Send in the Wyverns!
Your most important strategic consideration involves the order of cities that you will attack. This is vital, because you are limited in what you can do with a conquered city. Restrictions are placed on what you can do with the enemy populace. Race and alignment matter. A sidewheel provided on the information card lays out the relationship between each faction. If youíre too far away from the defeated enemy, conquering options are limited to pillaging or sacking the city in question, or even razing it to the ground in the case for mortal enemies like the Knights and the Undead. More closely aligned peoples, however, can be conquered and most of their units produced for your own army. For example, my Elves gained the Axeman and Golem of the Dwarves whenever they took a city owned by the little bearded guys, but they couldnít acquire the ability to produce the Orcsí Wolfrider and Goblin Thrower when they conquered a city held by their scaly mortal enemies. I guess we canít all just get along after all.
Battles themselves remain superficially unchanged from how they were structured in the Warlords III games. There have been a couple of significant improvements, though even as Infinite gives, it takes away. Most importantly, you can now choose the order of attack rather than letting the computer play things out automatically in order, in terms of unit strength (as in the earlier Warlords games). Thereís no more waiting for your footsoldiers to scrap; now you can dispense with the pleasantries right away and send in a heavy hitter such as a Fire Dragon or Wyvern. This causes some potential worries, though, as experience points are dished out to the unit that does the most damage. You have to think about the order of battle, both in order to maximize chances of survival and to make sure the most needy parties get the lionís share of the experience.
A necromancer in shining armor
Incidentally, Warlords are now more diverse as well. You choose a class based on a single major and a single minor ability selected from the Combat, Divine Magic, Rune Magic, Nature Magic, Summoning, and Necromancy skills, so there is quite a bit of room for customization. Cross categories and you get interesting titles, such as Death Knight for someone majoring in Combat and minoring in Necromancy, or Templar for someone majoring in Combat and minoring in Divine Magic. Also, there are no racial restrictions during games. Although itís a little bizarre, you can place a Elven Warlord big on Necromancy in charge of the Knights, or have a Dwarven specialist in Divine Magic oversee the Undead. Evil units will often offer to join good forces, and vice versa. This is more than a touch odd, especially if youíre playing snow-white good guys like the Elves and youíre approached by a bunch of Daemons looking for work.
Warlords can also now be taken out of the games in which they were originally created and used in subsequent campaigns, so you have a character to constantly work at leveling up. Thatís a good thing, especially when you consider the fast pace of gameplay. Units are so throwaway here, since battles leave no survivors, that itís nice to have something to get attached to and carry over from one scenario to the next. What isnít so good is Infiniteís decision to force Warlords to relearn spells in each new scenario. This makes sense, as otherwise you would become so powerful that this component of the game would be rendered useless, though the repetition is simply annoying. And it doesnít make you feel like youíre guiding the same Warlord, unless your pal is prone to amnesia.