I’ve spent the last few days poking my way through the next Age of Wonders scenario, “The First Conflict”. Spare time has been a little sparse, so my playing was fairly broken up. It’s also a substantially bigger scenario.

In 965 LIR, Humans first entreated Lord Inioch for refuge in his kingdom. The Keepers welcomed Humans, convincing Inioch to grant them the Grey River Basin. Within the year, Humans had settled there with remarkable ease. Some closest to Inioch feared the power of these newcomers. Orcs and Goblins, led by a secret faction of Inioch’s Court, rallied, eager to destroy. Discovering the plot, the Keeper’s warned agents in nearby Elf and Halfling settlements, hoping they might keep the peace. Should war break out, who would the Humans blame and how would they view this “First Conflict”?

This is a large map with 34 cities and 4 sides. Given the backstory, I enabled allied victory, as the two factions don’t have any real desire for outright conquest of the region. There’s only four (out of the game’s possible twelve) races present, Elves, Halflings, Goblins, Orcs, and Humans. The default AI level seems to be Lords (midway up the scale), so I stuck with that).

I started as the Elves, and started expanding out from my one-hex starting city. The area was mostly pleasant, with some larger elven settlements that I talked into joining me. The map is dominated by a river confluence, with a couple major rivers coming down from the north (where I was) to join in the center of the map and continue south with some smaller rivers and streams joining in the south.

The option to build a navy was there early on, but I was too busy with other matters at first, and where there weren’t any bridges there were tunnels under the river.

Going west was slow as the major rivers were in the way, but to the south, I quickly ran into the Goblins at what was obviously intended to be the ‘natural’ border. There was a bridge across a stream, and on one side a three-hex elven city, and on the other a three-hex goblin city.

As I was building up on that front, I started finding human settlements, which I left alone, and I got a notice that the Orcs were defeated (lost their leader). I’m not sure what happened, but I’m thinking the Halflings got lucky.

The Goblins were trying to nail down parts of their area, and I started interfering. I managed to seize the city across the stream, and migrated it to Elves. I had summoned a giant eagle, and flew around grabbing magic nodes, and the like. He had a two-hex city that had been fortified in the corner… and the AI abandoned it at one point. I took it with the eagles and razed it, since I didn’t think I could hold it in the face of his hero. I lost the eagle, but not until after I’d razed another one-hex city.

The Goblins kind of wandered off after that. The AI was really interested in challenging my main buildup near the stream. I started taking a couple Human cities, and forfying them, and migrating some one-hex Goblin and Orc cities over to them, which raised my relations to the point where I could bribe them to join me.

Thanks to the tunnel system, I had gotten over to the east side of the river system, and started finding a vacuum where the Orcs should be. I eventually met the Halflings in that area and made peace, and eventually allied with them.

I had been nervous about the Goblin heroes I’d seen, but eventually chased him down a cavern in his area and besieged the main hero a two-hex city I found down there. In the end, I took the cheap shot and attacked a stack right outside the city to get the hero without dealing with the walls and finish the game. The final battle itself was lopsided, but fairly interesting, as he had local superiority on one end of the line.

It’s a fairly good scenario, and not quite as large as the the map size would normally mean, as a fair amount of the map is blocked off with mountains. I actually kept with the basic swordman/archer combo for the bulk of the scenario, and pumped out a lot of those. About midway through, I got one city each doing cavalry and priests, and then very late started producing balistae, and that was it.

The Humans are amazingly well settled though for only three years having passed. I’m probably going to turn off the ‘on map leader’ option next time to keep these random faction deaths from happening, even if it is a good way to keep from having to chase down every last city and unit.