HOMM3 Guide - Combat Tips

Combat tips could be divided into several categories:

  1. Using knowledge of computer intelligence
    [This is a non-combat section with tips on how to initiate battles ;-)]
    A few basics can be put there, anyway... Typically, when a strong hero approaches your castle and you want him stalled for one turn in order yo get your main force home for defense, you may buy a few sacrificers... but in order to make the computer hero attack those weaklings, they usually have to be put only one or two squares aside from the computer hero's expected path... if they're any further off his course, he will simply ignore them and go after the castle.

  2. Always make sure you KNOW, what army will play next. The rules are these:
    1. First comes speed. If there's a stack that is faster than any other, it plays first.
    2. When both sides have stacks of same speed, in the first round the attacker gets the first move. In castle defenses, however, the defending party has first strike (as the attacker was preparing siege)
    3. If both sides have stacks of same speed, the rounds go zig-zag. Once all stacks of that speed have moved, next lower speed army moves and if both sides have that speed in their ranks, then again moves side, that hadn't had made the last move.
    4. On every side, armies with same speed play in order of appearance on the screen, when the battle begun. So, if you have two armies of the same speed, the ORIGINALLY upper plays always sooner, even if it moves below the other army.
    5. The 'wait' function needs some explaining. A unit that uses 'wait' in it's regular turn will have to play within the battle turn. After ballistas on both sides fire, a sub-turn for waiting creatures begins, following all the rules about speeds and zig-zagging, but the speeds go in reversed order, from slowest to fastest creatures, So that the fastest creatures play last.

  3. Always try to use appropriate targets in order to attend your goals.
    Your goals may be one of the following:
    1. winning the battle at any cost
    2. causing maximum damage (i.e. defending a captured castle)
    3. winning with no losses
    4. not letting enemy flee.

    There's a different way to each of those goals, but most of them require you to know exactly the order of play, as well as to know approximately the damages that your and enemy stacks can cause. And it's good to be able to actually count the expected damage, because knowing that a particular stack of yours is able to kill an enemy may be important when deciding i.e. which spell to cast or where to move the stack... and in these cases, you simply cannot get the help on the status line... Note that if you turn on 'all statistics' or 'spells only', it will along with displaying the requested information, show a context-sensitive help on damage. That is, if you put your cursor over an enemy you are able to attack, it will show you, how much damage will your unit cause.
    Order of play is important for one more thing. If i.e. both you and opponent have some shooters of the same speed, you'll have to determine, if yours will play sooner, and if so, you can direct your other attacks to other enemy units (assuming that your shooters will cripple enemy shooter stack enough to cause you no casualities).

  4. Combat rules:
    How the damage is counted?
    DAM= (1+((A-D)*X))) * A_count * RND_damage

    In words: Number of attackers times damage caused by a single unit [this one is the only random factor - damage lies somewhere within damage range] times modifier based on Attack skill of Attacker and Defense skill of defender
    Value of X: X equals 0.05 if A is bigger than D, which means that the damage is increased by 5% for every point between A and D X equals 0.02 if D is bigger than A, so damage is decreased by 2% for every point between D and A.

  5. Try to get to know your enemies as well as your units.
    Memorize most units' HPs and other numbers and be able to estimate, how much damage will your armies deliver, in order to use them most effectively.
    In the battle, always keep an eye on current state of any unit, especially the number of HPs. If the stack with badly wounded unit can get out of enemy range, try it. If you can finish a badly wounded enemy dragon or another big beast, do it. Two dragons, if which one has miserable 5 HPs left, still do damage of two dragons. If you have two stacks with equal HPs left, always sacrifice the one that you need less. (It's always better to lose a minotaur than a dragon.)

  6. Remember counterstrike rules!
    Any close range attack is retaliated, but every unit retaliates only once every turn (see exception list below). So, if your enemy has a strong stack, you'll want to either attack with a stack strong enough that attacked enemy will be too weak to cause losses of your units, or sacrifice a small, cheap unit to waste enemy retaliation.
    Any fast unit will do for that trick - or, with use of 'wait', slower units may do so - let the main stack wait and when the enemy gets near, attack with some expendable unit, then in 'waiting' turn with the main stack.

  7. Learn the ways computer fights:
    The AI has a complex targeting algorithm, far better than HOMM2. It goes after the most threatening enemies, where the threat may not be immediate. A good example would be computer shooters targeting a huge troglodyte army at your starting line, while their shooters could attack manticores that will be able in the next turn to score damage. [In general, attacking weaker armies is easier - you score bigger damage due to their lower defense and low-level armies are in fact very powerful, measured by damage/HP rating.] I haven't done any thorough testing, but AI seems to pick targets so that the damage potential of your armies is lowered as much as possible.
    Knowing what the AI's going to do can help a lot in defeating it.

  8. Use special abilities to your full advantage.
    I'm talking mainly about two-field attacks (dragons), and I'm talking about yours as well as your enemy's. Two-field attacks can be used against enemy, if they happen to stand on the wrong place.
    Since many armies have specials now, I will deal with them individually.

  9. Tricks battling computer heroes
    Computer controlled heroes follow some patterns in their battle behaviour (as well as non-battle behaviour, see below. Usually, if an enemy hero has some artifacts, he'll try to flee, when the battle turns bad for him, preferrably after smashing a lightning bolt into your stack of shooters. So, try to do your best and plan your crushing attack in a way that will not allow computer to flee. [Usually this means letting him come closer and then smashing all his units in counter attack... here comes very handy good usage of spells, knowledge od abilities, order of playing units and careful planning, using effectively your damage-causing capabilities. Also, using the 'Wait' is crucial here - even at the cost of letting enemy shooters fire first. If enemy walkers all spend their turns, while all your armies were waiting, you now may have two attacks with each army that is faster than at least one enemy army. See more in class dependant strategies]

  10. Order and sizes of stacks
    Unless you have to, never place your shooters next to each other - this way you allow enemy units to block two units at once. Of course, since your units are automatically spread on the battlefield, you actually CAN have them next to each other in the hero army slots, but you'll soon find out where is any particular army placed if n of the seven slots are used.
    Always try to have your shooters at both ends of screen, with the strong protective walkers in the middle. Generally position your walkers so that they could possibly protect most of other units.
    Always line up your troops wisely, using knowledge about your enemy and speed of his units, but don't count too much about AI stupidity - the computer now tries to not expose his armies to your units unless he has to - and he manages pretty well to sometimes move units less far out than they could. So, do the same - stay out of range of your enemy, if you're faster than him and therefore he is in your range.

  11. Spell Casting - combat spells
    • Before casting a combat spell, always think carefully what will your casting cause. Remember the following:
    • Sometimes a non-offensive spell on your unit will give you better results, than an offensive on enemy. Casting Bloodlust on 10 Titans will kick your damage by 15%, which can often bring much more, than an offensive, direct damage spell. (Applies especially for heroes with low Power)
    • This applies also to non-offensive spells cast on enemy units! Disrupting ray can also decide a hard battle, because strong slow units like hydras or ogres are a pain in the ass in big numbers, but once their defense is set to 1 with no possible cure, any good attack acts as a pain reliever ;-) I personally won MANY battles by casting disrupting rays instead of lightning bolts (but that was back in HOMM2).
    • Generally, you should be able to estimate what spell will have bigger impact on the enemy. Just count up your damage capabilities and compare this number, multiplied by the Attack modifier, with the damage that would your offensive spells deal to the enemy.
    • If you can afford it, let the enemy cast first. Usually it's better to be able to remove enemy spells efect. I.e. a curse on 20 titans is worth removing by a bless. However, the AI has become much wiser about when and what to cast - and until you learn his thinking, you'd better watch out for some nasty well-timed blinds.
    • Remember that your spell casting can often cause a reaction from the AI. This covers all non-offensive spells: Blinding, cursing or slowing an enemy unit can force the AI to cast Haste, Bless, or even AntiMagic to remove your spell. Sometimes this is better, than letting the enemy fry your shooter stack with a 300 worth of lightning bolt, but sometimes an attempt to slow down the most threatening enemy stack results in this stack playing far sooner than it regularly would - and getting to your units, too!
    • Use Blinds, Hastes and Slows wisely! Always be sure to know, what impact on play order will your spells have. If you know that you'll wipe four of five enemy stacks within the first turn and without computer moving, be sure to cast a Blind on his last stack.
      Since any stoned/blinded unit will get it's play in the same turn that it was attacked, the only way to use a Blinding combo is to have at least TWO stacks faster than the blinded unit. Once the enemy is blinded, all but one of your faster armies can attack, but the last faster army of yours must be used to cast the blind again and skip go.
    • Rules for using haste are much simpler, because you'll have to slay the enemy before his regular move comes. (Haste will not only let you play sooner, but extend your range! Always remember that and use it wisely. Especially hasted very fast profit from that!] One of the most profitable uses of Haste is: Play the battle without spells until your massive army (esp. Skeletons or Ogre Lords) get their turn. By that time, many of enemy units have moved. If you cast Haste right now, your strike stack will be able to reach many enemy units AND, in the next turn (if you have spell power greater than 1) they'll be probably among the faster units. Thus, you have two sequential strikes with a very offensively oriented stack. Be careful with Expert Air magic - once you get it, you cannot cast Haste on a single stack and therefore you won't be able to change the order of play like you could in HOMM2.
    • Slow is usually better, but on the basic level the reduction is only 25%.
    • Use offensive spells to cause maximum damage. It means:
      1. Don't cast a 300 Lightning bolt on a stack with 50 HPs, unless you really NEED to kill it! Use magic arrow instead, or bolt something else, that will suffer the whole 300 damage!
      2. Always know which enemy stack means bigger danger to your armies. A nice example would be my favorite: One titan has 300 HPs. 76 Master gremlins have 296 HPs. Your unit has D=4, so the titan will score ( 40 - 60 ) * ( 1 + ( 24 - 4 ) * .05 ) = ( 40 - 60 ) * 2 = 80 - 120 damage. The master gremlins will score ( 1 - 2 ) * ( 1 + 0 ) * 76 = 76 - 152 damage. So the gremlins are bigger threat. On the other hand, there are cases, when the numerous stacks of poor creatures, such as centaurs, mean much lesser threat than a stack with the same HP total, consisting of i.e. very fast and quite strong minotaurs etc. [You should take into consideration whom will the possible targets of your magic attack - sometimes the shooters would cause damage, while the walkers would kill - if the minotaur kings cannot get to titans, they might decimate your gremlins, while the centaurs would only damage your titans.]

  12. Fighting shooters
    If there are wandering armies of shooters, think before you attack them. You should always bear in mind how much damage your armies can sustain without losses, how much damage the enemy can deal to you. Think well about order of play, spell casting etc.
    Be prepared to take some losses as your slower flyers will not make it to the other side in one turn. Use wait here - although you might have wasted morale boost, you stayed out of range of the shooters - and they scored only half the damage - then you fly towards them in waiting turn and in the next turn get at them. It also helps to bring along some cheap expendable shooters to take damage instead of the flyers (or vice versa, depends on which army do you value more.)
    During the play, keep an eye on damage to your armies. (Sometimes it's i.e. wiser to NOT attack with the flyers, coz you save damage from retaliation - use this rule, if you wouldn't kill at least half of the enemy stack.) Also, sometimes it's wiser to NOT attack blocked shooters, if you have an army with the same speed as those shooters, that wants to attack some others... sometimes it's crucial that a particular damaged and blocked stack is alive so that another enemy's army of the same speed will NOT get opportunity to play before your unit of the same speed.
    Before fighting shooters, divide strong stacks of shooters, too. You don't need 20 zealots to attack 5 archers, it's better to attack 2x5 archers with two stacks of ten zealots.
    If you have fast flyers, divide them to block the enemy. Griffins and rocs do best here. Gargoyles too, since they're expendable.
    Blocked shooters will NOT sheepishly stand in one place and fight - once they're forced to hand-to-hand combat, they behave like standard walkers, if they sense that they could kill. Otherwise they might try to outrun your blocking units and get an unblocked shot, but that's very rare.

  13. Fighting flyers
    Unless the flyers are of speed 11+, they won't get at in the first turn, so treat them like walkers.
    The best fit againts dragons and their two-hex attack is a single big stack of hydras, boosted by spells. The AI has learned how to use two-hex attack against multiple units, so if you have to fight dragons, be careful to not have your troops any close to each other.

  14. Fighting walkers
    here are a few good tricks against walkers:
    Use 'wait' often - especially if the walkers are out of the full-damage range of your shooters and will come into this range in this turn. Also your walkers/flyers should wait even if they can attack.
    When fighting walkers with your armies that contain mainly shooters, take mental notes on how much damage you cause to the enemy stacks. Especially if the enemy walkers are of the same speed as some of your units. The trick is: Sometimes it's wiser to let a damaged stack that is closing on your shooters to attack those shooters. If they're of the same speed, this stack will attack them, die in retaliation and those shooters then can go shooting at another stack.

  15. Concentrate your firepower
    As in most strategy games, even here works the approach of taking the enemies out one by one. Here the thing is based on the fact that all enemies except griffins retaliate only after first attack.
    The only exception is fighting (mostly wandering) shooters, which should be (in most cases) taken out simultaneously to prevent them from shooting at you at all. Enemies led by a hero are a bit more dangerous, because the simultaneous approach can cause losses to walkers and flyers. But sometimes those losses are a fair cost for protection of your shooters.

  16. Prevent the enemy from concentrating his firepower.
    Always try to determine the primary and secondary target of your enemy and IF the secondary target is either less important or more durable, try to let the least possible amount of enemies attack the primary one.
    And how to prevent enemies from going after their primary target? There are two different situations:
    1. The enemy are walkers/flyers with the primary target still out of their range. In that case you need to move any unit into their range, while keeping the primary target out of their range. The AI rule of attacking whenever possibly will force them to go after the bait unit.
    2. The enemy are walkers/flyers with the primary target in their range. In that case the only remedy is surrounding targeted troop with other units. Best in this task are fast two-hex creatures. Just place the primary target into first or last slot and the two-hex unit right beside it. If the two-hex unit plays before the enemy flyers, move it as close to the primary target as possible, from below/up. Thus, you'll leave only one free hex to attack the primary target from. If another unit of yours still plays before the enemy fliers, you can move it onto that last free hex in front of your shooter. Thus all the enemies will have to go after the secondary target.
      Also remember that Tactics skill is just for this - you can arrange your troops so that the shooters are completely covered even before the battle starts. But watch out for area-damage spells (and liches/Dragons).

  17. War machines
    • Ballista - can be bought for 2500 gold at War Machine factory and in some towns' Blacksmith. At the end of each battle round, is can inflict ranged damage (2-3)x(hero's Attack +1). With Artillery skill they become player-controlled, they shoot twice and have greater chance to deal double damage. Worth buying for stronger heroes.
      Ballistas quite often attract AI, especially wandering stacks. Quite often the Ballista is much lesser threat to them than other your units, but the AI will still attack the war machine. So, if your scouts are to be used for mine-clearing only, buy them a ballista - with it's durability it will be more worth than 2500 worth of other units.
    • Catapult - each hero has one automatically. They're deployed only in castle sieges and have massive HP rating. When defending a castle, if the enemy posesses no/weak flyers, it could be a good strategy to wait with your fast flyers one round and then eliminate the catapult - you can then put a book on the 'space' key and go make yourself a cup of tea - the castle towers will do all the work ;-)
    • First Aid Tent - can be bought for 750 gold at War Machine factory and in some towns' Blacksmith. Can heal top unit of a stack. With First Aid skill becomes player-controlled and increases it's effectivenes. I rarely pick that skill and I buy the tent only when I have to use some higher-level creatures alone.
    • Ammo Cart can be bought for 1000 gold at War Machine factory and in some towns' Blacksmith. Provides unlimited ammo for range attackers. Only Medusas really need it.
    When equipping your heroes with war machines, bear in mind that all of them can be targeted, which will give enemy area-attackers (Magogs and liches) a good opportunity to score three hits in one round. When approaching enemies with these armies, you might want to reposition your troops (and maybe give the machines to some secondary hero) so that the troops that would stand next to those machines will move sooner than the enemy area-shooters.

  18. Defending castles
    If you have one fast flyer (i.e. Dragon Flies or something else that can get to the other side of the battlefield) and the enemy has some shooters, DON'T attack in first turn - rather 'wait'. The shooter will score some damage, but all the nearby walkers will likely proceed towards the castle walls. In the end of turn, your waited flyer will attack the shooters and at start of the next turn, you have two options - either pull the flyer back behind the castle walls (if the shooter has been harmed enough), or attack again (or block only). The decision may depend on the position of those walker armies - if they could reach you, consider the losses. If they CAN'T reach you, stay there, because they'll try anyway - I often lure three walkers away from the castle walls, only to retreat with the flyer in the next turn. The walkers head for the castle again and I repeat the process.
    Your shooters will usually score more damage to those units that are closing on you. Units in moat are more vulnerable than others, too, and in SOD they even take damage every turn. (But, in SOD they don't get into the moat until the castle walls get breached.)
    If an enemy walker/flyer gets inside the walls and blocks your shooter, try to 'wait' with the shooter and wipe the blocker out with your walkers.
    When picking targets, try shooters in the first round, but if any fast/medium flyer is present, let your shooters wait to let it close and then attack, since the flyer can be more dangerous (enemy shooters suffer from both distance and castle walls penalty, thus scoring only 25% of their regular damage.)
    When using fast walkers like Centaur Captains, remember that if you 'wait' in one turn, you can run outside the walls, attack somebody and in next turn retreat back behind the walls, if they're slower than you.
    Unlike battles in open terrain, your strategy should be to keep as many enemy troops alive as you can. This applies especially for walkers (flyers and shooters can be killed swiftly, if they pose a threat). If you distribute damage from your shooters and spells among all enemy walkers, the enemy will have four or five small armies that will cause him a lot of trouble - blocking each other's access to collapsed castle walls, and once they get in, causing smaller damage and again blocking each other's way.)
    A classical example is computer behaviour when all his walkers have assembled in the moat. When his catapult destroys one wall section in front of a slower troop, all the fast ones will run out of the moat and move closer to the opening. The slow troop will play last. If some faster units have waited, the slow troop could move away and the faster unit would later in the 'waited moving' phase occupy it's place and in the next turn break loose into the castle. But since the fast unit didn't wait, it is now standing somewhere behind the moat and will need extra turn to get into the moat again.
    In SOD, the behaviour will be different, since units will not enter moat before the walls are down... yet once they are down, the troops will amass themselves in close area, again.