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Hills Divide Us

Here's a different strategy which is even more effective. The key here is early aggression - if you can steal your opponent's wildmen before they get to them you will weaken him and gain an early advantage. Every wildman you convert is one less he can have - you gain a two-follower advantage. But you have to work fast. As soon as your shaman appears, set a path for her through the pass to the opposite side of the hills, using waypoints (if you try to send her directly, she'll go over the hills, which will reduce your conversion opportunities on your own side en route). As she moves off, convert any wildmen within range and then set your followers building a warrior and a preacher training hut. Get back to the shaman and turn off 'blast' as soon as she has one shot but leave 'convert' charging and use it to convert any groups of wildmen which come within range as she moves.

Aim however to have at least two shots of 'convert' by the time you arrive at the other side. Check out where the other shaman is (using orbit view). As soon as you get within range of the 'enemies' wildmen, convert the largest groups. If you are playing a newbie, he may not even realize what has happened! You then have three choices. You can take them with you and attack the opposing shaman; or you can try to sneak back with your spoils, converting the any remaining wildmen as you go; or you can use them to attack the enemy village alongside your shaman.

If, however, the other player is experienced, she may be doing exactly the same as you, in which case your shamans will meet in the pass! If that happens, fight to the death - whoever wins the battle will probably be able to recruit all the wildmen on both sides and then attack your village in force - a 5 minute victory. In a shaman duel, you will be evenly matched with only one or two blast spells each, so it will come down to fisticuffs in the end, so get some help. Call up some of your braves and send them into the fray (or convert some new ones). Even a few braves could be enough to tip the balance so it's worth the sacrifice.

As soon as the outcome of the battle is decided, get back to your village and train up some preachers and warriors and get them into the opposing village in groups of 1 preacher plus 1 warrior, and split them so that they go to different parts of the village (use shift-left click to stop them from being intercepted on the way). Take your shaman along as well, as soon as you can. Even if the opposing shaman won the duel, she will have no spells charged, and her defenders will be vulnerable to preachers who will help to replenish your numbers.

This seems to work better, as I usually make it to the mid-game now, but then I get wiped out by bands of shielded, and often invisible, preachers. The only defense for this that I can think of is to have plenty of preachers on your own side, so that your followers can deal with the invaders without the shaman's help. And, of course, training lots of preachers is a necessary prerequisite for using the attack on your enemy, so it has an element of inevitability about it. When attacking, it pays to mix a few warriors in with the preachers so that they have a better chance in the inevitable punch-ups which follow.

Don't forget that Populous is played on a sphere, not a flat map. On this map, it means that the two Reincarnation Site are actually quite close together - across the water. Once you get to the mid-game, make sure that you charge up Land Bridge (if it is available) so that you can attack your enemy from behind, and make sure you design your defenses so that you don't get wiped if he does the same to you first.

Another interesting mid-game technique (for red) is to build 3 - 4 towers on the hill nearest your Reincarnation Site and put firewarriors in them. You can then build some huts on the 'enemy' side of the hill under their protection. This will allow you to steal some of his wood, and divert his attention away from your main village, where your training huts are. It doesn't work so well for blue, because blue can't cross the hill - the followers have to go through the pass. On the other hand, blue has more trees, so has a building advantage.

Another mean tactic is to use your shaman to fry some of the trees on the enemies side of the hills using blast. (Go for the trees, rather than piles of wood, because 1 tree = 4 woodpiles.) That allows you to build a bigger village.

I've written about this map at length to show you how my strategy has evolved with more experience. There probably is an optimum strategy in most circumstances, but it will often depend on what your opponent is doing too, so you have to be prepared to adapt as you go along. That's the fun thing about strategy - there are often many paths to success. One thing's for sure though: if you don't have a strategy or plan from the outset, you'll be easy meat for an opponent who does, even if his strategy is not a particularly good one.

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