Stronghold Crusader HD: All 16 AI Lords Guide

A guide going through each of the 16 Stronghold Crusader lords with tips on how to attack and defend against each of them.

 

Intro

Hi! This guide will go over each of the AI lords and some tips on how to best defend against them or attack them. Each will also have a general rating to give you a good idea what to expect:

Attack strength: How scary the lord is overall when attacking and how hard it is to defend against them.

Defence strength: How good his castle defences are and how hard it is to defeat them.

Build-up speed: How much time it takes him to complete his castle, usually followed by the first attack. Often also corresponds to how often they attack afterwards.

Let’s get started!

The Rat

Attack strength: NEMESIS
Defence strength: IMPERIAL
Build-up speed: PANIC

The Rat is the most glorious and almighty AI lord in the game. If you are facing him, there is little hope for you. Just lie down and surrender to the imperial forces of the mighty nemesis.

Sorry, I had to.

How to defend against him

just get some archers lol

…no really, that’s pretty much it. The Rat’s ONLY strength is that he attacks very quickly – early on around 10-15 archers will easily do. If you have no time to make/buy bows, some slingers can help to clear approaching spearmen. If he somehow survives longer into the game, about 40 archers should clean up all his attack waves. You can also use lookout towers for your archers, as they give them an even bigger advantage and the Rat never uses siege weapons.

Also, any heavier melee units (swordsmen, pikemen, macemen) will just wreck anyone that gets through. You can also literally just use your lord to defend early on, as he can easily take even on a whole bunch of spearmen by himself.

How to attack him

SWORDSMEN, ATTACK

…again, that’s pretty much it. 15-20 swordsmen can just knock down his gate and walk in. If the Rat is doing REALLY well and has a ton of units, you can get about 25 just to be sure. Pikemen or macemen will also do the trick in slightly larger numbers (20-30 should do).

If you’re really short on resources, archers with some portable shields should be able to clear out most of his units, then send in spearmen or a few assassins.

The Snake

Attack strength: Weak
Defence strength: Weak
Build-up speed: Fast

The Snake is not exactly terrifying, but can be a real nuisance especially if you cannot easily protect everything with walls. He uses lots of quick units and needs little resources to maintain his economy, which can be your downfall if you’re caught in a moment of weakness.

Defending against the Snake

First, protect everything you can with walls or moat. The Snake is one of the most annoying when it comes to quick raids, and leaving some quarries or farms unattended means they will likely burn down quickly.

Second, have at least one square/round tower with a ballista – the Snake likes to send in a catapult or two, which is not terrifying, but even a small hole in your walls means that his units can start quickly pouring into your castle. Target his catapults as quickly as possible and make sure your castle remains enclosed.

Third, SLINGERS ARE YOUR FRIENDS. They may seem weak, but are extremely accurate and quickly take down most of the Snake’s units. They’re great at guarding outlying buildings or defending in case your walls are breached (and you can quickly move them around).

Fast melee units like macemen or knights are also excellent at stopping his troops in their tracks or even just wreaking havoc among his attack waves.

Attacking the Snake

Kinda like the Rat, but a bit harder. As the Snake spams lots of archers and slingers, he defends very well against lightly armoured units, but he’s basically helpless against swordsmen or pikemen (or macemen, if you’re quick enough). Around 30 swordsmen should do the job in most cases.

Alternatively, the strategy of archers with some portable shields can also work. His small gatehouses and turrets are also very vulnerable to tunnelers, which should thin out his archers a little.

The Pig

Attack strength: Medium
Defence strength: Weak/Medium
Build-up speed: Medium/Fast

The Pig’s methods are exactly what you’d expect for him: crude, but mostly effective. He relies on crossbowmen and macemen which are versatile and strong, and his castles are very simple but defended by well-fortified crossbowmen. Ironically, he’s usually easier to overpower than outsmart.

Defending against the Pig

Again, definitely make sure you enclose your castle with walls and/or moat if possible and avoid leaving any buildings unprotected. His macemen are fast and will start messing everything up if they get through, and become a nightmare if they start running between your buildings. Make sure you also have at least one ballista to take out his catapults.

Either crossbowmen or lots of archers will do for your main defence – macemen can take a few arrows but a larger group of archers will still mow them down easily. Slingers can also be helpful if they get too close. You can also use killing pits in spots where you really don’t want them to get through (e.g. tower stairs).

Heavy melee units can also be very helpful – knights are the best at catching and overpowering macemen (but expensive), but your own macemen will also do fine. Pikemen and swordsmen are excellent for blocking off access to important places.

Attacking the Pig

The Pig’s castles are surprisingly smart in a few ways. He tends to have killing pits in important spots, such as around gatehouses and towers – this also makes assassins hard to use against him. His square towers are also quite well-fortified against catapults, meaning they can pretty much only be taken down with trebuchets (which have to be well-defended from his macemen).

Pikemen, macemen and swordsmen each work well in their own way. Pikemen are the safest choice as they can tank A LOT of crossbow bolts and killing pits, and about 40-50 of them should be able to just knock down the walls and walk in.

Macemen have a speed advantage, making them harder to hit and giving the crossbowmen less time to target them. Swordsmen, on the other hand, don’t take crossbow fire that well, but can easily slice through the macemen if you protect them.

If you want (or need) to be more tactical, fire ballistas should work well to take out the crossbowmen as they have a longer range. Alternatively, archers or crossbowmen with shields will also do the trick. However, in both cases make sure they are protected against macemen.

The Wolf

Attack strength: Strong
Defence strength: Very strong
Build-up speed: Very slow

Ah, the Wolf. Arguably the most powerful AI lord in the game, using lots of strong units and building massive castles that can be incredibly tough to capture. He has only one… well, two weaknesses: he needs ages and tons of resources to complete it, and requires lots of space.

Defending against the Wolf

You should usually have lots of time to prepare your defences before he finally starts attacking. I gave him “only” a “Strong” rating for attack for precisely this reason (and because Richard the Lionheart exists) – his attacks are brutal, but take ages to prepare every time and I do not think I remember an SHC game where I was caught off guard by a Wolf invasion.

Crossbowmen are pretty much a must, as he relies heavily on swordsmen and pikemen – at least one round tower filled with them is a minimum. You can also choose the fire route (or combine both) and use pitch ditches, oil and fire throwers against his infantry, as they are pretty slow. Killing pits can also be helpful to prevent them from getting too close.

You will absolutely need ballistas, preferably several as he will always deploy a whole bunch of siege weapons. (Tip: group them under a hotkey so you can select them quickly to take out siege equipment, e.g. Ctrl + 5.) You can also use mangonels to thin out his units, as they tend to be pretty densely grouped.

Heavy melee units of your own will also likely be useful – knights can take out his horse archers and even siege units if the terrain allows it. Swordsmen and pikemen can meet his units if they come too close.

Interestingly, I do not think it is that important to have an enclosed castle against the Wolf – he uses mostly quite slow units and you will likely not need to chase his troops between your buildings. If you have limited stone resources, it is a higher priority to build several round towers with ballistas than walls.

If you’re able to dig a moat, it will definitely help – it cannot be destroyed by his catapults unlike walls, and although his pikemen can get through, the moat will slow them down massively.

Attacking the Wolf

First of all: if you can attack early, it’s the best thing you can do. His castles take forever to complete, especially to garrison his towers and complete the moats – if you can deal with him before that is done, it is usually worth the cost as his half-finished castles are far easier to get through than a fully ready one.

Attacking his completed castle is pretty much always slow, painful and expensive. The two simplest solutions (which can also be combined for best results) are:

1) Horse archers – you will need a lot of them, around 80 is usually a safe number (yes, that is 6400 gold). Make sure they’re constantly on the move and take out mangonels first. Avoid drawing fire from several towers at once – try to clear out one tower at a time.

2) Crossbowmen/archers with portable shields – at least half as many shields as there are bowmen is a good ratio, and you will probably need at least 50 crossbowmen. Taking out mangonels fast is absolutely key here. (Tip: don’t select shields together with bowmen, group bowmen as one hotkey [Ctrl + 1] and shields as another [Ctrl + 2], then order shields to move to the same place where you move bowmen. This makes sure the shields actually protect them, instead of being randomly placed.)

Once you got rid of the crossbowmen, archers and mangonels, the most effective solution is usually siege towers – they pretty much turn his absurdly thick walls and lots of towers against him, as now your units can use them. If you have crossbowmen with portable shields, place them on a tower and clear out the rest of the defenders – at this point, the Wolf is usually helpless. You can also send in your infantry (macemen or assasins are great) to clear out the remaining crossbowmen and archers.

A cheaper alternative that can also work sometimes are assassins – they can open the gates (and are reusable, unlike siege towers) and even help clearing out towers. You will first need to clear part of the defenders though, as assasins are pretty vulnerable to ranged weapons.

Using siege weapons like catapults or trebuchets really depends on the castle the Wolf is building – against his largest castles (like the one with the “weird hexagon” shape) they are nearly useless as his walls are just absurdly thick. However, his smallest castle usually has only two square towers and relies heavily on pitch ditches – in that case, siege equipment is far more useful and destroying the towers will make your life much easier.

[NOTE: Be very careful when dealing with his “smaller” castles – they may look less impressive, but are usually surrounded with Caliph-tier amounts of pitch ditches. If it seems that may be the case, approach it like a Caliph castle – move slowly and take out all the archers in sight before going in.]

Finally, a dirty strategy which often also works depending on the castle type – you can just… set the whole thing on fire. Most of the Wolf’s castles are densely built and setting an exposed building on fire starts a chain reaction which will obliterate most of his economy and part of his defences. It can be tricky to get the fire ballistas in place though, as he tends to have multiple mangonels and ballistas on his towers.

When it comes to storming the castle, swordsmen are generally the most effective, as they can overpower almost anything on their path. Pikemen or macemen are also effective and can be pretty much a requirement if the castle has a moat (some of Wolf’s castles even have moats within the castle). Assassins can also work, especially if you have cleared out most of the defenders.

Every time you defeat the Wolf, you can give yourself a pat on the back, it really is quite an achievement.

The Sultan

Attack strength: Weak
Defence strength: Very weak
Build-up speed: Fast

The Sultan is a quite funny character who is hard not to like – who else announces they are invading you by reciting a short poem?

Despite very obviously not being “the sharpest sword in the desert”, do not underestimate the Sultan completely. His main strength is his use of swordsmen and the fact he goes very quickly for the +5 morale bonus – which means you will be dealing with armored swordsmen with an attack bonus from early on. While besides that his early attacks seem laughable, he will ramp up over time, and will be sending some pretty serious numbers of swordsmen your way (I have had a game where the Sultan destroyed the Pig in his moment of weakness). He also requires little space and resources to keep his modest economy going.

Defending against the Sultan

Quite straightforward, really. At least a few crossbowmen are recommended from early on to deal with the swordsmen – and a few extra archers to deal with the slingers. That’s about all you will need, just make sure you recruit enough so that you can keep up with his swordsmen attack waves. He will also be using more archers over time, who can pose some threat to your defenders.

Any fire weapons will also help deal with swordsmen, and you can use killing pits to stop them from approaching too close (and entering your towers, for example). Melee units of your own will also be helpful.

The Sultan never uses siege weapons, which is his biggest undoing. Once you have a garrisoned tower and some basic walls, you’re pretty much set. (And using moats against him is just cheating.)

Attacking the Sultan

Unlike the Rat’s, the Sultan’s castles are actually simple and pretty, but they’re almost as weak. His biggest weakness is relying on slingers instead of archers for defence (though he will quickly recruit some archers when threatened), so you can often clear out his defences without much casualties.

The only real danger are again the swordsmen, and fire throwers – he tends to have a few in his keep. Unless you storm in with macemen, make sure to clear out the fire throwers with your archers/crossbowmen before going in. After that, swordsmen of your own are the safest bet – the number really depends on how many swordsmen the Sultan has (which can sometimes be plenty) and if you can thin them out with crossbowmen.

The Caliph

Attack strength: Medium
Defence strength: Medium/Strong/AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA$%*(@#*(@$(%*$()# [incoherent screaming and keyboard smashing noises]
Build-up speed: Medium/Fast

Is it remotely controversial to say I hate this guy with passion?

His entire existence is infuriating, and so is his fighting style. He loves raiding you with slaves and horse archers, and he builds the most annoying castles in the game with ridiculous amounts of pitch ditches. He’s not a particularly large threat most of the time, but he is extremely annoying and often time-consuming to deal with.

Defending against the Caliph

It’s a bit like with the Snake. Try to protect everything you can with walls and moats – if you have any outlying buildings, he will spam slaves in an attempt to burn them down. Slingers are also your friends as usual in such cases, and can mow down slaves quite easily as they are very accurate.

His actual main attacks are quite unremarkable, though decent. As with pretty much all Arabian lords, you need to be prepared to deal with swordsmen, so have some crossbowmen or fire weapons (pitch ditches/oil/fire throwers) ready.

The Caliph also quite likes using horse archers, which can be a danger to your bowmen, so make sure you have quite a few so they can hold up. He also likes fire ballistas a lot, which can be a real problem – have a ballista or two (or more) on your towers to deal with them. Also, watch out so that he cannot target any of your buildings with a fire ballista.

Fast melee units can also deal with a lot of his attacking troops – macemen in general are excellent against the Caliph (more below), but knights are also great if you can afford them.

Attacking the Caliph

sigh

Alright, let’s do this.

In case you’re unaware: the Caliph’s castles have a lot of pitch ditches around them. A LOT. ALWAYS. He also relies on lookout towers, which are fragile but make his archers extremely annoying to deal with, and you will need to clear out EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM (at least on the side you’re attacking from) if you don’t want your troops to be set on fire.

Therefore, every strategy against the Caliph is either painfully slow or very risky. Let’s go in that order, then (from certain but slow pain to high risk of extreme pain).

1) Use archers/crossbowmen with portable shields. This is pretty much the only way your bowmen can hold up to the Caliph’s archers who get a huge height advantage. Make sure to place them outside of his pitch ditches (this is tricky to explain but they are always a specific distance outside of his walls) and take them out, one by one. Once you kill all of his archers (and I really mean all of them), your melee troops can quite safely walk in. No, wait… you then need to clear out his fire throwers and engineers.

2) Catapults. This can either be fairly cheap but very slow, or quite expensive but also very satisfying. As mentioned, lookout towers are fragile and a few catapults will bring them down easily. A lot of catapults will turn his castle into Swiss cheese in no time, which is very satisfying while he screeches “INFIDELLLLL” in the meantime. But again: if you want to make sure your troops can safely walk in, you need to take out ALL the archers.

3) Horse archers. This is more expensive and risky, but actually relatively quick. You will need at least 50-60, and try not to get in range of too many archers at once, and of course stay far enough from the castle walls so they don’t run into the pitch ditches. You will have losses as archers on lookout towers are terrifyingly effective, but your horse archers should be able to clear them out quite efficiently. Have I mentioned you need to take out all his archers so they cannot light up the pitch?

4) Macemen + siege tower. Macemen are pretty much the best antidote to the Caliph, as they can usually run through the pitch ditches before taking serious damage, and they can basically roflstomp his archers once they get onto the walls. A siege tower will do best here, but it is quite risky to get it there and you need to be careful so your macemen do not get obliterated by pitch ditches. You can either use one of the methods above to cover them, or send them in small groups which usually should not trigger the Caliph’s archers to light up the pitch. Once your macemen are on the walls, obliterate all the archers with satisfaction. (Note: Pikemen can also work as a substitute – they’re slower but extremely durable, and can survive even fire for longer than any other unit.)

5) Assassins. Risky but can work in some scenarios, the best way to use them is to clear out a part of the wall from archers, so that they can approach without being detected. Once on the walls, they can clear out the archers quite efficiently, but you need to have enough assassins so they are not shot down first (probably 30ish would be the minimum).

6) Just storm in. Extremely risky but can work if you can afford it – basically you just need to destroy one of his lookout towers (either with catapults or even with the units themselves), then pour in with macemen and/or knights, annihilating everyone on your path on the way to the Caliph himself. Success depends equally on luck and strength – you need to have enough macemen/knights to really just delete all enemy units without slowing down, and a bit of luck that a pitch ditch or burning oil does not go off in the worst moment and place possible.

Honourable mention: If you are placed next to the Caliph (happens in quite a few missions actually), you get to use mangonels against him, which I highly recommend. Mangonels will tear down his lookout towers fairly quickly, and will gradually turn his castle into a miserable ruin (while he presumably screeches “INFIDELLLLLLLLLLLLL” looking out from his window). I recommend not going in to kill him too quickly – make sure the misery really sinks in and his castle is truly reduced to a pile of rocks before finishing the job, so you can give him a fraction of feeling the pain and misery of fighting against him.

Have I mentioned I don’t like this guy?

Saladin

Attack strength: Strong
Defence strength: Strong
Build-up speed: Slow

The man, the legend himself. Saladin is basically the “final boss” of Arabian lords, and he uses basically the whole available arsenal of Arabian units, alongside strong, well-defended castles. While his attacks are not as brutal as the Lionheart’s and his castles aren’t as massive and intimidating as the Wolf’s, he’s still definitely one of the strongest lords in the game with a well-rounded economy, attack and defence.

Defending against Saladin:

Your defences need to be quite versatile, as among others, you will have to deal with horse archers, fire ballistas, swordsmen and even assassins, and being unable to deal with any of these four will hurt.

The first obvious thing is to have at least one round tower with a bunch of crossbowmen, and a ballista to take care of his siege weapons – Saladin’s fire ballistas are a priority, as they can either kill your crossbowmen and archers, or worse, they might be able to set your buildings on fire. They should also be able to deal with swordsmen, although you can add some fire (fire throwers, oil, pitch ditches) in case they come too close. As usual against stronger opponents, I recommend having multiple towers and multiple grouped ballistas, so you can quickly take out the fire ballistas and catapults before they can do a lot of damage.

However, keep the assassins in mind – while Saladin does not send hordes of them like the Nizar, you still have to watch out for them. A larger group of slingers should do great at taking them out once they start climbing your walls, and you can also get some melee units (pikemen or swordsmen do especially well) to defend your gatehouse or crossbowmen.

Finally, it is also quite important to keep your castle enclosed (and the gatehouses defended from assassins) – Saladin still uses some slaves and you really, really do not want them inside your castle, and even if you deal with them, you may have to deal with horse archers running around, which is not fun. As usual, knights, macemen or slingers (in descending order of cost) are good to have inside your walls in case they are breached, so you can chase down any intruders.

Attacking Saladin:

Not quite as painful as the Wolf, but you will usually need a solid army and a plan. Saladin’s castles usually have a lot of round towers with mangonels and ballistas on them, which have to be taken out quickly if you do not want your army to be decimated.

Horse archers are generally the most reliable against him, as they can take out mangonels the most quickly (and Saladin’s archers aren’t as scary to them as crossbowmen). 60-80 should be enough in most cases, as long as you do not take too much fire at once and try to clear the towers carefully one by one.

Another classic solution is using archers/crossbowmen with portable shields (50-60 crossbowmen with half that many shields should usually do the trick) – you have to move in quickly and take out the mangonels as quickly as possible, but should be mostly safe otherwise, as there is not much else Saladin can do against the shields (as long as you keep an eye out on sneaky swordsmen). However, it is still best to complement them with horse archers, as they can actually keep moving around and taking out the mangonels and ballistas.

Once you’ve cleared the towers, there are two options depending on how strategic you feel and how strong his defending army is:
1) Use a siege tower and get your crossbowmen on his walls – this can be a bit risky if he has a lot of archers, but should usually allow you to clear out his castle almost completely before going in. It is a good idea to send your melee units together with your bowmen, as Saladin’s swordsmen may “rush” up the stairs in large numbers.

2) Just knock down the gate – either use a ram/catapult/trebuchet or just use your troops if you’re not in a rush.

Now the thing is: do not underestimate his keep defences, and rushing in too fast can end up with your troops caught between a firestorm and a horde of swordsmen. Before you go in, make sure you clear out the fire throwers around the keep, as they can literally destroy your troops if they are slowed down even for a second. Once you do that, a decent force of heavy units (40-50 swordsmen or 50-70 pikemen/macemen should do in 90% of cases) should be able to get through all his remaining swordsmen and end the siege.

Richard The Lionheart

Attack strength: Very strong
Defence strength: Medium
Build-up speed: Medium/Fast

Also known as “Lord of Destruction”, “stone needed, m’lord” and “we do not talk about Thunder Hill”.

As nice and gentlemanly as he seems to be, the SHC Lionheart is basically the incarnation of “attack is the best defence”. His attacks start quite early, repeat often and are absolutely brutal. On the other hand, his castles are really unremarkable and not so hard to attack, so if you can take the fight to him, it’s usually the best way to stay alive.

He’s also responsible/complicit in all the most annoying Crusader Trail missions (Misty River, Thunder Hill and of course The Big One), so there’s that.

Defending against the Lionheart:

Oh God.

3-4 round towers with ballistas are the minimum. He will always send in catapults, trebuchets and rams, and many of them. Group the ballistas under a hotkey and whenever he announces an attack, keep an eye on the engineer tents and take out the siege weapons as fast as you can before they turn your walls into Swiss cheese. As a bonus, he is also the only lord in the game to use tunnelers, so keep your eye on them as well – try to take them out with a ballista before they dig in, or try to destroy their tunnels. (They do little damage to round towers, but can bring down a section of wall instantly.)

Alternatively, if you can afford it, you can keep some knights around and use them to clear the siege weapons – just steer clear of the swordsmen and pikemen.

Keep an eye on your walls and repair them as soon as possible – there should usually be a little bit of time between when they take a pounding from his siege weapons and before his melee units get closer. Whether his troops can just walk in or have to try to knock down your walls can be the difference between life and death (of your crossbowmen, economy and/or Lord).

Besides that? You need as many crossbowmen as possible to deal with the hordes of swordsmen and pikemen, and it’s probably not a bad idea to complement them with some fire defences (fire throwers, oil, pitch ditches). Some archers can also be a good idea to deal with Richard’s archers, so that your crossbowmen can focus on the heavy troops. On top of your ballista towers, you can add a few extra towers with mangonels that should thin out the heavy troops quite effectively. Finally, killing pits can also work great to stop any melee units that get too close, as that is the one thing he cannot tear down with catapults.

If you’re really struggling/on a budget, try this following ancient technique of higher wisdom: recruit a ton of slingers, and hit-and-run his swordsmen and pikemen. It’s not the fastest strategy of all time, but since you can recruit about 40 slingers for the total cost of 5 crossbowmen (weapons + recruitment), it may be worth considering if your current main concern is “how not to die painfully within the next minute”.

Attacking the Lionheart:

The only hard part of attacking him is usually being able to gather enough forces in between him almost constantly pounding at your walls. His castles are really just a bit better than the Pig or Marshal, mainly due to mangonels and engineers with oil.

As usual, mangonels have to go first. If you can afford an army of horse archers (50-60 at least), that is basically all you need to obliterate most of his defences and just let your troops slice your way into his keep. If you can’t, either try some bowmen with portable shields, or a decent enough army of crossbowmen (at least 40-50) should also do the trick if you take out the archers carefully.

Assassins also tend to work well when attacking him (as long as your archers/crossbowmen draw some of the archer fire), as his walls can be easily navigated and even a relatively small group of assassins (15 or so) should be able to deal with most of his archers and tower defences. They can then open the gate for the rest of your troops.

Once you’ve cleared the mangonels and archers, one more thing to watch out for are the engineers with oil – make sure there aren’t any left on the path your troops will be taking, or they can end your glorious castle assault very quickly.

These are the only two real threats to heavier infantry – with the mangonels and engineers gone, 20-40 swordsmen (depending how many units Richard has left) or slightly more pikemen or macemen should be able to deal with him and give your stone workers some rest.

Emperor Frederick

Attack strength: Medium/Strong
Defence strength: Medium
Build-up speed: Slow

Ah, the mighty Emperor himself. Let’s get the sad facts out of the way first: in the vanilla version of the game, his AI has always felt a bit buggy and oddly passive to me – the rating above (and the tips below) are for a “best case” scenario when he attacks properly and does not just act like he’s in a Castle Builder mode. (Or you simply used one of the custom AI from the Community Patch to fix him.)

When he does play at his best, however, he is a force to be reckoned with. He uses one of the best army compositions of any lord (archers + crossbowmen + swordsmen + knights) and his attacks are just a bit weaker than those of the Wolf. His castles are really cool and clever, although often weakened by the simple fact that he rarely has a solid enough number of defenders.

Defending against Frederick:

Much like against the Wolf or Lionheart. You will need plenty of crossbowmen (you can mix in some archers against his ranged units) and a few ballistas to destroy the siege weapons quickly enough, and a few towers extra with mangonels can also help thin out his troops. It is best to avoid having your walls breached, as he does like using knights to raid.

And indeed, Frederick is one of the “three horsemen” (alongside Philip and Marshal) who does recruit knights and uses them mostly to raid. Make sure your castle is enclosed as soon as possible (although he will not begin attacking you too early) and close off any breaches quickly. If you have any outlying buildings, make sure they are defended, preferably with some crossbowmen and heavy melee units – just a small group of each should be enough, as he usually sends in just a few knights at a time.

Attacking Frederick:

A little unconventional, but not too difficult. A lot also depends on the side you’re attacking from – the best-defended side of his castle is typically the one with square towers and mangonels (which sometimes looks like an island of its own), and if you can avoid attacking from there, it will make things a bit easier.

If you can’t, of course get rid of the mangonels as fast as possible. The usual suspects (50-80 horse archers or bowmen with portable shields) will do a great job as always. Be careful and do not use unprotected foot archers/crossbowmen against him, as he will have quite a few crossbowmen who can wipe out your units.

After that, some pikemen are usually a good idea if you need to get past his moat – pikemen can do the job while being able to survive a lot of archer and even crossbow fire in the process. If/once the moat is no longer a problem, the simplest solution is usually just to knock down his walls and walk in – there is not much else that can stop you, and use basically any units you like, as long as it’s a strong enough number (usually something like 30-40 swordsmen or 40-50 pikemen/macemen will do just fine).

At least you’re giving him a more glorious end than in a cold lake this time.

King Philip

Attack strength: Medium (counting in raids)/hilariously terrible (“main attacks”)
Defence strength: Camembert
Build-up speed: Fast

I think no other lord in the game alternates so much between being genuinely annoying and absolutely terrible as Philip. His knight raids can and will absolutely ♥♥♥♥ you up if you are not ready for them quickly, but almost everything else about him is hilariously awful and Rat-tier.

Defending against Philip:
Raids: This is the real problem. Enclose your castle as quickly as possible, otherwise you will have groups of knights running between your granary, workshops or quarries just 2-3 minutes into the game. If for some reason you cannot enclose your castle or the walls are likely to get breached often, get some knights or at least macemen of your own, or place pikemen or swordsmen in strategic places. (It’s not even a bad idea to place your Lord next to the granary.) Get some crossbowmen as soon as possible, so they can stop the knights when he decides to try pounding at your walls.

“MAIN ATTACKS”: I still wonder if this was an oversight, or deliberate, and I guess I will never know. But his regular attacks… are literally just spearmen. Nothing else.

So yes, get some archers. Or slingers. That’s it.

Oh, and he will sometimes use a catapult to harass your walls from a distance, so one round tower with a ballista will be helpful.

Attacking Philip:
1. Send in assassins to open the gate
2. Send in any troops you like
3. ???
4. A darkness has descended on my castle! I am lost.

The Sheriff

Attack strength: Medium
Defence strength: Medium
Build-up speed: Medium

The Sheriff is another case of an opponent who has some brilliant ideas… alongside massive weaknesses that are just too easy to take advantage of. His castles are usually well-defended with a lot of crossbowmen, macemen, assassins and even a massive fire pit in the back, but extremely vulnerable to fire or a sneak attack from behind. His attacks are also quite clever and can be a real threat, but he sometimes just doesn’t attack often enough to really make an impact.

Defending against the Sheriff:
His attacks are genuinely interesting and tactical, as he relies on a combination of Pig-like brute force (the classic crossbowmen + macemen combo) alongside assassins and fire ballistas which can catch you off guard if you’re unprepared for them.

Obviously, a lot of bowmen (either crossbowmen or a ton of archers will do) are the first thing you need, and you need enough to withstand the first wave of his crossbowmen. In the meantime, look out for any fire ballistas to make sure they’re not starting to decimate your bowmen and prioritise them if you need to.

At the same time, watch out for the assassins – they will likely go for your gatehouse (or if you don’t have one or if it’s in a weird position, they will probably just try to climb your walls from the front). There are a few ideas that can help:
1. Slingers on the gatehouse are usually a good idea (20-30 should be able to take down the assassins before they can reach the top)
2. If you’re unsure, add some swordsmen or pikemen to guard the gate/walls
3. Place some killing pits in front of the gatehouse

Besides all that, do not let him breach your walls. He uses macemen, assassins and slaves, and I think I do not need to explain why you really, really, really do not want any of those to enter your castle. If you are afraid that may happen, keep some defensive units ready inside the walls to deal with any intruders. As usual, the best options:
1. Knights and macemen will catch anyone and anything
2. Well-placed swordsmen or pikemen should stop anyone in their tracks
3. The cheapest but often great option: nothing gets past a horde of slingers

Attacking the Sheriff:
Attacking him can be either a drawn-out, painful slog or hilariously easy, depending on how his castle is placed, how much defensive troops he has, and how willing you are to get your hands dirty. Let’s discuss the most likely scenarios:

1. Attack from behind: Whenever possible, the simplest and most reliable. You may notice that the back of his castle has some defenders, including a few fire throwers just casually standing there. Well, if your units get too close, those fire throwers will light up a literal fire lake of pitch around the walls.

Conclusion? The standard tactics of either a bunch of horse archers or bowmen with shields work best here – before you proceed in any way, the fire throwers must be eliminated. You can then proceed to thin out his defenders as much as possible, and keep in mind he will also have fire throwers around his keep, so get rid of those too.

After that, simply place a siege tower at his walls and go in. Pikemen are the safest option as they can just walk through crossbow fire and actual fire without breaking a sweat, but if you thin out the ranged units a bit, macemen and swordsmen can get the job done even faster and without risking getting held up for too long. His actual defensive troops can vary wildly – if you spend some time shooting at them there should be just a sad band of remnants left, but sometimes he can have a genuinely scary army of macemen and assassins in there, so make sure to come prepared. In most cases >40 swordsmen or >50 pikemen or macemen should manage.

2. Frontal attack: Yep, this is the drawn-out painful slog option. Attacking him from the front is basically a medieval version of urban warfare, where your units will have to navigate his maze of buildings to get to the gatehouse while being constantly harassed by macemen and assassins.

First, clear out his crossbowmen using the methods above. Always keep an eye out if macemen are not coming and preferably guard your ranged units with some melee units of your own. Then you can just knock down the low walls and send in your troops to destroy the barracks and mercenary post.

After that, you can just knock down the gate (I do not recommend using assassins as his macemen will likely just pour out of the keep to kill them). Before you do so and especially before you go in, make sure you clear all the fire throwers in his keep with your ranged units, otherwise the assault can end in a very unpleasant way.

Once the gate is down, see last paragraph of option 1.

3. Fire and fury: …and this is the dirty option. You surely have an innocent mind and never looked at the Sheriff’s castle and thought “wow, this would all catch fire so easily”, right?

Well, believe it or not… it does. Usually a fire ballista can do the trick most easily (just guard it from incoming macemen). It usually does not matter what building you ignite (you can target something like barracks to be sure it spreads before it burns down), it is basically guaranteed to start an absolute inferno afterwards.

Not much more to say here. Once not much is left of his castle and his defenders are probably also weakened, proceed with point 1 or 2. I no longer do this because it makes me sad.

The Emir

Attack strength: Strong
Defence strength: Medium
Build-up speed: Medium

This war is tiresome and you are tiresome, so here’s 200 swordsmen heading your way. I am sorry for the inconvenience, my friend. – The Emir, probably

Ah yes, one of the nicest guys in the game who really seems like he would rather visit his farms and count money rather than do all this war business, until you suddenly realise there’s five of his catapults pounding at your walls with a hundred swordsmen knocking at your gate, while he’s pumping out horse archers and somehow still gaining gold the whole time.

Yes, the Emir really, really likes swordsmen, he has a beast of an economy, and over time ramps up to become almost as powerful as Saladin in offence. He’s the closest thing to the Arabian version of the Lionheart, only he takes a little more time to attack and ramps up more as the game progresses. However, just like the Lionheart, his own castles are relatively unimpressive (though visually really cool).

Defending against the Emir:
In case you haven’t guessed, GET ALL THE CROSSBOWMEN YOU CAN. Your main concern are hordes of swordsmen with a morale bonus. You need to be able to handle them.
You will probably need them quite early, because he really likes sending armies of swordsmen not just as main attacks – even his “raids” when you annoy him can literally be 30+ swordsmen at a time (and probably with a +5 morale bonus already).

Besides that, it’s a lot like against Saladin (minus the assassins). You will need several towers with ballistas to take out his siege weapons, and he sometimes really likes to spam catapults. Make sure your crossbowmen and archers are also enough to hold out against his (horse) archers. Add pitch, oil, fire throwers and mangonels if you wish, as they can thin out the swordsmen very effectively as well.

If you are worried your walls may get breached, have swordsmen of your own as they are the only units powerful enough to match swordsmen and you won’t have to deal with any fast-running units. There isn’t really much else you can do – the trick is to stop his heavily armoured hordes before they can start pouring into your castle.

Attacking the Emir:
Not that hard really. He usually has 2 mangonels or so which should be the main priority, as they can mess up your troops quite a bit, so try to take those out first. Another thing to focus on are the engineers with oil, which are the biggest threat for your melee units. The Emir doesn’t use any other evil tactics like fire throwers, pitch ditches or killing pits, so once you get rid of mangonels and oil engineers you can just walk in.

The usually recommended (well, by me at least) tactics of either horse archers (>50) or bowmen with shields will do fine, and then you can either use a siege tower to get onto his walls and clear the defenders quite easily, or just knock down a gate or tower and walk in. Expect a lot of swordsmen also in defence, so have enough of your own – depends on the situation, but with support >50 swordsmen should do the trick, or something like >70 macemen or pikemen.

The Wazir

Attack strength: Strong
Defence strength: Weak/Medium
Build-up speed: Medium

The Wazir is more or less a more aggressive version of The Caliph and The Emir. He likes horse archers and fire, and makes cool star-shaped castles which are often poorly defended. That’s about it.

Defending against the Wazir:

Almost the same as you would against The Caliph, The Emir or Saladin. You need crossbowmen to deal with the swordsmen and horse archers, and can add in some archers to help deal with horse archers as well. 2-3 towers with ballistas are definitely recommended to deal with his fire ballistas and trebuchets. Supplement with mangonels, fire weapons and killing pits to be sure.

Make sure your walls are enclosed and keep slingers around if there is a risk of breach, as he also likes sending in slaves sometimes (though he is not as obsessed as The Caliph).

Attacking the Wazir:

His castles look impressive and even somewhat intimidating, but in reality they are usually poorly defended. All you need is a reasonable amount of crossbowmen and/or archers (at least 60 in total) with optional portable shields to clear his archers, fire ballistas and fire throwers. Do not get too close before you clear them, as he also has some randomly placed pitch ditches around his walls.

Once you do that, the simplest strategy is usually to build a siege tower and either find a spot where you can place it, or you may need to knock down a tower for that. Then send in your bowmen onto his walls, turning his own castle into a death trap.

Then it’s time to send in your melee troops, making sure all the fire throwers are cleared from their path. >30 swordsmen or >50 macemen or pikemen should get the job done at all times.

The Nizar

Attack strength: Strong
Defence strength: Strong/Very strong
Build-up speed: Slow

The shadow himself. You either love him or hate him (or most likely, sometimes both). Easily the most unique opponent in SHC and one that really requires you to think out of the box.

His main fighting force are assassins. Only. Nothing else. Despite that, unlike many other lords he uses a really proper amount of archers and fire ballistas to defend his castles – which are literal islands surrounded by thick moat and tons of killing pits. If you do not know what you’re dealing with, even a massive invasion force can get obliterated by his defences.

On the other hand, his only weaknesses are – ironically – fire and moats of your own.

Defending against the Nizar:

Well, if you’re on low ground you could just make a massive moat in front of your own walls, but that’s just not fun, is it? And you still need plenty of archers, as he will send in a lot of slaves to dig if you have a moat.

The obvious thing is that of course you need LOTS of ranged units to defend yourself, as he will really send in hordes of assassins. Archers work fine, crossbowmen can add extra damage (but fire slower), and slingers can be easily spammed in massive numbers and they do a great job against assassins in general. In fact, in theory you can use only hundreds of slingers in defence if you have no other opponents than the Nizar(s). Either way, it’s never a bad idea to have a whole bunch of slingers on your gatehouse.

A thing to keep in mind is that like most AI opponents, if your castle is not fully enclosed, Nizar’s units are most likely to go straight for the opening (even if it is dumb and quite suicidal to do so), which you can use to your advantage. While I would argue usually it is still safer to have properly defended, enclosed walls, if you cannot or it would be complicated to do so, it could be a better idea to just close what you can and focus most of your defences on the open part.

Killing pits can be a great help, especially in front of your gatehouse(s), as well as fire weapons, although that only works reliably if you know which direction his assassins will be coming from (which can be complicated depending on your starting position). You can also get a bunch of mangonels and just set them to keep attacking ground where you expect his assassins to come from.

If all else fails, it’s never a bad idea to have melee troops on your walls and especially on your gatehouse. Pikemen are the best overall defensive units, as they can patrol easily and move around more quickly than swordsmen, while being slightly stronger than assassins overall. Swordsmen are great to just place as stationary defences, while macemen are more fragile but can wreck any attackers quite efficiently. If you’re on a budget, spearmen and monks are easy to spam and keep the assassins busy while your ranged units finish them off.

Finally, a trick you can try is to place some of your melee units away from your walls, so they can spot approaching assassins. Funnily enough, assassins are probably the best for this as they will not be shot down by archers (if any wander around), but you can also use swordsmen and pikemen (who can hold out for longer) or basically anything else, depending on the situation.

Attacking the Nizar:

Oh, this is the fun part.

First thing to look at: is the Nizar’s castle really a perfect island with a completed circle of moat, or is there an opening somewhere, such as due to stone, iron or a farm? If there is an opening, it is usually a good idea to go for it, as not having to fill in the moat will save you a lot of time (and as a result, a lot of time when your troops will not be shot at). However, if the opening is in some far away corner that would require you to move your troops a long way under fire, it is usually better to just attack frontally. In that case…

Pikemen are your best friends. Those gigachads will walk over killing pits like they are just a minor nuisance, fill in the moat while hundreds of arrows just mildly tickle them (just send them to fill in moat in small groups at a time, otherwise they will scatter all over the place), and then are basically an even match to the assassins’ high damage but weak armour.

Although while that sounds badass, it is usually a good idea to give the pikemen proper support. First of all, take out the annoying fire ballistas, which actually can hurt the pikemen a little bit more, and generally deal quite a bit of damage. You can deal with archers either by taking down the towers (catapults or trebuchets will do fine), or by using archers/crossbowmen/horse archers of your own – if not horse archers, portable shields are highly recommended, as Nizar’s archers with +25% damage bonus do hurt. DO NOT MOVE THE ARCHERS TOO CLOSE TO THE MOAT, or they will walk into the many, many killing pits and it will become very painful very quickly.

You can also choose the ways of the dark side, namely fire ballistas of your own – at least, they can do a good job of taking out his archers… but although I am sure your pure and innocent mind never noticed that, the Nizar’s island castle can be turned into hell on earth within seconds if you set just one building on fire. While that still doesn’t eliminate his archers on towers or most assassins who will be inside the keep, it will obliterate his entire economy and means to train more troops. It’s pretty horrible to look at, but terrifyingly effective.

Overall, 60-100 bowmen with shields and 50-100 pikemen (depends vastly on his current assassin count) should be able to get the job done. You can also send in swordsmen/knights/macemen to assist the pikemen in order to vastly increase their damage and cut through the horde of assassins more effectively.

Defeating the Nizar is almost never easy, but almost always very satisfying.

The Marshal

Attack strength: Medium
Defence strength: Weak
Build-up speed: Medium

Oh blimey, ’tis the fine old chap, Sir Longarm himself!

The Marshal isn’t really a terrifying opponent, and he’s one of the AIs who combines moments of brilliance with almost laughable weaknesses. He also uses knights and unlike Philip or Frederick, he often sends in a HORDE of knights all at once, which can be pretty terrifying and is the main threat he poses. On the other hand, while his main attacks include swordsmen and trebuchets, they are not very impressive, and his castles look cool but have one enormous flaw.

Sadly, a little bit like with Frederick, while one of my favourite characters, his vanilla AI feels a little buggy with a tendency to be overly idle, and not having enough iron can just cripple him completely.

Defending against the Marshal:

A little bit like against Philip and Sultan combined – first, enclose your castle FAST, or you will have a whole bunch of knights making rounds between your workshops and granary within a few minutes. Then make sure you have some crossbowmen defending the walls, and that there aren’t any blind spots where his knights can just slowly knock down your walls unpunished, because closing a gap like that can then be hell.

Then just continue to make crossbowmen, and have at least 2 ballistas ready to take out his trebuchets when he attacks. He doesn’t really have any other tricks up his sleeve, so if your walls can stop the knights for long enough and you can take out his trebuchets quickly, it’s then only a matter of taking down the approaching swordsmen.

Killing pits can be helpful to weaken the knights as well, and of course investing in knights of your own is always a great help if you can afford it. If you’re really struggling early on, putting your Lord next to the granary can help (just make sure he doesn’t have to fight more than 2-3 knights, or the heroic defence will become glorious martyrdom).

Attacking the Marshal:

Ah, the Marshal’s castle. A surprisingly pretty thing of beauty, with gardens, workshops, and usually a large garrison of elite knights and swordsmen defending it.

Except they’re almost always on ground level with hardly anyone in the keep itself. And the Marshal’s keep is directly connected to an exposed section of a wall.

Yep, that’s basically it. 90% of the time, there is a section of the wall next to his keep where you can either put up a siege tower and charge in with a bunch of troops, or sometimes even a bunch of assassins can do the work if you clear out the archers around. If you do need to take out the archers, even a fairly modest group of bowmen with portable shields or horse archers will probably do the trick.

Occasionally, the rear of the castle is actually fully protected by moat, in which case you can just fill it in with pikemen, who take almost no damage from archers.

Once you’re in, usually 15-30 swordsmen/pikemen/macemen will get the job done with little resistance, while most of his troops wait downstairs in confusion. Sometimes you may see interesting phenomena like his knights charging onto the walls to defend him, but it is usually too late.

The Abbot

Attack strength: Medium/Strong
Defence strength: Weak/Medium
Build-up speed: Medium

Another opponent who is… quite unique. The Abbot relies almost entirely on hordes of monks to do his bidding, which does not sound too scary by itself (as monks are slow and poorly armored), until you see just how many monks he can send your way or defending his castle. Add his tendency to support them with a lot of catapults, and he can actually be a significant threat.

His biggest weakness is that he just doesn’t use enough archers (or any crossbowmen) to protect the monks, which means that at some point simply having more firepower than him makes him quite helpless. Same goes for his castles, which look quite tough and intimidating, except there isn’t much he can do to stop a large army of ranged units or just a siege tower at his walls.

Defending against the Abbot:

Well, you need two things: first, a lot of ranged units. Get as many fletchers as you can as soon as possible and just keep recruiting as many archers, crossbowmen and slingers as you can. Keep in mind that the Abbot also likes to send in a whole bunch of monks your way quite early on as a raid (or especially if you annoy him by shooting his workers), so be ready for that as well, and enclosing your walls early is recommended. Slingers are a great budget option of dealing with monks, as a lot of them can quite easily stop monks in their tracks and they are cheap. (Fire throwers are also likely to do terrifying wonders when placed right.)

The second thing you need is a way to get rid of his catapults. Several round towers with ballistas are recommended (and you can add some with mangonels as well, which will help in dealing with the hordes of monks), and make sure you have them grouped under a hotkey and use them to take out the catapults one by one when he attacks. Another option is having some knights, just be careful for the monks hanging around the catapults, as they can do quite a bit of damage.

Finally, swordsmen are good to have against the Abbot, as they can overpower the monks quite effectively and stop them from overrunning your castle, and you do not really need any quick units against the Abbot. Just make sure you do not let too many monks in, as they can really do a lot of damage in larger numbers.

Attacking the Abbot:

This is often deceptively simple. There are just three things to worry about: one, his ballistas can be annoying, so you need to move in fairly quickly; second, he does have some randomly placed pitch ditches, so you should also take out his (often few) archers quickly; and third, of course the horde of monks probably waiting inside the castle, who will rush up the stairs as soon as you get in.

Basically, you just need enough ranged units of any kind to overpower his defences – probably something like 100 archers or 50 crossbowmen or horse archers will do the trick (you can add some portable shields to protect them better). Take out his archers from a distance, then take out the ballistas, and he is relatively helpless until you get inside his castle.

Now, you can either keep shooting from the outside to clear out as many monks as possible, or you can simply get in. The easiest option is usually a siege tower, as his castle often has many nice, unprotected sides where you can simply put up a tower. Once you do that, I recommend moving up both your melee and ranged units at the same time, as his monks will probably rush up the stairs, so then your melee units can stop them with support of archers/crossbowmen/slingers. And yes, slingers – funnily enough, they can actually work great when attacking the Abbot, as thanks to his castle layout, you can just flood his walls with them and watch the hundreds of stones melt down his units.

Alternatively, with enough swordsmen you may be able to just cut your way through without worrying – 50+ should be enough, unless the Abbot really has a giant army waiting (again, do not underestimate the damage monks can do). And again, I think swordsmen are the most reliable units against him.

Finally, you can also get your hands dirty, as the Abbot’s castles are also quite prone to catching fire which then spreads quickly and is likely to obliterate his economy and most of his defenders. It’s not pretty, but well… it does work.

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