Monday, March 9, 2009

Fun with Browser Games

Browser games are certainly nothing new. I used to wile away hours on Yahoo!Games many years ago. A couple of months ago I discovered a new type of browser games, ones where the game play takes place over several days, weeks, and months, with only a few clicks from me each day. The goal of these games is building and conquest. That is, to build a town, defend it with an army, and perhaps venture out to pillage other lands. I've tried a couple of these games, and the one I like the best so far is Ikariam.

Upon starting Ikariam a new player receives a town on an island. The island will be shared with several other towns, and have two resources available, one being building material (which looks suspiciously like wood), and the other will be one of the four luxury resources (marble, wine, sulphur, or crystal). The town starts off very small, with just a town hall and a handful of resources to get started. Build a few buildings and assign some workers to the island resources to get started.

As the game develops players can choose to work together or play a more aggressive game. Players ally together for fun and profit. Alliances are then ranked on each server. I haven't seen an endgame yet, so I don't know if one alliance is ever declared a winner, or if alliances fight for the top indefinitely. Points may be gained by building up various parts of a town, from buildings to armies. A friendly alliance will trade resources among players, and provide protection when a player is attacked. An aggressive alliance may band together to wage war against another alliance. Players may also choose independently to pillage other towns, stealing their resources.

Ikariam really thrives on player cooperation. Players may trade cultural treaties, in which cultural goods are exchanged from one player to another. Culture makes townspeople happy. Players also join together to develop the resources locations on each island by donating building materials to the resource. When enough building materials are donated, the resource will upgrade automatically and supply more goods in the future. While I enjoy the occasional pillage as much as the next geek, I think the cooperative nature of this game is a particular plus. In another browser game I played, I was attacked so often my town never had a chance to grow. In Ikariam that has not been the case. Occasionally I've had to set up a defense, but not so often to be a problem.

Play or Not?
Playing Ikariam is free! You can buy upgrades that make the game go a little faster, but I've refrained from doing that. I'll make it on my own or not at all. Compared to other online games, this one is not at all time intensive. I can manage my towns in one visit per day. Given the low investment on my part, and the fun cooperative nature, I can't help but enjoy this one. My towns are thriving. My alliance is banding together to help everyone grow. And I can't wait to see how the game develops over time. If you think this would be your type of fun, check it out. Either way it turns out, there's nothing to lose :)

Tips for Newbies
Your town will be placed randomly. By far the easiest island to start on is one with marble. You can also get by pretty easily if you have wine or crystal, as those sell well. Sulphur is mainly used to build troops, so unless your world is at war, will probably not be the most valuable resource.

As soon as your first town is stable, build the palace to level 2, and strike out with a second town. Having two towns is a big tactical advantage. If someone comes to pillage, you will often have enough time to move your stored resources from one town to the other.

If someone's coming to pillage and you have no hope of defending your town, the best defense is to spend all of your resources before they get there. Pillaging does not take gold or destroy buildings. The player will attack your troops and take any resources which are not protected in your warehouse. If you don't have any extra resources, they come away empty handed. A smart pillager won't pillage an empty town for very long!

Lastly, check out the Ikariam forums. They have a lot of tips and great discussions :)