The Armchair Strategist's Guide:
Expanded Edition by
Vince DeNardo, Interplay Productions, Inc.
William C. Fisher, Quicksilver Software, Inc.
Wednesday, November 11, 1992
**Manual Correction: Adlib/Sound Blaster Music Conversion Done
By Rick Jackson
Becoming King in CASTLES II demands careful planning and resource manage-
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
General Playing Hints
Some subtle aspects of CASTLES II may be lost in a first reading of the
These few pointers may make your first experience with the game much more
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 Tactical modes.
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
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
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
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 other territories. 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 effectively.
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.
<*> 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.
<*> 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.
<*> 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.
<*> 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 your economy.
<*> 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.
<*> 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
<*> 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.
<*> 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
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
<*> 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
<*> Build just enough castles to prevent revolts. You can build themwithout
moats if you're in a big hurry.
<*> 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.
<*> 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
<*> 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.
<*> 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
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 military campaigns.
<*> 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.
<*> Focus on obtaining Gold territories. You will need Gold to buy off your
neighbors and the Pope.
<*> 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
<*> 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 attack
<*> 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 actions.
<*> 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 to victory.
<*> 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:
<*> 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.
<*> 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
<*> 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!
<*> 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' Merchants.
<*> 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?
<*> 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 doesnt really add up to
much over thirty or forty trades, anyway. Besides, how could you
possibly have planned ahead for your needs?
<*> 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 dont
worry about the fact that you lose double the units after every further
delay. You have more important concerns than maintaining an army.
<*> 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 ...
<*> 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?
<*> 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.
<*> 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. Coyote.
<*> 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?