How to play nightmares
General strategy for Nightmares of Meloen
Generally speaking, Nightmares of Meloen is a faction made of fast units that lack in resilience. In order to win, you have to keep your troops mobile and follow the day-night cycle. Some of Nightmares' units are relatively expensive which makes them unable to compete in number with most of Default's factions, but on the other hand they got a lot of abilities and specials that make them deadly when used right.
They don't have a typical village holder and most of the time it's better to leave a village open than to sit on it waiting for your opponent's attack. If holding a village is of paramount importance, good candidates are the Unhatched and to a lesser extent the Black Cat or the Scornful Watcher, the former should be use to hold village threatened by melee oriented units while the latter two can hold against ranged units. Given it's poor resistance the Black Cat can't hold well against more than 2 units, so make sure to ZoC-out the other possible attackers. On hill and cave villages, the Unstable Elemental may be considered too.
As Nightmares of Meloen are quite fast units, the village grabbing should not be a problem in the early game: Unhatched, Black Cat, Unstable Elemental and Floating Darkness all have 6 or more movement points. However as the last 3 units are rather weak and expensive, make sure you keep enough cash for buying units to protect them later. A typical first turn recruits could be: 2 Unhatched, 1 Black Cat, 1 Unstable Elemental and a mix of Scornful Watcher, Life Thief, Howling Darkness or additional Unhatched.
Unhatched: for it's high resists and his low price, the Unhatched is the core unit of the Nightmares faction, filling both the big melee hitter and the cheap meatbag roles. It's good to have some for any of the possible Default era match-ups. While they are very efficient in taking damage in defense, they also have a major role in most offensive strategies. When attacking with them, mind the trait that gives them an edge against some damage types.
Black Cat: The mage of Nightmares. It helps reduce the defender's defense when pushing an offensive, hence boosting every subsequently attacking unit's damage per cost ratio. While having strong defense overall, it deals little damage itself and suffers from poor resistance making it quite weak in one versus one combat.
Life Thief: while it can be compared to the Ghost by some, it differs in its statistics. Though it has more HP and better attack than the Ghost, it has worse defense and resistance. Overall, this makes him less like a tank and more like an offensive weapon. This is particularly true against units with poor arcane resistance such as the drakes, trolls or woses. It can make an upset to a push of chaotic units with low defense too.
Scornful Watcher: A unit closest to the archer role among the Nightmares faction, it's importance becomes high against any faction that has mostly good arcane resistance. As it turns any arcane resistance into a weakness, this Nightmares' unit is Loyalists' and Knalgans' nightmare, and could be put to good use against the arcane-neutral orcs. The Scornful Watcher is mostly a support ranged unit against both Drakes and Undead, but can be used to retaliate against the cold damage or poke at the saurians for the former or ghosts for the latter.
Howling Darkness: a 7 movement point flying skirmisher with leadership is what we talk about. Lacking a melee attack and low in hitpoints, the Howling Darkness can't take care of itself. In exchange of their protection, other units will receive lower damage from opponent's attacks with the Howling Darkness. Keep in mind that to give that bonus, it must get next to the opponent's unit.
Unstable Elemental: this is the game's most volatile unit. Most of its stats change according to the terrain it is standing on. With a very high movement point and a flyer movetype on its basic form, this can be used as Nightmares' scout. However be aware than in some of its variations, the Unstable Elemental trades most of its mobility for an increase in resistances.
Creepers: a strategy changing unit. When all your attempts with Unhatched or Life Thief have failed, it's the time to bring the Creepers in. Low cost and low upkeep, you can amass them to block the opposition's advance. They have very high damage as long as you use the banding ability when attacking. If they can't win a game, they can save your day.
Nightmares of Meloen vs Drakes
Unless you got a Life Thief right on, it is likely that your first recruit will be a little backward to what is truly needed against the Drakes. Still, your Unhatched units should be put to good use as they still deal good amount of damage at night. After discovering your opponent's faction, you should start getting a few more Howling Darkness and Life Thief units as they both have a damage type the drakes are weak too. If you got a Watcher, do not worry too much, your opponent is likely to have gotten a few saurian units on their first recruit, allowing your Watcher to have its role to play.
More so than in most other, this match-up will be driven by the Time of Day cycle as your opponent most likely won't base his strategy around saurians. This will lead to a match between quick and hard hitting units with opposite alignments. Do not fear to leave your villages at day, you will get them back as the night falls.
Unhatched: Although the Drakes will resist its impact damage a bit, this unit will remain damage/cost efficient, and a good option to bring down the Burners and even other drakes - at favorable Time of Day and/or with a Howling Darkness support. Also, on favorable terrain they'll be your cheapest option to block an attack and keep your expensive damage dealer safe, if you really have to hold a point or cover an important unit. Try to have a couple around any time.
Black Cat: the Cat won't be as much of use as in other match-ups, as the drakes don't suffer from defense alteration as much as the high-def units. Still, it can be of use against the saurians and any cheap shot to lower a drake's defense is handy to take. No need to recruit several of them.
Life Thief: they really are the core troop in the match-up against Drakes. Their damage type ensures heavy damage against any of them, in addition to the fact they'll replenish life as they fight. Always have a couple of them around, but be aware that at daytime the fire damage of Drakes will tear them apart.
Scornful Watcher: It is likely that the only saurians you'll face are those from your opponent's first recruit. Poking at the Skirmishers, or finishing and retaliating against Augurs is the only real use of this unit, so don't recruit it if you know you're against the Drakes faction.
Howling Darkness: While a casual support unit elsewhere, the Darkness is a necessity against the Drakes. Its cold damage type makes it efficient against everything, its horror ability will make your push safer, and its skirmishing ability will help to ZoC the hard-to-trap Drakes when the night comes. You need a couple of them around.
Unstable Elemental: The scouting role will be already filled by your Darkness units, so the Elemental will be less of use here. It can still be used for those places too far away or unsafe for your Darkness, and hopping on a hill/mountain or a water hex to tank can remain a decent option if you have to protect your more important damage dealers. Don't recruit more than one.
Creeper: Although dealing piercing damage, the amount isn't enough to benefit from the Drakes' pierce weakness. Moreover, its low movement and grouping constraint will make it unable to follow the day/night push'n pull of this match-up. If the game goes for a stalemate though, because of a heavy damage threat on each side or defensive playstyle, they can become an option.
Nightmares of Meloen vs Knalgan Alliance
A general purpose recruit will be good against Knalgans, all of the units you have here can serve a purpose in this match-up. Even the arcane resistance of their units doesn't make the Life Thief useless, as it remains a good counter against the Ulfserker, and can tank a bit on flatland where you don't want to expose your other units, especially against those harassing Footpads.
Unhatched: they will have a tough job dealing with the Dwarf Fighter or the Footpad because of their impact attacks. Still, the Knalgans will have to shift to other units, like the Thunderer, the Poacher, or the Thief, if they want to bring your Life Thieves down. Those units are fit to be charged, so keep a few Unhatched units around.
Black Cat: you will need these against Knalgans. They'll do a great job at diminishing the survivability of the elusive units, and will help to negate the dwarves' incredible defense in mountains. They are an easy prey for the Ulfserker though, and you'll probably have to accept losing a few of them during the battle. So keep a regular flux of recruiting to always have 1 or 2 of them in the field.
Life Thief: a bit like the Undeads' Ghost, this unit will help with countering the ulf, and defend against Fighters and Footpads. However, they aren't a cost efficient damage dealer here, so don't recruit too many as they'll lower your fire-power with each of them.
Scornful Watcher: like against the loyalists, the Watcher will get a bonus in damage against every unit you'll face, making it a precious and cost efficient ranged damage dealer. Having too many will make their protection difficult against the Ulfserkers, but having several around to attack the melee oriented units, especially the cursed ones, is an excellent approach.
Howling Darkness: their ability is appreciable, but not a necessity. Because it is an expensive unit, and an extra safe kill for the Ulfserker, you might prefer to spend the money on more Watchers or Unhatched to outmatch the Knalgans in numbers or power.
Unstable Elemental: you will want one of these for the scouting role mainly : grabbing villages and gathering intelligence. Don't forget that other forms can occasionally be useful, for tanking and slowing to lower retaliation.
Creeper: if the game goes for a stalemate you might want to accumulate these instead of banking. They can also be tiresome defenders to remove for the knalgans if they want to push at day. But generally speaking, you will prefer to use other units when you face the Knalgans, as a few Fighters in mountains will hold massive amounts of Creepers.
Once you see your opponent is Knalgan, you'll want to diversify your army a bit and recruit more Watchers than you usually have, so get a Watcher as soon as possible if you don't have one already, and do the same for the Life Thief.
Each time it is safe, you'll want to use your Black Cat on Gryphons, Thieves, Footpads and Fighters to negate their massive defense and make them easy targets for your Watchers and at times your Life Thieves and Unhatched. Use those last two to charge the Thunderers and Poachers who can remain a threat to your Life Thieves. If you see massive amounts of Footpads, get a few more Life Thieves and slowly progress with a line of them at the front and your Black Cats and Scornful Watchers following.
Nightmares of Meloen vs Loyalists
After having got a general purpose recruitment on turn 1, when realizing Nightmares of Meloen are facing Loyalists, they want to get Scornful Watchers. Their arcane focus special is using loyalists' arcane resistance at their detriment. The Scornful Watcher is rather fragile on melee though and you need to protect it at every time of day. The Unhatched is usually used for this job as it is quite cheap and thus does not divert too many resources from Scornful Watcher recruitment.
While most of Loyalists' army is a threat to a wounded Unhatched, only the Mage will dare to attack them when their hitpoints are still high. If he fails to finish the Unhatched, a sacrifice on the Mage is a option to consider taking into account the huge difference in price and the massive damage the Unhatched can deal. When charging Loyalists' melee units, getting them cursed first will increase your chances to make damage, while support of the Howling Darkness will help reduce the retaliation.
When retreating, the Unhatched must shield your other units so it is quite important they don't get hurt too bad at the end of the night. Consider with great care the possible moves of Cavalrymen as they will be the main tools to get you ZoC-ed when the day arrives. Recruit your Unhatched around second night so they are available to cover your retreat, recruit Scornful Watcher around second day so it can counterattack if Loyalists push too far.
Unhatched: get enough of those to protect your weaker units. They can engage in combat with any ranged unit and melee unit too if you make full use of Unhatched's trait. One exception might be the Heavy Infantry, which should not be attacked directly for fear of strong retaliation.
Black Cat: get one or two of them to lower enemies' defense. Combined with the heavy-hitter Unhatched and Scornful Watcher they guarantee maximal damage. They can be use for village holding too if the number of attackers is limited.
Life Thief: don't recruit those against Loyalists as their units all have good arcane resistance to counter its melee attack.
Scornful Watcher: when facing Loyalists, it's showtime for the Scornful Watcher. You have to recruit enough of them to do plenty of damage at night but make sure you can cover them when the day comes. You should consider feeding them XP as the level 2's firepower is unmatched.
Howling Darkness: you can recruit one of those to help the Unhatched clear the way for Watchers without taking too much punishment. Its own ranged attack can be of some help to weaken units that don't resist cold. Timing its attack is important because as soon as it strikes, you can't use its skirmisher for further support.
Unstable Elemental: recruit some of them to ZoC-out your opponent's troops at dawn and trap them at dusk. When put in water they can restrain the mobility of Mermen, but should not engage in combat due to their poor resistance. The Unstable Elemental can also help holding the line when put on hill or forest. In the latter terrain, the slow special can keep the Mages away and their pierce resistance can hold the Spearmen.
Creeper: you can use some of them to hurt Mages, Bowmen or horses. When your time of the day is over, you can also use them to shield more important units by forcing your opponent to use some unit to clear them out. Keep them in pack to lower upkeep.
Nightmares of Meloen vs Undead
This matchup will be another total war for Nightmares. Facing another chaotic faction, there won't be much time to rest even if the pace of the game might get slower depending on the units recruited.
As Nightmares realize they are facing Undead they will most likely have the edge to launch the first attack. As Undead's major tool to contain attack from Nightmares is the Walking Corpse and it's rarely recruited in the beginning of the game, there will be a window for Nightmares to strike first before the Undead get fully prepared. During this period, the Unhatched will rule the place raiding Skeletons and Dark Adepts.
As Undead start building up their army of Walking Corpses, Nightmares will have to change their recruitment pattern toward Life Thief and Creepers. The Life Thief, despite its high price, will be an invaluable asset with its heavy arcane melee that hurts any undead. The Creepers will be necessary to match Walking Corpses' numbers.
Unhatched: one of Nightmares' most important weapons in this match-up. The Unhatched's role is to focus on Dark Adepts and bring them down before they inflict deadly strikes. While somewhat depending on its trait, its charge is also very efficient at fighting skeletons despite the heavy retaliation at night. For these reasons, you should keep getting some after Walking Corpses begin to spread. If they have to charge a Walking Corpse, make sure to pick one that can be killed in one hit as the retaliation will hurt plenty.
Black Cat: as Black Cat's special jinx is not affecting Undead, she has a too huge price for its limited power in this matchup and should not be recruited in numbers. If you have got one, use her to hunt Bats, weaken a skeleton with magic before Unhatched's assault or hold a village.
Life Thief: with its arcane melee, the Life Thief will be the master of the battle, the only threat to it being the Dark Adept. While it will be inflicting damage all around, it will have very few opportunities to drain so it will have to retreat to heal. Don't let your bloodlust make you forget it or you could lose all hopes to level.
Scornful Watcher: as most Undead's units have some arcane weakness, the Scornful Watcher doesn't play a significant role. The only exception is if Undead recruitment turns for Ghouls against which he is the best weapon. Otherwise, use your Scornful Watcher on Bats and Ghosts, or to defend against the Dark Adept. Getting a Scornful Watcher to deal with Ghosts is a good idea if you can't afford getting a Life Thief.
Howling Darkness: its cold ranged attack is very inefficient against most Undead's units and its terror ability doesn't affect undead. For these reasons, refrain yourself from recruiting any Howling Darkness.
Unstable Elemental: it is good to have one of these quick units on the board. As the tornado form - the fastest - is quite weak, it will be used mainly for scouting and remote village protection. The bramble form can also be of some help with two impact attacks and the slow special. All form being weak to arcane, it will be a target for the Ghosts that will heal on them with drain when they don't fear getting slowed.
Creeper: the Creepers are a good match for the Walking Corpse with the advantage of not fearing to be plagued. They have less health points but hit harder when the banding ability is used well. Make sure you keep them in pack as the Walking Corpses will always target the most isolated ones. You should wait the end of the night to attack them as they will lose their chaotic bonus that allows them to kill your neutral Creeper in two hits. Keep in mind though, when you kill Walking Corpses to clear access to a Dark Adept, that doing it at daytime will bring little benefit as your Unhatched won't hit that hard.
Nightmares of Meloen vs Rebels
The Unhatched and Black Cat combination will shine in this match-up. The defense debuffing will negate the specialty of the nimble elves, and the massive damage of the Unhatched will be especially devastating given their relatively low hitpoints. This won't be enough to dominate the field though : the cost efficient fighter can still deal some nasty retaliation even if your Unhatched has the appropriate trait, and the Wose is almost invincible against it. Therefore, you'll also need a mix of support units.
Your opponent will probably try to hold your night push, capitalize experience by finishing off the units that took hard retaliation and wait to have regrouped a few Woses before attacking you at day. Try to seize the dynamic of the game in your favor with an early threat and have the push'n pull happen around his villages rather than yours. If he brings in too many Woses, counter-recruit with Life Thieves, and use the support of a Howling Darkness if too many fighters block the way.
Unhatched: They'll be your core troop here, dealing massive damage to the elves who are on bad terrain or under the effect of jinx, as well as shielding other units from swords and arrows. Unless you see a Wose spam, you should keep them in high numbers.
Black Cat: Another of your key units in this match. They won't deal much damage, but they'll have a massive impact on the organization of Rebels' defense. Always have at least one, but you may recruit several as they'll be really busy, cursing every unit around.
Life Thief: Their arcane damage will make them quite decent damage dealers against most of the Rebels' troops. While they really shine when dealing with the Woses, they aren't as cost efficient as the Unhatched for the other jobs. So recruit according to the number of Woses you face.
Scornful Watcher: Because nearly all units it will fight with are weak to arcane, the Scornful Watcher's attack won't be as strong. Still, the rounding of damage make it do a 7-3 ranged attack (at night only) making it a passable archer-like creature. It may deal with the human mage too - in favorable conditions. You can have one around, but restrain from having more as your money is probably better spent elsewhere.
Howling Darkness: If you face packs of elves to counter your Unhatched army, its horror ability will prove very helpful by reducing retaliation. Moreover, its skirmishing capability will make it well able to ZoC units, get to an extra hex to attack from, or even slip behind the lines to threaten villages, decoy, divide open spaces and disorganize the Rebels' defense organization in general. It is quite an expensive unit though, so don't recruit several of them.
Unstable Elemental: The Elemental will have a vital role of scouting and gathering intelligence. It will also be able to tank in hills at times, or grab the forest hexes your that opponent would want. Finally, when coming out of a forest, its slowing special will ensure your Unhatched take low retaliation even against the fighters. The unit isn't too damage/cost efficient though, so bear in mind that you decrease your fire power with each of them.
Creeper: Again, the Creepers will offer an alternative for your army, but they don't win a game on their own, especially since the Wose is next to invincible when facing them. Go the Creeper way if you fight many elves who aren't willing to come for a fight.
Nightmares of Meloen vs Northerners
The fight between these two chaotic factions will be relentless. As Nightmares' units are slightly weaker and more expensive, it will be their turn to decide when to retreat or heal a unit. If they fail to do so and try to match Northerners in an all-out war, it is likely that they will end up critically wounded and undermanned.
While the natural way for Nightmares of Meloen to fight Northerners would be to use their abilities to make up for Northerners' number, that strategy doesn't fare very well. Nightmares' best chance is to quickly turn to Creepers. Getting too many Unhatched will make the Northerners spam Whelps. The natural counter for Whelps is the Life Thief. However, if the Nightmares try to match the trolls with an adequate number of Life Thieves, they'll soon find themselves outnumbered - and that's not something they want to happen.
Unhatched: this time, basing your army around this unit won't be that safe : the Troll Whelp is usually quite efficient at countering it, charging Grunts is often not a good idea and the fire of Orcish Archers is efficient enough. Though it remains important to keep a few around because they remain great Archer and Wolf killers and if their traits and the Howling Darkness are used skillfully, they can even occasionally charge Grunts or Whelps.
Black Cat: it is a vital unit to have to weaken defense of Northerners' melee units. Keep it on the best defense and don't leave Northerners too many spots to attack it as a Grunt only needs two hits to kill a cat at night. Even then, it will be Grunts' primary target, so Nightmares will have to regularly put new Black Cats in their recruit list to make up for the lost ones.
Life Thief: while it is a useful unit to face Whelps as it exploits their arcane weakness, its low defense and lack of fire resistance makes it an Orcish Archer's favorite meal. However, as the other northerner troops will hardly deal with your Life Thief on their own, recruiting it will force your opponent to invest in Orcish Archers, a unit that is more expensive and an easy prey for your Unhatched. Still, it is more a unit to get in the middle of the game after Nightmares survived the orcs' first assaults and the Northerners move to an attrition warfare with Whelps.
Scornful Watcher: the only unit good at attacking Grunts by itself, it deals good damage without retaliation. However, as it still requires 6 or 7 hits to kill a Grunt, the support of Black Cats is necessary to inflict enough damage per turn to withstand the influx of Grunt hordes. Its retaliation is also good enough to make cursed melee units think twice before attacking. However, because it is by far not as cost efficient as the Grunts here, they aren't enough to assure your victory, and are only a part of the mix you need.
Howling Darkness: it can provide helpful support for melee attackers and its ranged attack is very useful to finish off cursed Grunts or Whelps. But as its outlooks on survival are quite bleak against the melee-heavy Northerners, getting one at a time is enough. As it gets a nice health point boost on leveling, Nightmares might want to feed it with kills (a bit more than three kills are needed).
Unstable Elemental: this scout can find some room to fit in. It can be useful on the water against Nagas and can hold a hill or mountain for a while. The bramble form on forest, while it gets a nice slow special, is weak to Grunt's blade. While the Unstable Elemental is very mutable, something is common to all forms: they can be poisoned.
Creeper: its lack of mobility is not a problem as both factions are chaotic, while their relatively high defense requires on average two Grunts to kill one at full health. They do a pretty lousy job at holding village against more than 2 units. Creepers' priority is to bring down the Orcish Archers and cover healing units and Watchers. As they are of neutral alignment, make them attack at daytime when they will receive less retaliation. While they can be used to attack Wolf Riders, they should remain defensive against the other melee units. Keep the full health Creepers in front to maximize retaliation before they die. Try to manage your gold to recruit them in packs of at least three as their power comes with number.
Summary: Use Creepers on Orcish Archers and Black Cats with Scornful Watchers on Grunts. The Unhatched can at times be used to charge but you have to create good conditions for that. If you really have to charge something, try to use the Floating Darkness to limit retaliation (unless you target an Archer), and keep in mind the egg's traits. Charging Assassin is a good idea to get rid of the poison that turns your Unhatched into a joke. If you face an army of Trolls get some Life Thieves. If you can't, it's best to just ignore Trolls unless you have a bunch of idle Creepers. Don't pay as much attention to high defense terrain (except for the Cat) as to units' reachability when moving.
Nightmares of Meloen vs Nightmares
Like all mirror matches, this matchup requires that you use your units at their full potential to make a difference. The additional fun in this mirror is that you will make huge damages on every turn and that for most units the number of potential targets is pretty high.
When realizing you face other Nightmares, get more Life Thieves. Beside other Life Thieves, its only real foe is the Scornful Watcher, so its life on the board is pretty easy. The only thing to worry about is getting slowed by a bramble form of the Unstable Elemental as that would make any Scornful Watcher around an immediate danger.
Move onto the battlefield with Life Thieves going first. While you should not let them become slowed, you can lure some foe in the open to charge him with Unhatched. When moving, the Unhatched will be under constant pressure from opponent's Life Thieves so you should keep your Scornful Watchers in range to counter any attacks (bramble form of the Unstable Elemental can do as well).
In case you face a spam of bramble form of the Unstable Elemental, make sure you attack them one after the other, feeding the same Life Thief with kills. The bramble forms lack in attack power and even slowed Life Thief will heal enough on retaliation to survive. Putting your Unhatched on forest will deprive your opponent of the best spots and quickly force him to resign after your first Life Thief has levelled.
Unhatched: while the damage the Unhatched can inflict is still pretty high against Nightmares, the impact damage he resists least is available to several units: Unhatched, Scornful Watcher and some forms of Unstable Elemental all have some and can inflict painful retaliation, which leaves the Black Cat and Floating Darkness as preferred targets. It is worth it though to throw the Unhatched on any Scornful Watcher around to protect your Life Thief.
Black Cat: as most of Nightmares' units have pretty low defense, getting her is not mandatory, but if the opposition is seasoned, the increase in chance to hit will be welcome. In this case, the cat will be constantly endangered by the opposing Unhatched. As the jinx special does not affect units of nightmare race (Life Thief, Floating Darkness), it will be best used on Unhatched as they won't retaliate. Also, Cursing an Unstable Elemental can help your Life Thief heal faster.
Life Thief: its arcane attacks spread panic and desolation among the ranks of opposing Nightmares. It badly hurts any unit around, getting healed in the process except against units of nightmare race. Definitely get some.
Scornful Watcher: When it comes to taming the Life Thief, no other unit can do the job better and safer than the Watcher. Being a major threat to the powerful Life Thief, along with the Life Thief itself, it will be closely followed by the opponent's Unhatched and should hence be protected by yours. If no better attack opportunity presents itself, taking on the Creepers never hurts.
Howling Darkness: the Howling Darkness helps reduce the impact of retaliation, saving a couple of health points that can turn death into life. However, due to its high price and lack of resilience, one of them is enough. Its cold ranged should be left for the Unhatched, which has no resistance against it.
Unstable Elemental: in its basic tornado form, it is quite weak, and taking into account how fast the Unhatched is, it might be hard to keep it alive. Move it to a forest or hill and it will trade its blade for an impact attack that will earn Unhatched's respect. The bramble form gets a slow special on its ranged attack that comes in handy against the Life Thief. This asset will make it the reigning form on the battlefield as the quake form's comparatively higher blade and fire resistance won't have any use.
Creeper: while not playing a significant role in the mirror matchup, the Creepers can always bring a change in strategy. Their main targets would then be the Watchers, the Floating Darkness and the Black Cats.