Coded blue.

Friday 5 September 2003

Screenshot Master of Magic

Pic of the day: Torin The Chosen, Super Hero, Incarnation of White Magic (and Ye Olde Capitalized Words).

M.o.M life magic strategies

The classic strategy game Master of Magic is so complex, it is no wonder the artificial intelligence has a hard time. Basically it is Civilization combined with Magic: the Gathering. OK, not quite: You don't research science, only magic. But you can't just research the next logical step in the progress of knowledge, like from bronze working to iron working. No, it depends on what colors you have spellbooks in, and how many books. For instance if you don't have green spellbooks, you can never get the Web spell. If you don't have enough sorcery books, you can never get Flight. And so on. Add heroes that can be fitted with magic weapons, and the fact that some spells are cast on ordinary troops while others summon new creatures from beyond ... No, it is no surprise the AI flounders as the game progresses.

For this reason, almost any strategy at all will land you a victory if you survive long enough to implement it. This again depends partly on the difficulty level (at Impossible level, the AI gets a huge head start) and partly on sheer dumb luck, as different terrain is generated for each game.

Some take their joy from developing a perfect strategy and testing it at Impossible level, then rejoicing in justified pride if they win. I've done that too. But more often than not, I will choose a strategy that is less than perfect, and play it on a slightly lower difficulty. I am not at heart a competitive person; I am a builder. Your mileage may vary, but here is a comment on MoM white magic strategy.

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White / Incarnation is one of the acknowledged Super Strategies. Not quite as powerful as Runemaster Artificer I guess, but quite good. Here's how it works: Pick all white spellbooks. This will allow you to choose a rare spell that will definitely be with you from the start. Choose Incarnation. This is like a powerful Summon Champion spell, but it summons a unique champion that is slightly more powerful than other champions (greater heroes). Another difference is that his upkeep is in mana, just like a summoned supernatural creature, rather than gold and food like other heroes.

Be aware that the upkeep is so high (12 mana per turn) that you must have a small reserve even after you spend 500 mana on the summoning. It may be a bad idea to cast this spell from the start of the game, then. Build a few religious structures at the very least. Often you can find mana crystals in dungeons too, but again, it is hard to break those at the beginning of the game, not to mention capturing nodes. Once your mana production exceeds 12, however, it's time to get going!

The incarnation is immune to magic. Most notably, this means that nature-summoned monsters won't be able to harm him. And this is exactly the kind of critters that defend green nodes. The same goes for chaos creatures and red nodes. So you can walk your incarnation into a node and let him stand there till the critters are all dead, then meld a guardian spirit with the node to produce mana. Your incarnation will pay his own upkeep rather quickly! He is also good against death creatures. Let him clean out nodes and dungeons and he will gain XP like wildfire. When he has become sufficiently powerful, send him to your opponent's cities. Sadly, he is vulnerable to Cracks Call, which opens the ground under a unit's feet rather than attacking the unit itself; magic immunity doesn't help against that, and you don't have flight with a pure white wizard. Luckily, you can summon him back for 500 mana, and he will have all the experience he had when he died. If not killed by Cracks Call, he is likely to take out an opponent's capital city all on his own once he has leveled up a few times.

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The downside of a Super Strategy like Incarnation to this is the risk that you might win the game early. That would be a shame, since white magic is one of the best for long games. It has several city improvement spells: Stream of Life doubles population growth, heals all units overnight, and best of all: It eliminates all unrest. If you have Stream of Life in all cities, you can tax them like mad and still keep them happily producing. Speaking of which, the Inspirations spell will increase production by 50%. Add Prosperity to increase money by 50%. What to use all this on? Well, alchemy is always an option: Although you only get 1 mana for 2 gold, any city of some size would easily pay off the upkeep of the city spells. Perhaps throw in Altar of Battle, which makes all units made in the city start out as elite... Saves on military buildings, you know.

Dwarves produce double gold. Dwarves, Stream of Life and Alchemy (which converts 1 gold to 1 mana or the other way around) is a mana machine that might even compete with Runemaster Artificer. Of course, if you want to start with dwarves, you need to choose Myrran, which is a whopping 3 spell picks. Add alchemy, and you have only 7 of your 11 spell picks left. Perhaps you should settle for Nomads instead; they produce 50% extra gold and also allow building banks and merchant guilds, which the dwarves do not. On the other hand, banks and merchant guilds come fairly late. Also dwarves build city improvements faster, and they have engineers building roads at double speed too. Apart from moving your troops, roads are also supposed to earn a bit extra income (although not nearly as much as in Civilization and you need to connect to other cities, preferably with different races for full benefit).

There are also smaller strategic moves making use of white magic. Guardian Spirit, Angel and Archangel provide successively more moral support; sending one of them with your troops improves their magic resistance. (Prayermaster heroes will do the same, and again the Incarnation is also a prayermaster.) Of course, the race High Men has the opportunity to build Paladins a bit into the game, and these also provide some moral support as well as being immune to magic. A paladin can easily take most Arcanus Chaos or Nature nodes alone. Paladins have some of the benefits of white magic, so you may want to choose another race if you go this path, to minimize overlap.

Finally, a strategy that is related to white magic: If you have at least 4 white spell books, you can choose Divine Power (cost equivalent to 2 spell books). This gives 50% extra mana from shrines, temples etc, and also makes them more effective as opium for the masses people are less likely to riot. Good in combination with "weak magic" at the start screen, which makes magic nodes only give half as much power. Your competitors will have a hard time keeping up with you, except on Impossible level where they will build much faster than you. (Of course, if you took the Incarnation route, you would want high magic from nodes, since you will get lots of them early on.)

Well, that was some hints on my favorite color of magic. I guess this is something that seeps over to the game from real life, but it can't be helped: That's just the kind of guy I am!


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