Monday, January 30, 2012

The Ninja Bomb

Today I am writing about the Council strategy I call the "Ninja Bomb".  It's one of the most powerful Council configurations you can use.  It involves a dual-wielding Ninja, sitting next to your priest safely within your territory, and a heavily armed Knight with a Shield and Helm deep in enemy territory.

The Knight has 1440 health, 40% armor and 20% magic resist.  This makes it virtually unkillable in a single turn to just about everything in the game.  Think about it, 1440 health can withstand:

  • 5 hits from any 200 damage unit (600 or 800 damage)
  • 5 hits from any 200 damage unit even when it's standing on a Red Sword (900 or 1200 damage)
  • 5 hits from any 300 damage unit (900 or 1200 damage)
  • ANY unit spawned in from the spawn locations.  An Archer/Impaler spawned in, given a weapon, and then a scroll.  (Spawn, weapon, scroll, attack, attack is 1800 damage, exactly 1080 after resists).  The only exception to this is a Ninja.  If your enemy still has their Ninja, just don't end your turn next to a spawn point.

Once you have your Knight in enemy territory, and your Ninja safely on your side, you can set up turns that look something like:
1. Swap Ninja and Knight
2. Ninja Attack
3. Ninja Attack
4. Stomp
5. Swap Knight back in for Ninja

If your Knight is injured, you can substitute a priest heal for Actions 2-4.  If there's no risk of healer intervention you can skip the stomp.

In pretty much every game I play as the Council I try to set up a good Ninja Bomb situation.  More and more of my Council opponents are doing it as well.  And, as this screenshot shows, a lot of my Council-Council games have double Ninja Bomb setups.  In this screenshot you can see my opponent has planted a Knight deep in my base, and I have my Knight (I haven't drawn a helm yet) in his endzone.

A few Ninja Bomb tips

  • If you can end your Knight on red swords, the Ninja can do some crazy damage when he pops in.  A Ninja standing on a Red sword can 1-shot 800 health units.
  • Ending your turn on the enemy shield is incredibly effective as well, it renders your Knight completely immune to everything short of Archers standing on red squares.
  • Use your Knight's knockback to set up favorable positioning for a future turn
  • Enemy archers are typically the biggest threat, get up in their face to make it difficult for them to shoot for maximum damage.
  • Sometimes the best approach isn't to swap, but rather run straight in with your Ninja, and then on a subsequent turn you can port in a Wizard or an Archer to apply damage from the front while you continue to set up devastating bomb configurations.
  • Swapping for a second Knight back at home can allow you to keep up pressure at opportune moments without having to stop and heal.

Playing against Ninja Bomb

  • Sometimes you can suicide a unit with a weapon and a scroll to dash directly at the ninja and stomp it.  If you ever get this opportunity, take it.  Losing a few units to take out a sworded Ninja is almost always worth it.
  • Try not to have any of your units end their turn next to the Knight.  You opponent wants nothing more than to port in and already be in melee range of a target.
  • Even though you can't take the Knight out in a single turn, try to plink a little bit of damage onto the Knight.  Do NOT shoot the knight more than twice if you can't kill it.  Your opponent will simply laugh and heal the damage away with a priest.  But if you spend 1 or 2 actions to plink the Knight your opponent will be forced to use an action to priest-heal it.  This will make it fairly difficult to have enough actions to stomp and still get the Ninja out to safety.  If your opponent doesn't keep the Knight topped off, the Knight will eventually be in health range to be bursted down.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winning with a Wraith that never attacked

I recently lost a Hero Academy a game to an Empowered Wraith that never took a swing.


Here was the early board position about 4 turns in:

I'm playing purple on the left, and my enemy is orange on the right.  As you can see, the enemy Wraith at position A was pre-scrolled.  Pre-scrolling means my opponent had used a scroll on his Wraith but had not yet attacked with the Wraith. To be clear, generally speaking you almost never want to pre-scroll.  Pre-scrolling

  • Gives up the element of surprise
  • Leaves your unit vulnerable to being pre-emptively attacked and killed without you ever gaining the benefit of the scroll.  
  • vs. Dark Elves even if you can't be killed, it presents your opponent with an opportunity to hit with a Priestess debuff your pre-scrolled unit.  The Priestess debuffs any unit she attacks to deal 50% less damage on it's next attack, which means the 50% damage debuff will mess up your pre-scrolled attack.
In this case, however, pre-scrolling the Wraith made a lot of sense because it set up the potential to
Action 1. Move out
Action 2. Kill an enemy in swing
Action 3. Devour
Action 4. Move back to safety

This even leaves 1 extra action to spare which can be used for an extra move at the front or back of the action set, or an extra attack as needed.

To compensate, I positioned all of my units to be outside striking range of the empowered Wraith.  The Orange area is how far the Wraith can get in 1 move, the Purple area is after 2 moves and the Red area are all the spots the Wraith could melee attack on Action 3.

Here I was thinking I was so smart for staying free of the Wraith's zone of control, denying him the sweet use of his scroll and Wraith.  The problem?  The Wraith threat created such a huge sphere of influence, it enabled the rest of his army free reign over the board.  My opponent used my passivity to attack my crystals directly with Sworded Sorcerer from position A and B.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit, but the game ended about 5 turns later from continuous crystal damage. I spent so long trying to maneuver around the empowered Wraith, I wasn't putting enough pressure on his other units.  When I finally realized the imminent threat of continuous crystal damage, it was too late to do anything about it.

In essence, the threat of the Empowered Wraith over multiple turns was far greater than the damage I would have incurred if I had simply allowed the Wraith to attack and devour one of my units.

I would have been far better off rushing forward with multiple units at once, allowing the Wraith to devour, accepting the loss but putting forth serious pressure in return.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hero Academy: Using a Knight's knockback against itself

When playing against enemy knights, be aware that their knockback is often an impediment to them dishing out damage.

Here is a situation I found myself in recently.

I am playing the White Dark Elves, we're near the end of the game.  Based on my current game state my Wraith needs 2 swings to kill the Wizard.

My goal for this turn will be to kill the Wizard, munch on him and survive retaliation from the Knight. This is going to require 5 actions:
1. Move
2. Move
3. Wraith Attack
4. Wraith Attack
5. Nom

I'll abbreviate this as M-M-A-A-Nom

My first move is obviously to get closer.

But after my first move, from which direction should I attack?  2a or 2b?  Instinctively many players would attack from 2a.  First, there is a bias to position yourself closer to your side of the battlefield, closer to potential reinforcements, etc.  Secondly, since you are trying to avoid the Knight, without thinking about it too much, 2a sounds like a reasonable place to go since it seems "farthest" from the Knight. Here is a shot of what my Wraith would look like if I attack from 2a.

At the end of this, I'm going to be standing with one open space between my Wraith and the Knight. The Knight has a sword and deals 300 damage per swing.  As we can see, my Wraith will have 895 health and since Wraiths have no armor, the Knight only needs 3 swings to kill me.  Now if my opponent takes a naive approach and walks straight up to me and swings, trying to kill me, the Knight will fail because of the knockback.  Since every swing will knock my Wraith back, my Wraith will survive the round.  (M-A*-M-A*-M where A* represents attacks that caused a knockback)  However, my opponent may be a bit clever and position the Knight south of my Wraith and use the wall to negate the knockback.

As you can see from this diagram, moving into position 2a allows a clever opponent to use the wall to get the full 3 swings on my Wraith to kill it.  M-M-A-A-A

To circumvent this, position 2b is actually the correct attack angle. If I attack from position 2b, the Knight no longer has a good angle to attack in a way that negates his own knockback.

With my Wraith in this position, the Knight's knockback will always work against him.  If the Knight approaches from either the west or the north (or a truly silly attack from the east) then every other attack will cause a knockback, pushing my Wraith away, forcing the Knight to walk forward to close the gap before he can swing again.
1. Move
2. Attack (Knockback)
3. Move
4. Attack (Knockback)
5. Move

The Knight could try to attack from the south but that still doesn't give the Knight enough swings within 5 actions.  M-M-A*-M-A

Hope this little tip helps!  See you all in game!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Empires and Allies tips

So I've been playing a lot of Empires & Allies lately. Here are some tips I've figured out:
  • Energy maximization is typically what you're trying to do. Longer contracts on Oil, Lumber and Farms gives the best return on your energy point, but those longer contracts demand larger amounts of land space. You want to balance your contract length with your available land space. Generally speaking you want to aim to use the longest contract on every building for maximum energy efficiency
  • You want to be energy efficient because the fastest levelling actually comes from combat. While almost every activity in the game converts energy into experience at a 1:1 ratio, combat gives a roughly 175% return in converting energy into experience. This is because of the crit rate which seems to be ~30% against "Great Targets". Crits reward an energy back, which basically means free experience. Crit kills reward 3 experience and 2 extra energy.
  • Try to aim to hit 0 energy just as you're about to level, since levelling up gives a free energy refill you want to make sure you're maximizing that bonus.
  • If people gift you energy, don't use it right away! We all have real life events that limits when we can be in front of the computer, but you really want to time your level-ups to happen when you are at 0 energy, so hoard your energy gifts and use them when you're just a few energy short of a level-up. This minimizes wasted energy due to do other life activities by allowing you to level up at a time that's convenient to sit and play.
  • Clicking on houses is a sucker bet, dont' ever do it. You're basically turning 1 energy into 1 XP + 200-400 coins which is a terrible conversion rate. After level 6 your click is worth at least 1 XP + 1000 coins, if you're not getting at least that much value - don't do it.
  • If you're clicking to queue up a bunch of commands and you accidentally click on a building you didn't mean to click on (such as a house) click the Red "X" cancel button in the bottom right corner, this will complete the current command but then clear out the command queue.
  • Clicking on consecutive "loot icons" such as coins and xp that come out of buildings can chain. You've probably noticed the bonus meter in the top right. You want to maximize this for maximum coins. Keep track of where your tractor is, if your tractor needs to move a long way to reach the next click location, hold off on picking up the loot until your bonus meter flashes red a few times, then pick up the loot to keep the bonus meter filling. This should give your tractor enough time to reach it's next destination.
  • Government buildings take a long time to process and will kill your chaining bonus. The easiest way I've found to deal with this is to play in full screen and try to get my Government building and a regular buliding on a different island on the screen at the same time (or scroll back and forth a lot). As you tell a tractor to use the government building, switch over quickly to your second island and start farming there to keep your chain bonus going. Then, when the government building is done, pick up the loot there.
  • Land is at a premium! Military units take up space! When you take a unit out of a barracks/hanger/port instead of placing it in the world, click the red "X" button in the bottom right, that will stash the unit in your inventory! It is now available for combat but doesn't take up any space
  • If you end up placing military units to complete quests, or you have old military units that are in the world for whatever reason, you can either sacrifice them in a war or just sell them to free up space.
  • In early levels, you get so much resources from repulsing an attack, you actually want to be attacked by something weak enough to fend off. The best way to get attacked is to put a bunch of juice targets in the middle of your island and don't defend it. Wait for somebody to attack you, then push them off your island and collect your defense bonuses. Caution, as you get higher up in levels and the units become more costly, the loss of units will start to cost more than the repulsion payoff.
  • There are a few ways to influence what other people will attack
  • 1. If your island is full of defenders except for one region which has no defenders, opponents will tend to attack the region that has no defenders. For this reason it can be useful to set up a set of buildings that you don't care about that much so that fighting can happen there without affecting the rest of your operation. In my case, I deliberate don't defend my houses because I never click my houses, and I'd be totally thrilled if somebody attacked them.
  • 2. People tend to fight on your main island, all things being equal. If you put a juicy target in the middle of your main island, that's the first thing people will see. I put a set of undefended government buildings in a cluster on my main island as a juicy target. This is because somebody camping my government buildings doesn't really interfere with the rest of my plan.
  • 3. If you have defenders EVERYWHERE, people will still attack you. People tend to ignore defenders because ultimately the attacker has so many advantages in Empires and allies in terms of choosing what units to attack with and having the option to use power-ups. So if you do have defenders everywhere, you still need to pay attention to which part of your island is the juiciest target for other people. If you have a buildng you care about and click a lot like an Ore Mine II or something, set it off to the side, in the corner of your second island, so that it's not as likely to be attacked.
  • When you are attacking somebody else, the units that are left at the end of combat are the units that the defender needs to defeat in order to kick you off. This has been emperically tested. So if you really want to try and hold your aggressive stance, use big units.
  • However - if you are attacking a friend and simply want to farm resources and black hearts, attack with weak units, or less than your full army. This is a kind and considerate thing to do so that you're easy to kick off. I will often try to gauge my attack army so that I end the battle with the smallest possible force so that it's easy for my friend to repulse me.
  • If you really want to get fancy, set up an agreement with a friend to attack each other using minimal units. The goal here is to farm more resources out of attacking each other than the cost of what you're losing.
  • Even better is to set up a Camp Treaty. I'm making that term up now. You heard it here first! A Camp Treaty is where you each agree to attack the other person but NOT repulse the other person from your island and more importantly, do not accept offers from other people to help repulse your friend off the island. Have you ever visisted a neighbour to see a red "attacker" that you can't interact with? That icon means that the person was attacked, but repulsed by another neighbour, but the island owner hasn't yet accepted the help. The catch is that the aggressor can still farm the defender every 4 hours until the defender agrees to accept help. You and your Camp Treaty partner are now camping each other's base and collecting free resources and Infamy every 4 hours without every having to spend action points.
  • If you have a Camp Treaty, set it up as a 3x3 grid of whatever your treaty partner wants, usually Ore. If you set up 9 ore mines that means you're basically getting 45 ore every 4 hours for free.
  • Additionally, you do not even need to finish the ore mines for your Camp Treaty. Just lay down the 3x3 grid of ore mine foundations - your attacker will get full benefit for attacking even placed foundations (in this way it cost you 0 energy to lay)
  • In combat, you don't want to match up unit counters exactly. For example, if your opponent has 4 paper and 1 rock, you do not want to play 4 scissors and 1 paper. You'd think that your units are exactly lined up to counter the enemy units, but this is actually suboptimal. The truth is that you already know you are going to win this battle, so your goal isn't to "win more", your goal is to minimize your losses. If you run with a 4 scissors and 1 paper loadout, then the opposing papers are going to choose your lone paper to attack. (Units tend to attack the enemy unit they have the most advantage against. Note that this isn't 100% of the time, but it's a rule of thumb). The likely outcome of such a battle is that you'll win but your paper will be dead. A better lineup is to run with 2 scissors and 3 paper. You attack the Rock with your paper early, and the most likely response is the enemy rock will attack your scissors. However, the damage will be divided roughly evenly between your two scissors units. You kill the rock before losing any units, then use your remaining 2 scissors to attack the 4 papers. The 4 papers will likely divide their damage evenly between your 3 paper, and because of your combat advantage you are likely to end the battle with 0 losses