Players (human and AI) then take turns placing tiles. The rules for tile placement are simple:
- if a square is empty, and it touches a square you already own, you may place a tile on it.
- if you own a square, and it does not have a building on it, you may place a building on it.
- if an opponent owns a square you may not place a tile on it.
- Terrain may dictate what type of tile may be placed in a square.
- In any case, you must be able to pay the cost of the tile you want to place
- Play continues until the player that owns the fewest squares can no longer place a tile. The winner is the player that owns the most squares.
The first thing to do upon entering the tactical map is to assess the terrain. Different terrain types provide different advantages. Lots of silver deposits, for example, make for easy money, and therefore more expensive buildings can be placed. Deserts are the exact opposite – they provide no money. Mountains cannot be built upon at all and make for strategic choke points to the player that can get there first.
The next thing is to start deciding which tiles to place, and where. Tiles come in two basic families: ownership tiles and buildings. Ownership tiles come in two flavors: simple ownership and farms. Simple ownership counts toward victory but is otherwise not all that useful. Farms provide money when placed, which is nice. As a bonus, you can always build a building on a tile that you own in this fashion.
Buildings are where all the fun is. Each building has an effect on the surrounding squares and/or tiles. This effect is generally to change the ownership of said squares and/or tiles. For example, placing a Town will convert all adjacent unclaimed tiles over to your ownership. Placing an Army will convert all enemy tiles (except Farms) over to your side. Strategic use of buildings to grab land and convert your enemy's land, while preventing your enemies from doing the same to you, is the heart and soul of the game.
It sounds easy enough – just place lots of Armies, Towns, Palaces, Citadels, and the like. The problem is all the cool buildings cost money, and the cooler the building the more it costs. The solution is to lay tiles that provide money. For example, placing a farm provides a little money. Placing a mining village provides more, or a whole bunch if a juicy mineral deposit is nearby. There is an opportunity cost to placing a revenue-generating tile: other than money, they provide little or no advantage on the map itself.
The task before the player is now clear. One must determine the most valuable squares, claim them before the opponent does, convert the opponents' tiles to your ownership while simultaneously resisting his attempts to convert your tiles, all while judiciously slowing progress to raise the money to finance it all.
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