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Subject: Strategy Discussion: Equipment (Phase 3) rss

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Charles Simon
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Since there were some interesting discussions on the posting about the Phase 2 Machines, I figured that I would try to further the discussions on the Invader’s options and strategies (those conversations have me reexamining the ballista and I will be trying them at my next opportunity). However, most of the options beyond the machines are less costly and dictate strategy less than machines do. Still, there may be some interesting conversations about them.

My overall strategy when it comes to building equipment is to build it early or ignore it. I like to use up all of my resources and blow through all of my units building stuff in turns 1-4, then flip the Phase Cards and hit the walls as hard as I can. That being said, building equipment too early does tip your hand to what wall sections you are looking at and it gives the Defender time to bolster his defenses at those sections. However, once you flip your Phase 3 card, you can sacrifice 1 hourglass to the Defender to move an equipment tile to another wall section. This works out really well, in my opinion. If you build your Sap or Poison on a wall section in Turn 1 or 2, the Defender gets time for it and reacts to it, switching around his units or preparing defenses around it and spending more time to prepare. Then on Turn 5, the Invader’s Phase 3 card is flipped and you move the equipment tile to another wall section completely, giving the Defender 1 time. That 1 time is not enough to react to and reshuffle the units around and it is a loss of time for the Defender to try to react to a moving equipment piece. So that’s why I don’t worry about putting out equipment too early. I don’t think it tips my hand as the Invader. If the Defender does react to it, then you can move it anyhow and it will be wasted hourglasses that the Defender had spent.

Banners: Banners are such a basic item and the +1 bonus to attack strength is generally useful, but not earth-shattering in its application. It is the equivalent of having an extra goblin on a wall section. If you have altars out, however, then the bonuses stack and the +2 attack strength looks a little nicer. Also, they are very versatile and perhaps more useful once you flip your Phase 3 card and you can move them to other wall sections. Once you have units on multiple wall sections, it becomes a bit nicer to be able to move around the banner bonus to where it may result in taking out a soldier instead of a marksman or a veteran instead of a soldier.

Summary: A useful staple, but I won’t go too much out of my way to make sure I have the resources for them. More than almost any other Equipment, they really benefit from the Phase card being flipped and multiple assaults are happening. If I am building them, I will usually build one on each side (east and west) and not worry about giving up the unit or time for the third. This way, I still have the versatility once the card is flipped. Also, they become more attractive if you can build altars as well, because that is a floating +2 strength.


Ladders: I like ladders. They add that extra unit at a wall section. While banners give the effective bonus of having an extra goblin at the wall, having ladders at the wall section can put an actual extra troll at a wall section. They are probably the equipment that I find the most useful and will build them if they are available. Two wood is not that bad of a cost either for what they give you. Getting an extra unit to the wall section via a ladder can be countered by the Defender building a platform at that wall section, however, once you flip your Phase 3 card, you can move your ladder elsewhere.

Summary: This is up there with shields for my favorite equipment, though this gives you a little more of an offensive push on that round while shields just let you keep more units on the walls for an assault in a later round. The versatility when you flip over your Phase 3 card makes them incredibly useful and harder for the Defender to directly counter.


Ropes: Ropes are, in theory, a nice sneaky way for the Invader to get on a new wall section or reinforce on. However, in practice, it doesn’t seem to happen often enough for me to really go too far out of my way to use them. Usually a surprise move of moving one unit over to a wall section won’t mean a breach. By the time there are units on the walls, I’m usually pressing hard, and that often means double dispatches. Yes, I know some people hate giving up the time, but I happen to like to send as much as possible quick, hard and consistent. Still as the Invader, I may set them up on the wall sections to reach the far east wall sections as a means to reinforce the sections that are annoyingly more distant and require you to move through a second rampart to reach (four steps from your camp to wall rather than three).

Summary: They don’t see too much play from me. I could see where they could be more useful, however, for Invaders who try to minimize the time given. That just usually doesn’t mesh with my strategy. But if you are one of those players, then it is a nice way to reinforce a wall with a unit if you find that you have a better opportunity at an adjacent wall section. It can also be used as a tidy way to get your extra glory with four trolls on one wall section.


Sap: Sap is the poor man’s siege tower. It gets one unit up to the wall quick, but does not create an extra space for them. It is also a very nice counter to traps set by the Defender, though it only gets one unit up there. The Sap is another piece of equipment that benefits more from the play style of an Invader who is conserving as much time as possible. But if you like to hit hard with double dispatches, then you are already getting units to the walls quick and this is less effective (though you could double dispatch through the sap).

Summary: Useful, but not spectacular. For those of us who like the double dispatches once the walls are hit, then it is a nice way to get two trolls that you just drew to one wall section. However, for those who play conserving more time, it is more useful because you get units to the wall without changing your pace.


Bridge: Bridges are cheap at one wood and easy to make. However, they are the one Equipment piece that cannot be moved once the Phase 3 card is flipped. That’s alright though, since moving them would limit their usefulness anyhow. Bridges are probably the most reactionary item that the Invader can build. I usually don’t build them unless the Defender places his first trap. Then I know I have to protect my paths. However, there have been games that I have played where the Defender has not bothered with a trapped route strategy. However, I will comment on a good use of them that came up after a game my wife and I played last night. My wife had her first go as solo-Invader (she’s played Invader in 3-player games and has played the Defender many times). She had bridges available, but I had not laid any traps yet, so she didn’t do anything with them. Then in one turn she built cover at a rampart, then placed a Goblin Fire Master at the same rampart. My reaction? I placed a goblin trap on the path leading to that rampart, negating the usefulness of the Fire Master since she couldn’t get goblins there. So if you are going to build Fire Masters, you might want to make sure to bridge your path there first.

Summary: Good to preemptively set up paths for certain strategies, but otherwise they are mostly reactionary. There are some nasty tricks to be aware of, however, where you will need the foresight and bridge to help you. For example, if you fill a rampart section with 7 Goblins foaming at the mouth to hit the walls with Goblin Fury orders, be careful that traps do not block your units in a rampart. I’ve seen this happen where one path out was unavailable because the wall section was full. The Defender laid out a trap on the other path, blocking the goblins. Then, at the start of the next turn, he laid a trap on the other path so that they could not reinforce that wall. This left 7 Goblin at a rampart useless and blocking any other units from stepping into the rampart, so the Invader had to walk his goblins through the trap just to destroy them so other units could enter the full rampart. You may be reactionary with bridges, but always remember not to get screwed if the Defender holds onto his traps.


Shields: The most expensive Equipment at 3 wood, but also very useful. Shields give you a +1 bonus for each unit at a wall section, but only if you’ve lost the strength count so it only counts for defense. This is a huge factor in keeping units on the walls and holding position before reinforcements can arrive. For the time hoarders, this is even more useful since single dispatches may require a bit more finesse to hold until reinforcements arrive. The only thing prohibiting me from using these more often is that I don’t always have the extra wood to spare. If you want them, you really need to plan and manage your machine builds and resource grabs in the first two Phases.

Summary: Incredibly useful, especially for those who hit the walls with single dispatches as it keeps your units at the walls to wait for reinforcements. If you think you want them, make sure to budget them in. When you finish building your machines, you are hurting yourself if you have to keep the Phase 1 card on its starting side (less units, but more wood) just to build shields. Budget them in and flip the Phase 1 card as soon as you can.


Poisons: I’m not really a fan of it. To me, I see these as the easiest equipment for the Defender to defend against. If you have an advantage at a wall section with poison, then you remove a marksman first, then calculate damage. The easiest way for a Defender to react to it is to swap his marksmen out with other units at that wall section. Sure, you can flip your card and later move the Poison to a different wall section, but it has to be one that you will win the battle in and has marksmen on it. Since this happens in Phase 3, the Defender will probably have enough time to react to it anyhow. If you have it, then I could see combining it with the Gale ritual to make that swap too costly for the Defender, but otherwise, I don’t see much use for Poison.

Summary: It can be useful combined with Gale, but otherwise, it is too easy for the Defender to move his marksmen out of a wall section with Poisons on it, which renders Poison completely useless.


Those are my opinions after over a dozen or so games. What are your opinions on the Equipment? I’m willing to try new things as I have strategies now that give me wins, or at least close games, but I would rather be more versatile and learn how to use all of the equipment most effectively.
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Michal Bronkowski
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Thank you for your thoughts, I mostly agree with you. One thing I might add is that ropes can be used not only for reinforcements but also as evacuation for otherwise doomed units (cauldrons). Friend once used it on a wall section where he got 4 trolls, I have put there a troll cauldron with would kill them all eventually, but then he builded ropes there and managed to get two to adjacent wall sections reinforcing other attacks.
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Charles Simon
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mbronkowski wrote:
Thank you for your thoughts, I mostly agree with you. One thing I might add is that ropes can be used not only for reinforcements but also as evacuation for otherwise doomed units (cauldrons). Friend once used it on a wall section where he got 4 trolls, I have put there a troll cauldron with would kill them all eventually, but then he builded ropes there and managed to get two to adjacent wall sections reinforcing other attacks.


Ooh! Good point. I didn't even think about the cauldron bait-and-switch with ropes.
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Giacomo Mangiarano
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thinwhiteduke wrote:
Since there were some interesting discussions on the posting about the Phase 2 Machines, I figured that I would try to further the discussions on the Invader’s options and strategies (those conversations have me reexamining the ballista and I will be trying them at my next opportunity).....


Please, let me know about your final consideration on ballistas as soon as you've tried them in a massive way....

Ahhhh...Equipments...All the invader needs them to breach in a while...

I'm a huge fan of banners and bridges. In our games defender usually tries to place traps around so that a lot of rampart and walls are precluded to strong trolls... try to put red traps in front of east and west big walls sections.. then goblin trap from foreground to the opposite rampart... It becomes an orc affair only... Putting brigdes avoid complication on the walls you've decided to attack (obviously if defender forget traps is good for you...).
Banners.... what is a +1 against a +3 for a troll in a ladder place on the walls? Nothing yes... But neither a cauldron, either a hero, a sharpshooter or a poles will ever leave you without it...
On the second wave of the attack it can be much more valuable than a troll....

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Charles Simon
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starpino wrote:
Please, let me know about your final consideration on ballistas as soon as you've tried them in a massive way....


Will do. I should be able to get in a game today or Monday at the latest. I've gotten wins with catapults and bloodstones, so now I am eager to try new strategies to see other ways of winning as the Invader. I really think that the stuff is balanced, but you need to learn how to play the different options. And not all of them are as easy to learn as others.

starpino wrote:
Banners.... what is a +1 against a +3 for a troll in a ladder place on the walls? Nothing yes... But neither a cauldron, either a hero, a sharpshooter or a poles will ever leave you without it...
On the second wave of the attack it can be much more valuable than a troll....


That's a fair point, but I usually find that a banner alone doesn't make or break a breach for me. The +1 alone isn't a good enough bonus. And if the Defender cauldrons up where my ladder is, then I move the ladder once the card is flipped. And no matter what, I know that I am drawing the Sharpshooter fire somewhere on the board. Yeah, I lose the +3 Troll bonus if my troll on the ladder is shot by the Defender's Sharpshooter, but I still have 2 more walls with ladders and potential Trolls on them, so it doesn't bother me too much. Sometimes ladders and siege towers are nice to draw out the Sharpshooter and force the Defender to use it on a wall section so that you do not have to factor it in on the other sections.

And don't get me wrong, banners are not bad. For me though, they are on the border of build and not build. There's equipment that I'll build instead of them if I have the option, but there's also equipment that I'd rather not build, making them more appealing if those are the other choices.

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Charles Simon
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thinwhiteduke wrote:
And if the Defender cauldrons up where my ladder is, then I move the ladder once the card is flipped.


Hm. This made me think about something. If you have all of the wall slots filled with Invader units and have a unit on the Ladder, if you move the Equipment via the flipped card, would you:

1) Be unable to move the Ladder since there is a unit on it?
2) Discard the unit and be able to move the Ladder?
3) Be able to move the Ladder with the unit still on it?
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Alec Clair
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I like your discussion about the various items in the attacker's arsenal, but you should not forget that usually you haven't a free choice over which items you will be able to use for the forthcoming game. So some items which might not look so good compared to the whole list are actually the best you get on the card you presently play with. Although a global overview is useful, we should compare the items on a card by card basis. IMO this is where the biggest challenge lies for the attacker, figuring out a working strategy with the available cards.

One point you didn't mention is that you can have two equipments per wall, including two of the same type, of course you'll loose some flexibility but the ability to flip the card and move equipment balance this option. 2 Banners add +2, 2 Saps allow to move 4 units in one turn to the same wall.

Poison is useful with Ballistas for a strategy that try to kill (not send to the hospital) as much as defenders as possible.

Sap also make the leftmost walls closer, you can reach it in one move rather than than four.

Bridge: there's a sort of poker game with the defender here, I usually try not to build bridge and save the resources and manpower, I'll rather have the defender spends time on the traps and attack somewhere else. Nevertheless I wouldn't like to have one side completly blocked with 3 troll traps.

Also on a general note as the attacker I usually try to figure out exactly how much resources I will need for the Machines + Equipments for the games and try to flip the 1st phase card as soon as possible maybe sacrificing extra units during the early turns to get extras resources.

In your previous installement you mentioned the strategy of flipping the phase cards very early to maximize your number of assault troops. In my experience it does't work so well as you can dispatch a maximum of 12 units from your camp each turns, units tend to stack in your camp too early and there's a time penalty for this. If you can spend 3-4 goblins on rituals each turn it can be OK. I usually try to flip the first phase card at the start of the 4th or 5 turn.
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Charles Simon
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deltarn wrote:
I like your discussion about the various items in the attacker's arsenal, but you should not forget that usually you haven't a free choice over which items you will be able to use for the forthcoming game. So some items which might not look so good compared to the whole list are actually the best you get on the card you presently play with. Although a global overview is useful, we should compare the items on a card by card basis. IMO this is where the biggest challenge lies for the attacker, figuring out a working strategy with the available cards.


That is very true. I started writing these strategy ideas early in my Stronghold gameplaying and I've since played over 50 games since writing these. I wanted to try to facilitate discussion on a game that seemed to favor one side to try to coalesce strategy ideas with other players to try to find ideas that worked and also to see other people's opinions. My own opinions have changed and refined a bit from when I first wrote these (for example, I used to be hesitant on Ballistae, but now I favor them over Catapults even when Bloodstones are available). I've also had the pleasure of working on the Valley Games' forthcoming reissue and have playtested a few "fixes" which has further changed my opinions. Once the VG version is out, I may rework these strategy reports to match my newer thoughts.

deltarn wrote:
One point you didn't mention is that you can have two equipments per wall, including two of the same type, of course you'll loose some flexibility but the ability to flip the card and move equipment balance this option. 2 Banners add +2, 2 Saps allow to move 4 units in one turn to the same wall.


The rules mention in the start of the Equipment listing in the Invader Section that the Invader may assign two different types of equipment at a given wall section. Unfortunately that means you cannot double up.

deltarn wrote:
Poison is useful with Ballistas for a strategy that try to kill (not send to the hospital) as much as defenders as possible.


I agree, but Poison is more easily avoided by the Defender by simply moving the Marksmen off of that wall section and swapping out for another. I would think that Poison with Goblin Archers is actually a bit more effective since both target Marksmen. If you set up one side of the Stronghold with Poison on wall sections and Goblins Archers able to shoot at the sections on that side without Poison, you force the Defender into a tough position. If they pull their Marksmen from that side of the Stronghold and reinforce with other units, then the Marksmen will be on the other side of the Stronghold, making it the weak to defend since you've drawn the stronger units to one side. The other option the Defender has is to just accept some Marksmen losses, which is still a fine result for the Invader.

deltarn wrote:
Sap also make the leftmost walls closer, you can reach it in one move rather than than four.


Very true, but since you cannot "double up" with Sap, you can only get 2 Units there a turn. This isn't bad, but it still takes another Turn to reinforce them and there is a good chance they won't survive. However, it is most useful if the Defender mistakenly thinks that they can pull units from that section thinking it's safe.

deltarn wrote:
Bridge: there's a sort of poker game with the defender here, I usually try not to build bridge and save the resources and manpower, I'll rather have the defender spends time on the traps and attack somewhere else. Nevertheless I wouldn't like to have one side completly blocked with 3 troll traps.


I agree and I like the poker analogy. I fear 3 Goblin Traps on one side against the Foregrounds more though since it completely eliminates Goblins from assaulting that side. It then means the Goblin Cauldrons can be used freely on the opposite side. If I have a Trap happy Defender, I'm more likely to jump onto using the Bridges defensively now.

deltarn wrote:
Also on a general note as the attacker I usually try to figure out exactly how much resources I will need for the Machines + Equipments for the games and try to flip the 1st phase card as soon as possible maybe sacrificing extra units during the early turns to get extras resources.

In your previous installement you mentioned the strategy of flipping the phase cards very early to maximize your number of assault troops. In my experience it does't work so well as you can dispatch a maximum of 12 units from your camp each turns, units tend to stack in your camp too early and there's a time penalty for this. If you can spend 3-4 goblins on rituals each turn it can be OK. I usually try to flip the first phase card at the start of the 4th or 5 turn.


Agreed on the timing of the First Phase Card flipping. The times where the earliest flips have been beneficial for me, however, are games where I have both the Siege Tower and Sap together. Build the towers and Saps quickly and use your Double Dispatches freely. This clears out your Camp with no Camp Tax. The Defender gets a lot of extra time with this, but it is reactionary Hourglasses being spent. There is no subtle build up and it can be very useful to catch a Defender off-guard.
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Alec Clair
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thinwhiteduke wrote:

The rules mention in the start of the Equipment listing in the Invader Section that the Invader may assign two different types of equipment at a given wall section. Unfortunately that means you cannot double up.


Your are absolutly right, I missed that point, although I re read that specific point before writing my post. thanks for pointing this out.
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