Praetor Strategy Guide

Before I start laying out advice for beating the individual battles, there are a couple of caveats you should keep in mind.

  • It's got a little RPG and CCG mixed in, but at heart Praetor is a strategy game: it's all about the strategy and tactics you use, both in selecting what pieces to fight with and how to use them.  The only randomness in the gameplay is in which pieces out of your deck you will draw at any given time; the rest is up to you, and the order in which you do simple things (especially which opponent you choose to tackle when) can make a huge difference.
     
  • There's a range of difficulties offered on purpose: if the whole game seems too hard on Normal, don't be bashful about starting with Beginner--you are a beginner, so what's there to be ashamed about?  Likewise, if it's getting boring, turn it up to Expert.  (If it's boring you on Expert, remind me never to play you in chess.)
     
  • Every level in this game has been playtested and tuned for difficulty--but it's a big game and what's difficult for one person is easy for another.  I've tried to set the bar such that I can just barely beat each level when playing on Expert difficulty--maybe three to five failures before I can succeed.  I've also tried to ensure that my children--ranging in ages from can't-read-yet to almost-driving--can enjoy the game at the beginner and normal difficulties.  That doesn't mean the tuning has been well accomplished, though; feel free to write me at support@randomly.com and tell me where it needs rework.

Okay, on with the strategies.

Earth Campaign

Earth 1- Raft

    Before striking out for shore you have to decide: should you look for survivors of your shipwreck, or spend your precious moments gathering the supplies you'll need to survive?  Practically speaking, what you're deciding is whether you'll start the game with a Hastatus piece (survivors) or a Javelin piece (equipment); there are other minor effects to the game that depend on your choice, but that's the important part for now.  I usually go for the equipment, since when you defeat the Native Scout you'll get a Hound piece that is more or less analogous to the Hastatus anyway.  Choosing this path can make some of the battles a little harder--in particular the Shaman, where the Javelin won't help at all but the Hastatus would help a lot--but the Javelin helps out on many more.

Earth 2- Wild Boar

    This battle shouldn't be too hard; if you're having trouble on it, I've probably tuned the game badly.  All the same, there are several important things to pick up as you practice against this first opponent--most of them things you'll need for the whole rest of the game.

    First, there's the camping site piece.  You'll probably want to play this on the first round, and normally--not always but normally--it's best to put it on the side of you furthest from the enemy.  (When enemies approach too close, your campsite is lost--so don't let them get there.)  Second, there's the whetstone.  Play this on your Praetor piece on your second turn, and if you have a Hastatus then you can use your remaining energy to summon him (remember to whetstone him when you can--but typically it's best to do your Praetor first).

    Now you're in the wait-and-see method.  The boar moves at the same speed you do, and it will have to go around the small lake to reach you.  When the boar goes around the lake at the top, you go around it on the bottom in the opposite direction: try to keep the lake between you when you can.  If you have the Javelin, hit the boar once or twice with it while circling; if you have the Hastatus, throw him at the boar and don't worry if you lose him when it retaliates.  Remember: the boar can't heal--and all you have to do is get him weakened enough that you can wade in with your Praetor and finish him off.

    If you're playing at Expert difficulty, you'll find that even this first opponent is pretty tough.  It's helpful to pick up on a few behaviors that all wild animals will share: when they're healthy they'll pretty much just charge right at you, but when they get down to about 3 health their heroes will start turning skittish--staying out of your attack range unless they're either cornered or see an opportunity to attack one of your pieces.  So if you hit him with a whetstoned Hastatus and he starts running, offer another Hastatus for him to attack--and make sure your Praetor is just two steps away, so he can jump in to finish off the beast.

Earth 3- Monkey

    Tackle the monkey much the same way as you would the wild boar: get a campsite early, sharpen your weapons and wait for the monkeys to arrive.  While you wait, set up some backup campfires if you can; you'll be moving around in a bit.

    The non-leader monkeys are pretty easy to eliminate one-by-one.  Remember that they can move 3 tiles at a turn--that's pretty fast.  As each one approaches, pay attention to which tiles it can reach next time--and move your praetor away, so that it can't move to melee range but can move one tile away from you.  The monkeys are pretty dumb and they'll happily close right in: after one moves in, jump in and smack him; repeat until the leader himself tries it.  If too many monkeys move in simultaneously, circle around the lake to keep them away and pop them one by one as they come after you.

    Like the boar, the leader monkey will take more than one hit--which means risk to you, since two hits will probably take out your Praetor.  Try to hit him with a Javelin or throw a Hastatus in his path before closing for the kill.

    One more thing: after every victory, your Praetor picks up something--a new piece, a new skill, etc.  When you beat the Boar you picked up a provisions piece; if you're having trouble beating the monkeys, try putting that in your hand (keep the whetstone; doesn't matter which of the others you toss).  Your goal is now hit-and-run: the enemy can't heal, so you just want to damage him and beef up your energy whenever a Provisions piece comes into play.  When you have enough health, just wade in and start swinging; you'll only need to survive a full hit from the leader in order to punch-once, get hit, and punch-to-kill.

Earth 4- Native Scout

    Beating the scout is very hard if the scout is still standing on forest tiles, because he's armored there--and so it's hard to do enough damage to him before he can hit you from a distance.  To beat the scout, you'll do best if you run away at the beginning of the battle; that should lure him out of the forested tiles and onto the grass.

    This is a good time to learn about retaliation.  When it's your turn and you're thinking about moving in and smacking the enemy on the nose, spend a moment to decide if he can retaliate or not.  As the tutorial videos explain, retaliation is automatic: almost all creatures will retaliate after every incoming attack, but only so long as the enemy still has energy left.

    On your turn, your pieces are shown on the bronze bar at the bottom of the screen (right side in landscape mode).  You can take use your finger to slide that bar off-screen, and the opponent's bar will appear on the opposite side: that lets you see if the enemy still has energy with which to retaliate.  (Slide his bronze bar off-screen in the same manner to get yours back.)

    Try to time your attacks when your opponent can't retaliate, and the scout won't be too hard at all.  If you're playing at Expert difficulty, though, the scout will be extra tough and you'll need a different approach: ditch the campsite and get the provisions piece.  The scout isn't very aggressive--he's too timid for that--so just stay away from him and kill the hounds as they approach.  Meanwhile, chow down every provisions piece that you get until your Praetor's health is at least 12 or 13.  Then you can go scout-hunting: stay just outside his range until you can trap him near a side, then move in for the kill and stoically take the non-fatal hits that he deals you as you do.

Earth 5- Constrictor Vine

    When you beat the scout (previous level), you picked up the Hound; make sure you have him, the whetstone and the campfire in your deck before you start this battle.  If you're playing at expert difficulty, you'll find this level much easier if you play as a Warrior and keep your praetor near your hounds--that extra attack strength makes a big difference.

    Beating the constrictor vines is an exercise in patience.  Get your Praetor near the vines and make sure he's whetstoned, but don't attack the vines yet.  Once you're there, plant a campsite, then bring in a hound and whetstone him too.  Now you're ready to begin.  Your hound will be doing all the work; keep your Praetor next to the campsite so you'll have extra energy for your hound to use.

    The important things to remember are that a whetstoned hound can kill any non-leader vine in one chomp--and that the hound, if it has enough energy, can attack twice per turn.  When you start each turn, with your Praetor next to the campfire you should have three energy: use one to move the hound next to at most two vines, and the next two energy to chomp each vine once.  On the enemy's turn he'll probably respawn one of those vines: move, chomp, chomp again.  Sooner or later you'll be able to move in to the main vine and chomp him.

    Remember what you learned about retaliation last time: if the root vine can retaliate, it will kill your hound and then heal himself while you waste time making a new one.  So either keep your Praetor close enough to finish off the root himself, or wait until the enemy has burned all his energy on a turn before you try to tackle the root.

Earth 6- Brown Bear

    Beating the constrictor vine means you'll be able to field two creatures (hastati and/or hounds) at a time, and that makes this round a lot easier.  You'll want the campsite, hound/hastatus and whetstone pieces in your arsenal for this one--especially if you're playing at Expert difficulty.  It's time to learn another important thing about your enemies (animals in particular, but also applicable to many other beasts): unless they're particularly inclined to violence against your Praetor (some are!), they'll frequently head towards whoever is closest.  So you want to lead them on with your soldiers, and keep your Praetor out of harm's way.

    You don't have much time before the bears approach.  In your first round, stay put and start a campsite; in the second, whetstone yourself and summon a creature.  Next round, have that creature rush east to try to draw the bears that way; keep it out of range of the bears as they approach, always running as far southeast as possible.  Whetstone that creature when you can, and when it runs out of space to flee, turn and bite the brown bear once.  The retaliation will kill your guy, but he's done his job.

    While you've been leading the bears southeast, hopefully you've had time to summon a second hound or hastatus.  Leave him by the current fire for energy, and move your Praetor north--away from the bears.  When you've moved a bit, light a campfire there too--you need all your energy.  Whetstone the creature you left behind, and again try to lure the bears away--this time southwest as far as possible, before turning back and biting the bear once.

    A few of these suicidal attacks will weaken the bear enough that your Praetor can finish him when he closes in for the kill.  This strategy is one you'll need frequently for future battles, so the practice here won't go to waste.

    When you win this round, don't forget to go back to the raft!  Your deck capacity has increased (from 3 pieces to 5), so this is a great time to pick up more material.

Earth 7- Native Warrior

    First, did you pop by the raft again after you beat the brown bear?  You should be able to have 5 pieces in your deck now, and those help a lot--especially the provisions piece, which if used judiciously will give your Praetor enough health that he can stand toe to toe with the leader warrior and win.  With just 3 pieces this level will be very hard.

    If you haven't picked up the method already, this is a good opportunity to accustom yourself to throwing away your warriors.  The computer AI will typically go after the closest of your creatures--so it's not too hard to use your pieces to lead the non-leader pieces away so they can't stand between the provisioned-up you and the main warrior.  Keep your forces mobile, and plant campfires near anything that's stationary for the extra energy.

Earth 8- Shaman

    The Shaman isn't hard to kill: she's pretty weak actually.  The hard part is getting to her without taking so much damage from the vines that you can't survive even her weak little attack.  So how do you do that?

    The trick is to throw away your helpers.  The javelin won't help you here but the Hastatus will: if you have the Hastatus and the Hound, make sure both are in your deck (otherwise just use the Hound--it will be harder, but you'll get it eventually).  On every turn, if you possibly can, first summon a creature then move away from him: go around the lake on the east side and work your way north, where the Shaman will meet you.  The constrictor vines will almost always go for the weaker creatures first--which means they'll spend their energy killing your hounds instead of attacking you.  Now you'll have the health to face the Shaman and win.

    Don't give up!  The amulet the Shaman gives you is very important--both because it gives you extra energy for moving and attacking, and because it lets you use new magics that require Earth energy.  As for whether you decide to kill the Shaman or let her flee, I won't advise you here: pick your own storyline.  :)

Earth 9- Lesser Wurm

    Just stay clear!  Move around the lake to keep the wurms at bay--remembering that they can tunnel underwater, but they won't appear from the water itself.  Wait until the leader moves in, and throw all your troops at him.  The approach isn't fancy, but it works.

    When you beat the wurm, put away your provisions piece back at the raft (or something else if you need to) and return to the villagers' marketplace.  All this time that you've been fighting battles you've been building up a sizable amount of money; now is a good time to spend some of it.  If you sell your Wild Hound card to the villages you'll have even more, which makes picking up a War Hound in exchange pretty cheap.  Even after doing that you'll still have enough to buy something else--Vitality is a good choice, as are Entangle and Berzerk.

Earth 10- Wolf Den

    These guys are tough--largely because they can heal themselves so easily.  The trick is to keep them from doing it: once you hurt a wolf, you must follow him as he runs away and finish him off before he heals.  If you don't, they'll just swarm you.

    If you have a Vitality card, you might be well served to try giving extra vitality to your own Hounds.  Keep one hound and your Praetor back near a safe campsite to provide energy, and use the beefed-up hound to wade into the wolves and pick them off one by one (remember: with enough energy, hounds can attack twice per turn).  So long as there's a full den of wolves the enemy will typically use all his energy every turn and so won't be able to retaliate--but as you thin their numbers, that might not be the case.  Keep an eye on your opponent's energy, and go for the leader only when you're sure you can hit him twice without dying.

Earth 11- Balearic Slinger

    The Slingers will try to keep you on the left side of the map by putting barricades in your way; if they do, it will be very hard to get past them.  Instead of charging them or waiting for them to come through (they won't), immediately pass to the east side of the water by moving through the gap at the top of the map.  Once you're there plant a campfire and tackle them just as you would any other enemy--it will still be tough, but at least you can reach them now.

Earth 12- Centaur

    Centaurs have ranged weapons, so hiding behind barricades and hills isn't going to help you.  Instead, maybe use a Vitality or Provisions card to strengthen your Praetor--and make sure you place your pieces such that the Centaurs can't use their Trample ability.  (Trample requires that they move right past you in a straight line--two or three tiles total distance--and land on a safe square.  So put a wall in there, or get off that line.)

Earth 13- Cannibal

    These guys are incredibly tough--and since they get stronger whenever they kill a little guy, you can't use your normal techniques of nibbling at them with dogs until they're weak.  Fortunately they're more animal than man--which means they don't respect ranged weapons.  For this battle you'll want your short bow, Javelin if you have it, campfire and importantly the barricade you earned when you beat the Slingers.

    As the battle opens, rush north and slightly west to hide among the waters.  You want to (at least partially) seal yourself in with barricades and use your ranged weapons to attack creatures on the opposite side as they come close.  If the pressing enemies manage to take down your barricade, just pop a new one up.  If you're snug inside your barricades with a campfire at your back, you'll be safe from the cannibals and their wolves and you can take out their leader when he finally approaches.

Earth 14- Darkroot

    The Darkroot leader is wary of ranged weapons, so you won't be able to beat him the way you did the cannibals--but the other Darkroots aren't so clever, and shooting over barricades is a great way to thin their numbers.  Surrounding yourself with campfires will keep the Darkroots from summoning vines next to you without preventing you from moving around.

    Ultimately, you'll need to have some whetstoned creatures that you can use to swarm the Darkroot leader when he approaches--just time your attack carefully, and remember that moving when a Darkroot is near costs two energy instead of one (damned roots all over the ground), so you'll want to start with all your creatures near a campfire and the Earth Amulet in your equipment list.

Earth 15- Master Shaman

    The Master Shaman has a lot of hit points and heals damage at the end of each round, so when you make your move on him you'll need to bring a lot of pain all at once.  That means biding your time until you can bring in several whetstoned War Hounds, perhaps backed up by Berzerk cards.  Entangle works really well here, slowing down the Lesser Wurms so that you have time to raise your army and get them started towards the slow-moving Master Shaman.

Earth 16- Pirate

    If you try to attack these pirates before you meet Erebus and tackle the Master Shaman that's on his tail, the game will just tell you there's no one here.  But now that you've beaten the shaman and Erebus has sent you on his mission of revenge, it's a great time to tackle these pirates.

    With luck you'll find that the pirates aren't too much of a challenge.  They're tough (3/5/2), and you don't want them to hit your creatures because they'll steal the cards from your hand--but they're nothing you haven't seen and beaten before.  Try to distract the low-level pirates with your army and your Praetor can probably finish their leader in a one-on-one battle.

Earth 17- Gnome

    You'll notice right off that these things are fast: they move three tiles at a time and you can't retaliate when they hit.  Besides, there are lots of them: the gnome leader can summon two per turn and his maximum army size is a lot bigger than yours.  It's a good thing they're individually pretty weak.

    That's where you need to hit them: a whetstoned War Hound can kill two of these per round, if you can get him into the fray without being killed.  The Entangle piece is a great one to use here, since it slows down those things so they can't leap onto you; it's also great for slowing down the leader once you've thinned his pack down to size, since he's more of an armchair general and will typically run from a fight.

    Notice also that the gnome leader isn't very forethoughtful: if he thinks he can jump in and kill your hound outright, he'll do it--without really noticing that you might have another hound a few steps away.  It's therefore possible to lure him out into the open with a few sacrificial pieces; just remember to clean out the other gnomes first.

Earth 18- Grootslang

    The grootslang is strong and tough, but it's vulnerable to sleep potions.  Any combination of sleep potion, berzerk and entangle is great to have here--and make sure you bring a war hound.  Remember, now that you've beaten the gnomes you can have at least 7 pieces in your deck--so if you haven't gone back to the raft or village to restock, now is a good time.

    Sleep potions won't stop the Grootslang from retaliating, since it wakes up as soon as you attack it.  But if you can attack the beast and then put it to sleep, it won't be able to attack you on its next turn--so you can move in with another hound for a second strike.  If you've used whetstone and berzerk, two hits should finish off the grootslang easily.

Earth 19- Golem

    If you're reading this, then odds are good that you're struggling with the golem.  So I'll start by assuring you that, yes, you can beat these things.  Honest!  It just takes some careful tactics (after all, this is a strategy game).

    To take on the golem you'll need a war hound, whetstone, and berzerk; I'd suggest campfire too, as usual.  (Sleep potion won't help you since they're immune to sleeping.)  Your general approach should be to keep your Praetor the hell away from the golems; they're slow moving, so that isn't as impossible as it sounds.  You've already noticed that if you let them get close they'll just run you down--so stay away.  When campsite pieces appear for play, launch one ahead of your Praetor so you'll get some benefit from it next round too--but keep moving away.

    When you have the time, summon a pair of soldiers and whetstone them.  The soldiers' job is to hunt down the leader golem and damage it while your Praetor keeps running in circles around the map.  To get your guys in position to attack, you'll need to be very attentive to where the golems can go next turn and where their stun effect hits.  Golems move one tile at a time, and when they do they'll stun anything that's nearby their new location ("nearby" means exactly adjacent-or-one-tile-away; I'll use that term a lot).  So at the end of your turn, you want to have positioned your soldier so that it will be just outside that effect range--and conveniently, that means after the golem moves your hound will be just far enough away to rush in and strike.  (Use berzerk if you have it, clearly.)

    Now, why do you need a pair instead of one?  Because the damned leader golem is sentient, that's why: as your soldiers close in, he'll back off.  You need to lure him out by giving him a target: on your turn move one of your soldiers two or three steps away from the golem--it's okay, he's a martyr--and your other soldier a further two steps away.  When the leader sees the fresh meat nearby he'll jump in and whomp him--and on your turn your backup soldier can move in for the kill.

    So in short: keep your Praetor away from the golems and send your soldiers out in (at least) pairs.  Keep that up and eventually you'll take the thing down.

Earth 20- Pirate Captain

    The Pirate Captain is bold and brave--which is excellent for you, since if he just stood off and let his crew attack you that'd probably be the end of the story.  But he's going to join them and come after you personally, so be ready.

    All you really need for this one is a war hound, whetstone, and berzerk piece.  Prepare a war hound and swipe the captain when he comes in for the kill; then jump in with your whetstoned praetor to finish the guy off if that didn't do it.  If the battle lasts much longer than that, you'll be swarmed and die--so aim to finish things quickly.

    Hey, when you've finished this level, check out the ship that anchors--it's got all kinds of goodies!  Some pieces are duplicates: putting more than one of a piece in your deck makes it more likely you'll get that piece.

Earth 21- Meliai

    If you're having trouble with the Meliai, odds are good that you're either trying to beat them with just your Praetor or by sending allies after them one at a time.  A lone soldier walking into a mass of archers is suicide.

    Instead, try outfitting a pair of soldiers--hounds, Hastati, etc--and send them as a group.  This time don't leave your Praetor behind either; you'll be taking losses, and only your Praetor can summon new warriors to replace them, so you'll want him close.  Let the warriors lead the way, stepping at least two into range of the bows at once.  The Meliai will kill one, but the other will get through and can wreak havoc.

    The Meliai leader is also vulnerable to a common flaw: if it sees an easy target nearby, instead of keeping its distance it won't be able to resist moving in for the kill--and it won't look to see if the creature has backup.  Again, remember to send your warriors in teams and you'll defeat her easily.  Well, almost easily.

Earth 22- Greater Wurm

    A few battles ago, you fought off some pirates to allow a Roman Triarius to dock--and it brought along new equipment and soldiers.  You'll need them, because there's no way you're winning this battle with the tactics you've been using so far.

    The key to winning this battle--and a lot of them from now on, actually--is to employ a Phalanx.  None of your creatures can stand up to the Greater Wurm by themselves--but if you can collect several Phalanx-capable creatures together (like the Hastatus and Triarius) then their strength and armor will all increase.  Keep them massed together and the group will be too much for the wurm.

    Practically speaking, you'll want to pick up both Triarius pieces from the ship, and perhaps a Hastatus or two besides.  Start this battle by establishing a campsite as soon as possible--you'll need the extra energy, and you'll need it fast.  As quickly as you can, summon your army and keep them all touching each other; for best effect, put the first few next to the campsite as well so you get more energy.  Apply whetstones to as many as you can and keep summoning new soldiers until the Wurm appears.

    Just by massing the phalanx-capable allies together you'll be amazed at how strong they grow.  When the worm heaves into view, move your group in and attack--but keep them together, and remember that the effect of the phalanx will be disrupted as you lose creatures.  (Remember also that the Wurm is strongly armored, so if you're counting hit points be extra cautious.)  When I play-tested this level at expert difficulty I found I could beat the wurm with just one Anger piece, two Triarius pieces, a whetstone and a campfire.  It's all in the tactics...

Earth 23- Green Dragonling

    This is the first (but not the last!) flying creature you'll encounter.  When a creature is flying, you can't hit it unless your own creature is also flying--or at least has a projectile weapon.  So you'll definitely want to bring the Short Bow as part of your equipment.  Javelin won't help you at all here because the dragons are heavily armored and the Javelin only does two damage--so that's just a waste.  But bring along the Entangle piece: it won't last long, but Entangle will pull a dragon down to the ground so that anything can hit it.

    The good news is, this dragonling is young and foolhardy: it won't hesitate to risk its own neck, so with well-timed Entangle and Berzerk cards you can take it out pretty easily.  Remember to watch its motion though: the dragons move fast until they're entangled, so you'll need to keep your distance until it's time to strike.

Earth 24- Earth Elemental

    There are two problems to face in this level: the rocks that move in and attack you, and the fact that the enemy leader is hard to corner--he won't field mobile allies but he'll stay away from your troops unless he can move in to step on one.  And being an Earth Elemental, he's slow-moving but can move over rocks where you can't go.

    It's important to pick your gear carefully for this battle.  You'll want the Dragonroot Armor and a Vitality card (or at least Provisions), so you don't lose your soldiers too easily.  You'll also want the usual gear of a Triarius, a whetstone and a campsite.  With an enemy this well armored you'll probably need to bring along Berzerk, and you'll need the Earth Amulet to provide the Earth Energy to bring all that into play.

    Now for the tactics.  Remember that your armor works best when you're on a forest tile--so quickly move your Praetor onto one (preferably one away from the rocks) and plant a campsite nearby.  Your Praetor will be staying there for a while.  When you have a chance, send a Triarius North--but do it along the western edge of the map: you want him to circle around above the Elemental so that he'll run South along the East coast--down near where your Praetor is resting and waiting.  If you have a Vitality card that can help keep your Triarius healthy as he moves around; if not, send the Triarius in pairs and keep them in phalanx to boost their armor so they can shrug off the Living Rock sorcery that the Elemental uses.  In your spare time bring in at least two more soldiers--but keep them away from the Elemental so that he won't run away from them.  (Yet.)

    Sooner or later, you'll be able to bring at least two soldiers within striking distance of the Elemental.  (Don't use your praetor for this unless you're sure you can finish the Elemental in one hit; he's awfully strong and will undoubtedly kill you if he gets the chance.)  Like the Earth Elemental description window says, the thing is invulnerable unless you have at least two creatures adjacent to it, so move both soldiers in at the same time.  Use a berzerk piece (or two!) when you wound him; he'll retaliate and will kill your creature, but with any luck you can bring in more to finish him off before he regenerates.  It's tough, but it will eventually work.

    To recap: the important bits on this level are to drive the elemental down south where there are fewer rocks, and to do all the attacking with your troops rather than your Praetor (until the very last blow).  Keep trying and you'll get it.

Earth 25- Zalu

    Zalu is a monster.  Not only is he armored and tough, but all his Earth allies are stronger than normal as long as he's in play--and even more so if they're near him.  Worse, Zalu is clever enough to send his wolves into the fight ahead of him, keeping himself out of danger and letting his troops face the wrath of your warriors.

    The phalanx is really your only hope here.  When you mass your Triarius and Hastatus troops (including any others who also have the Training enchantment), they boost each others' armor and strength.  If you get five or six of these together in a rough circular mass, they're just too tough for the opponent to do more than whittle away at.

    So that's the way you'll need to play it.  Get a campfire started and begin summoning troops into a mass; use whetstone and vitality and any other strengthening enchantments you can, but don't let them wander away yet--keep them together en masse.  Only when you've got a full complement should you string North and West, slowly approaching Zalu himself.

    Bring your Praetor along for the ride, but keep him in the back where he's safe.  (You'll need him nearby to summon replacements as the wolves take down your flanks.)  Summon campfires as you move to ensure you always have enough energy, and move slowly so you don't leave anyone behind.  Maintain your formation as a tight lump with no one left too far from anyone else, so the phalanx remains strong.

    If you can do all that, then you'll be able to work your way up next to Zalu and eventually trap him against the edge of the playing field.  Then you can finally bring out the Berzerk piece and throw down with him toe to toe--but remember that he's fast, so if he has any energy left he'll very likely kill your attacker before he takes any damage.  Make sure you take out his campfires (by standing next to them) to rob him of the energy he needs to retaliate, and check his energy levels before you finally move in for the kill.

    When you're done, pick up the new playing piece left behind to finish the Episode 1 story narrative.  And buy the game because it doesn't cost you much money at all, you're getting a lot of good play time out of it, and this thing took me well over a year to write.

Water Campaign

Water 1- Crab

    If you're starting at the Water campaign, this is the first level you'll face--and it's particularly important to check your load-out before you start.  The game will have started you with a reasonable collection of playing pieces, but take a moment to tap the raft or your ship and decide if you want to pick a new set of equipment.

    Over the last five or six battles, the phalanx has become pretty important--so if you're continuing onto this island from just having beaten Zalu, you've probably got a bunch Triarius and Hastatus pieces in your deck.  The crabs you're about to face will be coming at you pretty quickly--probably too fast for you to build up a decent phalanx.  And remember that Zalu has a special ability: while he's on the field, all Earth-based creatures on his team get their strength boosted.  In short, for the new few battles you'll probably want to retire the Triarius pieces and pick up your old War Hound instead.  And of course you'll want your staples of campfire and whetstone.  And if you don't have one yet, get a Berzerk piece and put it in your deck too: the crabs have heavy armor.

    When battle begins, your first move--here as almost always--is simply to plant a campfire: invest a little time now to get the energy you'll need over the next few turns.  If you have enough energy left in your first round, bring out a war hound next to the campfire as well.

    The crab leader isn't sentient--so he's not worried about your weapons.  Lure him in with a war hound, and once the crab kills your hound, have Zalu and your Praetor jump in and finish off the leader.  Not so tough, as long as you've got that Berzerk and Whetstone in play.

Water 2- Will of the Wisp

    You'll notice pretty quickly that these things are Flying creatures, so if you don't have the Short Bow, Javelin or Entangle pieces you'll have no way to damage them.  Make sure you pick out your equipment with that in mind.

    In general the Will of the Wisp isn't an intelligent creature: give your Praetor a bow and have him hunt the main baddie, while your other creatures move around and take out encroaching bad guys with javelins.  That combination should get you past the Will of the Wisp in no time.

Water 3- Marsh Bear

    Beating the Marsh Bear is all about having a lot of energy and doing a lot of damage.  You'll definitely want a Berzerk card, Zalu, your war hounds, a whetstone and a campfire.  Beyond that the Plank is a good choice, as is your Earth Amulet.

    The tactics for fighting the Marsh Bear depend on what difficulty level you've been using.  If you're playing at Beginner or Experienced, you can generally lure the main bear in with a disposable creature, then after it moves in for the kill, bring up your army and whollup it.  (Be sure to do the main strikes with a whetstoned War Hound, and be sure to bring Zalu in close--he makes the hounds a lot tougher when he's nearby.)  If you're playing at the Expert level you may need to work a little harder, letting the bear chase your Praetor around and taking pot-shots with your creatures to weaken him.  It's also possible to drive the bear off with a strong phalanx, but it moves pretty fast and you don't always have time to get enough creatures in place to make the phalanx strong enough to survive.

Water 4- Panther

    Beating the panthers isn't as hard as you think--honest!  If they're giving you trouble, it's probably because you're moving in with only one or two creatures at a time, and they're doing a move-strike-retreat thing to stay out of your way.  So don't get into that mode; instead, start the battle by lighting a campfire above you and don't go anywhere until you've amassed at least three more creatures to work with.  Give them whetstones and apply enough campfires and planks around you that you'll be able to move well when the time comes.

    Now here's the important bit: bring along a Sleeping Potion.  Since you've stayed in the same place the Panthers will come towards you, and since you've got lots of campfires around you'll have plenty of energy.  When the main baddie is within four steps of you, move towards it as far as you can and hit it with a sleeping potion.  Importantly, move all your other creatures that way too--keeping your praetor safe in the back--so that you've got a big group moving around.

    See, panthers are skittish: they won't tackle a big group, but instead will move away.  Since the main baddie is sleeping, you can just walk up to him and knock him out--often without even getting hit once yourself.  See?  Not so tough.  When you've beaten the Panthers, remember to stop by the raft or your ship and pick up some extra equipment to carry along: you've got 11 spots now instead of 7.

Water 5- Haunt

    The haunts are probably the first creature you've encountered that has the Magical attribute.  Creatures like this normally can't be hit by mundane weapons--so even if you have a short bow and a javelin you won't be able to hurt them.  What you need is the Coral Pendant, which you got when you beat the Marsh Bear.

    The pendant has two effects: first it upgrades one of your general energies for water--which doesn't matter much to you right now, since you don't have any water-type pieces.  But it also allows you to hit Magical creatures.  It does that by giving you the Enchanted attribute--both to your Praetor (who's the guy wearing the pendant) and to any of your allies who is adjacent to your Praetor.

    To beat the haunts you'll therefore need to stand close to the Praetor as you move in.

Water 6- Kelpie

    Are you still wearing the Coral pendant?  Take it off, because you don't need it here and it's using up space in your equipment list.  Use the extra space to pick up a few Triarius pieces: with 11 spots in your equipment list and drawing 2 pieces every other turn, you're going to get each piece roughly every 8-9 turns--and if you only have one War Hound piece in there, you won't have a big enough army.  Get some more creatures in your army--at least two of them, plus yourself and Zalu.

    Kelpies in mythology lure in the unwary, seducing them to come nearer--and drawing them down into the water when they touch.  In this game the Kelpies have a similar trick: if your creatures have a way to approach a Kelpie, then when they move they have to--they're not allowed to move away from one.  That seems pretty minor, but it can be surprisingly constraining.

    One catch is that, if there is no way to approach a Kelpie, then your characters are unconstrained.  What that means is that, until a Kelpie crosses the river to your bank--or until you drop a plank bridge across the waters--you can do whatever you want.  So spend some time building up a sizable force before you start dropping bridges into place and eventually go after the main baddie en masse.

Water 7- Water Moccasin

    The moccasins are fast (meaning that when you attack them, they'll typically get to retaliate first), and they start the battle with several in play already--some quite close.  Worse, they have an awfully fast respawn rate and a lot of energy (especially on Expert difficulty).

    Three things can really save you here.  First, use the long bow you just picked up after fighting the Kelpies--and shoot the damned snakes from a distance.  You'll want to have your Praetor doing most of the damage in this battle, since he can strike from a distance with impunity.  In particular, on your very first turn you move your Praetor into range and shoot the snake to your left--then do it again when the snake in the upper-left arrives.  In between, stake out a campfire and start building an army.

    Which bring us to the second good bit: armor.  You'll want Triarius cards here, plus Training or your Darkroot Armor.  The snakes aren't too tough individually, so if you have enough armor you'll be okay.  It doesn't hurt to pick up a Vitality piece too--but throw out the Berzerk you've probably been carrying, since you don't need it this time.  If you're having trouble, bring in a Training piece and let both Zalu and your Praetor participate in a phalanx with your Triarius pieces; that should keep them armored enough that they'll be safe.

    The third thing that can save you is Zalu.  He's also fast, which means he can attack snakes without getting zapped.  Let him walk point--train him to work with the phalanx if you can--and heal him when he's struck.

    The swamps are pretty thick on the bottom of the map, so you'll probably want to take the long way around: go north a bit, then left onto the top-center island, and finally work down-left towards the leader snake.  It's a long process but you'll get it eventually.  It's important not to rush: build your army before you move, and when you move let Zalu take the lead with your Praetor shooting right behind him.  If you drop planks down on top of swamps you won't get swamp rot from standing there, so use planks to fortify your position.

Water 8- Alligator

    Checking your gear is essential before tackling the alligators.  You'll want a lot of equipment: at minimum your armor, earth amulet, coral pendant, and importantly your long bow.  You'll also want to bring along Zalu and a whetstone; Spring Growth is a good idea too.  To get around you'll need both a Plank Bridge and the Swimming piece that you earned by fighting the Moccasins.  That's 9 out of your 11 pieces right there; if you add Campsite, then that's 10--and notice that I didn't recommend you add War Hound or any other creatures.  They won't help much here; just you and Zalu should be able to do the job.

    The hardest part about the alligators is that they don't move normally.  They're slow on land--meaning, they go through land at the same rate you go through swamps: one step at a time.  But they can move full speed through water and swampland, so they go fast where you go slowly.  Annoying.  They also bring the Quagmire sorcery (which you'll be able to buy later) that they'll use to turn land into swamp--giving them a faster path to reach you, and probably inflicting Swamp Rot on you if you don't keep your pieces moving.

    To beat the alligators, you'll need to work your way down to where the big guy is; he's a little skittish.  Spend some time sitting tight around a campsite while you apply whetstones, vitality and spring growth to your Praetor and Zalu pieces.  When Swimming appears apply it first to Zalu; he'll be walking point, since he's (a) disposable and (b) has Fast, so he's less likely to die in the first place.  When the Bridge piece appears start building a path SE; it'll take two planks to get down that way.  Make sure that when you move Zalu, you leave him some energy to retaliate--and don't forget that your Praetor has a bow, so even before you have a full bridge to the next island he can often help clear Zalu's path.  Having applied swimming to Zalu means he can leave the bridge entirely and land on the island early to get it cleared off.

Water 9- Scourge

    You'll need to beat the Scourge in order to get the Tremor piece, because without it you can't defeat the Kraken in a few turns.  So you might as well get the scourge over with now.

    The trick to beating the Scourge is to run North, away from the water.  When they're near the waterline they're half ethereal--your weapons won't do much damage.  They also get a huge amount of energy from being near the water, which makes them really tough to beat.  Run far North before you engage them and they'll be much easier to handle.

    Using armored creatures or a Phalanx won't help you much because they will simply decay your armor.  Better is to tackle them with war hounds, berzerk and whetstone.

Water 10- Basilisk

    The Basilisk moves differently than other creatures: all its on-board pieces represent parts of a single snake that moves around.  Pieces closer to the head of the snake are stronger and have higher armor; the longer the snake, the more the head-most pieces toughen up.  If you're having trouble with the Basilisk, you can weaken the head by chopping the snake in half--attacking an easier piece, to weaken the head.

    My five-year-old son beat the Basilisk (on Beginner difficulty, sure) on his first try; if he can do it, you can too.  Bring along your Berzerk and Tremor pieces and leave the coral pendant and swimming pieces behind to make room; you won't need them this time.

Water 11- Kraken

    The Kraken won't come up on land--how can you kill it when it won't come into range?  You've got to bring the fight to the Kraken--but you can't attack while you're swimming.  So now what?  Well, you have two approaches for getting down there.  First, you can try to build a long plank bridge set around the rocky islands--but that's pretty slow.  Or you can use the Tremor piece to turn those rocks into sand; swim out to the new islands, and you can use ranged weapons to attack the Kraken in its home waters.  The latter is the better approach.

    First, choose your gear very carefully.  Every time I've beaten the Kraken I've done it with the following equipment:
    - Coral Pendant and Swimming
    - Earth Amulet, Refresh and Vitality
    - Darkroot Armor and Tremor
    - Whetstone and Short Bow
    - Javelin and Plank Bridge

    Notice that this list doesn't include Campfire or any allies--just the Praetor against the beast.  Too many other things that I needed to carry along, and it's hard to negotiate a long string of plank bridges with a group.

    First things first: there's a trick to getting rid of the tentacles.  On your first turn run southwest to the coast line and wait for the Kraken to summon a tentacle.  Don't kill it--just move away one square so you're out of its range, and wait for it to summon another on its next turn.  The tentacles can't move and won't retreat, so if you don't kill them eventually the Kraken will run out of tentacles and you can move with impunity.

    As you've been doing this you've been working your way Eastward along the coast.  Now strike south using plank bridges and swimming; you can use Tremor cards to turn mountains into sand so that you'll have places to stand along the way.  Head straight towards the Kraken, who will retreat South as you approach.  And as you travel, make sure you use every Vitality you can on your Praetor; you're going to take a few hits.

    If you crowd the Kraken enough, it will eventually strike.  At this point it's all down to force of arms: since you're wearing your armor you'll take less damage than it can, and if you get too wounded you can retreat and heal.  Eventually the Kraken will fall and you'll be able to get some of the seriously cool new pieces from the ship that it was protecting.

Water 12- Sucking Bog

    When you defeated the Kraken last time, it left behind a ship where you can buy some new playing pieces.  Everything there is good to buy, even if you have to sell some of the other items you've picked up along the way to do so.  Like that Provisions piece; have you used it in a while?  Got an extra Campsite sitting in the Roman Trireme that you don't need?  Sell it in the Kraken's merchant vessel and you'll get almost full value for it.

    The Bog isn't tough so much as prolific, and it represents a great excuse to practice with your new pieces.  Build up your army for a short time where you start in relative safety, then cross the river South with a bridge or Swimming pieces.  Make sure you move at least in pairs, since if you're using the Veles pieces (which you should be--they're great!), whoever is in front will be weak when enemies approach.

    One other technique you can use to beat the bog: they're susceptible to Tremor.  At the higher difficulty levels this will take a while, but you can kill the enemy just by laying enough Tremor cards on him, so if you're really stuck give that a shot.

    The nice thing about beating the Bog is that you can now summon two creatures per turn--so if you have the energy, it's a lot easier to get your army onto the field.

Water 13- Monitor Lizard

    Monitor Lizards move like Alligators do: they're fast in the water and slow on land.  What makes them hard to beat is that they attack en masse, and new lizards can be summoned next to any existing lizard.  Oh, and they use the Stun ability to keep your Praetor shut down, so you can't summon new creatures of your own.

    Again, the Veles pieces, a tower and a catapult are a great combination for beating the Lizards.  This time leave your Praetor out of the fight, keeping him back near the campsite for energy; every time he's not stunned, use him to summon more warriors to the battle.  Let two of your Veles pieces as a pair to walk point: move them a few steps out of range, drop a tower next to them and use its range boost to hit the closest Lizards.  Then advance past the tower and do it again, until the main baddie is in sight.  This is a superb technique for beating ground forces like this, and you'll want to practice it often.

Water 14- Harbinger

    Oh, these are a real pain.  Not because they're particularly tough--just three hit points or so each (except for the main baddy)--but because they drain your energy.  For every Harbinger on the field, you lose one general energy at the start of each of your turns.

    Two things can be your salvation here: first, the Harbingers can't touch Elemental energy.  So bring along your Earth Amulet and Coral Pendant, and you'll always have at least two energy--maybe three, depending on your RPG choices so far.  Second, if you haven't picked it up yet, you should go to the village trading post (lower-right on the map) and buy the Refresh piece.  This thing consumes one Earth energy and gives back two in return--it's just for this one round, but that can make a big difference.

    Again, you'll want to use Veles and whetstone to beat the Harbingers.  Also arm your Praetor with the short bow--not the long one, since that takes more energy and you don't need the extra striking power.  Send two characters north and two east; watch your distance from the enemies, and use Refresh liberally as it comes into your hand.  You should be able to pick off the Harbingers at the same rate that they're being created, while you slowly move in towards the big guy.  You can generally leave the Campsite at home on this one, since any energy it gives you will just get stolen again.  But bring the Whetstone and some means to heal--Vitality or a Surgeon piece--and you should do fine.

Water 15- Reaper

    These were a lot of fun to write and play-test--and not just because the mist they conjure was technically tricky to get right (being as it affects 7 tiles at once, not just the one target tile).  And they're pretty tough until you learn how to deal with them.

    The basic technique to fight a Reaper is to tackle it with two different enemies--or if you're using War Hounds, you can attack a Reaper, then move and attack it a second time from a different location.  When first struck the Reaper's armor shields it from most of the blow, but its armor only works on the first strike--if you can hit it again, it'll be vulnerable.  The catch is that you can't hit it twice from the same place--it's still got its armored back facing you, right?-- so you have to move around between attacks.

    Reapers aren't particularly bright: their leader will charge right onto your spears if you let him.  As long as you survive the attack, you'll be in a great position to fight back.  Just make sure you have at least two or three creatures ready to bring to bear, and using ranged pieces helps a lot since that way you can shoot over the heads of the other reapers to get to the bad guy.

    A quick word about the mist: your campfires will burn it off, so if it's annoying you make sure you light lots of 'em.

Water 16- Leech

    As soon as a leech hits one of your creatures, they both stop doing anything: the leech won't move or attack, and your creature will be paralyzed, as it slowly drains strength and health from the victim.  The drain happens pretty fast: one bit of maximum-health and one bit of strength drip away at the start of each turn, both yours and the Leech's.  And the leech's strength and health go up as long as it sits there, so the longer it sticks around the more trouble you'll have.

    In other words, it's essential to keep these things off you--which means, again, you want to focus on ranged weapons.  Load up with Veles and get your best bow for your Praetor; plant a campfire and build a good stable base.  You'll need to survive the Leech onslaught--which will take a while--and eventually you'll need to sacrifice a creature to lure in the big Leech close enough for the rest of your party to target it.  A catapult and a tower can help a lot there, giving you a big range--but the main leech will try to stay out of its range, so don't plop it down until you're ready to attack with it.

Water 17- Hydra

    When you face a new enemy, you always take a minute to tap-and-hold on it and read through its description, right?  If not, you should get into that habit.  There are often important clues tucked away in there.

    In this case, the main problem is that the Hydra is just covered with thick armor--so thick that, even with Berzerk and Whetstone and Spring Growth and everything else you can throw on, it's hard to hurt it at all.  But the Hydra's description also says that it's vulnerable to fire--which in this case means, the closer it gets to your campfires, the weaker its armor gets.  If you can get it near two campfires (being adjacent wouldn't help, since campsites are lost when enemies are adjacent--but one square away, that's near), then its armor will drop entirely and it will be vulnerable.

    You'll want to bring Zalu, Campsite, Whetstone, Spring Growth, Berzerk, the Earth Amulet and the Long Bow with you on this one--and that's about all you'll need.  Get rid of the extra stuff, so that it's more likely you'll be able to draw a second Campsite before the Hydra appears.  (Or you could bring along an Entangle piece and try to slow it down on the way.)  When you start, move Zalu North and East so that he'll be the first to get hit; keep your Praetor two steps away southward, and plant a campsite between the two of you.  Apply all your other goodies as the Hydra approaches, and when you get a chance plant the second Campsite between your Praetor and Zalu.

    When the Hydra reaches Zalu, he'll use the Baleful Gaze piece to hurt him from a distance--but Zalu's pretty tough and can survive a few of these hits.  Don't move Zalu away from the campsites--keep his back to them, and the Hydra will eventually move right up next to Zalu.  As soon as it does, its armor will drop to zero--and when it attacks, Zalu's fast reflexes will let him swing first.  Use your Long Bow to finish of the Hydra while it's near those campfires, and the day will be won.

Water 18- Banshee

    The Banshee's actually not too difficult--but you'll need to tread carefully with her.  First, she's magical--which means most of your creatures won't be able to affect her at all.  Even your Tremor piece just causes an earthquake--and that won't hurt her either, since she's ephemeral.  To do any melee damage at all you'll need to wear your Coral Pendant; that will let your Praetor, and any of your creatures that are adjacent to him, actually deal melee damage.

    Next, you'll need to be liberal with the campsite.  Notice that's a common theme here the marshes?  Your fires weaken the Hydra, your fires grant you energy, your fires drive away the enemy's mist.  Here you'll need the campsites for those last two effects: the Banshee calls a lot of mists, but mists can't affect tiles adjacent to a campsite.  You'll also need to use ranged creatures, and keep lots of others near campsites for energy: anything that gets close to a Banshee has its energy costs for almost everything go up--and if the creatures stand adjacent to the Banshee, their energy costs go way up.  Deploy Veles pieces inside Towers, and you'll be able to attack the Banshee from a distance.  (The Coral Pendant won't do anything for a catapult--it's not alive--so those won't help here.)

Water 19- Water Elemental

    Like the Hydra, the Water Elemental is so heavily armored that it's hard to damage--and like the Hydra, that armor can be defeated under the right circumstances.  The Water Elemental draws its armor and its strength from the waters where it lives: for every tile of water around or underneath it, its armor and strength go up.  The Water Elemental can't travel on dry land, though, so won't its armor always be high?

    Not quite: it turns out that, although it can't travel on dry land, it will happily travel through swamps--and it will draw no armor or strength from doing so.  In other words, if you can lure it into the swamps--and it's not too hard, since it's fairly beastial in its movements--then it will be vulnerable.

    Your best bet therefore is to quickly strike North and cross the river into the swamps above you.  The Water Elemental will conjure Tsunamis against you as you pass through the water--that's a risk you take for being near water on this level (and it's a skill you will pick up yourself eventually), but you'll be safe from the Tsunamis once you're sufficiently inland.  Make a campsite up there, summon a Surgeon to heal your wounds and wait for the Water Elemental to approach.  When it does it will be vulnerable because it will have travelled too far from its waters.

Water 20- Glaucus

    Glaucus is tough, especially at the Expert level.  Your best bet is to bring at least your long bow, two Veles pieces, a tower, Vitality and Berzerk, whetstone and campsite.   The haunts will come in waves, so make sure you're ready for each one as it arrives.  Whetstone up a few Veles and plant them near a tower and a campsite, and don't chase after the haunts when they arrive; just let them come and take them out as they get close.  When you get a clearing and when you have both a campsite and tower in your hand, then it's time to move south-west again and plant a new defensive establishment--and wait for the next wave.

    Eventually you'll take out so many of the haunts that Glaucus will only have one or two on hand at any time, and you'll be close enough that you can take them out even as they're summoned.  Now's the tricky part: if Glaucus hits anyone, he'll use their health to heal his own damage--so you can't move in with the Veles pieces.  Instead, give your own Praetor everything you possibly can to strengthen him, and try to take Glaucus out in one shot.  At the higher difficulty levels you won't be able to, but he won't be able to absorb enough health to prevent you from killing him on the second swing.

Water 21- Spirit

    After facing Glaucus, this level won't feel nearly as rough.  There's a similar problem, though: the spirits gain health when they damage others, so you can't let them approach; use the same general technique as you used when facing Glaucus and you should be fairly safe.

Water 22- Lich

    If Glaucus was hard, the Lich is nearly impossible.  Okay, well, maybe not that bad, but it's awfully tricky.

    The important bit to remember, as Glaucus will tell you when you lose a battle here (and you will), the Scourges are only tough when they're standing on or next to water--that gives them armor and strength.  So you want to stay the hell away from water until you've built up your forces--and that means you need to move down and to your left, away from all the pools and towards the western edge of the map.  Plant your campfire there and start building your forces.

    The best load-out I've found for this battle includes:
    - Coral Pendant and Glaucus
    - Berzerk, Vitality and Spring Growth
    - Triarius and Training
    - Your usual equipment of Campsite, Whetstone, Long Bow and Plank Bridge

    While you're building up forces, be sure to apply Training to all your pieces--even the Triarius, who are already able to participate in the Phalanx.  The idea behind the phalanx is, a creature's strength and armor are increased by the number of phalanx allies next to it, right?  Training a Triarius means that he'll give his buddies +2 armor and strength, instead of +1.  Get a group of those guys together and stand away from the water, and the Scourges just won't be able to hurt you.  Be patient and soak those things up while you build up your forces.  And keep in mind that Glaucus drains life from his enemies--that is, he can heal himself by attacking or retaliating.  Let him do it.

    When you've got enough strong guys built up--and not until!--hug the edge of the map as you work your way South and then East towards the Lich.  Take small steps and plant campsites as you go; you might even want to exchange the Plank Bridge or Spring Growth for a Tower to give your pieces extra armor (and to give your Praetor extra range).  Eventually you'll force your way over to the Lich.

    You'll want to take the Lich out with an arrow, not with a Triarius or Glaucus.  The problem is that the Lich drains health from his attackers whenever he gets hurt, so if you use a melee fighter to swing at him he'll drain his attacker even if it was a killing blow.  So throw a couple of Berzerks on your Praetor (who has the Long Bow, remember?) and let him feather the guy.

    This technique--of building an extra-strong phalanx and bolstering it with towers, training and campsites--is incredibly powerful.  If you do this right, by the time you reach the Lich your creatures will have 20+ health and will be ready to chew mountains.  Remember this process for when you get stuck on other battles: it's very strong against creatures that just deal direct melee damage.

Water 23- Wraith

    For perhaps the first time in the game, your Whetstone piece isn't going to help you here.  That's because--and this mechanic is important to describe precisely--no matter how hard you hit a Wraith it will always take exactly one damage (unless the hitter is Enchanted, in which case it takes two).

    You have two real approaches here.  First, you can equip yourself with your Coral pendant, Glaucus, Zalu, and importantly as many Javelins as you can find--after all, each Javelin throw deals one more damage.  Rush at the main guy (who is pretty brainless) and just pummel him with minor hits until he does from the death of a thousand paper cuts.

    Or, you can take the more aggressive strategy and rush the guy, trying to force him into the ocean.  Every time you hit a Wraith with a melee attack (that is, if you're adjacent when you attack), you'll knock the Wraith backwards; if it lands in water, it dies.  For this approach you should equip yourself with Haste and Endurance plus both your allies; on your first turn rush all three of your guys at him, and plant a campfire behind you.  On your next turn summon a Triarius or something to help out, and take turns jumping in to push the Wraith backwards a few squares.  I've found it helpful to bring along Barricade too, just to help keep him from advancing once he's been knocked back.  If you're lucky, you'll get him shoved clear across the board and into the ocean before the Wraiths crush you.

Water 24- Blue Dragon

    Like the Green Dragon in the previous episode, the Blue Dragon's biggest flaw is that it's insufficiently cautious: they'll walk into range of your bows and catapults.  Bring along every strengthening enchantment you can--Whetstone and Spring Growth definitely, along with a Tower and a Catapult and a Veles piece.  Oh, and your long bow.  Vitality is a good idea if you find the battle is dragging on, as the dragons can cast Siphon even at a distance and that will finish you off pretty thoroughly if you give it time.

Water 25- Necromancer

    Wow.  Okay, a couple of points about the Necromancer.  And keep in mind this is the boss battle for the Water campaign, so it's going to be tough.

    The Necromancer gets tougher when either of two things happen: when your guys die he gets +1 strength and +1 damage healed, which is bad enough, but the scary part is that when his Soul Twins die he gets +3 maxhealth and +3 damage healed.  So if you take your usual approach of toughing out his Soul Twin assault and working your way up to him with a phalanx, he'll have 30+ hit points by the time you get there and will be essentially unbeatable.

    There are several things you can do to even the odds.  First, speed is essential--it's a big map and the Necromancer will try to stay out of the conflict, so you'll need to chase him down.  That means bringing along Endurance and Haste, and to feed them you'll need the Coral Pendant and Glaucus (who gives you +1 water energy--did you notice?).  You'll also need to hit extra hard when you get there, so bring Whetstone and Spring Growth and Berzerk.  You'll need a Campsite.  And you'll want a throw-away creature--probably a Hastatus or Wild Hound, since they don't take much energy to summon.

    And the most important bit: bring your Phylactery.  Every time I've won this level that's been the reason.  (The armor is good too.)

    Use your throwaways to lure his Soul Twins away from your main heroes--and keep them running, don't turn and strike.  If you can, you want to get through this without ever killing his Soul Twins--that just makes him tougher.

    When you finally chase down the Necromancer and pin him against the edge of the map, move your Praetor and Glaucus in as a team.  Glaucus heals himself when he hurts the Necromancer, so he'll be okay for a while--and you, your Phylactery heals you whenever you get hit if you're standing next to someone (say, the Necromancer himself).  Use those effects to your advantage and you can toe-to-toe even with the big guy and come away clean.

Air Campaign

Air 1- Viatori Tamer

    This is the first battle in the Air campaign--and if you're starting the game here, then spend a few moments to visit the raft and look through your army.  The game will give you a pretty good selection of pieces, but you might want to get a Berzerk piece or Spring Growth; the extra few hits are helpful.  If you're just continuing an earlier game and moving North, make sure you have Haste, Whetstone and your long bow in your deck.  Oh, and pack your Phylactery.

    The Tamer, like all Viatori, is pretty tough--and its wolves can be a real problem.  But he's made a mistake: his troops are scattered and he's too close to you.  If you stand your ground for too long, building your forces around a campfire and strengthening each of your soldiers in preparation for a pitched battle, he'll quickly build up an army that you can't defeat--at least, not easily.

    Instead, as soon as you get a chance, throw a whetstone and Haste on your Praetor and launch yourself North towards the Tamer.  Ignore the wolves--just leave yourself an energy or two for retaliation, and leap into the fray.  If you have Berzerk or Baleful Gaze, by all means use them; otherwise, just keep swinging at the Tamer and ignore his wolves.  You'll take a lot of hits, but with your phylactery you should survive for a few rounds--and that's all you'll need.

    One more thing: when the Tamer runs into the desert, you may find it hard to follow him; if you start a turn on a desert tile you'll get Exhausted, and that will slow you down.  If that's a problem, try equipping yourself with a Flood piece: cast that in the middle of the desert, and at the start of your next turn any desert tiles near the new water tile will turn back into regular sand.  (Can't have a desert so near the water, eh?)

Air 2- Harpy

    The one thing you don't ever, ever want to do here is lead the charge with your Praetor.  If you let the Harpies close enough to attack, they'll snatch him up and drop him repeatedly from the heights, and that will be the end of the battle.  In general, you can expect to lose any creature that the harpies approach.

    The best way to handle these guys is, duh, don't let them get close.  That means you should bring on the catapults: although they're slow to reload (they can only fire every other turn, and even then only if you keep an ally nearby to reload them in between shots), they also have this tremendous range and deal a lot of damage.  Veles and Tower pieces in combination can likewise give you the extra range you need to keep the harpies at bay.

    Nothing can move over rock pieces--even flying creatures have to fly around.  And there's a bit of a maze up North, which slows down the main enemy from approaching.  There are also lots of rocks down in the lower part of the map, which can get in your way of assembling a decent encampment.  So bring along a Tremor piece and knock down the lower mountains; set up a campsite, towers or catapults and whetstone everyone; once you're ready, move Glaucus up North (he's a summoner so he can cast Tremor, and he's expendable--unlike your Praetor) and have him Tremor the rocks that are hemming in the enemies.  They're not really sentient so they'll just rush at your defenses; if you've prepared well, it shouldn't be too hard to put them down.

    If you've been having trouble with the Harpies, you might be tempted to move on to other battles first.  Don't!  Defeating these guys means your entire party (except non-living "creatures" like catapults) increase in strength by +1 forever and ever.  You'll need that extra attack strength for the rest of the battles coming up, since the bad guys here are a lot tougher than the ones you've fought in previous campaigns.  You'll also need the practice fighting against flying creatures, since these won't be the last ones you'll encounter here in the mountains; this is, after all, the Air campaign.

Air 3- Viatori Warrior

    If you're playing at the lower difficulty levels, this battle shouldn't be too hard; when it was being play-tested, the Viatori Warriors turned out to be so difficult that I had to scale them back.  As a result, although individually they're pretty strong, there just aren't that many of them.  Except at expert difficulty, where I only reduced the number of enemies a little bit--which means the battle can be pretty tough.

    At this point you've only made a small amount of progress in the Air campaign; it will be many battles yet before you gain powerful new warriors and sorceries to bring into play.  So your best bet right for facing these guys is to go old school: load up with at least two Triarius or Mercenary pieces (remember, you probably have one Triarius on the raft and another on the ship near the eastern edge of the map), bring along a whetstone and campfire, and importantly grab the Training piece.  On the first round you can, add Training to your Praetor so he can participate in the Phalanx too--and when it comes up again, don't forget to add Training to your soldiers as well, as this strengthens the phalanx even further.  A general tip: apply Training first to the guys in the back, furthest from the enemy.

    Sit around your campfire and huddle close as you build your army.  If you have a Tower piece throw that in too; it's extra armor and every bit helps.  By the time you have three or four Triarius pieces, and at least two of them are Trained, the guys in the front should have enough armor that the Viatori Warriors can no longer do them any damage.  That's when it's time to take the fight to the enemy, advancing as a unit and quashing anything that comes close.

    A word about these warriors: they initially have a ranged attack, since they come into battle with a spear ready to throw.  But once it's thrown, hey--no spear left!  That's why they'll usually stay at a distance, throw their spear, then rush in to close the melee gap.  If you let them back away and stay out of trouble for a round, they'll get new spears for later--so once they've gone melee on you, don't let them get away.

Air 4- Rattlesnake

    This is the first battle where you're really going to have to grapple with the desert.  You've seen a little of it in the last few battles, but in this one you're being dropped right in the middle of the deep sands.

    Deserts are nasty, but they're not fatal like Swamp Rot was.  The longer you stay in the desert the weaker you'll get--but as soon as you get out of the deserts and back to regular sand or anything else similarly gentle, your strength will start to recover--and eventually your exhaustion will cure itself.  More likely to be a problem is that, whenever you're Exhausted from staying in the deserts, your movement rate decreases by one--and if you stay too long, your movement cost goes up too.  That makes crossing a big desert very cumbersome.

    The rattlesnakes are a pain too, since they summon strangely: instead of summoning next to the main bad guy, they appear adjacent to any rock tile--since, after all, the premise of the battle is that the snakes are out sunning themselves.  Since there's rock on three sides of you, that means the rattlesnakes will be coming out of nowhere.  And they don't suffer from summoning sickness, so they can move and attack immediately after showing up.

    Okay, so how to deal with these guys?  You need to pick your army pieces carefully for this battle.  The most important thing to bring is the Flood piece: when you conjure water in the middle of the desert, it immediately turns all adjacent tiles to regular sand--that is, it forms a nice little oasis, and as long as you stand near there you won't get Exhausted.  Another useful thing to bring along is the Tremor piece: if you're lucky you can destroy the nearby rocks so that rattlesnakes can't conjure there--and don't forget that Tremor will hurt the snakes a little too.  And finally, either bring a Surgeon or bring the Sea Purge piece--you'll need one or the other to deal with the inevitable Venom inflicted by the rattlesnakes.

Air 5- Gorgon

    At first glance, Gorgons are pretty basic troops: they move 2 squares, do only hand-to-hand combat, and are vulnerable to normal weapons.  But they're invulnerable to a lot of effects because they're non-living: you can't use Sleep Potion or Siphon for example.  And they have a nasty twist: when they're nearby (which is to say, adjacent or one tile away), they can paralyze  an enemy.  Paralysis is interesting: as long as they've got one of your creatures paralyzed the Gorgons will start their turn with one less Air energy--it's an upkeep cost, and if they can't pay the cost then the paralysis is released.  But so long as there's a Gorgon near the victim and they can continue to pay that cost, the paralysis will endure.

    I tried a lot of different ways to beat the Gorgons, and finally decided that the best way to tackle them is by bringing along two Veles pieces, two Whetstones (remember, there's an extra in the east-coast ship), and a Tower (from the ship due south of you).  Build a campfire and set out a tower, then set about building your army of Veles creatures.  Make sure they're all whetstoned--maybe even apply Spring Growth--and take out any individual Gorgons that wander close.  When you have at least four or five ready Veles pieces and you have a ready tower and campsite in your hand, it's time to move.  Move one piece north, plant a tower and campsite, and move everyone else up to follow.  When the Gorgons move in and paralyze your front ranks, the Veles pieces behind them can shoot over their heads--take out all the nearby Gorgons and the paralysis on your leading ranks will be lifted.  Stay at this new site while you soak up losses from any nearby Gorgons; rebuild your army, and then push northeast again.

    This technique is slow but it will eventually let you push the Gorgons back into a cove in the northeast.  From there, you should be able to target the main Gorgon.

Air 6- Vampire Bat

    Okay, you've made it to the sixth battle of the Air campaign.  If you haven't been skipping levels by starting your adventures directly in the Air campaign, then you've gone through over fifty battles in Praetor so far.  So even if you're on Beginner difficulty, you're no longer a novice--and so this level isn't going to take it easy on you.

    In truth, I think the Vampire Bats are probably the most interesting battle in the game so far.  When I designed this level and first play tested it, it was insanely hard--so tough that I couldn't beat it even on beginner.  I watered down the bats' strength: still couldn't beat them.  I reduced the number of bad guys: still couldn't beat them.  I even slowed them down, dropped their health, made it harder for them to give you a disease; I weakened the level to the point where it was trivial to win.  And then I threw that crap away and made it hard again.

    See, the problem wasn't the level: it was my technique.  Like you, I'd been playing this level the same way I played the prior 55 battles--and so I blindly wandered in here with a bunch of Veles pieces, a whetstone and a camp fire.  That's all I need, right?  Nope.  Even with a surgeon to heal me when I got sick, and even being willing to let diseased warriors wander off and die alone rather than spread their disease, I couldn't win.

    The trick here is to remember that the Veles pieces are terrible front-line pieces.  In a real Roman battle they'd come rushing up, throw their javelins, and then let someone tougher move past into the melee.  And that's what you need to do here.  Bringing Veles, Tower, Whetsone, Campfire and maybe a Surgeon is all well and good--but now bring also Triarius and Mercenary and Training.  Get yourself a line of tough skirmishers out front, and keep them in phalanx so that they're effectively an armored wall between your archers and the incoming bats.  Use training on your Veles too, if you want to be able to deploy them near the edges of the front.  And plant towers every so often to increase your armor and range.

    The difference is dramatic.  As soon as I started paying attention to keeping a wall of armor in front of my Veles pieces, I started winning every battle here--often without losing a single creature and without even needing a Surgeon, even on Expert difficulty.  It's a beautiful thing to see an armored column advancing with ranged warriors behind it; the bats come flying up, bounce off that shield wall without hurting it, and fly away again.  The advance is slow but inexorable, and when you reach the big bad guy he falls in just a few shots.

    (Oh, don't forget to pack a Flood piece too: you'll need to to plant an oasis or two in the desert so you can march to the bad guy without getting exhausted.)

Air 7- Town of Zachrus

    Hey, walls!  How cool is that--you've over fifty battles under your belt, more than halfway through the game, and suddenly there's something brand new to deal with.  This time it's palisades, and although if you're smart you'll read all about them here, you really only need to know one thing to get past this level: when you have to break into a castle, you'd better bring your catapults.

    South of you there's a ship offering goods for sale: a surgeon, mercenaries, tower, veles pieces and best of all, catapults.  Once you've deployed a catapult and taken out a wall, you can simply march in through the gap--and once you do you'll notice the red tint disappears.  After all, you now have an agent inside, right?  Now the rest of your army can simply scale the walls: move up next to the walls, and on your next turn you can step through.

    The defenders here aren't too bad: the archers provide a pretty big punch, but their defense isn't very good.  Plus, they can't attack at all if there's someone adjacent so half the time you can simply rush them to drive them back.

Air 8- Talos

    I certainly hope Talos beats you the first few times you tackle him.  So if you're here for hints, I guess I've done my job right.  The good news is, there are several things that can help you on this level.

    First, that annoying lightning spell the Talos keeps using.  First, to limit the amount of damage it does, use up all your energy on each turn.  The Lightning piece works by draining the opponent's energy and turning it into lightning; to be specific, it does (1 + 2*OpponentEnergy) damage--so every bit of energy you leave around when you end your turn means two damage when you're hit with lightning.

    Then what about Talos' rocks?  The Talos are already fairly strong in hand-to-hand--but when they're throwing rocks, they're extra nasty.  The splash damage they do when they're throwing rocks is even worse.  To beat them, it's best to take away their rocks: either lure them down south into the open regions and away from the mountains, or use the Tremor piece to turn the rocks into sand--and they won't have anything to throw at you.

    Best, though, is to use the Palisade you picked up on the last town.  For one, lightning can't strike you if you're inside a palisade or standing on a forest tile (either way, there's something over your head that draws the strike away).  For another, as long as you keep the palisade occupied the Talos can't enter--and you can plant towers and campfires inside and throw arrows at them.  For all their strength the Talos aren't very smart; eventually they'll come into range.

Air 9- Cyclops

    I've tried to go toe-to-toe with these things dozens of times, using a phalanx of Trained, Whetstoned and Spring-Growth'd Mercenary pieces--and have only won once, on Easy difficulty.  They're just very, very strong, and hand-to-hand isn't a good approach for tackling them.  Like me you might win eventually, but there's got to be a better way, no?

    I've had more success using Tremor to carve away the rocks near the forests on the Eastern side of the map, then building a long Palisade along it.  Populate that palisade with Tower and Campsite pieces, and beef up several Veles allies to help you out, and you'll do some serious damage to the Cyclops army.  The problem is that, unlike the Talos last time, Cyclops pieces are kind of crafty--and their leader just isn't going to approach your firing range.  That means you'll be facing a never-ending army and you won't really be able to make a lot of progress unless you sally forth from your walls--at which point they'll cut you to pieces.

    Ah, but the Cyclops are living creatures--which means you can use a sneaky technique that's given me 100% success on this level.  Set yourself up with a creature--say, a Mercenary--and make sure you have the Coral Pendant, Haste, Endurance, Flood and Siphon pieces.  Yes, Siphon--remember that one?  You probably haven't used it much, but it's perfect for this situation.  What you want to do is beef up your mercenary so that it can move really fast--give it Haste, and wait until the enemy leader is six steps away and you have both Endurance and Siphon in your hand.  When that happens, leap after the leader, use haste and leap again until you're in range to cast Siphon on him.  Once you've done that, he's as good as dead--and it doesn't matter if your mercenary dies or not.

    Now, you just need to keep your Praetor safe while you wait for the siphon to drain the enemy hero dead.  Move south into the rocks and cast Flood to seal off the entrances to the cavern; if you're careful, you can seal yourself in before the Cyclops can enter, then just wait a dozen turns while they mill around watching their enemy leader's health slowly siphoned away.

Air 10- Viatori Tamer

    This was a fun level.  The Gorgons are difficult--you'll need to use Veles and Tower pieces to attack them from a distance--and in order to get to the creamy center of the Viatori's hide-out you'll need to bring along Flood and Catapult pieces.

    Start off by moving South a bit; plant a campsite and start bringing in and sharpening Veles pieces.  Set down a tower so that you can tackle the Gorgons as they come for you; in time you'll have built up three or four Whetstoned Veles pieces and you'll be ready to move North.  You'll have to get North, because there's only one entrance to the hide-out--at the top, where there's an exposed wall that isn't protected by rocks.  Use the Flood piece to create a walkway of safe sand among the desert tiles, so that you can get your pieces up there without getting exhausted.  And be sure to take out the Gorgons as they approach, so they don't have a chance to paralyze your Praetor.  When you get within range of the entrance, plant a catapult and knock down that wall--then storm in with a few of your pieces, and the leader will fall pretty quickly.

Air 11- City of Meras

    Think of this level as the first real mini-boss in the Air campaign.  I had to tune it extensively to make it at all playable, but you can beat it.

    You'll want to bring along a carefully selected set of equipment.  I went in with:
    - The usual basic gear: Campsite, Whetstone, Darkroot Armor, Long Bow and Earth Amulet
    - A basic army: Triarius, Catapult (because we need to take down the city's walls)
    - Two tiles to help strengthen the troops: Berzerk and Spring Growth
    - Haste from personal preference, but you've got some flexibility here; Vitality might be a good choice instead.
    - Most importantly, the Plank Bridge--which is really the key to this level

    Okay, that's easy enough; now for the strategy.  The center of this level is tough but not impossible; what's really kicking your ass is the damned Galleys, am I right?  So here's the trick: look on the right and top of the map and you'll find something like three places where the water channel narrows to only one tile wide.  What you want to do is plant Plank Bridge pieces over those waterways--not just because you eventually need to cross onto the island, but because Galleys can't bypass your bridges.  By putting separate bridges so far apart, you're creating a waterway between them where the Galleys can't reach you--and you can concentrate on the center.  I use Haste on my Praetor in the first round and rush up there quickly when the game starts to get those bridges laid out.

    It's still going to be hard.  You'll need to strengthen up several Triarius pieces just to make the crossing, since Meras' archers will start coming after you and they hit really hard.  (Last time I played this level on Expert my Praetor's health got pushed down to 1; I had to finish the level with my Triarius pieces and leave my Praetor safely tucked away.)  Once you cross to the island and establish a beach-head, plant a Catapult and take out the walls.  The archers may try to rebuild the walls; pick them off as best you can, and use your Praetor to summon replacement Triarius as you lose them to the archers.  Eventually your army will prove stronger than his, and you will be able to push into the city and take out the Elder--who is strong, but not strong enough to stop you without his army.

Air 12- Viatori Healer

    My nine-year-old son actually designed this level, so if it's too hard you can thank him.  There are two ways you can tackle this level, and a combination of the approaches is probably best.

    The first approach is all about terrain manipulation: roll in here with Tremor, Flood and Plank Bridge tiles, and carve your own way upwards to the enemy leader.  Normally the enemies would go out of their way to barricade you in the bottom half of the map, making it hard for your pieces to move forwards.  But if you take the terrain into your own hands, moving around becomes a lot easier.

    The second approach is to employ a phalanx.  That probably wasn't your first thought, since (a) you're being hit from behind all those barricades and you want to shoot back, and (b) you've been using your Veles pieces a lot.  But these guys are hitting you really hard, and a phalanx is your best defense against that.  You might even try putting a wall of Siege Towers ahead of you and inching your way upwards; every time I've tried that approach it's been so effective that I've had to use Flood pieces to trap the enemy leader and keep him from fleeing.

Air 13- City of Taissus

    This one will probably take you a little while--but that's okay, the reward is worth it.  And if you've reached this far, you're strong enough to win anyway.

    Every time I've won this battle it's because I've used the Siege Tower liberally.  The towers themselves are tough--something like ten health plus two armor--and they're mobile so you can take them with you as you move around.  But they also act as a shield: all adjacent allies get +2 armor, and if you stand behind a wall of them you can get that boost up to +4 or even +6.  And if you wheel one up to an unprotected enemy palisade--that is, up against a palisade wall where there's no enemy guarding the other side--it tears down the walls for you.

    You'll definitely want the Siege Tower for this battle, and the Plank Bridge as well.  Start by moving north-east and onto the small island next to you; build a small force there, and then move to the next northern island (the one with the enemy catapult on it).  Once you get there, sit tight until you're sure you're ready to proceed.  Plant plank bridges on the eastern and western approaches to the island to keep the enemy Galleys away, build an army of several allies and several Siege Towers.  I've found the usual collection of power-up pieces (Whetstone, Spring Growth, Training) to be very helpful here; there are lots of strong creatures here and the extra punch helps a lot.  When you have an army ready, move onto the main island and push the siege towers against the wall--and then through it when the walls fall.  While you're deep inside the city you won't be able to build new towers easily, but if your army was big enough when you moved in then the battle shouldn't last long anyway.

    When you defeat the Rician Elder who runs the city, your deck will have expanded greatly; go visit the Raft and all your other sites and fill up with some good stuff that you've been leaving behind.  Vitality, Berzerk, extra Whetstone and Triarius pieces and so on--all good stuff that you suddenly have room for.

    Your next move should be to turn west and take out Kriphon, but stop for a second and clear the Ogres on your eastern flank first.  Again, it's worth the delay.

Air 14- Ogre

    When you start this battle, look to the right of your starting spot.  Notice a little alcove of rock a few steps away, with a few entrances?  You want to get in there and seal yourself in with Flood, Barricade and Siege Engine pieces.  And you want to do it fast, because you won't believe how fast the Ogres can move.  You might be able to buy a little time with Mist and Entangle pieces, but it's essential that you get inside early.

    Ogres are nasty things to fight.  They have a lot of health and hit very hard, but worst is that they move very quickly and they spread disease: if one moves next to any of your creatures, that creature will fall sick and start weakening.  A surgeon can cure the illness, but it's better not to get into that situation at all: get yourself sequestered and shoot arrows at the Ogres instead.  Use a tower to get some extra range, and use Mighty to stun the Ogres that are closest to your points of entry to keep them at bay.

    The Ogre leader isn't very smart, and will eventually come for you himself.  When he moves into range, throw Berzerk onto a few creatures and pepper him with arrows.

Air 15- Gryphon

    I had a lot of trouble tuning this battle correctly, because the truth is that--although the Gryphons are very powerful in theory--I've never lost a battle to them.  Not once.  I'm reluctant to make them any tougher, though, in case it's been just good luck on my part.

    Part of the trouble is that I wrote the stupid AI, so I know some of its tricks.  For example, the Gryphons use the Feeble enchantment to keep you from being able to attack--how annoying is that?--but they always target the enemy that is closest to one of the Gryphons.  So if you conjure up some throwaway creature and have him lead the charge, they'll burn their enchantment on the throwaway and leave your Praetor free to attack.

    Another great piece to use here is your recently-acquired Dervish: since there's a good chance you'll eventually get enfeebled, when you do have a chance to take a shot at the Gryphons you'd better make it count.  Tower is also essential, since you'll need to target the enemy leader when he's probably going to be out of range, and judicious use of a campsite and even the old Refresh piece can help you get enough energy to pull off all that other stuff.

Air 16- Viatori Dancer

    These guys are as hard to beat as the Gryphons are easy.  I've had the best luck on this level by going with Veles pieces, Tower, Mighty and Feeble.  Specifically I use the following gear:

    - Two Veles pieces (check the Merchant Ship for the second) and two Whetstone pieces (check the ship off the far East coast for the other)
    - Usual gear: Campsite, Long Bow, Earth Amulet and Darkroot Armor
    - Berzerk, Spring Growth and Vitality
    - Feeble, Dervish, Mighty and Tower

    The real trick is the combination of mighty, tower, dervish and veles.  Load up a veles piece with mighty and dervish, then throw him toward the enemy; plant a tower and start shooting--one arrow per opponent.  If you're careful, you can keep the front-line troops stunned while you bring up the rest of your troops behind.  Eventually your Veles piece will get hit and die, but by then you should have another Veles that you've been training in the same way to replace him.

    One other tricky: the Manic enchantment is dangerous, both to you and your opponents.  It gives them +3 strength, which makes them hurt a lot when they hit you--but if a Manic enemy can't attack, he'll take damage at the end of each round: first one damage, then two, then three and so on--so death follows quickly.  Watch for opponents who cast Manic, and hit them with Feeble; they'll be unable to attack for three turns, and effectively will go mad and die.

Air 17- City of Kriphon

    You'll be tempted to put off this battle, because it can be pretty hard.  But don't, because from here on the game's difficulty goes up a notch and if you don't take out Kriphon you'll be out of luck.  Capturing Kriphon means that the shipping lanes open, and suddenly you'll be able to access the market back in Taissus--and that market has some pieces that you will definitely need.

    So, beating Kriphon.  Um, it's hard--but if you've made it this far, then you've got what it takes.  Specifically this battle is going to require some serious patience, as it has four distinct stages and you can't afford to rush any of them.

    The first stage is the easiest, and involves getting into the city's outer wall.  You'll want to take a short period of time to plant a campsite to get some energy, then summon and strengthen some Veles pieces.  The good news is, if you don't move inward yet then you'll be undisturbed for a while--so take your time to build up a small army.  When you're ready, have your Praetor or a very strong Veles piece leap inwards and take out the catapults; if you're strong enough and using Dervish, then you can probably take out two of them in that first rush.  By now the enemy has probably gotten some archers into the wall to defend the catapults, so you'll need to take them out as well.  Finally, summon a Siege Tower and push it next to the wall; when the wall falls, push it through and the outer wall is yours.

    The second stage is probably the hardest, and it's the one you're not going to think about: getting back out of the wall.  You likely lost some of your army getting in, and meanwhile you're moving closer to the city center where the reinforcements are coming from.  Plus, the wall isn't very wide: while you're in there you have to be careful to stay on the far edge or you'll be hit by the archers.  So be careful as you rebuild your army; when you've got a few more Veles pieces ready, use them to clear out the courtyard and try to get your army to slip back out of the wall en masse.

    The third stage involves getting into the main city--only this time it's mobile forces you have to face rather than fixed catapults.  The cavalry pieces in particular are awfully strong; it might be hard to make it this far without your Praetor getting seriously battered.  For that reason I like to bring a Well or Vitality piece (or both) and spend some time in this stage rebuilding the Praetor to full health while summoning an army.  Don't try to rush into the city center while the odds are in their favor; wait until your army is stronger before you summon a catapult or siege tower to break in.  And when you go in, never lead with the Praetor--lead with someone disposable, and let him take the hits while the rest of your army pours in behind.

    The last stage is the easiest: hunting the leader.  He won't abandon the city unless desperate, and if you've been adequately patient then your army is probably bigger than his at the moment.  It shouldn't be too hard to rush him with a Berzerk, Dervish piece and take him out in just one or two rounds.

Air 18- Viatori Elder

    I managed to win this battle once, on beginner difficulty, without visiting the marketplace of Taissus first.  It took me about 45 minutes, and involved planting my bleeding Praetor next to one Well after another to keep him alive while using Mighty, Phalanxed archers in a Tower to keep the Viatori at bay.  I wish I had the battle on video, actually, because it was pretty epic.  But I don't recommend you do it that way.

    There are two things you should learn in tackling this battle.  First, and most importantly, you should drop by the marketplace at Taissus and take a look at the new creatures available to you: they're all really powerful compared what you've been using, and this is a great battle to experiment with them.  Second, as of right now you've got a lot more pieces that act as summoners: you can summon new creatures next to your Praetor, as always, but you can also summon next to Kaitronius and next to any Centurion piece.  That means you can give some serious thought to splitting your army, sending one contingent away to lure opponents and sending the other to hit them from the back.

    One way to tackle this level is to march forward with a phalanx of Centurions backed by a phalanx of Archers.  If you can put together such a structure, you'll be able to simply march through the enemies and walk right up to the enemy leader.  Um, but in practice it's hard to achieve and maintain, so you might want to also try plan B: lead a cadre of archers and your Praetor forward, back them with Optius pieces to give them extra shots and use Vitality to keep your Praetor from dying.  That's a little risky, so you can also try plan C: accumulate four Essedarius pieces and send them out as a unit: they don't fight in phalanx, but they go really fast and enemies can't retaliate, so they can charge in and take out an enemy wave pretty well.

Air 19- Ruins of Atoro

    This battle isn't as hard as the last few you've fought, but it's still kind of tricky.  There are three major impediments to reaching the leader of the witches:
    * the terrain - it's hard to navigate around the ruins, and Essedarius can't travel through the forest tiles;
    * the leader's magic - the Disease and Bedevil pieces are particularly annoying; and
    * the leader's allies - who each can absorb some of the damage that you inflict on the leader

    To win, then, you need to find a way around each of these impediments:
    * the terrain - bring Kaitronius, Endurance and Haste pieces so you can speed your creatures through the map.  Even though the leader will often use Benevolent Winds to prevent attacks from archers and hide inside ruins to protect from melee attacks, if you bring an archer to point-blank range outside the walls you'll still be able to hit him--so load up with Archer and Veles pieces.
    * the leader's magic - this is a good level to bring a surgeon, and to keep him near your praetor.  For one, the surgeon can't attack so he won't be Bedeviled into attacking your piece; for another, he can both cure disease and heal damage done by disease and lightning.  Tactically speaking you want to spread your forces thin: as soon as you summon a piece move away from it, lest it be bedeviled into attacking you.  Send your Archer and Veles pieces through different routes to the enemy, never leaving them close enough to each other that they can attack each other by accident.
    * the leader's allies - this is a real pain, especially if your archers are diseased: remember that when diseased your creatures get weaker and weaker, and eventually they won't be able to do any damage at all through the screen of allies absorbing your attacks.  There are two solutions: use Mighty to stun the leader so he can't summon new allies, and pick off the allies before you go for the killing stroke.

Air 20- Titan

    If you're struggling with this battle, then you've forgotten the power of the phalanx and have instead become too reliant on the powers of your new-found pieces.  It's time to strip down your army to its basics and employ some strategy.  First, throw everything out of your army except Campsite, Whetstone and Earth Amulet.  Then go to the marketplace in Taissus and add two Optius pieces and two Centurion pieces to your army.  That's all you need; take this meagre set with you to battle the Titans.

    On your first turn plant a campsite to your right and a Centurion piece ready to receive the Titan that's coming from the north.  On your second turn plant an Optius piece to make a triangle with you and the Centurion, then let the Centurion kill the Titan before it grows any stronger--keep it in Phalanx to do so.

    From then on, you have two tasks.  First, summon as many new creatures as you can--but keep them all in a tight group, preferably with the Centurions on the outside.  And second, move your group towards the leader--never move until you can plant a new campsite next to your new location, since you'll need the energy.  The Centurions are the strongest melee fighters you have, and with Optius pieces backing them they can attack twice per turn; when they're in phalanx, that's enough to take out even the strongest Titan in just one turn.  Replace your losses quickly to keep the phalanx tight, keeping in mind that Centurions can act as summoners.

    With this basic strategy, when you march on the leader Titan you'll be amazed that you ever thought this level was difficult.

Air 21- Phoenix

    The Phoenix don't show up as actually magical, so anyone can hit them--that is, anyone with a bow can hit them (they are flying creatures after all).  But if your creatures aren't enchanted then they'll only do half damage--and they won't be able to kill a Phoenix at all.  Worse, you're going to start the battle on a small islet; you'll need to bring a way to get across to the larger island before you can even reach the enemy leader.

    With all that in mind, you should probably bring your Coral Pendant to the party this time.  It's been a while since you used this thing, so here's a reminder: while you're wearing the Pendant, your Praetor gains the Enchanted attribute and he can hurt magical creatures--in this case, that means he does full damage to the Phoenix and can even kill them.  It also means that any ally who is standing adjacent to your Praetor will also gain the Enchanted attribute.

    You therefore want to keep Kaitronius (who has a ranged weapon, in case you hadn't noticed) and your Archers clustered close around your Praetor as you move after the leader.  Bring a campsite, a plank and a whetstone; Tower and Mighty pieces help too.  Get your Praetor and Kaitronius up to the main island before you plant your campsite, and remember that your Archers can't attack if there is an enemy right in their faces; back them off a square first if you need to, and then let them shoot.

Air 22- Wind Daemon

    You've probably just come from fighting the Phoenix, and since those are flying creatures you've got an army full of ranged fighters.  That won't work at all against the Wind Daemons, since their swirling winds knock projectiles aside and you can't even attack them.

    So to tackle this battle, you'll need to go back to the Taissus marketplace and adjust your army.  Get rid of your long bow, ditch Kaitronius (since he uses a bow and can't help you here) and throw out the Archers.  Actually, throw out almost everything else too--keep only the Coral Pendant, Whetstone and Plank Bridge, and maybe your Darkroot Armor and Earth Amulet.  Then pick up both Dimachaerius pieces, maybe the Swimming piece too, and then go into battle with just this thin deck.

    The reason for the small army is that this map is really hard to navigate, and you'll find yourself waiting and waiting for the next Plank Bridge piece to show up.  If you have 17 pieces in your army then you'll only get one Plank Bridge every 18 turns; if you go into battle with only your equipment (armor, pendant, amulet) and four actual playing pieces, you'll get a bridge every 5 turns instead.  That will save you a lot of headaches.

    As with the Phoenix battle, you'll need to keep your army clustered around your Praetor because the Wind Daemons are magical and you won't be able to hit them unless you're wearing the Coral Pendant or standing next to a creature that is (your Praetor).  Mighty won't affect magical creatures--they don't care if you're mighty--and even Glaucus can't drain their health.  You'll need the Whetstone and a well-formed phalanx to take care of these guys, but they're not really that tough individually.  Just keep your Praetor out of harm's way and head straight for the enemy leader whenever you can, and you'll finish the level in no time.  (It helps to remember that Dimachaerius pieces can attack twice per turn.)

Air 23- Air Elemental

    Back to the bows and arrows, I'm afraid: these creatures are flying.  You can discard the Coral Pendant if you want to make space in your equipment list, as for once you won't need it to hit this enemy.

    The Air Elementals are very strong, but they aren't particularly challenging for all that.  The hardest part about them is their special ability: when an Air Elemental is summoned, all the pieces in your hand get thrown out.  In short, you'll be playing each round with exactly two pieces in your hand (the ones you draw at the start of each turn).  To succeed, you'll need to be careful to use all your pieces on every turn: if you have an Archer to summon, for example, make sure you do so--because you won't get another chance.

    You'll want to bring the Flood piece to help make oases in the desert, or it will be very hard to chase down the Air Elementals' leader.  Campsite and Tower pieces placed as you travel, and Archers kept in phalanx, will help you keep the ranks of the enemy thin as you travel.  One other note: since it's hard to summon new creatures, the ones you have will be very important; bring along Vitality or a Well to try to keep your troops alive as you work.  Oh, and I've found that using Mighty and Dervish makes a big difference as well: that lets you basically freeze a wall of bad guys at a distance to keep others away while you close in.

Air 24- White Dragon

    For the White Dragon level, you need a hero.  A White Dragon can fully heal any other nearby ally with just one air energy, so if  you hit a dragon but don't kill it, you're just wasting your time.  There's no point in trying to siphon them or otherwise wear them down, because they'll heal a lot faster than you will.  Instead, you need that hero: somebody who can leap over there and get toe-to-toe with the enemy and take him out in one round.  I use the Praetor for this particular task, but you could use Kaitronius or even an Archer or Veles piece.  (Using the Praetor for the task is helpful because Kaitronius can give him that extra move-once-more-this-turn push--just drag from Kaitronius to your Praetor--to help him get into range.)

    To win, you'll need all the power-ups you can get: Whetstone, Spring Growth, Berzerk and especially Manic; add all those and you've boosted someone's attack strength by +8.  But don't put on Manic or Berzerk yet; wait where you are, building a small army around a campsite (for energy) until you're ready to send your hero into battle.  That chance will come when you've got Manic, Berzerk, Haste and/or Tower in your hand--so that you'll be able to leap way over there, power up and smack down the leader fast.

Air 25- City of Savaran

    If you haven't taken a swing at Savaran yet and are just reading up in case it's hard, stop now.  Honestly, go take a swing at the place and try it yourself first, because in a minute you're going to feel pretty dumb.

    Okay, you've tried it yourself and you're still having problems?  Then I guess it's okay to keep reading.

    There are lots of ways to tackle Savaran; my favorite, for example, is to give my characters Swimming and have them just loop around the coastline undisturbed.  But the best way to solve the thing is to use your shiny new Benevolent Winds piece.  Throw out the archers from your deck, get rid of Kaitronius and discard your bow; projectiles won't work if you're using Benevolent Winds.  Instead, get a few Dimachaerius pieces and don't summon them until you can immediately protect them with Benevolent Winds.  Then just stroll leisurely across the board and completely ignore the archers and the catapults; no need to kill them, and it fact it's best if you don't.  After all, they can't hurt you--but your opponent has a limited army size, just like you do.  If his army is full of archers and catapults that can't hurt you, then he can't summon much else--so his defenses will be weak.  When you get to the big city wall, summon a Siege Tower or Catapult and knock down the wall--then stride in and kick the elder's ass in just a few turns.  Easy as sunshine.