Tactics for Playing Against Other Humans

Contributed by Michael P. Leung, mleung@uclink.berkeley.edu.
Last Revised 29-May-96.

These strategies are mainly for playing against other human players. However, they should work against AI enemies also. Most of the time, I find it unnecessary to invest the time and effort necessary to carry out most of these strategies to win against the computer. I also tried not to reiterate points that are already covered in other Advanced Tactical Ideas (ATI) pages so you may need to combine these strategies with the ones already in other ATI pages.

Humans use many tricks that the computer doesn't, and humans who haven't played against other humans often tend to miss these. It pays to reread the ATI page to make sure you aren't surprised by some sneaky maneuver! (Robert Heeter)



Think ahead! One of the most time consuming element for me in playing WL is to figure out how far some of my pieces will go in the following turns. As a general rule of thumb, try to plan at least 2-3 turns ahead. This does, however, require a lot of time and effort. (WL does not provide a handy way to determine the range of pieces in the future turns - one must "count circles" with a command-click. Keep in mind that the route given may not be the most efficient one.) The fun part about playing against other human players is the unexpected. So when I choose my route, I try to give my pieces as many options as I can: Leave that extra 2 movement for next turn; center myself between two possible cities that I want to capture; etc....

Mobility is critical in Warlords, and flying units in particular are extremely valuable. If your enemy is short on flying units, a particularly vicious tactic is to send a stack of flyers into enemy territory, stopping each turn on a mountain or over water where the enemy is completely helpless to attack. One can often penetrate deep into enemy territory this way, and tie up several enemy units - especially heroes - with a relatively small stack. While you can't expect to hold many cities, it's a great way to raise cash from sacking and/or destroy cities by razing. And the best thing is that you divert your enemy's resources away from the frontier, making it harder for him to attack and making his border cities easier to capture. If you don't have flying units, you should at least build navies and maintain control of the waterways leading into your cities, so that marauding stacks cannot sack your seaports the way the Vikings used to raid the British Isles... (Robert Heeter)


Winning is not everything. In a PBEM game, most people will loose, so why not take this opportunity to socialize with people around the world? However, you can use this factor to your advantage if you are a good politician. Build alliances! Very seldom can a player withstand the attack of 2 or more players so you may need help. Point out the treachery of your enemy! If only one other player turn against your enemy, it's worth it. Have a personality! This makes the game FUN and people usually want to play with someone with a personality, i.e., it's less likely you are the first player to bite the dust.

It is also very helpful to carefully track the communications between players for you can get a general idea of where people are if you are playing a hidden map game. You can also pickup possible alliances or hints of treachery. (You learn alot about a person from their Emails, to the extent that you can judge their personality and playing style, to a certain degree anyway. Stu Reeve)

Conversely, you should watch what you say very carefully, and calibrate your words to give the appropriate effect for your player's personality. If you are an honorable player, then speak truthfully, but give away as little as possible. Alternatively, a little false information here and there can mislead an enemy. For instance, sometimes it is useful to fake a war against someone who is really an ally, in order to lull the true enemy into a false sense of security. (Robert Heeter)

Also, it's very important to be a reliable human player. People who tend to lose the game file or take forever to do their turn can be irritating to everyone else, and the desire to speed up the game can be a powerful motive for others to team up and eliminate you. (Robert Heeter)


Building alliances is critical to winning the game. There are many things that allies can provide one another to gain mutual advantages.

Allies can often exchange information. In hidden map games, allies can send screen shot of explored areas of common enemy to each other thus each can better prepare him/herself for battle.

Allies can also 'scout out' enemy stacks for each other - attacking a stack or city with a scout to find out what that stack contains. This is often important since most advance player will change the stacking order to hide the true content of a stack and it is impossible to tell what's in a tower w/o attacking it.

Allies can weaken an enemy for each other - sometime an enemy will have such a strong stack/city that will make it very unlikely that one player can win the battle in a single turn. However, if two or more players attack the same stack/city each with his resources, it will be much easier to overcome a strong stack/city.

Allies can also exchange artifacts which are more useful to one another. If one ally has lots of gold and/or cities that have a high income, he may want to exchange that horn of plenty with his ally for a horn of siege...

Allies can also recover quest artifacts, take over quest cities, allow allies to take over his city for a quest, provide information on where a quest city is (hidden map), and exchange the use of a temple with one another, among other things.

Allies do not have to be at peace with each other. In a tactic that Bob Heeter points out later, it may be beneficial for allies to be neutral toward each other or even at war! (To provide the ability to exchange cities) As Nil Helge said: "...that doesn't mean the ones you're at peace with are actually your closest allies. "

One way that allies can pass gold to each other is to allow the ally who needs the gold to take over a non-essential city and sack it. 'Psss... if you need gold, sack this city that produces 3-turn strength 4 spiders...' Another strategy is to build scouts into cities that produces mid value units (i.e. a city that only produces minotaurs and dwarfs) to boost the 'sack-value' for an ally. Otherwise, an ally can build production into a city for the ally to sack - this will, however, cut in half the gold passed onto an ally and is often not worth the effort.

Heroes Experiences:

An important factor in the game is the advantages that come with heroes advancing in levels. With each level, the strength and commanding ability of the hero is increased. But most importantly, additional movement is granted - the ability to keep up with strong support troop/allies is very important. There are many ways for a hero to gain experience. In addition to the obvious methods, here are some alternatives:

Take over a with a hero city, sack/pillage it, and leave it lightly defended. Then on the next turn, repeat the process after you enemy has re-taken the city. This does two things: For each time you take over the city, your hero gains experience. You also prevent your enemy to receive a hero at the city in questions. Note that this only works in certain situations: Your enemy must not have many strong units in the area and you must have strong units and/or supporting troops to backup this cycle. This strategy can be very useful if you are just shy of the next level and there are no other obvious targets around.

If you have an ally willing to trade cities with you this strategy can be ideal. Another option is to have your ally build peon units which your hero can easily defeat to quickly gain experience from fighting battles. (Robert Heeter)

Pick on weak units. If it is not too much out of your way, destroy that lone scout. However, keep in mind the increased movement cost of attacking in certain terrain.

Attack cities. This may seem obvious but I put a lot of emphasis on using my heroes to attack cities. Plan your engagements so that your heroes lead the attack on most all cities. (This also cuts your combat losses dramatically due to the extra hero bonuses. Robert Heeter)

If you have a temple in your area giving out quests, you may not think you need to worry about your hero's experience. However, some of the quests are near impossible - I once had a quest to kill one type of ally that I didn't get to before it died - and for the rest of the game, there was NO ally of that type!


Hand off your artifacts from hero to hero. Not only because a hero may no longer need it, but it keeps your enemy guessing which hero has those boots of speed. (On the other hand, it usually pays to spread your heroes out to cover all your frontiers with a strong defensive/offensive stack. Robert Heeter)

Negotiate with your artifacts. Although they are important, you may be able to negotiate a nice deal with even the minor ones. You can trade them for cities, visits to temples, build alliances, or get hired guns, etc. It will be up to you to determine whether the trade is worth while.

Protect your important artifacts. Unless you got the artifact from a quest the recovery of artifacts are listed in the events history. (It is possible for some people to limit your quest reward possibilities to artifact and stronghold by observing the gold report and seeing no additional allies - see the next point on money management) Since now everyone knows you have these nice new boots, what to do? NEVER travel alone. Try to always take a full stack with you. You got them, people want them. (... and you're lucky that now you can outrun them! Robert Heeter)

Money management:

Do not underestimate the money factor in a game. The approach I use is to try to keep a semi-constant amount of money - around 1500 if I need a hero, a little less if I don't. I usually don't keep more for the following reasons: Too much money will make you look stronger in the winnings report. When your enemy takes over your city, you loose a portion of your gold. The sooner you buy the unit and produce it, the sooner it will be produced. I don't keep less because I want to keep my options open as to what units to purchase and would always want to be able to be offered a hero - I do have the option to refuse him if I need the money for something else.

Since I tend to sack a lot while I am while at war, keeping a good balance in the bank does not present too much of a problem. From turn 5 or so and on, and after I got my second hero, I would start purchasing units in strategic areas of my empire. I will also try to spend any gold I receive on the same turn from visiting a ruin or (especially) completing a quest. This tends to keep your enemy guessing on where the money was spend and some less experienced opponent may not even be aware that you got the money and spent it thus underestimate the strength of your empire.

The value of sacking cities depends a lot on the quality and balance of the army set, and on the wealth of the city being sacked. In scenarios where units are all valuable and cities can only produce 1-2 units, it is better not to sack a city, since the benefit gained doesn't make up for the costs of rebuilding the production. On the other hand, in the default army set and in scenarios where most cities build 3-4 units, it is usually to your advantage to sack out cities and build only the most useful units. (Robert Heeter)

The Settings:


A very interesting stradegy is to declare neutral to all the players on turn one. This will allow you to kill off unwanted scouts without being the Running Dog. Furthermore, it will allow you to express alliance in game terms. (contributed by Andre Nantel)

Quick Start

Quick Start is actually very good for multiplayer games, since it makes it a lot more difficult for players to get an early edge by finding allies or getting a second hero and therefore expanding much more quickly. (Robert Heeter)

Hidden Map

Information is power, try to utilize every piece in the beginning to explore your map. Spread out your scouting pieces and use garrison troops to explore "pockets" left by your scouting units. Maximize your exploration, use roads and water for they only consume 1 movement unit. If the hidden map is off, STUDY THE MAP. Try to get an idea how far cities are from each other, where are other players, the ruins, the temples, etc. If it is allowed (view production is on, etc.) play one or more games with that map before/along with the game you are playing to get to know the terrain.

In hidden map games, ALWAYS KILL ENEMY SCOUTING UNITS. Just as you are trying to get the most information about the map, you must also deny it to the other players for as long as possible. (Robert Heeter)

Army Set

Analyze the army set used. Base on your playing style, determine the relative cost/benefit of each unit because you will need to build additional armies later on in the game. Think about how you will use each unit, what are their strengths and weaknesses.

If most of the units are useless, there's no point in building them, so sacking cities becomes a useful activity. (Robert Heeter)

Produce Allies?

This may play a factor in the beginning of the game when you visit Sage ruins. If the cities are unable to produce allies, and you haven't found a temple to give you a quest, you may want to choose allies instead of, let's say, flight items. The importance of sage allies generally decreases as the game moves along since you will be getting some with each of the additional heroes that offers to join you. (Unless, of course, you keep losing them in battle. Robert Heeter)

Early on I prefer speed items / allies / gold / command / flight items. (Robert Heeter) Later on I prefer speed items/ command items / gold / allies / flight items. (Robert Heeter)

If the cities are able to produce allies, think about sacking them for gold. Some allies take so long to produce and are so expansive that it may be better to sack the city for gold than to wait 4+ turns for a relatively useless ally. Another factor in sacking ally cities is where the city is located. It may be better to sack an ally producing city in your front line if you are not sure you can hold that city for the rest of the game so your enemy does not get the gold or the ally produced.

Razing Cities?

I play a very different game depending on whether cities can be razed. If cities can be razed, I try to punch through your enemy's front line and raze his production cities. On the other hand, the inability to raze cities would require more planning. I usually go for an "advancing front" technique: expand my empire slowly and take over cities that are closest to me. However, this doesn't mean sending troops in to disturb the enemy's production cities is not a good strategy, just that don't expect to hold on to them if they have other cities around.

Also, if cities can be razed, during the early expansion phase of the game it is a good idea to study the map, determine which cities you can occupy and defend. Then send advance units to the cities you know you can't hold and raze them before your enemy arrives to defend them. This creates an empty "no-man's land" which your enemy must cross to attack you, making it easier for you to defend. Of course, it also makes it harder for you to attack, but if you select just one or two cities near the enemy and defend them strongly, you can vector in lots of armies and use them as a base of attack. (Robert Heeter)

Computer Players

If there are computer players in the game near you, you are in luck! They are usually a MUCH easier target than human players. Go for AI's capitals - you usually get a strong piece and a city with more GP than the run of the mill cities. If you are an astute player, and the AI is strong and near your enemy, you may want to try to manipulate the computer players to turn against your enemy through diplomacy, but that is uncertain and difficult.

The Game

The openings (turn 1-10):

Expand! Claim as much territory in the beginning of the game as possible - use the roads, use the water, use your fast moving pieces. I usually try to separate my hero and my first piece and have them go in different directions of the map. When you run into other players, you can then negotiate "borders" - Although it may be much further from your capital than his. Using a strong unit to explore have the advantage of being able to take over weaker cities along the way and substantiate your claim of the territory. If your initial unit lacks the ability of flight, use roads or water.

However, don't bite off more than you can hold. Early expansion will leave your cities lightly defended. In most 8-player games, I will stop expansion when I've reached about 1/6 of the map and leave the rest of the map for conquering. This does not mean that I will stop scouting!

The direction of your expansion will depend on many factors, where you are located on the map, where the other players are (if non-hidden map), etc. A general rule of thumb is to expand toward the center of the map if you are on the side or corner. Leave the cities/ruins "behind" you for later (unless you know there is a piece you really want early.)

On the other hand, you should go for a corner or side if you started in the middle of the map for there is a much greater potential of becoming an enemy of another player. Having a corner/side is a tremendous advantage in this game for the map does not "wrap around" and you can safely leave your production cities lightly defended and concentrate on a strong front.

The trick is to maximize your occupied area while minimizing the length of your border. If you can defend a lot of territory with fewer pieces, you will have more units available to attack with. (Robert Heeter)

Minimize your risk. I try to avoid attacking cities with a single piece in the first few turns unless I have at least a +3 advantage. You can always go for the city later with a stack even with Active production. But not too much later though.

A +2 advantage usually translates into a roughly 2/3 chance of victory, so you would only expect to win two battles before losing the third. A +3 advantage comes to a 3/4 chance of victory for units attacking with strength 5-10 or so. (Robert Heeter)

If diplomacy is on, try to avoid sacking cities early on to protect your rating. Usually it's fairly save to sack cities starting turn 5 or so, this point also goes well with the above point for you may want to leave the strong cities for sacking.

Why would you want to protect your diplomacy rating? I'd much rather have 1000 gold in a couple turns and a second hero that much sooner. In the expansion phase it pays tremendously to have as many strike forces as possible going in as many directions as possible to occupy territory. Getting an extra hero early on - with allies - is usually a huge advantage. (Robert Heeter)

Mid-game (turn 10-30+)

Alliances: By this time, you should start making alliances if you have not done so already. Do not make too many allies for you eventually have to turn against them. When making alliances, try to 'sandwich' your enemy so (s)he will have a multi-front war. You are also safer from a 'backstab' if you are relatively further away from your ally. Remember, alliances are made, broken, and sometimes made again so don't trust your allies too much for (s)he will eventually have to turn on you!

Another strategy is to build alliances with your neighbor and in unison push toward a given direction. In this type of alliances, it pays to the player "furthest back." However, you must watch out for "backstabbing" if you choose to have such alliances.

This strategy is a killer if the players on the top or bottom of the map (the narrow sides) unite to sweep across the map together, since they only have a single narrow front upon which they can amass all their armies. I'm actually sick of seeing it, so we're trying PBEM variants where it isn't possible or allowed... (Robert Heeter)

Divide and conquer: Eliminate the weakest players first, and expand your empire while you are at it. Look for signs of weakness in other players. If a nearby empire in heated battle, it may be time for you to join his enemy and claim a few cities while you are at it.

Avoid unnecessary conflicts: Don't attack for the sake of attacking people, have a purpose for your attack. If you are lucky enough to be able to avoid conflicts for a few turns, and you can afford to do so, by all means build up your army! However, the nature of WL makes it very difficult for you to sit and wait for any extended period. Furthermore, you do want to expand your empire, don't you?

At the same time, it's better not to attack out of anger or frustration at a setback. Biting your nails and biding your time often pays off. (Robert Heeter)

Conceal your troop movement: Do not under estimate the importance of towers in the game. I routinely build towers for every unit that is able to do so. It will be very difficult for your enemy to figure you out if you have all towerized units. One of the most important function of towers is to conceal the location of your heroes. But do remember to check and double check your towerized units for you don't want to leave anyone behind.

Note, however, that the towers do not appear until the next time your turn comes around - your enemy can see everything as it is building the tower. Therefore, it's good to park units in existing towers and only then leapfrog forward with scouts to build new towers. (Robert Heeter)

Defend your cities with mobile units: If there is a cluster of cities that need defending, use a stack of mobile unit instead of defending cities with multiple units in each city. It is usually less expansive and more effective. I usually use city specialists (spiders, griffins) for attacking and plain specialists (cavalry) for defending - cut off the enemy before they get to my cities. However, general purpose units (giants) are very useful for they can both attack and defend relatively well. However, do keep at least 1 unit in each city to discourage "razing" bats and scouts.

Sack cities on the front line: Cities on the front line should be sacked and the money used to build productions in cities near your strong hold. And when you push the front line forward, sack those new cities and build up the ones that are now no longer on the front line. (I'd only do that if there was no way for me to hold the fort. Stu Reeve)

The end game (turn 30+)

Know when to strike and break alliances: This is one of the most difficult art of WL. You will need to weigh many factors: Hey, that weak hero is traveling across my territory with a small stack and the boots of speed! Sure be nice if I can have 4 more cities that produce griffins, and they are lightly defended! The enemy is almost eliminated and I have twice the number of pieces as my ally! Those may be telling signs of when to break an alliance but only experience will tell you when to do so, even then, you may be wrong. But that's the nature of the game...

Try to get the other side to resign: I usually find most players are willing to resign at a certain point. When it gets down to 2 players, and you are obvious winning (or losing), don't waste time by continuing a pointless game. (It's a lot more fun to start a new one! Robert Heeter)

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