WARNING: Long post below!
Today the Wiki editors dared challenge the almighty Crusader, SergiuHellDragoon and his mercenaries! I (as the yellow Lord, named Scaraßeon) had my comrade Fang on my side, who proposed the challenge. We faced Sergiu and his temporary ally and pro-player, Alex. We had a match and rematch, which I am going to review in this post.
1.1. The first game
The first match was played on the map "A Friend Indeed". Each player had 2000 gold and was evenly spaced out on the map. Me and Fang got the bottom-left corner, while Alex got the top-left location and Sergiu the eastern spawn. Sergiu also initiated a 10 minutes no-rush and the ban of catapults and trebuchets. The players' spawning locations came with advantages and disadvantages:
- Me and Fang spawned on the same array, meaning that we had to divide our resource deposits. However, we could also rush to each other's aid much faster if needed and we could connect our castles.
- In contrast, Sergiu and Alex had twice the deposits at their disposals, but the distance between their keeps were much longer and had to build their own defenses.
The game started really well. The no-rush enabled us to quickly boom our economies, with me relying on quick bread production and stone quarrying. I had to buy some food at first to prevent the granary from emptying, but eventually the woodcutters brought wood for more buildings and the bakers had flour to bake bread. I sealed off my encampment with a moderate line of high walls, two square tower with their prepared ballistae and some gatehouses. Crossbow production was also started so I could get a number of them on the walls later.
Fang also decided to ignite bread production along with his signature fletcher's and tanner's workshops. He had a high number of bakeries and put double thickness walls around his keep. He needed to wait for the first deliveries of stone, but he soon enclosed the keep and kept developing his industry. Sergiu also built a number of workshops and a mixture of food producers, greatly saturating his iron and stone deposits. He developed an all-round economy, with the likely intention to build knights by placing stables, blacksmithes and armourers' workshops.
Alex on the other hand showed a brute but efficient way of expansion. He built numerous woodcutters, hops farms and apple orchards, backed with a few wheat farms, bakeries, breweries and inns. His general strategy was to develop a mass production to heavily tax his people, while having full ale coverage and double rations. He focused really much on his economy first and even after the no rush ceased, he invested in wood instead of troops, apart from a few sentry horse archers.
1.2. After the peace time
I immediately recruited engineers for the ballistae, crossbowmen for the towers and started massing assassins/horse archers. Stone, bread and excess flour/wheat greatly boosted my gold stocks, although the profit from grain diminished as I placed more bakeries. I even placed quarries on the boundaries of stone/iron deposits since I found stone more profitable than iron and my arsenal needed no armored troops. Soon I could switch to average taxes and high rations to further improve my gold income.
The other players decided to turtle quite a bit. I assembled my troops in front of my castle, while Fang had covered the right side with numerous towers, ballistae and a small outpost of horse archers and crossbowmen. Sergiu had numerous towers, but he lacked equipment or units on the top of them, while Alex had a surrounded keep with assassin-proof walls, but absolutely no defense on the walls. I made use of this and attempted a first attack with 70-80 horse archers.
The enemy was ready for my assault. Alex quickly assembled an army with a similar size and he managed to clump up his troops, so my own horsemen missed a lot of targets. My army slowly died but caused severe losses in the enemy ranks, so a second army of horse archers quickly cleared the area. A bit later I attempted a greater attack with numerous horse archers backed up with assassins. Alex again had no problem clearing some troops by adding knights and assassins into the mix, but he did not pay attention to his knights and he lost them to my assassin rally in front of his castle. A good number of assassins tried to get in and captured the gatehouse, but they met a huge resistance and were cleared off. I managed to set up a contain due to him having no wall defenses, but he had the side gatehouse open for later breakouts.
In the meantime, Fang constantly harassed Sergiu with knight, slave and crossbowmen raids. He could afford swarms of knights so the enemy farmers had trouble with working, even destroying some buildings in the process. The stone and iron mines were in the back of Sergiu's castle, being the least exposed crucial buildings, which Fang could barely reach without losses. Sergiu desperately tried to get as many crossbowmen and ballistae as possible, but he eventually ended up slaves filling in his moat and siege towers docking at his walls. He could barely clean up the raids and he decided to surround the siege towers with moat rather than destroying them.
Despite having a contain, Alex was in still good shape thanks to his side gatehouse. I decided to pin him down with horse archer pokes, while sneaking up some fire throwers on the side. The Arab troops soon got to the walls and targeted an inn next to the wall, which quickly caught on fire and spread flames, eventually setting the whole castle alight. Alex lost all his peasants and troops waiting at the mercenary post, all he could save was 15 horse archers. He quickly demolished all buildings he could to save his funds, but he could not recruit any troops. When the flames died down, I found no Lord but completely destroyed the enemy industry and set an offensive rally to his campfire to disrupt peasant reproduction. With this, Alex was practically out of play.
1.3. Working our way in
Although Alex had his lord well-defended in Sergiu's stronghold, he could not do anything but supply Sergiu with his remaining goods. Fang still kept on raiding Sergiu's supply lines with massive amounts of knights, while I steadily waited for a masive horse archer/assassin army. I attacked with 190 horse archers first, slowly wearing down the enemy archers and crossbowmen in the towers. Sergiu tried to use hordes of pikemen as meatshields, but he could not cover the missile troops well enough and eventually he ended up with pikemen standing in some towers.
Reinforcements quickly refreshed my army and I conquered the northern side of Sergiu's castle. Fang waited for like 50-60 knights and stormed the northern side, creating a breach in the wall. Sergiu still did not bring his troops from the south to that location, but instead striked out with a great number of knights. Fang had mopped up most of the red knights, but some of them got out and decimated some horse archers. But Sergiu's castle soon fell.
Several slaves from Fang got through the breach and set the whole castle alight. The fire soon spread outside the oasis and Sergiu could not do anything to save his frying troops, but the fire also delayed our attack. Like 130 buildings were destroyed during the process, with Sergiu's industry all gone. In the final attack, Fang did bring his lord, but my assassins were faster and earned an easy double-kill.
2.1. The second game
This match was played on the map "Green Haven", which is a very odd map. There is an oasis on the edges of the map but in the middle as well, close to the enemy territory. The bigger interests are the stone and iron deposits, which are not scarce but lie quite far from the keeps and securing them is much harder.
The spawns were: Sergiu in the bottom right, Alex in the bottom-left, Fang in the top-left and me in the top-right. The rules were basically the same as in the first game, but no rush was raised to 20 minutes.
The game started out basically the same way with everyone heavily building up their economy. I was quickly saturating my two stone deposits, again throwing away iron in favour of stone production, placed numerous wheat farms in my back farmlands and built numerous woodcutters in the back and in the center to claim some land and wood. I only added fletcher's workshops and bought in a small set of leather armour for crossbowmen, so I could sell the crossbows for a bumper profit. Fang went for a similar opening, although he spent more time with construction, while Sergiu casually built his industry, weapon production emphasizing on knights and placed towers to defend his exposed quarries and mines.
Alex however opted for a very aggressive opening, spamming apple orchards and ale production, but most notably, he built literally hundreds of woodcutters in abundance in order to remove most of the wood in the map. This opener resulted in paralyzing Fang, literally limiting his building options due to the presence of enemy woodcutters, and wood was pouring in extreme quantities in his and Sergiu's stockpile. The several hundred woodcutters also carried a possibility of a very dangerous rush, when all woodsmen are put in sleep and turned into soldiers, backed up with an enormous economy.
We quickly realized that a potential rush is likely, so I quickly built more woodcutters to seize more wood before it completely runs out. Fang however, judged that his position is stable due to having a stable crossbow production and mining. Sergiu extended his weapon production while Alex laid down the ultimate production of swords and armour, then the stables were set up. The moments before the peace time lift were tense.
2.2. The gates of hell open
I immediately started manning my towers and recruiting horse archers with assassins, while Alex hired horse archers and knights. Sergiu went for his ranged defenses covered by pikemen, but he also deployed some knights just for emergency cases. Fang had some knights, horse archers and crossbowmen, but they were not too numerous, yet the double thickness walls and manned ballistae were fearsome.
I was the first to attack again, with 70 horse archers raiding Sergiu's lands. He immediately reacted by sending some pikemen to shield his crossbowmen and prepared a strike force of 20 or so knights. He sallied forth and pushed my horse archers back, however some newly recruited assassins quickly made short work of them. An overwhelming wave of 40 orange knights came in from the west by Alex, while Sergiu prepared his second squad of knights behind the gates. Alex had pushed my horse archers to the side, trapping them in a small choke. Sergiu struck once again and although 50-60 assassins quickly removed some of Alex's knights, the joint knight force quickly killed off my horse archers. I had little reinforcements, but a lazily commanded attack move on my horse archer allowed me to intercept Sergiu's attack path and kill his knights.
I was busy trading goods, converting most of my gold into assassins and horse archers. Sergiu added more defenders and had an enormous force of pikemen, however he kept them inside the castle. Alex quickly amassed another army of horsemen and he directed them towards Fang, who had little garrison in his castle. He had some crossbowmen and other ranged units on the walls, but the knights were too numerous and durable. The knights started removing the large gatehouse in the front, and they soon got in and killed Fang's peasants, locking him down. The few defenders were decimated and soon some assassins were left in to the vulnerable Lord.
In the meantime, Sergiu attempted to light my quarries up with two fire ballistae, but my army was quick to rush there and remove the threat. I immediately turned around and attacked him, keeping him under heavy pressure, having removed his units from two towers and most of his quarrymen. I quickly marched some assassins to his exposed walls and scaled the walls, then re-assembled for the final attack. However, suddenly I got the message of my Lord's death, who got killed by a sneaky stream of stealthy assassins. This way the enemy claimed victory.
Both games were a huge adrenaline pump. I enjoyed both of them, with a huge diversity of strategies, economic development and unit compositions. Every player made his best to play and beat the other players in their own styles, however the difference between skill levels quickly showed off. Still, the various playing styles and non-stop actions provided that we have a wonderful 3 hours to spend with Crusader HD.