Beating the Ancients
The Ancients have some excellent tricks they can use to shut down an enemy. First and most obviously, they have a great cost/combat ratio for their creatures. Second, they don’t have to cough up 6-10 Power for a Great Old One all at once, which means that they never spend a full town “shut down” from lack of Power. They are always able to do something. Third, they can use their nasty Cathedrals to kill your Great Old One, should you be so bold as to strike with one.
So how can you take them out?
The Ancients grow in defensive strength as they get their Cathedrals placed. While it’s impossible to actually prevent the Cathedrals, you can certainly make the Ancients pay for them, by forcing them to move or re-move, knocking them out before they complete the action, etc. Don’t wait. Remember, they can’t just summon up a Reanimated or Yothan to defend against you if they only have the Festival spellbook so far. And if you make them prematurely earn Extinction or Mindless, then that’s one more Cathedral book they don’t have early in the game, which means they have less Elder Signs, less Power, and get Unholy Ground later.
For a specific example, Windwalker can easily see where the Ancients plan to build their Cathedral. Plop down Ice Age there! It not only costs more Power to build, but may discourage him moving his guys into the area in the first place. But Ice Age will do little good vs. the Ancients in the late game.
It’s the same method used by zoos to stamp their lions “property of the zoo”. You have to do it when they’re small. So don’t get distracted – react to the Ancients threat before they’re too big to fail.
USE YOUR POWER ADVANTAGE
While they don’t spend an entire turn out of play due to a Great Old One, they DO have to spend an equivalent amount of Power over time. Add to this their Festival and Worship Services spellbooks, plus their spellbook requirements that hand out free monsters. This means most of the time, you should have a slight power edge.
The fact is, the Ancients are always a little short on power. If you focus on killing their “useless” Un-Men, they’ll have to hand out even more Power. It’s pretty likely that in the last few rounds of an Action phase, they will be out of power while you still have 1-2 points left. Use that against them while they’re helpless.
USE YOUR MOVEMENT FLEXIBILITY
Every faction has some movement bonus, though sometimes it’s concealed as another action (example: Black Goat’s Avatar and Necrophagy, and Opener’s They Break Through and Beyond-One). The Ancients are no exception, with Dematerialization. Unfortunately for them, Dematerialization, while useful, is inflexible. They have to do it during the Doom phase only, which means everyone else can see and plan for their big move. Not only that, but they don’t have any cheap way to respond to your moves and attacks during the Action phase – they have to suck it up and spend the Power to move their units. For a faction which needs every scrap of Power it can get, this is problematic.
Obviously, the nature of your anti-Ancients tactics will vary with your faction’s movement bonus.
- Tcho-Tchos, can swarm the Ancients’ start area. And Ubbo-Sathla doesn’t fear being killed by Unholy Ground!
- Cthulhu’s Submerge use is obvious, and he too doesn’t fear Unholy Ground – might even be worth losing Cthulhu not only for the Elder Sign, but also the Ancients lose a Cathedral.
- Sleeper Tunnels in and out, and can even steal Dematerialize and use it himself! If you’re afraid of losing Tsathoggua, send in Formless Spawn – they roll plenty of dice.
- Crawling Chaos shows up with his Hunting Horrors safely in any area that lacks the Unholy Ground advantage, or uses Flying Polyps to Invisibilitize cheap Ancient units so he can focus on killing Yothans.
- Yellow Sign has two different means of moving twice in a row, and Vengeance means Hastur is absolute poison to Yothans.
- Black Goat’s Avatar can be used to pop an Ancient cultist away from an area BEFORE he builds a Cathedral, and Necrophagy can often leave an area empty. You just have to strike first. Nothing is more frustrating to the Ancients than spending 2-3 Power to move to a potential Cathedral site, and then getting bumped out again before they get the job done.
- Windwalker needs to avoid the Cathedrals (one of the few ways that Rhan-Tegoth can die), but Arctic winds mean you can destroy literally every other area they own. Plus as previously stated Ice Age is really mean to plant on the site where he needs a Cathedral.
- Opener of the Way has some really nasty tricks up his sleeve. Early in the game, when the Ancients only have Un-Men, you can summon your own monsters to their areas and kick their 0-combat butts. Late in the game, use Beyond One to reconfigure the Ancients gate configuration – like somewhere they don’t have a Cathedral, so Yog-Sothoth can feast in peace.