From the obvious to the more secretive aspects of beating Bad North on Very Hard (or below), i.e. how to manage your troops/coins/space/items/etc.
Guide under construction, so be patient! If you found something helpful, if you’d like to know more about something, or if you have any piece of advice to share, feel free to leave a comment!
We’ll tackle how to better use skills, items and units, but these are not explained in this guide, as getting acquanted with these is a requirement to understand the contents of this guide.
What you need to know about the game
You’ve played the game, or at least seen some gameplay. It’s like an RTS, but you don’t get to produce units. You choose from what’s available, and then you’re on your own to fend off waves of invaders. That’s why the focus of this guide will be on Economy, or what you do before getting into a level, and the meat and potatoes of this game, Micro (management). In both sections you’ll find tips to improve your performance and git gud. Very Hard, the hardest difficulty, shouldn’t be actually that hard, if RNG doesn’t get in our way.
We’ll aim at doing a succesful run, one in which:
-We lose no commanders*
-We protect all houses*
-We don’t skip any islands
-We collect 430-470 coins
-We don’t flee from any islands
-We make the most out of our resources
See the screenshot below for an example of a succesful run.
To make this possible, we need to enable “Restart” when we start the run. If you don’t like that, the tips in the sections below will still help you to make the most out of your run, especially the Micro section.
*Except maybe on the last island, where everything is allowed so long as we make it through, but that’s up to you.
THE LAST STAND, OUR GOAL. Bad North is comparable to games like FTL and Risk of Rain in that, from the get go, you’re already preparing for the final confrontation, and all of your decision impact your whole campaign. Sure, not collecting all the coins from a small island might not make a huge difference in the short term, but a few more battles down the line, you’ll wish you had fought on every single island. The more coins, the more upgraded yours troops are, and the better your chances on every battle, particularly on the last one. With that in mind, let’s try to get all the coins possible.
GREED AND THE SEA. To get all the coins, we need to (a) visit all the islands, (b) not flee from any island and (c) defend all houses.This is why resetting is allowed, as long as you can stand to replay islands. We’ll also need to try to defend as many islands with the least number of commanders we can, otherwise the “mist” will prevent us from visiting all islands.
The “mist” advances every turn, consuming islands in its wake. It might cover one, two or even three islands on a single turn (three being more common on Very Hard, I think). At the beginning, we’ll probably need to spend our coins wisely and try to beat islands with one or two commanders, even when we have four available. You’ll feel a difficulty spike trying to do so, but I’ll make our lives so much easier, and we won’t have to worry that much down the line. Remember, we do it for the coins, and this might be the hardest the game will get if we do things correctly.
About the Philosopher’s Stone This item gives you a coin every time the commander that has this item equipped is deployed. If you upgrade it, you get two coins, and you can upgrade it again for three coins. If you get this early, or even as a starting item, it can make help you get those important upgrades quickly.
Notice that the Philosopher’s Stone needs 5 uses to break even on the first upgrade, and 9 on the second, so it might be wise not to upgrade it if you’re at the end of your run. If you’re ahead of the “wave” and can spare a few turns, you can advance to the next turn to use your unit with the P.S. again for extra gains.
HOW TO SPEND OUR HARD-EARNED MONEY. I won’t be too specific. You’ll have to prioritize what you need right now to beat islands and not fall behind the “mist” in order to maximize profits, but also think about what your composition for the last island will be. Invest on the former in the early game, investing a bit on the Philosopher’s Stone whenever possible, but save some money for the latter.
Consider fully upgrading some units and leaving some units as militia or as lvl 1 pikes or infantry. We’re trying to get all the money we can so that we can spend it at the right moment to deal with a difficult island, and some units might be useful for a single island or just as a decoy.
For the early game, I try to get some level 3 archers quickly, but that’s preference. I think pikes and infantry are useful even at level 1. If you use the tactics described in the Micro section, I think you’ll agree. Remember that even militia are useful, and that any unit can be used as a decoy to support another unit, particularly archers. The second priority is skills, as they allow units to deal with their even their hard-counters with little to no losses.
Here are what I consider the better options for the end game:
-Archers. Particularly level 3 archers. Level 1 archers suck. You can beat the game with just archers if you get the right traits and items.
-Skills. Even lvl 1 infantry can beat some Brutes using Plunge. Even low-level skills are extremely effective on high-level units. You can use these as get-out-of-jail-free cards (more on that in Micro)
-Items, particularly the Hammer, but also the Bomb and the Mines.
I usually go into the last fight with two archer units, one infantry and one pikes unit, but you can even do without the pikes if you time your arrow volleys correctly. Try to decide which units you’d like to use and fully upgrade those. Remember, you can only bring four units! Upgrading other units won’t help you at all on the last island.
Micro 1 – General Advice
I’ll write this section as tips until I get around to re-writing this.
Take a deep breath and think. Like FTL, Dungeon of of the Endless and other strategy games, you should pause every time you need to think until it feels like turn-based strategy. Try to spot boats as soon as they spawn, slow down time with spacebar or by selecting a squad so that you can think and device strategies to fend off the hordes of enemies you’ll be facing.
Skills. They’re situational, complicated, and hard to use, but they’re also life-saving. Very often you can delete hard counters with the right skill. A Pike charge can deal with an archer wave, even if the pikes and the skill are level 1, as long as the positioning and timing are correct. Items like the bomb, mines and the sledgehammers fill the same role, though except for the hammer, they don’t replenish. Basically, even if the enemy counters your units, or if you get two boats on two different sides of an island, and have to fend off, say, archers, with a pikes unit, their skill will allow you to, and that might be all you need to beat an island.
Commanders. All units have one Commander. They are always infantry units, which, if things get messy, can be useful if just one or two infantry managed to sneak past your defences and you have to deal with them with a pikes or archer unit. They can push back enemies quite a bit, and are invulnerable until all other soldiers in the formation are killed. This is particularly useful in case you manage to separate your commander from the rest of the unit, as you can make it fight without fear of it dying. In a desperate situation, if your Commander has War Horn equipped, you can call extra units just as your Commander is about to die. Since you’ve added units to the squad, they won’t, and you can even get your Commander to kill a few units for free.
A commander, separated from the rest of the squad. I can move those archers to fire from the side while keeping the Brutes distracted hitting the Commander, who’ll never die, because the archers are not being attacked. This happened due to sheer luck, but if it does happen, you have to find ways to profit from it! If you want to try to pull this off, your commander has to wander off on its own, or they have to be stunned. Then you move that unit back, and when the commander stands up, you can task the unit with moving to the tile where you want to fight and then back. That way, the squad never gets in danger, but your Commander still fights. Useful when you’re on the last wave, with few soldiers left, and every little thing helps!
Healing. Healing is your friend. You can use a unit to bait archers or delay a bigger melee army until another unit arrives, and then heal the poor bait unit. The only requirement is the commander must be alive. Usually healing lasts takes roughly one-and-a-half waves, pushing two. If you can fend off waves with archers or pikes, militia and infantry can rest and heal up. The opposite is a bit harder, which is why we have to be careful about such units.
Boats. Small boats are easy to push units off of. Medium-sized ans specially large boats have sterns at the back, which grant units on top a lot of pushback resistance. Brutes and Brute Archers are immune to being pushed off on any boat. Except for archers, units can’t deal damage to enemies on boats (though I haven’t tested using skills or items yet).
When boats come ashore, they may push back or even stun your units if they are on the tile where the boat landed. Stunned units are easy prey for any enemy, won’t fight back and can’t defend themselves. If your pikes are pushed back even a little, there’s a good chance their formation brakes, in which case they become vulnerable to any melee attack, rendering them useless. What’s tricky is that very often, boats land in-between two tiles, and pikes in particular often have to be very close to the landing tile, otherwise melee units just move past them. Bigger boats apply more pushback/stun, and I think (I haven’t tested it) higher level units have more pushback/stun resistance, at least against medium ships when they land close but not quite on the same tile.
Getting the most out of your units. One time, I was repeatedly losing on the same island. I turned one of my militia into level 1 archers, I played again, and even though the archers hardly got any kills, but the enemy infantry (the ones with shields) got beat up by mine. Small things like shooting arrows at shielded enemies while charging with infantry, using infantry to block archers’ arrows while attacking with pikes or your own archers, stunning Brutes with archers and then finishing them off with infantry or pikes, letting some enemies wander off to burn buildings (not completely) while hunting down some others with infantry, all of those things make your units stronger than the sum of their parts, and also make your opponent weak enough to be beaten by a weaker force.
On the other hand, you’ll also need to find a way to cover all sides of the island. On Very Hard, boats are going to land on two to four different places at once. Try to come up with strategies to deal with this. Archers are incredible at dealing with 80% of your problems, so you’ll have to get creative the other 20% of the time.
Re-rolling RNG. I don’t recommend abusing this, but if a specific island is giving you lots of trouble, closing the game and opening it again will keep the layout of the island as it was, but will re-roll the enemy waves (where they come from, how many units of each type there are, in which order they turn up, etc.).
Micro 2 – Archers and Pikes
Archers. They are wonderful. You can beat the game on hard with just archers (and a bit of luck, and patience, and a few resets). Sure, they’re trash when they’re not upgraded, and do just barely enough when they’re upgraded to level 2. But once they’re level 3, they’re accurate enough, shoot very fast, deal considerable damage, and can push lots of enemies off boats. Mind, as some other poster mentioned, you should try to shoot boats diagonally or even from the side, since units that are pushed back from the front will land on the back of the boat, while those that get pushed from the side will fall off the boat.
I know a lot of people swear by infantry, but you know what’s better than beating a wave as soon as it lands with minimal losses? Not letting the enemy set foot on your isle to start with.
Other ways of maximizing the destructive power of archers:
-Ring of Command: 16 archers is a lot and can reliably kill huge boats of militia, push vikings and huscarls easily, and kill brutes. The popular trait is nice and all, but it’s nowhere near as effective.
-Heavy Weapons trait. Can help you consistently push shields and huscarls.
-Bringing at least 2 archer squads will let you cover different sides and increase pushback.
-Cliffs increase range but practically do away with pushback. 3-blocks-tall cliffs can practically shield you from archers.
-Strategical use of their Volley skill can reduce or delete enemy squads
Be wary of archers and brute archers, every archer you lose is like 10% of the squad’s firepower (except when wearing Ring of Command). You can move your least important squad side to side to bait archers and brute archers while you fire at them with your own. Careful with Brute Archers, they’ll prioritize shooting archers until they land, even if other units are closer!
Notice that Brutes gain a lot of health against archers on Very Hard difficulty. You can still push them onto the water (not if they are on a boat), and you can usually stun them, but it gets trickier.
Chokepoints and pikes. They’re best friends the two. You’ve probably noticed that low level
pikes struggle against big numbers of enemies, or against multiple strong enemies such as brutes. If you find good chokepoints however, enemies are bottlenecked and die far more easily to pikes; level 3 pikes can deal with almost anything if they get on a hill (except for archers and huscarls). Before battle, when you’re choosing your units, try to find bottlenecks and places where your pikes can hold back enemies on their own. Hills, tunnels and thin paths next to flooded tiles are excellent bottlenecks that greatly amplify your pikes defensive power.
If I remember correctly, hills in particular negate the dual-wielders’ jump-attack ability, keeping your pikes safe (though I think you need to place your pikes directly at the end of the uphill path, but on the middle (see image).
As a rule of thumb, on an open tile with no obstructions, level 1 pikes should be able to deal with up to 2 brutes, and possibly a few enemy militia on top (if they play nice). I’ve just had level 2 pikes lose against 4 brutes, though adding in a militia unit was enough, and I think level 3 pikes should fend off 4-5 brutes. RNG is involved, so take this with many grains of salt. Be careful that lots of enemy militia can swarm pikes, particularly at lower levels (one big boat of 16 of them will crush your pikes). Caves make things a bit easier on your pikes, sort of like a 1,5x power multiplier, and cliffs make your pikes pretty much invincible if there are no ranged enemies or other ways to access the cliff.
Bear in mind that the AI will often choose the shortest path to your houses, even if they are obstructed. The way different enemies prioritize your burning down buildings or attacking your units depends on lots of factors. Usually, archers will stay put as long as they have something to shoot at. Brute Archers wander around and will prioritize shooting down your units. Brutes in general prefer attacking head-on, but might be tempted to burn down houses if given space. I think double-wielders prefer attacking troops, not that I would know, killing them before they land is a top priority!
It’s my first guide, and I don’t have a lot of time, so I tried to be as concise as possible. I might re-write, expand and add sceenshots later on, but I hope what you read was helpful to you and helps you enjoy this fantastic game even more.
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