Master of Magic

So, once again, a post starts as a comment at Chizumatic, but the growth gets out of hand…

I’ve been playing Master of Magic lately; it seems to be what all the cool kids are doing. About which I could care less, but I’m enjoying playing one of my favorite games of all time once again. So head below the fold, and I’ll ramble on for a bit about my latest game, and strategic insights.

White’s my favorite color, with green a close second, but I like to try different stuff. I’m currently finishing a game as Jafar, (all blue and Alchemy). During the game I found 1 white, 1 red, and 1 green book, plus retorts of Warlord, Chaos Mastery and Nature Mastery. (The latter also had one of the books. Had to kill 2 hydras and 3 chaos spawn for it.)

Elven Lords rock. Elven Lords, raised to Ultra Elite status, backed by Ultra Elite Longbowmen, Demi-God level Shuri, whatshisname the Druid…. if you’re the enemy, it’s not pretty. I’m not even bothering to enhance them much any more, and the mix has changed from heavy on the Lords to heavy on the Longbowmen, since not a lot reaches my lines that way.

I have to agree that blue is not as useful–early on. It doesn’t get the direct combat enhancements, but what it gets enables you to leverage what you have. Invisibility keeps your ranged units safe from the enemy’s initial volley. Flight, as Steven noted, makes it so that land-bound melee units can’t attack — but that’s huge when Elven Lords have armor piercing; i.e. they’re far deadlier on offense than defense, so you want to do the attacking, not defending. Wind Walking is another biggie. Enchant one unit and the whole stack can walk over water. Add a hero with Pathfinding… I shuttled a lot of troops across water that way

The Air Elementals allow for quick reinforcement when a random monster attack or opponent catches me by surprise at an under-defended colony. Magic Immunity is expensive in upkeep, but you can thumb your nose at virtually any magic attack, and Spell Lock keeps your enemies’ grubby little hands off your enhancements. Blue, at the high end, is very powerful… but it’s weak to start, and it requires a lot of magic power for upkeep. If you go all blue, take High Elves or Dark Elves for your race; they generate magic points from the population. Colonize widely to maximize that benefit. Use the Pegasai for scouting only, they’re too expensive and not effective enough for combat, compared to the Lords with a flight spell.

Other advantages in the mid and late game are the triple-power disenchants and spell blast. If you’ve got the power to burn, your enemies are going to lose their enchantments in battle, and have issues casting any big overland spells. I never bothered with some of the spells, like Suppression, etc. but the global banishment spell was probably a nasty surprise to Kali… really shouldn’t have garrisoned her capital with summoned creatures like Chaos Spawn, Storm Giants, and Shadow Demons.

I also benefited from inept opponents in this game. I was at war with everyone (Merlin, Horus, Sharee, Kali–no one was on Myrror) from the early game, and none of them were at war with each other. Despite that, none of them were aggressive enough to keep me on the defensive. Merlin tried, but I’d crippled him early on by bagging his settlers. Actually, he crippled himself — gnolls. Useless POS race. Once I had Elven Lords, I built my first EL/LB stack and mounted a decapitation strike directly on Merlin’s capital, then cleaned up the rest of his cities before any of the others could react. The income allowed me to support a second stack EL/LB stack, which is how I took a critical city from Kali, afterwards.

Kali should have had me dead to rights, but for some reason built a huge army and just sat on her continent. She’d build a stack of units, put them on ships and send them at me… and then they’d just sit there–after the first couple of attacks failed, they never get off the ship. Horus and Sharee skirmished with me, but I used the respite to get a toehold in Myrror, and caught a huge break. Normally, it seems towers will be in a continent on one side, and on an island in the other. Not this time; I had a tower near my capital that was connected to a long rambling continent on the other. Of all my opponents, only Sharee made it into Myrror and her tower was on an island, Myrror side, so she never colonized there. Nor could she find much to conquer; it was a wasteland with maybe 3 cities: 2 draconic and 1 dark elf.

About the time I was getting set to repeat my decapitation strategy on Horus, I sniped a small town of Klackons from Kali, thereby gaining a monopoly on road-building. I kid you not, this one town was the sole source of Engineers in the entire game (until I built some Klackon colonies in Myrror.) Blue gets Enchant Road, so all of mine were super fast. No Dwarves, no High Men… and no halflings or lizardmen, either. The only slingers I ever faced were some mercenaries hired by Horus.

All in all, it was a weird game with a lot of breaks going my way, but I learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses by trying different stuff, things that I didn’t learn from earlier play.

Overall, the MOM AI is a little weak, compared to modern games like Civ 4, but the varied strategies make for lots of replay value. I always thought that a MOM II should have been written after the introduction of Windows 95; now I’m sure of it. Re-write the game with a better AI, re-balance the races slightly, and improve the graphics and interface. Your basic game design is done, so it’s not nearly as expensive as creating a new game from scratch, and there’d be a new version of the classic. I’d pay $40-50 for that.

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