Introduction

Large swaths of the bottom right screen lit up in my color red as I walked over blue's crown tile. I had captured them. Their forces instantly threw down their weapons; most deserted, a few stayed. The ones who did stay joined our forces. With the addition of their land, we were half-the-map-strong and had more steeples than we knew what to do with. It was just one of many battles that would eventually lead to the domination of the entire map. Welcome to my binge of Generals.io.

replay of my inexorable march to victory
My inexorable march to victory


Table of Contents


Overview

Generals.io is a realtime multiplayer strategy game that is like the game Risk; you raise armies, capture territories, and ultimately take over the enemy by capturing their crown. Winners of battles are determined by number comparison - if one number is bigger than the other, then the bigger number wins. The losing number is subtracted from the winning number. How is such a simple game so addicting? I don’t know, but after seeing the link a few days ago (thanks hacker news), I spent most of my last weekend playing it on and off.

There is no foolproof strategy to win. In classic mode, there are 8 simultaneous players on the map all vying for territory. Because I need to justify spending so much time playing a javascript web game, here I describe my strategy for competing, and then abstract the specific tactics into real life lessons we can use to win at the game of life. (Here is another way to win at life: Do These 4 Things Every Day)


Strategies


Explore, explore, explore

Everyone starts with only one crown tile that generates 1 army unit per tick. In the beginning, it is all about exploring! Go up, down, left, right, around mountains, anywhere you can travel to. Blank spaces require no battles to capture and will generate 1 army unit every 25 ticks. People have developed different exploration strategies like depth-first vs breadth-first. Either way, it pays to move quickly in the beginning.

Real life: Life has infinitely more dimensions for exploration than just a 2d map. Whether you are old or young, exploration should always be part of your life strategy, especially if you are doing something new like starting a job or moving to another city. Eventually you will develop an exploration strategy that works for you, similar to depth-first (becoming an expert) vs breadth-first (becoming well-balanced). For any strategy though, get off your ass and move!


Strike quickly and with purpose

As the map and blank spaces begin filling up, you will meet other players. Now the real battles begin. Everyone has varying degrees of aggression, but if you do attack, strike quickly and with a clear goal. The more time you give your enemies, the more you expose your army sizes and positions, and the more time they will have to respond. The specific purpose of an attack should either be to scout and locate an enemy's crown, or take specific objectives like a steeple (generates 1 army unit per tick, 25x faster than regular spaces) or a strategic area for visibility purposes. Capturing a space here and there, slowly, does not help your ultimate objective.

Real life: In life there are rarely explicit enemies that vie for mutually exclusive resources. We can still use this tactic however - it is a lesson to have a clear goal in mind when we need to execute, and to do so swiftly with purpose. If we do a bit of this and a bit of that, with no real goal in mind, we gain little for the time and effort we spend on it.


Balance the long game and the short term gains

Different scenarios call for different tactics. My overall strategy relies on balancing immediate gains (defending or attacking) with investing for the long game (spending army units to capture neutral steeples). If I see an enemy is weak or distracted, I will muster my forces and charge into the heart of their territory in search of their crown. If I cannot foresee an immediate threat or need to regroup, I will spend army units capturing steeples to increase my army-raising rate. Usually I invest in capturing steeples after capturing a crown or winning battles, as both sides are weak from attrition and need time to rebuild.

Real life: I wrote a piece about being a farmer vs a hunter, and this tactic is exactly that - sometimes we need to invest for the long term, sometimes we need to strike quickly and directly. Knowing when to do either is half the battle, and the rest is “simply” execution.


Always be closing

My username handle in the game is https://tonyy.in so that my enemies can look me up when I crush them. I originally wanted to make the top 100 leaderboard to get some organic acquisition traffic, but people started getting really good at the game and my best rank has only been around 600. I play this game for fun, of course, but I never say no to “free" acquisition channels.



Closing Thoughts

The metagame is always changing; that is most likely why the game started getting harder and harder for me throughout the weekend (and the people who stuck around kept getting better and better). I have stopped playing so ferociously, but the lessons will hopefully stick around for a while.

Do you play generals.io? Shoot me a message if you would like to play a private 1v1 game. Playing with friends is always >> playing with Anonymous!

If you understand Chinese, here is a hilarious video (part of a series) from a YouTube caster named "Chocolate":