If our previous tutorials gave the impression that Ikariam is to be played exclusively Simkariam style you have been mistaken. Ikariam is a fist-rate war game. While in some browser games battles are like two rams knocking their heads together with the biggest ram always winning, Ikariam battles are more akin to dancing. Armies move back and force, travelling for hours and sometimes for days, clashing, retreating, feigning attacks, retreating again. There is asymmetric warfare, hit-an-run tactics, occupations, hidden armies and fleets, blockades and rebellions. I will start this tutorial from the beginning.
Ikariam is war game, but here wars are not as savage as in some other browser games. Cities can be pillaged or occupied, but they cannot be taken over permanently and destroyed, like for example in Evony, where upon logging in a player usually counts his cities to see if any has gone missing in the night. Ikariam war is so gentlemanly that when your city is occupied you still receive tax income from it, and the citizens are still producing resources as if nothing had happened. The occupier pays double upkeep for his troops, and he cannot remove even a single keg of wine from the city. There are few disadvantages to being occupied, like not being able to ship goods on the same island, launch attacks from the occupied city and troop recruitment costs are doubled. The occupied player can recruit troops and rebel.
There are even advantages to being occupied by a large player in that nobody is going to pillage the city. In Evony if your city is occupied it now belongs to the occupier. He may chose to keep it for himself, give it to somebody or turn it into an NPC town, by abandoning it.
Having your port blockaded for a long time is far worse as you cannot ship the resources in or out. The city could ran out of wine, or if it is a wine producing city you would not be able to send wine from that city to the rest of your kingdom. Fortunately, small players there can smuggle a modest amount of resources through the port blockade.
Battles in Ikariam last 15 minutes per round. It is possible to order retreat. The troops will fight for one additional round and then retreat in the case of the attacker, or scatter in the case of the defender. In some version of the game the defender can select which units to retreat, and chose to where they should go. In other versions the defending troops would just scatter for 4 hours. In Ikariam there is such a thing as morale of troops. After each round of battle troops lose 10% of morale because they are getting exhausted from fighting. Additional moral percentage is lost if they are losing, i.e. taking more damage, or more losses than the opponent, and for several other reasons. It is not uncommon for the attacker to flee because they could not breach the wall in 4 rounds.
There are several military units in Ikariam. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Not all of those units can be built early in the game though. It costs wood, sulphur and gold to recruit them, and there is an hourly pay, known as the “upkeep”.
The first unit that becomes available is a spearman. While it is not the most powerful unit, it is the cheapest – costing 1 gold coin an hour. Going purely by upkeep costs they compare favourably to swordsmen that cost 4 gold per hour. All being equal 40 spearmen will defeat 10 swordsmen. Both of these armies cost 40 gold per hour to upkeep. Many large players retain many spearmen in their armies.
Slinger, is the second unit to become available. Costing 2 gold per hour it is the second cheapest, but it costs least less wood to build than a spearman..
Very Small versus Very Small
If you are among the first to start on a new server as soon as it opened, all your opponents will be similar to you in size and strength. Many will be inexperienced and all will be very small. If you have read our Beginner’s Guide to Ikariam you will remember the advice not to waste resources on anything military-related. Warfare on a new server is savage, chaotic and very frequent. It is also pointless and usually unprofitable. Alliances are shifting too, and there is much treachery. While it appears to be a real wild-west, fear not! You can easily defend your resources by constantly upgrading your warehouses. You should have four of them in each town. Your neighbours are attacking you because they are hungry for resources, not because they hate you. This early in the game it is best to rely purely on warehouse protection, have zero military score and build walls just to level 2 or 3. Let them attack all they want. If they cannot loot anything you lose nothing and they waste gold and time, and the use of their cargo ships. You will soon notice that the frequency of the attacks drops. Most pillagers will not attack for a third time if their two first attacks had been fruitless. Resist the temptation to build military of any sort and invest all your gold into buying more cargo vessels and into getting more researches done. If you follow this strategy consistently, you will soon become the biggest player for miles around. Now, if you want some action, build one low-level barrack and recruit a few slingers and perhaps some rams. Put a few rams and one slinger in all your towns. Each ram and each surviving section of the wall will take out one attacker. A slinger will keep the battle going as long as there are still intact sections of the wall left. Without a slinger the battle will be over as soon as a first section of the wall is breached – usually in the 1st round. When the wall is destroyed completely your rams should retreat to safety. Thus not only will your attacker get nothing, they will also suffer heavy casualties.
Very Small v Large player
Obviously if you are a tiny newbie player being attacked by a raging behemoth the best part of valor is discretion. Learn to dodge. Build 4 warehouses, so he never pillages anything. Build a LV 16+ wall and keep 1 spearman in all cities and 1 warship. This will cause the attacker to waste time. If your attacker is particularly persistent, consider building a wall to level 20. A level 20 will destroy any enemy frontline unit per surviving wall section, even steam giants. If your attacker is losing troops to loot just a couple planks of wood, then you are hurting him.
But can you actually take initiative and go on the offensive against him? Yes, you can! Build 3-10 ram ships and attack his ports at random – starting with cities that are far away from you. Capture a port on an island next to his. Apologise to the owner, say you came in peace and only want to surprise somebody. From that captured harbor start hitting his ports. The conventional wisdom of Ikariam is to keep 1 ship in each port, while keeping the rest of your navy in one location. Chances are you will hit his 1 ship with 10 of yours – leading to your victory. Retreat from there leaving 1 ship behind, and occupy another neutral port on another island next to him. Of course you may get unlucky and hit his main fleet. In this case you will get no battle report apart from that your fleet has been reported missing. Now you know where his main fleet is based. Build more warships and keep hitting him, blockade his ports and leave 1 ship. This will force him to move his fleet to free his ports. This will make him waste gold and time. If you happen to be online when he counterattacks, you can retreat your blockading single ship to safety. Fighting back in this way is fun for you, but embarrassing for him. He may retaliate and occupy your ports with a huge fleet of his. But do not worry, it costs him a lot of gold and he will soon give up. He is even more likely to give up, if your fleet is hidden in a safe secret harbour and you keep hitting his ports despite of him blockading you. You can then negotiate peace with him. Or he will lift the blockade to hunt for your fleet. Also if you see an opportunity to rebel, you should. If he is blockading you with 20 ram-ships, build 40 rams all in one go and rebel. You can see how many hours it will take to build 40 rams, so you can time this event so that you are online when they are ready. Just click “rebel” button and watch the action. Don’t forget to relocate your fleet after an attack, because he will see on his battle report from where the attack had come and will come looking for you. Let him hit an empty space!
Small versus Large
If you are no longer a very small but a somewhat a bigger player in addition to your raiding navy you can send a plundering party of 40 catapults, 400 hoplites and 240 swordsmen and 70 sulphur carabineers. This army is large enough to fight for two rounds on equal terms. Consider getting a safe haven in a neutral city a couple of islands away from your enemy. Build up your embassy to the required level and start messaging players near your nemesis. Chances are they don’t like him, because if he is pestering you he may have pestered them in the past too. Once garrison right’s treaty is secured, move your army into the neutral city. From there you sally in force and occupy some small player with 0 military score, near your enemy, preferably on their island. Send a plundering mission to his city. If you run into his main army retreat immediately. You army is large enough to fight on equal terms for 2 rounds. If your troops are fully upgraded your casualty rate would be similar, apart from your catapults taking hits from his balloons.
If you hit an undefended city, haul away the loot. A real treat is to hit a small garrison and wipe it out.
Your enemy will get mad and will start raiding all of your cities. But if you keep your warehouses high he will get nothing, and if your walls are high he will take casualties, as well as waste time and gold. Keep hitting him while his army is attacking you and he will be forced to retreat to defend his cities. Eventually both parties get tired of this and peace is restored.
Medium versus Large
This is the same as the previous, only your send two attacking waves. First wave consists of 40 rams, 500 hoplites, 300 swordsmen, 70 carabineers, 60 gyrocopters. The second wave consists of 30 mortars and a dozen spearmen. You can include doctors with the first wave. The second wave will follow 10 minutes after the first and include cargo ships to haul away the loot. Why such elaborate tactics? Because you don’t know where his main army is located and what level is his wall. Catapults cannot breach a level 30 wall fast enough for your purposes, so you need to use mortars. But mortars are expensive and very vulnerable to balloon attack. So we send a first scouting wave of rams, and if we ran into a large army that we cannot defeat, we retreat both waves.
Large versus Large
The same tactic can be used when you become a large player yourself. It makes little send to engage in a set-piece battle and get a Pyrrhic victory. It is far better to hit a weak garrison with your main force and achieve a good kill ratio in your favour.
Keep tabs of when your nemesis is online. Try to establish what time zone his is in.
The enemy may use the same tactics as described above against you.
If you were hit by such a scouting attack as described above – move your troops to another city. He may return with the main army and with Hephaestus Forge activated.
Miscellaneous Ikariam War Tips
Protect your army from annihilation
Weather you are a seasoned hard-core player with a multimillion total score or a green beginner with only two tiny villages you can use this handy and little-documented feature of the game. Select a city belonging to the biggest and meanest player in the area – one who is not in your alliance. You will see square buttons giving various options. We are not looking at red buttons for “pillage” or “occupy”, but for blue ones, “defend city” and “defend port”. Click on “defend city” and you will be given options of which troops you wish to send to defend your neighbour and for how many hours. Now, why would anybody want to defend a big and a mean neighbour? The reason is simple – your troops will not be in your own city, so they could not be destroyed there. Instead your troops will be in the city of the big and mean neighbour, behind his high walls and protected by his large army. In the unlikely event that your neighbour is attacked, your troops will end up defending his city, hopefully alongside his powerful army. But if you send them there with no cooks, they are will get hungry very soon and will flee, thus minimising your losses. Of course, nobody attacks big mean players. Nobody dared to attack me for over 2 years.
You can send your troops away on a defend mission of up-to 8 hours, plus the travel time both ways. When sending the troops to defend chose a neighbour with the highest military score. You can even send your army to defend the guy who is attacking you. He will see your troops marching toward his city on a defend mission, and he would be able to see them when he clicks “troops in town” button. But he would not be able to eject them or harm them in any way. You can send troops to defend towns on another islands too, they will not be bounced off by the defending navy, because they come in peace. This way you can easily calculate when your troops return. For example if you expect to be away from computer for 10 hours and you expect a massive attack, send your troops two islands away for 8 hours. They will return in about 10 hours. (8 hour mission, plus, 80 minutes sailing time to and back, plus loading time in your port.)
I frequently use this tactic to slip the net when I am trapped on an enemy alliance island with all ports blocked and the superior forces closing in.
One of my favourite things in Ikariam is to load 4-5 thousand troops on cargo boats early in the morning, so they arrive at their secret destination (a distant allied town, or a small neutral town I captured earlier) by the evening. When I come home from work I log into Ikariam and find my troops have arrived and are relaxing in their hideout. From there I send them on another journey – just a short hop an island or two away – to where the target is located. I like to target biggest and strongest players on the server. I get on the designated enemy island by capturing a small neutral town there. I use a small naval force of 20 fire ships to capture the neutral port. If the neutral player has 0 military score, you can dispense with the naval escorts. But it is always good to have a few warships at your disposal.
Once on the island I attack my target. The aim here is not to pillage, but to have fun, that is to damage their army and occupy their cities. I don’t include cooks with the army: if it is impossible to win in 4-5 rounds, I recall the first wave and attack another target. Of course the moment my troops land on the island, my target and all his alliance mates on the island get a report, that a “town on your island has been occupied by troops from – name of town and a link to where my troops have come from ” Occasionally I discover myself outnumbered with all escape routes cut off, and tens of thousands of enemy soldiers are closing in from all sides. Now, I don’t like being a sitting duck, locked in a defensive battle, so if there is time to load the troops, I send them to some hidey-hole on another island nearby. I would reinforce them and resume the offensive on another day, possibly at a different time, at a different location. If the neutral trade port is a low level it can take hours to load the army though. Fortunately there is also a recall button that loads your army instantly and they sail home. Disadvantage of that is that the retreating army will go all the way back to a distant hometown and you cannot use them to attack again a couple hours later.
But say, I occupied a few enemy cities after a fierce battle and they all have lots of warships in harbour. In the meantime my own navy had to pull back to avoid defeat and my initial landing spot has been blockaded. There is truly, no way out now. Or is there? Some players in this situation hit Vacation-mode to save their army. But there is a better way – send your army to defend any of the enemy cities on the island. Set the mission time to 8 hours*. Once the enemy liberates their cities, you recall your troops and they get scattered. Don’t worry; they will arrive safe and sound in your cities by tomorrow. In the past there was a bug that made the troops return to home cities in just 4 hours. Now it is 4 hours + travel time. But occasionally the bug resurfaces. It is a very handy undocumented feature.
In the past, in some versions of the game, the troops returning from a defend mission, or retreating after an attack would fight the troops that occupied their landing ground. There had been no way to retreat then, save for hitting V-mode. If this feature is reinstated it is best to send your troops away for as long as possible – 8 hours. After occupying your landing ground the enemy is likely to pull back to avoid paying double upkeep. In any case, when raiding powerful enemies hit-n-run style always send your army without cooks. If they are cornered they will scatter to four winds after 5-6 rounds.
If your army has 30 cooks it will fight to the last man. There may be some situations where you may want just that, although I cannot image what that situation might be, unless it is a major alliance battle that goes on for days. In most other cases you would prefer your defeated army to retreat. Once your flanks or frontline are gone, the battle becomes one sided with the enemy swordsmen chopping down row after row of you sulphur carabineers who don’t even fight back. From that point on the enemy losses are zero, while your army is annihilated round after round. Replacing lost army units is costly. Not only it takes vast amounts of wood and sulphur, you also lose taxpayers that get drafted. A wise general knows when to retreat.
So you have to calibrate how quickly the moral declines, so your troops will flee when the battle becomes hopeless. As a guide 15 cooks will keep your army fighting on almost indefinitely, as long as they are constantly winning. The morale always drops 10% per round due to troops getting tired. But it would drop a further 2% if the opposing side has more people and a further 5% if the enemy uses balloons and drops even more if your losses are higher, or if you suffer more damage. I found 20 cooks to be the best for strong garrisons in their own towns. They will keep the moral steady. Once the main troops are gone and anxilliary spearmen take to the field, your losses will start to mount and the morale will decline fast. This is a time to retreat, and indeed your troops will soon run for the hills.
30 cooks are needed in large alliance battles that are expected to last for days. Contrary to popular belief your allies don’t share their food with your troops. But they do share ammo. For raids into enemy territory I use no cooks for small armies, and from 5 to 10 cooks for large armies. When you are sending a powerful army to crash a weak opponent, you may use as little as 10 cooks. This will ensure that his army will be annihilated before your troops get too hungry. In the event that your victim has powerful friends and they come to his aid, your army will simply run once things get too hot for them.
Unfortunately if your enemies use Ares Miracle your army would not auto-retreat and would perish to the last hoplite... Even though Ares Miracle's official description states that it affects troops fighting in the vicinity of player's own cities, in reality it affects his troops fighting anywhere, even on another end of the world. It is enough for a single player to activate this miracle in a battle and every single participant in this engagement would fight to the end, unless manualy recalled of course. And don't run out of gold - use our Ikariam calculator