EA Machaka is an interesting nation, because as fits thematically
your most powerful mages are not the titular Lion Kings, but rather
those eyes gleaming out of the darkness that you can’t quite make out.
Your troops are seldom going to carry the day, upkeep is going to be a
problem, and you’re always going to be hungry. If you learn to think
like a hyena though, your opponents will never see you coming - as they
focus on the distraction and look the wrong way you circle around to
hamstring the nominally stronger opponent that you know by another name.
Meat. EA Machaka channels the hunger of the hyena and is ravenous, so
let’s see where dinner is.
Before I get to the main course let’s start with some appetizers. You’ve got access to slightly above average elephants, with boosted morale. Elephants can usually be leveraged into a solid initial expansion before you look any further on your roster but you’ve got some other good options to keep in the rotation. Rhino clan warriors are your best option for holding a line (you can switch in lion clan if you’re short on resources), and are generally going to be your goto recruitable troop for most of the game. They’re not great at dealing damage, but with their length 5 Machaka spear (good for repelling), they’re fairly effective at expansion. War lions are a bit of a glass cannon, but can certainly be worthwhile to consider investing in to give your initial expansion a boost. Let a line of Rhino clan take all the attention while war lion flankers do the damage. Lions will die, but you’ll grab territory. Decent archers (stick with bird clan in most situations) give you a good option for indies that need that – once again your good Rhino clan can tie up barbs/lizards/etc while you pepper them with arrows. All in all, you really shouldn’t have much trouble leveraging these tools into a brisk expansion.
You’ve got several troops which are situationally useful, but should not be recruited by default. Spider clan (spears and bows) can be useful if you find yourself in a situation that poison is particularly effective (non-regenerating tough guys) but in general are not cost effective. Similarly spider riders are too expensive to always have in the rotation, but their web spit can prove very effective in some situations (W9 blessed sacreds). Pygmies may seem like the obvious choice to put the maximum number of arrows in the air once you get flaming arrows/destruction, but keep in mind that they have considerably lower range, a map move of 2 (most of your stuff is 3), and a morale of 6 – which puts them into the situationally useful category. One good volley of enemy archer fire will often send them scattering, but if you just want to pelt the crap out of Neifels from point blank range with as many burning missiles as possible - these are your guys. Which brings us to your Lion Warriors. Lion warriors occupy that too-common spot as sacreds which really need a good blessing to shine, but aren’t quite good enough to justify investing in a good blessing. With a good blessing they can be pretty nasty, but they’re never going to be at the level of the top notch sacreds and thus make a poor basket to put those eggs in. Still, even without a blessing they can be pretty darn useful. You won’t be using them as your front line, but high-ish attack value with a magic weapon and a regeneration-foiling stun damage means there’s a much larger niche for this situational troop. With a couple buffs these guys will take down almost anything that doesn’t kill them too fast – popping mistform, pummeling through protection, and piling fatigue damage up on those regenerating giants. One nasty combo is to use them in conjunction with spider riders (both have a move of 13 so stick together on the battlefield). If you script it right the bad guys get pinned in place by webs then have the snot pummeled out of them by those magic clubs. Not much will stand up to that, and you don’t even need a mage or priest. Remember though, lion warriors just don’t really impress against “standard” front line troops, and are going to be whittled down relatively fast by enemy archers. Keep some in the rotation, but don’t plan them as the core of your army. The good news is that your troops don’t generally need to carry the day by themselves. [Lion royalty]
Lion king/queens are not bad at all, and are fairly straightforward. Big N to buff, big F to burn, a splash of E for utility and good leadership. Wooden warriors really extends the staying power of Rhino clan and Lion Warriors. Haste also can help keep your Lion Warriors from getting whittled down, and will catapult war lions straight across the battlefield even in a storm. Methed up war lions combo quite excellently with iron bane (toss in rage of the cornered rat, strength of giants too as well as weapons of sharpness if appropriate), and can quite realistically result in a turn one route before the enemy mages get a single action – particularly if you stack on the panic/terror (more on that in a minute). Not bad for resource 1 troops you can crank out at a moment’s notice – I did mention EA Machaka is ravenous, right? Also pay special attention to sleep cloud – it’s a great combo with skellispam against tough/regenerating guys (more on that in a bit). Other prime targets to leverage your lion royalty on the battlefield are relief & howl (to supplement your skellispam) as well as the obvious fire evocations. Off of the battlefield there are a couple interesting options for spamming out some less common troops. It makes a lot of sense to pass out a couple ivy crowns and steadily crap out vine ogres with some N3 lion kings. Those big hitpoint sinks synergize pretty nicely with several of the tactics you’ll be using, mostly just giving another wall of stuff your enemies need to climb over while the skeletons pile up. If you’re using a balancing mod which brings the dragon master spell down to a reasonable level it also makes sense to cast it with a Lion King, give him a dragon staff (forged for a discount by a Bouda) and crap out some fire drakes. Fire drakes are a great example of something I’ll be talking more about – skellibombs. Simply put, these are things that aren’t super impressive by themselves, intended to be mixed in with a stream of skellispam to become considerably more effective than either component was by itself. In the case of fire drakes they’ll waddle up while your enemy is trying to chew through the skeletons, and burninate everybody – with (hopefully) fresh skeletons walking up into the gap to keep the flamethrowers unmolested. Not a bad thing to put in your rotation if you can leverage 4 for 7 gems (dragon master + dragon staff). This is also a good way to deploy some Lion Warriors – buffed and mixed in with skeletons they have a bit more staying power while having the muscle to pull down the big prey that might carve up skeletons. [Sorcerers] Spider clan sorcerers & witch doctors you probably won’t use too much, but they are useful for the D/N combo. You’re always going to have a need for more N and D gems than you have, but consider investing in a few skull standards and war effigies. The skull standards will go a long way towards letting you spam overlapping fear effects *and* dropping a bunch of evocations rather than either/or. War Effigies can be a very effective tool for keeping your opponent off balance, and synergize very well with the skulking, stealthy hyena tactics you’ll be focusing on. Each War Effigy makes the army in that province look like its 50 larger than it is. It’s effective even if the unit holding it is hiding (it doesn’t need to be held by the troop’s commander), and multiple effigies do stack their effects if they’re on different people (doesn’t stack with multiple on the same person). In addition to the obvious use of tricking your opponent into deploying his troops in the wrong place, it’s also useful to trick your opponent into deploying the wrong counters. An opponent who’s brought tools to fight the hoard of elephants and archers he sees is more likely to be poorly equipped for your iron bane/war lion or lion warrior/spider rider combos. The hyena witch doctor can cure diseases, so don’t forget about that, but generally outside of your cap you’re going to want to mostly recruit…. [The Hyenas]
Bouda are non-sacred, cause unrest, are heretical, and are slow to recruit…and damn I love them. Were it not for these drawbacks they might well be the best recruit anywhere mage in the game. As it is, they’re awesome enough to form the core of your strategy despite the fact that all that unrest & dom killing is a good part of the reason why you’ve got a hunger that’s never sated. You’re going to have less gold than you expect, you can’t patrol (for spies/scouts) without killing population due to unrest, and you’ll probably have to build extra temples just to prop up your dominion against all those heretics. So what makes them worth all this effort? [Forging]
They do *so* many things really well. You’ll want the lion royalty for a bit of extra utility, but honestly you could make do with Bouda filling every mage role you need. They’ve got a forge bonus, and can forge dwarven hammers, fire brands, golden shields, armor of knights, skull staffs, skull mentors, lightless lanterns, earth boots, fire in a jar, lantern shields, and banefire xbows. You’ll literally never have enough of almost every one of those things, so you’ve got an embarrassment of options on where to spend your gems. It’s a good problem to have. Invest in an above average number of dwarven hammers, you’re gonna be forging a lot with this nation. [Skeletons]
Bouda certainly compete for the title of best skellispammers in the game. One third of them have D3. Give him a skull staff, messenger boots & a girdle of might, summon earthpower and you can very nearly spam Hoard of Skeletons indefinitely. It’s really astounding how many skeletons pile up with just one caster who doesn’t quit - but with one third of your Bouda being D3 and a (forge bonus boosted) modest investment of gems will leave you with several of these guys and a stream of undead that is extremely hard to climb over – even before you start leveraging skellibombs. Speaking of which, Bouda are not tough enough to thug in a traditional sense – mere high PD will usually stop a solo, kitted Bouda. Mixed among a hoard of skeletons so they don’t get surround though is a very different story. Fire brand, golden shield, armor of knights, messenger boots, earth power, iron skin, (phoenix pyre, soul vortex, fire shield) and they’ll do a considerable job stiffening up your skeletal lines. Consider investing in a horror helm as well if you’re leveraging a fear strategy. Another good skellibomb is fire elementals. A cheap fire in a jar is a poor man’s bottle of living water, only for fire elementals. Having a couple F2 Bouda (or lion queens, of course) phoenix power, summon fire elemental, fireball X3 while a couple skellispammers do their thing will ruin plenty of guy’s days. Sure your elemental is gonna burn a couple skeletons and fatigue a bunch more – but who cares? One really useful thing about fire elementals (the big ones, at conj 5) is that they do a great job stopping tramplers – which are one of the prime counters to skellispam you’ll hit early on. Aside from that their heat aura dramatically accelerates how quickly your opponents fatigue out chopping skeletons. You might also consider tossing a few hill giants in as skellibombs – they’ll stop tramplers dead and their grab and swallow attack can be fun. You can mix fire elementals in with hill giants (and other things) if you drop a flame ward – at which point you really don’t have much to fear from trampling. Depending on what you’re fighting, another skellibomb to consider are ghosts. They’re a little on the expensive side, but a small group buffed with iron/marble warriors then supported with panic/terror spam while mixed in the waves of skeletons can be a pretty hard to deal with.
This works well with those cheap banefire xbows too – decay plus
routing equals bad news (for your enemy). Ghost are stealthy, which works out well with your stealthy shape shifted Bouda – consider investing in some heavy raider squads, particularly if you’re venturing into a cold dominion. Heat from Hell can work nice with your skellispam, and even rigor mortis because of the crazy reinvigoration you’re sporting. You want to be careful not to ie clog up a fort’s gate with skeletons knocked out by heat from hell, but if you add in Relief you’ll be fine. [Blasting stuff] Lobbing fireballs over the skeletons heads can be plenty effective, but this is small potatoes when you want to lay the evocations down. One third of your Bouda are E3, with optional earthboots and summon earthpower that’s E5 for really nasty magma eruptions that don’t stop, or blade wind, or destruction as appropriate. While we’re talking about laying the smacketh down I’d also like to point out that those D4 guys kitted for skellispam switch hit over to bane fire, cloud of death, and drain life. Another nasty, nasty thing to do is script those mini thug Bouda to barf out Flame Eruptions from near-ish the front line. It’s an absolutely devastating spell that doesn’t get much use because of its range, but once you see it in action you’ll fall in love. You can rain an enormous cataclysm down on the poor guys who thought the hard part was figuring out how to get past all those skeletons. [Skulking about] This is another point by itself – all this wonderfulness I just laid out is on a recruit anywhere, stealthy chassis. You can be everywhere, and your opponent won’t see you coming. Bouda may not be able to thug in the tradition sense, but working in pairs (one skellespammer with one light thug to catch any arrows and supplement the skeletons in melee) will conquer almost any PD. Look for opportunities to leverage your sneakiness to cut off your opponent’s retreat while hammering them with fear effects. This where those skull standards are useful – it’s hard to recommend casting terror when you can drop bane fire or magma eruption, but devastating evocations *plus* panic spam is pretty difficult to resist. Let forth that terrifying cackle and bite the heels of those who flee! Bouda are tough enough to be a little resistant to rain of stones/earthquake, but consider sticking armor of knights on your skellespammers if you’re expecting this is a possibility. Extra encumbrance beats being dead – and you’ll still be plenty effective. Having well armored Bouda spamming never ending skeletons while you've preemptively blocked trampling (and maybe forged a storm staff with your pretender?) can be a damn tough thing to break through. Plus this lets you do fun things like dropping earthquake a couple times yourself before cranking out the skeletons. More good things to leverage are lantern shields and willow wisps, along with Howl to supplement your skellispam strategy. A few turns chasing wisps/wolves around goes a long way towards getting your skeleton hoard up to critical mass – time is almost always on your side. A couple castings of Creeping Doom can also help this process along. Outside of potentially your pretender or getting a lucky indie find you’ve not got access to astral or air, which leaves a painful gap in your strategic flexibility (you can squeeze a taste of astral out of specters, but it’s just a taste). This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that Bouda are recruit anywhere, so try to leverage the fact that you can shuttle magic items instantly around and use your stealth and combat summons to have effective armies appear out of nowhere. Use those War Effigies to really keep your opponents off balance - raiding EA Machaka should be every bit as nerve rending as hitting one of the glamour nations – “where the hell is he?!?”. [Pretender] Bouda are so versatile that EA Machaka is in the nice position of having no critical holes that a pretender needs to fill. There are however some really nice options you want to consider. It’s probably better to go for excellent scales than trying to squeeze in a lot of these, but you can pick up one or two of these optional add-ons for dirt cheap. You could do far worse than taking A on your pretender and cranking out some flying boots – this really, really expands your strategic flexibility and each Bouda is so effective it makes a big difference to shuttle a couple around, sneaking behind enemy lines while sowing unrest in enemy lands. An A pretender can also forge storm staffs, covering one of the most obvious counters your opponent is likely to try in response to your never ending river of skeletons. Storms are definitely Machaka’s friend. Blood stones are really nice for Bouda. In addition to the obvious straight boost having “free” gems in every combat lets you pretty casually drop fun stuff like maws of the earth in every battle rather than trying to predict the big ones. Naiads get you grip of winter, foul vapors and quagmire – which with a little work is an excellent surprise switchup for your skellispam (you’ll need to kit your skellispammers appropriately of course). Llamia Queens will get you there too, though a little less reliably. Late game combo’ing Quickening with Haste and Weapons of Sharpness on Lion Warriors is a nasty surprise for somebody that's been set up to try and punch through waves of skeletons. Moonvine bracelets (plus thistle mace) will let your Lion Kings cast Fairy Trod – which is a very, very nice option to have in light of your lack of astral and air mobility. Armor of Twisted Thorns will work too.