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A skirmish or challenge is a type of battle which occurs outside the game's main chapters in the three games which feature the world map system: Gaiden, The Sacred Stones and Awakening. In these games, groups of enemy units periodically appear on the world map, and the player can engage them in a skirmish to gain experience and clear the path obstructed by the enemies.
Mechanics and specifics
Technically speaking, almost every encounter in Gaiden is a skirmish contained within a single chapter. Unique to the Gaiden treatment of skirmishes is that, every few turns taken on the world map, certain enemy locations will spawn skirmish armies which are in subsequent turns capable of travelling around the world map themselves and may even ambush Alm or Celica's parties should they attempt to move to the present location of a protagonist. It is possible for enemy groups to double up, with two separate enemy armies moving to occupy the same location; in this case, the player fights both groups at once.
Unlike later games, skirmishes in Gaiden consist almost exclusively of human enemies.
The Sacred Stones
After Chapter 8 has been completed, skirmishes become available. Every time the player completes a chapter or visits the Tower of Valni/Lagdou Ruins, monster enemy bands will spawn on certain locations on the world map, as marked by the group's boss. When a location is occupied, the player is prevented from being able to pass it until it has been cleared (while in theory this involves routing the enemy, the location will also be cleared if the player retreats instead). As with the Tower and Ruins, enemies are randomly generated and may be spawned carrying weapons, items or bags of gold which they drop upon defeat.
The following locations can host skirmishes:
- Za'ha Woods
- Adlas Plains
- Teraz Plateau
- Za'albul Marsh
- Hamill Canyon
- Narube River
- Neleras Peak
- Melkaen Coast
The strength of the enemies present in a skirmish is dependent on the location, scaling in difficulty based on the location's situation in the game; Za'ha Woods houses the easiest skirmishes, while Melkaen Coast, which does not actually feature as a chapter in the main game, is the most difficult. All skirmishes will randomly commence with fog of war either on or off.
Challenges start appearing on the world map following the completion of Chapter 3, normally comprising bands of enemy Risen. They work mostly the same way as in The Sacred Stones, except now the player is not obstructed by the presence of challenges and can walk past them to other destinations on the world map, only engaging them by choice. All locations on the map (with the exception of the Endgame's location) are capable of playing host to challenges.
If the player opts to engage a StreetPass or SpotPass bonus team in battle to attempt to recruit their leader, this also acts as a challenge. It is possible to summon Risen groups to the world map at any time using Reeking Boxes; the group will appear on the same location the player was on at the time of using the Reeking Box. The levels of the opposing army depend on where they were summoned; they will be weaker on earlier maps, but get progressively stronger on later maps.
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In Birthright and Revelation, challenges can be found on the next chapter menu after completing chapter 6. The player can also scout to spend gold to make a challenge appear. Challenges do not appear at all in Conquest. As with Awakening, the levels of the opposing army vary depending on where they were scouted at.
Like Gaiden, most enemies are human, but some Faceless appear.
Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
The world map system of Shadows of Valentia is identical to Gaiden's. However, the term skirmish is used only to refer to battles against monsters in graveyards (no term was used in the original).
- If an enemy ambushes Alm at Zofia Castle in Fire Emblem Gaiden or Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a battle takes place on a map not otherwise seen.
- In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, the text that appears when you get into a skirmish with an enemy has different text between the Japanese and international versions. In the Japanese version the text reads "Opening of a Battle!", while in the international versions the text simply reads "Skirmish!".