January 29, 2011

Master of Magic

I've been overdosing on Master of Orion. Though there's a lot of variety in that game, based on which race you play, which races are your opponents, and which technologies are missing from your research tree, it was getting old.

Back when all this stuff appeared on GOG, I also bought Master of Magic. And I played a few games. But the problem was that I kept running into my opponents long before I was ready. What I really wanted was to be left alone to develop my empire in peace.

Finally, a few days ago it occurred to me that there was a good way to do that: be Myrran. So I started a game with trolls, 4 white books, 4 green books and Myrran. But I loused it up, and quit.

Yesterday I tried it again. And it went a whole lot better. Not the most sterling win of my life, but a win nonetheless.

Some of that was luck. I was playing "Easy" and one opponent, and it turned out to be Freya (swoon), who is all-green. I eventually researched Nature's Awareness, and got a look at her empire and her army. And it was rather terifying, in fact. She probably had three times as many units as I did, and a lot of them were high class (e.g. priests, paladins). she easily had four times as many cities as I did.

But she didn't have as many nodes as I had by that point, and hers were Arcanian so my Myrran nodes yielded twice as much power. And I started having luck. I ended up with three red books found in various lairs and nodes, as well as one blue book and an additional white book. And I had some luck on which spells they gave me. By the end of the game I had Nature's Awareness, Great Wasting, and Planar Seal running.

Which meant I could watch her, and her land was becoming fouled, and she couldn't get to me. She had gotten through one tower and sent one scout unit through it before I got the Planar Seal going, but I hunted that one down and killed it easily.

And then I lucked into the Call Chaos spell, which is a lot of fun, if you're into mindless destruction. Costs 500 mana to cast, and it nukes any city, having a chance of destroying each building, and killing defenders and citizens. I had, by that point, captured all 15 Myrran nodes, and all my cities were mature and on trade goods, so I had a huge income. Most of my mana income went into spell research, and I ended up converting maybe 35,000 gold into mana (over the course of a couple of hundred turns) in order to power a major series of nuke attacks on Freya's cities. With my skill level, I could set one off every third turn.

By the time I was through with her capital, it only had one citizen and the only building in it was her tower (which can't be destroyed this way). I nuked all her other cities multiple times.

And it was interesting to watch how her units started disappearing nearly everywhere. Between all the corruption from the Great Wasting, and the corruption created by the Call Chaos, and the loss of things like farmer's markets and granaries, her economy was wrecked and she had to disband most of her military units. She couldn't feed them, and she couldn't pay them. The summoned ones, she didn't have the mana for.

By the time I was ready to cast the Spell of Mastery, most of her cities had no defenders at all. I watched two of her cities get trashed by wandering monsters, and three of them get conquered by raiders.

And she had nothing left to threaten me with when I started casting it. Finish.

I tend to favor green magic for a lot of reasons, but it has to be admitted that red magic is loads of fun.

But next time I think I'll try three white and five green. I think white magic is the most useless color, at the higher levels, but I just gotta have Guardian Spirits! And Healing! And Prayer!

UPDATE: Turns out I had a saved game left from before my rampage, so here's what Freya's area looked like before, and after.

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The AI really values ships, for some reason. While most of Freya's cities had nothing in them for defense, she had nine ships left sitting around doing nothing.

I've seen that in games with blue mages, too. They'll end up with piles of floating islands, just sitting next to their cities accomplishing nothing whatever except to soak up mana for upkeep.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 06:24 PM | Comments (14) | Add Comment
Post contains 796 words, total size 4 kb.

1 It seems to be just about universal that in every strategy game where it is relevant, the AI just can't handle navies properly.  I think it's probably because the importance can vary so highly upon the map layout in ways that aren't always easy to program in.

Posted by: Aaron Nowack at January 29, 2011 08:36 PM (C5vYN)

2 I like going Myrran for a change in scenery, as well.  Then downside is, when you do a 4-opponent game on the harder difficulties and draw the dragon wizard, you can be in a world of hurt.  It just takes *longer* to build up on that side, and all of the neutral villages are much tougher, which also slows you down.  Then, you suddenly run into waves of dragon units that roll you up before you can get to the advanced units that can stop them.

Posted by: BigD at January 29, 2011 08:58 PM (dZQ+F)

3

The tactic I used wouldn't necessarily have worked against anyone. Freya, being all-green, was vulnerable to it because she didn't have any reasonable way to get rid of my planar seal and didn't have any way to reach out and touch me after it was in place.

But against a blue mage, the planar seal would have gotten dispelled. And against a red mage, I'd have been getting nuked in turn. Against a white mage, all the cities would have been protected and my Great Wasting and Call Chaos spells wouldn't have worked.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 29, 2011 09:24 PM (+rSRq)

4 I enjoy playing for maximum "stuff" rather than maximum score. Max score basically means "11 black books, spend all your time summoning Wraiths, use them to take over the world ASAP." Time has way too much weight in the scoring equation.

So my usual build is Myrran... as Jafar, since a mostly-sorcery wizard is the most annoying thing to play against, and the computer doesn't change too much stuff when it customizes its wizard(s).

Four colors of books to start with, and Node Mastery (which lets you cast spells against the node's guardians without having the node try to dispel anything not of its own color. Also multiplies the mana you get from your nodes). Four colors also lets you trade as many spells as possible with other wizards when you first meet them, too (after 3 or 5 turns, they'll hate you too much to trade anymore, since a principal part of the so-called A.I. in this game is "screw diplomacy, gang up on the human.").

Keeping Myrror to myself requires either Planar Seal, or invisible units to guard any breached towers (dark elves can make nightblades which are naturally invis, so I don't raze dark elf cities if I'm playing as something else). The computer units will attack your invisible guard if it stays in its starting square on the combat map, even though the computer shouldn't be able to see it... but if you step out of the starting square, it'll stop cheating. Then hold down the space bar, because after 50 turns it's a draw and the attacker has to retreat.

Also, since another part of the A.I. is "have all those random bad effects happen to the human", my six best cities other than my capitol each get a hero stationed in them. A city with a hero can't rebel and turn into a neutral city. Nothing more "fun" than spending 150 turns rebuilding all the structures you accidentally flattened re-taking your own town...

Posted by: Mikeski at January 29, 2011 11:42 PM (GbSQF)

5 When I play Myrran, I prefer the Dark Elves because every population generates 0.5 mana.  Helps make up for the lack of conquerable nodes early, plus they get warlocks.  Doombolt is nasty.

As for color, I like the red/green combo, but I've played a few games as all blue, and given time to build up, that is one mean color.  Least favorite?  Death magic.  Too weak early, and not so hot later on either, IMHO. Of course, if I could survive long enough to find out, it would help.

Possibly the greatest game never to get a sequel. Maybe Mule, if we go that far back...

Posted by: ubu at January 29, 2011 11:50 PM (GfCSm)

6 Elemental:  War of Magic was hyped as a spiritual sequel.  Sadly, the reviews were poor.

Posted by: metaphysician at January 30, 2011 08:24 AM (hD30M)

7 I have Elemental: War of Magic.  It had problems initially, several bad design decisions.  However, supposedly they've patched it and made major changes.  I'll update it sometime and give it another shot.

Posted by: DrHeinous at January 31, 2011 07:55 AM (/Y+Yb)

8 Also, I tend to favor Myrror for one reason: the roads.  All enchanted by default, so a small force can rapidly move and take things.

I like the dark elves as well (both for the mana and the warlocks).  The only problem is that they don't have engineers, so no road building!

My first priority is usually to find and hammer a dwarven/gnoll city, and turn out several engineers...

Posted by: DrHeinous at January 31, 2011 07:55 AM (/Y+Yb)

9

Dark Elves grow slowly, don't they?

I just played another game, this time as Draconians. They were pretty good.

The reason I like Trolls and Draconians is that they are particularly good at defending their cities against monsters and raiders. Once you get city walls up (a green spell) with  Draconians, few attackers can do anything. You hit "auto" and the battle ends.

And I did a lot of ass-kicking with a stack of Draconian wizards.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 31, 2011 08:04 AM (+rSRq)

10 Every game designer gives bonuses to the engineers.  No one ever gives anything to us bureaucrats!

Actually, once in Starfire (boardgame), I tried to make up a "Bureaucratic" government, but quickly gave up when I realized all the negatives meant it would be a pushover.

"Administrator, the enemy fleet is firing!"

"Clerk, you are not authorized to engage in 'Suppression of Mass Anti-Social Behavior' until you complete your Form 235-X4.  Both volumes!"

Yeah, not going to work...

Posted by: ubu at January 31, 2011 08:05 AM (i7ZAU)

11

Every game designer gives bonuses to the engineers.  No one ever gives anything to us bureaucrats!

That's because engineers are cool!

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at January 31, 2011 08:36 AM (+rSRq)

12 I'm surprised no game has used bureaucrat units ( scribes, clerks, etc ), not as beneficial units, but *required* ones.  They don't give you bonuses. . . but if you don't have an adequate number for your empire, you take efficiency penalties of some form or another.

( having too many is bad enough on its own, as each unit would presumably consume upkeep, even if its unnecessary. . . )

Posted by: metaphysician at January 31, 2011 11:41 AM (hD30M)

13 The Rogue Trader RPG (pen and paper) actually has a "seneschal" class, come to think of it, but that game's more focused towards management than straight combat anyway. (And its engineer class is still significantly cooler, if bugnuts...)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at January 31, 2011 12:07 PM (mRjOr)

14 Not played the game, but my guess is a Seneschal is still useful.  Sounds like code for "social character."  In a *lot* of games, having somebody who can negotiate, handle bureaucratic red tape, and lie and bluff their ass off, is as useful or more than being able to swing a sword or shoot a gun.

Posted by: metaphysician at January 31, 2011 01:57 PM (hD30M)

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