Strategy Guide for Under The Burning Suns:
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 long. They are not boring, though, as victory conditions typically change several times before the scenario is 'won'.
- 1 Strategic Tips
- 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
Your leader doesn't level up like ordinary units. Every time he reaches max XP, his hitpoints and attack damage will improve a bit, and you're asked what else you want him to learn on top of that, like "become a better swordsman" or "learn to use the bolas". Many abilities become available only after he's learned something else, but you needn't worry: none of the abilities is game-breaking in one way or another, and eventually he'll learn almost all of them. 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"
Some strange meteors have destroyed the homes of our heroes. Kaleh & 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 Mudcrawlers. Since you have no keep in which to recruit, put the Mudcrawlers to the sword and save all the new units. Note that, unlike other campaigns, Giant Mudcrawlers here will not spawn smaller Mudcrawlers 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 Mudcrawlers 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's going to be fighting against you soon enough.
After dealing with the Mudcrawlers and Cuttlefish, keep heading around the lake. The villages on the West 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 Mudcrawlers. You're now ready for bigger game!
Completing the circuit around the lake reveals the destroyed keep on the North side. The King is pronounced dead, Kaleh now leads the tribe. On turn 11, 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"
There are some special rules in effect for this scenario which makes it play quite a bit different than usual. In particular, your refugees don't have enough food or water to sustain them on their journey. 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 if you're careful. If you're not careful, it doesn't matter how many troops you get. During every round that isn't night-time, each of your units will sweat off four hit points [on easy, five for medium and six for hard]. Night isn't safe either, as Ghosts randomly appear to try to pick off your weakest units. I recommend a hedgehog formation of six combat units surrounding Zhul. Even better, bring in another Shaman to stand back to back with Zhul. You can put eight troops around them. That's ten in all. Since you start out with four, six more puts you right where you want to be. Out of those six, one would be the healer i mentioned earlier. Another would be a Scout, the other four could be a mix of Fighters, Archers and Hunters.
Now 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, so the Scout won't be very effective right now. That's okey, we'll be able to free him soon. You should arrive at the second oasis about dusk, and promptly be attacked by Ghosts and Scorpions. Ignore the Ghosts unless you get a chance to deal a killing blow. As of now, your units [other than Garak] are almost useless against them. Besides, they go away on their own. Sometimes the Ghosts will help you by attacking the Scorpions. After you take out the Scorpions, you'll find Traveler's Ring. This artifact will make the designated unit invulnerable from hunger and thirst. Give it to the Scout, now he can take off on his own.
Depending on how much of a beating you took, you might wish to rest in the oasis. For purposes of this scenario, your units heal eight points each turn in the water. It's like a village, only the defense is bad. Units on grass won't don't lose any hit points due to daylight. After you've rested up, reform the hedgehog. The third oasis is West-North-West from here. If you're looking for extra experience, there is supposed to be a group of Ogres north of the oasis, but i haven't seen them. [Michaelan: If you beat the group of ogres here, you'll receive a loyal dust devil. It has a good arcane attack to deal with the undead and will restore 6 HP per turn on sand or dirt terrain.]
The third oasis is guarded by a mixed bag of Bandits,Thugs, Poachers and Trappers. By now you should have leveled up some Heroes and Captains, so it won't be anything you can't handle. The main issue here being the hills that impede your formation. Depending on how effective you are in keeping everybody together, you might have some units go into battle wounded.
When you are done here tack East-North-East to the fourth oasis. Before you get there, you'll meet Elyssa the Fire Mage being attacked by a skeletal army. By all means save her, as she's the only unit you'll have access to this early that's really effective on undead. She can burn out one of these things every turn, just protect her from the counterattacks.
When you arrive at the fourth oasis, you'll find it infested with Ogres. Don't let your units get too tired beating up on them. After the Ogre Chieftain is dead, a Wraith and some Ghosts will take his place unless it is during broad daylight. You will find yourself periodically dogged by these things as you make your way through the campaign. Elyssa really earns her due now.
West-North-West of the castle is a mirage - it only looks like an oasis. If you get anywhere close to the hills roughly centered on the top of the map, you'll trigger a signpost announcing the home of Black Hand bandits. If you see this sign, it means the bad guys have started recruiting. Head due North, then, before his army gets too large. The leader of bandits is called Thorn. When you take him out, he bargains for his life with a vial of Holy Water. This lasts the whole campaign, but is only good for melee, not ranged, weapons. Now you can have TWO units that are useful against undead. I gave it to Nym, though in hindsight Zhul might have been a better choice.
"A Stirring In The Night"
Your goal here is pretty simple: you have to protect the twelve villages of your people from attack on all sides. You can lose up to six villages without being 'defeated', but it's not recommended: the loss of more than three villages will increase your cost to recruit new troops for the rest of the campaign. The first turn you can reasonably expect the Wraith to seize a village, depending on the actions of the AI. Therefore, make sure to have somebody sitting on every village after that. The focus of the two Spectres will initially be on each other, so that might save the villages until your troops get deployed.
Your Lawful forces will be fighting the forces of the undead in a scenario that entirely takes place in the night. You will find that the damage differentials combined with their high resistance to bladed and piercing weapons will keep your elves on the defensive. To counteract this, you'll need to have good luck, plus judicious use of leadership and the slowing effect of your healers and the Hunters' bolas. If any of your Archers have level led up to be Desert Rangers, their Backstab ability comes in handy here.
Since Elyssa moves so slowly in the sand, send her to take out the closer southern Spectre. Garak can accompany her. Zhul and whoever has the Holy Water should head toward the northernmost bonfire, but not rest next to any villages. Your first keep of recruits should include two Scouts. The Wraith will attack Nym or more likely Zhul. Thereafter use the scouts to keep the Wraith pinned down in the light while Nym finishes it off. Zhul will probably need to go to a village to heal after this.
You're unlikely to be able to finish off both the Spectres, but you can have destroyed the southern army and reduced the northern one by turn seven. That's when the Orcish contingent shows up in the mountains. These are certainly easier to deal with - you can properly stab them. Just stay out of the mountains - you lose your defensive advantage the moment you step off the sand. Their leader, Ganthos, has an income, but no keep. If you let him, he will sneak down the western edge of the map and take over yours while his minions ravage your villages. If you are still facing significant numbers of Undead, the Orcs might just decide to attack some of those for you.
Note that Garak is fated to die during this scenario. One of the Spectres will possess Garak in an attempt to continue their duel, this happens even if you have destroyed a Spectre. The surviving Spectre uses some deep magic to block out the dawn, and the victory conditions change to force you to destroy either Garak or the surviving Spectre. If you do take out both Spectres, then dawn happens, but the two still kill Garak to take their revenge on you. If by chance you had given Thorn's Holy Water to Garak, it won't be helping you after this...
"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 [though he's not grateful enough to be Loyal...]. North-West is the exit going toward the objective. North is a Dwarf guarding what turns out to be 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 supposed 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. 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. Recall whatever Sentinels and Prowlers you have at your disposal. If you have the Cold Blade, also recall its owner.
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 the Troll, 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 the Dwarf, 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. I brought back *everybody*, but probably overdid it. 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 messengers, they aren't on the map yet. When they are ready, they will materialize just East of the oasis. After taking them out, you only have a half dozen or so turns to finish off Sergeant Durstrag or another group of messengers will be created. 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! I am going to 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 North-West, 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, you'll need to reserve some gold. 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 [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 holding a Mermaid Enchantress is guarded by a few Walking Corpses/Souless. The other large island in the North-West 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 east-most 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 North-East island. This was inaccessible to non-swimmers, but the merfolk will show you some Shallow Water paths to the island. If you're feeling short-handed, 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. Luckily for me it was still wounded from its last battle. 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 [if you're paying attention] 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. If you're low on gold, though, you might not want the extra overhead for the rest of this scenario. 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 North-West 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 six [well, maybe five and a half] tribes. 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 and a half tribes [i'll cover these from left to right]:
- 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.
- 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.
- On the North-East corner of the island will be a peninsula. There you'll find a Orcish Sovereign recruiting a stiff mix of Orcs and Goblins, nothing under second level.
- 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. Send all your merfolk their way, and recruit a half dozen more to assist. 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.
- Not a tribe per se, but 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. If the bats don't see any likely targets, they will uncapture 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 will most likely parallel just South of the eastern troops. 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. By the time the eastern healer heads off towards the eastern Naga, the elves in the middle group should be ready to unite with the eastern group. The slower ones will make better time by heading up the eastern coast or through the clearing in the center of the island.
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 it accomplishes nothing to send merfolk around to the North. If any undead come to the coast, then merfolk spellcasters could be helpful. However, by the time you are done with the Naga, there shouldn't be any more undead wandering. There's a secret area off the North-West 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 150 gold. We're really not worried about gold anymore, but it still feels good. North-West of the wreck is a sandbar containing another merman in a cage. There are no defenders here, though you will have to deal 10 points of damage to the cage to be able to open it. I'm not convinced it's worth doing this, however. Inside is a Merman Triton who is so badly wounded that it will take many turns of healing before he'll account for much. By that time, the battle will likely all be on land.
You will probably 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!!