Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player


This post was originally posted in Strategy by gsmx. I placed it here because I think it is VERY worth noting. If you’re interested, follow the link to view replies.

Coming out of a very exciting high level game “Top Thirteen Games” I’ve decided I’d like to highlight some of my observations of some attributes that make the successful so successful. Please note that there’s not really one specials sauce to this and as savindwarf pointed out there are many different types of players, most types with their own formula to success.

1) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

As has been outlined so many times in the forum, communication is a given if you want to be successful in this game. You’re not going to win very many classic games using a gunboat mentality. You need to be in constant communication building alliances, negotiating treaties, gathering information, influencing people to do what you want them to do, and when necessary spreading propaganda. There’s a relationship building aspect to the game and the better players understand this. Sometimes you win the game because the players who have no shot at winning decide to throw their support behind you because they like you best.

2) All About the Moves

This is the chess aspect of the game. You need to know the board very well and have a sense for what your opponents are planning to do. You also need to have the sense to look a move or two ahead. Smart players realize that it’s not about where you are in the spring its about where you are in the fall. Best way I’ve found to sharpen this skill is two-player or gunboat games where you can remove the diplomacy aspect of the game and focus only on perfecting moves. Jokke was a master when it came to manouvers and knew how to be unpredictable. I find it helps to try to first figure out what moves you would do if you were in your enemy and then basing your moves around those.

3) “Spidey Senses”

Good players can sense when a stab is coming. They know because of a shift in mood, a change in communications, suspicious actions, or sometimes just as simple as seeing they would stab too if they were in their opponents shoes. Many players can feel the stab coming, but for some reason many players don’t act on this suspicion. They decide to wait until after the stab comes to react, although by that point it’s usually nothing more then name calling because the damage is done. If you feel a stab coming then call the person out, prepare for it, or beat them to the punch. I’d much rather be called paranoid then a sucker. Awfulthings would often say his first sign of an impending stab is a sudden drop off in communications. If they stop talking, prepare for the worst.

4) Protect Your Interests

As ties in to #3′, good players take precautions always. You can be extremely trusting to your allies in the beginning but don’t leave your throat exposed too long and never ever in the end game. Constantly keep allies and neighboring treaties in check and call them out on any concerns. Diplomatically set an expectation of your allies to always ask permission if they are going to cut too close to any of your centers and always try to have a good understanding of what their plans are so you’re never caught off guard. Playing with CS and Awfulthings as allies i found our alliance was in a perpetual state of negotiations and renegotiations, it was just baked into our daily discussions.

5) Appreciate the Value of Trust

Most games will require some degree of lying sooner or later, however trust is currency in this game so don’t give it away haphazardly. Once a bridge is burned its often gone for the remainder of the game so be very sparing with lies that will catch up with you or blatant betrayals that leave a bruise of resentment. I’ve seen way too often players playing too hard too fast only to have painted themselves into a corner by mid-game when nobody is willing to work with them. Likewise, same applies for your competitors – any opportunity to discredit them is extremely useful. CS had mastered the commodity of trustworthiness which gets him extremely far in his games almost every time. People know he very very rarely lies which makes everybody want to align with him and often feel very guilty about ever wanting to betray him (I was an exception). Dontejones on the other hand was highly skilled at spreading mistrust and dissension amongst players through whispers and trickery.

6) Adapt and Evolve

The best players are the ones who know how to adapt as the game goes on. Follow the opportunity. Regardless of how ugly a stab is, you may still have use for that person later on so try not to slam the door shut on that person. Your bitter enemy today might be a mutually ideal ally later in the game. Would be a shame to let hard feelings stand in he way of a terrific opportunity. In our Top Thirteen game alliances shifted continually and it was the ability of former enemies to come together when needed that made the possibility of one person winning a solo so very difficult.

7) A Happy Wife is a Happy Life

Best alliances are when both sides are equally satisfied. Nobody is growing faster then the other, nobody is trying to steer an advantage in their favour, nobody is more vulnerable then the other, nobody is assuming more risk. This is a bit idealistic, but you get the idea. Occasionally offering to take a bigger bite of risk or suggesting for your ally to take a center is an investment in a strong alliance, and a strong alliance can get you incredible far. Be conscious of potential causes of frustration for an ally (like getting boxed in or taking the majority of the heat) could save you from a stab. If it makes strategic sense for your team, don’t be afraid to gift over a center. CS was completely selfless, which also helps him build extremely strong alliances in most games he plays.

8) Other Ways to Skin a Cat

Not every gain needs to come through brute force, it’s called “diplomacy” for a reason. Many people don’t even consider this aspect of the game. Sometimes rather then spending 3 years trying to force your way into the one space that is going to open up a tonne of growth opportunity for you maybe a “trade” with your neighbour is the better and quicker way to resolve thing, or support against an enemy that’s been threatening him, or any number of other incentives you can offer. I see games lost as players fight over hard to get “small potato” claims while they’re enemies run around grabbing all the “low hanging fruit”. Keep the big picture in mind and consider all options of how to get there.

Again, there are many different philosophies to how to succeed in this game and different things work for different people. Some succeed well with “shock and awe” (Lucifers_Hammer was great at this), some confuse and play wild card (i experienced this with my first encounter with Citizen Joe), and some are very good at laying low but knowing when to strike at the critical point (fatmo almost got me with this).

Don’t worry, this doesn’t really scratch the surface of all my trade secrets but hopefully enough to get a dialogue going. Love to hear some debate on this from all you Top 100 players out there.

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