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Cynehelm Valley


Overview

The time has come to rid Keldonia once and for all of the vileness of the Orc King Dragga. The Orc King has been easy pickings so far, being the incompetent, bumbling lackey he is (isn't that redundent for an Orc? ;-) but now we are to make our final assault upon his personal castle and we can expect him to fight with the desperation of a cornered rat.

Your Army

Before this final battle, you will have received further reinforcements from the Council, and are also given the opportunity to increase the size of your core forces by two. In continued preperation of our no-flier strategy, we must purchase now a second siege engine. The other unit purchased at this point is quite arbitrary, but it might be useful to begin investing in spell casters. If you prefer to not purchase apprentices, another skirmisher would be very useful, or another heavy infantry. I will assume the purchase of some apprentices for this battle.

The Map

This is the biggest map yet, but is actually quite similar in many important ways to the previous map (Hoaroot Forest). You have two places in which to start units - the town of Stanfeld in the north and the village of Faerlea in the south. There is only one objective to be captured, Draggario Castle, pretty much in the middle of the map. The key here, as on the previous map, is that most of your forces are on the west side of a river while the objective is on the east side. However, unlike the previous map, the enemy forces all begin on the east side, so there will be no first turn contact with the enemy. The southern force will be able to avoid the river, but at the expense of being forced into a narrow channel between the end of the river at the rise of mountains on the southern edge of the map. Once across the river, however, all forces will have an easy time on the plains that occupy the remainder of the map. On the east side of the river, to the north, are the cities of Norcross and Fetterton, as well as a mystic cave. In the south, the Shrine of Anark lies off the beaten path, with the city of Marebeck a little bit further past the Shrine.

The Strategy

We will need to create two army groups for this battle, one in the north and one in the south. Army Group North will be the stronger of the two, and will first converge upon Norcross, and after the city's liberation, it will then split into two armies, one heading north to the cave then southeast to Fetterton, while the second army will head straight for Castle Draggario. It is anticipated that the most difficult job for AG North will be forcing the initial river crossing. Army Group South, on the other hand, will be lighter and faster. It will make its primarily thrust for the Shrine of Anark, and from there send a small detachment to occupy Marebeck while the main bulk sweeps up from the south to link up with AG North in the plains east of the castle in a large encircling movement.

Troop Placement

First let's consider the disposition of Army Group North. This force needs to be strong enough to force the initial river crossing, then to be able to split to take the caves and the castle. To this end, we will want to put heavy units here with plenty of supporting troops. This army might consist of the following: 1 HI, 2 AR, 2 HC, 2 SE, 1 SC (spell caster, the apprentices) Army Group South will consist of the remaining troops: 2 LI, 1 SK, 1 HC, 2 LC Whatever volunteers you have at this point must be suitably split to match. I have a light infantry and apprentices, both of which I will put with AG South. Since I am playing Calis, I have Malric in my army, and I will put him with Army Group North. Once Army Group North has captured Norcross, the cavalry will be sent to capture and explore the mystic cave, then swing down to occupy Fetterton. An archer and seige engine can be diverted to Fetterton while the cavalry move to the cave, as by the time they reach the town, the cavalry should already have moved down from the cave and be in position to make its assault on the town. Army Group South, after the capture of the shrine, should detach its light infantry, and if necessary, the heavy cavalry, to capture Marebeck, while the remainder head north to encircle the castle.

The First Few Turns

The river crossing in the north is the most difficult and dangerous part of this battle. No units should attempt a crossing on the first turn - the heavy infantry should be capable of taking up a blocking position on the west edge of the bridge over the river. Support the infantry with archers, while moving the seige engines into position to attack any defenders on the other side. Be sure to bring up the apprentices also, as they will be very useful in dislodging any troops immediately on the other side of the river. Army Group South will also not make contact with the enemy on its first move. The infantry should be able to advance up to the gap between the river and the mountains, and no one else (i.e. the cavalry) should attempt to move past them on this turn. Move the cavalry to the north of the infantry where they can cross the river next turn if the gap should be impossible to pass. AG North may be subject to some minor engagements by goblin raiders, but these should pose no problem to you and may even be of benefit by putting the defenders out of position. On the second turn, use your seige engines to soften up any enemy troops on the other side of the river, your archers to attack any enemy who may have foolishly attempted to attack across the river. Malric can either destroy any low strength units at this point, which should create a small opening in which to establish a bridgehead, or else attack a powerful unit in hopes of reducing its fighting ability for the first wave across the river. Use apprentices to dislodge the defenders or to enlarge your bridgehead, then start pouring troops across. If necessary, the cavalry can cross the river north or south of the bridge and take the enemy in the flanks, though this leaves them dangerously exposed to counter attacks from reinforcements and should be avoided if possible. Army Group South will be able to attack the Shrine and there is a good chance of being able to liberate it on the second turn, but be careful to keep screening forces on the exposed north flank of the main assault force, as the enemy will use cavalry and archers to attempt to destroy your forces and stabilize their southern flank. Your own cavalry should be able to block this move and succesfully counterattack while your infantry continue its actions against the Shrine and Marebeck. By the third turn, all your units should be past the river. AG North should have destroyed or routed the river defenders and should be advancing rapidly on Norcross. In the south, the Shrine should be taken and Marebeck beseiged. Don't let your troops be bogged down in the seige of either town! While you have plenty of time to complete this battle, you do not want to spend so much time that the enemy is able to build a new army and establish a strong defence around Castle Draggario. Have your front line troops make no more than one attack against these towns, then by pass them and continue advancing towards the castle while letting follow-up units finish the job. By the third turn, you should also have encountered the enemy's aerial unit. Malric can almost certainly handle this by himself, but be sure you use your seige engines to attack it, and if practical, your archers. Keep your archers close to the front so that if it tries to ground attack your units, they can rip the enemy fliers to shreds. Get in the habit of using seige engines and archers on enemy fliers, as that is the primary reason we are purchasing them!

The End

Both Krell and Marcas will finally get their rewards here in the form of the heroes Lorric or Borric, respectively. Otherwise, victory here means the liberation of Keldonia and the defeat of one of the Shadowlords trusted lieutenants. You have built a small army which should now be reasonably experienced, and should have the opportunity for doing much upgrading before the next battle. Your army should be well suited for dealing with any enemy air in the next mission, which we can expect to increase in number and power. You probably have a few magic items to sprinkle around. Opinions on best use of magic items are greaty varied - one school is the items should go to whatever unit it naturally complments (axes and swords go to infantry, javelins and slings to skirmishers, bows to archers, etc.). I don't do this. I give weapons and armor to cavalry first, especially bows and slings, as I expect the cavalry to be performing the most dangerous missions and the extra attack type will go a lot further towards their survival than anything else (they will be able to counter attack against skirmishers and, if equipped with bows, archers and bombers, which they will frequently encounter). Wands and staves I tend to give to either light cavalry (to get the spells quickly to where they are needed) or to light infantry (who may not be able to otherwise safely attack in a given turn). Armor tends to find its way to heavy infantry or heroes, assuming the cavalry isn't using it. Amulets and rings of regeneration often go to heroes (though amulets of resistance can be good to give to mech units, if you have any). These uses of magic items are all quite my own taste, you should experiment yourself giving different magic items to different unit types so you can see the results for yourself and distribute them best according to your own style of play. Now onward to the Isle of Four Winds and one of the most difficult battles in the entire campaign - the Vale of Sorrow! Please let me know what you think of this article specifically, and about this series in general! :)
eglamkowski@angelfire.com