Heroes of Might and Magic III Complete for the Mac has been proving to be one of the most popular strategy games in recent times, and deservedly so; the excellent graphics, splendid music and utterly absorbing gameplay make this one of the very best games to hit the platform for the last few years. One of the greatest strengths of this game is its enormous variety and subtlety; there are so many things to do, and ways to play, that everyone will have their own different approach to the game, and even veteran players may not have considered all of the game's little nuances.
So, to help you get the most out of the game, especially if you're a relative newcomer to the series, here's a guide to many different aspects of the game. It isn't intended to be exhaustive; covering everything would require a whole book! However, if you're getting a bit frustrated, and finding that the computer is beating you quite regularly, read on! Note that this guide covers the full game as provided in the Complete edition, but most of it is still relevant even if you only have the original release of Heroes III.
This is a very long article, but you'll find that the tips are ordered logically and split into convenient pages, and each begins with a few words of summary so that you can dip in and out of the article easily.
Starting out on a new scenarioAdvanced settings: Before you start the game, have a look at the Advanced settings. Here you can see, and define, many of the game's starting conditions. If you want to start off with a particular castle type, it's often possible to define it here. You can also set the starting conditions for the computer opponents, and see the class of each player's starting hero. This hero will often be the most powerful for that player, so remember which heroes to look out for later! If you type in your own name on this screen, in place of "Player", it will be used when referring to you in the game, recorded in the high score table and remembered for future games.
Initial heroes: It's nearly always wise to buy a second hero at the very start of the game. For larger maps you may well want several heroes, especially if you start out with two or more castles. As a rule of thumb, it's good to have two heros for every castle you own near the start of a game. You can then send them out in all directions around your castle(s) and collect and use resources and artifacts quickly, before your opponents have chance to get to them. Later in the game, any 'spare' heroes that aren't very useful can be sent back to reside in your castles' garrisons and guard them more effectively than just the castle troops alone. Alternatively, they can be used to ferry troops to your best heroes.
Might vs Magic: Every type of castle is associated with has two kinds of heros; one will be a 'might' hero, with more emphasis on attack and defense skills than on magical prowess, and the other will be a 'magic' hero with, conversely, more magical ability than physical strength. It's a good idea to recruit an appropriate class of hero for the castle, as they'll come with a small number of free troops which you might be able to upgrade right away, but there's no penalty if you choose to recruit a hero of a different type. For smaller maps or initial exploration, it's better to recruit a mighty hero than a magical one, as they'll be better equipped to defeat wandering troops that guard artifacts and resources early in the game. Later on, though, magical heroes become more useful.
Exploring water: If there's a significant body of water close to your starting location, be sure to acquire a boat as soon as you can and explore post haste. Seas will generally have large numbers of items to pick up for players who plunder them quickly. If you have to buy a boat rather than being able to create one magically, don't worry about using the precious 10 Wood necessary to build it; you'll soon get it back again when searching through flotsam in the water. On some maps, you'll find a cartographer living in the water (they're more common at sea than on land), and purchasing a map of the water is well worthwhile. It'll show you where all the other goodies are in the water, as well as outlining the continents you'll need to explore. If possible, use a hero with the Navigation skill to explore water, as this makes a big difference to the distance you can travel at sea. Also, be sure to flag any lighthouses you find for the same reason.
Used heroes: At the start of each new week, check which two heroes have turned up in the Tavern at any castle. Sometimes you'll find that a defeated hero from earlier in the game will be available to recruit. They'll have lots more skills and experience than regular new heroes, and some may still be carrying artifacts. They cost no more than brand-new, unskilled heroes with no artifacts, but they're much more useful. Even if you don't actually need a new hero. It may be worth buying a defeated hero to benefit from a skill he possesses (such as Estates) or to get a useful artifact cheaply.
Know your enemy: It's well worth checking the Thieves' Guild periodically to check up on the progress of your opponents. The Thieves' Guild is found by clicking a button in the Tavern screen, and the more taverns you own, the more information the guild will give you. Targeting the weakest opponent will help you to win more castles quickly and build up your overall strength. In particular, take note of the personality type of each computer player, which will be either Builder, Explorer or Warrior. Different types will play differently. Builders will concentrate on improving their castles, and will often provide you with useful castles that are easy to conquer because they're poorly defended. Explorer heroes will often have found several artifacts, so it's good if you can defeat them outright in battle and claim their items. Warriors are the least rewarding to fight: they spend most of their energies on acquiring troops, so they're hard to beat, have fairly poorly-upgraded castles and have collected few artifacts.