Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thunderdome: Learnings

Hello cannon fodders.

I would like to take a moment to discuss the philosophy of Thunderdome. When [300] first began discussing the battle arena, it was a new concept: part classroom, part PvP battle royale. The quarterly Last Man Standing events were seen as the culmination of each PvP class. They are also a way for non-PvP muggles to dip their toe into lethal city-to-city fighting by risking only a single city. I really wanted to encourage bold fighting, so we kept the criteria to a minimum, and set the victory condition to single survivor. It was an experiment, and we fully expected to learn.

Key Learnings

Ultimately, what I learned is that a full turtle (pure defense) gambit can produce a permanent stalemate in Thunderdome. Under battlefield conditions, the interplay of alliance-vs-alliance warfare can break that type of scenario, but Thunderdome has wildly different parameters. Lesson learned.

I was initially against collecting API keys to monitor the city-to-city combat. Ultimately this proved to be a mistake. There were stretches of weeks where I had zero visibility into the clashes within the arena.

I also found it challenging to balance the fog of war with my desire to promote the event to the whole Illyriad community. One of the Thunderdome objectives is to raise awareness for PvP within the sandbox. King-of-the-hill tournaments and actual wars are only two ways that PvP can be expressed in this game. Unfortunately, raising awareness is hard to do when publishing battle reports can lift the fog of war, allowing combatants to see fights that occurred between other gladiators. I believe that this conflict created a mistrust towards sharing combat reports, techniques, and army information with me as the Thunderdome organizer. Much of that is setting the proper expecations--obviously I need to promote the event to inspire future participation--but that expectation needs to be set up front.

Net Result

For future Thunderdome events, the rules will be expanded.
  • A time limit will be set on the next event.
  • Judging criteria will be established for events that reach the cutoff with 2+ gladiators.
  • One victor will be crowned.
  • Discussion will occur on whether a Survivor medal will be issued to non-victors who reach the cutoff alive.
  • Combatants who want a medal will need to register an API key.
  • Battle reports may be shared for promotion, but only after a week.

These changes will be incorporated into the Thunderdome: Last Man Standing announcement for the summer solstice 2017.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Deathmatch I: Victor Announced

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

Today I am pleased to announce the victor of the first Thunderdome deathmatch. I apologize to both final combatants for the delay. My gaming time has been consumed by an ongoing Illyriad conflict. The battlefield must come first for all true cannon fodders, but I wanted to recognize the inconvenience and thank Treggar and Grum for their ongoing patience.

I enlisted the aid of three judges who I felt were knowledgeable in tournaments and PvP fighting. The judges used the boxing-based scoring system I presented two weeks ago in Deathmatch I: Reaching the End.

Two judges scored the match as a tie for both Treggar and Grum. The third judge offered a very thorough analysis according to the criteria, and concluded that although both opponents had pursued workable strategies, there was only one opponent who was credibly throwing punches when the match was called. Therefore, I am pleased to announce the first winner of a Thunderdome: Last Man Standing event:

Treggar [GATE] is victor of the Vernal Equinox 2017 event in Thunderdome.

Congratulations, Treggar.

The judges felt that Grum also deserved a great deal of credit for her effective use of elite divisions, equipment and defensive city placement. Her defense was outstanding, but ultimately there can be no chance of victory without inflicting damage to the opponent. Treggar gained a slight edge in the scoring by throwing so many damaging hits to Grum's fortress.

I would also like to thank our three judges for helping to resolve the match. I will not divulge their names here, but it is of course their option to do so. I appreciate that they took the time from their busy schedules to read the reports, analyze the match, and provide their advice. You have my thanks.

Until next time, cannon fodders...

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Military City Builds: 5/6/7 Food

Greetings, cannon fodders.

One of the questions that I am asked the most is how to choose between 5, 6, and 7 food cities. Today we will look at five basic military city builds: one real 7 food, two real 5 food, one theoretical 6 food, and the starter 5 food. All five towns are vanilla standard builds that could be found in any military or tournament account. These are military builds meant to aggressively produce troops. If you want a guide to pursuing 10+ towns or building legendary cities, you must look elsewhere. A military account built using these templates will top out at 8 or 9 cities, depending on your personal design choices.

Before you begin this article, I recommend that you go back and read The Basics of City Placement and Building a Standard Military City. While those articles are now over three years old, many of the concepts contained within them are still entirely valid today.

The Bottleneck

The key thing to understand about military city builds is that there is always a bottleneck. Choosing a different resource distribution will shift the bottleneck around, but it can never be eliminated completely. For the cities being discussed here, we will work with the following assumptions:

  • Full library
  • Allembine Scribes research
  • No prestige boosts to resources
  • 0-5% taxes
  • All resource plots completed
  • Two military cost reduction buildings at 20
  • No negative basics

These assumptions are very typical for any established military city in full troop production mode.

The stats presented below are considered a stable baseline for a PvP city in prolonged warfare. Many experienced players will point out that people will drive their basic resources negative in order to build troops faster, shipping in the deficit resources from gold farms and support accounts. My personal feeling is that this is a risky approach to warfare. Depending on how negative the resources are running, hitting 0 while negative can cause troop sov to collapse or even cause cost reduction buildings to delevel. This can be caused by a single large thief strike, a troop strike, accidentally queuing advanced resources, or just plain making mistakes in shipping around the correct resources. For the same reason, I am not overly fond of relying on geomancy boosts to troop production resources. Geomancy magic can be attacked by enemies. Even a Vault 20 will provide only several hours of protection from catastrophe when running negative basics.

All that said, many serious tournament players will run negative basics because they know the precise start date of the tournament, and they are very unlikely to face a troop, thief, or magical attack at a moment's notice. For warriors in a real war, caveat emptor when running negative basics.

A Chart!


Figure 1: Resource bottlenecks for typical PvP city builds.

The bottlenecks are highlighted in red.

Keep in mind that the tax assumption is 0-5%, so the basic resources are produced at 120-125%.

Let's talk for a moment about resource distribution. Every city produces four basic resources--wood, clay, iron, stone. The chart above is NOT arranged in that fashion. If you refer to the guide for Building a Standard Military City, you will see that the cost reduction buildings for each major troop type will consume a different pair of basic resources. Specifically, the troop buildings will consume 135/hour of a major resource and 55/hour of a minor resource. The resource distribution chart above is broken into four categories:

  • Major. This resource is consumed at 135/hour by the cost reduction buildings.
  • Minor. This resource is consumed at 55/hour by the cost reduction buildings.
  • Neutral. This resource is not consumed by the cost reduction buildings, and at 5 plots is not the bottleneck.
  • Lowest. In distributions where one resource is 4 or 3 plots, this plot always becomes the bottleneck.

For example, in a sword town, the two Infantry Quarters consume stone (major) and iron (minor). If you were choosing a traditional 7 food resource distribution, you would allocate the 3 plots to either wood or clay. This would lead you to find a 3w-5c-5i-5s-7f (leaping deer/fertile ground) or 5w-3c-5i-5s-7f (wheat/abundant crops) tile.

Please note that for the 5/5/5/5/5 resource distribution, there isn't really a "lowest" resource that creates a bottleneck. There are two neutral resources. This specific point will be discussed in depth in the section for the 5/5/5/5/5 build, as it has powerful implications for how far you can push the troop sov in that particular resource arrangement.

Traditional 7 Food Fortress

Our first city to consider is the traditional 7 food fortress. Most cities outside the N00b Ring are a 7 food city on plains. The bottleneck to a typical 7 food fortress is the 3 plot off-resource. However, there are two advantages to a traditional 7 food fortress. First, the additional farm production gives you the ability to grow the city bigger (not that important for PvP), or to raise the tax rate higher on a bigger population base (very important for holding large tournament armies and PvP reserves). You might also choose to keep the taxes considerably above 0%. For example, you can run a 7 food military city at 40% taxes and still deploy 250% troop sov.

Second, you can see from the chart that the major and minor cost reduction resources still have room to run. This means you can build a third cost reduction building. While each level will only give you a 0.375% cost reduction, once your army grows large you may become interested in reducing gold burn another 7.5%.

You can also interpret the overhead in major/minor/neutral a different way. Since your 3 plot is the only resource holding you back, many tournament players will choose to run negative on that one resource, and just ship it in from different towns. This will allow you to propel the 7 food fortress sov up into the 340% range, as if it were a more production-oriented 5 food build. This approach is not recommended for novice players, but it is a technique used by many tournament titans.

You might ask why it's relevant to have a +40% boost on the major plot at 0% taxes, giving it a +5000. Good question. The reason is that as you raise the tax rate, your resource production is going to sink, but your troop buildings will consume at the same rate. This setup will prevent you from going negative in your major resource (a terrible idea) when you are running medium taxes and medium troop sovereignty. Once you get above 50-60% taxes, your major resource will go more deeply negative than your 3 plot off resource.

Non-Traditional 7 Food Fortress

Some players elect to construct cities on 7 food jungle forests with less than 25 resource plots. The most common build appears to be a 7 food 5/4/4/3 distribution. I have not built one of these cities, but I think we can safely infer some properties when compared to a traditional 7 food fortress.
  • The Major plot at +5000 (+40% boost) remains the same at 5.
  • The Minor plot at +2500 (no boost) drops to +0 at 4. Booster might be required to compensate.
  • The Neutral plot at +5000 (no boost) drops to +2500 or less at 4. Not a big deal.
  • The Lowest plot at +0 remains the same at 3 plots.

On the surface, this seems just as effective as a traditional 7 food 5/5/5/3 build. At 0% taxes, it probably is. I believe that the resources would strain when raising the tax rate. Remember, the key advantage of a 7 food fortress is that it is better for holding large reserve armies at high taxes, and offers the ability to run medium taxes (50-65%) and medium sovereignty (200%). If your 7 food jungle build detracts from this flexibility, then that tradeoff needs to be considered very carefully.

6 Food Citadel (5/5/5/4 Build)

I have never built a 6 food citadel. There are quite a few advanced players in the game who favor them. At 0% taxes, this build is interesting in that the Major resource and Lowest resource are simultaneous bottlenecks. It is clear that such a city can comfortably run 300% sov. It also offers the option to push harder into the 340% sov range. You might require a geomancy boost to the Major resource in order to reach a full 340% sov.

Finally, the 6 food build offers 20% more population flexibility than the 5 food builds. This means that it can either support a larger final population (not really interesting) or much more easily raise taxes when your armies are fully built (definitely interesting). It would probably have more flexibility than a 7 food city for the medium tax, medium sov scenario, although understandably the city would be running those taxes on 6/7th the potential 7 food population.

I will state for the record that I have seen people reach 10 cities with some 6 food towns, but I don't really know how hard that is, or where the cities really top out.

5 Food Workhorse (6/5/5/4 Build)

The Workhorse build is for the die-hard PvP player. These squares are almost always terraformed, since the 6/5/5/4 resource distributions are from forests, hills, mountains. It is challenging to find a standalone tile with the correct distribution, surrounded by plains, in the area you desire.

Take careful note of the Major and Minor resources. The boosters in this example are not set to a full +40% yet. This means that the Workhorse can easily build up to 2.5 or 3 cost reduction buildings. It is a build dedicated to constructing large PvP armies. While it can reduce the gold burn on those armies, as a 5 food build, it is not as efficient as a 7 food city for holding massive reserves. Therefore, I would describe the Workhorse as the tool of a PvP player who has excellent external support via gold farms, prestige sales, or other means of generating gold.

The Workhorse is a great option for areas with high troop boosts, such as:

Just remember that without a gold farm, the upkeep on your armies will melt your eyeballs.

5 Food Troop Monster (5/5/5/5 Build)

The balanced 5/5/5/5/5 resource distribution can be a true Troop Monster. If you ignore all cost reduction buildings, you can push your sovereignty into the 400% range. Really, this is the greatest strength of the Troop Monster build. For a hardcore PvP player, it isn't a big deal to demolish all cost reduction buildings, and then just rebuild them if gold burn gets too high. There is no better build to go guns blazing into the bitter end of a war.

Examining the resource consumption, we can also see that the Major resource is the only real bottleneck. Boosting the Major resource with geomancy magic will allow you to sneak in a few extra sov IV, pushing beyond 340%.

I have personally gone back and forth about which build is better, the Workhorse or the Troop Monster. The Workhorse feels like a better build for a stable PvP city, where the owner isn't building up and tearing down troop buildings and sov every couple weeks. That said, the Troop Monster is a powerful tool for getting another 15-20% in troop production power (about 60% extra sov on 340%). If an account were put into a total military corner, the Troop Monster offers the best option to swamp your enemies with troop production. That's assuming you can stomach the gold burn of having no troop buildings, which is a very big assumption in Illyriad combat.

Balanced 5/5/5/5/5 squares are plentiful in all plains areas of Elgea and the Broken Lands. No terraforming required. If you did want to terraform a hardpoint somewhere, the 5/5/5/5/5 is the human starting distribution, so it's very easy to find someone to terraform a Troop Monster mountain for you.

5 Food Starter City (7/5/5/3 Build)

Dwarves, elves, and orcs will all start with a 7/5/5/3 build. Each race automatically receives a distribution that will enable cost reduction buildings for their favored units. Dwarves get 7s/5i (infantry quarters), elves get 7w/5i (archer fields), orcs get 7c/5i (spearman billets). So can you build a PvP town out of a starter city? Sure, anything is possible.

Examining the chart, we can see that the 3 plot is what's going to limit your troop sovereignty, just like a 7 food 5/5/5/3 build. The starter city is different in that you can proceed immediately to 3 troop buildings, assuming you want to build a really big army. The downside is that unlike the 7 food 5/5/5/3 build, there isn't really an option to slide taxes around to improve gold production but still efficiently produce troops. I will say that if a new player just wanted to pitch in for a tournament, or learn about troops and battle, that using the starter city with one of my Lightning Build packages is definitely an option.

I do know a small handful of players who actually terraform using these distributions for special purposes. That is a highly specialized build, and not one that will be covered in this article.

Build a Portfolio

I will end this article with a good piece of advice about your whole account. Most players just focus on individual cities, trying to determine which build is "best". Envision your account as a stock portfolio. There is no such thing as the "best" stock, or everyone would already own it. There are many situations where having a mix of PvP city builds can provide a significant advantage. I have personally built my account to have a mix of Traditional, Workhorse, and Troop Monster cities. Some carry larger armies in peace, and some produce troops faster in war.

In the future we will talk about gold farms to supply these mighty troop assembly lines, but for now...

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Deathmatch I: Reaching the End

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

It's time for another update to the Thunderdome: Last Man Standing event. Two weeks ago, I summarized the first 30 days of combat in the deathmatch arena. Since then, the situation in Thunderdome has changed considerably. The three-way Mexican standoff was ended on 18 April when Cro-Magnon threw in the towel and removed his city from the battle arena. At that point, the final battle between Grum and Treggar began in earnest.

For two weeks, Treggar has attempted to get Grum into a headlock. Grum went full turtle, building stalwarts to break any sieges against her city. She has been highly disciplined about dodging her troops while offline. The following battle reports will show that Treggar only managed to catch her troops at home once. To further entrench, Grum leveled up her Runemaster's Grounding buildings, creating more powerful Wards of Destruction. This tactic made it more expensive for Treggar to carry out daily direct attacks.

Unable to destroy Grum's stalwarts, and knowing that a forest siege would be suicide, Treggar resorted to siege trains. He dispatched many sorties against Grum, most of which went unstopped. Even at close range, siege trains are a slow way to inflict damage against an entrenched defender. Treggar's spy reports and progressive battle reports show that Grum used prestige and caravans to instantly repair most of the siege train damage. Since the adjacent terrain made it impossible to hold a blockade, Treggar was unable to stop Grum from continually repairing the siege train damage.

Essentially, the gladiators are now gridlocked. Grum has adopted a 100% defensive posture, preserving her stalwarts to break forest sieges, and using prestige to repair building damage. Treggar has launched dozens of successful attacks, but his siege trains cannot cause enough damage to break Grum's supply of prestige. Grum seems to have no engines to besiege Treggar; any forest siege that Treggar deploys will be swept away by Grum's carefully hoarded stalwarts.

Under these conditions, the deathmatch is a permanent stalemate.

Therefore, I have decided to appoint a panel of judges to review the battles and declare a victor.

Heavyweight Title

I've decided to use the Rules of Boxing as their guiding principle. This will not be a Must 10-9 system. The judges will review the entire 40 days (the first article and this one), and then rate Treggar and Grum from 1-5 in each of the following categories:

  • Effective Aggression
  • Ring Generalship
  • Defense
  • Hard and Clean Punches

The victor will be the fighter with the highest combined points from all the judges. If for some reason there is a tie, I will be the final tiebreaker (beyond that, I will not participate in scoring).

Two Weeks of Battle Reports

The only time Treggar connected with Grum's perpetually dodging stalwarts.

Grum arranges an elite equipped defense to stuff a siege train. To my knowledge, the only one that got stopped.

An example battering ram report. The damage was repaired quickly in most cases.

And now for a whole bunch of sample reports from direct siege train attacks...

As always, fellow cannon fodders:

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Monday, May 1, 2017

One Chart to Bind Them All

Greetings, cannon fodders.

Let's start with a little Tolkien poetry:
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

As you know, there is One Chart to Rule Them all.  Yet that magical chart alone is not sufficient for victory. Rapid production of terrain-adjusted points is what helps to win wars, but it is tempered by two other factors: upkeep and build cost. Today we will learn how to evaluate units by points-per-upkeep. This article describes the "in the darkness bind them" part of Illyriad troops.

All About the Benjamins

Troops are useless if they bankrupt your treasury. If your gold hits zero, your unpaid troops will simply disband. Since many wartime cities run 0-15% taxes, this could cause a sovereignty implosion and the dismissal of your army. In a future article, I will hammer on the need for a strong gold farm to support any real PvP account. For the moment, we will just assume that you have a gold income at a fixed level, regardless of source.

Upkeep is perhaps the primary concern of tournament players. Tournament players will build up slowly for an entire year, holding large armies in reserve. What you can produce in a single 30 day tournament pales in comparison to the reserve armies getting thrown around. Therefore, it is imperative that tournament players get the maximum points for their gold. Even large PvP fighters are concerned with upkeep. Much of Illyriad is spent in peacetime, and carefully managing gold burn is what allows powerful players to start the next war with sizable armies.

One Chart to Bind Them

Since you've already read the One Chart to Rule Them All, I will simply present the three successive upkeep charts as a group. The first is the giant chart of all upkeep; the second chart illustrates similar units; the final chart filters out all the noise so I can highlight some conclusions.


Compared to the production chart, the spear units are the most different.

All t2 spears are superior to t1 spears for holding cavalry defense points. No surprise there.

Kobolds and dwarf yeomen are the only spear units that are truly adequate at holding infantry defense.

Most t1 spears are still much better than t2 spears at holding infantry defense.

Kobolds are about the same as other t1 spears for holding cavalry defense. Kobolds are inferior to all t2 spears for holding cavalry defense. If you are an orc player, you need to fully comprehend this statement. Commit it to memory. Kobolds produce infantry defense and cavalry defense at tremendous speeds, but their advantage is purely production speed. Per hourly gold upkeep, kobolds do not hold their points any more efficiently than any other spear unit.

On a mountain, t1 spears are better infantry defenders than bow units.

Per upkeep, t1 spears hold infantry defense better than non-elf t1 and t2 bows on all terrains.


For all races, t1 bows hold defense points at approximately the same cost as t2 bows.

Sentinels and trueshots hold about 8% more points than dwarf and human bows, and 20% more than orcs. Per gold, orc ranged units are rather poor.

Sentinels and trueshots still hold a terrifying number of bow attack points per gold, considering that the only effective defense against them is bows.


t1 and t2 swords hold attack points approximately the same.

Stalwarts hold attack points more efficiently than even t2 cavalry for all terrains except plains.

When attacking a mountain, we can see clearly that bows are not the most efficient attacker per upkeep. The relative ranking is: stalwarts > t1 and t2 swords > sentinels and trueshots > non-elf t1 and t2 bows. The comparison isn't even close. Stalwarts are more than twice as powerful for mountain attack compared to non-elf bow units, when evaluated by gold burn. Tournament players should take careful note here. Trying to clear mountains with bow units is burning up your reserve armies in a very inefficient way.

Non-dwarf t1 and t2 sword units will attack a mountain as equals against defending non-elf bows, when compared per upkeep.


t2 cavalry is efficient at holding attack points for plains, small hill. No surprise there.

t2 cavalry is surprisingly good at holding attack points for small forest and small mountain. I clench my teeth every time I see cavalry smashing into forests and mountains, but if your yardstick is points per gold burn, it's not an utterly tragic way to use your tournament reserves. Just be aware that opposing spear units are getting a great bargain when poking holes in your horses.

No Bombshells?

There were very few surprises in this article for experienced players. Points-per-upkeep corresponds much more closely to unit stats. Upkeep has also been exhasutively analyzed by most tournament alliances. In fact, upkeep (not production) is the source of many military "facts" presented by the GC crowd. It is why n00bs are told that humans build knights, dwarves build stalwarts. It is the source of the muggle obsession with cavalry. If you don't care about production speed, then terrain-adjusted upkeep alone tells you how to optimize troop mix to indefinitely hold the most power.

So, now we have two charts from the poetic warfare triad. The almighty One Chart to Rule Them All describes how to bury your enemies with troop production. It is the single most important chart to unlock the secrets of Illyriad PvP, and the most powerful of the charts. Now the One Chart to Bind Them reveals how to build your reserve armies in preparation for war. The third and final chart will be the One Chart to Find Them. It will describe the gold-per-point cost of recruiting troops. While this is less of a factor for yearly tournament players, the recruitment cost can create a supply bottleneck when producing PvP troops at full throttle.

Until next time, cannon fodders:

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Lightning Builds

Good afternoon, cannon fodders.

Are you a bored n00b? Maybe a Steam player with 200 prestige burning a hole in your pocket. Perhaps just a gamer discouraged by all the early resource plot grinding. Stop! Your rescue is at hand. Don't follow the lame construction advice from the GC muggles.

Figure 1: Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist.

Start Having Fun Today

This article describes how to use cotters and harvesting to drive growth on Day 1. I have written about the harvester playstyle before in How to Kill Your Way to Capturing a City. Today I will describe some fun city builds to do something useful and interesting in your first week or two, independent of whether you choose to capture your second city. Your overall goal is to establish enough population to develop one solid town and then 3-5 cotter towns to harvest on the map and supply that main city.

The basic cotter city build goes like this:
  • Library
  • Marketplace
  • Storehouse
  • Barracks
  • Warehouse (optional)
  • 17-18 Cottages
  • Basic Resources as it amuses you

Depending on your particular strategy--Hunter, Maker, or Crafter--your second city will be a 5- or 7-food town that you settle or capture. The important concept is that you are funneling resources into a single excellent town, while enjoying all the activity of being a cotter kingpin. This single city is the foundation from which you can expand your account. The cotter towns are a great blank template once you decide your true account strategy.

Each cotter town adds a few levels of library, barracks, marketplace to keep the research queues moving foward. I recommend capping your resource plot growth at 12 to enable a painless exodus. The only buildings I'd carry to 20 is the Warehouse if you want to research exodus, the Barracks if you want to capture a city, and the Marketplace if you want to harvest the map and build more effectively (which you do).

The basic keeper city build goes like this:
  • Library
  • Marketplace
  • Storehouse 15-18
  • Barracks
  • Warehouse
  • 3-5 Farm 16-20
  • Flourmill
  • various buildings to reach 5000, 10000, or 20000 population


I cannot emphasize that enough. Some of the builds below require a focus on a particular type of building. If you need to fill in additional population to start another cotter town, I recommend looking at Common Ground, Blacksmith, Spearmaker, Consulate, Mage Tower, Fletcher, Forge, in that specific order. Where required, build the prerequisite buildings, but be prepared to tear them down if required.

The keeper city will cost prestige to build quickly, assuming you have sufficient basic resources. The more population you have, the more cotter towns you can support. Total city tiers are 5000 pop (4 cities), 10000 pop (5 cities), 20000 pop (6 cities). You can reach 5000 population in a day for less than 100 prestige, if you do it smart. That's your initial 25 prestige, plus $3 (75 prestige). Hitting 10000 will cost about 200 prestige ($8), and 20000 about 500 prestige ($15). This means a new Steam player with 200 prestige can be on track to hit 10000 population in a very short timeframe.

While the prestige part can be solved in 60 seconds with a credit card, the basic resource part of the equation is not. That's discussed again at the end of this article.

Teleport or Not?

Here's the deal. You really want to keep your teleport, in case you want to move your keeper city. However, in order to make the cotter growth strategy work, you need abundant herbs and minerals nearby to harvest. If your area of the N00b Ring has few herbs or minerals within 15-20 squares, then this strategy won't work well. You'd have to decide whether to abandon the account or use that precious teleport.

The Hunter

The hunter build works best with an orc. Orcish skinners cost only 5 Hides (other races cost 40 Hides), and you will want a lot of skinners to harvest valuable animal parts. Your keeper town is going to be a 7-food city. Skinner Guilds are high population buildings, and you will want at least 10. All guild buildings work best if you centralize them into a single city, since only one team can harvest a map location at one time. For big kills, a team of 250-400 skinners is the only way to go. Animal kills expire after 7 days, so anything you don't harvest quickly is lost.

Because the keeper city is a 7 food, and you start on a 5 food, you will need to either settle or capture the keeper city. It can't be your starter city unless you move it via exodus to a 7-food location.

Your income supplement will obviously come from killing animals, so be sure to read the Basic Hunting Guide, and then Killing Commanders for Fun and Profit. Your keeper and your cotter towns will all supply elite multi-commander hunting armies.

If you want to learn about hunting, then I recommend The Hunt Club [Hunt]. Freyja in particular is quite knowlegeable about hunting, animal spawn patterns, and farming animal kills. Many other alliances will welcome a dedicated hunter, but just beware of the advice you receive about hunting methods. There is a lot of ineffective advice out there.

The Maker

The maker build is easiest with a human, but it can work with any race. Your goal here is to produce a lot of a valuable item. The most useful builds would be the Brewer (beer), the Rancher (cows), and the Blacksmith (swords). I don't really recommend focusing on horses, bows, spears, chainmail, or plate armor. You might try to be a Bookbinder (books), as your library can produce lots of spare resource points.

Your keeper city will be on a 5/5/5/5/5 plot. This is a great build if you want to learn about production sovereignty. As you level up your resource plots and buildings, you will slowly edge up taxes so you can claim more sov. Level your resource plots evenly, as sovereignty consumes basic resources evenly. You will need to complete the appropriate sovereignty reserach trees for 20 sov squares, sov 3-5, and the item you are producing. The production building should be level 20, and your library should be higher levels as well.

You can produce a lot of a single advanced resource this way. Just be sure that you are selling your wares in Centrum fairly often, or you might become a target for thieves.

The Crafter

The crafter build is a more complex build, but one that can be fun for certain players. My recommendation on crafting towns is in descending order: spears (best), leather armor, chainmail armor, bows, swords, plate armor (worst). To understand why I chose this ordering, refer to Jagblade's Guide to Equipment.

Anticipate that most of your crafting will be by contract. It's more complicated to purchase raw materials and craft them into valuable items, but some players will embrace that challenge as well. There are several forum guides on how to arrange crafting towns. I recommend a 7-food city with 4 identical level 20 crafting buildings (to provide speed acceleration), plus one level 5 main production building (to actually craft the items). The level 5 is so you can't accidentally demolish it and lose 100M gold worth of crafted items in progress. The crafter build would work well with the hunter build, assuming you had two keeper cities, or a main/alt account focused on each role.

Who's Gonna Pay for All This?

As mentioned earlier, the basic resources are not trivial. The best way to get basic resources is to be a member of a large, active alliance that is willing to bombard you with resources. Alternately, you can trade your herbs, minerals, and hides in GC for loads of resources. Many people are willing to send resources if you promise them that you will prestige the caravans. Before you do that, understand that there is a right way to prestige accelerate caravans, and a wasteful way that will bankrupt your prestige for very little gain.

In the next article, we discuss how to get supplies into your account with the Layer Cake technique. If you do it right, you can do it once. After we get that powerful technique established, we will discuss some exciting PvP cotter kingpin builds, including the Tournament Fighter, the Shield Warrior, and the Gladiator.

Until then, as always...

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff.

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Planning Your Cities

Good evening, cannon fodders.

Based on the title, I bet you're expecting an article on city planning tools. Truthfully, I don't use them. I just jot down a few numbers on a legal pad, and that's good enough for my personal style of city building. Perhaps in a future article I can describe that 5 minute process, because I think people get paralyzed by all the perceived options. The truth is that most builds are vanilla and quite mundane. But another time.

Tonight I was reading a forum article entitled Stagnant by a player named Peroxis. In it, he wonders why all city planning recommendations seem to converge on 7 food, surround-by-plains. Malek (He-Man) lays out a good explanation of the tradeoffs between 5-, 6- and 7-food cities, as well as city tile and adjacent tiles. If you want the one-page discussion of 5/6/7, then you need to read his post.

Rather than repeat that information and elaborate further, I recommend that you step back and ask yourself a question:

What is the strategy of my account?

Cities Are Just Tools

Many players go straight for the city building guides on the forums. While these are useful and necessary, I think it ignores the most important question of playstyle. What is your overall strategy? Most players don't have a plan in mind, and that's why they get such generic advice. It is indeed hard to go entirely wrong by building medium-high population 7-food cities that are surrounded by plains. However, it can also be difficult to do anything interesting or useful with a completely vanilla account.

What most players never consider is that cities are tools. You pick the tools for the intended job. Let's take the 5-food military city as an example. Maximum troop production, right? That's what everyone says. But how does that player supply all the troop construction materials? Where do they get their gold? Probably they are running a gold farm account and their PvP account. Are the accounts co-located? Sheltered in separate alliances? What level of standing armies are supported in the PvP account? What is its role in the alliance order of battle?

My point here is that there are many additional questions that get answered. The only way to answer them sensibly is to have a strategy in mind first. If you start with the city itself, then you're doing it all backwards. To demonstrate that concept, let's talk about the first incarnation of Skint Jagblade.

Cotter Bonanza

When I first joined Night Squires, I terraformed Kobold Hole into 7 food large mountain near Myr. Soon afterwards, I was gifted with an intact Huge city from a departing player. This city became Emerald Gaze of Myr. Then I set about deciding a strategy.

Kobolds are cheap. One beer, one spear. At the time, I saw that herbs were 400, spears 100, beer 100. Therefore, I reasoned that every herb I picked up was equivalent to 2 kobolds. I also saw that food was selling for at least 2 gold per unit. Therefore, I decided that I would become a cotter baron who sold food on the side. Since I had enough population to build 7 cities, I quickly settled my next 5 in a block. Yeah, you heard me, a BLOCK. One row of 3, one row of 2, all 7 food. No sov, no space to expand, just 20-25 cotters in each town. All I did was build up farms, marketplace, and basic resources. Every day, I would send 100-125 cotters into the jungles of Arran to harvest herbs. That's 10000-12500 herbs per day, or 20000-25000 kobolds per day. I would ship 1-2M food per day down to Eyepool, too.

As my playstyle evolved, I decided to build a force of 300 skinners in Emerald Gaze of Myr. All five cotter towns had elite cavalry commanders for hunting, plus some tiny cavalry armies. This is where I perfected my understanding of the hunting swarm technique. Skint Jagblade was a herb-harvesting, monkey-slaying, beetle-killing jungle machine.

As I transitioned from student to trainer, I used the Cotter Town I-V to support the growth of new Night Squires players. Since I never used the resources, my warehouses were always full. Later, I added a brewery and spearmaker in each town to further produce kobold materials, but I always ran +10000 food per hour or higher.

I think we can all agree that this setup is not the vanilla configuration of all 7-foods, surround-by-plains. But the setup worked for me because it met my primary goal: procure the materials to make kobolds, and gold to help pay for them. It also secured crafting materials which could be sold or built into armaments. Was it as effective as building a 7-food gold farm? Probably not. But sending those waves of cotters out every day was entertaining for me, and you have to enjoy the game.

Breaking 10 Cities

The muggle buzz is to gain ever more cities. Most players never stop to ask themselves whether pursuing 25 cities is the path to an enjoyable strategy. There is a great assumption that having more cities will allow you to do more of what you like, once you decide what that is. I believe this is a false assumption, if for no other reason than because players grow reluctant to rip down buildings and lose population.

Set out with a goal in mind. Be the Iceheart baron, or Illyriad's foremost spearsmith, or the lunatic who singlehandedly wakes the Heart of Corruption. Be the warrior with the single biggest army, or the dwarf with the biggest beer stockpile ever. More mainstream goals could include being a great tournament player, your alliance's most mischievous thief, or a well-respected crafter. By starting with the goal, that will inform you about what kind of city you should build. Yes, many cities will fall into the 7-food framework. Yes, it is always a good idea to surround by plains. But those builds are just one tool to pursue your goals, and you should open your creativity to the many other possibilities.

Plus, if your cotters displease you, you can feed some to the pumas. Always good for a laugh.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff!

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Deathmatch I: the First Month

Good morning, cannon fodders.

The Thunderdome deathmatch event has now been running exactly one month. As the event has unfolded, the participants have shared key reports with me. At first, I had an impulse to immediately discuss their fresh battle reports on Warmongering in Illyriad. However, after further consideration, I decided not to immediately publish such information, as the fog of war is a crucial aspect to Thunderdome clashes.

Let's take a moment to review some of the key battles, and then examine the current state of the arena.

Pie Sliced

At the beginning of combat, I wondered if Pie [BLX] would be an easy mark or a sleeper titan. The answer was easy mark. Within the first week of battle, his city of Iron Pain was under siege by Cro-Magnon [HORDE]. The siege proceeded without interference from either Grum or Treggar [GATE], and Pie was sliced. He has the the dubious honor of being the first ever casualty of a Thunderdome deathmatch, and Cro-Magnon notches the first ever Thunderdome kill.

Forests on Fire

After some diplomatic clashes, the first major battle in Thunderdome came late on 23 March. Treggar launched a major siege against the forest citadel of Grum B. His force composition was 400 stalwarts, 18292 slingers, 30 battery towers, 30 ballistas. If the siege had gone uncontested, it would have fired 30 volleys per hour into Grum's city, quickly ruining the wall and causing catastophic damage. Unfortunately for Treggar (and fortunately for Thunderdome spectators) the siege was met with savage force.

The fortress of Grum B is completely surrounded by large forests. For those new to Illyriad PvP, this is a very significant placement. The favored dwarven racial unit is stalwarts, the best infantry attacker in the game. Infantry receives a +30% bonus when attacking any forest. Treggar did match the defender to the attacker--aside from orcish kobolds, the t1 bow units are the best general-purpose anti-sword defenders in the game. Bows suffer a -20% defensive penalty in large forest.

If you are struggling to read between the lines here, a powerful attacker with a big bonus against a medium defender with a big penalty... ah heck, just read the battle reports for yourselves. The first elite commander strike will probably burn your eyeballs a little. Quadruple equipped, max Heroism, ouch!

Before anyone gets really excited by this new Dwarves-in-a-Forest defense, I explain this phenomenon in my guide to military city placement. Surround-by-forest is not a viable PvP strategy for alliance-vs-alliance siege warfare. However, the Thunderdome arena is a very specialized environment for individual combat. Within those constraints, Grum has selected a spectacular defensive position that plays to his racial advantages.

But it turns out that in a forest, the axes cut both ways.

More Dorfs in a Forest

A day later, Treggar turns the tables on Grum. While Grum had been doing an excellent job of dodging attacks, it is very difficult to maintain a perfect dodge record over an extended period of time. Close range attacks become tiring to constantly evade. Here we see that Treggar smashes his own force of 12000 stalwarts through Grum's town in an axe-vs-axe clash. Stalwarts strike over twice as hard as they defend (45 attack, 21 sword defense), so even working against a hefty wall, Treggar inflicts massive casualties. He loses 8000 stalwarts, and completely wipes out Grum's own siege force of 12000 stalwarts, 71 ballistas, and 28 battery towers.


Lines in the Sand


With two major siege armies destroyed, Thunderdome devolves into skirmishing for a while. These battle reports from 29 March and 30 March are representative of this fighting style. In close range conflicts, the use of elites commanders becomes a key battle tactic. You can see that Treggar sends the absolute minimum of 61 troops to power his four Stalwart commanders (Heroism 10, short sword, woodsman chainmail). Even against Grum's walled city, his quadruple commanders still manage to inflict 1200 and 1300 stalwart casualties. These are excellent examples of classic skirmisher attacks. Treggar is just trying to wear down Grum's troops in the least expensive way possible. Because his commanders can be quickly resurrected, he is effectively inflicting casualties for free. Such skirmishing techniques are limited in scope, but at close range, they can take their toll over several days of attacks.


Fool Me Once


The next gladiator to brave Grum's forest is Cro-Magnon [HORDE]. The orc brings a sizable forest siege of 47000 kobolds, 11000 fangs, 30 trebuchets, 29 tortoise (rams). These troops are better suited to dense forest combat than Treggar's slingers. Grum immediately attacks the siege camp with five elite Stalwart commanders leading 750 troops, resulting in 7700 dead kobolds, 1800 dead fangs, 5 broken rams, 4 broken catapults. Total damage is about 16%. The 12:1 kill ratio immediately puts Cro-Magnon on his heels, and more attacks swiftly follow.

Only 18 minutes later, a fresh wave of five Stalwart commanders crashes into Cro-Magnon's siege camp. The 5x60 attack inflicts another 4000 casualties and 7% damage. Witness the devastating power of equipped elite troops. The stalwarts were equipped with short sword (+60%), forest chain/plate (+60%), and were in elite divisions (x2 equipment bonuses), for a combined power multiplier of 3.4x.

53 minutes later, a third wave of 5x60 stalwarts crashes into the siege camp. These appear to be unequipped troops that inflict the expected 1200 casualties and 2% damage. You can see the difference that the 3.4x equipment multiplier makes between the second and third wave.

40 minutes after that, a full wave of 5x150 stalwarts strikes the forest siege camp, dealing 6000 casualties and 14% damage. A standard 750 stalwarts would inflict about 3000 casualties; a fully equipped elite force would cause about 10000. Most likely these stalwarts were only equipped with short swords. Crafted from giant rat fur, the short sword is one of the most economical and effective weapons in Illyriad combat. For other highly effective combinations on various terrain, refer to Jagblade's Guide to Equipment.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Cro-Magnon dispatches a messenger while he still has two-thirds of his siege force intact. Did Grum have enough short swords and forest armor to continue his elite assault? Only he knows for certain, but it's not out of the question that he might have chewed through Cro-Magnon's remaining kobolds and fangs by burning up short swords. A decent sized rat kill will result in 1000 giant rat furs, and you can hunt even the biggest Legions and beyond by using the multiple hunting strike technique.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

After forcing Cro-Magnon to withdraw, Grum joked that Thunderdome is now a standoff like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Treggar has taken the opportunity to run some direct siege attacks through Grum B. The reports below show that Grum's wall was damaged and then quickly repaired to full capacity. Direct catapult attacks have also inflicted some damage that was rapidly fixed. Prestige building is one of the challenges to any siege warfare. If the siege camp itself cannot be held due to poor terrain, then the opponents are often reduced to using the siege train tactic to cause building damage. Siege trains suffer from many drawbacks. In the Thunderdome situation, it is hard to inflict any permanent damage on an opponent who is willing to prestige build, unless the attacker can also hold a blockade or siege on the target city. Every attempt to use a siege train can result in mistakes that result in losing all siege engines. The defender will boost runes using the Runemasters Grounding buildings, or equip defenders to cause severe casualties, or get friendly reinforcements (in non-Thunderdome fighting, of course).

Magic 8 Ball Says

My finely tuned Magic 8 Ball of Illyriad Combat tells me "Marathon". I concur. The Thunderdome: Last Man Standing event has turned into a prolonged slog. There are no quick ways to end the stalemate now. Victory will come down to determination, repetitive attacks, troop production, and the ability to use equipped troops effectively. The next player to fall will be the one who runs out of resolve the soonest. Matters are further complicated by the potential of a Pyrrhic victory, where one player exhausts their troops destroying an opponent, and then immediately gets dispatched by the other survivor with fresh troops.

I salute the combatants for their grit. As these battle reports show, there has been some excellent fighting in the deathmatch arena, with still more to come.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff!

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade