A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Share and discuss strategies for playing the game, and get help and tips from other players.

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Rhuvaen
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Post by Rhuvaen »

Kudos to grrr and awaw for a great new thread! :D

I've been somewhat curious about FFAs for a long time - there's a certain itch of having broader strategic choices than a normal 1v1 or 2v2 allows - but the effort (time) involved and as a consequence, some very bad 1v1v1 experiences on smaller maps (Island of the Horatii :|) spoiled it for me so far (so much so I almost went looking for the N3T draft offices...). In general though, I look for fewer but longer games that feature crucial decisions at some stage, rather than a lot of small scale ones (which are to a great extent driven by the results of individual unit combat). So perhaps here's a crowd for me to look out for on the MP server. :wink:

I'm just curious: is King of the Hill the only map you play FFA on? Obviously Island of the Horatii (which I'd place in the same category as Isar's Cross - a placebo map for the impatient) doesn't offer the gameplay you're outlining here. It's just that while KotH looks pretty "balanced", it doesn't strike me as such an interesting FFA map... I completely agree with Sombra that moving to the center is a suicidal operation (unless you already eliminated one neighbour and want to close in on the other two). Any player attempting such a move is basically handing victory to one of his neighbours.

Which is why you need pretty sound-thinking, patient players to start with. If the player in the opposite corner is too aggressive or careless, by the time you recognized that he's handing victory to a common neighbour the game is already decided. That's one of the drawbacks of FoW, actually.

A bad player can also attack you suicidally, and while you manage to defend yourself and level one or two units, the other players encroach on his territory and position themselves for an economic win. :(

Then there's also the concept of interference. Where three sides meet, one of the players is basically in a kingmaking position by joining his attacks with one of the other players. I cannot see any gameplay benefit from such situations, so I guess they are to be avoided (either by the map setup - which is obviously not the case in KotH, or by the player retreating from such situations). I would like to know how you prevent such situations from spoiling your game.

I suppose Forest of Fear is a similar map (regarding gameplay in FFA) but without the central position (though I never played it). I wonder whether you have anything to say about this map? :)

Another one worth mentioning is Becephalus' Westeros map, which is also a FFA (for 6 players though - much harder to get together), which features assymetric player positions... worth having a look at for die-hard FFA'ers.
awaw wrote:I seek to share my views on some things that are specific to ffa play, and which are not commonly considered in regular play.
[...]
In my 5 mths playing this game, I found out that the most common comparison used is relative combat power (i will call it RCP from now on) for the relative cost of 2 units. In a saurian skimisher vs da fight, who will win, and why. The presumption is always a standup fight between the 2 of them, there is often very little consideration given for the ability to focus units at a crucial point of battle.

I deduce that this attention to RCP is caused by the maps currently preferred by the crowd. [...]

This type of combat environment accentuates the value of "infantry", hence everyone is very focussed on getting the best or most suitable grunt for the map. [...]

So essentially what I was saying is, in ffa games, the ability to focus superior firepower on a point of battle may well take precedence over the RCP.
Even for the stand-up fight, those two units that choose when to attack will probably have a MUCH better chance at surviving. But yes, I agree with your line of thought. Factional balance cannot be assumed to be the same for maps such as KotH and FFA situations (compared to typical 'tournament' maps), because scouts, fliers and smaller groups play a much greater role.

In some large team games (3v3 on Waterloo Sunset, another biggie), there's a similar shift in gameplay, and a lot of what is said here applies there, too.


You say there's no sense playing FFAs without FoW, but I don't agree. I do think that it completely changes the gameplay. Much of what you said applies specifically to games with FoW - you get a game where you have to assess your options, carefully lay out and execute your plans, and adjust to what the opposition does. On KotH, without FoW it'd be an endless maneuvering and counter-maneuvering.

But consider another type of map - one that isn't inherently balanced. Perhaps a randomly generated map (but say, with slightly better/more balanced distribution of terrain and not an excessive amount of villages - I'm not recommending the typical generator maps at all here!). There'd be a "natural" imbalance" in the player situations. Now the skill would be to gauge the threat that each of your opponents poses, and to estimate where the territory ends that you can defend against your neighbours at a reasonable cost. It wouldn't be so much the moment of surprise ("oh look, I allotted more and better forces to our common border than you did, and managed to grab those villages over there without resistance!") but the skill of each player in assessing the situation and acting on it. It would be a more "diplomatic" game in that you could argue certain aspects of the situation to convince your fellow players to act against a common threat, or to stop them from a suicidal attack that will still weaken your position.

Last but not least those maps would allow all players to watch all of the action - meaning less time spent in front of a static, fog-filled screen wondering what the other players' excitement is all about.

This reminds me to ask grrr how he made those fogless screenshots from a FoW-enabled game, and if it had anything to do with him winning. :P (Btw, I can't make out the unit colours without the ellipses)

Finally, I'd like to recommend one smaller FFA (actually a 1v1v1) that plays very differently from KotH and Island of the Horatii, which I find thoroughly enjoyable: Dovolente's Cutthroat map. I'd even recommend it to those who avoid 1v1v1 (I certainly do!). It's a centerless map (well, there is a water passage for some interaction), so you have two fronts with both of your neighbours with no possibility of interference from the third player on each of them. There are also neutral spawns that force you to spread your units to keep control of your territory and protect retreating units. Those two elements work together really well, resulting in a pretty good FFA experience. May I predict the crumbling of the N3T clan in the wake of this map? :)

Welcome to the end of my post. :wink:

grrr
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Usage of mobility in FFA

Post by grrr »

Usage of mobility in FFA
1. The Fast Response Squad
Being able to relocate firepower fast is crucial in FFA: The longer you fight one opponent, the higher the chances are you get attacked by another opponent. Even worse: he will try to attack a weak spot far away from your main forces.
Now if you had recruited faster units, you could possibly shift your firepower in 1-2 turns to respond to that threat, even if they are currently fighting together with your main force. By then, you have perhaps lost 1 or 2 defenders, but you have good chances to keep control over the attacked sector!

Following units excel in a fast response squad (FRS in the following):
* gryphon
* horseman
* cavalry
* elvish scout
* elvish archer (with quick trait)
* drake fighters (with quick trait)

As an avid loyalist player, I found 2-3 horsemen together with 2-3 cavalry to be particularly effective: keep them behind your front lines to reach both lines in 1-2 turns. If you fear an unwanted attack on either side (weak defense, no reinforcements, etc.), SHOW your FRS to your enemy. He will over-estimate your defensive capabilities by fearing the counter-attack, possibly abandoning his attack plans altogether.
So a FRS that can quickly change its position can increase your defense power on both (or even more) defense lines to the same extend!
Even more interesting, a FRS can also form the flank support in any assault. After the initial attack, it can retreat to a safe position and help guarding the other, now mostly weakened front lines.
Also, if an attack fails or you get simply outnumbered by the defender, a FRS will happily fill the gap and cover your retreat.

2. Raiding parties
Once an opponent allows you to bypass his defenses, it is not always smart to abandon a good position and go in with your main forces. Rather assemble some units with decent firepower and above-than-average movement points and get sneaky!
A raiding party can (temporarily) weaken the opponent's economy or even go for a leader assassination.
Since you don't want your raiding party to get caught by infantry, it is of paramount importance to excel in mobility. The quick trait, combined with a good movement type, comes in handy. As the term "raid" suggests, you should have a safe retreat passage under your control at all times.
However, if your raiding party lacks firepower (such as 3 lvl1 wolf riders), your single objective will be village stealing and perhaps kill some wounded units. With more firepower, you can even attack the opponent's reinforcements! If at the same time the opponent's main force is engaged elsewhere (not necessarily fighting you), this tactic will soon lead to heavy losses for him.
In KotH, a raiding party can be a very efficient sector defense as well, once your king went to another castle. You won't be able to hold all villages, but as soon as 2 other sides fight for control over your sector, the raiding party will get some easy kills and probably even survive!

awaw
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Post by awaw »

I have often heard comments that suggest King of the Hill (KotH) is not a good map for ffa unlike Horaitii or Blitz. The reason being that the terrain gives a bigger advantage to one player. Today I will like to share why I think differently.

Firstly, all things being equal, a totally symmetrical map is definitely more balanced than an asymetrical map. However a totally symmetrical map inherently give no imperatus to start an attack (at least a rational one), unlike an asymetrical one. So as far as ffa goes, symmetry here may be both a blessing and a curse. Symmetry though really balances out A vs B game setups.

KotH is different, it has 39 villages with 4 players, so the map itself forces a quasi-inbalance as far as economy goes, it sets in place the urge for at least one player to attack. This is a very nice feature since it prevents a boring "sitkreig" that will eventually, if allowed to continue unchecked, develope into the all familiar positional warfare tactics we are so used to seeing in regular play.

Secondly, if a map is totally symmetrical, the smaller it gets, the bigger the first move advantage (FMA) will be. Lets consider Horaitii, red, as the first player, gets to occupy the islands on either side first, and also it "fair" share of 2 villages in the middle. The 2nd player will get first move on the island on the far side of red and also 2 vilages in the middle. This leaves the 3rd player only 2 uncontested villages in the middle and a few unhappy alternatives:
a. Choose to confront either one of the other players (probably red since his forces are spread out more) to take over one of the islands. Either side he choose to attack, the other unmolested party benefits.
b. Mass the troops to take some "extra" villages in the middle, again benefitting the unmolested party.
c. Mantain status quo and hope the other players fight. But why should they? Red, having the the most villages, will win if the current situation continues, so he has no incentive to "change" it. If player 2 attacks player 3, he just make red even stronger. If he attack red, he merely opens the game up to player 3. So either way there is no incentive for him to attack.

With these considerations, I personally do not find the above mentioned 3p-ffa maps very balanced at all.


Map Analysis: King of the Hill

Now, lets look at KotH. At first glance, many players may say:
a. SW is the best faction, since it has the most villes in its sector.
b. NW is the worst faction since it has the least villes in it sector.
c. Basically game play is NvsN, SvsS and the winner of either battle take the fight to the other pair.
d. Mmmm, there are quite a few villages in the middle, if I were to somehow occupy them, and be able to discourage the others from attacking me, I will win the game easy.

I will propose approaching this map with a sequential analysis of each player.

Player 1 (SW, red)
As the first player, he will normally be able to seize the water villages between SW and SE. The bridges across the river seperately the north from the south also look like convenient chokepoints. so if red were to take all the villages in the SW of the central keep and south of that river, and use the ToD to capture/surrender the other villages in the middle, he will end up with a comfortable 12 (give and take a couple) villages. And as time goes, he will eventually win the game. Sounds easy, but it may be a little more difficult to execute.

To hold and discourage attacks on the water villages between SW and SE, the most efficient units are the fishes. This suggest that SW will do well with either loyalist/elf/orc. I tend to lean towards a neutral faction for player 1 because a lawful or chaotic faction is very weak on the wrong ToD and seems to encourage more than its fair share of attacks.

Player 2 (SE, blue)
Since SW may possibly take the water villages first between the 2 of them, even when player 2 sucessfully defend all the villes in the SE quarter of its map, it will be below the "average 10" village to mantain economic parity. This spurs SE to seek to acquire more villages. There are only 2 logical directions to go, north or west.

Going north requires transversing though a lot of grounds (many of which are forest/hills/mountains) before coming to a village. This means a lot of fighting for a few villages, not a very profitable alternative 8)

On the other hand, there are 2 water villages sitting right on the frontline between SW and SE. Very juicy targets, apparently!!! So the first impulse for SE will be to try and maneuvour his units to take over this villages.

It is at this stage of the game where i often see the start of a naval buildup as SE attempts to take over the villages. On hindsight however, I will like to caution SE to not over build a navy, since they do not really control any strategically important areas AFTER you have taken over the sea villages. The area between NE and SE has little prospects for fishes, and you defintiely have no use for 6 fishes to defend 2 water villages from red.

A more viable alternative is to use a group of units that are suitable for land operations after taking over the village. Ghosts/gryphons come into my mind. Note that if the SE player uses gryphons, he will be able to take the sea villages first if SW is not using gryphons to take them.

Player 4 (NW, purple)

In most cases, NW will be able to take villages 14,5 and 18,9. Given their immediate surroundings and proximity to the home castle, these villages are relatively easy to hold. I will venture to say that with approximately 1/3 of the forces available to purple, he should be able to successfully deter an attack by a rational NE player.

This frees up 2/3 of his army to move south to secure the villages NW of the keep. Now, in most cases, even with the advantages of being the defender, red simply do not have enough troops to prevent BOTH purple or blue from simulataneously crossing the bridge or taking the sea villages respectively and yet still hold the villages near the central keep. The impact of the extra villages have not set in at this stage of the game.

An aggressive red defence against blue may escalate into an all-out war between them. An aggressive defence at the bridge to prevent a determined river crossing by purple may well leave the front with blue undermanned, and if blue were to somehow capture the defensive ground from 15,25, to 15,32, the game is effectively lost for red. An aggressive defence around the middle castle is plain stupid with forces pushing from the NW or SE. Often the game will develope such that red cannot actually do any of the above and end up with 9 villages eventually.

An assumption here of course is that both NW and SE actually are putting pressure on red. It is also possible that one or more side may delay applying this pressure (either in the hope that the other side will draw more red forces over by attacking first, or they have other more evil aggenda), in which case, the game play may turn out quite differently. I will leave it to the players to work out the iterations for each possible scenario. But one thing is defintely clear now, red is not as easy a faction to play as what it first seems.

Player 3 (NE, green)
Of all the players, green is perhaps the only side without an obvious path to take, and I believe this to be the single greatest advantage. Both of green's neighbour are positioned to participate in armed conflicts, and this opens up not only opportunities for the relevant borders, but also in the middle of the map.

It is therefore very important for green to mantain situation awareness AND be positioned to exploit any possible weaknesses. Failure to do so will eventually snowball to dire consequences as the game progress. I will also like to add that the snow in the NE corner makes it a very nice corner to hold on to.

Hence end my terrain analysis for the KotH. Later, I intend to take this map analysis one step further with a action/reaction approach, that is if grrr have not done it by then 8)
PM me if you are a armchair general :D

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Post by Noy »

Rheuvan wrote: Another one worth mentioning is Becephalus' Westeros map, which is also a FFA (for 6 players though - much harder to get together), which features assymetric player positions... worth having a look at for die-hard FFA'ers.
Westeros for 1.3.X

Enjoy
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Post by Yogibear »

Rhuvaen wrote: ...
This reminds me to ask grrr how he made those fogless screenshots from a FoW-enabled game, and if it had anything to do with him winning. :P
...
Well, the master of replays developed this fantastic feature to turn off FOW within replays in order to learn more out of it :wink: .

An excellent thread BTW, makes me really curious to play some FFA which i rigidly avoided so far...
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Post by Doc Paterson »

awaw wrote: a totally symmetrical map is definitely more balanced than an asymetrical map.
:roll:
awaw wrote: However a totally symmetrical map inherently give no imperatus to start an attack (at least a rational one)
:roll:
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Post by Becephalus »

Yogi Bear wrote:
Rhuvaen wrote: ...
This reminds me to ask grrr how he made those fogless screenshots from a FoW-enabled game, and if it had anything to do with him winning. :P
...
Well, the master of replays developed this fantastic feature to turn off FOW within replays in order to learn more out of it :wink: .

An excellent thread BTW, makes me really curious to play some FFA which i rigidly avoided so far...
I took the screenshots after I won, from the autosaves...
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batoonike
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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by batoonike »

There arent overly many FFA games going on in the server lately and some players have communicated strange believes about FFA, so maybe some extra ideas would help.

Guide to WINNING in a free for all

1. Be ready to lose 3-7 times in a row
I personally like 5 player FFA maps most. With 5 players you have statisticly 80% chance of losing the game. Imagine having your leader next to the last opponents leader. You can attack, but you have 20% chance to kill and 80% chance to die. Thats pretty much the case of 5p FFA: you just cant expect to win very often. If you do, you will get easily depressed and wont enjoy the game at all.

2. Realize you can win

That being said, you must realize that 99% of cases, an FFA can be won by any of the sides if they play right. FFA-s are NOT lost because of "luck" or because of "imbalanced map" or because of "teamer noobs". Your goal as a player that tries to win is to BE that guy who has "luck on his side" or is "teamer noob" or is taking advantage of the imbalanced map. The more you play FFA, the more you understand that luck is just good risk management, teaming is just rational actions by each player and "imbalanced map" is just playing the best you can with the cards youve been given.

2. Learn to handle nasties: teaming, backstabbing, lying

General rule is: in FFA never ever trust anyone. I mean in a friendly way :) If you make peace, put a scout on the border so you wont get backstabbed so unexpectedly. No matter what any of the players say, be ready for the case that its not true.

You have to make sure you dont get ganged. This is your top priority! Usually peace against you is based on a few things:
1) The other players see fighting you giving THEM more power than fighting eachother.
2) You look too strong to be handled alone

In the first case, what you did wrong was looking like you dont defend your villages well enough. If two players are holding real tight to their villages, its easier for BOTH of them to go attack you rather than fight eachother. So you must make sure youre the one whos villages just cant be taken away. But avoid...
The second case, when you are just too strong. Now looking strong and being strong are totally different things. Your goal is to be a tiger but look like a turtle. You dont look like a threat nor an opportunity, so you are left alone. The most powerful way of achieving this, is when you have a big keep and can mass tons of gold. Gold is invisible (if fog is turned on ofc). When you have a good "peace" situation, always try to stay in zero-upkeep and mass gold, same time scouting your allies and opponents with some units. If people cant see your units, they are not scared, obviously. At the right time, pump out those +24 units in 4 turns and go for it.

One of the key things in massing gold is avoiding losses. People often overappreciate villages. One village for 1 turn is 2 gold*. One elvish fighter not killed but healed is worth 7 villages for 1 turn or 1 village for 7 turns, and 7 turns is a very long time in a FFA. No matter what faction you have, play drakes :D Dont take beating. You will be amazed how much gold (or units) you can bump out with just 4-5 villages if you put extra effort into not losing units. Villages are for gold, gold is for units. If you have units, you can often beat guys with lots of villages at some point in the game.


* Because you are massing gold you have no upkeep anyway most cases. Because its ffa, you cant count the 3 gold you take away from the opponent, because you dont know who ends up being a foe and whos your best friend in this game.

3. Learn to handle superior and inferior forces

Sun Tzu (Art of war) said: you must learn to handle superior and inferior forces :) While inferior forces are fairly easily handled, so many players feel like they have lost when they have to face a superior force. Imagine:
4 players (1 was beaten and divided early on), noone has stocked up tons of gold yet
red - 20 units, 15 villages
blue - 10 units, 10 villages
green - 15 units, 10 villages
purple - 15 units, 10 villages

Now if red attacks blue, he has 2x more units and considerably more villages. Blue should NOT: leave the game, attack green, attack purple, because this would lead to 2 vs 1 against blue, who is already in a horrible position. Now blue cant also fight red directly, so he has to avoid battle by retreating. Or do battle in a situation where red doesnt have many units in the area. This is actually very obvious but people tend to leave the game in such cases or make suicidal battles. Even running all your units into the edge of the map is better than just losing them. Add in a good amount of effective propaganda and you will soon find that red is fighting 20 units vs 10 + 15 = 25 units, even though he was superior force on the map.

The key is, that even though it might look like one of the players is winning, while a) you have an army b) there is a third player in the game, you can end up on top. If you dont have an army or gold, you are toast. So dont lose army, even if you have to give up too many villages for a while.

Warfare is all about deception

Sun Tzu said: Warfare is all about deception. You wont get far with chivalry in FFA. Your master goal is to execute a strategy that the opponent didnts expect, thus they cant counter it in time. This includes, but is not limited to:

1) If you play dwarves on a small map, try going all guardsmen for a start :) In forest of fear, it sometimes works wonders. These guys just dont die, and you have 5 villages for sure for a very long time

2) Put lots of effort into getting a shadow or a two. If you can get 2 shadows, most things can be assassinated. If the opponent doesnt know you have 2 shadows, then its usually over. ofc, you have to wait till theres only like 1 main threat left. I had a team game on clash, where we had our last 5-6 units defening leaders from like 20+ enemies while the 2 shadows sneaked behind the lines and got 2 leader-frags. Dont underestimate this stuff.

3) Use Ctrl + B to show the best possible movement limits of the opponents during your turn. They can see 1 hex FURTHER than they can move, so anything out of that range is invisible. Its often better to hide a unit and waste a few MP than to move it as far as possible but give opponent an extra turn to react. This is especially true when backstabbing, assassinating or attacking from strange directions.

4) In Wilderness, get a silver mage leader from red mage. People just give up once they realize you can reqruit basicly anywhere on the map. If lucky, you can get it without attacking a single player's unit.
Last edited by batoonike on March 13th, 2010, 1:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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pauxlo
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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by pauxlo »

batoonike wrote: The key is, that even though it might look like one of the players is winning, until a) you have an army b) there is a third player in the game, you can end up on top. If you dont have an army or gold, you are toast. So dont lose army, even if you have to give up too many villages for a while.
This until should be a while, I think.

Otherwise, nice guide.

batoonike
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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by batoonike »

Thanks. What was meant by "until" was like "if a and b hold, it is not too late to win". In my language it would be "until" in this case :) "While" sounds strange, but if youre still 100% sure ill change it.

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pauxlo
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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by pauxlo »

batoonike wrote:Thanks. What was meant by "until" was like "if a and b hold, it is not too late to win".
Yes, I supposed this. But it means "if a and b hold, it is too late to win" (so you would have to do it before getting an army or a third player, which is nonsense).
batoonike wrote: In my language it would be "until" in this case :) "While" sounds strange, but if youre still 100% sure ill change it.
I suppose your language is a slavic one? (This is a typical error I observed on native speakers of those languages, though mainly in Esperanto - which is quite like German and English in this regard.)

For programmers: A "do-while" loop repeats as long as the condition is true (= stops when the condition gets false), a "do-until" loop stops when the condition gets true (= repeats as long as it is false).

grrr
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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by grrr »

Thanks for reviving this old thread, much appreciated =)

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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by joshudson »

I play FFA games (usually 3 player, sometimes 4) and found an often nasty strategy in small to medium maps is guardsmen spam (recruit 50% guardsmen). Usually if somebody is going to rush they will rush somebody who can lose units quickly. Otherwise, well the idea is like you Player F above and slowly gobble up villages.
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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by nebula955 »

joshudson wrote:I play FFA games (usually 3 player, sometimes 4) and found an often nasty strategy in small to medium maps is guardsmen spam (recruit 50% guardsmen). Usually if somebody is going to rush they will rush somebody who can lose units quickly. Otherwise, well the idea is like you Player F above and slowly gobble up villages.
How do you intend to gobble up villages with those guardsmen more often than you would with a less guardsman recruit?

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Re: A Strategy Guide for FFA Games

Post by Velensk »

I think what he means is that you just sit back and try not to look like a threat while hopefully the other players fight each other. Then when an enemy leaves a village open you pounce on it with a guard and the promise that it will be more trouble than it is worth to take back.
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