UPDATE August 2008: This post is completely out-of-date and probably no longer relevant.
i discovered warbook (a facebook app) about a week ago and promptly got addicted.
it’s quite a simple game, your character (and you’re only allowed one for your facebook account) runs a kingdom that accumulates gold each hour based on the amount of land it has. You can attack other player kingdoms or join an alliance of kingdoms. You gain experience points for every successful attack or defence or spell cast. There are various character classes with different strengths. There are roughly 40,000 active players.
The most interesting thing about warbook is the social system aspects of it.
For instance, it is quite possible to cheat. A single person can create fake Facebook accounts and from there generate other warbook accounts. This gives the player a very big edge on others as some accounts can then be used to generate soldiers, others to generate gold, etc. Many of the players on the leader board are “multis”.
The opposite of such multis are Alliances. Alliances are collections of players who work cooperatively by pooling resources and different skills. I’ve just been part of an Alliance at war with a multi. Not surprisingly, the multi held its ground against this particular Alliance even though the Alliance as a collection had much greater resources and military might than the multi. The overhead of coordination of many different people and the lack of organisation was just too great. It’s a lesson that’s been learnt time and again in history – co-ordination and focus will win out.
Warbook is still new however and evolving. It takes time for Alliances to build cultural and process assets, for them to coordinate and for leaders to emerge. The next few weeks will see if the various ragtag alliances of free peoples and individual heroes can set aside their differences and take on the ever growing forces of the evil Darklords and their mindless minions (ie the Multis). Alternatively, complaints can be put to Facebook about the multiple Facebook account holders and get them shut down.
I prefer the former approach myself – divine intervention just lacks drama.
Addendum 14/09/2007: Exploits, tactics and other notes
Seeing as this entry seems so popular. I’ve notes that there have been other exploits as well, some of which have been ironed out in the latest upgrade and all of which are commonly known.
- Making your kingdom unreachable. Creating two accounts named “ABC” and “ABC_” where the _ is a space character. This effectively makes the “ABC” account unreachable by others as all attempts will get to the “ABC_” account instead.
- Keeping your kingdom in perpetual alert. After being hit a few times, your kingdom is no longer attackable. To do this without loss, simply get another account to hit you enough times. Transfer all soldiers to the first account so that you do not lose your soldiers. Once you’re invulnerable, transfer all soldiers back to the first and hit the second account enough to retrieve all land (plus get it into alert as well), then hit as many accounts as you like. Do this every 24 hours or so. This is also a good leveling up technique as well.
- Buying land. Instead of getting involved in attacking and retaliation, get feeder accounts or your Alliance to transfer gold to a single account regularly. Buy land with that gold. You dont even have to defend this account so long as you keep growing quicker than the land you lose to attacks. The latest patch has made this too expensive. Again, this isnt really an exploit unless you’re using multiple accounts.
- Keeping your kingdom in negative gold. Transfer as many soldiers as you like into a single account either from your Alliance or from feeder accounts so that it is invulnerable. This account serves as the Attacking account and it doesnt matter that it is in negative gold (ie its maintenance costs are far greater than its income) because all its soldiers are coming from elsewhere. This kingdom is an effective sword. Again, this isnt really an exploit unless you’re using multiple accounts.
- Using bots. It’s quite easy to write scripts for this game and for the techniques above. It seems to me however that most of those who are multis or who use bots arent really socially capable enough to work well in Alliances and are missing out on the real challenge and fun aspects of the game – group dynamics and social interaction. Or maybe they just like the challenge of breaking systems.
- Be a supermage (11/10/2007). This is a bit of a late entry for what has already been used extensively. Level up your mage to get as much mana points as possible. This allows you to use landgrab and various other spells that get through alerted kingdoms. As those spells do percentage damage, you can be very effective in reducing opponents to rubble. At this time of writing, it is clear that this is a huge design flaw in the game with no satisfactory solutions. Limiting mage levels is no good, reducing spell damage means people will stop playing mages eventually, limiting level up cheats is probably the best approach but how do you do that without preventing genuine leveling up? This could well be the exploit / tactic that kills the game.
I’m happy to publish any other techniques here for readers wishing to either write or correct me. Of course, I dont use any of them myself. Seems pointless really. It is just a game after all.
Addendum 15/09/2007: Valid tactics from both sides of the ethical fence
There are also some legitimate techniques that I’ve seen work which I’ll list below.
- Dont be a dickhead. Only attack once, do not abuse your enemies, keep a list of the people you’ve attacked, be polite on the forums. This is probably the most important rule to keep your kingdom strong especially at the lower levels.
- Be a soldier seller (1). If you’re a warmonger, you can make soldiers for as little as 25% of the usual cost. Through the forums, you can sell soldiers for say 35% of the usual cost and skim 10% profit for your own uses either through buying land or more soldiers for yourself. It is competitive however and the prices have dropped. Also, most Alliances have such soldier factories without the markup.
- Be a soldier seller (2). As with above, but you can use other people’s soldiers / gold for your own campaigns before you give it back to them. Why would you do this? To prevent yourself from going into negative gold and to expand beyond your means. This is not a problem if your customers are in no hurry. Also, be careful not to extend yourself.
- Be a soldier buyer. This is pretty much the only way to keep on top of the arms race. Find a good supplier and buy soldiers (or join an Alliance). I use this myself.
- Be a bottom feeder. Search only for kingdoms that are nearly at the limit at which you can attack. Select the weakest and gain land from them. Seeing as you’ve gained land and they’ve lost, they will not be able to retaliate until they come within range. If you do this continously, you should be able to streak past the majority of those you’ve attacked.
- Farm weaker players. Keep a list of easy targets and hit them regularly – especially if they are not in an Alliance. This a variant of the bottom-feeder strategy but much more annoying.
- Dont worry about defence (1). This works especially well if you’re a magician. At the end of an attack run, your kingdom should be significantly bigger but you’ll also be vulnerable to others. Dont worry about being attacked in turn because if you have enough mana you can cast Alchemy and get the gold for your new kingdom size. Buy soldiers from a soldier factory – get your soldier factory to delay delivery. After the retals have finished, you’ll be smaller but have a lot more soldiers than anyone your size – plus you havent lost any of your soldiers from retaliation. You could even store some of your soldiers in a friendly kingdom.
- Dont worry about defence (2). If you chain attack weaker kingdoms and Alliances, you’ll be guaranteed an unending series of attacks. This is not a bad thing if you can grow quicker than you’re being taken down for especially if your kingdom will get put into alert for most of the time. To conserve your troops before you’re in alert, you could either transfer to a friendly kingdom or you can put your gold in a soldier factory for when you need it. Once you’re in alert, attack mercilessly and grow as quickly as you can. When finished your attack round, put your soldiers and money in a friendly account or a bank. Be careful though as you’re still vulnerable to spells. However, you can take assurance that mages dont work well together.
- Be a bank. Offer to store money and/or soldiers for other kingdoms while charging a small fee. Or you can offer interest rates.
- Build a strong defence and dont leave your flank exposed. Any chance you get, buy pikemen. They have the lowest maintenance cost per defence point. Dont attack with your pikemen, only with your soldiers. This means you always have a fallback defence.
- Join an Alliance. Alliances protect you. Pick an alliance that matches you and follow the Alliance rules. Contribute as much as you can. Offer assistance.
- Attack Alliances strategically. If you’re a solo player and dont care about your reputation, it’s quite possible to attack lots of the weaker members of an alliance consecutively while swearing vengence. When they start attacking you in turn, ask for a ceasefire immediately and start talks with the Leader. Also start other talks with other Alliance members. Lie about who attacked you, stall, break ceasefire and attack randomly, stall, start talks again, lie some more. The amount of noise you’ve introduced into the Alliance should give you enough time to grow very quickly.
- Attack others while being protected by your Alliance. If you’re an Alliance member and dont care about your reputation, it’s quite possible to attack other Alliances or other players while under protection of your own. At this time, Alliances cannot cast you out. Choose an Alliance with a nasty reputation for retaliation and then chain attack everyone outside of it for as long as you can. Where possible, lie to your Alliance about who has attacked you and after they’ve been softened up, go in for the kill. Always maintain your innocence. Be as helpful within your Alliance as possible and try to be as much liked as you can. People will more likely believe you.
Addendum 18/9/2007 Alliance Management
- Have a clear objective. What is the purpose of your Alliance? Is it to grow? Is your Alliance aggressive or is it mainly for self-protection? Or is it primarily for socialising?
- Have clearly articulated policies that meet your objective. This includes retaliation policies and Non-Aggression Pacts. Make sure members and non-members know of them. It’s best to be consistent.
- Clearly communicate internally. You’ll need a private forum, a chat room, email lists etc and the means to administer them. Facebook fortunately has a fair amount of that already but not quite enough.
- Clearly communicate externally. Have nominated contact members especially for complaints and for diplomacy with other Alliances.
- Do not grow too quickly. New members need to be inducted and can change the objectives of your Alliance.
- Form small units. Small units of members who play at the same time work more effectively together.
- Have clearly defined roles within units. Soldier factories (warmongers), banks (moguls), swords (again warmongers but could be anyone), spell support (mages) for when kingdoms go in alert. A possible tactic is to have all members supply money to a single specialised attacker (aka sword), have the sword grow, transfer soldiers and cash out to the bank, and then have other members of the unit attack the sword siphoning land until the sword is in full alert. Transfer soldiers back and have the sword grow again. This way, only the sword is exposed to retaliation, all other members remain unknown and safe. Also members level up when they siphon land off the sword keeping the unit roughly within the same level range.
- Form specialised units for between unit cooperation. A cadre of mages can be extremely effective when warring with locked down kingdoms – make sure they have very high defences however. A unit of soldier factories working around the clock is essential. A unit of swords designed to take heat is also good. Consider only using swords for retaliation and attacks. This protects all other members from retaliation.
- Share resources. Think about having a mobile army of soldiers that can transferred from one sword to another or from one unit to another. Have duty mages for spells.
- Manage retaliation lists (aka kill-lists) carefully. It’s quite easy for members to go overboard and retaliate above what your Alliance policy states is acceptable. Having separate kill-lists is essential. Ensure that members update the kill-list with information on retaliation. Moderate.
- Maintain discipline. Moderators and administrators of the Alliance have the responsibility of maintaining discipline. Have a clear policy for expulsion and implement it.
Addendum 20/9/2007 Thoughts on Alliance War
- Winning at war. The only way to win at war is to focus all your Alliance’s energy on a single target at a time. Choose the leader of the opposing Alliance, hit hard and hit relentlessly and then work down the list. If you are coordinated, the psychological impact on the upper ranks should be enough to have the war end quickly. You will need to have a squadron of highly defended mages and a good sword whenever the target comes out of alert (which will likely never happen). Also, to prevent retaliation attacks on your support kingdoms (banks and soldier factories), have them leave the Alliance temporarily so tags do not show. Keep your mages in Alert. Do not use all your mages at one time as they will be taken down very quickly. To defend yourself from mage attacks, you will need to have more mage units attacking each mage on the Enemies side that you can identify – again start at the strongest. At the end of the day, the side with the most mages will win. The only effective offensive spell is landgrab – fireballs are useless when the Alliance can just feed more soldiers in to that account. You will need various units of mages at different levels to keep the pressure on.
- Preparing for war. Level up your mages to the maximum possible level so they can cast many spells. Strata them into units at different land levels. Pump each mage full of pikemen for maximum defences. Make sure your banks are overflowing with cash and your soldier factories are full. Recruit more mages and do the same.
- Sharing information. Posting a list of targets, supporting kingdoms, soldier factories can be useful especially if you have rostered people to periodically cast spy on those targets.
- Gathering intelligence. Think about getting a member of your Alliance to leave and join the other Alliance. Do this before war is declared as most of the time, Alliances will stop allowing new members in to prevent exactly this. The spy’s job is pretty simple, get a list of all targets especially active members and leaders and keep the main Alliance updated as to what is happening. To maintain security and cover, the spy should only be conversing with one contact back into their original Alliance. Make sure you have more than one spy and that they do not know each other so you can validate any information you receive. You could also consider planting double Agents to sow mis-information but they are easily found out if the Alliance has more than one spy in your Alliance.