The next morning, in the shadowed woods of Ashenvale …
- Main Quest - The Chaos Well
- Discover the source of power
- Destroy the Satyrs guarding the pool
- Main Quest - Cenarius
- Slay the so-called demigod, Cenarius
Despite initial appearances, this scenario is fairly easy. The obstacles that you will face are fairly tough in absolute terms, but so are the Orcs. This walkthrough presents two main approaches. They are the same until about halfway through, and then they diverge. The first approach is cautious and defensive, and degrades the Elven forces before making a substantial commitment to finding the Chaos Well. The second approach puts the highest priority on finding the Chaos Well. The second approach is probably stronger overall, and may be necessary on hard mode, but it does not appear to be the logical approach, because it relies on knowing what will happen when you find the Well.
This scenario looks very hard at the beginning, but it turns out to be pretty easy. Let it run a few times, just to see what's going on. On the west side of the river, your central base gets overrun immediately, then the northern one, then the southern one. The Elves set up shop in the rubble almost immediately, because they have a bunch of walking trees waiting in the wings. Your two Peons in the middle cannot be saved by any means, and they can't do anything else useful, so just ignore them. The Peon in the north can be saved if he heads across the river immediately, but not if he waits until the call to fall back. If you check, you will see that the ambush group actually teleports in to block his escape route. The two Peons in the south have plenty of time to escape, but if you wait too long, they, too, will be trapped and killed.
Sauve qui peut
Your opening move should be to produce one more Peon and rally him to the north part of your base, then jump to the Peon in the NW and send him back across the river, and then send your two Peons in the SW back across the river. Each of these Peons will build a Tower to solidify the two river ford cordons, and then hide in the nearest Burrow. These actions alone will already defend your base against the first major invasion.
Your continuation should be to produce a couple of Trolls and a couple of Raiders, and upgrade your Shaman so that he can cast Lightning Shield. This will exceed your gold supply; so you will not be able to queue the second Raider. Shortly after this, your territory will be invaded by about 20 units. You will not be able to micromanage that fight properly. About the best you can do is Lightning Shield one of the enemy units in the south, and attack-move your entire army into them, except for Grom, who attacks the northern force solo and Bladestorms the bejasus out of them. Prioritize killing the air units, because not all of your units can shoot at them.
You will lose several units and several buildings in this fight, but all of your Peons should survive. Depending on how well you did, this might be a good time to cash in your healing scroll, but probably not. Bring the four Peons in the Burrows out of hiding and replace and repair your Tower line. If any Burrows on the front line got destroyed, replace them with Towers. When you can afford to, ensure that you have some Burrows near, but behind, your Tower line, but this is not an immediate priority. When your Tower line is solid again, send two more Peons to mine, keeping only one near each ford. You have far more wood in your stockpile than you could ever use in this scenario, so cutting wood will only be necessary for special purposes.
Now just build up your army. Aim to have two of each type of magic user, two each Grunts and Raiders, a Kodo Beast, and 5 Trolls. This is a very versatile force; a very powerful combined-arms force. Assign control groups. Upgrade everything. Also build more Towers near the fords.
Witch Doctors are great! They have a mass heal spell, and Sentry Wards are a huge force multiplier. If you can see enemy attacks come in well before they are already blowing up your buildings, it gives you all sorts of options. For example, you could Windwalk Grom into the enemy force, Bladestorm it into oblivion, and then Windwalk out. Any remnants will not be able to breach your Tower line. Note carefully that level 3 Windwalk costs only 25 mana (!!!), and you will get that partway through the scenario. Keep a Sentry Ward on the far side of each ford, and keep replacing them as needed. Shamans are not as good except in special situations, but they can negate important enemy spells, and they can auto-cast Bloodlust.
After the first big attack, the Elves only attack via one ford at a time, and with no more than about 10 units each time. As long as you assassinate the artillery, and there will be lots of it, you will do fine. However, this means that you cannot afford to send any substantial force on expeditions. The green faction will eventually cause problems as well when they start sending heavy bombers (Chimaeras) your way. They will generally blow up one or two Towers before you can bring them down, and they are dangerous to Trolls as well.
When your position is as strong as it's going to be, given that you will stay within the zero-upkeep limit until further notice, start exploring north up the coast. Use a single Raider for this task. The first obstacle is a gang of wolves that come out of a cave. It may take some time to grind through them if you are focusing on defense, but focusing on defense is the prudent approach. Of course, the scout calls for appropriate backup each time he encounters an obstacle.
The second obstacle is some trees blocking the path. There are several ways of dealing with them, but the cautious approach is to build a Great Hall near your second mine and then distance harvest a narrow path through the trees. There is no reason why enemy air attacks can't hit you in this region, so committing only the minimum possible to this venture ensures that you won't lose anything if it hits the fan. Furthermore, you do not yet know whether the Elves can deploy ground forces in this region, and it's not worth using up your Crystal Ball to find out. Of course, the cautious approach is slow, but as long as your position is holding, you have plenty of time, and eventually, you may even run the Elves out of gold.
The third obstacle, just past the trees, is a group of Furbolgs. They have some strong magic, so you might want to send your Shamans along with the force that will clear them out. You will get an Anti-Magic Potion here, and you will also get access to a Goblin Merchant and the full product line. The merchandise may actually have some value in this scenario.
As you push past the Furbolgs, you run into more Furbolgs. These ones are tougher. If Grom is doing this solo, he will need to use a Bladestorm. You need to be careful when you do this, because it makes the Elves more of a threat. The Furbolg boss drops Claws of Attack +9. The Furbolg huts are empty.
The path turns west at this point and terminates at a Waygate. It is guarded by a group of Satyrs. You generally want to avoid these creatures unless you have overwhelming force. You cannot pass through the Waygate without first defeating the Satyrs.
The best defense ...
(or use alternate strategy)
At this point, you should take stock. The Waygate is too far away from your base, and too heavily defended, for you to be reasonably able to go through it at present. You could wait until the Elves run out of gold, and because you noted at the beginning of the scenario that their mines are fairly small, this might be an option. However, the best option appears to be to crush their bases, not least because the Elven attacks actually seem to be getting stronger. By the time you come to this conclusion, you should have over 10,000 gold stockpiled. Stop mining to avoid paying taxes, build up a huge force, and attack! You will want to include a couple of catapults in your assault force, but other than that, any decent combined-arms force will do. This would be a very good time to save the game.
Attack the SW base (grey) first, because it is closest. You will find that a population-70 army has no real difficulty erasing one of the Elf bases - until Cenarius gets personally involved. Cenarius is a demigod; he can erase your entire presence here solo without breaking a sweat. Fortunately, he never moves far from the western map edge. When Cenarius puts in his first appearance, you have two choices: run away immediately, or stay and die. An expert will understand this, and will have the skills to implement a retreat. However, ordinary players will find that they have nothing but workers left within a very short time, without doing any apparent damage to Cenarius and his guard. At this point, assuming that you took the advice, you should reload the recent save game and try again. This time, if you decide to stay and fight, when Cenarius shows up, make sure that you manually target the Elf buildings. This way, you will still lose your entire force, but you will actually be doing permanent damage to the SW Elf faction.
It will cost you about 4,000 gold to replace your assault force. Do this quickly and have another go. Your second assault should concentrate on infrastructure. The AI will not replace its base as well as a human would, but it will try to rebuild as long as it has gold and Wisps. Keep in mind that the AI generally doesn't keep a gold reserve, so it has great difficulty in replacing infrastructure. Again, it is probably a good idea to stay and fight when Cenarius shows up, but you will need to manually target the infrastructure, otherwise your units will waste their fire shooting at invulnerable targets or Ents. Replace your army and have a third go, but this time, just send a fast raiding force. Target the infrastructure remnants and retreat as soon as Cenarius arrives. Rinse and repeat. Eventually, you should be able to eliminate the SW Elf base entirely. There should be at least 5,000 gold left in your new mine, but if not, at least the Elves can't get any more gold.
If you use up your gold reserve, then pick a time when your army is depleted to restart mining. Don't go above the zero-upkeep limit during this time. You should still be able to raid the Elf bases. Build up another gold reserve and stop mining again.
Your second target should probably be the NW Elf base (dark blue), because they don't produce air units. Use the same procedure as you used on the grey faction. You may find that Cenarius sets up shop in the NW Elf base. In this case, you will not be able to continue attacking them. Deploy a Sentry Ward to keep track of Cenarius and go after the middle Elf base (green) instead.
The green faction presents a special problem, because they produce a lot of air units. Make sure that your assault force includes lots of Trolls for direct AA fire and Shamans for Bloodlust. Include some Raiders to bring the birds to the ground as well, of course, but don't rely on them primarily, because Ensnare is difficult to use after the battle is joined.
If dark blue attacks your base while you are engaged with green, you will not be able to get your army back in time to defend it. Therefore, buy a Scroll of Town Portal from the Goblins before this attack.
Green's weakness is that they don't produce any ground units, and it takes a long time to produce air units, so they won't get any replacements before they are annihilated. If Cenarius has become attached to the dark blue faction, then green will be eliminated with a single assault, and you won't even lose a lot of units.
After this, any further attacks on the Elves are pointless, because Cenarius will stop you cold, and you will lose too much. However, you have accomplished your major objectives. Two of the factions have been eliminated, and you will be able to handle the attacks of the last faction with ease. You should have gained access to about 10,000 gold more, not that you will be able to exploit it as long as Cenarius is alive. Even if dark blue does expand into those locations, they still will have only one army.
Note that Cenarius' personal base is NW of green. However, Cenarius' faction is purely defensive, so there is no point in attacking them now, especially because your attack force could be trapped in there and annihilated.
The Chaos Well
Now you should commit a large force to finding the Chaos Well. Grom has been gaining experience without limit, but he should be level 10 by now, so it is less important to have him involved in every fight. In fact, you don't want him, or any magic users, involved directly in the Waygate fight at all, because Satyrs have nasty anti-magic spells. Send a bunch of conventional units to take out the Satyrs. Do send some Shamans along to Bloodlust your attack force, but do it manually before getting engaged. Also send a Witch Doctor along, in case you need to heal your troops on the spot.
You will probably wipe out the Satyrs quickly without taking much damage, although all your troops will acquire negative buffs. You get a Periapt of Health from this fight. Push on through the Waygate while the bloodlust is still on you, and wipe out the group of Satyrs on the other side, which gains you a Potion of Greater Healing. Then send all these troops home, and go back to scouting this area with a single Raider. When the timing is right i.e. shortly after defeating an Elven attack, Windwalk Grom over here to pick up the items, and Windwalk him back.
The path to the Well bends north, and shortly past that, there is a group of Satyr pyromaniacs. Because most of them are archers, you probably don't want to attack them with Trolls, but rather big units, which means Grunts and Kodo Beasts, with a couple of Shamans and a Witch Doctor in support. Send Grom as well, because this attack force seems rather small. You cut through these creeps with ease if you use a Bladestorm, after which you pick up an Orb of Fire.
A bit further on is a group of skeletons; they don't last long at all. Then the path turns east again. It leads past a Fountain of Health, and then you find the Chaos Well. The defenders taunt your scout mightily, so run away and call for backup. Save the game before attacking them, because major changes will happen, and you will want to spend some time figuring them out.
It turns out that 4 Grunts plus 2 Kodo Beasts plus the three magic users plus the scout that you already have here are quite enough to defeat the Well defenders, even if you don't micromanage anything, but that isn't a priori obvious. Accordingly, bring Grom up to join in the attack, Bloodlust everyone before going in, attack-move in, trigger a Bladestorm, and then just sit back and watch the party. You get a Ring of Protection +3 from this fight.
Even if Grom wasn't here personally, he teleports over to participate in a cutscene. After he drinks from the Well, all of your units get the Chaos upgrade, which gives them more hit points and stronger attack, especially against Cenarius. Your Shamans are converted to Warlocks, which gives them several spells that seriously degrade powerful units.
The rest is anticlimactic. Eliminate the last vestige of the Elves. Kill Cenarius. Before you finish the scenario, however, make sure that Grom drops all potions and scrolls and carries only continuous-use items to the future, just in case he has a future in this campaign. You might also want to reveal the inaccessible areas with your Crystal Ball, but you don't find anything of interest.
NNW of the dark blue position, and actually between the two Waygates, is what looks like a magic circle. A bell chimes when you enter it, but nothing else seems to happen. This ring, and the other like it, are responsible for spawning two of the items on the map. So be sure to bring Grom to these at some point.
One further note on Windwalk: In addition to its obvious invisibility effects, it gives the Blademaster a HUGE speed increase, especially at level 3.
An alternate approach is to send a strong force to complete the Chaos Well quest while leaving a strong force to defend your base. You will need to be in the low-upkeep zone to accomplish this. If you want to get there quickly, you should exploit the second Gold Mine north of your base. Further attacks by the Elves will hit only one ford at a time and will be smaller than the first attack, but the enemy will start bringing Ballistas pretty soon, and if you don't have strong mobile forces in your base, it will be overrun. Furthermore, one of the factions sends heavy bombers (Chimaeras), and they blow up your defenses quite quickly if you don't sally.
The Chaos Well
Before waging war with Cenarius, you need to discover the source of power in the area. Even on Hard, you need no more than 12 units in your group, including Grom, to complete the first quest.
Take Grom and his army north of your base. You won’t need anti-air units. After dealing with a pack of wolves, you will stumble upon glowing runes. Clear the trees here with a Catapult and continue going north. Kill the Furbolgs next to the Goblin Merchant. Hit the Furbolg camp next. You will find an Anti-magic Potion along with Claws of Attack +9. Follow the road and defeat the Satyrs guarding both sides of the portal.
The road on the other side of the portal will lead to a pack of creeps with a Satyr Pyromancer in charge. He will drop an Orb of Fire. Use Scrolls of Healing and Witch Doctors’ Healing Wards throughout your journey. Your army needs to be fresh before the final fight with the guardians of The Chaos Well.
Once the source of power is discovered, you are ready to take on Cenarius.
Cenarius comes out whenever a full-scale attack is launched on the Night Elfs. The blue base to the NW doesn’t produce flying units and thus is a good target. Completing the Chaos Well quest makes your troops very powerful. So powerful, in fact, that you won’t need any siege weapons or any melee units besides Chaos Grunts since they now do full damage to all armor types, including buildings.
Mass build Chaos Grunts. Your army should be supported by 2-3 Witch Doctors and a Kodo Beast. Shortly after yet another Night Elf wave, counter-attack the blue base. The moment you enter the base, use Witch Doctors to drop as many Healing Wards as possible, spending all their mana. Make sure that the Kodo Beast is nearby. Deal with Towers (Ancient Protectors) and Moon Wells first. Even on Hard, you probably won't need reinforcements, but just in case, set the rally points of your Barracks to Grom and continue producing additional Grunts during the attack.
As soon as the blue base is seriously damaged, Cenarius will show up. Ignore any minor threats that come from the other two bases. Surround he demigod and kill him.
- Anti-magic Potion in Furbolg camp near the Goblin Merchant.
- Claws of Attack +9 off Furbolg Ursa Warrior north of Goblin Merchant.
- Periapt of Health from Satyrs on near side of Waygate
- Potion of Greater Healing from Satyrs on far side of Waygate
- Orb of Fire is dropped by the Satyr Pyromancer on the way to The Chaos Well.
- Ring of Protection +3 from Chaos Well guardians
- There are Boots of Elvenkind +6 and Talisman of Mana from hidden circle close to the skeletons