This tutorial is mainly an expression of opinion of an experienced Ikariam player and not an official game guide. The official Ikariam guide gives you all the relevant details on a particular military unit: hit-points, armour, ammo capacity, speed and costs to produce, hourly rates of pay, speed of movement, how many citizens need to be recruited for one unit, and of course the damage the unit can do to the opposition. What it does not tell you is how to use your units to the best effect under variable circumstances. The Wikkariam guides are great, but even if you memorise every number in the stats given it will not make you a great general. But hopefully this tutorial will. Bear with me and with patience and a little luck you will lead one of the greatest military forces on your server. Checkout the award-winning Ikariam Army upkeep calculator in the middle of this page.
A humble spearman is the first unit that becomes available for recruitment. It is also the most underrated unit. Many advanced players don't have them. Well, it is their loss. 4000 spearmen will defeat 1000 swordsmen while costing the same upkeep. In spearman versus swordsman engagements the casualty rate is 3:1 in swordsmen favor. The upkeep costs are 4:1 however. This of course ignores recruitment costs. General rule of thumb is during the times of peace recruit spear men in small batches. But in times of war, when speed of recruitment and population recovery is crucial, hire swordsmen. Also if you are short of sulfur you can get spearmen instead of swordsmen.
But where the spearman really shines is it's low cost, allowing to recruit huge numbers of units. This bulks your army and makes it look bigger and stronger than it really is - a useful deceptive tactic. When your are attacking somebody they will see for example 10000 units coming. They will not see what those units are before the battle starts.
Having large numbers of spear-men increases the city garrison and ensures that a battle carries on outside the city walls for as long as possible. Read why this is important for defender in a section about Ikariam Buildings.
Ikariam gold upkeep calculator
Use this little calculator to calculate how much your Ikariam army will cost you. Fell free to experiment. See what happens if you have a Militaristic Future level 44...
Let’s take a better look at the simple battering ram. The official guide says it is for breaking down walls and gates and gives all the relevant stats. What it does not tell you is that a ram is, contrary to logic, an artillery piece – same as a catapult or a mortar. It is powerful enough to take out a fully upgraded hoplite, even if the attacker is using the Forge at level 5. Therefore 30 battering rams behind a wall will annihilate 30 enemy hoplites per round. The rams will also seriously damage enemy steam giants (SG). Now, in real life a battering ram cannot do any harm to infantry – but in Ikariam it can and will. Whether this is a bug or intentional undocumented feature is of no consequence. The fact is rams are much better against infantry than they are against walls. Catapults and mortars have more destructive power, but they still kill just one front line unit per shot.
In battles between large experienced players a typical tactic (when the enemy forces are unknown) is to send a first attacking wave of hoplites, carabineers, swordsmen, gyrocopters and rams. A second wave would be mortars. The third wave – balloons. But this third wave should be send first – because the balloons move slowly – so that they can take part in the second round. The mechanics of the battle are as follows:
1. The wave of infantry supported by battering rams as artillery hits the enemy. If there is a large enemy army in defence an open battle will ensue. The enemy hoplites will be in the frontline and the SGs in reserve. Casualties on both sides will be equal, provided both sides have fully upgraded troops, full frontlines and use the Forge at the same level (or don’t use it at all). At this point the attacker gets to know what opposition he is facing. He may choose to retreat or to activate the Forge and press the attack home. Rams are cheap and tough and can take 2- 3 hits from the enemy balloons before being destroyed. The enemy will waste a lot of balloon ammo on the attacker’s rams. If the attacker discovers no enemy army in defence or if it is just a token force hiding behind a wall, he will lose a few hoplites in the first round without doing much damage to the enemy. But in the second round the attacker’s mortars and balloons will make mincemeat of the enemy city wall and its defenders.
2. While the first round of the battle is in progress the attacker must take a close look at the defender’s air-force – can it be neutralised in one round? If it cannot be, then the wave of mortars and balloons must be withdrawn and more infantry and rams thrown into the battle. Once the enemy balloons are gone, it is safe to send in mortars. But it only makes sense to send in mortars if the enemy is about to run out of hoplites – and his SGs will take to the field; or if he is about to retreat behind the city walls. Otherwise rams are better than mortars. There is unlimited ammo for rams. Mortars only have 3 shots. And if the situation changes and the attacker needs to retreat in a hurry, it is better to abandon cheap rams to their fate than the expensive mortars… As the attacking balloons slowly approach the battle zone, it is also prudent to check that there are no defending gyrocopters. For best results it may be necessary to recall the balloons and send them in later. It is vital to recall a wave *before* it arrives otherwise there is a one hour “recall penalty”, that had been implemented to discourage waving of troops.
I hope the above has demonstrated that a battering ram is a very valuable military unit. If the game developers change the battle algorithm so that the rams can no longer do any damage to infantry, the next best thing is catapults.
Currently it makes little sense to use catapults – they cost 25 gold an hour – not much cheaper than 30 gold/h for a mortar, and catapults are far less destructive against a wall, and cannot break a level 30+ walls at all. As an anti-infantry weapon catapults have a slight advantage over rams if used against SGs. And they withstand the attacks by balloon bombardiers better than mortars – taking 2 hits instead of 1. On a new server, where lots on inexperienced players have mainly SG based armies and no hoplites, they catapult is king. On the old servers where advanced players hardly ever use SGs, having catapults is a waste of gold. But if your opponent is foolish enough to use SGs instead of hoplites then it is best to use catapults instead of rams. Some large players have rams, catapults and mortars. When attacking an unknown target they would sometimes send a wave of rams (with infantry and air force) and a wave of 40 catapults and a wave of 30 mortars. If the enemy uses SGs in front line the attacker can withdraw mortars, and leave the catapults and rams to provide artillery support.
Mortars are expensive and slow to manufacture, they cost 30 gold/h, and are destroyed by a single balloon hit. A flight of 30 balloons will destroy 30 mortars before they even fire a shot. But mortars are superb against a wall. They are the only type of a siege engine to be able to break through a level 30+ wall. They are also good against SGs – scoring a clear kill with every shot. A good use of mortars is to plunder inactives – 30 mortars and 7 spearmen will break through any undefended wall and plunder the place. Mortars should never be sent in the first wave against an unknown target, and they should never be left in an occupied city overnight. Mortars are excellent siege weapons for an attacker. They are poor defence weapons. If you expect an attack while you are away from the game, send your mortars to defend a powerful neutral neighbour for 8 hours. One of the successful tactics for an attacker is to use mortars to take out 2 or 3 sections of the enemy wall and then recall them, letting the rams take over. The enemy frontline troops will step into the gap in the wall to receive concentrated fire from all of your frontline, carabineers and artillery. The defenders will suffer very unfavourable casualty rate. Eventually they will run out of the frontline and their swordsmen will be forced into the frontline. From that point onward the battle will be almost entirely one-sided, with the attacker hardly losing any troops. The disadvantage of this method is that it takes longer to crush your opponent and your victim may come back online and order retreat or will bring in reinforcements. If the attacker is not online when the defender brings in reinforcements the victory may turn into defeat.
Steam Giant (SG)
The official game guide describes Steam Giants as invincible war machine – a tank of antiquity - “swords and spears bounce of its armoured hide”. But are steamers really that great?
There have been a lot of discussions on the Ikariam forums over the years what are the best frontline troops. Well, the answer is obvious. The game engine puts hoplites into the frontline and the SGs are kept in reserve. The reason for this is because a stack of hoplites is more powerful than a stack of SGs. The hoplites are also cheaper, faster to produce and most importantly a hoplite’s rate of pay is 3 gold an hour versus 16 g/h for an SG. Large experienced players hardly ever use SGs. A good use of SGs is to terrify small players and take over small towns when you manoeuvre in the field. A level 10 wall cannot destroy an SG, but would annihilate a hoplite. If the enemy forces and composition is known and there are no mortars, it would be a good idea to send your first wave with SGs in the frontline. As the SGs start to accumulate damage you should replace them with hoplites. If bullying small players is your game then SGs are definitely better option than hoplites. Small players as a rule do not yet have mortars (that kill SGs with each shot) or carabineers (that severely damage them). SGs however are next to useless in wars between large experienced players. SGs are not being repaired by the doctors.
Hoplites are heavy armoured infantry – they are the king of the frontline. While less powerful than a steam giant on a 1 to 1 basis they cost much less and are overall a better choice. Unlike SGs the hoplites are being repaired by the doctors, although it is not clear how many doctors are required for optimum result.
Swordsmen are terrifying as flank warriors. If you lose the flanks the enemy swordsmen will chop down all of your artillery and carabineers without taking a single loss. Swordsmen are not treated by the doctors for some mysterious reason and they are useless as frontline troops. A stack of hoplites will destroy a stack of swordsmen without taking any losses.
Spearmen versus Swordsmen
Spearmen are also flank troops, but since they cost only 1 gold/h compared to swordsmen 4 g/h they are arguably better troops. When swordsmen clash with spearmen the kill ration is 3 to 1 in swordsmen favour. But since the cost ratio is 4 to 1 in spearman favour it can be argued that the spearmen give you more bang for your buck. Experienced players have a combination of swordsmen and spearmen. More aggressive players, those who fight often, have mostly swordsmen because they cause more losses to the opposition. More peaceful players fight rarely and have mostly spearmen, because their upkeep costs are low, and it is annoying to keep a lot of costly units without actually using them.