Having trouble with getting one-shot by giant enemies? Feeling like the pile of calamities is becoming insurmountable? I’m here to help. For reference, I do 3-man no-save/load HP Lovecraft runs with a high success rate and am working on the Esoteric Overhaul to increase the challenge past Lovecraft (this guide is NOT for the overhaul). That said, I’m sure there’s a lot of things I don’t know about the game yet. This guide is a starting place, not the final say. If you’re in a rush, just do these two things and you’ll win.
- Play to make chapter 5 as easy as possible.
Items can come and go, but calamities are forever.
- Play to take 0 damage from enemies every fight.
In order, the best ways to take 0 damage are: kill everything, be out of range of everything, or have armor/warding/temp hp to cancel out their attacks. Getting dodge/block up to have 100% evasion is an alternative that I haven’t really explored and won’t be talking about in this guide
Most of the other strategies and evaluations are built around one of those two keystones. Keep in mind that they’re what you’re working towards, not failure conditions. You’ll take damage, get maimed, maybe even lose a person or two on the way. But these are what we’re aiming for. Here are some things we’re NOT aiming for:
- Get items.
- Get experience.
- Get resources.
- Tankier heroes.
- Easier chapters 1-3.
Now, those are nice to have, sure. But when they conflict with one of our two main goals, we need to pass up on them. Now, even I don’t follow those rules 100% of the time, especially if I’m comfortable with my chances and looking to make someone better for when they become legacy, but they’re your two touchstones. Every time you diverge from them, you better have a good reason. In almost all strategy games, you do better by increasing your chances of future success rather than taking temporary gains or mitigating the downsides of potential failure.
Well, let’s look at our touchstones. For making chapter 5 as easy as possible, we don’t want our starting three heroes to retire. A retirement age of 65 will generally get us there, though there’s a few events that can push that by a decade. We’ll stick with 65 for now.
Once they’re no longer farmers, Hunters get +10 retirement age and Mystics get +20 retirement age, so you want to reroll your characters until the Warrior gets +20 retirement age and the Hunter gets +10 retirement age. This can take a bit for the warrior, but you get a high-levelled, high-geared, high-relationship character to fight in chapter 5 (our touchstone).
Okay, so what about other stats? Well, what’s going to help us take 0 damage? In order, we want to either: kill, outrange, or mitigate. So that puts potency for your mystic in the top tier, along with speed for everyone (which helps outrange and sometimes kill via flanking.) Having a speed bonus of .6 brings you to 5, which is pretty big difference early game. Older characters also get large speed penalties, so speed works for both touchstones.
Accuracy technically helps kill people, but for the most part your mystic will enable flanks for everyone else. So: ranged accuracy for mystic is good, other accuracy is mediocre.
After those, some health is fine or some recovery rate is useful for older characters in chapters 4 and 5. None of the other stats help with the 0 damage touchstone, so we’re back to what works for chapter 5, and old characters take massive hits to recovery rate. If you get a +5 or 10 to recovery rate for your mystic, you will absolutely feel the difference once they hit 70.
You don’t need to go crazy with rerolls, but the retirement ages in particular can make a big difference.
Alpha Strike – To reiterate, your aim is to take 0 damage from every monster pack. The best way to do this is always to kill them all on your turn. Generally, this will take the form of: Mystic does an area of effect interfusion that will enable flanking against most opponents, while staying at range. Everyone makes a series of flanking attacks or high% attacks and the enemy dies. This is your goal.
Flanking – attacks that are 90 degrees from a previous attack on the same enemy with have 100% to hit. Finer points: Multi-tile enemies calculate for the center of all their tiles. Mystic interfusions do not get the flanking accuracy bonus, but do enable flanking for any following attacks. For flanking purposes, the interfusion attacks came from the interfused object. Abilities like engage and throw hurlax let you flank with a single character, if need be. Use, move, attack.
Movement – You can see what an opponent’s move range is by holding shift and hovering over their figure. It’s common to leave a melee opponent or two alive, with all your heroes out of their range. Alternatively, it can be right to just double move run your entire party backwards to get some breathing room. Monsters can only see 10 tiles away (same as you) and unless they are getting alarms from other monsters, will generally act pretty silly while in the fog of war.
Bows and wands are great. Staves, crossbows and daggers are good.
All other melee weapons are comparatively bad. Ranged weapons are always useful, while (non-dagger) melee weapons are more situational. They do 0-2 more damage for 5-8 less range, often with much less accuracy (due to wield). EVERY WARRIOR AND HUNTER WANTS A RANGED WEAPON. Do not waste wood on spears or melee weapons unless you’re overflowing, you need it for ranged weapons.
Your warriors should (eventually) have a bow and some melee weapon. A mace or hammer provides some unique utility with guardian, allowing them to knock back an enemy from attacking, but go for a high damage weapon of any type if you don’t have a good bow on them yet. Hurlaxe is nice if you don’t already have a good ability that uses your swift action. A shield pairs nicely with engage.
Your hunters should have a bow and a dagger+activatable offhand (net, hurlaxe, throwing knives). Daggers double all of your damage after their armor, including any bonus damage you have, and silkstep ignores all armor.
Your mystics should have a wand or staff and a useful offhand (activatable if you’re using a staff with a secondary 1-hand weapon). For the most part, you shouldn’t need anything else, but if you have excess resources anything from a tier 0 dagger to a tier 3 bow might be useful once a blue moon.
For armor, mystics should have +potency, engage warriors should have +armor, other warriors should have +stunt armor, and hunters generally prefer the +dodge armor. Again, we’re trying to take 0 damage, not just less damage.
You get a partial discount for replacing another weapon depending on their original cost and how similar the two weapon types are. A spear’s best quality is that it reduces the wood cost for a bow replacing it. It may better to jump from a tier 1 weapon to a tier 3 enchanted directly, as you only get a partial refund.
- Aid – Mediocre. I like this the best of the non-engage defensive talents, as you can use it to buff up a tank or glass cannon before they take damage. Alternatively, you can use it for its listed purpose of “healing” a damaged character out of 1-shot range, but that’s never what you’re aiming for.
- Bard – Mediocre to Good. While your don’t get much LP from this, you can normally grab 1-2 extra. And 25 stunt divided over your team is better than viciousness by chapter 3.
- Bowmaster – Varies. Useless for mystics, reasonable for flex hunters, good for bow hunters and warriors.
- Divine Athlete – Unsure. I haven’t had a chance to use this with a powered-up Mystic or Soulstriker yet, which is where it would be useful. Trash otherwise, there aren’t many heroes who have bonus damage and care about potency.
- Endurance – Bad. Tanking hits is a last resort, and this is worse at it than Engage and Aid. Slightly better if it’s bringing you out of the one-shot range of an enemy like the Drauven Pilot.
- Hardiness – Bad. Tanking hits is a last resort, and this is worse at it than Engage and Aid. Best on an engage warrior, but still probably rates below mediocre.
- Heroism – Good. Attacking three times in a turn for a mystic or hunter is a solid way to wipe out a group. Mystics will commonly use Flameleash, as it doesn’t disappear after one use. Slightly less good for warriors, who are generally looking for Battledance which overlaps somewhat. Great with Throughshot.
- Inspiration – Great. If you work at it, you can get +3 or 4 bonus damage/potency spread out over your team. This stacks, so load up!
- Long Reach – Good. Best with things like Flamelash, daggers + Thornfang, or outranging opponents with bows.
- Riposte – Bad. If enemies can walk into melee range and attack, you’ve already messed up.
- Snakestrike – Bad. If enemies can walk into melee range and attack, you’ve already messed up.
- Soulstrike – Unsure. I need to test this more. Might be a good skill for a staff-wielding mystic, or even other classes, but I need to try it in more situations before giving it a rating.
- Viciousness – Mediocre. The basis on which I judge other abilities.
- Wisdom – Unsure. This adds another “person” of efficiency for every 25 years of age for things like research, bridge-building and mountain tunneling. My current guess is mediocre to good if you can start benefiting in the early chapters. Avoiding calamities makes your chapter 5 much easier. Note it won’t display correctly when you first get it or come out of combat.
- Backslam – Bad. Knockback is often undesirable, and the damage is small even if you have a shield. Outclassed by almost any other use of a swift action. Compare this to a hurlaxe.
- Battledance – Great. Use with bow, crossbow, or a melee weapon and zealous leap, in a pinch. Lets you attack twice or hit and run.
- Bloodrage – Unsure. Some conditional extra damage isn’t the worst, and taking a hit on purpose to give +2 or 3 damage to all of your bowshots is an interesting concept probably worth exploring. Probably still would rate as worse than +1 damage all the time, but better than some of the other options?
- Broadswipes – Unsure. Mostly bad, but there might be any interesting build here if you can buff up bonus damage, or are lacking ways to “tag” enemies for flanking. Will always do at least 1 damage (or break one armor) even without any of the bonus damage stat.
- Engage – Good. How does this help the touchstones? Well, you can get +3 armor and tag three enemies if need be. With walling, armor, shields, accessories, you can get up to 9 or 10 armor if you really want, completely nullifying attacks. However, the more common use case will be using it once or twice before attacking to “tag” an enemy or two for flanking purposes (giving 100% to hit) while providing a nice failsafe in case your turn goes wrong.
- Paladin – Bad. If enemies can walk into melee range and attack, you’ve already messed up. If you have a bow, there are very few times this will be relevant.
- Vigilance – Bad. If enemies can walk into melee range and attack, you’ve already messed up. If you have a bow, there are very few times this will be relevant. Elevates to good or great on CS Lewis or JK Rowling, where enemies will run into guarded areas for fun. May have a use if you can get high melee accuracy with a knockback weapon, in particular against Gorgonoids or Pilots.
- Raider – Bad. Way too conditional. Maybe mediocre if you’re facing Thrixl with three mystics and are lacking flame arms, ignite, Elementalist, and fire chickens.
- Sentinel – Bad. If enemies can walk into melee range and attack, you’ve already messed up, and this will often actually bring your warrior into danger. Possibly useful on CS Lewis or JK Rowling in combination with Vigilance?
- Shieldshear – Good. Best used with bow. Shredding 2 armor and enabling flanking helps you kill monsters.
- Stalwart – Bad. A one-use ability that only helps if either of two specific heroes get hit.
- Thundering Challenge – Good. Get out of jail free card for the big baddy, helps you take 0 damage. Use this and take a few steps back and they might not show up again for multiple turns.
- Wolfcall – Unsure. Potentially, +10 Speed is a huge stat boost, and it could mitigate low speeds due to age in chapter 5 nicely. Probably worth testing with a battledance or hurlaxe warrior who could hit + run very effectively.
- Zealous Leap – Good. Speed helps you kill things, often by setting up a good flank and it also helps you take 0 damage by running.
- Ambush – Good to great. Sometimes right to actually aim AWAY from where the enemies might be. The bonus attack you get the next turn deals 2 extra damage and can help with flanking.
- Archery – Bad. If you’re getting shot, something’s already gone wrong.
- Flashcone – Mediocre to Good. Reasonable panic button, but doesn’t stop enemies from moving closer, alarming others to your presence or getting damage through with multiple attacks in a turn.
- Foxflight – Mediocre. Speed’s nice, and the +50 dodge ability is decent in a pinch. 185 total dodge + block gives you 100% evasion (when you’re not flanked) against most enemies.
- Ember Arrows – Bad. Too conditional, not enough benefit compared to other skills.
- Jumpjaw – Bad. You can’t count on this triggering for any one particular enemy, so this is a trap in more ways than one.
- Phantomflare – Bad. This enables flanking once in a battle. Mystic abilities get you flanking every turn, and do massive damage on top of that.
- Quellingmoss – Bad to Mediocre. This is usually worse than Viciousness, as it doesn’t combo with Thornfang and enemies rarely last more than a turn.
- Rogue – Good to great. Great with Thornfang.
- Traverse – Mediocre. Speed’s nice, and being able to move through scenery enables good dagger flanks.
- Thornfang – Good to great. A common turn will be doing some mystic area of effect interfusion, running up a rogue for a chained melee kill or two, followed by running back for range, or finishing off someone else with a bowshot.
- Through Shot – Great. Two birds, one stone.
- Arches – Bad. Too conditional. Needs open space, can be attacked. You’re better off dealing damage.
- Compulsion – Mediocre to Good. I’m still exploring this one, but being able to force an enemy to run away is often effectively a stun-on-command. It also has the benefit that it can force enemies to walk to a flankable position, into the range of bows, or into a trap. Working through walls is pretty nice.
- Earthscribe – Bad to mediocre. The passive +1 armor and temp hp per rock interfusion and rock shield are both conditional defensive abilities. Bone wall is generally worse than throwing a net for spacing purposes, but i does let you block paths for larger enemies and create scenery. In the current state of the game, the sum of all of this is still usually less useful than a flat +1 damage, but keep this one in mind if the game balance ever shifts to favor defensive skills.
- Elementalist – Bonkers. Infernal Rain is pretty conditional, but shackles is okay, it sometimes safely pins two enemies. Then there’s Splintersalvo. If you have 4 potency (starting mystic), it does about 8 damage, piercing 2 armor, and shreds 3 armor. That’s better than any single-target spell, but it does it to a massive area with a high health interfusion target. If you have 10 potency from level 3 weapons + clothes, it does 14 damage, pierces 5 armor, shreds 6. Goodbye, room! Your go-to with this ability is to always have one wood source interfused with before you open doors. Then you can walk into the next room, find any of the extremely common wood items, and make them explode, clearing the room instantly. But that’s not all! Elementalist’s persistent fire lets you attack without line of sight. Walk your people up to a wall, out of sight, and send your pet inferno into the next room to clear it out, all while your heroes remain at a safe range. The AI doesn’t realize that the fire is coming from you, so they just get mad and smash buckets instead of checking around a corner. Take this ability 100% of the time
- Humanist – Bad to Mediocre. Stunning Barrage is good, but needs tools. Shardnado and Insidious Filament are only conditionally useful. Probably worse than a flat +1 damage.
- Ignite – Good. Ideally you pop up a flame underneath someone’s rear, then use your second action to hit a swath of other enemies. Other times, this is just a backup in case there’s no scenery to use.
- Indignance – Mediocre to Good. Requires you to get into melee, but is an area of effect, 100% to hit, non-turn ending attack. Still, requires you to get into melee, so it never reaches great status.
- Mythweaver – Bad. Too conditional. Statues are rare, and giving up a interfusion slot for +1 potency isn’t a slam dunk. Reflected damage isn’t something you plan around, as you don’t want to get hit. Books are rare, and loredump only has 2 range. And greater constrict is only 1 damage more than regular constrict. Despite there being 4 abilities, you’ll rarely get any benefit from this.
- Naturalist – Bad. Too conditional. Treecall is cute, but normally your people are where you want – bundled into a group bristling with arrowheads. Vinewrench is a mediocre, single-target spell.
- Openmind – Bad. Too conditional. If you’re spending the time to get it to “combo” with spiritblade or soulsplitting, you’re wasting time better spent shooting things.
- Spiritblade – Unsure. At its best, this is a second Inspiration. At its worst, it’s useless, as you normally want to interfuse with items closer to your enemy and keep at range. The secondary abilities are very conditionally useful. Need to test more to rate.
- Soulsplitting – Bad. If you’re getting hit, something’s already gone wrong.
The strategy is to avoid calamities. Calamities you get in chapter 1 or 2 will still be there in chapter 5, while a few extra ingots or level 1 items mostly won’t matter. Some of these strategies will seem extreme (and they are) until you try them and see how much easier things can be. After you win a game following this to the letter, try experimenting more, but it’s easy to have your intuition lead you astray if you haven’t tried the extreme case.
When cancelling calamities, always cancel the main enemy faction ones first. Generally speaking, don’t worry about the enemy's abilities, and damage on most melee enemies should never matter. HP, armor, and enemy count always do. You’re trying to take 0 damage – not less damage – from enemies, remember? Best way to take 0 damage is for them to be dead.
Don’t build outposts. If you’re in desperate need of wood or spellthreads, you can build exactly one outpost in chapter 1-3. The time and LP are better spent limiting the enemy.
For chapters 1-3, clear the board of monsters but don’t do any research. I don’t mean to pick the option without items, I mean don’t do anything with the tile after you beat the monsters, just move on. You miss out on some items and resources going into chapter 2 but avoiding a wave of calamities by moving faster is worth it. The towns will be yours at the next chapter regardless, and will start producing resources for you then. With practice you can grab one or two if they don’t cause another batch of calamity cards, but if you’re unsure just skip them all.
For chapters 4 and 5 go directly towards the goal. After scouting, DO NOT FIGHT main faction enemies – that would give you a calamity you’re trying to avoid. Just move on to the next tile. The enemy levels up faster than you do (if your heroes and items are on track), and you don’t want to risk maiming.
When a new opportunity is discovered, don’t accept it at first. You can pull up the window again with a button in the lower left. You want to accept the opportunity, to see where it is, while still having a completely unassigned hero so that time doesn’t start passing and you can see if the opportunity will be worthwhile. If not, just reassign all the people who were involved.
DO NOT SPEND MORE THAN 20 DAYS TRAVELLING TO AN OPPORTUNITY. They are not worth spending 100 days travelling back and forth to, often costing you 5-7 calamities for a single skill. They will be there in future chapters, and hopefully your path will take you by them, but a few will never be explored. That’s fine.
Only 5 heroes are allowed to touch combat. Maybe one sub-in if you have some bad maiming going on. Every time you go into a fight, your enemies get stronger and the heroes in that fight get experience and relationship points. If you split your gains and items between two different 5 man groups, the enemy’s getting strong twice as often as any of your heroes.
I’m not sure of the best amount of heroes to hire or when. One nice strategy is to complete chapter 1 with only your starting 3 heroes, if you can. You should be able to cancel all the incoming calamities. You can extend this into an entire campaign where you don’t spend a single LP on heroes, if you want, but it’s probably easiest to hire at least one hero in chapter 2.
I haven’t experimented with heavy hiring strategies, as I don’t have a particularly overpowered legacy roster. (You can take heroes who finish your campaigns and save them in your legacy.) I’d imagine if you bring in 5 experienced legacy heroes you can win against any number of calamities, but haven’t done it personally.
Generally sensible strategy is to hire to hire a 1 or 2 star (4 or 5 LP) legacy hero in chapter 1, and another legacy in chapter 2. If one of your starting 3 is particularly bad, maybe aim to replace them at some point as well, but you should generally be able to find at least two decent builds out of the three of them.
It’s also fine to grab some sub-ins in later chapters if things look dicey.