[LP] Persona Spotlight: Harald Hardrada (Varangian)

I mean it's ok in the ancient/classical era if you can get an early suzerain and get a fast invasion going on your neighbour, as that would snowball a deity game quite hard.
If you can't, well, you're stuck with the ability to sail across oceans earlier. 🤷‍♂️
Or you can levy a City State’s units and go barb hunting for bonus science/culture.
I had suggested, prior to Varangian Harold’s reveal, keeping levied units for the full duration, even if suzerainty is lost.
Little over halfway done with my Harald game and he's great. I got three different suzerains going and even when you levy like ten or units its only around 200 gold, even in the mid game. And the bonus for kills is not only nice, its actually noticeable because the AI has been keeping up their armies in this patch, from what I've seen in two games, the other as Victoria. Also used the levied troops to scout and clear barbarians on unsettled islands when I wasn't at war. A super fun game so far.
I'm also having a good time with Harald. I managed to meet several city-states first and get some free envoys from tribal huts. Combined with Amani, who I beelined a governor title to get, and I had two suzerains quite quickly.

Levying was a steal at less than 100 Gold each. And I used those units to rip through all the barb camps around (careful to take the gold so I could immediately kill an additional unit), but I could easily have taken out several of my neighbors, Matthias-style.

I moved quickly through the first era's techs and Civics both, and if I didn't already have a Relic, it would have sped up a pantheon too.

I'm certain the benefits will fall away quickly, but Vara-Harald snowballs well.

Sorry if that was hard to read. I wrote it late at night. More thoughts:

I'd say Varangian Harald is probably on par with Konge Harald, powerwise. Where Konge has bonus yields from pillaging, Varangian has them from killing units. Konge's yields are better, but they depend on having improvements and districts to pillage. They are not dependable in the Ancient Era, but get better as the game goes on. Varangian gets less yields, but gets them from killing units. Any units. So, hunt barbs like Caesar and harvest your neighbors' units like Montezuma. You will have a bumper crop in the Ancient Era when it helps the most.

Now, Konge Harald gets fast Triremes and naval melee pillaging, which would be more impressive if the AI settled and put districts and improvements directly on the coast more often.

Varangian Harald gets a horde of rental units. It's not too difficult to nab a suzerain or two in the early Ancient Era. Use your 8-10 new units like a combination of Matthias and Montezuma.

So, Konge has the advantage in bonus yields overall, while Varangian gets them early.

Varangian has the advantage in military might that catches the yields.

I'd say that overall, they are roughly equal.
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I've played with Varangian Harald on Immortal - similar experiences to others here. Easy to get a suzerainty, was able to eliminate two civs to set up a snowball, and the yields were noticeable. The yields from barbarian killing was a nice and unexpected bonus. I had noticed something about reduced unit maintenance, although I didn't see that in his leader description in the game. [I note now that this is a Base Game bonus - so not in R&F and GS?]
  • (Base game) 75% Discount on levying units, and all units pay 2 less maintenance.
  • (Rise and Fall & Gathering Storm DLCs) 75% Discount on levying units, and levied units receive Culture, Faith, and Science from kills equal to 50% of the opponent's combat strength.
I'm happy with Varangian Harald. I view him as the opposite of Basil II: he starts off extremely strong, but his abilities lose overall power throughout the game. That's okay, though - by the time his abilities decline, you should have already snowballed hard.

Compared to Basil II, who also snowballs hard but his combat strength and debate strength keep getting stronger and stronger - and walls are ubiquitous late game, so tanks being able to blow away walls is a very strong feature.

Also like Basil II, you should approach domination in a very particular way. In Varangian Harold's case, the emphasis should be on Suzerainty - the varied yields that defeated units produce via levied units can often be used to help complete quests that city-states give. Combat units produced by Harold himself (you) can often be limited to siege and ships - perhaps a smattering of ranged units as well, to soften up targets for levied units to kill.

Finally, I'd like to note that the units which some City-States can create are no joke; especially if they are supposed by, say, trade routes and given space to expand! Considering Varald (just roll with it) is the only leader that can potentially levy armies for free (!), this allows him ample defense to pursue a diverse degree of victory types.

When I first saw Peter the Great (my first love) I knew immediately he was powerful.
When I first saw Basil II (my main) I knew immediately he was powerful.
When I saw Theodora, Ludwig, Tokugawa, and Yongle I knew immediately they were going to be powerful.

But Varald had me on the fence until I started playing him on his own terms instead of trying to force a generic "domination" playthrough on him. Like Basil II, there is a particular approach that works with him -- if you master it, I think he's far stronger than what the "average" player thinks -- and to be clear, I don't think people posting on this forum are average players.
This is why some people put Basil II very low on their "tier list" and many expert players consider him one of the best domination/religious civs in the whole game. Playing Basil II is atypical.
I think, in time, the same will be realized about Varald.
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Yes it does, it was good to keep a city flipping back and forth and farming the free city units.

It works for barbs too! 🙌

But annoyingly Varangian Harald's colours are indistinguishable from barbs, so I frequently mix up my units with barbs 😩
Firaxis are clearly missing Sarah(?) the colour blind producer of Civ VI (who left).

Placing my units (warrior and scout) beyond the barbarian camp to protect it from Sundiata Keita. Harald is such a nice guy :lol:
I've played a couple games up to the start of Classical era just to see how he is but the new Harald is absolutely wonderful and different. Rushing archery and pumping out ranged to support your levied troops can let you rush a neighbor or you can stay "peaceful" and merely explore and fight barbs for era score and lots of science/culture/faith that way. Having a levied city state warring against a constant barb swarm can easily lead to PP in the ancient era which generally means a golden age. That combined with their under rated religion abilities can mean a nice snowball even if you never go to early war against another civ. Potentially having +30 faith/production holy sites in the classical era with tundra woods, the tundra pantheon, and the holy site policy card is truly nuts. No ley lines or natural wonders needed for +30 holy sites and even outside of tundra you can have nice +18 holy sites if you've got woods all around. Could I interest you in a berserker crusade?
While I agree with Palo above to an extent, losing the Knarr's ability to open goodie huts is a drag, and with all these blasted forest fires making the AI supercharged, well,

I just squeaked a science victory as Harald by nuking Mongolia to oblivion to stop them doing it first, nukes not being a thing I'd ever use normally...new gameplay I guess!!
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