Sounds like fun.
The goal of Skyward Collapse is to earn points via in-game actions. Each game is separated into a series of ages, and by the end of each age you need to have earned a certain amount of points (dictated by your difficulty level). Fail to earn the required amount of points by the end of an age and the game will end in defeat. You can also lose if one faction's towns are all wiped out, eliminating them from the fight.
Sounds tough, and at first, it is. With some practice (and a lengthy sit-down with the tutorial), though, Skyward Collapse is easily manageable - though still a fair challenge.
As mentioned, you have control over two factions in a game of Skyward Collapse: one red, one blue. You have the power to gift these opposing societies with buildings, resources, beneficial terrain and mythological monsters with the click of a button. Each turn runs as such:
- You work towards the benefit of the red team.
- You work towards the benefit of the blue team.
- The two factions, and any bandits on the field, move their troops around. Combat is resolved, buildings are destroyed, monsters rumble, the field of play expands as new land tiles are added, and Woes are triggered. (More on Woes later.)
During the first two phases you are allotted a certain amount of action points, depending on the strength of the respective faction, to a maximum of nine points per turn, per faction. With only a few exceptions you use these points one-at-a-time to add new buildings to the faction's towns, summon in divine units, and otherwise muck about with the mortals under your care. The trick is that you need to do this in such a way that the two opposing societies remain balanced enough that they won't kill each other, while being strong enough to weather the occasional predations of bandits and monsters.
There are three general types of buildings.
- Military buildings spawn military units whenever there are sufficient resources available to do so. You have no control over what units are spawned, nor what they do once they appear on the field.
- Resource producer buildings come in two flavours. The first are the actual producers, providing the faction with wood, pigs, horses, rock, and so forth. The second process those resources into finished goods, such as weapons, building materials, and assorted products. You need both types of buildings in a town to keep your society functioning.
- Other buildings provide a variety of bonuses and other services to a faction. For example, new towns must be built around Town Centers, and military units will spawn more powerfully if their Barracks is built in a town with a School.
The many types of combat units in Skyward Collapse serve two purposes, one of them immediately obvious, the other less so. We'll explore both at the end of this section. First, a general overview of the types of units.
- Footsoldiers. Also including cavalry, footsoldiers spawn from Barracks. They are the first line of defense and attack in Skyward Collapse, and will usually be the first fighters fielded in any game. They slowly lose their potency as more advanced units come into play, but you should never neglect your footsoldiers.
- Archers. Archers spawn from Archery Ranges. Though physically weaker than footsoldiers, archers can attack enemy targets at a range. This can prove both handy and detrimental, as they're capable of shooting past natural impediments to get at buildings you may not want destroyed. Don't be too fast to deploy a ton of archers unless you can lock them into one area and use them primarily as defense.
- Siege weapons. Coming in both the ranged and close-combat variety, siege weapons are designed to topple buildings. Creating them is a quick way to crumble one of the two factions... but it's also a necessity, because few other things can destroy bandit fortresses quite so effectively. Only bring out siege weapons when you know both sides are prepared for a big war.
- Mythological units. With proper resource management your factions will eventually be capable of summoning creatures of myth and magic - elves, trolls, centaurs, minotaurs, that sort of thing - to fight for them. Mythological units are great at rebalancing an unbalanced battle... but they can also throw your game horribly out of whack if misused, as they're much stronger than standard units. Fortunately, you have control over when and where they are deployed, if not their actions in general. If you do use mythological units on a regular basis, make sure each side gets one of similar strength to preserve the balance of the conflict.
- Gods. Gods? Yes, gods. When Skyward Collapse reaches the Age of Monsters, each faction will receive a patron deity from above. The god will not typically intervene in battle and will idle on the field for the rest of the game, but with the use of tokens you can induce these gods into movement. They are absolute monsters, and will immediately destroy any unit that gets in their way. The tokens they employ are even more unbalancing than mythical monsters, and should be used with extreme care.
As with most strategy games, geography plays a big role in dictating the outcome of battle. Unlike other games, however, you can use action points to shift geography to your own ends. In many cases geography is the best way to keep one faction from prematurely murdering the other. The tiles include:
- Fields. Your run-of-the-mill tile. Combat will be even, and movement easy. Unless you're hankering for a town to get destroyed, it's not that wise to litter the ground around it with fields.
Depending on your difficulty level, bandits may range from a minor nuisance to the greatest threat you'll face. They get progressively worse and worse as you move up the difficulty scale, and it's very much to your benefit to prepare for bandits from the first turn onward.
Bandit units spawn from fortresses that are randomly seeded throughout the ages. They may wind up on the far end of the island, they may wind up one square away from a town. Regardless, these fortresses will begin regularly spewing out yellow soldiers that are the same types as those your own factions use... only they're often of a higher level, and, depending on the difficulty level, they may be able to move across rough terrain (notably mountains) without restriction. Later on bandits will also include mythological monsters in their ranks, a change that will make an already-touchy situation even worse.
Fortunately, your units will usually prioritize bandits as the greater threat. It's hardly uncommon to see red and blue soldiers forego a battle with each other to instead attack a bandit. For this reason it's very important to bulk up your armies with lots of Barracks and Archeries, and to upgrade your units so they can keep up with, and overwhelm, the bandits. It's also wise to build up big stores of Incense, Pottery, and Diamonds early on so you can deploy mythological units if the bandits overwhelm your standard armies.