Friday, May 26, 2023

The Ancient Art of War: Marathon to Waterloo

I've decided to make this last post before the weekend a two-fer, hence the title. A literal marathon, where I successfully guide a runner to deliver a message, and a figurative Waterloo, where I meet a crushing defeat against seemingly insurmountable difficulty.

The marathon, titled "The Elusive Spy," is another gimmicky puzzle level, the third one so far, and introduces a new mechanic - fog of war. You command a lone spy, and have to reach the fortress in the north while Athena's forest patrol, a minimum of eight units, hunts for you. At least this time you needn't race anyone.

The spy is War's only non-combat personnel, who only appears in fog of war maps and greatly extends the line of sight of any unit he is part of. Athena is relentless, but not much of a strategist, and will aggressively pursue enemies without much regard for defense, or supply lines, or favorable matchups, or, thankfully in this case, for terrain. Her owls will pursue you almost at line of sight, even if that means slowly trudging directly through the dense forests, which you yourself should go around.

I found Elusive Spy much easier than War's opening mission, Race for the Flags, but more substantial than that other gimmick level Contest of the Gods. It might take some trials to find the path through the woods that doesn't run you into Athena's talons, but it didn't take me many.

First things first, I go to the nearby village for much needed food. And then wait for Athena's hunters to approach before marching - not running - around them. This is, after all, a marathon and not a sprint.

Athena's wisdom is, shall we say, questionable.

Gotta time this well; go too fast and you just get caught on the other side. Too slow, and they catch up with you.


Oh, crap! Fall back. Fall back.

I'm lucky these guys are deep in the woods.

Stamina runs low. I can no longer outrun the hunters.

...but at this point I don't really need to.

Oh wow you guys suck.


My Waterloo is Custer's Last Stand, which I haven't been able to win yet. War was never committed to historical accuracy, but inclusion of Little Big Horn in a game with knights and barbarians, and no cavalry or gunpowder, is just silly.

Geronimo, apparently a stand-in for any Indian war chief, ahistorically commands the Sioux/Cheyenne forces, which double Custer's, and are nearly invisible under this map's fog of war rules. The manual advises us that he prefers difficult terrain, which his troops can navigate more quickly than most, but is weak in the open.

This map has some custom rules that haven't played much of a factor in prior ones:

  • Supply lines are short. I don't really have a grip on how supply lines work yet, but I feel this is pretty important here.
  • The fort in the southwest trains new archers regularly.
  • Enemies are unseen until very close.
  • The water is shallow and safe to cross, but slow and tiring, nonetheless.
  • The mountains are safer and easier to cross than in prior missions.


The situation is pretty desperate. You only have five units - mostly knights and archers - close enough to the flag to defend it, supplies are dwindling, and you can't see the enemy until they close in. The hills are good defensive terrain against anyone crossing the river to the south and west, but the more immediate threat is invasion from the mountains to the north. The fort in the southwest provides new archers but is too far away from the action to help at all with the initial threat. The detachment in the southeast seems well-poised to sneak across the river and snatch the flags to win, but timing this without knowledge of the enemy's position is a tough problem.

My attempts so far have been outright disasters.

First contact
Lots of contact


My troops in the mountains are getting tired, while Geronimo's are well supplied from the villages further north. As if that wasn't bad enough, he relies mostly on archers, which are strong against the knights that make up half of my army. This goes very badly for me.


I have an archer unit, overlooking from the northeast hill, descend and try to help, but this barely slows them down.

The archers retreat to the hills, and my remaining mixed unit puts up a pathetic final defense.


I'm at a bit of a loss on how to win this. I'll grant that I do not have a good grasp on how to manage mixed-type units well, but I'm done no favors by the stamina disadvantage, nor by the terrain favorable to the enemy, nor that his archers naturally counter my knights while I have so little of my own to counter his archers with.

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