Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lord of Ultima (LoU): Planning Your Empire

A castle with supporting cities.
Lord of Ultima is a game that's entirely about planning and long-term strategy. Once you build your second city, you're well on your way to the mid-game: expanding your empire and building support structures for the conflicts that will ultimately come.

I could fill volumes of articles with tips on how to play the mid-game, but this article will only seek to introduce the basics: how to plan out each city's purpose; how to cluster cities; where to place them and when to expand to other regions/continents. Mostly, this is going to be broad advice, not specific instructions like the previous articles. This is because there are so many right answers, and they all depend on your play style. We'll get started right after the break.


First, however, let's talk about the user interface. If you have LoU Tweak, great. If you don't you should get it. Follow the instructions in the first article of this series, Resource Building. Its sister script, LoU BoS is also handy, though it is theoretically no longer in development. One of the most important things in LoU is keeping track of your resources, and these scripts let you do that in ways that are very helpful. For example, you get a new resource tracker under the usual totals that shows you how many resources of each type are incoming (by any sort of trade or transfer) and how much free space you have. We'll talk, in a later article, about how to use ministers, and at that point, you'll definitely need these extensions in order to track what's going on.

Planning a City

So, you just recruited a baron and you have the resources and carts to settle a new city. Where do you put it, and what should it build? This is a hard decision, and if you do things right, you'll have to make it more and more frequently until your world's land is exhausted. So, where do you start? First, survey your existing cities that are nearby. Using a spreadsheet helps for this. I use Google Docs so that, if I ever want to share the information with someone else, I can do so trivially and even have them edit it. Total up all of the resources and troop production of your nearby cities. Figure out what it is that you really need. Do you produce more gold and iron than everything else? Are you running short on stone? These are things you should know at all times.

Once you know what resources you need, look at troops. If you have balanced resource production and enough overhead to produce troops, start working on a defensive city. If you've already got enough defense to protect a castle, start a city that's aimed at being a castle. We'll get into how many troops you need to defend a castle in more detail in a later article, but for now, assume you'll want at least two defensive cites per offensive castle.

OK, you've looked at everything and you've decided to build a resource city. Where do you put it? Well, that's pretty easy. You start with a balanced blend of resources in every city plus extras based on what you're near. So, if a region looks like this:

A potential spot for a new settlement.
then your new settlement would be next to a hill and a mountain, horizontally and vertically. It's also next to two forests, diagonally. These will improve the initial resource mix in your new city (as explained on the wiki under resources). It will have extra iron, stone and wood available. Diagonals contribute half as much as horizontal and vertical resources, so two forests give you as much as one mountain. Thus, this city will have an even mix of resources. Also, open spaces (whether they have a city or not) increase the number of lakes for your farms. This city will have excellent farm capacity. Also, because it's on a river, it will have a harbor.

If you needed wood production, then you should build this city one space to the right, where it would have 1.5 times as much starting forest (1 vertical forest plus 1 diagonal = 1.5 times 2 diagonals). If you needed stone, then this is as good as it gets in the picture, above. If you wanted stone and food, then place it diagonally up and left to maximize the open space while retaining that hill on a vertical.

Initially, you want to keep your cities close to each other. Long transit times for resources will hobble your initial growth. Thus, 1-3 spaces should be considered a safe maximum between your initial cities.

Hubs

In our previous article on city planning, we talked about "hubs" but not in much depth. A hub is where all of your nearby cities send their excess resources to then be distributed among the rest of your cities or purified as needed. A hub has no needs in terms of nearby resources, though you can combine a hub with resource or troop generation. Hubs should have at least 2.3 million storage for every kind of resource, and as your empire grows, you'll need a lot more than that. 5-10 million is a good amount of storage for a cluster of cities that are actively growing. Because hubs need to move around a lot of resources, they'll also need a lot of carts and possibly merchant ships. This makes a combination of gold production and a hub ideal. In our previous article, we introduced a city that's ideal for this: the gold hub.The amount of storage can be increased by moving to the row layout mentioned in the building layout article, at the cost of gold production.

In general, you should be using about half of your resources to fuel building and half for research, but what kind of research you need to do is really a matter of how you plan to play the game. Obviously, everyone will research titles to gain barons for expansion, but defensive players are going to need improvements to their defensive troops. Naval players will need ship building time and improved ships, etc. Plan out your research and don't be trapped by the temptation to research everything. More on this in a later article...

Raiding

At first, before your first castle, raiding is something you should do with defensive cites. For example, in a city that has training grounds for producing guardians, you might want to produce berserkers at first, and use them for raiding. Raiding can be very profitable, bringing in a mix of gold and resources. Use the dungeons wiki page to determine how many troops you need. To their base numbers, I always add 15-20% to reduce my losses and account for extra defenders that show up once you've plundered a dungeon for a while. As a general rule of thumb, your reports should show that resources gained were at least 600% of your losses.

The great thing about raiding is that it makes unit production profitable. Since units can cost a lot to build and their buildings require the sacrifice of resource production, this is quite important. Of course, the same is true if you build castles and plunder others, but dungeons don't join alliances and get revenge ;-)

Raiding bosses is less profitable than raiding dungeons, but they give artifacts, and there are many useful artifacts in the game which can vastly improve your situation. In general, I recommend using gold and resource artifacts early while retaining speed artifacts for when they are most needed. Mixing in 1-3 boss raids per day with whatever dungeons you are raiding is an excellent idea. If you're using ministers, your war minister can send troops back to keep attacking the same dungeon, so you just need to keep half your troops free to hit bosses once a day or so and let the rest continue to march back to the same dungeon until it's depleted.

Grouping Cities

Ideally, you don't want others coming along and placing cities right next to your castles, so clustering your cities around any castles you build is always a good idea. Beyond that, a cluster of 5-10 cities can be very handy. They can quickly share resources and defend each other. However, once a cluster gets too large, it can become difficult to recover from a nearby attacker. Spreading out to a new region or even a new continent can be very valuable. The usual pattern is to establish a new city in an area and spread out to with new cities in that area to produce a stable mix of resources and troops and then move to another area, adding on new buildings at the old area from time to time. By doing this, you increase your resilience no matter what happens, and you're far less subject to local overcrowding.

Always try to keep a mix of cities with water access and cities with none. This gives you access to ship goods out to remote cities, but without exposing all of your cities to naval attack.

When to move to a new continent is always a hard call. Travel times can make it impractical to send resources on a regular basis, so often you must build a new cluster on remote continents, entirely from scratch, perhaps with just an initial seed of resources or artifact usage. Look around in the world view and seek out continents that are nearby and have lots of open space. Remember, a continent that's almost full will probably be full by the time you're ready to expand from your seed city. Take on a new continent whenever you need to in order to be closer to alliance members or when you are starting to see the end of expansion on your local continent (e.g. when you have to start hunting around for new spots) at the very least, but don't be afraid to try it early.

Palaces

While much time will be devoted to palaces in the future, the initial rules are simple

  • Never place a palace on the water if you can help it. It opens them to naval attack.
  • Plan our where your palaces will be with your alliance.
  • Palaces should have high build speed.
  • Being right next to a shrine is not required. Even 10-15 squares away, you'll get enlightened reasonably soon.
  • Make sure you can defend your palace. It's literally a glowing target.

Other than that palaces are just castles. Build our your city clusters to support them and select new locations with an eye toward nearby shrines.


Next article: TBD
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