Secrets of the Ancients Walkthrough
This is a walkthrough for Secrets of the Ancients, a 21 scenario (18 playable, 3 dialogue only) campaign by beetlenaut featuring the undead. The campaign is playable on both Wesnoth versions 1.12 and 1.13, and the campaign's discussion thread on the forums can be found here. (Version 1.13.7 and later only) This is now a mainline campaign.
- 1 General
- 2 Chapter One: Unlawful Research
- 3 Chapter Two: Two Missions
- 4 Chapter Three: To Conquer Death
Although this campaign is listed as intermediate level, it is very challenging and closer in difficulty to the expert level mainline campaigns. Throughout the campaign you will get several loyal units, which are recalled for free in all future scenarios. It is highly recommended to keep them all alive, especially the saurian healer because later scenarios will be difficult or impossible without a healer.
Over the course of the campaign you'll gain access to the following recruits:
- Bats are useful in most scenarios for village grabbing and distracting enemies. Their main asset is their cheap recruit cost and zero upkeep, so it is generally not worth it to level them.
- Walking corpses can be a lifesaver in difficult scenarios, being dirt cheap and able to zombify enemy units so the enemies will focus on killing their own corpses rather than killing your veterans. The downside is that corpses are not worth leveling since their maximum level is 1, so the experience they get from zombifying enemy units is wasted.
- Skeletons and skeleton archers will be your main units in the first half of the campaign. They have great resistances to blade, pierce, and cold damage, but are vulnerable to fire, impact and arcane. In this campaign, revenants (level 2 skeletons) can advance to death knights which have level 3 leadership, so getting one early on will be very useful.
- Ghouls can poison enemies but do very little damage, so they are generally not so useful because you will usually kill enemy units before the poison can take effect.
- Ghosts can either level into wraiths which have an arcane drain attack, or shadows which can do huge amounts of damage through backstab. Later in the campaign many enemies (such as giant spiders and trolls) do impact damage which will destroy skeletal undead, so wraiths/spectres are essential against them. Shadows/nightgaunts are useful for quickly taking out high priority targets such as mages, and their skirmishing ability can help break through deadlocks.
- Dark adepts are difficult to level because they are fragile and you can only recruit them later in the campaign, but it is very much worth the trouble. At first they can only advance to necromancers, but late in the campaign necromancers can be converted to liches, which can advance to the rather overpowered level 4 ancient lich.
- Chocobones are not worth using due to their extremely high cost and low HP. Revenants/death knights can do similar melee damage while being much more durable.
Chapter One: Unlawful Research
S1 Slipping Away
- Objectives: Move Ardonna to the signpost in the northeast.
You'll be attacked by tons of wolves and rats, and in order to survive you'll need to turn some enemies into walking corpses by finishing them with the undead bat or with another walking corpse. Use Ardonna and the regular bats to soften up the enemies so that your corpses can zombify them.
Try to also get Ardonna some kills, because you'll have a much easier time next scenario if you can get her to level 2 during that scenario.
S2 Dark Business
- Objectives: Kill all the guards, and occupy the guardhouse.
You don't get much starting gold, so you'll mainly be relying on recruiting walking corpses and creating corpses out of the enemy units. Be sure to recruit a bat to fly over the fence and grab the three villages. Maybe recall a soulless if you have one for the extra damage per hex, but recalling more than one unit may leave you with too few units to win with. You can stay back at first and let the guards get close to you, so that you get to strike first.
Focus on zombifying the bowmen first, since they are weak in melee and can kill your corpses without taking retaliation damage. It helps to get Ardonna to level 2 - if she got some kills in the previous scenario and you can get her to kill the enemy Lieutenant, she should be most of the way there.
Be very careful when moving to the guardhouse, because several spearmen (5 on hard!) will surround the guardhouse when you do. If Ardonna is level 2 she should easily make short work of the spearmen; otherwise she will need to be carefully protected because the spearmen will tend to focus on her. Moving a unit to the guardhouse will allow Ardonna to use the graves to recruit skeletons and skeleton archers, both of which are highly effective against spearmen with their 60% pierce resistance, so it is a good idea to save up 14-15 gold to recruit one.
- Objectives: Defeat the enemy leader.
This scenario can be challenging, because the thugs and footpads do impact damage, which your bats and skeletons are weak to. The key is to recruit/recall several bats and send them up the eastern side of the map to village grab, which will not only generate a high income to recruit reinforcements with, but also split up the bandits' forces since many of them will go northeast to get rid of the bats.
Meanwhile your main force (consisting mostly of skeleton archers to kill thugs, and skeletons to kill footpads/poachers) can hold off the bandits in the forests northeast of the keep. If possible, try to make it so the bandits have to attack you from flat terrain. There will be heavy losses, so it's a good idea to have Ardonna stay near the keep for the first ten or so turns, and pump out reinforcements until you have the clear advantage.
- Objectives: Defeat the enemy leader.
You're on a ship with two raised decks - aft and fore. One of your minions has eaten a crew member, so the ship's Captain is pissed and will - how surprising - try to kill you all.
You start on the fore, when you can also recruit and recall, and the ship's Captain - the enemy leader - on the aft deck, when he can marshal his men - the sailors. You can both move to the main deck, and from there down to the hold (which is as empty as it looks, no secrets there.) The ship is 3 hexes wide, so that's the basic length of your front ... except that the hold is also a front, so you'll actually be attacked by up to 6 Sailors at a time. Not fun.
Now, the Sailors have 7x3 Blade melee attacks (the Sailor Captain has 9x4) and about 28-35 HP - so they should not be difficult to dispatch for your skeletal units, which have 40% Blade resistance. But - don't be complacent; they are also super-cheap, so the Sailor Captain will recruit more than two rounds' worth of them even on Medium difficulty. Also, the sailors are Neutral vs your troops' Chaotic nature, and during the day they will be quite troublesome. So recruit a mix of Warriors and Archers, try to use leveling for healing, back away badly-wounded troops - just like in a "proper" level.
If you have lots of starting gold from the previous scenario - don't bother going for the village, you should be done with the level before it's worth the cost of recruiting/recalling Bat on the first turn. If you don't you'll have to do some math and figure it out; and even a Vampire Bat _can_ finish off a weakened Sailor.
- Objectives: Kill all enemy units.
This scenario is very difficult due to the lack of healing, so try to manage your experience so that your units heal by leveling up. Start by sending some bats around the edges of the map to grab villages and distract enemy units. After that, skeletal undead should be your main recruits, since they resist pierce and blade damage - anything else (corpses, bats, ghouls) is likely to just get killed in one shot by charging horsemen. However skeletal undead are very vulnerable to mages, so killing mages should be always be your top priority.
It's tempting to just block the bridge chokepoints, but sometimes you may want to deliberately let the enemies flood onto the ship so that you'll have more hexes to attack them from. Use Rudic's level 2 leadership on your lower level units for the extra damage, or even better, level a revenant into a death knight for level 3 leadership.
Try to end the battle as quickly as possible, because without villages you will lose in a war of attrition. If you push hard during the nights (and your bats are doing a good job luring enemies to the edges of the map), you can break through the main loyalist force in the center and attack the loyalist castle as early as the third day (around turn 14).
S6 Following the Shadow
- Objectives: Move Ardonna to the tunnel in the southeast of the cave.
There are two main battles in this scenario: you'll first fight the wolves outside the cave, and then after entering the cave you'll have to fight your way through a horde of bats. You'll probably need to spend all your gold at the beginning; you'll want a good mix of veterans (a death knight if you have one is very helpful for leadership) for damage dealing, and expendable fresh recruits to hopefully keep the wolves distracted. Walking corpses are a good choice, being cheap and able to zombify wolves.
Send bats to the corners of the map to village grab. The rest of your units can occupy the hilly terrain to the northeast and wait for the wolves to arrive. The main threats are the goblin pillagers, which are deadly in melee with their fire attack, so it is safest to attack them in ranged with Ardonna or bone shooters. You could also poison them with ghouls, which have +10% fire resistance. Killing the wolf leader is not mandatory, but it is very helpful to do so, because you will then be able to safely focus on the cave enemies without wolves harassing you, and Ardonna can also use the wolf's keep to recruit reinforcements since you'll likely take heavy losses from the wolves. The turn limit in this scenario is a little tight, especially if you go to kill the wolf leader, so you can't afford to waste too much time healing. (If you kill the wolf leader before turn 25, you should be fine.)
After Ardonna has spent 2 turns in the cave (or, when six nonbat units enter the cave), a large amount of vampire bats, blood bats and dread bats will appear in the cave. The bats should not be a problem for your skeletal undead, which resist blade and cannot be drained.
S7 Meeting of the Minds
Ardonna meets with Ras-Tabahn, a Dark Sorcerer; they decide to work together, but first pursue some tasks separately.
Chapter Two: Two Missions
- Objectives: Own every village on the map, or kill every enemy unit.
You will control Ras-Tabahn for the next three scenarios. He has a separate recall list (which will be added to Ardonna's recall list when the two join together in Chapter 3) and starts this scenario with a predefined amount of gold. This is a tough scenario due to the sheer number of enemy units, especially on Hard. Since the enemy only recruits spearmen, bowmen and cavalrymen, you'll want to recruit almost exclusively skeletons and skeleton archers for their high resistance vs. blade and pierce. It is also very helpful to get a corpse or two so you can zombify enemies as a distraction. Ghosts are expensive and do very little damage, so they're not very useful here, though you could get one to village grab in the north and try distracting the enemy cavalrymen in the beginning. It's also a good idea to recall the shadow and the half-leveled skeleton, and focus on feeding kills to the skeleton so it can level up quickly.
During the first afternoon and dusk, you can just passively hang around the initial keep, keeping your units on good terrain like the forests and village around the keep, and wait for the loyalists to come to you. During the night be as aggressive as possible - try to make it so that every single one of your units attacks something, and as always try to manage your experience so that some of your units heal by leveling up. By the time the second day arrives, most of the loyalist army should be gone and you should have several level 2's, so after that the battle will only go one way.
It's probably easier and faster to just kill every enemy unit. When you move to the jailhouse in the west, two loyal level 0 units will join you (if you don't find them during the scenario, they join after you win the scenario). It is strongly recommended to level both of them into dark adepts, so that later in the campaign they may become level 4 ancient liches.
S9 Training Session
- Objectives: Destroy all 3 waves of undead.
All three undead waves consist of a mix of walking corpses and soulless, or just soulless on Hard. The first wave of undead which arrives during the day is a good opportunity to try to get some experience for your two new level 0 units. For recruits, bone shooters are nice since they can kill soulless without taking retaliation, and ghosts with their 50% impact resistance are pretty good at blocking the soulless from your more fragile units. You'll probably end up losing most of your recruits though, because skeletal undead are weak to impact and ghosts have such low HP. Try to keep most of the dark adepts alive (use them from the back, and then put your undead units in front to shield them) because unlike the undead, adepts will turn into walking corpses when killed with plague.
S10 Merfolk Revenge
- Objectives: Defeat the enemy leader.
- Note: Moving to the bones at 32,12 will cause a Chocobone to rise and allow you to recruit Chocobones.
Gold economy: The gold carryover from this scenario will carry over to Scenario 14 (Entering the Northlands), so make sure you get at least some carryover here or you may end up having to replay several scenarios to fix it. The dialogue recommends at least 50 carryover gold; and since carry-over fraction 40%, you'll want to finish the level with 125 gold. There are 15 villages, which means 8-9 early finish. However if you're doing well you should have some income from before; plus, it's possible to make do with less than 50 extra gold in Scenario 14, even on hard - so don't stress yourself out over this too badly.
The Merfolk army consists of:
- Fighters and Hunters, which do pierce damage
- Netcasters (L2) and Initiates, which do impact damage.
Focus on killing the Netcasters and initiates first, because they are the most dangerous units against your skeletal Undead. Ghosts can be very useful in this scenario, because they resist both types of damage well, and have good mobility and defense on sand and shallow water, unlike your other troops.
Try to lure the Mermen onto land at dusk, so that you can make quick work of them during the night. During the day, just retreat into the villages and heal your units so you can strike again at night. The Mermen may be reluctant to come onto land, so you may have to use some units as bait to lure them out: Skeletons are good at luring out the ranged mermen units and dark adepts are good at luring out melee units.
The Merman leader - a Triton - will also sometimes come out to attack a unit on the southeast sand village (at 29,11), and if you manage to kill him there you will spare yourself the trouble of having having to wade through water to reach his keep - and the cleanup of his other units. However, this is not an easy feat, as his Triton is very punishing, and he'll probably have a go at you at dusk if you don't kill him right away; and he's quite the healthy fellow with 60 HP. So, you'll probably need something like a Shadow to get him from the sea side and 2-3 Dark Adepts for this kind of operation.
- Objectives: Defeat both enemy leaders.
You now switch back to controlling Ardonna. This is an easy scenario, because the saurians recruit only augurs and soothsayers, whose cold damage is laughably ineffective against your skeletal undead's 60% cold resistance. Skeletal undead are also great versus the nagas which do blade damage.
Your enemies have good defense in swamp and water terrain, so if possible try to avoid putting your units next to these terrains and let the enemies come onto land where they are easily killed. A good place to put your units is in the middle of the patch of flat terrain directly northeast of your keep. The nagas have pretty high HP so it can be very effective to recruit a couple ghouls and use them as bait for the nagas - by the time the ghouls are killed almost the entire naga army will be poisoned.
S12 Walking Trees
- Objectives: Move Ardonna to the northeast corner of the map.
You will be fighting woses, which can be drained and have a glaring weakness to arcane damage, making this the perfect chance to level some ghosts. Recall any wraiths or experienced ghosts, and you may also want a death knight for leadership, and then just start mass recruiting ghosts. It is very difficult to get any gold carryover from this scenario, so you may want to just forget about carryover and spend all your gold at the beginning.
Every few turns a bunch of woses will spawn somewhere in the forest. They are invisible in the forest due to their ambush ability, but when a wose moves from its starting location it leaves behind a patch of dirt so you should have a rough idea of which direction it will come from. Pay special attention to your loyal saurian healer, because he can be killed by a single wose attack - try to always keep him protected by ghosts on all sides. In the later half of the scenario, level 2 elder woses will spawn instead of level 1 woses, so hopefully by that time Ardonna is already very close to the northeast corner. Since you probably won't get any gold carryover anyway, you could potentially stay for a couple extra turns killing elder woses for experience.
S13 Together Again
Story. Ardonna changes her name to Ardryn-Na.
Chapter Three: To Conquer Death
S14 Entering the Northlands
- Objectives: Defeat both enemy leaders.
There is a lot of experience available in this scenario from the high level orcs. Some good units to focus on leveling are spectres and necromancers, because these units will be the most helpful in later scenarios. Try not to go too negative on gold because you will probably need about 150 gold carryover (100 at the very least) to manage the next scenario on Hard. A couple vampire bats are very helpful for grabbing out of the way villages.
Since the eastern leader is fairly close to you, you should be able to take him out relatively quickly if you send your entire army that way. You can then turn your army northwest to deal with the rest of the orcs, which should arrive around the time you get rid of the eastern orc. Be careful of the orcish archers and crossbowmen, because your ghosts are very vulnerable to their fire arrows. The orcs will do extremely high damage, especially at night, so it really helps to have some expendable cannon fodder units as distractions. When they die, use plague to make more—it might even be worth recalling one or two soulless here.
S15 Mountain Pass
- Objectives: Move Ardryn-Na and Ras-Tabahn to the flat terrain in the northeast corner.
- Note: If you did not already find the bones in Scenario 10, moving to the bones at 16,21 will cause a chocobone to appear and allow you to recruit chocobones.
This scenario is extremely hard - you'll be attacked from all directions by gryphons, which have good defense everywhere and are extremely mobile. There are two gryphon leaders, one in the northwest and one in the northeast. The best way to kill gryphons is to zap them with the necromancers' magical attack, but using skeleton archer types can work as well. Ghosts and their advancements are extremely useful due to their mobility, especially spectres/wraiths because their drain attack makes them harder to kill.
If you're low on starting gold or are getting overwhelmed by gryphons, one way to make this scenario much more manageable is to assassinate the northwest gryphon leader using leveled ghosts. Recall all your wraiths, shadows etc., and send them straight northwest. They should reach the enemy gryphon keep during the night, and kill the leader fairly easily especially if you have shadows or nightgaunts. The downside of this tactic is that you will likely lose several of your leveled ghosts in the process.
S16 The Mage
- Objectives: Defeat Crelanu.
- Note: Moving a unit onto a bottle of holy water will remove the bottle. A living unit can do this safely, but any undead unit will be destroyed.
This is an easy scenario. Send a couple bats along the edges of the map to village grab, and just have Ras Tabahn move to the village near your keep and stay there for the scenario. You'll be facing high level mages, but only a few at a time. If you wait until night to engage, you'll easily demolish them with skeletons backed by leadership. Necromancers are also very effective here, since they have high HP, no fire weakness, and resistance to arcane. Don't bother with ghostly units because they will just get fried by mages. The mages absolutely love attacking walking corpses, so if you use walking corpses or your necromancers' plague staff to zombify some enemies, your other units probably won't even be attacked.
S18 Abandoned Outpost
- Objectives: Reach the end of the western tunnel with both Ardryn-Na and Ras-Tabahn, or defeat every enemy unit.
This is a very tough scenario - you'll have to fight your way through two hordes of level 3 giant spiders, in a relatively short amount of turns. By far the best units to use here are spectres, and liches are also useful. You'll also want a bat or two to grab villages near the starting area.
The key to getting rid of the spiders quickly is to get them onto flat terrain, where they only have 30% defense and are easy prey for spectres. A good place to form your line is on the village in the southern tunnel (at 30,12) and the three cave hexes to the right of the village, so that the spiders will attack from the nearby 3 hexes of flat terrain. The spiders tend to be reluctant to attack spectres and liches, so you may want to use bait such as skeletons to lure them onto the flat terrain.
Once you get rid of the first wave of spiders, hopefully you still have about half of the turns remaining, because there is a second horde of spiders in the west blocking the exit. It's actually possible to sneak past them without fighting - send Ardryn-Na, Ras-Tabahn and a spectre or two through the northern 1-hex tunnel (the spiders will probably just ignore them), and then use some bait in the east to lure the spider blocking the tunnel exit away. Then your two leaders can head toward the exit tunnel behind the spiders, while the spectres position themselves so the spiders can't block your leaders from escaping into the exit tunnel next turn.
S19 Lava and Stone
- Objectives: Defeat all enemy leaders.
You'll be fighting trolls which are weak to arcane, so wraiths/spectres and liches are the best units to use here. Both units are vulnerable to the troll shamans' fire damage though, so try to kill the shamans quickly using spectres or backstab with shadows/nightgaunts. When you reach the lava chasm in the beginning, the path will branch west, where the main battle will take place, and southeast. The southeastern path leads to a small lake, so you can send a couple spectres/wraiths there to easily pick off trolls in the water.
There are 3 troll leaders in total: a troll shaman leader in the northwest, a great troll in the center, and another troll shaman leader in the southeast corner. This scenario is a good opportunity to try to level some ancient liches, which will be extremely useful next scenario. Finish early, because you get almost no starting gold next scenario, so you will need a pretty high gold carryover (about 150 gold or more).
S20 North Knalga
- Objectives: Defeat the enemy leader.
It's not made obvious, but you can recruit in the area where your units first appear even though it's not marked as a keep.
You will be fighting an army of high level dwarves, which have good resistances and extremely high HP. Hopefully you have several ancient liches, because they are basically the only way to kill the level 3 dwarvish lords. Spectres are also very useful since they can help shield your liches. The biggest threats to your units are the lords and runemasters which have a high damage melee impact attack, so focus on killing those first using your ancient liches. Try to put your liches on hills where they have 50% terrain defense - one place to form your line is the small clump of rubble and hills in the center (around 15,7).
When you get near the enemy keep in the southeast, the dwarf leader will recruit some reinforcements. Try the finish as fast as you can, because the early finish bonus in this scenario is huge.
S21 Against the World
- Objectives: Defeat all enemy leaders.
- On turn 2, a saurian leader will appear in the eastern swamp castle.
- On turn 4 (turn 3 on easy), a dwarf leader will appear in the southwest mountains.
- On turn 12, a mage leader will appear in the northwest.
- On turn 13, an elf leader will appear in the southeastern forest.
This is the final scenario, so just recall all your best veterans, and recruit some cannon fodder (skeletons are a good choice, since many of the starting enemies do blade/pierce damage) with any remaining gold. Since there's no turn limit, patience and playing defensively will guarantee you eventual victory. Attack all out during the night, then retreat and heal during the day, and eventually the enemy armies will start to thin out. Don't try to block the enemy leaders' keeps before they arrive, because this will just cause them to appear with a full keep of units already recruited. Parking some units just outside the keep to assassinate the leader will have the same effect.
In the beginning you'll just want to hang around the starting keep, and let the knights and nagas come to you so you can wipe them out during the first night. After that you can split your army in half, with one group remaining north of the river to clear out the saurians and later the mermen, and another group heading south of the river to deal with the dwarves and kill the southern knight leader. The mages and elves which arrive last are extremely easy to kill if you meet them on flat terrain during the night. It's best to save the dwarf leader for last, because his keep is surrounded by rough terrain which will take a long time to cross.