War machine is common term used for when referring either to The Ammo Cart, Ballista, First Aid Tent or Catapult. Basically they are all special combat units which are available in most of the battles. The only exceptions are creature banks and shipwrecks, where none of the war machines are used. Furthermore, Catapults are only used in siege combats. All war machines have a special slot reserved just for that particular war machine.
Typically war machines except the Catapult are bought from Blacksmiths, which sell different war machine depending on the town type. Additionally, war machines can be bought from an Adventure Map location called War Machine Factory, which sell all war machines (except Catapults). Stronghold has special building Ballista Yard, where a visiting hero can buy Ballistas. All heroes have the Catapult with them, and if one is destroyed in the combat, a new one is automatically added to hero's catapult slot.
A ballista is a missile weapon that, like ranged units, shoots projectiles toward enemy troops, but is unable to retaliate against attacks. It has basic damage range (of 2–3) like creatures, but the damage calculation is different. The formula for the calculation of damage is (2–3)*(hero's attack + 1). The Artillery and Archery secondary skills increase this damage. The ballista acts at the end of every combat round, followed only by the first aid tent, and can be controlled when a hero has learned any level of Artillery. Contrary to what its in-game statistics indicate, a ballista has unlimited shots.
Ballistas can be bought from Blacksmiths in Castle, Dungeon and Conflux towns, and from Ballista Yards in Stronghold towns. They can also be purchased from war machine factories on the adventure map. Heroes who specialize in ballistas typically bring one with them when hired.
Heroes with specialty ballista:
- Christian the Knight
- Torosar the Alchemist
- Pyre the Demoniac
- Arlach the Overlord
- Gurnisson the Barbarian
- Gerwulf the Beastmaster
First Aid Tent
First aid tent heals up to 25 points of hit points of the top creature in target allied stack. The amount of health restored is affected by first aid secondary skill, which also gives the player control over the tent rather than being chosen by computer. First aid tent acts last at the combat round. Tents can be bought from blacksmiths of rampart, fortress and necropolis towns, or from a war machine factory, an adventure map location. Typically heroes with first aid specialty start with a first aid tent.
Heroes with first aid specialty:
Catapult only appears on the battlefield when attacking enemy towns with walls, which requires the town to have either fort, citadel of castle. Its main use is to attack walls and destroying them in order to enable ground troops to attack defenders. Catapult can also attack and destroy arrow towers of citadels and castles. The ballistics secondary skill enhances the performance of the catapult. Basic ballistics gives the player over the catapult making it possible to aim particual parts of the siege structures. In siege, catapult shoots after the arrow towers, but before any other troop.
The Ballista is a war machine of some limited use, however it requires a high (25+) Attack skill before it starts dealing enough damage to justify its 2500 Gold cost. The Artillery skill can offset this somewhat, but comes with the high opportunity cost of omitting a potentially more useful secondary skill such as Offense or Armorer. The above restrictions generally limit the Ballista to might heroes with high Attack skill. Of the four towns which can purchase Ballistas in-town, Barbarians from Stronghold are most likely to reach this skill - more defensive heroes such as those from Fortress will not be able to make use of the Ballista as efficiently.
The First Aid tent is nearly useless, even with the nearly useless First Aid skill at its top level. Its main limitation is that it cannot revive creatures that are already downed, so if used on anything less than a level 5 or so creature most of its healing goes to waste (e.g. healing Centaurs with 10 hp each - the Tent can restore a maximum of 9 hp per round, IF a single centaur is hanging on with a single hp left). The only case in which a First Aid Tent is useful is when a player somehow obtains a high-level creature early in the game, such as from a Refugee Camp. Setting a hero up with 1-2 high level creatures and a first-aid tent ensures that the healing is not wasted and allows the player to clear the wandering monsters from the map more easily.
The Ammo Cart's unlimited ammunition is usually unnecessary, but is EXTREMELY useful in the few situations where it is necessary. Most shooters in the game have enough ammunition to attack 12 times, with many carrying more. The few exceptions are Master Gremlins (8 shots), Medusa Queens (8 shots), and Medusas (only 4 shots!). With good Morale, these creatures run the risk of depleting their ammunition over the course of a battle. This can be the difference between defeat and victory, particularly in a bloody castle siege. If the enemy Catapult can be destroyed and their flying units killed, even a single shooter with an ammunition cart can eventually drive of the enemy if the walls are still intact.
As every hero has a Catapult free of cost which is deployed for siege warfare, there is little choice involved in catapult use other than targeting with the Ballistics skill.