In my last article, Caesar for Rookies, Part II, you learned how to level your buildings unevenly, scout for a deadly blue horse, and begin collecting prestige in PvP battles. You should have completed the Heavenly Scourge Legion. In this article, we will discuss how to complete the Hundred Years War campaign, meet your five new best friends, and advance to Sarajevo r40.
For ease of reference, I will sometimes abbreviate Double Horse as H2, and Horse and Blade as H&B.
The Hundred Years' War in a Week
After Part II, you are no doubt spending some time plundering your high value opponents in King Arthur and Charlemagne. You should be ignoring green, white and gray targets and focusing your firepower on blue, purple, orange and red targets. If you are attacking green, white or gray targets, you are wasting valuable banners that could be spent on campaign armies or legions. A single blue target is worth 2.5x a white target, so you must remain focused on getting powerful, not on skirmishing in the weeds. I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT INVEST TO GAIN PRESTIGE. The only exception is if you need a nudge into a valuable prestige tier like 20000 or 43000, and you are out of banners and cannot fight. Even then I would still advice waiting. Investing to gain prestige will raise your notoriety (color) level, making you more valuable for enemy players to kill. More importantly, investing in your region is also a colossal waste of silver. Your silver should be focused on making your key gear more powerful. I am presenting a fast play strategy, but this is one area where you must be patient. Make your gear more powerful until you can defeat worthwhile PvP enemies, period. Your goal is to become a powerful warrior, not to fake it.
Your buildings and important research categories should all be 30 now. It's okay if your two sets of Gold Armor are +20 to +25, and if your cloaks are only +15 to +20. Your two most important pieces of attack gear should be +25 to +30. If you are using Double Horse, this will be your two Rare blue horses (Darded Destrier or Armored Destrier) for Alfred and Mulan. Note that you should always level Mulan's horse in preference over Alfred's, unless they are more than 5 levels apart. If you are using Horse and Blade, the recommended approach, your two key items are your single Nomad Bow for Saladin and your blue horse for Mulan. Boudica, Mulan and Saladin should be level 30. If you are using Double Horse, Alfred should be level 30 as well. We don't really care about the expendable heroes or their levels.
Now is the time to begin your assault on the Hundred Years' War. You can begin it early if you like, but it will go much, much faster if you reach level 25-30 first. Fight for prestige there until you reach the above milestones. Now that you are powerful, you must drive aggressively for the first of your new best friends: La Hire. You will get La Hire early in HYWL, and he is an extremely valuable ally. La Hire inflicts almost no damage, but his value is as a tank. Get his tokens, and equip him with good armor and a decent cloak. In Double Horse, your lineup will now be Boudica, La Hire, Mulan, Alfred. Drop Saladin and bid him a fond farewell. For Horse and Blade, your lineup will now be Boudica, La Hire, Saladin and Mulan.
The Beauty of Ugly
La Hire isn't a flashy hero, but that's really the point. His entire purpose in your formation is to die slowly. That's it. He doesn't inflict damage, he has no gambit, and his war wagons are really pretty ugly. But for our friend the Frenchman, ugly is beautiful, because La Hire's unique brand of ugly is useful.
You will change your formation depending on your opponent, but La Hire provides three important roles: blocking, splitting and outside stall. Blocking is the easiest to understand, you simply put La Hire in front of a more important hero in your formation. This works best in campaign, or when your PvP opponents only have single-attack heroes like Astolpho or Sir Kay. Their attacks will be absorbed by your big wall of iron, giving your other hero considerable protection.
La Hire can save you even if your opponents have row attack heroes who can strike behind him, like Fierabras or Jochi with a Durandal. You do this by splitting, placing La Hire in the vertical center of your formation. When you know which formation each of your enemies prefers (Serpent or Sickle is likely), you employ the following approach. You generally want to have an inverted formation versus your opponent. This means Sickle vs. Serpent, and Serpent vs. Sickle. Your two key heroes go opposite wherever the row attacker is in the enemy formation. La Hire goes in the middle, and your most expendable hero or a high siege defense hero goes against Fierabras or Jochi. This reduces the row attack hero to damaging only one of your heroes, and when they reach La Hire, their attacks will take many turns to get through to your opposite two heroes. Hopefully it takes long enough that your key attackers have time to finish off the enemy formation in the opposite direction. It's important to understand that your key attackers in gambit go together. That is, Boudica is paired with Mulan. In H&B, Saladin is a good choice to face Fierabras and Jochi, because he will inflict damage 1:1, reducing their ability to grind through subsequent heroes. In H2, you will probably end up sacrificing Alfred because his strike pattern is less optimal. The exception to this case is Cluster formation, which forms an upside down Y shape, requiring a row attack to reach the rear of the enemy formation. There, Alfred is more valuable than Mulan.
The third type of shielding is the most complex, but it is extremely powerful when used correctly. Sometimes a clever PvP opponent will put Fierabras as the tail of the Serpent, or the top of the Sickle. In this situation, if you try to use splitting, you will place two heroes in the line of fire, against the exposed yet powerful ballista. This is opposite of what you want. Outside stall is an effective technique here. You match formations with your opponent, placing La Hire opposite the lonely ballista. Now you have stalled your opponent's most powerful attacker. Mulan, Boudica and Alfred/Saladin should make efficient work of the rest of the enemy formation.
So now that you've got the plain yet servicable La Hire, you're ready to make another important move.
In fast play, most players are level 30 when they obtain La Hire. You will notice that the Best 5 records will be in the 24-26 range, but we are riding a race horse, not watching a glacier move. At some point very soon, your level 30 heroes won't be able to keep advancing through the Hundred Years' War campaign. Most likely this will happen when you reach Gilles de Rais, the French hero who fell from grace and became an unholy sorceror of the occult. Gilles has a powerful magical attack which your heroes cannot defend against. Maybe you can defeat him, maybe not, but it doesn't really matter. In fast play, you will eventually stop advancing long before you reach Joan of Arc.
You have probably gotten comfortable in Bari. You are a hard level 30 now, meaning your buildings, key research, gear and heroes are all close to +30. You probably have some favorite PvP targets to attack--blue and purple players, perhaps even orange and red, who are giving you 250-500 prestige. It's tempting to just sit back and relax here, and switch to glacier mode on campaign. But you are a warrior for Caesar, and you must grow even more powerful to serve Rome!
Therefore, you will be moving up to Sarajevo r40. Sarajevo unlocks several new features, including the Mint and taking subjects. The Mint is useful for increasing your chances to receive 10 gold when collecting tax silver. Gold is a handy tool in fast play, particularly for double-speed training. You can also take subjects now, earning 10% of their taxes. Most likely you will be pounced upon as soon as you enter Sarajevo, but don't worry, being a subject doesn't cost you anything. Many players work with their alliance to arrange an overlord and a subject before they even move up another city range. It is important to try and keep the bonus silver within your alliance.
At level 36, you will encounter a new challenge--you now lose banners for defeats. This will make campaign more difficult. Since your battle cooldown is fast relative to the rate that your heroes and gear can advance, players tend to move through campaign until they reach a roadblock opponent. Typically this is an elite army prior to a boss. I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT slam yourself repeatedly against a campaign army that you cannot defeat. A narrow defeat is going to put you immediately against an even more difficult army, and you are piling up reserves losses and losing grain. It is much, much better to be patient. If you get stopped twice by the same army, stop fighting. Level your key gear at least three levels. You are aiming for overkill here. While you are leveling gear, locate PvP opponents that you can defeat for prestige. In fast play, you must maximize your precious banners, because you only receive 24 per day.
Reserves are also a problem when you first move up. Your opponents will probably have 10 levels on you. A 40 vs. 30 battle is absolutely doomed, which is why most players use empty formation when they move up. Empty PvP form means that you remove all heroes from a formation, and then set that as your red formation. Remember, your goal is to become powerful more quickly. Losing large amounts of troops makes you weaker. Rise to level 40 as efficiently as possible, using the techniques described in Caesar for Rookies, Part II. Then pause for some more PvP mayhem.
I will make one additional note on Research here. At level 35, you unlock the Book of Prayers, which provides basic defense against magical attacks. Your King Arthur opponents will almost certainly be using Sir Kay. The Book of Prayers is your only defense against his leech attack. You would be well advised to push it to at least level 20, temporarily prioritizing it over the other research areas.
Once you have reached Level 40, you will be ready to obtain the second of your five new best friends. Proceed to the end of Hundred Years War and defeat Joan of Arc. Note that this fight is far easier if you are already using Octavian, but it is also straightforward to win at level 40 with Double Horse and Horse & Blade. Collect Joan's tokens and start her training. Flag bearers are the key to supercharging Caesar gambit attacks. Every flag bearer adds +34 to your morale, and takes -5 from the enemy. Two is necessary, and three is even better, just in case.
Stab Them with the Pointy End
You now have an important choice to make. Your final combat configuration for GPL will be Boudica, Jochi, 2 flag bearers and a gambit hero. HYWL offers the legendary sword Hauteclere, which is far more powerful than Durandal or Joyeuse. It is entirely possible to finish GPL using a highly upgraded Epic purple sword. However, all of the elite players in Caesar use a Hauteclere for Jochi. Along with a Legendary orange mount (a War Elephant, Unicorn or Pegasus), Hauteclere is pretty much all the firepower you need to be a solid PvP competitor.
In my opinion, Hauteclere is worth obtaining for two reasons. First, you will keep it for a long, long time. It will get you through the Trojan Warriors campaign, and TWL is where you can obtain the Artifact red weapon Harpe, the sword of Medusa. Second, you need battle points to perform hero enlightenment and Academy research. This is a good place to stockpile points. Devote at least 75% of your daily banners (yes, 18 banners) to fighting only HYWL. Hauteclere drops in 1/10 fragments, and it the process of obtaining drops is notoriously streaky. You will run several days without a single fragment, only to get three in one long session.
Note that you cannot use Hauteclere yet, nor do you have the astounding Jochi. But Hauteclere, or Haute for short, is the third of your five new best friends. Focus all your effort on obtaining it, and the process will go much, much faster. You should keep the Joyeuse you receive for defeating Joan, but don't upgrade it. It is a weapon of last resort--your ideal case is to go straight from the Rare blue Nomad Bow straight to the Legendary orange Hauteclere, jumping over all the Epic purple weapons.
Old School, 1066 A.D. Style
Once you have Hauteclere, you're going to loop back through Heavenly Scourge Legion and take the Norman Conquest branch. Norman Conquest holds the final two of your five new best friends, and you won't get them until the very end. Along with Joan of Arc, William the Conqueror is the second flagbearer in the game, and is absolutely critical if you haven't yet unlocked Octavian at 43000 prestige.
Defeating William at the end of Norman Conquest will provide a complete Robust Neapolitan Horse, or RNH for short. The RNH is a positively lethal tool. If you thought your Rare blue mount was impressive, the Robust Neapolitan Horse will blow you away. The best cloak available to your PvP opponents in r40 is the Rare blue Cloak of the Imperium. The RNH will massively outstrip that cloak's defensive power. Pound for pound, it's actually far worse than Epic purple weapons like Durandal against your Rare blue Gold Armor. If you activate Mulan with Boudica, and then drive her morale to 134 with Joan, it's quite common to destroy 2 or 3 enemy armies in a single blast. Once you get William, her Morale will reach 168.
Three formations become common at this point. One is a pure gambit assault: Boudica, William, Joan and Mulan. Another is your standard H&B: Saladin, Boudica, La Hire, Mulan. The last is Double Mount with Alfred/Attila, Mulan, Boudica/William, Joan.
You can also scout for the Robust Neapolitan Horse using the second horse scout. This is an expensive process, and ultimately unnecessary if you are using Horse & Blade. One trick that I occasionally use involves the Mint. If my gold is 40 or higher, and I get 10 gold, I will use the Impose Tax option after I've exhausted my normal taxes. The gold progression is 2, 3, 4... so you can get an extra three bonus taxes when you receive gold. Even better, that's three more chances to get another 10 gold. If you don't use that trick to scout for a horse, you will probably end up using it occasionally for upgrading Hauteclere.
Fangs a Lot, But No Fangs!
I skipped Transylvania. If you want to see the analysis why, go back to Caesar for Rookies, Part I and read the footnotes. However, there are only 10 armies in TL, so it's really not a huge waste of banners if you choose to go back and blast your way through Transylvania in an afternoon. Do it if it entertains you. I don't know any serious players who use Vlad the Impaler.
The Golden Horde
At some point during Norman Conquest Legion, you may find that you have exhausted your current firepower. Rather than keep investing in a blue horse that you will soon replace, it is probably better to level up again. In my next article, Caesar for Rookies, Part IV, I will discuss the many aspects of Florence r60, including trade, five army formations, obtaining a Legendary mount, and the enormously powerful process of hero Rebirth. All of this is on the road to our buddy Jochi. When you equip a fully enlightened, rebirthed Jochi with a Hauteclere, you will suddenly understand what all the fuss was about.
See you next time in Caesar for Rookies, Part IV!