SpellForce 3: Versus Edition

SpellForce 3: Versus Edition

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Mechanics and optimization
By Rhaaah
Intermediate to expert explanation of game mechanics, to progressively optimize all aspects of your gameplay to reach competitive level.
   
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Introduction
This is not a beginner tutorial. For the basics of the game, please consult the Farlon Steam guide.

Make sure to comment if you'd like more info on certain topics.

What is this about

This tutorial aims at helping you understand how Spellforce 3 mechanics work, and how you should use them to get better at playing the game. It focuses on Spellforce 3 - Reforced Edition.

This guide tries to stay off balance comments, so that it should stay valid even after patches. It's about making the best use of your time, macro and micro. Therefore, build orders, army compositions, matchup analysis could be addressed in other guides.

Each section will contain a TL:DR introduction, which gives the different conclusions of the chapter. Each chapter will then go progressively more and more in depth on each mechanic or feature.

If you are unsure about the definition of a term, check out the last chapter Glossary for its explanation.

Learning materials

Your best bet for getting customized and up to date information is to join the official Spellforce Discord. There is a multiplayer section, with various tips and tricks, guides, and ways to request specific games.
You can also look through various video sources, such as youtube and twitch, to find gameplay, other tutorials, or tournament casts.
Finally, a great source of learning is to watch your replays ingame. Analyze your mistakes, and see what your opponent did to get the upper hand.

Spellforce 101 - The first tips

The most common beginner mistakes :
- Forgetting to make a hero or choose only passive/aura skills
- Using the same standard start build for all races ( 1 wood, 1 stone, 1 food, 1 barrack, 1 tower )
- Waiting in your base in defensive position
- Starting by making army in your main build at min 0 (until you are comfortable with the flow of the economy)
- Going T2 at min 0

Instead, try to do the following :
- Select some active hero skill and focus regeneration, and use them often in battle
- Adapt your build to the race you are playing (for example, 3 wood for elves in the main)
- Conquer sectors early on, and kill the creeps to level up the hero
- Fully man the main building and a sector before starting army production
- Fully develop 3-4 sectors before considering going T2
Maps and sector system
TL:DR

  • Remember to expand a lot, securing initially map control and the resources you need early on
  • Don't neglect creeps on the map, it is XP for your hero and sometimes defend a sector
  • You can also expand less, work on early army and creeping, to punish a player who over expanded and built too many sectors without army or strong hero.
  • Split cleanly the map for an economic game ; steal flags and sectors, without continuity for forcing aggressive messy games.

The sector system and expansion

The first thing to know about Spellforce 3 maps is that they are not generated. They are static, and always the same when the game starts. Therefore, once you learn a map, you can prepare multiple build orders and base layouts.

The second thing is that the map is cut into sectors. A sector is an isolated portion of the map, where all its content is reserved to its owner. If you own a sector, the enemy cannot send workers to mine your resource, or use the godstone or tainted obelisk. However, you also cannot make your own workers travel between sectors. Holding a sector also grants an out of combat regeneration to your units.

The sector system has a few implications on the game :
  • If you have fewer sectors than your opponent, you are naturally at an economic disadvantage. So it is imperative to expand a lot early on, conquering as many flags as possible. It does not mean build a sector on each of them, but at least having visibility and control on that sector. The game does not reward camping in a corner of the map.
  • There is a part of the map which you are expected to own, a part of the map your enemy is expected to own, and a part of the map which you are supposed to contest. This means that there are natural expansions paths, which usually ends in a more economic game, and other more artificial paths to force the game into a messy state, which usually turns the game more aggressive.
  • While sectors are isolated, players tend to really appreciate owning a chain of sectors, to ensure easy and safe troop assembling. Also, having a sector fully surrounded by opponent sectors makes it extremely hard to defend, resulting in risky teleports, or wasted investments. But the game being messy for you can also mean a messy game for your opponent, which could play in your favor.
  • Losing a built sector is very painful economically. Workers die, some mined resources stay stuck in the sector, destroyed buildings generate resources, which is all gain to the attacker. Therefore, when a sector is under attack, you often either
    - teleport to defend
    - repair outpost and sell buildings to reduce your losses
    - try to force a base trade

The different map elements

To better know how to expand on the map, it is important to know the different elements you can find on each map, and when you will interact with them in the game.

Resource distribution

This is the most important criteria when evaluating your expansion route. Each race has different resource needs. Therefore, you may need more wood early on and choose to expand on a wood heavy sector. But if you need all 3 T1 resources in the first expansion for your build order, then you are often limited in your expansion routes. To get to learn the maps, remember that you can use the Map Overview to better evaluate your options.
Additionally, you probably early on want to secure iron sectors, because T2 can be reached really early, at the expense of a T3 sector, considering that this sector is a problem for later in the game.

Godstone
Godstones are gates, portals which you can link to transport units through. It also helps you recall your hero after it died. This usually is a critical factor when evaluating a sector's importance. We will talk a lot more about godstones in the Mobility chapter

Creeps

Creeps are AI controlled groups of monsters which you can find on the map. We will cover them extensively in a dedicated chapter. But knowing which type of creep camp lurks in which sector can also heavily influence your expansion route.
Keep in mind, the smallest creep camps are really easy to kill, and should not be considered obstacles, but incentives to where you need to expand.

Scrap piles
Scrap is a very unique resource for trolls, which can be gathered from scrap piles not bound to any sectors. Therefore, there is little to no easy consistent way of figuring their position.
It is also very important for non troll players to know where these piles are, because you can easily harass the scrapper, especially if the opponent sent a sneaky scrapper gather scraps on your side of the map.

Tainted obelisks
The Tainted obelisk is a fixed building where each race can summon their titan. Since titans appear rarely in a competitive game, this could be a low importance criteria. However it’s important to know where it is, because you will have the option later on and you can regularly scout the enemy obelisk to track if he ever starts working on the titan.

Barriers

On some specific maps, you will find artifical barriers which prevent units to move through without destroying them. It is important to know where they are because when you click on the minimap to trigger an army movement, you may see your units running in the complete opposite direction. It could mean there is a barrier in the way.
Trying to destroy a barrier with multiple units can trigger pathing issues. So when you do so, make sure to keep an eye on your units, because some of them will try to attack the barrier from its opposite side.

Tower of vision
On some specific maps, you will find towers of vision. Having a unit close by will grant you vision over a large portion of the map. A few things of note with these towers :
  • They are not owned, so if you both fight under that tower, you both will have a large LoS
  • You can buy a totem of scouting, post it in defensive position close to the tower of vision, and it will permanently grant you vision from the tower (well, until the totem is killed)
  • Placing a dwarf tunnel will not grant you permanent vision

Expansion example : Greykeep garden

Here are a few examples of active expansions with different outcomes/purposes :
  • Red path : A classic economy expansion approach. You sometimes add the right sector, and then focuses on the middle of the map, securing the mass of iron
  • Green : Common path used to secure both middle godstones. It can be deadly if the opponent failed to scout it, because he lost all map control. The risk is then to overexpand, build too much economy, and the opponent reacted properly and built early army to take down the bases
  • Blue : Common path for fast level 5 : Secure a minimum amount of sectors, use the godstone to come back, buy your weapon, take your creep, teleport back to main to buy your armor. This build punishes economic builds really well, and usually ends in taking either of the skeleton groups to get level
  • Yellow : This rarer pathing is a good alternative when you scouted a green pathing. You can then take a proxy base of your enemy, and directly harass his main base economy. You can end by taking his creeps or going back home to complete your expansions
  • Purple : This rarer path can be used when you scout an Blue path, and try to cripple the economy, before going back

Resource system
TL:DR

  • Build your resource buildings very close to the resource, but not too close to avoid the carrier bug
  • Adapt your economy to your needs : if you float 60 of 1 resource early on, or lack 50 of another, rebalance your economy.
  • Push your economy, stay on 0 total resources
  • Queue just the right amount of stuff at the same time, to keep control of your resource flow
  • Keep tabs of idle workers
  • Learn what the other race needs for their own economy to pressure the right spots
  • Bell/unbell workers, worker HP upgrade, move workers to other buildings to defend harass

Workers and carriers

SF3 uses 2 types of workers :
  • The worker : he is the one manning the buildings and producing the resources. They are produced every 20s, until they reach the maximum worker count, which depends on sector level.
  • The carrier : he moves around the resources, and builds/repair buildings. The carriers are infinite per sector.

Here is a small example of what you can find in your base.


The first thing you see is that you have a limit of workers per sector, so don't build too many buildings in your sector, because you cannot put workers into all of them. Build only what you need, recycle what you don't (by deconstructing it). For example, If you play dwarves, you usually place 1 food, 3 stones, 1 wood, and your worker count is filled. So don't add barracks or towers, you cannot man them.

Then, Workers move to the resource to gather it, carry it back to the building, then carriers bring it back to the outposts. Outposts are virtually connected, therefore resources are instantly transfered. What this means, is that you should ALWAYS place your resource buildings as close as you can to the resource, to limit worker walking time and optimise resource production, because workers are the bottleneck. However, beware the carrier bug, both workers can get stuck in some areas randomly when buildings are too close. So very close, but not too close !

You can assign workers even though they aren't produced yet (red worker). Once a worker is ready, he will automatically fill 1 red worker slot and get to work. You can use this to prioritize your resources. For example, if you are a T2 elves, and build 2 iron mines, in a brand new sectors, remove workers from your second iron mine, because you most likely don't have the wood for it. This will get you the quickest first usable iron income.

Keep tabs of your idle workers. Workers which aren't working are wasted investment in a sector you just built/upgraded. So if you are DE and float 50 wood/50 food, instead of making 4 upgraded sectors, make 2 and directly put down 2 3 buildings to give work to your upcoming workers, reducing downtime.

5 resources per race

The 6 races of SF3 all need 5 resources. The 3 T1 resources, which are shared. The T2 resource, iron, which is shared (except troll scrap). The unique T3 resource per race.

However, the 6 races play very differently, and have very different requirements. Elves/DE need a lot of wood, and Dwarves require a lot of stone (no, really ??). So you cannot go for a standard build identical for all races, you need a custom build for each of them :
Type
Humans
Elves
Dwarves
Orc
Troll
Dark Elves
Wood
2
3
1
5
4
3
Stone
1
0
3
1
2
0
Food
1
1
1
2
2
1

A rather unique feature is that you can go in negative resources. What it means is that you do not own the resources yet, but the game already know what the next order is. So as soon as the resource is ready it will go in this building/unit/tech you just clicked.

One of the hardest skills of SF3 is to figure out exactly how much you need of what to do what you want to do (aka macro/build order). The most efficient way to play is to stay as close to 0 resources as you can across the game, even slightly negative once you reach mid game and your income is rather large. If you reach 100 wood, then you made too much economy, remove 2 woodcutters, replace it in food and/or military buildings. If you are -50 stones, then maybe it's time to fix your economy, make a stonecutter, and slow down on army, before you doom yourself.

Destroying your own buildings (not outposts) brings you 100% of your resources back after deconstruction. So recycle buildings you don't need to save economy, and if you get pushed on a sector that you can't hold, repair the sector, and remove the buildings inside to mitigate the economy damage.

Distribution priority

OK, I went -150 resource, how does the game prioritise my requests ?

To deal with parallel request, the game has a priority system. It will attribute resources in priority to :
  • Main base upgrade
  • Sector upgrades
  • Unit creation
  • Repair
  • Building constructions
  • Technologies

It is not a guaranteed order. For example, if you tech Savage Blows of protectors, and permanently stay -20 iron by producing units continuously, you will still get your upgrade. But not as fast as if the game ordered the priority by clicks. So it could be that you will produce 40 pop of units before the upgrade kicks in.

You can conclude a few things from this :
  • If you want to keep control of your economy, you can go into negatives (like min 12 it's completely normal to see -60 stones for a Dwarf player, especially that you most likely have 100 stone/min income), but you should avoid queuing too many different things. Because it's not always clear what the game will decide to do.
  • Sector upgrades are overall very reliable. So as soon as your outpost is under attack, repair and upgrade it, if you can, teleport to it if you can match the enemy force, and you should hold the push. This is the common DE defense. If you cannot hold it, deconstruct other buildings to save economy.
  • You can kind of soft lock your economy, for a certain time !
    - Elves : Minute 5, you queue a guardian, your T2 upgrade, and a T1 sector upgrade. T2 costs 20 stones, T1 sector upgrade cost 8 stones, so you drop to -18 stones. Even if during the guardian production time you gathered your 8 stones, your T1 sector will not take priority, and so the T2 technology finishes before the T1 outpost. You can fix this issue by not queuing the T2 upgrade until the guardian is finished, and then your T1 outpost could go up during the T2 tech.
    - Trolls : You sometimes see smashers sent to Hitting camps, while you have -20 scraps. However, at the same time, you queued a scrapper. But you are also negative on food. New smashers will still produce faster than the scrapper, which means the scrap hoard does not process scrap, so you cannot upgrade your old smashers into skullcrushers.

Harass and defense

Some common trick to defend harass :
  • Bell your workers : in each building, you can ring the bell to guarison workers, keeping them safe. However :
    - Remember to unbell after harass, otherwise the eco damage goes on.
    - Workers with DoT can still die inside the building, Example : Plaguebringer disease.
    - If possible, wait for the last second. If workers dropped 1 resource, carriers will take care of it for you.
  • Worker HP upgrade : Except trolls, you can upgrade your workers 3 times for up to +150 HP. This can save you from huge losses and still pays off during T2 with iron harass.
  • After attack, if you suffered massive damage, rearrange workers to refill your needs. Example, dwarves, if you lost 8 miners, bring wood workers in stone mines.
Hero system
TL:DR
  • Always stay active with the hero
  • XP received is a proportion of damage dealt on the killed unit
  • Find the balance between skills and perks. Rule of thumb : 1 focus for 1 to 2 spells
  • Level up and gear your hero throughout the game
  • Engage in flag fights at your own risk
The Skill tree

So the skill trees almost all have the same shape (Guardian of Nor example) :
  • 4 default perks : Power, HP, Cooldown, Focus. Usually you will put some points in active skills, and fill up power/focus accordingly. A rule of thumb is 1 focus point for 1 or 2 spells (depending on hero). If you have too much cooldown and no focus, you won't keep your spells on cooldown. If you have a lot of power, auto attacks benefit from it but you can cast less often. Find your own balance
  • 2 custom perks : These 2 perks are meant to match the flavor and skillset of the hero. Here, the Guardian of Nor is a tanky hero, so both these are different ways of healing yourself
  • A left usually generic tree : In this tree, for most heroes you find a strong single target damage, and AoE damage, and a control/movement spell. For example, top is single target, left is AoE, right is a TP spell. This gives you a way to play most heroes in a simple generic way
  • A right custom tree : this is often the tree that gives the uniqueness to the hero. For example, here all spells are about sacrificing one of your units to create an effect in an AoE
  • 2 custom ultimates : There are no pattern to these 2 ultimates, they are completely unique. In this one, the left ultimate is made to synergize with all offensive spells in the whole tree, and the right one is again about sacrificing a unit for more tankiness

Spells with multiple levels have "leaves" on the side of the spell. This can help you compare the different levels of the spells.

Almost every spell scales with power, which makes it a great dump perk. It affects both damage and strength of statuses.

To make the best of your hero, you need early on abilities which do enough damage to help you creep fast and/or harass easily. Choose few spells, 1 point in focus, and use the spells often. Later on, choose some control and/or mobility options. There is a good chance you will choose one of your ultimate on level 5.

Leveling up

The first thing to know is that experience gained is based on the proportion of damage you make to the unit that died, not who got the last hit. So if you killed a unit on your own, you get 100% of the experience. If you dealt 60% of the damage, you get 60% of the XP, and whoever dealt the rest get th 40% remaining. You can also only get XP within a certain range, which seems to be around 1.5 screens of 1080p, but it's quite unclear. If you are out of the range, the XP is simply lost, not even given to the other group which finished the job.
--> This means, a common trick is to send your scout make 1 hit on the enemy 1 creep camp. This will make them get 99% of the creep camp XP, denying level 2. It could be a way to force a fight with level advantage or tilt your opponent :)

The vast majority of XP you get is from creeps. The average unit brings 20-40 XP, compared to a 100 XP bandit. So careful not to lose your creep camps. But more on that in its dedicated chapter.

Killing the enemy hero also brings a large amount of XP, in addition to a great map control advantage, because you forced it away to repop. It's very often your way on low XP map to get from level 4 to 5, and unlocking your ultimate before the other. Later on, you often get your level 2 versions of your common, and fill up your power perk. Remaining posts go in perks, to avoid too many spells that you don't actually use.

When you level up, don't forget to upgrade your equipment. More on that in the Merchant chapter.

Here is a table of Hero information, which we will reuse in the Creeping section. It helps calculate thresholds to get your equipment or your levels for timing attacks.


General tips

Your hero should always be active. Kill your creeps. If you can't, go expand. If you can't, go harass. If you can't, go kill flags/sectors. If you can't, go shopping. If you can't, move around to mask your position. There is always something to do, and if the hero pauses, you're wasting time !

Sort your spellbar so that it fits your Keyboard hand position. For example, keep your active spells on F1 to F4. If you chose an aura or a spell that you don't want to accidentally misclick, drag it to F7 or more. You can even move it to the 2nd spellbar, right behind. In case you accidentally lost a spell from your spellbar, go back in your skilltree and drag & drop the spell that you lost.

Some players also like the radial menu. Press Alt on the ground or on a target to cast a spell on it. The problem is that it's static, so it's harder to aim. But if you're comfortable doing so, go for it ! It's especially awesome in campaign.

Options are really good. So take at least 2 spells. But usually, if you end up with 6 spells or more, you cannot use them all effectively. So find your balance between options and power of each option.

When a hero dies, it takes 5s for it to be available for production again (Death timer). However, if you don't click it, the corpse of the hero stays for 14s on the ground. The reason for that is that if you're playing campaign, or 2 heroes, or a team game, allied heroes can revive you in a 5s animation.

Sometimes, dying is not necessarily bad. You can use this as a free heal or a quick run to the merchant.

Flag fights

You eventually will run into flag fights. Flag fights happen when you and the opponent hero are fighting for control over 1 specific sector, and decide to fight for 30s to 2 min on it. Some heroes excel at flag fights, some suck at it and have to accept to lose it. If you are not comfortable on flag fights, don't force them, accept to lose it, upgrade the next sector, and go do anything else.

However, if you choose to do so :
  • Pick spells which can damage flags, and use them in between auto attacks.
  • Use your unit target spells on the opponent hero as well. In the end, it's an endurance fight, whoever runs out of potions first loses
  • Count the cards potions. See how many creeps he probably killed, so you know how many potions he has. If you see you're drinking faster, you're losing.
  • Very good trick : Instead of letting the opponent deal the last hit and probably get the first click to replace the fight, demolish the flag and rebuild it. If you do so you have the element of surprise. An addition to the trick is to delete it and walk on it. It means that as long as your hero is on it others cannot build, and then right click it and you will naturally find the right place and build the flag.

Harassing enemy economy

Some common trick to harass :
  • Do not target carriers. As we said before they are virtually infinite. This doesn't damage the economy. Your targets are workers.
  • Stay away from outpost fire. It may be that if you lose 3 4 healing potions because of poorly done harass, you harmed yourself more than you harmed your opponent (keep in mind, you walked all the way there, while he was expanding or creeping).
  • Take a look at thresholds. See exactly how much points in power you need so that 1 spell or 1 spell + auto attack kills a worker
  • Keep moving in the economy once the enemy belled workers.
  • Use shop items : firebombs can surprise kill 1 whole group of workers. Totems also work ok. But them at the enemy merchant for bonus tilt damage :)

Result :
Creeping
TL:DR

  • Remember to creep to keep your hero level, gold and gear up with army level
  • You can trigger creeps to destroy enemy flags, using the scout
  • You can split medium groups in 2 subgroups, for quicker and easier creeping
  • Press Spacebar for quick item pickup
  • XP gained is a proportion of the damage dealt on the dead unit
  • Use your outpost to creep high level creeps, and come back later to finish and get the XP
  • You can deny level 2 on enemy hero by doing 1 hit with scout on first creep camp
  • Weaken orbs are a good way to deal with high level creeps
  • The closest hero gets the gold

General creeping tips

Creeps are either hostile (RED symbol on the map), or neutral (WHITE symbol on the map). If it's white and attacking, either the map is wrong (yes, that happens), or someone sneakily triggered the creep with their scout. it's a good aggressive way to slow down your opponent's expansion.

You will often end up sharing creeps with your opponent (and these 3 party fights are really fun to play). When doing so, micro is very important to try to draw the attention of creeps on your opponent units, take some time to get the flag for yourself, and fight to get the drops. You can use the spacebar by default to pickup the creep. Remember how XP is distributed as well, the more damage you deal on creep, the more XP for you and the less for the other.

The harder the creep, the more time it takes to kill it, and you need to get ideas to deal with them. Use the outpost to aggro the creep, outrepair the damage on the outpost, and come back before the kill is done. If not, XP is lost. Weaken orbs are also an option to quicken the killing.


Here is a table of rewards you get for killing these different creep camps. Using this, and cross referencing with the table shown in the Hero Levels section, we can now determine how many creeps of each type we need to get level 5, or to buy our gear :
4 small = 16 XP from level 4 (2 workers)
4 smalls + 2 Bears = Lvl 5
2 smalls + Bear + Wyvern = Lvl 5
4 smalls + Bandits (M) + Undead(M) = Lvl 5


Small


Very easy group of 4 zombies. For most heroes, it involves 1 AoE spell, and 1 auto attack for each zombie. If you use an AoE with duration ( like goblin fire totem, or druid's Elen fire), make sure to put the AoE close/on the flag so that you can build your flag at the same time, saving yourself some precious seconds. There is no potion drop here




2 melee bandits, 1 archer bandit. Try to find the right chain of attack/spells to reduce the amount of hits, because 3 4 hits delay you by almost 10s. It's common to use the scout to make the additional needed damage.

Medium


This rare bandit group drops no reward but lots of gold. They deal a lot of damage all together, so you really want to try to split the group if possible. Bait them with your hero or a unit, kill the small group and finish up the rest.








The bear gives you 2 potions, HP and focus. The bear is particularily weak to pierce, and resistant to strike, so you often can you your pierce damage outpost to creep him while taking the rest of the map and coming back for the kill, or a bunch of archers rather than melee units.




This camp drops 2 HP potions by melee medusas, and 1 focus potion by the mage medusa. Again, they're quite strong, so you want to avoid fighting them all at once early on. Split the group again. Some notes on them :
  • All medusas have a slow aura, making them annoying to maneuver around
  • The ranged medusas really love focus down low HP units. So work on your pullback micro
  • The mage medusa has a strong ice AoE spell, dodge it if you can






This tough medium group drops 2 HP and 1 focus potion. It is a large group with a lot of damage so beware, it's hard to kill before min 5. Some notes
  • Undead are immune to weaken. So RIP the reaper, and weaken orbs to help creeping.
  • The knight has an armored aura, which makes the group a lot harder to kill. If you have some good focus fire, take him down fast.
  • The 2 handed swords ones cleave and interrupt on hit. So it's very common that your spells will get interrupted if you don't micro

Large

The large creeps also drop a accessory to your hero. Abuse the outpost trick to kill the wyverns faster if you can. Note that wyverns AoE is a cone which makes their spells much stronger than they look. Keep your interrupt at the ready or split your army all around it to reduce their impact.


This medusa group is the medium medusa group with the Vixen. The Vixen drops the loot, a large share of the group XP. However she has 2 surprises, an AoE heal for other medusas, and a strong AoE stun with a large cooldown and recognizable sound. Make sure you interrupt it.






This wyvern has a Fire AoE. It deals large damage but that's about it.







This wyvern has a long duration freeze spell, making it the worst wyvern to fight. Split as much as you can, because you won't always interrupt.







The AoE spell silences your hero. It can be pretty annoying when you cannot use your interrupt or weaken spells, but that's it.









This last wyvern has a chain lightning spell, jumping on 15 targets. It's the most damaging wyvern. Try to kill it fast enough to cast it only once. If it can cast twice, isolate the group which you feel will get hit, so you can contain the chain. And pullback micro is important.

Gigantic

These ones drop a legendary item, which is extremely potent. Notably, Noria's command grants 25% power multiplier, which is really strong. However, sometimes it can happen that you prefer an armor amulet to reach extremely resistances rather than extreme damage.

The punches of these golems have a lot of reach, AoE, and damage, so don't rush them. It's very common that getting intercepted while creeping a golem is an instant catastrophe, resulting in a lost game. But they are also very rewarding, bringing your from level 5 to 7 almost directly.



This is by far the most brutal creep in the game. It has a massive supernova spell, with low cooldown. It almost 1 shots T1 units, so do it at your own risk.







This is the easiest of the golems. It has an ice aura, which enfeebles and impairs you, making your melee units inefficient at creeping it. It serves as a sponge more than a tough creep.






This golem has a unique spin AoE attack, which applies a bleeding and a massive slow. So dodge it only if you think you're fast enough, because if you fail to dodge, it takes you 3 whole seconds just to get back in melee
Merchants
TL:DR

  • Don't forget to shop (godstone, hero death, ...)
  • Purple armor almost always goes first
  • Creep loot has a 60% efficiency duplicate in the stores
  • Identical buff types do not stacks, aside from armor
  • Buy at the enemy merchant when harassing
  • Sell your own equipment, it can get you 1 more potion
  • You can buy equipment for your allies

Where are the merchants

On most maps, merchants can be found in every main base. They do not show on the minimap until we actually explored the area, so if you don't see him at the game start, it's fine, just look around for any structure that looks like wares. This is where the merchant is.



Some maps have additional merchants elsewhere on the map (example Ancient City, Evergreen Forest, Jungle Crossroads, ...). These merchants are slightly different, as they don't have the hero armors and weapons. So it's more about refueling on consumables.

Armors & weapons

The most common bought equipment are the hero weapon and the hero armor. Some heroes have additional pieces of equipment, such as the Shield from Guardian of Nor and the 2nd axe from the Warrior of the Depths. These items have 3 variants, the weakest green one, an intermediate blue one and a legendary purple one.

In most cases, players go directly from green to purple equipment. Very often, you would rather get he armor first, as keeping your hero alive bring so much value across the board during the game. But while perfecting your creep paths or harass options, you may want to go for the weapon first, which often helps you 1 shot workers more easily. It also gets useful again creeps, so taking the weapon first is fine if you know you will secure enough gold of at least a better armor.

The Guardian of Nor shield can also be a great cheaper alternative to the armor, if you go for the blocking perk. Also, for the Warrior of the Depths, skipping the off hand axe is often a money saver, because it brings a much smaller damage buff compared to the main hand axe.

Creep reward duplicates

Every creep accessory has its own version in the shop. It's cheaper than the real deal found on creeps, but is also has only 60% of their power. This way, if you killed a wyvern and are unhappy with the result, you can still complete with shop items.

IMPORTANT : Identical Items do not stack, aside from armor ! So If you take 2 block rings, or 2 health rings, only 1 will apply. So if you're unlucky with your creeping, either sell the duplicate or (team games exclusive) give it to an ally by dropping it on the ground when you meet. However, if you have a 150 HP ring and a 250 HP ring, since they are not identical, they stack.

An exception is the Speed Amulet. This item can exclusively be found in the shop, and grants a large speed bonus to your hero. This item hasn't been explored much overall in competitive setting.

Consumables

Here are some consumables you can find in the shop :
  • HP potion : a must, keep your stock up
  • focus potion : this one is tricky. You can make a hero build with max power and low focus, relying on potions. It's non sustainable but it can result in brutal timing attacks
  • Potion of proficiency : Great expensive potion. Give an additional skill point. Some heroes love this, for example the Reaper, who tends to always lack points. Great money sink very late game too
  • Potion of fresh start : Allows you to reskill your hero entirely, for a moderate cost. This hasn't been explored much. An example is the wolfguard hard switch to auras on level 7, to remove your useless early game abilities
  • Fire orb : Great at dealing with early game swarms or creep faster
  • Weaken orb : Great to help kill the biggest creeps fast
  • Slow orb : Rarely used item, probably underused because the slow is extreme on it
  • Nullifying orb : Removes boons. Boons are the effect with a custom tooltip, such as Empowered. It's actually not a very useful item because boons are rare and some are undispellable. The only good use case might be removing the Soul Catharsis II from the Guardian of Nor (which gives immune to afflictions), or the various hasten/empower buffs from dwarves T3 options
  • Summon scroll : useless for their prices
  • Scouting totem : 100 gold for permanent vision until killed. Great on Ancient city to camp the tower of vision, or on other maps to see when your opponent goes creeping
  • Fire totems : OK item for harass only. Buy them directly at your opponent merchant

Shopping timings

In many games, it is hard to find out when you can safely go shopping without losing your position.

The easiest moment to go get your equipment is during a short peaceful moment, use the Godstone to go to the merchant, and if the enemy attacks, use the stone of homecoming. If you do so, bring your army with you, or you might get an awkward teleport, alone in front of the enemy army.

Another good moment is when you're still expanding with the hero. At some point, you will run into a godstone sector, quickly use it to get 1 piece of equipment and continue your expansion. You may lose 10-15 precious seconds, but it could also mean the difference in a mid game fight later on.

Lastly, remember that your main base merchant is not necessarily the only merchant. Use the merchants in the middle of the map, or your enemy merchant if you're deep in your aggression.

Merchant tricks

If you know you're about to buy your armor, or your weapon. Unequip it before talking to the merchant. Then in 1 transaction, sell and buy at the same time. This saves you some clicks, because the merchant is already enough time consuming as is, and can get you get sometimes just enough gold for 1 additional potion in that transaction.

For team games, as you can see on the screenshot higher, the merchant by default filters to relevant items. However you can show all items in the store. So if you killed a creep with your ally, got the gold but don't need it, you can buy an item for your ally, then drop it on the ground for your ally to pick up and equip.

Similarly but in 1v1, you could go to the enemy merchant and buy from there. Often, you buy consumables, especially HP potions and orbs. But if you're super rich, you could just buy his purple armor for example, so that if he wants it he'll have to get to your merchant. This is very extreme, and probably only works in a fully mirrored matchup, with same hero.

This one is barely of any use : right clicking an item doesn't buy 5 instances as you could expect, but unlocks a menu where you can say how many you want. May not be very useful in versus, but can be nice in campaign, when buying lots of potions for example.
Mobility on the map
TL:DR

  • A-move
  • Use control groups to manage multiple fronts at the same time
  • Connect godstones for troop movements, even neutral ones
  • Use your stone of Homecoming (F12) wisely
  • beware siege runbys
  • Choose when to defend a bait & switch, or force a base trade
  • The defensive stance can be used for harass and blocking units
  • Use negative space for harass and kiting with flying units


Attack move

As in all RTS games, right clicking will move your units to a location. A-move (A is the common shortcut on QWERTY keyboards), or Ctrl+move will make an aggressive move of your units. They will attack anything they encounter in their path. You can use this to :
  • Enter a big fight
  • Attack the closest units after some group micro
  • Make sure that you will fight back if you move across the map and are intercepted by the enemy without your noticing
  • kiting back

A common beginner mistake it to get so used to it that you A-move to fall back during a fight. This doesn't work, it sends your units back in the fight. So A move in, but simple move out.

Control groups

As in all RTS games, you can assign units to control groups. [Ctrl + Number] will assign the selected units to the same group Number. For example, Ctrl+1. Then by pressing 1, you can directly select these units. By pressing 1 2 times, you also center camera on the group. This makes it very easy to jump between groups of units. For example, I always assign my Hero to 1, and press 1-1 every few seconds to see what my hero is currently doing.

SF3 doesn't work like some other big RTS titles when it comes to multiple groups management. So you're encouraged to experiment to see how it works.

A very useful shortcut while progressively getting better at micro is the "Select all military units" control, which is the U button. This is quite helpful when you're trying to make 1 big push in one location, but it messes up with custom orders given to custom groups. So a good practice is to start with it, and once you get good at micro, unbind this key and solely rely on control groups.

In SF3, it's rarer than other RTS to fight on multiple fronts, this is due to the nature of sectors. However, 1 very common occurence is the siege runbys. You attack a position with your main army (for distraction) and send siege units to quickly destroy another base. Golems, brutes, wallbreakers serve this purpose perfectly. You can also perform a similar trick with range siege, and use the [Attack ground] command to target the border of the outpost while staying out of sight. This forces a reaction from opponent.

Godstones

Godstones help you revive your hero, but it's only 1 of its 2 main functions. The second one is its portal function. If you control 2 godstones, you can select one, and in the grid, connect it to another godstone. Then you can send your troops through the godstone to instantly teleport to the other godstone. This is really helpful on large maps to manage your rally points.

This feature makes godstone sectors extremely important, because it's your direct access to the frontline. Often you use it to send your hero to the merchant, but not having a godstone means walking to the merchant and risking to use your F12.

It's not uncommon to set your production buildings' rally point directly on a godstone. Then to set a rally point from the connected godstone to somewhere on the front line. This makes for 1 chain of rallies which bring directly your new units to a specific location.

Note that you can connect godstones to allied godstones as well. And if a godstone is not in a sector, you can click it with a hero to take control of it and use it. This often leads to a TP minigame with your enemy (Example, Wasteland of Xu).

Stone of Homecoming

The stone of Homecoming, or F12, is a rune that the hero equips in the inventory (bottom slot).

Every 75s, the owning hero can use it to teleport himself and the surrounding units to a building. This is very often used in a few cases :
  • TP to defend a sector under attack
  • Bait & switch, next section
  • Save some walking seconds of creeping. Example, Greykeep after creeping the Medium bandits

You can teleport to any building of your choice.If you click the minimap, it will be on the outpost of that sector, but if you click on a specific building which have > 1 HP, it should also work. But F12 is known to be moody so it can happen that it bugs (very rare though).

Interrupt spell effect does not interrupt F12, but knockdown does. Frozen heroes can F12.

Current bug or feature: If the opponent uses F12 on a sector which you have explored before, you can tell for a split second where he went. So when enemy TPs, pay attention to the minimap.

If you don't see F12 in your action bar, you can drag & drop it from your inventory to the slot in the action bar. This happens when you accidentally dragged it out, or on modded maps where inventory is not automatically equipped.

Bait & switch vs base trade

Typical Spellforce game : You attack a sector, enemy uses F12 to defend. Either you fight him under the outpost, or fall back. It's common that the attacker uses his own F12 to TP to the other side of the map and siege another base.

The reaction of the defender really depends on the map. Can you walk there and defend on time ? Can you use a godstone ? Do you have a second force or flying units which can deal with it ? Or can you afford to lose it and counter attack. If you counter attack, we call this a base trade.

Defensive stance

By default, units come out in aggressive stance, attacking the closest unit in a certain range. But you can force them to stay immobile [2nd button on the grid]. When a unit is immobile, it will only attack units in attack range. This serves multiple purposes :
  • Harass. Post your scout or archer in defensive stance close to the resource gather spot. That means the unit won't be baited into the range of the outpost and die stupidly.
  • Blocking. Units in defensive cannot be pushed (exceptions below). So you can use this to block a path and force the enemies to turn around. But you can also trap enemy units. For example, scoundrels are often switched in defensive stance around a smasher to block him and snipe him.

Note that there is a complex and fuzzy system regarding unit priorities. So the blocking rule applies, but some units can break that. Heroes can't be trapped this way, but can be trapped by big aggressive units. Some big units can break defensive lines.

There is also a risk when putting some units in defensive or locked stance that you will block your own retreat. It commonly happens to dwarves with deployed sentries.

Negative space

Negative space is often the place for the developer's artistic creation, and is unreachable via normal units. But flying units can access it. This means that units can get in and out of this space with impunity.

A common use case is harassing iron position with flying ranged units. So you will harass with plague beetles or troll boomdroppers. And when the enemy sends units, you just retreat, wait his departure and come back. This applies a lot of economic and tilt damage.

A type of defense one can use against it is towers. Place a tower in close by to attack flyers. This is expensive, stationary, workers in there permanently do not produce resources, and if they are not permanently in, swapping workers can take so long that the attacker has time to retreat.

The counterpart is that most flying units are expensive and means the main enemy army is weaker.
Damage, Armor, Status, Characteristics
TL:DR

  • The armor system is percentage based. 4 damage types are protected by armor, pure damage ignores armor
  • Attack details are visible in the tooltip of the damage number
  • Building resistances are 33/66/33/-50
  • There are dozens of effects, the most common ones have common opposites
  • Identical effects almost never stack, but there are ways and exceptions
  • Some units have characteristics protecting them from effects, hover on the status bar for details

Armor

There are 5 types of damage :
  • Strike : This is often melee units
  • Pierce : This is often ranged units, and some polearms
  • Magic : Almost all hero damage deal magic damage, and a lot of T3 units have magic damage
  • Siege : mostly reserved against buildings and huge creatures (titans, golems, ...)
  • Pure : rare effect ignoring all armors. Often done by the bleeding effect

There are a few other damage types which can appear (such as blunt damage when you remove your hero weapon). These are legacy types from the base game campaign.


Armor is 4 percentages values for the 4 first damage types. For example, if we look at the top screenshot, if this hero gets attacked with 200 magic damage, he will take 200 * (84/100 ) = 16.8 damage.

What this implies is that going from 0 to 25% armor protects you from 25% more damage, so it's 25% improvement. But going from 50 to 75% is actually 50% improvement. The higher you get in armor, the more effective and broken it gets. It also means that reducing armor on high resistance is more effective on already high resistances, such as siege. So dark elves, with their heavy weakening can make siege units work well against normal units.

Damage

Damage can get pretty complicated and fuzzy in the game.

Damage per hit is an interesting statistics, and is shown directly next to the unit armor. However, it is very important to also know the attack speed and range of the unit which you will know by hovering over the damage of the unit. You can then calculate your DPS by estimating also your AoE or whether the unit cleaves on attack.


In the example above, you can see a case where you see the damage, and the attack per second (range doesn't show as of the current version for this unit). You can also see that this unit does additional effects, reducing the target focus and applying weaken on certain conditions. Putting all of this together, this type of unit is really effective against hero, for a good single target dps with magic type, and multiple effects which heroes dislike.

In some cases, units deal multiple damage types. look on the tooltip for additional details. If there are no indication, most likely it means the unit will choose whichever type damages most the target. For example, an upgraded berserker will choose to damage by strike a tarantula rather than magic damage. In other cases, damage types are split. Wardens are such a case with a portion of pierce and a portion of magic.

In some cases, you can see 2 numbers in the damage label. This either means it's random, or some part of the damage is conditional. Check the tooltip to know why.

The game doesn't show all information sometimes, and flavor texts aren't really helpful. So make sure to actually test each effect, unit, upgrades individually, or ask questions about them. For example, some spell flavors may imply that it only affects ground units, but then the druid's Elen fire will hit air units as well for some reason. Trolls units often cleave, making them much better units than they look on paper. Etc...

Status

Bonus
Effect
Malus
Hastened
Affects the movement speed
Impaired
Armored
Affects armor
Weakened
Empowered
Affects damage
Enfeebled
Immune to afflictions
Cannot get negative effects/Cannot cast spells
Silenced

There are a lot of additional effects in the game, bleeding, knocked down, ... these are the main ones.

Most of the time, effect with the same name don't stack. So you cannot have 3 sources of armored to reach 100% armor. However, some complex effects contain other effects.

Examples :
  • Reaper : Lingering Curse contains the equivalent of weaken, and corruption triggers weaken, so they stack.
  • Elves : Hail of Arrows 2 applies impair, and wardens apply impair. They will not stack.
  • Humans, exception : Royal mage fire might applies weaken, and griffin applies weaken. They stack, though they shouldn't. The cause is that the royal mage weaken is not a real weaken, because if also affects undead (see Characteristics).

Characteristics


As you can see in the Warrior of the Depths screenshot of this section, units can have tags, or characteristics, which makes them even more unique. Living and humanoids doesn't do much in versus, but in campaign, you will find a lot of spells having additional damage on units with certain characteristics. This could get meaningful if you play on a modded version of the game which replaces some spells.

Some rare characteristics give some massive bonuses. For example, undead cannot be weakened. Titans cannot be frozen, large units cannot be knocked back. If they do, an effect should show in the status bar of the unit. The Twisted one above has the Demonic trait, which would theoretically make it impossible to sacrifice, as per the campaign definition of Demonic should be immune to "instant kills". This is a custom version of demonic without this effect to prevent GoN sacrifice spells abuse, similar to the Royal mage weaken case from above.
Army behaviour
Work in progress
Game controls
TL:DR

Controls are not my forte. This should still get you very high ranked, but make sure to figure out your best setup and ask questions in the official Spellforce Discord for tips from the best players.

However, they are very important to improve, because once your theory is solid, you need to improve the execution, and hotkeys are central in that step.

  • Learn your control grid
  • Use control groups for quickly accessing units and buildings without looking away from the fight
  • Use F1-F12 for accessing hero spells, or combat wheel (Click N' Fight)
  • Bind the missing economy hotkeys to quickly navigate in your base
  • When selecting different entities, one type has the focus. Use tab to cycle through the different entity types
  • Check out the miscellaneous tips, used for custom situations

The control grid

One of the most important aspect of controls is your control grid. The building grid is organized mostly the same for every race (trolls being the exception, because unique system), so you mostly need to learn it once.

Screenshot on AZERTY keyboard, text for QWERTY

  • Q W E R T : Wood stone Hunt Farms UniqueBuilding
  • A S D F G : Barrack Tower Forge Iron_Mine Refinery
  • Z X C V : AdvancedBarrack T3_Gatherer and then custom buildings




    When selecting units, a different menu appear, which also has a standard grid to learn. Most important being :
    Q : Ability
    W : Aggressive/defensive stance
    A : attack move
    S : Stop
    D : Bomb target area (aka Attack ground)

    The control groups

    Again, not a reference here, so make sure to improve and adapt to your liking.

    If you have played RTS before, you are familiar with the control group system. If not, it helps you group units and buildings into meaningful groups. For example, having one group of mounted units and a group of archers so that they can quickly be controlled separately.

    The basis of it is to select the elements you want to regroup, and press Ctrl + Number to memorize them. They will then be regrouped in the number bar in the bottom of the UI :



    If you are from another well known RTS, you will also be familiar with regrouping and extracting units from a control group to another. The hotkeys will be found in the menu in the following option. Experiment to reach your expected result. This can be useful to leave 1 group of units separate for flanking or launching an attack elsewhere.


    As an example, the Slots I use are very inefficient, because they are located far on the keyboard :
  • 1 : Hero
  • 2 : Main army
  • 3 : Secondary army
  • 4 : Unique building (market, tribe totem, tunnel, moon temple)
  • 5 : Refinery
  • 6 : Forge
  • 7 : Main base
  • 8 :
  • 9 : Advanced barrack
  • 0 : Simple barrack

    If you follow the steps lower in this guide, we realize that groups 1 5 6 9 0 can basically all be removed via the various "Select all" options. So you can focus on 4 5 groups for your multiple armies and unique buildings.

    Hero spells

    Clicking hero spells in the bar manually is the least efficient way to use the spells. There are 2 ways of quick selecting spells : The Click N' Fight and the Spell bar. Keep in mind, you can always drag and drop spells from your spellbook, in case you accidentally removed a spell from your bar. You can also use this to make duplicates of spells for accessing them differently.

    Click N' Fight


    This mode is particularly good in campaign, because it slightly slows the game (configurable in options). However, to make it work you need to aim first at the targeted unit or location, which can make it hard to adapt in PvP. Clicking Shift will also show the second list for spells, so all 24 slots can be accessed quickly (careful with overlap with Windows Hotkeys).

    The Spell bar

    This is probably the most used method. Press F1 to F12 to access your first 12 spells, and then click the target (if need be). This is fast and efficient. Shift also gives access to the second spell bar, so again, all 24 slots quickly accessed.

    Reaching F6 to F12 can be tedious. 1 solution is to bind them additionally to Ctrl + F1-6. So using Ctrl + Shift you can reach 12 slots easily (the 2 F1-6). If you really need F7-12, maybe consider Alt as complement for Ctrl for that second part.

    Another tip could be to reorganize spells in the order of usage. Typically, you can move auras to F7-F9, because you don't activate them all the time. An extreme example is the Reaper, where you activate his soul aura once and them permanently move it in F10 on the second bar, so that we completely forget about it the whole game.

    Select All and cycling

    The first thing to do here is to make sure you bind the some missing keys :


    Select Military production buildings and Tech buildings allow you to skip binding your forge, refinery and barracks. So you can save control groups. You can also get used to Select All heroes, since most skirmishes are played with 1 hero. So you can save more groups.

    Select all military units is a good way to get started in an RTS. However, it will push you towards making only 1 bulk army. The more you progress, the more you should avoid using it and use control groups and rally points. Eventually, you will be able to fully unbind it.

    Important note : When selecting different units or buildings, there is always 1 entity which has the current focus. However, orders are issues to all units. Which means, in a fight, you select all units. If you want to move your archers, 1 click on the archer group in the following menu is not enough. You need 2 clicks to select them only. Otherwise, the whole army will acknowledge the order. When doing so with buildings, using TAB cycles through entities, which is a fast way to reach specific technologies.


    Miscellaneous

    Here are some various contorl tricks, if you wish to share some feel free !

  • Attack ground with siege units is a great way to increase the value of the siege units. You can target specific ground areas to hit multiple buildings at the same time. You can also use this to target an enemy outpost while being outside of its field of vision. The lack of alert for the defender is considered a bug, so up to you whether you think it's honorable :)


  • Hold position : Units in defensive stance are mostly not movable. So you can block your enemy (and your own units) by doing so. This is one way to trap smashers for example with low level melee units. However, using it with scouts to prevent enemy workers from bringing the resources back to the building can be considered bug abuse and BM.
  • Spacebar : fast pickup. When looting an enemy, you can press the spacebar to select all directly. This can be nice when you're fighting a creep over your enemy and you both rush the item.
  • Glossary
    Short
    Long
    Definition
    AoE
    Area of Effect
    Effect used to target multiple units/buildings. Also often refers to the size of that area
    Cleave
    Cleave
    Ability for a unit to hit more than one target exactly. It's not AoE, so you can't damage 10 stacked units, and differs from chain effects where chain can follow up far from the main target
    Creep
    Creep camp
    Neutral or hostile camps of AI controlled units, which grants a lot of XP and sometimes items
    DoT
    Damage over time
    Lasting effects that keep dealing damage after the effect has been applied. Such as poison, bleeding, fire
    F12
    Stone of Homecoming
    Rune item equiped by the hero to teleport, see Mobility chapter
    LoS
    Line of Sight
    Distance until which units and buildings can see. LoS will show on the minimap as visible area
    Negative space
    Negative space
    Space only accessible to flying units. So safe space for them
    Pullback
    Pullback micro
    Send back your low HP units to regen out of combat during fights. Keeping units alive is the key to a snowballing army.
    TL:DR
    Too long, didn't read
    Summary of what the next big text says
    TP
    Teleportation
    Transport units instantly from one location to another. Example, godstone, F12, dwarves tunnels.
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    3 Comments
    Nemerra Jan 23 @ 1:45pm 
    Great guide ! Thanks!
    MoreTTo Jan 2 @ 5:58am 
    Awesome guide, really helpful. Thanks!
    FU3G0 Nov 24, 2021 @ 6:32am 
    Amazing guide! Thank you very much!