Distilling the Fog

What follows is an attempt, based upon my personal experience with TribeNet over several years of game play, to offer new players a bit of insight and advice to get them through those first few chaotic turns. This is my personal view only, and other players may have different opinions with regard to my methods or playing style, so it is strongly suggested that you read this, and consider the advice given, with that in mind. As always, you should play your position in the manner you feel brings you the most personal satisfaction and entertainment. That having been said, let me tell you a story….

1)         Ask the GM (Peter) for the establishment of a Trade Element as soon as you can after you get your set-up turn. This unit, while unable to do much beyond Hunting and Herding (it cannot even send out scouts), may seem, at first glance, to be a bit of a waste of valuable population and horses, but here’s the Trade Element’s most valuable asset; Increased Movement!

The Trade Element (hereafter referred to as the “TE”) has a far better movement point allowance than any of your beginning units. This means that it may cover more ground, and plow through tough terrain with ease, opening up mapping of your immediate area and beyond. Using the TE to explore terrain beyond the limits of your normal scouting parties will let you know the general makeup of your immediate topography, and, from there, give you a better idea as to which direction you can or should move. Few things hurt worse than waiting two weeks for your turn results to arrive, only to find out that your main tribe ran into a river or ocean one or two hexes away (and the forward moving scouting parties did the same thing.) The TE can help prevent this from happening; just give it directional movement orders to cover as many hexes as possible ahead of the tribe, so it doesn’t get stuck. I commonly use something like this: NE2, SE2, NE2, etc. This way, if the TE runs into an obstacle or harsh terrain along the way, it will hopefully change direction on the following move, and continue on it’s way.

You can always send a few scouts out from the main tribe or one of the sub-units to go over the terrain the TE has uncovered, just to see if there are any valuable resources in those hexes. Remember: A tribe or element will not search every hex it passes through during movement, only the hex it ENDS the turn in. Scouts, sent back along the travel path, will report on anything the tribe or element may have missed along the way.

Later on, when your clan becomes more “sophisticated”, the TE can be used to shuttle resources between distant elements quickly, due to it’s increased movement rate. Mining iron ore or diamonds 15 hexes away from your village? The TE can haul the goods back in record time. Giving the TE a “to limit” movement order, in fact, gives them an even bigger boost to movement rate…between 5 and 8 additional MP has been my experience so far.

As you can see, the advantage of having a TE early on cannot be over-stated.

2)         “After Movement Transfers” are being phased out. Don’t make them part of your plan. In their stead, the limit on “Before Movement Transfers” is being eliminated. Yes, this means that there will be a bit of a delay between the manufacture and transfer of an item between units, and when that unit can actually use the item (it needs to be on-hand at the start of the turn in order to use it), but the upside is easier processing for Peter, and no limit to how many different items may be transferred. The limit used to be 6 different items per transfer, which was, as the name suggests, limiting.

3)         A scouting find of “Find 7 goats” does not mean that you have found a coveted “Goat Hex”…it is a random find only, and will likely never happen again if you return to that hex. It’s like one of your scouts finding a pair of old, discarded socks in a bush..”Hey, Guys! Check this out!!”. You get a pair of socks, and that’s it.

A find of ‘Find Iron Ore”, or “Find Coal”, or even “Cattle Trader 4” indicates a stable presence in the hex, and is worth checking out. “Find 2 socks” is not.

4)         Verify your weight and Carrying Capacity via the Tribe Manager spreadsheet every turn, especially when the numbers listed on your turn report look dodgy. Tribe Manager is useful for a number of purposes and calculations, but requires vigilance. I like to save one version for each of my tribes and elements, so I only have to update what has changed from the last report. It’s important to know how close you are to reaching the top of your Carrying Cap, believe me. “Unit is overweight and cannot move” is the TN equivalent of a “Dear John” letter. No one wants that, do they? Keep track of your weight.

5)         Build Traps and Snares, or any kind of projectile weapon, as soon as you can. These will help in Hunting quite a bit. Your first few turns will probably see you with enough provision to get by for a while, but they won’t last long. You’ve got enough to worry about without fretting over whether your tribes and elements will make it through the winter without killing your entire goat herd.

Traps require Metalworking 3, but you’ll need that skill later on, anyway, so go ahead and do it now. Until you find a reliable source of iron, and someone to refine it for you if you don’t have the capacity, you may be tempted to make them out of Bronze, or make Slings and Snares out of leather or rope instead, and that’s okay. I won’t judge you. You do you. The point is, without these things, more Warriors and Actives are required to keep your clan fat and happy, and that means other things aren’t getting done. Those trees don’t just fall over and form wagons, after all.

6)         Make contact with anyone and everyone as soon as you start. Your first issue of Tribe News will have every player’s e-mail address right there in the header.  Shoot…click “Reply All” if you can’t be bothered with selecting who to contact first. I won’t hold it against you, I promise.

Ask for maps, resource locations, rumors, ATM PIN numbers, it doesn’t matter!  Just make contact! And, the people you contact, and build relationships with, don’t necessarily need to be in your immediate area, or even on the same continent as your clan. It helps, certainly, but distance is not a deal breaker. I have 4-5 allies with whom I share information and intelligence on a near daily basis, and I won’t even have an element or fleet anywhere near them for about two more game years. Information is almost as valuable as gold when you are just starting out, perhaps even more so.

Ask for rules clarifications if you aren’t sure about something. See if your neighbors want to cooperate for mutual support, trade, and defense. Keep each other informed of new tribes or elements wandering into the area, so unintentional conflicts and scuffles don’t happen (or do, depending on how you play the game).

Also, take part in the Facebook discussions if you have a mind to. We have a great community of gamers here who will be more than willing to help you out if they can. Some may be trying to eat you, though. It happens.

7)         It may seem prudent, when first starting out, to build those Combat skills up as soon as possible. “I’m not going to be anyone’s victim” is a common refrain, but, hold the phone….your clan can’t attack or be attacked for the first game year. This means you have about 6 months of real time to devote to other pursuits before you have to worry about that bloody business.

If you are dead-set (pun intended) on being a warrior clan, you might be better served spending those blissful 6 months of peace increasing your Armormaking, Weaponsmaking, Refining, and Engineering skills.  I mean, look at the “weapons” and “armor” you started off with; a few clubs, some cast-off leather disco pants, and a few choice insults? That’s hardly the proper equipment for forging an empire on the skulls of your vanquished neighbors, right?! Relax a bit. Blood and Gore will come in time. In the meantime you’re going to need some infrastructure to power that Dynamo of Destruction you are building. Might I suggest: Economics?

Yes, yes…I know…”Economics is neither Sword nor Shield!” But, with Economics comes trade, and with trade comes money, and iron, and steel…the three best friends your war machine ever had. Because, those are three of the most important items you’ll need to back up your bellicosity and vitriol.
Besides, once you see the benefits you can achieve and obtain through non-violent cooperation, discourse, and resource sharing, you might just abandon those dreams of kicking my butt!  It’s what I call a “win-win”.

8)         When it comes time to think about splitting off an element or sub-tribe, there are a few things to consider. Primarily, why? Is there a specific reason you are doing it? Because, if you don’t have a plan, don’t split the clan, man!

Splitting your clan incurs additional turn costs, and lowers your Clan Rating, and, possibly, your position in the Clan Ratings. Who knows why? Only Peter, and he’s keeping pretty tight-lipped about it. But, more importantly, it weakens your main tribe. If you split off a sub-tribe of, let’s say 1/3 of your Actives, Inactives, and Warriors, your main clan is now only 2/3 as effective as it once was. There is some merit in keeping your clan united as long as you can; Defense, Mining, Hunting, Herding,etc. The clan that stays together plays together, after all. No need to monitor the provisions or locations of multiple units; no need to ferry items back and forth between sub-units; no need to ever worry about that whole Meeting Of The Clan business. You are one unit, and you get stuff done!

That having been said, there are distinct advantages to splitting off an element, or even a sub-tribe. You get one free element when you start. You can equip it in any fashion you desire, but you may want to consider keeping it small at first. You can always add people or goods/animals to it later. Unless you find iron ore, coal, or some other valuable resource nearby, and wish to begin mining/producing it quickly, there is little reason for your first element to be a big one.

I like about 50 Warriors, fully mounted, to run out and do additional scouting early on (similar to the TE I discussed earlier). If there is a hex or geographical feature which you find interesting, you can send the element there to check it out, rather than lumbering the entire clan over there, wagons and all. The element is kind of like a “mini me” tribe…it will have all of the Skills and capabilities of the tribe that spawned it, but in a scaled down version. It can hunt, herd, quarry, cut logs, make wagons…whatever your spawning tribe can do. It’s useful, but I think it needs a purpose before you go too far afield with it.  If you just want to use it for exploring, it’s a perfect unit for that, and I recommend keeping it very small in that case.

The advantage of splitting off an entirely new sub-tribe is, essentially, a doubling of your skill attempts each turn. There are other advantages which will become apparent later, such as full scale mining, refining, or shipbuilding operations at a distance, but, for now, the ability to gain extra skills is the primary advantage. Sub-tribes, unlike elements, have and develop their own skills, separate from the parent, or main tribe. You may want your main tribe to be your Combat and Trade tribe, and a sub-tribe to concentrate on Engineering and Refining. Again, this is a purpose for splitting the clan, and it’s a valid one. It’s important to think about and set a goal for any new sub-tribe before you create it. What do you want it to do? Remember: Elements can always be re-absorbed into the tribe which spawned them without detriment….sub-tribes cannot.  They will lose all of the skills they have acquired previously, and that’s a lot of wasted knowledge and ability.

9)         To envillage, or not to envillage…that is the question. There is something quite alluring about the freedom to roam about the countryside, exploring new terrain, and mapping your entire continent. Finding new neighbors (and killing them), and unlocking the mysteries of your home land can keep you occupied in TribeNet for a very long time. It certainly has it’s appeal, and I did it for a very long while last time I played. And, there is nothing wrong with that (though some will argue about the whole “killing” part, but to each his own, am I right?) But, eventually, most players find a spot where they decide to put down the foundations for future growth…a village.

Having a village opens up a new world of opportunities which simply cannot be had as a purely nomadic clan. Refining, Distilling, Farming, Shipbuilding, Libraries, Universities….even the formation of a Nation…these are only some of the benefits afforded by village life. Village walls and other defensive works will also help protect the tribes and elements behind them, should some ne’er-do-well decide he wants to take what you have built (or…you know…eat you.)

Does every player eventually dream of owning a village? No. But, the preponderance of players do, because they see the advantages gained by village-only operations.

Building a village does not have to mean an end to your days of blissful wandering, either. You still have the option of other elements and sub-tribes remaining as mobile and care-free as you choose. Fleets can set sail from a coastal village to explore even further afield, and your other units can do so by land. But, the benefits of having a stable base of operations should not be under-estimated, even at an early stage in the game.

Hold on, though…you don’t want to just plop a Meeting House in any old random hex. You would be better served by using your time afoot to seek out some prime real estate. A coal hex, with iron nearby, and trees, on a hill, is pretty great. Keep it coastal if you intend to build ships (or, build another village elsewhere for that purpose.) Consider natural defenses, too. A hex which can only be attacked by crossing a single river ford, with all of the nifty resources nearby is, in my opinion, nearly ideal (the ford can be blockaded to keep grabby hands out.) The only better spot, in my mind, is the exact same situation on an island off the coast. Gilligan and The Skipper would agree with me, I’m sure.

So, read up on the village rules, and decide if village life is for you, but don’t be too hasty to start chucking logs into any old patch of dirt you find. Remember: when it comes to real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.

10)       If you do decide to build a village, but can’t find one of those “ideal” spots I mentioned, don’t fret. There are facilities in the rules to deal with that situation. Logs and stones can substitute one for the other in many buildings, but that substitution does require a little bit of skill above the standard Engineering.

Likewise, Logs may be transformed into charcoal with a Charhouse (works the same as coal), and Clay can be turned into bricks at a Brickworks (replaces stones). Copper and tin can be turned into bronze, and copper and zinc transformed into brass at a Refinery (takes the place of Iron in most cases, but not all).  Even the refinery smelters, themselves, can be made out of stone instead of iron (though this requires a Stonework skill level of 8.) Similarly, Stonework and stones can be used to make Brickwork ovens, Charcoal burners, Baking kilns, etc. So, all is not lost if you don’t find that coveted coal/iron village site (or someone else found it first, and you can’t evict them). Just make sure you have access to wood, stones, copper, and other base metals, and you’ll be fine.

In Closing, I hope that the advice and anecdotes laid out above will help to clarify a few things about TribeNet which I struggled with when I first started playing. At the very least, I hope it gives you something to think about. If you have any questions, comments, or accusations, we are The Blackrune Free Company (0421), and all phone lines are currently open. Enjoy!