Comrades, fellow defenders of the walls of civilization, harken to me. We are embattled in the thick of the Wildwood, and the fighting goes not well for us. The Gudanna encroachment has so far been hindered by the resistance of some Zikia tribes and their Mercenary allies, but the Wildwood’s thorns sting us most of all, and often as not the Zikia band together against us in uneasy alliance with the Dominion interlopers.
Yet, disheartening as the situation may be, we must not lose sight of our critical mission in these woods: the Gudanna cannot be permitted to gain a foothold at the Empire’s doorstep. I bring you this counsel, hard-won in battle against both foes, and paid for dearly with the death-mana of many golems beneath the trees, that you may return to the fray the wiser and ready to outwit and outlast the scheming Gudanna and fierce Mercenary Kings alike.
Of the three factions clashing in the Wildwood, the Durani disposition is the most difficult. At first glance, our superior numbers would appear to give us the advantage, and indeed, had we the Gudanna or the Zikia mercenaries alone to face, we could crush either with ease. However, even when the Gudanna and Mercenary armies we encounter are at odds, both regard the Empire with greater animosity. Thus, while we enter the field with a larger army and more resources than either opponent alone, together their forces match ours, and their combined resources exceed our own.
The Durani army is 1,000 APV and has 8 AP to spend each Turn, but it effectively faces 1,000 APV of opposition with 12 AP between the two other players’ Turns.
Even if the two enemies do not act in concert, your army can ill afford to engage them both. Victory depends on avoiding vulnerability on multiple fronts. Additionally, your force must be both strong and swift to survive a potentially heavy assault while also seizing key positions as soon as opportunity arises.
Choose golems that will offer you a balanced combination of durability and mobility. Warsprites may prove useful as scouts, but will not fare well in the heavy fighting you’ll certainly face. A highly mobile flyer like the Jeweled Harpy will serve well to seize distant villages when enemies have been drawn away, but keep it clear of the heart of the fray. For the most part, choose golems you can trust to stand firm in the front lines, both able to press the advance and quickly dispatch enemies. Golems that require support to perform effectively, or whose combat abilities are too specialized, will become liabilities.
If you are favored by the throne to field such a golem, the speed and strength of the Winged Vanguard will serve you well, particularly if commanded by the likes of Laghu Chandrisetra, whose skillful ability in aerial combat perfectly combines with the Vanguard’s flying strength, putting an attack like a thunderstrike at your disposal.
More commons golems like the Carrion Raptor can also bear up as the backbone of your army. The Raptor offers a dependable combination of survivability, efficiency, and utility. I have seen a Raptor commanded by Vegak Ananda fare particularly well, first drawing mana from his golem with an Urugal blood-rite, then restoring his golem’s strength from the enemy with its Vampiric Cyclone. This access to extra mana early on can enable strategies dependent on assistance from the Ancient Ones. I have benefitted from Vegak’s dearly bought mana when it enabled me to call upon The Solitary to grant my formation greater speed, or to invoke the blessing of The Hopeful to ensure a golem’s attack struck true.
From the moment you set foot on this wooded battlefield, fix one thing in your mind above all else: the Gudanna are the true enemy here, both of the Empire and the Zikia tribes, though some of them are too deluded to recognize it. While the mercenaries are more likely to attack us than the Dominion invaders, you’ll gain little by diverting attention to them. The Gudanna are in position to seize victory most rapidly, so your first concern must be obstructing them. The longer you can deny them, the better your own chances become of winning out in the end. If the mercenaries choose to attack you, at least they will have to expend the effort to come to you, and will crash upon your unified front.
First, take control of the villages nearest you , if only to keep them from the fast-moving Gudanna. From your starting position, it may be tempting to make an attempt on the village to the north. Decide before the battle whether you intend to do so. Any golems you send there will provoke the Zikia, and will be left too vulnerable without support. What’s more, even swifter golems will probably need to make the trek in two stages, which means a golem sent in advance will likely rush ahead of any others you send to protect it. However, despite the risk, contesting this territory may prove critical in limiting the mercenaries’ progress toward victory.
You must assess the field and your opponents for yourself to decide whether to adapt your strategy to include a northward fork, but my advice is this: do not fall into the trap of dividing your force. Direct the greatest pressure you can westward, into the Gudanna line. In the early stages of the battle, destroying the Gudanna army yields the greatest reward: it both brings you closer to victory, and weakens the Gudanna’s ability to press their explosive initial advance. Send your fastest golem later to take the village from the mercenaries when you can better afford to do so.
HBS STATS (5/18)
Winning Mercenary armies get an average of 14.7 VPs from fortifying villages: 36% of those VPs from Village C, 22% from Village D and 20% from Village A. Block any of those Fortifications, to prevent the Merc’s automatic 1 VP per turn.
Winning Dominion armies get an average of 14.4 VPs from hiding supplies: 28% of those VPs from Village B, the same 28% from Village G, and Villages A and F are both at 17% each. Prevent any one supply stash and they’ll be almost 6 points shy of victory.
When you are able to secure Zikia villages, exercise careful judgment in your treatment of the villagers. The denizens of the Wildwood are not the Empire’s enemies if they haven’t colluded with the Dominion. Show forbearance where it is warranted. Even if you find a village resistant to your search, your punishment need not be excessively harsh. However, where Gudanna supplies are found among the villagers, our orders are clear: we must put the village to the torch, not merely to destroy the supplies, but to demonstrate that abetting the Empire’s enemy so near Durani territory comes with a terrible price.
Be aware of something else: we’ve received reports of curious phenomena attending the flames when collaborating villages are set ablaze. It seems the mana wells near some villages become somehow unstable when the neighboring villages burn. If a golem approaches one of these unstable mana wells, its mobility is impaired, but it receives a great surge of might. I advise against setting fire indiscriminately in the woods, but if you must condemn a village to the flames, perhaps this strange effect can be used to your advantage.
When a village is burned, the Mana Well in the adjacent Region becomes unstable. When a Golem enters the Region of an unstable Mana Well, it loses 3 Movement for 1 Round, but gets +10 Damage for 2 Rounds.
If you succeed in securing at least the two nearest villages and manage to blunt the Gudanna assault, then will you likely need to turn your eye to the Mercenary army fighting for the Zikia. While the Gudanna path to victory lies in ferocious swiftness, the Zikia benefit from fortifying their villages and biding their time. A wise Mercenary commander will avoid direct confrontation, claim the northern villages, and perhaps strike at weak points in the Durani flank while you engage the Gudanna. If it becomes advantageous, some may even cast aside the tenuous arrangement with the Dominion in order to steal a sudden victory by destroying a vulnerable Gudanna golem.
By a similar token, you may be able to snatch triumph from the Mercenary army if its commander carelessly leaves you an opening either to strike down a golem or capture an unguarded village. Indeed, it may become necessary to take a Mercenary-controlled village simply to obstruct their victory.
If this account seems to describe a dire trial for the Durani army, know you grasp it aright. You face the greatest difficulty in this contest: at best, the Mercenary Kings you encounter may see the Gudanna as their enemy, and fight them as well as you; at worst, you will face Mercenary forces deceived into alliance with the Gudanna, and both will serve you the full measure of their enmity. In any case, an unfair fight awaits, but one whose outcome may well be even more crucial than the struggle at the Line.
Nevertheless, we must be the Empire’s bulwarks, and face this battle with the unshakable equanimity and stalwart readiness of our own golems. Let future generations proudly say of us that we unwaveringly stood before the Gudanna menace when they slunk in the shadows of the trees, and though beset on all sides, we would not let them pass.
I am with you all in fighting spirit, and pray fervently for your victory for our great Empire. May the Ancient Ones walk with you,
—Mardin of Chatzuk, knight of the Gilded Band,
to all Durani commanders deployed in the Wildwood.
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