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Mana is that mystical factor which gives your tribe its power. It is generated by your followers and consumed when you charge spells or train followers. The way in which this happens is really important to your conduct of the game, so I have devoted this section to it.
The only source of information on actual mana numbers is the Official Populous Guide (OPG), but that is inaccurate, as I have indicated below.
You start the world with 300 points of mana. That's enough for 1.5 charges each of Blast and Convert, which are the default starting spells.
During the game, your followers generate mana at the following rates, according to OPG:
The Shaman has the highest generation rate, but there is only one of her and she will take over 8 minutes to charge a single blast spell on her own, so for most purposes her mana can be ignored.
Equally, the charge rate from trained followers is small - it takes 4 trained followers to generate as much as a single working brave. Put another way, if you train lots of followers, you reduce your mana generation for those followers by 75%.
When it comes to mana generation then, braves are where it's at. There is a catch though. If the braves are standing around idle, they generate much less mana! According to the OPG they generate *zero* mana. I've checked that out though, and it's not true. On a map with 140 braves all either active or in huts, it took about 10 seconds to charge lightning. With them all in a heap, standing idle, it took 35 seconds, but when I killed them all off (Wheee!) it took 3 1/2 minutes. (Actually, you can't kill them all off, cus the huts still produce them, so say an average of 12 braves.) That would suggest that idle braves probably generate about the same as trained followers, i.e. 1.5 mana per minute. So you have to keep them occupied, or send them to huts (where they will also breed more followers) to keep your mana accumulating as fast as possible.
The other way to generate mana is by killing an enemy shaman, whereupon you receive 25% of the mana she has in partly-charged spells. It follows that the more spells, and the more powerful the spells, which the enemy is charging,and the nearer they are to being fully charged, the more mana you will get. The OPG says, most emphatically, that the opponent *doesn't* lose any mana - this is newly generated, so you can keep on killing a shaman without diminishng returns (e.g. by putting firewarriors around her CoR). However, in practice (and I have tested it out after being challenged on it) the defeated shaman *does* lose 25% of the accumulated mana from partly charged spells.
Mana is used in training followers and in charging spells. You can't store mana, however, so if you are generating mana faster than it is being used, the surplus goes to waste. This is shown by the mana bar on your display flashing red, and is clearly to be avoided.
The mana which you are generating has to be shared out between the various processes which use it - the more there are, the less each receives. Thus, if you have all spell charging turned off, and just one warrior training hut training braves, that hut will get all the mana and train at the fastest rate possible. If you have two training huts in action, they will each get half the mana each, three huts will get a third each etc. However, even if you have just a single spell charging, that spell will receive half the available mana and the huts will share the remaining half. This is because the 50:50 division of mana between training and spells happens before it is shared out within each category. This means that if you want to maximise spell charging, you have to stop all training (and vice versa to maximise training). Even one active training hut, training one brave, will cut the spell charging rate in half.
This would suggest that you can't train braves faster by having multiple huts (e.g. 2 warrior training huts) because each additional hut would reduce the training rate for the others. This is true in the early stages of the game, when mana is limited. However, there is a maximum rate at which a training hut can accept mana. If you are diverting all available mana to a single training hut, you will produce trained individuals at this maximum rate (about 7 - 10 seconds), and any surplus mana will be wasted. When you reach this state, an extra training hut will use the surplus mana and so you *will* train followers faster. With a large population, even three or more huts will produce trained followers at their maximum rate. i.e. 18 warriors per minute. It may be a good idea to have multiple huts for other reasons too: it will allow you to continue training followers if one gets destroyed; and if they are spread out it will save travelling time for your followers as they will automatically go to the nearest hut, if you command them with the buildings panel.
One point which is unclear is whether the 50:50 rule is absolute. If you are producing lots of mana from a big population, charging lots of spells, but only using one training hut, it is likely that the 50% allocated to training will exceed the maximum rate for that hut. It would be sensible if the excess were to be transferred back to charging spells, but The Populous Official Guide would suggest that the excess mana will be wasted. If that is the case, it may be that you should do your training in bursts, using all your training huts, and then to stop training in between to maximise spell charging.
The mana cost for each spell is shown in the Strategy - Spells section.
On the basis of my limited experiments the mana numbers quoted in the OPG don't stack up. Using lightning as the example, it is listed as requiring 800 mana to charge. With 140 braves in huts or working, at 6 mana/minute each, that should take 64 seconds to charge. In fact, it charges in around 10 seconds. The rates can therefore only be taken as indicative of the relative mana charge rates and requirements (eg braves produce more mana than warriors); they are not correct in the absolute sense. The rest of the mana information seems to be ok, but if you find different, let me know.
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Last updated: 17 October 2011