Castles II - Siege & Conquest
The Armchair Strategist's Guide: Expanded Edition
Vince DeNardo, Interplay Productions, Inc.
William C. Fisher, Quicksilver Software, Inc.
Wednesday, November 11, 1992
**Manual Correction: Adlib/Sound Blaster Music Conversion Done By
Becoming King in CASTLES II demands careful planning and resource
management. It also requires a clear understanding of the rules of
the game. This document provides a detailed explanation of how to
play the game and surmount the obstacles that will be placed before
you. It is an expanded version of the Armchair Strategist's Guide
that appears in the CASTLES II manual.
WARNING: This guide offers specific hints and playing techniques for
CASTLES II. Players who prefer to learn the subtleties of the game on
their own should not read beyond the Artificial Intelligence section
of this document.
General Playing Hints
Some subtle aspects of CASTLES II may be lost in a first reading of
the manual. These few pointers may make your first experience with
the game much more pleasant:
1. Use the right-hand mouse button to speed up the clock while waiting
for an event to occur. This works in both the Strategic and
2. Defending military forces are always approximately one-half the
size of a player's total military force. The number of soldiers that
a territory can muster in its defense, in other words, is based on the
total size of the army owned by the controlling player. To be
precise, the number of each type of unit is equal to one-half of the
number of such units in the player's army, rounding up. For example,
a player with three infantry and five archers would defend with two
infantry and three arc hers.
The defender still has an edge, however. The strength of each
individual defensive unit is adjusted upward slightly to account for
the defender's superior knowledge of the terrain. The defender also
gets to choose where the battle will be fought. This offers a
significant advantage to the clever player. Finally, the attacker
will have a very difficult time winning unless the odds are greater
than 2:1 in its favor (this includes morale, which is not immediately
measurable, just as in real life).
The battle system works both ways: when you are attacked, you defend
with half of your forces. If you lose the battle, you may then launch
a retaliatory attack on the other player, who will defend with half of
whatever forces remain after the first attack. Also, remember that
every unit lost to either player removes one unit of that type from
the player's forces. However, since the defender only fields an army
half the size of its total force, it can never be wiped out in a
single battle. The attacker, however, can be completely eliminated by
a solid defender. A counterattack after such a rout is usually
devastating to the once-proud aggressor.
The intent of this design is to encourage back-and-forth skirmishing.
It also places the greatest risk of loss on the player who has the
most to gain -- the attacker. This design applies to both the
computer players and the human players; they abide by exactly the same
rules. This includes the rule which provides at least one Infantry
and one Archer to a player with no military forces. We assume that
any territory -- human or computer -- is capable of offering some
defense to an attacker, however meager.
3. Your army's morale is based on the Happiness of your people.
Battles may be won and lost solely on morale. It has a very strong
effect on the outcome. Be sure to keep your Happiness at least as
high as that of your neighbors.
CASTLES II employs two sophisticated, multi-level artificial
intelligence engines for the computer players -- one for Strategic
mode, another for Tactical mode. Only the Strategic AI is discussed
in this analysis.
The Strategic AI consists of medium-level and high-level portions.
Actions are initiated through the same task mechanism used by the
human players. In fact, the AI players were tested by letting one of
them run the game in place of the human, even displaying results on
the same user interface.
CASTLES II was exhaustively playtested for six months. Every aspect
of the gameplay was critiqued and fine-tuned. This was an especially
complex task for the artificial intelligence routines. Many of the AI
algorithms were rewritten several times until they became satisfyingly
realistic. Fortunately, the computer players use the same tasks as
the humans. The tuning factors were based on empirical adjustments
derived from actual human playtesters. The result is a series of
opponents who play at a level equivalent to that of an expert human
player. The Easy and Impossible difficulty levels in the game were
created by adjusting delicately more than a dozen factors in the
playing style of each opponent.
The medium-level AI maintains appropriate levels of commodities and
military forces, and ensures the safety and security of the kingdom.
It issues Gather and Recruit tasks whenever it decides to increase the
level of a commodity or increase its military strength. The medium-
level AI can send Merchants (this is a good way to find out if a
computer player is experiencing a shortage of a given resource, by the
way). The medium-level AI also starts a Happiness task when the
peoples' morale drops, sends Scouts to neighboring territories, and
Polices the realm if it is being Sabotaged or Spied upon.
The medium-level AI does not think very often. During playtesting,
this AI was found to be extremely agile in its response to changing
conditions in the game -- far more agile, in fact, than any reasonable
human opponent. The frequency of its thinking was reduced to
compensate for this. One other adjustment was made. Since the
computer players do not get the benefit of plots or random events,
which often give "freebies" to the human player, the AIs were given
the ability to obtain one unit of a given resource if no units are
available in their stockpiles and the computer wants to run a task
that requires that item. This also compensates partially for problems
which arise due to their reduced frequency of thinking. This only
applies if they are completely out of that commodity. The computer
players cannot pile up large stocks of goods in this manner. Also,
they do not possess this special ability at the Easy difficulty level.
The high-level AIs handle the more complex thinking in the game. They
use a modified version of a traditional AI approach to prioritization
of their various options. This keeps them from becoming locked into
simple patterns of action. Attack, Build Castle, Saboteur, Spy, and
Diplomat are high-level AI tasks. The computer evaluates each task
based on a large number of variables. It may decide to attack a
particular territory because it contains a commodity that is in short
supply, or it may back off if it finds a castle there. It weighs all
of the possibilities and chooses the one which is the best means of
achieving its goals.
Starting the Game
At the beginning of the game, your focus should be on grabbing
territory. This cannot be done in a haphazard manner, though. Your
most important goals should be:
1. Build a solid, defensible perimeter.
2. Possess all four types of resources.
3. Crank your economy up to top speed as soon as possible.
Most of the players begin in one corner or another of the map. The
best strategy for these players is to aim for an initial size of five
or six territories. Conquer a few immediately, preferably by building
a "wall" of territories that you own, behind which may be a few that
you do not yet own but are inaccessible to the other players (the
other players cannot "leapfrog" and get to them). Then, conquer these
Territories will revolt if not subjugated by a show of force. You
must therefore begin to build castles once you control four or five
territories. Try to build just one castle, preferably in a territory
which borders every other territory that you own. If you are very
fortunate, or have planned well, the territory in which you build the
castle will have Gold as a resource. Make sure that your castle is at
least 100 points strong, so that it will prevent revolts in all
neighboring territories . The castle will not prevent revolts until
it reaches an appropriate level of completion. Be sure to start
construction early enough to ensure that your people will not revolt
before the castle reaches this critical size. One good way to speed
up the construction process is to skip the moat: it slows the
construction process significantly.
Politics also plays a critical role in the game, even at this early
stage. Make sure that your people are happy. Make sure that the Pope
likes you. And try to keep your enemies at bay by buying them off
occasionally until you can become strong enough to fight them
Once you have your initial territories under control, you may choose
any one of several approaches to the game. The game can be won
through military conquest, administrative power, or political
expertise, although the obvious military approach is the easiest.
Make a decision now as to how you wish to proceed, and stick to it as
long as possible.
The game will place far more demands on your resources than they can
support. You must decide whether to make your people happy, build
alliances with your neighbors, build castles, or build a dominant
military force. Your basic strategy choice will determine which of
these will be emphasized.
There are a few general pointers that apply to any strategy. Keep
these in mind, and you will always be in control -- as much as
possible, anyhow. And, lest you think that these pointers are not
important, just remember that the other players ARE using them.
1. Use every ability point that you have. Even if you are not running
a Military task, for example, apply the otherwise unused Military
ability points to another task, such as a Gather. This will serve the
dual purpose of increasing the speed of the gather task and giving you
the extra push toward raising your ability rating. Your Military
ability will not increase as quickly as if you were running Military
tasks, but any contribution in the right direction is helpful.
2. Stay friendly with the Pope. Monitor your relations regularly.
Remember that attacking a friend of the Pope (noted by the word
"Blessed" next to that player's name in the Council display) will
cause your relations with the Pope to decrease by one point. It is
very easy, therefore, to become excommunicated through carelessness.
3. Stay friendly, or at least on neutral terms (Relations of 4 to 6),
with your neighbors. The better your relations with them, the less
likely they are to attack or sabotage you. Also, your Merchants are
likely to get better deals if they are dealing with friendly parties.
4. Maintain a reasonable army size. Make it too small, and your
neighbors may attack when their spies discover that you are a
weakling. Make it too large, and the maintenance costs will drag down
5. Send Diplomats to "buy off" enemies who are attacking you. They
remember friendly actions and are less likely to attack if they have
reached a diplomatic agreement recently. Unfortunately, they cannot
recall armies who are already in the process of attacking, so your
Diplomat may be too late to be effective. Also, enemies remember your
hostile acts even longer than they remember the nice ones.
6. Think in terms of small campaigns. Before launching attacks, pick a
small number of territories to capture, build up your army and then
go. Don't bite off more than you can chew! After grabbing a couple of
provinces, consolidate your gains, rebuild your army and erect castles
for defense. Never get greedy, as an overextended empire crumbles very
7. Always harvest your resources. You will use them up very rapidly as
everything you do costs money and/or goods. Try to resist building a
castle until your Administrative Rating hits 5, allowing you a second
task in that category. Then keep harvesting as you build.
8. If you don't have a good mix of commodities in the territories you
own, you can still have a good economy. Try to harvest the
commodity you have the most of and then trade them for what you
need. You'll need good relations with a trading partner to pull
this off, but it works well when you don't have access to iron and
gold. Always remember that the black market is risky, but it can
help bail you out of tight situations.
Many players initially try to win the game through brute military
force. Unfortunately, being a leader means more than having the
largest army. You must also make friends with those who can be most
helpful to you. You must choose your enemies carefully. And you must
manage your realm well enough that it does not vanish in a sudden
spate of revolts. The following hints should assist the determined
1. Obtain Knights as soon as possible. Build up to a Military Ability
Rating of 6 by recruiting and attacking. Don't police your realm
unless it's essential. Take a risk in order to build up your
forces more rapidly.
2. Build just enough castles to prevent revolts. You can build them
without moats if you're in a big hurry.
3. Make sure that you have plenty of Iron and Wood initially, so that
you can build a big army. Then make sure that you have plenty of Food
and Gold to pay for these forces. If you lose them due to failure to
pay, you may very well lose the game.
4. Choose your enemies carefully. Only attack one at a time. Trying
to conquer two at once will almost certainly end in disaster. Send
plenty of Diplomats to the other player to keep him off your back.
Besides, you can get better trading terms with that player until
you're ready to attack.
5. Ambush a weak opponent. Call a Council and see who is at war with
whom. Then attack a neighbor who is busy fighting someone else.
6. Don't attack Blessed players unless you have no other choice. The
Pope will cause you a great deal of grief. You should never need
to be excommunicated.
Administrative Acumen and Political Prowess
CASTLES II may also be won through administrative might and diplomatic
savy. A player with six well-chosen territories and many castles can
prosper and win without spending enormous amounts of effort on
1. The key to an administrative victory is maintaining the happiness
of your people and becoming allies with the other players. Run
Happiness tasks and send plenty of Diplomats to your neighbors.
2. Focus on obtaining Gold territories. You will need Gold to buy off
your neighbors and the Pope.
3. Build a moderate-sized standing army. If your neighbors suspect
that you have a small army, they are more likely to attack you.
Remember that losses affect the attacker more than the defender
(since the defender will never lose more than half of his army in any
given battle), so you can do a great deal of damage to someone who
dares attack you.
4. If you get attacked, send Diplomats. If relations improve, your
opponent will temporarily be less willing to attack again. Keep up
a steady stream of Diplomats and you may be able to avert a second
5. Send lots of Merchants and Diplomats. Political Ability points are
the most difficult to achieve, but you will have plenty of time to
get them since you will be spending fewer resources on military
6. When other players like you a lot (Relations of 8 or 9), trade will
be more advantageous. You can actually make a profit on trade if
you work hard at it. Every unit in your stockpile puts you closer
7. Don't forget that your friends will turn on you when you Claim.
Relations will drop by one point with every other player. You will
suddenly be the target of numerous Saboteurs and Attacks. Be
prepared. Just before you claim, build up a substantial army with
plenty of Knights and Archers.
The goal of CASTLES II, ultimately, is to survive long enough to
become King. Once you have established your initial fiefdom, it is
time to put your overall strategy to the test. Focus on the elements
that you deem most important, as noted above. We won't tell you how
to win. There are many ways to win in CASTLES II, and part of the fun
is in discovering them for yourself. However, a few general pointers
for later in the game may be warranted:
1. Build a buffer of extra points before you Claim. Once the other
players get wind of your pending coronation, they will become
increasingly aggressive toward you. Claiming reduces relations of all
other players with you. This can pull you very rapidly into warfare.
Make sure that the loss of points due to the drop in relations, plus
the drops due to the attacks you will receive, will not be so severe
that the Pope decides not reject your claim.
2. Deciding when to Claim is a tricky decision. If you are the first
to try, everyone will take their shot at knocking you down. Waiting
for someone else to claim first is also a tricky path to follow
because you might not have enough time or power to knock him down,
and, if more players claim in the meantime, it'll turn into a free-
for-all. (Actually that becomes quite a fun endgame to be involved
in. Maybe that's not such a bad idea after all!)
Ten Sure Ways to Lose at Castles II
1. Attack two or three other players at once. Yeah, the more, the
merrier. It's fun to send troops in every direction, grabbing
territory as quickly as possible. It's fun to lose troops faster than
you can Recruit them. It's fun to beat back counterattacks every two
weeks. It's fun to restart the game every ten minutes!
2. Ignore the Pope: attack Blessed players: get Excommunicated. So
what if they are the Pope's friends? So what if eventually this gets
you Excommunicated? You're too tough to expect your people to be
happy. Besides, no iron-fisted ruler worth his garde-robe worries
about those Holy Rollers. And don't worry about the precipitous drop
in your army's morale because your people are unhappy. Your army is
three times bigger than any other in Bretagne -- at least, it was the
last time you checked. Besides, you don't need to send no stinkin'
3. Never send Diplomats. Diplomats are pansies. You kill them when
they come to you. Why send yours when Relations are always so bad
anyway? You don't need no stinkin' friends (see Merchants above).
Scorched earth --that's your style. Take no prisoners. Just build
an army and kill everyone at once. No problem. They'll never have
time to mount a counterattack. What if everybody hates you? Huh?.
What if? Are you talkin' to me?
4. Trade inefficiently: Rely on the Black Market for scarce goods.
Trade with people who hate you. Everyone is out to get you. You
have no friends, so why would you expect them to trade advantageously
with you? What's so bad about an occasional 2 :1 or 3:1 swap for
something you really need? Losing one or two units per trade doesn't
really add up to much over thirty or forty trades, anyway. Besides,
how could you possibly have planned ahead for your needs?
5. Let your army starve or go without paychecks. Why, when you were in
the military you went six, seven years without eating. Yeah, and when
you ate all you had to eat were rocks. Yeah, and when you got paid
you got paid in sticks. Yeah, and they were wet too! After all, you
only lose one military unit on the first delay. Why should you care
if it's your best unit? You have more Knights than you can use,
don't you? And don't worry about the fact that you lose double the
units after every further delay. You have more important concerns
than maintaining an army.
6. Ignore a commodity because it's not important. Who needs Food,
except to feed the army, recruit Knights, and make people happy? Who
needs Timber, except to build castles, recruit Archers, and make
people happy? Who needs Iron, except to build castles and recruit
Infantry? Nobody needs Gold, right? Right? ... Well, gold maybe ...
7. Don't build castles. The name of the game is CASTLES II. But that
has nothing to do with it. You're too busy conquering neighboring
territories to worry about those pesky revolts. And who needs double
commodities anyway? (see above) And you can always reconquer the
territories you lose. Your neighbors would never even think about
trying to capture a neutral territory that was once yours. And how
much protection can you really get from a pile of stone? Ten archers
posted on the walls can't possibly be very useful. Why would you ever
imagine that they might be safer up there, or might be able to shoot
arrows further? And what possible advantage could there be to
protecting all of your Infantry and Knights from enemy Archers?
8. Never, ever Claim the throne. Why try to win, when you can have
lots of fun getting beaten to a bloody pulp year after year?
Masochism builds character. No, even better. Claim early. Just as
soon as your score creeps up to 7001. Yeah, that'll show everyone
just what you think of them. Those sniveling, wimps.
9. Change strategies every year or so. Yeah, keep duckin' and weavin'.
Bobbin' and dopin'. Move slowly and in different directions all the
time. Those computer players won't know what to do. Who needs to
focus on a consistent strategy? Planning never worked for Wile E.
10. Never send Scouts and Spies. Never call a Council. Why bother
looking at your neighbors? They aren't planning any hostile actions.
You're perfectly happy with two or three territories on the wrong side
of the river. You never worry when a new neighbor shows up. He
couldn't possibly have fifteen military units poised on your border, a
Happiness of 9, and a serious need for elbow room. So what if Aragon
just marched all the way to Albion's part of the map? He can't
possibly be winning the game. In fact, nobody else could possibly be
doing better than you. Just ignore them. You always win on
Impossible level, anyway.
Always Remember! If you lose, it's dumb luck, the computer cheats, you
hit the wrong key by mistake, and you took your eyes off the computer
to catch the replay of Brett Hull's hat trick. Good day, eh?