Sceptre of Fire
You fight this campaign almost entirely with the four classic Dwarven units: Fighter, Thunderer, Scout and Guardsman (and their leveled versions). Healers are entirely missing, and villages become a key resource for army regeneration. Given the circumstances, your leveling strategy should lean strongly to the offensive.
In the many scenarios, the village distribution is strongly biased against you, and conquering a village cluster is the key to victory. Your main opponents are Trolls, other Dwarves and Elves, and you are mostly fighting in caverns and mountains.
In this campaign, Dwarvish Fighters can advance to Runesmiths as well as Steelclads. Runemasters are useful overall and absolutely essential for forcing the caves of the Shorbear clan, and you should consider training at least one or two of them in addition to the two that join you. However - don't level Rugnur (your first leader, starting as an L1 Fighter) into a Runesmith - as their HP is much lower than their corresponding plain-fighter (Runesmith vs Steelclad, Runemaster vs Lord). Dwarvish Lords are critical for the rearguard action against Berserkers in #The Dragon, and it is wise to have at least three of them in your army.
The Guardsman line is only useful early on, since their pierce attack is useless against trolls and too weak for storming the Shorbear caves or discouraging Berserkers in "The Dragon". However, having a few of them on your recall list will be useful for the final scenario. Thunderers do their share as your ranged unit, and Scouts as screening forces - but make sure to keep a strong emphasis on the fighter line. Once Thursagan joins you, make it a priority to level him up all the way up to a Dwarvish Arcanister (L4); he's the only unit able to do it, and by doing so he will become a truly frightening unit for your enemies.
[AS: I would agree that the Fighter line is very useful for this campaign, but I personally found Steelclads more useful than Runesmiths. You get Thursagan and two loyal Runesmiths before you fight the Shorbear scenario; in my experience those three were enough. Steelclads are tougher and usually deal more damage than Runesmiths; their attacks are just as useful for the Shorbear scenario and more useful for the rest of the campaign.]
A Bargain Is Struck
- Move the caravans and Alanin to the dwarvish castle, or..
- Defeat the elvish leader.
- Lose if: Rugnur, Haldric II, Alanin or one of the caravans die or time runs out.
- Turns: 24.
- Starting units: Rugnur and Alanin.
- Other: It is probably easier and quicker to defeat the elvish leader.
On this map, a road from a grassland area on the South-Western part winds North-East, through hills and mountains towards a Dwarvish keep at the other edge. On the South-West edge, near the road, is the keep controlled by your ally, king Haldric II; you as Rugnur control the Dwarvish keep, and a Alanin, a Dragoon (Level 2).
You need to move 4 Caravans carrying silver (5 on Hard) from near Haldric's keep to Rugnur's Dwarvish keep, and use Alanin to protect them - against Elvish units coming from the South-East of the level.
The Elves are hostile to the Humans and the Dwarves alike and will attack on sight; they're also quite mobile, as the Elven Lord may well recruit a couple of Elvish Scouts. On the other hand, they're rather opportunistic and not focused on the caravans, and they're all L1 units. As for the Humans - Haldric will recruit a full keep's worth of L2 Swordsmen and Longbowmen (on Medium), and even dispatch one of his Royal Guard units, to fight the elves.
The Human-Elf confrontation plays out in one of two ways - both leading to the same strategy:
- If the Humans have the advantage, you can take it slow with the Caravans, keeping them out of harm's way, and consider an assassination attempt against the Elven Lord, with several Dwarf Scouts (for the extra speed). Alanin will be able to do more fighting and village-grabbing as the Caravans are safe.
- If the Elves have an advantage, then - when they wipe out the Humans, your Caravans will be in big trouble, since around Turn 10 the Elvish Lord gets a gold boost and will recruit heavily. In this case it is again best to opt for an assassination so that the Elvish troops don't have the time to attack the Caravans.
On Medium (and probably on Easy) [v1.13.10], it's the former case: Your Human allies wipe out the Elvish forces attack before your Dwarf troops can get in on the action. Assassinating the Elf Lord will not be difficult, so 2-3 recruits and Rugnur should be enough. You may have to face an odd Elvish unit which is sent Northwards to scout or as a perimeter guard. On Hard, it's the second case; and you may want more recruits to overcome any interruptions. It's possible to achieve this with Scouts only.
Alternatively, you could focus on the Caravans' safety Use Alanin to guard the Caravans as best possible - mostly restricting the movement of units, de-motivating an attack; actually engage only if it's necessary, or if you're certain Alanin stays healthy enough and other attackers will not outflank you next turn. Your Dwarvish recruits should move South-West as fast as possible (again, Scouts might be relevant), and when they reach the Caravans you're basically safe for the rest of the way.
Closing The Gates
- Objectives: Close the gates by having units standing on all six glyphs simultaneously.
- Lose if: Rugnur or Baglur die or time runs out.
- Turns: 15.
- Starting units: Rugnur, Baglur, 4 Guardsmen (5 on easy).
- If there are any elves in the caves after you shut the gates, you must kill them.
- Any units outside the caves when the gates close will die; pull your units back.
This involves hunting down some trolls and stalling the elves. Firstly, recall and recruit a substantial amount of thunderers and fighters. Move all your guardsmen down towards the three towers, those two glyphs can be easily covered near the end. Move a couple of thunderers down that way as well.
You have to activate six glyphs and, as you can notice, two of them are near the main entrance and easy to activate. You will find the other four going through the two main passages inside the cave—one directly south of your keep and one to the west. Send teams composed of about 3 or 4 dwarves (mixing fighters, thunderers and perhaps scouts if you like using them) down each passage, and focus the rest of your force on the entrance, resisting the elves. The terrain will be very advantageous to your army so the challenge should not be too complicated.
Once the trolls are dead, place dwarves on each of those fours glyphs. You will notice that there are a couple of small additional entrances to the cave at the end of each passage. Don't worry, turning "on" the glyphs closest to those openings will seal them. You might even shut one or two trolls outside this way.
Once those four glyphs are done you're ready to finish your mission. However, you might as well defend the gate until turn 14 or so, picking up as much experience as possible (try to get Rugnor at least to level 2). Then, pull all your troops back behind the gate (any left outside will automatically die, and those trapped in the door will be squished) and place soldiers on the two remaining glyphs.
[Comment: Killing all the Elves outside will also successfully end the scenario. It is quite possible to do so (v.1.11.6 - medium difficulty).
Searching for the Runecrafter
- Reach Thursagan with a non-gryphon unit.
- Bring Thursagan back to the caves.
- Lose if: Rugnur, Alanin, Krawg, Thursagan or Baglur die or time runs out.
- Turns: 20.
- Starting units: Rugnur, Baglur, Alanin.
Once you move a unit a little far from the cave, a loyal gryphon named Krawg will show up, along with a friendly Gryphon Rider. Thursagan is hiding in a village placed at random inside the map. You have to go find him and bring him back to the signpost in your keep. He won't follow a Gryphon, so you have to send a dwarf (or Alanin).
The monsters you'll face are Wolves, Ogres, Trolls and Woses. Maintain a defensive position in your mountain stronghold while your Gryphons scout the map to locate Thursagan's village, then send someone else to bring him back.
The Trolls, Woses and Ogres hit hard, so concentrate on killing them quickly when they reach you. Don't let the wolves flank you and get inside your perimeter.
It will be useful to recall/recruit scouts, who are good against woses, along with thunderers and fighters. Try not to over-recruit; this map won't have any other villages other than the ones close to your keep, and Thursagan's home.
- Objective: Mine one gold deposit and two coal deposits (see below).
- Lose if: Rugnur or Thursagan die or time runs out.
- Turns: 40/37/34 (easy/medium/hard).
- Starting units: Rugnur, Baglur, Thursagan and two loyal Runesmiths.
- To mine you must recruit a Dwarvish Miner, move him to the deposit and move him back to the keep.
- The map is randomized so your map may play slightly differently.
The coal deposits are near the northwest troll and the southeast troll. The gold deposit is towards the middle. (The map layout is randomized, but the minerals are always in these areas). In order to mine, you must recruit a Dwarvish Miner, move him to the deposit and move him back to the keep. The mining can be done with just one Miner, but make it a priority to grab the deposits as quickly as you can. The speed of the miners will be of great help to keep them safe from harm, but still be careful and protect them whenever necessary.
The gold reserve may be the easiest one to snatch first, and maybe the northwest coal could also be grabbed quickly before you kill the enemies up there. A sensible strategy is to recruit about 2 keepfuls of units and get to the crossroad area quickly. The goblins are numerous but weak. The trick here is to hold the northeast against Troll Whelps and Ogres, the southeast against more Whelps and Rocklobbers and still have enough units to kill all the goblins.
The AI tends to avoid attacking your Runesmiths/Thursagan when they are on good defensive ground. You can use this to your advantage when clogging up passageways.
Remember to move your Miner to and from the deposits as quickly as possible. In general, the order of things to do besides that is:
- Get your troops into the middle clearing and dig in.
- Kill the goblins and their leader.
- Kill the last of the wave from the northeast and reinforce the southeast.
- Move some of your forces to finish the northeast leader and the rest to reinforce the southeast.
- Push to the southeast (there are villages down here) and get the last leader.
The easiest order to get the deposits is probably gold, northwest coal, southeast coal.
In 1.8.2 on the Steelclad (Challenging) difficulty the ogres and goblins fight each other, so you can let them weaken each other while you go south and slaughter the trolls there. Once you've dealt with the south trolls you can use the villages there to heal your troops before going north to finish the survivors (most likely the ogres, as the goblins are too weak). If you choose this strategy be careful not to spend too much time waiting for the fighting in the north to end.
[Thrash: In my experience the enemies seemed to prefer fighting each other instead of the player's units. If you just hang back a turn or two, they will starting fighting and then you can pick off weak units for XP and wade in after a couple turns when they've weakened each other. Also, recruiting 3 miners makes things much easier in turns of time (I wouldn't be surprised if it was impossible with one miner on hard).]
Hills of the Shorbear Clan
- Objectives: Defeat the dwarf leader and have all heroes in the cave while no enemies are in it.
- Lose if: Rugnur, Alanin, Krawg, Thursagan or Durstorn die or time runs out.
- Turns: 24.
- Starting units: Rugnur, Alanin, Baglur, Krawg, Thursagan, Durstorn, two new loyal units—a Thunderguard and a Steelclad.
Since Durstorn started a fight, you have to kick the dwarves out of their cave. The problem is that some elves show up and start fighting you too. So you have to take over the cave and kick everyone else out.
You can use Krawg and another Gryphon to go around the map and flag lots of villages. You'll get lots of gold and can use that to recruit a couple of fresh units if you need after you capture the Shorbears' keep.
The scenario is pretty straightforward. When fighting the dwarves use the terrain to your advantage. A dwarf on a mountain tile is only hit 30% of the time... unless you are attacking with a Runesmith/Runemaster. Their magical attacks (70% chance to hit) can make all the difference. Once you are in the cave and fighting off the elves, seal up the exits when you can. Now all you need to do is wipe out any stragglers and you are done.
[Mal Shubertal: There is no early finish bonus in this scenario, but there is a 40% gold carryover. Due to many loyal units (especially if you recall your runesmiths from last scenario) and many villages in the cave, you can accumulate a lot of gold if you delay the ending as long as possible. The scenario ended a few turns early for me because the last elf in the cave accidentally killed himself against my Thunderer; this could have been avoided by leaving Krawg just outside the cave until turn 24.]
Towards the Caves
- Move Rugnur to the north-east cave entrance.
- Move Alanin to the southern border east of the river.
- Lose if: Rugnur, Alanin, Krawg or Thursagan die or time runs out.
- Turns: 12.
- Starting units: Rugnur, Baglur, Krawg, Thursagan and Alanin.
It is important to realize that the two objectives do not need to be accomplished simultaneously; once Alanin touches the southern border, east of the river, he disappears and his part is done. So, you can just send him straight south from turn 1. Have him go along the western edge of the river and cross over when he is at the bottom. The southeastern elves really don't like Alanin, so be careful not to attract too much attention. (Note that you can use that to your advantage to slow the advance of those elves).
This scenario is an exercise in holding a defensible position. The problem is that position has six entrances and you are up against a bunch of level 2 attackers. Recruit 2 or 3 keeps full of soldiers, sneak Alanin and Rugnur out (maybe with a few units, perhaps Gryphons, for cover and village flagging), and dig in. Rotate your units and try not to lose too many. Since most of the attackers are level 2, you can level some units with a couple of kills. Stay on good defensive ground and don't try anything crazy. It is also possible to win by killing all the leaders, but good luck with that.
[Thrash: I found just running for it worked for me. Alanin is able to make it to the southern edge before any elves can reach him by running down the west bank and crossing over. For Rugnur I recruited 6 sacrificial scouts and used them to screen the northern elves and Rugnur was able to make the cave with the elves on his heels.]
[Sojourner: With WN 10.0, running Alanin south down the west side of the river worked like a charm. I ran Thurgasin into the NW caves to keep him safe. The tricky part was getting Rugnur to the NE cave. Since even a single hex makes the differance, I could only recruit one keep load and then Rugnur had to start running on turn-1. Level 1 scouts as a screen didn't work because the Elvish archers slaughtered them. I used a full keep of Level 1 griffins (all ultimately sacrificed) as a screen, and had Rugnur go through the 5-hex of mountains to the East (32/10). But it was very close because I had to use Krawg at the last to help screen, yet not allow him to get zone-locked and killed. Possible, but tricky.]
Outriding the Outriders
- Objectives: Reach the outpost in the south.
- Lose if: Alanin dies or time runs out.
- Turns: 12.
- Starting units: Alanin.
Your mission is to run south as quickly as possible. The Elvish Outriders will easily catch up with Alanin and defeat him, all things being equal - Alanin has 9 MP, while the Outriders have 10 MP and 11 MP for the quick ones. Plus, there are six of them (on Medium difficult) and one of you... in fact, if four or five of the Outriders reach Alanin at once, he's likely to be killed even starting out with full HP. An encounter with just one or two Outriders is survivable - but you'll have to make sure to shake them the next turn.
Luckily, the stout Wesnothi Yeoman rises to the occasion, equipping L1 loyalist units and sending them out from every village you flag. 2-3 units will come out - Spearmen and Bowmen - to help you against the elves. They will, unfortunately, be mostly cannon fodder, so don't worry about keeping them for later in the campaign, or leveling them etc. They will have exactly one function: Slowing down the Elves.
To prevent the Elves from catching Alanin, the trick is to maneuver your village-supplied units so that their ZOC intersects' the Outriders' direct routes, requiring them to take longer ones and/or to pass unfavorable terrain (Frozen, Hills) to get around the ZOC. If you manage this consistently (which you should be able to - that's what the level is designed for after all) - Alanin should have no more than a brush or two with the Outriders.
Use Ctrl+V to see where the Outriders can reach, and be careful not to ignore alternative routes you might have missed. Also, never attack with the villager units unless they've somehow gotten behind the riders; even then - better not to attack, try and flank them, and hope they attack you, rather than waste your unit's life to reduce an Outrider's HP. Only if you're pretty sure you can kill one can you consider an attack (and that's not very likely to happen).
Note that the Outriders seem to be quite fascinated with killing villagers, and their presence is distracting; they're likely to take their time and kill any villagers one of them encounters rather than splitting up and having some riders go forward to catch you.
On the first turn, you can reach one of two villages. If you're gotten the message so far, you know which one you want to flag: The farther one to the South.
Alanin can and should reach the Southern Output by turn 10. You only have 12 turns, so don't get any funny ideas about taking detours or backtracking.
- Objectives: Get Rugnur, Thursagan and Krawg to the end of the tunnel; then move Thursagan to the forge and defend him for 9 turns
- Lose if: Rugnur, Thursagan or Krawg die
- Turns: Unlimited.
- Starting units: Rugnur, Thursagan, Krawg, and Baglur.
Malevolent Dwarves and Elves will come from the west in great numbers - of L2 and L3 units - and attack relentlessly and mercilessly. As the dialog suggests, trying to make a stand in your initial keep would be practically impossible, and your obvious choice is to recruit/recall as much as you can in the first turn - preferring quick units perhaps, then flee by going East, then South, and onwards through the tunnel as quickly as the zigzag path allows.
You have to cover a lot of terrain, but the path is easy to follow, and at its end you will reach a small cavern where you will find a forge where the Sceptre can be built. That is a good place to finally make your stand, as the entrance to the cavern is 2-unit wide with a fortification (castle hexes). Until then, your job is to move quickly, dealing with bats coming from the cave, and with the Dwarves approaching from behind. The elves move slower than some of the Dwarves, but will not be far behind - since they have Outriders (10 MP), and some of the tunnel has flat terrain in the middle on which they could make up for their slow Cave-terrain movement.
Regarding the Bats, these are typically be a minor annoyance, except that in this case there are quite lots of them, and they might block your path, slowing you down and bringing the Dwarvish enemies closer. They are, of course, susceptible to the Runesmiths' magical attack; don't worry too much about getting hit by them - just make sure you get the kill, or they'll hinder you for yet another turn. They are mostly L0 Vampire Bats - which don't exert a ZOC and can be bypassed; but you do get the occasional L1 Blood Bat (probably more of these on Hard), which you'll need to attend to quickly. Khrakrahs the dragon might come out onto his lava lake - but there is no use in killing it; just move past it and let the elvish army deal with it later. That also means you shouldn't get close to the edge of the lava lake, unless you miss the smell of roast Dwarf.
The biggest challenge from the Dwarves behind you are actually not the powerful L3 Lords, but rather - the squad of L2 Berserkers. Individually, your L3 units and probably even your Steelclads could handle them fine; but once one of them has softened you up, the second one will move in for the kill, and his chances are quite good; not to mention what happens if a Berserker catches one of your Thunderer units (never mind which level), or an L2 of any kind. You won't outrun them all the way: Some, or most, of them are quick (5 MP), while some of your units are 4 MP. Plus, once they do catch up to you, they will slow down even the units they haven't killed. This is where a few good and health Dwarvish Lords are useful, to soak up that damage and not let them get to the rest of your force. Runemasters may also be relevant.
After the Berserkers go out, the next dangerous chasers will likely be Dwarvish Dragonguards - which will be quite dangerous for the very units you had as a read-guard against the Berserkers. But - you're more likely to outrun them.
Once you finally reach the forge, you may choose to move Thursagan into it quickly, in which case he disappears and the rest of your mission is to survive for 9 more turns, or you can play it patiently and milk as much as experience as you can (if you can manage without him for 9. In this case, don't move Thursagan into the forge yet, and make sure to advance him up to level 4 if you haven't done so already.
- Don't bother trying to send units South-West from your initial keep. They'll just get slaughtered (or have to escape but with their enemies closer by).
- Sometimes, your enemies pause to attack a bat. Don't assume they'll always do that.
- Some players recruit/recall several Dwarvish Guardsman, Stalwarts or Sentinels, which may kill a few of the Berserkers and hold the initial keep for a couple of turns before being run over, while other units escape further.
- Some players pick a decent, though non-ideal, spot in the tunnel and just make a stand there, rotating wounded units.
- Some players suggest - running until you're past the wide spot where you first see the dragon, and then instead of making a stand or continuing your run, starting delay tactics with some damage-soakers/sacrificials, while you race Thursagan to the forge.
Expect to lose/sacrifice some number of units, regardless of your choice of strategy.
Caverns of Flame
- Objectives: Move onto the glyph that makes the volcano erupt; then kill all the elves
- Lose if: Rugnur, Thursagan or Krawg die.
- Turns: Unlimited.
- Starting units: All of your available units, including your entire recall list.
You start with your entire army and won't have any real chance to recruit any new units. What you start with is all you get. The cave is populated by Trolls and a few Orcish Warriors guarding the glyph. Your job is to get onto the glyph and then kill all the elves.
After a turn or two a bunch of dwarves and elves appear at the mouth of the cave (so get your units moving). Just like in the last scenario the elves move very slowly so you'll fight the dwarves separately from the elves. Keep your force together. You face a lot of strong enemies and will need to rotate all your troops to prevent too much attrition. Take advantage of the fact that you are fighting so many level 2 and 3 units to level any of your troops that still can improve.
One way to play this scenario is to move everyone to the westernmost cavern. It has a good bottleneck to hold the dwarves at and plenty of villages to heal. Once you are dug in, send Rugnur, Thursagan (who is an absolute badass now that he has the Sceptre of Fire) and a few other units south to the glyph. Kill the orc guards and step on the glyph. Once you do that you are instructed to kill all the elves before they escape. Luckily for you, stepping on the glyph also unleashes the Troll Warriors behind the elves. The elves have no chance. The trolls will quickly slaughter them. You can help if you want, but the end is inevitable. Make sure Thursagan and Rugnur don't fall in lava.
To keep Krawg out of trouble you can move him onto one of the lava squares. There are several which are only accessible/attackable by flying units. There are no flying enemies so Krawg will be safe.
Don't worry about the Troll Warriors. They cannot get out until you step on the glyph. By that time it probably doesn't matter.
A much more direct approach is to simply ignore the trolls coming from the internal caves. Use a few units to slow them down (guardsmen are very effective) and move your heavy hitters south directly into the glyph chamber. Kill the guards as quickly as possible and take defensive positions around the glyph while watching the elves and trolls fight each other. When you're ready, step on the glyph and unleash the Troll Warriors on the elves. Then it's only a matter of surviving until the elves are slaughtered. You might suffer some losses, but as long as the heroes survive it doesn't matter. If the elves don't get entirely wiped out in a few turns, the cave will end up entirely covered in lava, killing everyone. Either way, you win and proceed to the campaign's Epilogue.
[AS: I found Shadowblack’s alternative strategy to be a better one—with the first strategy you end up fighting a slow battle getting through the trolls in the west, while more trolls and the dwarves & elves are coming up the east and north. This puts you in a bad position made worse by the fact that you have to send Thursagan south to kill the guards and activate the rune.]