Realm of Cinders Ch 1 – Mercenary Kings Strategy


Our home, the Wildwood, is being put the torch. An invading Empire army has entered the Wildwood and is “pacifying” villages, so they call it, or razing them completely. In my heart, I do not know which is the greater insult. I personally would rather perish than lose my thorns. At the same time, the Dominion seeks to use the cover of the forest as a stealthy road into the Empire. Neither side can be allowed to destroy Zikia lives or turn our holy woods into a plain of ash. There is no contract to call us. Without expectation of coin, the Mercenary Kings rally. The time to take a side has come. We fight for our homes, our families, and our land.


The Realm of Cinders is an asymmetric battle over survival of the Wildwood. We are small in numbers (500 APV Mercenary Kings army), but resolute in the protection of our way of life. The Dominion has sent a small covert unit (500 APV) to infiltrate our villages. The Empire has come with a full squadron (1000 APV) to take lands that, with the blessings of the Ancient Ones, will never again be theirs.


To successfully protect the Wildwood from the invaders of both factions, a Mercenary Kings army must earn 16 Victory Points (VP). To achieve this, a general must be fully aware of his own goals, as well as those of his enemies.


Our first call is to protect our people. Seven Zikia villages are caught in the crossfire between the invading Empire forces and the Dominion, which seeks to use our land as a staging area for an assault on the Empire. We gain 2 VP for fortifying a village, and earn 1 VP each turn from each fortified village that remains unconquered by the Empire.

The Durani have already begun a destructive march through the Wildwood, subjugating villages that do not fight them and torching those that resist. They are our primary enemy, and you will gain VP for destroying Durani Golems (standard reward 1/2/3/5 for Warsprite/Ogre/Titan/Colossus).

Villages don’t work like “King of the Hill” control Regions. The Mercenaries gain +1 VP each turn from a Fortified village, even if they don’t have a Golem there. To stop this ongoing VP gain, the Empire must control a village unopposed at the beginning of its turn in order to “Pacify” or burn it.

Those who would be the first among equals, the Samula Tribe, have negotiated a truce between themselves and the Dominion. The Gudanna seek to use the Wildwood as a passage into Empire lands, and are caching war supplies in the villages. So long as hostilities do not break out between the Gudanna and Mercenary Kings, a village can be both fortified by us, and be a site of one of these caches. So long as this truce stands, destroying Gudanna Golems gains us nothing.

There are those among the Zikia tribes who feel the agreement between the Samula and the Dominion is short-sighted. I am among them. The truce cannot last. If the Gudanna are allowed to have their way unopposed, they will make our forest the center of their war with the Empire. No matter which side wins, the innocent Zikia tribes caught in the middle will be destroyed. Once the truce breaks, destroying Gudanna Golems will also earn you VP.

The truce can be broken by either:

1) Destroying a Gudanna Golem (or the Dominion destroying a Mercenary Golem);

2) The Gudanna discovering a village fortified against them (by entering a village and triggering the trap);

3) Choosing to destroy supplies the Gudanna have already hidden.

If the truce is broken by a Golem kill, the first casualty will not award any VP. If you break the truce by destroying Gudanna supplies, you will be able to fortify that village on your next uncontested Turn there. If the village was already fortified against the Empire, you’ll be able to destroy the supplies and fortify against the Gudanna immediately. Once the Dominion’s perfidy is revealed and the Samula truce forgotten, you will receive VP for defending the Wildwood against all interlopers.


Gudanna forces are seeking to hide supplies in our villages. They get 4 VP for each village where they successfully hide a cache, but risk losing 2 VP if the cache is destroyed by Durani forces. They also gain VP by destroying the Empire’s Golems. They will lose 2 VP if the Mercenaries choose to break the truce by destroying a supply cache. They can also gain VP by destroying Mercenary Golems after the truce is broken.


The Durani have two choices when controlling a neutral village: they can get 3 VP for pacifying the village, or they can burn it, earning no VP for themselves, but robbing the Mercenaries of 2 VP. If they find Dominion supplies in a village, they will burn the village for 3 VP and a loss of 2 VP for both you and the Gudanna. If they control one of your fortified villages, they can punish the village for 3 VP, and you will lose 2 VP. No matter what the Empire decides, neither we Mercenaries nor the Gudanna can capture a village once the Empire has taken it. They also earn VP from Golem kills of either Mercenary or Gudanna forces from the beginning.





Your primary goal is to fortify as many villages as quickly as possible. Realistically this means at least two, if not three villages on the first Turn (winning Mercenary Kings armies have successfully fortified 2.8 villages). If you can fortify four villages, then your enemies will be hard pressed to overcome your advantage of steadily accumulating VP. But remember to hold the villages you fortify — you don’t need to keep occupying the villages to gain VP, but you do need to protect them from the Empire. With three villages fortified at the beginning your second Turn, the Mercenary Kings will win at the beginning of Turn six. If you can destroy even a single enemy Warsprite, your victory will come a whole Turn earlier!

The obvious villages are A, B, C, and D. Deciding which to take is difficult, but villages C and D are absolutely mandatory! The decision between A and B is a bit harder. One should be fortified early, and the other should probably be held in reserve. Both A and B are also likely targets for the Gudanna. While the truce holds, this is not a problem, but remember the Gudanna need to hide supplies in only four villages to win the game. This means the Mercenary Kings must be poised to deny them, or betray them at villages A or B in order to avoid a quick Gudanna win.

Delay the fight with the Durani as long as possible. The Mercenary Kings are positioned to win in the mid-game, and do so mainly by protecting the villages. If you are on the verge of winning, focus all your attacks on one Durani Golem to earn your last VP. Otherwise, let the Durani and Gudanna fight it out among themselves. Keep a sharp eye for injured Empire Golems that you can pick off to poach VP from the Gudanna. The Durani should also be concerned about an early Gudanna win, so let them defend villages E and F. Village F, in particular, can be a site of contention between the two. Let it.

  • STATS from HBS (5/28)

    Victory hinges on Fortifying Villages A and D

    Winning Mercs fortified Village A 67% of the time, while Losing Mercs only fortified this village 38% of the time.

    In Village D, Winners fortified it 67% of the time, while Losing merc armies only fortified it 46% of the time.



While the Spider Prince forged this alliance with the leaders of the Samula Tribe, the Samula do not speak for us all. Also, while Rudatha is known for his guile, the Samula were not naive. We can benefit from the truce, but in truth, we were never a party to it. We can end it whenever we desire. The Dominion cannot end the truce by their actions in a village, but must destroy one of our Golems, and gain no VP for it, to break the alliance. We can prepare to end it by fortifying a village against them, or take a more active tack by destroying Dominion supplies. These options put the truce in our hands. The decision to end it becomes one based on the Gudanna’s success, and potentially how contentious their battle with the Empire gets.

Most Gudanna wins are achieved by the fourth or fifth Turn. Many Dominion armies will have 12 VP by the second Turn. If the Gudanna have cached supplies in three villages, then they are only a Golem kill or two away from winning. The Dominion always take the first Turn, so the Mercenary Kings, with an intact truce, can contest a village to prevent swift Gudanna victory, but at the cost of holding back your Golem in that Region. As soon as you move away, the Dominion will win! Also, beware leaving villages C and D undefended while the Dominion truce holds. They can secure a victory by caching goods there while your back is turned — unless you fortify these villages with traps against them.

By the second or third Turn, you need to have already decided if you plan to end the truce by fortifying a village against the Gudanna. Remember to smile at at your Dominion ‘brother’ and speak of a united front against the ‘evil’ Empire while you are preparing to do what must be done to protect the forest.

The best way to break the alliance is to start your Turn in a village with Gudanna supplies and no Dominion Golems present. A smart Dominion general will not allow this to happen. To this end, you need to be able to strike at villages A or B, if they have been left undefended. Alternatively, lay traps against the Gudanna in every village you fortify. This forces them to resort to destroying Golems to win.

Failing this, send a messenger to the Empire’s general. He will be your only chance to not end up as a Dominion lackey. Let the Empire know about the Dominion’s advance, and then get out of their way as they begin to fight it out. In this case, the enemy of our enemy is our friend, if only for one day.

Against a struggling Dominion general, especially one who only has two villages after the first few Turns, let the truce stand. It can only help the Mercenary Kings’ efforts. An aggressive Durani army contesting villages G and F on the first Turn should be allowed free reign to crush the Dominion. Remain prepared to destroy any supplies in village A if the battle tips in the Gudanna’s favor.


Early in the game, avoid direct confrontation with the Durani. Keep up the appearance of dethorned Zikia by informing the Empire general of every Gudanna advance. If the Durani burn any village (whether or not the Dominion has supplies there, or if we have fortified it), we will lose 2 VP for allowing helpless villages to perish. Some generals may consider not fortifying a village to appear more innocent, but this is ill advised. If you successfully fortify a village, the 2 VP you immediately gain are also the most that can be lost if the Durani capture it later. Your opponents will be hard pressed to deny you at least 1 VP on your next Turn from having a fortified village.

If the Gudanna don’t win quickly, expect them to fade. Their only recourse is to kill Durani Golems, or ours, if the truce breaks. Against the superior Empire forces, this is a battle they are unlikely to win. If you haven’t secured your victory by the sixth Turn, you need to throw everything you have at the Durani. This may prove suicidal, as they have brought twice the army, will probably have already eliminated most of the Gudanna, and are poised to scourge the Wildwood with flame. If nothing else, prove to them that you are true Zikia, wild and free.


Fighting in the Wildwood comes naturally to us. The Zikia Golems all shine in this setting. Unfortunately, the secrets of Arcanum Zikia have been revealed to our enemies. Expect to see Zikia Golems arrayed against us. Despite this, don’t hesitate to work to our strengths. The Wildwood offers a great deal of medium cover. Use agile Golems, and knights that give benefits while in cover.

The first decision to make is whether to field three or four Golems in your army. The death of at least one or two Durani Golems will likely be required to secure victory, so a Titan could be invaluable. On the other hand, being able to fortify four villages on the first Turn with a group of fast nimble or flying Golems may give you an insurmountable edge.


Iron-Earthfall-LargeIn a three-Golem army, the obvious Titan choice is the Earthfall. Its passive ability allowing it to move and ignore terrain will be invaluable. If using the Earthfall, consider sending it to take one of the central villages on the first Turn to give it more movement options afterward. Taking village C on Turn 1 will then make village E an option, if the Durani ignore it. I, Kahga, would be willing to ride an Earthfall for you, making holding village E easier. If the encroaching Durani army moves in and attacks, they will have to move back in to contest the region. Also, the Earthfall’s Rolling Pummel can force any opponent out of the region.


Corpse CollectorIf you field a four-Golem army, consider the flying Ogres: Thornbeast, Prowler, and Corpse Collector. As flyers, they can all move quickly around the battlefield despite the varied terrain. Remember that the Thornbeast is not nimble, so be careful how you deploy it to make sure it can get to the village you want. The Prowler is a great addition to this army as well. Sending it to take village C in the first round puts it in range to Caustic Spray the Durani forces if they move into village E, hopefully in numbers. Have Saimha of the Nightwood or Vastuta the Mad ride the Prowler, and this attack can reach at least one of the Durani deployment zones on the first Turn. The Sworn Collector, commanded by Simati Tal, will also serve you well. She brings the much-needed ability to manipulate the opponent with an attack that moves a Golem away, while she can then use her Movement to return to the Region where she began. Tal’s powerful healing ability can also deny an opponent the VP from destroying her Golem.

While focusing on taking and holding villages, you will have little time to gather Mana. Also, if you field four Golems, your choice of Ancient Ones will be limited. In light of these factors, you may be limited to calling on the aid of The Solitary, The Trapper, The Nectar, or The Hopeful. Beware Ancient Ones who demand large amounts of Mana for their intervention. Look for Ancient Ones with affordable powers. Both the Nectar and Solitary fit this description. If you can, invite The Deceiver, as her curse in particular is inexpensive and can help deny your enemies VP from Golem deaths. In order to invoke the Ancient Ones in previous battles, I have suggested using the Ewer of Dyati in the first Turn, but here the 3 AP cost will slow down your fortification of villages too drastically. Using the Ewer on the second Turn may be an option if you already have claimed three or four villages, but in light of both Gudanna and Durani incursion, those AP may be better spent elsewhere.


The Mercenary Kings must play a game of balance. Maintain the truce while it benefits you, but be ready to end it if the Gudanna threaten to achieve their goals. The Spider Prince cannot be allowed to hurry through the forest and win without too much opposition. The truce must end at the latest by the time the Gudanna move into their fourth village, especially if the Durani aren’t in a position to contest them there. After thwarting the Dominion, hold your ground in at least three villages. Let the Empire onslaught crash against the Dominion. Once they have weakened each other, and we have assured the safety of our kin, we will drive them from our lands and punish them for every tree given to the flame.

Kahga, the Loon
General of the Mercenary Band, the Unbent
Roots Grow Deep!

Have some observations of your own from the front lines that you’d like to share with your fellow commanders?  Discuss the Realm of Cinders on our forums!