What is the title referring to? Well, I just thought of Crusader and I remember many people telling that 7 enemies against the human player, is a more than unfair challenge for everyone. One friend had tried 7 Caliphs, on Youtube I have seen 7 Wolves beaten by a user. Now I tried and tested my skills against 7 Wolves in the same alliance, in a somewhat equal situation and tried to survive the first few minutes.
This encounter occured on Close Encounters, the well-known map, where everyone has a decent quantity of iron, stone (even a small tile of pitch) and greenery. 2000 gold were handed out along with a basic starting set of goods for everyone. I started in the eastern position.
1. The starting
The first moments of the game was perhaps the hardest time, where I had to decide how to use up my starting stocks. I like to open with 2 wheat farms, 2 quarries with 2 oxen each, 5-6 woodcutters, a mill and 2 bakeries. This time however, I felt that I need a more robust economy in the beginning, so I can have a bigger army than usual. Space is also limited on this map, so my 50 stone was enough to enclose my keep. I could easily fit all buildings inside the castle.
At this point, I had much gold left and didn't make any troops yet. The Wolf uses a wide selection of troops and it is hard to counter in the beginning: crossbowmen against non-armored troops, Arab bowmen against workers and pikemen for soaking up damage, not to mention the occasional siege engine sniping buildings and troops around. The best unit against all of these things is the fire ballista: excellent firerate, above-par range and high damage.
So I quickly thrown an engineers guild and placed 4 quarries instead of 2 to get my gold factory going. I created 6 fire ballistae in groups of two and secured all perimeters with them. I also hired 6 Arab bowmen for defense duties and used the remaining money on 10-12 assassins. From the incoming wood I gradually extended my food production and placed quarries with hovels, while slowly building up my garrison of Arab bowmen and fire ballistae.
Although I got a very decent income, I felt that the Arab bowmen are not enough to hold off pikemen and hostile archers, but I didn't want a pure force of ballistae, since they tend to aim in one group, losing their effectiveness. I switched then to crossbowmen to snipe everything that would come near and slowly built up an industry for their weapons (fletchers, tanners and a dairy farm). I also left some fletchers on bow production and got some archers for general defense.
The two Wolves kept sending Arab bowmen, while they could expand, both having an untouchable stone industry. They also got to the point when they were able to set up square towers with mangonels, but they still lacked either the guild or the funds. I quickly realized the potential threat of these devices and quickly built a square tower with a mangonel on both sides facing the Wolves, and started punishing them, hoping to kill off some units on the keep. I also added more fire ballistae and strengthened my defense with barracks units.
2. Disposing of the neighbours
The mangonels and the fire ballistae did a good job in crippling the Wolves' castles. The northern friend couldn't really establish a foothold, left with few units on the keep. He couldn't even complete his castle because he placed a trebuchet tent in the line of the walling. I quickly grabbed 20 assassins and moved them in to finish the first adversary off.
The southern Wolf however, was a bit harder to kill, since he was left relatively unharmed despite the mangonels and fire ballistae. He had a stronger economy, sharing deposits and farmland with his western ally, along with more units on the keep. He could also start pounding my territory with a mangonel, so I brought most fire ballistae there and sniped that off. In the meantime, he kept sending Arabian bows and thinned out my ballista numbers but I held and continued on building fire ballistae. After that, I moved my force closer (20 fire ballistae) and found that there are few units left for the enemy, so I could just steamroll the small defense. Assassins then did what they know best: kill.
3. The enemy wants to fight too
I was triumphant, as the two closest Wolves had been vanquished. I already had a good economy, but the Wolves started to catch up: their armies were on halfway to complete, their economy were sublime and they finally had the funds to swarm Arab bowmen and pikemen. Their biggest threat were yet to come: catapults.
My defenses were constructed in order to beat back the Wolves, who were dead by now. I wasn't really prepared to the coming of the catapults, which started to show up. I had no towers facing the opposing direction, only gatehouses sporadically with some men. I had to renew my barricades.
The black Wolf came first from the southwest. I instantly created a square tower, moved some fire ballistae there and desperately destroyed the catapult, but two hostile trebuchets placed well behind some walls were still bombarding the gatehouse and its perimeter, so I had to add more towers with ballistae and snipe the trebuchets. Thankfully, they were silent after this, since the Wolf either didn't replace them or the trebuchets were just sitting there.
The other Wolves came too. The teal Wolf on the top center was more dangerous with catapults, Arab bowmen and pikemen to take revenge on my fire ballistae provoking him. Since I had no space inside the castle, I gradually erected four square towers as an outpost and placed mangonels and a ballista with their garrison. It took quite a while to stabilize that front, since the catapults just kept coming and coming, while the towers were in need of constant repair. 8 fire ballistae were sent there to help out on the ground.
The purple Wolf in the bottom center was the most relentless in terms of harassment, but he exhausted all his money on the war effort. He had barely any men defending on the keep, so I just moved in with fire ballistae and killed him in the same way as I did with the southern Wolf. Three down, four to go.
4. The hardest moments...
Just as I had finished my conquest, I soon tasted the 'wage siege warfare' as the Wolves called to arms. All four adversaries launched their own attacks, backed with catapult strikes and swarming Arab bowmen as I tried to shut down quarry production in the south, where two Wolves hosted their quarries and numerous tethers. Pikemen were also sent to fend me off, so I was under heavy pressure from many sides.
My priority was to fend off the attacks that were coming from the western/northwestern fronts. My outpost got finished and extended to four towers at this point, filled by around 120 men, most of which were crossbowmen, assisted by mangonels, a ballista and some fire ballistae. In the southwest I already had two towers, so I added two more, replaced the ballistae with mangonels and added more men. The enemies couldn't cause much damage (they always constructed 3 siege machines at most), but their mass heavy armor got quite close to my walls and started filling in my moat. My fire ballistae there also got annihilated, but the Wolves had to retreat with anger.
After the attacks ceased, my mangonels were set on autoattacking to create a dead zone near the teal Wolf's lands. Thanks to the big spread of the mangonel rocks, later attack forces could be thinned out with no effort and the enemy farms also suffered constant punishment.
5. ... yet to come
As the first major attacks were beaten back, I decided to take the initiative and move on to the yellow Wolf in the southwest. He had by far the highest numbers, but didn't have the lead. I relied on my ballistae so much that I gathered 30 of them and moved them to the quarry area.
Initially, I had success, as I could demolish these industrial complexes with ease. However, I soon experienced casualties as many Arab bowmen, horse archers and patrolling archers started to thin out my ballista numbers, while pikemen absorbed most fiery arrows. I realized that I need something to deflect these counterattacks, so I quickly recruited 70 horse archers and sent them down all the way. In the meantime, the yellow Wolf' mangonel activated and launched his large attack, with his army soon reaching my position. The health of the ballistae were well in the yellow and the red and the tinmen were just steamrolling me, even with some assassins holding them back momentarily to be shot down by defenders. 40 horse archers made back with dreadful casualties eventually, with most of the Wolf's men killed.
6. Killing the yellow Wolf, and then...
I quickly rebuilt my fire ballistae and replaced the fallen horse archers. I was nearing the maximum size, so I had to overlook the Wolf's castle to finally make the engineers to create some catapults. 70 horse archers were set on patrol to shut down stone delivery and Arab bowmen, while 30 fire ballistae worked their way closer and closer with the help of 6 catapults.
I decided to move in the fire ballistae, since they are barely scarced by mangonel rocks (catapults take 2 hits to die), who had a hard time dealing with Arab bowmen, who were now concentrating their fire on the ballistae. Thankfully, the mangonel got removed with anyone else near, so the fire ballistae just kept moving and moving until removing everyone on the walls and in the towers. Another bonus was welcome from fire, as the ballistae set most buildings on fire and the Wolf's ground troops near the campfire got roasted. I finished the Wolf off with 50 assassins, which proved to be a bit too much, as the other Wolf north to my victim was generous with arrows and rocks.
The rest of the game was pretty straightforward from now on. Every remaining Wolf was disposed of in the same way: fire ballistae with the help of catapults eliminated the enemy mangonels and their defenders, counterattacks were beaten back by horse archers, finally the assassins killed the exposed Lord. The teal Wolf in the top center was the easiest nonetheless, taking mangonel fire all time (one tower also crumbled by rocks missing their target) and their units being killed off by random rocks.
A hard victory achieved in 2:40, yet I need a better challenge. Would 7 Saladins pose a bigger threat than 7 Wolves? We'll see!
Here is the final statistics of the game (click on the picture for second page):