This is a simple list of some battlefield tactics I've seen myself use in battle.
Now, there's already a basic guide out there, but nothing groundbreaking when it comes to deck composition, battlefield strategies, or things of that nature. This guide aims to provide some sort of foundation for newer players, written by a self-professed casual gamer. I am by no means even necessarily good, and I openly will admit I play on lower difficulties. With that in mind, caveat emptor. Buyer beware. Here ends the Latin lesson.
Part of this guide is to get some words out into the world to describe things within the game. Here's a few of my personal terms and references on various topics, some may or may not appear further in the guide.
Battlefield States and Actions
Drive: Deployment for an aggressive action against the enemy. A drive is dead if it is interrupted before it can be launched.
Assault: A volley of attacks leveled at the enemy.
Kill: When a card is reduced to 0 HP, whether it truly dies or is just wounded.
Arrival / Arriving: The placement of a Khan or General. (see below)
Shell Up: Spending actions protecting your Prophet, with armor or Taunt spamming.
Kingmaking/Promotion/etc.: Building an otherwise weak unit into a powerful one, making them a King/Khan/General.
Taxes/Taxing: Delaying or stunting enemy unit placement. Includes things such as spike traps, forcing the return of enemy cards, or blackouts placed on units reliant on their extra effects in combat.
General / Khan / King: A character you build a drive around.
Trash: Far from derogatory, trash signifies a disposable unit or exploitable terrain used to tie up the field to the trash-player's advantage.
Tank: A unit designed to suck in and take damage.
Assassin: A unit, upon being played, that is there to kill enemies by their existence or on a charge.
Bomb: An enemy unit you don't want to kill because they either make a powerful unit on the front line or because they have a detrimental Revenge action or will poison the attacker. Bomb status is defined by the enemy's perception, not yours, unless you are the enemy to that unit.
Cheerleader: Unit deliberately played in a non-attacking position just to trigger their Fury skill or persistent effect.
Wrecker: Shorter than trash-cleaner. A unit played to wipe out several or all trash units in one go. Also applies to terrain destroyers.
Maestro: Unit that confers a persistent benefit to the player. Bonus points if it tends to herd unit placement around it, such as Stone Chakras, Soft Cover, or Raj Shieldbearers with their Taunt conveying.
Deckbuilding: The Long Haul
The first question you should ask yourself when deckbuilding is how many cards in the deck you want first of all. It ranges from 15 to 30 different convoy cards, and as many you can buy of leader cards. Leader cards are easier to prune than Convoy cards, but Convoy cards matter less in the grand scheme of strategy. (Not to say you can run a deck of all Ghram Pups and expect to win, hilarious as insta-filling the map with 1/1 baddies may be.) I usually focus on my leader deck and take what I can get for convoy cards. The big exception is when you're in a zone transition or recruitment tile and you've got a market of mooks to pick from.
Your leader deck ought to be more specialized than your convoy deck. Rogue-lites live and die by the almighty decrees of RNGesus and Nowhere Prophet is no exception. I generally field as many able-bodied followers as allowable. Once I hit 30, then I start picking and choosing my war-party. Your leader deck is your Murphy's Law insurance, whereas a body with an attack stat is generally useful in some capacity on the field no matter who they are.
It is perfectly acceptable however to sideline the wounded. It's better to take a pyrrhic victory and make it to a healing site or camp than lose a power card you've been relying on. The sole exception is a dedicated cheerleader like a Hermit or a Deserter being played behind everyone, and even then it's still a risk.
While your leader deck is your ♥♥♥-fixer, the convoy deck is the majority of your enemy leader damaging and where most of the fighting lies. Now, you can have a jack-of-all-trades deck, or a mastery deck. Don't do either. Sometimes, the enemy rolls triple sixes and your master plan goes up in smoke and you need to switch, and the bosses can absolutely BTFO anyone trying to go full generalist. So my recommendation is this, be a king-of-some-trades. It's perfectly valid to have one major strategy you default to (I tend to form the Mongol Rush in my runs using an Echo or Banshee.), but make sure you have several means of getting that strategy done in case your big card gets deep-sixed. Alternatively, a strategy like Taxed to Death lies almost purely on the Leader deck and can get layered onto several other strategies, buying time and opportunities for another strategy to be executed if the original one fails.
All this being said though, all decks need trash, and all decks need power cards. Trash buys time and wears down the enemy leader and the power cards need to be there for when the trash-cleaners show up and try to clean house. Never stack one or the other unless you've built your leader deck around that.
Taxed to Death
A cocky Blue Devil approaches a wandering caravan, half drunk but no less ready to run his mouth. "Hey! We're gonna enslave the lot o' ye! *hic*"
Their leader, a technopath, grins a sly grin and says nothing as his caravan prepares to fight. The Blue Devil calls his fellow mercs, but finds that only a pitiful fraction of his backup shows up. Those that do seem to teleport away as the technopath's grin turns into a particularly sick smile. Finally, after taking glancing fire from some weak Initiates and a Bandit Sapper, a grunt and a Raj Infiltrator show up, almost ready to stem the tide of angry worshippers, that is, until the technopath points behind the Devil, where his grunt is paralyzed with sickness and his Infiltrator was blacked out. The last sight the Devil sees is a lowly Hermit standing above him with a staff, shortly before bashing his brain in.
The idea's simple, but effective. Use your leader skills to make it nigh on impossible for anyone to mount a defense, or offense for that matter.
There's a few ways to go about it, but the premise always remains the same, load up on Blackouts first and foremost, stock a few weak and cheap attack cards, get a few attack lowering cards, and prep a Stalemate if you can if things get out of hand and you need to reset the board for a new drive. Units are not the focus of this, but you should prefer sniper units or robust units that can take a hit or two. Get a drive out quick and spend the rest of the match keeping it up by preventing the enemy from killing the drive.
Units to Keep an Eye Out for:
The Bodhisattva: Being able to reset the board is vital for long term taxing to death as it can kill a rival drive in it's tracks. On top of this, The Bodhisattva is a powerful taunter with high health as is, on top of a very powerful cost increase on the enemy and a cost decrease on your units. Use with care, the cost is there for a reason.
The Deceiver: One of the easier Mythics to get (IMO), the fury skill is simple and effective, especially if you snag a powerful unit. This can let you flip from Taxing to a full rush and end it early, always preferable.
Heretics: Simple, but since Taxing to Death relies on the long game, the Heretic's high health and taunt makes them a nice cheap backbone to the initial drive if an enemy gets through or you want Charge protection.
The Mongol Horde
"You better run!"
"Yeah! Those diseased freaks will pay top dollar for good slaves!"
A roving pack of bandits are chasing a Hermit, Wanderer, a Ghram Pup, and a Warrior Monk on his last legs. The fight in the canyon has been going on for ages, but it seems to be losing, the outriding party is routing and the bandits, leader in tow, are about to run down the poor party members. All of a sudden however, the monk throws his club at an unstable rock formation.
It collapses, revealing a scene that makes the bandits immediately rethink their plans. A lithe female technopath prophet riding a very irate and very beefed up Rockworm was behind it. The Technopath blacks out the Cutthroat and scratches him while bolstering the Ghram Pup twice. The pup turns immediately and mauls the Cutthroat, while the rest of them stare in further horror as the already massive Rockworm grows even larger. A Crashjacker sees out of the corner of his eye a set up Reinforcement Pattern shortly before he sees that the Rockworm is diving directly at his captain, eating him whole in a single go. He immediately surrenders and joins the caravan, in awe of the beast and babe that just completely ended his raiding career.
The Mongol Horde is built on two basic components, the horde, a group of trash units there to buy time or get a massive promotion later in the fight, and a Khan, the unit that either wrecks everything or makes the horde downright lethal.
The Mongol Horde is more or less delivered entirely on having a Khan ready to drop at will. As such, if you're running for the horde, it is entirely worth keeping a high value Khan in your deck at the beginning instead of recycling them back into your hand. THAT BEING SAID, it generally isn't worth keeping that 7 cost unit around unless you're sitting on a means of lowering that cost down.
Variations on a Theme
There are three basic Mongol Horde types out there.
- The Khan's Challenge. Build up one unit into an unstoppable juggernaut of death and destruction. Point in direction of enemy general. The horde is there mostly to buy time for the Khan to be built up, clear taunters, or to join in the Khan's initial attack for a full on drive.
- Unleash the Horde: This is the exact opposite, you drop a unit with Taunt that can either take an absurd amount of punishment or taxes the opponent heavily while the horde does all the damage heavy lifting.
- Maoist Legacy: This is sort of a hybrid. There are some cards good for leveling the playing field among all cards, and so the goal is to institute health or attack communism and get an upper hand with certain Khan cards or stocked bolstering.
Cards to Look Out for:
Reinforcement Pattern: Free Bolsters per turn layered onto anything else you've got lying around. This card mixed with that is perfect for kingmaking, especially with...
Rockworm: My first victory, I picked up one of these bad boys early in the trip to the crypt, sometime during the second stage. Not only did I luck out a stupid amount of times and draw this out the gate, not only did it not die once on the trip there save a necessary suicide against the King Lizard, but getting attack beyond 10 was very much a regular happening courtesy of that Incite skill. There's a good reason my little mock story features a technopath like the Echo, she gets the Reinforcement Pattern as a regular and the Rockworm only has a pithy 3 energy cost along with a few Bolsters. Let's do the math, that's 1/1 for each Bolster, plus 1/0 for each leader action courtesy of the Incite skill on the Rockworm. I dunno where the Raj got one at the Ziggurat, but buying him was batteries well spent indeed.
The Radical: He arrives, the Russian men's choir begins singing. He makes every unit sans constructs 3/3 except him. You want to roll the Maoist Legacy, here's your angry commie boi. In order though, you should make your actions correctly. Play sub 3/3 units, then The Radical, then bolstering and more powerful units or attack cards, depending on your fancy.
Scion Avatar: Big cost, but so long as this Khan doesn't die, everyone else loses 3 attack and she comes in shifted in gear and ready to kick some rear. Everyone. A perfect counter to horde rushes, if you last long enough to drop her. Just be warned, she delivers a nasty -3 HP when she dies.
Head Dreamer: A potential surprise, but he's got the raw stats for this. With a high enough attack and seemingly low priority for AI attacks (Which may have definitely changed since I last played. These updates happen quick), he can easily become a Khan if you engage in promoting him appropriately. In the meantime, he's useful played Cheerleader until then if you're recycling cards a lot, meaning he's one of the few Khans immediately useful while being built up.
Shieldcomrade: The perfect unit for beating back a horde as is, the Shieldcomrade's access to Taunt and fairly easy way to get stupid tanky makes her a perfect choice for the second variation of the Mongol Horde, all the more relevant if you've got The Fountain in play or a Battlefield Healer in the wings.
The Inertial Immortals
A Ruster cluster is busy carrying out their unknown orders, dismantling a grounded caravan, when a Blue Devil Grunt and a pair of unaffiliated Worker Swarms happen on the scene, eager to plunder the cargo truck, with their technopath leader in tow. The Rusters turn to attack the grunt and his metal companions, and wound them, however they are merely knocked back. Confused, the Rusters attack once more, but this time the Grunt and his swarms walk forward. A Dozer arrives on the scene shortly, but its sensors find something disturbing. While the health of their targets is very low, they seem to have gotten stronger.
A second volley of attacks is launched, with similar, and distressing, results for the Rusters. However, the attackers are even more powerful after this attack, even if they are no more healthy for it. The Rusters take time to assess the situation, deploying a Herder behind some cover to buy time to regroup, but the attackers retort instead of retreat. The swarms overwhelm a Buzzer and Dozer, while the Grunt takes initiative and takes a strong shot at the Ruster lead drone. Rattled, but not swayed, it orders a round of attacks from drones that are no longer there, before being shut off permanently by a well placed shot from a Blessed Sniper.
This is a basic exploitation of the Robust ability. You don't die when your HP hits zero, you just get knocked back. You run out of room though, you do die for real. In practical terms though, this persistence is an advantage if you beef them up with stat boosts.
All you need is a unit with Robust, more if you want to give the AI a heart attack. Then, you simply place the unit in a clear row and pump it full of boosts. Health is irrelevant, the AI needs coordination to kill your baby on this at at minimum that's some suiciding and turn wasting that keep you safer in some cosmic Taunt sense. Then you actually play a Taunting unit.
A caution however, this strategy is extremely hampered by terrain or thin battlefields. Use with caution.
Cards to Look Out for:
Anything with Robust. Anything.
Reinforcement Pattern: Again, free Bolsters. Free ♥♥♥ is not only nice but all those 1/1 boosts add up on a unit that, if treated right, is effectively immortal and in possession of a sort of First Strike.
Any unit that is a Sniper is also effective, as they can maximize the minimal space for other units this strategy allows.
Prospector: Terrain is your bane employing this strategy. Prospectors actively benefit from blowing up terrain. The synergy is obvious.
Any unit that can boost attack, but less so HP, is also good, since the point is to stat dump a Robust Unit.
Raj Shieldbearer: A real risky strategy is to turn your boosted Robust unit into a bomb your opponent needs to trip. While I would not want to just drop Taunt on only one Robust unit, the Shieldbearer drops it on himself and other units around him. Very useful, especially if you're pulling a multiple Robust play.