April 15, 2011

A Newbie starter guide for Master of Magic

First thing you do is go buy the game for $6.

Here's how you begin:

Difficulty: Intro
Opponents: one
Land size: Small
Magic: Normal

Wizard: Merlin
Race: Orc

After the game begins, press F7 and choose "1.5 Gold" for your taxation rate. Go into the "Game" menu, choose Settings, and unselect "Random Events".

Right-click your starting city, and begin building a Granary. If you were lucky enough to get a food bonus (looks like a stag on the main map) then in your city, reduce the number of farmers by 1. On the main screen you want the Food display as low as possible without being red, at least for the time being.

Go into "Magic" and raise the "mana" bar to the top. Then go into "Spells" and begin summoning a unit of Sprites.

When they appear, go back into "Magic" and drop the "Mana" bar down to about half way. Then use your sprites to explore the map. They move two, over all terrain types, and can see two squares away, so you can learn a lot very rapidly. Don't attack anything with them, because they'll die.

After your granary is complete, build City Walls. Then build: marketplace, farmer's market, shrine, sawmill.

Somewhere in there you're going to need another unit of swordsmen. And don't forget to start sending out settlers to start new cities. (And send troops along, so your outposts don't get overrun!) Scouting unmapped territory with settlers is not advised. They're too expensive and too slow. Generally speaking, the best place for a new city is on a river. But you can use F1 to find out how good a particular square would be.

If B'Shan offers to work for you, take him. He costs 100GP initially, but he gives you 10GP per turn for as long as he's on your team.

If Zaldron offers to work for you, take him if you think you can afford him. He costs 100GP initially and costs 2GP per turn after that, but he helps you research new spells faster.

If Gunther or Brax offer to work for you, tell them to take a hike.

If Serena offers to work for you, that's a judgement call. If she is a sage, then probably yes if you can afford her. But even without that, as a healer she's very handy as a field campaigner.

If you end up really low on money, you may need to spend a few turns with your city on "Trade Goods" building up your treasury.

Save your game often!

As you build up, you'll reach the point where you can afford to build a campaign stack. You might choose to include one or more heros in it. You might want to include one or more summoned creatures.

If you win a node, be sure to summon a "Magic Spirit" (or "Guardian Spirit"). Move it onto the node, and then choose "meld". Once you do that, the area around the node will start sparkling. This means it is adding mana to your income.

This advice is just to get you started. Later, as you learn more about the game, you'll begin to understand these things better and may choose to follow different strategies.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 09:09 AM | Comments (44) | Add Comment
Post contains 546 words, total size 3 kb.

1 Orcs, and not High Men?

Huh.  I can't remember the last time I played orcs.  Do they have fast growth, or something?

Posted by: BigD at April 15, 2011 11:33 AM (LjWr8)

2 Honestly, I'd recommend Halflings for a starter race.  They are easy to keep happy, productive, have the best missile weapon unit, and no meaningful disadvantages until the very end game ( lack of certain buildings ).

Posted by: metaphysician at April 15, 2011 12:15 PM (hD30M)


Orcs are the vanilla race. They have decent units, average performance, and all the building types. Every other race is designed to be "better than orcs in some ways and worse in others". If you're trying to learn the game, I figure that starting with the average race is the best way.

Starting with the halflings, you may learn habits which make it so that you can't ever really play anything else.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 15, 2011 12:38 PM (+rSRq)

4 All races can get in ruts... Orcs are one of the more challenging races, as they're slow to develop like High Men and High Elves, but the payoff at the end is nowhere near as good. Wyvern Riders have the Flying ability, but that's all they have, compared to High Men's magic-immune Paladins and the devastatingly overpowered Armor Piercing First Strike attacks of the Elven Lords. Orcs can actually build every single city improvement, though, which no other race can do (High Men lack Fantastic Stables, while Elves lack Parthenons). Orcs are best if you want all your cities generating such enormous piles of gold and mana by the end of the game that you never have to worry about running out of gold and mana to support a vast army of combined magical and mundane troops.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 15, 2011 02:07 PM (rf3Je)

5 General playstyles for other races: Gnolls: This is the ultimate "I LOVE A CHALLENGE" race. Weak sauce in furry form. Wolf riders can be made quickly, but without loads of mojo they'll still be too weak to survive a fight with enemy pikemen. And the reason the cities can start building these "ultimate" units fast is because their cities have the lowest maximum upgrade level of any race... they can't even build a Library. Oh, and their units cost 50% more than Orc units. Klacklon: If you're not starting off as Klacklons, you might as well just squish every one of their cities. They'll riot if your home tower isn't in a Klacklon city, and every other race in your empire will riot if it is. Playing as Klacklons is weird... their cities produce almost as much gold as a fully upgraded Orc city, thanks to their innate production bonuses; however, unless they have a magical resource somewhere in their city limits, they will generate almost no mana, since they can't build even a lousy Temple. Their ultimate unit, fire-breathing Stag Beetles, are pretty devastating for a fast-maxxing race, but grossly outclassed by just about any high-end summoned unit. Not a bad race for a zero-spell book run, or if you're just feeling contrary ("Master of MAGIC? HAH! We'll see about THAT!")

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 15, 2011 02:49 PM (rf3Je)

6 ... why does this comment box keep stripping out my carriage returns? Is Chizumatic running some sort of "second paragraph" filter?

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 15, 2011 02:51 PM (rf3Je)

7 Am I the only one addicted to White magic Hero Stack of DOOM?    Focus on recruiting the best you can get, level them, shower them with magic items, keep them healed in fights and watch them crush everything in their way.

Time to go play, I think.

Posted by: Douglas Oosting at April 15, 2011 02:55 PM (N9Lwt)

8 Tat, you're probably using a browser like Safari, and not seeing the enhanced comment editor that all the mee.nu sites use. Unfortunately, that code doesn't fail gracefully on certain browsers, and if it doesn't load, your comment ends up as a single-paragraph blob. Manually inserting HTML

at the start of your paragraphs is an annoying-but-effective workaround.


Posted by: J Greely at April 15, 2011 03:47 PM (2XtN5)


The entertaining thing about white magic is how hilariously weak its summoned creatures are (except for one, who technically is a hero not a summon), but how devastatingly powerful it is at improving units built using a more Civilization-style approach. As den Beste said, the white lairs with all the UBER LEWT are guarded by arch angels at the worst, and it's not like they can heal your middle- to late-game armies to death.

Black magic, of course, is the exact opposite... their high end units are lethal, evil, and worst of all, cheap. It's not unusual to find a black lair piled high with a full stack of death knights or demon lords, and even the middle tier will often have wraiths (incorporeal, immune to weapons, life stealing). The only good thing about them is that they can't heal (except by draining life), so eventually you'll cherry tap them to death if you can keep sending in units that can do more damage than they can leech.

(thanks for the tip, J. Greely, let's see if this works)

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 15, 2011 04:00 PM (4njWT)


Shadow Demons are regenerators, just thought I'd mention.

Lizardmen are quite a challenge, too, because they are severely limited on buildings. On the other hand, Dragon Turtles are surprisingly good units. They're a lot cheaper than Stag Beetles, and nearly as good. And they're water walkers, a huge advantage.

Halflings are pleasant to play, and their slingers are among the best units in the game. But they only have one trick, and it doesn't work on everything. A lot of units are missile-immune, particularly wizards. The rest of the Halfling units are relatively weak. On the other hand, they like everyone and everyone likes them, so running conquered cities is easier. And they produce more food than anyone else, which is useful.

The biggest disadvantage of Halflings is that they can't build ships. So you better have green or blue magic, or luck into a Wind Walker hero, or you're going to be stuck on your initial land mass.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 15, 2011 05:02 PM (+rSRq)


Let's see, other race play styles...

Lizardmen: Swimming settlers. Get one spread onto every little island you can, and you can become a real bugger for your opponents to uproot. The swimming units are also great for the militaristic play style that likes to win by smashing every enemy city as fast as possible, but you WILL need to be fast, because almost all the other races have land units that can turn your dragon turtles into turtle soup. They can't even win a one-on-one fight with a stag beetle. You might be able to smash their ships with ease, but if you can't take their cities you'll just be delaying the inevitable. Use them in a world with a small land size, and hope none of your opponents start on Myrror.

Barbarians: These guys are the "hard mode" for city-building players, as opposed to the gnolls' "hard mode" for conquest players. Barbarians are slow to grow and lacking in productivity, but their high-end berzerker units seem almost tailor made to take down wyvern riders and other melee-based flying units, either as the attacker or the defender, and be effective in combat against very little else. All their units, except cavalry, are restricted to a movement rate of 1 unit, and the cavalry's throwing axes that are only half the strength of the berzerkers. I honestly don't recall the last time I played as a barbarian race, but I do think there was something that saved them... maybe their throwing weapons could be enchanted along with their regular melee attack?

Halflings: The "uber defense, epic fail offense" race. Prodcutive and fast growing, these guys will make developing your empire a snap, and they can produce their high-end slingers very early. Slingers, for their part, are simply devastating little rock-flingers... except that most of their advantage comes from their extra two figures per unit (33% more than the next largest ranged unit, Bowmen), which means that once they start taking damage, their attack power will go in the toilet, fast. Much more effective when they're protected by a city wall, or better yet, a wall of shadow. Much, MUCH less effective when an enemy is protected this way, allowing his ranged attackers to take down your slingers while remaining relatively safe. And don't even get me started on air elementals...

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 15, 2011 05:27 PM (4njWT)


Ah, I forgot about that combo of awesome, Black Magic Anything + Regeneration. Fortunately shadow demons aren't too hard to kill, as their only other tricks are flying, ranged attacks, and immunity to webs. Black Channel War Trolls FTW!

As for halflings, I thought they could at least build triremes? Can't carry a full stack, but at least you could get a settler and spearman across the sea...

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 15, 2011 05:37 PM (4njWT)

13 High Men:  Decent early game, strong late.  A good, sturdy, balanced race.  No 1-figure super-units, but paladins can be fun, and there's little that I love more than a 9-stack of elite (or better) magicians raping everything in their path.

Posted by: BigD at April 15, 2011 06:48 PM (LjWr8)

14 I actually found the Archangel served decently well as a singular wandering doom unit, provided you have some of the upper end White buff spells.  The Archangel may not have much special, but when he's benefiting from High Prayer and Holy Light, not much other than singular uber units can hurt him.  Maybe not an unbeatable weapon, but useful for mopping up lesser cities that are scattered about.

Admittedly, the game I used this tactic was not a usual progression.  I spent maybe 3/4ths of the game in a not-quite-desperate, but very much constant, defense against a constant stream of armies by all three opponents.  I had the misfortune to spawn my capital fairly near to two of my rivals.  Ugh.

Posted by: metaphysician at April 15, 2011 07:20 PM (hD30M)

15 Okay, you sold me.  Interesting site, GOG, they even have one of my favorites, Evil Genius.

Posted by: Mauser at April 16, 2011 01:06 AM (cZPoz)

16 Is that "Random Events" thing why one of my biggest cities was destroyed with no warning, not by anyone, in the middle of my island, and with the wrong name?  ("Lizard Caves was destroyed." (not the name of the city)  "You lost 5 Fame")  Clearly I was doing something wrong.

Posted by: Mauser at April 16, 2011 04:57 AM (cZPoz)

17 Nope, a city getting destroyed and labeled the wrong name is caused when a monster spawn from a lair or node enters an undefended city and obliterates it. The wrong name is a bug, but the destruction and fame loss is supposed to happen. It could have been an invisible monster spawn, like an air elemental from a sorcery node, or one with a move speed of 2 or more, so that you didn't see it before it wrecked your city.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 16, 2011 06:58 AM (4njWT)

18 You have to keep defenders in each of your cities, or you'll lose them. And not just token defenders (i.e. one spearman); it has to be a significant force. As the game goes on, the wandering monsters (out of lairs) and raiders (out of unaligned towns) get more and more nasty.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 16, 2011 07:03 AM (+rSRq)

19 You know, that might be the reason why I still like playing MoM, while my copy of "Sid Meyer's Alpha Centauri" is gathering dust. You can't just leave towns sit undefended, churning out money while you ignore them, and expect them to last forever as long as none of the enemy wizards can sneak a unit around behind your main army. Raiders and wandering monsters will pick apart your empire, one city at a time, if you try that. At the same time, maintaining a viable force in every city would bleed you dry, so you can't just set all your cities up to produce a pile of paladins and leave them sit there either. You need a global strategy to progress to the end of the game, adapting it to whatever unfortunate events get thrown at you, rather than just sitting around raking in money and mana and seeing how big your cities can get. I don't think there were any games, before or since, that incorporated such a natural and organic anti-turtling system that it didn't need to limit the game length to 200 turns, like most of the Civilization series did.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 16, 2011 07:25 AM (4njWT)

20 Huh.  That's what I get for stationing my forces outside the cities.

I think I need to RTFM a bit more too.

Posted by: Mauser at April 16, 2011 07:57 AM (cZPoz)


Turtling isn't the only strategy. The real way to solve that is to go out and take down all the lairs and unaligned towns. And enemy wizards.

I tend to play as a Myrran, and in a game that goes well there comes a point where I don't really need to garrison my towns, because I've taken out every node, every lair, every city, and every tower. The cities don't need defending because there's no longer anything to defend against.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 16, 2011 09:41 AM (+rSRq)

22 I usually explore-and-turtle.  And, believe it or not, I actually leave many of my cities unguarded (even at the higher difficulties), especially in the early game, in order to maximize growth and exploration.

And yes, I do get bitten every once in a while, and sometimes even lose the game when a wandering monster stack hits my capitol.  But, to be fair, there's not much that a swordsman and a spearman can do against a half dozen war bears, so I'm likely not really changing anything by sending them out.

I've taken a real liking to Myrran as well, for the same reason.  There is a downside, though--the enchanted roads can really work against you, as monsters can use them to sack a weaker city without even giving you a turn to marshal forces.

Posted by: BigD at April 16, 2011 11:01 AM (LjWr8)

23 I tend to defend most of my cities with some combo of a decent melee unit, and one or two decent ranged units.  Exact details depend on species, but typically its spearman and bowman/shamans early in the game, halbardiers and longbowman/wizards later ( depending on race, natch ).  Its not many defenders, but its enough to usually stop the average attack, provided I suitably back it with buffs and battlefield summons.  I get a ton of mileage out of all forms of battlefield summons, especially Air Elemental.

You burn mana when you get attacked, but its usually more cost effective than having more and better units defending.

Posted by: metaphysician at April 16, 2011 06:16 PM (hD30M)

24 I may need to print out the spell book too.  When I get new ones, there's barely enough time to read it before it goes away.  Also, is there a setting to run it in a window or something? (Then I could keep the pdf's open on screen) When my video mode switches, it ends up cutting off the top and bottom of the screen.

Posted by: Mauser at April 17, 2011 01:49 AM (cZPoz)

25 F3 brings up the "Apprentice". It shows what you're currently researching, but you can flip back from there and see every spell you already have. Right-click on a spell, and it shows you everything about it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 17, 2011 07:01 AM (+rSRq)

26 When you are ready to cast a spell, you can also right-click spells to find out the details about them.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 17, 2011 07:02 AM (+rSRq)

27 Yeah, I figured that out.  I also figured out that alt-tab will break me out of the full screen DOS window into any other App that's running, putting the game into a window and letting me do other stuff.

Sometimes it's a bit quirky to get units you've put on Patrol moving again, and when the screen jumps to moving enemy units, it tends to jump back before you figure out what you're looking at.  Loading ships one unit at a time is also annoying.

It was fun to cast Fly on catapults and send them out.  There's still a lot I need to figure out about management.

Posted by: Mauser at April 17, 2011 07:23 AM (cZPoz)


There are a lot of cases where using spells on units results in something a lot different. I like flying Great Wyrms, for example.

In the MOM directory, there's a file called "dosboxMOM.conf" which controls how DOSBox runs. If you set "fullscreen" to false in that file, it will start in a window.

I also changed this one:


That makes it run in a 3*size frame instead of 2* size. (I think that on Alcyone I had it set to "hq3x" but I don't have it available to check. That one is more CPU intensive, and this computer is slow.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 17, 2011 08:28 AM (+rSRq)

29 When it's in a window, it traps the mouse pointer. You can get the mouse back by pressing Control-F10.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 17, 2011 08:29 AM (+rSRq)


I decided to see just how good white magic could be, so I played Myrran, 2 green books, 6 white books, Draconians.

At a certain point I used Plane Shift to put one elite unit of Doom Drakes across into Arcanus, and then did a Planar Seal.

Eventually I had Endurance, Invulnerability, True Sight, and Righteousness on that Doom Drake, and after I'd mapped the entire Arcanus map, I decided to see what it could do.

Just that one unit, juiced that way, was able to take out every city belonging to two enemy wizards (Rjak with gnolls, and Raven with halflings), something like 12 in total. I couldn't believe it. Nothing could stop it.

And later in the game I had Crusade and Charm of Life going. I never got any decent summons, but with all that stuff going on I didn't need them.

White magic is scary good!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 17, 2011 05:33 PM (+rSRq)

31 Yep!

The weakness of White Magic, though, is that keeping all those enchantments up can become expensive.  So you need a large mana base to work with, and if the enemy can screw around with this  ( *coughBluecough* ), you have problems.

At this point, I seriously regret the lack of a Master of Magic sequel with multiplayer, though multiplayer for a turn-based strategy game would be awkward.

Posted by: metaphysician at April 17, 2011 05:58 PM (hD30M)

32 No more than the entire Civ series.  The lack of a sequel to this game boggles my mind.

As for windowed mode, mine always shrinks back down to 640x480, which is just tiny on today's screens.  This 2x setting though, bears looking into.

Posted by: ubu at April 17, 2011 08:45 PM (GfCSm)

White magic is scary good!

Indeed.  Invulnerability + Immunity to Magic (Hello, Torin the Unbalanced!) = Nigh-unstoppable.

Posted by: Douglas Oosting at April 17, 2011 10:05 PM (N9Lwt)

34 Once I got Serena fully buffed, she walked over the entire map by herself.

Of course, that was in the intro mode.

Posted by: Mauser at April 17, 2011 10:21 PM (cZPoz)

35 Any hero with Armsmaster is worth whatever he/she costs.  Two xp points per turn per hero level to any regular unit stacked with it = elite army.

Now do that with dark elves, and their ranged magic attack in the early game, if you get lucky...

Posted by: ubu at April 17, 2011 11:07 PM (GfCSm)

36 Why no sequels? Same reason there are so many abandoned buildings in Detroit... the company that bought the rights to the game (Atari) did so specifically because they wanted to keep anyone from making a sequel. There was a company that wrote a full multiplayer sequel (Stardock, I think it was), but Atari not only refused to sell the rights but forced them to turn over all copies of the source code they were working on, last I heard.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 18, 2011 11:28 AM (wwfmh)


Stardock has a game called "Elemental: War of Magic" which does sound like a redo of MOM. I have no idea whether it's any good, though.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 18, 2011 12:42 PM (+rSRq)


Ubu, if I manage to come up with an Armsmaster, I plant him right outside my main manufacturing city. Each guy who comes off the line spends enough time with the Armsmaster to reach elite. If the Armsmaster is at +10 or +12, then usually the education pipeline is only about three units. Every time a new student arrives, an older unit graduates.

Usually it's Bhagtru, and I refer to it as "Bhagtru's school for wayward girls".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 18, 2011 12:44 PM (+rSRq)

39 Tatterdemalion- See, this is why I tend to be of the belief that IP protection should require Use as a necessary component.  Non-use of a protected IP for more than a certain amount of time should render the material public domain.

As for Elemental, what I heard was that the game was a good try, but poorly balanced and glitchy.  Its possible the game might get patched up eventually, but the early word was bad enough that I won't be checking it before the 20 dollar bin ( figurative ).

Posted by: metaphysician at April 18, 2011 12:49 PM (hD30M)

40 One of the problems with MoM multiplayer is all the spells that are completely useless against other players. The actual number of spells that remain useful when you're unable to screw around with diplomacy is probably less than half the list, and very heavily weighted against blue and black magic. Hard to balance a game that way, and even harder to do without rendering all the elements copies of one another, or possibly a bog-standard elemental rock-paper-scissors game.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 18, 2011 02:38 PM (wwfmh)

41 Tatterdemalion- Could you explain further?  I can sort of see your point, but I'm not sure I follow all your logic.  Aside from spells that effect your diplomatic status with ( AI ) opponents, what other ones would be rendered useless?

Posted by: metaphysician at April 18, 2011 02:58 PM (hD30M)


It's not like diplomacy works in this game anyway...

a) there's no "diplomatic" victory scenario; the only way to win is... "Conan, what is best in life?"

b) the computer cheats.  You can have all 4 opponents with aggressive/psychotic personality types, and run all the happy-fun spells you want, and they'll all hate you and have wizard pacts (or alliances) with each other if you're more powerful/advanced than they are.  There's supposed to be a penalty on diplomacy for having white magic if the other wizard has black, or vice-versa, and Ariel and Rjak will still be on permanent friends-with-benefits status.

I've played the game off and on since it came out, and I think I've seen a wizard banished by another computer-controlled wizard exactly once.

The only purpose for spells like Aura of Majesty is to trade them to enemy wizards for something useful (and worth a few more points in the end game.)

As for sequels... well, if there was a good one, would there be a 42-comment thread about a game from an era when people knew what "EGA" graphics were?

Posted by: Mikeski at April 18, 2011 03:55 PM (GbSQF)


Yeah. The only use for Just Cause is that it adds 20 points to your score at the end.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 18, 2011 04:34 PM (+rSRq)

44 Hmm... I remember there being a lot more diplomacy in the game than there actually was, I guess. Then again, I seldom played on any skill level beyond Normal... on Hard skill level, the computer players also become twice as tolerant of each others' attacks, while on Impossible, they never get angry with each other no matter what the other computer wizards do. I used to have a strategy guide that showed every single detail regarding how diplomacy and computer personalities worked... I think the most interesting revelation is that each time you contact them, it makes them angrier, so you always have to at least have a gift ready to offer them before you even bother talking.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian at April 18, 2011 08:38 PM (4njWT)

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