So I feel like I'm really starting to get good at this game (might just be a feeling), and I can beat the AI on expert most of the time, barring awful starting location. I am now having some trouble with ridiculous (it seems like quite a jump from expert with its HP bonuses!).
So from those who have mastered the game, was just wondering how you reliably win WITHOUT EXPLOITS (Altar hero loop etc).
In the first 100 turns, I find:
-First priority is settling new cities
-Second is building militia or spearman units to reinforce heroes, and explore short-range
-Third is building Unrest reducing improvements
-Fourth is building scouts for longer-range scouting
-Hero leveling isn't listed as a priority, since just clearing out city spots for settling (priority #1) generally takes care of this
Building cities is key, but by turn 100 you need a strong economy (production/research/gold output) from the cities you've built to start producing a real army, or the AI will relieve you of your multiple, underdeveloped cities.
As far as after turn 100, I find that if I can keep reasonable pace with the AIs exploding power rating and get masses of archers to march with mid-level heroes, I can usually defend against a superior invading force, allowing me to survive and research into the late game, when my 1-3 high level champions mop the floor with the AI's larger army.
After turn 100, that seems to be when specialization makes the most sense: focusing on massing trained units, leveling my hero faster, or amassing mana-producing resources/buildings.
Anyone find that choosing high production city spots over high essence spots, and following up with mass trained unit production is more effective than using high essence spots to support caster heroes?