So you've decided you want to play a server, and you know when it's going to reset. You usually want to give yourself about two weeks or more to try to make sure people you ask aren't already playing and to give them enough time to decide if they even have the time. What's the first thing you do? Google Doc. A lot of people try having private forums but it has never really worked for me, if it is something you want to try though, go for it and good luck. The first thing I make is a Google Word Document, in fact, I use it a lot. I'm writing this guide right now on a Google Doc as it's easier than trying to write the whole thing in a forum post first. What are the benefits of a Google Doc for alliance planning? Well it allows you to have a space to write down any information you want the user to have quick access too. It allows this to be private and shared with a close group of people, and it allows you to set these people as collaborators so they can help you maintain and update this document. You can also send out mass emails to collaborators if you've added something important you want their input on. Here's the main things I like to put on the document:
- Roster, indicate who you know is playing and who you think might be playing.
- Contact information, throw up a table of phone numbers, msn addresses, skype addresses, etc.
- Chain of Command, this will probably be decided later, but everyone needs to know who to contact if the leader is offline.
- Diplomatic agreements, it's important everyone knows who your allies, enemies, and NAP'd parties are.
- Alliance name discussion area, so people can nominate and vote on alliance names.
- Starting position discussion area, so people can post maps and such to vote on for starting positions. (I will talk about maps later)
All the above information can be decided at any time, but it's a good idea to set these sections up early so people know you are planning ahead. (separate each section with a line of underscores or hyphens is the simplest solution)Recruitment
So now you have your Google Doc uploaded. The very next thing you should start working on is recruitment. There are several things you need to keep in mind when recruiting for an alliance. Don't focus so much on reputations and hearsay, if you do not know the person yourself, try to find someone who knows both of you and ask them about this person. Also, rankings are fairly meaningless. You never know what can happen in a round, might be cheaters about, they might get backstabbed or have to deal with exploits... or perhaps there was no competition and the round was a breeze... you never know unless you've watched the person play yourself. So don't focus on just some numbers they spit out. I don't care if someone says they were rank #5 on M2, or if they lead the #1 alliance on E6, I look at a few basic things.
Is the person active? If they are more active than you are, you should recruit them. Ideally you want someone who can login at school/work so the only chunk of time they're offline is sleep, but I realize not everyone can play at the top level all the time, so just focus on trying to build the alliance around your skill level. You don't want to lead an alliance much worse than yours as it will only cause you frustration, leading weaker players is annoying, but if you're doing it just to train them and you know the risk factors I wish you good luck. You also don't want to lead an alliance much better than you, because you will be doing this alliance a disservice and will probably end up driving the fine players who joined you into the ground, nobody wants that. You want people that are also not all active at the same time, try to find different time zones to give a good balance of activity, you don't want everyone being offline at the same time. You want to balance the alliance as best you can, find players that are weaker than you, and stronger than you. You'll want to have a few people you've played with before, people you know you can work with so there at least is some part of your alliance not left to chance. Having close people you can count on in a jam is very important. You also want some people you've played against before, a really good way to make friends is to fight against people, some of the best friends I have in BD right now started off as enemies and then we decided to work together.
You also probably want to try to recruit a few people you've never played with or against before so that you can meet new people. Of course having an alliance of 24 close friends will be a very formidable force, I just like to mix things up so I'm always meeting people and playing with old friends at the same time. This balance will help keep the round interesting for you. So you know the kind of people you want to recruit, people around your skill level that will be active, but how do you go about finding these people? Recruiting is fairly easy for me as I can hop on msn and probably find a bunch of people online at any given time that would be worth recruiting, but that's because I've played several servers at a time for the past three years.
First thing's first, you want to grab some people you know. The first few people to recruit will be the toughest because most people won't join an alliance they think might end up being below them, so you want to get a good base of a few players to ensure interested people that the alliance will have an acceptable average skill level. That's why you want to approach the players you are already friends with, they will be much more likely to trust you to build a good team. Next you'll want to approach people you've played against but not with, remember, you want to find people around your skill level, not too far above or below. These people will have seen you play before so they have a general idea how good you are, and you already have a base few players so they will be more likely to join you. Finally you should have a good 15 or so players put together, now you'll want to start looking for people you haven't played with before. These can be people you've heard of or random people, you don't want too many wild cards and you don't want to take huge risks by throwing together a bunch of people that could potentially suck or backstab you, but taking a few risks here and there helps keep things interesting. Who knows, you might happen upon someone you'll be friends with forever as I've been lucky enough to have happen a couple times. One thing I want you to avoid is to put too much stock into donations. Sure it's helpful, but coordination and activity is most important.
This concludes how to recruit, for those who didn't want to read the above...
- Recruit people that are around your skill level
- Recruit people that are active as priority one
- Mix and match so you have a good mix of timezones and people you know/don't know too well
- Don't put too much stock into past ranks or donations, activity is priority one. Everything else can be learned
So now you have your roster, and a place in which to organize your thoughts about the round. You now have one priority left, to plan out a starting location. The first step here is to learn what alliances will be playing this round, and where they will setup. You can do this by asking people in the alliance you are friends with, more often than not they'll give up the information easily. Sometimes the leader of the alliance will openly tell you, and sometimes you have to trade intelligence with him in order to get it. Rarely will you not be able to get a starting position, so you'll have to take a risk at that point. You never want to start near another alliance that's active. Even if they are worse than you, and especially not if they're better than you. An early war is terrible for both that do it unless one side is a complete pushover. Even if you're allies, it will stifle your conquering growth. There's not much complexity in researching the history of the round, there's basically three steps involved. Firstly, make a colony the round before you want to play, and ask all the top alliances if they'll be returning, and where. The second step is paying attention to the server's recruitment boards so scope out other alliances, ask them where they will setup. The third thing, since a lot of people don't like the forum for recruitment (like me), is to ask your friends if they know of any alliances playing that you haven't heard of. This will give you the best chance of having the best view of the map.
After you know where all the alliances will setup, you draw out a map of it and weigh it against the average population density of the server. The three best places for tax will always be North America, Europe, and Australia. Some other good tax locations that aren't quite as highly populated are South Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia. South America, North Africa, and Asia are not near as useful for conquering. So in this way you'll usually want to work your way down the list. If one of the three largest tax areas is open to you, go there, else keep working down the list until you feel you can control one of these areas yourself. I am also a very high proponent of the pod system. I've used it for years. The general idea is to split your alliance up into groups based on how strong you will be and how much competition there is. This will allow you to expand quickly for conquers and eventually relics, the biggest benefit being you are not fighting yourselves for conquers, but racing with other alliances. Use the following thought process to determine how many pods you should go with.
How active is my alliance? Will the average activity be about logging in every 2-3 ticks? If so, you have a very active alliance, look to have more pods. Do you have a lot of donators? If you have a decent ratio of donators or even mass donators, you will be strong out of the gate, look to get more pods. Will there be a lot of competition in the starting position you're looking to use? If not, look to get more pods. The idea is to find the balance of activity, donation, and land size you would like to control. You only want to start all 24 people in the same place if they won't be very active or if you don't have many donators. 12/12 is a good pod system that's safe, try to keep the pods about 10-12 ticks from each other. 8/8/8 is a very popular system that's probably the most average structure for poding. 6/6/6/6 is getting to be risky, try to keep your pods within defense distance from each other. I've never seen an alliance pull off 4/4/4/4/4/4 if you do it well there will be a heavy reliance on luckily avoiding any competition in the area. I would go with 12/12 if your alliance is alright, 8/8/8 on average, and 6/6/6/6 if your alliance is very good.
Draw up several maps that layout all the competition you know of and overlay the average population density as well as your suggested pod system. You want to throw up a few of these maps on the Google Doc (you can upload directly to the document) and get some discussion going. At this point the round will start, and you will have prepared for it. Good luck to your alliance.
Thanks a lot for reading, looking forward to your feedback. I have some others I have in mind for writing. I didn't edit this much, I just sat down and wrote this in one sitting. I'll update or change this if I missed anything.