Altair

 

Players: 8

Cities: 70

Ruins: 40

 

My position is circled.

 

Pre-Game Thoughts:

 

A classic “continent” map. Lots of naval activity will be required, with the large ocean gaps between continents. The tiny islands in between continents are sure to become key mobilization points, for naval assaults, as getting a firm foothold on an enemy continent that can be vectored to will be key. The unit set is also a fairly classic setup with some interesting differences. One of the more interesting things is that there are only three one-turn armies in the whole set, and two of the three are semi-useless 1 strength armies. The third, Native Infantry, is a pretty solid fodder unit, with a strength of 2, hillwalk, forestwalk and +1 in hills, but is severely burdened by a pathetic movement speed of 12. This is a futuristic map, but speed is not commonly found. Out of the set’s 27 units, only 14 have a movement rate higher than 16. Out of those, four are 1:1 build time/strength units which are rather useless, and another four are rare Temple/Ally units. So only SIX units with a halfway decent speed that aren’t crappy or hyper rare. There is one clear bargain: the Gunship unit takes 2 turns to build, and is a strength 5 flyer with 20 movement points and +2 in the open. A 2.5 ratio in a set like this is hard to come by, and the unit can be purchased at a reasonable 800 gold. A stack of 5 Gunships, a Stealth Fighter, a Star Cruiser and a Hero will make for a killer flying stack that will mop the floor with just about anything short of a strong hero stack and will particularly excel at intercepting armies outside of city limits.

 

The “story” of this map appears to be 7 competing powers attempting to “colonize” a discovered planet. I chose to play Orange, as they are the ‘Natives’ side, and there’s nothing like kicking a whole bunch of militaristic megacorporations off of your planet. Unfortunately, the balance in this scenario is somewhat lacking. The map is actually pretty balanced, as are most of the sides, with one huge exception: White (Terrans) has a gigantic edge, as their special unit, the Star Cruiser, beats the snot out of every other special unit in the game. A strength 9 flyer with +2 special and 40 movement points?! That’s just plain ridiculous, and the speed with which it allows the Terrans to expand is mind-boggling. For comparison, my special unit is a strength 8 flyer with +1 special and 16 movement points. Not bad (though pretty slow for a flyer), but nothing close to the Cruisers.

 

There’s really not a lot of choice in the way of strategy, at least early on. I’m sharing a continent with one other player, Red (House of Siberr), so they will be the first to go.

 

Turn 5:

 

 

By turn 5, most neutral cities have been grabbed. From the city count, things don’t look so good for me at the moment—I am second to last in number of cities. The only one worse is Green, who holds a whopping ONE city! The Green hero got a quest early on that asked him to go south and raze a relatively far-away city, so Green made the gigantic mistake of completing that quest instead of grabbing neutral cities. As a result of that, and of White’s ultra-fast Star Cruisers, White now dominates the entire upper half of the main continent and has also made inroads to the west. This is exactly what I did NOT want to see—a huge power taking firm control of the center of the map. The situation on the northeast continent, however, is encouraging. Dark Blue and Black have both gotten off to tolerably good starts, which hopefully means they’ll be keeping each other busy for a while. Yellow and Light Blue are both expanding about as expected, with Yellow also having an edge, as their special unit is a fast flyer (only Str 6, but with a +2 city bonus)

 

By this time, my hero has received a quest—to sack and pillage something like 1000 gold. A promising goal—I am about to declare war on Red, and the influx of money from sacking their cities will hopefully generate me another hero early on. My only real annoyance so far is that Yellow has seized a city on the very Southeastern tip of my continent, which will serve as a very annoying foothold on my territory should we go to war. Thankfully, it is relatively far from any of my cities, and there are no roads to it, meaning I will have at least a turn’s warning (probably even two) of an attack should it come from there. I am glad to have been able to secure the dual-city island around the center of the map. Located squarely between me and the gigantic White empire, it will likely be a crucial point of contention.

 

 

Turn 10:

 

 

By turn 10, I have swept straight up through the heart of Red’s defenses, and effectively split what little remains of their empire down the middle. Thanks to a completed quest, my hero, Blankman, is awarded a small group of Star Cruisers, and Red crumbles before their might.

 

The situation in the rest of the world is largely static. Several more neutral cities get grabbed, but little else occurs. However, things are about to change, with a slew of wars beginning on turn 9. Three are a no-brainer: Dark Blue declares war on Black, Light Blue declares war on Yellow and White declares war on Green, obviously trying to crush them as soon as possible. Interestingly enough, Light Blue and Black both declare war on ME—the two empires that are nowhere even close to me. It’s one of those silly “I don’t like you and I’m going to show you that I don’t” declarations of war that happens commonly around turn 10. I haven’t committed any treachery, of course, but I guess sacking all those Red cities didn’t make me very popular.

 

 

Turn 15:

 

 

On turn 11, a second hero joins me, right in the middle of formerly Red territory, and on turn 12, a third, this time on the dual-city island. My two war heroes, Blankman and Khazaine, tear the remaining Reds to shreds in record time. By turn 14, they are decimated completely, and by turn 15 I have full control of the Western continent as well as two key outlying islands—16 cities in total, tied for first with White.

 

Speaking of White, they’ve having a much harder time with Green than might have been expected. Green’s early questing was dumb, but it did give them a group of powerful allies to fight this war with, and as you can see, Green has actually GROWN since turn 10, now controlling four cities instead of three. Hopefully for me, they’ll continue to be a thorn in White’s side.

 

The war on the northeastern continent, however, is more lopsided than the map indicates. Black’s units are hopelessly overextended in a futile effort to expand to the main continent, and a concentrated assault by Dark Blue has them reeling. I don’t expect them to be able to recover. It’s quite likely that Dark Blue will soon control the northeastern continent, and that will make them my preferred next target. Finally, on turn 15, my third hero, with the help of a sage, locates a double-movement item, likely the most powerful class of items in the game, which works wonders for blitzkrieg assaults.

 

 

Turn 20:

 

 

As soon as I realized that Black wasn’t going to hold out much longer, I dispatched a flying stack with my main hero and a super-fast stack of Star Cruisers to the northeast continent. The idea would be to grab a few cities from Black right before they die, thereby establishing a foodhold on the northeastern continent without having to go to war with Dark Blue (yet). The strategy succeeds admirably, and I wipe out Black on turn 19, simultaneously taking their final two cities and killing their last hero. Unfortunately, Dark Blue is not stupid, and immediately treacheries me on turn 20. Another war is on.

 

Meanwhile, as you can see, the silly Light Blues, despite being clobbered by Yellow on their home continent, have sent out a pointless super-long range naval expedition that culminated in them barely able to seize my southernmost city. Congratulations to them. Yellow looks very good right now. White of course does too, and finally seem to have taken their war in hand, seizing the Green capital.

 

 

Turn 25:

 

 

By turn 25, the shape of the endgame is becoming clear. After some initial trickiness with the Dark Blue war, I was able to consolidate my position by allowing initial loss—I gave up my easternmost foothold in their territory, relocating the Star Cruisers I used to seize it to my other city in their territory to support my hero. I had troops pouring into the continent by both vector and ship, but I needed the pressure off. Two attacks on the two Dark Blue towns closest to mine followed by a Raze did the trick. With the pressure off, the next moves came easily. By this point, Dark Blue still controls a majority of the continent, but two of their heroes are dead, and their army is reeling. They do however still have sizeable forces in the southeast that they’ve been slow to mobilize, but with three heroes now operating separately on their continent in a three-pronged attack, they stand little chance. My original hero, Blankman, has been dispatched with what remains of my Star Cruisers to the north to complete another quest, while Khazaine strikes down the southern side of the mountain range, and another hero to the north.

 

Meanwhile, White has finally driven Green entirely out of their starting position, but they still hang on for dear life, holding on to a single city that they captured with an insanely risky long-range attack by their heroes and last group of quest units. Their days, however, are numbered. Yellow has split the core of Light Blue territory, and easily repulsed a last-ditch naval counterattack on their southeastern cities. It’s now just mop-up for them as well.

 

 

Turn 30:

 

 

In the final phases of the war, Dark Blue made a rather audacious attempt to survive by massing their final forces and making a surprise attack on White’s position in the northeast part of the main continent. This proved to be very beneficial for me, for as you can see I seized their two cities there and they will serve excellently as a foothold for my now looming confrontation with White. By turn 30, Dark Blue is gone, and Yellow has finished off Light Blue. Astonishingly, the resilient Green is not only still alive, but has GROWN, controlling the entire northwestern corner of the main continent. Their military action has had the crucial effect of exposing White’s capital (the city directly southeast of Green’s position)—the only city on the map that produces Star Cruisers.

 

By turn 30, I control 28 cities—over 40% of the map. Units are streaming into my positions on the north banks of the main continent. It is plainly obvious that if I am not stopped immediately, there is no hope for the other powers. All three remaining nations make peace and simultaneously declare war on me. The Final War begins.

 


Turn 35:

 

 

Yellow and White were not fucking around. Even with a MASSIVE interception force ready to head off attacks on several fronts before their units can reach my shores, I stagger before their initial attack, which goes directly to my starting area. I lose several cities before my units can regroup and counterattack successfully. However, the initial difficulty is misleading. It only exists because the bulk of my forces—including the best four of my  five heroes—are leading a four-pronged assault on White’s positions. By turn 33, White’s Star Cruiser-producing capital is mine, and by 35, a single ultra stack commanded by my Raid Hero (now equipped with both the double movement AND a group flying item for an unbeatable combo) rips through the remaining Green cities, razing the first two and holding the last, finally putting an end to their remarkable survival story. As my fifth hero leads a desperate struggle to defend my southernmost cities from nonstop Yellow attacks, my remaining forces slowly but surely carve White up. Yellow’s forces are strong, but their heroes began this war in the very south-eastern part of the map after finishing off Light Blue. Without almost any roads in that part of the map, it simply takes them way too long to travel close enough to me to make a difference. By turn 35, I control 34 cities—over 50% of the 64 non-razed cities that remain, while the once-mighty White has been reduced to 13. Unless Yellow can muster a massed attack powerful enough to overrun my homeland defenses, the end is nigh.

 

 

Turn 38:

 

 

…and they cannot. My raid hero, fresh off wiping out Green, sweeps southward with his flying monster stack, razing two of the three island ports that have been the bases of White and Yellow invasions. My homeland defense hero has defeated three large Yellow armies that constituted the bulk of their last ditch effort. The death knell sounds as my three other heroes, backed up by large stacks of special units, and each escorted by hero assassins, strike southward along all three fronts on the main continent. After a fierce last ditch effort by white, the western and eastern attacks succeed spectacularly, while the central assault ends in a virtual stalemate, as Khazaine’s task force encounters White’s last remaining large army, backed up by ability-canceling Stealth planes. The fight is bitter, but when the dust settles, the White army is gone. Only Khazaine herself remains of her force. With losses on all three fronts, White is driven entirely from the native area, relegaded to Green-area cities defended by scraps of units. On turn 38, I reach the magic number, holding 50% of the scenario’s original cities. White and Yellow surrender. I win.