Competitive cowering: They Are Billions adds a weekly map run


They may be billions, but so so far it’s only taken a few dozen zombies to break through my defences in tower defence/RTS hybrid They Are Billions. That’s a shame, because if I was any better then I’d love to take part in the weekly challenge run that was included in Friday’s early access update. Every week you get one chance to take a stab at the same survival map as everyone else, then compare your score with strangers and friends.

Also added in the update are waypoint commands for units, a sprinkling of (habitable!) abandoned towers, and transportable explosive barrels – three things that every apocalyptic scenario can’t be complete without.

Those waypoints might sound like a small addition, but it means that you can now get your units to patrol your base’s perimeter rather than just a straight line back and forth. Admittedly this might be a bigger deal for me than more accomplished survivors, seen as so far I’ve always lost before I’ve even managed to get my walls up. It might be the difference between life and death for me, but at the very least you should find that you have to faff around with your defences a little less.

As for those towers, the patch notes don’t tell me their specific capabilities but I can see a big old gun on the one in this screenshot. I’m a ways off managing it myself, but I like how these might encourage risky base expansions in order to nab them.


The explosive barrels are what excite me the most, however. They can be found in ruins, and certain military units can pick them up and pop them wherever you like. You can then shoot them for a massive explosion that will detonate any other barrels in range, which sounds like a fantastic emergency measure. Deciding if and when to light them up should be a deliciously cinematic decision.

There are also some bug fixes, support for more languages and some quality of life improvements, which you can read about in the full patch notes.

If you’re unsure whether to pit yourself against the zombie hordes, you might want to check out our Premature Evaluation. Defending your base is “a Sisphyian task”, says Fraser Brown, but one that he enjoyed.


  1. 1Derby says:

    I feel you Matt. According to my save discipline I have learned 29 ways not to defeat the first map. I think I will pass on the challenge mode until I can chalk up my first win.

    I suppose this is part of the masochistic charm of this game, but I worry about the finished product.

    Why? Fewer people spending time in the late game or maps they cannot unlock means less useful commentary and feedback during early access. Just my $.02. Lord knows the Steam boards are full of rants taking my view and its opposite.

    I just want to raise the point that most of the feedback they are getting beyond the first map is coming from hardcore gamers and not casual players. Is this by design or an unintended consequence?

    Of course this has little to do with your article, but it has been on my mind. -At least I’m not posting about earning money from home!


    • whorhay says:

      I’ve done the first two maps on Challenging settings and it really isn’t that impossibly hard. I think the biggest single thing for new players to learn is that pause is your bestest of bestest friends. Without pausing to plan and use resources people I watch play cap out on resources constantly and make all kinds of silly decisions they wouldn’t make if they spent a minute assessing the situation properly.

      After that learning how the buildings and resources interact is probably most critical. You want to be building infrastructure just prior to needing it.

      Understanding the scripted zombie attacks is very helpful. People talk about random hordes when there is no such thing. The announced hordes always come on the same schedule depending on game length setting. Then there is a mini horde that comes in as followup to the announced horde from all directions. And another similar attack from all sides shortly before an announced horde will trigger. Other than those hordes all you’ll get is zombies slowly creeping their way closer to your perimeter. A single ballista with walls in front of it can hold off those mini hordes until late in the game.

      • mejobloggs says:

        Nah there is sorta random ‘hordes’. Every now and again I manage to disturb enough ‘normal map zombies’ that they crush my walls. And i’ve seen the town zombies swarm occasionally too… I haven’t been bothering them, they just up and flood my walls.

        Great game

        • whorhay says:

          You can draw in zombies by using noisy units too close to other zombies, but that’s not really a random horde. As in the player did something to draw aggro. The Village of Doom are much the same just to a much greater extent. On the more advanced maps noise does seem to have a larger area of affect, but it’s pretty minimal on the first couple maps.

          • shde2e says:

            There do seem to be random mini-hordes in between the big ones. I’ve seen groups of zombies walk in from the edge of the map and beeline my base.
            Nothing comparable with the big hordes, but definitely big enough to take into account.

      • 1Derby says:

        Thanks for your comments whorhay. You’re probably right. I consistently make it to the final wave, and my defense holds up pretty well, but ultimately is overwhelmed at one or two points which leads to a nasty cascade of failure.

        I’m close to my first win, but sinking 3-4 hours into the game to attempt the final wave and try to learn something from it is an absolute beat down. I only get a few hours a week to play (dad X2 and husband) and I’m not sure it is gaming time well spent.

        Love the concept and glad it has had such good success.

        • whorhay says:

          The the final wave I found the biggest change I had to make was adding in additional layers of walls. The game will let you only build walls that are 2-3 layers thick, depending on orientation. However you can then have a single tile of space and then put in another few layers. You can put Tesla towers in the gap space between walls and easily get your walls out beyond the range of your turrets and units parked behind the walls. That isn’t normally necessary if you’re actually defending the wall with Thanatos or Shock Towers, but I’d definitely always go for a 2nd layer of walls. The extra walls can buy you time to destroy the hordes on a front and move troops to another area for clearing there. I also like towers for the final horde as it lets you get more range out of your units and protects them from harpies.

        • Madcat_Zam says:

          Something I learned a couple weeks ago that helped me beat the first map is that you do have to clear the whole map of the roaming zombies because if you don’t then they’ll join in in the final wave.

        • shde2e says:

          As much as I love this game, the sheer length of a map is really putting me off. Knowing that every game costs several hours, and that a single mistake or miscalculation can cost me the whole thing is very off-putting. That, and the bits in between hordes can get pretty dull.

          I hope they implement some kind of time accelleration in the final version. They already have a pause function, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

  2. Bombuzal says:

    Casual player here. Maybe 1-2 2-hour sessions per week. First win on easy settings last night (Score factor was 22% i think, cannot remember exact settings)

    Agree that pausing VERY regularly is the best approach. Also do not underestimate the benefit of markets and banks. Oh and snipers :-)

    I did do pretty well on my previous run when I tried ploughing all gold into Titans but I don’t think they’re all they’re hyped up to be. Lots of snipers are better. Veteran snipers are even better, especially when you fill a tower with 4 of them.

    Caveat: I got a mayor fairly early on in the game in I won that reduce ongoing sniper cost by 20% or something like that :-)

    Love the game. Yes it’s hard as nails but for some reason that hasn’t put me off.

    Most depressing game so far was when I thought I was doing awesome but a couple of zombies slipped through a gap and infected whole base in a short time. Lesson learned.

    – pausing is critial
    – wiping out zombie groups is important before end-game and also good for getting your units to veteran status
    – even with executioner and shock turrets, towers are useful (they can often fit in single-block gaps)
    – pausing is critical

    Have fun.

  3. Carra says:

    I won a game on easy and had a lot of fun. Still, took me a few tries to get so far.

    Tip: open Twitch, pick They are Billions and watch a pro-streamer play for an hour. You’ll learn a ton.

  4. 1Derby says:

    Thanks to the community for weighing in.

    Tried another run last night and lost my colony to a sneaky bastard about 25 days in. Completely my fault. Also, it was a great map which adds insult to the injury!

    Agree with the sniper focus as this has led to my best chances.
    Next run I will take the advice of adding a second 3 wall ring to my defense. Haven’t used shock towers as the energy cost is just plain nasty. Mostly I build ballistas and upgrade them to executors in the late game.

    Good hunting to all!