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Here are some of my thoughts on strategy, which I've picked up from my many lost games. Playing online is quite different from playing against the computer so you'll have to go through a period of adjustment, but you'll soon start to get the hang of it. There is no one strategy which will guarantee success in Populous (with the possible exception of obsessive use of swamps), but that is part of the attraction - just about any spell or strategy can be countered with a bit of thought, ingenuity, skill or luck. Scissors beat paper which beats stone which beats scissors.
As you will see, there's a lot more work to be done here, and I will be fleshing out my own ideas as I play more, but I would really appreciate contributions from other players. There is so much diversity out there that it would be really neat to document some of the different strategies.
So here are my thoughts - bear in mind that I'm just a newbie here, having started playing (single player) in Dec 2000 (guess what I got for Christmas) and online at the start of Feb 2001, so what do I know? Use these ideas at your own risk B-)
Build early, build fast - Most victories go to the player with most fighters or most spell-power. Both require a large population, which requires a large settlement, so make sure that your braves are always building. That means you have to keep laying down houses, and maybe making new land, so keep landbridge charged. In the standalone game, you can take time to think about things, pause the game, have a coffee and carry on. Online, it's fast and furious, and slow = dead. (Incidentally, you can pause a game when online, but please don't do it.)
Learn what the sounds mean - They will give you early warning of attack. Each spell has its own associated word, and listen out also for the acknowledgement sounds, especially of preachers and spies. You really should be able to recognise them if you've played through the single-player levels, but you can hear the full set on several of the web sites listed below if you need to refresh your memory.
Watch out for early attacks - I now always lay down a training hut as my first building if I can (preacher if it's enabled, otherwise warrior) and train up 3-4 braves. It's a drain on resources, but gives some defence against an early rush by the enemy shaman with or without followers.
Watch for 'loaded' games - Experienced players (who should know better) sometimes host games and set the options and spells so narrowly that only one strategy can succeed. An example is to choose a world with a central totem which provides mana, and then to disable most of the spells, plus firewarriors, preachers and spies, plus guard towers, boats and balloons. This means that the first one to the totem starts getting loads of extra mana and can therefore rapidly power up to Angel of Death (AOD) which you have no defence against. If you find yourself in this position, and haven't explicitly agreed to it beforehand, I believe you are justified to quit the game - no one deserves points for that. As you get more experienced, you may get to spot these scenarios and can get a lot of pleasure in beating one of these guys in their own sandpit, but don't expect to get a point out of it - they are not usually good losers.
Choose your opponents carefully - As a newbie, if you play a shaman, you will lose! Stick to wildmen to have any chance of a win. You will also soon learn who is nearest to your level of skill, so go for new names, or names of people you *almost* beat before. If your memory is as bad as mine, keep a notebook by the machine and note down who you play and put an asterisk next to those you would like to play again. Bear in mind that the only way to learn new tactics (apart from this site :-) is to fight someone better than you, so the shamans are really acting as unpaid trainers when they offer to play newbies. I don't think we should begrudge them their points for that.
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Last updated: 17 October 2011