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General Strategic Changes in 3rd Cycle
Independent directly of kingdom, how does the strategy change from 2nd Cycle, but with consideration to the kingdoms in play other than thy own.

Also covered - how has the relative balance of political, military, economic, covert, magical, and artific-wise change?

General impressions on strategy outside of a specific kingdom (covered in a different thread).
I'm still relatively new to 2nd Cycle but one perception of 3rd Cycle I've had (in comparison to 2nd Cycle strategy) is that it will require greater cooperation, diplomacy, and coordination among kingdoms to win (most especially in diplomacy games).   In 2nd Cycle, a kingdom could essentially function as a "jack of all trades" and do everything on their own especially if not competing for control of their opening region.

But in 3rd Cycle, with the smaller emissary courts, more human-controlled PCs, Stir Unrest ability, fewer beginning brigades, fewer declared enemies allowed, and greatly accelerated recon/covert abilities will make regional control even more difficult (which in turn makes it more difficult to take 4 regions).  Now with the various options, tactics, traits, etc. players have a lot more new toys/tools at their disposal and they could still try to be a jack-of-all trades, makes more sense to me that many will attempt to specialize in what they are really good at, and then reach out to other kingdoms and barter their specialties forming 2-4 kingdom coalitions which will be a necessity for the early game and probably continue much longer into the mid-game before a player starts to make a run for the victory.

Having gotten to just focus on two of the new kingdoms (Pirates and Amazons) in 3C, they are both built for specialization in exploration (Sea and Plains respectively) and artifact hunting.  I've started both with Valyrian Steel and they both begin with knowledge of 2 starting artifacts plus the Adventurer Trait where I get double gold for successful Unusual Encounters as well as a bonus in those Encounters for my leaders/wizards/troops.  They also start with the spells (Evening Star and Bridge of Mist) for artifact hunting. As soon as that group with Valyrian Steel also can Teleport Brigade, they will be getting an artifact and moving on to the next one as fast as the orders come in without needing the locations to be physically nearby. The Pirates also start with a 5th group letting them cover more ground.

In my Pirate game, I've opted to specialize in Artifact Hunting, Naval, and Covert Actions (being the UN equivalent) while ruling the Seas.  It's quite an interesting feeling to NOT have to worry about regional control out of the gate and makes diplomacy much easier.  But what's been really cool is that the Sacred Order (played by JumpingFist) seems to be specializing in Military and High Priestess domination and we've worked out an arrangement where his HPs will be providing me with artifact shortnames and/or locations and then I go get them.  I helped him take Avalon and his region and now he's granted me the water squares in the Sea of Foreboding as well as Avalon and the Oracle of the Old Gods.  So now instead of burning my time/money/orders on things I'm not good at I can just concentrate (specialize) on the things I am and the same for JF.  I have 4 artifacts now (on Turn 5) IN ADDITION to the 3 artifacts that I got with my #11 customizations and three more lined up in row on the map for Turns 6, 7, and 8 (I have 3 clients now) and I've only used 2 of my 5 groups so far.  And with JF HPs and the Oracle, I should literally be able to hop from square to square every turn gaining a new artifact for the rest of the game (and I'll just steal the rest!!!).  Meanwhile, JF and my other clients gain the luxury of having artifacts delivered to them without having to invest time/money/orders into their own artifact hunting and risk losing their key leaders/wizards (as the Elf just did) because they weren't built for it; freeing them up to invest more in their own specializations.

So my point is this, while the option (and temptation) is still there from the 2nd Cycle mentality to try and be good at everything (magic, covert, political, military, artifact hunting, exploration/recon, HP, naval, etc.), my perception is that 3rd Cycle was designed to allow for MUCH more interactive kingdom play by letting kingdoms really specialize to their strengths (but creating large vulnerabilities/weaknesses in other areas) that will then really demand negotiating your specializations in exchange for other player's specializations if you BOTH want to play at an optimal level.  I think Anonymous games will be a LOT tougher in 3rd cycle for many of the reasons I outlined at the start of the 2nd paragraph but also because it will be much riskier to specialize and force players back to the jack of all trades mentality (less than optimal).
I think some good insight / observations from Imp, but still very, very early.

It is of interest to me that essentially all kingdoms are stronger, and more distinct, with a myriad more potential strategies based on which kingdoms are active, but with the other changes, the games should not be shorter in length. There may well be more need for players in 3rd Cycle to study their adversaries and understand the traits beyond the traits they themselves possess than in 2nd Cycle.

We need to keep hearing about experiences. For example, I'd like to evaluate if some of the stacking presently allowed is a good thing. If the Cimmerian has Night Attack, Winter Attack and is Ruthless, is that too much, or should players adapt to that set of facts?
big overall question. where to start.

the game make up with so many different combination of kingdoms I think will make it so there are not set patterns for individual kingdoms you will need to get a feel for the combination of kingdom within your particular game before you even enter your first turn. any time a game if full there will be no open regions, so no free land grabs. I also think some more cool variants could come from this. like titan or warlord or standard as well games where the teams/players pick zones but kingdoms are not known until the T0s come out.

diplomacy - I feel starting with less emissaries but also having fewer PCs in the region is actually a wash. but the addition of the 315 stir unrest adds a new element where large political brawls could take place one side stirring unrest the other maintaining status quo(310). This also adds for the first time a way for an ally to help someone take a PC using there own diplomatic strength. I look forward to seeing if some players try a swarm tactic of ambassadors vs using the high end emmies. Also the addition of some intrinsic status quo through some of the traits like ruthless and orator will allow some kingdom to become strong political defensive kingdoms even with fewer emmies overall. It will be very important to know who your attacking before you launch that first wave to know how much strength you need to bring in.

Military - likely the biggest change that less experience players will not fully catch on to all the nuance built within. no longer do you just recruit your best unit and go bash everyone. now you must manage your brigades and pay close attention to not exposing your kingdom brigades to risk. your kingdom brigades and not just for fighting they are now the life blood of your ability to acquire new troops. to go into battle without enough protection will set you back many turns. also with each brigade having there own special ability if you have the correct number of them it is very possible a significantly smaller force expertly managed could beat a larger number of troops.

Magic - this one is very interesting. all kingdoms seem to get spells earlier but with new spells added there is a balance. sure the pure mages can recruit armies of undead sooner but also even the weakest of mages can get a destroy undead spell that could quickly remove the brigades of undead. another huge change is mages can no longer hide behind there patrols if they want to cast some of the most damaging spells they need to be in a group and many times at the square they plan to do the damage. so mages will need to keep reasonable strength groups with them. water PCs will be particularly more difficult.

the seas are now a factor. this one will see how it players out. seems at the start that your either a water friendly kingdom or your not right now.

overall lots more options all around which makes planning and developing strategies that much more fun
Well done.  Keep 'em coming.
I have to say, I am having fun formulating the first turn as the Illusionist.  Several observations similar to what Jumpingfist posted.

After marking up my map with my initial kingdom position, and considering a bit about what my PC locations might imply for starting strategy, I then reviewed my kingdom dossier.  For those that have not seen them, they are much more comprehensive than in 2nd Cycle. Beginning with the Traits of the Illusionist, the cultural traits are not numerous, but they are interesting.
  • Cunning provides a 15% bonus to Incite Rebellion and to Stir Unrest (an important new Political Action to counter Maintain Status Quo), and increases maximum agent level by 3 levels, and agent training is 1000 gold cheaper.
  • Secretive provides a Hidden Capital with a Glyph of Concealment meaning it is only discovered by a group ending movement there rather than passing through, or by an L4 or higher agent using a straight 970 order (not 976-979).  It can't be discovered by a Raven, but could by an Eagle Familiar reconning only the one area.
  • Trick of the Trade allows me to gain 25% more booty in a trade with a kingdom that doesn't have Trick of the Trade.
This is no single dimension magical kingdom.  My covert abilities are very good, especially since there are special abilities that augment them.

Continuing with the dossier, we also enjoy these Special Abilities and Advantages:
  • Spells available earlier than prowess base: Create Gold, Lesser Masking, Greater Masking, Chaos, Project Image, Create Time, Conceal Emissary, Mirror Image
  • Our kingdom begins the game with a Cloak of Disguise for our highest ranking emissary.
  • Illusionist agents gain a 10% bonus during all Steal (food, gold, artifact) and Rescue attempts. During those missions, our agents are 10% less chance of being caught.
  • Our agents held as prisoner gain a 15% bonus when attempting to escape from prison.
  • Our emissaries have a 20% less chance of being detected while relocating to another popcenter.
Interesting stuff, providing more to consider in forming strategy.  Next, a review of all spell lists I can get:  what seems to be the critical power levels to achieve?  And we'll need time to get familiar with all these new spells.  After that, our kingdom brigade ratings by phase, implying baseline tactical choices.  We can recruit Zamorans and Huns from our starting towns if we choose, and after turn 3, the chance for a few Companion types, and we can do some summoning with our Power 4 wizard.

Then I referenced the turn 0 section at the end that lists the active kingdoms.  Who are my neighbors?  My potential magical rivals?  Who might we expect invasion from at some point?  Later, I will have to review the dossiers, in particular, the traits of those neighbors.  If I was them, how would I apply the strengths their kingdom provides?  Is there an obvious weakness?  Who might I trade with?

I then considered the customization options available, and this was almost like a game unto itself.  I spent about 40 minutes considering all the choices, and how they might enhance my likely course of action.  I haven't made final choices yet, and I can see how probably no two players will make the same choices, even given the same kingdom.  These choices too can be influenced by personal style, and which other kingdoms are active.

I would have completed a normal 2nd Cycle turn 1 turn in around an hour, perhaps a bit more in also getting the map setup and acclimating to my position.  But after 3 hours, I am nowhere close to getting my first turn ready, and when I finally do, there will be plenty of research to do on my fellow kingdoms in this campaign.
Just wanted to chime in, I plan on writing something here this weekend. Definitely want Rick to be able to get the feedback he wants. I've been travelling for work all week.
I'm still moderately new to second Cycle yet one impression of third Cycle I've had kamgara (in examination to second Cycle system) is that it will require more prominent participation, strategy, and coordination among kingdoms to win (most particularly in tact amusements). In second Cycle, a kingdom could basically work as a "handyman" and do everything all alone particularly if not going after control of their opening locale.
I can't help but wonder if a cool strategy addition for kingdoms (or at least for the Seafaring trait kingdoms) would be to let Fleets (WITHOUT an accompanying group of any kind), issue #150, #170, #180 and #190 orders for water based PCs (against one PC per sea per turn) but at a penalty that the fleet cannot issue any Sea Patrol and Trade Mission orders or #710/715 orders (except for a Patrol on its Elite Ship). Since Naval Combat is based on the Fleet Quantity/Quality (and not the carried group), it would make sense that those same navies would also be the currency against water PCs. And if they issued the #150 (or a failed #180 order) that they could lose quantity and quality from the combat. Fleet actions and naval tactics seem very underutilized; this change would change all that, in my opinion.
In 3rd Cycle, either the Cimmerians or Necromancer will be in zone 2, being mainly The Northern Mists.  Both are doing well in the two betas.

What about the idea that the Sea of Terror is frozen in Winter, and so there is no naval movement or patrols, no Kraken, and the sea areas are treated as plains (or possibly slower movement as desert)?  Thoughts?

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