[HoMM3] Quicksand turns the tides

HoMM3 player Chris67132 stylishly navigates a tough early spot with style and Quicksand, a normally underwhelming spell he picked up from a level 2 spell shrine. Chris knows that a good or bad opening causes ripples that influence the whole game.

(10:00-11:00) With his main army positioned in the east with few targets in range, he faces a choice between burning multiple turns without deveoloping or putting everything towards beating “lots” of demons. Wasting time is asking to slowly lose down the line, so puts everything towards beating the Demons, knowing that he’ll also need a bit of luck with the random placements of his Quicksand to stand a chance. He also remembers from his last run that the wandering monster stack there was merely a “pack,” (10-19) one category smaller than “lots” (20-49), which gives him reason to believe the number demons will be closer to 20:

(11:03-15:40) The informed guess about the numbers proves true, with exactly 20 demons appearing in the group, the lowest amount possible for lots. He gets enough luck with quicksand to impede several Demon stacks over the course of the fight. He buys more time for his shooters by tempting demons to attack singleton out-of-the-way gargoyles. All told, the demons are delayed from closing with the shooters long enough for the ranged damage to take out almost all of them, cinching the much-needed win. The victory will allow him to him take the now-little-guarded neutral city early:

[HoMM3] Why Luck and Leadership are not good enough

“Oh and The Pendant of Courage! Aren’t we glad that we don’t have expert luck and expert leadership?” In the clip below this writeup, Heroes of Might and Magic III YouTuber Chris67132 celebrates not having Luck or Leadership skills on his main heroes . Why?

When a hero gains a level, the player is presented with two skill options and selects one for the hero to learn or improve. Each hero has eight slots for skills, so choosing a sub-par skill carries the opportunity cost of being unable to put a better skill in that slot later. The Leadership and Luck skills respectively increase morale and luck of units in battle, up to +3 at expert rank. Morale and Luck always range between -3 and +3.

For a number of good reasons, Chris places little value on these skills and tries to avoid taking them. Here we see one of these reasons: The Pendant of Courage artifact (which he just gained) effectively duplicates both Expert Leadership and Expert Luck, giving +3 Luck and Morale when equipped without requiring any skill slots. Since Chris usually plays larger, longer maps with many opportunities for artifacts to spawn, he generally can get his hands on most any item sooner or later. The opportunity cost of using a hero’s neck slot is much more palatable than permanently using up one or two of a hero’s skill slots.

The Pendant of Courage does come with the opportunity cost of occupying a hero’s neck slot when equipped. However, this cost is much cheaper than committing skill slots, as the Pendant of Courage can be un/equipped at need, while a hero’s skill set is set in stone once chosen.

There are reasons for disfavoring the Leadership and Luck skills. Morale and luck procs are unreliably random and cannot be counted on to help when needed, while other skills such as Logistics or Earth Magic give consistent bonuses that one can plan around. In HoMM3 strategy, variance is usually considered bad for the player because it reduces one’s ability to limit risk. If an experienced player willingly engages in a fight, they have a good idea of the expected losses they will incur. A morale proc (which grants an extra move) for one of the player’s unit stacks may helpfully but unnecessarily reduce losses, while a morale proc for the enemy can be devastating. Chris and other experienced players often opt to prevent both sides of a combat from having morale proc by equipping The Spirit of Oppression item:

So in summary: Leadership and Luck skills prevent oen from taking other more powerful skills. Their effects can be replicated via certain items (and spells). They are highly variant and variance in HoMM3 overall works against the player by reducing their control over combat.

[Civ4] Early game Babylon commentary selections

Here we have a commentary moments from a Civilization IV playthrough recorded by YouTuber Chris67132. Some highlights below are more game-specific, and others have more direct cross-game applicability, but all showcase the type of thinking and commentary we want to see here. Topics covered include settlement priorities, ally choice, and a situational short and early war. I've inserted a short discussion of how the Slavery civic gives a "rule-breaking" capability that enables exchange of normally nonexchangeable resources, which requires a paradigm shift in evaluation.

In this first clip, we hear that Chris is not a huge fan of the Babylonian bowman on deity difficulty. The bowman is a unique archer replacement, an early defensive unit. An early defensive war will seriously severely hamper the player's opening development, even with the bowman. Chris does later concede that the bowman is much more effective at defending against barbarians than an archer:
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[HoMM3] Chris67132 uses move superiority to efficiently take a battle

In this Heroes of Might and Magic III combat, YouTuber Chris67132 uses his army’s superior speed to kite and efficiently defeat a group of nagas.

On the first turn, Chris’ hero casts a 402 damage lightning bolt for 8 sp, taking out one of the 2-naga stacks. He then issues wait commands to his genies and giant, deferring their actions until the end of turn 1, after the nagas have approached. This action lays the groundwork for a huge turn:

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