Nature / Preserve Strategy
Preserve creatures are quick and sharp - all their units can cross the battlefield in 1 or 2 turns, and they are effective in their attack as well. They possess useful combat abilities such as spellcasting, rebirth, unlimited retaliation, and two shots. They do, however, suffer from the lack of a high-level ranged attacker, though the Elf is quite competent for her level.
Sprites make excellent scouts for the already quick Preserve army. They can be sent out on brigades early in the game to use hit and run tactics on slower monsters. In large numbers, their no retaliation ability is potent, and they become effective shooter blockers - and an annoyance to the opponent's army. Though they don't have raw strength or power, they are nimble and agile, able to get involved early.
Another useful creature, but this time more so in combat. They deal good damage for a level 1, augmented by the fact that they are able to attack twice. While they are very fast, they don't move as far as their winged cousins, especially on the adventure map, which makes them a liability for travelling armies in this sense.
Elves are the only ranged creature in the Preserve army (barring the creature portal recruits) and are effective in their job - largely thanks to their two attacks. Their damage is very poor, as are its attack and defense ratings. Their movement in both planes is also very sub-standard, especially considering the same statistics for other creatures of the Preserve army.
White Tigers are the more statistically pleasing of the level 2 creatures. Their attack and defense ratings are very sound, enabling them to edge out most other level 2 creatures. They have good hit points - something that is lacking in the elf, in addition to these hit points, its speed is excellent, while its movement on both maps is quite good. Their cheaper pre-requisites and better adventure map speed make White Tigers a more common choice.
Griffins are the tanks of the Preserve army, having 95 hit points and the unlimited retaliation ability. They are faster and deal more damage than Unicorns, but also cost 150 gold extra, and one less is produced per week. Their pre-requisite, the citadel, makes the decision between Unicorns and Griffins difficult.
While Unicorns have 80 hit points, though good in itself, it is 15 less than the Griffins. However, they beat the Griffin in the attack and defense areas, as well as having the same speed and producing one more than the griffins. The Unicorns are also cheaper and so are their pre-requisites. Their special ability of blind is not to be overlooked - it can prevent or dampen the blow of an enemy attack, useful in battles against might armies or physically oriented ones.
The powerful spellcaster of the Nature army, its array of spells are among the most damaging chaos spells, possessing lightning, fire ring, and also the cursing spell confusion. It is statistically inferior to the Phoenix, especially in melee attack, and therefore damage. The Magic Mirror ability discourages the opponent from using magic against it, and therefore a powerful creature against a magic army.
The Phoenix is a delight in terms of physical characteristics and abilities. With 275 HP, and dealing 45-65 damage, the Phoenix is an excellent attacking creature. This belief is only improved by the speed and movement of this creature. Its fire breath means it can attack multiple enemies at once, great for breaking down tight, protective formation around 1 creature, and its rebirth means that the enemy will have to deal with the phoenix more than once.
The two heroes unique to the Preserve town are the Archer and the Druid. Due to its relationships and mutual beliefs, Nature can also recruit heroes from the Life town, the Knight and the Priest, as well as from the Chaos town, the Thief and the Sorcerer. Through the use of the Thief, Preserve has one of the fastest early game exploration rates in the game.
The Archer is Preserve's physical combat hero, already being proficient in archery and combat when they are recruited. Archers can compensate for the lack of ranged attackers in the Preserve army, especially if White Tigers are built, which is recommended in most cases (one may also consider Fire Elementals). Since the Archer is used primarily for combat, skills such as Combat, Archery, and Melee should be developed to make him/her a rounded hero, similar to the Barbarian. With strong combat abilities, the Archer needs fewer creatures than the faster Druid armies, but should also be aided by faster creatures like the Phoenix or Mantis (who can bind the opponent and simply let the Archer fire at will). A useful advanced class for the Archer is the Ranger, which involves learning scouting, which is a good asset for a leading army. The Ranger has +5 ranged attack and simply helps the hero become a more effective ranged attacker. The Pathfinding skill complements a Druid's tactics skill nicely for a leading army.
Druids are experts in nature magic, which focuses almost entirely around summoning creatures to minimise losses to 'real' creatures in battle. Obviously, Nature magic should be developed early with the Druid, so as to make use of extra creatures such as wolves and sprites early on in the game, and also to learn in-combat summoning spells that can make exploratory combats less costly. If Dragon Strength becomes available, this is an impetus to build Phoenixes because they focus on the physical side of combat. It may also be useful to create a second Druid that specialises in lower level spells, such as wasp swarm and quicksand, and leaves more expensive spells to the first Druid (much like in Life). Tactics is a skill vital for the Druid hero, especially if Elves are taken in the leading army (White Tigers are better, though). With the Tactic Skill, the army movement can reach upwards of 27, but learning Nature magic should be the first priority. If the second Druid hero is intended to be taken with the leading army, he/she can focus on tactics instead, though it is favourable if both have tactics to develop the Warden advanced class, which provides +10% to the melee and ranged defense of all creatures.
Premier Resources: All.
The difficulty with the Preserve town build-up, especially when buying the Magic Forest, is that all resources types - normal and precious - are required to build the Nature town's structures. Level 3 creatures require very different resources to level 4, which can be good, but also means you must search for more mines. Nature's level 3 dwelling can be built on day 4, which is very slow - equal with the Stronghold castle, though the requirements are not as high if building the Unicorn Glade. If the Griffin Cliffs are preferred, the pre-requisites become high, needing the Citadel to accommodate the purchase of Griffins. The structures themselves are similarly easy to build, and do not dictate the building of a level 4 dwelling. The construction of the Pyre is very much determined by the presence of an Alchemist's lab, though if the map itself is short on resources; it is easier to build the Pyre because the Magic Forest simply needs too many different resources. Additionally, the Pyre's pre-requisite, the Creature Portal, is the game's most influential unique structure, should be constructed as soon as possible to make use of the abundance of creatures at your disposal, although the three you are most likely to recruit are Mantises, Water Elementals, Waspworts (for the Garrison) and Fire Elementals.
Nature has 3 unique buildings, the Rainbow, the Sacred Grove, and the Creature Portal. They are the pre-requisites of the Unicorn Glade, the Tiger Den, and the Pyre respectively. The first two aren't spectacular, the Rainbow providing +2 luck (but only until the next combat) and the Sacred Grove adding 3 spell points permanently. Obviously, Nature's strength here lies in the Creature Portal. It also requires gems, as does the Unicorn Glade, so a few loose gems may be of worth in the beginning of the game - look for them especially. A gem mine is not needed since gems are used fairly sparsely in other structures, unless of course you plan to recruit Faerie Dragons, then a gem mine is a must. Additionally, gems are also required for Mantises, making the combination of Mantises/Phoenix more viable than Mantises/Faerie Dragons - too many gems are needed. The Creature Portal is a worthwhile investment - only 6500 gold for an extra recruitable creature, of a level 3 equivalent growth rate.
Standardised Build Order
Day 1: Sacred Grove
Day 2: Tiger Den
Day 3: Rainbow
Day 4: Unicorn Glade
Day 5: Creature Portal
A definite strength of the Preserve town, the availability of the Thief and swift scouts such as the Sprite allow the Preserve town to gain the early game advantage. With an adventure map movement of 29 and the no-retaliation ability, Sprites can dash in and out of attacks against neutral creature stacks (with good morale), clearing the map more quickly. The Thief hero also assists in this with the stealth ability, needed early on for collecting gems, while as the game progresses the Thief can act as a ferry or caravan for Nature troops to the leading army.
Seeing as the wolves has only 21 adventure map movement, they should be omitted from the leading army, and placed at various garrisons or taken with a defensive, patrol army, or one that is developing itself in your castles' hinterlands. Elves are fair creatures when not carried with the leading army. They simply don't move far enough to warrant them a slot in the leading army - their spot is much better occupied by a developing Druid or, in some cases, an archer. White Tigers, if you choose to take them with you in your leading army, have a movement of 24, the slowest creature. Unicorns, however, are only 1 faster at 25, so it is worthwhile having White Tigers in your leading army - they have speed and first strike that are useful for an attacking creature. The Phoenix and the Faerie Dragon are both exceedingly fast creatures, so there is no difficulty at level 4.
A harder decision arises at what creature to bring into the leading army from the Creature Portal. Undoubtedly, the Water Elemental and the Mantis are the two most useful creatures there, but one is too slow and the other requires extra gold and gems. The Water Elementals' movement is only 19, and to bring them with you, two very good tactics heroes are required. If this can be achieved, Water Elementals provide extra spell power, and with Druids and Faerie Dragons, create a powerful spellcasting army. On the other hand, Mantises are very fast and have adventure map movement of 29. They complement Sprites and ranged attackers and do not slow down the army at all. If your heroes are not well advanced in tactics or pathfinding, then Mantises should be used, while if they are well versed in these arts, Water Elementals are worth the movement penalty.