Understanding the core of the game
If you ever played Age of Empires, Stronghold: Crusader will not be a totally different type of gameplay to you, but yet, this castle-building game has its peculiarities. You need a good amount of strategy in order to take all the potential the game have, and to beat your opponents.
The core of the game is in the construction of your castle. You have a lot of options to do this, and these options are located in the bottom of the screen. There are six options: the castle building window, the industry, the food, the population, weapons building and, for last, one window where you can build inns, bakeries and mills. In this window you will refine what you produce in the farms, like wheat or hops, in more specific products, like wine or bread. This is important for the economy of your castle, because you can give this food to your people or possibly sell it.
Starting the game
You start the game with a basic stronghold, some villagers and your lord. This lord is the central figure of the game, and if he dies, you lose the game. So the priority is securing your lord the fastest possible. You start with a couple of archers and spearmen, so you should put then up in the stronghold to defend your lord, and start searching for oasis and minerals. The oasis are an important part of Stronghold: Crusader, because they are the only farmable terrain in the game. Build a granary and a mercenary post and recruit some assassins or swordsmen to protect your lord. Expand your stockpile and build quarries and iron mines, and houses too because you will need villagers to work. Make sure you are well defended early in the start of the game, because more aggressive players will send assassins to kill your lord when you are still very weak and without a true army. Go to places where you found trees and put some woodcutters there. You will need wood a lot in this game. Build a market too, in case you need to buy something.
And it’s done! The basis of your castle is done. You have some farms producing food for your villagers, a mercenary outpost where you can recruit soldiers if you need, your lord is well defended and the economy is starting to run. Don’t produce more houses than you can supply, because soon you will see your castle overcrowded. Now you can go the next step: starting the fortification.
Building your castle
You have three types of walls to build: the low walls, the high walls and the walls with battlements. In order to build this last type of wall, you need to get a solid wall first, and you should build high walls and use the lower ones for other purposes. Surround your principal structures with walls – like the granary, the stronghold and the market – and put one large gatehouse. You will receive a message saying that the keep is enclosed, and if you don’t hear it, see if you don’t have some crack in your walls by where your enemies can pass. Now, contract some mercenary archers and put them up in the gatehouse, and put a brazier so they can shoot fire arrows in your enemies. Build some round towers in the corners of the castle. Round towers are stronger than other and support more soldiers, and siege engines as well, but we will talk about that latter. Make sure to put some archers in these towers.
And by now your keep is almost done. You should put pitch around the castle, and this is one of the best defenses you could have. Your enemy could have a much large army than yours, but if they pass by you pitch and you shoot some fire arrows in then, they will all burn and the flames will spread trough anything nearby. I played matches where pitch was the decisive factor between victory and defeat. Pitch can reduce a force of 70 man at arms to nothing in some seconds.
One last point: put some swordsmen in the towers and in the gatehouse to defend your archers. If you opponent send assassins to climb your walls, they will quickly kill your archers and open the gates for the principal host, so defend your towers and gatehouses well.
The fear/happiness factor
Fear and happiness are important elements in Stronghold: Crusader. Basically, if you want your villagers happy, you should produce happy things to them. Greater portions of food, gardens, statues and churches, all this will contribute to increase their opinion about you, and the greater their opinion, larger the taxes you can afford. But in the other hands, they become too lazy. So you can increase the fear factor, putting heads in stakes in the walls, dungeons and gallows, and this will make they produce more, but their opinion about will fall. Your popularity is show in the right corner of the screen, in a number that varies between 0 and 100. If your popularity falls too much, less than fifty, your villagers will start to flee. Make sure this will not happen, or soon you will see yourself without workers or recruits.
Produce or buy ale to distribute in the inns. This way, you gain happiness trough ale coverage. If you have a wheat farm, remember to build a mill to refine it into flour, in order to produce bread. Stronghold: Crusader is a very complex game, and you need to pay attention to the minimum details.
Creating your army
Before anything, create a garrison to protect your castle. Archers in the walls with some swordsmen to protect them from assassins and a small force inside protecting the lord will work. But now, you should consider creating your real army, that you will use to invade and destroy the lands of your enemies.
The types of troops featured in Stronghold Crusader are:
- Swordsmen or Man at Arms
It’s important to know some details about these troops, so you can know what of these you can use and would serve better for your purpose. First of all, the archer have to be your first type of troop, and they are great for castle defense, but no so great for attacks, because they die quickly in the hands of any type of troops. The crossbowmen are an improved version of the archers. They are stronger but slower, and much more accurate and deadly.
The basic melee type of troop is the macemen. He is basically a brute who deals a lot of damage and are good assault troops. The man at arms will be your basic soldier. They are strong, resistant, but very slow. They are great offensive and defensive troops, but if you attack, send the macemen first and the man at arms after, because they will take a long time to reach their target, but once they do, it will be hard to stop them.
There are the knights too. They are the most powerful troops in game, having the force of a man at arms and fast with their horses. They are great to kill retreating units or archers, and to destroy siege equipments. But if your opponent have a preeminent cavalry, produce some pikemen to stop them. They are good for defensive units, so put them protecting key areas of your castle and against the enemy cavalry too. Remember: to create a cavalry unit, you need to build some stables first. Each stable gives you four horses.
Now you know the types of troops in the game, it’s time to create your army. Build an armory and around it, some workshops. You will need a lot of workshops if you want your armory quickly full, so build around four or five workshops of each type of material. You can produce leather, iron armor, swords, pikes and bows. For swords and armor, you need iron, for bows, wood and leather, cows. See if you have enough of those resources so your workshops don’t stop producing.
The Siege Engines
An important part of the game is in the siege engines. To produce those, create an engineer’s guild and call for some engineers. Click in the hammer when you select the engineer and select what type of siege engine you want to create. There are trebuchets, catapults, battering rams… You can ever create shields to protect your troops from enemy arrows. Make sure to put some siege engines in the top of your larger towers, and send engineers to operate them. If you want to destroy the walls of a castle, you will need a lot of those engineers if you want a substantial siege force.
Remember that in the Engineer’s Guild you can also build ladders to scale the enemy walls, but those ladders are destroyed quickly under fire. Every type of siege engine it’s very specific, so build then thinking in what you want to do. Destroy walls? Trebuchets or catapults will work. Attacking troops? Sure a fire ballista is the best option. Climbing walls? Consider building a siege tower. Destroy the gates? A battering ram will work. Surely your opponent will have those machines too, so be prepared to destroy them when they reach your lands.
Fire slaves and assassins
These two types of mercenaries need a special topic only for them. The slaves you can afford for a price of five gold coins and you can use them to simply putting the opponent structures in fire. Fire is a mortal element in this game, because it spreads trough nearby constructions and kill everything in sight. To protect yourself from the fire, build some wells around your farms and important building and keep your eyes open. If you see fire slaves, send your archers to kill them.
But there are another type of mercenary that is more dangerous than fire slaves, and you cannot see them until is too late. They are the assassins, and have the ability of climbing your walls and taking your gatehouses and towers for the enemy. If you know how to use assassins, victory is almost easy, mainly if you have enough money to build lots of them. Send assassins to open the gates for your principal host and your opponent will be totally vulnerable.
By now, you should know the basis of the game. In Stronghold: Crusader, the key is having a good economy and a well defended castle. Never let your granaries run empty and be cautious with enemy assassins. Protect your lord and create a large host. Stronghold: Crusader it’s a very fun game, a type of game that is very uncommon today. Now you know how to play, go get fun!