Gem's Campaign

This guide is for the first Shadow of Death campaign. I will assume you are
familiar with the general gameplay, strategies and units of
Heroes of Might and Magic 3, and I will not tell you to do basic things like
flag mines, etc, and I also won't tell you what units you need to deal with the
wandering monsters on the map. If you don't have this comfort level playing
Heroes 3, you should not be playing Shadow of Death campaigns because they are
very challenging. Instead you should start with the Restoration of Erathia
campaigns to familiarize yourself with the gameplay.

Throughout this campaign you will have two heroes, Gem and Clancy, which carry
their experience and skills to the next level. How you select their skills can
be crucial to success. Gem will even carry her skills to the next campaign with
her in it. There are a few strategies that you will want to employ throughout
the campaign.

* I *highly* recommend that at least one of Gem or Clancy have advanced wisdom
and advanced earth magic. Chances are this will be Gem. She starts with basic
wisdom, so prioritize getting earth magic over all other choices, so that you
can exploit town portal later on.

* Logistics is an excellent skill and it will help you to get the drop on the
computer. Get it for Gem if you can.

* Keep your eye out for Solmyr in the taverns. His specialty is chain
lightning, so he starts with it and you will not be able to get it through mage
guilds until the third scenario. If you do recruit Solmyr, train a hero (not
Gem or Clancy) in scholar up to expert level. Then this hero can learn chain
lightning from Solmyr and teach it to Gem and Clancy. Chain Lightning will be a
very useful spell at the beginning of each scenario blasting wandering monsters
when your armies aren't built up, giving you early access to mines and
artifacts.

* The amount of movement your hero has on the map is determined by the slowest
units in your army. So after the first few weeks, leave the dwarves and
dendroids at home.

* Save often, at least once a week, and keep separate save files in case you
need to go back a couple of weeks. I recommend keeping at least five different
save files.

* The computer AI will sometimes behave very differently if you reload a save
file and do things a little differently, like move a hero in a different
direction. So if you're pressed up against a wall, reload an older save and
recruit an extra hero, flag some different mines, or something.

* The computer AI will sometimes behave stupidly when you have access to a
cover of darkness. They will forget where the castles are, unless they have
none left, and you can distract them with "throw-away" heroes.

* Creature dwellings on the map can give you a lot of extra creatures and will
help you build up a large army. Be sure to have an "errand" hero to run around
and collect creatures at the beginning of each week. This is especially useful
for building up elves, but also centaurs and in the later scenarios, green/gold
dragons.

* Treasuries can help offset the disadvantage in income that you will have
against the computer players in several scenarios.

* Pay attention to what artifacts are equipped on your main hero. Artifacts
which provide resources every turn can be transfered to non-essential heroes.
Also be sure an unequip any artifact which neutralizes morale bonuses, like the
spirit of oppression. Since you will be largely fighting against undead
creatures, morale bonuses are an advantage that that computer can't utilize.

* Build up your mage guilds before completing the scenario.

****************** First Scenario ******************

I did not find this first scenario to be particularly challenging. You and the
computer each start with two towns with another one nearby. If you follow the
path east from where Gem starts, you will come to a neutral Rampart castle. I
recommend building some creature dwellings (like an upgraded homestead) in your
main castle for the first week so that you can take nearby castle ASAP. A hut
of the magi near your western castle will also show you where two undeveloped
neutral towns are. Underground near these two undeveloped towns is a portal to
an area with a colliseum, dragon utopia, griffon conservatory and a tree of the
ages. If you can get there before the computer player (especially the dragon
utopia) this will help immensely. Also underground in the same area is a
unicorn glade, flagging this will increase the production of unicorns in your
towns and help you to outnumber the computer's armies.

Once you can take over the nearby Rampart castle, you should have the troops to
get to the undeveloped towns. If you can manage to hold both of these for a
while you will develop a significant resource advantage over the computer
player. The difficulty in doing so will be that the computer has two easy paths
down to these towns, and you do not have a fast way to move troops from one
town to the other, so you will have to divide your resources to defend both.

Near your town are green border guards blocking some two-way monoliths. These
monoliths transport you to right near the CPU's main castles, however on the
other end are red border guards which the CPU has to open for you to access. I
suggest just leaving these alone so that you don't have to worry about the
computer player sending armies to take over your main castles.

****************** Second Scenario ******************

In this scenario, the computer starts with a significant advantage. You have
only one town, and they have two with another nearby they can take without a
fight. Also, there are lots of peasants around on the map just waiting to be
turned into skeletons. You don't have to take out the computer player to win
this one, but you will likely need to in order to get to the amulet of the
undertaker and take out its guardians.

The first thing you will need to do as usual will be to grab the nearby
resources. South of you, underground is a homestead dwelling you can flag to
get more elves each week. Also there is the red keymaster's tent you will
eventually need to visit before you can complete the scenario. If you follow
the path from your castle west and up north, you will find a neutral Rampart
town. You will want to take this ASAP to help your disadvantage in resources.

Once you have the two Ramparts, it will be time to turn your attention to the
three Castle towns in the center of the map. If you've been quick so far, you
might be able to take the southern Castle before the computer gets to it. Send
your army east from your main town, through the vampires and follow the path to
the Castle. From here, you may have to build up your armies some to take the
next castle (to the north of the castle you just took) if the computer player
is active around there. You want to take it quickly though, because it is a
crucial defense point; all paths into your territory will go by that castle.

Once you have two of the Castles, you and the CPU will be about even on
resource production, but they will probably have a significant advantage in
troops already produced. So you will want to play defensively. You will also
need to go through some fairly heavily guarded garrisons with anti-magic
properties in order to proceed any further. So build up your armies so that you
can take out the garrisons. North of your castle is another Castle town, you
may want to annoy the computer and pick up some extra resources by sending your
army up to take it over and then back down to defend your main territory. It is
likely that the computer has built covers of darkness in its Necropolis towns
to the east, so it will be difficult to see any enemy heroes coming through the
garrisons. Nearby the middle castle, there is a passage underground which
branches east to a gold mine, and west towards your goal, guarded by red
dragons.

If you've spent some time building up your two (or three) castles, you will
notice that in the southern and northern castles you can build portals of glory
to recruit angels. It's disabled for some reason in the middle castle. Putting
together an army of unicorns, champions, green/gold dragons and angels will
make it much easier to defeat the computer player. When I played this scenario,
after defending the top two castles for a while, I noticed the computer started
to lighten up on its attacks, which was a sign I had weakened its armies enough
to take the two Necropolis towns to the east.

One peculiarity about this map is the computer has a castle in the northwest
corner of the map, with a one-way monolith portal to its castles on the eastern
edge of the map. So if you take the Necropolises in the east first, you will
have to leave a garrison there to deal with stray heroes coming out of the
monolith exit.

Once you have enough of an army to defeat the red dragons underground while
leaving enough troops behind to defend your castles against the computer, the
rest should be straightforward. If you leave a hero near the red dragons and
rest, you can beat the dragons, come up above ground right near the computer's
northwest castle, and you may be able to take it without a fight. Then you can
just sit in the castle and defend if you like, although it is likely that the
computer does not have much of an army there because it has a tendency to send
heroes through the one-way monolith. When you have comfortable control over
that area, you can head north to the border guard and over to the amulet of the
undertaker. Be sure to have Gem and Clancy both visit the school of war up
there. Almost immediately below the school of war there will be an ambush with
a bunch of ghost and bone dragons (sixty total). And beyond that is a group of
seventy-six ghost dragons. So be prepared for a fight. Once you grab the amulet
you are done.

****************** Third Scenario ******************

North and west of your starting town are two neutral Rampart towns, a randomly
named town to the north and Leafhall to the west. Your objective is to obtain
the Vampire's Cowl from an underground prison and transport it to Leafhall.
There are two main tricks you need to exploit here to succeed:

1. The computer becomes really stupid when you control a cover of darkness.
More on this strategy later.
2. There is a scroll of town portal in the northwest. With advanced earth
magic, Gem can cast it and choose which town to teleport to.

More on these strategies later.

You'll want to acquire these towns as soon as possible. The computer starts
with a significant advantage, and it will have four Necropolis towns compared
to your three Rampart towns, so you will be at a significant disadvantage
through the scenario. It will be some time before the computer encroaches on
your territory, so you can leave your main town undefended for a while.
Slightly northwest and northeast from your starting town, are centaur and wood
elf dwellings. Flag these and recruit creatures. You should build an upgraded
homestead in your main town as early as possible so that you have Grand Elves.
This will make taking over the other two Ramparts easier. If you have chain
lightning as well that will help. I recommend sending Clancy through the path
to the northeast and travel around the mountains until you reach the northern
town, because you will be using Gem later on to deal with the Necromancers.

Once you've taken the north Rampart, head west from there underground and you
will find several artifacts guarded by weak creatures. You may find some useful
things there; get these ASAP and continue west back above ground to take
Leafhall. Once you have Leafhall, the next two things to get are the nearby
scroll of town portal, and through the two-way monolith there is a dragon
cliffs dwelling. Getting an extra dragon in each town every week will help
immensely.

By the time you have gotten a few dragons, the computer player has likely
gotten strong enough to eliminate the gang on titans near your main town. At
this point your strategy needs to change if you want to stay alive. The
computer AI has an edict to explore areas it can't see so you need to use the
nearby cover of darkness to remove parts of the map from its vision. I
recommend keeping a spare hero near enough to the cover of darkness at all
times so that he can reach it in one turn. South-east and South-west of your
main town are two valleys which have one-way monolith exits from the computer's
main towns. So you will often see very powerful necromancer armies showing up
in these areas. Anytime that happens, have your hero use the cover of darkness
to confuse the computer player.

You will also want to send some expendable heroes (not Clancy or Gem) down into
these valleys to flag the mines. If the mines stay controlled by the computer
the cover of darkness won't be as effective. I think the AI prioritizes
connecting explored areas of the map, so if you have all those mines flagged
the computer will walk back home after going through the monolith. You can have
your expendable heroes rest at sanctuaries in each valley, and as soon as the
Necromancers wander off you can run around and flag the mines again, while your
hero near your main town activates the cover of darkness again. In the meantime
you can have Gem teleport around to your towns with town portal and build up
her army.

Once you're comfortable with managing the AI in the valleys and you have a few
dragons it's time to move in. You're going to send Gem through the southwest
valley to the garrison at the other end. The garrisons at the end of the
valleys aren't heavily guarded so you can easily take them out. Remember that
Gem must have some movement points left to cast town portal! Run through as far
as you can and then town portal back home. YOu want to be able to get the
Necropolis Ghostwind on your map so you can monitor its defenses. If you need
to take two turns to get there, have Gem rest at the sanctuary to be safe. If
you keep your eye on the Necropolis defenses you can send Gem in to take it
over when it's undefended, and then town portal her back to the safety of your
ramparts.

If you manage to take a Necropolis, unless there are enemy heroes in the
immediate vicinity, build a cover of darkness and recruit a hero or two and
send them in different directions to draw enemy heroes away from it. Once the
cover of darkness is active, the computer won't remember where its castle was,
unless it has a hero close enough that it will see it. You can use this
strategy to take over the rest of the computer's towns and eliminate him if you
like. Once you have more towns than he does it only takes a month or so before
your armies outnumber his.

This scenario is your first chance to build level 5 mage guilds. Spells like
Summon Earth Elemental and Implosion will be very helpful at the beginning of
the next scenario, so I recommend building up your mage guilds once you have
enough resources. You can teleport Gem around the map to pick up the spells
when you find something useful.
Your goal is underground east of Ghostwind. Make sure you have 40000 gold
before you go, because that is the ransom you must pay. Once you have
Ghostwind, you can teleport Gem there, head east to the underground and then
north to the prison. Take the Vampire's Cowl from the hero that you free there
and teleport to Leafhall to complete the scenario.

****************** Fourth scenario ******************

Your goal in this scenario is similar to the last one; find the dead man's
boots and transport them back to the town you started in. I found this scenario
considerably easier than the last one, although it's getting harder to level
your heroes up to the limit each time. You and each CPU player start with one
castle each, except for red who starts with two.

East of your main encampment past the garrison and to the north is a Dragon
Cliffs dwelling, guarded by some ghost dragons. You should be able to beat them
by the end of the first month. You'll want to flag this dwelling early and
start recruiting dragons. Near there is also a Seer who wants 25 ghost dragons.
You will need to pay him in order to get the dead man's boots.

The pink player is just beyond the garrison southwest of your starting town. He
should be relatively easy to dispatch near the beginning of the second month if
you've been diligent about recruiting elves and centaurs, and you have chain
lightning or summon earth elemental. Pink is also the only real threat you will
face initially, since the only ways out of his area are into your area or
through a green and blue border guards, and the blueKeymaster's tent is in your
territory.

Once you've defeated pink, you have easy access to two neutral Rampart towns to
the west, which will eventually lead you to the green Keymaster's tent. In this
same area you will find a scroll of town portal. It will take some time to
build up your new towns. Be sure to flag the unicorn dwelling and start
recruiting unicorns from it. At this point you will have four castles compared
to the three castles owned by the two computer players. So you could just sit
pretty and build up a huge army of gold dragons, war unicorns, elves and dread
knights before steamrolling over the two remaining computer players. But I will
assume you want to have some challenge remaining so we'll head into the
southern territories.

Around month 3 you want to start thinking about heading into the territory
south from your Necropolis. Once your two Rampart towns are built up you will
have more income and creature growth than either of the two individual
remaining computer opponents, but since they are allied with each other they
will have very strong armies that you may not be able to beat. But you should
have an army strong enough to intimidate them into not attacking you outright.

Once you head south from your Necropolis there is a choice of traveling west,
east or south. Any of these directions leads to another Necropolis town, west
and east are owned by the red player and south is owned by the orange player.
The area with the dead man's boots is accessible via a two-way monolith from
each of these areas. To get there, you have to have visited three keymaster's
tents: light blue (in your starting area), red (near the western Necropolis)
and dark blue (near the eastern Necropolis). At this point you have two
options. You can take a good sized army with Gem and run around to the
keymaster's tents and try to get the dead man's boots without taking out your
enemies, or you can take the slower approach of annoying them while building up
an army large enough to beat them without being decimated. At this point you
have more income than either of your enemies, and you should be able to build
up a good group of gold dragons and war unicorns.

I was able to eliminate the red CPU player by taking one of his castles and
then giving it up to the orange player, and then taking the other one and
holding it for a week. By that time I had built up a powerful enough army that
orange was no match for me.

When you go to get the dead man's boots there will be a final battle with about
60 dread knights, 60 vampires, 70 power liches and 25 ghost dragons. It
shouldn't be too tough if you take your main hero though because of her attack
and defense. Be sure to develop your mage guilds before completing the
scenario, since you might find town portal in one of them.