Armored Princess Unit Analysis Part 8: Neutral Sapients

And now the rest of Armored Princess' Neutrals.

Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 50
Leadership: 25
Attack/Defense: 8 / 4
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 3
Health: 25
Damage: 3-5 Physical
Resistances: Generic.
Talents: None
Abilities: Excavator (+10% Gold won from battles), Marine (+2 Morale in naval combat), Nimble (20% chance to dodge attacks)

+1 Initiative, +5 Health, and they've picked up Nimble. Also, they've replaced their old graphic with the Sea Dog's graphic, which is pretty nice. I always found the old Pirate graphic a bit forgettable, and not very pirate-y, and they still found a decent use for it by using it as the base for the Pirate Ghost's graphic.

Though I really hate Nimble as a mechanic, for much the same reason I hate Cautious. And unlike Cautious, Nimble is always on, no matter what. This makes Pirates incredibly aggravating, both to use and fight, as luck is a massive, massively swingy factor in their behavior. It's especially frustrating to be 90% of the way through a battle with no casualties, go to finish off a Pirate stack, and they dodge and land exactly one kill in retaliation, costing you your point toward Strategist because of pure RNG nonsense.

There's ways to play around Nimble -a number of attacking Talents are impossible to dodge, such as Guard Droid Harpoons, Spells can't miss, Rage attacks can't miss, Traps can't miss, Talents that don't directly deal damage will never miss either, and ongoing Poison/Burn is unavoidable- but it's fairly frustrating because of the swingy factor in particular. Say your expected damage output means you'll kill a Pirate stack by turn 2, with only three unit-derived attacks being aimed at them at all. Just about 51% of the time, the fact that you're risking Misses won't end up mattering, because 3 20% chances to Miss is just not that likely to result in a Miss, rendering it wholly unnecessary to bother trying to play around Nimble. But every once in a great while, all three attacks will Miss. Because.

I'd much rather see a matchup advantage effect the player can play around that's reasonably consistent in its effect and behavior. As-is, it's perfectly possible to simply save before a fight and reload if a problematic Miss occurs, effectively letting the player burn real-life time to erase the existence of the Ability. If that's the effect an Ability is having on a player's play experience, something has gone awry.

Pirates in particular are aggravating for being 3 Speed. As we'll see in a minute, Sea Dogs have also picked up Nimble, but since they're 2-Speed Running, it's a lot more effective to eg hit them with Slow, crippling their Speed and buying time to pelt them with ranged attacks until they finally die. With Pirates you'll need to stack such effects (eg Slow+Freeze), or stall them with a series of well-placed Traps, or something else more difficult to pull off if you want to stall them long enough to mitigate the RNG problems.

Sea Dog
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 100
Leadership: 40
Attack/Defense: 18 / 10
Initiative/Speed: 7 / 2
Health: 40
Damage: 5-7 Physical
Resistances: Generic.
Talents: Fury Attack (Reload: 1. Simultaneously attacks not only the target but also enemies to the side for 5-7 Physical damage. No friendly fire risk), Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Excavator (Combat provides 10% more Gold), Marine (+2 Morale in naval combat), Nimble (20% chance to evade attacks)

+2 Initiative, +6 Health, and they've picked up Nimble. 7 Initiative is monstrous compared to their old tier, even accounting for how many other units have had buffed Initiative. In particular, they can easily be pushed over a decent portion of their competition by just getting a hold of Jimmy, due to Speed's importance in calculating Initiative. You might as well pick up Jimmy as soon as you can, so Sea Dogs are really solid pretty much automatically for a while. And if you luck into Jackboots? Only Archdemons will go before them. They've also picked up a spiffy new graphic, one of my favorite new ones in the series! Which is particularly impressive given that it's primarily a reskin of the usual base.

Of course, they're still a melee unit that lacks No Retaliation etc, but they're respectably durable for the early game and can use Fury Attack and careful use of Waiting to finish off stacks while getting in damage on other stacks in complete safety. Supplementing their durability with Glot's Armor is also an option, and since it's only needed as a supplement rather than a minimum requirement for them to be acceptably effective, it's not necessarily horribly burdensome to do so. The bonus Gold intake is also appreciate toward the beginning of the game, as you're probably struggling with Gold even if you're perfectly avoiding casualties.

Also worth mentioning is that with Time Back having switched from a mid-late game Rage Skill to the Spell Turn Back Time, it's easier to reverse their time really early in a match to inflict serious casualties with Frenzy Attack, undo the casualties, and next turn hit the same group of enemies with Frenzy Attack again. This applies to basically any unit, but Sea Dogs are one of the more significant abusers of turning back time. Plus, Turn Back Time can be held in reserve: if you get lucky and they dodge all incoming attacks, you can spend the Mana on something else.

As I hinted earlier, they're actually overall less annoying to fight than Pirates are, though, since it's easier to keep them contained thanks to their inferior Speed. Slow them down, and it's often possible to just keep pushing them back with Smashing Blow so they never make any progress toward your units. Nimble is frustrating, but so long as you're leaning toward ranged armies like you really ought to be, it's more tedious than actually problematic to avoid casualties, assuming you've got the rest of the battle under control.

Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 35
Attack/Defense: 10 / 8
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 3
Health: 30
Damage: 4-6 Physical
Resistances: Generic.
Talents: Berserker (Charge: 1. For 3 turns, the Barbarian has doubled Attack, Initiative, and crit chance, halved Defense, and goes out of control. This provides protection against mental effects as well. Does not end the Barbarian's turn)
Abilities: Resistant to Cold (Takes 25% less damage from 'cold' damage sources, cannot be Frozen, and snowy battlefields increase Defense by 50%)

+2 to Initiative, making them more distinct from Berserkers, since they now actually out-Initiative Berserkers when Berserk. In fact, before Initiative modifiers are taken into account, Berserking Barbarians beat everything in the game for turn order, even Archdemons! Naturally, this also makes them a lot more annoying as enemies, as 10 Initiative is almost impossible to passively beat, and it's easy to forget to account for the Initiative modification prior to it actually happening and so end up with Berserking Barbarians messing up your plans. They've also gotten a spiffy new graphic that makes the Conan influence even more obvious.

Overall though, they're pretty much the same as they were in The Legend, only even less appealing in the early game since Grand Strategy existing discourages having your units outside of your control. More of a pain to fight, still not all that desirable for the player.

Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 70
Leadership: 35
Attack/Defense: 20 / 4
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 30
Damage: 4-6 Physical
Resistances: Generic
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Berserk (Unit is never under Hero control, and is immune to mental effects), Resistant to Cold (Takes 25% less damage from 'cold' damage sources, cannot be Frozen, and snowy battlefields increase Defense by 50%), Vengeful (Always crits when below 50% of original stack size)

They've picked up Vengeful. That's it.

Berserkers are one of the more notable units as far as benefiting from the Paladin's Resurrection Skill. Having a unit that's completely outside your control still has various issues, and the Trapper Medal in particular makes it consistently problematic to have a unit you can't control even if you don't really care about casualties per se, but once you've got Grand Strategy and Resurrection-the-Skill maxed Berserkers can be fun to mess around with and decently effective. Ideally you'll also have Tactics to give you some indirect control over them.

The threat they pose as enemies hasn't really changed. The main point worth noting is that they're actually generally less disruptive than Barbarians, unlike in The Legend.

Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 260
Leadership: 80
Attack/Defense: 20 / 20
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 5
Health: 90
Damage: 5-10 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, 20% Magic
Talents: Split (Charge: 1. Stack splits in half, shunting half its numbers into a new stack directly adjacent. This new stack cannot use Split, and is considered a new unit in most every respect, having its full supply of Action Points and being unaffected by any effects lingering on the spawning stack. Does not end the 'originating; stack's turn)
Abilities: Flight, Furious (Retaliations never 'run out'), Magic Resistance (+20% Magic resistance)

+2 to Attack and Defense, and... that's it. (Oh, and Separation got renamed) I'm a little puzzled by this particular stat boost, but sure, why not.

Split itself has had two key changes made to it: firstly, both stacks lack the Split Talent. (In The Legend, the 'originating' stack retained it, opening up the possibility of Gifting them a new use) Secondly, the turn order element is more consistent/sensible: you finish up the turn of the 'originator' stack before you move on to the other stack, instead of it interrupting the turn. Indirectly, the fact that it's not considered to be a summon, mechanically, is more meaningfully relevant, as Exorcism exists (And can't affect Split Griffins) and the Trapper Medal exists. (You can level it faster by exploiting Griffin stacks Splitting)

An indirect buff is the existence of Royal Griffins, sort of. Honestly, I'd usually rather use a Royal Griffin if I'm considering using a Griffin, with the only real edge the Griffin has being it's still one of the best units in the game for immediately snatching a chest.

Overall they're pretty similar to their performance in The Legend. Just don't be habitually issuing turn orders post-Split in the way you did it in The Legend, else you risk wasting unit turns. (Though honestly you're more likely to have this issue when going back to The Legend)

Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 460
Leadership: 140
Attack/Defense: 20 / 24
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 3
Health: 80
Damage: 7-12 Magical
Resistances: Generic.
Talents: None
Abilities: Soaring, Archer (Range: 6), No Melee Penalty, Paralyzing Ray (Ranged attack has a chance to put target to Sleep for one turn. The lower the target's level, the higher the chance of Sleep), Underground (+50% Attack in underground combat), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects)

+1 Initiative, +30 Health, +2 minimum Damage. All very helpful, particularly the huge spike in their previously-awful Heath. It's not super-obvious in-game, but they've also gotten a spiffy new graphic. They're still yellow, but they've switched from a craggy skin effect that makes them look like they're possibly made of some kind of rock to a much more organic look. (And switched their tentacle-tips from red to blue, oddly) Possibly the most striking change, at least when looking at the respective portraits, is that they've switched from a psychedelic rainbow eye to a red snake-slit eye. It works much better with how their jaw makes them look crank,y, taking them from the vaguely stoned look in The Legend to much more of a 'get offa my lawn you darn kids, before I have to laser you to death!'

They do suffer a bit from the stealthy issue of being Blinded by the Guard Droid's Spotlight even though they don't have Night Vision, but this only crops up in one matchup, and actually Beholders are one of the better units in the game for picking on the Guard Droid's weakness to Magic damage, so it's not as simple as saying Guard Droids existing hurts Beholder viability. In fact, Armored Princess adding multiple units vulnerable to Magic damage is a fairly significant boost to their relevancy.

As enemies, the main thing is that it's no longer trivial to just wipe Beholder stacks with Spells or the newly-relevant Rage attacks. Their immunity to mental effects crops up a bit more often than it used to, as well, but overall you still fight them broadly similarly to in The Legend.

Evil Beholder
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 620
Leadership: 180
Attack/Defense: 22 / 28
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 3
Health: 100
Damage: 9-15 Magical
Resistances: Generic.
Talents: Mind Control (Charge: 1. Mind controls a single unit -enemy or ally- that hasn't used up its Action Points yet and directs it to attack an enemy. If the victim can't reach the chosen target, they will still move as close as they can. This consumes the victim's turn. Invalid against Level 5 units, units with immunity to Mind effects, and can only control up to 180 Leadership per Evil Beholder)
Abilities: Soaring, Archer (Range: 6), No Melee Penalty, Paralyzing Ray (Ranged attack has a chance to put target to Sleep for one turn. The lower the target's level, the higher the chance of Sleep), Underground (+50% Attack in underground combat), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects)

-1 Initiative, +1 to minimum Damage, +30 Health. Also the in-game tooltip for Mind Control claims to only work on enemies, but the game is pretty bad about getting that kind of description wrong; by a similar token the in-game tooltip claims it doesn't work on units immune to mental effects, but I've used it on Witch Hunters without issue. Anyway, much more obviously than Beholders they've also picked up a spiffy new graphic, and boy am I glad for it. The Legend's version didn't really look evil. It didn't even really look all that aware! Armored Princess' version actually does look like some angry monster, especially the relatively subtle detail of its jaw. If you pay attention, it's got a much more unevenly shaped jaw than Beholders, evocative of some kind of particularly nasty predator, or alternatively fitting to the idea that they're magical experiments gone wrong. It makes sense to me that botched experiments with Beholders might lead to wonky biology like that.

Notice that they've switched Initiative with Beholders. Now Beholders, instead of being the crappy budget version of Evil Beholders, are the... well, still mostly crappy budget edition of Evil Beholders, but the Initiative advantage gives them cases where they have an actual advantage over Evil Beholders. It's a nice subtle change! It also acts as a bit of a nerf to Mind Control, since there's a lot more units that will go first, especially in conjunction with how so many units have had their Initiative spike. This is a bit of a relief, since as I covered back in The Legend AI battlegroups tend to out-Leadership yours more the deeper you get into the game, so it primarily helps protect you from the AI rather than the other way around.

Oddly, while they get a durability boost, the overall result is that Evil Beholders are less menacing than in The Legend. It doesn't hurt any that Armored Princess has tightened up overland movement on enemies: back in The Legend, Beholders and Evil Beholders were notable for being lightning-fast as overland battlegroup representatives, so much so it was extremely difficult to escape if they spotted you at all, making it easy to get way over your head on nearly no warning. They're still one of the fastest such units in Armored Princess, but the top (and bottom) of the speed variation is just not as extreme.

Level: 5
Hiring Cost: 5000
Leadership: 1400
Attack/Defense: 50 / 67
Initiative/Speed: 1 / 3
Health: 650
Damage: 60-70 Physical
Resistances: 30% Physical, 60% Poison, 30% Fire
Talents: Stun (Charge: 1. Does 70 Physical damage to an adjacent enemy and Stuns them. The target can't retaliate), Push (Reload: 2. Pushes an adjacent enemy one tile away and does 80-100 Physical damage in the process. The target can't retaliate)
Abilities: Archer, Sniper, Stone (30%/60%/30% Physical/Poison/Fire resistance. Persistence of Mind is thrown in. The Cyclops is an inorganic unit, rendering it impossible to heal but immune to Plague etc), No Melee Penalty

Bizarrely, Cyclops are immune to Greasy Mist. No idea why. Anyway, +10 Attack and +20 Defense, +130 Health, +10 to min/max damage, +1 to Speed (!), Stun's minimum damage has gone up 10... Cyclops have been massively buffed by Armored Princess, going from an early miniboss that's lacking in the player's hands to being a surprisingly fantastic unit aside the godawful Initiative. The additional Speed has a particularly pronounced effect on their utility, allowing them to chase down enemies to Push or Stun, as well as giving them actual kiting potential and making their alternative utility as a melee unit much more worth taking advantage of. On top of all that, Armored Princess likes to give you access to them earlier than The Legend did, so their particularly high utility in the early game is something you get to try out for yourself!

Meanwhile as enemies they actually haven't changed too much. Back in The Legend, a player tended to try to kill them with Rage and/or Spells, so the Defense spike isn't too important, and it's not like a player was liable to try to slow them down and get melee on top of them or anything of the sort. As such, the biggest change in that whole thing is that their Health requires higher quality of Spells to be wiping them out, and that's offset by Rage being more viable as well as new damaging Spell options that bypass their resists while being perfectly competent and reliable in general. The net result is the main thing you have to keep in mind is you can't so easily lock down their ranged combat now, with overall tactics otherwise being broadly similar in nature and effectiveness.

The Cyclops overhaul is one of the most memorable positive changes in Armored Princess, at least for me.

Emerald Green Dragon
Level: 5
Hiring Cost: 9000
Leadership: 1900
Attack/Defense: 53 / 60
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 6
Health: 800
Damage: 80-110 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, 30% Magic, 50% Fire
Talents: Target Capture (Reload; 2. Targets an enemy 1 empty tile away, dragging them adjacent and doing 130 Physical damage per Emerald Green Dragon in the attacking stack. The target doesn't get to retaliate, and will eg set off traps it's been pulled into), Mana Source (Reload: 3. Inflicts 50-70 Magic damage on all adjacent units, granting the owning Hero Mana for every unit hit by the effect)
Abilities: Flight, Hates Giants (Double damage against Giants, and -2 Morale if Giants are in the army), Fire Protection (50% Fire resistance), Magic Resistance (50% Magic resistance), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects)

+10 to Attack and +11 to Defense, -2 to Initiative, +100 Health, +300 to Leadership. Can't lead as many and they're no longer out-Initiativing almost everything, but they're more imposing in a brawl overall.

Also, Mana Source has been nerfed. In The Legend you generally got 2-ish Mana per enemy. I think there was a random factor, and/or it might've actually been more like 1.5 rounding up or something, I've never tested it extensively enough. In Armored Princess it gives about half as much Mana, making it much less effective a way to shrug off the 'long battles eventually stop generating Mana' issue.

It's not immediately obvious, but as enemies they're actually overall a bit less threatening than in The Legend. The Health boost doesn't compensate for the Leadership increase, and the player gets a large amount of damage out of Rage and possibly also Spells in Armored Princess, neither of which cares about the Emerald Green Dragon's increased Attack and Defense. As such, they're actually easier to nuke down, not to mention easier to nuke down before they get a chance to move thanks to the Initiative increase.

Red Dragon
Level: 5
Hiring Cost: 12000
Leadership: 2000
Attack/Defense: 53 / 53
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 7
Health: 870
Damage: 100-120 Fire
Resistances: 15% Physical, 30% Magic, 80% Fire
Talents: Fire Flood (Reload: 2. Infinite straight-line attack that does 100-140 Fire damage to all units in the line with a chance to Burn them)
Abilities: Flight, Dragon Breath (Melee attacks hit the tile beyond the target, with a 50% chance to Burn hit units. This includes retaliations), Immune to Fire (80% Fire resistance and cannot be Burned), Magic Resistance (+30% Magic resistance), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects)

They've picked up another unmentioned-by-Ability 5% Physical resistance, +100 HP, +10 to Attack and Defense, and Fire Flow got renamed to something cooler. Unlike the Emerald Green Dragon, there's no trade-offs happening here at all.  They still suffer from some overlap with Black Dragons, and arguably it's even worse since Black Dragons have had their Talent made far more flexible, but they're also contextually improved from Fire damage being more widespread and Burn immunity being far more useful. Black Dragons have those points too, but Fire Flood can be a safer way of inflicting these improved Burns than the Black Dragon's Talent, which does a surprising amount to boost them into relevance. Furthermore, Black Dragons have lost a point of Initiative, which makes Red Dragons the better choice for getting damage and Burns out ASAP.

In fact, by a similar token Red Dragons tend to be much more frustrating than Black Dragons to fight in Armored Princess, even for a Mage, admittedly depending in part on the map shape/length. If you're able to wipe out a given stack before it gets its second move, Black Dragon stack might not have managed an attack at all, where a Red Dragon stack will have definitely at least Fire Flooded some of your forces if you didn't manage to wipe it out before it got a move at all.

Black Dragon
Level: 5
Hiring Cost: 15000
Leadership: 2500
Attack/Defense: 70 / 70
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 8
Health: 1000
Damage: 110-130 Fire
Resistances: 20% Physical, 80% Magic, 80% Fire
Talents: Rain of Fire (Reload: 2. Moves up to the Black Dragon's full Action Point total, automatically attacking units the Black Dragon flies over for 110-140 Fire damage with an 80% chance for each affected unit to be Burned)
Abilities: Flight, Dragon Breath (Melee attacks hit the tile beyond the target, with a 50% chance to Burn hit units. This includes retaliations), Immune to Fire (80% Fire resistance and cannot be Burned), Magic Immunity (Immune to most Spells, and 80% Magic resistance), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects), Power of the Dragon (Enemies below Level 5 have -1 Initiative)

Their already invisibly-high Physical resistance has climbed another 5%, their Health is +200, their Attack and Defense have gone up by 14 each, and in exchange they've lost a point of Initiative.

Additionally, Power of Fire got renamed to something completely awesome, and more importantly Orcs on the March (Not the base Armored Princess game) overhauled its logic so the player can define a complete flight path. It can take a bit to get used to its mechanics; 'turning' is an actual concept when using it, where the Black Dragon has to circle around if it wants to go backwards, and of course the game won't let you end your move on top of units or on impassable terrain, and the whole thing can lead to situations where it's not immediately obvious why X move is possible and Y move is not. Even so, it's fantastic that it's no longer this thing where you're at the mercy of the game's not-very-bright autopathing, and it does a lot to make Black Dragons memorable and cool units to use.

So basically Black Dragons have shifted from being incredibly obnoxious to fight (Because they're so hard to get first turn on and are immune to Spells) but not that useful for the player (In The Legend, they're not really tough enough for the period of the game they start showing up in, in terms of avoiding unnecessary casualties, and their damage output for the Leadership is godawful, while their Spell immunity is of limited use to the player, bar potentially exploitative behavior in Keeper fights), to being only moderately obnoxious as enemies and actually much more useful combatants for the player. Awesome.

One oddity of Rain of Fire's behavior is that you can use it to fly over Gremlins. This may or may not have been true back in The Legend, but it didn't really matter if so, because Gremlin Towers are almost always up against battlefield edges and you couldn't define a path manually in The Legend. Armored Princess also introduces some Keeper battlefields that place Gremlins in more relevant locations. It's weird, because Black Dragons still can't fly normally over Gremlins in Armored Princess: you have to use Rain of Fire.

Note that there's several options in Armored Princess and especially Orcs on the March for nuking Black Dragons down with Spells, as eg Death Star just flat-out ignores Spell immunity. This makes Black Dragons considerably less frustrating to fight for a Mage, which I appreciate overall. I think Black Hole ignoring Spell Immunity is overkill and takes away all the challenge of Black Dragons, but aside from Black Hole being absurdly overpowered I'm all for this change.

Thorn Warrior
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 10
Leadership: 8
Attack/Defense: 4 / 3
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 9
Damage: 1-3 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison, -100% Fire
Talents: Sowing (Charge: 1. Spawns a Thorn Warrior or Hunter from an adjacent corpse, destroying the corpse, whose Leadership is 2-4 per Thorn in the spawning stack)
Abilities: Plant (+100% vulnerability to Fire, +50% resistance to Poison, immunity to mental effects, assorted secondary implications), Eyeless (Immunity to Blind, Precision, and Greasy Mist. Also can detect invisible creatures)

+2 Initiative, +1 Health. Nice!

The Initiative is the big thing here, and gives more justification to considering using Thorn Warriors over Thorn Hunters. 6 Initiative with 3 Speed is actually pretty solid, and in particular actually makes Thorn Warriors a safer way to get your Sowing chain started against moderate-Initiative enemies. You're still probably better off running Thorn Warriors or Royal Thorns anyway, unfortunately, as Grand Strategy makes it undesirable to use straight melee attacker early on while later on you'll have access to too many more useful units, but it's something.

Perhaps more important is that they're much more distinctive of an enemy now: in The Legend there was a fairly narrow range of stats that would let Thorn Warriors ever have a real advantage against your troops as compared against Thorn Hunters. In Armored Princess, Thorn Warriors are still less of a priority target than Thorn Hunters just because of the ranged damage point, but Thorn Warriors can easily outspeed enough of your force that you can't just save them for last, and Sown Thorns in particular can actually have Thorn Warriors be the more problematic one to have produced if you've got forces nearby. Thorn Warriors are quite likely to go before your stuff and thus get in damage at all, where a Thorn Hunter stack being Sown would be casually crushed by your forces.

So yeah, much more interesting,

Thorn Hunter
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 10
Leadership: 8
Attack/Defense: 4 / 1
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 3
Health: 6
Damage: 1-2 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison, -100% Fire
Talents: Sowing (Charge: 1. Spawns a Thorn Warrior or Hunter from an adjacent corpse, destroying the corpse, whose Leadership is 2-4 per Thorn in the spawning stack)
Abilities: Archer (Range: 4), Plant (+100% vulnerability to Fire, +50% resistance to Poison, immunity to mental effects, assorted secondary implications), Eyeless (Immunity to Blind, Precision, and Greasy Mist. Also can detect invisible creatures), No Melee Penalty

+1 Health. That's it. That's 20% more Health, though!

Context-wise, they haven't changed much. Shroud has become Greasy Mist, but the impact is fairly low, and it's not like Thorn Hunters are susceptible to the Fire vulnerability-increasing portion of it or something of the sort. They no longer so purely kick aside Thorn Warriors, as I just covered, but overall how you use them and how you fight them are very similar. That's not a bad thing, as Thorn Hunters were pretty well-made as was.

Royal Thorn
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 600
Leadership: 380
Attack/Defense: 30 / 30
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 1
Health: 360
Damage: 20-30 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison, -100% Fire
Talents: Germination (Reload: 2. Spawns a Thorn Warrior or Hunter in an adjacent tile, type randomly chosen, whose Leadership is 150-300 per Royal Thorn in the spawning stack)
Abilities: Archer (Range: 6), Plant (+100% vulnerability to Fire, +50% resistance to Poison, immunity to mental effects, assorted secondary implications), Eyeless (Immunity to Blind, Precision, and Greasy Mist. Also can detect invisible creatures), No Melee Penalty

+80 Health plus No Melee Penalty. Germination also reloads a turn faster!

A more indirect buff to Royal Thorns is the addition of Transmute to the skill list. Being able to generate disposable minions you expect to die is actually a great way to feed your Mana needs, even with allies and summons giving reduced values. Especially since Thorns can summon more Thorns that summon more Thorns, etc, making them by far the best source of casualty-derived Mana. And of course they've been bolstered in their effectiveness by Thorn Hunters and Thorn Warriors being bolstered.

The overall result is that Royal Thorns have gone from a good unit to a fantastic unit, and they're a lot of fun to use too.

The actual play experience isn't too different in rubrics, but that's fine.

Witch Hunter
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 300
Leadership: 120
Attack/Defense: 20 / 14
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 3
Health: 110
Damage: 5-8 Physical
Resistances: 50% Magic
Talents: Magic Block (Charge: 1. Targets a single enemy stack of mage-type units. For three turns, the affected stack will take Magic damage any time they attack or use a Talent), Magical Aid (Reload: 2. Applies a random magical buff to to the user's stack for 2 turns. Does not end the user's turn or use AP), Magic Lock (Reload: 3. A single target enemy is unable to use any of its Talents for a few turns. Does not end the Witch Hunter's turn or consume AP)
Abilities: Mage Hunter (50% Magic Resistance, +50% damage against mages, automatically purges all negative effects at the beginning of its turn), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects)

For all that it's a fairly obvious Robber/Marauder reskin holy crap is the Witch Hunter distinct as a unit... not to mention infuriating as all heck. When I say Mage Hunter purges all negative effects, I do mean all of them. Even mundane effects like Poison, Burn, etc get wiped, in spite of the antimagical theme. Witch Hunters are obviously particularly amazing against mage-heavy forces, but they're really an amazing unit in general. Their ridiculousness is somewhat less stupendous in player hands, but they drop to a mere 'very good'. They're simultaneously one of my favorite and one of my most hated new units in the entire series.

I'm not actually sure if Persistence of Mind actually does anything in practice. It's possible it does, because for instance Sleep interacts with damage over time by having the unit miss its turn anyway and just not miss any following turns if Sleep had a duration greater than 1, and Sleep is a mental effect, but mental effects are heavily inclined toward 'negative effects that work by doing things over time', so I'm not sure Mage Hunter doesn't make it redundant.

Also notice that 2 of their three Talents are completely free to use. The AI is pretty bad about prematurely ending its turn, which actually contributes to them being very irritating to fight, as it means their actual performance varies wildly. This is further compounded the randomness of Magical Aid, which can range from 'ruins your plans' to 'actually impairing the ally to no real benefit'. (Such as imposing Stone Skin on a unit you weren't going to target with any of your own units anyway, which is now disadvantaged in turn order and so even easier for you to play around)

Magic Block is their most maddening Talent, and to be completely clear it does scale to the Witch Hunter stack's size. The infuriating part comes when you're trying to get Grand Strategy ranks and don't notice one of your units being hit with Magic Block (Its animation is fairly subtle, and easy to overlook in their frenzy of Talent-usage) or do notice but underestimate how much damage it will do or fail to realize it applies even when a unit attackers, not just when it uses Talents... and suddenly you've taken a casualty where the only ways to avoid it were to have them do nothing or Dispel the effect before they did anything.

Toward the very beginning of the game, Witch Hunters are very serviceable in the player's hands for being durable for the early game, and so able to function as a relatively generic melee unit that tanks hits without taking casualties. They'll probably fall to the wayside for a while once battles reach the point where being hit probably means a casualty and you're still building up Grand Strategy, but once you're either done with Grand Strategy or stop caring about it (500 more Leadership isn't that important once you've got 10,000) they pop back into being a really useful unit, if erratic. Magic Lock can be handled by Necromancers, but Necromancers offend a lot of units: Witch Hunters don't. Magic Block, meanwhile, is a way for Witch Hunters to be contributing damage on the very first turn in spite of being a relatively generic melee unit, and the AI makes no effort to account for Magic Block and will just suck up the damage. Magical Aid shouldn't be counted on, but while it usually won't give you what you want it usually won't make things worse, and if you're really concerned you can check the numbers and just avoid slapping it down on a unit whose turn order will actually be impacted by Stone Skin lowering their Initiative.

Their resistance to Magic is also fairly noteworthy. Most units that are seriously resistant to Magic damage have fairly low Health, and Armored Princess has softened the trend of 'units that do Magic damage probably have weak damage output', so having an option for tanking Magic damage that's actually good at it can be fairly useful in various matchups. Beholders and Evil Beholders particularly hate them: Witch Hunters take poor damage from their attacks, can't be put to Sleep, and can't be Mind Controlled, while the Witch Hunters can slap Magic Block on the Beholders so they take more damage than the Witch Hunters when attacking them. Paladins are another unit that has good Magic resistance and solid durability (Great durability, in fact), but Paladins are also slow and can't really contribute until they're on top of the enemy or your forces need healing/resurrection, making Witch Hunters the better option for a durable Magic-resistant unit that requires little support to help in a fight.

So like I said: Witch Hunters are fantastic yet infuriating.

Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 800
Leadership: 150
Attack/Defense: 36 / 20
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 100
Damage: 11-13 Physical
Resistances: 25% Poison
Talents: Backstab (Charge: 1. A target enemy whose current facing and environmental location would allow a unit to strike it from behind is attacked for 17 Physical damage and Poisoned. If a Trap is in the position that would be attacked from, Backstab is interrupted, and the Assassin is now standing in the tile the Trap is in, having activated it), Murder (Charge: 1. Does 13 Physical damage to an adjacent enemy. If the targeted stack is slain by Murder, the Assassin promptly receives 2 Action Points, immediately granting it another turn, and Backstab is reloaded)
Abilities: No Retaliation, Venomous (30% chance to Poison the enemy for 3 turns), Poison Resistance (25% Poison resistance), Servant of Death (Buffs of any kind are instantly purged, and the Assassin is immune to Mind effects except for Hypnosis. When Hypnotized, Assassins lose their Talents and Abilities), Find Weakness (Whenever the Assassin finishes off an enemy troop with either a critical hit or with Backstab, the Assassin gains a damage bonus of 5% against that type of unit. This bonus lasts for the entire game, or until the Assassin stack is completely destroyed in battle or terminated out of battle. The bonus caps at 100% against a given unit type)

The Assassin introduces all kinds of weird oddities to your game experience. It's the one and only unit in the entire series that causes facing to actually matter, which can be frustrating since facing is not something you have any direct control over, and default unit behavior makes it close to impossible to have a unit move without exposing its back. Generally, you'll need to invoke a Talent or block off the rear with a Trap if you want to move without opening your units to a Backstab. It's not too aggravating overall, but it's one of those cool, inspired-by-aesthetic details I really like in the series that manages to have a somewhat negative impact on 'pure play'.

That said, I do really like that they bothered to make Trap work on them, rather than handling the whole thing of a backstab as purely an animation that is functionally a weirdly-animated ranged attack. The latter is what most games would do, and it basically always bothers me.

Find Weakness is also very strange, and I dislike its design a lot more, since Backstab is something you ideally use early in the fight, and critical hits are purely up to chance, making it a nuisance to actually grow it. As a Neutral unit, it's difficult to even boost their Morale to increase that crit chance. There's also the wonky point that you're encouraged to either get Assassins into your army as soon as possible and never let them leave or basically ignore them, as they're drastically superior if you consistently work to 'level up' Find Weakness. It's an interesting mechanic, don't get me wrong, but I'd have preferred a different implementation, and thankfully this particular implementation of it doesn't survive into later games.

For the player, Assassins are one of the best melee units in the game. They can contribute early readily enough with Backstab, which always places percentile damage on the target, making them an excellent tool for softening up targets, have a good Initiative and Speed making it entirely practical for them to use Wait shenanigans to get in proper melee attacks without being in a position for the enemy to actually attack them (ie they can back out of reach of 2-Speed units, Wait, and then attack them once they've followed), and Murder simplifies the decision-making process involved when a weakened enemy is on the field. Where normally you might want to urgently attack some other unit, yet also really would like the stack finished off (Such as because it's a stack that can inflict percentile damage or otherwise contribute noticeably even when mostly-gone), and have a tricky decision as a result, the Assassin simply Murders the weakened stack and then Backstabs the big stack. They don't actually push Royal Snakes into irrelevance -Lunge is just too huge, and it reloads on its own- but in my experience I tend to transition from Royal Snakes to Assassins fairly early in the game and not go back unless my luck with Items ends up favorable for Royal Snakes.

As enemies, Assassins are moderately irritating to play around, but not typically dangerous so long as you keep Backstab in mind. Notably, the AI doesn't move and then use Backstab, and so you can effectively stall Assassins for a turn if you can arrange for them to Backstab something you don't care about, such as by generating disposable summons. They also always prioritize Backstab over any other possible course of action if Backstab is an option for them, which makes them very easy to predict and manipulate: if there's only one Assassin on the field, consider setting up a unit to be open to a Backstab and then set a Trap behind them. Just remember that the Assassin will actually teleport to the new location if you do this; you don't want to be dumping them right into the middle of your ranged units unthinkingly.

The main point for playing around Backstab, though, is to just leave your units in back, prioritize killing the Assassin so you're freed up to move about, and keep an eye out for opportunities to move units where they won't be vulnerable to a Backstab. (Such as having a Flying unit advance and land in front of a rock) This has the somewhat odd effect that Tactics is both badly hurt and significantly helped by fighting Assassins: it's hurt because you shouldn't take advantage of the ability to place units more forward. It helps because it lets you rearrange your forces if their initial formation is less than ideal without opening anyone up to Backstabs. It's a bit of a weird dynamic.

Assassins are a bit of a personal favorite of mine overall, being very effective, interesting, and nuanced, without being overly dominating. They're probably my single favorite unit added by Armored Princess, honestly.

Royal Griffin
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 1200
Leadership: 300
Attack/Defense: 35 / 30
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 6
Health: 220
Damage: 20-30 Physical
Resistances: 50% Magic, -10% Fire
Talents: Cheer (Charge: 1. For 2 turns, all allied Elves and Humans get 50% more Attack and Initiative), Heavenly Guard (Charge: 1. Summons an Angelic Guard stack into a random location within 2 tiles of the Royal Griffin, whose Leadership is 150 per Royal Griffin in the summoning stack)
Abilities: Flight, Furious (Retaliations never 'run out'), Magic Protection (50% Magic resistance), Dragon Despiser (Doubled damage against Dragons, and -2 to Morale if there's an allied Dragon in the army), Regal (+1 Morale to allied Humans and Griffins-the-unit)

Humans may still lack a mono-species Morale bonus, but they can essentially approximate it with a Royal Griffin. Royal Griffins are also basically Griffins 2.0, with Angelic Guard comparing to Split, only with disposable troops being generated. (Though the Angelic Guard won't get a turn until next turn, as typical of summons, unlike a Splitting stack)

If you look at the code, Regal technically also boosts Angelic Guard, but in normal play Angelic Guard will always be summons and thus exempt from Morale.

It's somewhat interesting to me as well how Cheer bolsters Humans and Elves given the inactive code that would make Humans and Elves friendly with each other. It has me wondering if the devs were considering activating that code after all in this game, with eg the Royal Griffin both reinforcing this alliance and yet helping keep the two races distinct. (Because Royal Griffins don't boost the Morale of Elves)

In any event, I'm not particularly joking or exaggerating about the Royal Griffin being basically just a better Griffin. The primary caveats to this are the inferior utility at first-turn Chest grabs and that Royal Griffins are undesirable if you want to use dragons in your group. For most purposes, Split is inferior to producing a completely disposable summon, with the turn delay before acting being insignificant most of the time, the lack of control over where the summon arrives being a minor nuisance, and Royal Griffins have a nice grab-bag of advantages. Griffins do have the very minor advantages of a slight Physical resistance and no Fire weakness, but Heavenly Guard all by itself essentially makes up for this.

By extension, Royal Griffins are fought and used fairly similarly to Griffins. You can't treat them exactly the same due to eg the Speed difference, but in broad terms? Pretty much the same.

Angelic Guard
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: N/A
Leadership: 60
Attack/Defense: 20 / 15
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 5
Health: 33
Damage: 4-7 Physical
Resistances: 50% Physical, 25% Magic, -10% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Flight, Furious (Retaliations never 'run out'), Phantom (50% Physical resistance and can travel through solid objects), Negates Magic (25% Magic resistance, and is immune to negative effects)

There are edge cases where Phantom actually influences an Angelic Guard's travel behavior, in spite of having Flight. Some terrain obstacles can block even Fliers without blocking Phantoms, though it's rare.

Angelic Guard are another new unit that doesn't leave a corpse when slain, though this isn't exactly surprising. Curiously, even though Ghost Pirates are immune to Traps, with the only obvious explanation being the Phantom Ability providing such, Angelic Guard are not immune to Traps. I really don't know what to make of this.

Angelic Guard are, of course, only ever seen when a Royal Griffin summons them. They're exceptionally useful for distracting enemies, though do note that their Health is fairly poor and they get by primarily on their high Physical resistance and to a lesser extent the modest Magic resistance. This makes them a good target for nuking with Spells or either of Lava Call or Fiery Phantoms (Other damaging Rage attacks are all either Physical damage or percentile damage) when you're fighting them, and by contrast in player hands their comparative vulnerability is rarely an issue. Fire damage remains rare, Poison damage is uncommon, and anyway most of the units that have them are either not very good or, for one reason or another, are unlikely to get 'caught' on the Angelic Guard. (eg dragons fly and are very fast, and so have no reason to fixate on the Angelic Guard)

The overall usage is fairly straightforward: summon them, and then hurl toward the enemy to soak damage and put out retaliations. They admittedly won't do that much damage in real terms due to how relatively small a group will be summoned at a time, but they're also not costing you anything either, and the more useful part is delaying enemy melee anyway.

Level: 5
Hiring Cost: 3600
Leadership: 1100
Attack/Defense: 50 / 55
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 2
Health: 780
Damage: 60-80 Physical
Resistances: 15% Physical, 15% Fire
Talents: Pacify (Reload: 3. Does 70-90 Physical damage to an adjacent enemy. Additionally, the target's Initiative is reduced to 1 and it will always do its minimum damage, temporarily)
Abilities: Troll Skin (If aboveground and in daylight hours, Physical and Fire resistance are doubled. If underground and/or at night, +1 to Speed and Initiative, and the Troll has Regeneration), Petrify (When the stack is destroyed, a statue is left behind, acting as a destructible environmental object), Malevolent (Anytime any unit dies, so long as it wasn't slain by a Spell, +5 Attack for the rest of the battle. This stacks)

It's somewhat embarrassing how long it took me to realize that Trolls are, graphically, a reskin of Ogres. It's pretty substantially altered -the skullcap has no equivalent on the Ogre, the chestplate lacks a clear counterpart, etc- and Trolls have brand-new animations (Specifically, their 'laugh when a unit dies' animation and their 'turn into a stone statue' death animation) and all-around new behaviors, so in some sense it's not that surprising I overlooked it, but still.

Trolls have some odd ways in which they get lumped in with Orcs-the-faction, such as being a promotion option for Orc Veterans, being a possible summon from the Orc-summoning Companion in Champion of the Arena, and miscellaneous item effects that benefit Trolls and some or all Orcs, but even aside from being a Neutral unit in racial Morale terms they also weren't granted the Adrenaline mechanic by Orcs on the March. It feels kind of like a missed opportunity to play around with the faction stuff; it could've been neat to have a few non-Orcs that use Adrenaline and so mix well with Orcs, and it would also have made the Adrenaline-affecting Skills a bit less narrow in their applicability. I'm kind of curious why the devs didn't. Did it just not occur to them, or was it rejected for a technical reason, or what?

Note that while I say Troll Skin 'doubles' Physical and Fire resistance during the day, that's relative to their base. If you have gear adding 15% Physical resistance, they don't double from 30% to 60%, they just add the usual 15% to hit 45%. Also note that Trolls leave the statue in place of a normal corpse; you can't call them back from death or use their body to generate an Eviln or the like. The stone statue is an Object, with everything that implies, and its Health is scaled to the number of Trolls that made up the stack at the start of the battle.

Trolls are notable as being the only unit in the game that plays substantially differently depending on time of day and/or environment. Usually there's not really any reason to pay attention to the time or adjust your unit list based on whether you're heading underground or not, as effects like Night Vision or the Morale boost sea-going units get for naval combat just don't have a big enough impact to be worth changing your unit list over. Trolls, however, are either fast and regenerative or slower but take less damage, encouraging different approaches to using them. Or, since nighttime Troll effects are generally more useful than daytime Troll effects (Who cares about taking somewhat less damage when the alternative is erasing all the damage you take?), making a point of swapping Trolls into Reserves during daytime overland battles since Trolls are very much at their best at night and/or underground. By the same token, if you see Trolls in an enemy group, you may wish to actually bother with checking the in-game time and adjust your plans to accommodate this information. (ie if it's daylight right then, maybe attack them immediately even though you'd planned to leave shortly, while if it's nighttime maybe go do something else for the moment)

As player units, Trolls are notable for being the single toughest unit to have Regeneration in the entire series. So long as you're careful, it's entirely possible to have Trolls fairly constantly in melee combat, taking hits, and yet never taking a casualty. Particularly notable is that Trolls are usually accessible fairly early in the game, before your Leadership can support more than 2-3 of them, meaning there's actually a fairly lengthy chunk of the game where you'll have access to them and so long as you don't let them get completely dogpiled they're basically invincible if the battle is under darkness. Even later into the game, it doesn't take that much support to let them tank hits without immediately suffering a casualty; often a simple Stone Skin will let them pull this off just fine. The fact that they have Pacify helps there too, though do keep in mind that critical hits will still overrule it so Pacifying a unit with a wide damage range (eg Thorn Warriors) isn't actually completely reliable for crippling their damage.

As enemies, Trolls can be utterly infuriating if you're fighting them at night, particularly if it's early enough in the game that it's genuinely a challenge for you to inflict a casualty on them in one turn. The fact that they're 3 Speed at night also gives you worryingly little time to wear them down compared to a lot of comparable threats, and notably their resistances make Rage less effective than one might hope at getting in the damage. Slowing them down with Traps while you focus on other units is less effective than one might hope thanks to the Regeneration, too. Basically, the ideal is that you fight them in daylight. If they're in a cave and so it's not an option... consider coming back later, when you can overpower them with an overly-large army. Seriously, Trolls in darkness are shockingly problematic until quite late in the game.

Once you are late in the game, Trolls tend to actually be somewhat useful as enemies: it's not that hard to kill them, and the statues they leave behind can easily tie up enemies for multiple turns. In particular, the AI has a bad habit of attacking Objects if one is in reach and none of your units is, so slower units can easily be halving their Speed for one or more turns because they won't leave the statue alone, or even more so if their Talents incline them to do so. The assorted snakes, for example, will do things like back away so they can perform a Strike on the statue.

Note that Malevolent will trigger even on the deaths of summons. Trying to tie up Trolls with Thorn spam is actually potentially counter-productive, and on the flipside using Thorn spam alongside your own Trolls is passively boosting them. An additional 12.5% of base damage per death is non-trivial, and while there's an upper limit to how far it can go it can still have a surprisingly significant impact on Troll damage output. That has the interesting consequence of making Trolls one of those rare units whose utility is overall far greater in hands other than the Mage's. While the Mage has clear preferences in units, these usually center around points like 'making sure you can cast your Spells as soon as possible', rather than a unit actually being less effective in the Mage's hands than in the Warrior or Paladin's hands. (With the caveat that the Paladin is generally better at using glass cannons thanks to Resurrection-the-Skill) It'd be nice if there were more such units, but I'm happy enough to have any at all, unlike in The Legend.

Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 1200
Leadership: 210
Attack/Defense: 30 / 25
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 2
Health: 160
Damage: 12-14 Physical/Magical/Fire
Resistances: 25% Magic, 25% Fire
Talents: Thread of Life (Charge: 1. Does 14-18 Magic damage to a single enemy anywhere on the field, 40% of that damage then being used to heal/resurrect an allied stack. Machines and Magic-immune units can't be targeted), Demonic Beasts (Reload: 3. A given battlefield randomly generates an arbitrary list of tiles that are valid places to target Demonic Beasts. When using Demonic Beasts, you select an unoccupied instance of these tiles, and then 105-210 per Demonologist of Demons [the species, not the specific unit] is summoned into that tile)
Abilities: Flaming Skull (Range: 4. Against most units, ranged attack does Fire damage. Against Demons, it does Magic damage and is increased by 50% besides), Demonology (+1 Morale if friendly Demons-the-faction are around, and +5 Attack in fiery environments), Gatekeeper (+2 to Attack and Defense every time Demons are summoned to the battlefield, or Teleport, Infernal Exchange, or Bone Gate are utilized, or a Dragon of Chaos is summoned. This stacks), Magic Resistance (25% Magic resist), Fire Resistance (25% Fire resist), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to Mind effects)

No, there is no way to know where Demonic Beasts can summon into without having Demonologists yourself. This makes fights against Demonologists fairly annoying, since you can't properly plan for where they'll summon their units without, you know, save/load shenanigans. I sort of see the logic involved, but it just seems like a pretty awful compromise. The actual unit list from Demonic Beasts seems to be limited to Demons, Cerberi, and Executioners, and the resulting summons are not under your control at all. Notice that this list is made up melee units that perform especially well when dogpiled; you should generally endeavor to target Demonic Beasts as close to the enemy as possible, and if you get an opportunity to have the summon partially surrounded you should usually take it.

On a different note, that is shockingly awful range on their basic attack!

To be fair, Demonologists are really good anyway, but 4 range is very rare, and it's particularly surprising given they're an obvious reskin of Necromancers.

Note that Thread of Life can be used even on bosses and Gremlins, and will still steal health from them. Indeed, Thread of Life can heal anything that isn't Spell immune or a Droid, making Demonologists a fantastic unit for splashing in to just about any army while you're trying to gain Grand Strategy ranks, as it can be used to patch up the occasional inconvenient minor casualties. Conversely, Thread of Life can't be used if there's nothing to heal (And remember it can't heal Spell-immune units or Droids), which can be an annoying limitation in certain situations, especially given Demonologists have such awful range.

Note that Gatekeeper includes the Talent Demons have for summoning other Demons-the-species, also the Spell that summons Demons-the-species, and of course Demonic Beasts. (Including if they use it themselves) As such, Demonologists synergize well with Demons-the-unit and Demonesses in particular and are especially appealing if you're fond of Demon Portal yourself. Demonologists don't distinguish between friend and enemy for this purpose either, making them particularly useful when you're fighting any of the relevant units or fighting Heroes who are fond of Demon Portal and/or Teleport, even aside how they outright get a damage boost against Demons-the-species.

As enemies, Demonologists are... rare. Surprisingly so. There's one guaranteed gimmick encounter early in the game made of a bunch of stacks of Demonologists, I assume to show off how Demonologists can repeatedly benefit from Gatekeeper etc, but they honestly just don't show up very often for whatever reason. When they do show up, the AI is shaky with them. It's difficult to pin down exactly how competent they are since without Demonologists of your own you can't tell how smart they are about Demonic Beasts targeting, but but they're certainly prone to wasting Thread of Life by targeting nearly-dead summoned stacks, or wasting the healing on some barely-injured stack when there's another stack that could actually use the full healing value, and the AI doesn't adjust targeting behavior to account for resistances: they won't use Thread of Life on a Foreman (Which resist Fire slightly and are slightly weak to Magic) and then turn their ranged attack attention on something of yours that's weak to Fire. They're also fairly rigid about trying to use Demonic Beasts first: focusing on a Demonologist first is a good idea to reduce how many units they summon, and they'll basically never try to Thread of Life the damage away if you've been getting damage onto other units on their team.

They're still a sufficiently good unit you can't treat them like a joke, especially since they not only have a ranged attack but can Thread of Life anything they want even if you've got them pinned in a corner, but they're a lot less menacing than you might expect in AI hands. Just remember that if you're using Demons you shouldn't let them get a ranged attack in if you can avoid it.

In your hands, Demonologists are quite convenient. Their per-head durability lets them soak the occasional minor hit without taking casualties, they can let you be a bit less hyper-cautious because of Thread of Life, they produce cannon fodder meatshields for you, and there's not very many units they're actually bad against, since the majority of serious Fire resists are Demons. A notable exception if Black Dragons, where their only contribution is Demonic Beasts, but by and large Demonologists work just fine as a staple ranged unit, particularly if firing outside a unit's effective range doesn't drive you up the wall. Since they're Neutral units they work fine alongside anything, and since Demons don't have a racial Morale bonus slapping a Demonologist stack into your demonic legions isn't sacrificing anything on said demonic legions. In practice their primary limitation is that the game doesn't like to give them to you until fairly late in the game, and the quantities aren't that great either.


One nice thing about these Neutrals is that while they're all very good, I don't feel like they're shunting aside existing units or just plain crossing a boundary of quality that wrecks the game. This is an important quality in general, but it's particularly important to Neutral units since they can be combined with literally anything. A too-strong Demon or Undead unit could theoretically be bounded a bit by the fact that they make various units unhappy. A too-strong Neutral unit would just make it into every army. By the same token, a Demon or Undead unit that could eg be viewed as 100% superior to broadly equivalent units on all the other species (Say that Demons are superior to all the two-Speed Running melee units on other species) isn't necessarily going to push aside those units in all situations. (ie a Dwarven force would presumably prefer Dwarves-the-unit or Miners to Demons-the-unit due to the Morale penalty Demons impose) A Neutral unit that is basically superior to some non-Neutral unit would basically push that unit out of the game entirely.

We're not done yet, though, as Armored Princess adds in a whole new faction: Lizardmen.


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