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  1. #1
    Natarian Knight BlackPaladin's Avatar
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    Default [Guide] Spy and Espionage Guide

    *All credit for this guide goes to Nichts of the .us forums. The original can be found here.*

    Introduction

    Since the dawn of time, understanding an enemy has been a prized trait. It could be said that humans became the dominant species on earth because we were able to understand and decimate or conquer so many of our enemies, both natural and man-made.

    With the invention of warfare, this became all that much more important. Leaders on both sides of the battlefield desired to know what their foe was planning to do. Whether it was to place the most troops in areas that would need them, to mount an attack while the enemy was still getting organized, or to bring in reinforcements from other areas, information on the enemy became an important commodity. To this day it remains so, with monolithic organizations worldwide dedicated to it - the CIA, M5, Mossad, formerly KGB, etc.

    It shouldn't be any surprise then that espionage exists in Travian. It's purposes within the game are no different than those in real life. Spies in Travian will share everything they can if they are given the chance, in the hopes of giving the group they are helping a better chance at coming out on top.

    The following is a look at espionage and Travian. It is not the end all, be all of espionage in Travian. Far from it. I personally think of it as just the tip of an iceberg. Good spies are creative, so what I have posted here may not even be applicable anymore.

    And while espionage may look like fun to some of you, getting caught often has dire consequences. Beyond the obvious catapulting of an account used for spying, a caught spy may also suffer from a negative reputation amongst the server community, and may even be considered untrustworthy.

    Espionage is like playing with fire. It looks real pretty, until you get burned.

    Information Freeway

    The amount of information that can be discovered and shared in Travian is astounding, so what better way to begin a tutorial on espionage, than to take a look at the information that can be passed on?

    A good spy can access:

    1) Troop counts for any village within their immediate alliance.

    This becomes important come wartime, when there is a strong desire to hurt the enemy as much as possible. Finding important and poorly defended villages is an incredible asset for anyone co-ordinating strikes, irregardless of whether they are short 3 hour hits or 48 hour trips into the enemy's heartland.

    2) Battlereports showing damage

    Once again, the ability to pass on how much damage was inflicted becomes important during war. Normally, deciding whether a key village - often a hammer village or capital cropper - was damaged enough is based on guess work. A spy is able to gather all of the important battle reports, ignore any unimportant ones, and pass them on at the same time. This saves a coordinator time, making the war effort as a whole more efficient.

    3) Mass Messages

    Mass Messages ("MMs") are an excellent way for alliance leadership to communicate with the alliance. They are often sent out to let the alliance know of any number of changes within an alliance (policy, leadership, political and military, diplomacy, etc.) These become an important tool for other alliances to assist in keeping tabs on what is happening within the spy's alliance. They serve as a way for other alliances to predict future events, and therefore are an important consideration in determining how to shape their policies - everything from instructions on troop size to diplomacy.

    4) Forum posts

    Virtually every top alliance has it's own off-site forums. Mass messages are well known to be unsafe because of spies, so off-site forums are created as a way to place a buffer between crucial information and the other alliances.

    A spy with forum access is a very prized spy. Because off-site forums are regarded as being safer than MMs, people often post bits of information that the spy can pass on without even realizing. Everything from plans, to battlereports, to troop counts sometimes winds up in alliance forums. But spies can also pick up on subtle hints about the state of the alliance.

    Are there many people complaining of getting farmed? Of the alliance not helping in attacks? Are the forums dead? Are the leaders active? A lack of activity by leaders may, for example, make the people within that alliance ready to switch tags. This can guide recruitment policy of the neighbouring alliances.

    Doing the Dirty Act

    There seems to be a common misconception among newbies about spying, Travian, and the frequency/severity of it. Espionage is done in some form by all top alliances. Because of the advantages it can give, it is a desired part of any well geared alliance. No alliance will admit to spying because of the negative connotations associated with it.

    A spy serves two purposes: espionage, and counter-espionage. The first involves gathering information from a variety of sources, and forwarding them to a contact within another alliance. Often, this person serves as a coordinator for all of the alliance's spying efforts, and will receive reports from multiple people. This person may also assess and summarize the reports for leadership.

    In a counter espionage role, a spy serves as the primary method of rooting out moles in his real alliance. I'll explain this in further detail when I look at counter-espionage in greater depth below.

    As mentioned earlier, spying can be "dangerous." It can result in the loss of account, reputation, and trust. A spy must perform his/her duty without passing on information which would compromise who they are. Here are a few suggestions on how to accomplish this:

    1) Never copy and paste any message directly. Not from an MM, and not from the forums. The alliance a spy is spying on can have a spy in the other alliance as well, and should this message turn up in the hands of an enemy, it will not only alert the alliance to the presence of a spy, but could also potentially be used to help trace this spy down.

    2) Troop counts can be obtained by a spy looking at their alliance's attack logs. Often, when an alliance is in need of this type of information it will send out a series of fakes, and let the spy know to look for them. The advantage to this is that each report only costs 1 unit, but the reports will only contain information on troops and not on structures.

    The presence of complete battlereports from one wing in enemy hands can alert an alliance to a spy in that wing.

    3) Sitters are a big problem for spies.

    Sitters can check In Game Messages (IGMs). A good spy network will not rely on IGMs because of this. Instead, the spies will report via an instant messenger (MSN, YIM, AIM, etc.) or directly to another alliance's forums. This is to prevent getting caught.

    Some alliances will set up a two sitter rule in an attempt to have everyone checking each other. This won't affect good spies because there won't be any traces of their activities on their account. However, to be double sure, a good spy coordinator may opt to have all of his spies set themselves as sitters. If the spies are loyal, this is a great idea as it removes all possibility of leaks. However, spies do sometimes work for both sides, and this will reveal who your other spies are. So tread carefully.

    4) If at any time a spy or a coordinator feel that the spy could be in danger, there should be a discussion on whether to continue spying. Sometimes it's a good idea to stop leaking information, but sometimes this is a bad idea as it can send a variety of signals to an enemy.

    Keeping that Information Safe

    I've touched upon the fact that every top alliance uses spies; a keen observer should therefore conclude that ever top alliance has enemy spies.

    It is often impossible to completely rid a large meta of spies. When an alliance is composed of hundreds of players, even a small percentage of disgruntled players is enough to cause huge leaks. Never believe that you are free of spies unless your alliance is small enough that you can be 100% sure.

    The trick, therefore, isn't to prevent spying, but to prevent how effective it is. And there are a number of ways of doing that:

    1) The division of players into smaller sections is crucial. Terms such as battlegroups, divisions, platoons, and corps come into play here. These out-of-game groupings should not be the same as in-game ones.

    The reason for this is that information can be passed on to any given alliance member through two methods - in game via MMs, and out-of-game via the forums. If a person is a spy, their tendency will be to report from both sources. When information from x wing, and y group appears in the hands of an enemy, an alliance will be able to narrow down the number of people who could be spying to a list of a dozen or so. With this list in hand, a number of steps can be taken - moving these people around and watching for changes in where the leaks are coming from, IGMing fake MMs, etc. The objective here is to figure out who the spy is.

    2) Never share a complete set of battle plans, as well as any other sensitive information, with everyone. Only tell people what they need to know, no more, and sometimes less. This prevents an enemy from having all of the information, but also presents the opportunity to observe where the leaks in the alliance are.

    [Continued Below]
    BlackPaladin
    "Here I stand, triumphant over my enemy, and there it stands, triumphant over me." -Labiathan (BlackPaladin)
    "....But the void can take your life away as quickly as it gave it to you...." -Foreseer

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    Natarian Knight BlackPaladin's Avatar
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    [Continued from above]

    3) If there is a known leak, it may be a good idea to share some misinformation. Alliances will sometimes do this, and it serves both a strategic as well as a humourous purpose. Imagine leaking info about your alliance possibly breaking up, and then watching the commentary about it on another set of forums.

    When a spy passes on incorrect information, the alliance they are helping can become suspicious. Depending on how much trust they lose, they may actually no longer believe the spy's information, correct as it might be. That is a win for the alliance being spied on.

    Leaks are often also done through the public forums or figures for similar purposes. Veterans are fond of saying how little they believe anything posted in the Embassies. They are often correct, but every once in a while there is an ounce of truth. Alliance "Analysis" often contain copious amounts of propaganda intermixed with facts garnered from analyzers, in game statistics, and information from spies.

    The End Result

    The activities of any spy are guided by the goals of the alliance they serve. Emphasis may be placed on military information during a war, while outside of war a spy may be told to pass on general information. A spy's success can be measured by how much damage they have helped cause. Damage can include the loss of resources, troops (especially prized troops like chiefs, Settlers, and Heroes) villages, as well as the plunge of an alliance into chaos, disorder, or the total disbanding of it.

    I was personally involved with forcing an alliance to crumble after making it's leaders unable to communicate during round 1 of US5. (The story can be found here. ) Much of what I have written is therefore from personal experience, but mixed in are little bits of advice I've picked up from other people. Spying can be an exhilarating and entertaining experience, but it can also ruin a perfectly good account.
    BlackPaladin
    "Here I stand, triumphant over my enemy, and there it stands, triumphant over me." -Labiathan (BlackPaladin)
    "....But the void can take your life away as quickly as it gave it to you...." -Foreseer

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    Natarian Knight BlackPaladin's Avatar
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    (posted by F.C. of the .us forums)

    I just wanted to add one more important source for a spy that doubles as the most dangerous: IRC (or another form of alliance-wide chat).

    There are many benefits of spying in an IRC. A spy can learn about individual players personalities and their loyalty to their alliance and who the core, most valuable players in the alliance are. Often targetting and killing these core players will result in the split of an alliance. The IRC is a place where many alliance wide issues are disscussed and where many member v. member, leader v. member, and leader v. leader arguments take place. These disscusions and arguments reveal much information about the status and goals of an alliance. Many of the core and strongest members of an alliance talk and coordinate in the IRC. And often amidst the off-Travian disscussion a speck of valuable information could spill through unintentionally. All of this adds up to one thing: Valuable information that can come in quick bursts rather than through hints in MMs or drawn out disscussions in the forums. But with the handiness of IRC there also poses a great danger for the spy.

    If a spy manages to get into the IRC, whether it be confirming the IRC and in-game account are the same, finding out the IRC password, or simply entering the room the spy is smart to just sit there and lurk, reading all information and deciding which is true, false, or spam. A spy risks the fact that sometimes IRC users do not use their in-game name on IRC, so if the spy joins IRC with one name but that player is already in there under another name the spy is revealed. The spy also risks being talked to. If the spy's personality on IRC is different from the personality of the person in-game or on forums then the spy is revealed. If the spy accidentally slips while chatting with people in IRC, again the spy is revealed. Finally, the worst problem, or curse of the IRC is that while in the IRC and talking to those members the spy builds a friendship to the IRC members he is spying on and does not want to spy anymore or trusts someone in the IRC too much that the spy reveals his actions to the IRC user. With this, only the smartest, most trusted spy should be given the boring job of spying in the IRC. Only a spy that knows what he is doing can live a double life as a "loyal" alliance member while spying.
    BlackPaladin
    "Here I stand, triumphant over my enemy, and there it stands, triumphant over me." -Labiathan (BlackPaladin)
    "....But the void can take your life away as quickly as it gave it to you...." -Foreseer

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    Natarian Knight BlackPaladin's Avatar
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    (originally posted by Harmless Drudge of the .us forums)

    Espionnage and counter-espionnage are the core of the thinking man's game. The only people troubled by it are the ones who are not clever enough to figure it out. This is a shame, because instead of expanding their understanding of motives and human nature, they sit and wallow and ***** that life isn't fair.

    This is my first time playing Travian. The most satisfying aspect of the game is that the people I meet, especially the ones who succeed at the game, are accomplished people in real life. They are not the typical 1337-literate pizza-faced 30-y/o losers living in their parents basement, emerging only to microwave some hot pockets and check to see if UPS delivered whatever obscure comic books they bought on e-bay. They are real people who do business in the real world, and their gameplay reflects the understanding of interpersonal communication and strategy that one can only learn by experience.

    So, I guess my point is that spies make a much more interesting puzzle. At every turn, a player must examine what he has learned of his neighbors before he entrusts them with potentially-damning information. It is an excellent exercise in measuring one's words very carefully. Circumspect speech wins in real war, so why should a war game be any different?
    BlackPaladin
    "Here I stand, triumphant over my enemy, and there it stands, triumphant over me." -Labiathan (BlackPaladin)
    "....But the void can take your life away as quickly as it gave it to you...." -Foreseer

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    Natarian Knight BlackPaladin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01_Sundance of the .us forums
    Do you mean you are banned from playing in this game? in this server? or totally from travian?
    Nope. Spying isn't against any rules, and it's as much a part of the game as farming or upgrading a wheat field.

    Quote Originally Posted by 01_Sundance of the .us forums
    Would you explain "...amongst the server community..." as I'm not sure what you're referring to.
    The server community is just the people who play on that server. Many players tend to kind of focus on one server in particular, so that the group on, say, US2 is totally different from the group on US5. The public forums are a kind of nexus for each community, although there's a lot of stuff that goes on outside of the forums. This is one of the driving forces behind a server being considered boring or exciting - some servers are known as very exciting ones with players who can stir things up even if they don't try, while others are far less exciting because there aren't enough people in the community to spice things up.

    Getting back to the spying thing. Let's say that last round you were a spy, and you had a pretty decent account that suffered greatly because of your actions. It could've been catapulted down to nothing, it could've been deleted, whatever. At any rate, word of you getting caught spread. This round you've started up on that same server, and want to join a certain alliance. It's a good, solid alliance with active leadership and the whole shazaam. You give the recruiter a call, and they just happened to know about your spying activities from last round because word got around. Knowing that you spied on your alliance will raise questions about your loyalty this round as well, and you may not be allowed access into that alliance.

    This type of thing will affect someone with a reputation at stake - say, someone who has large hammers, a top 100 account, and frequently posts in the public forums - much, much more than some player with 1000 pop and 3 villages who never even takes a peek at the forums.
    BlackPaladin
    "Here I stand, triumphant over my enemy, and there it stands, triumphant over me." -Labiathan (BlackPaladin)
    "....But the void can take your life away as quickly as it gave it to you...." -Foreseer

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