A detailed guide on how to train and fight successfully in A Legionary's Life.
Training and Preparation
I will not explain the meaning of all the different activities you can perform in camp, as titanopteryx has already done this.
Training exercises are divided into three groups: javelin, melee (sword/shield) and workouts. You build up less stress if you alternate between them, for example: sparring, javelin training, swimming, sparring, running, javelin, sparring... (I think you get the idea). This is fairly important because depending on your level of over-exercise stress training activities will decrease your morale (yellow: 1 point of morale loss, bright red = 2 points, dark red = 3 points).
Try to keep your morale up. High morale positively influences the difficulty of skill and stat checks and your legionary's combat performance. Leisure activities can help you with this. If your legionary's intellect is not significantly higher than 50, a sacrifice to the gods has a decent chance to boost your morale by 20 for the cost of 40 denarii. Might be worth it. Spending time on shopping, extra patrols, extra guard duty or coaching will not improve your morale, but reduce your stress level (just like leisure activities).
Training activities will not always succeed, but don't let that discourage you. Over the course of time there will always be training progress. Just keep training, training, training... (without completely ruining your morale)
In the first parts of the game, your training focus should definitely be sparring. Your starting sword and shield skills of 29 are too low to survive any serious fights. Use the sparring option a lot, but mix it with javelin training or workouts to reduce the speed with which you build up over-exercise stress.
In the beginning it's sufficient to spar with anyone. Once your skills reach an advanced level (between 40 and 50) you will receive a message telling you that your progress is slowing down. At that point you should start sparring with good legionaries. To become a very good fighter, you will eventually have to spar with the elite of your legion.
This is only possible if you improve your relationship with the troops. Good and elite sparring will be ineffective if nobody likes you enough to train with you. Sparring with good legionaries only works reliably (i.e. without a chance of failure) if your troop reputation is at 75% or higher. Sparring with the elite only works reliably once you have maxed out your troop reputation.
The solo sword training option is only useful until your sword skill reaches 40 points. Then it becomes very ineffective. It is a reasonable option in the early game, but becomes obsolete very quickly (and it cannot improve your shield skill).
The javelin skill is much easier to train, but training it beyond the number of your coordination stat is almost impossible. If you want to excel at javelin throwing, your coordination needs to be very high. However, even a javelin skill of 40 can be enough to hit an enemy, so start aiming for specific targets in battle once you've crossed that threshold.
Workouts become more interesting when you reach a point at which improving your weapon skills is becoming increasingly difficult. All three of them are quite useful, so focus on whichever you prefer. The importance of the physical stats in combat will be discussed in the next chapter.
Here is one tip regarding money and equipment: There is not much point in hoarding your denarii, at least in the early parts of the game. Keep looking for better equipment in camp and don't hesitate to buy expensive swords or armor pieces if you can afford them. A good sword or some decent armor can mean the difference between life and death in battle.
Combat Skills and Stats
This chapter will describe the importance of all the skills and stats related to combat. In order to compare your skills and stats with those of your opponents or allies, look at and click on the fighters' information boxes on the left and right.
Health (red circle) - This is pretty easy to explain: Once a fighter's health drops to zero, he dies. It is important to note that losing health has no side effects in this game. There are no wound-related penalties.
Stance (blue circle) - If I had to describe it in my own words, I would say that "stance" is another word for "balance". Just imagine that a fighter with full stance is firmly standing on his feet, weapon and shield at the ready. A fighter who has lost some stance is staggering. A fighter without any stance is basically lying on the ground, desperately trying to stand up again. In gameplay terms, stance determines the reliability of a fighter's attack and defence. More precisely, low stance decreases the chance of performing a successful attack, feint or shield bash and it decreases the chance to block attacks. Low stance also increases the chance of failing to act in a turn. This guide cannot overemphasize how important it is to keep your stance up at all times!
Fatigue (green circle) - Every action in combat (except respite) increases a fighter's fatigue. It has no effect as long as the circle isn't yet fully green. When a fighter reaches this point his fatigue level increases by 1 and the green circle starts a new cycle. Fatigue leads to a number of negative effects: The chance of performing successful attacks, feints and shield bashing actions decreases, the chance of blocking an attack is lower, the chance of losing a turn is higher, and a figher is less likely to recover stance or lower his current fatigue with the respite action. These effects become more severe with each new fatigue level. A fighter's fatigue will also increase when he suffers damage on his arms or legs.
Morale - A fighter's morale level has a positive or negative effect on his combat performance. High morale increases the chance of getting bonus turns, recovering stance and reducing fatigue. Low morale has the opposite effects. Because of this, you should try to keep your morale on a high level.
Weapon skill - The higher this skill, the more likely it is that attacks and feints will be successful.
Shield skill - The higher this skill, the more likely an attack will be blocked. It also increases a fighter's resistance to feints and shield bashing actions (knock and charge). Furthermore, it makes shield bashing actions more likely to work.
Javelin skill - This skill determines the player's chance of hitting his opponent with a javelin in his first turn as well as the chance of scoring a devastating "bull's-eye" hit with a lot of extra damage.
Strength - This stat influences the melee and javelin damage. It also influences the success chance of shield bashing actions as well as a fighter's resistance against them.
Endurance - This stat determines how much fatigue a fighter can build up before reaching a new fatigue level. It also influences the success chance of respite.
Constitution - This stat directly determines a fighter's number of health points.
Quickness - This stat influences a fighter's chance to act more than once in a row, or not at all in his turn. It also has an effect on the success chance of feints.
Coordination - This stat influences your chance to recover stance while being attacked (very important).
Awareness - Together with quickness, this stat influences the success chance of feints and a fighter's resistance against them. It is the only mental stat which is relevant to combat.
The descriptions in this chapter may already have given you some interesting ideas on possible combat tactics.
All armor pieces in this game have three different stats: damage protection, cover and anti-armor-resistance. This chapter will describe them briefly and then discuss their importance. Finally, some conclusions on the significance of armor in combat will be drawn.
Damage protection is the amount of damage that can be reduced when the armor piece blocks an attack.
Cover tells you how likely it is that an attack on the respective body part will hit the armor. For example, a standard pectoral plate has a cover of 35 on the torso, which means that torso attacks still have a 65% chance to hit an unprotected spot, inflicting full damage. As a counterexample, chain mail has a cover of 100 on the torso, so it cannot be bypassed on this body part.
In order to describe the meaning of anti-armor-resistance (AAR), we first have to look at the weapon property called "anti-armor" (AA). Every weapon has a certain ability to pierce armor, which slightly lowers the maximum damage protection on a hit. The higher the AA stat of the weapon in relation to the AAR of the armor piece, the more points of damage protection will be ignored when calculating the damage. However, this is not as significant as it may sound, because even if a high AA weapon hits a low AAR armor piece, there will be a significant damage reduction. If the AAR is as high as or higher than the AA, the full damage protection is applied.
Because of this, the important armor stats are clearly damage protection and cover. You want to be wearing armor with a high chance to block an enemy strike and with a high chance to block (almost) all the damage. When in doubt, I would argue that cover is slightly more important than damage protection, but this is debatable.
Based on this, I can give you the following advice on armor in combat:
- A) Try to get your hands on armor with high damage protection and cover. Chain mail is an excellent option. Helmets and greaves are important, too, but they come with penalties on awareness and quickness, so you may need to balance this out.
- B) Try to hit your opponent where he isn't wearing any armor or where his armor covers only a small part of the body. In the latter case a soft spot attack will increase your chance to bypass the armor.
- C) If the damage protection of your opponent's armor is very low and your melee damage is decent, you can just strike through it. For example, linen cuirasses and sinew caps only offer very little protection. They will hardly be able to stop your sword attacks (unless you are still using one of those terrible xiphos swords).
Now I will go through the possible combat actions and discuss when (not) to use them.
Attitude bar - You can find it under the box displaying your legionary's information. Drag it to the left to adopt a defensive attitude (blue/shield) and to the right to adopt an aggressive attitude (red/sword). A defensive attitude boosts your defence, but makes your attacks less likely to hit. An aggressive attitude does the opposite. Try to be defensive when you expect the enemy to attack. Go aggressive when your stance is higher and you want to attack. Staying defensive for more than 2 or 3 turns in a row will lower your morale by one point per turn. This morale loss timer can be "reset" by spending a turn with an aggressive attitude.
Switch targets - When fighting several enemies, you will see a sword icon pointed at one of them. It means that all your offensive combat actions will be directed at this opponent. In order to target a different enemy, click on the spot left of their information box. You can do this as often as you wish to during your turn and compare your success chances against different enemies before making a choice.
Attack - Select this to be presented with six different options on which body parts to aim your sword at. The first sword circle next to a body part shows you the chance to hit, the second circle shows the chance of bypassing the armor (it will always be 100% if there is no armor). The different body parts all have different damage multipliers. For example, an attack that causes 10 points of damage on the torso will cause 20 points on the neck, 15 points on the head, 12 points on the groin, but only 8 points on the legs or 7 points on the arms. As a general rule you can say that the hit chance decreases as the damage multiplier increases. The only exceptions to this rule are the legs and arms, which are slightly harder to hit than the torso. However, hitting them also lowers the victim's fatigue, which can be quite useful. Keep in mind that missing an attack lowers the attacker's stance by a significant amount. Because of this, you should only attack if your hit chance is above 50%, and ideally if your stance is higher than your opponent's.
Soft spot attack - This is the same as attack, but the hit chance is slightly lower while the chance to bypass armor is slightly higher. It can be useful if you want to bypass your opponent's helmet, for example. However, it's useless if the armor cover is 100.
Feint - A successful feint lowers your opponent's stance. This is a good defensive action because the attacker doesn't lose any stance if it fails. Be careful though: Continuous feinting can build up a lot of fatigue. There are some technical differences between quick feint, (standard) feint and deft feint, but we don't need to discuss them in detail. Just keep in mind that a deft feint takes away the most stance, but is also the most difficult to pull off. Quick feints are the easiest and least effective. Standard feints cover the middle ground between effectiveness and difficulty. All feints rely on the weapon skill, quickness and awareness.
Shield - With these two actions (knock and charge) a fighter can try to smack his opponent with his shield. A successful knock or charge takes away (almost) all the victim's stance, which can be absolutely devastating. However, knock and charge are easy to fail and will lower the attacker's stance in this case. Only use these actions if you have a good chance to succeed. Knock relies more on the shield skill while charge relies more on strength. A fighter with high strength and shield skill will have a high resistance against knock and charge.
Respite - This action's success chance mainly depends on the fighter's endurance. If it succeeds, the fighter loses one point of fatigue (which is very little, a feint builds up 4 points of fatigue, for example). If this action fails, nothing happens. Selecting respite can be a good idea if you want to play defensively and preserve your stamina.
Recover - This action is only available after losing stance. The success chance depends mainly on the fighter's coordination. If your stance is lower than your opponent's, you should definitely adopt a defensive attitude and keep doing this until your stance is recovered. If a fighter hasn't been attacked in the previous round, his chance to recover will be 100%.
Now that we've taken a look at all the important elements of the combat system, I would like to offer you some tactics which take them into account.
A) Block and strike
Adopt a defensive attitude and wait for your opponent to attack and miss, lowering his stance in the process. Switch to aggressive, choose attack and select a target with a good chance to hit and no/poor armor protection. If you hit and your opponent fails to recover, attack again. If you miss, switch back to defensive, recover your stance and repeat the process. This is a good tactic against enemies with high coordination.
B) Block, feint and kill
Defend and wait for your opponent to miss an attack. Switch to aggressive and keep using feints until his stance is at zero or very close to it. Then start targeting the most vulnerable body parts and try to kill your opponent. If he recovers a bit, use more feints. This tactic may only be effective with a quickness and awareness advantage and if your opponent's coordination is low. Keep in mind that feints can build up a lot of fatigue.
C) Block, shield bash and kill
Same tactic as b), but instead of feinting you use knock or charge, relying on strength rather than quickness and awareness. If it works, even a high coordination opponent can get into serious trouble. However, if you fail the shield bash, your opponent may decide to counterattack while your attitude is still aggressive, so it's not without risk. Can be a good tactic if you have a massive strength advantage.
D) Rely on fatigue
Play as defensively as possible and keep using the respite action as your opponent is building up more and more fatigue. To avoid morale loss, you can occasionally switch to an aggressive attitude when your opponent's stance is lowered, but keep using respite. Once your opponent's defence has been significantly weakened by his fatigue level, start attacking (using one of the tactics above) and show no mercy. This tactic takes a while to work (especially against high endurance opponents) and is only useful in duels. When attacking, you can aim at your opponent's arms or legs to increase his fatigue even further.
E) Defend and disrupt
Adopt a defensive attitude and keep using feints at the same time. If your opponent loses some stance and fails to recover, you can switch to a more aggressive attitude and use more feints. The goal of this tactic is not to kill the enemy, but to make it impossible for him to attack you effectively until you are allowed to disengage. This tactic is useful in timed formation fights against superior enemies (even if they have high coordination). Don't use it in duels, though. You will only build up a lot of fatigue without gaining a decisive advantage.
F) Aggressive javelin throw
This isn't really a complex tactic, but I will mention it anyway in case you might not know this already: If you can throw a javelin in the first round of combat, switch to an aggressive attitude first to increase your hit chance. In my experience it's always worth the risk, even if your opponent attacks you in the first turn after the javelin throw.
If your legionary survives long enough to participate in the Macedonia campaign, he will eventually have to fight the phalanx. Phalanx combat uses some special mechanics. First I will list and explain them. Then I will offer you two different tactical approaches against the phalanx.
In phalanx fights, the player's legionary finds himself in front of a six-metre long wall of pikes. The enemy unit he is fighting against does not represent a single soldier, but the whole phalanx formation. If the player can take down all the health points of the phalanx, he will break through the spearwall and engage the phalangites in close combat (which uses the standard combat system). Both the phalanx and the player can use some unique combat actions.
These are the special actions of the phalanx:
Shield Push - The phalangites try to unbalance you by forcefully pressing their sarissa pikes against your shield. In gameplay terms, this action works like a feint. It lowers your stance if it succeeds, but doesn't have any negative effects if it fails.
Rally - The phalanx restores some of its hitpoints by spending a turn on reinforcing the formation and spearwall. The phalanx can only use this action once per combat cycle (around 20 turns).
Apart from this, the phalanx can use the standard actions recover, respite and attack (aiming at different body parts).
These are the special actions of the player character:
Slash - The player tries to push away or damage the sarissa pikes with his sword. This is an attack action which can lower the phalanx formation's hitpoints if it succeeds. If it misses, the player loses some stance. The hit chance is determined by your sword skill.
Chop - Works like slash, but with much higher damage and a significantly lower hit chance. This is great if it works, but you need to be an excellent swordsman to use this reliably.
Decoy - The player tries to lure some of the pikes out of position. Technically works like a feint, but it's less effective. If successful, the phalanx loses a small amount of stance. If it fails, nothing happens. This is a good defensive action.
Shield Push - The player tries to unbalance some of the phalangites by forcefully pressing his shield against the pikes. If successful, the phalanx loses some stance. If it fails, the player loses some stance. Just like the standard shield bashing actions, you should only do this if you have a good chance of success (which depends on your strength and shield skill).
The player can also use the standard actions recover and respite during a phalanx fight. Furthermore, he will be able to throw a javelin in his first turn.
Having looked at the special elements of phalanx fights, I will now offer two different tactical approaches against the phalanx.
A) Trying to break through the spearwall
Adopt an aggressive attitude and use slash and chop to get the phalanx formation's hitpoints to zero. Use chop if the hit chance is higher than 50%, otherwise use slash. When your stance drops to a dangerously low level, spend a few turns on recovering it with a defensive attitude, then attack again. Don't waste any time on using decoy or shield push. This tactic is only likely to work if your sword and shield skills are very high, but even then it's risky. If you get unlucky, the phalanx will attack you successfully and drop your health to a life-threatening level. If this happens, stop playing the hero and switch to tactic b):
B) Trying to survive
Adopt a defensive attitude and keep using decoy to lower the phalanx formation's stance. You can also use shield push if it has a good success chance. Use recover when your stance is lowered by the spear push action and respite if your fatigue gets too high. Don't bother using slash and chop. The whole point of this tactic is to make it as hard as possible for the phalanx to attack you successfully. You can occasionally switch from a defensive to a balanced attitude to avoid morale loss. Keep doing this until the battle is over. Good luck!