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 2245 Hit Points per week which is average. You have to pay 29580 Gold + 6 Gems for them, so the average HP cost you roughly 13.2 gold which is the second most after Inferno. Those HPs do the most Damage of all towns, relatively (per HP) as well as absolutely.
To get all upgraded creature dwellings (including fort, tavern, castle and capitol) you need a staggering 98500 Gold which is the most of all towns. Your BUILDING resource needs are not too demanding and most importantly balanced, but since you will later on need 6 Gems alone per week for recruiting 2 Archangels it can't hurt to horde some of those Gems.
Building every structure in a Castle costs 111000 gold which is not most due to the lack of an expensive extra building and leads to a slightly above average demand of Wood.
Your heroes are the Knight (Might) and the Cleric (Magic). Both hero types have clear preferences. A typical level 19 Knight looks something like 8 8 4 4 (without artefacts and locations visits), while a typical Cleric looks something like 5 3 7 8.
Every Knight comes equipped with Leadership as a Secondary skill, while all Clerics begin with Wisdom. Both Knights and Clerics can't get Necromancy. Knights will have trouble getting Eagle Eye, Earth Magic, Fire Magic, First Aid, Intelligence, Mysticism, Scholar and Sorcery (with Earth Magic having better chances than Fire Magic). The chances of getting Air Magic, Diplomacy, Learning, Luck, Pathfinding, Scouting, Water Magic and Wisdom (with Water Magic having better chances than Air Magic) are fair, while you will have no problems acquiring the remaining skills. Clerics won't get Artillery, Fire Magic, Leadership, Pathfinding, Resistance and Tactics very often, while the chances of getting Air Magic, Archery, Armorer, Ballistics, Earth Magic, Estates, Learning, Logistics, Mysticism, Offense, Scouting and Water Magic are fair with the acquisition of the remaining skills being no problem.
On average a Knight will have Water Magic and Air Magic while a Cleric will probably get Earth Magic as well. Both hero types won't struggle in the Magic department, but the fact that it is not easy to get Earth Magic for a Knight is a definite setback. The Knight has the lowest Earth Magic probabilities of all hero types (yep, even Beastmasters and Barbarians have higher probabilities) and even though the Knight is a fine hero type with great specials it is clear that if you hire one (and you surely will) you have to see from the beginning that you get him or her Earth Magic. Witch Huts and especially Universities are therefore quite important for you (it wouldn't do if your Mage Guild had Town Portal and Resurrect as 4th level spells, but your main hero hadn't Earth Magic, right?).
Clerics may develop any way. With luck they will develop fine, getting one key secondary after another, with bad luck you will have choices like First Aid or Sorcery and when you take Sorcery your next choice is First Aid or Navigation - on a non-water map.With other words, both heroes have the potential for greatness but they can develop in a disappointing way, too. If you have the choice take the Knight because the important Tactics-Resistance combination is not likely to be available for a Cleric.
Let's have a look at the specific heroes. It should be clear that Sir Mullich's special is much too powerful (it is), so I advise every mapmaker to not include him in the hero list; this one shouldn't have been added to the heroes' pool.
There is no bad choice with a Knight except Sylvia on a non-water map (she may not be first choice on any map, though).
The Clerics. Well, Adela begins with Diplomacy and the Bless spell, having a special in the latter. What this means is that low level units Blessed by Adela will do increasingly high damage. With a high level Adela Blessed Halberdiers, Marksmen and Griffins will do A LOT of damage which is not bad. Considering the fact that she begins with Diplomacy as well it is obvious that Adela is obviously a good choice. Cuthbert comes with Estates and a special in the Weakness spell (another Water spell) which is not bad either. Caitlin comes with Intelligence and a 350 Gold special - useful. Adelaide has the Frost Ring special and no wasted Secondary (advanced Wisdom) - why not? Ingham can't compete. Loynis comes with the Prayer spell and should therefore always be hired. Rion and Sanya are second rate. So there are lots of good heroes to begin with. Note, that all those spell specials are specials in Water spells which every single of your heroes will have on expert level sooner or later. Especially with the chance of hiring Loynis (maybe even later on in the game) and your Guild not bound to give you Prayer (or Bless or Weakness) it can't be wrong to develop a hero with the Scholar skill (which may not be a Castle hero at all; best choice is, of course, Alamar in this department).
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 only a 4th Level Mage Guild, but since the 4th level spells are at least as important as the 5th level spells this is a handicap you can live with. On the other hand Dimension Door and/or Fly are most important spells once an opponent has them, so should you have a choice which town to attack first go for a town that can build a 5th level Guild (and preferably a Tower).
Aside of the 5th level spells and the two Necromancer spells Castle can't get Bloodlust, Curse and Armageddon which is no loss, because your Heroes won't have Fire Magic anyway and your town doesn't produce creatures that can stand Armageddon.
The best battle spells you can get are - most fittingly - Prayer and Clone, both of them Water spells, as are Bless, Cure, Dispel and Weakness, all useful when cast as a Mass spell. Teleport may come in handy once in a while. Forgetfulness seems to be a good one on first look, especially against a Tower force, but since Titans are immune against mind spells you won't get far with this one. Since both of your heroes will probably get expert Air Magic, the Air spells are also quite interesting. Alas, there are not so many good ones. Haste is a choice only, when Prayer is not available or spell points are low. Chain Lightning is interesting only when the casting of that spell enables you to kill an enemy hero before he gets a chance to flee or when you have amazingly high Spell Power. Counterstrike is a defensive spell in nature and since your strength is the offense that spell is of very limited use only. That leaves Air Shield which is a most useful spell against Tower especially when besieging a well defended town (and most especially againat a human opponent).
Skipping the Clone spell for the moment your best bet is the Prayer/Bless combination. Mass Slow and Prayer can exist simultaneously. Castle units that are both Slowed and Prayered have the following speeds (number in brackets is the normal speed on non-grass ground): Halberdier 6(5); Marksman 7(6); Griffin 8(9); Crusader 7(6); Zealot 7(7); Champion 8(9); Archangel 13(18). This speed struccture is not worse than your normal one (in fact it is even better) because the only unit suffering are the Archangels while the units with the lower speed profit which is good. The other effects of the Prayer spell (Attack and Defense +4) are most welcome. The real damage doing spell is Bless. Some stats tell, how effective Bless is (what follows is a list of the upgraded Castle 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, without Archery or Offense, shooters doing full damage):
Halberdiers: 63 ( 100; 58.7%)
Marksmen: 81 ( 129; 59.3%)
Royal Griffins: 74 ( 116; 56.8%)
Crusaders (without retaliation losses): 149 ( 193; 29.5%)
Zealots: 72 ( 85; 18.1%)
Champions (including special modification): 135 (156; 16.6%)
Archangels with a fixed damage won't profit notably.
All in all this is a gain of 35.7% which is not bad at all considering the fact that the low level units getting the most out of it. Having Prayer in effect will gain additionally. Here's a short combat example to show both spells in effect.
A Knight attacking a Beastmaster's force decides to attack the Wyvern Monarchs with his Crusaders. Both heroes are roughly the same level. The Beastmaster has a Defense/Attack plus of 4 and an Attack/ Defense minus of 2. 44 Crusaders attack 18 Wyvern Monarchs. Without Bless and Prayer they do 262-374 damage, killing 3-5 Wyvern Monarchs, on average 4. The remaining 14 WMs now do 252-308 retaliation damage, killing 7-8 Crusaders, on average 8, leaving 36 Crusaders for the 2nd strike. 36 Crusaders do 214-306 damage, killing another 4 WMs on average. Result: 8 Crusaders and 8 WMs killed, leaving 36 Crusaders and 10 WMs. Now, with Bless and Prayer in effect the first strike of the Crusaders does 460 damage, killing 6 WMs and damaging a 7th. The remaining 12 WMs retaliate for 194-238 damage, killing 6 Crusaders on average. The 2nd strike of the remaining 38 Crusaders does 397 damage, killing another 6 WMs. Result: 6 Crusaders and 12 WMs killed, leaving 38 Crusaders and 6 WMs. Without Prayer and Bless the killing rate is 1 WM for every Crusader lost. With Prayer and Bless the killing rate is double as high.
Usually the decision whether to cast a Mass spell or a powerful one-time spell like Resurrect, Clone, Blind, Implosion and so on, maybe reacting on a spell cast by the opponent (Blind, for instance), is one of the most difficult. You'll reap the benefits of a one-timer immediately while the power of a Mass spell will accumulate from unit to unit and turn to turn. With Mass Prayer being 3 Mass spells in one this decision is obviously a lot easier.
While the Prayer/Bless combination will make the lower level units much much more deadly and is the Castle's main weapon up to a certain point, the Clone spell gets more and more important with every Archangel you muster. One angle of the spell is that its damage potential is in no way dependent on the spell power of the casting hero, but only on the number and quality of the Cloned stack. In general the effect of this spell is comparable with that of a damage spell that has the potential to use up a retaliation. The original is copied without any spells that may be active on it (which is important if you Clone a Hasted or Prayered stack because there will be a speed difference you have to consider prior to casting and which is important because instead of Curing a Blinded stack you may just Clone it). However, since Cloned stacks have the same special abilities than the original this spell is much more when cast on Archangels (see ANGELS/ARCHANGELS).
Let's compare the damage-doing capabilities of the Castle units with the other creatures of the corresponding levels (Conflux EXCLUDED). The following table will list 2 figures for every Castle creature in the form X (Y). X is the rank in damage doing capability of 1 unit against a unit with a Defense Value of 10 where 1 is best and 8 is worst; Y is simply the ranking of one week's production. Where X or Y are two numbers divided by a slash the rank is shared with another unit (that is named in brackets). The unit(s) that rank better are listed in [ ]. Shooter damage was reduced a bit. Damage doing specials ARE INCLUDED. The last figure, ending the line is the overall ranking of the unit in its respective level.
Halberdier 1/2 (2/3) (Centaur Caps) [Gnoll Marauders for full weekly production] 2
Marksman 2 (2) [Wolf Raider] 6
Royal Griffin 2/3 (2) (Iron Golem) [Grand Elf] 1
Crusader 1 (1) 2
Zealot 8 (8) [All] 8
Champion 3 (3) [Naga Queen, Dread Knight] 4
Archangel 1 (1) 1
This is fairly impressive. All units doing most or second most damage in their respective levels with the exception of Zealots (a shooter unit and therefore a unit with a chance of doing damage without suffering combat damage themselves) and Champions (which are not too bad either).
The aim of the Castle troops as prime damage-doers is therefore to apply that damage as efficiently as possible which has a lot to do with unit speed (see Tactics). To illustrate this compare the following 4 tables. The first one is a ranking of the (modified) damage a weekly unit production of that town does without lvl 7 creatures; the 2nd table shows the same including the lvl 7 creatures; the 3rd table is a ranking of the average speed with which this damage is delivered, but without the lvl 7 creatures; the 4th table shows the same, but with lvl 7 creatures: *
|1. Castle||511||1. Castle||711||1. Inferno||8.36||1. Inferno||10.36||2. Fortress||489||2. Rampart||662||2. Dungeon||7.92||2. Castle||10.26||3. Rampart||462||3. Fortress||620||3. Stronghold||7.76||3. Dungeon||10.17||4. Tower||451||4. Tower||604||4. Tower||7.70||4. Rampart||10.04||5. Necropolis||442||5. Dungeon||595||5. Fortress||7.66||5. Necropolis||8.70||6. Stronghold||439||6. Stronghold||587||6. Rampart||7.46||6. Tower||8.53||7. Inferno||419||7. Necropolis||551||7. Necropolis||7.40||7. Stronghold||8.07||8. Dungeon||406||8. Inferno||545||8. Castle||7.24||8. Fortress||7.52|
* For Necropolis and the Skeleton raising the following is obvious: The more Skeletons are raised, the higher the ranking in the first 2 tables and the lower the ranking in the 3rd and 4th. Example: With 30 additional Skeleton Warriors raised insert the following: 496, 605, 7.14, 8.37
Furthermore, for Fortress there is a Gorgon Death Stare modifier applied.
This leads to an obvious conclusion: while Castle troops have a staggering damage doing potential the lower level units lack speed.
Pikemen are quite useful in the beginning stages of a scenario because they have the Hit Points necessary to serve as bodyguards for the Marksmen. On defense Pikemen will last as long as Wolf Riders (having the same HPs and Defense Value), so they are absolutely up to the job of bodyguarding the vulnerable Marksmen. Note, that the Halberdier upgrade doesn't gain as long as this unit is used defensively. Later on, though, once the Castle army takes form, the upgrade gains a significant amount of attack power. Because of their high HPs and all around good values for a 1st level unit and because of their good damage range (2-3) Halberdiers can and will hurt the opponent when you have them in high numbers. They are on the other hand the slowest Castle troop and will cost your hero Movement Points.
The Archer is an awfully weak unit. Slow, no HPs, low Damage Value, low Defense Value. Fighting with Archers is a waste of potential, so you should consider to leave the Archers your heroes come equipped with at home. There are not many fights imaginable in which half a dozen Archers will make a difference. There are, however, fights imaginable in which you will lose one or two Archers and you don't want to lose any because you will need them as Marksmen.
The Marksman is your key unit in the beginning stages of a scenario. Depending on difficulty level you will grade the Archer's Tower up on the 8. day at the latest and equip your main hero with a bunch of it accompanied by 3 stacks of Pikemen. Note that Tactics is a good secondary to have since you can begin the fight holed up behind the wall of your Pikemen AND make use of terrain. Marksmen deal LOTS of damage and you will be able to take out even serious wandering monster stacks with the 20 to 25 Marksmen you will have at the beginning of the 2nd week. Orrin, Valeska and Adela will help you deal even more damage, while the Slow spell (especially with a Cleric and their higher amount of spell points) will help you deal that damage more often before the monsters reach your Pikemen. Consider the damage Marksmen do: Led by Orrin, who is still level 1, 20 Marksmen and some Pikemen attack a stack of Demons. The Marksmen will do 83-125 damage (maybe halved for range with their first shot, but they can wait the Demons out). So every shot will kill 3 Demons on average, while 1 Demon will kill 1 Pikeman once the rest of them has reached the bodyguards. You can kill a lot of Demons this way.
In later stages of a scenario the Marksmen are the prime target of the (AI) opponents. If fighting stacks like Dragons (for instance in a Dragon Utopia) it pays to leave them with another hero. You don't need them to kill those stacks once you have your stronger units and having them with you means more often than not losing (unnecessarily) one or two Dozen of them.
It's a bit of a pity that Griffins are so hard to come by initially because you need all kinds of structures before you can build a Griffin Tower. Since the upgrade only costs 1000 Gold and 5 Ore you will never use normal Griffins except those a hero may come initially equipped with. If and when a hero comes equipped with a few Griffins they will do nicely as bodyguards for the Marksmen because they will cover 2 hexes. Without Griffins your force will consist of, say, 20 Marksmen and 3 stacks of 7 Pikemen each. With 3 Griffins this changes to 20 Marksmen, 20 Pikemen, 3 Griffins and 1 Pikeman which will give you counterattack options with the Pikemen (see Tactics).
The Royal Griffin is an impeccable unit without a single weakness and can be used defensively as well as offensively. First of all because of its special the Royal Griffin is the ideal bodyguard for shooter units. It covers 2 hexes and its special will hurt the enemy repeated attacks notwithstanding. On the other hand a huge stack of Royal Griffins attacking an enemy shooter stack is a pain because the enemy can't use up the retaliation ability with an initial cheap attack on them. Having only the first five units of a Castle consider the following deployment (stacks from left to right): Marksmen, Halberdiers, Royal Griffins, Crusaders, Royal Griffins, Halberdiers, Zealots. The aim is to guard the shooter stacks with one stack of Halberdiers and Griffins each and having one attack stack right in the middle to intercept potentially dangerous stacks. This deployment uses Griffins defensively and is most effective.
However, there is nothing wrong with a stack of Royal Griffins attacking, mind you!
The Swordman isn't any better than the Demon so they shouldn't be hired except in emergency situations should you need every HP you can buy. As opposed to Swordmen Crusaders are a nightmare for every opponent because they deal an obscene amount of damage. Provided you don't lose any between their first and their second hit your weekly Crusader production is capable of dealing roughly as much damage as a weekly production of Naga Queens or Dread Knights and more damage than a weekly production of, for instance, Ghost Dragons. However, this is true only when they attack! Their retaliation attack is a normal single blow, so they are not nearly as effective on defense. Alas, with a speed of 6 they are somewhat slow, so it might be difficult to get them into battle effectively. Having no (useful) mass spells available it is never a bad idea to Haste or Prayer Crusaders. This move will more often than not disrupt the opponent's plans because of the increased range. An attack of a sizeable stack of Crusaders will cripple any stack of mid-level units and may severely damage high level critters.
Never use Crusaders as bodyguards, always look out for a worthwile attack target.
Compared to your other units this is clearly your weakest. Which doesn't mean it is bad, mind you. As with most units it pays to hire only the upgraded version because it gains not only a significant amount of defense value and speed, it has no melee penalty, too, which means you don't need to guard them (at least not often) because they can care for themselves. However, Zealots won't do more shooting damage than Monks, so the latter's low speed (shooters like Medusa Queens or Cyclops will shoot before Monks but after Zealots) is the only serious objection against incorporating monks into a force organized as described under GRIFFINS. Monks and Zealots will add to your shooter power which allows for more flexible battle tactics depending on the composition of the opposing force. Since the Monastry is a prerequisite for the Portal of Glory, you'll have to build it anyway. The upgrade costs are relatively low, so there is no real reason to skip it.
It may well be that this will be the last creature you get because of the high Wood demand (10 for the Stables and then another 20 for the Training Grounds). Since Champions don't have a significant advantage over Cavaliers other than being slightly better in everything except HPs there is no reason to not hire the latter ones once they are available except maybe a lack of money. As a 6th level unit Cavaliers and Champions are average with above average damage capabilities. Their main flaw is the fact that they are ground troops. This and their interesting special mean that they are much more effective in open ground battles than in town sieges or in battles on very broken terrain. If a stack of Champions is able to move their full allowance prior to hitting an opponent a weekly Champions's production does as much damage as a weekly production of Black Dragons. This in combination with a solid 100 HPs per unit makes them dangerous for every opposing stack including 7th level units. They will profit more than other units from the Prayer and Haste spells.
However, they need room to take advantage of their special and room is something you don't have always in a battle. Without room their effectiveness wanes and since they can't fly they don't excel in siege combats either.
Opponents may try to block Champions so they can't move far or not at all. You shouldn't make it easy for the opponent to do that by placing them on the fringe. Or if you do, make sure that they are not blocked when it's their turn by killing one of the blocking stacks prior to their move.
When there is a turn without an attack possibility (1st turn against wandering shooter monster stacks, for example, but in battle, too) don't move them mechanically (full distance after waiting or not at all in a battle). Move them so that they will be able to move as many hexes as possible before reaching their intended target. When picking a target always remember that the damage done will be greater the farer the target is away. And lastly, when you move to a target look for the longest path.
Without question the best regular unit in the game. And the most expensive. Once you have build the Portal of Glory hire Angels. If you have Archangels use their Resurrect special wisely. 1 Archangel can Resurrect 100 HPs once per battle and depending on the number of Archangels you have you may be able to Resurrect a sizable number of your troops. They can't, however, Resurrect themselves. Furthermore it is most interesting that a Cloned stack of Archangels has the Resurrect ability, too, and a Cloned stack will always move after the original. So the following is possible with Expert Clone: It's the AAs turn; you cast Clone on them; the AAs Resurrect something; the Clone Resurrects something (including the original stack of Archangels!). If you have both Clone and Resurrect, consider the following: Instead of casting Resurrect on the AAs and then hit something with them, cast Clone on them. Hit something with the original and then let the Clone Resurrect the lost AAs.
Now, what is probably even more interesting is, that EVERY Clone has the ability to Resurrect, even if the original has already used up it's Resurrect capability! So if you Clone the Archangels when it is the Archangels' turn you will always have the option to either attack with the Clone (after having moved or waited with the original) or to Resurrect with it! What that means is that with the Clone spell you can Clone the AAs, when it's their turn, hit something with them no matter what, provided the retaliation kills no more AAs than the Clone is able to Resurrect, and then Resurrect the fallen AAs with the Clone. You can do that every turn. You don't need Earth Magic or the Resurrection spell. You can even build up a severely decimated stack of AAs provided there are at least 3 left to Clone. Of course your hero will need a lot of spell points for this.
Furthermore it is noteworthy that Archangels with Anti-Magic cast on them still have their special ability, but can't be Cloned anymore (at least not when the casting hero has advanced or expert Earth Magic).
Another use of Anti-Magic is, that a hero with at least advanced Earth Magic and the Anti-Magic spell can easily stop a (normal) Armageddon force. If there is an opposing hero with some Black Dragons or Efreet Sultans (Gold Dragons would qualify, too, but you can get the Armageddon spell in the 3 "evil" towns only, so a Rampart player would have to conquer an evil town first), equip your hero with as much Archangels necessary to beat the opposing force, attack the hero and begin by casting Anti-Magic on your one and only stack of Archangels. One of the reasons why the Conflux is unbalancing things, is the fact that there is no defense against a hero equipped with Phoenixes and the Armageddon spell. They will move first and will therefore always be able to cast one round of Armageddon. And while Conflux has the same problem as Rampart and can't get the spell in its own guild, there is the added plus for it that the grail is another chance to get that spell.
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 an Ore Pit or a Sawmill take it immediately, if you have a decent chance. You will need all resources sooner or later and it can't hurt to take a mine as soon as possible, but you don't need to rush things. On very hard difficulty you will recruit another hero on the first day and equip him or her with a spell book.
Other towns may be on the look for a special resource, but Castle's main concern is MONEY since the Portal of Glory and the upgrade are, well, expensive to say the least, so your aim is to get the Capitol as soon as possible. A 2nd town and/or a (couple of) Gold Mines can't hurt either. The key unit dwelling are the Barracks, because you need them for every troop except the first two levels which is a bit awkward. Griffins and especially Royal Griffins would be the unit of choice to equip your hero(es) with, but since you are reluctant to build the Griffin Tower in the first week (think MONEY) you can't utilize them early on.
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 Knight(s) with spell book(s))
2. Town Hall
3. Market Place
5. City Hall
6. Archers' Tower
This costs 14500 Gold, 20 Wood and 15 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). The key building is the Archers' Tower which is a must to build. You will have to upgrade it on the 8th day, so you should have another 5 Ore and 5 Wood available then. On impossible difficulty in a scenario where money is real scarce, go for the Archers' Tower and then for the money buildings. Don't build the Citadel before you have built the City Hall. If the Archers' Tower is pre-built already, you have another build in the first week. On impossible difficulty this should be the Archers' Tower's upgrade (this won't change the money and resource demand). On very hard difficulty this could be either the Castle or the Barracks (but keep in mind that you need the resources for the Archers' Tower's upgrade then on the 8. day). On the 8. and probably 9. day you will need money to buy Marksmen and possibly a few Pikemen as additional bodyguards. Keep that in mind, too.
Your aim is to build the Capitol as soon as possible without sacrificing too many troop dwellings in the process. Since you will have to buy some troops at the beginning of the second week money will be awfully short on impossible difficulty, so you still can't afford to take chests for experience. You NEED
Upgraded Archers' Tower
On very hard difficulty this may just be possible. Since building the Capitol will make it necessary to save money on one turn or another you won't be able to build every day. Don't make the mistake of building something when you can't afford the more expensive builds and it is clear that you won't get extra money by way of chests, piles, mills and so on! This way you'll never get the Capitol. Should you manage to get another build(s) in, the Monastry and the Griffin Bastion are your first choice.
If you play a scenario on impossible difficulty in which money is real scarce, you probably won't have been able to build on every day of the 1st week. You will be quite behind in building, probably not having built the Citadel and maybe not even the City Hall. Grade the Archers' Tower up on the 8th day, then concentrate on the money buildings. Save your money to get them! Don't waste money with creature buildings, because you won't have the money to hire them anyway. Get the City Hall and the Citadel and slip in the Barracks and the Griffin Tower (on the last 2 days), then go for the Castle and the Capitol no matter what.
If you don't have the Capitol yet, build it now. If you couldn't build a Capitol in the 2nd week you won't get the Portal of Glory in the 3rd week because you most probably will have to hire some more units. Build the Stables and the Training Grounds and grade Griffin Tower, Barracks and Monastry up.
If you did build the Capitol in the 2nd week you will earn at least 28000 Gold in the 3rd week and would be able to build Stables, Training Grounds and Portal of Glory. However, if you have no other sources for money this would completely deplete your monetary resources. If you have to buy troops because opponents are near or you need them to get vital artefacts or mines, depending on how many troops you have to hire you have to dispense with either Stables, Training Grounds and all upgrades but the Griffin Tower OR the Portal of Glory.
Since for building and upgrading of the Monastry and the Portal of Glory all 4 precious resources are needed the building of higher level Mage Guilds may be a problem.
Since Angels are an excellent unit and the Archangel upgrade is QUITE expensive don't rush things. Grade the rest of your creature structures up, build the Mage Guild and hire out units. With a decent hero and a powerful force the Archangel upgrade is NOT something you need ASAP. Take your time. Conquer one or two towns first and make sure you have a decent income (7000+ Gold a day) before you grade the Portal of Glory up. Furthermore, if you do grade it up make sure you have the money and Gems to grade your existing Angels up fast.
Playing Castle, once you have all your forces hired the strength of the Castle units is deceptive. Always remind yourself that it is NOT the force that will win a battle, it is the hero! Having roughly equal forces in terms of weekly productions the difference between heroes is far more important than the difference between town forces. Even with Castle you will lose against a better hero of any town with a comparable troop quantity. On the other hand, even with an equally good hero victory is no sure thing. Castle troops have their downsides!
While it is true that you will have almost always the initiave in any given battle (except against Conflux or if attacked by heroes with speed artifacts) it is difficult to put this initiative to good use. The only real winner is - once you have a significant number of them - beginning by Cloning the Archangels and attacking the biggest threat with the Clone immediately. This would be, for example, most effective against a Rampart force without Tactics advantage enabling you to kill or at least severely cripple the Elves which would be a hard blow.
Starting with one of the prime offensive spells - Mass Haste and Mass Prayer - won't be that effective against a serious opponent because, except against Tower, Stronghold and maybe Fortress, it won't change the fact that it will be the opponent's turn after the Archangels have had theirs (with or without a Tactics advantage).
Your problems are twofold: 1) The speed difference between the Archangels and the rest of your troops combined with the slowness of the Crusaders; 2) The fact that your best unit has no magic immunity of any kind as opposed to all 3 Dragons, Titans and Phoenixes.
For example, after you start with Mass Haste or Mass Prayer and attack with the Archangels immediately, the opponent may counter with Mass Slow and take the opportunity to wear the AAs down. Since initiative will have switched in the 2nd turn the opponent can cast any spell and pick targets. However, against might heroes this is a viable tactic because the opponent may be unable to counter with a suitable Mass spell.
If on the other hand you simply wait with your units and your spell, if you don't cast a spell when it is the turn of your Champions or Griffins the opponent will simply Blind the AAs and you will not only lose the turn of the AAs, you will lose your spell this round, you will lose initiative and you will be forced to unblind the AAs next turn giving the opponent another free spell.
Since all forces (except Conflux and Stronghold and Stronghold won't wait) have at least two units faster than your 2ndfastest unit you yourself can't Blind the fastest unit of the opponent and no matter what you will cast (except Anti-Magic, of course), should you wait with the AAs they may get Blinded and end the turn not having done anything.
What this means is, that you'll have to cast prior to the opponent (at least a human; the AI tends to cast early), no matter what and no matter if the AAs attack immediately or wait. This first spell must be chosen with the aim of creating maximum pressure for the opponent. What spell to cast is obviously dependent on the force you are battling, the spells you have and the schools of Magic you have on expert level.
If it is prudent to wait with your Archangels (because you will lose them then in the course of the first combat round, for instance), Anti-Magic is definitely a way to go then, especially when your hero doesn't have the Clone spell. In effect this "promotes" them to Black Dragons in most cases guaranteeing initiative or at least a chance to cast early for the rest of the battle. This will even be quite effective without having Earth Magic at all. You take the Archangels out of the equation and a Mass Prayer, Mass Haste or Mass Bless next turn will be extremely effective.
Let's have a closer look at the type of army Castle has. There are 2 (not too bad) shooter units that will naturally be an enemy target. While the Zealots can take care of themselves since they don't suffer damage reduction in hand-to-hand combat (even though they have low HPs) the effectiveness of Marksmen will drastically drop once an opposing units stands adjacent to them (damage will be quartered). Guarding the shooter stacks in general makes not much sense, however, since at least two of Castle's unit are much more effective attacking than defending: Champions and Crusaders. Since you wouldn't want to waste the power of your Archangels guarding shooter units this leaves only Halberdiers and Royal Griffins as potential guards for shooter units. Since you can guard only one stack with those two, IF you guard a shooter stack it should be the Marksmen. Another way to put it is: Never guard the Zealots.
Now, while the Griffins excel on defense they aren't exactly bad on offense either, so Griffins are what I would call a multi-purpose unit. You will have them in high numbers, so they will have some weight on the battlefield. In general it makes sense to tend to leave the Halberdiers in the vicinity of the Marksmen to deal especially with low level flyers or low level fast grunts that attack the Marksmen, while the Griffins can be used depending on the situation. For example, if the opponent can't match your strength, but has fast unit stacks consider to let the Griffins guard the Marksmen. Your three main attack stacks (AAs, Champs and Crusaders) will be enough to deal with the opposing forces (supported by your shooters) while the complete guarding of the Marksmen will deny the opponent a cheap way to draw some blood by attacking the vulnerable Marksmen. Against an equally strong force on the other hand you can't afford to let the Griffins stand idly around and guard the Marksmen. You will use the Griffins offensively.
CASTLE TACTICS AGAINST OTHER TOWNS
Since the Castle heroes have the lowest probabilities of all heroes for getting Earth Magic I will assume that a Knight will get Water and Air Magic, but no Earth Magic (on average). A Cleric has slightly better chances to get it, but still together with the Battle Mage they are the lowest of all Magic heroes. Still, a Cleric should be able to get it. Having Earth Magic or not makes a big difference not only on the strategic map (being able to use Town Portal purposefully or not), but also in battle because of the 3 1st level "S" spells (Slow, Shield, Stone Skin) and the Anti-Magic spell. The Resurrect spell can be "emulated" with the AAs and the Clone spell.
It doesn't matter which town you are battling, there is no definite strategy (except maybe the start with the Clone spell) because you'll always have to answer the question what to do with the AAs and what spell to cast. It will be a big difference whether you play against a human or computer opponent and too much depends on the available spells, the hero skills and the skills and spells the opposing hero have.
If the opponent has a sizeable number of Black Dragons and you have no Tactics going in with only 6 stacks may pay. Leave the Marksmen back. Alternatively you may give the Dragons a chance to hit 2 stacks by placing the Halberdiers into the middle slot and Archangels and Champions left and right, respectively to tempt the Dragons into committing suicide. Concentrate on killing the Black Dragons as soon as possible and keep your lines closed. The Black Dragons must vanish to diminish the Armageddon danger. If the battle comes to you ignore the shooters. As long as they do only half damage this is tolerable. Go for everything that comes your way. The Griffins can deal with the Harpy Hags first and then with Trogs and Evil Eyes. Archangels have to deal with the Dragons primarily, while the Champions are an ideal weapon against the Minotaur Kings (of course they can hit the Dragons, too). The Scorpicores are a pain because they tend to paralyze their targets quite often, but once dealt with they will die fast. A hit with the Archangels followed by a Crusader attack will probably kill them. The Crusaders will deal damage against every opponent, so hit what presents itself. When you eventually attack the Medusa Queens, take the Champions for a first strike on them.
Careful play pays. An immediate Mass Haste may give you an opportunity to waltz in with Archangels, Champions and Griffins immediately, but because of the high defense values of the Fortress a blitz will be successful only with a much better hero, good spells and enough spell points. The main problem are of course the Mighty Gorgons. You don't want them to hit your Archangels and you would prefer it when they didn't touch your Champions either.
In a fight against the Fortress you may have to deal with a lot of unpleasant surprises. Dragonflies are annoying with their double special (first Dispel, followed by Weakness) and surprisingly durable. Lizard Warriors have been beefed up massively and are much more now than a minor nuisance. Basilisks may turn crucial stacks to stone in the most unfortunate moment, Wyvern Monarchs will constantly reduce the HPs of stacks and Hydras, once in the middle of battle, can give you a real headache. Since all Fortress troops have wide damage ranges you are not to keen on seeing the opponent cast Mass Bless on his or her troops. Furthermore there's always the danger of the opponent Teleporting Gorgons or Hydras where it hurts. Should a Fortress player have had opportunity to visit a higher level mage guild it could get really ugly. Mass Counterstrike, Clone, Mass Prayer, these spells in the hand of a strong Fortress hero with a good force and your face will get longer and longer. Of course most people who'll read this won't believe me, but you are better off not taking a chance here.
So how to tackle Fortress? The biggest threat are Mighty Gorgons, no doubt about it. Since you have 2 good and halfway fast shooters you can wait. Wait with the Archangels (is there an alternative?) and if nothing decisive has happened when it's the turn of your Griffins and Champions, try to shield the Archangels a bit. Your aim is, beginning with the 2nd battle round to take out the Gorgons, by making the first hit with the Griffins. Follow-up attacks can be made with Champions and/or Crusaders. Don't touch the Lizard Warriors, they are the least threat. And don't make the mistake of shooting at them with Marksmen and or Zealots. As long as your shooters can freely fire, target something that is in range! Once you have taken out the Gorgons you can take a deep breath and move more freely. Concentrate on taking out stacks completely instead of hitting here and there to minimize the opponent's chances to have one of his or her unit's special triggered. Don't underestimate the Basilisks, they are quite effective.
As long as the Dragonflies are buzzing around a) the effectiveness of your Mass spells will be reduced with any attack or retaliation of them and b) units that have been hit by them will do less damage. While this may seem a bit wasted, they are a good target for the Archangels as the last action of combat round 1. If tackling the Hydras, begin with an Archangel attack on them and follow up with Champions.
As everyone will know meanwhile I'm a real sucker for this town. While the troops may seem not that terrifying, they have a good speed structure and all kinds of annoying specials (Magogs, Cerberi, Pit Lords, Efreet Sultans, Arch Devils). However, they have few HPs, so with your damage-doing capabilities you will wreak havoc once you get going. This may be more difficult than one might think, though. First of all, both Inferno hero types are magically apt with Air Magic playing the same role as Earth Magic for you; difficult to get, but not at all impossible, especially for a Heretic. So after waiting with the Archangels the opponent just might cast Mass Haste and move and attack with every stack before you get a chance to. This is a smaller danger, though. With Inferno there's always the danger of nasty Fire spells like Berserk or Armageddon (and the main reason for this is not only the fact that the heroes will get Fire Magic fairly easy, but the fact that the probability for fire spells to appear in the Inferno mage guild seems to be quite high; just as well there are some crappy 4th level fire spells there). To counter the effects of an expert Berserk cast on you place your troops so that a minimum of stacks will be affected before an unaffected stack gets a turn in. An example for this would be (from left to right): Marksmen, Griffins, Halberdiers, Archangels, Crusaders, Champions, Zealots. Chances to cast Berserk are: 1) immediately (Devil's or Efreet's turn); since your Angels waited the only affected stack would be the Griffins (after that it would be the Champions turn for a chance to cure or dispel). 2) Prior to moving the Zealots; Zealots would have to be affected; after that it would be the Marksmen's turn which wouldn't be so. 3) Prior to moving the Marksmen; next in turn would be Crusaders which couldn't be affected; 4) Prior to Crusaders, Halberdiers would be affected to; this could be countered by casting yourself when it's the Marksmen's turn. Berserk is a nasty spell and it is nasty even without Fire Magic at all. Having to cast before the opponents (if he or she is human) means, that there is the ugly possibility of getting the Archangels Berserked.
Which threat to eliminate first? Efreet Sultans have to die, before it gets tempting for the opposition to cast Armageddon and that Fire Shield is added reason to get rid of them fast, preferably with your shooters. Pit Lords will resurrect the first killed stack to Demons (which may lead to a double turn: Familiars move and attack and get killed; Pit Lords resurrecting them immediately afterwards and now the stack of Demons will move the same turn which may turn out quite annoying!) and you are not keen on fighting the same stack again only in another incarnation, so the Pit Lords should die fast, too. Arch Devils and Cerberi won't suffer damage when attacking themselves, so if you want to get rid of them you've got to arrack them. And while Magogs won't be that dangerous when attacking a far away single target, it gets more than annoying inside the ten hex range and with options to target more than one stack.
Ignore the Magogs as long as you can fight outside their 10 hex range, but be careful not to give them a double or even triple target. If you have to attack the Efreet Sultans with non-shooter troops take Champions and/or Archangels (note that the Fire Shield will have effect even if their retaliation has been spent). The Devils will perish fast when attacked by Archangels. The Crusaders will drastically reduce Pit Lords because of the low HPs of the latter, but the high damage value of them will take its toll if the Crusaders make a first attack. Champions would be ideal for them, but they can't attack everything at the same time. Griffins may take Cerberi and later on Magogs while Halberdiers may make follow-ups on Cerberi or kill the Familiars. Demons are nothing special and will perish fast when attacked by Champions or even Archangels, but don't go at them with Griffins and it doesn't seem right to waste the attack power of the Crusaders on them.
Since Inferno is a difficult town to play there may be huge differences if playing against the AI or a human.
As a rule, if you attack the Vampire Lords, kill them. Don't make half-hearted attacks on them, not even with shooters, because all attacks that do not significantly reduce them are in effect wasted. If you go for the Vampire Lords attack them with Archangels and/or Champions/Crusaders. However, they are not the biggest threat out there, because they have a low damage value. Ghost Dragons are fairly weak, but if their special is triggered the affected stack will be in imminent danger. When going in with 7 stacks and without a Tactics advantage the number of Power Liches present will affect your decision what to do with the Archangels (in case you placed them into the middle slot which makes sense). I'd think that Cloning the AAs, then waiting with them and attacking the Power Liches with the Clone is an option if and when you have that spell. The opponent may Animate them, but if the Clone could kill them a) the Clone still stands and b) the Animated stack can't do anything that round. If you don't have Clone consider to move the Archangels just away not attacking anything especially when there are Zombies and a plethora of Skeletons near those Liches.
Depending on the number of Skeletons this stack may be the biggest threat. Since there is no law denying Necropolis the Clone or Teleport spell a huge stack of Skeletons may be too much to take. If the Skeletons look managable, attrition them and the Liches with your shooters and concentrate on the Dread Knights with your Champions and Archangels. The Crusaders will severely hurt the Ghost Dragons, but before you go at them eat the retaliation up with either Halberdiers or Griffins. The Griffins may kill the Wraiths, too, while the Crusaders may alternatively make follow-ups on the Dread Knights. Once the Dread Knights and Ghost Dragons are out the rest isn't that difficult.
However, if the Skeletons seem to be too plentiful, you will have to put more effort into it. First of all it pays IF you begin with an attack on them to make as many follow-ups as possible or necessary. If they are in range of your heavy hitters, sacrifice an Archangel Clone at the beginning of the turn, then hit them with anything you have. Without Clone you'll have to wait them out and attack them with the Halberdiers (probably sacrificing them) or a stack already worn down and then hit them with everything you got. You'll have to make use of the fact that Skeletons are so slow, much slower than Dread Knights and Ghost Dragons for example. Careless play of the Necro player may make it possible to take out the faster stacks first, so look out for opportunities here.
The opponent may cast Counterstrike especially on a huge Skeleton horde. Dispel that! Fire Shield is equally bad. Try to slow them down to have more time for your shooters to attrition them.
Because of the high magic Resistance of the Rampart forces and might heroes NEVER try a spell that would affect the opponent's force except maybe Dispel. It is just as well that your strength is spells cast on yourself! Essentially you have the same problem as with Dungeon and may consider to go in with 6 stacks only leaving the Marksmen out. Alternatively you may give the Dragons a chance to hit 2 stacks by placing Halberdiers into the middle slot and Archangels and Champions left and right, respectively, to tempt the Dragons to commit suicide. Don't fly in immediately with the Archangels to kill the Elves; this could turn out to be disastrous. However, Cloning the Angels and taking out the Elves with the Clone might be a good move.
If the opponent has a Tactics advantage the Elves will be shielded by Dendroids and another stack, maybe Pegasi or Centaur Captains or even Unicorns. Note that the Dendroids will be plentiful and hard to kill because of their high HPs, but on the other hand they won't do that much damage when hitting and should it be necessary their special CAN be cured (which can be embarrassing for the Rampart player if it is done in the right moment; they tend to think that their Dendroids will just hold opponents forever). Shielded Elves are dangerous! Normally your Zealots will shoot before them, but simple spells cast when it's the Dragons' or Pegasi's turn may change that and there's nothing you can do to avoid it except maybe casting Prayer right away (which in turn will allow the opponent something like Bless or Shield or maybe even Prayer or Haste). The opponent has an advantage here because you can't shield your shooters because of the Dragons, so the opponent always has the option to make a fast attack on your shooters with Dragons and/or Pegasi.
What seems best then is to Prayer and Bless your units exchanging a few shots and then make a massive attack in case the Elves will prove superior or to wait out the onslaught of the Rampart should the Elves go down the drain while you retain your shooters (with the Resurrect spell it can take a while until this is settled). If you have the means to outshoot the opponent wait for him. If not you have to go for him.
When the melee phase begins, concentrate on taking out the Dragons and - if the Elves are still there and shielded - the non-Dendroid guarding stack (which may be the Dragons). After having Prayered and Blessed your units be carefull with spellcasting: Dendroids and Unicorns may make it necessary to cast Cure once in a while. The Dwarves will be plentiful and sturdy, but won't do much damage. With the Centaur Caps it is the other way round. A Griffin hit will see them severely reduced in numbers while a follow-up with the Halberdiers will probably finish them. Once the battle is in full swing your Marksmen, if any still stand will probably be attacked by the Pegasi. If the Crusaders are in range, hit them. If not either let them or make an attack with the Archangels. The Crusaders should keep away from the Dendroids except for a follow-up - there will be too many of them, so the losses would be too high, and there are more important targets anyway. Crusaders will best make follow-ups on Dragons and/or Unicorns.
As a rule try to take out the fast stacks first. Dendroids and Dwarves have massive HPs but are slow and you will be able to outmaneuver them with ease later on.
The good thing is, you know exactly what's coming. Stronghold's forces are well equipped for offense and a slight Tactics advantage combined with Mass Haste will see you under massive attack. One way to counter this is to cast Mass Haste or Mass Prayer yourself and attack immediately. This would be most effective in case it is possible to kill the T-Birds before it's their turn giving you a chance to move all your units (in case of Prayer with the exception of maybe the Halberdiers) prior to the Stronghold forces. You'd be at least able to kill the vulnerable Wolf Raiders, too, and that would hurt the offense capabilities of Stronghold badly. If the killing of the T-Birds is not possible it may still be a good move, however, you will only be able to move Angels, Griffins and Champions (and in the case of Haste) Zealots then, before the Birds get their move in and now you may have to accept some losses after either Mass Slow or Mass Haste.
Blinding the Behemoths will disrupt the Stronghold plans because an onslaught without the Behemoths may make not much sense, but after Cure or Blind on the Archangels you won't have gained.
It seems right to hit Stronghold forces as hard and as soon as possible because they will do QUITE some damage in offense, but they will melt away on defense. For example, both Stronghold shooters will only do half damage hand to handmaking the Cyclops Kings as good as Crusaders when defending. Speaking of it, Crusaders should not make first strikes against Behemoths, but they may hit the rest. Griffins may hit the first 3 level creatures. Champions should first help Archangels take out the Behemoths and then go for the Ogres. Halberdiers will be more than a match for Hobgoblins and do serious damage to Wolf Raiders and Orcs, too.
All in all you are well advised to press the offense here.
A weaker force is easily taken out after casting Mass Prayer or Mass Haste and attacking immediately.
If the force is significant, hold back and let them shoot for half distance. Cast Mass Prayer, if possible. Attack something insignificant with the Archangels at the end of the first round, then Cast Mass Bless and go for blood. Don't get fooled by a stack with high numbers of Gargoyles. They won't do that much damage due to their low damage value. Of course the Titans must die, but once the Titans can't shoot anymore, but have to fight hand to hand (they will still do full damage) the Naga Queens are the bigger threat. Under normal circumstances they will do the same or maybe even more damage then the Titans and unretaliated at that, so you have to kill them. High priority targets are furthermore Arch Magi und Master Genies. Those two will do lots of damage on attack but are vulnerable on defense due to their relatively low HPs. If the Titans do stand near Nagas, Genies or Magi, place the Archangels between the two and hit the other target. The Crusaders will wreak havoc amongst the Magi and will prove effective against the Genies, too, but should only make follow-ups against the Nagas as long as Nagas are still plentiful. Champions may hit Magi, Genies or Nagas, but shouldn't make a first attack on Titans except when they have a significant advantage in numbers like 3 or even better 4 times the numbers of the Titans. Keep the Griffins away from the Golems. They may kill the Gremlins if the Golems are far enough away, may make a follow-up on Magi or Genies or take care of the Gargoyles. Halberdiers may stay with the Marksmen because the Gargoyles may decide that the Marksmen are easy prey (which would be true). Once one or two of the bigger threats are out you can take care of the Golems. They are sturdy, so an initial hit of a high level stack can't hurt.
Taking a town against Tower is always a bit harder (not so much against the AI but against a human opponent). Against a serious force you must resist the temptation of flying in with the Archangels. If you have Clone, go in with the Clone, but don't fly into the town with Archangels and Griffins only. They will surely die and then all is lost. Air Shield may be a good spell to cast (especially when you don't have Clone; that's true for open field battles, too). Wait until the gate is down, then attack in force.