Choosing the Right Alliance for You

Choosing the Right Alliance for You: An OSG Guide to Surviving (Barely)
– by Ken Griffey

The world of OSGs is a dangerous one. Sure, when you sign up for that hot new Evony clone, you may feel invulnerable. You may feel like no one can touch you. You may even start to get a little cocky, and think that you have everything all figured out. But what you don’t realize is that the cozy little protection offered by the “break in” period is about to end, meaning, you’re going to be out there…with THEM! Which means, like the first day of prison, it’s open season on your soft, pasty noob ass. And while it seems like it may be a good idea to pucker up and make friends with that possibly racist neighbor named Bubba333, he’s only using you for your looks, and people get hurt that way.

So what is left for you to do? Join an alliance. Follow this guide, and you’ll be slinking and mooching your way to OSG glory (or at least mediocrity).

1. First, watch this tutorial.

2. What? Still need more info?!? After you have been playing for a few days, you will most likely begin to receive messages from random players that you’ve never spoken or even seen, before. This is because each alliance has recruiters who look around their ocean, island, or what have you, and try to find players who seem to be leveling up with vigor, or who have at least shown that they have played on a consistent basis.

3. It is very important that you do not immediately join the first group that contacts you. I mean, you wouldn’t marry the first girl you saw walking down the street would you?!? For all you know, she could be some kind of drug addict, or gypsy. And what would your mother think? In game, you want to do research on who you’re allying yourself with. How many members do they have? Are those members concentrated in a realm near you? If you were being attacked, how quickly could they send aid? These are all VERY important questions you need to ask yourself, since joining an alliance is pointless if a)they are too weak to help you (or rarely play) and b)it would take them days to help you when you needed it most.

4. An alliance, like any of the relationships you’ve failed in, is built on communication! If you don’t know what your leader, or the other members are doing, it can get you into some serious trouble. Just recently, the head honcho of my clan decided to basically try and get several other groups to ally against one of Grepolis’s strongest alliances. Needless to say, the latter found out, and now have declared war on EVERYONE associated with the former. None of us knew he was attempting to do this, or even suggested it. It was his own plan, but now we’re facing the consequences. What’s worse is, those players who have paid for upgrades and poured money into the game, stand to lose much more than myself or many others. That is one of the main reasons why it’s important to do your research!

5. Finally, see what groups the players nearest to you have joined. Ask them what they think of their respective alliances. Chances are, they will be friendly and be more than happy to share that information with you. Who knows, they might even send you an invite. This also serves the purpose of allying yourself with someone in close proximity, which like I stated before, means you can get help in a jiffy. Or, they will recognize you as the indecisive weakling you are, and crush you like an ant.

Hopefully this guide has provided you with an idea of how to scrape out a life for yourself in whatever game it is that you’re playing. So go ahead! Feel free to talk as much smack to that player who is 70 levels above you, and could wipe you off the face of the earth in a second if he so wanted! What do you have to worry about? You’re in an alliance.

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I Am the Lord of Ultima (well, not yet) Part 10

Goemon treats us to another episode of “I Am the Lord of Ultima”. I’m starting to miss my “Travian Chronicles”. It looks like the Natars were just released on the Speed server; hopefully the end game won’t take too long so I can jump in as soon as they start up again.

In other Lord of Ultima news, EA just put out a new patch, and has also answered the first round of developer questions. Now, without further ado:

I Am the Lord of Ultima (well, not yet)
– by Goemon

Last week my main city was utterly destroyed except for the town hall and the castle, which were both left at a paltry level one. I decided to forgo trying to rebuild that particular town, mostly out of concern that it would just get annihilated as soon as my enemy first got a whiff of new resources. Instead, I ramped up the defenses in all my other cities. In one that has reached its building limit, I even started destroying a couple resource buildings to make room for more barracks just so I could build more Guardians.

A side note about the Guardians: I didn’t really look at the stats for the Guardian before I started training them by the thousands. I just checked out the picture and the name. I mean he looks well armored enough, and like a pretty tough guy.

Plus he’s got that intense pike/spear thing. Luckily, it turns out he’s a decent defensive unit, but apparently his specialty is against anything riding a horse. So if I get attacked by an army of Knights, I will totally dominate them. If, however, somebody sends over a couple of mages, I’m pretty much screwed. I may have put all my eggs in one basket.

Since I don’t have any other castles, all the enemy can do is try and plunder my towns. Luckily, I think I’ve put a stop to that for the most part. I’m now in the tens of thousands of city guards which makes it a little harder to make a profit off of attacking me. I wasn’t too concerned about becoming a permanent farm, but I did stumble upon this stickied thread in the official forums that gave a couple useful pointers. Check it out if you want.

Basically, the thread claims that the best way to beat a plunderer is to make your town less profitable, and thus less desirable, than raiding a nearby dungeon. You do this by building up your defenses (i.e. with units like city guards, guardians, and ballistas), and keeping low resource reserves. You keep low resource reserves by constantly building units and structures (obviously). Something I overlooked, though, was the construction of Hideouts.

One level ten hideout next to two patches of woods saves 22,500 of each resource from an attack. Seems like a pretty good deal to me. So if you haven’t done so already…BUILD HIDEOUTS!

I do have to say the hideouts look pretty ridiculous though. Is that really the best cover we could come up with? a bunch of barrels shoved next to some trees? How does the enemy not find these exactly? There’s an entire class of unit (Scout) whose sole purpose is to find resources and report about their whereabouts. Yet, he is foiled by the barrels mixed in with the trees. What, he can’t push some branches out of the way? This guy needs some better training if you ask me.

I Am the Lord of Ultima (well, not yet) Part 5

I Am the Lord of Ultima (well, not yet)
– by Goemon

I am officially a castled city! And how…anticlimactic. I had an image in my mind of the floodgates opening, and having to fend off wave against wave of troops. I’m talking the finale of The Return of the King here. My walls are leveled up and I’ve got thousands of city guards and berzerkers at the ready…pitfall traps and barricades line the outskirts of my town, waiting to be broken in(in case you didn’t know, they render a certain amount of invading troops useless). Or, in continuing with my underdog theme, to be honest I would have been fine with an Alamo-type battle.

But for some reason I haven’t been able to draw the attention of my neighbors. I’ve definitely tried, by means of plundering whenever possible. Granted, these haven’t been the most strategic plunders, as I think my losses often outweigh my gains. But I’m doing it mostly just to see what will happen. You would think at some point someone would get tired of me and try and fight back, but that has yet to happen. We’ll see what happens. My second city is on its way to being a solid resource farm as well as training camp, so even if my main city gets squashed I think I’ll be ok in the long run.

I want to mention a couple of things that you guys might not know about:

First off, I was unaware of how this game would end until I found this stickied thread in the official forums. If you don’t want to read through that wall o’ text, I’ll summarize. Basically, after around 6 months of server life, 8 “shrines” will start to spawn in random locations around the continent. Players can found cities on them, which are automatically susceptible to attack from others. Basically from here it’s a classic game of king of the hill- first player (and alliance) to level up their castle to level 80 wins. In order to get it up to 80, your alliance has to hold one of each type of shrine (8 total). And then you’re Lord of Ultima.

After this happens, the servers are reset, and you and I have to start all over. To be honest, this doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me; I got a bit of a late start on my server, so I don’t really think I have chance at defending a shrine against every other player on the continent. Maybe when it gets reset and everyone starts on equal footing I will have a better opportunity. I can definitely see this angering some of the players that have been here since the beginning though; that’s a lot of game hours that just get flushed down the digital drain.

Second: One of the things I thought that was cool about Lord of Ultima was how each town was potentially different. The game gives you the power to choose where to place buildings, and where you put them determines how effective they will be. For instance, placing Woodcutter’s Huts next to Forests nets more wood profit. Makes sense, and makes building placement important, which is a bit rare in this genre.

HOWEVER, after perusing the forums yet again, I found out that you are actually more profitable by just destroying the natural resources and placing boost-buildings in their place. Here’s a pic from this thread. A rather extreme example for sure, but it illustrates the point. This effectively eliminates the need to think about where to place your buildings in relation to natural resources, since you can just cut them down and be better off. I find this pretty disappointing.

On the other hand, it makes the game more balanced because everyone can effectively have the same amount of resource intake regardless of what natural resources they start with. I for one haven’t destroyed mine yet, if for aesthetic reasons only.

Founding a New City in Lord of Ultima

Founding a New City in Lord of Ultima
– a guide by Goemon

Founding a new city is something you simply have to do at some point in Lord of Ultima. You’ll need it for the resource income, and the extra space to keep your troops. Preferably, you’ll do it sooner rather than later…which unfortunately I did not do. As a consequence, I pretty much had nothing to do in the game for several days after I hit the maximum building limit in my city, which is only a paltry 100 buildings. So I could only NOT build buildings and wait around for my Trinsic Temple to hit level 10 so I could build my baron.

It’s a pretty simple process, but there’s a checklist of things you need before you can start a new town.

1. As far as resources go, you’ll need 100,000 wood and stone, and 25,000 iron and food. This probably shouldn’t be too much of an issue for you since you should be amassing as much of this stuff as possible.

2. You’ll need 250 carts or 25 trade ships. You can only use the ships if you want to found a city along a river; carts can be used in either case. In order to get carts, you just need to build marketplaces, and the game automatically gives them to you; harbors give ships. For me, I built four marketplaces and interspersed them with townhouses, and put the whole thing next to my harbors. It seemed to work pretty well as the townhouses boost gold intake from both, as does upgrading the markets and harbors. Upgrading two of my marketplaces to level 8 and two to level 7 put me up to 270 carts which is plenty. If you have a trade offer that you’ve put on the market, though, some of your carts cannot be used for the move, and you’ll either have to cancel the trade or get more to compensate.

3. You’re also going to need to recruit a Baron. These guys can be a bit pricey and can take quite awhile to recruit, because you have to invest in both a level 10 Trinsic Temple as well as a level 10 Moonglow Tower. On top of that, you have to buy a moonstone which will set you back at least another 50,000 of all your resources…on top of the 100,000 gold the baron costs to recruit.

4. So hopefully now you have all the ingredients to build a new city. Basically all you have to do next is open up the world map and choose a good spot. Then you just click “Create New City,” and that’s it! Of course, what exactly constitutes a good spot? Ideally you should be as close to your original city as possible, or next to some strong allies. This is because your fledgling town will be defenseless for a little while. The closer your new city is to your established (and hopefully well-armed) one, the quicker you can get reinforcements there.

Alright, so hopefully by now you have a shiny new city. But what now? Get those resources a flowin’, but don’t neglect your defenses. Contrary to your first city, you do not get a grace period in which you can’t be attacked. So upgrade that wall and recruit some city guards!

After you’ve established your new place, just repeat steps 1-4 consistently and ideally you’ll win the game! If that’s even possible…

The Lord of Ultima Castle System

The Lord of Ultima Castle System
– by Goemon

The castle is an optional building in Lord of Ultima. It doesn’t give you access to any new types of units, or any other new buildings. It really acts as a gate to the game’s form of PvP- or you might say all the game’s action.

Until you build a castle, your main focus is building up your city and your army, and either trading or raiding dungeons. The only interaction you can have with other players is trading or sending your army to support a city under attack. You cannot scout, siege, plunder, or assault any other cities. The tradeoff, however, is that you cannot be taken over by any other cities. It’s still possible to get plundered, and trust me, it happens. For those that don’t know, plundering consists of an enemy army attacking your base and making off with the resources. They can’t destroy any buildings or take over your city though, and they have to contest with all of your cities defenses (i.e. the hundreds/thousands of city guards as well as traps you probably have), so rest assured you’ll make it out ok.

Ben Cousins, the general manager of EA’s free-to-play team, said that he put this feature in as protection for new players. Apparently, he played Travian and got destroyed right away, so he felt the need to implement something to prevent that from happening (source: Gamasutra). The concept of the castle allows the player two distinct ways to play: as a builder/trader, or as a fighter. Even without the castle, you can still found new cities as long as there is a vacant area and you have a baron.

There’s one more big difference that comes with a castle: Your maximum army size is increased from 5000 to 400,000, which is pretty huge.

If you do decide to build a castle, though, the gloves are off. That means anyone can siege your city or even take it over, so before you do build a castle, there’s a couple of things you might want to do first (this stuff might seem like common sense, but hey, you never know):

1. Be part of a strong alliance. This is helpful all the time, but if your city is going to be susceptible to takeover, then you are definitely going to want some backup. Ideally they’ll be as close to you as your enemies. Or closer!

2. Defense! Lord of Ultima gives you lots of options. You’re going to want tons of city guards- and why not, they don’t even take up space in your army. You’re also going to want to make sure your wall is leveled up and full of pitfall traps, barricades, etc. And don’t forget Hideouts! They’re an oft overlooked building that keeps some of your resources hidden and from your attackers.

3. Check out your neighbors. If you are surrounded by enemies much bigger than you, maybe you should hold off on the castle until you get situated.

I think the castle system is a pretty great idea. It keeps the little guy alive long enough until he’s ready to fight for himself. In theory, this in turn makes him less likely to get frustrated and give up the game. And more players is always a good thing.

Ikariam Tools

There are a number of external sites that can be useful when playing Ikariam. I’m usually cautious about any script I have to install, but each of these sites offer some browser-based tools which are rather helpful. Enjoy!

Ikariam Library

This site is a collection of many helpful tools. There’s a battle calculator, an island finder (very useful when you receive a report that someone from the island of Ardeuos has been caught spying on you, but you have no idea where the island of Ardeuos is), and a number of scripts you can install to change some graphics or add more information to the UI. Some of these scripts have been approved and some have not, and it depends on what server you’re playing on. Best to check it out for yourself.

ikariam.gamestats.org

This is another useful site with several features. You have to register (it’s free) but can then save your combat and espionage reports here. Since you have to pay Ambrosia for Ikariam to save reports over a week or so (I forget exactly how long), it can be useful to store them here for future reference. The site also calculates how many resources-worth of troops are killed in a battle, which is quite useful. You can sometimes win a battle but actually lose more troops than your opponenet. Again, use at your own risk, and be careful about sharing too much information…

Ikariam CR Converter

This is a very simple combat report converter. You just paste the source from your combat report and this will convert it to text you can show in forums or in-game messages.

Ikariam Warfare Strategy II

Here are some additionally strategies you can employ during an Ikariam war. Some of these I learned from Travian, and can probably be applied to most OSG’s. Others I learned from my allies on JRG. More to come next week!

Mobile Colonies
As mentioned, one of the toughest parts of a war is getting your troops onto the same island as your enemy. This can be tough when you first have to take out their navy, or start engaging an innocent bystander who just happens to be on the same island. One way around this is to have a Mobile Colony. If your Palace is upgraded high enough to support an exta city that you haven’t yet built, you can build it right next to your enemy. Once the war ends you can abandon the village and still have a city slot available for next time.

The benifit of the MC is that there’s an extra port on the island that the enemy will have to blockade. Also, your troops don’t cost any additional upkeep. Depending on the size of your army, this can even make up for the lost production in your other cities (assuming you haven’t upgraded your governor’s residences high enough).

The trick with an MC is that you’re going to have to upgrade it quickly. A new city has no wall, no hideout, and only 1 action point, so your troops will be pretty vulnerable there until you can erect some infasructure.

Alternatively, you could build a Mobile Colony on an island that is near the enemy, and use it as a base to island hop. You’ll get the benifit of the lower upkeep, will have a port that isn’t too far, and will have more time to upgrade the city before your enemy finds out.

Fake Warnings
Ikariam has four advisors that are generally useful. The Military Advisor shows all incoming and outgoing troops. Additionally, if there is an incoming attack he will turn red. This can be very helpful because you notice an incoming attack as soon as you log in. You can, however, make this feature useless to your enemy. If you build a very cheap, slow naval ship (ideally a Ram Ship) and send it to block the harbor of your opponent’s furthest city, his Military Advisor will be lit up the whole time. To see if he has any additional incoming attacks, he’ll have to keep manually checking his military overview. Ganted, this tactic is merely annoying, but it just might give your real attack a few extra minutes before being noticed.

Hiding Troops
Alot of warfare in Ikariam seems to be a game of cat and also cat, with armies not attacking unless they have the upper hand. You might often find yourself with an army not quite ready for combat, waiting another day or so for reinforcements to arrive, and hoping your oppoenent doesn’t chose this moment to attack. However, it’s nigh on 1am, you have work in the morning, and your opponent from Indonesia is just about to start looking for your army. What you can do is send your army on a long raid, so that they can’t be attacked until you return. If you plan to be offline for 8 hours, find a small, inactive town 4 hours away and send your troops to pillage. By the time you get back to the game your troops will just be returning. This also works for navy, and you can send them to block a harbor for 1-8 hours.

Spearmen As Eyes
In a war between alliances, battle usually only occurs in a few cities> More often than not this will not be in your own city, but one of your allies. It can be very useful to have eyes in your allies’ cities so you can know what’s going on, even if your allies aren’t online. For example, say you’re trying to send reinforcements, but need to know what type of troops to send? Or you need to know how long until the enemy arrives. If you put a cheap unit (Spearman) in your allies’ towns you’ll be able to check for yourself all the troops in that town (both friendly and hostile) as well as any incoming attacks or reinforcements.