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NOT a guide for advancements: 7/29/2021 12:28:02

Phoenix
Level 21
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Okay, I'll admit it right from the start: I know that some will still use this as some sort of guide-line (hopefully in combination with other guides to create their own personal strategy), but if you blindly follow this not-guide, you might end up in an even worse situation than you were in on your own. So, take this with a grain of salt. Especially, because I haven't ascended once yet. But nonetheless, I have some experience by now and so this document exists now. And I wanted to share it with someone. Though, the actual reason why I want to share this, is because of the conclusions I made that I will put at the end.

Another small disclaimer: I don't follow this guide myself and I don't intend to reset my advancements to move my APs in such a way described. I, for once, really like the Statistics. And even though I wouldn't invest into Statistics as my first advancement anymore (yes, I actually did) if I were to start all over again, I would probably invest in it earlier than this guide suggests. I also were lucky enough to get some additional APs from the mobile-only level (that isn't available anymore), but that weren't many points if I remember correctly. Take this guide more in the way: "If I were to register a secondary account with all the knowledge that I have gathered by now, this might be the way for me to go." Hence, this guide might (I really don't know, I can't put myself in the mindset of a complete beginner anymore) only be for those that already know what is going on in idle. Or that heavily use the forum to get information from more experienced players. But, I still intend to reach the milestones as described in the conclusions.

Quick note regarding the format:
<from level> -> <to level> => <invest in advancement> ~ <cost of this advancement> / <sum for this ascension> / <total sum> # <optional: notes> (some of the sums can be omitted if identical, but that should be clear in the few cases)
Unless stated otherwise, all advancements are meant to be maxed out. If not, then there is a percentage listed or the advancement is prefixed with "unlock" in which case you should just unlock but not upgrade it. But then again, this is only a guide (sort of), so deviate from this wherever you want.

--- Ascension 1 ---
Tutorial -> Siege of Feldmere => Joint Strike ~ 459 / 459 # most important adv
Sengoku -> Copper Creek Castle => Discount Mine Upgrades ~ 273 / 732
Geopolitics -> Breaking Green => 100% Increased Army Camp Production ~ 480 / 1212 # Phase 2 unlocked
Far Land -> Europe 1066 => Army Camp Discount ~ 1374 / 2586
Silk and Iron => Unlock Auto-Conquer ~ 132 / 2718 # unlock WZIB + WZIC
Old Town => Unlock Auto-Army Camp Upgrade ~ 691 / 3309 # for WZIC mainly
Orbis Veteribus Notus -> Asia => 200% Increased Army Camp Production ~ 1450 / 4759
Africa => Statistics + Increased Ore Sell Value ~ 500 + 587 / 5846 # can be moved before 200% IACP
R&F Roman Empire -> Europe Huge => Increased AP ~ 7718 / 13564 # Phase 3 unlocked; invest as soon as possible, otherwise you won't have enough APs at the end of the final level
--- remaining AP: 364

--- Ascension 2 ---
Tutorial -> Sengoku => Mercenary Discount ~ 1002 / 1002 / 14566
Copper Creek Castle -> Reconquest => Increased Alloy Sell Value ~ 1756 / 2758 / 16322 # Item Sell Value is way more significant but also way more expensive, but you can, if you want, spend these points on something else
Fort Harbor -> Old Town => Idle Time (+ 12x 30 min = 8h) ~ 1822 / 4580 / 18144 # I just used the numbers from Master Jz's spreadsheet, if you need more or less idle time, you have to adapt this
Orbis Veteribus Notus -> A-E Gargantuan => Increased Bonus Money ~ 6752 / 11332 / 24896
Triskelion => Unlock Auto-Sell ~ 1189 / 12521 / 26085
United States => 300% IACP ~ 2450 / 14971 / 28535
Europe Huge => save APs
--- remaining AP: 1714

--- Ascension 3 ---
Tutorial -> Europe Huge => 80% Item Sell - 17845 / 46380 # Phase 4 unlocked
--- remaining AP: 191

My conclusions:

  • Planning this was fun, but knowing that getting this far will still take years isn't fun. This once more showed me, a) how expensive advancements are, b) how little APs each level gives, and c) how long a single level can take. And: If you really follow such a guide like mine, you will play several levels and always only invest in one advancement over and over (see the third ascension). That can get tiring. One more level, and still investing in the same advancement (that - given the little increments from stage to stage - doesn't even show much of an effect).
  • There are sooo many different approaches! While creating this I had some milestones in mind that I wanted to reach / wanted to check whether they are reachable in a reasonable way (see next point) but on my way there, there were many decisions to make and sometimes I really struggled to choose one advancement over the others. I guess, if I would do this from scratch again, this could look totally different.
  • Within one ascension you can reach the Phase 3 advancements, within three ascensions you can unlock the fourth Phase (even without Increased AP, but then you can't spent many additional APs on Phase 1 and 2). I still think that Phase 1 has some of the best overall advancements, but I believe that unlocking Phase 4 as fast as possible is still valuable, because you can choose freely what to unlock/upgrade.
  • For this not-guide I assumed that you would unlock and max out most advancements before continuing. Exceptions were the most expensive ones that I broke down into parts. Whether this is a good strategy or not is up to you. If you follow any guide, you can most of the time move them around a bit given how much APs you have left. If you can't buy in to the final stage of some advancement but can unlock the one you were going to work on next, you can unlock this one first and get the final stage later on.
  • If you do the math, you will see that on my first ascension I spend more APs than one play through gives you. This is due to the fact that this guide assumes that you at the end buy into each "Increased AP" stage as soon as you can afford it. Even in these few levels you will already get significantly more APs than without the advancement. Whether spending almost 8k is worth it to you, is your call.
  • in this not-guide I have unlocked most of the (affordable) Auto-advancements but never spent APs in upgrading them. This is mostly because I think that they are too dump to really support ANY actual viable play strategy. But for WZIB and WZIC they are essential. If you play more competitive idle modes, you should perhaps spend more APs here. But all the non-Auto-advancements also support WZIB and WZIC, so even if you play several battles a day, upgrading the Auto-advancements might not be the best strategy. I really don't know/care.
  • If you take this list and remove all phase n advancements that I mentioned after phase n+1 was already unlocked, you get a feeling for what advancements I really deem worthwhile.
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/29/2021 12:53:21


krinid 
Level 60
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Interesting that you say this isn't the strat you used, and not the strat you recommend for others, and only maybe a strat you'd employ if you started WZI with an alt ... and specifically call it a Not-Guide, so essentially this is just a discussion of potential strats. So a discussion I bring to thee!

I was going to ask "What about Increased AP?" but then you mentioned it at the end. Thumbs up to that ... I personally think many underestimate the value this Adv brings and invest in it too late. Also note that it works well with the +30% AP buff for 50 coins @ end of level, and also the +15% CW AP buff benefit, to really bring good returns. I've had a few people ask how I have so much AP for what I'm buying - that Adv is one of the reasons. I focused on it about 1/2 way through my 1st playthrough. Yes, it slowed down my progress on that 1st playthrough, but by buffing the AP I earned, I've earned it back, and moreso since starting to do the +30%/+15% buffs along with it.

Not a strategy I would take or recommend myself, notably the early Discount Mine Upgrades & Army Camp Discount. Nor the Auto-Upgrades, but as you said, these are only for people who want to play WZIC or WZIB. Probably worth mentioning WZIC is an AP-losing initiative. You spend more to beat the levels than you ever get back, for little to no benefit to the main game, and even to detriment if you compare the AP you could have spent on other Advancements, or even worse if you misuse the Auto-Upgrades in game (leave them on in disadvantageous scenarios and it makes bad choices for you).

Auto-Sell is an interesting recommendation ... I assume this is to get money which Auto-Army Camp Upgrade can then use while being idle? Seems like a late game army camp income buff - is this a legit strat? Do you army camp-centric players actually continue to upgrade your army camps through to the end of the map? And does this work well with the Supercamp? ie: if you have a Supercamp, does Auto-Army Camp Upgrade still make good/beneficial choices? Presumably it upgrades the cheapest camp as soon as you can afford it, but this may not be the best camp to upgrade; it may be more beneficial to wait until you have (just making up #'s for purpose of an example) 10x the money and can afford to upgrade the Supercamp for 20x the benefit.

And why not include Stats? I think it increases level clear time by reducing the end-game hijinks of using up resources you thought you didn't need for Techs but actually do. If it could present recipe ingredients & quantities as well, it'd be ideal. You still don't know at start of level what ores you need to preserve, which is vital to not over smelting bars you should buy from markets in order to preserve the ore you may need for the +50% cache Tech, +10% Hospital, -15% Merc discount, +15% item sell value, etc, if they need luxury bars (Chromium, Lanthanum, Dysprosium, etc).

You recommend Merc Discount, but not Additional Mercs? Why is this?

You never once mention Increased Crafter Speed? Why not...? It brings in sooooo much money. Wish I invested in it sooner. I personally think it's the 2nd best Advancement after JS - but it's phase 2, so you need to invest in other phase 1 items to unlock phase 2 first, but I think unless you're raving to jump into WZIC/WZIB, skip Auto-Conquer and focus on Crafter Speed, Additional Mercs, Merc Discount.
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/29/2021 13:15:10

functor
Level 56
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Below is the order of advancements that I obtained or plan to obtain.

* Increased Army Camp Production: 50%
* Joint Strike: 25%
* Increased Army Camp Production: 100%
* Increased Ore Sell Values: 100%
* Auto-Conquer: 5%
* Mercenary Discount: 30%
* Additional Mercenaries: 25%
* Increase Crafters Speed: 50%
* Mercenary Discount: 50%
* Additional Mercenaries: 40%
* Increased AP: 25%
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/29/2021 14:29:23

Phoenix
Level 21
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@krinid, you are right, this is meant more as a discussion than a clear strat. And as you probably noticed yourself, this list alone is a bad advise given that the personal playing style has to match.

  • Because of the fact, that Increased AP is expensive and other advancements have an higher impact, I schedule it as the last thing to do in the first play through (which I will actually do, despite the vague use case for the overall post). Was it Z who started a (sort of) rant against IAP? I can't remember, but whoever it was, he was right that there are advancements you should focus on first. As I still really want this adv and this completes the second Phase, I chose the place it is in now.
  • Regarding the Upgrade Discounts, WZI has two main currencies, armies and money. And while armies is the main currency that determines the level times, money is a great influence for armies itself. So, if you can save 25-30% on upgrading buildings, this to me is a great advantage. More money means either more upgrades (although the later upgrades don't effect the production as much as the early ones did) or to be able to buy out all those mercs sooner (or more artifacts). I just unlocked Auto-Army Camp Discount yesterday or so and haven't attempted any WZIB or WZIC since then, But the last time I tried a challenge, I saw that I had tons of money left at the end. And in battles I always prioritize Army Camp upgrades over territory conquering. So, given that I already upgraded to 25% Auto-Conquer (only for battles/challenges, so yeah, I fall for that, too) and my experiences now aren't representative for the outlined strategy, I will be able to report back in a few days when I found some free time to try out any of the more competitive things. The thing with the Auto-advs is that I unlock them in hope that I will at some point be convinced that they do a great job and I can be even more idle and let the game play itself. And, I don't spent APs JUST to beat the challenges, still, I enjoy playing them as the idle campaign is sooo slow. ;)
  • Yes, the idea behind Auto-Sell was to generate more money that then can be used to upgrade camps. Especially without Auto-Tech unlock and Auto-Smelt there should be a lot that the adv can sell. But I haven't unlocked it yet, so I can't say whether this strategy works out. As I just mentioned (more or less), I see challenges as a proof of concept whether I can let the game run itself. So far, I can't! Furthermore, I don't have the SC, but for the other "normal" camps, I have made the observation that always upgrading the cheapest one is PRETTY close to ideal. Sure, there are situations in which some can be a stage or two behind/ahead with the same price tag, but Auto-Army Camp Upgrade to me seems to be the most usable one among all the Auto-advs.
  • Statistics is one of the advancements that lose in value with every time you played a level (I assume). On your first play through you will (most likely) try to unlock all the techs and hence, knowing them and their costs is awesome. On every subsequent run you might choose smelts/crafts/techs purely by ROI and availability. So, again, I love this one, but I don't know whether this could actually be one of the advs that you want to reset your APs for to move the 500 points to something else. ;)
  • Additional Mercs just didn't make the cut in this listing. There were others that I thought about including (the caches, maxing out IACP and IISV, the two speedy's) but I had this vision of unlocking Phase 4 with the third play through, and that only gives a finite number of APs (assuming no other AP-boosting effects, if you can spend the 50 coins for each level and have an active clan to benefit from the CW rewards, that's awesome). My overall strategy is focusing on saving first. But Additional Mercs would be among the next ones. A similar reason let me end after Ascension 3 because there are no final numbers for all the Phase 4 advs yet, so no real basis to make recommendations.
  • My current strategy is crafting from my mine production. There is a reason that I focus on discounts and this reason is that I feel like there is always too few money. So, investing money in alloys isn't exactly what I feel comfortable with especially while I still smelt/craft for techs. Therefore, speedy crafters means a major drain for my money balance (I actually had to start buying alloys or had to spent way more money on mine upgrades).
  • A general rule of thumb for me (that also covers what functor posted), I start selling ores/alloys/items when I start buying mercs. Really late in the game. So, while having higher sell values might even for me have a positive effect, 90% of the time that I actually play the level, I wouldn't benefit from any Sell or Mercs advancements. That might be psychological but I FEEL like advs that effect day to day playing MUST have a larger impact than advs that are only taking effect for the last (max) 24h of each level.


PS: I would really LOVE to test out other strategies for me, but honestly, if this means to frequently resetting my advs and replaying levels that I already finished, I see no real benefit in this approach. And applying different strategies to different levels isn't exactly comparable. So, yeah, this is my strategy. Love it or hate it. ;)

Edited 7/29/2021 14:32:45
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/29/2021 18:16:40


Master Jz 
Level 62
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Upgrading additional mercenaries is a necessity, in my opinion. It dramatically improved my times. I know players who regularly run out of mercs to buy even with 60% extra. I think 60% is enough during the first run, but it doesn't hurt to bring it to 75%. Those last levels can take forever without the extra mercenaries.

I skipped the army camp discount advancement. I chose to increase money caches and resource caches instead. This lets me spend my money on anything I want.
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 00:44:20

Mathematician
Level 59
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Reading your guide, seems that you haven't figured out how overpowered mercenaries can be.

I see that the reason you gave for not including Additional Mercenaries is that you "had this vision of unlocking Phase 4 with the third play through". But I'm pretty sure that playing through all levels twice with 100% Additional Mercenaries take less time than playing through all levels once with no Additional Mercenaries.

Let's say X and Y are two people who finished ascension 2 at the same time. X decided to upgrade Additional Mercenaries to 100% by the end of ascension 2, and unlock phase 4 after ascension 4. Y decided not to unlock Additional Mercenaries at all and unlock phase 4 after ascension 3. I'm pretty sure that X will end up unlocking phase 4 faster than Y, because with the help of Additional Mercenaries X will go through two ascensions faster than Y going through one.

Lemme give you some figures. From your achievements, I see that the last level you've defeated is Scandinavia and the Nordic Countries. Lemme use that level as an example then.

During ascension 2, I beat Scandinavia in 9 days 17 hours. Total army camp production was 57B. Total mercs purchased was 103B. I was at 27.5% additional mercenaries.

During ascension 3 (which is where I am now), I beat Scandinavia in 3 days 5 hours. Total army production was 16B. Total mercs purchased was 147B. I was at 100% additional mercenaries, and had plenty of leftover mercs when the level finished.

That was a 67% time save. Most saved time came from not needing to wait for army camps.
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 12:17:20

Phoenix
Level 21
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See, I wanted to explain my motivations here for some time now (I honestly wanted to put it in the initial post but forgot), so I will use your comment to do it now.

The thing is, everyone and their dog has a guide of some sorts (or so it seems), several (new) players ask for advice each month, and I also was asked to create one myself, which, to be fair, was based on a miscommunication with Parsifal (he called me out on making a better guide than his because he interpreted my comment as personal attack on him, so, I wasn't exactly asked to make one when this was all settled). And while I answer some of those new posts, I felt like those (new) players were rarely even reading what was already there. Don't know if this is due to the fact that a forum might not be ideal to organize such guides (especially if there is only one global forum for everything idle related, we could make use of several separate idle related forums, like bugs, strategies, ... that then would be not as fast paced (threads move down and get locked from further replies pretty quick from my point of view)). So, by presenting yet another view on a already somewhat discussed topic I wanted to just present another aspect.

As is obvious by your own words, you are way more experienced than I am, and I already hinted that this is by no means THE ULTIMATE guide. It is just one perspective that by that time seemed underrepresented. Whether this is because it is plainly a BAD ADVICE??? I don't know (yet).

What I get from your post is that I undervalue mercs. And I'm pretty sure, that this is a perfectly fitting interpretation. It's just that the way I play (which might be the problem here), I don't see a way to make any other more merc-based strategy work. Where do you get all this money from to buy them all by times and how do you keep yourself from buying too many mercs and end up in a situation where your army camps are essentially at stage 1, all your mercs are gone, you have barely any cash and still half the map is unconquered? I tried a merc-based play-style on Peloponnesian War I think it was. I got some merc camp and had some money, so I bought mercs to continue conquering. Well, I might have been too uninformed by then and were just not ready for mercs, but that was a real disaster for me. On Siege of Feldmere I spend three hours to claim the remaining dozen territories because, again, all mercs were gone all money was used up and I had no other option than to wait for my army camps to produce some more armies.

Z or krinid (I think, there are just too many names to keep them all separated in my head) commented on some other discussion that he doesn't upgrade army camps that cost more than 1B. Well, I'm on Asia: Population Density, I have just claimed a third of all territories and the prices are already that high. And I have maxed out the Army Camp Discount adv, I use a (currently uncommon) Army Camp Discount artifact and still unlock all the techs (hence, the army camp discount ones, too) at some point in the level. So, having only claimed a third of all territories, that is spent 7B compared to the overall 450B (thanks Z for the numbers) of armies that this map requires. Regardless of the number of mercs my merc camps had, I really don't see how stopping upgrading army camps can work out here. Because I would argue that unless you can finish the level within a day or so, stopping to invest in army camps isn't logical (a day has 86,400 seconds and each second an upgraded army camp produces more armies). And, as I said, money isn't infinite in this game either. So, it always comes down to where I want to invest in, more armies over time, more ores, alloys from markets, more artifacts, ...

I admit that I on purpose limited my money income by not spending APs on the Money cache adv. Because caches just don't make up most of my income, so even 100% more isn't going to change the game dramatically. I found it way more logical at that point (and still) to invest in cheaper mines/army camps (unfortunately, we still can't see where all our money went to, but my idea in the statistics thread isn't that old either, so perhaps this will come at some point). But then again, if I would spent less time in each level, the territory and bonus income would decrease (less time to collect money over time) and so, I guess I would be reliant on the caches more. Understanding and mastering this whole game at times seems like a mess!

For what it is worth, I needed 24 days for Scandinavia. But then again, what does level times tell you? We had this discussion with Z when it was about the Increased AP adv. Sure, you can speed up your level times by not investing in IAP but literally anything else. But will this also improve your AP income as much as IAP does? The issue I have with the Additional Mercs is somewhat related to the discussion about the speedy smelter/crafter advs that I initiated some time ago. While speedy smelter/crafter only shift the problem around (for speedy crafter you need more/speedier smelter or more money to buy from markets, for speedy smelter you need more mine upgrades / APs spent in the ore improvements), while efficient smelter/crafter would really have made a difference, more mercs is simply draining your cash more and more. And just like you have to unlock the speedy techs before you can unlock the efficient techs, you can unlock the Additional Mercs before you can unlock the cheaper mercs. Let me say this as clear as I can, I think (again, still personal opinion, I'm not stating a general wisdom here) on your first play through you can't utilize more mercs (at all) the way you can on later ascensions. On that note:
Let's say X and Y are two people who finished ascension 2 at the same time.
Why? Because they played identical or because they invested in different advs but still ended the second ascension at the same time? This makes a huge difference going forward if you make any calls on their later level times given two different strategies that might favor their previous investments differently.

To wrap this up for now and to come back to what I said about my motivation: If we are able to discuss posts like mine in a civilized fashion (like I think we do here) and other players will encounter this at some point, the only actual goal this should serve is to help them make up their own minds. If this means that everyone is belittling my ideas because they are actually bad, than I'm totally fine with this. I wasn't very clear in my initial post, but if we can have a discussion here, that's all I'm asking for.

Have a great day and enjoy your idle levels however you like to play them!
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 13:14:34

functor
Level 56
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Phoenix, I think one thing you might have overlooked is that, crafting can generate enough money to support mercenaries and the upgrade cost of everything needed. This is probably one reason why krinid, I, Master Jz, and Mathematician all recommend Additional Mercenaries here. All we need to do is to find good recipes and craft them.

When I do a level, I usually loop through the following steps.
1. Get army camps. Upgrade army camps.
2. Get good recipe. Get crafters.
3. Upgrade everything.
4. Get hospitals. Upgrade hospitals.
5. Get mercenary camps.
6. Purchase mercenaries. Expand.

I have not ascended yet, do not have epic artifacts, and do not have Speedy Crafters. You can see my advancements in my previous post. Following this strategy, I managed to complete AD 1045 in 5 days.

At the end of AD 1045, I got 600M armies per hour from mercenaries and 200M per hour from army camps. In the mid stage of AD 1045, I would guess I got 500M per hour from mercenaries and 50M per hour from army camps.
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 17:23:45

Mathematician
Level 59
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CHILL mate.

There's nothing personal against you. Same as you, I'm also trying to contribute to the discussion and I was trying to supplement information that may be hard to see before ascending for the first time.

I didn't say anything insulting to you right? I didn't call you names. I didn't even say that it's a bad guide. I didn't say anything rude at all. My comment was focused entirely on discussing gameplay. You wanted a discussion. So I discuss.

Just chill mate. The reason why I even bothered to type in this thread in the first place is because I appreciate your work and I see that your guide has potentials. Nobody is trying to belittle you. We're all trying to help feeding in more ideas and improve upon your work. As you've said in your own words:

"this is by no means THE ULTIMATE guide"

That means we're supposed to throw in information and ideas to try to improve it right?

Since you've never ascended, without enough AP there're some playstyles that you can't do, and those inevitably becomes your blind spots. If I write a guide now and talk about how I plan to invest my APs in my next 20 ascensions, probably I'll miss some new playstyles that I won't discover until I've ascended for a few more times and actually reached there myself, and I'd appreciate someone who's ascended for 10 times telling me what gameplay at that stage is like, so I can adjust the plan accordingly. That doesn't mean that I'm stupid or anything. It's just a very practical limitation that I can't experiment with certain playstyles before having enough AP.

Chill lol
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 17:49:21

Phoenix
Level 21
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Why is everyone thinking that I want to attack them?!? I never thought that you were attacking me and, likewise, I never intended to attack you. I was just stating this as it is: I'm not all knowing, and if what I say turns out to be wrong, I can live with this. That's what I meant with everyone belittling my ideas. It was meant to be funny, not offending. I guess I have to work on my tone when it comes to writing.

And to address functor:
Don't think that I'm not working on items myself. And I also prioritize profitable ones. The differences are:

  • Unlike others, I use my smelters instead of the markets to get the alloys, that means that I can make more profit at times.
  • Because of the same reason, I'm just not working on the same recipe with every crafter but usually run a different recipe on each crafter. The difference in profit per time isn't that big, though. I'm at most making 33% less. But given that those players pay about seven times as much on alloys than they would bring me it I sold them, I think 33% less profit is fine. (I have already deleted the notes from the last level, so this number is an estimation, currently I haven't discovered the Welding Rods recipe, yet, so crafting is no easy topic atm, I hate the large ingredients number, but that was the topic of another thread)
  • In all those numbers I don't count alloy values in general. I choose the recipe by greatest sell value, not profit like it is noted on the Smelt Stats. So, these numbers might not translate into other players' game play.
  • I'm just not turning the profit into mercs, but other things (whatever is up next, building upgrades, artifacts, ...)


So, yeah, if someone has maxed out the speedy crafter adv and has a powerful artifact, he might make more money from crafters than I can, but as soon as I'm done with crafting for techs, I make a good amount of profit myself. I will just spent the money differently.

EDIT: To add to this, I make a "good amount of profit myself" if I know that what I produce isn't needed for other recipes. I don't sell early, because I have made some bad experience doing this before, too.

Edited 7/31/2021 17:54:34
- downvoted post by papagal3
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 18:31:10

megaol
Level 50
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I'm curious Phoenix, how often you check WZI. It's hard to put a play time of 24d into context if you only check the game, say, every 5 days (in which case you should probably invest in more idle time), versus someone like me who checks about 3-5 times a day. If you're checking almost every day and still have play a play time of 24d, I do think you should listen to everyone's advice here and change your playstyle, especially surrounding mercs and crafters.

I'm not trying to belittle you or anything -- just merely stating that if most people on their first playthrough beat the levels 3-4x faster than you (it seems like Scandinavia the first time took me 5.5 days), there's actual evidence that their play style is more effective, and it's worthwhile to learn what they're doing differently. (Even if you have IAP and they don't, they're still getting AP ~2.5-3x faster than you). If you say you've had "bad experiences" trying to follow others' advice in the past, maybe try to see what you missed? After all, they're playing the same levels as you, so there's no reason it shouldn't work for you.

Here's a simple calculation justifying why mercs are better than upgrading army camps past 2B or so. Assume a level is going to take another 7 days. Upgrading a camp probably gets about +400 troops/sec which over the course of 7 days gets ~250M troops, so you're effectively paying $8 per army -- which is a very mediocre rate on most levels (assuming merc discount AP and a couple tech levels of merc discount). If you're thinking of a 10B upgrade, that's 40/army which is crazy to pay. And you don't get all the armies now, you get most later. You ask how to fund buying these mercenaries -- but the army camp upgrades are ultimately costing you more, or you're needlessly spending too long on levels. It is true that you need to spend AP to buy additional mercs so you won't run out -- but this is exactly why it's so ridiculously good to do it.

Secondly, here's why it's less profitable to only use smelters to fund the crafter economy. Let's say I can make enough tin bars to fund 2 crafters full time, but I have 4. If tin cans sell for 50M and take 10m, you make 5M/min. Let's say buying enough tin bars off the market to fund 1 tin can costs 5M. Buying those tin bars for the additional tin cans increases profit to 9M/min, which is a 1.8x increase. Sure you're making less money per can, but youre making more overall. Similarly, buying 50% increased crafter speed won't improve your economy by exactly 2x -- it'll take it to 17M/min, but it's pretty close, and better than no increase. It speeds up levels massively to purchase the deficit alloys.

It's also very profitable to run this economy as soon as you can -- and thus maybe you should worry about crafting for tech closer to the end of the level. The upfront money is really useful for upgrading hospitals, buying mercs to find more crafters. etc.

Edited 7/31/2021 18:35:48
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 18:32:15

Mathematician
Level 59
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Haha maybe both you and me are not very good at tones (at least from my years of experience in living on Earth, I'm sure that I'm not good at it)
----------------------------------------------------------------
I never upgrade army camps that cost more than 100M. And from my level times, you know that merc-based gameplay can indeed work. So lemme answer some of your questions on why can it work.

Question:
Where do you get all this money from to buy them all by times and how do you keep yourself from buying too many mercs and end up in a situation where your army camps are essentially at stage 1, all your mercs are gone, you have barely any cash and still half the map is unconquered?

Answer:
By investing like 20k AP in money-generating advancements first lol. Mercs-based gameplay isn't realistic in ascension 1 and the first half of ascension 2. It only starts becoming realistic in the second half of ascension 2. Before that, you have to rely on army camps. During my Scandinavia run in ascension 2 I didn't go full-mercs not because I chose not to, but because I didn't have enough AP to make it work. In the second half of ascension 2 I slowly upgrade my Additional Mercenaries based on how much mercs I can afford buying with my money generation. By the end of ascension 2 I was fully merc-based.

Since your guide is intended to be a long-term one and covers until the end of ascension 3, and merc-based gameplay is realistic once you've reached the second half of ascension 2, it's important for me to bring up merc-based gameplay.

With the help of Additional Mercenaries, I never run out of mercs, so there's no such thing as "all your mercs are gone". When I'm out of money, I conquer territories and bonuses containing caches, and sell whatever from the caches to turn them into money to buy more mercs so I have more army to get more caches, and repeat and repeat and repeat until I finish the level. Occasionally I need to wait for a few hours when I'm out of both money and army before I can start another chain reaction.

In my ascension 3 Scandinavia run, I spent 3 days 5 hours. Actually I spent more than 3 days to conquer half of the map and get some techs that help with mercs cost and item sell values. Then I spent 2 hours just clicking and conquered the remaining half of the map in one go using chain reactions with the help by caches.

I don't actually rely on crafters that much. I've only started investing AP on Speedy Crafters recently, mid-way through ascension 3. By the time I get good crafting recipes, I'm already in a good shape to finish off the level in one go anyway using chain reactions.

----------------------------------------------------

Your comment:
Stopping to invest in army camps isn't logical (a day has 86,400 seconds and each second an upgraded army camp produces more armies)

My reply:
Alternatively I can invest the money in mercs to capture more bonuses. A day has 86400 seconds and each second a captured bonus produces more money, which can used to buy mercs.

And of course I never run out of merc because of Additional Mercenaries.

That gives me more extra armies than investing in army camps directly.

-------------------------------------------------------

Your comment:
But then again, if I would spent less time in each level, the territory and bonus income would decrease and so, I guess I would be reliant on the caches more.

My reply:
Yep that's exactly what's happened to me during ascension 2 when level times start decreasing a lot. As you can tell, now I heavily rely on caches.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Question:
Sure, you can speed up your level times by not investing in IAP but literally anything else. But will this also improve your AP income as much as IAP does?

Answer:
Of course. Increased AP can only increase AP income by at most 25%. I was talking about a 67% time save. A 25% time save increases AP income rate by 203%, which is more than 25%.

Having said that, I've upgraded IAP a bit. Currently my IAP is at 17%. Probably I'll max it before finishing ascension 3. It all boils down to comparing the increase in "AP gain per unit time per AP invested" by investing on time save advancements and by investing on IAP directly.

I won't recommend upgrading IAP to 25% in one go. But I also won't recommend not touching IAP at all. Since each upgrade is more expensive, the optimal way to do it is probably upgrading IAP along with other stuff. Each time when you upgrade IAP once, the "AP gain per unit time per AP invested" for the next IAP upgrade decreases, so there may be a few time save advancements that now do a better job. And after getting those few time save upgrades, IAP becomes the optimal option again so you click upgrade IAP once. After that one click the next IAP upgrade becomes less appealing again. Etc...

----------------------------------------------------------

Question:
Why? Because they played identical or because they invested in different advs but still ended the second ascension at the same time?

Answer:
Instead of using the finish of ascension 2 as the starting point, lemme use ascension 2 Old Town as a starting point. That's around that point when I started deviating from a pure army camp gameplay.

For the sake of this thought experiment, let's say if X and Y played identically in ascension 1 and the first half of ascension 2 until completing Old Town, without ever upgrading Additional Mercenaries. After ascension 2 Old Town, X then invest all AP earned in the future on Additional Mercenaries and nothing else until reaching 100% Additional Mercenaries, while Y never invest in Additional Mercenaries at all. In this scenario I'm pretty sure that X will finish ascension 4 before Y finish ascension 3.

It's just me trying to give an impression of how big a difference can mercenaries make, and this big difference makes "saving up for unlocking phase 4" unnecessary because you can actually unlock phase 4 faster if you don't save up.
NOT a guide for advancements: 7/31/2021 22:06:22

Phoenix
Level 21
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I will read all of this but right now, I only want to address one thing:
it seems like Scandinavia the first time took me 5.5 days

Then Mathematician isn't good at this game either. There was no time given for first attempt, but in the post was a time for the second one
During ascension 2, I beat Scandinavia in 9 days 17 hours.
So, either with your 5.5 days there is something fishy, or you found way better advs than both me and Mathematician, or I don't know. I play without SuperCamp, perhaps that boosted your times (significantly). Or how often do you activate the ad-based army camp boost? For a merc-centric strategy this might not be overly important, but I play mostly on PC and therefore only watch ads twice a day (see below for how this relates to my active hours). But with a time of nearly 10 days on Mathematician's second play through, my 24 days seem pretty much in line (perhaps a BIT too high) for first attempt. Otherwise, moving from 5.5 days in first attempt to almost 10 days on second would be a huge step back. Or is your number based on a (very) early map generation that was just faster to finish? Then the numbers wouldn't be comparable anymore.

I currently have only 2h idle time and at day I almost never exceed it, at night I use a 40min artifact on top. Therefore, more than 16h count as active play time per day. Plus occasional Time Warps (if the map has some or the daily reward features one).
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/1/2021 00:07:38

Mathematician
Level 59
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My first Scandinavia attempt was 13 days 22 hours, but that was before the balance update in February. The map was very different, so it's not comparable. Besides, I was trying to highlight the difference that mercenaries made. Mercenaries wasn't the main difference between my first and second attempt. Rather, it was the main difference between my second and third attempt.

24 days sounds decent for a first-attempt time for Scandinavia with the current map generation. Probably I'd have a similar time as well if I was working with the current map generation given that your ascension 1 gameplay seems to be quite similar to what I did. As I've mentioned, I started merc-based gameplay in the second half of ascension 2. Before that, I was army camp based and did similar things as you did.

Warzone Idle had been changing a lot since its launch until around February 2021 when it finally stabilized. When Warzone Idle was launched a year ago, the levels were ridiculously easy, and being made harder in each update.

I started playing Idle in October 2020, when the maps were still much easier than now. That's the reason why in some maps my first-attempt time was even faster than my second-attempt time. For example, my first attempt for Reconquest 1065 was 2 days 23 hours, but my second attempt after ascension was 3 days 11 hours.

If I remember correctly, the February update happened when I was playing the final few levels of my first ascension. So, all my second attempts (and third attempts) were using the current map generation, which makes it easier to compare.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/1/2021 07:40:01

megaol
Level 50
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I think you confused me and Mathematician -- I claimed Scandinavia took 5.5 days the first time. I never gave a second time, and I can't find this in level stats, though most levels my second time took about 3 days, so I'd guess that.

I started playing in Nov 2020 and played Scandinavia for the first time in Jan 2021. This was before some balance changes, but I doubt it was all that different, seeing as my second play time was about half the first, which is fairly consistent with others.

As for the question of why the levels took so little time -- that's exactly my evidence for the argument that my strategy works better? Not sure what I'm supposed to say here. I didn't have supercamp, or anything else other than powers on the level itself.

The strategy is basically: Use mercs for armies (army camps are irrelevant), crafting for money (bonuses are irrelevant). Upgrade all hopsitals a lot -- to basically the max except ridiculously expensive upgrades. Until I have all hospitals and upgraded them, only take territories on the way to a crafter or hospital -- it's a massive waste to pay for a territory now that hospitals can take for free later. Obviously, because of fog you can't do this efficiently, but try to.

I don't think you need until the second playthrough to make army camps irrelevant -- though you have to make sure you use hospitals effectively to not run out of mercs.

Edited 8/1/2021 07:44:01
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/1/2021 09:55:33

Mathematician
Level 59
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Reading megaol's comments, seems that it's actually possible to switch to merc-based play earlier than I've suggested. Maybe you'll need to ask megaol exactly how does it work. Maybe it's a combination of utilizing crafters (which I did badly) and not doing stupid things like dumping AP into Increased Draft Sizes (which is something I did that makes no sense).

For sure I know that switching to merc-based play can be done starting at the second half of ascension 2 because I did it. Of course it doesn't mean that it cannot be done earlier with more optimized play, especially with crafters being utilized. I didn't use crafters much and relied on bonuses and caches only until midway through ascension 3, which was probably a big mistake that made it harder for me to switch to merc-based playstyle earlier.

And even though many aspects of my gameplay is non-optimal, or even quite bad actually, my gameplay is certainly still much better than any strategies that continue to rely on army camps throughout all of ascensions 2,3.

Even with the big mistake of not using crafters much, I could still make merc-based gameplay works so well. Imagine what can happen if you use merc-based gameplay while correctly utilizing crafters (which is probably what megaol did). This shows the importance of the Additional Mercenaries advancement, which is pretty much essential when talking about gameplay up to the end of ascension 3.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/1/2021 12:46:02

functor
Level 56
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@Phoenix

> In all those numbers I don't count alloy values in general. I choose the recipe by greatest sell value, not profit like it is noted on the Smelt Stats.

I think above is the root cause of the difference of your play time and others.

I strongly recommend you to do the following calculations yourself.
* Calculate the profit per second of each recipe (with artifacts and advancements) assuming that the ingredient supply is infinite.
* Calculate the profit per second assuming that the ingredients are all purchased from markets.
If you have time, you can also try to do the following.
* Calculate the profit per second with your actual ingredient supply.

After ranking the profit per second of these recipes under different situations, we can find the best recipe to craft. We will see that certain recipes are significantly better than others.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/1/2021 17:51:10

Phoenix
Level 21
Report
Again, I will read all of this at some point and comment on what I think I can contribute something to. It's awesome how much reaction I got and I think I already switched plans (slightly).

Regarding krinid's initial reply: Yes, WZIC is a AP-loosing game but not as much as one might think. Well, in general I agree, just upgrading advs for challenges isn't great. But until recently I'd only beaten Huruey's castle (I have Auto-Conquer at 25%, but I don't know anymore whether this was necessary to beat this level or if less percentage was enough already), now with just Auto-Army Camp Upgrade unlocked (at 5%) in addition I managed to clear the next four challenges in one go. So, I had costs of 691 APs and got 400 APs back (I think, I honestly haven't really cared for the finish messages, but they all give 100 APs, right?). For 100 APs more I could double my Auto-Upgrader in the sense that it would only wait until half the money is reached to upgrade to the next stage. Not sure, if I want to test this out, but based on how the sixth challenge played out, this might be enough to beat it. Then, I would have spent 100 APs to win 100 APs. Still, investing in Auto-advs isn't any useful for me today, because I don't use them outside of battles and challenges. But I would argue that challenges aren't as bad as some think. If you have some decent baseline advs (that also benefit your normal levels), then only a few more APs invested can get you a few (or just one) more challenges. If only the buy-in costs / unlock costs of advs weren't that high.

Given my challenge rewards and as soon as I have the current map (Asia: Population) finished, I will have enough APs too unlock and max out Merc Discount. And I'm really thinking about doing this. This would be my first step towards a more merc-centric strat. As I said, Merc Discount for me is a requirement to such a strategy. I tend to not unlock/upgrade advs midway through a level (mostly because I just don't have enough to buy what I want to buy next), so I will wait and see whether this still appeals to me in a few weeks (even if I wanted to, I only could afford the unlocking right now). I really want to end this play through with Increased AP (to make the early levels on later play throughs worth something ;) ) but there are still a few levels after Asia to spend APs on other stuff, perhaps I try Additional Mercs. Let's see. I'm in one of those phases where for the guide I've just put something in the open slots between the blocks that I was sure about. And although I don't follow this plan, the phases of free-choice still line up so far.

And... no, I haven't confused you, megaol, with Mathematician. I just said your first ascension time and Mathematician's second ascension time don't line up at all. If I assume that you both are equally skilled (which is just an assumption for the sake of this argument), then a second ascension time should be lower than a first ascension time. As this is not the case, there has to be some explanation for this. So, either you are way more skilled then both me and Mathematician (which is a broad spectrum of what you perhaps do better), or you have bonuses that others don't have/use (SuperCamp, ad-boosts, AP-boosts with coins or CW rewards), or the numbers are on different map generations, or something else.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/2/2021 13:45:32

graemes
Level 59
Report
The min-max “Auto” advancement strategy is to disregard these for an extended period of time, then once a certain AP threshold is reached, rebalance AP into entirely “Auto” advancements, clear a bunch of challenges, win a bunch of battles, then rebalance AP back into non-“Auto” advancements.

Calculating this threshold is left as an exercise to the reader.

Assumptions:
1. Willingness to spend 300 coins
2. Fairly active player who would not be significantly benefited (or even hurt by) “Auto” advancements in regular WZI play
3. No or limited desire to do WZI battles or WZI challenges on a recurring basis

Edited 8/2/2021 13:46:04
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/4/2021 18:57:55


krinid 
Level 60
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Certainly not all Advancements are made equal. Some are simply better than others, and JS is the king of them all - not only b/c it's cheap, but b/c it constantly maintains its value from the moment you unlock it through 1st Ascension and long after even after 4th or 5th Ascension, it still holds value, which isn't the case for all Advancements. Merc & money based Advancements are directly after JS. Counting only army camp units & mercs, my ratio of armies earned is 4% army camps, 96% mercs. As you progress through levels, your speed gets QUICKER not SLOWER -- so army camps that require you to wait longer to get the benefits from (and let's be clear here - if you clear a level more quickly, you're earning less armies from your camps unless you somehow hyper-upgrade them asap, but then you still have to wait to earn the units from them) do not align to this strategy, but merc & quick money making strat aligns to clearing faster. Basically, it's quicker to craft, earn money & buy mercs, then it is to craft, earn money, upgrade camps, wait for armies to accumulate.

In my opinion, the best advancements are, in order of raw value, not in order they should/can be unlocked:

- Joint Strike
- Better Hospitals
- Increased Cache Armies
- Increase Crafters Speed
- Increase Item Sell Values
- Additional Mercs
- Discounted Mercs
- Increased AP
- Increased Cache Money
- Increased Army Camp Production
- Increased Ore Sell Values
- Discounted Mine Upgrades
- Faster Digging
- Increased Cache Resources

And I've purposely left these two out . . . b/c they are essentially a set pair, and by the time you can afford them, you likely no longer need them b/c you've already Ascended 3-4 times and probably don't care about playing ML anymore, and maybe not even WZI anymore at all.

- Simultaneous Levels
- Can Skip Levels

But of course you can't unlock them in that order b/c some are locked in phase 2, 3 or 4. Now if I reordered these into the order that they should be unlocked & unless stipulated also fully maxed out before continuing down the list, I'd probably say:

[phase 1]
- *Joint Strike
- Increased Army Camp Production - only to ~100%
- *Additional Mercs
- Increased Ore Sell Values
- Discounted Mine Upgrades
- *Increased Cache Money
[phase 2]
- *Increase Crafters Speed
- *Discounted Mercs
- *Increased AP
- *Increased Cache Resources
- Increased Army Camp Production - up to 200-300%

[phase 3]
- *Increase Item Sell Values
- Increased Money from Bonuses

[phase 4]
- *Increased Cache Armies
- *Better Hospitals
- *Faster Digging

NOTE:
- Items with asterisks are the ones that will give the highest value AFTER your 1st Ascension b/c they aren't related to time, but rather to activity, such as capturing a territory, crafting items, etc. Completing a level more quickly doesn't impact the value these advancements provide.
- Item without an asterisk are time based, meaning you need time to pass in order to get benefit from those advancements, and thus as you level up and begin to complete levels more quickly, the less value these advancements will provide.
- Thus, imho advancements like JS, Additional+Discounted Mercs, the Cache bonuses, Better Hospitals, Crafter Speed, Item Sell Values have higher longer term value than advancements like IACP, Ore sell value, Increased Money from Bonuses. We can call these "long term benefit advancements" (LTBA) and "short term benefit advancements" (STBA).
- STBA are still necessary to do better on your 1st playthrough, even to some degree on your 2nd playthrough. IACP up to 200-300% is still likely going to have some value in early level phases before mercs & crafters come into play.
- But as your level clear times decrease, you're going to have less time to mine ore, to earn money from bonuses, to accumulate armies from army camps, etc. What took 16+ days to clear on the first playthrough and allowed you to generate lots of armies/ore/money, will only take 4-7 days on the 2nd playthrough, vastly reducing the benefit you receive from these STBA. This became clear to me when I compared my level clear stats of levels from my 1st and 2nd playthroughs, and finding that despite upgrading IACP, Ore sell values, Money bonuses, etc, that my armies from camps, income from selling ore & from bonuses was significantly down each time. Of course this is the simple math of VERY LONG TIME * MediumValue >> VERY SHORT TIME * HighValue.
- But the LTBA are related to activities such as buying mercs, capturing territories or caches, crafting items (technically this is still somewhat time based but this LTBA actually makes things craft more quickly, so it mitigates this factor), finishing levels, etc. So the benefit these provide doesn't reduce as your clear speed decreases, and they continue to offer high value despite the value of the STBAs reducing.
- It actually poses the question whether investing in a blend of STBAs & LTBAs to get through the 1st playthrough and maybe part or all of the 2nd is still recommended, and then resetting AP to focus on the LTBAs from that point forward.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/4/2021 19:40:31


krinid 
Level 60
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@Phoenix
Btw, yes it was me that didn't upgrade army camps for more than 1B cost. Now I typically don't even go past ~200M b/c at the end of the level, regardless of how much money I put into upgrading them, they just don't give much output compared to mercs, hospitals, JS, caches & drafts (usually in this order). Armies from army camps is always last. So I just repurpose the money into hospital upgrades.

That said, army camps are valuable for the early game, before crafting & merc camps are available. They get the level started and moving to transition into the crafting/hospital/merc mid & end game. Once I enter that stage, all money either goes to (a) buying mercs, (b) upgrading hospitals, (c) buying ingredients to craft items so I can sell and then do (a) or (b).
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/7/2021 13:10:43

Phoenix
Level 21
Report
Now, I've read everything, let's see if I remember everything I wanted to comment on:

Following this strategy, I managed to complete AD 1045 in 5 days.

Given your strategy and the APs this would cost, this will be in 2nd ascension, right? Let's see what my numbers will be then. I'm actually curious. Especially if I stick to a different strategy then everyone else. If I just copy you, I will likely get the exact same numbers.
Mercs-based gameplay isn't realistic in ascension 1 and the first half of ascension 2. It only starts becoming realistic in the second half of ascension 2.

Thanks, mate! While you are already doubting this statement yourself, this finally is a statement that is still somewhat true and can take some pressure from new players that get told that mercs are the ultimate answer to everything but can't make this work (like I commented on my attempt with the Peloponnese map). Similarly to the claims that upgrading artifacts is said to be always superior to swapping, which - if I may repeat - is not true if you can't upgrade at least two or three artifacts to epic or higher (or somewhere around that point, I haven't calculated this but estimated, so you might be able to make this work earlier or even need more fodder material).
Since your guide is intended to be a long-term one and covers until the end of ascension 3, and merc-based gameplay is realistic once you've reached the second half of ascension 2, it's important for me to bring up merc-based gameplay.

I see this and I agree. From my little (to no) experience of late-game gameplay (where late here means, with lots of APs) I really only were able to estimate what the future might bring. And I was still caught in a somewhat binary thinking: Either some advs are highly effective or they serve no purpose. I think I should see more of the gray scales in between.
With the help of Additional Mercenaries, I never run out of mercs, so there's no such thing as "all your mercs are gone".

Well, with no additional mercs, this situation happened to me all the time. And maxing out additional mercs isn't exactly cheap. So, seeing that mercs only cover 20% of my armies (as we now know) and knowing that buying mercs can often completely drain your money balance, I wasn't able to see the value of additional mercs IN THIS PHASE OF ME PLAYING WZI. But, yeah, I now accepted that my strategy isn't suitable for the long run.
Alternatively I can invest the money in mercs to capture more bonuses. A day has 86400 seconds and each second a captured bonus produces more money, which can used to buy mercs.

My original statement wasn't meant to be taken for face value. I know that upgrading an army camp minutes before finishing a level is ridiculous. But with only the 20% stock mercs (and no additional ones), you NEED army camp production, and then upgrading can be the right choice even if the break even point will never come before the level is done.
But I never really saw the other side of the picture, that conquering territories with bought mercs can also mean long term benefits. It's not just one less territory to conquer in order to clear the level, it's some over-time-benefits. Still, with no additional mercs and the fact that you only unlock the Merc Discount Techs rather late in the game, I think that saving most of them for the end, is still the best approach for my way of playing idle.
It all boils down to comparing the increase in "AP gain per unit time per AP invested" by investing on time save advancements and by investing on IAP directly.

I was about to say, that a speed-up of 67% with additional mercs isn't comparable to IAP because the mercs adv costs - what - three times as much APs than IAP (to max out), but fortunately you more or less added this yourself. I think that there are soo many factors to WZI that you can't calculate the exact time savings per spent AP, but I already figured this out for each individual adv. Most advs have their peak at stage 3 to 5. Best IACP is at 30 or 40% iirc, best IAP is 7% or so... There is one adv, though, (can't remember which one unfortunately) that has its peak at stage 1. So, already the first upgrade is a loss in efficiency. But this piece of information won't be a good guide when it comes to idle, there is so much more involved than just best ROI when it comes to advs.
As for the question of why the levels took so little time -- that's exactly my evidence for the argument that my strategy works better? Not sure what I'm supposed to say here. I didn't have supercamp, or anything else other than powers on the level itself.

To make this clear, I'm not calling you a liar! It's just hard to believe. At this point, one has 4.1k APs to spend, so, sure, you can have unlocked and upgraded additional mercs a bit, you can have maxed out money cache boost. But still, you make it sound like there were always enough mercs, which is hard to believe, and there was (almost) never too little money, which I could see work but still unlikely. Perhaps (to paraphrase Parsifal) you should try to write down your strategy as best as you remember. This could really be the one piece of information that might convince more players that mercs are the key even early on.
I strongly recommend you to do the following calculations yourself.

I'll move my reply to this to a separate post, this is already getting way too long and I want to highlight some aspects for crafting.
We can call these "long term benefit advancements" (LTBA) and "short term benefit advancements" (STBA).

I've seen this analysis already because you effectively posted it twice into two different discussions. And I totally agree. I'm just not sure yet, what that means for my strategy. As you highlighted yourself, it does not tell us anything about whether one type might be strictly superior to the other or not. And there is also the third time of advs, the "convenience advs", like stats, any of the visibility advs, the auto-advs, (to some extend) idle time.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/7/2021 13:28:10

functor
Level 56
Report
@Phoenix

>> Following this strategy, I managed to complete AD 1045 in 5 days.
> Given your strategy and the APs this would cost, this will be in 2nd ascension, right? Let's see what my numbers will be then. I'm actually curious. Especially if I stick to a different strategy then everyone else. If I just copy you, I will likely get the exact same numbers.

The advancements in my first reply in the thread consists of advancements that I have already obtained, and those I plan to obtain. Below are my latest advancements.

* Increased Army Camp Production: 100%
* Joint Strike: 25%
* Increased Ore Sell Values: 100%
* Additional Mercenaries: 42.5%
* Statistics: 1
* Auto-Conquer: 5%
* Mercenary Discount: 35%
* Increase Crafters Speed: 25%
(I got Statistics 1 to estimate the length a level much more accurately.)

> > Mercs-based gameplay isn't realistic in ascension 1 and the first half of ascension 2. It only starts becoming realistic in the second half of ascension 2.
> Thanks, mate! While you are already doubting this statement yourself, this finally is a statement that is still somewhat true and can take some pressure from new players that get told that mercs are the ultimate answer to everything but can't make this work (like I commented on my attempt with the Peloponnese map).

I would say that this claim is false. It is possible to employ merc-based strategy in the first playthrough. I am currently using it, and it works very well. Below is the time I spent on some levels I finished recently.

* Reconquest 1065: 5 days
* Fort Harbor: 4 days 4 hours
* Europe 1066 AD: 4 days 21 hours
* AD 1045 - Roads of Silk and Iron: 4 days 13 hours
* Old Town: 4 days 2 hours
* Orbis Veteribus Notus: 4 days 9 hours

I am getting more and more familiar with mercs, and I expect to finish Scandinavia in about 4 days.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/7/2021 13:35:49


Master Jz 
Level 62
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I agree with functor.

For 5876 AP, you can bring additional mercs to 60% and max out discount mercs, cache money, cache resources, and ore sell values. For another 3282 AP, you can also max out crafter speed.

This is very achievable during the first ascension.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/7/2021 14:58:04

Phoenix
Level 21
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Now, let's focus on smelting/crafting only. I will mention some extremes a few times, to differentiate several approaches, but (a) I'm aware that there will be only few players that fall into these extreme categories, most will be somewhere in between, and (b) that this will apply nonetheless because even if you use a composite approach, all the statements will still be true for the part of your composite strategy that uses approach 1, and the other comments will be true for the part of approach 2. If you - say - switch from smelting for techs to smelting for profit at some point in each level, you will be covered by different parts of my analysis at different points in time.

There are three strategies for smelting (if we assume there is no crafting):
  • not smelting at all
  • smelting for techs
  • smelting for profit
Not smelting at all is a waste if there is at least one recipe that makes any profit. Smelting for techs is fine (especially on one's first play through in order to get the achievement) but for this approach you don't care for an alloy's sell value or the sell values of the ores. When smelting for profit, you will look at the alloy's sell value and (depending on your point of view) also on the ores' sell values. If you read on, you will see that I would probably only take the alloy's sell value into account here, but the situation that I have smelters to spare is really rare, so the only viable option for me here is smelting for techs. If I don't craft (because I haven't found crafters yet) or if I can spare a smelter, then I only smelt for techs. After my first ascension I might (I don't know yet) stop unlocking techs (or at least some of them) so I might abandon smelting as a stand-alone thing at all (or switch to profit smelting as long as the following parts don't apply).

When it comes to crafting there are several dimensions:
First you can:
  • not craft at all
which again, is a waste if there is at least one profitable recipe. If you chose to craft you have the options to:
  • craft for techs, and
  • craft for profit
and then there is a different dimension whether you want to:
  • buy ingredients from markets, or
  • produce everything yourself
If you craft for techs, all the sell values don't influence your recipe choice. It really doesn't matter that you are working on the lowest profit recipe or the highest profit one, whatever you crafted will be spent on techs anyway. If you craft for profit, this changes. Again, in this case the items' sell values are relevant to determine the profit of some recipe. And if you buy ingredients from markets you also have to include their sell values into the equation (more or less because buy prices are related to (unbuffed) sell values). But if you craft only with your own smelted alloys and crafted items (note: I will take any overproduction of intermediate items into account, I just don't care for the used up alloys, but crafting recipes that require other items aren't really profitable at all (at this point), so this case rarely comes up), the value of your ingredients isn't as important anymore. Here's why: While for crafting from bought ingredients the buy prices are part of the profit and important to determine which recipes are profitable at all, for crafting from your own production the sell values of the ingredients are only important to determine whether a recipe is profitable at all. I will never craft a recipe for profit if it isn't profitable! Just like no-one of the crafting-from-markets guys will pick a recipe that isn't profitable after buying. But as soon as I have concluded that a crafting recipe has some profit (which, when crafting from one's own production most of the time has a significant profit that is almost always higher than several times the ingredients' value, so the invested value pales in comparison anyway), I only care for the sell value of this item per time unit and per involved crafter (and to a lesser extend the number of smelters). If one rivet crafter has profit x and three crafters that produce 2 times screws and one times metal pipes has profit y, I can calculate which one is a higher sell value per time and crafter (always rivets in this example). As I feel like I have problems arguing here, let me present you what I call "idle crafting". I apply this strategy as soon as possible and when I've crafted enough items to unlock all the techs.

"Idle crafting" follows a few conditions:
  • My mines produce more ore than my smelters need
  • My smelters produce more than my crafters need (I haven't run into the situation that this would involve smelting recipes that need alloys, but given that you mostly only need one alloy per type, I would probably ignore those alloy ingredients in smelting recipes)
  • My crafters produce more than my crafters need
  • I choose crafting recipes with the most profit/value (respecting my mine capabilities)
That can mean that:
  • I have to upgrade my mines, although sometimes I accept that my mine production is slightly lower if I have enough ores in stock
  • I can't put all crafters on one profitable recipe but have to spread them out a bit as I can't afford to upgrade all my mines to level 20.
  • I can in most cases run this approach almost infinitely without having to babysit anything (hence the name) the only times I have to adjust is after unlocking a sell value tech (at times, even those techs don't change the profits by much) or when I claimed another crafting recipe

If for example, I chose my crafting recipes in a way that require 3.7 of my smelters to work on, say, lead and I put 4 smelters on lead, the only aspect that I will neglect by not taking alloy values into account, is 0.3 worth of one lead smelter's output. And by having a strictly positive ore balance, I don't have to calculate their value either. If you view this as one smelter immediately feeding another crafter, the value of the intermediate product becomes irrelevant.

The key here is that I will never select unprofitable recipes in the first place and that the value of the ingredients is neglectable in comparison to the value of the created product such that not taking alloy values into account just means that I will make (almost) the same error in my calculation for each and every recipe. So, the alloy values get irrelevant again.

If you now craft for profit and buy from markets, you can also choose to smelt for profit or to produce whatever your smelters will need such that you have to buy fewer alloys. I haven't calculated this because I don't use this approach, but if we assume that your most profitable crafting recipe needed copper bars, which alloy would start making more profit to move your smelters from copper to this alloy? Without any buffs, buy prices are seven times the sell values and later alloys need more time smelting. So, you would have to find an alloy that (considering the ores' values, too), make seven times as much profit after compensating for the longer smelt times. While for my example with copper this might already be tin, for silicon this could be gold, for platinum this might be neodymium. I'd say for realistic choices of crafting recipes, it could be most profitable to smelt whatever you need for crafting because at some point the alloy values seem to stagnate (per time unit) and the steps from the used alloy to the more profitable alloy get bigger and bigger.

I hope this got clear. I could extend this post for another hour to reiterate over everything that I do, but I think this wouldn't be beneficial. Either you got my point or it is better to let you ask questions.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/7/2021 15:12:39

functor
Level 56
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@Phoenix

All the arguments you just post on crafting are only theoretical arguments, which are obtained from reasoning under some assumptions. I could point out some assumptions that I do not agree with, but I think you would just come up with more theoretical arguments to counter my points.

I really recommend you do some explicit calculations of the profit per second, using your artifacts, tech and advancements. If the calculated result favors your approach, then you can show it to us and prove that we are all wrong. If the calculated result does not favor yours, then you can trace back your arguments and find the faulty assumption.

Edit: When calculate the profit per second, please do not skip any steps, and do not make any simplification. Just use the most naive calculation.

Edited 8/7/2021 15:26:40
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/7/2021 15:33:06

megaol
Level 50
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@Phoenix, you wanted me to recount my ascension 1 strategy to see how I got those level times. I don't have the victory screenshot from Scandinavia to explain in detail, but apparently I do have Rise and Fall of Rome. This one took 8d5h.

Total Money Earned: 8T
Money from Territories: 500B
Money from Bonuses: 500B
Money from selling ore: 4B
Money from selling items: 5.2T
Money from caches: 1.6T

Total Armies: 395B
Armies from Camps: 30B
Mercs Purchased: 228B
Armies from Caches: 120B
Armies from Drafts: 18B
Armies saved with JS: 111B
Armies saved from Hospitals: 215B

The money stats should illustrate the power of crafting for profit -- I likely got most of my money crafting explosive bolts, while buying platinum bars off the market.

More interesting though, are the army stats. You question whether there are enough sources of armies in the level to preclude needing armies from army camps -- but here I got negligible amounts from the camps even in my first playthrough. I would guess I had ~50% additional mercs at the time. One thing I'd guess that could be a major discrepancy is hospitals -- you want to max basically all of them except the first few. The way I value a hospital upgrade is (cost of upgrade)/(0.75*#territories left*additional armies saved). This will give an approximate cost of how much you're paying per army by doing this upgrade. In the first run, I upgraded hospitals to around 2 times the most expensive mercenary. Hospitals are super important not to run out of armies your first run. Moreover, you shouldn't take territories you don't need to just to complete bonuses, etc. since these are territories you could get for free with hospitals later. All your fog busts should be about finding hospitals and taking them efficiently, ignoring even army camps (crafters and good recipes are worth taking too). Milking hospitals for all they're worth is how you make up the deficit armies when playing a merc-based strategy.

The important advancements i likely had at the time are joint strike, +100% army camps, +50% mercs, max merc discount, autoconquer 10%. I don't remember numbers exactly; I might've had more or less army camp/mercs than I'm remembering, or also had some increased crafter speed, or Increased cache monies.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/7/2021 19:53:37

Mathematician
Level 59
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Seems that now we have most things in agreement.

While I started merc-based gameplay in the second half of second ascension, some people here are claiming that they successfully started using merc-based gameplay earlier. That may be true, given that I played pretty badly early on, for example I didn't use crafters for profit and I unnecessarily dumped lots of AP into Increased Draft Size. Without making these mistakes that I made, it sounds reasonable that some people can start relying on merc earlier than I do.

Anyway, here's something for me to comment on:

the mercs adv costs - what - three times as much APs than IAP (to max out)

That's true, but there's no much point to max out Additional Merc. Once I've reached like 90%, I've never ran out of merc ever again.
NOT a guide for advancements: 8/8/2021 01:09:43

Phoenix
Level 21
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@functor: I guess we misunderstand each other. While I thought that you were criticizing my strategy to use different crafting recipes for each crafter, I now believe that you want to argue against my general approach of crafting from my own production. You don't have to, I already see the potential in crafting for profit from markets. I just haven't adapted this strategy yet. And I've read all those discussions about speedy crafters and such. The thing is, I still want to get all the achievements and if I settle for crafting for profit from markets, I'm not sure if I will get all the required items and alloys at the end or if I have to prolong a level just for some more whatever bars. As I hinted at, if you don't want all the achievements (for example because you already have them all), you can freely choose any smelting/crafting strategy you want. But from experience I know that there are alloys and items in every level that you need for techs but that aren't sold by any market, and that means that you need ores from mines, which itself takes time to produce. And even money can't help you with that. So, if I wanted to find an excuse, I'd say that the techs achievement are holding me back. But I'm fine with having a slower first ascension if I then have all the achievements completed and don't have to worry about them anymore.

@functor: about your initial reply here that listed your advs: why don't you invest in Discounted Mine Upgrades at all? I see that you have (or will have) Increased Ore Sell Value. But that assumes that there are ores to sell. Those ores have to come from mines and especially if you have very short level times, those mines have to be upgraded to a significant stage to even produce any meaningful amounts of ore that you then can sell. So, if your whole strategy is around making lots amounts of money, shouldn't you also try to cut costs where possible? I saw that krinid acknowledged that by putting both advs on his list and based on megaol's numbers I assume he hasn't invested in Ore Sell Values and isn't upgrading mines much (he makes only a 1000th of his item profit with selling ores). I'm just saying, how much value does Increased Ore Sell Value have if your level times are that short and if you don't have a Mine Upgrade Discount adv.

@megaol: I really wanted to find any flaws in the posted numbers, but they all work out one way or another. First, I doubted that you can constantly reach 33% hospital savings, especially on the final large territories (without the phase 4 Better Hospital adv), but the longer I think about it the more possible it sounds. And with 33% savings from hospitals and 25% JS, you already save 50% of all the armies that you need to clear the level. If another ~20% come from caches, it is apparent that only 30% have to come from mercs, which is 50% more than the stock 20% which lines up with your 50% additional mercs. As I said, I believe in your numbers, I'm just not sure i could play this way myself currently.

@Mathematician: true, the last third of an adv will likely make up half or more of the total cost. So, if 100% more mercs (which is two thirds of 150%, aka the maxed out amount) are all you need, than the adv effectively is only half in cost. Therefore, this adv is quite the opposite of most of the Auto-advs where they are only really effective if maxed out, so spending only a few APs to unlock the first stages doesn't get you anywhere.

With so much that has been said here, I realize more and more how little I know about this game and how right I was to call this a not-guide. I really have to thank you all for teaching me all this. Right now I only have to find my way to apply those findings to make up a strategy that feels good for me. I just checked whether I might want to reset my APs with what I know now, but luckily I found very little that feels wasted so far and that I can't make up for easily with the next few levels.
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