Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player

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Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player

Postby rick.leeds » 30 Jan 2013, 14:15

This post was originally posted in Strategy by gsmx. I placed it here because I think it is VERY worth noting. If you're interested, follow the link to view replies.

Coming out of a very exciting high level game "Top Thirteen Games" I've decided I'd like to highlight some of my observations of some attributes that make the successful so successful. Please note that there's not really one specials sauce to this and as savindwarf pointed out there are many different types of players, most types with their own formula to success.

1) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
As has been outlined so many times in the forum, communication is a given if you want to be successful in this game. You're not going to win very many classic games using a gunboat mentality. You need to be in constant communication building alliances, negotiating treaties, gathering information, influencing people to do what you want them to do, and when necessary spreading propaganda. There's a relationship building aspect to the game and the better players understand this. Sometimes you win the game because the players who have no shot at winning decide to throw their support behind you because they like you best.

2) All About the Moves
This is the chess aspect of the game. You need to know the board very well and have a sense for what your opponents are planning to do. You also need to have the sense to look a move or two ahead. Smart players realize that it's not about where you are in the spring its about where you are in the fall. Best way I've found to sharpen this skill is two-player or gunboat games where you can remove the diplomacy aspect of the game and focus only on perfecting moves. Jokke was a master when it came to manouvers and knew how to be unpredictable. I find it helps to try to first figure out what moves you would do if you were in your enemy and then basing your moves around those.

3) "Spidey Senses"
Good players can sense when a stab is coming. They know because of a shift in mood, a change in communications, suspicious actions, or sometimes just as simple as seeing they would stab too if they were in their opponents shoes. Many players can feel the stab coming, but for some reason many players don't act on this suspicion. They decide to wait until after the stab comes to react, although by that point it's usually nothing more then name calling because the damage is done. If you feel a stab coming then call the person out, prepare for it, or beat them to the punch. I'd much rather be called paranoid then a sucker. Awfulthings would often say his first sign of an impending stab is a sudden drop off in communications. If they stop talking, prepare for the worst.

4) Protect Your Interests
As ties in to #3', good players take precautions always. You can be extremely trusting to your allies in the beginning but don't leave your throat exposed too long and never ever in the end game. Constantly keep allies and neighboring treaties in check and call them out on any concerns. Diplomatically set an expectation of your allies to always ask permission if they are going to cut too close to any of your centers and always try to have a good understanding of what their plans are so you're never caught off guard. Playing with CS and Awfulthings as allies i found our alliance was in a perpetual state of negotiations and renegotiations, it was just baked into our daily discussions.

5) Appreciate the Value of Trust
Most games will require some degree of lying sooner or later, however trust is currency in this game so don't give it away haphazardly. Once a bridge is burned its often gone for the remainder of the game so be very sparing with lies that will catch up with you or blatant betrayals that leave a bruise of resentment. I've seen way too often players playing too hard too fast only to have painted themselves into a corner by mid-game when nobody is willing to work with them. Likewise, same applies for your competitors - any opportunity to discredit them is extremely useful. CS had mastered the commodity of trustworthiness which gets him extremely far in his games almost every time. People know he very very rarely lies which makes everybody want to align with him and often feel very guilty about ever wanting to betray him (I was an exception). Dontejones on the other hand was highly skilled at spreading mistrust and dissension amongst players through whispers and trickery.

6) Adapt and Evolve
The best players are the ones who know how to adapt as the game goes on. Follow the opportunity. Regardless of how ugly a stab is, you may still have use for that person later on so try not to slam the door shut on that person. Your bitter enemy today might be a mutually ideal ally later in the game. Would be a shame to let hard feelings stand in he way of a terrific opportunity. In our Top Thirteen game alliances shifted continually and it was the ability of former enemies to come together when needed that made the possibility of one person winning a solo so very difficult.

7) A Happy Wife is a Happy Life
Best alliances are when both sides are equally satisfied. Nobody is growing faster then the other, nobody is trying to steer an advantage in their favour, nobody is more vulnerable then the other, nobody is assuming more risk. This is a bit idealistic, but you get the idea. Occasionally offering to take a bigger bite of risk or suggesting for your ally to take a center is an investment in a strong alliance, and a strong alliance can get you incredible far. Be conscious of potential causes of frustration for an ally (like getting boxed in or taking the majority of the heat) could save you from a stab. If it makes strategic sense for your team, don't be afraid to gift over a center. CS was completely selfless, which also helps him build extremely strong alliances in most games he plays.

8) Other Ways to Skin a Cat
Not every gain needs to come through brute force, it's called "diplomacy" for a reason. Many people don't even consider this aspect of the game. Sometimes rather then spending 3 years trying to force your way into the one space that is going to open up a tonne of growth opportunity for you maybe a "trade" with your neighbour is the better and quicker way to resolve thing, or support against an enemy that's been threatening him, or any number of other incentives you can offer. I see games lost as players fight over hard to get "small potato" claims while they're enemies run around grabbing all the "low hanging fruit". Keep the big picture in mind and consider all options of how to get there.

Again, there are many different philosophies to how to succeed in this game and different things work for different people. Some succeed well with "shock and awe" (Lucifers_Hammer was great at this), some confuse and play wild card (i experienced this with my first encounter with Citizen Joe), and some are very good at laying low but knowing when to strike at the critical point (fatmo almost got me with this).

Don't worry, this doesn't really scratch the surface of all my trade secrets but hopefully enough to get a dialogue going. Love to hear some debate on this from all you Top 100 players out there.
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Re: Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player

Postby gareth66 » 30 Jan 2013, 15:12

Yes, I was reading this only the other day when I came across it and nearly commented but it seemed like it was not a currently active thread. How funny Rick has resurrected it today.

This is an outstanding analysis and full of excellent advice. The importance of communication cannot be overstated, and it never ceases to amaze me how many players do not seem willing to do this. I'd add, as an annex to this one, don't neglect the value of the shoutbox.

As far as #5 is concerned, yes, I think it is wise to avoid lying as much as possible. Only do it when you really have to - there are plenty of ways of using the truth to convey false information, and having a reputation for telling the truth is a great asset in a game.
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Re: Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player

Postby Stanislaw » 30 Jan 2013, 19:07

That's a good analysis. All I have to add is point #1 is by far the most important. I immedtiatetly don't trust people when I get one word responces, and long thought out messages I find very helpful for everyone envolved. The key to the game is communication and to win you need to use a lot of it. Even when you think you have nothing to talk about with another player regarding moves, it's always good to check in with them to keep relations friendly for the future, and there is alwasy value in influencing outcomes across the board.
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Re: Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player

Postby gsmx » 31 Jan 2013, 20:49

Completely agree. Communication and adaptability are probably the most important of all.
The first quality that is needed is audacity.
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Re: Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player

Postby sock » 01 Feb 2013, 05:58

Regarding points 3 and 4, I strongly believe that poor players essentially stab themselves through naiveness or carelessness. They create situations in which the will to stab becomes stronger than the will to stay allied.

When gsmx and I last tangled, I had the impossible task of convincing him not to stab me when that would have gone against the overall logic of the situation (of course I did try to show him that stabbing me risked losing the game for both of us, which in fact did happen). It can be quite a balancing act between staying conservative and knowing when to strike.

There is, of course, another key factor. Try to corral your emotions. A set back one year may actually represent an opportunity the following year. Stay dynamic and don't hold grudges. And try to figure out how you can be helpful for another player, while serving your own ends at the same time. That's a true skill.
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Re: Anatomy of a Top Ranked Player

Postby gsmx » 02 Feb 2013, 00:19

sock wrote:When gsmx and I last tangled, I had the impossible task of convincing him not to stab me when that would have gone against the overall logic of the situation (of course I did try to show him that stabbing me risked losing the game for both of us, which in fact did happen). It can be quite a balancing act between staying conservative and knowing when to strike.


Really fun game. I blame that loss mostly on the foolishness of other players in the game. I can hold up well against good, but I'm really no match for stupid. ;)

But actually does jog my brain to bring up another key aspect.

Know how to be a General

The ability to rally others is an incredibly useful skill to have albeit a very challenging one to master. It's one thing to seek out and recruit a like minded ally and maintain a relationship on a one-on-one basis but the biggest challenge (and headache) I ever come across in these games is when you are forced into the task to unify players to collaborate towards the common goal of halting somebody on the path to achieving a solo. I find less successful players don't even think about this need, they get so wrapped up in their immediate conflicts that they ignore the all too important big picture.

The great players are capable of uniting a coalition and acting as General for it. No easy task as it often involves working with very different personalities, a lot of times with those you've been fighting with throughout the game. Once formed, you need to take on the exhausting task of maintaining it. This requires facilitating communication, soliciting input and laying out plans, and ensuring everything is set to execute well. To make things worse this often is burdened with personality clashes, ego stroking, differing needs for security or ambition, time zones, and sometimes heated debates on how to proceed. It can drain the best of them.

To do well in this situation it takes immense diplomacy skills and helps to be generally regarded as a strong strategist. You need to be able to sell people on the idea that the good of the many needs to take priority over the good of the individual, very often not an easy sell. In these situations your coalition is often only as strong as it's weakest link, players that are poor communicators, unreliable, or high risk for straying for personal greed are the biggest threats to success and require special attention when they are identified. Occasionally this may even require cutting the throat of a weak link if an opportunity presents itself for the greater good.

It's a tough gig, but it's certainly helped me survive many a certain loss to a solo. No matter how big a game leader is until he gets to 17 he's still in the minority, all it typically takes is the ability to work together to be able to be able to stop them.
The first quality that is needed is audacity.
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