So I recently bought Heroes of Might and Magic VI. I have been wanting to play it for a long time but never got around to it. Recently though I have come across the sheeting ragestorm that is the Internets reaction to Ubisofts way of making the classic turn based strategy game an ONLINE experience.
HoMM is a classic and to me one of the most enjoyable TBS games I have ever played (probably my nr 2 right after the Civilization franchise). There is a rich amount of history and lore and characters connected to the Heroes universe and yet it is also a very fluid world that the creators are constantly changing and improving upon. I enjoy the unique campaign storytelling that now is a hallmark of these games and of course the polished tactical game system that is the chewy center of the Heroes game.
But the game is – sadly – less interesting then the controversy of the Conflux and the Dynasties. As you play Heroes VI you level up as a player – gaining access to things such as the ability to create custom heroes (unlocking portraits, powers and other cool stuff that nerds need), gaining powerful artifacts and perks that can be carried between games and of course all the vanity hiffermyjinkies. On top of this your progress through the campaigns and saved games are in THE CLOUD. All of it very innovative – only it doesn’t work.
The Steam and Ubisoft forums are littered with topics where gamers rage over the fact that the system designed to handle all of this breaks daily. Making people have to start over at games and/or making the content they have unlocked unavailable to them (including Dynasty bonuses, saved games and campaign progress). So far it has been 50/50 for me. Yesterday I played just fine. Today I cant access anything.
Heroes of Might and Magic VI. What. A. Mess.
If the classic game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” was really called “Elf, Eagle, Lion” this guy would win it all the time!
I actually painted this model some time ago but decided to do a few “touchups”. Mainly to make it more interesting to look at. All in all it is not a super exciting model – perhaps the least exciting one to come out of the Island of Blood pack – which is a shame since it is meant to be a centerpiece. The elf lord is all wrapped up in his armor, the griffon is mainly defined by its feathers which I – after numerous attempts at doing something interesting with – just decided to drybrush in scales of gray and call it a day.
Oh well. All in all it is a nice and dynamic miniature and even an elf hero can bring a mean griffon to the fight which means it might get to see some use as well. I really wish that elf commanders had the option of being more aggressive. Mostly though you will spend points giving them Ward Saves and other defensive measures because they are just too precious to make into glass cannon killing machines. in an elf army there is no such thing as “expendable” – especially if you spent the points on a Ld 10 commander.
End rant. Here pictures:
I see much wargaming in my future. My friend Adrian has an obsessive power that is akin to The Eye of Sauron. Whatever he focuses on is subject to intense and powerful scrutiny. Truly his inner nerd has the power to pierce flesh, stone and other ominous utterings by old dudes in white robes. This time his gaze falls upon Warhammer Fantasy and since my high elves has been dormant for way too long I am more than happy to follow suit. As such I have been re-reading the rules, played a little 500 point game and – best of all – reconnected with my Youtube channels for battle reports.
After watching an interesting battle report today I needed to look up something in the errata. Not to see about a rule but to check on a definition. In this battle report a unit of Sword Masters got his by the template of a Miscast spell. The S10 hit removed 6 models and there was not even talk about a save. But wait – I thought – that unit was marching under the Banner of the World Dragon a – by now – infamous High Elf magic item that confers a 2+ Ward Save against magical attacks on all models in that unit. Would that banner not protect the unit against the blast from the Miscast? Logic seems to dictate that it would but I have learned not to trust logic – especially in wargaming – since the job of the rules is not to simulate reality but to create a balanced game (and as obvious as this may seem to some we all know those people who misinterprets rules on the grounds of “that doesn’t seem realistic” – well neither does the zombie dragon!).
Realism discarded I took a look at the function of the banner to see if there was some clue to be found. As some people have noted the Banner of the World Dragon (this is where i am starting to refer to it as BWD or “the banner”) is already a quite powerful item. Granting protection from a lot of nasty spells as well as the attacks from powered up lords and heroes wielding magic weapons. (not to mention entire armies of the unholy spawns of Chaos). Adding a 2+ protection from miscasts on top of that seems to make this banner an even more desirable item. In the game managing your spells and power dice is such an important thing. But given that the more power dice you spend the higher the chance of a Miscast means that the 2-3 wounds you have on your wizard becomes a very precious thing (that said the banner does not protect against the instant death suffered from being sucked into the warp nor losing your wizard levels). Can it really be that this 50 point flag is the cure-all against Demons, Miscasts and hostile spells?
As it turns out – yes it is. Looking up in the errata I found the following note under the question “what is a magical attack?” : “hits inflicted by rolls on the Miscast Table are treated as magical attacks”. So there you go. Place your Mage or Archmage in a unit and you can avoid taking most of those Miscast wounds – making sure you keep your spellcaster around a lot longer.
As powerful as this item seems it has some severe limitations. You can only have one of them. You will need to pick which unit has the protection of the banner. This means that you must choose if the banner is to stay with your Mage – protecting him from Miscasts – or if it will be a ward for a strong melee unit (or you can must gamble and send your Mage into combat) it can’t solve all of your problems nor can it protect the entirety of your army. Players facing the banner may grumble that it basically makes a unit impervious to their magic but if magic was their only option to take this unit out they will need to look at their own list and it’s limitations rather than crying foul play.
A friend once told me that you can identify something unbalanced when it is something you will pick over other options all the time (*cough* Beasts of Nurgle *cough*) but while I appreciate this as a rule of thumb I do not feel that it applies to the Banner of the World Dragon. Firstly it is impossible – as previously stated – to only pick the BWD for your units and second a lot of other banners are highly useful to a High Elf player – depending on your tactics of course.
As such the Banner of the World Dragon might be an iconic item for the High Elves (like the Book of Hoeth) but it is far from a universal remedy and if not used with caution and guile it will be a wasted effort to include at all.
EDIT: I was asked what other banners I’d be likely to pick for my High Elves and I’m happy to comply:
- Gleaming Pennant (re-roll your first failed Leadership Test): useful if you have an expensive cavalry unit on the flank outside of Inspiring Presence, a unit that will not be steadfast and/or likely to be the first in and taking hard hits. If you can make a unit stay a full turn you will get to make the juicy counter charges. Notice that this will not stack with the re-rolls from your Battle Standard.
- Standard of Discipline (all Models in the unit has +1 leadership, but cannot use Inspiring Presence rule): Only way to get a General with 10 Leadership is to take a Prince. But stick this banner on a unit with an Archmage, Anointed of Asuryan or Loremaster of Hoeth (who all have a Ld of 9) you can get the same advantage. The unit with your general in it will not even suffer for it since they are not using the Inspiring Presence rule to access the General’s Leadership – but simply using the Model with the highest Leadership in the Unit.
- Banner of Swiftness (+1 Movement): Bringing a unit of elves up to 6 Movement makes them really fast on a charge. Also it can bring a unit of cavalry up to the maximum speed possible – a whooping 10 inches (down boy).
- Wailing Banner (Unit causes Terror): Terror is just nice. Force a Leadership test on a charge and cause fear in fear causing troops. A fun – but risky – thing is to have your Battle Standard Bearer on a mobile mount like an eagle or chariot letting him threaten a lot of units with his terrifying charge.
- War Banner (+1 combat resolution): If your Battle Standard is also present in a unit this can be a total of +3 from banners alone. With three ranks that can be a lot of “static combat res” making a unit very likely to win combat or at least very hard to break. Piling modifiers on top of each other like this let’s you do some pretty neat things.
So I took advantage of Steam’s special offer on Gods & Kings and all the little content packs and whatnots for CIV V – I haven’t played CIV in a while since the game has a tendency to draw you in and then hit you with a massive wall of fatigue (In my case it happened when I was basically playing the same game again and again trying to beat level 5).
Now there’s a second expansion coming – I’m looking forward to it – and I decided to get back into the swing of things by playing Gods & Kings for a while. I like to start with things I like:
- Improved AI. Did I say that? While the AI still acts like a tantrum prone preschooler it’s a tantrum prone preschooler whose alien version of logic I can learn to understand. It makes esnes (yes – sense backwards). Instead of diplomacy being like drawing a random event card each turn it’s now something that I feel I can use (was this something I like or something I just dislike less?)
- Religion. I love being able to customise my style this way. Religion feels like 5 important choices you make throughout the game. There is a slight tendency to go for the same advantageous set up every time but you can really benefit from taking stock of your situation and choosing accordingly.
- Advantages and special units. Most of the civ’s are now have an interesting and defining twist to them. I usually end up playing Montezuma, Caesar or Ghandi.
- Better balance. Resources, managing the mood of your civ and unit upkeep… plus a lot of other things has been tweaked to make the game more playable as a whole.
- Making naval units has become more advantageous. I like the idea of the Privateers but the concept needs a bit more work – attacking cities for gold is just not lucrative enough compared to the risk of losing the ship and having to find a place to repair it afterwards.
Then there are things I do not like so much:
- Spying. Not a system you can feel clever using at all. When it comes down to it you are better off just letting your spy sit tight and attempt to intercept your enemy. Extremely boring to say the least.
- Playing with a computer ally. I had to abandon an otherwise very good game because my computer team mate kept making peace with my enemy in the middle of a war. You have no say in this. It will just be announced that your carefully planned campaign is at an end. Your opponent gets 10 more turns to build his army back up and then it can start all over again. Extremely frustrating.
- Playing as a team. I don’t get the whole thing where you have common research but can’t benefit from your teams wonders. You can not automate workers since they start taking liberties with your allies territory. Playing in any kind of team just feels awkward.
- Spreading religion. The system is pretty unintuitive. The units to affect religion is not worth the cost and you do not have the option of really keeping foreign influence out of your cities.
I am really enjoying this incarnation of CIV and when the game gets another tweak in the upcoming expansion I’m sure even more of the little problems will be ironed out. For me that is the best thing about the expansion: the feeling that the game has improved – that someone wants to make it better as well as providing more content.
Today – as The Randi was playing around with my High Elves – it occured to me that a huge block of spearmen would be able to deliver a devastating amount of attacks.
Normally I field the spearmen in two units of 25. A solid 5×5 box. But if arranged in a single unit of 50 in a 10×5 formation the unit would count as a Horde.
- In a normal unit only the first rank of the unit gets to attack with their full attacks (spearmen have a single attack, so not really an issue here).
- The second rank gets to make supporting attacks (a single attack even if they have more than one attack on their profile or due to weapons)
- A unit armed with spears is allowed to attack with yet another rank of troops.
- A horde get’s to add another rank due to – being a big fucking horde.
- High Elves – being elite troops – get’s to attack with yet another rank.
That’s a solid 5 ranks of attack on a turn they have not been moving. Due to their amazing special rule of always striking first in combat this block of pointy death can take a charge to the face and still be able to get off 50 attacks before the enemy get’s to do anything. Oh actually that would be 51 attacks with the champion present.
And all that for only – eh – 475 points. – and assuming no casualties are taken before they enter combat.
Steam has a lot of nice special offers these days. One of them being Orcs Must Die! …in which carnage is the word of the day.
Since Lasse and Adrian are actually using their TV these days (for what we shall not speak of) I’ve had to take steps. Drastic steps. Thankfully Puzzle Quest II is also avaliable on Steam and I’ve just played through the storyline.