I'm a longtime player against the AI only. Given that, here's my take on Fusion Power's tips:
1. Attack and I mean always attack.
Well, sometimes you have no choice but to wait and even hope the enemy focuses elsewhere. Always keep in mind how much pressure your enemy is under; if you are her only border she will definitely attack you. If she is surrounded by other territories but attacking you at the moment, she may look elsewhere next turn. Sometimes making sure your bases are covered and waiting (hoping) for an opening pays off.
2. Castles are rarely useful in games against the AI. If you get into network games against human opponents, they are necessary.
Actually, they are annoying common in the AI game; it doesn't really make sense even for the AI player since they are purely defensive and this is a largely offensive game. You will also notice that the enemy often has more money than they should. That's their compensation for not being smart! (And hey, it doesn't actually state in the rules that the AIs follow the same economic rules you do.)
3. Select your starting moves very carefully. The game is won or lost in the first 2 "days".
My guidelines are (in decreasing order of importance):
- Link your regions together.
- Link up to your single spaces - Free land!
- Cut down your enemies rather than just grabbing singleton enemy spaces.
- Take the spaces adjacent to your hut, since they will defend themselves when you are elsewhere later on.
- Head for the coast.
You still have to decide which priority is more important in a given situation, but this gives you a basis to decide.
4. Never use automated moves. The AI is utterly incapable of strategy at a human level. It will still whip your butt if you goof up!
What he said.
5. Learn to make swiss cheese. This is done by placing your men so that individual enemy hexes are left available. For example, attack a large enemy territory so that he goes bankrupt by using your men to cut off large sections of his territory in such a way that you can later mop up the individual hexes.
This assumes your opponent has left a big space open and you have lots of small guys available, but yeah that's an important technique.
6. Promote your men only when needed to prevent encroachment by the AI players or to attack castles, etc.
The AI players are aware of the biggest piece you have. You will notice that as soon as you get an 18-pointer, all your neighbors will stay one space away from the boder and tend to leave you alone. It's a good feeling. I have learned to do it as soon as I can sustain it if I'm under pressure (but not otherwise). It's like saying "Hey, back off!"
7. Never be afraid of a baron. In fact, never promote a man to baron. Ever. Unless you are playing against humans and then do so only when absolutely necessary.
One time they are useful is when your enemy is going to win unless you do something drastic. Creating a 54-pointer can be effective if you can break your opponent in half even if you know you will starve. You can even create two or three of them. You both starve, then you startup with lots of new guys and at least a chance (and a pretty forest!).
8. Work to control an edge of the island. You can't be attacked from an edge so its a case of getting your back to the wall so to speak.
9. Always attack the strongest player. Do this even if you have to cut through smaller enemy territories.
With the AIs it's a tough choice especially early in the game. I'd say keep your eyes on the big far-away regions, but you'll often have to dominate your part of the island before you can take on the big bad land yonder.
10. Control the trees at all costs. I have manipulated trees into a win against human players. Most players don't learn to propagate and manipulate them.
You'll get into the habit of obsessively killing the trees without thinking, but be aware of those cases they already have all your
land they are going to get. Then just leave them to grow and prosper in your neighbor's territories. It really is greener on the other side of the fence!
11. Learn how to manipulate your capitol to the position you want. WIthin certain limits, you can do this when you join two territories.
New ones will always be created in the westernmost of the northernmost unoccupied spaces in the territory. It is thus usually easier to attack from the South (and defend from the North).
12. Don't cheat. You'll never learn to play a good game if you start out by cheating. And yes, there are a couple of minor bugs that permit cheating.
Again, the AIs cheat, but that's because they are dumb. You'll notice if you cut off a 6-pointer into a three-space region with a brand new hut, it will generally survive the next turn! Sometimes nothing will kill them save a bigger guy.
Also, sometimes when large territories are cut up, a very small territory with a new hut suddenly sprouts an 18-pointer. It seems that the leftover cash after the breakup is inherited by one of the new huts, but you can't tell which one. This is probably discussed at length in the forums.
Also, don't tell the 2-pointers they are only computer sprites. It demoralizes them. The bigger guys can handle it, but the small guys tend to start complaining of a vague sense of ennui. Really. I'm not kidding. Yes I am.