mass Haste, go in with all you have and then lean back, letting the opponent cast and move in any order he likes. Rest assured here, that the opponent (if he or she is human, at least) will be a lot more anxious than you after seeing all of your units move and kill without having a chance to do something. Seeing, how the enemy reduces vital stacks to cinders, seeing the raw and brutal damage those Behemoths and especially those low level puny Wolf Raiders do, is bad for the morale (of the human opponent), believe me. An initial onslaught ending with the killing of two vital stacks will more often than not convince the opponent that the battle is already lost (even if in reality that may not be so). Show the opponent your strength which is the offense.
Castle is always tough to fight (see above). You face the danger of the enemy casting Mass Haste right away. If you are attacked right away you have to take the losses and see if there is a chance to salvage something out of the fact, that you are now able to Mass Slow the opponent. If no Mass Haste was cast, all the better.
Deploy your units out of the normal range of Champions and Royal Griffins, out of the 10-hex-range of the Marksmen and Zealots and out of the Hasted Range of Crusaders and Halberdiers if you do have the Tactics advantage.
If you decide to attack the Royal Griffins with hand-to-hand combat units in the first round, you should make sure that you can kill them with at most two attacks (so their Counterstrike special won't have any effect). Possible targets for your T-Birds (they move first) are Zealots, Crusaders, Champions and Griffins. The attack should cost you no more than at most 15% of your T-Birds. The Ancient Behemoths which move next can obviously fight everything. If they attack the Archangels you have to make sure that they are killed completely this round (possibly involving attacks of some other unit stacks of you). If the opponent can't cast Mass Slow you will go first in the 2nd combat round then allowing you to cast another profitable spell immediately. Cyclops Kings can attack everything, too. You may want to either soften up a target you intend to hit with one of the remaining grunts (prefarably Wolf Raiders or even Hobgoblins), but you can also use them to kill off a stack already decimated by T-Birds and/or Behemoths. The rules for attacking with Wolf Raiders should be clear by now. Every attack should maximize the damage while minimizing the losses, and this is even true for the Hobgoblins. Don't waste them uselessly. The best target for them is either a decimated stack that can't retaliate or will be killed completely or the Marksmen stack. Marksmen will only do half damage hand-to-hand, so losses will be marginal against them. Orc Chieftains and Ogre Mages may potentially attack every stack, but again it is best to see to it that one (or even two) stack(s) is (are) killed completely with their attack.
The problem with Castle is that all units are extremly dangerous and do lots of damage. You should concentrate your attacks here. Griffins are more dangerous when attacked, so either attack them in force or not at all. Crusaders are much more dangerous in attack than in defense, so go for them as fast as possible Champions are all the more dangerous the more hexes they move, so block their path if you haven't the units to attack them. Marksmen do only half damage hand-to-hand, so see to it that there will be a unit adjacent to them.
It isn't likely that you can use the 2-hex attack of the Dragons to your advantage (in this case the Dragons probably would have attacked right away or at least moved). Another problem of the Dungeon forces is the fact that both Evil Eyes and Medusa Queens suffer no hand-to-hand penalty. A good deployment of the Dungeon forces will see the Dragons in the middle slot flanked by Scorpicores and Harpy Hags while the shooters will be left and right most with the 2 grunts in 2nd and 6th slot. Another one is (from top to bottom) shooter, Trogs, shooter, Dragons, Minotaurs, Harpy Hags, Scorpicores (or vice versa). Lastly, the attack potential of the Minotaur Kings is much too big for your liking, to name just the biggest threats.
When you have the Tactics advantage deploy your forces out of the normal range of Harpy Hags and Minotaur Kings and out of the 10-hex-range of Evil Eyes and Medusa Queens. If the Scorpicores have been deployed on one wing, deploy out of their range, too. If you have Resistance try to deploy your shooters inside the 10-hex range (but outside the range of Scorpicores, Minotaurs and Hags, if possible). Either way, if the opponent casts Mass Slow right away and attacks with Dragons (and Scorpicores) which is what the AI will mot probably do, cast Mass Haste if it's your turn and kill all Dragons and as many of the Scorpicores as possible. Next round cast Mass Slow and go for the opponent's baseline.
When you attack the Dungeon forces, in case you don't kill (or even attack) the Dragons you have to make sure that you don't give them a chance to make a 2-hex attack. Any 2-hex attack is potentially devastating, especially when a weak stack is attacked directly and a strong unit suffers the extra damage without being able to retaliate. This need to leave free hexes between your own units may severely narrow the range of your move options. So the first question you have to ask yourself is, if I don't attack the Dragons (or will attack them, but leave a dangerous number of them alive), can I move my units and attack with them profitably and effectively without giving the surviving Dragons a chance for a 2-hex-attack? If this is not possible, you will attack the Dragons with the Behemoths and probably with more stacks. Facing a roughly equal hero and having expert Offense it will take 3 Ancient Behemoths to kill 1 Black Dragon (they really are devastating). Normally you will have 2 to 4 Behemoths more than the opponent has Dragons, so your Behemoths will kill Dragons and not suffer that heavily under the retaliation. There is no alternative: if you have to attack the Dragons you will do it with the Behemoths (first).
T-Birds can attack everything except (under normal circumstances) the Dragons (they can - and should - of course attack them if they can kill them, but in that case there can't be many Dragons involved in the first place). They shouldn't attack Trogs (probably a wasted attack), and they should be carefully with Minotaur Kings (if they don't cripple them beyond hope, they will do a lot of retaliation damage), so either one of the shooters is normally a good target, but they may be able to cripple the Scorpicores badly, because you will have a much greater number of T-Birds than the enemy has Scorpicores. Now, if the Behemoths don't take the Dragons (and in this case most probably none of your units will touch them; but note that leaving the Dragons completely unharmed is potentially devastating; there are such nasty things like the Armageddon spell, so you should more often attack them then not), they should have good reason not to, so there should be a bigger threat than intact Black Dragons combined with the possibility of an Armageddon spell plus the movement limitations involved. This might be a high number of Minotaur Kings, Scorpicores or even Evil Eyes. 2 Behemoths will kill 3 Scorpicores, 5 Minotaur Kings and something like 12 or 13 Evil Eyes. Good kill ratios, so an attack should be quite effective.
You have a good target for your Wolf Raiders, if they don't make a follow-up attack on the Dragons: the Harpy Hags (there might be other good targets under the rules for the use of Wolf Raiders, though). The Raiders will do nicely against them and in most cases even without the help of the Cyclops Kings, so they are free to shoot at any profitable target (but remember, your aim is to KILL stacks, not to reduce them).
Hobgoblins will have a hard time against Dungeon forces. Any retaliation attack will hurt them bad, so they should maybe hit what the T-Birds or Wolf Raiders attacked.
This leaves Orcs and Ogres to complete the carnage, but you may end with having to face an attack of a high number of Trogs and maybe one full shooter attack. You didn't think you could blast the opposition right with your first turn, didn't you?
Fortress heroes are not that proficient in Air Magic either, so chances are good they won't cast Mass Haste right away, especially because they won't be able to put the Mighty Gorgons to good use when they do. So the Beastmaster or Witch waits with the Dragonflies and it's your turn again.
You have three main targets you'd like to eliminate: Chaos Hydras, Mighty Gorgons and Wyvern Monarchs, the latter because of the fact that their speed of 11 would allow them to move before your Hasted Orcs and Ogres, and you don't want to let this happen.
Normally it is right to attack the Wyvern Monarchs right away with your T-Birds. You will do good damage with them, probably loose a few, maybe get poisoned, but who cares? Let's see how 27 T-Birds do against 14 Wyvern Monarchs. We assume an Attack/Defense differential of 0 for the T-Birds and +2 for the Wyvern Monarchs. The T-Birds will do 297-405 damage killing 5 on average. Should the Lightning Bolt special be triggered another 3 would die. If the special is not triggered this leaves 9 Wyvern Monarchs doing 178-218 damage, killing 3 T-Birds which is okay. If the special was triggered, they will kill only 2 which is even better. Since the Stronghold hero will have expert Offense and the Fortress hero expert Armorer those figures will be even better for the Stronghold.
The Behemoths now will only attack the Gorgons, if they can kill them right away which is highly improbable. So they will take on either the remaining Wyvern which might be a good idea if they can kill them off, or they will attack the Hydras. 5 Behemoths will kill around 2 Hydras, so they should reduce the Hydras well. The Hydras on the other hand won't do much retaliation damage, so this is a good attack, too. Terrain may work to your advantage here, because you may be able to block part of the Fortress forces out. 4 grunts, 3 of them 2 hexes wide, may have difficulties to get into the battle profitably, and you might be able to hold the Hydras to a one-stack attack only because of terrain and unit blockage.
Be that as it may, if you didn't kill the Wyverns because you attacked the Hydras you now have 3 units to move and fight with, before it is the Wyvern's turn. 2 of the 3 should suffice to do the job. If the special of the T-Birds was triggered one should be sufficient. Calculate the figures and if you have to attack them with 2 stacks do it so that you use the 2 that produce the fewest overkill.
With 27 T-Birds involved, you will have to face probably something like 21 Mighty Gorgons, and it is high time to get them. You will most probably attack them with either the Cyclops Kings or the Hobgoblins and then with Orcs and Ogres. This will reduce, but most probably not kill them. If you can't kill them all reduce them to a number below 11 and try to kill off another Hydra(s) provided you attacked them with your Behemoths.
If you did kill the Wyverns with the Behemoths you have 5 stacks now to kill the Mighty Gorgons and that should be more than enough.
If deciding whether to let some Gorgons survive and kill some Hydras or whether to kill all Gorgons you have to weigh carefully the potential damage they can do. A few surviving MGs may kill at most 1 Ancient Behemoth with their death stare which would be bad enough. A fully functional stack of Chaos Hydras able to get into battle and attack, say, 3 of your stacks (2 of them maybe low level) may do much more harm. If you are in doubt, don't forget that the enemy can cast a spell if it is his turn and that a simple Haste spell on the Hydras might be sufficient to get them into battle with potentially devastating effect. Reducing the Mighty Gorgons below 11 might suffice in the first round. The Death Stare comes into effect only AFTER the normal combat damage has been applied and if triggered kills the topmost (in this case the damaged) creature. The normal combat damage of 10 Mighty Gorgons won't be high, and the Death Stare will kill the Crippled Behemoth only. Even if you suffered the retaliation of 3 or 4 Hydras prior to the Gorgon attack they won't do enough damage to kill a Behemoth with normal combat damage, so the overall damage will not be that high.
Contrary to most people's believe a battle against Inferno forces can be a rather awkward thing. The forces are fast, and an Inferno hero with expert Air Magic and the Haste spell will blast you as he will move all of his units before you have a chance to react. However, Air Magic is not a likely secondary skill for Inferno heroes (at least not for Demoniaks), and even if they get it it will normally take some time until they have it on expert level.
Still, Inferno forces are trouble. There are 2 units faster than your fastest, and those 2 are the best. When taking advantage of the Tactics skill it may be wise to deploy your Cyclops Kings out of range of the Efreet Sultans. That may mean that you are out of the 10 hex range with them, but because of the Fire Shield the enemy will be less reluctant to move out with the Efreets to block a dangerous shooter. This is especially true when you face a high level Rashka, because the effectiveness of the Fire Shield increases with every level from around 20% for a novice Rashka up to 75% and even 80% and more for a level 20 and higher Rashka. If there is a possibility to deploy your shooters inside the 10-hex range, but outside the Efreeti range, do it, especially when you have Resistance.
If Efreet Sultans were the only problem, you'd be happy, but there are some others. Arch Devils will still be faster than Hasted T-Birds, so as long as they exist the enemy will probably go first (or last) in a given round. No retaliation against them is bothersome. Cerberi won't do much damage, but there's no retaliation against them, too, plus the fact that since your stacks will be massed after your initial attack they will probably get in a 2- or even 3-hex attack, meaning in effect unretaliated double or triple damage. Because of the massing of stacks Magogs will do LOTS of damage, too, having not to suffer under any range penalty and being able to make use of the Fireball effect. Plus Pit Lords will resurrect a killed stack to Demons. Now, while Demons are not the most fearsome creatures of the game, you'd hate to fight a stack twice not to mention the fact that those Demons are perfectly well suited to make first attacks which the Efreet Sultans and beginning with the second battle round the Pit Lords can exploit.
All this leads to the following: 1) You'd prefer to kill as many Efreet Sultans as possible with your shooters; 2) It makes sense to kill the Pit Lords right away; 3) You must end your first battle round with the Magogs either dead or at least a unit adjacent to them; 4) Devils and Cerberi have to die!
In an all-out battle where all or most of the forces are involved, there will be three times as many Pit Lords than Behemoths. Even with expert offense your hero will have to have an attack value of around 20 to have a remote chance to kill off 3 Pit Lords with one Behemoth. On the other hand there won't remain many Pit Lords after a Behemoth attack, so that would possibly be enough, wouldn't it? Nope! 1 Pit Lord is enough to resurrect 1 Demon, and 1 Demon is still enough to eat up a retaliation (as would be 1 Pit Lord).
So what about sending the T-Birds against the Pit Lords right away? You won't have much more T-Birds than there are Pit Lords, say, 25 to 21. You will possibly have a positive attack/defence differential plus maybe expert offense, so maybe the T-Birds will kill maybe 10 or 11 Pit Lords without the special and maybe 15 or 16 with the special. Not bad at all. The remaining Pit Lords will kill 2 or maybe 3 T-Birds with their retaliation (and that's without having suffered the T-Bird special!), so that's a good start.
What about the Behemoths? Since the Arch Devils only have 200 Hit Points the Behemoths will wreak havov among them and kill 1 for every two Behemoths involved. Since you will have more Behemoths than the enemy has Devils this won't leave that many Devils to fight.
It's now the Cyclops' turn and the time for concessions has come. Since you deployed them out of range of the Efreets it now depends on the initial position of the Efreets whether the Cyclops are in or out of the ten hex range: If the Efreets were deployed in the middle, they are out of range; if they were deployed on one wing they are in. If they are in, target one of the stacks in range. Shooting at the Efreets with half damage you'll need about 10 Cyclops to kill one Efreet, and that is not nearly enough. If no stack is in range, well, calculate what will happen and shoot accordingly.
The Wolf Raiders may target quite a few stacks. They may finish the Devils or the Pit Lords. They may attack Cerberi or Magogs. If Cerberi are deployed adjacent to Magogs, hit the Cerberi, but make sure you are adjacent to the Magogs. The same is true for the Hobgoblins with one exception: If Familiars are deployed adjacent to the Magogs, hit the Familiars by placing the Hobgoblins between the Magogs and the Familiars.
Chances are, though, that the Magogs will have been deployed top- or bottommost with the Demons adjacent to them. In this case you have the option to simply attack the Magogs with the Hobgoblins. Another option is, if the Hobgoblins are able to finish off either the Pit Lords or the Devils, to do just that and then attack the Demons with the Ogres, placing them between the Demons and the Magogs. If it is obvious that the Hobgoblins won't be able to finish off either stack, attack the Magogs with them and use the Ogres to finish off Devils or Pit Lords. With the Orcs it is the same as with the Cyclops, but when using your 2 shooters keep in mind that your aim is to kill the Pit Lords and the Devils.
First of all it makes sense to deploy the troops so that Hasted Power Liches don't have a double target. Keep out of the normal range of Dread Knights and the Hasted range of Skeletons. Under normal circumstances the Necropolis player will be reluctant to take the initiative immediately if he can't get his Skeletons into play. Furthermore it is no advantage to attack with the Vampire Lords right away, because they won't use the damage they do for regeneration since they were not attacked.
Once it's your turn you have to deal with some real and some potential threats: Vampire Lords, Dread Knights, Power Liches, Ghost Dragons, Skeletons and the Animate Dead spell. Power Liches do half damage hand-to-hand and Ghost Dragons have only 200 Hit Points with low Attack and Defense Values. Dread Knights will probably be the bigger threat, but that depends on the exact numbers. While Vampire Lords are a pain, they do have a low Damage Value. It is right to EITHER ATTACK THE VAMPIRE LORDS UNTIL THEY ARE KILLED OR NOT TO ATTACK THEM AT ALL. As long as the VLs are full strength they are simply a non-retaliation unit with typically low Damage Value. They won't hurt you that much as long as you don't make half-hearted attacks on them. Since the Necromancer will have built the Estate in week 1, you will have to deal with a decent number of them. The same is true for the Skeletons. There will be lots of them, and they can deal serious damage.
Now, Skeletons and/or Zombies won't be deployed very far from the Power Liches, so if you want to attack them, the attacking stack will have to deal with them, which is awkward to say the least. Another thing to consider is the fact that since you will move all of your units the enemy will have every opportunity after that to attack in the order he or she wishes. This might involve a first strike of the Zombies followed by hits from either the Skeletons and/or the Dragons and Dread Knights. So what can you do?
The first question you'll have to answer is the following: What is the best target for your T-Birds? It certainly won't be the Skeletons. One T-Bird will kill 4 Skeletons, maybe even 5, but this won't be enough. 200 remaining Skeletons retaliating would kill maybe 6 T-Birds, and that's too much. If you want to attack the Skeletons with your T-Birds the retaliation of the remaining Skeletons must not cost you more than 10% to at most 15% of your T-Birds. What about the Vampire Lords then? 2 T-Birds will maybe kill 1 Vampire Lord. This is okay, if the enemy has less Vampire Lords than you have T-Birds, but that won't be the case in an all-out battle. The right target for your T-Birds would either be the Power Liches, but then you'd have to make sure to reduce the Skeletons, too, or the Wraiths, but they are no major threat. What about the Ghost Dragons, though? There can't be that many compared to your T-Birds. Say 25 T-Birds and 5 Ghost Dragons. Against a Necromancer you will probably even have a positive Attack/Defense differential, against a Death Knight it may be around 0. Against the latter 25 T-Birds will do 275-375 damage without the special. Throw in another 30% for expert Offense and they do 357-487 damage, enough to kill 2 Dragons (the special would kill another). 1 Dragon may kill 1 T-Bird in retaliation, so the losses are moderate. So, having 5 times the numbers of T-Birds compared to the Dragons should do. The remaining Dragons will be killed by a combination of Wolf Raiders and Orcs, maybe by the Wolf Raiders alone.
The Behemoths will now attack either the Skeletons or the Dread Knights. 1 Behemoth may kill 1 Dread Knight, so they will reduce them heavily. Attacking the Skeletons may be right when those are deployed next to the Power Liches so that the attack will place the Behemoths adjacent to the Liches. If the Behemoths attack the Skeletons do a follow-up attack with the Hobgoblins and maybe even the Ogres. Hit the Dread Knights with Cyclops and (if possible) Orcs and either kill the remaining (if any) Skeletons with the Ogres or hit the Wraiths with them.
If the Behemoths attack the Dread Knights, use the Cyclops (and Orcs, if possible) to reduce the Skeletons, attack the Power Liches with the Hobgoblins and use the Ogres to reduce the Dread Knights further. Note, that you have no unit except the Behemoths able to make an effective first strike against high numbers of Skeletons. So if the Behemoths don't attack the Skeletons right away, see to it, that you can kill the Dread Knights completely. Don't make half-hearted attacks with low level units on the Skeletons.
The targets of the follow-up troops are interchangeable. Conceive it so that there will be the fewest possible overkill.
Killing the Dragons right in the first combat round has advantages, because after that you will have the fastest unit on the battlefield.
If Skeletons pose such a big problem, isn't it better, then, to simply wait and let the enemy come? After all, those Skeletons are kinda slow, aren't they? Well, you would have to wait around the first battleround and that would probably end with the enemy casting Mass Slow on you when it is the Dragons' turn followed by an attack by them on your Wolf Raiders or Orcs. The second battleround would probably then begin with a Haste spell cast on the Skeletons (the enemy doesn't even need Mass Haste). Then the enemy strikes with all of his or her units first, including the Skeletons and you won't like having to face a combined full strength Skeleton/Dread Knight attack on your Behemoths plus another Dragon attack on your Wolf Raiders or Orcs followed by a Vampire strike on anything and a volley from the Liches with the Wraiths tossing in their weight for good measure. Right? Right.
If you have to fight Rampart with Stronghold you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Rampart is a combination of Hit Points and a deadly shooter. On the other hand it is quite easy for Rampart to mishandle the units, so there are chances. If you have a Tactics advantage (certainly against a druid, not necessarily against a Ranger), the most important questions now are, did the opponent grade up his or her Pegasi, where are the Elves placed and what stands near or adjacent to them. Why so?
Let's have a look at those Grand Elves. Rampart gets 14 of it each week and they are brutally effective. Without any extra creature dwelling on the map you may face around 75 of them sometime into the 6th week of a scenario. 75 Grand Elves do a base damage of 450 to 750. Add expert Archery (not uncommon with BOTH types of Rampart heroes) and the base damage is 675 to 1125. Half this for range and you still have an average base damage of 450. Against your low level units the damage will be even higher and since your Defense values are not that high allaround the Elves will do serious damage even to your high level units. Let them get off a few shots not halved for range and you are finished!
This means, it doesn't make any sense (in fact it is plain suicide) to storm forward, applying your usual tactic, when you don't get a unit adjacent to them Elves before they can get a shot off. If the enemy has a decent hero comparable to yours chances are he or she won't have Air Magic not to mention on expert level, but expect a Druid at least to have expert Earth Magic. Even a Ranger may surprise you with it, so you should definitely have RESISTANCE when you take on a decent Rampart force.
Deploy your shooters and low level units outside the normal range of the Silver Pegasi. Deploy all of your troops outside the normal range of Unicorns and Centaur Captains. Deploy all of your troops outside the 10-hexes range of the Elves. This will minimize the damage in case the opponent begins with Mass Slow right away.
The AI will most probably begin with a Dragon attack and a spell. If it's your turn cast Mass Haste and kill the Dragons by making the first attack with the Behemoths. You will probably have a chance to attack the Elves right away, but the stack doing that would be dead meat, so you better forget it. Let your shooters reduce the Elves some and take the first volley. If you killed the Dragons and have stacks not having done anything, wait with them (you will have waited with the T-Birds anyway), then, when the opponent has moved all of his units, there may be a chance for another profitable attack. If you have good spell power and a good damage doing spell,beginning with the next round you may simply cast it on the Elves and wait, provided none of your units is in range of the Unicorns. If the Unicorns are in attack range, cast Mass Shield or Mass Stone Skin and attack right away. If there are too many Dendroids to kill them in one battleround which is likely, don't attack them until all other stacks are down. They would only get a retalitation attack and make the attacking stack immovable. Concentrate on bringing down the Unicorns first. Once the opponents has Dwarves and Dendroids only, try to outrun them and use your shooters to attrition them down.
A human opponent probably won't attack with the Dragons but use them and the Silver Pegasi to shield the Elves. If the unit nearest to the Elves in the initial deployment is a 2-hex unit your chances to get through to the Elves right away are virtually non-existent. Cast Mass Maste once it is your turn and reduce the Elves with your shooters. Wait with your other units. If the opponent can't counter your Haste spell, you'll get a double turn (interrupted only by the Dragons). Use it.
It makes a big difference whether the opponent has Pegasi or Silver Pegasi (there is a good chance he hasn't had enough Crystals to do that). In this case deploy much more offensively, especially when you have Resistance. Get your shooters into the 10-hex range, but try to keep your units out of the normal Unicorn, Pegasi and Centaur Cap range. Even if the opponent casts Mass Slow you have good chances to get in a move before he can take advantage of anything and before he has guarded the Elves. Even if he has guarded them, you most probably will get a turn before the Elves can shoot. Cast Mass Haste and attack all out, but don't touch the Dendroids. If he has guarded the Elves fully, your shooters are in range to do substantial damage to them.
Since Tower and Stronghold units are equally fast, and since Tower heroes will most probably have expert Air Magic, too, when you have, it is vital to go first against them. On neutral ground without speed enhancing Artefacts the attacker will go first. Iona and Thane have the Genie special, so when they reach a sufficiently high level the Master Genies' speed will increase to 12 with them. So in games where you know you a) will have to face one or more Towers sooner or later Shiva is a good hero for you, because her special are Rocs and T-Birds, so their speed will increase to 12 and this 1 extra speed will pay against Tower.
Anyway, it is not true that having the Tactics advantage as the initial attacker means losing the privilege to go first in case of equal speed.
Beginning a battle against Tower forces is easy for you. Deploy your units in full range (shooters in 10 hexes range), cast Mass Haste and kill stacks. Attack Genies with T-Birds, hit Titans with Behemoths, hit Titans or Genies with Wolf Raiders, attack Gremlins with Goblins, see to it, that Ogres end their turn adjacent to Magi (but don't necessarily attack Magi with them; if they can kill the stack adjacent to the Magi kill it), provided no other of your units stands already adjacent to them, and use your shooters to kill stacks or hit the Nagas. If you don't have Terek you have to try to kill Titans and Genies with your first 5 stacks. If you have Terek, your turn order will have been changed, so the Wolf Raiders will have to finish the Genies attacked by the T-Birds.
Lean back and watch the remaining forces of the Tower struggle. That was that.
Avoid fights against Tower forces comparable in strength to yours and led by a good hero. In case this is not possible for some reason, should the Tower forces begin the battle, deploy out of the 10-hex range and out of the Hasted Golem range. At least TRY to deploy out of Hasted Naga Queen range. The Tower forces will do enough damage with the shooters. Should your T-Birds survive the first onslaught, you are in before the Gremlins and the Golems can move. Don't make the mistake Hasting your remaining units and attacking the Gremlins with a ground troop so you get around their volley. The Golems would take care of the attacking unit and if the Nagas were not in range they will have waited and could attack, too. The damage has been done already. Cast Mass Slow (giving you the initiative next turn) and kill the stacks that came to you (Genies, Gargoyles, maybe Nagas). If the opponent didn't send stacks to you, wait the opponent out (conceding the volley from the Gremlins), then get going and try to salvage something out of the situation with a double turn.