The Forges of Ulm is the height of the kingdom of steel-worshipers. Their arms and armor are unrivaled, but magic is discouraged and only used by the Master Smiths.
Ulm features the heaviest armored infantry units in the game. Generally speaking, armor is good, but expensive and easily countered by magic (Ulm has lower magic defense than other nations). Ulm's spies can potentially handicap or shut down enemy troop production. Ulm starts with narrow magic, focused in fire and earth, but can eventually expand into air and astral. This nation's greatest strength is its forge bonus, making mass production of magic items a central part of any strategy.
In earlier versions of the game, MA-Ulm had no sacred units at all, and only the Master Smith as a choice for a mage. Eventually for play balance the Devs added sacred Priest Smiths and black-priest Inquisitors, along with some new national spells (Iron Darts, Iron Blizzard and Contact Iron Angel). All these are now considered cannon for MA-Ulm in Dom3.
Ulm Heavy Infantry has great armor and more hit points than average HI, but also some weaknesses like high encumbrance, average morale, size-2 (i.e. trample-able), low magic resistance and slow movement rates both on the map and in battle.
The Black Plate cavalry and Black Plate infantry get a base armor rating of 20, giving them the highest base armor of any normal troops of the age. To make them, you need extremely high resources as with most of your troops, so make sure to take all of the lands surrounding your castle as soon as possible.
As long as their morale holds, Ulm's troops are nearly unstoppable by normal infantry. The shield-wielders are armored enough to ignore most missile fire. Put these troops in a forward position to draw missile fire and absorb the enemy charge, with flankers slightly to the rear on either side to envelope the enemy and deal damage. The Pikeneers excel at repelling (they have max weapon length), and the Battleaxes and Mauls can usually penetrate even the heaviest armors. Technically, some weapons are better than others against particular opponent types, so once you know what you are facing you can produce the appropriate troops as flankers. To keep it simple, you could also mix them all.
- Flail: two weak attacks and a defense penalty. Bonus against shield. Meant to dispatch hordes of light infantry. Because of the way the combat engine works, each subsequent attack on an opponent during the same round has a greater chance of hitting. So with magic buffs, a mob of these guys can become a terror.
- Morning Star or Hammer: one medium attack, morning star gets bonus against shield, hammer has highest defense of all ulmish HI. Both carry tower shields. If your opponent is using massed archers use these.
- Maul or Battleaxe: Both high damage single attack, with no shield. Use against giants and heavy-armored troops. Maul probably works better against undead and constructs.
- Pike: medium damage but causes a moral check from the opponent, use against low moral troops (Ctis infantry, barbarians, etc). Also their weapons are long enough so that pikes standing in the second row will be able to attack as well.
- Guardians: Home province only. High attack + high damage + good morale combined with weakest defense skill of all Ulmish troops. Bonus in castles. Their magic halberds also do fatigue damage when they hit, so they are quite handy for mobbing SC's, Thugs and other magical ethereal troops.
Ulm's Crossbowmen use Arbalests, which are slow and less accurate but shoot further and for more damage than crossbows. They are automatically included in your PD mix, so even if you don't actively recruit them you will still see them a lot in battle. Massed Arbalests are one means of defense against an early trampler rush, so having a mobile squad of 50 or so is a good investment. Arbalests are so strong they are also capable of killing their own troops if you don’t pay attention. However, with a Wind Guide spell, these guys can become nasty...
Local defense: Ulm has strong militia (arbalesteers and HI) that is actually worth buying in your key provinces. The first 20 points of PD gets you arbalests, the next 20 pikeneers, and further gets you battleaxes. The more you buy, the more units you get for the gold. So for example, buying 50 points of PD will cost about 1200 gold, and get you about 50 heavy armored arbalesteers, 30 pikeneers and 20 battleaxes (ie. roughly 12 gold/soldier, which is not much more expensive than training them in a castle, and PD infantry require no upkeep). It is the easiest way for Ulm to maintain boots on the ground in friendly territory.
All of Ulm's commanders have a base map move of 2, which is nice since they can thus also be used to lead more mobile armies made up of light indy troops.
- Gold 30, Resources 5: Stealthy unit, can also cause unrest in enemy provinces
- Commander of Ulm (4 varieties)
- Gold 30, Resources 23/36/24/37: Foot commander equipped with either flail/morningstar and chainmail/plate
- Black Lord
- Gold 130, Resources 70: Mounted aKnight commander with black plate
- This is your main non-summons thug chassis. Use them in groups of 4-5, as they won't survive long alone. Stay away from enemy mages and SCs, but for raiding enemy PD they work well. You'll want to forge items with your forge bonus and configure them slightly differently depending on which nation they are fighting, but typical kit could be:
- Barkskin Amulet (raises their prot to 30)
- Firebrand or Frostbrand (AoE damage and armor piercing)
- Shield of Gleaming Gold or Charcoal Shield (both work well against PD)
- Pendant of Luck (50% chance to avoid being hit)
- Girdle of Strength (reinvig + extra strength)
- Chainmail of Displacement
- Resistance items (Fire, Frost, Poison, Lightning, depending on who you are fighting)
- Master Smith
- Gold 140, Resources 7: All Smiths have minimum magic F1E2. Each one has a 10% chance of having an extra F/A/E/S pick, thus making these vital for expanding your magic diversity. Most Master Smiths have Old Age.
- Try equipping a communion of Smiths with Winged Boots for a mobile raiding force.
- Priest Smith
- Gold 180, Resources: Capital only. All have F1E2H1 and are sacred. Holy allows them to cast your national Evocation spells Iron Darts and Iron Blizzard. All Priest Smiths have Old Age.
- Siege Engineer
- Gold 50, Resources 50: Each engineer counts as 25 soldiers, bonus added to army strength during sieges
- Can also be equipped with Winged Boots to accompany your Smiths and capture enemy fortresses in a surprise attack without troops!
- Black Acolyte
- Gold 40, Resources 1: essentially a bargain pure vanilla priest wearing black robes.
- Black Priest
- Gold 140, Resources 2: Capital only. All have minimum magic E1H2 and are sacred. Each one has a 10% chance of having an extra F/A/E/S pick. All have the Inquisitor skill, which doubles their preaching effectiveness when preaching in enemy dominion. Holy allows them to cast your national Evocation spells Iron Darts and Iron Blizzard.
- Lord Guardian
- Gold 80, Resources 31: Capital only. Foot commander equipped with halberd and black plate, bonus defending castle. Each also radiates a special Awe aura that only works against sacred enemy units. Their black halberds cause exhaustion in enemy units when they hit.
Ulm's heroes are just souped-up versions of the various commanders. None of them really make any impact on your threat-projection. Even fully kitted-out with magic items, they make for only mildly effective thugs, easily taken out when surrounded by enemies. So use them in groups with enough troops set to "guard commander" so they don't get swarmed. Loss: shruggable, if annoying, because it means your enemy probably just picked up all those magic weapons your dead hero was carrying.
- The best leadership of Ulm, "was dubbed a Black Knight at the age of thirteen. He appeared as a mystery knight at the great tourney of Black Keep and emerged victorious. After this deed he became known throughout the realm and soon men from near and far came to challenge him. Barthulf has never lost a challenge and is the pride of the Black Keep".
- "Was the only child of the late Hochmeister of the Black Order. Her father taught her how to fight and wanted her to join the order, but she was a strong-willed young woman who didn't like the strict hierarchical organization of the order. She decided to become a freelance warrior, and as such she has become known and respected. During her more adventurous years Hildegard befriended a black unicorn that has followed her since". She is one of the fastest commander of the game, and her defense is so high that she is nearly untouchable in 1-on-1 combat.
- Almost as fast as Hildegard but wearing a full plate armor, "is a strange and secretive knight. As a youth he befriended a black unicorn, and the magical steed has given the peasant boy the opportunity to join the Black Order. Several of the older members of the order complained about the peasant but so far he has not failed in his tasks. Raterik has proven himself a resourceful and able commander". He has recuperation, a very useful ability for a knight.
The Keep of Ulm: Can recruit Lord Guardians and Guardians here.
The Forge of Ulm: Produces 5 Earth gems per turn.
Fortification Build Types
Ulm builds the following fortification types for the listed terrain:
This shows Ulm gains a nice economic advantage when building on Farmland, Plains and Wasteland (Those locations will pay for themselves in ~24 turns, and bring in lots of resources from neighboring provinces).
- Sloth of Bears
- (Conj-3 N2) somewhat similar to Pride of Lions, which is available at the same level, the main noteworthy aspect is the number of bears received per cast. The question is whether Ulm wants to expend it's N gems on mass chaff monsters in the early game or wait till higher up in the Conj school for tougher summons.
- Contact Iron Angel
- (Conj-7 E5S2),
- Iron Darts
- (Evoc-3 E1H1) a decent spell with AN damage. But only your Priest Smiths and Black Priests can cast it. These do indeed count as a magic attack vs ethereal units as well, although shield troops get their standard block vs missiles.
- Iron Blizzard
- (Evoc-6 E1H1) like iron darts but better. This is the AN equivalent of Blade Wind. Once you have it researched, Priest Smiths and Black Priests should become regular features in your main army.
- Tempering the Will
- (Thaum-5 E3) this spell is supposed to make up for Ulm's low MR. Unfortunately your Smiths tend to spam it in battle instead of casting more deadly magic. Granted vs Ryleh's Illithids or enemy mind attacks this might be just what you want. But one should be aware of the consequences to your magic-damage output after reaching this level of the Thaumaturgy school.
Master Smiths and Priest Smiths are the workhorses for research and early site searching. They are fairly inexpensive as far as mages go, and have the ability to tolerate the drain scale: they get a +2 research bonus minimum (so even in a +3 drain, they have 5 research points each – in a neutral or positive magic dominion they get the same bonus as all other mages). Keep in mind that all other mages, including your pretender, do not benefit from this drain immunity, however (this could be a good reason to take a weak dominion: build a lab in a border province, where your drain dominion is weaker, and regroup your other mages there).
Priest Smiths are more expensive, but are sacred and their upkeep is halved; actually, a Priest Smith is cheaper than a Master Smith after 13 turns. But Ulm needs those random F/E/A/S picks from the Master Smiths for magic item forging and battle magic. SO overall it is still probably a good idea to train Master Smiths till your magic needs are covered. That said, Priest Smiths can benefit easily from any minor bless you happen to have taken on your Pretender and can cast Iron Darts or Iron Blizzard (both armor-piercing damage). So these units definitely play a useful role in any army, and their true "cost" should be thought of as sparing you 2 pearls from forging a SotBS for a Master Smith.
Both Master Smiths and Priest Smiths get a 25% gems discount on forging magic items, so a big part of your strategy involves equipping them with many items to increase their skills (for example, with a Dwarven Hammer, each Smith can forge for half price). Try to use them over the pretender, so you save those gems. Properly buffed they make excellent support mages. Friendly fire is negligible until Magma Bolts/Iron Darts, and even then is not very great. They have more armor than other mages, and Master Smiths have a good amount of command skill. With "Summon Earthpower" they have several nice level 3 spells available, like "Legions of Steel", or "Blade Wind" which decimates light troops (or unprotected etheral units like seasonal spirits) but does not penetrate Ulm's super thick armors. Using Communions, they can spam deadly spells like Magma Eruption, Falling Fires, Stone Rain, etc.
On the battlefield smiths are affected as is any other mage by the drain scale while casting spells (greater fatigue). Girdles of Strength and Summon Earthpower, as well as Crystal Matrix/Slave Matrix helps to reduce fatigue, so as to be able to cast more spells in a battle. One beneficial tactical reason to take some heat scales is your smiths can easily cast Fire Resistance, so the heat doesn't affect their fatigue, while your enemies might not be able to do so.
Ulm's Black Acolytes are weak (H1), but Ulm has the means through forging Slave Matrices to boost this to H2 in a Communion if necessary (or use a Crystal Shield). Black Priests are far more useful in battle with their H2 Sermon of Courage cast combined with Iron Darts/Iron Blizzard and a minor bless. The potential to buff them up to E2H3 using a Slave Matrix or by wearing Earth Boots offers interesting possibilities. Black Priests are also "inquisitors" and can counter enemy dominion. A dozen Black Priests can quickly preach an enemy held castle into friendly dominion before the castle is even stormed, thereby robbing the enemy of any benefits from their scales (good tactic against enemy pretenders). If you play defensively, consider a Black priest prophet.
Simple: play like a tank commander, then turtle whilst sowing economic mayhem amongst your enemies. Build heavy troops and hit people with them. Early conquest, that is. Then beef up your defenses against the counter-attack with your strong PD. As the game lasts and new spells are researched, Ulm's edge at grabbing territory becomes less and less sharp. So go for them as soon as possible. That's one of Ulm's adavantages – steel vs. magic, you have to learn the second while the first comes built in your troops. Steel doesn't work too well versus summoned troops, though, many of them being ethereal. But on the whole it remains the best thing to invest in.
On the other hand, spells that negate armor (electrical shocks and acid attacks, plus some earth spells) or pierce armor (most fire attacks) are the worst of your enemies. By mid-game, Ulm's heavy armor becomes a liability: the heavy black plate reduces your attack and defense skills by quite a lot while inducing greater fatigue. Meanwhile your opponents will be using magic that negates or ignores your high protection. Thus investing too much capital into massing black plate armies is generally not going to end well. On the other hand, you have the spells (Legions of Steel, Strength of Giants, Weapons of Sharpness, Flaming Arrows) to turn any indy chaff into a fearsome horde. That is IF you have combat mages properly equipped to cast those spells. If you get lucky with independents, you can add nature and astral magic to the mix to further protect your soldiers with different "wards".
Don't hesitate to make use of Mechanical Men, Trolls, Golems and Iron Angels as an integral part of your army, as you have access to the knowledge and resources to use them extensively. Since you are researching Construction early anyways, Golems, Siege Golems and Poison Golems make a great SC strategy when combined with Gift of Reason. As the game develops, switch to Mechanical Men for your core troops: unlike black plate infantry, these guys never get tired and they have inherent immunity against many types of spells. They are your easiest counter on the battlefield against elemental-based magic attacks (or to compliment your own use of same), and they don't ever run away.
Troll King's Court (Conj-6) is especially important for MA-Ulm. At first glance, one would ask "why does Ulm need another E3 mage"? The answer is the Earthquake spell, one of the more powerful E magic battlefield spells. Sure, you can buff a Master Smith up to E5 to be able to cast it, but too often I've seen the casting Smiths die from the effects of the spell, even when kitted-out with defense-buffing equipment. A Troll King on the other hand has enough hp to absorb the damage without blinking an eye. Hence multiple Troll Kings can drop multiple Earthquakes in the same round, and thereby thrash a huge enemy army.
Espionage and Sabotage
Ulm can send swarms of spies into enemy territory to incite unrest and cripple their enemy's economy. Multiple spies in a single territory increase the amount of revolt. Not only does revolt reduce the taxable gold income, but provinces with unrest greater than 100 can no longer produce units. So prime targets for revolt are farmland and enemy castles. Ulm's spies can seriously hinder or even shut down enemy troop production.
Ulm will probably want a dedicated castle for training new spies, so as not to interfere with its mage production.
Having a huge supply of Earth gems is obvious. Thus Ulm can really benefit from producing Bloodstones (Const-4 B3,E2), and bootstrapping into a blood economy for forging them is a good early strategy. Ulm also needs lots and lots of astral pearls for mass-producing Shrouds of the Battle Saint and Crystal/Slave Matrices (more about this later). SO pearl-producing magic sites and Magic Clams are of great value. And Ulm will need a steady supply of Air and Fire gems, so as to be able to make use of those paths for battle magic and forging. You need Death gems to empower one of your Smiths to be able to forge Fire Skulls. Death and Nature gems can go mostly into high-level Summons (Demi-Lich, Wraith Lord, Tartaran Gate, Lamia Queen, Fairy Queen) or complimentary magic combat boosters that add to your main strengths (see section on forging).
As stated already, Arbelests set to Fire Large Enemy Monsters can kill an early elephant rush. With Ulm you should have a couple castles up pretty fast and plenty of smiths to field if you're rushed. Magma bolts, Bonds of Fire (works better against elephants than Earth Meld), Body Ethereal (from pretender, smith randoms, mercenaries, lizard shamans, sages - you only need a couple S1 mages) cast on 12 or so Black Knights can easily take out a similar gold cost of elephants. Assuming you took a rainbow pretender depending on your research paths you can combine the above with Panic/Terror and all the classic MR check counters. Forging Rat Tails is good if you are already at Const 4.
Research Destruction, Legions of Steel and Blade Wind early. With just those spells a handful of smiths can beat back some pretty strong advances by just hiding behind your PD meatshields.
Ulm only needs to stabilize dominion inside its own territory and can use inquisitors to help achieve this, so it can get away with a dominion level of 4-5.
Troop Production Oriented
Heavy units take a lot of resources, so a positive productivity scale is a must. Fortunately, your capital is a fortified city with a high administration (it drains 50% of production resources from all neighbors). High Order brings you more gold, and is advisable to allow putting up new forts and churches as quickly as possible, as well as funding massive amounts of your cheap mages, troops and PD.
Growth can really pay off in the long term for longer games as well, as your resources build with "compounding interest". It also helps with your Smiths, since they will gain a few extra years before they become old.
Misfortune 1 is a fairly painless way for Ulm to gain a few extra design points. You can guard against the effect of random Barbarian Hordes using your strong PD.
Finally, a magic drain has little effect, since your Smith's studies are unaffected. Since you have ineffective magic, make everyone else ineffective too and put drain to maximum (and possibly put dominion to maximum too if you have a chance, to affect a larger area). And the drain will increase the magic resistance of your troops – something important since your troops have the worst MR of all nations. Every drain level gives +1/2 MR point (but +10% fatigue when mages cast battle spells).
So one possible setup would be: Order 3, Productivity 3, Growth 3, Misfortune 1, Drain 3, Dominion 4
Long Term Growth Oriented
These balanced scales look more towards the mid- to late-game, where Ulm's black plate troops will no longer constitute any meaningful advantage, so why invest design points into scales primarily for building troops? We can still buy strong PD for defense even without high production. Here we accept a slightly slower expansion at start with less troops, but balance it with a pretender having stronger magic paths:
Growth 3, Drain 3, Dominion 4
These scales still bring in good gold income and adequate production for a decent expansion once you initially take the forest/mountain lands surrounding your capital. Concentrate on building in plains/waste/farmland so productivity benefits from high Admin. Gold should still be sufficient to get multiple castles pumping out mages each turn, and your economy will grow nicely over time.
Try experimenting by bumping up Order and balancing it with Misfortune.
A typical bless strategy isn't reasonably realistic for Ulm to pull off in this Age, as they have no national sacred troops. However, when equipped with a Shroud of the Battle Saint your mages can still benefit from a minor bless buff in earth and nature, so it is still worth considering. Rainbow pretender works well, as it allows you to get into all the magic paths you need. Without such a mage, you'll be unable to cast even your "national" spells, like Sloth of Bears (needs Nature-2) or Contact Iron Angel (needs E5 A2). And site searching will bring more gems.
For our rainbow chassis, we want one that can get around easily, which rules out any of the statues/fountains. The Great Enchantress is nice with her 1 AP income (you can convert the pearls through alchemy to whatever gems you prefer to get your start on some basic magic items), the Master Druid for his sneaking ability, and the Great Sage for his high research skill.
One possible pick for Troop Production oriented scales would be any of the three above mentioned pretenders with: 2F,3A,2W,2N,3S,2D,2B (awake) or 2F,3A,2W,4E,4N,3S,2D,1B (dormant). This will allow them to be very effective site searchers, build most of the basic buffing magic items, as well as represent a good start towards empowering any of the magic paths as the situation allows and the appropriate gems are found.
With Magic Production oriented scales try an awake Great Enchantress: 2F,4A,3W,4E,4N,4S,3D,1B. This makes our rainbow an awesome (as in OMFG awesome) researcher, site searcher, forger and ritual caster, and we really want the Enchantress's astral pearl income for forging. It also gives a very useful all-round minor bless for any mages wearing a SotBS. For those looking for an awake SC, try Lady of Springs with her 2 water-gem income for getting into Magic Clams. She will have to settle for somewhat weaker magic restricted to the paths your smiths don't cover: 3A,3W,4S,2D,4N. Research first to Alteration 2 then Construction 2 (should be there by turn 6), and have a smith forge Boots of the Behemoth. Then script her to cast Mirror Image/Personal Luck/Stoneskin/Quicken Self/hold/attack closest. She can trample the weaker neighboring indy provinces solo while site-searching.
Another possibility with Magic Production scales is a dormant Crone: 4F,4A,4W,4E,4N,4S,4D and Dom 5. For the price of a slightly later start, talk about awesome rainbow. The 4N path "cures" her of old age. The Crone doesn't have a body slot, but she gets 2 extra misc slots for equipment instead. Anyone wearing a Shroud will get lots of nice perks from her minor bless.
Another interesting strategy to consider could be using an immortal pretender such as the Lich or Vampire acting as a support mage for your main army outfitted to cast the spells that you otherwise don't have. Combining Ulm's steel troops with summons from Death or Blood magic might also make for a tough-to-beat army.
Morale is a real problem for Ulm, as your starting forces tend to run away from combat until they have strength in numbers or you can cast Sermon of Courage. This means that it might be a good idea on your very first turn to prophetize your troop commander, so as to have him raise the morale of his fledgling army with his SoC cast.
Early on don’t bother with Black Plate units. Quantity over quality counts quite a bit early on, not only tactically in battles, but psychologically to intimidate other players. Also, you will quickly have access to spells that will boost their armor to that of black plate quality anyways, so you can get away with this pretty easy. You start with a mix of Battleaxes and Pikemen, so add in some Shield Infantry. The Shield-men draw arrow fire as they advance, while your Battleaxes and Pikes can close in with the enemy from the sides to repel and do the heavy hitting. So set your castle to crank out 1 Smith and as many of these troops as you can afford each turn. With a second commander (indie is fine) to ferry units to the front line and keep your main force stocked with reinforcements, the war machine is set churning.
Your rainbow pretender is a pretty good researcher, but has a few other roles to play early on as well: 1. Search for magic sites. 2. Forge basic useful magic items when you have the gems. 3. Relocate to newly constructed castles to spread dominion.
Knowing where and when to stop expanding so that you are not overextended is key. Other nations can completely out-produce you when it comes to troops, so look to create a compact and easily defensible kingdom. Then your growth scales will turn this into a very productive area after just a few dozen turns if you can establish and maintain a friendly dominion. Initially look to maximize production (150-200 points per castle) and have enough territory to bring in at least 750-1000 gold income per turn. You want at least 3 castles, preferably 4 each with a lab producing 1 Smith every turn. Then solidify your position using your strong Provincial Defense, buying 30-50 PD in your key provinces. Properly supported by a few Master Smiths using the right spells, you can quickly establish an extremely strong local defense that doesn't rely on your slow troop production nor weigh down your economy with upkeep.
Anticipating the point where you want to attack one of the other pretender nations, start making some cavalry. Either the black knights or indie knights will do. The goal here isn’t to make a strike force, but rather a pursuit force to follow up the rout. The last thing you want to do is fight the same enemies turn after turn because they retreat and your foot soldiers can’t catch them. So when you deploy your expensive cavalry, have them hang back from the main combat and then charge towards the rear. Hopefully they will kill a lot of fleeing enemies.
When you have enough forts (usually 4+) so that your gold income per turn is spent but there is still production left, it’s time to start switching over to black plate units. Find the right balance between BP and normal units so that gold income and production income are exploited to the fullest.
Your major basic goal to attain early on is to empower your Smiths for battle support. They come on day 1 with flying shards, but there are more useful spells.
First research goes into Alteration Lvl 1 for Earth grip and Earth Might, then directly to Lvl 2 for Stone Skin, Earth Meld and Combustion. This gives them some basic spells that they can use right out of the box in a pinch. Don't underestimate the effects of a half-dozen smiths spamming Earth Grip in your early battles vs tough opponents.
A suggestion is then to research Construction all the way to Lvl 4. This will give you Legions of Steel (which you can use to beef up any indy-chaff) and Crusher Construction (which you won't be able to use quite yet), but more importantly you can now set a Smith to make some Earth Boots, then equip the boots and make a Dwarven Hammer. Now have him equip the DH and make a few more, so that your Smiths can start cranking out magic items with a 50% forge bonus. The hammers will pay for themselves many times over in the course of the game.
If the situation allows it, try continuing research in Construction all the way to Lvl 6. This will allow you to forge Lightless Lanterns, which give your Smiths a +6 research buff for 2 fire gems each. This will really speed up research in whatever subsequent paths you choose.
But if you are (more likely) being pressed by enemies, you might need to first consider some more combat magic. Following Alt-2, it is a good idea to get Conjuration Lvl 3. This allows all your smiths to cast Summon Earthpower, which boosts them to E3 and cuts down hugely on subsequent casting fatigue, so they can spam more spells in battle. Next is Enchantment to Lvl 3 for Strength of Giants. This spell leverages troop damage output. Consider casting on flail infantry, who get 2 attacks/round, hence double the benefit. Thirdly, go for Alteration 4 to get Destruction. This spell turns strong enemy heavy-infantry into squishy unarmored chaff. Combined with your strength-boosted flails, this is an extremely powerful combo, and tough for the enemy to counter. Finally, research to Evocation 4 to get Blade Wind, which becomes deadly when used against enemies who now have no armor. Magma Bolts (Evoc-3) is overrated and misses too frequently to be a reliable damage-dealing spell. Unfortunately the unscripted AI likes to cast it often.
In an emergency, have one of your Earth Boot-equipped Smiths create some Crushers (Const-4) or Fall Bears (Conj-4). While you will eventually have access to better summons, they make for decent early anti-thug/anti-SC protection in your army. Crushers are quite tough, don't rout and fight to the death. Battlefield-wide spells such as Curse of Stones become most useful when you deploy such troops that won't suffer from fatigue (ie. undead or constructs). The only problem here being CoS is a gem powered spell, so you probably won't cast it much till you have some Bloodstones. But used at the right moment, it could turn the tide in a tough battle.
At this point you are ready to mix it up with some Pretenders, and so should send a group of 3 or 4 Smiths wearing boots and girdles to accompany your main army and script them to spam the above listed spells.
Depending upon whether your style is to use your Smiths for fire support or defensive buffing, you will want to quickly research the following checklist:
- Enchantment 4: Flaming Arrows (you will eventually have a few Smiths with an F2 random that can use this spell when outfitted with a Fire Skull or scripted to cast Phoenix Power, or have a Smith with an S1 random first cast Power of the Spheres then another Smith in the battle boost himself with Phoenix Power, or use a Communion)
- Conjuration 5: Summon Earth Elemental, a nice surprise to pull when a group of smiths storms an enemy castle.
- Conjuration 6: Contact Troll and Troll Kings Court. When buffed, trolls can be fearsome in battle, and each one counts as extra soldiers during sieges. Troll King is able to cast Earthquake without getting himself killed.
- Thaumaturgy 3: Iron Will
- Evocation 5: Earthquake (remember with Summon Earth Power and their Earth Boots, all your Smiths will be buffed to E4 during battle). But use a Troll King unless you don't care about losing some smiths.
- Evocation 6: Magma Eruption (your go-to spell for killing heavies. also nice for casting on fortress entryway chokepoints clogged with defenders). It is hard to aim, however, so friendly-fire is not uncommon
Finally, as far as the best enchantments for your empowered Smiths are concerned:
- Evocation: Lvl 7 for Earth Blood Deep Well and Rain of Stones
- Construction: Lvl 7 for Forge of the Ancients, Weapons of Sharpness and Golems Lvl 9 for Iron Dragon and Poison Golem
- Alteration: Lvl 9 for Army of Gold/Lead
- Conjuration: Lvl 8 for Iron Angel
As far as magic items go early on, go for ones that increase your gem income like the Astral Clam (W3/N1) the Fever Fetish (F1/N1) or buff your magic paths like Earthboots (E2), Fire Skulls (E1/D1), Crystal Coin or Bag of Wind. Blood Stones (B3/E2) do both, so empowering a Smith to produce them cheaply will eventually pay off. Note that your pretender will be needed to initially forge all of those excepting Earth Boots. Girdles of Might (E1) are useful to equip on your Smiths going into combat.
Ulm's combat magic really gets a boost from Communions (see next section). You will need to forge and equip Crystal Matrices and Slave Matrices (both S1/E1) using your Astral random Smiths to allow you to do so, as your Smiths and Priests generally have no astral. With a Starshine Skullcap and a Crystal Coin, your Astral random smith can then forge a Crystal Shield (S3/E2), which given to one of the communion masters will add +1 to the magic paths of all slave mages participating in a communion. Forging Shrouds of the Battle Saint is also good use for your Astral randoms if you happen to have taken a minor bless.
A Crystal Shield will also buff any normal non-prophet priest to H2, enabling him to cast Sermon of Courage.
A Ring of Regeneration (N2) is a good idea for your pretender (or a Shroud of the Battle Saint if you have taken a minor bless in nature that bestows regeneration), as it reduces the risk of catching afflictions. There is nothing worse than having your fledgling rainbow-pretender catch a disease or get feeble-minded early in the game.
Your Air randoms can produce Owl Quills for your researchers and Robes of Missile Protection or Shields of Valor for your combat mages. Wearing a RoMP or SoV also protects anyone from Seeking Arrow if your enemy starts spamming it on your research centers. If you empower or have your pretender forge for them a Bag of Wind (A4), they can also produce Silver Hauberks, Chainmails of Displacement or Winged Shoes. Outfitting your commanders, priests and communion slaves with Bows of War (A1) works well when used in conjunction with the spell Flaming Arrows (F3) and Eagle Eyes (N1).
If you are looking for something to do with a pile of Nature gems, empower a Smith into Nature and give him a Thistle Mace forged by your pretender, then start mass-producing Amulets of Resilience for your combat mages or Boots of Quickness and Vine Shields for your melee thugs. Lycanthrope Amulets given to your spies can turn them into regenerating werewolves; makes a decent thug chassis. Poison magic is also not something people generally expect form Ulm, so you might find a synergy there. One of the main barriers that can slow down or even stop your expansion into enemy territory is food. So having a few Endless Bags of Wine (N1) or Enormous Caudrons of Broth (N3) early on can be helpful.
Overall, this is one of the reasons that the Enchantress as a rainbow pretender with her astral pearl income is so useful. She can alchemize pearls to whatever gems you need if you haven't found any gem sites yet.
With Crystal Matrices and Slave Matrices equipped Ulm's smiths become uber-charged battle spell spammers. The smiths carrying those items will be considered automatically joined in a communion at the start of a battle, and have their magic paths increased.
In short, using two slaves, the master(s) essentially become F2E3 Smith(s) or F3E4 using 4 slaves or F4E5 using 8 slaves. When each master casts his spells, he will share his fatigue with the communion slaves, as well as buff them and himself with any protective or path-increasing spells he casts.
If one of your communion masters has a Crystal Shield equipped at the start of a battle, then all communion slaves present (but not other masters) will also get the +1 buff to their magic stats granted by the shield. This can save you from forging a lot of expensive magic equipment, it improves spellcasting overall (fatigue is reduced when casting with higher paths, so your mages will cast more spells before becoming exhausted) as well as effectively give you an extra round of spell-casting in battle (each slave will start the battle as a F2E3 smith, so they can start popping off Destruction, Legions of Steel, etc. without needing to cast Summon Earthpower first).
Remember that the order in which the slaves and masters appear on the army roster determines who gets to cast and who doesn't. If the slaves come before the master in the list they will cast, if they come after they won't cast till the master retreats/dies.
Each slave should be equipped with a Slave Matrix and a Girdle of Strength (plus Shroud of the Battle Saint if you have taken an earth or nature bless). The master is ideally a F1A1E2 Smith with an Air random (for buffing Air Shield), but if he is not give everyone a Shield of Valor or Robe of Missile Protection. The Master should have a Crystal Matrix, Crystal Shield, Fire Skull, Earth Boots and either a Shroud or Robe.
If you have any Werewolf or Troll commanders, you can alternatively use them as slaves. They won't cast spells or benefit from the magic buffing, but they will regenerate any damage incurred from fatigue over 200%.
Boosting Combat Magic
Imo a Reversed Communion (i.e. all the slaves are listed before the master in the roster, thus all slaves can cast) is the basic go-to setup for Ulm, using a minimum of 4 slaves and 1 master. Kitted as outlined above, each slave will start as a F2E3 mage buffed by the master's shield, and the master can further buff them all to F3E4 by casting Summon Earthpower and Phoenix Power. The master will start as a F5E6 mage (+2 from slaves, +1 from Shield, +1 from Boots/Skull), further buffed to F6E7 from the spells. Typical scripting for the slaves could be:
- Legions of Steel (or Strength of Giants), Destruction, Magma Eruption, Magma Eruption, Bladewind, spells
Scripting for the master is primarily for buffing:
- Summon Earthpower, Phoenix Power, Flaming Arrows or Weapons of Sharpness, Stoneskin, Flame Shield
The slaves will hit 100% fatigue usually by the fifth round, and after that their spell-casting will fall off a bit as they rest, while the master will continue to cast each round. As long as the battle is over in 15 rounds or so, your slaves should come through unscathed.
Add in a second master to lay down more of the high-end army buffs or destructive evocation spells. An air random master is nice for spells like Arrow Fend and Wind Guide. An Indy N1 shaman as a master with a Crystal Shield and Thistle Mace will yield a N5 mage, which can cast lots of interesting army buffs like Relief, Touch of Madness, Sleep Cloud, etc, plus add Personal Regeneration to the communion, so your slaves won't die if they reach 200% fatigue. An astral S1 master outfitted with a Crystal Shield, Crystal Coin and Starshine Skullcap becomes an S6 mage who can lay down some serious astral hurt to the mix.
In an emergency, even if the master was just wearing Earth Boots and the slaves with nothing more than a slave matrix, he could alternatively be scripted to cast Summon Earthpower + Phoenix Power + Weapons of Sharpness + whatever else. The slaves can then be scripted to cast most combat spells in your repertoire, since they will also be buffed to F2E3.
Mass Thug Buff
There are many possible variations of this type of communion. This example assumes you have a few mages available with diverse paths to serve as the masters, each equipped with a Crystal Matrix, along with a dozen chaff mages (Druids or Sages will do nicely) each equipped with a Slave Matrix and a Bow of War.
Script the following: Have the masters script the following defensive spells according to the paths they can cast, then retreat from the battle: Air Shield, Wind Guide, Fire Shield, Personal Regeneration, Eagle Eyes, Iron Skin, Summon Earth Power, Luck, Twist Fate, Body Etheral, Gaia's Blessing etc. Have your Fire mage cast Flaming Arrows before he retreats. Have the slaves script Fire closest.
You now have a dozen super-buffed thugs on the battlefield with rapid-fire armor-piercing flaming arrows.