After I read Trojasmic's thread about Resoln on Rid/Rid, I had to try my favorite faction on Insane/Insane. I've played Ins/ins before with the old Fallen Enchantress, but that game always seemed a little easier to me than Legendary Heroes.
Besides, I usually create a faction, as that's part of the fun of playing for me. But yeah, well-made custom factions are definitely stronger than pre-made ones.
Skip the next part if you just want to read the good stuff:
About Insane/insane: I am no expert, but these are (some of?) the AI advantages on Insane: - enemy hitpoints are doubled. Every monster, AI champion and unit has x2 at the end of the hitpoint calculation. This can be quite a pain. Also, monsters will start at a higher level.
Output generated by the AI is doubled: double gildar, double research, double production. I am not sure about growth, mana and location resources (horses etc)
AI cities gain extra yields. They can have 12 resources maximum, instead of 9. I suspect they always get 3 bonus tile yields.
AI sovereigns and champions have extra abilities. This can be champion abilities like Merchant and unit abilities like Ironskin. Sovereigns have quite a lot of them, usually.
The AI has unlimited credit with the banks of Elemental. This might not be unique to Insane, but it's an AI advantage nonetheless. They can have negative amounts of gildar, ore and crystal.
About Resoln: Their most remarkable trait is the ability to extract demons from shards. Since they can also recruit giant spiders and have a summoner as a sovereign, they can get quite a unique collection of troops. Their units cannot use any armor above leather though, and champs and units have 1 hp less per level. These weaknesses are compensated by their dodge bonus of +20.
If you are so inclined, you could build units with extremely high dodge. I prefer to use magic. In addition to Water and Death magic, their sovereign, Oracle Ceresa, also has access to Death Worship, gaining even more damage and debuff spells.
I allowed myself one luxury: I set 'magic' to 'plenty'. All other settings are random or default. I always set magic to high, so I decided to keep it that way, even though I realize it's a distinct advantage for Resoln.
I opted for a medium world, with 3 opponents. I almost never play versus more than three. I figure if I can conquer 3, I can conquer 9 opponents just as easily. It just takes longer.
One other 'luxury': I turned Spell of Making victory off. This actually makes the game easier, because I wasn't forced to conquer my opponents as soon as they start building the towers.
As you can see, there's still room for an even more challenging game
My start was very promising: close to a 3/3/3 tile with a shard nearby. There were 2 Iron Ore deposits at my doorstep, and many monsters to defeat. Metal isn't very useful to me, but I can sell it to my neighbors.
After building the Tower of Dominion, I was hoping for a hero with Earth or Air, for Enchanted Hammers (Ea) or nice unit enchantments (esp Tutelage).
Luckily enough, I got one of each. Tough choice, but I went with Craul Gravehands for Earth. Enchanted Hammers on all my cities! Craul himself proved not so great: he perished in his first battle. It took me quite some effort to get him to level 3, so I could make him a Commander and get Earth II for the unit enchantments. After that, I put him in a town for the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, I discovered a drawback to my starting location: no quests in sight. Nada, none, zilch. As I wanted to create a stack of doom, led by Ceresa, this was even more of a problem than usual. Less xp, and no second champ for a long while.
After settling my second town in a forest with plenty food and materials, I started exploring. The mountain range in my 'back' blocked routes to the west, leaving the north, east and south for exploration and conquest. The north held a Deadly monster lair with fire creatures. Too bad, as it had a 3/3/3 tile next to it. A little further east was a Banshee lair. Ooh, a Wildlands to the north of the Banshee!
A 'valley' further to the south, I found two good city spots: 3/3/3 and 6/3/0. Before I could settle, I discovered a neighbor: Capitar. Friendly folk, albeit a bit intrusive, building a town so close to my desired spots. I called dips, sir!
Thankfully, I did manage to build my cities (and some outposts) here. Just be careful not to wake those drakes!
Turning around at the Capitar border, I headed south. This part of the map was very disappointing: few lairs, no city sites and a lot of forest to slog through. This expedition was a waste of time. On Insane/Insane, you cannot have too many of these wasted tur
In the meanwhile, an Umber unit had visited my capital. After sharing a few laughs and drinks, it moved on. Strange. Oh, wait, Umber is actually lower than me on the power scale. Whoohoo! It would take a while before I discovered Umber's capital, by the way. Only one more Kingdom to discover. I will send out my scouts to find it.
Hm, my third opponent turned out to be Relias, and he was a lot stronger than the others. Oh well.
Now I had a tough choice to make: either try to conquer the Wildland and try to gain more xp and maybe some cool items, or start attacking one of the AI immediately.
In my experience, it's easiest to take on the AI as soon as possible. If you 'surprise' them, you can quickly take some cities while they are undefended. More importantly, you can fight the whole war with only your Sovereign stack. Later on, your borders can get pretty jumbled and all AI opponents will have several strong stacks roaming the map.
Nevertheless, I decided to explore the Wildland. It is more fun, and I noticed a potential city spot and my first quest nearby! Finishing this quest gave me enough fame for my second hero. Finally.
I could pick a warrior or Alexan, a water/fire mage. No Air, unfortunately. I picked Alexan and used him as an errand boy. I could always steal his Fire trait later…
One of Altar's champs was also exploring Curgen's Tomb, while Capitar had two stacks at the border. I had to be quick. Relias' hero got defeated by a Storm Dragon, so Ceresa moved in and cleared the Tomb.
Alas, this Wildland does not give a reward. It does yield some excellent tiles, though, with a 'triple air shard' at its center. Since my summoned Air Elemental gets stronger with every Air shard, I really wanted to capture this prize.
I had a Pioneer at the ready, marching on a 3/3/3 spot close to the Air node. Of course Capitar, those OP bastards, sent two Pioneers to try and outrun my unit. With my devilish charm, I persuaded Carrodus' ladies to share the land. Well ok, maybe I blocked them a little too. Capitar gave up and build an outpost between my two newest cities.
Soon Altar build cities on all other sides of my Wildland city. This position seemed almost impossible to defend, should it ever come to war. Still, I had my 3 Air power, a top city and a dragon camp.
After inspecting the Research Tree, I convinced myself I would not make it to 'Dance with dragons' before war would break out, so the dragon camp was not a priority. In hindsight, I probably did have the time. No matter, I went for the shard improvements instead, which were also vitally important for both the mana and the improved demons.
Time for a new strategy. What to do, what to do? I would love to do that Arena quest, but I am afraid Ceresa's stack will get defeated. Drakes, with their firebreath, are an evil summoner's bane.
I decide to go for more xp and fame by buying some quest maps from Altar. I can only buy two at this point, from selling loot, as my tax rate is still at zero. The quests are easy, but the xp, items and fame combined still make them worth their while. I am close to my 3d hero. Trading with Altar (the only one willing to buy my iron), I can buy two more quests.
As Umber pays me to become my ally, I cannot resist. I delay my plans for world domination…for a couple of seasons, anyway.
My third hero arrives and still no Air! The choice is between two warrior types and I pick the one with the fanciest armor: Diruna, a Defender.
I sell off all her armor and buy even more quests with it, as I figure I can reach 200 fame pretty easily too. The quests net me some nice shields, an Umberdroth and a great mount.
Back home, I upgrade all my shard altars. I am afraid to build more cities, as they might still be very weak when war breaks out. The unrest penalty won't be worth it. Again, my anxiety of playing on Insane/Insane gets the better of me.
After building some outposts in the empty valley between Umber and me, I stop building pioneers for a while to try and get all my cities to lvl 3.
200 fame reached and lo and behold, a Champ with Air. She is a commander with Air, bonus research and the ability to summon a Slag. Everything Ceresa could wish for. Still, champ nr.2 is tempting too…
The other option is the Gallowman, one of the new heroes and one I had never seen before. He is an undead mage with Death III and an unknown spell, Consume Spirit: deal damage (2x lvl) to a unit, if it dies, gain 40 mana. I assume there's some sort of drawback to this spell, right?
Alright, I have to try this spell. Nope, no downside to it whatsoever. It costs 0 mana, can be cast from a distance and can gain you 40 mana. When the Gallowman casts it, it only does 14 damage and can be resisted quite easily. Of course, there's an easy solution to this. Ceresa's new spell is awesome!
This feels like a turning point in the game. I will probably be able to win, purely based on 'Consume spirit'.
Ceresa is now level 17, and has also acquired Mantle of Oceans, greatly reducing mana spent. Every battle will gain her mana, instead of losing it. All she needs is some more Spell Mastery.
One of the disadvantages of playing Empire is the complete lack of healing. After every battle, my army is a little weaker. Summons can be recast and Elementals come and go, but the various beasts I have acquired through quests slowly die one by one. I cry a little (on the inside, mind you) when the last of them, my beautiful and fearsome Umberdroth, dies.
The quest he dies in is the Dragon Eye quest. I complete this part, but I have never seen it completely finished. Maybe I should try that.
Turn 100 comes around, and suddenly Altar's and Capitar's approval rating drops from 2x'Friendly' to 'Cool' and 'Unfriendly'. Not-so subtle game mechanics at work.
I unexpectedly gain another hero I have never seen, Mausolos, a living armor. Cool. Too bad he cannot equip anything. Next I gain the 'Cloak of the Stars', which increases Spell damage by 50%. Consume Spirit becomes much more deadly, which means more mana.
Around the same time my next hero comes along. Again no Air, but I can select another Summoner, who can already cast Air Elemental. Pretty awesome, as my main damage dealer now has a little brother.
My Air Elementals deal 46 and 40 lightning damage and have initiatives of 41 and 38. They can knock heavily armored opponents prone and stab them 3 to 4 times before their victims can strike back again, ignoring all their armor.
With her new toy, Ceresa is ready to take on the Arena quest, gaining yet another champion, Pralius. P isn't too impressive, except for the fact he can summon a Slag in battle. Sweet.
I decide to let some other champs explore and quest a little, but this quickly backfires: Mausolos gets defeated when a reload drops a deadly monster group next to him. Glitch!
Alexan and Diruna perish on a quest. Pralius and the Caller each bolster the defenses of my most outlying cities, while Craul governs my largest Fortress. That city houses the Great Mill, the Adventurer's Guild and a Theatre of the Winds.
Pretty cool, hopefully I can get it to level 4 soon. Normally I only build 0 or 1 Fortess, but this time I prefer the higher production of Fortresses above Towns. I have 3 Conclaves, 3 Fortesses and 1 Town.
Speaking of my Town, it finally incorporates a Drake lair. I have to send Ceresa to the rescue.
Unexpectedly, my ally Umber declares war on Altar, in true David vs Goliath style. I am tempted to help out, if it weren't for the Drake situation. And Capitar might very well declare war on me if I attack a Kingdom. No, definitely do the Drake first.
Fortunately, I can cast 'Freeze' twice, thanks to Alexan. Actually, that's the only reason he is still alive. If Craul can gain some xp to learn 'Tremor', I will have 3 Strategic CC spells, making my life a lot easier.
Back in my own backyard, I stumble upon another 'quest' hero: Auraine, the Spider Lady. She rides a Harridan and can cast Air spells. Cool. After defeating the Drakes, I decide to do the other two Dragon eye quests, as they are both in my territory. A little fun before war breaks out...Ouch, that last Dragon quest is really 'Epic'. I won't spoil it for anyone, except to say that I had to resummon all my buddies. But my resulting army was now truly Epic.
And one turn later, I get my last hero. Somehow, I do not get to pick between two level 11 champs, but between a level 1 and 7...hm. I pick the level 7 defender, Tsonok. He has a lot of armor, but no spells. No matter, I have researched a couple of universal spells by now. Especially 'Pull of the earth' is very useful in battle. Speaking of battle: Capitar declares war on me.
Yeah, so having 4 armies on the same tile isn't really smart. I Freeze and Wither all four of them with one casting. With the help of a lot of strategic spells, two forces of my combined champs hold off all invading forces. Meanwhile. my Epic army steamrolls Capitar's defenders.