Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Lightning Builds

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

Are you a bored n00b? Maybe a Steam player with 200 prestige burning a hole in your pocket. Perhaps just a gamer discouraged by all the early resource plot grinding. Stop! Your rescue is at hand. Don't follow the lame construction advice from the GC muggles.

Figure 1: Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist.

Start Having Fun Today

This article describes how to use cotters and harvesting to drive growth on Day 1. I have written about the harvester playstyle before in How to Kill Your Way to Capturing a City. Today I will describe some fun city builds to do something useful and interesting in your first week or two, independent of whether you choose to capture your second city. Your overall goal is to establish enough population to develop one solid town and then 3-5 cotter towns to harvest on the map and supply that main city.

The basic cotter city build goes like this:
  • Library
  • Marketplace
  • Storehouse
  • Barracks
  • Warehouse (optional)
  • 17-18 Cottages
  • Basic Resources as it amuses you

Depending on your particular strategy--Hunter, Maker, or Crafter--your second city will be a 5- or 7-food town that you settle or capture. The important concept is that you are funneling resources into a single excellent town, while enjoying all the activity of being a cotter kingpin. This single city is the foundation from which you can expand your account. The cotter towns are a great blank template once you decide your true account strategy.

Each cotter town adds a few levels of library, barracks, marketplace to keep the research queues moving foward. I recommend capping your resource plot growth at 12 to enable a painless exodus. The only buildings I'd carry to 20 is the Warehouse if you want to research exodus, the Barracks if you want to capture a city, and the Marketplace if you want to harvest the map and build more effectively (which you do).

The basic keeper city build goes like this:
  • Library
  • Marketplace
  • Storehouse 15-18
  • Barracks
  • Warehouse
  • 3-5 Farm 16-20
  • Flourmill
  • various buildings to reach 5000, 10000, or 20000 population


I cannot emphasize that enough. Some of the builds below require a focus on a particular type of building. If you need to fill in additional population to start another cotter town, I recommend looking at Common Ground, Blacksmith, Spearmaker, Consulate, Mage Tower, Fletcher, Forge, in that specific order. Where required, build the prerequisite buildings, but be prepared to tear them down if required.

The keeper city will cost prestige to build quickly, assuming you have sufficient basic resources. The more population you have, the more cotter towns you can support. Total city tiers are 5000 pop (4 cities), 10000 pop (5 cities), 20000 pop (6 cities). You can reach 5000 population in a day for less than 100 prestige, if you do it smart. That's your initial 25 prestige, plus $3 (75 prestige). Hitting 10000 will cost about 200 prestige ($8), and 20000 about 500 prestige ($15). This means a new Steam player with 200 prestige can be on track to hit 10000 population in a very short timeframe.

While the prestige part can be solved in 60 seconds with a credit card, the basic resource part of the equation is not. That's discussed again at the end of this article.

Teleport or Not?

Here's the deal. You really want to keep your teleport, in case you want to move your keeper city. However, in order to make the cotter growth strategy work, you need abundant herbs and minerals nearby to harvest. If your area of the N00b Ring has few herbs or minerals within 15-20 squares, then this strategy won't work well. You'd have to decide whether to abandon the account or use that precious teleport.

The Hunter

The hunter build works best with an orc. Orcish skinners cost only 5 Hides (other races cost 40 Hides), and you will want a lot of skinners to harvest valuable animal parts. Your keeper town is going to be a 7-food city. Skinner Guilds are high population buildings, and you will want at least 10. All guild buildings work best if you centralize them into a single city, since only one team can harvest a map location at one time. For big kills, a team of 250-400 skinners is the only way to go. Animal kills expire after 7 days, so anything you don't harvest quickly is lost.

Because the keeper city is a 7 food, and you start on a 5 food, you will need to either settle or capture the keeper city. It can't be your starter city unless you move it via exodus to a 7-food location.

Your income supplement will obviously come from killing animals, so be sure to read the Basic Hunting Guide, and then Killing Commanders for Fun and Profit. Your keeper and your cotter towns will all supply elite multi-commander hunting armies.

If you want to learn about hunting, then I recommend The Hunt Club [Hunt]. Freyja in particular is quite knowlegeable about hunting, animal spawn patterns, and farming animal kills. Many other alliances will welcome a dedicated hunter, but just beware of the advice you receive about hunting methods. There is a lot of ineffective advice out there.

The Maker

The maker build is easiest with a human, but it can work with any race. Your goal here is to produce a lot of a valuable item. The most useful builds would be the Brewer (beer), the Rancher (cows), and the Blacksmith (swords). I don't really recommend focusing on horses, bows, spears, chainmail, or plate armor. You might try to be a Bookbinder (books), as your library can produce lots of spare resource points.

Your keeper city will be on a 5/5/5/5/5 plot. This is a great build if you want to learn about production sovereignty. As you level up your resource plots and buildings, you will slowly edge up taxes so you can claim more sov. Level your resource plots evenly, as sovereignty consumes basic resources evenly. You will need to complete the appropriate sovereignty reserach trees for 20 sov squares, sov 3-5, and the item you are producing. The production building should be level 20, and your library should be higher levels as well.

You can produce a lot of a single advanced resource this way. Just be sure that you are selling your wares in Centrum fairly often, or you might become a target for thieves.

The Crafter

The crafter build is a more complex build, but one that can be fun for certain players. My recommendation on crafting towns is in descending order: spears (best), leather armor, chainmail armor, bows, swords, plate armor (worst). To understand why I chose this ordering, refer to Jagblade's Guide to Equipment.

Anticipate that most of your crafting will be by contract. It's more complicated to purchase raw materials and craft them into valuable items, but some players will embrace that challenge as well. There are several forum guides on how to arrange crafting towns. I recommend a 7-food city with 4 identical level 20 crafting buildings (to provide speed acceleration), plus one level 5 main production building (to actually craft the items). The level 5 is so you can't accidentally demolish it and lose 100M gold worth of crafted items in progress. The crafter build would work well with the hunter build, assuming you had two keeper cities, or a main/alt account focused on each role.

Who's Gonna Pay for All This?

As mentioned earlier, the basic resources are not trivial. The best way to get basic resources is to be a member of a large, active alliance that is willing to bombard you with resources. Alternately, you can trade your herbs, minerals, and hides in GC for loads of resources. Many people are willing to send resources if you promise them that you will prestige the caravans. Before you do that, understand that there is a right way to prestige accelerate caravans, and a wasteful way that will bankrupt your prestige for very little gain.

In the next article, we discuss how to get supplies into your account with the Layer Cake technique. If you do it right, you can do it once. After we get that powerful technique established, we will discuss some exciting PvP cotter kingpin builds, including the Tournament Fighter, the Shield Warrior, and the Gladiator.

Until then, as always...

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Planning Your Cities

Good evening, cannon fodders.

Based on the title, I bet you're expecting an article on city planning tools. Truthfully, I don't use them. I just jot down a few numbers on a legal pad, and that's good enough for my personal style of city building. Perhaps in a future article I can describe that 5 minute process, because I think people get paralyzed by all the perceived options. The truth is that most builds are vanilla and quite mundane. But another time.

Tonight I was reading a forum article entitled Stagnant by a player named Peroxis. In it, he wonders why all city planning recommendations seem to converge on 7 food, surround-by-plains. Malek (He-Man) lays out a good explanation of the tradeoffs between 5-, 6- and 7-food cities, as well as city tile and adjacent tiles. If you want the one-page discussion of 5/6/7, then you need to read his post.

Rather than repeat that information and elaborate further, I recommend that you step back and ask yourself a question:

What is the strategy of my account?

Cities Are Just Tools

Many players go straight for the city building guides on the forums. While these are useful and necessary, I think it ignores the most important question of playstyle. What is your overall strategy? Most players don't have a plan in mind, and that's why they get such generic advice. It is indeed hard to go entirely wrong by building medium-high population 7-food cities that are surrounded by plains. However, it can also be difficult to do anything interesting or useful with a completely vanilla account.

What most players never consider is that cities are tools. You pick the tools for the intended job. Let's take the 5-food military city as an example. Maximum troop production, right? That's what everyone says. But how does that player supply all the troop construction materials? Where do they get their gold? Probably they are running a gold farm account and their PvP account. Are the accounts co-located? Sheltered in separate alliances? What level of standing armies are supported in the PvP account? What is its role in the alliance order of battle?

My point here is that there are many additional questions that get answered. The only way to answer them sensibly is to have a strategy in mind first. If you start with the city itself, then you're doing it all backwards. To demonstrate that concept, let's talk about the first incarnation of Skint Jagblade.

Cotter Bonanza

When I first joined Night Squires, I terraformed Kobold Hole into 7 food large mountain near Myr. Soon afterwards, I was gifted with an intact Huge city from a departing player. This city became Emerald Gaze of Myr. Then I set about deciding a strategy.

Kobolds are cheap. One beer, one spear. At the time, I saw that herbs were 400, spears 100, beer 100. Therefore, I reasoned that every herb I picked up was equivalent to 2 kobolds. I also saw that food was selling for at least 2 gold per unit. Therefore, I decided that I would become a cotter baron who sold food on the side. Since I had enough population to build 7 cities, I quickly settled my next 5 in a block. Yeah, you heard me, a BLOCK. One row of 3, one row of 2, all 7 food. No sov, no space to expand, just 20-25 cotters in each town. All I did was build up farms, marketplace, and basic resources. Every day, I would send 100-125 cotters into the jungles of Arran to harvest herbs. That's 10000-12500 herbs per day, or 20000-25000 kobolds per day. I would ship 1-2M food per day down to Eyepool, too.

As my playstyle evolved, I decided to build a force of 300 skinners in Emerald Gaze of Myr. All five cotter towns had elite cavalry commanders for hunting, plus some tiny cavalry armies. This is where I perfected my understanding of the hunting swarm technique. Skint Jagblade was a herb-harvesting, monkey-slaying, beetle-killing jungle machine.

As I transitioned from student to trainer, I used the Cotter Town I-V to support the growth of new Night Squires players. Since I never used the resources, my warehouses were always full. Later, I added a brewery and spearmaker in each town to further produce kobold materials, but I always ran +10000 food per hour or higher.

I think we can all agree that this setup is not the vanilla configuration of all 7-foods, surround-by-plains. But the setup worked for me because it met my primary goal: procure the materials to make kobolds, and gold to help pay for them. It also secured crafting materials which could be sold or built into armaments. Was it as effective as building a 7-food gold farm? Probably not. But sending those waves of cotters out every day was entertaining for me, and you have to enjoy the game.

Breaking 10 Cities

The muggle buzz is to gain ever more cities. Most players never stop to ask themselves whether pursuing 25 cities is the path to an enjoyable strategy. There is a great assumption that having more cities will allow you to do more of what you like, once you decide what that is. I believe this is a false assumption, if for no other reason than because players grow reluctant to rip down buildings and lose population.

Set out with a goal in mind. Be the Iceheart baron, or Illyriad's foremost spearsmith, or the lunatic who singlehandedly wakes the Heart of Corruption. Be the warrior with the single biggest army, or the dwarf with the biggest beer stockpile ever. More mainstream goals could include being a great tournament player, your alliance's most mischievous thief, or a well-respected crafter. By starting with the goal, that will inform you about what kind of city you should build. Yes, many cities will fall into the 7-food framework. Yes, it is always a good idea to surround by plains. But those builds are just one tool to pursue your goals, and you should open your creativity to the many other possibilities.

Plus, if your cotters displease you, you can feed some to the pumas. Always good for a laugh.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff!

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Deathmatch I: the First Month

Good morning, cannon fodders.

The Thunderdome deathmatch event has now been running exactly one month. As the event has unfolded, the participants have shared key reports with me. At first, I had an impulse to immediately discuss their fresh battle reports on Warmongering in Illyriad. However, after further consideration, I decided not to immediately publish such information, as the fog of war is a crucial aspect to Thunderdome clashes.

Let's take a moment to review some of the key battles, and then examine the current state of the arena.

Pie Sliced

At the beginning of combat, I wondered if Pie [BLX] would be an easy mark or a sleeper titan. The answer was easy mark. Within the first week of battle, his city of Iron Pain was under siege by Cro-Magnon [HORDE]. The siege proceeded without interference from either Grum or Treggar [GATE], and Pie was sliced. He has the the dubious honor of being the first ever casualty of a Thunderdome deathmatch, and Cro-Magnon notches the first ever Thunderdome kill.

Forests on Fire

After some diplomatic clashes, the first major battle in Thunderdome came late on 23 March. Treggar launched a major siege against the forest citadel of Grum B. His force composition was 400 stalwarts, 18292 slingers, 30 battery towers, 30 ballistas. If the siege had gone uncontested, it would have fired 30 volleys per hour into Grum's city, quickly ruining the wall and causing catastophic damage. Unfortunately for Treggar (and fortunately for Thunderdome spectators) the siege was met with savage force.

The fortress of Grum B is completely surrounded by large forests. For those new to Illyriad PvP, this is a very significant placement. The favored dwarven racial unit is stalwarts, the best infantry attacker in the game. Infantry receives a +30% bonus when attacking any forest. Treggar did match the defender to the attacker--aside from orcish kobolds, the t1 bow units are the best general-purpose anti-sword defenders in the game. Bows suffer a -20% defensive penalty in large forest.

If you are struggling to read between the lines here, a powerful attacker with a big bonus against a medium defender with a big penalty... ah heck, just read the battle reports for yourselves. The first elite commander strike will probably burn your eyeballs a little. Quadruple equipped, max Heroism, ouch!

Before anyone gets really excited by this new Dwarves-in-a-Forest defense, I explain this phenomenon in my guide to military city placement. Surround-by-forest is not a viable PvP strategy for alliance-vs-alliance siege warfare. However, the Thunderdome arena is a very specialized environment for individual combat. Within those constraints, Grum has selected a spectacular defensive position that plays to his racial advantages.

But it turns out that in a forest, the axes cut both ways.

More Dorfs in a Forest

A day later, Treggar turns the tables on Grum. While Grum had been doing an excellent job of dodging attacks, it is very difficult to maintain a perfect dodge record over an extended period of time. Close range attacks become tiring to constantly evade. Here we see that Treggar smashes his own force of 12000 stalwarts through Grum's town in an axe-vs-axe clash. Stalwarts strike over twice as hard as they defend (45 attack, 21 sword defense), so even working against a hefty wall, Treggar inflicts massive casualties. He loses 8000 stalwarts, and completely wipes out Grum's own siege force of 12000 stalwarts, 71 ballistas, and 28 battery towers.


Lines in the Sand


With two major siege armies destroyed, Thunderdome devolves into skirmishing for a while. These battle reports from 29 March and 30 March are representative of this fighting style. In close range conflicts, the use of elites commanders becomes a key battle tactic. You can see that Treggar sends the absolute minimum of 61 troops to power his four Stalwart commanders (Heroism 10, short sword, woodsman chainmail). Even against Grum's walled city, his quadruple commanders still manage to inflict 1200 and 1300 stalwart casualties. These are excellent examples of classic skirmisher attacks. Treggar is just trying to wear down Grum's troops in the least expensive way possible. Because his commanders can be quickly resurrected, he is effectively inflicting casualties for free. Such skirmishing techniques are limited in scope, but at close range, they can take their toll over several days of attacks.


Fool Me Once


The next gladiator to brave Grum's forest is Cro-Magnon [HORDE]. The orc brings a sizable forest siege of 47000 kobolds, 11000 fangs, 30 trebuchets, 29 tortoise (rams). These troops are better suited to dense forest combat than Treggar's slingers. Grum immediately attacks the siege camp with five elite Stalwart commanders leading 750 troops, resulting in 7700 dead kobolds, 1800 dead fangs, 5 broken rams, 4 broken catapults. Total damage is about 16%. The 12:1 kill ratio immediately puts Cro-Magnon on his heels, and more attacks swiftly follow.

Only 18 minutes later, a fresh wave of five Stalwart commanders crashes into Cro-Magnon's siege camp. The 5x60 attack inflicts another 4000 casualties and 7% damage. Witness the devastating power of equipped elite troops. The stalwarts were equipped with short sword (+60%), forest chain/plate (+60%), and were in elite divisions (x2 equipment bonuses), for a combined power multiplier of 3.4x.

53 minutes later, a third wave of 5x60 stalwarts crashes into the siege camp. These appear to be unequipped troops that inflict the expected 1200 casualties and 2% damage. You can see the difference that the 3.4x equipment multiplier makes between the second and third wave.

40 minutes after that, a full wave of 5x150 stalwarts strikes the forest siege camp, dealing 6000 casualties and 14% damage. A standard 750 stalwarts would inflict about 3000 casualties; a fully equipped elite force would cause about 10000. Most likely these stalwarts were only equipped with short swords. Crafted from giant rat fur, the short sword is one of the most economical and effective weapons in Illyriad combat. For other highly effective combinations on various terrain, refer to Jagblade's Guide to Equipment.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Cro-Magnon dispatches a messenger while he still has two-thirds of his siege force intact. Did Grum have enough short swords and forest armor to continue his elite assault? Only he knows for certain, but it's not out of the question that he might have chewed through Cro-Magnon's remaining kobolds and fangs by burning up short swords. A decent sized rat kill will result in 1000 giant rat furs, and you can hunt even the biggest Legions and beyond by using the multiple hunting strike technique.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

After forcing Cro-Magnon to withdraw, Grum joked that Thunderdome is now a standoff like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Treggar has taken the opportunity to run some direct siege attacks through Grum B. The reports below show that Grum's wall was damaged and then quickly repaired to full capacity. Direct catapult attacks have also inflicted some damage that was rapidly fixed. Prestige building is one of the challenges to any siege warfare. If the siege camp itself cannot be held due to poor terrain, then the opponents are often reduced to using the siege train tactic to cause building damage. Siege trains suffer from many drawbacks. In the Thunderdome situation, it is hard to inflict any permanent damage on an opponent who is willing to prestige build, unless the attacker can also hold a blockade or siege on the target city. Every attempt to use a siege train can result in mistakes that result in losing all siege engines. The defender will boost runes using the Runemasters Grounding buildings, or equip defenders to cause severe casualties, or get friendly reinforcements (in non-Thunderdome fighting, of course).

Magic 8 Ball Says

My finely tuned Magic 8 Ball of Illyriad Combat tells me "Marathon". I concur. The Thunderdome: Last Man Standing event has turned into a prolonged slog. There are no quick ways to end the stalemate now. Victory will come down to determination, repetitive attacks, troop production, and the ability to use equipped troops effectively. The next player to fall will be the one who runs out of resolve the soonest. Matters are further complicated by the potential of a Pyrrhic victory, where one player exhausts their troops destroying an opponent, and then immediately gets dispatched by the other survivor with fresh troops.

I salute the combatants for their grit. As these battle reports show, there has been some excellent fighting in the deathmatch arena, with still more to come.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff!

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Tournament 2017: Camping Party

Happy tournament, cannon fodders!

We are about to begin the fourth day of Kodabear's Tournament 2017. With 26 days remaining, the top three alliances have already established considerable distance from the rest of the pack. Valiant Crows [vCrow] leads the early race with nearly 27 days total, currently occupying a dozen different tournament squares. vCrow is followed by Order of the Orc [HORDE] at 21d 5h, and their opponent Skeleton Boar [SkB] at 20d 17h 30m. HORDE and SkB have swapped positions several times in the first few days of skirmishing.

The remaining top 10 alliances are less separated:

4. Eight Hand Crow 15d 15h 30m
5. Murder of Crows 13d 20h
6. Hogwarts at Illyriad 10d 15h 30m
7. Harmless? 10d 9h
8. The Colonist Empire 9d 22h 45m
9. Illy Training Ground 9d 22h 30m
10. Roman Empire 8d 21h

As I wrote about last week, one of the emerging themes of this tournament is Metagame Mischief: Camping the Square. Now that the tournament has begun, let's take a closer look at who has deployed metagame tactics on the tournament greens. Pack up the RV, little cannon fodders, we are venturing into the great outdoors!

Let's Go Camping...

#1: Valiant Crow [vCrow]
#3: Skeleton Boar [Skb]
#4: Eight Hand Crow [eCrow]
#7: Harmless? [H?]
#20: Broken Lands Express [BLX]
Strendur's Army

It should come as no surprise that vCrow was one of the first alliances to deploy camping in 2017. As I highlighted in the pre-tournament camping article, Darkone [vCrow] and her alliance dominated the metagame in the Tinker's Tournament. What is surprising is the lack of scale to vCrow's camping operations. At only two squares, they are at less than 1/3 of their 2016 maneuvering, although the tournament is yet young. MadMano [vCrow] seems to be running their two active square camps.

Kubluntu has led the metagaming charge in 2017, along with his cleverly disguised alt, ubluntu. Skeleton Boar has currently amassed four camped squares in Elgea. With more than half of their seven squares depending on camping, it seems clear that Skeleton Boar has used clever metagaming to propel itself into the top three.

Four more alliances have launched square camps: Eight Hand Crow, Harmless?, Broken Lands Express, and Strendur's Army. The eCrow settlement in Chulbran appears to be a terraformed square monitor. Broken Lands Express [BLX] has made a triple city move in High Hills. Their metagaming attempt is rumored to be in impending danger. Strendur's Army [~SA~] does not appear to have made hostile moves on the nearby tile. The main teleported city and four satellite settlements might be some kind of equipment scavenging operation owned by Scavenger [SA].

Most entertaining is the Shardlands square camp owned by Harmless?. The once-mighty tournament power denounced square camping on the eve of Kodabear's tournament. CEO Starry's condemnation of Kubluntu's metagaming was quickly followed by a [H?] square camp appearing in Shardlands.

The Night Is Young

So far we have only seen a taste of metagaming in 2017, but it has already altered tournament fates. Stay tuned for more excitement as the square campers come out of exodus cooldown and begin to dominate their chosen squares. Those plains tiles will be especially painful to hold for anyone but the campers. It's truly remarkable to me that more alliances don't use this obviously effective tactic, and that no alliances appear to counter it aggressively. 

Time will tell, cannon fodders. Time will tell.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mystifying Maneuver: The Buzzsaw

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

Sometimes you have to make something out of nothing. Nowhere is this more true than the Thunderdome PvP arena, where combat is intense and your military resources are highly limited. Today we are going to discuss a technique called the Buzzsaw. This is a rapid fire tactic that can deliver several extra elite commander strikes against a siege camp.

Tiny Forces, Big Hits

Let's take a look at a Thunderdome battle report. Below is a siege from Treggar [GATE] against Grum. The opening attack by Grum is stalwart commanders into a forest. I believe this battle report shows both equipped commanders and equipped troops, but it remains a good example of the devastating power of elite attacks.

Figure 1: Dorf on dorf violence.
Let's talk commanders for a moment. Specifically a stalwart 4-pack with Heroism 10, short sword, woodsman chainmail. In a large forest, leading only 61 total troops, those commanders are enough to kill about 3000 slingers on their own. That's a kill ratio of 50:1. Using expensive silversteel swords would bring the kill ratio up to 95:1. That's a lot of killing power for spending only 61 actual troops in the elite army.

The Game Mechanics

The Buzzsaw is a cycle of attacks. The goal is to conserve troops via the Raid tactic, while generating enough commander experience points to make bonus elite strikes. With Heroism 10, a 5x commander strike can deliver the killing power of 1000 troops. As the battle unfolds, the bonus elite commander strikes will cause additional enemy casualties, effectively for free.

Victory in a Raid is determined just like an Attack command. If the attacker has more points than the defenders, they win. Otherwise, they lose. Raid differs from Attack in two specific ways. First, both sides only take 1/3 casualties. Second, the losing party has their commanders killed.

Raid is one of those maneuvers that gets a bad reputation. That's because weenies often use Raid to make it seem like they are pitching in during a battle, when in reality they are just holding their troops back while their more courageous comrades get killed by using Attack. There are very few situations where Raid makes any sense at all, because if you have the troops required to win the battle, it's usually just best to spend them and win decisively, rather than leave 2/3 of the enemy army in place. If you want to save troops, it's usually better to just send 1/3 the army set to Attack, so you don't have to wait for the raiders to march all the way home. However, like the oft-maligned Sally Forth, the Raid maneuver does have a few specialized uses. The Buzzsaw technique is one of them.

The best conditions to use the Buzzsaw are when you already know you can win a direct Attack maneuver. This will allow you to deploy the Buzzsaw with terrifying speed, shocking your opponent with a continuous short-range barrage. The maneuver truly begins with a fresh set of five t2 attack commanders that match your troops and the available terrain. If you don't have this particular setup, we will discuss how to compensate at the end of this article. For now, let's assume that you have the correct attack troops for the siege terrain, and that you know the opening Raid maneuver can be won. We will also assume that the armies involved are between 10000-50000 troops, medium-sized and manageable. These conditions are quite common in Thunderdome.

The fresh commanders are assigned to the attack army, and the army is sent on a Raid. The maneuver is successful, resulting in 1/3 of the defenders being destroyed, and your own army taking 1/3 of the expected casualties. All of the level 5 commanders receive an equal allocation of the experience points. It's best if the Raid generates at least 4550 experience points--that's 910 x5, enough to level up each new commander to Heroism 10. The next step is to construct an elite army with 61 troops (or enough to fully power commander Heroism). The five brand-new Heroism 10 commanders are equipped with powerful attack gear, typically a 3.4x multiplier for terrain items, and smashed into the siege camp in a suicide attack. This delivers the striking power of over 1000 t2 troops while sacrificing only 61. Five new level 0 commanders are immediately promoted, and then the Buzzsaw maneuver is repeated. Eventually you will reach a point where the raids aren't generating enough experience points to fully level up a commander to 10. At this point, the camp will be nearly dead, and the 5x elite commanders should have no problems finishing it off with a final strike. So, to recap:
  1. Promote 5 new t2 attack commanders, appropriate to the siege tile.
  2. Send out a winning Raid with the 5 commanders and your attack troops.
  3. Wait a few minutes for it to return.
  4. Level the 5 commanders to Heroism 10 and equip them correctly.
  5. Assign them to an elite army of 61 troops (or equivalent).
  6. Smash them into the siege camp for a bonus 1000 troop strike.
  7. Repeat the tactic.


A Tale of Two Cities

To fully understand the power of the Buzzsaw, we are going to look at two identical dwarven cities. Both have 6000 stalwarts, and are besieged on a large forest square by 20000 slingers. The first city just drops the hammer with 5 commanders and 6000 troops. One battle, chips all-in. The second city uses the Buzzsaw technique to instantly generate extra elite commanders.

For reference, 6000 stalwarts with no commanders will kill all 20000 slingers. 530/6000 stalwarts survive.

City #1: 5x equipped Heroism 10 commanders. 1329/6000 stalwarts survive. All 20000 slingers are killed.

You can see here that the Heroism commanders take the edge off the defenders. These two armies are at approximately the right size for that extra 1000 stalwarts of attack power to make a difference. About a one-seventh difference, actually, since the army hits like 7000 instead of 6000. But we can do better with a Buzzsaw. Much better.

City #2: Buzzsaw cycle. Four elite strikes, three raids. 3638/6000 stalwarts survive. All 20000 slingers are killed.

In this scenario, we use the Buzzsaw cycle to instantly generate extra elite commanders to wear down the siege camp. You can see the difference that the technique makes. Almost triple the number of stalwarts survive, even compared to City #1. The comparative survival rates of 9%, 22%, and 61% say it all. The battle of City #2 is over in less than an hour, with the besieged fortress striking with 20 elite commanders. No waiting or resurrection time required. So what does it look like inside City #2?

A Cycle of Destruction

Below is the sequence of battle for City #2. This is optional reading for all maffs-hating muggles. If you need to actually deploy the Buzzsaw in a real situation, these are the exact steps that you would follow.

Note: I will abbreviate to make the cycle easier to read. H10-CMD is an equipped stalwart commander with Heroism 10, short sword, and woodsman chainmail. 0-CMD is a brand new level 0 commander.

Opening elite strike.
5x H10-CMD, 61 stalwarts.
61 stalwarts killed.
4014 bow killed.
15986/20000 bow remain.

First raid.
5x 0-CMD, 5939 stalwarts raid.
1457 stalwarts killed.
4481/5939 stalwarts survive.
5328 slingers killed.
10657/15986 bow remain.
10657 xp generated, 2131 per commander.

Level stalwart commanders to Heroism 10, equip.

Elite strike.
5x H10-CMD, 61 stalwarts.
61 stalwarts killed.
4014 bows killed.
6643/10657 bows remain.

Fresh commanders.
Promote 5 level 0 stalwart commanders.

Second raid.
5x 0-CMD, 4420 stalwarts raid.
605 stalwarts killed.
3814/4420 stalwarts survive.
2214 bows killed.
4428/6643 bows remain.
4428 xp generated, 885 per commander (enough for Heroism 9).

Level stalwart commanders to Heroism 9, equip.

Elite strike.
5x H9-CMD, 55 stalwarts.
55 stalwarts killed.
3418 bows killed.
1010/4428 bows.

Fresh commanders.
Promote 5 level 0 stalwart commanders.

Third raid.
5x 0-CMD, 3753 stalwarts raid.
92 stalwarts killed.
3661/3753 stalwarts survive.
336 bows killed
673/1010 bows remain.
672 xp generated, 134 per commander (enough for Heroism 4).

Level stalwart commanders to Heroism 4, equip.

Final elite strike.
5x H4-CMD, 61 stalwarts.
23 stalwarts killed.
38/61 stalwarts survive.
673 bows killed.
0/673 bows survive.
1346 xp generated, 269 per commander

Final tally.
3638/6000 stalwarts remaining.
5x stalwart commanders, Heroism 6.
All 20000 slingers killed.

While this cycle seems very long when written out, keep in mind that it will happen in less than an hour during an actual battle, giving your opponent very little time to react.

A Screwdriver for Nails

Ok, so now let's talk about what happens when you have the wrong troops for the job. This happens all the time, although it should happen less often in Thunderdome. The forest siege of Ayraelf is a great example of having enough troops to win a battle, except that they were the wrong troops for the job. So how do you compensate for that situation?

It turns out that Heroism has more options than the typical "61 matching troops". That's just the easiest way to power up a commander's Heroism, but it isn't the only option. All you really need is enough total attack points in the army to match the commanders Heroism. The commander's Heroism 10 is 61x Attack of his base troop type, which is why the "61 matching troops" is easy to remember.

Say what?

Figure 2: A 1000 word picture.

The picture explains it all. Here we have a Heroism 10 death pack commander. He has 3599 attack. A death pack's base attack is 59, and not surprisingly, 61x 59 = 3599. Note that his division only contains a single death pack to convey elite status on the commander. The 400 kobolds in the army supply 3600 attack points (400x 9), and since that's more than the commander's 3599 attack, his Heroism is fully powered up.

Now for the muggle translation. As long as you have just enough attack troops to promote to commanders, and 1 matching troop for each of their divisions, you can use whatever troops you want to power up the commander's Heroism. The meat doesn't matter as long as the total troop attack points is more than the commander's Heroism score.

I frequently hunt with an army of 4x death pack commanders, Heroism 10, 1 death pack soldier each, and 400 kobolds. It's a dynamite combination on plains, with the added bonus of watching kobolds get eaten by wildlife. All the real killing power is supplied by the elite death pack commanders and their equipment.

The Slow-Motion Saw

The final scenario we will evaluate today is the situation where you don't have enough troops to successfully win the Raid maneuver. This can actually be a survivable situation. You will be using a suicide attack, not a raid. Here it is very important to use only the bare minimum of troops required. Your goal is to generate enough commander experience points to level the 5 fresh commanders with Heroism. Generating more than that for fresh commanders is just wasting your precious troops.

You might assume that your goal is Heroism 10, but let's take a moment to remember the curve of commander experience points. The levels you should be most interested in are: 5 (210xp), 7 (430xp), 10 (910xp). Note that level 7 is 70% as good as level 10, and requires less than half of the xp. If you are in dire straits for troops, it might be better to aim for 5x430xp and just get your commanders to Heroism 7. You can still do a lot of damage that way.

In this situation, you are sending your troops on a one-way Attack. Include all five commanders in the army. You want to use the Battle Calculator to measure how many troops you require to generate the necessary experience points. Because you do not know your enemy's commander level, equipment, skills or defensive prestige boost, I will recommend that you pad your estimate by 25%.

Because your army dies, you will need to wait for an hour to resurrect all five commanders. That's perfectly alright. Remember, sieges take 12 hours to set up and start bombardment. You can still get in 10 elite shots using the Buzzsaw technique, and your city will take many hours to wear down to raze levels. Also remember that if you knock the number of siege engines below 30 catapults, the siege will start firing slower (which is why serious siege camps always send redundant engines).

Die Hard

Techniques like the Buzzsaw are your last line of defense. They exist to stretch your final armies when you are in a fatal situation. In the words of Dylan Thomas: Do not go quietly into that good night. Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

Never go out with a whimper. Nobody respects that. Die like a cannon fodder, stabbing with relentless abandon, and your enemies will always remember you.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade