Getting a well-oiled army off the ground in Swords & Soldiers can be a costly endeavour. Units don’t come cheap, and upgrading those units can be even more expensive than acquiring them in the first place. Even so, it may be hard to suppress your instinct to rush through the upgrade tree as quickly as possible and attain the most powerful units and spells available.
In lots of other strategy games, buying the most powerful unit out there basically guarantees victory. Not so in Swords & Soldiers. You will need to balance your own economic growth with your attempts to keep pressure on the enemy - especially in the hectic multiplayer mode. Trying to get the most powerful unit too early will surely lose you the game. That's because, under the right circumstances, all the starter units can be just as powerful as the units at the end of the upgrade tree.
With this in mind, it’s clear that getting the most out of the units you already have is of the utmost importance. You might want to consider getting some basic unit upgrades at first, whilst sending out your lowest level units as soon as possible. This will keep the enemy busy, while giving you room to expand. Another great idea is just to pick one unit type to start, and add a supportive spell to overcome their flaws. To give a more practical example, Dartblowers make a great starting unit, but they're pretty fragile against Berserkers. However, combine them with the Cage trap spell, and you could simply trap any Berserker coming for you - making it incredibly easy for your Dartblowers to pick them off without ever getting damaged themselves.
Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of knowing when to push through towards the enemy base, since your progress will be slowed as soon as you start to chip away at enemy workers. There is a risk they can use this moment to start stacking their own combat units and break out stronger than before - especially if the enemy has the option of building ranged units and hiding behind the workers in relative safety. As soon as it's obvious you won't be able to push through in one go, you should consider slowing down your production and start saving for those upgrades, or get more workers. One option is to place a tower that will offer you some extra security when the enemy does thwart your first offence.
Of course, this slowdown effect can also be used to your advantage, especially against melee units. Again, using Dartblowers as an example, let the enemy come and reach your workers. As soon as they hit them, build as many Dartblowers as you can. They will start to form a group while the enemy is desperately trying to get through the workers and start damaging your Dartblowers. If this group reaches 4-5 units, they will be powerful enough to beat any enemy Melee unit before they reach them. This means you'll break out completely, forcing your opponent to buy upgrades to counter this group before they reach his base. Keep in mind that if the enemy manages to kill any of your workers this will be a costly setback. So it's up to you to decide if it's worth it.
How to Take Down a Giant
Everybody remembers their first encounter with the Aztec Sun Giant unit. Sun Giants were once mere mortals, but powerful magic bestowed them with incredible power. This is the same magic which makes the Aztecs' freakishly large vegetables a possibility. Towering over the battlefield with their fearsome solar masks, these monsters posses the power to crush whole armies with a single blow and may seem practically invincible to first-time players. But have no fear; every enemy has a weakness – just as every faction has their own way of dealing with this intimidating menace.
The first step when facing a Giant is ensuring you have ranged units in your army. So if you don't have it already, get your chosen faction’s ranged upgrade. This is essential for the simple reason that the Giant is incredibly slow, and ranged units can deal some damage before the Giant ever reaches them. And since the Giant can absorb quite a bit of damage, he's also an ideal focal point to stack your ranged units against. This means that once you start building ranged units, they'll form a group at the Giant. So as soon as he's down, you'll have a group of ranged units at your disposal which can be incredibly powerful.
You should also try whatever you can to slow the Giant down further while the ranged units do their work. Get some melee units between the ranged units and the Giant to provoke the lumbering beast into attacking them. Even though these melee units will be easily crushed by the Giant, they will slow him down immensely, allowing the ranged units to do some serious damage. Using the Viking Heal spell or the Chinese Shield spell you can even keep these units alive during the Giant’s onslaught. Other viable ways to slow down a Giant are spells like Poison Bomb, Snowstorm and Cage Trap.
The Vikings also have a more advanced way to defeat Giants: The Rage spell. When used in conjunction with the powerful Frost Hammer unit, the Rage Spell can have a chilling effect on a Giant. Here’s how: Frost Hammer units strike enemies with a huge hammer that locks them in a casing of ice. But send one out against a Giant and they’ll always be beaten to the punch – unless you put the Rage spell to work. By using the Rage spell on a Frost Hammer near an oncoming Giant, the two foes will strike simultaneously.
So while the Frost Hammer unit will still receive a fair beating, the Giant will also be hit pretty hard and - more importantly - frozen for a few moments. It is during these moments that your nearby ranged units can do some serious damage. Even more advanced is casting Rage on a Frost Hammer when the Giant is preparing to strike again. This tactic offers only a very small window of opportunity, but time it right and you’ll find yourself with a freshly frozen Giant for another brief moment - without sustaining any damage yourself!
Of course, as an Aztec player there are ways to help your Giant overcome these tactics - such as poisoning groups of enemy ranged units, putting the front unit of this group in a Cage Trap or having a Necromancer nearby. The Skeletons generated by these Necromancers are the ideal shield against incoming Rage clouds.
Whichever side you’re fighting for, just remember that every enemy and strategy has a weakness. You just have to find it!