Writing to Reach You: Two Months With Travian

Those Romans are crazy.

As I previously mentioned, I’ve been playing web-based strategy MMO/wargame/thing Travian. What’s surprised me was I played it so long. It even astounded Comrade Rossignol, who couldn’t quite believe that his perpetual gaming-mayfly housemate was still having a quick prod at that web browser game when he wandered into the room. In fact, since I was playing on the x3 speed server, my condensed experience would have equalled six months in the standard, even more sedate game.

But as I said in the original post, I always knew why why I would eventually stop playing and that moment hit on Friday night. I haven’t been on since. No regrets, of course. I had my fun, but unlike when I’ve been drinking, I also know when I’ve had enough and it’s time to leave.

So here’s what it was like living in a world of Goths, Romans and Teutons for a rainy English autumn.

Travian‘s a web-based MMO where you govern a small chain of villages in abstract-Roman times. On my server there’s over 20,000 players, of which a couple of thousand are currently online. However, rather than requiring perpetual attention, you’re only able to do limited orders at any time. You can give them, wander off and do something else (i.e. Work), and then return to give another one. For example, you tell your village to increase the level of their warehouse from 7 to 8. That’ll take half an hour or so, and it’ll be all your villagers can do for the period – so even if you have the resources, you couldn’t upgrade the Barracks too. As the levels climb, it becomes more expensive – both in terms of resources and actual time – to add another level. When you approach the level 20 on some, you’re looking at five or six hours – and that, remember, is on a x3 speed server. You reach a point where you’ll probably be better off expanding, and build a second village. Or a third. Or a twentieth.

Now, there’s 20,000 people all trying to do that in the same area. There’s an ingame communication system, including forum-alliances and similar. Politics is the name of the game, as while there’s room for intelligence to make a difference in combat, in the end, if someone has enough troops (and the resources required to build them) they can crush anyone. So friends are important, or at least fellow wolves. I ended up heading – I wasn’t in control, but I was the largest party, so ended up doing a load of diplomatic stuff – a small alliance, which lead to some amusing times trying to stop wars and persistent raids against smaller parties. That armies take as much time to cross the map as buildings do to construct (you could be looking at over a day for a larger force to return), co-ordination is key.

Now, raids are a core of the game. You don’t mainly fight for terrain. The abilities to actually capture settlements only appear well up the tech-tree, and you can’t ever take of an opponent’s capital anyway. What’s important is raiding – armies attacking settlements and as much of their stuff as they can carry. Now, there isn’t much a smaller settlement can do against a larger one. They won’t be able to build an army big enough to make a difference quick enough against a persistent raider (Smarter players will send their troops on long marches to distant places to keep them away from anywhere they may be attacked). Allies can send troops to reinforce, but in a smaller alliance, the amount of forces anyone could send wouldn’t be enough to stop them (Having enough troops to make the losses be less than what they’d gain is about the best you can hope for. And – y’know – some people don’t do the maths on losses very well). A player can also throw money into building crannies, where a certain amount of your junk is impossible to take. Also, just spending stuff constantly so there’s nothing they can steal too (The ability to destroy buildings comes with Catapults, but it’s pointless to do so except in a war situation). If that all fails, it leaves diplomacy – either talking someone into they’d be better off attacking someone else, or talking someone else bigger to threaten them or what. The member of my alliance who tried to dissuade people from attacking him by messaging them that they were cunts was, perhaps, taking a somewhat unprofitable route.

(This process, taking from other MMOs, isn’t known as “Raiding”, by the way. It’s known as “Farming”. This will become important later in this post)

Diplomacy, as always, is fun. It was the mixture of the slow growth of the Empire – knowing what I wanted to build and why – tempered by thinking what other people were thinking which kept it going. That it could be played with such a relatively low level of attention, of course, helped too. I waste time on the net between writing paragraphs when being a writer. Recently, I just did it with Travian instead.

Those Romans are crazy.

And it had its moments which I’ll specifically remember. Here’s my three favourite, in no particular order.

1) Sending my first proper attack at a distant foe. Someone was persistently attacking a member of my alliance, and simply wouldn’t stop. He was actually smaller than me, so I just went to war and wanted to apply a slap that actually stung. This meant sending catapults, with orders to mess up their infrastructure a little, knocking down things people have built, requiring them to reconstruct them. Problem is, you don’t want to send all your army in one big lump, because any defenders they have will have a chance to lay into your expensive siege weaponry. So what you do is send them in two attack waves. A large first one, which clears out the defenders and one moments later which is just the engines and their bodyguards. Problem is, armies move at the speed of their slowest member, so one with Catapults in moves much slower than a Cavalry strike force. Setting my catapults off at 4pm, I realise that to time the strike properly, I’ll need to send my other army at 11:14 that night. Setting my alarm, and trying to explain to my girlfriend why it was incredibly important that I turn on her computer RIGHT NOW, as she rolled her eyes, was just a cute moment of gaming integrating with life. And probably a reason why, eventually, I’ll be Mr Dumped.

2) Diplomacy in a similar situation. Persistent raider on an alliance member. I send off troops, just as a quick raid. He sends me an outraged mail, threatening me. I casually explain why I’m doing so – that he keeps on attacking a member, and if he’ll give it a rest, I’ll stop and pay back some repairations for whatever I took (I try and keep people sweet in such ways). He doesn’t quite seem to understand, and in broken English he explains that he has to keep on attacking people to keep his attack rating high (Every player in the game is ranked in all manner of categories). And I explain that there’s got to be better targets and… well, it goes on. Eventually, a moment of inspiration strikes. If we have a war, we’re so far apart him giving retaliatory strikes will mean he’ll be doing attacks less often tramping his soldiers half way across the map, so his ranking will suffer. He sees sense, and the attacks stop. Human beings are wonderful things.

3) Now, I’d been doing a little farming raiding myself, attacking smaller people in the vicinity to get extra resources. I wasn’t that vindictive. I was raiding for decent rewards, as hitting people for a few hundred a shot was a waste of my time and theirs. Also, I had worked out a cunning intelligence test. Anyone who mailed me and asked if I could stop attacking, I would. If I remembered, anyway. One poor guy to my north I forgot three times that we’d decided to be friends, prompting FOR GOD’S SAKE! mails from him each time. Also, with people who send a mail, I generally sent a reparations package of stuff. Less than I stole, admittedly, but I figured trying to keep people who were smart enough to send mails on side would be a good idea.

Anyway, there was one person I’d raided quite a few times. I’d just expanded my second village. I woke up one morning to find that he had had the audacity to attack my village. WHAT???!?!?! Yeah, his force had been wiped out by my guards, but the idea of it. So my catapults loaded up with really big rocks and headed off to reduce him to pieces. I take out his granary and warehouse – which, basically, cripple people from doing anything until they’re rebuilt due to immediately hitting the maximum amount you can store – and then started picking off his production centres. It was the gaming equivalent of the playground thing where the tiny kid takes his parents advice and actually stands up to the bullies – and gets totally fucking flattened for it. After a few raids, I get my first mail from the guy. A panicked mail, which paraphrases I WAS ONLY TRYING TO TEST THE COMBAT SYSTEM!!!! Bless. I sent some resources, said I wouldn’t do it again, and carried on. Bad, bad, Kieron.

Ah, good times.
Those Romans are crazy.

But by last week, I could tell it was winding down. The alliance had fell apart – most people were either bored with the game or bored with being farmed or both. The few remainders were considering what to do – joining a larger alliance struck us as the only real idea. Also, I could feel my attention wandering. While running a villages is low attention, running five or six requires literally five or six times more time. I could have expanded to more villages earlier, but I’d put it off for the week since I knew I couldn’t be bothered with all that extra clicking right now.

It was at which point, one of my smaller, relatively defenseless villages had raided. And while it was small and defenseless, it did have a load of good resources. It was by the leader of the largest alliance in the vicinity. I had a think, wondering what to do. Well, really, my fault. It wasn’t defended enough and was without a cranny. Some scouting revealed there wasn’t really a target I could reprise against. Since it was in a week of ennui, I let it slide. I’d worry about it when I got back from the weekend.

Except, a few hours later, another member of the alliance join in. This gets me thinking in a different way. Fuck it, basically. You’re looking for an excuse to stop playing the game. Yeah, you won’t win a war here, but you could throw away all your troops on a strike against the right target and fuck up their economy in that town for a few days. I’d become sick of the primary tactic of the game to be simple predating of smaller players, with no way out other than waiting it out or joining their alliance. And then they give it the innocuous name “Farming”, which just reduces other human players to the status of a a respawning creature in WoW with phat 100t or whatever. Just being able to leave a passing sting would kind of be worth it. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees and all that.

I start scouting around his places, trying to work out if and where I can strike (I figure that the leader at least had the balls to start a war, and wasn’t just following afterwards when the brave thing had been done). Not really many places, and my scouts getting caught by his capitals defenders a couple of time alerts him to my intent. He drops a cheery mail “If you want to know what’s in the town that desperately, you could just ask”. I laugh, and mail back telling him my intent – that I’m just shopping around for a good place to commit suicide. He mails back, telling me not to be hasty and we end up chatting a little about the game’s appeal and how it’s wove into our lives. He’s a smart guy. I decide to sleep on it.

Those Romans are crazy.

Wake up the next day, and there’s some sporadic raiding from the leader on the smaller settlement, and a third member of the alliance had joined in, targeting any of the small ones. He grates at me a little – third man in, and all, but I keep on plodding away at sorting out my new town. I kind of realise that the only way is in an alliance. Later that night, I get a mail from the leader. Simple as I get. Do I want to join?

And I sit and think and play it. It’s the only way forward in the game. I either, in the vernacular, shit or get off the pot. I mail back, telling him I was off having adventures for the weekend, but mind if I waited until I get back? He said sure, and I settled back into late night musings.

It would be an interesting move. I’d go from being the biggest fish in a useless alliance into being one of the smaller players in a large one – my surroundings were basically a sea of their fishes, of all size. While my economy was fine, I’d hopelessly under-estimated the amount of troops I should have had by this stage, and this would allow me to quietly build up some more before the inevitable larger alliance. Hell, I could even be some use in an alliance, by throwing around the diplomat bullshittery. Possibilities stretched out in my imagination…

Those Romans are crazy.

At which point the third attacker struck my second largest town, slaughtering its relatively expensive defenders (as I said, nowhere near enough, but it’d take several days to build enough to replace them) and taking a load of stuff.

And I thought – you know, really, I’d rather die than be in an alliance which works like this.

Of course, all alliances in Travian work like this. It’s what the game mechanics lead to, inevitably.

So, basically, I decided I’d rather die than play Travian any more.

I scouted out the attack destinations, choose a mark, and send off my army.

Within seconds, I know I’ve fucked up. In my post-2am haste, I didn’t give my catapults targets, meaning they’ll strike random pieces of architecture rather than the ooh-you-bastard! Granary/Warehouse strike. I’d have had to stay up another hour or so to get a second strike, assuming that troops returned, and there was no way I was going to do that.

It didn’t really matter. I noticed a strike incoming on my capital, meaning that he was still awake, had noticed my strike, and decided a counter. He actually was going to hit before my armies arrived, as he was striking from a nearer city. As his armies approach, I send my stay-at-home forces on a march elsewhere to make sure they didn’t survive – resources would come back quicker than those troops, after all. I also knew that it had doomed my troops on the march.

You see, since he was awake, he could easily send more troops from any other town to the one under attack, meaning my strike force would just strike an unrelenting wall of steel.

They hadn’t a chance. I stayed up anyway, to watch the counter tick down, sipping tea and smiling and sighing occasionally.

Main Army collides. Results arrive. As expected, no-one survives.

A minute or so later the catapults turn up. Predictably, they’re wiped out too.

I salute the screen, log off Travian and get to bed. I haven’t been on since.

I’m going to do so now, to delete my account, see if there’s anything worthwhile in the aftermath. Lots of farming is what I expect. Possibly even catapults, depending on how vindictive they feel. Doesn’t matter, of course. What I’m interested in is whether anyone’s sent any mails, either bewildered or bragging.

Let’s go.

Gosh. What a mess.

Here’s what my capital looks like.
A domitable village

Seeing the numbers at the top, you’ll notice my maximum wheat is only 800. This is because they took out the Granary. Flour is the resource that’s least needed in raiding, really (it’s primarily for feeding existent armies rather than making new ones). Wiping out the Granary means that even if you got Defenders in the village, somehow (i.e. an ally sends them) you wouldn’t be able to feed them, and they’d end up starving. They’ve also smashed the warehouse little, which surprises me, as it means they can steal less stuff from each raid. Why?

A look across the empire reveals why – they’re leaving the other towns intact and using them for farming. The Capital, being indestructible, is a worse possible threat. Not that I’m a threat any more. I’m a cow, being milked.

Checking the battle reports, constant raiding, going back 10 pages of reports. That goes as far back as Sunday, so there’s presumably another couple of hundred attacks not listed. The main aggressor, in terms of actually using catapults, is a fourth alliance member, but there’s load more joining in, like frenzied sharks.

Unexpectedly, part of me feels quite pleased with this. By being such an obvious target, I’ve presumably reduced attacks to other people in the area. The idea that someone profits other than my attacker amuses me… but, y’know, the people who profit most of all are the attackers, so not THAT good.

I turn to the mail. There’s four messages.

The first is from an ally in the north, and a simple : ) emoticon. Just before the army arrived on my last night, I sent as many resources as my merchants could carry in his direction. He’s doing well and doesn’t need it, but I thought it was worthwhile.

The second attacker is the next mail. He asks me if I’ve committed that suicide I talked about. He’s being asked by his alliance member – the third attacker – to join in attacking me due to my fire catapults hacking him off. Which is an interesting way of putting it, certainly. Sweetly, he said he refuses to help. Nice diplomacy, but he’s in the list of people who’s attacking, so he’s a liar. Though, to be fair, he clearly thinks I’ve stopped playing. Which I have. So no hard feelings there, really.

The third mail is from a member of my alliance, and read simply: WWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!


And finally, there’s someone asking me if my alliance wants to disband and join theirs, because they’re large and it’ll be better for us. Which is right, but a bit too late for me, I’m afraid.

I’ll admit, part of me was hoping someone would would snarl an insult, but that’s not really Travian’s style. Travian is about the brutal efficiency of numbers. There really is surprisingly little hard feeling here.

Funnily enough, playing the game has made me realise what I do want to play. This sort of massive economic wargame doesn’t work with 20,000 players. You can get away with it a bit more in Eve, because its a game about individuals. This is about cities and nations, and while you’re governing one, a city is an incredibly small and pathetic thing in Travian’s World. Imagine an earth with 20,000 nations in it. Imagine what that would be like. That’s Travian.

Those Romans are crazy.

When I control a nation, I want to feel like I /am/ controlling a nation, so the scale of the game I’d be looking for would be larger, but not unfathomable. 50-200 players, the sort of scale they used to do in Play-By-Mail games, but slicker. I wouldn’t necessarily need it to be much deeper – just to give a more meaningful setting for actual diplomacy. I find myself thinking of the disastrous PBM game I played back in the early nineties, The Keys of Medokh. Something like that, but finished would be ideal. I suspect it’s already out there and I suspect some of you are going to tell me about it, and I thank you in advance.

Any game which teaches you something isn’t all bad, even if all that is “I don’t want to do this any more”. That’s what Travian did.

Games work for a while, then break – and I try not to let that moment ruin the memories, especially when I always knew it was coming. I never quite trust people who play an MMO for 800 hours, then claim it’s shit. It strikes me as as somewhat akin to people who’d bad-mouth an Ex who they gone out with for years. Remember why you left them, but remember why you were with them so long too. To do otherwise just shows a lack of self-knowledge.

In the case of Travian, I liked how it worked. I liked its pacing. I liked its integrated diplomacy structure. I even liked the cheery Asterix-esque graphics.

But, ultimately, from the first time I saw how the word “Farming” was used, no matter what it may claim when you explore an Oasis, I knew there were no Lions in Travian.

It’s a game for Jackals.


  1. drunkymonkey says:

    I’ve also stopped playing, right about the time I realized that it was not intuitive enough and I wasn’t really having fun. I had more fun playing it as Cyber Nations, but the fact I can play it and see very little progress is a bit of a downer.

    If it was more clear about how to get along with the game, then maybe I’d play more, but I felt disconnected and lonely.

  2. Kast says:

    Fascinating insight into another player’s perceptions of the game. I got maybe 3 weeks, max, play out of it. The diplomacy was by far the most enjoyable aspect of it all.

    What did it for me was reading someone’s analysis of Travian that it would always inevitably lead to everyone joining the biggest alliance or get pasted (as you found yourself, Keiron). At which point I was struck by a sudden excess of perspective, sent off all my resources to a nearby friendly town and promptly deleted my account.

  3. Tbro says:

    I remember the last time I played, and finally just had to delete the link. I kept going back and trying to rebuild my armies to no avail.

    I did have fun up until I realized I had failed on the outset and was focused on commerce instead of war.

  4. Jeremy says:

    I was waiting for you to bring up Asterix. The first thing I thought of when I saw the graphic was, “Asterix game!!”

    Sounds like fun, though. Is it worth getting in on now, or is it way too late for someone new to jump in?

  5. Therlun says:

    Welcome to the world of browser games.

    The sad part is that it is really, REALLY difficult to find a game that does not play exactly like this in the mass of BGs out there… :(

  6. Cian says:

    I played Cyber Nations for the better part of the year. Put in alot of effort with my alliance and had a generally enjoyable time. Eventually lost interest, especially when I was knocked back to square one for the fourth or fifth time.
    Being an anarchist alliance, our idea of recreation was to agitate the local Nazis, with predictable results. Still managed to be one of the longest running alliances though, so Kropotkin would be happy that mutual aid triumphed.

  7. Robert Seddon says:

    Imagine an earth with 20,000 nations in it.

    That made me think of the Holy Roman Empire, actually; but that was something resembling a single alliance with an overall command structure. Possibly Travian‘s logical end-game, from how you describe it.

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    Jeremy: One thing I didn’t mention is that the longer time since a server has been running, the worse the problem is due to everyone having several weeks of growing on you. Especially on the x3 server. The third normal speed server was only started a month ago though, which may be a good place to start. Or there’s always other games.

    Another thing I didn’t talk about is how the game’s moneterised. You can play for free, sure, but if you pay a small fee you can gain special abilities you can use (i.e. Faster resource rate, building, etc) which makes stuff more convenient and gives you an edge.

    I never even spent any of my free credits. I find such methods pretty abhorrent.


  9. Jeremy says:

    Thanks, I might try it out. Dunno what other similar games are out there, but it sounds like fun.

    The idea of a free game sounds like fun. I installed one called “Archlord” I think, but never played it because you had to buy heals and resurrects and things like that. Seems rather silly. Though, I guess you gotta make money somehow.

    Btw, KG, when I read the headline, I immediately thought ‘Settlers of Catan.’ It’s German, so probably more popular on your side of the pond.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah – Catan’s a clear and obvious influence on the game.

    There’s quite a few free webgames about. They keep on popping up on the sidebar adverts, actually.


  11. Hanzii says:

    Hi Kieron

    First post here – I usually keep my games discussions elsewhere. But I do like what you guys are doing.

    Very good writeup on Travian, but yeah, you should have spent some words on Travian Plus.
    Basically, you don’t stand any chance without it, so calling Travian free is a lie.

    If you want to succeed you need to start early in the servers lifetime, you need to know how to expand, you need to pay and you need to at least end up in a top 5 alliance.

    I’m hooked. I have all the misgivings you have and I don’t even know if I really like the game. But I’m hooked and the 3 months I’ve played Travian has cost me more than my WoW subscription – micropayment is evil.

    At least I cut down and am only playing on one server…

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    Hi Hanzii. Welcome!

    Yeah – I kinda regret not mentioning that, but I brought it up in the comments thread. I may splice some stuff in there later.


  13. Andrew says:

    Aye, I was playing Travian in the summer (on the 3x speed server) but stopped when, after 3 months of careful build-uppery and expanding and diplomacy and so on, a single attack from someone much, much larger than me completely destroyed my ability to do anything, my thousands-strong army wiped out, all my infrastructure gone…

    I thought ‘sod this’ and never played again.

  14. Ninjasuperspy says:

    I played Travian as well for a while. I sadly had the misfortune of starting my village within four squares of a top 100 Teutonic player. Who starts a Teuton village right next door to one of those 15-crop sites? A lucky SOB, that’s who. Needless to say they made my life miserable. Four-a-day raids, etc.

    So I build a level 10 cranny on all available space. I had something like 7-8 at a time. This, of course, brought on the catapults. The Teuton would wreck my warehouse, granary, barracks, marketplace and main building daily. I asked thrice for them to stop randomly destroying my stuff, and they refused. So I accused them of bestiality and deleted my account.

    Nothing for it, really. I had one 200 population village and they hit me with over 900 heavy infantry + several hundred cavalry + around 100 catapults at a time. There really was absolutely nothing to do except take it. I was going to reroll at some point, try out the defensive side of the Gaul tribe, but came to the realization that more than likely everything would play out exactly the same again. The entire game is written to encourage random raping of nearby players.

  15. David Nicholls-Paul says:

    Yeah, I never spent any of my gold either. I was afraid it would be too useful, and I would end up actually spending money on the damn thing.

    You lasted longer than I did by about a week. I was the guy ranked second in our alliance towards the end…or I was, since someone stole my second village recently. You sent me Praetorians a couple of times, in fact. They inevitably got slaughtered, but I appreciated the thought. Oh, the heady days when 20 troops made you feel safe!

    They don’t make you safe, of course. Things are skewed so heavily in favor of attackers, having defensive troops is almost pointless. Which is one of the big problems with the game. Even if you’re fairly well along, no matter how massive your defense is, any remotely comparable attack is going to wipe it out.

    The only thing I’ve played that’s comparable is to Travian is Nexus War, which has some fairly decent anti-griefing mechanics – attacking people of a much lower level than you gets you nothing, essentially, and at lower levels respawning is effortless. Travian has no built-in protection other than the piddling initial 3-day grace period, and players that aren’t constantly monitoring their status are in for an extremely rough time (my job blocking the site was the beginning of the end for me).

    This allows Travian’s bullies (i.e. everyone) to stomp on you all day and night and never give it a second thought. Which is pretty much what happened to me. I may have stuck with it longer, but by the end I was getting raided every couple of hours by a few very bad men. I had had some luck with diplomacy in the past and sent a “would you mind terribly giving me a goddamn break, pretty please” email to the worst offender. His response was, in short: “Unfortunately, the game does not have a way for you to send me as much tribute as I’ll get from raiding you.”

    It’s tough to argue with that sort of ice-cold calculation. And I could do, literally, nothing about it. I mean, I could have built a few troops at a time, sent them off to a safe ally, built up a force slowly and hit him back, but he had 6 cities to my 2, and there were three more like him coming down the road. Enough was, eventually, enough. And this exact same thing happens to most of the people who play.

    My girlfriend heaps disdain on these kinds of games. Not that she is especially supportive of video games in general, but she finds the idea of being a slave to the system abhorrent – having to login at a specific time to spend your Nexus War Action Points or Travian resources in the optimal way means, to her, that the game is playing you. Despite the fact that I actually find these games fun (instead of completely pointless, which is how she looks at it), I sort of agree. It’s one thing to waste the work day playing them, but setting your alarm a hour early so you’ll be up in time to spend your resources before a habitual raider comes for you is…pushing it.

    I’ll have to start playing WoW just to show her how easy she has it.

  16. Biffpow says:

    Great write up on this game. My experience with it was very similar, though I tried a variety of strategies to get around the rape-and-pillage farming mechanic that I found distasteful yet seemed to be the only way to “win” (double-agent diplomacy, taking no allies, ramping up buildings in different ways, etc–none seemed to work). In the end, I came to the same conclusions you did and quit my account there–though it took me about 6 months to finally figure that out.

    I would agree strongly that a similar game with only about 50 players or so and stronger “nation-sense” would be much more enjoyable. Or add a few tweaks to the different “races” in the game to give them advantages/weaknesses that truly allow you to play to their unique strengths throughout the whole game rather than play pretty much the same way no matter which race you are. Of course that would be Diplomacy (the board game), or play-by-mail (or email) stuff (which wasn’t so bad really).

    After playing it, I tried some others, but they were all much worse (truly). The best free browser game I’ve found so far is urban dead, though I also don’t play it anymore. It held my interest for about a year, but, in the end, it was getting awfully repetitious, and I felt like there was no way to “win”, merely ways to annoy other players and push certain zones within the game in certain directions. It was fun for a while, though.

    I hope others will post some recommendations here, as I could really use a new free browser game fix : )

  17. Kieron Gillen says:

    Urban Dead was the last browser-based game before Travian which I went into in any depth. It certainly had its moments.

    (It seems that each webgame I play teaches me something about a game that doesn’t exist which I’d love to play. For example, Urban Dead taught me that I’d love to play a single-player RPG based around a zombie infection.)


  18. Rock, Paper, Shotgun: PC Gaming’s Beadiest Eyes » Blog Archive » Serve the Servants says:

    […] which are cheerfully logged in the machinery of the good ship Rock Paper Shotgun. When I wrote ridiculously lengthily about Travian the Servitor linked to us. This caused me to work my way back through their sporadically updated […]

  19. Games 2.0: Lessons from Travian « Lightspeed Venture Partners Blog says:

    […] noting the appeal to both casual gamers and obsessive gamers. One review though notes that at heart this game is about negotiation and diplomacy: Politics is the name of the game, as while there’s room for intelligence to make a difference […]

  20. Bob says:

    I’ve been playing a few months now, with a small alliance. While many members left after getting ploughed over by larger alliances, we’ve now found a renaissance of sorts in how to live as a small alliance. We’re a group of friends who know each other, so no random members.
    The best way is to gain confederacies (used to be known in the game as ‘alliances with alliances’, confusingly) and non-aggression treaties with larger neighbouring alliances, and help when they need it. The most important thing to do also though, is make sure all your towns have huge granaries (level 14+), and as big of a wall as possible. This way, your allies can send you as many troops as possible along with lots of food, so if you hit -4000 crop per hour, they can send you 40,000 crop to keep you afloat for 10 hours. Attack forces can only be so big, as they must all come from one town, but defensive forces can be massive, easily. Good diplomacy with mutual defensive pacts and preparedness for defense can go a long way towards you survival in the game.

  21. Winston says:

    I had a little village, population 50 or something. This one player was…i guess you call it farming….everyone around me. So i tried to go all william wallace and stir up everyone against him. But the guy realized this, destroyed me, and everyone kept to themselves as his farms.

  22. Jon says:

    Intriguing and engaging article. You are a very good writer. I played the game a bit, and while I do admit it is fun, you are quite right on the Jackal thing.

  23. Kris says:

    I thought this was an intresting article. Was mad when it ended.

    Personally, I play travian. Com3 us7, usx. I prefer the romans and can into the top 500, easy. I used to play us5 and had the same thing happen. The trick is to be polite and offer tribute, then tell him that he could also raid elsewhere. So you would get more reasources total.

    Your best starting on a new server. Tuetons have cheap troops and a raiding bonus so you can expect to be raided by them. [not me personally. Roman have strong infantry units.] If a person sent say 5 macemen, just dodged it and send 3 legionarries phlaxas [well phalx you could defend with. There bad attackers] or other maces back at them. There offensive units, so you get the advantge.

    As for defenders losing to attackers? No. the weakest wall, earthwall of Tuetons gives 50% bonus. The attacks At best get 25% from blacksmith upgrade. Then defenders can add 25% from armory, buy 10% from gold [but so can attackes] So the attack is swayed to defenders.

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  25. Pedro G says:

    Great article. Very addictive game. I did not want to waste the time that I had already spent on the game!

    I have only played once but got into the top 400 by being a jackal. Start location was 64,113, so I think I started late. Even with the maximum of one hour of resources ‘subscription’ (unbalanced transfer) per day , I don’t think there is a non-jackal strategy that will work, but if someone works one out, I would like to play again socially (at my convenience not the game’s).

  26. Kris says:

    what do you mean by ‘non jackel’ and what tribe did you play, tuetons?

  27. Pedro G says:

    A friend introduced me to the game. He was playing his first ever game as Romans, so yes I did pick Teutons, as I could see all the top players at the time were Teutons. I remember building a warehouse first before working out a level 0 warehouse could store 800 of each resource. Eventually I worked out maceman raiding was very profitable.

    Jackal: Where you suppress many smaller villages, just enough so you can keep farming them like a parasite. Have to watch your back every hour of the day for someone wanting to become a parasite to you. Gaming environment encourages bullying, lying and cheating.

    Non-jackal/angel: Being helpful to your reasonable neighbours (not the idiots) even though they may be smaller and younger, encouraging learning, skill, honesty and teamwork. Eliminating jackal attack forces, which is good fun. Hopefully you could swap/dual accounts for a less or more intensive game as the weeks go by. However I think this would never work without the same planning that I suspect goes into some of the mega alliances before the server starts.

  28. Kris says:

    hm. I never heard of that term in all my time. Tuetons are good. For people who have duals and/or are very active. I personally prefer romans.

    raiding is the way to go. early on gives you that extra boost. For tuetons that 2/3 and have res. storage helps. Alot. guals have TTs with are conviablly the best raider in the game. Gual players are ussaully top attackers and raiders mid-late game. Super calavry =]

  29. Alex says:

    If you play the game right its not too difficult to become a “bully”.

    I tried out my first game on S7 a while back, and joined about 6 months late. I taught myself the basics and being a rather reserved, defencive guy i worked on economy. 2 weeks in, some cock catapulted me for being in his 7X7 saying i was taking space.

    However, it occured to me he wasnt actually a complete ass. He told me i should join a fresh server – i was going to be no use to anyone with the end game scenario (Natars, WW etc.)

    He told me next time to start of by creating a barracks and 3 legions. These 3 troops brought in bounties of 30,30,30,30. My army grew and soon i had 20 legions. Then i had 100 imperians, and i hadnt upgraded a single field (except alot of wheat fields).

    I grew that game, and several months in a newbie spawned around my 15C. I asked him to delete and told him the advice that the other player had told me.

    Were not all orgues :)

  30. jez2 (uk5) says:

    Great article, well written and interesting.

    I’m playing my first server, I started quite early on, and we’re now about a month or so before the endgame starts. I wish I’d got the advice the poster above me got, but I’ve done ok, survived, learnt a hell of a lot, and now I’m helping lead the largest wing of the largest alliance on the server, and at that level it really does get interesting. Fighting other people and alliances your own size is where the fun and challenge lies. I’ve never spent any money on it either – its far from essential unless you’ve set your sights on smashing through entire alliance defences with a single attack.

    I love travian for the massive multiplayer aspect of it, but it does have some flaws. I’ve said before, Game theory kills travian, both at the small end and the big. To start with, the farming of helpless small players is a problem and puts many newbies off, yet is essential to grow properly at the start – It is simply not a good idea to get involved in genuine fighting with people your own size just yet. Then at the end of the server, you end up with everyone teaming up into massive “meta” alliances, and the whole thing risks becoming rather stagnant. That spoils it for me a little.

    The people is what makes travian for me though. Communicating and organising large defences is a challenge but surprisingly rewarding when it pays off. Being part of a large alliance is the whole fun of it.

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  32. Ron says:

    An MMOG based on Diplomacy (the boardgame) with about 20 times the scale… that sounds like browser-based gaming heaven.

  33. Hayyan Abdullah says:

    I liked travian but I still want to play first I had lots of accounts in travians but now I deleted them only one is left. I like link to travians.com as the best website game ever played. Its better then this one atleast. And you mine the resources yourself and it goes on day by day.

  34. Dan says:

    I found short breaks helped with the addiction…

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  37. Pete ex-trav addict says:

    I use to Play Keys of Medokh too, then I found Atlantis PBeM – weekly hex based turns like Medokh, biggest game was maybe 140 players – has slipped in popularity lately, but its open source and free now. Atlantisdev at yahoogroups is probably where to start for anyone interested.
    Maybe someday Keys of Medokh will return in a similar form. :)

  38. Shayne says:

    I still play Travian, but play to keep the smaller guys alliance, we’re called the Northern Resistance.

    We usually end up around rank 30 and for some reason the #1 alliance picks a fight with us (I think its because we refuse to sumbit)

    We break their hammers (Attack forces-usually with catapaults or cats)
    I like the diplomacy part a lot, but meeting new people and seeing how they run things and create things is fun.

    LEading the alliance is what brings me back, because in a way, it is like ruling a nation, just the different components working together…

    I dual with friends on some too, keep things less busy, but here I am at 2:40 AM playing and typing this….

  39. Shayne says:

    Meant keep the smaller guys alive, not alliance

    Also, great article, very well written, enjoyed it a lot.

    If you ever want to play again with a pure diplomacy role, let me know I’ll hook you up :)

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