Since I really enjoy thinking, talking about and playing this game. Let's continue writing about it some more. So, this article is for those of you who haven't played this game, but might be interested in playing it. This is a small presentation of the very beginning of your game.
So, we set up a random map on standard size and difficulty. But before we start to play, we need to make a hero.
Meet Elarthil the innocent. He's a human Theocrat. I picked Human because they're simple to understand, and they get a flat +10 production in their cities. It's not sexy, but it gets the job done. Next up is class, for that I picked Theocrat. It's a pretty interesting class that gains bonuses to support units, favors spirit-type attacks, has many healing-spells and generally has a nice religious theme. Another interesting quirk to the Theocrat is that they get a lot of spells that improve your cities production, fertility and general health. Now we're ready to start the game.
Turn 1 - The standard messages of win and loss conditions are handed out. Destroy your enemies capital, don't loose your own and such. Next up is research, so we go for "Produce Martyr" as our initial research. The research is quick and it will let us tech up into more powerful units quicker. The Martyr unit is not too powerful, but it is thematic, and the next unique Theocrat unit, the crusader, is pretty good. So we want to be able to research them at our earliest convenience.
Next up is recruitment. Each game of the random map starts with a random hero spawn at your city looking for work. The cost of 100 gold might be steep, but heroes are really powerful units that can grow into true masters of the battlefield, so it's prudent to pony up the cash when one comes around. The new hero, Xor-Thi is a Draconian Arch-druid. The game allows you to have multiple heroes of multiple races and classes. The only real thing you have to worry about is the fact that the more you diversify your army, race wise, the more the morale of your troops suffer. But having just one hero won't affect our current morale too much. We fold him into our main heroes (Elarthil) army. Now we start exploring.
Turns 2 -3 - We spend the following turns exploring our immediate surrounding. There are neutral sites around, guarded by neutral armies, that need the treatment "neutrals" deserve. Zapp Brannigan comes to mind. The idea here is that battling will give our heroes and armies XP, and if we "liberate" these sites from the dirty neutrals, they will come under our control once our city grows. After some exploration, we find the dirtiest of things, a neutral city. It is to our north and they greet us in the dirties fashion: "Well met, let us work for peace."
Turns 4 - 6 - We keep exploring and killing. There are some really scary and dark places close to our city that look appealing, but they're far out of our league at this stage. So we move on to weaker targets, picking off bandits and the odd Draconians that hang around. We also spend some time casting spells. First we cast the "Summon cherub" spell. As the name suggests, it summons cherubs. These units are weak flying units that make excellent scouts and really, really bad front-line fighters. So we send them over the mountains to scout. We also cast the "Transform Air node" spell. This spell transforms any standard mana node to an air mana node. Since we're specializing in air magic, the air node gives us extra production of crystals AND research as long as we hold it.
Turn 7 - Now things starts to get going. Our research is complete, so we switch to researching "Order of healing". This civic research will give our "irregular" (unit class) troops the healing ability. The reason why we didn't go for Crusaders directly is because it is not cost effective enough. We need to gain more territorial sites or build more buildings that boost our research first.
The neighboring city also gives us a quest. They want us to march into their territory and kill some Archons. The Archons are undead units, and our superior powers of holy light will make short work of them. Said and done, we came, we killed and we collected. The city offers us either 137 gold or a knight unit and a peace offer. We take the knight and peace. The idea here is that while gold is nice, peace gives us better standing with the city. The better your standing with neutral cities are, the cheaper they are to assimilate peacefully later. While we have been out battling, our city has been building. All of this building has led us to gain a level in race governance. Each race has a unique tech-tree that you gradually unlock as you work with that particular race. The techs are divided in two trees, one is for units and the other is for buildings.
After the battle, we have gained enough XP and our main hero has gained a level. When you upgrade your hero, you get 5 points to spend on gaining new traits. Traits come at different costs and powers. Some are as simple as gaining extra stats, other traits gives your hero new abilities and such. This level, we pick the trait "Chaplain" and some stats. Chaplain is a trait that gives the army the hero is connected to great morale. This is a very useful thing when you're going to explore far away lands and need to rely on your army.
Turn 9 - Our city has grown. This means that the borders have expanded by one tile in each direction. This also means that everything that we had "liberated" close by is now under our control. So now we reap the rewards for out diligent murdering. Neutral sites provide the city they are under with bonuses like extra production, fertility, crystals, research or money. This is one of the two ways that you upgrade your city. The other way is to build buildings, like any normal strategy game.
Turn 10 - We end up this little demo by having our cherubs find a new city far to the west, and they are kind enough to give us a quest. They want us to kill some beholders that are harassing their borders. The quest has a time limit, and the only unit close by (by a large margin) is the cherub squad. Are these cherubs bad dudes enough to murder some beholders? Maybe, maybe not. But I'll leave that up to you.