This campaign takes place eons after the others. At the height of Wesnoth's power, an additional sun was created and magically raised into the sky. Millennia later, entropy has its due: The fertile plains of Wesnoth have turned to desert. There are few survivors from the age of the empire, though it is whispered that Humans and Dwarves left the planet in some sort of spacecraft. The focus of these scenarios are the Quenoth Elves, who are particularly well adapted to living on the sands.
In terms of gameplay, Under the Burning Suns' scenarios tend to be somewhat longer than in other campaigns. They are not boring, though, as victory conditions typically change several times before the scenario is 'won'.
- 1 Campaign-Level Strategy
- 2 The Morning After
- 3 Across the Harsh Sands
- 4 A Stirring in the Night
- 5 Descending Into Darkness
- 6 A Subterranean Struggle
- 7 Diverging Campaign Path
- 8 Out Of The Frying Pan
- 9 Blood is Thicker than Water
- 10 Speaking With The Fishes
- 11 The Battle for Zocthanol Isle
- 12 The Final Confrontation
Under the Burning Suns changes several of the rules you may be used to from other scenarios. Here is a list of the most crucial changes:
- regarding movement and defense, sand is the new forest
- Elves' movement cost in caves is 2 (not 3)
- Your elves are lawful and subject to the day-night cycle, which has changed quite a bit:
- First Dawn
- First Morning, Midday, Afternoon (3 turns of daylight)
- First Dusk
- The Short Dark (Night)
- Second Dawn
- Second Morning, Midday, Afternoon (3 turns of daylight)
- Second Dusk
- The Long Dark 1-4
- Most known units still work the same way, however:
- Sorceress line has been removed
- Healers may become level-4 (Illuminates, also slightly improved damage & resistances)
- Ranger and above can backstab
- a new type of level-2 skirmishing cavalry
- a new type of infantry, Desert Hunters: slowing ranged attack, skirmishers from level 2
Kaleh and Nym
As Quenoth elves (Wesnoth 1.14.x and later)
These characters don't level up like ordinary units. Every time they reach maximum XP, their HP and attack damage will improve a bit, and you're asked what else you want them to learn on top of that, like "become a better warrior" or "become a better hunter". You needn't worry about the choice: none of the abilities is game-breaking in one way or another, and eventually they'll learn almost all of them.
- On the first level-up, you'll have three choices "warrior", "hunter" or "leader". Whichever you choose, you'll still be able to choose the other two on later level ups.
- On the second level-up and later, you'll also be able to choose specializations that say "choose only one". You'll be able to choose one for each of Warrior, Hunter and Leader.
As Desert elves (Wesnoth 1.13.x and earlier)
The skill tree is different to the Quenoth version, for example "become a better swordsman" or "learn to use the bolas". The two most important things to know are:
- the very first swordsman<->archer choice defines his later field of excellence (he'll be merely good in the other)
- bolas and leadership are mutually exclusive
There's no way to know this beforehand, but you'll have to fight a some big underground battles. The army you build during the first scenarios should be capable of fighting in caves. There are two main variables to consider for underground battles:
- Can each unit move at least 3 cave hexes per turn?
- How can I maximize damage in narrow corridors?
Because of these two priorities, deciding which units to level in early campaigns is very important. For instance, the following units are not as effective:
- Marksman/Sharpshooter (marksmanship ain't necessary, and besides they're too brittle)
- Hero/Champion (unless they're quick)
- Scout/Rider/Outrider (as slow as infantry, but weaker)
There are more effective units:
- Ranger/Avenger have range attack (anti-troll) and backstab (+damage)
- Captain/Marshal have leadership (+damage)
- Sentinel's "slow" attack minimizes the damage taken; skirmish may break deadlocks
The Morning After
- Rescue (all?) surviving elves in villages
- Defeat the Necromancer (L2) leader to the North
- Must survive: Kaleh, Nym, Zhul, Garak
- Turn limit: ?? / 32 / ?? (Easy/Medium/Hard)
- Starting units: Kaleh, Nym
- Starting gold: 0
Some strange meteors have destroyed the homes of our heroes. Kaleh and Nym must search for survivors by capturing all villages. Landing on an empty village will sometimes flush out a few elves. In the beginning, they will be battling Mud-crawlers. Since you have no keep in which to recruit, put the Mud-crawlers to the sword and save all the new units. Note that, unlike other campaigns, Giant Mud-crawlers here will not spawn smaller Mud-crawlers upon their death. Also note that the grey brown trail around the lake is not as good defensively for you as the sand.
The villages will lead you counter-clockwise around the lake. At the southernmost portion of the lake you'll find a shattered bridge leading to a shrine in the center of the lake. You don't have to go there right away, but the scenario won't complete until you rescue the Druid and both Shamans there. Be aware that stepping off the island will trigger the obligatory Cuttlefish. If you don't yet have Garak, I'd wait on the island until dawn - this thing will be a bit tough for any of the other characters you currently possess.
Garak the Captain will be found with a few recruits on the Training Ground, which is just to the East of the bridge. It's possible that your people headed for the bridge will trigger this encounter - you'll find a bigger mob of Mud-crawlers than you've seen so far, and likely get some bruises cleaning them out. However, don't go out of your way to level Garak up. He has his own... destiny.
After dealing with the Mud-crawlers and Cuttlefish, keep heading around the lake. The villages on the East side represent the remains of the stables - capturing them will give you Scouts. If the Scouts explore the outer edges of the map, they will find more a few more villages and units, though no more Mud-crawlers. You're now ready for bigger game!
Completing the circuit around the lake reveals the destroyed keep on the North side. The tribe leader Tanuil is pronounced dead, Kaleh now leads the tribe. On turn 11, a Necromancer Xanthos will show up to lead the Undead against the elves. Head north to take the battle to his keep. On turn 16 the Quenoth hunting party returns on the North edge of the map, somewhat westward of Xanthos.
Across the Harsh Sands
- Kaleh must reach "Pinnacle Rock" at the North end of the map.
- Defeat the Outlaw leader.
- Must survive: Kaleh, Nym, Zhul, Garak
- Turn limit: ?? / 60 / ?? (Easy / Medium / Hard)
- Starting units: Kaleh, Nym, Zhul, Garak
- Starting gold: 300
Scenario-specific gameplay rules
In addition to the two-sun daily cycle for this entire campaign, this particular scenario has more particular rules involving water economy, which make it play quite differently than usual: Your refugees are traveling through an "extra-barren" area and they are short on water-skins and even food. They are therefore at risk of dehydrating. The rule for this effect triggering is:
If a unit is:
- At the beginning of a turn,
- during the day: any of Dawn, Morning, Midday, Afternoon, Dusk;
- On a sandy hex: sand, road, rubble or sand-dunes;
- Without a nearby healer - a Shaman, Mystic etc. standing in an adjacent hex;
Then the unit will experience "thirst" and lose:
- - 4 / 5 / 6 HP (Easy / Medium / Hard)
- -1 point of damage on each attack (melee and ranged)
with the effects being cumulative. The HP loss may be healed by any healer, during the day or the night - but the attack degradation is only healed at an oasis, i.e. by being located on a water hex at the beginning of a turn.
You may be wondering "What about staying in villages?" - well, there are effectively no villages along your way. Instead, the water hexes of oases heal 8 points of damage, regardless of the source of damage, in addition to removing the effects of dehydration. Thus, an oasis becomes a point of healing, surrounded by no-damage grasland hexes where you can roam free without a healer buddy.
This is a long vertical map. You start at the South end and move North. At your destination there's the headquarters The Black Hand, a band of outlaws. (Not that it's clear what being an "outlaw" even means in a tribal, stateless, semi-nomadic society and in the middle of the desert, but whatever.) Between you and them, other than desert, dunes and mountains, are 4 oases; these are located at east and west edges of the level, with occasional short stretches of road peeking out of the sands, indicating the direction of the next one. The oases are (in order):
- The small oasis you start in.
- An oasis with Giant Scoprions.
- An oasis with a contigent from an outlaw band, The Black Hand ().
- An oasis surrounded by a castle (complete with a keep and a leader), inhabited either by:
- A colony of Ogres, or
- A Wight with his undead minions
- A "mirage oasis" which disappears as you near it
Recruitment and formation
While 60 turns might sound like a lot, your navigation in this level is quite constrained: In the day, by the risk of dehydration, and at night by roving Ghosts (see below). So, don't stay in the keep too long; you should be able to handle everything you'll run across with a single castle's worth of troops (6 units) if you're careful. If you're not careful, it doesn't matter how many troops you get. Also, remember there are no villages on your way, and all of your recruits are supported "out-of-pocket".
All your recalled/recruited units can become dehydrated - including healers, therefore you should keep your healers in pairs. A reasonable formation is a "hedgehog" around Zhul and a Quenoth Mystic:
__ __/U \__ /U \__/U \ \__/H \__/ /U \__/U \ \__/H \__/ /U \__/U \ \__/U \__/ \__/
or along a diagonal axis:
__ __/U \__ __/U \__/U \ /U \__/H \__/ \__/H \__/U \ /U \__/U \__/ \__/U \__/ \__/
this is 10 units: 2 healers ('H') + 8 any other ('U') = 4 starting units + 6 recalls/recruits. Out of those six, make one the Mystic/Shaman; another - a Quenoth Scout, and the other four could be, say, two Quenoth Fighters and two Tuaroch Riders.
Why place the two healers adjacent to each other? Because a healer, by him/herself, is not in itself safe from dehydration, so the healers must support each other.
Your hedgehog will begin following the remains of the old road East-North-East. You won't be able to keep the hedgehog together if the group travels faster than 5 hexes per turn - the speed of the slowest unit - so that Scout you got will not be very effective right now beyond increasing you range of view. That's okay, we'll be able to let it loose soon. At night, of course, you can break this formation - but you must reform it _before_ Dawn to avoid dehydration.
One reason you might break formation at night is your being attacked by roving ghosts: Indeed, in most areas (outside oases), and at every turn of night (including dusk but excluding dawn), one or two Ghosts will appear near to your units, to "prey on the weak". You're not all _that_ weak, but a Ghost may be able to pick off a wounded character of yours if you just keep the hedgehog formation. If your characters have high HP, you have the option of just ignoring the Ghosts' harassment - after all, your units are ineffective against them (except for Garak), and they against you with your good sand defense; they will spontaneously disappear at dawn.
You should arrive at the second oasis at about first-dusk, and promptly be attacked by the Scorpions - who have decent desert movement and vision range - plus the roving Ghosts. Focus on the Scorpions first, unless you can land a terminal blow on a low-HP ghost; in fact, the Ghosts might even attack some Scorpions for you. After you take out the Scorpions, you'll find a Traveler's Ring. This artifact will make the designated unit invulnerable to hunger and thirst. Give it to your Scout; it can take off on its own without getting dehydrated.
If you somehow got dehydrated on day 1, or took a really bad beating - you might wish to rest in the oasis (remember: +8 HP in the water) before reforming your hedgehog; the bandit bathers' oasis is due West-by-Northwest.
As you approach the midline of the level, you'll find it a hilly region infested by several Ogres. Despite their high HP, they're not so difficult to beat, since they're slow in sand and will not all gang up on you; they're not Chaotic, so they won't get a bonus when you're able to break formation; they have no ranged attack; and - if you catch them on sand hexes, you'll have twice their chance to hit. A Pathfinder (leveled Scout), Nym, or Kaleh - with the hunting skill - can slow them down to make sure even their relaliation loses its sting. The issue you may have here is your formation, which will likely break up (unless you go very slowly), and in daytime will result in some dehydration - that will be a handicap in your next encounter.
If you dispose of the entire group of Ogres, you'll receive a special treat: A Loyal Dust Devil - an elemental earth spirit. It has a respectable arcane-type melee attack, and a nice impact-type swarm ranged attack - both effective against the Undead. If that's not enough - it has 8 MP and low movement cost over most terrain, _and_ it has at least 50% defense everywhere, _and_ it recovers 6 HP per turn on sand or dirt hexes; so it's an excellent scout. It won't be your "tank" against the Undead, though, due to limited HP and its vulnerability to cold and arcane attacks.
The Black Hand's pool outing oasis is next: You'll find a mixed bag of Bandits, Thugs, Poachers and Trappers enjoying the pool (after all, it's not like they have a lot of crime to attend to). If you had your Scout in their sights before, they might have even joined the fray against the Ogres and yourself. By now should have some extra leveled-up units, so it won't be anything you can't handle - especially if you make sure to fight in daytime. The main issue here being the hills and the Ogres having impeded your formation. Depending on how effective you are in keeping everybody together, you might have some units go into battle wounded rather than wait for the healers to attend to them. When you are done here tack East-by-Northeast towards the castle oasis.
Close to the castle, you'll chance upon a Red Mage named Elyssa, who is being changed by a force of skeletal units. You'll obviously save her - you just let her fill the empty spot in your hedgehog formation (with the scout no longer needing its former spot). Remember she's very effective against the Undead - but you need to keep her safe from the counter-attacks of Skeletons and Revenants.
As for the castle itself - there is some random roll-of-the-dice which decides whether you'll find Ogres or the Undead in it. If it's the Wight leader (an L2), it will have an "honor guard" of four units (Ghosts on Medium difficulty), and will have amassed some money for recruiting (it has a high base-income despite the lack of villages). Remember that Wights are quite mobile, and this one won't hesitate to leave its castle to target someone vulnerable.
The last (non-)oasis has a signpost at its entrance, announcing you've reached the home of the Black Hand of (existentially-unemployed) outlaws. When you cross some horizontal line, they will have already begun recruiting in earnest - and between the leader's basic income and their tent villages, they can recruit two units each turn without any gold reserves... So, hurry North. The leader of bandits is named Thorn, an L2 Outlaw (on Medium; probably a fugitive on Hard); when you take him out, he bargains for his life - and when you accept, he takes all of the remaining bandits with him.
The bandit leader's offering in exchange for his life is a vial of Holy Water. As you may recall from other campaigns, the unit which picks it up has its melee attack change type to arcane. Choose carefully - you probably want to give this to a unit with a pierce-type attack, add Now you have a second unit with a highly-effective attack against the Undead (in addition to the trampling Tuaroch riders).
When you complete your objectives, you get a 20-per-turn early finish bonus (which doesn't correspond to the number of villages), before carryover deduction.
A Stirring in the Night
- Alternative Objectives:
- Survive until the (elongated) night is over with no more than 6 villages lost, or
- Defeat both Undead leaders
- Must survive: Kaleh, Nym, Zhul, Garak
- Starting units: Kaleh, Nym, Zhul, Garak
- Turn limit: ?? / 12 / ?? (Easy / Medium / Hard)
- Starting gold: 200
This map is on the small side compared to the last scenario - it's just the surroundings of the Elves' encampment for a single night: Tents/villages and some bonfires, on sand and sandy hills, at the edge of proper hills with a bit of forest. The right of the level is a North-South path between the (5-hex + keep) castles of two Undead leaders: A Lich and a Death Knight. They are, in fact, each other's enemies, and you are just in the way: One of your villages is almost smack on the path; and four more are close to it (one turn for a Ghost, two turns at most for other Undead, from the path). Your castle is on the left of the level, with an oasis blocking the way - meaning it takes a few turns to get from there to where the action is.
This scenario has a special consequence for the rest of the campaign: Whenever you lose a tent/village to enemy forces in this scenario, its inhabitants are turned to un-death, i.e. part of the group Elvish survivors from your village is lost. The consequence: Higher recruitment price for units, for the rest of the entire campaign, if more than 3 tents/villages are lost. And it doesn't help if you regain a village - those inhabitants are just gone. So - protecting villages from the Undead is job #1.
Seeing how the rival Undead forces are fighting each other, not you - you would expect that such protection shouldn't be that big of a deal. Unfortunately, they seem to be rather fond of tents... Undead units will opportunistically leave the N-S path to capture a tent/village - particularly the high-mobility units like Ghosts and Bats. On the other hand, the Undead also crave mortal flesh (a little retroactive pun there), so when faced with a choice between a village + sentry and an empty village - they won't always go for the village, especially if it's farther away from the N-S path. Still, play it safe and try to man villages that are within an enemy's movement range, whenever this is tenable.
This scenario feels quite different depending of how frugal and speedy you were in your voyage North. If you were reasonable and kept a tight formation with ~10 or a few more units, and didn't meander too much - you should be awash in gold. If that's the case, you will probably want to aim for the two Undead leaders; three rounds of recruitment/recall should be sufficient in this case. on Hard, that might be less feasible even with the extra gold, or require much more cannon fodder. If you've started this scenario with a lot less gold then you're in for more of a challenge, and will be hard-pressed to take the maximalist stance of "no village left behind".
The first couple of turns of the level, though, are not effected by your recruitment - since even scouts will take until turn 3 to even arrive at the Eastern villages. An important first dilemma is whether to protect that easternmost village in "no-man's land", in the middle of the path. Do that, and you've guaranteed most of the Undead's attention will be directed at _you_: They have to go through you to get to their rivals anyway.
As for recruitment and recall - bear in mind that all fighting will be at night - a major disadvantage for you vis-a-vis the Undead. That means it is even more important to utilize their movement impairment in the sand, to isolate and gang up on them. And you will have a lot of switching-of-positions, to get to villages which come into danger: The Bats and Ghosts will fly around you, and later there's another surprise (see below). Fighters will be rather un-useful for this purpose - slow (even the quick ones) and with the wrong attack types (except if one of your fighters took the holy water potion); Tuaroch riders have Impact attacks, and if you have L2 stalwarts they'll defend pretty well from the skeletal units - but they're even slower; when you recall or recruit some on turn X, they will come into play on turn X+3 or X+4 (!), and will be mostly limited to one region of the map.
This means that, in this scenario, the Dustbok riders - the Scout line of units - must shine. You'll need quite a bunch of them to support and replace your early-turn front-line units. They bruise easy, but remember that, after being attacked, they can retaliate and retreat on he same turn (their Disengage ability) - this will come in very handy. You will likely find yourself attacking with a wounder Scout, moving it away, then replacing it with a fresh one, on the same village, and attacking again. When leveling Scouts on this level, Pathfinders will be much more useful than Archers, due to their ability to Slow. This is important to reduce your losses against the damage-bonus-enhanced Undead.
If you plan on disposing of the Undead leaders, try moving in earlier rather than later, even at the price of unit losses, because both leaders make 20 gold per turn before any income from villages, and will often recruit a pair of units per turn. Keep in mind that voodoo ceremony Garak undertook before this battle: If you keep him in good health, he can repeat his attack on an enemy target again and again: The Lich is where you should send him, since its melee is much weaker than the Death Knight's.
On Hard, you're more likely to be on the defensive throughout the scenario - requiring some good luck, as well judicious use of slowing and leadership. If any of your Archers have leveled-up to be Desert Rangers, their Backstab ability may also come in handy.
On turn 7, a contingent of Orcs - a patrol? - moves down the path from the Northwestern outcropping. These are certainly easier to deal with - you can properly stab them; but that doesn't make their weapons sting any less. Make sure and keep your terrain benefit by sticking to the sand. Their leader, Ganthos, has no keep - but he does have an income; so if you let him, he will sneak down the Western edge of the map and use your own keep while his minions ravage the encampment. Finally, note that the Orcs are quite willing to attack the Undead, not just your own units, and may do so if a lot of the Death Knight (Northeast leader)'s minions remain.
Garak will meet his demise at the end of this scenario, in a rather arbitrary way (which, even after being foreshadowed, seems rather arbitrary). But - you can't let him die earlier.
Descending Into Darkness
Starting now, you lose the comfort and protection of the sand. The terrain here is primarily hills and mountains, interlaced with river and swamp. When you initially step into the mountains, Goblins will appear. The mountain road forks West or North. The western fork leads you to a bridge over the river that has a village on either side. Stepping anywhere close to here triggers the appearance of more Goblins and some Naga led by an Orcish Slayer [or Assassin on Easy difficulty]. It's probably more fight than the two villages are worth. However, if you're playing on Medium or Hard, you have to fight these sooner or later - may as well face them now before you get too busy. Plus, you can choose to face them during daylight.
The northern fork takes you over another bridge to the keep of Panok the Direwolf Rider. He moves ridiculously fast, so you might have a hard time pinning him down. His troops are mostly Goblins, so consider him to be a warmup for the tougher foes you'll face in the caverns. Upon his death, he drops a ring and possibly triggers the Naga and the Slayer.
From here, there are two roads: the North, and the West. Both lead to tunnels into the mountains, and each ends in the keep of an Orcish Warlord [Orcish Warrior on Easy]. The exit tunnel could randomly be behind either keep. Though the two keeps are linked by paths inside the mountain, it might be quicker overall to leave Kaleh outside until you determine whether he needs to go East or West. You could either split your troops and tackle the entrances separately, or send the whole bunch down the closest hole. In that case, expect a pitched battle as the furthest Orc reinforces the nearest.
The turn after Kaleh first enters either cavern, he will be pursued by a Cloaked Figure/Dark Assassin. It doesn't matter if Kaleh is surrounded, the Assassin will temporarily displace any Elf or Orc that is in his way when he appears. Other findings:
- If you follow the river where it enters the mountain, it will lead you to a Goblin Impaler guarding a treasure chest. Not exceptionally tough, but he will fight from solid ground while you stand in the water. The chest contains 40 to 80 gold.
- Continuing around the river, there is a passageway [coordinates 18,10] that ends in a pool. If you step into the pool, you will find a glowing blade. You may choose to either take it or leave it. If you take it, that character's melee attack will now deal cold damage, but a monster will appear to block your escape. It's only level one [and cute at that!], but again it will be on dry land while you will be starting in water. It's kind of a long trip, so you'd be unlikely to finish it before the end of the scenario unless you send a Scout or other fast unit. Alternately, if Nym didn't get the Holy Water, have her get it.
A Subterranean Struggle
You're in a tunnel headed East. Soon you will see a squad of Giant Ants in front of you, while a Cave Spider tries to sneak up behind you. You can ignore the Ants for now, as the Spider is more dangerous: it poisons with its melee attack and slows with its ranged attack. Eventually you find yourself in a great chamber where Dwarves and Trolls are doing battle. You are forced to choose which side to ally with, and then you will be required to eliminate the other side. Your choice will stay with you for a few more scenarios, as the campaign forks after this. Fortunately, there is a keep right in front of you, though the battle is currently raging in it.
Soon after choosing sides [probably about the time you get your keep clear], your opponent will pull a sneak attack that nearly wipes out your allies. Most of the rest retreat. The ball is now in your hands. Three turns later, they make it up to you by giving some of their troops for you to command. Finally, some loyal troops. If you are allied with the Dwarves, the two tribes of Trolls are Southeast and Southwest from your keep. If you are allied with the Trolls, the two tribes of Dwarves are Northeast and Northwest from your keep.
Guard Kaleh well: some time after receiving your reinforcements, the Cloaked Assassin will reappear. This time s/he will Slow Kaleh and take up to half his hit points. There's some more crazy talk, and the Slow effect lasts until the Assassin has been removed again. Note that even if your troops now succeed in destroying the enemy tribes, this scenario won't end until the Assassin has been dealt with.
Diverging Campaign Path
In the Tunnels of the Trolls
You start in a small keep with few places to go. The tunnel leading West is where you just came from. To kick things off, move a unit to the East-most dirt hex. At the end of the turn, Dwarven demolitions will make this wall an entrance to the Troll kingdom. You will immediately see a Troll leader and his minions in a keep. Don't get too excited; he's not your target, merely an outpost. However, the clock is ticking, so finish them off quickly. Afterward you might wish to use his keep to recruit an additional healer to support Zhul, and if you have a unit with the cold blade bring them as well.. Since it costs no upkeep, you may as well recall all the Dwarves that you've been given by your allies.
This cavern has exits leading North, East, and South. North only goes to the edge of the map. East leads to some Trolls interrogating some Dwarves. Play your cards right and you'll be able to rescue a Dwarvish Stalwart, who joins your party out of gratitude [though he's not grateful enough to be Loyal...]. South is the exit going toward the objective. This leads into a large lava cavern. Similar to the second scenario, you'll need to keep as many troops as possible gathered around a healer. However, the lava hexes are not safe for your units to end their turns on, other than the flying units. This is going to slow down your progress, as most units will not be able to use all their movement points.
The Troll Shamen blow up the bridge going directly to them, so you'll have to take an alternate route clockwise around the rim of the lava pit. They will conjure up a fire elemental to slow your progress; after you kill it, it will periodically regenerate. Additionally, as you reach certain checkpoints the Shamen will create more Fire Guardians, though these don't regenerate. When you reach the southern part of the rim, you'll be rewarded by a small pool of water that will heal whomever is standing in it by ten points per turn. The rim is interrupted here by a rock projection sticking out to bar your way. After this, you have to proceed by "island hopping".
By the way, there are two passages on the western side of the lava pit that aren't strictly necessary to get to, but might be worth exploring [flying units only]. The lower is blocked by the ghost of a Dwarf who died in the upper. Burying the remains of the Dwarf allows you to proceed further down the lower passageway to a Troll crypt guarded by a Zombie Troll Whelp. Flying over the Chasm allows you to loot the crypt for the poison wand it contains. Whomever picks it up will add poison damage to their melee attacks.
When you reach the spit of land that the Shamen are standing on, one will run to the boss. I got lucky in that the other chose to stand in the lava to get around me. He was a lot easier to finish off then. ;^) After that, follow South and East. The tunnel quickly narrows down to a single lane, and your progress will be impeded by some Whelps. The lair has a pair of alcoves containing Troll dead, who will eventually be turned into Zombies to further slow you down. By the time you deal with these and the army of Trolls the boss is recruiting, you might not have much time left. Finally take out the other Shaman and the Chieftain. Good luck!
Dealing With Dwarves
This is mostly just dialog, though if you have kept Elyssa alive she will decide to stay and study the Dwarves. As a parting gift, she presents you with a flaming sword, and you can recruit/recall any unit to take and deal out fire damage. Too bad she'll be drowning soon. The other bad news is that all of your loyal troops will also be staying down here when you go up into the outer world. Only one Dwarf will volunteer to guide you. If you saved the Stalwart, it'll be him.
In the Domain of the Dwarves
You start in a small keep with few places to go. The tunnel leading East is where you just came from. To kick things off, move a unit to the West-most dirt hex. At the end of the turn, Troll fire magic will make this wall an entrance to the Dwarven kingdom. You will immediately see a small contingent of Dwarves in a fortress. Since it costs no upkeep, you may as well recall all the Trolls that you've been given by your allies. If you're going the send Zhul after the hidden bonus, you might also want to bring in another healer.
The area around the fortress has several tunnels. Going clockwise from your current position, the South-East avenue only goes to the edge of the map. South-West leads to a humorous scene of a Dwarven drill instructor berating his troops. Bring two mid-level Trolls, preferrably a mix of melee and ranged types to deal with these. Past this will be a Troll being tortured by a Dwarf. He pretty much rescues himself, but joins your party out of gratitude. North-West is the exit going toward the objective. North is a Dwarf guarding what will become a dead end.
The main path crosses two single hex wide bridges over a chasm. After you push the Dwarves back to the bridges you can fly Zhul over the chasm to support your front line. The leader of this Dwarven contingent challenges you to get up close and personal. After you do, however, he blows up the main entrance to the Dwarven Keep. Now you'll have to make a right turn detour through the Black Lake.
By the time you get your feet wet, you'll see a Dread Bat and some Giant Tentacles. If Zhul hasn't been upgraded to Desert Star yet, the Bat might be a tough match for her. Maybe have her hang back until the bat has been fireballed or rocklobbed. After the rest of your troops finish wading through the lake, they'll take the left. If you're going after the goody, have Zhul perhaps assisted by a Troll companion occupy the island in the northern part of the lake. There is a Dwarven Hermit speaking some Gollum-like speech. When he dies all your troops will have access to his amulet, which is basically a key. Send somebody to the South-East portion of the lake, where the amulet will get you past the concealed door to reveal a Dwarven crypt. Avoid the Dread Bat in his keep on the East side of the lake.
Anybody can do it, but wading through the water will take prohibitively long for characters who can't fly. If it were appropriate to the topic, i'd question why somebody who can easily fly over a Chasm can't fly over Deep Water, but it's not. Anyway, looting the crypt gets you a belt of strength that is supposedly good for 12 additional hit points. I say "supposedly" because I've repeatedly seen Zhul end up with 52 hits, not 53. Zhul could really use this, as she gets no additional hit points when levelling up to Desert Star. You won't be able to see the crypt, but it's in the center of the chamber at the end of the tunnel. Even with flying here, i had a hard time getting there before the Dwarf Chieftain was dead. I had to replay the end of the turn several times, as he repeatedly kept suiciding himself on my Druid. Anyway, upon putting on the belt your exit will be blocked by a ghost. It'll be kind of tough, but hopefully the chieftain will be dead before you're on the ropes.
Back to the mainland, the Chieftain and his troops will be almost directly west of where your people get back on land. There's a wall in the way, though, with entrances on both the North and South portions of it. The southern route is slightly closer, but is also a chokepoint. Send some faster troops the northern way to attack the Dwarves' rear.
Talking With Trolls
This is mostly just dialog, though if you have kept Elyssa alive she will decide to stay and study the Trolls. As a parting gift, she presents you with a flaming sword, and you can recruit/recall any unit to take it and deal out fire damage. Too bad she'll be drowning soon. The other bad news is that all of your loyal troops will also be staying down here when you go up into the outer world. Only one Troll will volunteer to guide you. If you saved the victim of Vengeful Dwarf, it'll be him.
Out Of The Frying Pan
Thankfully, this is the last of the underground fighting. It's too bad you can't recruit more of the Dwarves/Trolls you've allied with, as they could really help here. Your opponents have dammed the river and the whole tunnel system is being flooded. This is bad: every turn you will lose several hexes of floor. Recruit/recall no more than a single castle's worth of troops, as you'll lose more to drowning than to fighting. Actually, it's best to not recruit any units, though you should recall the Dust Devil, since it is loyal; you are going to need your gold later at a second keep, and you don't want to pay upkeep until then.
It is best to play this similar to "The Elves Beseiged". Don't fight any more than you absolutely have to, prefer to instead move past the enemies and let them drown behind you. Water areas that you haven't seen yet won't rise, so don't send fast scouts ahead of your slower troops (an exception: the Dust Devil doesn't trigger the "more water" events, except for the one at the end of the secret passage).
The first cavern will have your exit blocked by three of your opponents, be they Dwarf or Troll. Next is a scattering of Giant Ants. They don't put up much of a fight. The exit is the North West tunnel. The following cavern is populated by three humans who decide to attack you. The tunnel behind them is also flooding, so you need to make haste to the western tunnel. The next cavern is marked by a magical warding [looks like clouds] that blocks passage except through the red rune 'gate'. It won't hurt to step onto the rune, but upon leaving it the lead character will be burned for 25%-35% of their total hit points while both gates disappear. Also, a variety mix of undead will suddenly appear in the chamber. Some of them will gather around around the entrance chokehold, so you'll need skirmish ability to effectively assist the now lonely lead character. If you have Grog, best to send him in first, as he can heal up the damage by the time the battle is over. Also, his impact weapon is best used against the skeletons in the back of the room. The same goes for Rogrimir, naturally, but he'll need healing afterward.
There is a secret door at 24,49 that will lead you around the red rune room. It has more water there, though [not to mention the Soulless], so it's another opportunity to have good troops drowned. The cavern where this tunnel connects back behind the red runed room has two blue runes that will heal whomever steps upon them to 100%, but not cure poison. They are also only good for a few uses, so probably just use it to heal Zhul and your badly bruised ally.
The exits out of the blue runed room are thus: South is back to the red runed room. South-West is the water-logged Soulless. North-West is the 'Training Room'. A ghostly teacher in back of the room runs his ghostly students through weapons drills with you as targets. Destroying the students is not helpful, as the master keeps reanimating them. You need to take him out, but the Zone of Control of the students keeps you from getting to him. Yet another call for the Skirmish ability. I don't bother going in there, as there's no real gain for the amount of time you'll have to spend here. What i like to think of as the 'main exit' from the blue runed room is due north. This leads to a sleeping area where you will be assaulted by the skeletal remains of its former inhabitants. Your ally should have half of them cleaned up by the time the last of your troops gets in. This route is slightly longer in terms of hexes than going through the Training Room, but i still get through in fewer turns.
Besides, there is a goody to be had this way: North of the skeletons is the lab area. You'll find the secret door at 17,36. Inside, you'll find a red rune blocking the way, then two more further up. Stepping upon the first rune causes the character to suffer the usual 25%-35% damage PLUS poison. Then the other two runes are covered by angry monsters [failed experiments]. Both are first level. Behind them is a Frankenstein-style monster trapped in a ring of fire. If you Skirmish past the two, you can break the ring to release the second level Flesh Golem. It will fight for you. You have to be careful, as its Berserk fighting style can be a double edged weapon. Nonetheless, it can be useful to have another Chaotic fighter on your side.
The next room beyond either the Training Room or sleeping area is the sacrificial altar. Setting foot in here conjures two second-level fire demons the next turn. Bring out your Cold Blade and whatever ranged weapons you have handy. Note that every time you step on the tiled floor around the altar you are given the chance to pull a lever. Do not pull the lever until all your people are in this room and ready to leave. Pulling the lever opens two secret passages behind the Altar. The eastern is your exit; the western is flooded. Six turns after you pull the lever, the entire temple area will be Deep Water.
The exit goes through a Crypt area that is guarded by a Spider Lich. It is tough, but vulnerable to Fire and impact damage; you should still have both. After you leave the Crypt, you will again be stopped by: the ever mysterious Cloaked Assassin. This time you are able to capture him and get his whole sad story. I think it was about turn 30 or so that i got my people past the dangers of the raging waters. Woo-hoo!: you've made it out into the sand again, and are ready for some real fighting!! Fortunately there's a rather haughty group of humans who seem to think your people are meant to be sacrificed to their 'Dark Lady'.
By all means, start recalling troops to teach them a lesson. You probably need to spend all your gold. Figure the opposition is 20-something in Sergeant Durstrag's tribe plus five messengers and periodic visits by vengeful undead. These will mostly just bother your troops who are near the South end of the valley. Don't bother looking for the messenger; it isn't on the map yet. At some point, a messenger will materialize just East of the oasis. After taking him out, you only have a half dozen or so turns to finish off Sergeant Durstrag or another messenger will be created, along with his escorts. Don't forget the chest of gold just South of your Keep. If the battle goes on long enough, the flood waters will eventually come out of the side of mountain on the West end of the valley and make a new river.
Blood is Thicker than Water
Out of the frying pan, into hot water! Let's break this down into parts for each objective:
Free the Mermen
If you click too rapidly through the introductory text you will miss some crucial details: Namely that your enemies lie to the northwest, and that you're looking for five merfolk. It's worthwhile to get them all, as each will become a loyal troop once freed from the cage. The humans are Loyalist factioned in three tribes. They are not the mysterious 'Iron Council', just followers. The leader is a third level commander while the other two are second level lieutenants. Depending on the level of difficulty, you could be seeing things like Shock Troopers, Swordsmen and Cavaliers. Probably about three keeps worth should be good. If you wipe out all the bad guys before the sacrifice, but don't free all five merfolk, your troops will just wander idly until the time of the sacrifice. Freeing the fifth mermaid starts the rebellion, thus potentially saving a few turns for the end of scenario bonus.
It's easy to miss the the fifth Mermaid, as she is hidden in the small cave just north of the eastmost humans' keep. This is in deep water, so the land lubbers won't be able to help. Have the Mermaid Priestess and another Merman approach the island from the East side. The cage there holds a Mermaid Enchantress and is guarded by a few Walking Corpses/Souless. The other large island in the Northwest is closed off, you won't be able to get there yet. If it isn't obvious, use your freed merpeople very sparingly on land. Unless the humans are standing on the shore, or otherwise making themselves easy targets, just park your finny allies in the water. Sometimes they can jump on a village to prevent a wounded bad guy from getting a rest. If you have dealt with all the humans before turn 16, don't just stand around. Start shifting all the elves where they will next be needed next: the east side of the mainland and the eastmost island. Dwarves, Trolls, and Golems move slowly enough that they probably won't make it to the rebels before the rebellion is over. May as well leave them on the North-West island [the village at 20,23 is a good location] in readiness for the third objective, possibly accompanied by any of your elves with a move of 5.
On turn 16, any merpeople still caught will be pan-fried in a little butter as an offering to the Dark Lady. This is performed by a briefly seen Necromancer named Hekuba. He is a member of the Iron Council. Or is that an Iron Chef? Should any leaders of the Loyalists still remain, they will depart to prepare 'Plan B'. Sigh. It was so much easier to get to them on the mainland. If they are all dead, the Iron Council will then begin 'Plan C'.
After the Dark Lady is newly invigorated by the sacrifice, the apparition of Eloh appears to (and appeals to) one of your elves. He expresses his faith in the apparition, and challenges you for leadership of the elves. You'll have to fight him for supremacy, and you won't be able to recruit new troops until this is over. Zhul will be torn between her admiration of Kaleh and Eloh. She will go to Eloh and sell Kaleh's goodness. The apparition rebuffs Zhul and petrifies her. If you don't have any other healers you might wish to recall some before making the long trek East. The rebel base is the northeast island. This was inaccessible to non-swimmers, but the merfolk will show you some Shallow Water paths to the island. If you're feeling shorthanded, you can wait offshore (backed up by a healer, of course) and hammer the defenders in the water. They seem quite eager to rush out to you. It might take a little longer this way, though.
As you approach the island, some Crab Men will appear and attempt to eat you. They're not terribly tough, but they're in their natural element and you're not. As insurance, have the ranged attack merfolk provide a screen in the deep water around you. The melee attack merfolk could perhaps approach the island from the north side. There is a river that goes right to where Eloh is standing. Four successful hits from Merman Warrior can do it...
If you have Kromph, the Flesh Golem, it will soon fall under the sway of the Dark Lady. It talks to itself for a few turns as a warning. When that happens, best surround it with ranged attacks. It changes sides on the beginning of your turn, so you can blast it before it gets a chance to attack. If you manage to strike down Eloh before she complete's Kromph's sub­version, her final command to it causes it to collapse into a heap of confusion. Oh, but we barely knew ye...
If your costs to recruit are high as a result of the battle between the Spectres, it might interest you to know that the rebel elves are not your target - Eloh and Tanstafaal are. Whenever you destroy the apparition and capture Tanstafaal, the remaining elves will automatically switch over to your side. You might not want the extra overhead for the rest of this scenario, though. Besides, they screen Tanstafaal so well that most of them will have to be done in to get to him. Oh, and Zhul comes around after the apparition is gone.
The next fight will take place on the formerly closed northwest island. This is the home of the Iron Council - a trio of Necromancers. Hekuba is their leader and stays on his keep. The other two are free to move and not even shy about stepping into the water. Nevertheless, they can hold their own out there at night. Plan C is the Necromancers raising the seabed to provide Shallow Water paths from the island - they actually think they're attacking YOU. Well, pride goeth before a fall. With the settling of the rebellion, you are able to recruit again. If you find yourself needing to do that, you have to chose whether it is better to use Tanstafaal's keep and march them all the way back West, or detour Kaleh down to one of the humans' keeps south of the action.
The troops of the Iron Council include a mixed bag of skeletal types and if plan B is place the human leaders will also be here. Hekuba can recruit the same troops as the humans did, plus more Necromancers, Skeletons/Revenants and Skeletal Archers/Bone Shooters. You'll have quite a fight on your hands to make landfall. After you do get on solid ground things aren't so bad. Of course, if the enemy captures the island at 20,23, you'll have to fight them through the water twice. It's probably better to continue to press them at night to prevent that. It'll be a little easier to take on the Necromancers if you can level up the Enchantress and the Priestess.
The bad guys won't be able to destroy the ships. For game purposes, the ships are actually villages. Thus, the worst thing that can happen to the ships is they get recaptured. The merfolk can't cross or occupy ship terrain - not even after they've been captured. I suppose they would have a hard time climbing ladders. When you have all four, the scenario immediately ends. You might wish to finish off any of your opponents that are close before capturing the last ship.
Speaking With The Fishes
Just dialog. A curiosity is that the queen of the Merfolk - Melusand - is giving all your people a seashell brooch, but doesn't say what they're good for other than they enable her to track your progress!
The Battle for Zocthanol Isle
Wow! This time around you'll have to battle five tribes, plus bats. You immediately have to head West along the southern shore of the island, searching for a keep. You'll soon find a Saurian Oracle who looks like he doesn't really need the keep he's sitting in. It's not a particularly tough fight, but you're under time pressure to immediately begin churning out units. As soon as Kaleh takes his seat in the center of the keep, your loyal merfolk return bringing the remaining ships and a group of merfolk you can recruit. They also capture the villages South of you, so you can immediately begin sending the troops North. Zhul makes a comment about not needing gold if you lose. I will simplify: this is the last scenario in which you do any recruiting, so you may as well bust the budget. You still have to face down four tribes. From left to right:
- Naga #1: If you follow the Shallow Water from your keep North, it'll lead to a small keep with a Naga Myrmidon. His tribe is not heavily populated, but you'll see them first due to closeness. Send half your loyal merfolk up there to deal with them, and recruit some new merfolk to assist.
- Undead: Not too far North of your keep will be a Draug recruiting a fairly strong assortment of undead: Blood Bats, Ghosts/Wraiths, various second level skeletal types, Soul Shooters, and Necrophages. On higher levels of difficulty, there will be Spectres and Draugs as well.
- Orcs: On the northeast corner of the island will be a peninsula. There you'll find a Orcish Sovereign recruiting a stiff mix of Orcs and leveled Wolf Riders, nothing under second level.
- Naga #2: On the east side of the island is more shallow water leading to another Naga Myrmidon. He is a twin to the western Naga, but he'll have more time to recruit before you get to him. Packs of Naga Hunters shooting poison can be deadly day or night. You can take them out with a mix of fast Elves supported by Mermen and a healer. If you're not used to recruiting merfolk, please note that the Mermaid Initiate is not capable of any healing or curing until she's levelled up.
The other threat you'll face are the bats that show up every dusk and harry you until morning. Easy difficulty gives you five Vampire Bats every night. Higher levels of difficulty take away two of those, but add Blood Bats. Like the Ghosts in the second scenario, these are not worth chasing after. They will, however, pick off the weakest of your troops. Anybody who is below 20 hit points is vulnerable at night. Hedgehog like crazy at night, if you don't have enough units for a massive line. If the bats don't see any likely targets, they will unflag any of your unguarded villages. You don't need the money, however, so who cares?
As soon as you have the keep, victory conditions change to reaching the black citadel. However, that'll take some work, as hordes of undead will soon begin pouring down your way. If you dally in recruiting/recalling, you might get flanked by Direwolf Riders and packs of Naga on your eastern side. Send the Dwarf/Troll (You do still have him, don't you?) along with Nym, Zhul and what's left of your initial landing to deal with the undead while the faster troops you recall head East along the beach. By all means also send whomever has the holy water North. Your merfolk can nail down your watery flanks, both west and east. You'll also need some sturdy elves to block the gap between the lagoons. You'll need another healer for the eastern front, and ideally a third to support the middle. If you don't have the Mermaid Priestess/Diviner in the eastern group, better send along a Shyde/Star.
Melusand told you that the black citadel was in the center of the island. It is, if by "center" you mean "north side". However, it is surrounded by mountains, so merfolk will be of no help there. If any undead come to the coast, then merfolk spellcasters could be helpful. There's a secret area off the northwest shore of the island that the merfolk could explore if they have nothing better to do. A wrecked ship is guarded by a Sea Serpent. Just South of the ship is a sunken treasure worth a little gold. We're really not worried about gold anymore, however. Northwest of the wreck is a sandbar containing another merman in a cage. Inside is a badly wounded Merman Triton. You can send him and the rest of your mermen east across the top of the board and then down to the orc leader.
You might reach the black citadel before finishing off the Orc. If so, victory conditions change: you will need to kill both the undead and orcish leaders before being able to open the door. After finishing them off, victory conditions change again: now get any unit to the door of the black citadel. Since you probably won't need everybody to take on the Orc, you may as well leave somebody near the citadel. When the door is open, there's some drama that ends up in having Kaleh, Nym, and Zhul go into the citadel to again face the apparition of Eloh. If your ally is still alive, he comes along as well.
The Final Confrontation
Earlier I alluded to the fact that during this battle you won't be able to recruit. You come into a hexagonal cave/chamber that is partially paved and partly rock floor. It somewhat reminded me of "The Duel" scenario ending the Eastern Invasion campaign. It's just the people I mentioned in the last paragraph of the Zocthanol scenario: Kaleh, Nym, Zhul and possibly Grog or Rogrimir. The Apparition of Eloh will be in the front of you, and she will have charmed some of your young troops to use against you. The objective is to defeat the apparition, quite possibly the easiest objective ever. By all means have the ally go first, since he will move faster and defend better on the cavern floor. When i did it, Grog the Troll Warrior took her out in a single move: both swings connected and she was done.
While this may not be as emotionally satisfying as having Kaleh or Zhul finish her off, it has the beneficial effect of leaving more characters able to move to fulfill the second objective. The two recruits are freed from their charm, if you are able to keep them alive in this pit of despair. After the apparition is gone you get to see "the man behind the curtain" so to speak. The evil creature doing all this isn't a standard brand demon, but some relation to Cthulhu. Yechnagoth is composed of a brain (Central Body), energy source (Pulsing Spires), and multiple fists (Crawling Horrors.) Don't even waste your time attacking the Central Body yet. Note that the Spires are a different team than the others.
As long as the Pulsing Spires are alive, the Central Body has 100% resistance to any attack AND it fully heals every turn. Every turn it can attack any adjacent unit, spray slime [hurts 10-12 points and slows] on any unit in the cavern, AND summon one or more new Crawlers. There is no turn limit, but you want to hurry before you get overwhelmed by Crawling Horrors. Due to my lucky start, I was able to finish before turn 5. The Spires have no melee attack, so hammer them as you reach them. (Well, even their ranged attack is nothing to write home about.) Even though the paved parts of the floor all lead to the Central Body, try not to have any character end their turn next to it until the Pulsing Spires are gone. You might find yourself using the hedgehog again, with characters not actively attacking surrounding Zhul to heal up from the constant depredations of the Crawlers.
After you have taken out the third Spire, the Central Body becomes a Weakened Central Body, which is a much more reasonable opponent. The healing stops, and the hit points, resistances and attack damages drop. Again, two mighty hammer blows could finish it off. Congratulations! You've just won yourself a tropical paradise island!!