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.
Fortress is an unusual town to play, because Fortress strategies are different from those of the other towns due to their unique creature abilities. A fully built up town gives you 2290 Hit Points which is more than Castle (2245) but less than Stronghold (2370). Those 2290 Hit Points cost you 26660 gold, so the average Hit Points costs 11.64 gold. Only Rampart (10.05) and Stronghold (10.35) are cheaper, while Necropolis (12.3) is the next most expensive, so the units are reasonably priced.
It costs you 85400 gold to build all upgraded creature dwellings (including Fort, Tavern, Castle and Capitol). Only Stronghold is cheaper (80200), while Necropolis costs exactly the same. You need no Crystals and no Gems for that, and the 19 Mercury and 39 Sulfur are not much compared to the demands of other towns. However, while even the Ore demand is rather low (95), you need the most Wood of all towns: 155, which is plenty.
Building all structures of a Fortress town doesn't make it a lot more expensive. With 92400 gold you pay 200 gold more than Stronghold, the cheapest of all towns. So your main concern on the building front is Wood and to a lesser extent Sulfur.
Your Heroes are the Beastmaster (might) and the Witch (magic). Let's have a closer look at them. The Beastmaster begins with Defense 4, and from the 8 level rises up to level 9 chances are that he will get around 5 more , while the other 3 will probably be on attack. After that he has a 30% chance to gain attack or defense and 20% chances to gain Knowledge or Spell Power, so a level 19 Bestamaster will look something like 6 12 3 3 (without any artefacts and locations visits). His secondary skills will mainly come from Archery, Armorer (every Beastmaster comes equipped with it), Artillery, Ballistics, First Aid, Leadership, Learning, Logistics, Navigation, Offense, Pathfinding, Resistance, Scouting and Tactics. He can't get Fire Magic at all, and Air Magic is highly improbable. If the opportunity presents itself to learn a Magic School, it will most likely be Earth Magic, followed by Water Magic which has the same probability than Wisdom. Finding a Beastmaster with Wisdom and at least one Magic School will be a rare occasion, but if you are on the look for a Hero with defensive capabilities, the Beastmaster definitely is it. Because of the unit mix of the Fortress, if you hire a Beastmaster and use him offensively, you are well advised to choose Ballistics for him, when the opportunity presents itself. You will need expert Ballistics, when attacking well defended towns with him. Furthermore Resistance and Tactics are strongly recommended secondary skills.
The Witch is very magic oriented. On average the first eight level rises will give you three levels each in Spell Power and Knowledge and probably two in Defense. From then on it's a 20% probability for Attack/Defense and a 30% probability for Knowledge/Spell Power, so a level 19 Witch will look something like 2 5 8 8 (without any artefacts and locations visits). So a Witch is a potent spellcaster with decent defense capabilities. Her secondary skills will mainly come from Eagle Eye (highest probability), Intelligence, Mysticism, Navigation, Scholar, Sorcery and Wisdom (every Witch comes equipped with it), while Armorer, Ballistics, Earth Magic, Learning, Logistics, Luck, Necromancy and Water Magic have decent chances to present itself for a pick. You should go for both Earth Magic and Water Magic, but despite the better chances to get decent magic, the Witch should pick Ballistics, too, if the opportunity arises (if you can choose between Ballistics and a Magic School, take the Magic School). Witches can't get Resistance and Estates. Fire Magic, First Aid and Leadership are highly improbable. As the chances to get Necromancy are as high as that of, for example, Earth Magic, Armorer or Ballistics, you might get an opportunity to pick it. If you have reason to believe, you'll take over a Necropolis (or have done so already), pick it. You can equip the Witch with undead troops. If not, when the alternative choice is halfway decent, take the alternative. Skeletons in your army will reduce your morale significantly, so it's not advisable to have any.
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 take only those that don't cost you money.
Magic isn't your friend, when you are playing Fortress. You can build only a three level Mage Guild, and this is a distinct disadvantage. Even though, and especially because of this fact, you don't want your heroes to be completely without magic, don't forget to buy your Beastmasters a spell book and build a mage guild as soon as possible.
Aside from the 4th and 5th level spells and the two Necro spells Fortress can't get Curse, Disguise and Protection from Earth, one Fire and two Air spells, which isn't too bad, because you won't get Air and Fire Magic anyway, so you wouldn't be able to put those spells to good use. If your heroes can acquire a Magic School skill (and at least the Witches will be able to do so), they will get Earth and/or Water Magic, so it's a good idea to have a look at Earth and Water spells of the first three levels, because these are the spells that you will be able to use to the best effect.
Shield, Slow, Stone Skin and even Quicksand are all useful Earth spells, but your most important Earth spells are the 3rd level spells Anti-Magic and Earthquake.
More important than the Earth spells are the Water spells for Fortress. Bless, Cure, Dispel, Summon Boat (on maps with notable bodies of water only), Weakness, Forgetfulness and Teleport are all highly useful. Because of the fact that your two most important units, the Gorgons and the Hydras, are medium fast ground units, you desperately need either Dispel or Cure to protect your troops from negative spell effects.
Shield, Stone Skin and Weakness are mass spells on expert levels and either strengthen your natural high defense capabilities or weaken the opponents attack values, which is in effect the same. Your units won't excel in dealing raw damage, but (Mass) Bless changes that quite effectively, especially for your low level creatures (including Basiliks) and your Hydras. (Mass) Slow and Quicksand hamper the opponents troops and give you an edge on the battlefield. Forgetfulness is a mass spell, too, and will shut out the enemy shooters (except Titans and Liches), so this spell is of limited use (it is best used, when defending in a town against an attacker with strong shooters), because only part of the enemy troops are affected. Expert Teleport is the offensive spell of choice for the Fortress, because it allows to Teleport your Hydras behind castle walls which is where you need them when attacking a town. If you don't have Teleport and your hero hasn't got Ballistics (on a higher level), consider casting Earthquake, when besieging a town. On expert level 4 wall sections are affected, and you need those walls to come down as soon as possible. On maps with much water Summon Boat can come in handy, because on expert level this spell creates a boat, if you haven't got one, which is a rather cheap way of getting boats, where you need them.
Gnoll Marauders have the highest Defense value of all first level units (together with Skeleton Warriors). They also have the lowest Attack value of all (upgraded) first level units (together with Familiars and Master Gremlins, but the latter are ranged units), so it's a good thing, their Damage Value is good (2-3). Unfortunately they (and especially the Gnolls) are not very fast. You need lots of Wood for the built-up of your town, so you will be hard pressed to find the necessary 10 Wood for the upgrade to Marauders in the first two or maybe even three weeks, so be prepared to have simple Gnolls for some time. With their high DV and 6 Hit Points Gnoll Marauders can stand some damage, so they are worth the 70 Gold they cost. Don't BUY Gnolls. You don't have the money for that.
Your only ranged unit. Again, high Defense Value, but disgustingly weak on offense. Don't buy them, until you have money left. In the inital stages of a scenario they will only slow you down and won't do any significant damage. In the later stages, they are worth the money, because the AI tends to attack them regularly, so they have their use as a decoy. As you don't need them for Serpent Flies and Basilisks it is possible, that you won't even have them until the third week.
SERPENT FLIES/DRAGON FLIES
Dragon Flys are the fastest unit of the Fortress and flyers. Attack and Damage Values are as low as Hit Points, but the Defense Value is okay and their good speed allows you to attack all wandering monster stacks of shooters right away before they can squeeze out a shot. The special ability of the Flies will dispel all beneficial spells affecting their targets, so later on they will most often attack enemy units that has been Hasted or otherwise strengthened by enemy spells. You will build the Serpent Fly Hive in the first week and grade it up on the first day of the second. Buy all Dragon Flies on the 8. (and maybe on the 9.) day, equip one of your heroes with Dragon Flies only (this will make him or her quite fast) and take all mines in the vicinity, you didn't flag until now. Later on, heroes eqipped with a few Dragon Flies only will make excellent scouts, so this is a very useful unit for the Fortress. In Battles the AI tends to go for them, so your Dragon Flies will suffer (heavy) losses later on.
Although not the best level 4 unit available, this is one of your two multi-purpose units. When the Basilisk Pit is built, it should be upgraded immediately. The upgrading costs aren't that high and the upgrade is worth it, because the Greater Basilisk gains HPs, Attack and Defense Value and Speed. They have the best Defense Value of all 4th level creatures (together with Crusaders and Arch Magi) and only the Ogre Magi have a better Attack Value. With 400 Gold apiece they are not too expensive, especially if considering their special ability (which the Basilisks also have): a 20% chance to petrify an attacked stack. A petrified stack will be out of battle for three rounds, if not Dispelled or Cured. On the other hand a perified stack only takes 50% damage when attacked and deals full damage when retaliating, so make sure you have some overkill capacity when attacking a petrified stack. If available, Greater Basilisks should be bought. They won't slow your hero down and give your army substance. Later in the game, when you have the higher level units, Greater Basilisks are something like a reserve unit. They may be used to attack units not attacked by your Gorgons and Hydras, they may kill off already attacked stacks and they even may attack high level creatures first to use up the retaliation (remember, there's always the chance, that there won't be a retaliation because of the petrifying chance).
A truly exceptional unit. While normal Gorgons are somewhat slow, sturdy (70 HPs!) bulls with low Attack and high Defense Value, Mighty Gorgons are the most deadly creatures around. Forget Archangels and Arch Devils, forget Black and Gold Dragons, forget Titans, forget Ancient Behemoths. They are dead meat, when facing Mighty Gorgons. You shouldn't buy Gorgons, but wait with recruiting them, until they have been upgraded. If you recruit them, don't take just a few. Take at least 11 with you. Now, let's have a closer look at them. They have the most HPs (70) and the best Defense Value (16) of all 5th level creatures (70), so they are REAL sturdy. They have relatively low Attack and Damage Value, meaning they won't do that much NORMAL damage. They have the most interesting special ability of all creatures, the Death Stare. And you get all that for 600 Gold apiece!
Let's have a closer look at their special. EVERY SINGLE MG has a 10% chance to deathstare one opponent up to a maximum of one deathstared opponent per 10 MGs. This is the time for some number crunching, so here are a few probabilities:
|% chance to kill AT LEAST ... opponents||# of MGs||1||2||3||4||1||10%||-||-||-||2||19%||-||-||-||5||41%||-||-||-||10||65%||-||-||-||11||68.5%||30%||-||-||15||79.5%||45%||-||-||20||88%||61%||-||-||21||89%||63.5%||35%||-||25||93%||73%||46%||-||30||96%||81.5%||59%||-||31||96%||83%||61%||37.5%||40||98.5%||92%||77.5%||57.5%|
This is quite an interesting table - in more than one way. You should first note, that beginning with 10 MGs your chances to deathstare at least one opponent are 2 out of 3 and better. The second thing you'll note is, that while 1 MG has a 10% chance to deathstare 1 opponent, 11 MGs have a 30% chance to kill 2, 21 MGs have a 35% chance to kill 3 and 31 MGs have a 37.5% chance to kill 4 opponents. This leads to the following obvious conclusion: THE MORE MGs YOU HAVE, THE HIGHER THE CHANCES TO DEATHSTARE THE POSSIBLE MAXIMUM OF OPPONENTS! In other words, if you have 75 MGs your chances to deathstare 8 opponents are higher than your chances to deathstare 3 opponents with 25 MGs. Conclusion: Horde your MGs.
Another interesting point is the following: Should you DIVIDE your MGs in two or even more stacks (and leave Gnolls or Lizard Warriors at home)? The first rule is: NEVER DIVIDE A STACK OF MGs numbering 11, 21, 31, 41 and so on. With all numbers ending on 1 your chances are best, when you leave them in one stack. Interestingly enough, from a probability point of view you should divide any other number of MGs in at least 2 stacks. Example: You have 2 MGs. If attacking in one stack you have a 19% chance to deathstare one opponent. If attacking with two stacks of 1 MG each, you have the same 19% to deathstare 1 opponent, but now it is an AT LEAST chance, because in reality your chances to deathstare 1 opponent are 18%, while you have a 1% chance to deathstare 2 opponents. A more obvious example: you have 30 MGs (probabilities see above). Now you split it in two stacks with 15 MGs each. You now suddenly have a 20% chance to deathstare FOUR opponents (a chance you don't have, when attacking with one stack of 30 MGs), while your AT-LEAST-CHANCES don't get worse. (By the way, it doesn't really matter HOW you split them, but you shouldn't split them 20-10, obviously.)
Of course, splitting your stack of MGs might have disadvantages. If the resulting stacks are too small, they might get attritioned down by low level units, so my adivice is: DON'T CONSIDER SPLITTING, IF YOU HAVEN'T GOT AT LEAST 32 MGs!
Having this awesome special ability, the target of choice for the MGs are 7th level units. Don't bother to attack those 7th level units with other stacks to use up their retaliation. The MGs can stand quite a punch. If the enemy has 15 Archangels and you have 48 MGs (you may have even more by the time the enemy can muster 15 AAs), don't despair. The Archangels may not know it, but they are dead meat. Consider this. With their first attack the MGs will kill 5, probably 6 AAs. The retaliation of the AAs won't kill more than 10 MGs (at most). Two more attacks will leave one or two, but you will still have 25 to 30 MGs. So go ahead and kill those weaklings. 6th and even lower level units should only be attacked, if there are no 7th level units available. DON'T WASTE YOUR GORGONS WITH ATTACKS ON HIGH NUMBERS OF LOW LEVEL UNITS. This is the task of your Hydras.
The only snag is the fact, that UNDEAD ARE NOT AFFECTED BY THE DEATH STARE. So if battling a Necropolis' Force you can't rely on them (see there).
Wyvern and Wyvern Monarchs are your second multi-purpose unit. They have no fixed role in your army, but instead are some kind of light cavalry. They are not meant to make first strikes against 7th, most 6th and even some of the 5th level units. The only 6th level units you might make a first strike with Wyvern against are Scorpicores and Cyclops. The 5th level units you should not make a first strike against are Minotaur Kings and Dendroids, especially not when they outnumber you. They are not meant either to storm behind castle walls in the first turn of a siege, when the town is more than marginally defended. Under normal circumstances you won't recruit Wyverns, but instead wait, until the upgrade is there (which may take some time). WMs are reasonably fast flyers, but have very low HPs and Attack and Defense Values for a 6th level unit. If they attack higher level units, they should do it as second or third unit, after the retaliation has been used up. When they make a first attack on a unit they should attack single isolated stacks of medium and lower level shooters or especially dangerous medium level stacks like Vampire Lords, in short: units on the fringe of the battlefield. In the first round of a battle WMs should almost always wait (and not storm upfront to any shooter). Otherwise their special ability (50% chance to poison a STACK, meaning the creatures of the stack are losing Health every turn, so they have fewer HPs) helps soften up enemy units, because affected units are easier to kill (they have in effect fewer HPs). So if you have attacked an enemy stack already this round (and did wait with the WMs) and the enemy stack is still quite impressive, consider a second attack with the WMs. The attack will attrition the stack further down and if the special ability comes into effect, any further attack will gain from that. Keep in mind, that WMs are quite vulnerable, and if given a decent chance, the AI goes for them, so protect them and avoid suicidal attacks.
Chaos Hydras have good HPs and deal good damage. They may have low Attack and Defense Values, but the no-retaliation effect in combination with multi-hex attacks guarantees high damage. Chaos Hydras may not be the fastest unit, but with a speed of 7 they aren't exactly slow either. When you have built a Hydra Pond, begin recruiting Hydras. You don't need Sulfur for that, so your ability to build higher Mage Guild Levels and the Upgrade for the Hydra Pond is not affected.
With the exception of some special situations (siege fights and battles against undead armies), Hydras and Chaos Hydras in reality are support units for your Mighty Gorgons. They are not meant to attack units of a special level, but THEY ARE MEANT TO DO AS MUCH DAMAGE AS POSSIBLE. This is normally done, by placing them adjacent to as many enemy stacks as possible, no matter what level they are. Hydras aren't choosy, they kill what presents itself. If surrounded by more than one enemy stack, the enemy won't gain with an attack as the retaliation of the Hydras affect all adjacent units, provided he can't kill most of them with one strike. So the best protection for your Hydras is, BEING ADJACENT TO ENEMY UNITS. If the enemy tries to wear down your Gorgons with multi-attacks, beginning with a low level unit, pull out the Gorgons and then go in with the Hydras.
The tips and hints given here focus on L and XL maps under very hard and impossible difficulty. Smaller maps and easier difficulty settings will concentrate more on troop raising.
If playing on impossible difficulty setting, you won't have any money or resources to start with (except you got the "bonus" there). So if you want to build something in the first turn you must move out with your hero and collect money and ressources. If you find a treasure chest, take the money. If you locate a Sulfur Dune or an Alchemist's Lab, take it immediately, if you have a decent chance. You will need Sulfur and Mercury. On very hard difficulty you will recruit another hero on the first day and equip him or her with a spell book.
If you begin with two towns, concentrate the built-up on one. Built a Town Hall in the second town as soon as possible, but then ignore the second town, until you have enough wood. Then build Mage Guild, Market Place, Blacksmith and City Hall. You can consider the further built-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 built-up already.
Interestingly enough, there are different ways to build a Fortress up. To build the Wyvern Nest you need only the Lizard Den, so it is actually possible (at least on very hard difficulty) to get your 6th level creature at the end of the first week. THIS BUILT-UP IS NOT RECOMMENDED, THOUGH. It would deplete your Wood, so there would be serious built-up problems in the second week PLUS you had to get along with 4 Wyverns the whole second week (Lizardmen are next to useless as offensive units in the early stages of a scenario).
1. Mage Guild level one (equip Beastmaster(s) with spell book(s))
2. Town Hall
3. Market Place
5. City Hall
6. Serpent Fly Hive
7. Citadel/Basilisk Pit
This costs 14500 Gold, 20 Wood, 10 Ore, 2 Mercury and 2 Sulfur with the Citadel and 14000 Gold, 25 Wood, 15 Ore, 2 Mercury and 2 Sulfur with the Basilisk Pit (+2500 Gold for a second hero + 500/1000 Gold for spellbooks). On impossible difficulty the decision on the 7th day may be redundant because you might not be able to build on every day and the building sequence might have to be changed due to money/resources shortages. If you can build both, the decision should be based on the allaround situation. Will you have enemy contact soon? If so, go for the Basilisks, if not (and you are well equipped with Ore), build the Citadel.
The Serpent Fly Hive is a must-built in the first week, so make sure you get some Mercury and Sulfur. If you haven't got the means to build either a Basilisk Pit or a Citadel, you may upgrade the Serpent Fly Hive, because this will be your first build in the second week.
You won't be able to build on every day, because you need LOTS of wood.
8. Upgraded Serpent Fly Hive (Buy all Dragon Flies). This is important. If you can't buy all, buy the rest on the 9th day. If you could build a Citadel on the 7th day, you will have 20 Dragon Flys (plus a few the hero(es) maybe came equipped with. Take your best hero, give him all Dragon Flies (in 2 or 3 stacks), but no other units and move out. Your hero will be quite fast. Flag all mines you haven't flagged in the first week. Korbac is the best possible hero for this. He will give your Dragon Flies extra speed and extra attack and defense, meaning no shooter you attack will get a shot off. If attacking a serious force, use your meager spell points to cast Shield or Stone Skin. Protect your Dragon Flies. You need them. All builds and upgrades need Wood, so if you see Wood somewhere go for it!
In the second week you may have to solve an ugly problem. You can get Greater Basilisks with 2 builds immediately costing 4000 Gold, 10 Wood and 15 Ore. Greater Basilisks are fast and solid units PLUS you don't need that much Wood to get them. You could recruit them immediately and give your army of Dragon Flies A LOT more substance. On the other hand you'd like to build the Gorgon Lair (for that you need the Lizard Den first) and a Castle. Now, Gorgons are not bad, but they are not MIGHTY Gorgons, so you would be reluctant to recruit Gorgons. You would rather wait with their recruitment, until they are upgraded. The Lizard Den, the Gorgon Lair and the Castle will cost you 8500 Gold, 25 Wood, 20 Ore, 5 Mercury and 5 Sulfur. So the optimum build would be:
9. Basilisk Pit/Citadel
10 Upgraded Basilisk Pit
11. Lizard Den
12. Gorgon Lair
14. Captain's Quarters (sequence may be changed)
While this should be possible moneywise, you'd need 35 Wood, 35 Ore, 5 Mercury and 5 Sulfur for that. Even with 2 Sawmills and 2 Orepits you'll get only 28 Wood and 28 Ore a week, so if you don't find Wood and Ore, these builds are out of reach. The problem, you'll have to solve, is, what NOT to build, if you haven't enough resources. One possible skip is the Castle. Sure, there will be fewer creatures to recruit and you need to build it anyway as soon as possible, but a Castle costs 5000 Gold, 10 Wood and 10 Ore, so if you skip it, this will free money for the recruitment of the Greater Basilisks PLUS it will reduce the Wood AND Ore demands. Another possible skip would be Gorgon Lair (plus maybe even the Lizard Den). This would save you 2500 (3500) Gold, 10(15) Wood and 10 Ore AND you would get the Capitol earlier (fewer builds, more money saved), which would result in more money later on in the third week. And lastly the third possible skip would be the Basilisk Pit and the Upgraded Basilisk Pit, saving you 4000 Gold, 10 Wood and 15 Ore. As there were no Basilisks to recruit you could save further money and get the Capitol even earlier. If skipping something, it might even be possible to slip in the building of a 2nd level Mage Guild which would be an added plus. What to do, depends on the allaround situation. Are enemys near? Go for the Basilisks. Skip the Gorgon Lair and the Lizard Den. The trouble is, you will have to make a decision on the 9th (or 10th, if you are playing for time and build Captain's Quarters first) day. If you have any excuse for not building the creature dwelling (XL map, for example), go for the money and see to it, that you get the Capitol as soon as possible.
You need the Capitol. Save money and build it as soon as possible. Build the missing creature dwellings except the Hydra Pond. You probably won't have neither the money nor the resources for that, and if you have, you won't have the money to buy creatures. Remember, if you haven't built the Basilisk Pit and build it now, build the Upgrade as soon as possible. It is worth it. You need the Resource Silo as a prerequisite for the Upgraded Gorgon Lair, so you can build it right after the Capitol to get the extra Wood and Ore fast.
You will build the Hydra Pond in the 4th week, and you will upgrade a few creature dwellings. The sequence, in which creature dwellings should be upgraded is: Dragon Fly Hive (already done); Basilisk Pit (already done); Gorgon Lair (in rare cases, when the Gorgon Lair and the Resource Silo) is built before the Basilisk Pit this sequence can be switched); Wyvern Nest; Hydra Pond; Gnoll Hut; Lizard Den. The upgrade of the Hydra Pond depends on your Sulfur situation. If Sulfur is rare, but you have enough Wood (but ONLY then) you can grade up Gnoll Hut and/or Lizard Den before the Hydra Pond. Blood Obelisk, Glyphs of Fear and Cage of Warlords may be slipped in between, if an upgrade is not possible due to resource shortages.
Another factor to consider is the Mage Guild. The following rule is a good indicator, when to build the second and third level. If none of your heroes has expert Earth and/or Water Magic, don't bother. As soon as one of your heroes has both expert Earth and Water Magic, build the third level. If one of your heroes has expert Earth or Water Magic CONSIDER the building of the higher mage guild levels.
Because of your army composition it's a big difference, if you fight on an open battlefield or if you are besieging a town. On an open battlefield you are at home and don't have to fear anything except magic. So you will use magic passively. This means simply, that you shouldn't cast a spell, before your opponent casts his. In most cases your opponent will do something like Blind your Gorgons or Hydras and then you will simply cast Dispel or Cure. Only when the opponent has cast his spell for the round you can cast yours (and you shouldn't cast at all, when you are low on spell points and there is no need to Dispel anything). The only exception of this rule is the Teleport spell. If you have it and it's your Hydras' turn you might cast it and Teleport them into the ranks of your opponent. They will wreak havoc there. If the opponent casts something without any lasting effect or beneficial for his own units, then and only then you may cast offensively (see SPELLS section). There are not many situations, where it pays to Hasten your Hydras! You may have the urge to cast that spell, but if the Hydras can't attack at least 3 stacks after casting it, forget it! Cast Mass spells instead. (Mass) Bless, for example, will make ALL of your units much more deadly. But your main goal is to protect your Gorgons' and Hydras' ability to fight. Don't make the mistake and rush things up with your two flyers, if the opponent has serious forces. They are too weak to storm the enemy's ranks without support of the grunts, so you should wait with them and hold them back. If the enemy has strong shooters, don't despair. Take the first (and if they are fast even the second) volley. All of your units have good Defense values. They can stand a lot. DON'T CAST MAGIC AGAINST SHOOTERS, BEFORE THE OPPONENT HAS CAST HIS SPELL. It wouldn't do, if you Blinded an enemy shooter and got your Hydras Blinded shortly afterwards. Click all units and Wait, then advance with your grunts and keep the Flyers back. In the second round attack an all fronts, but first with your grunts, so click the flyers on wait again. Attack 7th level units with your Gorgons, move the Hydras where most of the enemy stacks are, and THEN attack shooters with Dragon Flies and Wyvern Monarchs (if not with the Hydras).
Besieging a town is a totally different thing. If the town is more than marginally defended (so that your Wyverns and Dragon Flies won't suffice to take it), you have a problem, because you need to bring your grunts behind the castle walls while under fire of the castle's towers AND the enemy shooters. There are two possible ways to do this. 1) Teleport your grunts behind the walls; 2) get the walls down as fast as possible. Teleporting behind castle walls is only possible with expert Water Magic (and Teleport, of course). If you got that, your problems are over. Note, that even when the opponent Blinded your Hydras it will pay to Teleport them right behind the walls to block the shooters. The enemy won't attack them (this would be utterly stupid because he would Unblind them AND take damage with all adjacent units (except with expert Fire Magic, but in that case the Hydras would at least get their turn back). If not, you have to take down the walls. Expert Ballistics is definitely a plus (and your hero should have that), but it is not foolproof. In later stages of the game, when the forces are big, a human opponent with Titans, Archangels or Dragons might target your Catapult. If your Catapult is down, you can't breach the walls, and even if he loses his Dragons then, your flyers won't still be enough to win the fight for you. So if you don't have Teleport and expert Water Magic you NEED the Earthquake spell to make sure you can breach the walls even if you lose your Catapult (you should have at least expert Earth Magic in this stage of a scenario). What all this means, is, that magic plays a much more offensively oriented role for you in siege combat than on the battlefield. This in turn means, that you are much more vulnerable for enemy magic. If you cast Earthquake or Teleport, the enemy can cast whatever he wants. He may Blind your Hydras or Gorgons, he may Cast a Mass spell, he may do anything.
That's why Beastmasters should have Resistance as secondary skill. With expert Resistance one out of five enemy spells will be neutralized by this skill and you need that desperately, especially if besieging a town. That said, there are obviously some important artefacts that will benefit you, when you can get them: Pendant of Second Sight (makes you immune to Blind), Pendant of Dispassion (makes you immune to Berserk) and the three artefacts that boost Magic Resistance (Garniture of Interference, Surcoat of Counterpoise, Boots of Polarity).
Tactics and Leadership are also good skills for your Beastmaster (Tactics closes the distance to your opponent's force and helps avoiding being stuck behind obstacles, while Leadership will give you double turns), while Logistics is never wrong. So your Beastmaster should have: Armorer, Ballistics, Wisdom, Earth Magic, Water Magic, Resistance and two out ofTactics, Logistics and Leadership.
If you can choose between gaining 1 Attack or 1 Defense level for your hero, take Attack. You will get Defense often enough. If you can choose between Spell Power and Knowledge, WITH A BEASTMASTER TAKE KNOWLEDGE. EVER.
Terrain definitely plays a role in your battles. Your Hydras take up two hexes and therefore have some range. If there is little space like behind castle walls or if the battlefield is divided by an obstacle in lower and upper half, maneuvering might be more difficult, but you will get more multi-hex attacks with your Hydras. So use terrain to your advantage.
FORTRESS TACTICS AGAINST OTHER TOWNS
If you have Gnolls in your army, use them as you like. Use up retaliations, whatever.
Tactics for Fortress are essentially the same against every town except Necropolis, because Undead are immune to the Gorgons' Death Stare. In sieges you must accept losses against well defended towns. Don't sacrifice your flyers! Ever.
The Gorgons will take out the Archangels. Attack Griffins with Basilisks, Champions and Crusaders with Hydras. The Wyvern should attack the Zealots and the Dragon Flies the Marksmen, but not in the first round.
The Gorgons will take the Dragons (no surprise there). Beware of the Minotaurs. They will do damage against the Gorgons. Hydras must take Minotaurs and Scorpicores (and big numbers of Troggies), while Wyvern should take the shooters. The Dragonflies should attack the Harpies. The Basilisks may either help the Hydras or the Wyverns.
Again, the Gorgons take on the Devils. The Hydras take, what they can get. Battle the Cerberi with your Wyvern and use Dragon Flies for Magogs and Familiars. Basilisks support Hydras.
This is a special case, because all undead troops are immune to the Gorgons' Death Stare, but because of the fact, that Ghost Dragons are not the strongest of all 7th level units your tactics don't differ that much. Hydras should fight anything, espacially Skeleton Hordes, Vampire Lords and Dread Knights, Wyvern should fight Vampire Lords and Power Liches. Because of their sturdyness Gorgons can fight everything including Ghost Dragons and Skeleton Hordes, but they should avoid Dread Knights. Basilisks should fight, where they are needed most.
The Gorgons take the Dragons, Wyvern should fight Pegasi and Elves, while the Hydras have to take Dendroids and Unicorns. Again the Basilisks fight where they are needed most. They can take out Dwarves and Centaurs.
The Gorgons take the Behemoths. Beware of the Ogre Magi. They are ideal to fight against Gorgons. Soften them up with your Hydras, then fight them with your Basilisks. Attack. You may attack the T-Birds with your Wyverns, although a first attack with the Basilisks might be considered.
Attack Titans and later Nagas with Gorgons. Take out Magi with Wyvern and attack Genies and low level units with Hydras. Basilisks can fight anything, while Dragon Flies should take out only Gremlins and Gargoyles. If besieging a Tower, don't panic because of the three shooters, when the walls don't fall. On the other hand don't even consider attacking a more than marginally defended Tower without at least advanced Ballistics (or expert Teleport or Earthquake). If you attack, don't rush in with your flyers. You will use them, because now the Nagas come into play, while your flyers won't do that much damage to the shooters. You simply have to wait and take losses (at half damage) until your grunts are able to go in. Be prepared to suffer losses, though.