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.
- 1 Looking ahead
- 2 Researching tech
- 3 Maximizing economy
- 4 City Upgrades
- 5 Combat and Exploration
- 6 Additional overall strategy guides
- 7 Strategies by Tribe
- 8 Other Guides
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.
- Fruit may uncover Crops (which is especially true for Vengir or ∑∫ỹriȱŋ)
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.
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, and you know you will use the tech reasonably soon (especially for Sailing/Navigation)
- it's 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.
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 no 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 SPT at turn 10 would be good, but requires a little luck with accessible cities and a larger map. 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.
Grow Forest → Burn Forest → Farm is almost always a bad deal if you are not using Windmills. At 15 stars for 2 pop or 7.5 stars/pop, it is the worst in the game (besides temples, but those are typically built for points, not population). Even Ports are better, at 5 stars/pop. However, Grow → Burn → Farm next to a Windmill is okay, at 5 stars/pop once the Windmill is built. But keep in mind that if you have open shallow water tiles, Ports still maintain a slight edge since you do not need to pay for a Windmill.
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
- if Polaris, ice banks are very good for your economy in the late game, but not very good for short games
- 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 (10), chopping trees (1) and ruins (10). 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/disbanding: Getting the free spirit tech to chop or disband is less of a means to gain stars as it is a path to knights. Since the v45 update and balance pass 1, usually it makes more sense to leave enough trees to upgrade cities to at least capacity 4 (there is nothing better than 1 TTR income). If you are on the path to knights and don't need the forest to get a giant or upgrade your city, then feel free to chop.
- 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.
Only chop "unused" forests:
- If you cannot upgrade a city (keep in mind your capitol can get road connections) and there are still forests without lumber huts in it, feel free to chop the remaining trees.
- If your opponent is about to capture one of your cities and you don't think you will get it back for several turns, chop all the forests in the city borders, as this severely hinders the economic progress in that city because they now need to grow forests (5 stars) and then place a lumber hut (2 stars) to start leveling it up. This is know as the scorched earth strategy.
Your economy is the center and most important aspect of your game in Polytopia. You increase your income by upgrading cities.
Do not partially upgrade cities because it just binds stars and takes away flexibility. Hanging population is a poor investment; it has no benefit at all. 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.
Build buildings in places that keep options open. For example, try not to block CH or Forge spots with Lumber Huts.
Do not build things over harvestable resources (unless you need the two stars that turn), e.g., do not build a port over fish without harvesting the fish first.
Expansion vs. Development
Keep in mind that getting more cities will also improve your economy, especially if you can take advantage of the workshop and 5 stars resources bonus for leveling a new city up. In general, it's good to upgrade cities to level 3 at least, but the balance between more expansion and more development of existing cities (especially in the early game) will depend on the resources, technology you have, and the map layout.
Level 1 → 2: Explorer (uncovers fog of war) vs. Workshop (+1 SPT)
Upgrading on turn 0: what to choose primarily depends on what game mode you are playing. In Perfection or Multiplayer, the best choice depends on the number of opponents. Choose Explorer in games with many opponents because meeting other tribes will grant bonuses. Each tribe you meet will either give you a tech for free if they have a tech you can buy (you have the tech leading up to it or it is a T1 tech) or give you 5 stars. These bonuses can add up quickly, allowing you to further upgrade your city and/or produce more units. However, if there are fewer opponents (especially on a larger map), choose Workshop, as an Explorer will not meet many other tribes. In Domination, meeting new tribes does not grant bonuses, so choose Workshop.
Upgrading after turn 0: Workshop is generally the better option. However, if you are close to enemy territory or an ocean, Explorers can help you plan your battles more effectively. (Also, ranged enemy units will not be able to attack your ranged units from the fog of war without receiving retaliation damage!) However, Explorers are best used sparingly since they cost 1 star for every turn left in the game, and remember that Explorers will only move towards the fog of war if there is only one tile between where the Explorer is and the fog of war; otherwise, the Explorer will move randomly. Therefore, do not pick an Explorer if there are two or more tiles between the city you are upgrading and the fog of war, or the Explorer may end up “exploring” your territory!
Lvl 2 → 3: City Wall vs. Resources (5 stars)
Resources are almost always the better choice. The 5 stars are very versatile. They can be used to upgrade another city, greatly developing your economy (increasing your income). City Walls are only useful when your city is besieged, so unless there is a good chance of that happening (which is seldom the case unless you are close to enemy territory with spread-out units), do not choose City Wall.
Because of the 5 stars bonus, you should in most scenarios upgrade level 2 cities to level 3 as the first thing you do in a turn, as each upgrade has an effective cost of only 1 or 2 stars and upgrading boosts your income. Check if you can take advantage of these upgrades before you do anything else each turn!
Take advantage of the 5 stars bonus a lot! You can quickly develop many cities in one turn to level three with this bonus. Doing so vastly increases your income and the number of units you can train.
Lvl 3 → 4: Population Growth (+3 pop) vs. Border Growth
Reasons to choose Population Growth:
- Get to level 5 and a super unit much more quickly!
- Therefore pop. growth is generally preferred especially with the fast-paced play that is preferred in multiplayer
- Border Growth does not lead to many benefits, either because the land is barren or because the city is surrounded by other cities
Reasons to choose Border Growth:
- Get access to a Whale or an abundance of resources
- Get access to Ports
- Get a good spot for Customs Houses
- More places to heal your units in
- Perfection: room for temples (Even empty or water tiles can be useful for building temples or Ports/Farms.) iff you need it
- Long/large games: better late-game potential b/c more room to build buildings and more resources
Note that border growth should basically always be avoided if the resources gained are worth less than three pop.
Lvl 4 → 5 and onwards: Park (+250 points) vs. Super Unit
What to choose depends on the game mode. Obviously, in Domination and Might games, always choose the super unit. For Perfection and Glory, however, only choose a super unit if it can greatly contribute to battle (during the early-to-mid-game and the city that is being upgraded is close to the battle). Otherwise, choose Park, as that increases your final score.
Combat and Exploration
See “Polytopia Hints & Tips” for examples of combat tips.
- Training enough units: A big mistake newer players often make is simply not making enough units. In most cases, it is wise to train as many units in the cities on the edges of your territory as would be useful. Units are useful if they can contribute to either exploration or battle. It is harder to have too many units as you may think: As long as your units all get to attack every turn and are not being stuck at a bottleneck, they will be useful.
- When exploring, moving into a corner reveals five tiles, two more than moving onto the side of the fog.
- Riders and naval units can explore much more quickly in groups of two, “leapfrogging” over each other (alternating which is in front every turn), than they could alone.
- Warrior vs. Warrior (or Ship vs. Ship) 1v1 battle: with no defense bonus, the player that attacks first has their unit killed the following turn, while the other player’s unit survives with 5 HP. Therefore, in most cases, if you meet the enemy while exploring with one of these units and have no units to follow up on an attack, do not attack first.
- A Warrior takes hits from units with 2 attack to kill. However, Warriors with a defense bonus take 3 of the same hits to kill. (This is important to note when trying to besiege a city defended by a Warrior!) However, units with 1 defense, such as Riders can still be killed with 2 of those hits even if they have a defense bonus, making them unsuitable for defending cities.
- Scout then kill: If you are about to kill an enemy unit with a unit that has Dash, you often can scout first by moving to a tile adjacent to the enemy to reveal an extra fog tile, then killing.
- A version of this also is applicable for getting Ruins or villages two or more tiles away, where you can first move diagonally to the side to reveal some fog tiles then move diagonally back. (Of course, this should only be done when doing so does not cost you an extra turn to get the village/Ruin.)
- If there’s an enemy unit besieging your city, spawning a Giant will push the besieging unit out. Monuments are especially useful for “popping a Giant.” (It can be annoying when bots do this, but this is a strategy, not a bug!)
- The only units you should put inside naval units are Defenders (or Warriors if you don't have Defenders). You want as many units as possible. More than 2 Ports, really should be one in every city on the coast and close to the battle. Boats are pretty useless; Ships are much better. BS are also good, but expensive, probably only GBS (basically you want almost all of your Giants in BS) and Defender BS in limited amounts. (Warrior BS die too easily for their high cost.) More Ships > more BS.
- Play fast! Grab those cities, take advantage of the 5 stars upgrade bonus, chop Forests. Both eco (strong eco→strong military) and military are important.
- Exploit the escape ability of Riders a lot! See this video for an example.
- If you're playing against bots, you should be able to destroy them before they get any sort of defense w/ Catapults. In multiplayer, that's a different story, but usually, the player with the higher income wins in a battle of attrition.
- Land in enemy cities; that's the only place to bother landing. (Unless you're doing a mass landing of your troops against enemy territory that is not heavily defended.)
- If there's a giant horde of warriors, riders, catapults, or anything else with 10 HP, one knight can take them all out at once because of Knights' Persist skill. However, keep in mind that Knights have very low defense and can be killed quickly if they are not well defended by other units.
- When units are pushed from forced spawns (e.g., spawning a super unit in a city when there is already a unit in the city) they are pushed in a certain direction: see this Wiki article.
- Besieged cities do not provide any income. However, a Customs House in the territory of a besieged city still provides income.
Attack to kill
It isn't always a good idea to attack, especially if you leave your unit with half health so your opponent can kill it the next turn. If possible, try to attack only when you know you can finish off an enemy unit. Also, consider which unit will get credit for the kill. Three kills makes some units, like warriors and riders, into veterans. Try to stack kills on the same unit to get it to veteran status.
FrothFrenzy’s Battle Calculator allows players to simulate an attack before committing to it. It is most useful when you are not sure when you can kill a unit or not. (A unit left with 1 HP can still hinder movement and prevent you from besieging an enemy city!)
Additional overall strategy guides
- Movement and roads guide
- Hints and tips guide from the FaceBook League
- 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
Strategies by Tribe
Tribes fall into two categories based on the the tech they start with. "Turn 0" tribes can upgrade their capital on the first turn. These include Bardur, Imperius, Kickoo, and Zebasi. They are the strongest tribes because upgrading the capital on T0 gives them a “head start.” Having an upgraded capital either doubles income or grants a lot of bonuses from meeting other tribes with an Explorer.
Besides Luxidoor, which starts with its capital already upgraded, T0 tribes will always spawn with enough resources to upgrade their capital on turn 0. (Resources can be force-spawned if the initial world generation does not provide enough.) By the way, although ∑∫ỹriȱŋ is not a T0 tribe, it will always spawn with at least 2 animals, which can be enchanted into Polytaur units (or used for sanctuaries later).
Although Luxidoor doesn't start with a tech, their already 3 SPT means they are free to use the 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". You can also get a T1 upgrade if you meet another tribe and they give you a tech which allows you to upgrade your city. Keep this in mind when spawning. (For example, if your quetzali, you want to spawn by imperius because they can give you organization or stars and quetzali has a ++fruit spawn)
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
Special tribes have unique techs and units. In general, they sacrifice some aspects of their economy for stronger military units.
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)--since you are traveling root2 units instead of 1. Also remember that villages are never on the very edge tiles, though ruins have an increased spawn there. 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/ies and units. Non-human tribes include Polaris, Aquarion, Elyrion, and Cymanti.
Tribe-Specific Strategy Guides
- 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 strategy by Phalanx and Abbalke
- Yădakk strategy opening through the first five turns by Vorce
- Elyrion strategy by Zakaria