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Yeah, But HOW do You Really Play?
Yeah, But HOW do You Really Play?

The Gray Mouser talks to me from time to time, to relate his Alamaze experience.  He's opinionated and not as smart as he thinks, but sometimes he comes up with a nugget.  So right now he is at a point in a Steel game where things for his kingdom are moving fast, and he wanted to know how other players actually sit down and "do" their turns.  What is in front of you (note pads and pen, previous turns, list of the players, etc.), which windows and applications are open besides the core order entry site, current turn and map?  Do you have an email folder with any correspondence or notes?  How do you organize your plan?  Do you prioritize orders, and if so how?  How far ahead are you looking?  Do you make many revisions before hitting "Ready"?  Do you have any guiding principals that carry over from game to game, independent of the kingdom controlled?

In general, how do you go about your Alamaze business?  This could be an interesting an informative topic if the experienced players in particular are willing to open up a bit.  As the Ferengi might say, we're all ears.
I have two 3-ring binders, one with all the rules/orders and the other with all 24 kingdom set-ups at my desk. I have the 3rd Cycle Player Aid (Excel) open on my computer. I have a print out of the previous and current turn I'm working on as well as the kingdom set-up on my desk along with a color-coded Alamaze map (8 1/2 x 11) that I print new from the Powerpoint copy and then update every turn by hand with colored highlighters, black Sharpie, pen, and pencil.

From my Turn 0 turn, I print out a copy of the Kingdoms in the game (and players if listed) and cut it out and tape it to the back side of my map, so I can easily flip it over to remind myself who is playing whom. If a Diplomacy game, I also make notes on the back of my map (in pencil) in terms of how long my NAP, Mutual Defense, and Alliances are and any other brief, pertinent notes.

I have a notepad, pen/pencils, big eraser, stapler, and calculator too ready on my desk.

I re-read my turn (even though I probably already read it 6 times when the turn first arrived) to re-familiarize myself with the current turn and make sure I didn't miss anything from earlier. I then compute how much food and gold I have to work with (production + remaining balance + expected income from things like 150/711 orders less brigade costs and standing orders and make a note of how many orders (via Influence) I have to work with this turn.

Then its just maximizing the orders that MUST get done, SHOULD get done, and LUXURY orders (if I have the necessary orders/gold left over). This is a combination of strategy, tactics, psychology, guessing/luck, accumulated experience in the game, your kingdom's strength/weaknesses, and your neighbor's/opponent's kingdom strengths and weaknesses, and trying to anticipate what my neighbors/opponents might do (or be planning). Who the other players are (if known) can also be a huge factor as many players have "tells/habits" especially in combat. You also learn which players honor their word, which players understand how to communicate (legally) in a silent/anonymous game by certain actions , which players fold early, and which players won't let go and are spiteful even when they should just quit and move on.

How far ahead I plan is also a function of a LOT of factors (e.g., which kingdom I'm playing, type of game, who are my neighbors, how soon until I'm ready to move on another region, how far along are my wizards, ally/enemy status, etc). Sometimes, I'm really only concentrating on the current turn and little more, other times, I'm trying to map out about 3-4 turns ahead.

I then have a list of my X orders in code form so I can enter them just like the Order Entry portal wants them.

I have been known to alter my orders as I'm entering them (and occasionally even after I've readied up (but the turn hasn't processed)). Sometimes I'm really torn between a couple of options (often best spell combinations during combat) and I'll change my mind after sleeping on it. I like getting my turns entered a good 24 hours ahead of time, so I have that luxury of mulling things over (and if the turn runs early... so be it, but I hate being the last person to ready up since it means you're holding up the game).

OVERALL GUIDING PRINCPLES: Control your region on T3, recon/divine PC locations of your region and all adjacent ones asap, recon all squares in region for artifacts and start getting them, get about 6 Princes (for Cities/Towns) and 3-4 Governor/Baron/Counts for villages. Have 2-4 HPs. Get at least one wizard that can Dome, Teleport Army Group, and Summon Death as fast as possible (get all remaining wizards to P3 so they have Intrinsic Presence and can cast 601/602/603 plus Sleep/Ward). Train all of your agents to max (even if just for the status points), I usually have 2-3 training each turn and once one is maxed out another takes his place in training rotation. Get at least 1 Veteran brigade (so you have 565 options) by optimizing pre-combat attack/defense ratios against a PC. Any neighbors that are NOT my next anticipated target, I will do right by then until such time as either they either do wrong by me, become my next target, or they achieve 3 regions and could win the game. Lastly, decide which region I'll be taking next and what the optimal strategy is to accomplish it. Then I just pray that I do all the above faster/more efficiently than my neighbors and get a some good rolls on Unusual Sightings! Smile
Thanks VBM, an excellent start to the discussion.  Lots of good stuff there folks.

Feel free to ask him follow-up questions. Otherwise who's next?
Ditto on what IT stated, its almost identical to my methods. I dont cut and paste anything though. I use a color map printed out and mark in pencil, red and black ink pens. I learn about other kingdoms in play and the players of each kingdom before planning my strategy.
I guess I need to up my game. I just update my map on the PowerPoint and add notes there.

By the way... what are the legal ways to communicate in a silent game? I guess it’s voting/HC issues and not attacking each other... anything else?
For me the game actually starts while it is forming. I mostly care about who is around me. More so which players than kingdoms. I adapt to the kingdoms during play but I look for player types. I try to avoid have players that tend to play more for fun than winning around me. Being one of the better players the for fun types like to attack me somewhat early and see how they do or perhaps learn from the beat down they get. But this normally causing me to play from behind the rest of the way through. I look for players I have seen in the past respect unsaid alliances/naps such as not take PCs within each other’s region or moving a group to a PC just to leave it alone and say the unsaid “hey let’s not attack each other”

After the game starts I get a general idea of all the kingdoms in play then specifically those around me. I look for key mismatches mostly of traits or magic/military levels. Things like who can flank who? Who has the best military? Do I have the relative advantage in some aspect political/magic/military over certain kingdoms around me?
I do not set any plan until I get my T0 and setup. I let my setup generally dictate how I will proceed. From my T0 I will likely know am I attacking before T5 or T10. Am I going to build up. This choice comes from many factors including the type of kingdom I am playing, the players and kingdoms in my area, general positioning of my forces. Military kingdoms like SA or RD I almost always attack before turn 5. Political kingdoms I would generally try to attack around turn 8 or 9 this is to disrupt an ESO. When I attack I also look big picture. I will normally leave my easiest target open initially so I can quickly move in when needed during the end game.

Building up. Greatly depends on my kingdoms relative strengths to those around me. I also look how I can best take advantage of other kingdoms strength. An example the Druid has auto recon of all his kingdom owned PCs. So I basically know he will have no agents reconning his own PCs. If my plan is to attack the DU I am going to get my wizards up to a level they can cast conceal emmy. My emmies will go in concealed followed by my military the following turn. Going after someone with tracking I will divine the location of his groups prior to moving in to avoid them during the hidden portion of my attack. Anyway back to building up. I look at spells available to my kingdom if I can get a wizard to P5 or P6 to raise influence then I will generally make that a priority and not spend gold raising it with my king. I do still do the fool order because it is easy to manage. I will generally quickly raise one wizard up to influence levels then raise a second. Then I get the other to P3. If I am in the north I will give my city two fertile fields to bring its food production close to zero for the winter. Prior to turn 10 I like to cast spell to increase production with my P2/p3s rather than create gold. It pays for inself so quickly in the long run it is worth much more than the quick fix for gold. I do not build much military initially and sometimes even remove a brigade or two to save gold on the first 5 turns or so. I rather spend most all my gold raising up wizards. And let the wizards then help create more production for me. On the political side I will normally have around 3 emmies count and hirer. The rest I get to baron and stop. Barons with high influence can take most any town. I like to get around 14 emmies total. I buy them while I am building ambassadors then bring them up two level. Raising there levels is something I like to do during the winter because it is cheap and uses orders. If I am playing a pure political kingdom (orator) I like to have 20 emmies. 15 or so at baron level. I do this for two reasons. With a lot of emmies it actually gets costly to send a bunch of princes all over. Princes take a lot of orders to bring up to level. I rather get my to baron and be able to attack 5 or 6 turns sooner. With 20 emmies you can attack two regions at the same time so you avoid showing your hand by taking a third region and not quickly having your 4th. If I do not have a magic strong kingdom. I still raise at least 3 wizards to a level they can cast wind storm. The super PC spell. Unless I am attack from the get go. I will hold off to start actively recruiting until turn 6 or so then I recruit the cheapest maintainance units first while I build my armies. I love goblins and orcs. Overall for Alamaze you want to be the person launching the attack not the one defending so it is important to optimize your gold and resources to best achieve your goals. Do not just throw gold at things because it is sitting there. Plan what you will need it for. Do you plan to raise emmies during winter save a little so you can do this easily.

My first turn is all about finding the PCs to take the region, getting the region as early as possible is critical to staying ahead of the power curve, so you can be amount the first to attack. I force march groups. Cast eagles, scout all I can. I like to set up a P1 to scout my regions city on standing order because your can still use them to cast any spell or raise a level but when not doing anything they give you a peak what is going on in the city.

For maps I maintain my own map using the banana parcer. It no longer parces after the new map thing came out but it is still superior so I manually input the PC locations and group/agent movements. When I get my turn a read through it once fully. Then I plot it and this tends to set it into my memory and allows me to track multiple games at a time.

When I am ready to issue orders I read through my turn again and look at the map, mentally taking notes what things I would like to get done this turn. I may even put a few critical orders in place if I had set them up ahead of time. Like playing the UN if I slept someone I will enter the early kidnaps right then. Or if I am at a unusual siting I will pull up the player aid and figure out my best tac to getting my desired result. After these few critical type actions. I like to start with my military groups because I find they are the most critical to make sure they are issued correctly. Am I going to nuke and issue a threaten or just take the PC. I issue these orders one group at a time. Group orders and wizard order that relate to that combat/event. After groups I like to see how many free mages and orders I have left. I want to use my mages since they are free. If I am actively involved in a hostile take over I may prioritize emmies over even mages to gain as much as possible. Usually I leave agent orders as a luxury.

For invading tend to scout very little. I prefer to attack as soon as I can. I like to have 2 waves. The first wave concealed emmies and invis groups. My biggest group will likely stay out of the region. A typical Mage kingdom set of groups may be 1 army 2 divs and a patrol. The patrol will have three wizards so it can take towns or village using phantom, nuke, wind storm threaten combo. I have even taken cities with patrols in ice age games. I like to have one of my div groups to be Spector so they can issue 727 fly orders and have a mini teleport 7 squares. Also the +20% vs PCs is nice.
On the second wave my politicals are taking PCs and my groups are moving into the few remaining PC including the capital, because my emmies likely reported it when one landed in it. My wizards are casting infuriate vs region owning this turn as well. The goal is make them loose the region and have two of three infuriate spells work bringing them to hostile. Also the group that stayed outside the region will infuriate as well to help protect my home region. I do not like to do this ahead of time as it may send a signal. When attacking I continue to press the attack using maximum orders and few orders for things like scouting. I find this helps keep my enemy on the defense which allows me to gain more ground.

Programs and stuff open during my turn. The first turn I look over old T0s and setups of all kingdoms that I need a refresh on in the game. I am mostly looking at military strength spread amount groups and traits. After T0 I rarely look the other kingdoms up again. I keep a mental note of what I need. I always have the player aids excel file on standby to crunch political or unusual sighting info. Especially early on. I like to save gold by Maybe using a Gov and count to take a city. *Trick here* is to have the higher ranking emmy issue the 315 order and the lower ranking to issue 330. I also have two other excel files I created with unit strengths and other info I gather over time like summon death brigades lost per kingdom. Finally of course my modified bananas parser I use. Only difference is I kept the region boarders always displayed.

Not sure I answered all the questions but it is getting close to 3am and I am sure this will not read very wellTongue. Hope some find it useful.
This is gold, folks.  It's really appreciated that our top players share their secrets they've taken a long time to accumulate.  Everyone can learn a lot from these posts we've seen.

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