There are several core strategies to Polytopia than can be broadly applied to any map and any tribe. Most of these come from Gerenuk's strategy guide.
Take the example of deciding which technology to pick to upgrade early cities. Often you can choose between multiple technologies to upgrade the first cities. For example Fruit or Fish. To make your choice you can consider.
- Do other cities need the same?
- If you leave Fruit for later, it may get blocked by an opponent by him standing on that field (which is less likely to happen with Fish)
- If you choose Fish, you may uncover whales.
- If you choose Hunting, you may follow up with Forestry for future upgrades or chopping.
- Fruit may uncover Crops (which is especially true for Elyrion)
Another example is researching tech before taking a village. Tech becomes more expensive after you take a new village. Therefore, consider researching useful tech just before taking a new village. Avoiding the tech cost penalty can save 1, 2 or 3 Stars depending on tech tier. But if you take a city and upgrade it to capacity 3 instead, you gain 2 Stars. So there are cases when you could delay taking a city or get a city upgrade instead of tech.
If you decide to chop trees, only chop them if you really need this money to make fighters or you want to research more tech before capturing a village right now. Otherwise you can just as well chop later (if the opponent does not block it) - or not chop, hence keeping your options open.
Research tech only when one of the following applies:
- you need that tech to make a particular unit
- you want to upgrade a city to the next level with such resources and you have enough money to afford the tech and the full upgrade
- you are just about to capture a village, since tech gets more expensive with more villages
- it is fishing and you are hoping to see whales
- you want to get a resource before an opponent steps on it and blocks it
If none of this applies, definitely wait for later - you may change your mind for various reasons that may appear.
Partially upgrading cities
Do not partially upgrade cities, because it just binds stars and takes away flexibility. You may want to make other choices later. The only reason to buy city population without upgrading would be if you are afraid an opponent might block your resource field soon.
Building a strong economy is crucial, especially in the early game. There are two aspects to the game economy, “Income," also called stars per turn (SPT) and stars which you get once “Stars”.
You get income from cities and ports. The value of income can be best thought of as “turns to return” (TTR), i.e. how many turns it takes until you get your investment back. The lower, the better, of course.
- upgrade city to capacity 3 = 2 TTR (choosing workshop)
- upgrade city to capacity 4 = 1 TTR (provided you choose 5 Stars instead of Walls)
- port with customs house = 5 TTR (slightly worse if there is less than one port with 2 customs houses per city)
- upgrade city to capacity 3 instead of chopping = 4 TTR (3 TTR if a road is used and only 1 chop)
- upgrade city to capacity 4 instead of chopping = 7 TTR (not great; 5 TTR if road)
- sawmill, forges, windmills may have okay TTR
- everything else has worse TTR and does not help economy. so it is mainly for getting giants later or creating ports with customs houses
Therefore, upgrade your cities to capacity 4 as soon as you can. You do not have to upgrade beyond that, unless you start thinking about having giants. In particular, upgrading your capital to Workshop makes a big difference, since at first you have rather little Income.
Keep in mind that some games may be over before turn 20, so choose the turns to return wisely.
Remember that Income is lost forever, if you do not increase it this turn, whereas Stars can be taken any time later just as well. So not upgrading a city soon as possible makes a difference, but taking whales/ruins/chop later often does not.
You get stars from whales, chopping trees and ruins. While you can take them any time, it does help having them early, since you may research tech early and avoid the penalty of research from your number of cities.
- Whales if researching whaling costs you less than you would get from the whale stars, get it right now. Otherwise you can wait (unless you really need Aquatism).
- Chopping trees Some people like to chop a lot. But it seems to make sense to leave enough trees to upgrade cities to at least capacity 4 (there is nothing better than 1 TTR income). Only if you plan to get more giants, you may consider chopping less.
- Ruins There is a separate section for it
- Upgrading a city to capacity 4 Choose the 5 Stars unless you are really expecting this city to be under heavy siege soon. Most cases, choosing walls is not worth the lost stars.
Number of cities versus Tech penalty
While getting more cities makes tech more expensive, you can still compare the cost and benefits. A new city may give 3 or more income every turn. If you assume that the extra cost per tech is about 1 to 3 with every new city, you can certainly compensate the additional tech cost, even if you plan to get a tech every turn. On the other hand, you see that some of the city income goes into additional tech cost, so more cities is not extremely different from fewer. However, the moment when you plan to reduce tech research, it makes quite a difference when you have many cities. Once you have 2-3 cities, you can afford about 1 Tech per turn, unless you have to invest more in army. Even with more cities, you can also only afford about 1 Tech per turn, but you will have money left for more army with more cities. Assuming you get not more 1 Tech per turn, you can see that an upgraded city yielding 3 Income certainly makes up for the penalty on tech when you have a larger number of cities. See the appendix for a little upgrade math. Having about 20 Income at turn 10 would be good, but requires a little luck with accessible cities. 30 Income at turn 10 is doable under normal conditions with nice land. But even much more is theoretically possible if you are really lucky.
Additional overall strategy guides
Movement and roads guide by Glouc3stershire
Quick and simple guide to get 3 stars in Domination with every tribe. By airgibbo on reddit.
Play Aggressive by TreeBeard
Catalog of Tactics by Zakaria
Observations and General Strategies by Bakalol
Tupp's Polytopia YouTube guides for getting high scores on single player
Although Luxidoor doesn't start with a tech, their already 4 SPT means they are free to use the 4 stars that other "turn 0" tribes devote to a workshop and make a second warrior.
All of the the remainder typically need 9 stars to buy a tech and upgrade their capital, making the earliest opportunity to upgrade the capital be on the third turn, also called "turn 2".
Also, each tribe has variations on the resources and terrain generated in their territory.
The ranking of tribes, also called tribe tiers, is controversial and varies based on game version and player preference.
Tribe Tier List for Teamgames by Prophet on reddit
Tribe rankings by Vorce
General t0 Tribe Openings
Make a workshop and go explore. Stay away from water. If you go diagonally twice on land, you may uncover slightly more clouds (even though the chance of finding a village does not increase). Also remember that villages are never on the very edge tiles. Make a 2nd warrior to explore another direction, unless there is really only one direction.
Tribes are also categorized based on their skill trees. Human tribes use the same basic skill tree. Non-human tribes each have unique technology and units. Non-human tribes include Polaris, Aquarion, and Elyrion.
Tribe specific strategies
Zebasi opening by Skrealder
Ai-mo strategy by The Plant Psychologist
Polaris strategy by Zakaria
Polaris Strategy Guide by Blisterrednano on reddit
Guide to Sawmilled Bardur video by 00100000
Bardur 100k guide by Tupptupp_XD on reddit
Kickoo 100k guide by James
Kickoo strategy by Phalanx and Abbalke
Yădakk strategy opening through the first five turns by Vorce
Elyrion strategy by Zakaria
An archive of older Polytopia strategies that are no longer updated can be found here.