Foreword: Pretty much everyone who plays a bunch of dom4 MP starts out thinking Marverni is okay, progresses to thinking they are sub-par, and finally stops ever picking them for MP games. This is because, while they seem initially pretty okay, the synergies you first see with the nation are not what you should be doing with them, especially in EA. Everything about the nation is counterintuitive to the way dom4 nations normally play. Everything that you look at and think of initially is actually the opposite thing to do. In fact, the most amazing thing about the nation is how well it actually maps to how you would think the actual gallic nation of rome-era fame would play if transplanted to dominions.
Here's a couple of assumptions you are going to have to discard to get the most out of this nation guide. 1. Broadswords are good, or can kill anything you care about killing. 2. The nation revolves around Elder Druid production and how many druids you have in the field. 3. Gifts of Heaven and Blade Wind are the key spells of the nation, and everything else you deploy mid/lategame and only in big armies.
The Sequani Stargazer: This unit is the key of any strategy involving Marverni. Not just my strategy - any strategy. Unlike Sauromatia whose 1s researcher does not synergize well with other units in their roster or their key strategies, Marverni not only synergizes, it has little else to roll it's die on. There is a clue ensconced in the fluff - 'They are peaceful and have long given up warfare. [..] many nobles of the tribe have some magic skill [..]later leave their homes to study the Druidic arts'. How does a peaceful tribe survive in warlike Marverni? Respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. That's how. There are enough Sequani with magical skill that your god can earn the loyalty of one for 45g (not including taxes), and find one to recruit at any fort every month. That's enough massed Astral firepower to blot out the sun. What idiotic other tribe would dare challenge them? Most Marverni players try to emulate the Druids (few in number, secretive, powerful) or the Marverni or Boar tribes (massed chainmail chaaaaarge! javelins!). Don't. Emulate the Sequani. Base your power in industrialized magic. A few rock throwers is nothing compared to the terror of massed Cascades. A charge of largely ineffective steel is nothing to the light of the heavens.
Most players use sequani as cheap researchers or to power a communion of druids. As researchers, they are a waste of a fort turn. As communion slaves, they inevitably die even with earthpower and personal regen up (~15 fatigue regen per turn), as the fatigue malus for not having any Earth magic is huge and the fatiguecost of the earth spells the druids cast is humongous. This is an example of how the 'standard' way of playing Marverni is a non-synergy.
Doin' It Sequani Style: The Sequani has actually quite a few Astral options at his fingertips, but the only one of any use is Stellar Cascades. This fatigues with no save a HUGE portion of the battlefield. It requires S2, so the normally S1 Sequani seems unable to cast it without gem-costing shenanigans. Luckily, there is a spell called Light of the North Star that increases the Astral paths of EVERY mage on the battlefield. It's castable by any elder druid (with a Power of the Spheres first sometimes), or with a PotS first by 25% of Druids. With a communion of 5 mages, it is castable by any Sequani turn 2, turn 1 with a Communion Master Matrix item. It's at Conj 4. Stellar Cascades is at Evo 5. These are the same places where your Elders want to go to pick up Summon Earthpower and Gift of the Heavens, which is an example of synergy. Most people only bring enough mages out to the battlefield to make Cascades spam doable if they are being attacked, or in the lategame. You will not do this. You will have them out in year 2.
Against single targets, Paralyze or Mind Burn might seem more applicable. They are not. They have saves. They are less good. Use Cascades. If you feel like you can comfortably win, the enemy has relatively low MR, is not mindless, and you want his troops (this is pretty much Giants at this point), you might splash into Enslave Mind via a communion. But mostly you will be making people fall unconscious so they can be cut to pieces by broadswords.
There is an Item at Construction 6, Banner of the North Star, that casts Light of the North Star automatically. This is worth having despite the huge cost so a small team of enemy sacreds don't cause your mages to not cast North Star, and then lose the battle. Also saves micro and hassles, being caught without gems, etc. Ideally it should be carried by something not-squishy, but your lineup is made of squishy humans, so just hand it to someone in the middle of your formation and hope for the best and keep a scout with gems close by in case he dies and the banner gets trampled or something.
Gettin' Sequani With It: But how do you get all these Sequani? By having money and not spending it on barechests and druids. Marverni expands really really well with Prod 3. Better than an awake pretender, even. For the first six turns, buy nothing but troops, barechests mostly. If you don't need to make commanders for them, make a few sequani. By turn 7 you should be constructing your first palisade adjacent to your cap. Don't bother separating out your palisades - they should always be adjacent. Pretend you're Man, and just build a million fucking forts. There should be one, better two, up in the first year and producing Sequani. Once your second fort is up, you change your cap over to Elder Druids and start building Nobles instead of Barechests. You'll never build Barechests, except in emergencies, ever again. You might make a few Druids to sitesearch, or Gutuaters to summon Carnutes Boars or Wolf Packs, but you will build mostly Sequani from every fort. By expanding faster earlier, you not only get to get the better lands for yourself first, you have more to spend on early forts, without needing to spam res-cheap troops throughout all of year 1. Most people build expensive Elder Druids (2/3rds the cost of a palisade) due to wanting 'the most druids they can get' not realizing that earlygame money is MUCH more valuable than later-game money, and having faster research and a stable of sequani a full year earlier is much more valuable than a few extra elder druids.
So wait, we do want Elder Druids? Yes, we do. They are great mages. Just not enough to hang a strategy off. You want them doing specialist mage stuff, not general. In a general-battle setting, Earthpower + Rocks, or Earthpower + Destruction. Teleporting them in en-masse to deal with a large tough force of sacreds, or just sending a few with your armies for variety's sake. Communioning up with ever-present Sequani to cast big Nature, Earth or Water spells (Howl, Ironbane (great vs Abysia if you only brought an emergency turn's recruitment of Barechests), Curse of Stones x 3, Cold Resistance, Rain, Grip of Winter, Relief, Living Water/Earth, Quagmire, Foul Vapours, Poison Resistance, lategame stuff). Mind hunting. They are the specialized battleships which float in a sea of sequani. But relying on their firepower is a bad idea, as you'll never have enough of it. Use the sequani for firepower, and use the Druids to drop big buffs, debuffs, or wipe out special/tough foes. Their teleport mobility is not to be sneezed at, and by treating them as special forces rather than a go-to, you play to their strengths.
Once you have an initial force of Sequani and Evo 5 and Conj 4, you are ready to fight. If there is someone to fight, you should fight them at this point. Empty your forts. If you expanded properly and spent money on palisades + labs and not just troops, you should have in year 2 4+ set up forts and labs, and should be able to replace the loss of an expeditionary force (12 Sequani + Druid + 80 men) in 3-4 turns. Don't be afraid to empty your labs - gold is always what you need more of, compared to research. Research is good, but research goals are not what you want. You are not a lategame nation - you are a terrifying late earlygame power. Once you have Cascades, everything else is gravy. Put your guys in the field, adding more buffs from druids as they come online, and rely on a front line of nobles backed by a full court press of sequani under the light of the north star, and you should be okay. Never forget to keep palisading, as your palisaded village heartland is what keeps pouring sequani into the hungry mouth of war.
Sequani Like You Just Don't Care: As I mentioned earlier, your research targets in the earlygame are nearly always Evo 5 and Conj 4. You pick up Thau 1 first, though. This is so your Sequani can Communion up and drop Cascades even without Light of the North Star, in case you get rushed. You should be able to hit Evo 5 before you get rushed, assuming you get at least 1 palisades up. If you aren't there yet, fighting retreat (counter-raiding with barechests) to the forts, and hope you hit Evo 5 before they crack your fort. Typically you go half slaves half masters for a Sequani Cascades Communion, it depends on exact numbers of mages you have. This isn't even a game-ending thing for you. Provided you can beat their army, you can pour barechests out of your forts, back them with all your remaining Sequani, and take the enemy cap. You are one of the VERY FEW nations that can actually do this, as your production is so insanely high. 'Fast-breeding' a horde of barechests in nearby forts is a perfectly reasonable response to being invaded, as at 8r, with prod 3, you can typically produce enough of them in a few turns to give your research-Sequani a wall of meat. Unlike most nations, your research monkeys are also your murder monkeys. This is one of the things that makes this strategy so amazing compared to the standard druid communion strat. The low cost and high production lets you zerg the enemy after you hit Evo 5 with such speed that even rush nations look a bit shocked. Once your investments (research and forts+labs) mature, you aren't scared of losing men anymore. Losing armies is something other people worry about. People who don't just go 'oh good, my upkeep went down'.
Once you've hit your three main targets (thau 1, evo 5, conj 4), you have Actual Choices. In Alt there are some good debuffs (Destruction, Maws of the Earth, Ironbane). You won't go to Alt 7 because making your guys tougher (Marble Warriors) is not a good use of your time. What it's actual use is is partial Rain of Stones/Earthquake defense for Sequani, but for now don't bother. You also won't cast Swarm except in emergencies. It's a waste of N gems that you want for other things. Alt also has the amazingly valuable Ethereal Body, which makes Sequani immune to rain of stones and earthquakes and arrows. Construction gives you Communion Master Matrices, so communion masters can cast spells immediately instead of casting communion master (make sure they are below their Slaves in the turn order), crystal shields or boots to make your elder druids even MORE elderly, and no spells you actually care about. Remember you aren't bothering to Prot-Stack, you are making your enemies fall apart and not caring if your nobles die because you have SO MANY FORTS. Thau 3 gives you Teleport, and Thau 5 + Evo 6 + Construction 4 gives you Mind Hunt (don't bother mind hunting without penetration boosters). Mind Hunt is truly actually worth not having Alt for. It is quite amazing and gives your Oldmans something to do with their time when they aren't teleporting around squashing thugs with meteors.
Construction 6 + Conj 5 + a w2 random Elder Druid gives you Naiads or in the popular underwater mod, Kydnid Queens, as well as items that let you go underwater. Ench gives you personal regen if you're using communions, as well as cold resistance and grip of winter. But ultimately, you're either going to be: Setting up Mind Hunt, pushing to Conj 7 for Living Earth, or have already set up mind hunt and are now going to Construction 7 for Golems, or you're going up Alt because you hate yourself. Golems are your thugs - with a hat, they teleport, and with gear, they are surprisingly hard to kill. Flying armour is expensive but kinda worth it, or just use Boots of the Messenger. You set up Mind Hunt first, as it's on the way (needs const gear for Penetration). When you get Blood capability (from pretender or the worthy heroes multihero), you go Blood-1 for Reinvigoration and never summon blood anything ever. All slaves get used to either empower, be sacrificed for dominion, or to reinvigorate communions. Communions that spam huge fatigue earth spells while being reinvigorated then the communion masters cast communion slave as their 5th command, or are given bows and set to 'fire' after that, can have like 12 masters and 4 slaves (well actually no because the slaves would die on like the 11th master's cast, and they need to survive to be reinvigorated), and shoot a billion spells before going dormant. It's a great little Blood tactic for low-blood nations. Rain of Blood to make your chainmail meat-wall stronger is basically the only other blood spell you ever want to ever cast. Unless your enemy has a MR-30 SC and you just can't even so you lategame research and cast Life for a Life.
You can go for Earth Kings, if you want an Earthquaker, but why do you care? Earthquakes are for people who don't have suicide armies, mind hunt, and golem assassins. Like all of my dominions strategies, the end-game is you being basically the end-boss of an RPG. A sprawling land of interconnected wooden castles with grim-faced chainmail mans backed by endless lavender-robed mindcasters marching relentlessly ever-onwards while inside the woodhive a tiny coven of white-robed men huddle together and eat people's souls.
Casting Earth Blood Deep Well and Stellar Focus and Forge of the Great God King or whatever are all very-lategame activities and mean you are alive in lategame. They should not be things you give ANY FUCKS about while the year is not year 6. Survive the earlygame and midgame, in EA, as humons, THEN worry about the 'lategame' you may or may not get to.
You will manually sitesearch. This is because you don't have time to go to Thau4 and squirrel away all your 2-path randoms or WHATEVER. By the time you have remote searching, you will know that the time has come to start spending nature gems on boars, wolves, or boars and wolves. Boar of the Carnutes and Pack of Wolves are very cost effective meat-shield production methods if you have a nature income of any kind. Are boars and wolves as good as chainmail mans? No, but you'll start running out of gold and it's nice to have meatshields that don't cost money. But I want to use my nature gems for something else! WELL YOU AREN'T GONNA, SO DEAL WITH IT. Sometimes you will also use nature gems for gear for golems. That is okay. I forgive you.
Chainmail Chainmail Chainmail, (Samba!): Of your chainmail mans, you're gonna build the marverni one. Maybe you'll make some ambibate nobles to fight Giants, or some boar tribe doofuses to cut through Burning One armour, but those guys cost more than 10 gold, what the hell. You're not building barechests because the nobles have a shirt and they don't die randomly to errant hailstones or hurled baguettes, and that is a good thing. You're gonna use multiple boxes on 'hold and attack' because you aren't dumb, one box is going to be in front to eat archery and evocs, and there are going to be boxes on the flanks so your Sequani line doesn't eat knights or something in the face. Line formation is overrated, slow, and sometimes breaks for no reason. Don't use it except to block flanks maybe. You want your box to be hit with archery so your Sequani don't die, and if a box of chainmail mans dies to a whole lot of evocs your response is 'golly gee, me not care'.
Hur Dur Sequani Rainbow: You're going to take scales. Pure scales, preferably. If you want to bring a mage with some research target as your god, that sounds cute, but it also sounds like you're going to be taking RP (both directly and from less Magic scale) and gold (via design points not put into gold-getting scales) away from the core strategy of 'Hot Solar Death, Served Frequently'. So i'm going to say, unless you're better at the game than me, don't bring a Rainbow. You might go 'BUT HOW DO I EXPAND WITHOUT AWAKE DOM10 DRAGON' and i'm going to say 'bring 50 barechests and hurl javelins at it, don't fight heavy cav, murder everything else especially light infantry provinces'. It's perfectly fine to leave heavy cav provinces until year 2. But do you have any idea how many POINTS a DRAGON costs. A Blood Fountain is nice as it gives you something to sacrifice on your altars. With good scales you want very high dom (9-10 preferably), so a Dormant combat pretender might not be literally the worst idea in the entire world. You could take like a Fountain and have astral for some reason. But really, Marverni with this strat does not want a god. What it wants is more Sequani. It wants magic-3, prod-3, order-3, and with those scales, it also kinda wants Luck and Growth. It wants moar castles, moar chainmails, moar sequani, moar lands, moar seas, moar spells, moar gold, moar res, moar everything. A god that costs you points is points taken away from all those scales you want. An expansion god could be paid with by going Sloth, turning chainmail production into a micromanagement hell but not slowing expansion that much. A mage-god could give you enough extra gems and specialist items/spells to pay off his debt to marvernian society, maybe, somehow. But you don't need them. The core strat does not need a god. It is a Troops and Armies strat, and it works by Having Money and Being Rich. Anything that makes you less rich and less money is likely a bad idea.
In Sequani, Let Me Say A Few Words: So this is my take on Marverni. It is a nation of endless sequani recruited from tiny shitty palisaded villages dotting the landscape, backed up by endless marvernian warriors. Tides of men walking out of forests and losing any particular segment of them does not greatly impede you. It's Gallic as fuck. It's about the absolute opposite to Asterix and Obelix. And it is effective. Druids are dom3 thinking - upgrade to the Dom4 standard, and set your phasers to 'Sequani'.
A Note on Boar Warriors: Boar Warriors, in terms of upkeep, cost 11g. This puts their 'real cost' at around 17g, not 22g, given how long it usually takes me to get them killed (12-18 turns on average). 17g is very steep. But kinda worth it, given how hard they hit and how tough they are. Are they, or druids, or anything, worth a bless? Hell no. But as just a unit, they are kinda okay. With a throne bonus or two, they actually do remarkably well. I buy them. I buy them, though, so I have someone with Bodyguard (3) to put on my mages-who-are-important on guard commander. I also use them as just fodder. But to have them 'around' is worth paying a few gold more. They are a better alternative to Boar tribe nobles, but you can't easily mass them due to cap-only and holy limits. So I just make a few when I have the cash, and seed them with my armies, attaching them to druids who have just teleported in, or some rare Gutuater random in from the homelands.