Highlands Keshik Konquest

Highlands Keshik Konquest
Why Keshiks and why Highland?

Keshiks are horse archers, a powerful early-game unit, with the special ability to ignore terrain movement costs – they move 2 spaces per turn over hills and forests. Highlands are almost nothing but hills and forests. Your opponents will not receive this movement bonus which leaves you with a huge advantage. Also, early-game defensive units are limited to archers, so you are basically left with a strength 6 unit versus a strength 3 unit for most battles. The final tally of units that I killed was 3 axemen, 3 spearmen, 4 chariots, and 58 archers.

The two major downsides to this strategy is that since a highlands map is full of hills, most of the cities that you conquer will be built on hills thus increasing the defensive bonus of your victims. Also, Keshiks require horses and horses are relatively rare on a Highlands map. For this reason, your first research priority is animal husbandry which reveals the horses resource. If you don’t have horses near your starting city, say within 8 spaces, you will need to restart.

The Beginning

You want a Mongol and your choices are either Ghengis or Kublai Khan; select Ghengis. His traits are Aggressive and Expansive, opposed to Aggressive and Creative in Kublai. The Creative trait does you no good in an early-game conquest strategy. Expansive helps with health and Aggressive mostly helps with half-priced barracks’. Keshiks will not receive the promotion from the aggressive trait because they are mounted units and Aggressive only promotes melee and gunpowder units. Still, the half-priced barracks are definitely worth it. Finances in this strategy are simple enough – you’ll be conquering enough cities and pillaging enough improvements to fully support your horde and then some. For opponents select any without the Aggressive trait and without early-game unique units. For my game I selected Rooseveldt and Asoka. Rooseveldt’s Navy Seals will not be a factor and Asoka’s fast workers will only build more improvements for you to pillage.

Select the highlands map.

I was aiming to fulfill some HOF requirements for my game so I selected a tiny map of Highlands. This strategy should work for at least 3 rivals, perhaps more for veteran Civ players. Select “scattered” mountains and “dense peaks” and “small lakes.” If you select “ridgeline” mountains you’ll find your movement difficult. You should select “dense peaks” so that the mountains are spread out and relatively small. Select “marathon” speed so that your Keshik hordes do not risk becoming obsolete before the end-game.

Khan starts with the wheel and hunting, so animal husbandry can be researched from the start. Do this so that if the map doesn’t generate horses anywhere near your capital you can restart without wasting much time. Next, research archery > horseback riding > mining > bronze working > agriculture. After this it doesn’t matter what you research as you should turn your science bar down to zero to collect funds to maintain your hordes. It is a good idea to research archery before horseback riding because you’ll need archers to defend against barbarians, and on monarch, at least, the barbarians will be arriving via the express lane.

The Set-Up

Preparing for campaign is almost everything to this strategy. Once you have 4-5 keshik farms the rest is simple military campaigning.

Set your scout out collecting goodies from huts. On a small map size you will always start out near either the east or the west border of the map. Figure out which it is and send your scout in the general direction of the other civs. Your capital and theirs will always be midway between north and south on the map, and will be spread equally east/west from each other. One will be right in the middle and the other on the far side from you. Your scout will earn experience from wolves and bears. Promote him to woodsman II and he can move two spaces in forests even if they are on hills. Always end a turn in a forest for the defensive bonus. Once you discover animal husbandry send your scout back to near your capital and search for horses. If you find no horses near your capital or within the city radius of a suitable site for your second city, restart – and keep in mind that all cities but your capital will only have a 1-space city radius. After the horses are found send the scout back out exploring the map. Don’t be surprised if you lose your scout relatively early. You can build more while you’re waiting for your pasture to be built or for necessary techs to be researched.

First city build order should be barracks > scout > archer > archer > settler > worker > worker > archer > archer > *keshiks. You will build your barracks before you discover archery so just build another scout in the mean time – he’s worth it. Don’t bother with warriors. Send one archer to defend your second city. If you opt to build a settler before any archers you greatly risk barbarian destruction of the second city. Workers will have nothing to do at first so don’t bother with them until later. Barbs will not invade your capital at first, so go ahead and build a barracks first and get promotions to ALL your units. After you’ve built your first worker it will be a while before he is able to connect your cities to the horse pasture. In the mean time, build a couple of more archers, or you may opt to build another settler at this point. Once you begin building keshiks it is very important to keep one back to defend your cities and your horse pasture. My pasture was razed twice by barbs before I decided to keep a keshik back for barb defense. Archers won’t do the trick. They’re fine for city defense but too unreliable for attacking a barb that has moved onto your horse pasture, but a keshik is ample to slay that bugger. I left a barb city in tact near my cities to provide my newly-built keshiks with ‘free’ experience. As soon as your defensive keshik is promoted with barb experience, wait until a new keshik is built and send the promoted one off to battle with the enemy civs and leave the newbie back for barb defense.

After you’ve built a worker in your first city immediately send him building a road to your second city, then a road to your horses, and then a pasture to tame those mighty steeds. Now you’re in business. After that is completed you should be done researching bronze working set your workers out chopping every forest within your cultural boundaries, then set them to mining a few hills near each city. You’re population won’t grow beyond 5 citizens, and one of them should be working a food resource, so you only need a few mines – and if you‘ve a mineral resource nearby mine it first and build a road to it. After you’ve built enough mines to occupy your current citizens, build farms or pastures on food resources, whichever is appropriate. Don’t neglect roads to those resources either.

By the time that you’ve built your second archer your capital should be at least three citizens and it won’t take very long to build that settler. Build your second city near horses if they don’t appear within your capital’s cultural boundary. Your second city’s build order should be barracks > worker > *keshiks (unless the city is built before you’re able to produce keshiks, in which case just build archers for defense – you can always send extra ones to future cities for defense. After you’ve built enough keshiks to defeat your first rival you’ll need to build two more settlers for cities to produce keshiks at a faster rate. Your second rival will have built enough cities by the time that you get to him that two keshik farms will not be sufficient.

You may opt to send your first group of keshiks after a nearby barbarian city to capture and use for more keshik production, however, it is probably better to send them after your first rival for defeat before they get spearmen. In my second run-through of the game I practically had to take a barbarian city because it was parked right in the best route west to my first rival, Asoka. With all the mountains and small lakes you’ll find that in some parts of the map it is critical to keep a path open through a particular pass. In my first game I was able to defeat my first rival before he got those pesky spearmen but by the time that I got to Rooseveldt he had spearmen but never garrisoned more than one spearman per city. Bring two keshiks for each defender in a city – this is plenty regardless of the composition of the defending units. Send your weakest keshiks in first to weaken the defenses and use your more experienced ones to finish the job. Upgrade to combat II, III, then IV. Once you have combat IV in a unit you may opt to promote to shock for those spearmen, but a unit with combat I and shock is likely to be defended against with archers so the shock promotion is worthless for new units without much experience. I played on monarch and at that level expect to lose units with a 66% chance of victory.

The Victims

My first victim was Asoka and he had three archers defending in the nearest city. I brought 6 keshiks and lost 2 of them. In my second run-through I opted to keep this city because it was close to my capital. All other cities should be razed as you can’t afford them and don’t need them. After the battle, pillage improvements with full-health keshiks while the wounded ones heal. Once you have 6 more keshiks ready to go set out for the next city. You may have to search for it. If you are unsure how many cities are left talk to your rival and you can see all but one of his cities in the negotiations screen. From here the strategy is straightforward – kill, kill, kill. Always bring two keshiks for every defender and send in the weakest first. You will have a keshik with 5 promotions in no time.

After you have finished your first victim take a breather. Sign an open borders agreement with your next rival and scout his territory. Use your workers, and you should have captured many in your first campaign, to build roads up to your remaining rival’s territory and into it. Amass 10 keshiks, or so, and have at him. Once he’s down to one or two cities, send newly-made keshiks the long way around into the wild to search for undiscovered cities and/or a archer/archer/settler stack to kill.

My first run-through of this strategy I made many mistakes and didn’t finish until 1270 AD with a score of 15,000. My second try I finished in 340 AD with a score of 18,000. If you’re new to Civ and just want a quick conquest victory on a difficult level, a quechua rush is much more effective. This strategy is aimed for experienced players who want to try something new, and also for ones wishing to fulfill the MapQuest portion of the HOF/Quattromasters competition for the Highlands map. If you try this strategy, or have tried it before, please provide feedback.

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