Upgrading cities in Polytopia: which upgrade bonus to choose?
Guide to Upgrading Cities
Your economy is the center and most important aspect of your game in Polytopia. You increase your income by upgrading cities.
Upgrading a city increases the income the city provides by 1, allows you to train one more unit in that city, and grants you a choice between two bonuses.
In nearly all cases, do not partially upgrade cities! Doing so grants no benefits to you. Keep the stars instead, as that keeps options open. However, if you want to upgrade your city soon and are afraid that enemies will step on your resources, preventing you from using them, then you can harvest those resources immediately.
Build buildings in places that keep options open. For example, try not to block CH or Forge spots with Lumber Huts. Do not build things over harvestable resources (unless you need the two stars that turn), e.g., do not build a port over fish without harvesting the fish first.
Do not buy too much tech early-game. Do not buy techs that you will not need to use. However, if you are about to conquer villages/cities and you know that you will need to use a tech soon (e.g., Sailing/Navigation), purchase the tech before capturing the village/city. Tech costs rise for every city you rule (+1/city for T1 techs, +2/city for T2 techs, and +3/city for T3 techs). If it is too late to buy tech cheap, consider getting Philosophy which reduces all tech costs by 20%.
Grow Forest → Burn Forest → Farm is almost always a bad deal if you are not using Windmills. At 15 stars for 2 pop or 7.5 stars/pop, it is the worst in the game (besides temples, but those are typically built for points, not population). Even Ports are better, at 5 stars/pop. However, Grow → Burn → Farm next to a Windmill is okay, at 5 stars/pop once the Windmill is built. But keep in mind that if you have open shallow water tiles, Ports still maintain a slight edge since you do not need to pay for a Windmill.
City Upgrade Bonuses
Level 1 → 2: Explorer (uncovers fog of war) vs. Workshop (+1 SPT)
- Upgrading on turn 0: what to choose primarily depends on what game mode you are playing. In Perfection or Multiplayer, the best choice depends on the number of opponents. Choose Explorer in games with many opponents because meeting other tribes will grant bonuses. Each tribe you meet will either give you a tech for free if they have a tech you can buy (you have the tech leading up to it or it is a T1 tech) or give you 5 stars. These bonuses can add up quickly, allowing you to further upgrade your city and/or produce more units. However, if there are fewer opponents (especially on a larger map), choose Workshop, as an Explorer will not meet many other tribes. In Domination, meeting new tribes does not grant bonuses, so choose Workshop.
- Upgrading after turn 0: Workshop is generally the better option. However, if you are close to enemy territory or an ocean, Explorers can help you plan your battles more effectively. (Also, ranged enemy units will not be able to attack your ranged units from the fog of war without receiving retaliation damage!) However, Explorers are best used sparingly since they cost 1 star for every turn left in the game, and remember that Explorers will only move towards the fog of war if there is only one tile between where the Explorer is and the fog of war; otherwise, the Explorer will move randomly. Therefore, do not pick an Explorer if there are two or more tiles between the city you are upgrading and the fog of war, or the Explorer may end up “exploring” your territory!
Lvl 2 → 3: City Wall vs. Resources (5 stars)
- Resources are almost always the better choice. The 5 stars are very versatile. They can be used to upgrade another city, greatly developing your economy (increasing your income). City Walls are only useful when your city is besieged, so unless there is a good chance of that happening (which is seldom the case unless you are close to enemy territory with spread-out units), do not choose City Wall.
- Because of the 5 stars bonus, you should in most scenarios upgrade level 2 cities to level 3 as the first thing you do in a turn, as each upgrade has an effective cost of only 1 or 2 stars and upgrading boosts your income. Check if you can take advantage of these upgrades before you do anything else each turn!
- Take advantage of the 5 stars bonus a lot! You can quickly develop many cities in one turn to level three with this bonus. Doing so vastly increases your income and the number of units you can train.
Lvl 3 → 4: Population Growth (+3 pop) vs. Border Growth
Reasons to choose Population Growth:
- Get to level 5 and a super unit much more quickly! Therefore pop. growth is typically more useful than border growth
- Border Growth does not lead to many benefits, either because the land is barren or because the city is surrounded by other cities
Reasons to choose Border Growth:
- Get access to a Whale or an abundance of resources.
- Get access to Ports.
- Get a good spot for Customs Houses.
- Perfection: room for temples (Even empty or water tiles can be useful for building temples or Ports/Farms.), some points for the territory itself.
- Also as an additional benefit tipping the scales in favor of border growth but shouldn’t be considered for itself.
Lvl 4 → 5 and onwards: Park (+250 points) vs. Super Unit (Giant, Crab, Dragon, Gaami)
- What to choose depends on the game mode. Obviously, in Domination and Might games, always choose the super unit. For Perfection and Glory, however, only choose a super unit if it can greatly contribute to battle (during the early-to-mid-game and the city that is being upgraded is close to the battle). Otherwise, choose Park, as that increases your final score.
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