Player's Guide CHARACTERS Da Boyz The basis of mastering Dark Legions lies in fully understanding the game's characters. All 16 of them have their own strengths and weaknesses, and their own specific uses, both on the strategic map and in combat. Over the next four pages we tell you what these qualities are as well as advise you which characters are best in which situations, taking into account whether you're playing against the computer or another human opponent. So without further ado, meet... Berserker The humble Berserker is the weakest character in Dark Legions, with no special strategic powers and just simple sword attacks in combat. However, a Berserker is far from useless, for one simple reason - it's cheap. The Berserker's low cost means that eve n the smallest army can afford several of them, and their loss in combat is far from crippling. However, the rule book's suggestion that you should use them as 'trap-finders' should be ignored - with sensible use of Seers, this is unnecessary. Instead, u se a screen of Berserkers as your front line, to slow down and weaken enemy attackers. In combat, Berserkers should avoid characters with ranged attacks, as they'll often get killed before they even get a swing in. However, a large enough number of Berse rkers can wear down, and even kill, the toughest of opponents by attacking in a wave. This is particularly effective against the computer. When controlling a character without a ranged attack, the Dark Legion's artificial intelligence will charge straigh t at you. Stand still, facing the approaching enemy, and when the character is still just out of range, begin a Killing Blow move. If you get the timing right, the opponent will be hit just as it gets within attacking range, ensuring that you do the maxi mum amount of damage, even if it then proceeds to rip your Berserker to pieces. Conjurer The Conjurer is the most expensive character in the game, but it's a good investment nonetheless. Its ability to summon new troops gives your army great strategic flexibility, allowing you to temporarily replace lost forces, bolster a weak area of your d efences or deal with a particular type of enemy, by summoning the right kind of character to deal with the situation. Bear in mind, however, that a summoned creature will survive for only ten turns at the most, and it'll grow gradually weaker as time goe s by. This means that ideally you should not summon a creature until enemy troops are within sight of the Conjurer, and preferably not until the summoned character can immediately attack its target, while it's at its strongest. This poses a problem, beca use Conjurers should be protected from combat at all times - even the lowly Berserker can be a serious threat. Because of this weakness you should always hide your Conjurers behind a screen of real bodyguards (the stronger the better) and save enough lif e-force so that if an enemy does get close, you can summon a last ditch defender. In keeping with all the magicians in the game, Conjurers work well in combination with other character types, and should always have a Templar right next to them. Rings of Life and Rejuvenation increase their usefulness, and a Ring of Speed allows them to move up the map faster, bringing their considerable power to bear. Demon This is the most powerful fighter available to you - it's difficult to do anything wrong with a Demon. Against human players their sheer psychological effect is a useful device, and even the computer knows enough to be wary of them. Their huge combat abi lity means that they are very flexible, serving equally well as assault troops or as a virtually impenetrable wall of defence. A group of Demons is one of the only forces capable of smashing through the enemy's line on its own. In addition, their very st rength makes them capable of defeating just about every other character in the game. The only opponents they should be wary of are: Fire Elementals, due to their ranged attack and partial immunity to the Demon's breath weapon; Trolls, due to their great strength (a Troll won't find it easy to kill a Demon, but it can certainly weaken one severely); and, of course, other Demons. However, the biggest danger when using Demons is over-confidence - because of their seeming invulnerability there's a strong te mptation to just charge in and duke it out toe to toe with everything. But remember, Demons can be worn down just like any other character. The Demon's Sonic Scream, while useful, should only ever be used when a Demon is right in the thick of it and like ly to die, otherwise you should save its life-force for what it does best - fighting. Fire Elemental Other than the brute power of the Demon, the Fire Elemental is arguably the most dangerous fighter available to you in Dark Legions. Its use in combat requires a bit more skill, but with practice it's more than a match for any other character in the game (including the big four-armed red guys with the horns and serious halitosis problems). Due to their speed and ability to fly over chasms and water, Fire Elementals also make ideal scouts and roving troublemakers. The key to using Fire Elementals in comb at is range - stay away from your opponent and pepper him with Fireballs, using the Mini-Nova attack only as a last resort. Against a slow-moving enemy without a ranged attack, this is easy, but tougher baddies take a little more skill. Against a fast-mo ving adversary, terrain can be your best friend. Hide on the other side of a tree (or whatever) and wait until the other character comes around it, then blast them and run away. When fighting something that can fire back, things get a lot harder, althoug h the computer AI has problems controlling these characters. Stand still, facing the computer's character, and when it gets in line with you it'll fire. Immediately let loose your own Fireball and dodge to one side. The computer will tend to sit there an d get hit. As soon as its missile has passed you, move back into the line of fire and repeat the process. This can take a while to get the hang of, but it means that you can often come out of such a fight without a scratch. The same rules apply to the No va as to the Demon's Scream, but remember, it kills the Elemental. Illusionist The Illusionist is one of those characters whose usefulness is very dependant on whether you're playing against the computer or another player. Against another human player, who has no way of telling what is an illusion and what isn't, Illusionists can b e a powerful force. Mixing Illusionists in with real characters can make a group seem far more powerful than it is, and this tactic can be used to divert your opponent's attention from a real threat, or scare him into backing off. In these instances you can afford to create illusory Demons and Trolls, as their appearance is more important than their combat ability. Against the computer, which is immune to psychology, Illusionists are less useful and you should concentrate on creating characters with ran ged attacks - remember that a single hit in combat destroys an illusion. The greatest enemy to the Illusionist, though, is the Seer. If your opponent (real or computer) uses these characters well, your Illusionist will be all but powerless. It's this wea kness that really limits Illusionists, and makes them of dubious use. Unless you're confident in your ability to pick off opposing Seers, it's probably best to avoid using them. However, if you do decide to have an illusionist in your army, keep it close to a Templar or two, give it Rings of Life and Rejuvenation if at all possible (a Ring of Speed might not go amiss either), and keep it out of combat at all costs. Orc In many ways the Orc is just a slightly more powerful Berserker, and much of the same advice applies - use Orcs in great numbers as a screen for your main line and in groups to intimidate a human opponent or wear down a tough character. The key differenc e between the Berserker and the Orc is in combat. The Orc's Charge Attack, as well as causing a decent amount of damage, allows him to close the distance between himself and the enemy quickly (or run away quickly - you don't have to charge at the opponen t, after all). Against computer-controlled characters without a ranged attack, the Orc can use the same technique as the Berserker, charging at its opponent as it approaches. In addition to this, though, the Charge Attack gives an Orc a slightly better c hance against characters with ranged attacks - hopefully getting close enough to do some damage, at any rate. Finally, the Charge is of great use against human players, who can often be forced to panic by using it. When you do get close, avoid the Head B utt - it's too slow to be of much use. Instead, go for Side Swings with the Orc's Cestii, which are quick and can easily cause a lot of damage. The ideal attack from an Orc is a Charge followed by two or three Swings - this'll seriously damage even the t oughest of characters before the Orc dies. Phantom The Phantom is a character dominated by its special ability - everything else is secondary to the fact that the enemy can't see it. And that's the key to using it effectively. Without its invisibility it's a very average character, slow moving and of lim ited use in combat. The Phantom is ideally suited to being a scout, sneaking past the enemy's front lines to locate its Orb Holder and other weaker characters. Bear in mind, however, that if an enemy moves on to the unseen Phantom, combat will still occu r, giving away not just its existence, but its position as well. To avoid this you should be careful when moving your Phantom - stick to the edges of the map when possible, but if that's not possible, hide behind obstacles and in awkward spaces - most pe ople (including the computer) will just move across and down to avoid an obstacle, so hiding right behind one is a good idea. The real problem with using a Phantom in this way is its speed - a scout is no good if the rest of your army outruns it, so Ring s of Speed are a must. A Ring of Power or two can also turn it into a good assassin. As with Illusionists, the Phantom's biggest enemy is the Seer, who can negate its special ability. Again, only use Phantoms if you're confident of dealing with enemy See rs before they cause too much trouble. Seer A Seer is one of the most strategically important characters in the game. All your enemy's cleverly placed traps, sneaky Phantoms and confusing Illusionists are useless when one of these characters is about. However, Seers do suffer from the same problem as all the strategically strong characters - they're horribly weak in combat but need to be close to your front line to do their jobs, making them prime targets for your opponent. As such, always protect them with some big, tough bodyguards, preferably Demons. In spite of what the manual says, Seers are all but useless in a fight, especially against higher level computer opponents, against which their befuddled attack is worthless, so if they get attacked, they're as good as dead. Seers really must be protected as well as possible. Beyond that, there's little else to say about them. Their powers are always active, requiring no input from you. Just be careful not to let your front line stray beyond the Seer's range of sight, or you negate the point of having the character in the first place. Troll Despite being second only to the Demon, in sheer destructive ability, these characters appear far more useful than they really are. The problem with Trolls is their slow speed, which makes them virtually useless as an offensive force - it takes them too long to get into the action. You can negate this with a couple of Rings of Speed, but then you're paying more per Troll than you would for the far tougher Demon. Where the Troll does come into its own, however, is in a defensive role. Leave your Orb Hold er at the back of the map, scatter a few Trolls around it and turn them into rocks on your first turn. Then, even if the enemy does break through your line, there'll be a nasty surprise waiting for it. In combat the Troll is suitably tough, able to deal out a satisfying amount of damage as well as soak up a fair amount. When playing against the computer and faced with an enemy without a ranged attack, you can use a similar technique to that of the Berserker, but with the Troll's devastating Overhead Sma sh Attack. However, ranged attacks can cause the slow-moving Troll a lot of trouble, especially the pesky Fire and Water Elementals. Shape Shifter The Shape Shifter is a very flexible character, which offers you a number of options, and makes a good Orb Holder. Its shape-changing ability is completely free of charge, so you can change from one form to another as many times as you like without weake ning the character, and it gains all of the combat abilities of its current form. As stated in the game manual, deception is the Shape Shifter's forte, and you should make the most of its ability to confuse and surprise an opponent. Because of this abili ty, the character is far more useful against human players than the unperturbable computer opponent, which won't suffer from the same shock when a Demon appears 'out of nowhere' and rips up its flank. Note: You should be careful when following the advice in the manual. Pretending to be a weak character in order to lure the enemy close and then changing into a Demon or Fire Elemental and frying them is a good tactic, but you've got to be very careful ╞ if the enemy can reach you and attack in one turn, y ou wonЦt have a chance to change forms, and you'll be stuck as a Seer or something else equally pathetic in combat, effectively throwing your Shape Shifter away. Be sure to look closely at the ranges of the opposing characters when trying this trick. Templar The Templar is another character of great strategic importance. It can not only heal adjacent characters at a cost to their own life-force, but by merely standing close to them it can give them a bonus to their revitalisation every turn. Unfortunately, w hile they're not as helpless as some characters in combat, they aren't particularly strong either, and should be protected if at all possible. Templars are particularly useful to have around the magician characters (Wizard, Conjurer and Illusionist), as their special powers burn life-force at an alarming rate. You should aim to have at least one Templar in your force for every two magicians, and move them as a group, so that the magicians receive the Templars' bonuses at all times. The other role that a Templar can fulfil is as an 'undead killer'. By loading a Templar down with suitable rings (Life, Power, Stamina, Protection and so on) it can become a powerful force in its own right. Combine this with the Templar's natural bonuses when fighting undead (Vampires, Phantoms, Wraiths and Zombies) and you have a potent force, especially if you time your attacks to occur during the day! Thief Although on the face of it the Thief might seem quite a handy character, to be honest it's not much use. Provided you make good use of your Seers, youЦll be able to avoid enemy traps, and by doing so avoid the need for the Thief. Your opponent can't move over his own traps, so you'll rarely, if ever, be cut off from an area of the map. The other problem with Thieves is that disarming traps is dangerous, and often gets the character killed. You have to ask yourself whether it's worth paying the points fo r a character whose only real use is to disarm traps that could just as easily be avoided. These problems are only compounded by the Thief's lack of combat ability - it's just not very tough at all. It's a shame, because it has some neat moves, but the o nly way a Thief will ever become a force in combat is with a lot of skill and a lot of rings. If you do decide to use a Thief, it's best to manually disarm traps. When doing this, remember to look at any symbols following the one you have to guess, not j ust the one before. For example, if you've been given the symbol in the top-left corner, a blank and then the symbol in the middle-right, then the blank can't be the top-left symbol, or the bottom-left symbol. Vampire The Vampire takes a fair amount of skill to use to its fullest potential, but if you take the time to practise with it, this character can turn the tide of a battle. The key to success with a Vampire is to create as many zombies as quickly as possible. N ot only does this mean that the Vampire will lose less life-force per turn (and will eventually start to gain some, if you create enough zombies), but it also means that you can get the Vampire's life-force up to a good level. The zombies themselves are also very useful. Not only do they provide you with 'free' cannon fodder with which to wear down your opponent, but they also serve as an excellent distraction, forcing your opponent to divert troops away from the front line in order to deal with them. B ecause of this, the Vampire shouldn't be used as part of a formation, but sent off ahead of the rest of your army, hopefully sneaking around the edges of the enemy and attacking weak targets to start off with. Rings of Speed are useful - remember, every turn that goes by the Vampire grows weaker - and a Ring of Stamina helps in combat. The trick to using the Vampire in combat is to get a feel for how long the enemy will remain paralysed and withdraw before it 'snaps out of it', then run away until your stamina has returned. Wizard Wizards have all the same drawbacks as the other magician characters - they're weak in combat, but need to be near the front to be useful, thus requiring bodyguards, and their strategic power burns off life-force. However, like the other magicians, they' re very useful guys to have around, despite these problems. More than any of the other 'strategic' characters, Wizards work best in a group. Two or three of them together with a screen of bodyguards to hide behind and a like number of Templars to boost t heir revitalisation rate can be a powerful force on the battlefield. Their special ability to freeze opponents in place is very flexible in this situation. Each Wizard can 'hold up' a nasty monster until you're ready to deal with it, or all can target th e same enemy, usually killing it in a turn or two. Although they are weak in combat, Wizards at least have a half-decent couple of ranged attacks that give them a better chance of surviving a fight. Use the first attack to freeze your opponent and then l et loose with the other - even the strongest of enemies will have trouble defending themselves against this onslaught. As with all the magicians in Dark Legions, Rings of Life and Rejuvenation are almost a prerequisite for the Wizard, and a single Ring o f Speed will help it keep up with the rest of your forces. Water Elemental They may not be quite as tough as their arch enemies the Fire Elementals, but Water Elementals have an incredibly useful strategic power - provided that there's water on the map. By teleporting to an area of water on the enemy's side of the map you can g et instant scouting information and, unless the enemy has some nearby Water Elementals of its own, you can just sit in the middle of the water and recover your life energy. This 'hiding in the water' technique is also useful when you get badly wounded in a fight, allowing you the time to recuperate. In combat, the Water Elemental's ranged attack isn't very powerful, but is one of the most rapid in the game, making for an effective close attack as well. However, the Tidal Wave Charge can do some real dam age, and can be used in just the same way as the Orc's Charge. Because the Water Elemental has a ranged attack as well, it's often useful to use the Tidal Wave to get away from an opponent who's dangerous at close range. Water Elementals are good all-rou nd characters, useful both in combat and on the strategic map. As such, they benefit from virtually any ring you can give them, although Life and/or Rejuvenation are particularly useful if you want to teleport a lot. Bear in mind, however, that a Water E lemental is far less useful on a map without any water. Wraith As the manual says, the Wraith's teleporting ability makes it an ideal assassin, which is very useful for picking off those pesky characters that are weak in combat but powerful on the strategic map, and happen to be inconveniently hidden behind other en emies. Unfortunately, their low starting life-force means that they are virtually incapable of doing this at the start of the game. What's worse, unless your opponent is nice enough to provide you with a few weak targets to build up your energy, the Wrai th will end up either being killed early or wandering around in a useless fashion. To prevent this, always equip a Wraith with as many Rings of Rejuvenation as possible, and (unless there are a couple of weak characters on offer) keep them well back unti l their life-force has risen to a decent level. When teleporting into combat, take the time to think of the consequences - is the Wraith going to be able to survive the inevitable counter-attacks, and if not, is it worth sacrificing it? With these charac ters it's best to wait for a good opportunity when the Wraith will be able to do the most damage, rather than throw it away early and wish you still had it later. Of course, if you wait too long, that's just as bad. But no-one ever said that strategy was going to be easy! STRATEGY The first thing to realise about Dark Legions is that playing against the computer is very different to playing against a friend, and so requires different approaches and strategies. The following guide is split into two sections (Computer Challenge and Friendly Fun), one for each kind of opponent. Both sections assume that you are playing with a moderately-sized army (2500 points or more) - much smaller than this and the game stops being as much fun. Computer Challenge The computer opponent in Dark Legions is far from the toughest in a modern strategy game, but the huge advantage it gains in points on the higher levels, combined with its considerable skill in combat with certain characters, can still make it a formidab le challenge. To beat it, and to beat it convincingly, it's important to understand its weaknesses. And here they are: The computer is not very good at fighting with or against certain characters (see last month's issue for more details on this). It has only a very basic grasp of overall strategy. It tends to spread all its characters across the map and charge them down to meet you. It will keep the various magicians in groups, back from the action, and keep its orb carrier at its end of the map, but that's about it. It tends to give its orb to a 'weak' character, often a magician. Even with the extra power granted by t he orb, these characters are far from hard to kill. It has very little ability with breaking through your lines, or any other coherent plan. It seems to pick its army on a semi-random basis, just having as many of every character as it can afford. It doe s tend to pick a lot of Seers, and push them towards the front. Likewise it tends to spend a fair number of points on traps, which it scatters around liberally. Taking Your Pick Your strategy in Dark Legions begins with the choosing of your army, and when playing against the computer there are several points to bear in mind. The first thing to realise is that it's not worth using traps as a destructive weapon. The computer tends to saturate its forward lines with Seers, making it unlikely that your traps will escape notice. Although killing off the Seers is possible, it does mean that you have to divert characters from more important targets (a Seer is no military threat on his own) and it's pointless once the traps have been spotted anyway - the computer doesn't seem to forget the location of traps, even if the spotting Seer is killed or moves away. You can, however, use traps to block off certain areas. In this case you want your opponent to see them, and thus the computer's mass of Seers doesn't matter - the enemy characters won't be able to move through the line of traps, and that's the point of them in the first place. By using this technique you can channel the computer 's forces into the area of the map where you want them, and cut down on the number of areas that you have to defend. On a similar note, Phantoms and Illusionists are of very limited use against the computer for exactly the same reasons as traps, so it's best not to bother with them unless you have a specific love of either of these characters. Phantoms are a bit weedy anyway, and for the extra points it's better to buy a Conjurer and have some solid help at your beck and call. Do remember to include at least one Seer on your side, though. The computer really does love traps, especially at the higher difficulty levels, where it has points to burn and strews them around liberally. There's nothing quite as annoying as losing a valuable character without s o much as a fight, so it's vital for you to be able to spot traps early. The other types of character to avoid when playing against the computer are weaklings, like Orcs and Berserkers. The computer isn't intimidated by huge gangs of these guys, so it's more efficient to have a smaller number of tough characters. For the price of four Berserkers you can get a Demon, and normally it'll take a lot more than four boneheads with swords to bring down one of the big red guys. Getting Down To It The key to beating the computer is to use characters in concert, building a central formation and advancing it up the battlefield under the cover of skirmishing groups. Group some Wizards, Conjurers, Templars and Seers together, then put a solid line of Demons in front of them and slightly to either side. Give all the magicians Rings of Speed (so they can keep up with the rest of the formation), Life and Regeneration. Put a couple of Vampires right at either edge of the board, with Rings of Speed and St amina, then a couple of groups of Demons, with whatever rings you fancy, to either side of the main formation. Scatter some Fire Elementals around, as well as whatever other characters you fancy. Finally, put a Demon or a Shape Shifter right at the botto m of the map, and give him the Orb. When the game begins, you just advance the central group steadily up the map - the Demons will easily protect the magicians, who should be used as and when needed. Use the smaller group or groups of Demons as skirmishe rs, taking out the enemy as they find them, and use the Fire Elementals to clear the way for the main advance, dealing with anything nasty or dangerous that might threaten one of the bodyguard Demons. Advance the Vampires up the flanks at full speed, try ing to slip past the front lines and circle around to the weaker characters at the back. Creating a few zombies behind the main line confuses the computer no end. Follow this plan and you should be able to defeat even the hardest difficulty levels. Just keep your Orb Carrier where he started, and advance slowly with the rest of your forces, grinding the enemy down. If you're playing on a larger map, with more points, keep to the basic idea, just form multiple central formations. Friendly Fun Mixing it up with the computer is fun, but the ultimate test of your skill with Dark Legions comes from fighting another player. Human players are capable of far more intelligent plans and strategies than the computer, and can be far better in the combat sections of the game. The problem is that it's harder to give definite guidelines telling you what to do, as every player will use slightly different ideas, and have their own strengths and weaknesses. Still, there is some general advice that applies to most situations. For a start, ignore most of what you've learnt about playing the computer. You can no longer count on your opponent making glaring errors and simple mistakes. Many of the hints above are based on the fact that the computer is relatively immune to deception and psychology. This isn't true of a human opponent. Illusions, Phantoms, big gangs of Orcs and traps are all far more useful against another player, for example. The formation idea still works, but you'll need to more adequately pro tect its sides and rear from sneaky attacks by and intelligent player. Most importantly, you can't just leave your Orb Holder at the back of the map, unprotected. A human player will normally assume that any character near the back is a potential Orb Car rier and go for them with a vengeance. However, some things still work. Demons have an even higher intimidation factor, Fire Elementals are just as effective at clearing the way for your formations, and sending Vampires up each flank to circle in behind is even more effective (in fact, Vampires can be one of the most powerful groups of characters in a two-player game). The real key to playing against another person is to remain flexible, and keep an eye on what's going on. Try to maintain the initiative by attacking in several areas at once, confusing your enemy, and try to predict what he or she is likely to try next. Most of all, play around, and try new things whenever you can you never know what's going to work, so it's best to try everything.