Annotated Playthrough Western Forest
A simple run in the Western Forest using no preps, potions or boons, converting advanced glyphs and shop purchases, and ignoring the subdungeon. I also don't find the fireball glyph until very late, forcing me to rely on utility glyphs for most of the game. A discussion of this playthrough can be found here.
I find ENDIWAL and WONAFYT right away. I also find HELPMEH and APHEELSIK, which would have totally transformed this playthrough, but instead I convert them on sight as per my self-imposed restrictions. I start spamming WONAFYT until I've captured all ten of the level 1 monsters. I also buy a Troll Heart, which gives no immediate leverage but is a nice long term investment and decent conversion fodder. I now have a bit of a quandary. Even with ENDISWAL, I can't handle that Golem-2. I'm really feeling the Fighter's lack of leverage. I can either explore until I find a softer level 2, a stronger source of leverage, or I can just kill two level ones and move on.
For a non-Fighter without WONAFYT, leveling off of level one monsters is a terrible idea. That's five popcorn gone before you even really get started. The Fighter only has to spend two popcorn to get the same effect, so sometimes it's worth it. But I don't want to commit quite yet. I'm looking ahead a few moves. Once I hit 2nd level, I could probably get that Meatman-3, but then what? I'd be midway through the level and have no suitable opponents. Since I'd have to explore to find more targets, I might as well do that exploring now and maybe find better options for my current situation.
Hmm. A Bandit-3. Useless to me right now, but once I hit level 2 I could take him and the Meatman-3 to reach 3rd level right away. I even have two level 4 monsters available for the level after that. It's a good set up, but I'm concerned about fighting those Bandits. My main source of leverage right now is ENDISWAL, and killing those Bandits will give me piles of Curse and effectively disable that glyph. In the end, I decide to do it anyway. You don't want to burn all of your blackspace hoping for something perfect when you already have something that will work.
I do it. I level off of the Goblin-1 and Gorgon-1 and then kill the Bandit-3, gaining tons of curse in the process. It might look like I can't beat this Meatman without the aid of ENDISWAL, but in truth I can beat him quite easily. I do roughly double his damage while healing at 2/3 of his rate. That means that if we both keep healing and exchanging blows, I will slowly gain ground until I win. This is what we have taken to calling "regen-fighting" on the forums.
After several passes, I finally reach the critical moment. If I explore exactly three squares (and no more!) I will be able to beat him with one HP to spare. If I screwed up and over explored, it would n't be a disaster, I'd just have to make a few more passes. I'd even win by a bigger margin, but it's obviously better to just win now.
Right now I'm checking out this Wraith-5. I can beat him, but then I'll be mana burned and still 4 xp away from a ding. Not that I can really use the mana right now, but maybe the Fireball glyph is around the next corner. I'll look for more targets first.
I'm feeling a bit frustrated with my situation. My huge curse stack is cutting me off from ENDISWAL, and the lack of Fireball is really hurting. If I had access to either glyph, I could be fighting level 6s right now. I'm tired of these lousy level+1 fights. I need to be reducing the number of high level monsters!
I'm done accepting lame catfights. After clearing the Wraiths, I only had two curse stacks left. I ate two popcorn monsters and can finally use the Stoneskin effect of ENDISWAL again. That'll be enough leverage to kill this Gorgon-7 and the Goat-7. That's more like it! Finally clearing out the 7+s.
Now I'm getting serious. I want that Golem-9. I think I can get him with mid-fight ding. I'm 8 xp away from a level, which is kind of a lot. I could eat 8 xp worth of popcorn, but that is wasteful. Instead, I'll get that Gorgon-6. She makes for lousy popcorn, and she'll put me at exactly one xp below threshold. Note that I did NOT go after the Zombie-7, even though I probably could have taken him. I don't want to level up right now, and I will happily trade away a monster-7 for a monster-9.
All set. I did some math and I believe that I will win by 2-3 HPs. That Troll Heart is actually making a difference. I go ahead and convert WONAFYT. There isn't much left to capture and I need to start ramping my damage.
And now I am surveying the situation. I'm one xp below 8th level and have a pile of popcorn availabe, augmented by the effects of WONAFYT and the Fighter learning bonus. This would be a good time to start in on the boss, but I have other plans. There is still a fair amount of blackspace, a monster-7, and three monster-8s out there (you can only see two of the 8s, but I know there's a third one out there). Between the catfighting bonus and the Fighter bonus, that's 37 'hard' xp still available. That's enough to get deep into level 8 and still have enough popcorn to level twice, easily. That's a better deal that being level 7 and having two dings, so I decide to go for it. It doesn't really matter, because I could win either way, but this is about technique and optimization.
Oh also, I found the Fireball. Finally.
The Fireballs let me bring this Wraith down easily. I could finish it off right now, but I don't. I have 103 health, and he does 52 damage. That would mean I'd be leveling while still having almost half of my health left. What a waste.
It's time to win the game. Because the boss can blink I don't want there to be any blackspace left. I use the remaining scraps to regen fight the Zombie-7, softening him up and transforming his 8 xp from 'hard' to 'popcorn.' I also convert the Troll Heart. The conversion is now more important than a few extra HP.
I lead in with fireballs, just in case I get forced to cut through a Murkshade plant. After two fireballs and a melee exchange, I'm ready to ding. I decide to level off of this Goblin-6. You want to always level off of the most difficult monster that you have spare resources for.
I empty my resources into the Druid again, and then level up again. I'm now level ten and STILL have enough popcorn to level YET AGAIN. This is the power of the Fighter. Of course, I don't need the extra ding, but that's still pretty cool. Notice that all of the high level monsters are gone. It really is all popcorn now.