“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” – Auric Goldfinger

Update: If you’re here for the invite, add me on Twitter, and fill out the comment below. By adding me, I can DM it to you so I don’t hafta send the invite along the public timeline.

imageChances are, if you’re on Twitter this evening, you just got an invitation to go play Spymaster. If you haven’t gotten an invitation yet, just leave your Twitter address in the comments, and I’ll make sure you get an invite.

Currently the game is invitation only, but the invites are spreading like wildfire at the moment, so it’s not all that exclusive of a club.

If you haven’t wasted time before playing MySpace or Facebook Mafia-Wars / Mob-Wars style games, then how to effectively play may elude you at first.  In an effort to cash in on this soon-to-be craze, I figured I’d offer the benefit of my experience, since I’ve whiled away far too many hours on the dozens of other clones in this style of game.

There’s definitely a trick to playing this game.  There’s more than likely a number of ways to skin the cat, but I tend to play the same strategy because it generally works better than any other I’ve tried.

Fail Whale

My strategy overall is to focus first on getting the most experience for the least amount of energy spent, and then to focus strictly on maximizing profit through investments (or, as they’re called in this game, safehouses).

It sounds simple enough, but there are number of ways to get off track if you aren’t careful.

Game Basics
I’m going to more or less assume you grasp the basics of how the game works, if you’re reading this.  If not, a quick recap:

  • You’re a spy.  Either for the KGB, MI6 or CIA.
  • You’re supposed to do spy stuff, and you get paid for it as well as gain experience (tasks).
  • You apparently have a license to kill (assassinate).
  • You’re also an agency recruiter, responsible for convert spys (inviting to game).
  • Your boss is a cheap bastard, and you hafta buy your equipment on the black market.
  • You’re interested in buying (and what, sub-letting?) safehouses.
  • You keep your money in a Swiss Bank Account, because let’s face it, you don’t hear them asking congress for a bailout these days, do you?

imageThe overall goal is rather nebulous, but you’re motivated by not being too weak as a character, so that you’re not easy pickings for your enemies.

What You Actually Need to Pay Attention To
There are dozens of numbers and statistics that are thrown at you in games like this, and while they’re all generally fun to look at, they’re really only there to distract you from your goal, which is to be the richest and highest-level spy on the game.

Here are the stats in Spymaster to pay attention to:

  • Spymasters – these are people who follow you on Twitter that’ve joined the game.
  • Overall Funds – this is the amount of money you’ve racked up.
  • Energy per Turn – you can deduce this simply enough; whenever the “refresh in” counter reaches 0:00, take a look and see how much your energy level jumped by.
  • Maximum Energy – this gives you an idea as to how long you need to wait before you’re fully charged.  If you’re getting 25 energy every 5 minutes, and your max energy is 129, then you want to visit the game every half hour for maximum character advancement.

Why Are These Stats So Important?
What probably alerted you to the game were the assassination attempts you saw flash by on Twitter. Assassinations play an important role in any game like this, but if you want to survive long enough to win imageany of those attempts (or survive attempts perpetrated against you), you need to be well equipped.

What’s ironic is though it’s tempting to jump right in and start poppin’ caps into your friends’ Twitter accounts, if you want to actually win an assasination attempt once in a while, it’s the last thing you should start out doing.

Your First Steps to a Life of International Mystery
image Your first stop should be to perform as many tasks as you can to start so you can get some operating capital. I suggest for best efficiency at level one to do the task that requires 10 energy. You get the same experience for that as you do the higher energy task, and the money you gain at this level is negligible compared to what you’ll be pulling down later on.

After that, head straight over to the black market.  Remember that first number I told you to remember?  Your spymaster number is important here. Buy enough weapons and armor to cover everyone in your spymaster ring.  You can theoretically buy more than that and it will increase your defense and attack scores, but the there’s a diminishing return to that.

Now it’s time to play the waiting game: since you’re armed up fairly well, you can afford to take a break and come back after a while.

While you’re waiting, it’s a good idea to invite as many people to the game as you think you can get away with.  The real power in these sorts of games comes from having a lot of folks in your Spymasters group, since that (and your character level) are the biggest influencing factors on how easily you can be killed.

Your First Goal: Gain Level 3
Once you’ve come back to it, you want to get to level three as quickly as possible.  Assuming you’re not the impatient type and you didn’t take your turns every five minu
tes, so you’ve got nearly full energy right now.

Go ahead and perform the 10-energy task until you’ve run out of energy or attained level three, whichever comes first.

Your Second Goal: Get a Safehouse
Once you’ve attained level three, your goals change again, and this means you’ve got to change the way you approach your tasks.

Your goal now is no longer to get to as high of a level as possible, your goal is to get as much money as possible, and as quickly as you can. The reason here is that, as I said, the best asset you can have is a large Spymaster count.  The problem with that is you’ve got to provide guns and armor for every one of your Spymasters, which can get pretty expensive.

Just like in real life, rather than actually working for that money, the best way to keep that expense paid for is to invest.  I’m not sure the in-story reason that owning a safehouse is making you money (perhaps you’re subletting?), but owning real-estate, as in life, is generally a good  investment.

imageThe game assumes you can’t qualify for a sub-prime mortgage, and makes you pay for the safe-house up front.  This means you’ll need to come up with $80,000 to purchase the cheapest one you can find, a German condo.

The quickest way to get there, if you’ve followed these instructions so far, is to continue to perform the 10-energy task.  This may seem particularly counter-intuitive, and it is.  Here’s the explanation why:

If you’ve been performing the 10-energy task exclusively up until this point, you’ve likely gotten the proficiency of that task fairly high.  It’s a low risk task, which means it’s hard to fail anyway, but with a high proficiency, you’re almost guaranteeing yourself that you’ll receive compensation towards the higher end of the spectrum (the spectrum being $900 to $1,500).

On the other hand, you’ll waste a lot of turns and time failing while you learn the brand new level three 20-energy task.  The reward is higher, once you’re good at it ($2,100 – $3,500), but with your null proficiency, you’re guaranteed that you’ll recieve the low end of the compensation scale.

Thus two 10-energy turns will equal $~3000, whereas one 20-energy turn will probably equal closer to $2000.

Since your focus is solely money, the choice is clear.

Update: Since I’ve been playing the game today, I’ve noticed something that should have been obvious had I not been typing this long after my bed time.  Right around the time your proficiency in a task reaches 25-40%, your returns start diminishing significantly.  When this happens, you should switch up to the 20-energy task until you reach level 5.

Where to go from here?
Keeping in mind that I’m only a little bit less new to this version of the game than you are, I’ll give you the formulas I tend to work with, and let you adapt them as they work best for you.

image Once you’ve gotten your $80k condo in Germany, you need to spend some time crunching the numbers on the real-estate market.  Your first purchase will be netting you money even when you’re not playing the game, which will allow you to more easily purchase more real-estate and more equipment.

This allows you from this point forward in the game focus on taking tasks based on what will gain you experience, purely, while letting all the money from your real-estate investments roll over into future investments.  I played this strategy on the MySpace version of Mob Wars, and within a month, I literally had more money than the game would allow me to spend.

As of the time of this post, my character is almost level four, and I’ve almost got enough cash for my German condo. I’ve really only been playing it a little longer than I’ve been writing this blog post.

This is a pretty addictive and ultimately fun game in all it’s incarnations, and pairing it with Twitter was a stroke of genius.

If you’re interested in learning more about the company behind this game, you should check out my buddy MG Siegler’s write-up over at Techcrunch. If you’re looking for an invite to play, leave a comment here with your Twitter username.

Otherwise, just go out and play Spymaster.