Hopefully a helpful introduction to the different gods and their play styles. This includes some basic tips that are more specific to the different gods, how strong I think they are at different stages of the game (and why), and some conceptual flavour for each gods’ play style. This is not intended as a full guide to any of the gods–might to more of those separately–but this should hopefully make the different gods more approachable, especially for newer players.
Table of Contents
Introduction and Disclaimer
Welcome! This is hopefully going to be useful as an opening stepping stone for some players to get an idea of what the different gods are like, where their strengths are at different stages of the game, and a couple ideas for fun strategic opportunities. This guide will cover the first four gods: She who will feast (SWWF), Iastur, Vinerva, and Ophanim. I haven’t touched Mammon yet and they will likely be changed a lot in the beta branch so I don’t want things I say about them to be obsolete by the time it is part of the base game (this was initially made while Mammon was still in the Beta Branch. Might later edit to include him).
This is not exactly a how-to guide for any of the gods, but will hopefully give you a good idea of what they are capable of and how they function so that there is a bit less guesswork and confusion as you get your feet underneath you. I frame these discussions around where certain gods will likely experience dips or surges in power depending on the state of the game–I will explain more in the next section. There are some great guides already here and I might go into different gods in more detail with future guides.
Disclaimer: I often run the game with the corruptible alliance mechanic which is obviously easier than the standard Alliance which purges corruption and shadow immediately. For myself, I like the corruptible mode better because it feels more interesting by letting humans remain human (and therefore, fallible). I think what I say here is generally applicable regardless of which mode you use, but I figured that should be something to disclose as much of the content is of course based on my subjective opinions.
Also, I don’t own any of the artistic pictures used here, just pulled from some google searches for flavour. If anyone is the original creator and would not like them used here please lmk and I can take them down.
Key Terms / Concepts I Use Here
To put gods in context a bit with each other I have created some loose ratings to give an idea of where gods stack up compared to each other. The ratings are meant to generally lay out when gods are strongest or weakest in the game. I will explain my reasoning in the description of each god.
The strength level is a reflection of how many agents the god can sustain, how much power they have available to spend, how useful/effective their powers are, and their ability to respond to a variety of potential issues and obstacles. This is also partially making considerations for what I think a newer player might experience depending on what stage of the game they are at.
- Low–The god’s abilities during this period are somewhat weak or struggle to compensate for challenges that are being introduced at this stage of the game. Momentum is either slow to pick up or has dropped significantly from earlier stages. Careful and efficient use of your agents here will be vital to make sure you don’t lose too much ground as you cannot rely as much on the specific powers of your god to pull through.
- Average–You have access to decent amounts of power, or at least cost effective powers that provide reasonable gains/support for agents. You have enough agents to maintain operations in a number of areas. You have multiple tools for handling situations that arise.
- High–You have distinct advantages. Your god’s abilities are extremely effective at this stage, whether they are supporting agents’ actions or working independently. There are significantly less dangerous risks from heroes or the chosen one for you in this period.
These are somewhat arbitrary distinctions but I figured these would be useful as a framing device overall. There isn’t a particular turn necessarily that one game stage will go to the next as there are many ways that RNG or your actions could accelerate or delay changes in the game state.
- Early Game–Begins at the start (obviously). The chosen one will spread awareness to some of the first city centres. Agents are mostly just milling about dealing with whatever issues spawned on this new map. You usually have access to between 1-3 (4 maybe for SWWF due to a special power) agents at this time, and probably the first 4-5 abilities available to your god.
- Mid Game–This period is characterised by the spread of awareness, likely adding many nations to the number of people likely to start making wards. Heroes are becoming aware now if they hadn’t previously, further accelerating the spread of awareness. Direct actions against your agents is now much more likely as they gain profile and menace. The alliance is forming and you should have most of your godly abilities and agent slots available.
- Late Game–The alliance has likely formed and expanded. Your god is awake and all powers/agent slots should now be available. Awareness is likely near-complete at this stage and world panic is probably close to 100% if not already there.
She Who Will Feast (SWWF)
Stages and Power Levels
- Early Game–High
SWWF is the starting god required for accessing any of the others so it should not be a surprise that it is also ultimately one of the most player friendly gods to use. Her auto infiltrate ability and cloud fogging spell (reducing completion time for hero challenges–other than CO) are good and remain useful at every stage of the game. A lot of bang for your buck in both those abilities that arrive early on.
You also start with two agent slots and your supplicant’s (arguably) best trait allows you to slowly spread shadow wherever they are. Despite being a trickle, if you’re staying somewhere longer term (like a city) this can be helpful as ruler shadow increases and helps to reduce security and spread shadow to adjacent provinces. Remember, until wards start arriving shadow will always trickle into adjacent settlements over time. The “dying sun” Supp. is like a moving well of shadows.
The first couple seals break rather quickly for SWWF which will rapidly open up some new agent slots for you to play with. You should be able to get a lot done early without too much trouble unless the CO starts quite close to your tomb. If there are cities directly adjacent to the tomb don’t bother putting too much effort into massively infiltrating–use the spell to do one level of infiltration and then move on. SWWF destroys adjacent territories upon awakening in the late game and so it is better to spend your energy elswhere. The inital infiltration simply helps your shadow move on to greener pastures.
Your shadow and infiltration should progress quite smoothly as you consistently receive greater numbers of agents and a faster recharge to your power pool. The addition of the red herring style power to deflect enemies away from your agents can be helpful and your infiltration power means you can get away with having agents lay low for periods without slowing down progress too much.
SWWF doesn’t overly care about the spread of awareness for a couple reasons. Firstly, your rapid infiltration means that you can quite quickly get access to silent assassinations in troublesome areas or bottlenecks. Secondly, awareness is only useful for the CO and kingdoms when the aware ruler isn’t also enshadowed/insane. Even without assassinations, your rapid infiltration will likely lead to rather fast enshadowing of most territories and their rulers. Using the enshadow challenge in cities means that rulers of those locations will quickly be unable to suppress your influence.
Another power you gain at this time is Split Shadow, which allows you to create an extra agent based off the standard attributes of a given hero. Despite its limitations, needing to remain within close proximity to the original or in a space with 50%+ shadow, this shadow agent gives you a decently expendable tool for throwing a wrench in the works if needed. Or, if you want to get access to a type of agent with high base traits in one or two areas (I particularly advise Lore or Intrigue) the shadow can become a very useful extra agent working within your back lines. This could involve nurturing deep one cults, adding infiltration to areas that are mostly enshadowed, or learning arcane secrets to become useful mages. I typically advise waiting until the late midgame to make the split shadow–this way you have more territory they can use if you want them long term, you develop power faster so that 5 power to make them is less big of a deal, and heroes tend to have higher stats by that point so your shadow might start with higher levels in certain traits you might want.
The arrival of the alliance can be delayed by several means. You have agents and powers that can disrupt or distract many heroes, including the CO, to make building the alliance a challenge or a lesser priority. Enshadowing cities the hero has made aware, spreading famine through raiding/disease, using distraction powers to drive heroes into odd corners of the map, expanding orc hordes to become real border threats, and killing aware heroes. There’s a lot you can do and you have plenty of ways to make those things happen. Rapid infiltration in the right places (have I made infiltration seem important yet?) also means you can give yourself access to areas of the map you haven’t touched yet very quickly. Keeping the alliance under wraps can be quite manageable.
The Dark Empire (DE) is a viable path to go on here as your rapid spread could lead to effective results. It isn’t necessary, but it is entirely possible to develop a relatively strong DE before the alliance becomes too powerful.
At this point the alliance has arrived and your god is either awake or not far off from it. SWWF destroys the territories adjacent to her with the awakening so that can sometimes give you the last points you need to win if you’re close. If not, you now have an army/agent in the form of SWWF. She becomes stronger by 2 points every turn (forever, if you are playing with endless turns) so she can become quite a threat for armies later on. Awakening her also gives you ANOTHER agent slot so you are swimming in options for late game maneuvers. Specifically you have six (6) agents slots plus the snake army, and the split shadow agent.
So why is late game SWWF considered average to me? After all, the abilities that were strong in the early game are generally still strong right now, and you have even more agents to work with across the world. It doesn’t maybe make sense then to lower the strength ranking here. The big thing you really need to worry about though is that the alliance may send armies against your snake god. That is something you need to be careful of when deciding where SWWF is going to go for munching on townsfolk and such. SWWF is considered by me to be somewhat closer to average at this point is because of the danger that armies might pose to your god–and running away from bigger armies is really the only option you have most of the time. SWWF is at its strongest during this stage, but also at its most vulnerable.
No other gods (other than Mammon who was recently released and I’m not super familiar with still) really have the same capacity for being directly targeted in the way SWWF does. There’s the reforging of the seal for other gods, but in my experience that has only been attempted by heroes 100s of turns after I’ve already won the game (using endless turns) and am just playing sandbox. Plus reforging the seal is something your agents can disrupt. Keeping your god out of trouble so they don’t develop menace and the wrath of human armies is not necessarily that difficult, but if you’re a new player (which this guide is for) having so many agents to juggle–and suddenly having an instant death mechanic attached to your snake–it can be challenging to manage everything at once. As a junior player there were a couple times I failed to realize when SWWF was starting to lose a battle and had to get them out of dodge pretty quick or risk losing. If you win your first game though you will now have access to the rest of the Elder Pantheon, which has many fun new ways to win!
Stages and Power Levels
- Early Game-Average
- Mid Game-Strong
- Late Game-Strong
Iastur is considered by the developer to be the next closest to a ‘beginner’ god from SWWF. He is a god I have the least experience with though so I am less attached to the rankings that I’ve given this character than with other gods. I might edit this once I’ve played him more since a recent patch. Iastur has also changed a bit with recent patches, but the flavour is still similar and that’s what this guide is meant to be more about.
Iastur is different from SWWF in that he focuses more on individuals rather than the big picture (I discuss this contrast in more depth in the next section). His ability to spread madness starts off a bit slow in the early game, but you have some other tools with your 2 agents that can make reasonable early progress. You also get abilities that allow you to change something about a person’s personality for one 1power (either what they like or dislike). I think you can stack it to make them love/hate things too. As you learn what actions are associated with certain biases or personalities you might manipulate people into doing very self-destructive things.
Iastur also starts with a 1-power ability to infiltrate a location compared to SWWF’s 2-power ability that does the same. The cost does rise over time so you want to make use of it while it’s cost effective, but it’s good to know you will have it available at all stages of the game.
Iastur’s tome will start spreading madness faster and will do so in adjacent provinces as well. Thankfully wards and awareness do not really affect madness so you should be able to spread it pretty decently.
New abilities can help to ‘freshen up’ a place with an extra 50% madness to put somewhere close to the 100% mark over the edge, interrupt agents, and otherwise make a mess of any plans to put you down. The Hysterical Tome ability is somewhat expensive but very useful as you can teleport the original tome to new areas and thereby avoid capture by heroes. It is replaced by a temporary tome that continues to spread madness which is great.
You have a decent number of agent slots around this time–probably around 4. You don’t have quite as many tools as SWWF does but if madness has been able to spread widely then that can make up for it as insane rulers/heroes self-sabotage. Power recharges quite fast for Iastur when he is placed somewhere so your use your powers liberally and you will stay a good few steps ahead even as the alliance begins to take shape.
Iastur’s special ending has changed a bit to spread madness widely from his starting location. The previous ending was considered quite easy it seems, but from watching SimplyFunGaming it seems like the new mechanic is a bit janky–might be patched or been patched by the time this comes out. Still, you have plenty of power to win by other means. Most of Iastur’s powers are very cost effective for what they do, and you now have a lot of power to work with. Unlike some of the more complicated gods Iastur’s power list is consistently strong as well.
Manipulating personalities should make it possible to cause a lot of infighting amongst kingdoms and heroes. One of my favorite mechanics is to drive a couple heroes insane and hopefully get one to kill another (Hero 1 kills hero 2). Once this happens, the Courtier can create a vendetta against the hero 1 and their entire family by going to a family member who is mourning the loss of hero 2 (or a ruler in some cases). Vendettas are amazing as potentially massive groups of heroes/rulers will turn on each other in all kinds of ways. You can also repeat this cycle indefinitely with the Courtier to create animosity between several families and kingdoms. And it makes heroes almost completely ignore agents as long as they don’t have super high levels of menace. Be careful that an agent isn’t part of a family implicated in a vendetta though–sometimes I specifically create agents like the Courtier and Trickster in small kingdoms to ensure they have small families, unlikely to be an issue.
General Notes: Macro and Micro Play, Mage Wars
Macro and Micro Level Play
SWWF and Iastur offer nice introductions to what I consider to be complementary but still somewhat distinct aspects of the game: Macro and Micro play.
Macro play is about playing the map; you are infiltrating territories and enshadowing them to spread your overall influence accross the map. The masses have been folded into your tender care and the heroes/rulers struggle to pry your fingers off of their subjects and countrymen. This is the gameplay of the bird’s eye view which you have of the world. Controlling (un)natural disasters, foreign invasions by darker powers (Deep ones, Orcs, DEs), plagues, etc.
SWWF is a great example of this gameplay due to her awakened presence on the map as a moving army, her rapid infiltration, and the ability of her Supp. to passively spread shadow. This allows you to focus on the higher level aspects of the game with major abilities for shaping the big picture.
Micro play is about shaping the individual characters on the map; you are manipulating the biases and flaws of the different heroes and rulers to sabotage their relationships, distract them from the gathering darkness, and driving them insane so that real resistance to you cannot materialize in time. For newer players this is a bit harder as it can be quite laborious to track other characters and their development. The filters from the number keys (such as heroes, or discovering where madness is) can be helpful here, but it does still take getting used to. Over time you get a handle on how what characters like or dislike will affect the likelihood of them performing different actions–and this will allow you to better know how to use that to your advantage.
Iastur is of course emblematic of this play, his abilities to change what others like or dislike is largely unique and no one does it as easily and precisely as he does. With powers that let him change the personality of agents at a whim he can dramatically alter their behaviour for both amusing and beneficial results.
Many agents can help you to more effectively play one style of gameplay or another, but from my reflections a lot of the gods tend to lean more towards one type of play or another. For getting into gods you’re unfamiliar with it might be useful to have this in your head so you get your bearings quicker.
For spell-casting builds I would argue that these two are the easiest gods to work with. Each of them has an early game power that allows for instant infiltration of a single point of interest within a settlement (always the one that shows on the lowest level). The safest way to grab arcane secrets, which allow you to upgrade your knowledge of different magic, is by learning them at an infiltrated library. Using god powers to infiltrate libraries all over the world means that your warlocks–or other mages–can access secrets more easily than those of Vinerva or Ophanim. There are other ways to get arcane secrets, but these methods do raise profile and menace typically so they might force your spellcaster to lay low at times just to continue their studies in peace. Note also that the infiltration ability for Iastur does raise in cost over time as seals break, so make use of it early while it is cost-efficient.
See No Evil: Vinerva, Ophanim, and Awareness
Before going into Vin. or Oph. in greater detail I wanted to quickly point out that both of them are much more concerned about awareness than the first two gods are. Major mechanics for both of these gods (Oph’s faith, and the temptations of Vin’s gifts) rely on the absence of awareness. It is therefore critical for both that awareness is kept in check–I’ll go into more detail for each individually in their sections.
One tip I suggest for both however is to click “watch” on every hero that becomes aware (you can find it on the left side of the screen in the character sheet. This informs you whenever they start a new quest and will be particularly useful for tracking if anyone is trying to “warn the world”. This is vital for intercepting heroes before they can spread awareness or helping to figure out where awareness is going so you can deal with it later. This will save you a lot of headaches and surprises. The #5 filter also shows where ruler awareness is.
Stages and Power Levels
- Early Game-High
- Mid Game-Low
- Late Game-Average
Early Game: Groovy Beginnings
Vin. is very special as a character as she is incredibly unique in her starting position and ultimate playstyle. She starts with no tomb or agents (she has no Supp.), so you actually start by placing a Heart wherever you desire to, and then you place your first 2 agents wherever you want as well (so long as requirements are met ofc). This makes her incredibly powerful in the early game as she gets to determine her starting position and what kinds of agents she wants depending on what is happening in the world (and where they are). This gives her incredible strategic flexibility, and her power in the early game makes her–imo–a rival to SWWF for the strongest early game contender. She is hands-down though the foremost creator of the DE however due to her mechanics (I explain more in the next section).
Vin starts the game as a Micro playstyle god (see that section for details) but unlike Iastur’s powers, that largely manipulate agents, her abilities tempt rulers. Her gifts are used by rulers in exchange for giving her the ability to enshadow their souls (through the dark woods) or spread madness (later on) in their homes. This influence is acquired to the extent that rulers accept her gift(s). In this way Vin. enshadows rulers, who will then end up enshadowing their own territories. She makes them become like worms eating at the core of the apple until it is fully hollowed out and rotten.
One of her strongest abilities is the gift of gold, which provides money to rulers at the cost of population. This is a gift that almost all ruler types will happily accept and it provides a lot of influence with each use. Keep in mind that you can re-add gifts to a location if you want as having every greater influence can be useful for your back pocket. An aversion for cruelty or gold will suppress grabbing this gift however, so make sure to check for that on rulers for kingdoms you think might be suitable starts (particularly dislike for cruelty). This gift alone is probably going to give you the most traction overall.
Like I said, you also start with multiple agents you can place anywhere to do their work. If you spend some time planning before you start then you should be making pretty rapid early progress.
Mid Game: You’ve thrown off the Goddess’ Groove
Vin drops off in power quite hard in the mid game for a number of reasons. Firstly, the abilities she gains in the mid game are generally not super effective–or at least not as effective as your gift of gold–when it comes to producing influence or being as tempting. A lot of the other abilities also rely on you already having influence–which becomes a very scarce resource.
The second reason is that tempting becomes a lot harder generally in the mid game. Awareness basically destroys any attempt at luring rulers so at least 1-2 agents might become dedicated to simply slowing the spread of awareness. You don’t have strong powers like Oph. does for dealing with awareness so you need to rely on brutal assassinations typically and killing vulnerable heroes–which draws a lot of heat on your agents. At this time you will likely only have 4 agents so this becomes a significant draw on precious manpower for other work. The naturally rising world panic becomes a problem even without the spread of awareness; as panic rises your gifts gain an increasing automatic negative modifier that makes your gifts very low as a priority. Even rulers that might hate disease or love gold/cruelty might need a well-timed shot of pheromones to make associated gifts appealing enough to grab. This can make Vin frustrating to play as because you become increasingly reliant on a very limited number of agents to do most of the heavy lifting as your powers (reliant on low panic and awareness, or a dwindling supply of influence) become largely useless. You might still technically be ahead because of how much progress you made in the early game, but your pace is likely to slow to a crawl.
After a bunch of time and reflection I think the answer for why this strange problem occurs, and the confusion/frustration that follows, is that Vinerva transitions into a very different playstyle during this part of the game. As panic and awareness rise, Vinerva actually becomes a MACRO-play god rather than the MICRO-play god she was in the beginning. Her design, whether intentionally or not, is to micro-play in preparation for a stronger macro play position later on. But, as I noted earlier, the different game stages are not always clearly delineated or controllable. You might stop awareness from spreading or the alliance from forming, but panic is partially a product of seals breaking–and you can’t slow that down. Also, if you’re new to her or the CO is particularly aggressive at warning people the mid game might arrive before you can make preparations for weathering/making this transition–or you might not notice that the transition has happened. Lastly, some of Vinerva’s greatest Macro-play abilities do not become available until the late mid-game or late game so you can’t use them for awhile.
Late Game: How Vinerva got her groove back
Vinerva never quite gets the same level of strategic flexibility that she had in the early game but if you still have some good seeds thrown into the works from the early game she has some new abilities that give her a new edge.
Manifestations arguably become available in the late mid game and can be a great way to harvest points to make a sudden win if you have influence to do it. Each gives 3VP plus if you are on a settlement the extra 2VP for destroying the settlement they’re on for a total of 5VP/manifestation. Leaving behind some unused influence to use manifestations is a very viable tactic.
Calling wild spirits for 3 power is also not bad considering that your other abilities have mostly outlived their usefulness. If there are civil wars happening, or the alliance’s armies can be drawn away from their lands by other factors then dropping a few of these 30 strength armies on undefended areas of their backlines could be very useful or you might use them to reinforce armies fighting the troops of the alliance. The former is the better tactic overall as it might destroy regions enough to produce famines and weaken kingdoms while farming more VP. Having the DE in play at this point would be helpful to coordinate forces against the alliance or neutral kingdoms.
You have an average number of agents around this time and because world panic restricts your gifts you should not need to use them much for assassinations. This reopens some slots for dealing with other issues that arise and makes your forces a bit more flexible again.
These tools should help you pull out the win despite any lost progress in the Mid Game. As Vinerva throws off the cloak of subterfuge her powers of nature will reclaim the world for the wilds.
Vinerva and the Dark Empire
I mentioned in the Mid Game section for Vin. that she really needs to transition from being a micro style god into a macro style god quite suddenly once her gifts start losing effectiveness. Knowing this transition is coming–it is inevitable–means that your early game power typically involves preparing for that transition. One of the best ways to do this is by using the DE mechanic, which Vinerva is well placed to do because of her early playstyle of corrupting rulers directly.
Vinerva can produce the most stable and large starting DE of any Elder god (or at least has the best tools for doing so). Keep in mind that the DE is produced by having an enshadowed capital, but that you need 90%+ enshadowed rulers in every city to prevent revolt once the DE is established. By giving Vin’s gifts to the rulers of every city in a kingdom and then enshadowing them all at once to 100% you can create a potentially vast DE without triggering any uprisings once the capital is in shadow and your Dark Monarch begins her work. Your DE might therefore start out immediately with a great deal of military power–power enough to perhaps take over several lesser kingdoms before the alliance is ready. A 100% enshadowed king or queen will likely draw the CO to redeem them as you attempt to get your finishing touches together, so make sure there is either another king/queen enshadowed to keep them busy elsewhere or some other distraction while the enshadowed ruler makes the capital ready for your Dark Monarch’s arrival.
Once this DE is activated in the mid game (usually takes that long to setup if the kingdom is medium/large) then you will have the powerbase you need to transition into a macro focused playstyle for the late mid game or late game. It might also just give you the VP you need to win.
Stages and Power Levels
- Early Game-Low
- Mid Game-Average
- Late Game-High
Ophanim is another big macro style god, and one of my favourites to play. His powers in the late game can make him an absolute death star of a god, but he is a slow starter. He has recently been patched to be better in the early game, but I think it is still reasonable to say he starts the game a bit weak.
He’s the only god who starts the game with only one agent (Supp.). In previous versions it took a couple seals breaking before he got a second one–now it seems he gets it after the first seal breaks so yay! But that is still a fair bit of game time before you have more than just the one agent to work with (a bit over 30 turns).
He also is very slow to develop power–I think more so than some of the other gods. Abilities like unsleeping labour are amazing as they add 20 progress to anything (especially good for lore challenges because they are often low cost for progress and most characters just have low lore stats), but you really don’t have enough power in the early game to use it super frequently–and it does damage your highly restricted number of agents. Health is restored after leveling up, which is great, but of course leveling up starts to take longer so that means you will need to rest in at times in addition to laying out so that your agents are both under the radar and at full health (so they aren’t as vulnerable to attack). So, to some extent Ophanim is using his power to catch up with the progress of other gods who just start with more agents to work with–and likely need less down time to be in tiptop shape.
Sleepless labour is a great power, but in the early game it is a crutch. It’s unique way of helping agents in the early game does mean that if you focus on certain types of actions that you might make progress on THOSE tactics faster than others. For example, a Supp. using sleepless labour to infiltrate and then enshadow a witches coven will be able to do it much faster than a Supp. of any other god (Unless SWWF/Iastur used magic to auto infiltrate and only did the enshadow. See? even in my example I manage to poke holes). Sleepless labour means that Oph.’s agents can perform a wider variety of challenges faster in certain territories than most of their counterparts with other gods. Overall tho, you can only do so much in only so many places and are stretched thin. You do want to scope out where your first theocracy will be in the early game and start on figuring it out (the next section talks about ways to do this). Also, despite what the flavour of his description implies, Ophanim isn’t the best god for making the DE. You may struggle having agents slots available for the Dark Monarch at all, plus your theocracies can be much more powerful militarily.
Ophanim gets much more powerful with a few more agents to deal with problems. Plus, the addition of faster power recharge means that you have the advantage of skills like swift of foot and sleepless labour without them being things that merely keep you afloat.
This stage of the game however introduces you to Awareness Wack-A-Mole (have fun!) which will be a consistent problem you must deal with. Awareness kills the spread or potential of your faith, makes doubt show up a bunch, and makes a mess of everything. Plus, if you don’t nip it in the bud rather quickly it spreads to heroes which will make it move faster around the world. Aware heroes are much harder to deal with imo than rulers. Setting up an agent to murder heroes constantly is not always easy or possible to sustain so stopping ruler awareness is one of the best ways to keep it down. Luckily, Ophanim has “declare heretic” which can massively wipe awareness from rulers. I typically use declare heretic 2-4 times in the early to mid game after assassinating a few aware rulers and/or killing 1-2 vulnerable heroes that are aware. Usually Warlords with Ogre minions and a Manticore head are great fodder for this (and you can sometimes recycle the heads!). But you need to be careful about running out of recruitment points–using the power that gives you agents from your theocracy can be useful here, but in my experience theocracies aren’t often up and running early enough to make this possible.
Some spread of awareness is likely going to happen, and that’s not the end of the world. But it is something you should be proactive about and that you are careful of to ensure it isn’t spreading close to where you plan to build theocracies. Some heroes almost solely spread awareness once they get it so at least dedicating 1/4 agents or so to keeping it down should let your real plans have the time to take root. As your theocrac(ies) begin forming you will soon be ready to dominate the late game.
I’m afraid your theocracy should be quite operational when the CO arrives (lol). You did make some theocracies, right? Late game Ophanim is a treat if you wanted to watch armies of darkness crush the forces of light beneath waves of fanatic zealots. In the latter stages of the mid game if you have theocracies in hand they can be used like the DE to smash smaller kingdoms and sometimes even the alliance without trouble. Theocracies will convert settlements captured into parts of the theocracy themselves, which brings you tons of VP.
You don’t HAVE to use the theocracy mechanic at all if you aren’t into it. Ophanim can be powerful in the late game without them, so it may be wise to even try palying Oph. without using them first. Sleepless labour and fleet of foot still make your agents very efficient with their time in the late game. Smite is very expensive–so much so it isn’t usually worth it–but you can nuke potentially several settlements for VP if you aim right. Might be enough to win the game in an emergency, or hobble the alliance (pretty sure it kills armies and heroes in the region(s) it hits. The hyper speeds of Ophanim’s agents and their capacity for rapid completion of tasks they aren’t specialized in while using sleepless labour means that you are quite versatile once your power recharge and agent slots are at their max potential. Ophanim with or without his faith can be quite satisfying as he snowballs into an ever more dangerous force to be reckoned with.
As I mentioned earlier you want to spend the early game figuring out where your first theocracy will be. Generally you want it near a coven so that it can be enshadowed and trickle shadow into the chosen kingdom. Having it on an island distant from the CO is also ideal. World 0 in the regular size is perfect for trying this out–the South West (SW) corner of the map has a tiny kingdom and medium kingdom that are both next to two covens. Absolutely perfect location to start.
Trickles of Evil
I don’t usually want to start the faith immediately. In my experience theocracies are a lot less of a headache if you start as if playing SWWF. Taking World 0 as an example I would use the Supp. to cause issues on the main landmass and infiltrate that area. The Courtier would be my choice in the tiny SW kingdom so he doesn’t have a big family to worry about. His first jobs would be to infiltrate and enshadow the two covens on that island. I’d add the trickster to that area once I had slots available and the two of them would go on a spree infiltrating 1 section of every settlement on that island. I’d fully do one of the non-cap cities so you can lay low as needed with that nice 3 max menace reduction per turn. Do NOT malign catch anywhere here. Madness weakens places you want to turn into DEs or theocracies with unrest and such.
This strategy will take much of the early game and early mid game. And you will likely be playing the Awareness Wack-A-Mole on the main continent to make sure that awareness doesn’t think to spread across the sea to your island.
Execute Order 66
Now that you have infiltrated all of the settlements here and there is some shadow all over you are ready to begin. Start the faith in every territory on that island. Having shadow–and fear of world shadow will have risen enough once that is gone–plus your nearby faith will mean that every territory will be gaining faith at remarkably fast and consistent rates throughout that region. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that you will never have issues of doubt arise at all in creating these theocracies. And they will not be small once they are done being put together.
The forces you gather to your side here will make it possible to overwhelm smaller kingdoms that will be subsumed into the faith. Keep in mind that Oph has several abilities that make theocracy armies even stronger or heal them. You could even decide to repeat the earlier process of conversion with smaller kingdoms elsewhere without fighting. This mechanic can give you both a big boost in VP and offer opportunities through conquest at increase your points further and otherwise confound the heroes. Keep in mind that there is also a power which allows you to take control of heroes that originate from your theocracies, so this is a way to replenish your agents if you have slots open but not recruitment points. All will bow to Ophanim in time.