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

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