Man's powerful missile troops make them a dangerous enemy.
In very short, Man - Towers of Chelms has:
- extra nation points from the +3 drain scale
- longbows (better range, better precision, more damage than any other bows)
- inquisitors (they count double when reducing enemy dominion)
- excellent patrollers
- stealth troops.
- cheap heavy infantry
- nature and death mages able to cast its national spells
- high level magic.
Chelms' national mages are unaffected by drain and you can buy them in all forts, so I strongly suggest to seize this opportunity to gain 120 design points. The drain will also increase the average magic resistance of your troops –a good point if you fight astral nations– and fatigue all mages casting battle spells (but your mages can only cast high level Air spells, which are generally less exhausting than other paths).
Chelms' heavy units are expensive, so Order is probably not an option. They take a lot of resources, so Productivity is important, too, but less so, since you have a starting City with a high administration % (to draw that amount of resources from all neighbours) and the Wardens are available in limited numbers anyway. Order also minimizes any benefit from Luck.
Unfortunately, you cannot make temples for half price with Chelm. Therefore you should pick a serious dominion to start with (especially if you want lots of Wardens).
The Warden is an excellent base for a bless strategy. Fire gives him a real offensive potency, but Wardens are only available in very limited numbers (at your capital only, depending on your dominion), and you have access to Flaming Arrows anyway. Astral, Earth, Water and Air seem better and improve their survivability. Blood, Death and Nature are not that useful IMHO. Barghests and Cu Sith are sacred too but you need Death-2 or Nature-2 on your pretender to summon them. They are, too, available in very limited numbers (unless you are very lucky to find black or green gems).
The Mother of Tuathas is an exclusive pretender for Chelm. Her Attack/Defense aren’t terribly high and Man has Air magic already, but she’s an able super combatant: her mirror image is a good defense and she cannot be seen by scouts or scrying spells in her territory.
The Tower Guards and Defenders are good but not that impressive compared to most other special infantries. They have a good defence (15) and a better morale but the same protection that cheaper Axemen or independent swordsmen respectively (and defence offers no bonus against ranged attacks). They have a crossbow, but if you need that weapon consider recruiting cheaper crossbowmen in independent provinces instead. They are only really useful when defending a fortress.
Spearmen and Longspearmen are average medium infantry. Longspears are useful against low morale units though (with a longer weapon, the defender is allowed to make one repel attempt, if successful the attacker must pass a morale check or he takes 1 hit). They are vulnerable to missile fire however and you will probably spend your resources on heavier troops.
The Wardens are stealthy and blessable infantrymen with a good protection and high morale (and half maintenance cost). Hard to break, can stand up to almost any other infantry and can be smuggled deep into enemy territory. They have no shield (but a deadly two-handed sword), so beware of armor-piercing crossbow bolts though. Unless blessed by an air shield, they will even get chewed up by friendly longbow fire sometimes.
The Archers use longbows. They can hit a very long way out and thus can be placed further back. Fire & Flee works well, as they can be placed closer to the border, meaning they take less time to retreat. Longbows really rock until your enemy gets a Staff of Storms (Storm makes all missiles much less effective): 2 volleys of, say, 20 arrows before anyone but fliers are in close combat usually ends the battle quickly, especially if your opponents have no shields!
Your Tower Knights are slightly better than indep. knights. The lance is good against large targets (damage 20) but is only used once/battle, and never used to repel. Knights are heavily armoured and have a very high defence, so they are nearly untouchable in close combat. Of course, spells that negate armour (electrical shocks and acid attacks) or pierce armour (most fire attacks, crossbows) are their biggest enemies. Like all mounted units, knights don’t suffer from armour encumbrance and don’t get tired fast. Knights are especially important if you fight size 3 tramplers (Minotaurs, Fay Boars, Shambler Thralls etc) since they are too large to be trampled.
Man’s special summons are Black Dogs, Cu Sith and Barghests. Effects of Summon Black Dogs and Summon Barghest are switched, it’s a bug and Barghests are now overpowering (this should be addressed by house rules in multiplayer game). They are all potent cavalry. Barghests and Cu Sith are sacred and are deadly with an air shield or a fire attack. Curiously, none of your national mages are able to summon them, and you probably won’t have the gems to start a mass production with a pretender...
Generally, deploy your LB archers back from the start point, behind a screen of heavy infantry set to hold & attack. Make sure the screens are slightly ahead of you archers, so they draw enemy fire. Place some Knights on a flank to wreak havoc on rearmost units.
Combine the Wardens, some woodsmen or villains, some Barghests or Cu Sith on a flank, maybe a Magister, and you have a all-stealth force that can cripple any enemy who doesn’t defend in depth (which is expensive). Surprise is a fundamental military advantage!
A stealthy prophet is very strong too if used properly, giving you much more power in a stealth attack (you don’t have stealthy priests) and a greater ability to disrupt your enemies dominion.
Most Magisters have 1 Air + 1 Earth. 70gp mages who bring in 4 points are decent researchers. Some have 1 Astral and are useful as etherealizers (Body Ethereal) for your elite units. Those with Air can cast Aim on Longbowmen, or summon lesser Air Elementals. Some unlucky Magisters have no magic skills at all, but they are still useful as engineers in sieges, to lead some stealthy wardens deep in enemy territory (but they have a poor leadership) or as spy to instill uprising in your opponent richest provinces.
About half of the Juges have 1 Fire or 1 Death (but only 6.25% have both 1F and 1D). With three red gems, a Fire Juge can cast Summon Phoenix Power then Flaming Arrows. And Wind Guide + Flaming Arrows with massed longbows = massacre, even against ethereal or mistform enemies. He can summon lesser Fire Elementals too, or forge a Scepter of Authority to let your Magisters lead more stealthy soldiers behind the front line. A Death Juge can cast Dark Knowledge, forge Skull Talismans and Bows of Botulf, or summon Barghests if you can get a Skull Staff from someone. Judges have a decent leadership BTW and are excellent patrollers (+20): a judge alone can patrol a province with 150% taxes for a long time. If you’re lucky to get a F+D Judge, keep him safe, as he might be your only chance to forge Skulls of Fire.
Curiously, you don’t need a lab to buy Magisters or Juges (they are probably considered as base zero-level mages), so you can save some gold if you buy them in a fort without lab and you move those who have magic skills in another place for forge and research.
Magister Arcane are very expensive (for 4 levels of magic, only half of them have 5 levels) and die easily from old age, but it’s your only hope to get Earth-2, Astral-2 or Air-3, so you’ll need some.
Wrathful Skies (Evo 6) + Air bless seems a nice combo with sacred units (your air mages can cast Resist Lightning and Thunderward or, later, Storm Warriors – your priests should take a Ring of Lightning or a Lightning Rod however).
Forest of Avalon: +2 Air & +2 Nature gems, recruit Lord Warden & Wardens.
Summon Black Dogs (Conj.4, uses 13 Death gems for 9 dogs, requests Death-2) Summon Cu Sith (Conj.3, uses 10 Nature gems for 7 dogs, requests Nature-2) and Summon Barghests (Conj.2, uses 10 Death gems for 20 dogs, requests Death-2). In fact, Black Dogs and Barghest should be switched.
Chelms has no songs, unlike Avalon.