July 13, 2010

Master of Magic -- experimenting with different magic types

So I'm messing around with creating custom wizards. I tried 2 white, 8 blue, and Sorcery Mastery, and I did pretty well.

But blue magic turned out to be almost entirely useless for most of the game. Phantom Warriors did turn out to be useful for defending cities against raiders, who were generally pretty low level and therefore quite vulnerable to illusions. Plus Phantom Warriors only cost me 8 MP to cast, with Sorcery Mastery. But that isn't all that much better than fire elementals (chaos magic) or earth elementals (nature) and not all that much cheaper either.

I put Flight onto one of my heroes (Whatserface the Healer), too, but that was more convenience than anything. Water Walking would have been nearly the same. (The only difference is that Flight made it so that walking opponents couldn't attack her in combat, but they never got near her anyway given that she had a bodyguard of 8 dragon turtles.)

Late in the game I did finally reach the point of being able to summon Air Elementals, and I called one when I took out each of my last opponent's last two cities. But I didn't need them. The stack I was using was fully capable of doing the job.

So it turns out that through most of the game, the vast majority of the spells I cast, in combat or overland, were white or gray. And I won the game mainly using conventional forces.

Other people are enchanted (ahem) with blue, but it strikes me (and I think it always did strike me) as being the least useful of the six.

Last couple of games I tried something entirely different: 1 white, 4 red, 4 green, plus Nature Mastery and Chaos Mastery. That worked a whole lot better. It was fun, and I got lots of spells from green and red that were useful. That game I tried playing High Elves, and my main combat stack that time was three heroes plus 6 elven archers, all of whom started with Heroism (until they no longer needed it) and Eldritch Weapon. That, plus the fact that one of the heroes was Volana who had Leadership +2, and those archers were terrifyingly effective against most opponents. Plus adding Shuri to the mix, and the stack also moved really well. (Aureas got rescued from a lair, and I said "What the hell". But he wasn't really all that important, and I could have done without him.)

Later I created a new stack consisting of 3 dragon turtles plus 4 high elf magicians plus Shuri and Volana, and that was the one I used to take out my last opponent, who at that point was nearly as strong as I was. Putting Heroism and Water Walking on all the mages, plus Invulnerability on the first one (which was invariably the target for all enemy Shamans) and they managed to kick serious butt without taking significant damage. The turtles didn't need any help beyond Volana's +2 bonus from her Leadership ability -- which was a lot.

I think the following would be fun:


...and what you get is a monstrous bonus on both collecting and on using mana. The disadvantage of this is that you don't get a lot of high level spells -- but you may not really need them. (2 rare and 1 very rare chaos, 3 rare and 2 very rare nature.)

I think that's going to be my next game. I just began it, and had five spell choices. So two chaos spells: Disrupt, Fire Elemental. Three nature spells: Wall of Stone, Water Walking, Earth Lore.

UPDATE: And playing with Nomads, I got killed early by Ariel (10 white). It's the first time she's been my opponent, and she managed to find my home city with a stack that was up-powered to the gills with white spells: heroism, holy armor, holy weapon. Those guys were tanks!

I kind of wondered what it would be like fighting against her. Maybe I'll try an all-white game myself some time.

UPDATE: Ubu has been playing the game, too.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Gaming at 06:54 PM | Comments (26) | Add Comment
Post contains 693 words, total size 4 kb.

1 How long does a game run?

Posted by: bkw at July 14, 2010 03:20 AM (34O+x)

2 Mine have been running 2-4 hours. But I'm playing at "easy" level.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 14, 2010 06:22 AM (+rSRq)

3 Mine  have been running more like 10-14 hours, but I'm on Normal, and Dr.Heinous can tell you that I'm a very slow, methodical player.  Except when I'm a very slow, forgetful player.

Posted by: ubu at July 14, 2010 02:02 PM (i7ZAU)

4 I am going to have to try this game. No idea how I missed it originally, since I love these kinds of games.

From reading here and at ubu's place, I am struck by how much some elements sound like Heroes of Might & Magic. (Especially HOMM 3, my favorite of that series.) Can anyone who has played both games comment on similarities and differences?

Posted by: haphazard1 at July 14, 2010 07:24 PM (xF0tu)


I played HOMM, the original version. My take was: HOMM was prettier, nicer graphics. Master of Magic was better, in terms of play.

It was obvious that HOMM was strongly influenced by MOM, but they cut a lot out and changed the emphasis. I found HOMM really dull, and stopped playing it after a couple of hours. So I never got to the later versions.

The main emphasis in HOMM was on the heroes. Heroes in MOM are important, but they're not the most important thing in the game, and you can win without recruiting any heroes at all. Often I have only one.

I vaguely remember that the magic system in HOMM was much less impressive. MOM's magic is extremely rich and versatile.

Plus HOMM didn't have anything like MOM's bifurcated world. In MOM there are two strategic maps. One is called Arcanus. The other is called Myrror, and it's kind of the dark side of the world. There are ways to get between them, but for most players that's very limited. (There are six randomly-placed portals.)

Myrror has races which are different. On Arcanus you get High Men, Barbarians, Nomads, High Elves, Lizardmen, Halflings, Gnolls (boo! hiss!), Klackons (insect men), and Orcs. In Myrror you get Draconians (flying dragon men), Dark Elves, Trolls, Dwarves, and Beastmen. Myrror is also a more dangerous place, with more and better everything.

I also don't recall that HOMM had as rich a system for building the player avatar, either.

There are six kinds of magic, color coded. Arcane (grey) magic everyone gets, and there aren't all that many arcane spells (though they're very useful). The other five are where it gets interesting: Chaos (red), Nature (green), Sorcery (blue), Life (white), and Death (black). You begin with 11 "picks", which can be a spell book of one of those colors (except that you cannot have both black and white at the same time). Or you can spend picks on "retorts", special abilities. Most of those cost one pick but a couple cost two, and some have precursor requirements.

Examples of retorts are Nature Mastery, Chaos Mastery, and Sorcery Mastery, respectively requiring 4 spell books in green, red, or blue. If you choose one of these, you get double mana from nodes of that color and research and casting bonuses for spells of that color.

If you have more books of a given color, you get more and better spells of that color to research. But each of the colors has unique abilities, and if you spread your picks around then you don't get any high level spells. 11 picks aren't really all that many, and you have to make tradeoffs. So if you were to go with 2 blue, 2 green, 2 white, and 2 red plus three points for retorts, you'd have a very nicely balance wizard who wouldn't ever get any of the really powerful spells. Or you can concentrate on one color, and do without things the other colors have.

I don't recall that HOMM's wizard design was even remotely that rich and interesting.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 14, 2010 07:54 PM (+rSRq)

6 Hell, for $6 how can you go wrong?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 14, 2010 07:56 PM (+rSRq)

7 The Heroes of Might and Magic games aren't bad, but Master of Magic is certainly a deeper and more interesting game, possibly the deepest in the genre.

For a different take on the fantasy wargame stuff, Warlords Battlecry is a heck of a lot of fun, and Warlords Battlecry 3 is available on GoG for $10.  It's a real-time game though, not turn-based.  One of the neat features is that your leader can assemble a retinue that persists between campaigns, gaining experience (and strength) all the time.  It's really neat to be able to take on the goblin hordes with a squad of level 8 fairies.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 14, 2010 10:17 PM (PiXy!)


Like I said before, Phantom Warriors are actually weaker than Spearmen (no shields = chopped up fast on defense). Their only real benefit are the Illusionary Attacks, which are essentially a super Armor-Piercing attack (instead of half shields, the opponent effectively has no shields). Using them to defend makes them look pretty lame.

The only thing that would have been nice to have in MoM is multiplayer. There was a patch that tried to graft on a multiplayer component, but it was buggy and the system handled it poorly, though probably about as well as it could have given the "players must take turns" nature of MoM. Honestly I can't see how something like Time Stop could really have worked well in multiplayer, without switching to a "simultaneous turns" format, which of course would have completely changed the strategic balance throughout the game.


Posted by: Tatterdemalian at July 15, 2010 05:53 AM (TaHHC)

9 Thanks for the comments. I will definitely be giving this game a try.

The later HOMM games added more depth to the magic system, but heroes did remain the focus of the game. It's right there in the name, after all. Should be interesting to play and see what is similar and what is not.

Sounds like I should avoid Gnolls as my starting race, though.

Posted by: haphazard1 at July 15, 2010 01:07 PM (xF0tu)

10 MoM is really more like Civ in most respects than HOMM; the one thing that is completely different is the tactical combat, which is more like Age of Wonders (which came later and was probably inspired by MoM) than the HOMM tactical combat.  It's easier to just buy the darn thing and see for yourself, though.

Another HOMM (but *not* MoM) clone is the new King's Bounty series, which has more of a RPG emphasis (only 1 hero, on a real-time world map), but a tactical combat system that is virtually identical to HOMM).

Posted by: BigD at July 15, 2010 02:08 PM (LjWr8)


There are apparently 2 different lines of game in the Warlords series.  Warlords: Battlecry are the real-time strategy.  The Warlords are more like turn-based strategy, though battles are even more abstracted than HOMM.  Still, the Warlords (TBS) games are ones that I have to get into more, but I do not remember where I put my copies of the first two or my discs with the third.  Maybe I will download the fourth whenever from D2D someday.

The entire Warlords franchise is, of course, originally created by SSG (From Pixy's area of the world.), who also created Reach for the Stars and Carriers at War.


Posted by: cxt217 at July 15, 2010 02:28 PM (2whzk)


MoM is really more like Civ in most respects than HOMM...

I think Barcia consciously designed MOM to be "sword-and-sorcery Civ". What he directly borrowed was things like the fact that you have to pay for things in gold, and you need to keep your people fed, and you have to keep them happy, and you can't do that without building various kinds of buildings in your cities.

He dispensed with the whole business of government types, which don't make sense in the S&S motif (which by tradition is fundamentally monarchical). And there aren't any Wonders of the World, except for achievement of researching and then casting the Spell of Mastery.

Then he added a whole lot of stuff (races and magic), which is why it isn't simply a Civ me-too.

After the success of MOO, Barcia had money and breathing room to design his dream game. MOM is it. You can see that he put his heart into it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 15, 2010 03:54 PM (+rSRq)

13 Got the game...only $5.99 as it turned out.

Civ is a huge favorite of mine, old or new. And Reach For the Stars...now there is a game I haven't thought of for a very long time. Good memories, though.

Now I just need to figure out what the heck I am doing. Guess I should check out that manual.

Posted by: haphazard1 at July 15, 2010 07:20 PM (xF0tu)

14 I have to admit, I'm tempted.  Not normally a huge 4X fan, but I sometimes like the genre.  And since I finished one retro game ( Deus Ex for the curious ), I might want to try another.  Especially for prices like that.

Posted by: metaphysician at July 15, 2010 07:36 PM (OLeXB)

15 Just to point out: there are two manuals. The other is the spellbook, which describes the 220 or so spells available in the game.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 15, 2010 07:36 PM (+rSRq)

16 Ah, question.  Is the Spell Mastery victory actually feasible?  Because I know in a lot of other 4X games, the ascension/technology victory ( nearest equivalent to Spell Mastery ) is usually one of the hardest to actually get.

Posted by: metaphysician at July 15, 2010 07:44 PM (OLeXB)


Yeah, I've done it. It's fun to watch it being cast; they created a special animation for it. But yeah, it is difficult to get. It's like 50,000 or 100,000 research points, and 5000 MP to cast. But by the time I was ready to go after it that game, it was only about 40 turns to research, and about 20 turns to cast it.

In that particular case I had isolated my last remaining opponent into a single city which I was bombing regularly (with Earthquake spells), so the main reason I was hanging around was that I had a power stack exploring Myrror. Also I wanted to see what  it was like casting the Spell of Mastery.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 15, 2010 08:16 PM (+rSRq)

18 Oh man, SSG, Reach for the Stars...  (Vision dissolves into wavy lines as Pixy goes to flashback heaven.)

Posted by: Pixy Misa at July 15, 2010 09:46 PM (PiXy!)

19 Spell of Mastery is really more of a taunting victory than a practical one.  By the time you reach the end-game, the military balance has usually been decided one way or the other.  It's possible to use it as a snatch-victory-from-defeat maneuver, but it can be interrupted by the sacking of your capitol (which banishes your avatar for like 50 turns), and starting to cast the spell is pretty much a "drop everything and attack me" flag.  Theoretically, in a multiplayer environment, it'd probably see a lot more use.

Another use for it is to formally win a game where you have a massive military advantage but are tired of curb-stomping your enemies, especially if you have one whole plane left to conquer.  That fixes one of the annoyances of some of the Civs; there are times when you know you've won the game, and have nothing really left to prove, but the computer refuses to accept it.

Posted by: BigD at July 16, 2010 09:57 AM (LjWr8)


Oddly enough, Warlords (TBS) had an easy way to resolve the situation where you hold overwhelming predominance over the computer but do not want to have to grind your way through the computer players - Once you control half the cities on the map, the computer will come and offer to capitulate to you.  Of course, you have the choice of sending back the envoys in pieces to show that you really are planning on fighting to the last trench.

Pixy: Sadly, my glory days of Reach for the Stars were back on the Commodore 64.  The PC version of the original RftS was a step backwards, and the PC remake killed a lot of my good will towards SSG...



Posted by: cxt217 at July 16, 2010 10:43 AM (2whzk)


Spell of Mastery is really more of a taunting victory than a practical one.

Usually, but not always. I played a game last night where I was beginning to think the Spell of Mastery was going to be my only way to win.

I was playing an all-white wizard, which was surprisingly interesting and fun. But the big problem with White is, no flight and no water walking, and my last remaining opponent was on a different continent on Arcanus. I had completely pacified my continent and he'd pretty much taken over much of his. I was way ahead on mana income, and as a result my spell research was way ahead.

I had two towers with which to reach Myrror, so I sent my best stack across and started exploring, in hopes that I  could reach one of the two towers which were on his land. Turned out I couldn't. On the Myrror side his two were both on islands.

I was looking for a while at a situation where the only way I could win was with the Spell of Mastery, or maybe by using a stack consisting entirely of angels and archangels, but then I realized I was able to get my stack under his continent on the Myrror side, and then use Plane Shift to get them back to Arcanus.

Anyway, I could see there being a situation where there was no way to reach an opponent to defeat him, in which case the Spell of Mastery would be the only way to win.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 16, 2010 11:26 AM (+rSRq)

22 No ships, Steven?

The latest Civ has a "domination" victory condition - basically "you have X percentage of territory claimed and population percentage". Ironically, this means that you're unlikely to win a Conquest victory in the late game without having turned down a Domination victory (though cities that you've recently conquered take a long time to re-assert their influence over the countryside...)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at July 16, 2010 12:55 PM (pWQz4)


Ships? What are these things you talk about?

You know, it never occurred to me. I don't think I've ever built a ship in this game.

It would have required me to create a new outpost on the ocean and wait for it to grow enough so that it could create ships at a reasonable pace, of course. But I suppose it wouldn't really take more than one or two, since they'd just be acting as ferries.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 16, 2010 02:20 PM (+rSRq)

24 Reach for the Stars: I remember playing that back in college about 20 years ago. I found a floppy a few weeks ago with a copy of the game on it. It doesn't like to run on XP or Win7. WEll, it'll run, but the character set is hosed or something. I was thinking I'd love to see a remake until I saw cxt217's comment. GOG doesn't have RftS. Avatar: That Domination victory's interesting. The last game of Civ4 I played I had a Dom victory by surprise: I'd nearly eliminated the second-to-last enemy player and was re-positioning my armies to take out his last city when two of his ex-cities ended their rebellions the same turn, and the expanded territory put me over the top, heh.

Posted by: RickC at July 16, 2010 03:55 PM (lbzph)


I have the PC remake of Reach for the Stars, within easy distance.  Of course, given my feelings of anger and disappointment (And it was a Christmas or birthday gift too!) after playing the game, I have no desire to ever install it on a computer again.  Given that I have Masters of Magic, Master of Orion, and Colonization for DOS (Which are copies of the installation I made on DOS machine from 3.5" floppies.) on DOSBox on my current PC, as well as having fiddled around with Imperialism, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, and Alpha Centauri until those Win95/98 games can work on the same Vista machine...


Posted by: cxt217 at July 16, 2010 04:55 PM (ULJ8s)


This thread was supposed to be about Master of Magic. It wasn't about Reach for the Stars or Warlords or...

I'm going to close it now.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 16, 2010 05:13 PM (+rSRq)

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