One of the best things about HoS is dreaming about building that team with the perfect synergy that keeps them alive and churning through enemies like a hot knife through butter. Here's my little guide for players old and new to figure out the fundamentals of team building. Use the links or just scroll down.
It's worth noting that this works for Nightmare builds, so the easier difficulty level you play on the more you can afford to bend and break the rules. Building for Accuracy in particular becomes less important at lower levels. There are also a few unique builds that might be able to break the rules, even at higher levels, but they are unique and this guide is a starting point for general team building.
ADODA stands for Accuracy, Defense, Off-Tank, Damage and AP Stripping. They are the 5 fundamentals of any successful team and have to be intentionally built into your team. They are not listed in any particular order and any given team may be slightly higher in one or the other, but without any one of these 5 elements a team is likely to struggle at the least, at the worst they'll be no fun to play at all. When you start thinking about creating a new team you have to make sure that you have a solid strategy for providing these five elements.
ACCURACY If you're team can't make hits they can't do damage. At the higher difficulties levels, if you aren't intentional about increasing your chances to hit, you will quickly find that your heroes miss more than they hit. Accuracy is helped by debuffs that strip Dodge and Parry from your enemies, buffs that add Accuracy to your heroes, empowered attacks, skills and attributes and gear (including weapons). Depending on gear and skills alone is normally not enough against certain types of enemies. You will either need to include debuffs such as Choking Ash or Pinning Shot, or you will need to invest heavily in empowered attacks that raise your accuracy. The plus Accuracy buffs are also a possibility though many of them do not provide large amounts of Accuracy, so they need to be used in conjunction with other strategies.
There are cursing attacks that can lower enemy Dodge and Parry, such as Pinning Shot or Darting Steel. It's worth noting that these forms of debuffs have to be deployed correctly, because they have to hit to apply the debuff. So, if you are relying on cursing attacks, the hero applying the curse will need to have very high accuracy in order to apply the first debuff. It will also affect the order in which your heroes can attack. Usually the cursing attack will have to come first, then other's can move in.
DEFENSE In a poll on the forum, Defense came in first, as the most important aspect of any team build. Whether you're playing for Ironman glory or just to have fun it never feels good to see one of your heroes get whacked. There are basically two modes of overall defense. The first is the normal high armor - high HP strategy. Pureflame Shield and Righteous Fervor both increase overall team armor and some people even combine them for ultimate protection. You'll want to combine these with the best armor you can buy and also invest more in healing spells as you will need to replenish HP every turn. The other form of defense is Dodge/Parry defense. This works especially well with Kincaid and Selen's self-buffs backed up by Shield of Cortias or Warder's Shield. It is a good idea to decide on one strategy for the whole team rather than try to build a dexterity Selen and an HP tank Vraes at the same time. You will be far more efficient making your whole team good at one thing. Each mage also has a debuff that help defense by lowering enemy Accuracy (for Vincent this is ranged only) and Damage, which are worth thinking about as part of an overall defensive strategy.
OFF-TANK At some point the Trese Brother's will make sure that you will have to make a good defense in two directions. In later episodes it's not possible to just leave Vraes out front in one direction and let him absorb all the damage. Without an off-tank, or better an equally good second tank you will get surrounded and die. The strength of your off-tank depends somewhat on your ability to do heavy damage to large amounts of enemies quickly. The more difficulty you have taking enemies off the map quickly, the more you will need a second or even third front-line fighter to hold the line and protect the softies.
DAMAGE Thinking of ways to inflict massive damage to the enemy is probably where most groups begin, so we hardly need to be told to think about it in our builds. It is important, however, to think about how this balances with some of the other aspects of a team build. On Nightmare, especially, it is important to think about Accuracy first and Damage second. Missing your swing is the fastest way to reduce damage output. Damage also needs to be balanced with Defense. The best defense is often taking enemies off the board quickly. With that said, high-damage/low-defense teams are fragile and will likely be killed at one point or another, due to a bad spawn or a particularly nasty enemy. Those types of builds are not recommended for Ironman teams.
When thinking about damage, it is often good to think about which type you want to focus on. It is good to stack physical damage together with -Armor curses OR to stack magical damage (which can be increased through gear and buffs) together with -Resistance curses. Building Critical Hit percentage is also part of the damage equation and can be incredibly potent later in the game. Critical percentage pairs especially well with attacks that have an area of effect.
AP STRIPPING AP Stripping may be considered part of defense (because it is), but it's important enough to deserve its own spot in the top 5. As the game progresses, the enemies become more powerful and gain new abilities, making it almost essential to be able to reduce enemy AP by 2 or more. This can be done in various ways, such as developing one hero with a powerful -2 AP curse. Otherwise, it's also possible to invest a few points in single AP stripping curses from one or two heroes. Balance AP stripping with the rest of your defense. Raise Ethereal Anguish or Flash Freeze up to higher levels and drop them on every enemy you see as part of your regular defense. Otherwise, if you're stronger on Defense in other ways, have some weaker -1 AP curses available for when they're really necessary. Ranged -AP curses are particularly nice in the Underforge in Episode 2.
STEALTH AND TEAM LEADING This aspect should almost be included in the top 5, because one of the greatest challenges in Heroes of Steel is often dealing with that particularly nasty spawn that almost every group will encounter at least once if not much more frequently. There are basically two options for team leading.
Option 1 is to lead with a high-HP, high-Armor tank who will probably lose almost every stealth roll. This hero should have enough HP to survive the first round even if he has to really takes a beating from a few Orcin or Forged Spiders. The disadvantage of this is that you have less time to pre-position your team, you'll sometimes have to spend a lot of AP healing your tank and, if you're leading with Vraes or Kincaid, your mage will be placed directly behind him, closer to archers or melee enemies which might bypass the closest target. It is possible to "tank-lead" with a properly built Fyona. This has the advantage of placing Vraes or Kincaid directly behind her on unglomming. It takes a dedicated Fyona build however.
Option 2 is to lead with a Stealth character such as Tamilin, Selen or Kincaid. By using Stealth your team is far more likely to have the first turn which offers a lot of advantages in terms of scouting, positioning, debuffing, attacking and using those amazing Stealth Critical talents. However, the disadvantage is that at some point YOU WILL LOSE your stealth roll and then you have a hero out front who may not be able to take a serious beating. Considering the fact that winning the stealth roll can't be guaranteed, it is highly recommended for Ironman teams that your stealth leader have significant defensive ability, normally in the form of high Dodge and Parry.
Finally, it's important to put some thought into opening doors. Since there are limited characters who can open doors and behind doors can often be nasty surprises, it's a bad idea to have a really wimpy lock picker. Many doors can be unlocked from the angle, with your main tank placed in front of the door, but a few doors are recessed and in this a case your thief or rogue will have to stand in front of the door to unlock it unless you've developed Karjtan's ranged unlock skill.
MOVEMENT POINT BONUSES It is worth thinking about talents that add Movement Points (MP) to your characters. Movement is helpful both for offense (ensuring that a character can move and make their full attacks or drop a curse) and defense (making sure you can end a turn with the softies tucked nicely behind your front line fighters. A general rule of thumb is that the more your whole team can take a beating the less important MP is because you can wait for everyone to come to you. The more fragile your team, the more important positioning and being able to escape are which require more MP. MP can also be gained later in the game through gear.
SPIRIT POINT EFFICIENCY Being inefficient with Spirit Points (SP) can affect two things: your score and your enjoyment of the game. Camping lowers your score and so does buying potions (because more money adds to your score). If you're competing for glory on the leaderboards you can reach higher scores by being efficient with SP. Constant camping can also make the game less fun, especially on certain levels where campsites are far away. So keeping your SP use within reason is recommended.
Things that can really affect SP usage are: 1) leveling talents up too quickly, especially constantly used attack talents. 2) Not being able to kill enemies fast enough, so that combat lasts for a long time with many attacks and possibly rebuffing. In general, buffs are more efficient than empowered attacks, but there are a few really expensive debuffs. Skills (Lore, Leadership, etc.) that lengthen buffs also help significantly with SP efficiency. Often times having one character on the team who is constantly reaching for an SP pot is not a big issue, but if multiple heroes are running out of SP every fight you will have problems. Kyera's sacrifice spell can be an effective way to keep a team running but requires some focus on her build.
Also, it's important to keep a good supply of SP pots. One of the few ways you can really get a group stuck in HoS is to run out of money and SP pots in the face of a big fight. If you can't finish a fight with the stock you have you can't advance.
TALENT POINT DISTRIBUTION To an extent, talent point distribution may seem more like an individual hero concern, not necessarily a whole team issue. Every team, however, is a result of it’s constituent parts and a good plan for distributing talents across the team is important.
In general, it is better to focus on one or two key roles for each member of the team and therefore focus on a few select talents for each one. It is rarely useful to level up three of four talents for a character at the same time. Having a buff or debuff up to 7 or 8 by the end of episode 1 is not extreme and some even go up to 10. This is more possible with buffs which are applied to your heroes because they are usually only cast once per combat. Debuffs and attack talents can be much more SP prohibitive.
With that said, there are a number of "utility" talents that are worth investing 1-3 points in to get a particular ability such as extra MP, AP stripping, unlocking or scouting talents or an area of effect. These talents might be raised early but not invested in at all later, once they have achieved their specific purpose. With utility buffs, a hero might have three or four talents leveled up, but only a few of them will actually reach higher levels.
Coordinating buffs and debuffs is always a good idea. Buffs that raise your team's Dodge and Parry and curses that reduce the enemy's Accuracy are a great combination. Doubling up curses, that strip armor for example, can also be a very effective way to get an advantage over the enemy. Just be careful because while armor can be reduced to 0, damage can only be reduced to base damage and AP can only be reduced to 1 so it is possible to "over curse" an enemy and waste your SP.
As you invest your talent points you might find that your team hits certain plateaus. This is normal. There are times when enemies seem to level faster than your heroes and there are times when a different race of enemies will be particularly difficult for your team. At these times, it can be tempting to conclude that your build has failed, but that might not be the case. Don't give up quickly, grind through the difficult parts and let your heroes level up a few times or get into a different set of enemies. Also consider a gear reallocation, changing gear is the best way to deal with the particular strengths and weaknesses of different foes.
It is also important to think about coordinating timing of talent point distribution across the team as they level up together. For example, raising Karjtan's Choking Ash exclusively, early on, can allow your other characters to focus on some of their other self or team buffs instead of on their empowered attacks. This is because Karjtan is ensuring everyone hits and does damage. As Choking Ash tops off, it is time to start raising empowered attacks. Likewise, if Kincaid is sprinting to get to Crippling Strikes 6, you know that he will have a period where he is not investing in his defensive self-buffs. This is the time for other characters to help him by focusing on defensive buffs (or defensive curses) or by having someone else take the lead tank role for a time. Coordinating the timing of who raises what talents and when can really help ensure that your team does not hit a plateau where they are particularly ineffective or fragile.
I think it is important to elaborate on the difference between curses and cursing attacks.
Also a discussion of -accuracy and / or -damage talents for defense Would be good to add.
I find -accuracy is a big help against the dreaded krete archers on nightmare and you can get that -accuracy from not just FA, but also meteoric shockwave and silent stalker and EA.
Thanks for the input. I'm hoping this will continue to evolve with a section about some other key elements like Stealth, MP and SP efficiency. I'm trying on the one hand to be concise so that it's not too much to read and on the other hand give enough information that it's useful. I thought of possibly listing every talent and character that might contribute to a particular aspect. I thought it might be too much though. We'll see. You're right that I didn't mention any difference between curses and cursing attacks.
Post by contributor on Mar 1, 2015 12:22:37 GMT -5
I'm wondering what's missing from this guide and how I can improve it. I've got one more spot reserved for more content and I was planning on talking about Skill and Attribute Allocation there, but that's pretty boring in my opinion and it's also harder put down simply because it can vary widely between groups and difficulty levels. My second thought was to included a discussion about creating support characters who really don't contribute with attack talents. So what's missing from the "definitive guide to team building"?
I would really love feedback from anybody who is a newer player and maybe looking at this with little to no experience playing the game. Is it helpful? What did you find confusing or missing?
Well I'm not new but no matter how boring an overwhelming of skill and attribute is important
Then maybe an overlook of special cases like support only character or what I like to call a switch hitter. Capable of ranged and melee
To be honest I don't feel like I have a real clear strategy yet for skill and attribute distribution and it is very character dependent. In general I really try to max out certain skills like dexterity and weapons ASAP. With my HP tanks using strength based weapons, I focus on Strength and Constitution exclusively bringing them up together. I put almost no points into intelligence for anybody until later on, unless I'm doing something really crazy like bring Lightening Spear or EA up to 10 real quick.
What general rules do other players use for Skill and Attribute distribution?
Great series of posts. I think you should elaborate a bit more on talent point distribution. You do touch on timing, but it seems a bit short, especially compared to your opening ADODA principles.
Talent point distribution, but more accurately, talent point planning and timing, is crucial. I'd go on a bit on defining some milestones. Especially for beginners, Great Shaman and the end of Ep1 (include estimated levels there), and then the Krete-infestations are important places to see how your party is doing.
It's important to discuss how and when you want your characters to transition from their starting abilities into the roles you set out for them (for example deciding when Vincent is able to be a true light infantry skirmisher, or when Fyona is able to be primary tank), as well when you add new abilities that will fundamentally change the way the party operates (like major AoE and Crit combos).
Attribute and skill point distribution usually follow fairly straightforward from the other aspects. If I decide to increase INT/CON, I prefer to get it done with early rather than late, because an early CON-point contributes more percentage-wise than a late CON-point. Also, you might have some words on adding skills that increase buffs. But I find myself worrying about talents much more than about attributes or skills, important as they are in their own right.