How long does your games run?
Until I get bored. I'm also more interested in building an empire than wiping the floor with the AI.
You do realize that was turn 20 right?
I did notice that that was turn 20. I also noticed that you'd destroyed every shard you'd found, and had not yet encountered an AI faction. 800 mana isn't going to do you any good unless you've got a decent spell to use it on, and at that stage in the game you rarely have a decent damage spell, and if your sovereign dies trying to take a beast you'll lose something like a quarter of it for no benefit. Beast taming is risky, especially if you go after the stronger monsters, though I could see increasing their spell resistance to make it a little more difficult.
Also, I only consumed 3-4 shards for that amount of mana.
You consumed at least five shards to have 850 mana after spending 250 on Arcane Monoliths, because by turn 20 even a 4-essence starting city with meditation and a sovereign with Attunement is only going to give you 160 mana. Maybe one of the outposts is from a Pioneer, but you won't have made more than one or maybe two of them by turn 20, which is only going to save you 50 or 100 mana. If you've also been using Tame during that time, then you've consumed six or more shards.
I would also mention that casting meditation on high essence settling locations would generate tons of mana, a lot more than shards produce really
True, assuming you have access to cities with essence. I've had games where I never found a settleable location with more than one essence, though, so it's not like it's guaranteed, and in that game most of my mana definitely came from shards since I also didn't build many conclaves. But meditation also sacrifices an enchantment slot that could go to something more useful, one shard temple for three mana doesn't cost me that spot, and I find three or more essence on a tile to be a rare occurrence. One or two essence is common enough, but even so usually only about half of my cities have natural essence, despite that I prefer to settle tiles with essence over tiles without it.
Finally, you can always use Procipinee's crown for your hero and mass buff him with spells (don't see a need though).
Procipinee's Crown is only good for one unit, unless you aren't the only sovereign in the game with it, and then you'd have to force that sovereign to surrender to you before you can make use of the second. I don't usually run with a single all-powerful army, nor do I usually stack enchantments primarily on a single champion. Even in the early game I like to have two, or occasionally even three, armies running around.
If Consume generated less mana, it wouldn't be so much of an issue.
If Consume generated less mana, it would be something I'd never even consider using, especially if it were reduced all the way down to the 30 or 40 you suggest. Right now it's something that I'd rarely ever consider using. I like having powerful spellcasters, and destroying half the shards on the map isn't going to help with that.
But as an option: level 2 fire magic later (For flame dart) - you get fire magic via The Decalon, and when your hero levels put 1 point into it leveling it for flame dart.
Fireball's better; so is Blizzard. Neither of these gets any benefit from levels aside from being cast at a higher spell mastery or with additional Evoker bonuses. Also, the strategic level fire damage spells are heavily dependent on shards for damage, and can potentially wipe out armies at little risk.
Generally, with the wildlands cleared, I would of picked up some high melee attack weapon (they generally have at least 1 with 40-60 attack), and use my mage hero to summon + melee attack rather than spellcast.
Blizzard can wipe out an army in a single cast, if you have the shards to back it up or are facing sufficiently low level or low resistance or poor counterspell opponents. If you want to play super swordsman, you need to have enough armor and health to play with the regular troops, who all have many times your health and damage, probably at least as much defense, and if the AI were doing things properly would come out of a good fortress with as many of the Auras of Whatever and Heart of Fire as possible with the troop-benefiting level-up structures. It's a rare champion that can compete with that. You can have one or two great champions, with their special Wildland weapons and the best armor you can find or buy, but they aren't really any better than decent mid- or end-game quality troops coming out of a fortress, and they play the same way, too.
Maybe you're playing a different game from me. I have yet to find something that this kind of army cannot take down (and none of the spells here really benefit from shards - I suppose technically, your summons would get more levels which gives them more hp):
Summoners don't really get much benefit out of shards, but damage and support spellcasters do, and I don't really care for the rather limited selection of summons available. Also, if you're using summons to hold enemies in place, then extra levels for extra health never hurts, but they don't get enough for it to really matter unless you've got a lot of the appropriate shard.
Low-level fire mages can get more from shards than from levels with Flame Dart, Burning Hands can actually be a halfway decent spell if you have a couple of Fire Shards, and none of the later Fire Magic spells scale with your level yet can be far better than Flame Dart, especially with a few shards behind them. Haste and Slow become enormously powerful with even two or three Air or Water shards, and cost next to nothing to cast, but are also essentially unaffected by level (Slow sticks more often with a higher level caster, but that's about it). A few Earth Shards can let you make a champion nearly invulnerable to elemental damage.
You aren't getting spell bonuses from shards because you've chosen not to use spells that get the most benefit from shards, so you decided that shard bonuses are more or less useless to you. Yes, summons and Tame can be good, but summoned critters and tamed beasts are at their best in the early game, are often no better than equal with mid-game troops, and if late-game troops come out they'll become increasingly outclassed, especially if you foolishly try to make use of the strategic version of the summon in combat. Summoned critters and tamed beasts may let you win the battles early game at little cost, but a good strategic-level damage spell destroys whole armies without even risking a battle, and you won't have good strategic-level damage spells without shards. Nor will you have the really good tactical-level damage spells, unless you're playing an Empire for Horrific Wail, since all of the best tactical damage spells scale with shards. An 18-damage to nine tiles fireball is decent, but a 30-damage to nine tiles fireball is far better, and it doesn't take too many shards to make that difference (depending on magic settings and map size).
The Shroud is by far the easiest Wildland to clear, since all that's in it are spiders, wargs, and darklings. You could do this with a militia army, if you were careful or don't care about losses.
Shroud 'Boss': use 4-5 fire or ice wand equipped mages with +initiative and +fire/ice equipment. Base of 6 attack, add 2 from ice and water items for 8 magic attack. Multiply by 4 for a 32 ranged attack. With 4 or 5 of them, that gives 128-160 attack. Use summons (if necessary) to delay the enemy from getting into your mages while they demolish the enemy.
And how much crystal does that cost? Lots. Crystal is the equipment resource I'm most frequently short of, and the crystal mines are at best half as productive as the metal mines, and don't have a Wonder that provides a massive income for the resource. Nor do upgrades to crystal mines come with upgrades to production capacity, unlike upgrades to metal mines. Crystal mines are also the mine that I most frequently lack or have the fewest of.
Also, you consider a champion with 30-40 melee attack as something that's viable against units with over 100 ranged magical attack? Even though the champion probably only has half the health of the ranged units? Even high-end summoned critters and high-level champions have difficulty matching that, and that's only a mid-game unit. Heck, it's an early mid game unit, since all it takes is the first tier or two of magic research and a mid-level Civilization tech, at least assuming you can get the crystal for it.
I guess I can start a new one with this though. Want to list out the map settings (size, etc), and number of enemy AIs? I'll put them all on 1 team just to make things interesting lol.
Huge map, maximum world difficulty, three AIs at highest difficulty, dense monsters, whatever magic you feel like. Don't care about Wildlands; have as many or as few of those as you want. Win by consuming shards and taming beasts all the way across the map. Other settings up to you. Oh, and perhaps go for Yithril as one of the AI factions.
As for the 'your exploiting idea is wasting time... I agree with the concept, but I still feel a game should be decently balanced. I enjoy FE: LH, but I can also see it slowly getting steadily balanced and potentially having MP tacked on.
Certainly in its current state, this game cannot be considered MPable if that was even offered as a feature. Especially not compared to the other TBS games currently on the market like Civ 5 (great MP), Warlock (only good MP in 1v1s, otherwise turns takes too long), and of course Age of Wonders 2 (3 is coming out soon!). Heck, even Shogun 2 Total War is now offering MP campaign, and I can only see Rome 2 Total War continuing that.
I couldn't care less about multiplayer (actually, I could - usually they take fun things out of single player because they are 'imbalanced' in multiplayer, and I don't like that, so actually multiplayer tends to be something that I consider bad for the game). I also couldn't care less about game balance as long as the game is fun. If making the game 'balanced' makes the game less fun, then making it 'balanced' is a bad thing, and very few games still provide the ability to revert the game to the last version that you considered to be fun, which you used to be able to do by reinstalling from floppy/CD/DVD and then downloading the appropriate patch installers. For some reason, this is not thought to be a good idea anymore, so you're stuck taking a chance every time you install a new patch. If there is an exploit that you consider to not be fun, but you're doing it anyways just to have a little advantage over the AI, that's your own fault.
Don't ruin a spell just because in combination with another spell it creates an exploit, especially when it takes the creation of a custom faction to have any access whatsoever to this exploit. If I'm not mistaken, Warlock: Master of the Arcane has this same 'issue' with regards to its faction customization options, where if you choose certain race and trait combinations you get advantages like free armies (amusingly enough, it's spell-created beast armies, just like the Beastlord armies you're complaining about with your monolith/consume exploit). Their community solved this by agreeing not to combine those traits. Ours wants to 'solve' this by ruining portions of those traits?
JoeBall, I think you are missing the fact that the strategy is to use Arcane Monolith to depopulate the entire map of shards, shards you would never have made use of. If you wouldn't have had it to begin with, then it is 150 mana profit for nothing and the AI can never use it.
I'm well aware that the strategy is to depopulate the map of shards; however, the shards that he's killing to get that kind of mana by turn 20 are precisely the shards that he'd be most likely to get some use out of for the majority of the game, and they aren't the shards that the AI would be using, unless you mean to tell me that you let the AI settle that part of the map which is that close to you. That's his corner of the map, and that's where he's wiped out all the magic power. Can it be a useful trade-off? Sure, if you can find an AI to conquer before your army of monsters is no longer competitive, but settling cities and researching trading gets you the same degree of mobility at about the same time, and building a proper army gives you something that can actually be worthwhile in the later portion of the game, if you're willing to pay the upgrade costs. I will admit that large expanses of swamps, hills, and forests could greatly slow expansion without Mancer blood's extra move or Master Scout's free pass on the terrain penalty, but it looks like there's at least one path going most of the way through that peninsula that's clear of all that for all but four or five tiles.
Of course, his strategy also relies on having something useful to do with all that mana he's been building up. If there were few creatures of the Beast type available for taming, his chosen profession becomes essentially worthless. Even if there are a fair number of beasts, the monsters you tame are essentially irreplaceable, because you're probably clearing the lairs in and around your territory, and the AI almost certainly is clearing the lairs around itself (at any rate, it should be, though it doesn't always). By telling me to grab the Decalon to pick up Fire Magic, he's indicated that he doesn't have access to one of the few damage spells that scales with caster level, and that he's lacking perhaps the best direct-damage magic school. He's also playing a Kingdom faction, so he doesn't have the best of the damage spells that scale with caster level. He's wiped out every last one of his shards, so any support spells like Haste and Slow he might have are stuck at their least powerful level, and even though they can still be useful, there's no way that you need 800 mana to make use of Haste and Slow. You might have an argument for 200 mana, if you wanted to haste your entire army and slow the entire enemy army for five or six battles, but if the AI has enough armies for fix or six battles it probably isn't early game anymore, so the beasts and summons are becoming less useful without decent troops or a good spellcaster backing them up. By destroying all his own shards, what do you think he might lack in the spellcaster department? A good spellcaster.
If you want summoning to help you, you need to be at least level 4, because otherwise you don't have any decent summon spells (sorry, but Shadow Wargs are garbage except in the very early game, and Familiars are only as useful as the spells your sovereign has, and those are the only two summon spells a level 3 or lower sovereign could possibly have, while the champions with special summons tend to be high level and rare - and he probably lacks Shadow Wargs because he probably took Beastlord for his profession; plus, at one cast at a time for each summon spell on either the tactical or the strategic level, summoning isn't a particularly strong way to make use of all that mana). If you get to a high enough level to get the good summons, then it's probably getting towards mid-game, so even the good summons are more like army supplements than primary army units (although this depends heavily on game settings - small maps have absolutely astronomical leveling speeds compared to large maps, at least until the monsters run out).
What can he do with his mana? Well, he could try for a fortress with three or four essence (assuming he finds such a tile) and put all sorts of buffs on it, but that only takes about 200 mana. He could also try for unit enchantments, but he apparently doesn't like those (I can't say I blame him; I myself usually make use of tactical spells, city enchantments, and non-sustained strategic spells). He could tame all sorts of things, if they are available and don't manage to kill his sovereign while he tries it, but that's only early game and perhaps mid game strength, unless he's lucky and gets a few Umberdroths, and if his sovereign dies trying to tame any of this stuff, he loses a lot of mana for little gain. He could try strategic damage spells, but most of them are almost useless without shards, and many don't work outside of his zone of control. If he has Alchemy, he could boost his gold enough to rush out a small army, or maintain a large one produced normally for a while, but without that quest it's not something to build a strategy around. Early tactical spells either don't cost enough to require that kind of mana or don't deal enough damage to make it worthwhile, though if he can pick up Fireball it might be alright in the early game, while Blizzard without shards could be decent into the mid game. But it's still nothing to spend all that mana on - especially Blizzard, since with Mantle of the Oceans most spells become low-cost, and you'd get Mantle of the Oceans before you can have Blizzard unless you're using scrolls.
Again, this is very much a trade-off of early game power and late game strength. He's gone for the early game power, and since he appears to be playing a small map it probably isn't a bad trade. But there's little real use for all the mana he's got (what, are you going to cast tame 200 times? Slow and Haste 100 times each?), and he's chosen to sacrifice most of the potential power of his support and damage mage champions for it.