"The Big One" is the Final mission of the Warchest exclusive second Skirmish Trail. This is perhaps the hardest mission in the 2nd Skirmish Trail, due to the lack of resources and starting gold.
You start off in the upper left corner of the map "Melos", facing the allied forces of Nizar "The Silent", Wolf ,"Duc Volpe", Emir Omar, Lionheart Richard I, Caliph "The Scorpion" and Wazir "The Terrible". Nizar is Dangerously close to you, since he is on the bottom left corner of the island. Lionheart, Wolf and Wazir are placed in the top right corner. Caliph is right next to Nizar, albeit not as close to you as Nizar is. Emir is placed on the bottom right.
AI's also start with the same goods, the only difference being them having 40000 starting gold while you only have 3000.
Walkthrough: (Disclaimer: Although I edited it, the Walkthrough belongs to Lord Michael I. All credit goes to him.)
I think it’s right to suggest that you will require a fair degree of patience to complete this mission. It sees you up against the allied might of the Nizar, Emir, Wazir, Caliph, Wolf and The Lionheart. They all have 40000 gold apiece, whilst you are restricted to 3000. The starting goods are the least I’d expect when arable land, stone and iron could well be in short supply.
Where to start? Perhaps at the beginning. I suggest you spin the map 180 degrees (two clicks) so that you are looking out over the area to be defended. Extend the stockpile to 4 squares and place the granary, mercenary post and one hovel. Mark out two moats on the two routes into your settlement to seal it off from the outside world. Put the western (left-hand) moat at the narrow point just past the arable (green) land. Draw the eastern moat to ensure that you include the stone deposits within your enclosure. You can also include the iron mine, but as that looked a lot riskier to defend properly, I didn’t bother.
Recruit 30 slaves to dig the moats (20 on the longer moat), in batches of 10. Place two adjoining round towers on the right-hand side of your longer moat. Add walling, stairs and two ballistae. Site one round tower near your stone deposits. Add walling, stairs and one ballistae.
Site the barracks, armoury, engineers’ guild and market. Purchase 30 bows, 10 crossbows and 10 leather armour. Recruit these bowmen for your towers. Recruit 6 engineers to man the tower ballistae. When you get ‘the keep is enclosed’ message, attempt to extend the moats from the outside. Sell your pitch.
Place 10 small communal gardens near the stockpile. Put taxes to -6. Site three woodcutters, two fletchers (producing crossbows), one dairy farm and one tanner. Place a quarry and three oxen. Put food to ‘half rations’ and reduce taxes to -2.
Take out enemy trebuchets, catapults and fire ballistae with your tower ballistae as a top priority. Keep your towers repaired. If you’re desperate, sell iron and buy some stone. When you have the resources, site a third fletcher (producing crossbows). Recruit crossbowmen for your towers as you can. Erect protective stone walls on the boundaries of farm and quarry.
When wood and finance are available, site a mill, a bakery, a second hovel, a brewery and a fourth fletcher (producing crossbows). As stone stocks allow, place a round tower with wall and stairs midway along your western boundary. Sell stone as required to be able to site a manned mangonel and hurl abuse, and worse, at the Wazir on the opposite bank. Aim at his towers and attempt to leave them with just a shell. Make extravagant use of the Pause key to scout the battlefield and anticipate problems.
Keep on selling stone to be able to place an inn and recruit engineers to add portable shields to your tower defences. I had 4 or 6 on each tower. Increase taxes to -8 when the inn opens for pleasure. Keep on buying in hops and wheat.
Carry on recruiting crossbowmen for tower defence. Your only role at this stage is to hang on in there. Anything else will surely be a bonus. Place a second tanner and a water pot. Site some fire ballistae around the towers and add killing pits to the moat edges. Place a chapel, a third hovel and a second inn. Keep on selling stone (and any surplus crossbows) and buying in hops and wheat. Site a fourth ox tether at the quarry area.
Place a second round tower on your western bank. Add wall, stairs, a manned ballista and 4 portable shields. When you have the resources, place a church. Site a fourth woodcutter if the forest seems to be enlarging. Increase taxes to -12. When you are able, site a cathedral. Increase taxes to -16 and be prepared to alternate them between -12 and -16. Site a blacksmith (producing maces), a fourth hovel and two more bakers.
Continue to sell stone and surplus crossbows and purchase hops, wheat and iron. Recruit macemen for the keep. Put a fifth ox tether at the quarry area and site two more woodcutters. Place two further fletchers (making crossbows). Site a second brewery. Stop recruiting crossbowmen when your total bowman strength gets up to about 80.
Start recruiting horse archers. Site more fire ballistae about your settlement. Place a fifth hovel. Put down a small gatehouse and drawbridge at your eastern entrance, near the quarry. Destroy woodcutter huts if the trees show signs of being denuded. You might also have to ‘rest’ your fletchers on occasions. My maximum army with all opponents still standing seemed to be about 264. I reckoned that I needed 60 - 80 bowmen and 50 engineers (shields and fire ballistae) for defence purposes, so that left between 130 and 150 personnel for offensive duties.
I decided to attack Nizar "The Silent" for my first foray. His moat wasn’t entirely complete and my macemen would have direct access to his keep - but assaulted all the way by myriad opponents. However, filling in the moat was an option that I soon discarded as being impracticable, although horse archers were invaluable in clearing some of the danger. I tried the ploy with 70 horse archers and 65 macemen and got inside his settlement but no further.
Deciding to have my cake and eat it too, I made sure that my three armouries held 70 maces and 70 leather armour, that I could afford to recruit that number of macemen (you need 1500 gold), and that I had enough peasants for fast recruiting. I also didn’t bother replacing bowmen killed in action and eventually had just 47 manning the towers. I set the maceman assembly point outside the gatehouse. It goes without saying that you should definitely save the game at this point. I also put down more ‘good things’ to get the maximum combat bonus.
I moved my 70 horse archers some way outside the gatehouse, followed behind by my 90 macemen. As the horse archers were slaughtered, I could recruit macemen to take their place. So I was finally able to send 155 macemen ‘direct’ to the Nizar’s keep (albeit via a small detour to his closed gatehouse). I attacked just after an assassin attack on me, as I didn’t want to confront assassins streaming off his keep. But you still need a fair amount of luck with the timing and the result.
When my macemen eventually killed the Nizar, it was my most satisfying gaming moment in two years of playing this castle sim. I didn’t have any survivors from the battle, but at last I had some success to boast about.
Now still your beating heart and happily place two woodcutters just inside the gatehouse and a sixth ox tether. Increase the fire ballistae presence inside the gatehouse area and destroy two of your resurrected fletchers. Instruct your blacksmith to produce swords and place an armourer. Continue buying in iron, hops and wheat. I increased my crossbowman presence on my three active towers near the two moats as their numbers had been getting dangerously low. I was eventually able to survive quite happily with 40 on my western towers and 30 on the eastern tower and gatehouse. Check your rations and taxes and adjust as required.
I moved against the purple Caliph when I had accumulated 40 fire ballistae, 50 horse archers and 25 swordsmen. I moved this force just outside the gatehouse and then slowly towards the Caliph’s stronghold at his right-hand side, until the fire ballistae could take out his tower bowmen and set his settlement alight. When the fire died down, my swordsmen knocked over his right-hand lookout tower and stormed the keep. 20 of them eventually made it back to my own keep, but I lost all the fire ballistae and horse archers.
I then attended to internal administration by adjusting rations and taxes and visiting the market. I started assembling more fire ballistae inside the gatehouse area and recruited horse archers for the same place. I sited an iron mine just outside the gatehouse and one more on the northern iron deposits. When I had 20 fire ballistae and 50 horse archers, I moved them outside the gatehouse and down to the start of the farm land.
I purchased 10 spears and recruited the spearmen to destroy the enemy farms (replacing them with two wheat farms, two hops farms and two apple orchards), and then to fill in the moats left behind by my first victim. I marched my 20 swordsmen down to the area to provide moral support. I added horse archers and fire ballistae as my resources would allow.
You can place two quarries with 6 oxen at the northern stone deposits, site a seventh hovel and put down a further brewery, bakery and inn. I was able to increase food to ‘normal rations’ (albeit briefly) and raise taxes to -16. I had to keep replacing my moat diggers as they mysteriously vanished in the watery wastes.
Eventually, I was able to push my forces a little nearer the opposition’s quarry area, making sure I stayed out of range of the Wolf’s tower mangonel. I placed three iron mines, a second blacksmith (making swords) and a second armourer. I placed an eighth hovel and put another iron mine on the northern ore once the moat had been filled in to my satisfaction.
As my gatehouse and tower crossbowmen and portable shields were now redundant, I transferred them to my two front towers. I also ‘slept’ the two tanners, destroyed my dairy farm and replaced it with a wheat farm. Two more ox tethers were added at my furthest quarries and a further bakery was placed at the settlement.
I was committed to my next move when my army had again reached its maximum size. I had 100 swordsmen, 115 horse archers, 28 fire ballistae, two battering rams and 70 crossbowmen. I placed more communal gardens to bring back the maximum combat bonus and then moved 50 crossbowmen from the towers to support my fire ballistae.
I attacked the blue Emir by the north-east route (ie as far away from the Wolf’s castle as possible). The horse archers were then sent to the Emir’s gatehouse to ensure the gates stayed closed. They were also able to take out the tower mangonel from that position. My two battering rams took down a round tower and the swordsmen went in, and were just as quickly retreated as boiling oil appeared. Once the flames had died down, the swordsmen completed their mission. The survivors (56 swordsmen) were returned to the area occupied by the fire ballistae and crossbowmen.
I then started rebuilding my troop strength for the next chapter, concentrating on horse archers and swordsmen, and completed my administrative chores. I rested my 4 fletchers and placed two more bakeries in the settlement.
When I had 100 swordsmen, 135 horse archers and two battering rams, I sent this force to the north (by the scenic sea route). I attacked the black Richard The Lionheart from the north. The horse archers were sent in first to take out tower ballistae and oil engineers. The battering rams took out a square tower and inner buildings and the swordsmen were sent to the keep. All my forces took punishment from a tower mangonel operated by the Wolf, but they got the job done.
The survivors (22 horse archers, 49 swordsmen and two battering rams) were returned back to the north. I sent immediate horse archer and swordsmen reinforcements to their assistance, together with 30 spearmen and two more battering rams.
I marched against the Wolf (from the north) with 180 horse archers, 130 swordsmen, 30 spearmen and 4 battering rams. The horse archers were sent in to the side of his north wall, followed by the swordsmen, battering rams and spearmen. The battering rams took down the double thickness north wall, the spearmen filled in the narrow moat and the battering rams demolished some gibbets and a church. The way was then clear for the swordsmen to do their stuff. Horse archers were also sent in to clear the oil engineers from the keep.
There was constant danger from pitch ditch defences and a battering from tower mangonels, but the troops came through. The survivors (14 horse archers, 26 swordsmen, 1 spearman and two battering rams) were immediately returned north and then back home to join up with the fire ballistae and crossbowmen.
The excellent gold stocks ransacked from the Wolf’s coffers (35000 approximately) enabled me to quickly build up another army. I moved my 32 fire ballistae, supported by horse archers and crossbowmen, slowly up to the Wazir’s stronghold, clearing his towers as we went. I opened a gap in my main moat to get reinforcements to the area quickly.
The fire ballistae set external buildings ablaze and this took out the pitch ditch defences and spread internally. When the flames had subsided, I moved closer and then finished the job in some style (rather differently from what had gone before).
This is a fantastically challenging mission that is just one long war of attrition. The intensity was totally unlike anything that had occurred in the trail before. I took heavy casualties in virtually every battle because I never had quite enough troops and resources to do the job properly. It was mostly brute strength and ignorance - plus patience - that finally won the day.
I killed 32,748 infidels, lost 1,735 colleagues and accumulated 206,074 gold. The time between my first and last victory was 63 game years. In total it took me 114 game years and 15 hours 47 minutes of my life (in all honesty, it felt a lot longer than that).
The way I feel at this moment, I never want to clap eyes on mission 80 ever again!
I am pretty sure you will one day, as this Big One proved to be hot. Missions 33, 41, 79 and this one are the ones I will probably never forget. Out of these, number 41 is still my favourite for being tricky and number 80 for being so incredible large in scale.
Thank you again, Lord Michael, for this impressive piece of work. I am convinced everyone appreciates reading your insights specifically on this one.
Folks, when you meet Lord Michael Mikando at the forums, tell him big thanks! - EL
Note: (Added September 2004). Contrary to my earlier, rather rash, statement, I have now completed this mission for a second time. On this occasion, I deliberately handicapped myself by not placing a barracks, armoury or weapons’ buildings. Behind my main moat, I had three round towers and two lookout towers. These were manned by three tower ballistae, 16 shields and 20 Arabian short bows. At the quarry end of the settlement were two round towers and a small gatehouse. These were occupied by two tower ballistae, 4 shields and 16 Arabian bows. Extra defence was achieved by fire ballistae and numerous killing pits in front of the moat.
My maximum army size immediately prior to the first attack was 130 engineers, 23 shields, two tower mangonels (atop round towers facing the Wazir), 5 tower ballistae, 36 Arabian bows, 53 horse archers and 53 fire ballistae.
The enemy was defeated in the order of Caliph, Nizar, Wazir, Wolf, Lionheart and Emir Omar. The horse archers and fire ballistae slowly established the ground just outside the small gatehouse and then gradually extended their sphere of occupation until the Caliph could be attacked directly. A few assassins finished the job off.
This mission has slowly grown in my affection and now ranks as the favourite out of all eighty missions. No other scenario, for me, totally encompasses the thinking region, fingers, adrenalin, involuntary muscle twitches and calendar as ‘The Big One’ manages to do.
Note: (Added November 2004). This mission has now been beaten for a third time, on this occasion without using any mercenary troops. 20 shields, 20 archers and 70 fire ballistae were slowly moved just outside the quarry gatehouse and two trebuchets were built to wreck havoc on the Nizar’s settlement. Any military losses were immediately replenished. As the assault gathered pace, it was possible to take down the Caliph’s lookout towers with other trebuchets. These towers were replaced but the Caliph’s bowmen wisely remained grounded. Pikemen were eventually able to fill in the nearest part of the Nizar’s moat and 10 swordsmen did the rest. The Caliph was toppled within a year as his settlement and troops were directly attacked by the archers and fire ballistae. The Wazir was the third victim, swiftly followed by the Wolf, Lionheart and Emir Omar. This was easily the quickest of my three victories, but perhaps I'm finally making my experience count.
Remember, all credit goes to Lord Michael I. The walkthrough is from Stronghold-Knights.com .