Replay: Stronghold – Part Two

Posted by James (admin) on November 26th, 2009

[This is a follow-on from yesterday’s Stronghold Replay post (part one) which is a more in-depth look at Stronghold and is a follow-up to my initial review.]

Please note that the Valley Games version of Stronghold (released March 2011) has massively updated rules to make them clear as the original rules were very confusing and had many conflicts.

Most of the pathways to the castle can have either a trap (placed by the defender and which will kill some specific enemy units if they use the path) or a bridge (placed by the invader and which mean no trap can be placed there).  Once they are placed, they can not be undone and remain there for the game.  These seem relatively small but, once laid, the paths and traps really start to define the battlefield.  Obvious routes that the invaders troops will probably follow start to form and this starts to determine which walls will be the preferred targets.

I thought this was a really nice gameplay mechanic and I would look to lay down traps or bridges earlier in future games. That way I could control the battlefield a little bit and (as the defender) would try to build wall defences afterwards so that they work in harmony with the traps, or (as the invader) would bring troops onto the board at the best locations.

As with all things in Stronghold, there is a limited amount of traps and bridges (three of each) so no player can completely over run the other.

One of the key items for the defender is how to lose as few troops as possible especially in the build-up to assaults on the walls.  This is because troops can be trained to be better but no new ones can be created so your forces can only diminish.

Packing a wall with defending troops will give it the best chance of resisting the invading army but troops on walls that are hit by siege weapon fire (and potentially goblin archers) are killed so go out of the game.  Also, the defender may want some marksmen on the walls to pick off some enemies who don’t have cover.  (The invader can use cover to keep their troops safe from marksmen but, like with most things, the invader only has 3 pieces of cover to deploy so can not cover every area.)  So, what’s right balance of troops to have on a wall?  Maybe you should keep them off a wall and only send them in when required?  These are questions to which the answers are only found by playing and depend upon the situation.  I packed my walls with troops to defend because of the threat of enemy forces but it meant I lost a lot of troops to siege weapons (primarily because my opponent sacrificed vast amounts of goblins to get the blood stone enhancement which means catapults can take out troops too).  I would probably hold troops back a bit more next time, but I would prefer to lose a few troops to siege weapons than risk a breech because I left a wall too poorly defended with not enough time to deploy troops to it.

The defender has another decision on the walls too – What to fill turrets with?  Turrets can hold posts (which can remove enemy units on the wall), cannons or marksmen (which can both remove enemy units approaching the walls).  With only a few turrets, the choice can be quite difficult, which makes it an interesting game.

The combat on the walls is diceless – both sides add up the total value of their troops plus any bonuses (like wall sections and heroes).  The difference between the two values is the amount of losing troop strength that will be removed, i.e. 2 points difference could remove 2 white units or 1 green unit, etc).  I like that it doesn’t feel totally random, but it might be nice to have a little bit of randomness to it so that players can not be 100% sure of the outcome.  There is some randomness if the invader uses hidden orders, or if the defender has a post on a neighbouring turret but these are quite small differences.  Maybe that is all that is required, but I did have a thought about the potential addition of a dice that rolls 0 / 0 / 0 / +1 / +1 / +2 and each side adds their result to their total score.  It would just add that extra uncertainty.  Without trying it I can’t tell – I’m sure some people would love it and some would hate it.

The defender has one advantage in that units removed in combat at a wall go to the hospital.  At the end of a round, two units in the hospital will return to duty and (the others are removed).  As an invader, if you’re attacking the walls you want to cause many losses at once so the hospital is overwhelmed which will thin out the defender’s ranks.  (Note that one option the invader may have available is to be able to raise any units that do not survive the hospital as undead and add them to their own forces.  I love the idea of that.)

The invader can issue orders to invading units at specific walls to give them special effects, such as orcs can blow themselves up to automatically remove wall sections.  These are an interesting item although we found the defender always spent hourglasses to remove the one order that could potentially do the most damage.  As a result, we thought the invader really needed to be attacking on at least two fronts to use orders well because the invader can only remove one order each round.  Orders will be used a lot better in our next games.

End of Part Two.

For more, check out the third and final part of these Stronghold posts where I’ll cover heroes, flipping the phase cards, glory, expansions, and more.


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