The current tournament is deceptively simple.
The idea is to hold squares on the map. So, maybe what you want to do is to pile a load of troops on to the square – just bundle on as many soldiers as your alliance can muster, and eventually the biggest alliances will win the squares… right?
No, clearly not.
Success, in the short term, requires careful consideration of what troops are best suited to each terrain type, which should be sent to Occupy, and which should be used to attack (or raid) and then immediately retreat. Further, it requires consideration of whether an alliance should concentrate their efforts over short periods of time, or attempt to constantly dominate, and also judgements on when to raid and when to attack. And beyond this, there are questions of coordination between alliance mates, which may require accurate-to-the-second troop dispatches. So, there are lots of tactical options.
But after a few days, when it became apparent how much planning is required to excel in this tournament, I had people asking “this tournament lasts a month?! Why?!” What would have intrigued them for a few days or a week, looked like becoming a hard slog over several weeks.
So why did the GMs set up a tournament that lasts so long – why ask people to run a marathon, when many might have preferred a short sprint?
The answer is that Illyriad is not just about tactics. It’s also about strategy. Success over a short sprint is a question of sheer weight of numbers – how many troops an alliance can deploy – and also of tactical planning. But long term success is about strategy – it’s about how an alliance’s cities are constructed.
This is all about the replacement rate of troops. As the tournament wears on, people will lose their entire armies. So, what is vital, is how fast they can rebuild (replace) those losses. This is about resource production, sharing resources within an alliance, and especially getting boosts to troop production speed.
Production and recruitment bonuses both come down to Sovereignty. So, there were players who, in the first days of the tournament, completely reworked their Sovereignty – abandoning structures, building new structures, claiming new squares. No doubt there were also those who demolished and built buildings, changing their entire build strategy to improve their replacement rate. And there were plenty of alliances who pooled resources, so that expensively-crafted arms and armour were made available to alliance-mates rather than traded on the markets.
This is the beauty of Illyriad. What looks like a simple weight-of-numbers, pile-in contest, turns out to have two complex levels of hidden depths – both the tactical (what troops to deploy, how and when), and strategic (Sovereignty, city buildings).
But yes, to get all the depth that Illyriad has to offer, the tournament has to last a month.