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Where Do I Put My City? A Guide to Real Estate

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    Posted: 02 Jun 2012 at 07:32
One of the issues that causes the most anxiety for new players in Illy is the question of "Where should I put my city?"  Real estate in Illyriad is indeed complicated, with a number of factors contributing to ideal city locations, including the goals of the individual players.  There is no perfect city location, but this guide seeks to outline some general principles for what makes a good city location.

Three Rules of Illyriad Real Estate

There are three rules of Illyriad real estate: Location, location, location.  

Location 1: Neighborhood

"A good neighbor is a fellow who smiles you over the back fence but doesn't climb over it."
-- Arthur Baer

The first consideration in city placement is general map area.  The Illyriad map is HUGE (4 million squares), so narrowing down to a general region or regions in which to look for a city location is a must.

Although biome considerations play a part (more on that later), probably the most significant determinant of the general area in which players choose to settle is the neighbors.  Specifically, you want to have good neighbors and good relationships with your neighbors.  For this reason, if you plan to join an alliance, it is highly recommended that you join an alliance before you move your first city or settle your second city, whichever comes first.  Your alliance can give you guidance about good areas to settle.

Even if you are not in an alliance, it's a good idea to place a city in an area where the players are likely to be friendly.  If you see a lot of members of a particular alliance, check their alliance page for any statements about settlement policies.  Some alliances prefer not to have non-allied players settle in their hub areas.

Whether or not the area you are interested in is an alliance hub, it is important to keep a respectful distance from other players.  This is to allow you AND your neighbors to grow and claim land through sovereignty.  To place a city by Tenarils, it MUST be at least 10 squares from any player not in your alliance or a confederated alliance.  

You can settle a city on any square that is not already claimed by another player (either by a city, by sovereignty or by an army guarding it).  However, just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD.  Most established players consider it courteous to ask before placing a city within 10 squares of another city.  Cities within 5 squares of each other are unlikely to have enough room to grow.  Cities 6-10 squares from each other are probably fine, but you should approach the player who owns the existing city and work out sovereignty division or other issues.  There are few things that can make for a worse city location than having a neighbor who's mad at you just for being there.

Location 2: Food and Other Factors (Resources and Sovereignty)

"The sinews of war are five -- men, money, materials, maintenance (food) and morale."
-- Ernest Hemingway

A second consideration in city placement is the capability of a city in the location to produce resources and support troops and diplos with gold production.  There are two factors that contribute to a good location in this regard:  1) the resource distribution of the square on which a city is placed and 2) the resource distributions and sovereignty bonuses of surrounding squares upon which sovereignty can be claimed.

1.  Resource Plots

When a city is moved with a Tenaril's spell, it brings its underlying resource plots with it; the resource plots of the destination square are therefore unimportant (with one significant caveat mentioned below).  However, settled and Exodused cities acquire the underlying resource plots of the square on which the city is placed.  The resource distribution can be viewed by mousing over the square and viewing the number under each resource icon on the right side, under the square description.  Cities cannot be placed on resource spawn squares such as Ancient Forest, Ruined Tower, Deserted Monastery, Standing Stones, etc.  However, these squares can be very valuable for sovereignty.

Why all this focus on resource plots?  Resource production plays a big part in what you can do with a particular city.  For most players, the most important resource will be food.  This is because population consumes food; therefore food is the limiting factor in how big you can grow your population at a given tax rate.  Having more food available means that you can have a higher population and/or a higher tax rate, which will result in additional gold production to support armies and diplomatic units.

Quite simply:

Food = population = taxes = gold = army

For this reason, all or nearly all of a player's cities should be settled on 7-food squares (the maximum possible number of food squares).  It is completely possible to have a successful city on a 5-food square or a 6-food square; however a 7-food square makes it much easier.  

Given that whenever possible players will select 7-food squares, the question is how the remaining plots should be distributed.  A settleable square can have up to 25 resource plots; most 7-food squares have 5 of each of three remaining resources and 3 of one.  Plans for city specialization will be substantially impacted by the resource with only 3 plots.  For example, creating a cavalry city on a 3-clay square might be unwise, since the cavalry parade ground consumes a great deal of clay.

2.  Sovereignty Bonuses

This guide will not go into the details of sovereignty, which are described here:  http://forum.illyriad.co.uk/a-guide-to-sovereignty_topic1939.html

Suffice it to say that sovereignty allows players to claim land outside their city to provide production benefits.  There are two basic benefits that can be achieved: a.  increased production of basic resources OR b.  increased speed of production of troops, diplo units or advanced resources.  Any sovereignty square can be used for any of these purposes, but some provide more benefits when used for a particular purpose.

a.  Increased production of basic resources

Sovereignty squares can be used to increase production of basic resources.  The percentage increase is based on the number of "points" for each resource on a given square (which is the same as the number of resource plots a city would have if settled on the square, for squares that are settleable).  At the highest level of sovereignty (level V), the number of "points" for each resource is equal to the percentage increase in production of that resource that can be obtained.  

Let's look for example at square 811/570: http://elgea.illyriad.co.uk/#/World/Map/811/570

The resource configuration on this square is 1 wood, 3 clay, 1 iron, 1 stone and 19 food.  This square, if claimed at sovereignty level V with a level 5 building, could provide ONE of the following bonuses:  1% increase in wood production, 3% increase in clay production, 1% increase in iron production, 1% increase in stone production or 19% increase in food production.

Food is the most common type of basic resource sovereignty claimed, for the reasons described in the Resource Plots section above.  A square such as 811/570 that provides almost a 20% increase in food production makes for a prime city location, particularly in combination with a 7-food square.  Squares with high food resources (usually 10 or higher), although not settleable, nevertheless make a location much more attractive for city placement.  Keep in mind that an "average" square has 5-7 food plots, so to make a square of exceptional interest it needs to have at least 10 and hopefully as many as 21 food plots.

b.  Speeding production of advanced resources, troops or diplos

Another use of sovereignty structures is to speed the production of an advanced resource such as horses, cattle, saddles or swords OR to speed the production of a certain type of troop such as cavalry OR infantry OR thieves.  Again, only one sovereignty structure can be built on each square so you have to choose between boosting a specific basic resource such as food, or a specific advanced resource such as cows or a specific troop type.  (Diplomatic units are an exception; construction of a Finishing School speeds construction of any type of diplomat in the city.)

Any sovereignty square provides a 5% per sovereignty level production bonus for any single advanced resource, troop type or diplo.  Some squares also have a "bonus" for a particular type of advanced resource OR unit.  This bonus is in addition to the 5% base bonus you can get for any resource.

Let's look for example at 809/572: http://elgea.illyriad.co.uk/#/World/Map/809/572

This square has a 3% bonus to livestock production.  This means that cow production can be sped up by 8% per level of sovereignty (the base 5% for every square and a bonus 3%), for a total of 40% increased speed at level V sovereignty.

Because any square can be sov'd for a 5% bonus to production and production bonuses range from 1% to 3%, the production bonus of sovereignty squares is one of the least important considerations for city placement.  However, given two relatively equal locations, the location with the better weapons/unit production sovereignty (sometimes called secondary sovereignty) is to be preferred.  Certain types of sovereignty bonuses are more frequently preferred:  those that speed troop production and those that speed production of particularly lucrative advanced resources.  Any 2% troop production sovereignty squares or production squares that increase cows, saddles or to a lesser degree chainmail are especially desirable.

When evaluating a location based on sovereignty concerns, it's important to remember that the farther away a square is from a city, the higher the gold and research point cost of claiming it will be.  For example, a 10-food square 2 spaces away from a city costs the same amount to maintain as two 5-food squares adjacent to the city -- for the same benefit (total of 10% boost to food at level V sovereignty).  Because a maximum of 20 sovereignty structures can be built, there can be a case made for choosing a more distant higher-bonus square rather than a combination of closer lower-bonus squares, but this is only true if one is going to claim 20 or more sovereignty squares and build all 20 sovereignty structures; this strategy is relatively uncommon.

In general, "usable" high-food squares are those within 3 squares of a city. This is because food squares are usually claimed for maximum sovereignty (level V) and the gold and research point costs are therefore of primary consideration. Usable secondary sovereignty squares with exceptional bonuses may be up to around 5 squares away in some cases, depending on the focus of the city.  This is because the basic resource upkeep cost of maintaining sovereignty buildings is the same regardless of the square's distance from the city and is not linear; thus 2 squares a bit farther away with 3% cattle bonuses may make sense at sov level II or III rather than one closer square without a bonus at sov level V.

Location 3: Defensive Factors

"Terrain is often of more value than bravery ... Bravery is of more value than numbers"
--Vegetius

Once one has found the perfect location with the best neighbors and stunning sovereignty opportunities, one is confronted with another problem -- that of keeping it.  Therefore the final "location" consideration in Illy real estate is that of defensibility.  In addition to locating near supportive allies (location 1), the primary factor contributing to defensibility of a city location is the terrain on of the city square itself and of its 8 adjacent squares.

More on this soon ... still a work in progress

It's a Jungle Out There:  Some Thoughts on Specific Biomes

Illyriad has a variety of "biomes" or general areas of specific climate and geography.  Locating a city in one of these biomes has the possibility for a number of advantages, although there are also some risks.  

One theoretical advantage will come into play when trading in animal parts is implemented after trade v2; these areas are inhabited by animals that are rare or nonexistent elsewhere.  The current practical advantage is that inhabitants in these areas can make use of the biome warfare buildings:  Jungle Warfare College, Desert Warfare College and Arctic Warfare College.  These buildings give a 1% per level attack AND defense bonus for troops from a city in which they are built (subject to the usual t2 caveat that additional buildings are each half as effective as the last).  Troops from a city with 3 maxed warfare colleges could thus have a 35% bonus in their "home" terrain.  These locations thus might be ideal for defensively minded players, since they might do the majority of fighting in and around their home cities.

The major disadvantage to these special biomes is resource distributions on settleable squares, as well as a lack of high-food squares in the desert and arctic.  There are jungle squares with 7 food plots, but these generally have less than 25 total resource plots, so you are giving up as much as 8% of potential production.  Desert and arctic squares often are even more lacking in resource plots.  These squares may present great opportunities for a Tenaril's or Exodus-Tenaril's city move, however, since Tenarils moves bring underlying food plots with them.

Locations for Different Types of Moves

There are three different ways of placing a city:  1) by sending a settler to start a new city, or by moving an existing city through 2) Tenaril's Spell or 3) Exodus.  Tenaril's spell is available once per account and can only be performed on the capital city.  Exodus can be performed as many times as desired on any city that has the Exodus technology researched.

The key difference is that newly settled cities and Exodused cities acquire the underlying resource plots of the square on which they are settled.  Tenaril'd cities bring their existing resource plots with them.  If you move a city with 5 of each resource plot by Tenaril, it will still have 5 of each resource plot after the move; this is not the case if you move by Exodus.

This means that slightly different locations are ideal for Tenaril'd cities vs. new city settlements or Exodused cities.  In particular, it is pointless to look at the underlying resources of a square to which one intends to Tenaril a city.  Please, please, please do NOT Tenaril a 5-food city onto a 7-food square!  This action ruins a perfectly serviceable 7-food square that someone else might want to use.  DO consider Tenariling such a city to a 1-food square in the Arctic or desert, thus rendering such a location habitable.  Or Exodus a 5-food city onto a 7-food square if you decide you want a 7-food city and are willing to make the sacrifice in time and building levels.  (It is not possible to settle, Tenaril or Exodus a city to a 0-food square.)

Disclaimers and Wiggle Statements

Now that you've read the nuts and bolts, a few notes:

1)  There are as many opinions about what makes a good city location as there are settleable squares in Illyriad (probably around 3 million).  The information in this guide is based on the wisdom I've absorbed from veterans, especially Siji's guide to real estate in the Toothless? forum, which I read as a new player, as well as personal tutelage from Jeaway, Fluffy, LadyLuvs and many others.  Many thanks to NightFury who laid the foundation of my understanding of sovereignty and to Mona Lisa who has greatly expanded it.  Any errors are of course my own.

2)  Please comment on this post; I will expand and edit it based on the feedback of the usual panel of experts, to whom I am grateful.

3)  It's worthwhile to spend some time looking for a city location that will support your goals as a player.  It is NOT worth having anxiety attacks, starting fights with your significant others or kicking your dog over.  In the long run, dedication, perseverance and ingenuity, as well as a thorough understanding of game mechanics, are far more important than city locations for success in Illyriad.  Above all, this is supposed to be fun!


Edited by Rill - 10 Jun 2012 at 19:25
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Jun 2012 at 07:33
Obviously this is not finished; please pardon my dust as I construct this rather extensive post.  There's no way to save draft posts, so I'm posting my work in progress here rather than risk losing it entirely.

Don't mind me!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote blazing arrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Jun 2012 at 09:22
good work Rill !!!Hug
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Nyth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Jun 2012 at 11:19
Excellent - wish I'd been able to read this back in November 2011!!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote dunnoob Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Jun 2012 at 13:31
Nice, some annotations from my POV:

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

 it is highly recommended that you join an alliance before you move your first city or settle your second city, whichever comes first.  Your alliance can give you guidance about good areas to settle.
Indeed, and looking for loopholes where I can try something different from older players, I settled first, and only after that joined an alliance elsewhere.  That risks to get eliminated without help, but at least my later alliance couldn't tell me noWink

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

To place a city by Tenarils, it MUST be at least 10 squares from any player not in your alliance or a confederated alliance.
 For those who don't know it, Tenaril is the name of the one-time capital teleport spell, and the 10sq exodus restriction is almost identical:  There can't be a big town popping up near to your town while you were away from keyboard for five minutes.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

Cities cannot be placed on resource spawn squares such as Ancient Forest, Ruined Tower, Deserted Monastery, Standing Stones, etc.
Any square with 8 or more fields of a given resource is always a special square => unusable as direct target for exodus, teleport, or settlers.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

food is the limiting factor in how big you can grow your population at a given tax rate.
Eating your own food while buying clay on the markets is fine, but at the moment it is more expensive than using your own clay while buying food -- only an example, some advanced buildings in fact "eat" lots of clay.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

A settleable square can have up to 25 resource plots
 Caveat, up to 25 means that there are squares with less plots, including 6 and 7 food plots in jungles. 

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

Sovereignty squares can be used to increase production of basic resources.
Yes, it is actually simple, e.g., a 7 iron or 12 iron square at the maximum sov 5 yields a 7% or 12% bonus on iron production, respectively.  For sov 1 it is 1/5 of the maximum, sov 2 is 2/5, etc.  As a dwarf with only 3 iron plots in my first town I now have lots of mine shafts, with the option to change this later.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

This means that cow production can be sped up by 8% per level of sovereignty (the base 5% for every square and a bonus 3%), for a total of 40% increased speed at level V sovereignty.
And of course I tested that, because I had two sov 5 squares anyway for military reasons.  What a bad idea, a single sov 5 structure costs 2400 p/h of each basic resource for its say 5*5=25% bonus.  Three sov 2 structures cost only 3*300=900 p/h, but yield 3*2*5=30%.  It is also expensive (time+resources) to build sov structure levels above level 3; even demolishing this dubious idea later takes hours.  For basic resource sov structures with no hourly upkeep it's of course fine. 

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

There are three different ways of placing a city:  1) by sending a settler to start a new city, or by moving an existing city through 2) Tenaril's Spell or 3) Exodus.
4a) Capture and exodus. 4b) Capture and stay.  Just kidding, but if it's about capture I'm sure that Rill tested it.

Originally posted by Rill Rill wrote:

 Please, please, please do NOT Tenaril a 5-food city onto a 7-food square!  This action ruins a perfectly serviceable 7-food square that someone else might want to use.
 If you can't hold it ruin it -- nothing wrong with that, after all this is a serious war gameTongue

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cerex Flikex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jun 2012 at 09:38
Keep in mind, not all players abide by these suggestions. And it can be poor form to lash out at someone who has settled closer than 10 squares. Many decide not to ask to settle, as they don't see a need for it. For them, the general rule of thumb is that a city takes up a 5x5 grid on the world map. As long as a city can claim a radius of 2 squares in sovereignty, there is enough room for growth.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Silvermania Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jun 2012 at 15:28
Another "to bookmark" guide that'll go a long way to helping newbs. Excellent stuff. Thanks Rill ;)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Avion Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jun 2012 at 15:56
Originally posted by Cerex Flikex Cerex Flikex wrote:

Keep in mind, not all players abide by these suggestions. And it can be poor form to lash out at someone who has settled closer than 10 squares. Many decide not to ask to settle, as they don't see a need for it. For them, the general rule of thumb is that a city takes up a 5x5 grid on the world map. As long as a city can claim a radius of 2 squares in sovereignty, there is enough room for growth.


When I first began this game, my first city was within two squares of another.  It was bigger than I was.  I joined an alliance and moved as soon as I could.
Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cerex Flikex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jun 2012 at 06:11
Originally posted by Avion Avion wrote:

Originally posted by Cerex Flikex Cerex Flikex wrote:

Keep in mind, not all players abide by these suggestions. And it can be poor form to lash out at someone who has settled closer than 10 squares. Many decide not to ask to settle, as they don't see a need for it. For them, the general rule of thumb is that a city takes up a 5x5 grid on the world map. As long as a city can claim a radius of 2 squares in sovereignty, there is enough room for growth.


When I first began this game, my first city was within two squares of another.  It was bigger than I was.  I joined an alliance and moved as soon as I could.

Are you saying there was only 2 squares between you? Because that is not enough space at all.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jun 2012 at 08:04
Originally posted by Cerex Flikex Cerex Flikex wrote:

Originally posted by Avion Avion wrote:

Originally posted by Cerex Flikex Cerex Flikex wrote:

Keep in mind, not all players abide by these suggestions. And it can be poor form to lash out at someone who has settled closer than 10 squares. Many decide not to ask to settle, as they don't see a need for it. For them, the general rule of thumb is that a city takes up a 5x5 grid on the world map. As long as a city can claim a radius of 2 squares in sovereignty, there is enough room for growth.


When I first began this game, my first city was within two squares of another.  It was bigger than I was.  I joined an alliance and moved as soon as I could.

Are you saying there was only 2 squares between you? Because that is not enough space at all.

New player cities can spawn adjacent to existing cities if the existing player has not claimed sov there.  For examples in game, check Ryelle's city of Duradera.  Lucky thing she likes newbs!
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