Saturday, 17 March 2012

Are you a good leader? Part 2 - Activity Monitoring, Structure, Communication and Procedures

If you read Part 1 about recruiting right people for your alliance, you should already have a decent group of champs (yes, like those on the picture). Now it is your duty to organise them and coordinate their actions. Of course after awhile they will all know what to do and your job will be much easier but with new people its never easy. I will also describe here the key components of a properly working alliance, which for some people are wrongly limited only to structure.

Activity and leadership
- its your duty to check if people are active and its your fault if your alliance get defeated because of semi-active members.

What are your standards? Do you think that somebody who signs into the game every few days is worth your time and should be in your alliance? I personally was thanking them and saying goodbye, explaining that we look for more active players. Don't listen to explanations like "Oh I have a full time job, 10 kids" etc. Well, if that stops him/her from playing often enough, then it only means that its not the type of game for him/her. 

Lets make it clear here - this is a war game and there are no breaks, turns or gentleman's agreements - everything happens 24/7. If you can't log in couple of times a day to check whats going on, then its not the game for you. I cant forbid people to play it, I will not say its stupid or anything like that - I am simply stating the fact that to be successful in this type of games you have to have access to the game on regular basis and check in few times a day. Mind I don't say that one must sit in front of it whole day long. When I was playing I was able to log in before going to work, during my lunch time and after work, however I was most "productive" in Grepolis when I was working from home and could log in more often. Some guys where even using Iphones and were sending troops sitting in traffic... A player who logs in once every couple of days will not only be an easy target but also will not be able to help you or other members in time.

You want to keep those sort of players in your alliance? Fine, you're the boss, but don't rely on them and when shit hits the fan, don't whine about them - it was your decision to keep them in your alliance. You take the responsibility because you knew how things are. So many times I saw leaders blaming their alliance for failures but the truth is that they, the leaders, were responsible for everything. Leaders decide who stays in the alliance, how its being run, they organise structure and operations.

Stay in touch with your members
As a leader I was speaking with all my members via mail on weekly basis. In a bigger alliance, when there are like 20+ people, you will need a structure, will have to promote some members to local leaders and make them responsible for contacting everyone in their group. Don't just assume that people read forum and don't assume they will participate - you have to know it.

Roll calls
When its quiet time (no wars going on) then make some roll calls aka activity checks on your forum. Make a thread and ask everyone to post in it anything, just so you know they read it and reacted. If somebody doesn't post there, you must send him/her a mail asking why.

Mass mails do not work
No matter how great your writing style is, nor how perfect your strategy can be, it just doesn't work to send mass mails and rely on them. They are not the main tool of leading/coordinating members of your alliance. In my alliances we used to send mass mails only as a sort of general information bulletin. The most important information was sent that way, like with who we agreed to cease fire or some general plans for the next weeks or news. Every member after reading it, was obliged to sign under special post on our forum dedicated for that particular mass mail. Basically the leader was making a new thread and people had to post in it something like "got it", "read it", "love you to", basically anything. We were monitoring these posts and checking who reacted and who didn't. Those who didn't were receiving another mail, this time addressed personally to them, asking why they didn't sign the thing. Simply, mass mails were being used as general info channels and additionally as activity checks.

Monitoring activity of each member
Activity checks are there to measure activity level of every member - some of them might have been the best warriors you had but while time passed they might have lost their interest. You should  contact them and ask whats going on. You have to be ahead of things - don't let your enemy to catch you with your pants down. For example when we had to many of inactive players, we decided to kick them out and join other friendly and strong alliance, as our power wasn't big enough to hold oceans we used to rule. Sad but true, sometimes accept facts as they are and move on, but first you need to know them, therefore always be aware of how many active and strong players you have in your team.

Structure, communication and coordination
If you are in charge of 100 players then you will need some sort of hierarchy and structure. You will have to assign local leaders who will be responsible for personal contacts with their group members. Split your alliance into some sort of working units and organise for them their own space on your forum, however remember that creating structure is not everything - it must be functional! You will need right people for these jobs and assign tasks to them. Also some basic procedures must be developed as well. 
For example the biggest functional alliance I was in, had 100 members. We had 1 main leader and few ocean leaders. Of course the main leader was making the final decisions but was always talking first to his captains asking for their opinions. You can also have a council and work on bases of voting system - whatever floats your boat (in my first real alliance we had something like triumvirate - 3 main leaders - but in the second one we had council.) Each of the local leaders (ocean leaders) was responsible for actions of his team. Being an ocean leader (names don't matter really) I was in charge of  ~30 members. We had our own tab on the forum where we would coordinate attack and supporting missions in our region. Sometimes we would coordinate our operations with other ocean leaders according to a bigger plan. All leaders could use a private tab on the forum, dedicated only to them (hidden from others), where they would discuss general or confidential matters, political issues or big scale operations. Basically the alliance was organised into smaller working units, which could work independently as well as all together at once.

Quite often people are not actively helping in big alliances because they don't know whats going on! After you organise your leadership structure make local leaders responsible for contacting every single person in their team. That's very important especially for new members. They must be told which tab on your forum is for which team/purpose or what is the priority of reading - which tabs should be checked first. People get confused on big forums (bah even small ones) and forum is your main platform of communication. You, or if you are a big alliance then your local leaders, have to make sure that everyone knows where to look and what to look for on your forum.

Battlegroups - example of a functional structure and procedures
If you want to be successful, your war actions should be organised. You cant just post an info like: "go, attack that player". No, you have to organise people into smaller working units. Why? Because you will not be able to coordinate 20-30 people at once and by coordinate I mean to tell them exactly which cities are going to be attacked, at what time, decide who will be the conquering one, who will support with defensive units and then check every single person what he/she actually did. So let me give you an example how I organised my team.

First I would prepare a general strategy and decide which players/cities should be attacked. Then I would post a list of targets (cities to be attacked) on our forum and ask members to make claims. We would  discuss time of attacks that suite most of us  (which day or 2 days of the week) and set a date.

Small working units (role of structure and communication)
Then I would split 20-30 people into 4-6 battlegroups, making those members who claimed targets (cities to be conquered) leaders of their own battlegroups (not permanent leaders but just for this operation). Each of them would be in charge of their own battlegroup, which means they would contact every member of their team by mail, inform them about planned ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) of their Colony Ships and ask for support. They would have to organise clearing and defensive support waves of all people in their group - agree to who will send what. Obviously their motivation was high as they were trying to conquer a city, so every clearing wave or defensive reinforcement was helping them to achieve this goal.

Procedures (obligatory reports)
Then we would all wait for results and check forum to see which Colony Ships landed successfully, which not and which need extra help to hold on. Each battlegroup had its own thread in which every member had to post his/her battle reports. Those reports were source of valuable information (we could estimate enemy casualties and activity level of their members, maybe learn more about next potential targets) and were also a proof for the person posting them that he/she did actually send army and participated in the operation (activity check). Even if a report was showing nothing (no battle) it had to be posted. I was also receiving reports/letters (mails) from battlegroup leaders about their operation, telling me who was responsive and who didn't participate at all.

Functional system which made us stronger
By having reports from those guys and checking battle reports on the forum I was able to see who actually played with us (actively supporting the team) and who was just a leach doing nothing. Also I could see who is sending what and in which order. That way I was able to find weak players in our team who didn't know how to construct a proper attack wave and could correct them by sending instructional mail or directing them to guides. Thanks to that our next operations were more devastating and effective. After that we were rebuilding our forces, preparing new operation and switching roles (those who were supporting would send Colony Ships now) or we were just quickly regrouping and punching again weaker enemy (that depended on how much of support enemy could gather).

Naturally mistakes were happening and sometimes luck wasn't on our side or we were just properly pushed back by our enemies but that sort of cooperation let us to achieve few goals:
  • It saved lot of my time as a leader (leading can be time and life consuming)
  • Weed out inactives - we knew who is active and who is not (so we knew what can and should be "fixed" in the future);
  • There were no "lost sheeps" and mistakes were minimised  - everyone knew exactly what to do and when (if you try to coordinate 100 people by yourself alone, set their targets, roles and time it, you might get confused or make mistakes);
  • It strengthened us as a team and built strong ties;
  • Every battlegroup leader would experience what the team play is about (timing, communication, dedication) and in the future would know exactly how to support/help other teammates.

Final thoughts
As you can see from above examples, there was no place in my alliances for a "lost sheep". Everyone knew their role, place and what to do. We were first group of 20 people, then 30, finally 100 but most if not all of our members were active players. If they were not, they were mailed, things were explained again and if that didn't bring results, they were kicked out. As I said here many times before - 20 active players are stronger than a group of 300 disorganised randoms (mostly inactive or semi-active), who have no effective communication system implemented. 

For some leaders putting a structure in place is enough - they think that if they make themselves kings and assign few generals, everything will work out, masses will follow their lead and destroy everyone on their way... No, its not gonna happen. Except structure you need good communication system which is essential in this game, some procedures and activity checks (activity monitoring). I described some of them above that worked for us but you might have other (maybe better) ideas, just remember about those key components and you should be fine.

Any comments or questions welcomed


  1. In answer to the comment which was posted today in Questions Tab I will focus my next guide on war operations: battlegroups (how exactly the whole process looked like),
    I will be about organising waves, timing them perfectly and what to do against those who know how to defend (can always kill your Colony Ship no matter how many troops you send at them and how good your timing was)

  2. Hi Grom, I read all of your guides in here, and I must say that these ones about leadership and recruitment are the most interesting, since you are analysing the players behaviour more than game mechanics.
    I think you are an excellent leader, and a rare player who knows what he is doing. If you ever come back to Grepo, it would be an honour to be in your alliance :D
    Maybe if you have a busy RL now, you could choose a speed 1 server?
    Thanks for the guides, all very informative.

    1. You're welcome. Unfortunately I don't have time at all to play now. Too much happening in my real life. I wish I could play again.

    2. if you EVER decide you have the time to come back i'd extremely appreciate a pm on the world "Oropos" to "Kingkid101"
      Big fan of your guides and all my nukes are based on the info i got from your guides

  3. I see, well I hope that you'll have more time in the future. It's perfectly understandable that RL is more important, but the people who really like this game sooner or later come back, at least for a nostalgia trip :)

  4. Hello Grom!
    Do you have any advice on how to deal with spys? The world i'm playing on right now is full of them!

  5. Hey, GROM I would just like to thank you for all the AMAZING content you upload. I read that you don't have time but as someone commented evry player who truly likes Grepolis, no matter what will always return, sooner or later, for a nostalgia trip.
    P.S.: I think you must upload more adv. game guides. THEY ARE THE BEST! They even help begginers.

    1. Im glad you found my articles helpful. Unfortunately I dont see myself in the near future playing Grepolis...way too many other things on my head right now

    2. Grom! Long time no hear my friend. Love the guide man. Well done. I just came back to Grepolis since our DOA days. I'm playing around on US Lamda. just knocking the dust off and waiting for a new world to open up with speed and conquest that I want, and I'll be thinking about stating a new alliance. You should hit me up in an email or drop in and say hey just to catch up on old times and see how life is treating each of us. I'm playing under the name six-forty-four.


    3. Forty! Great to hear from you and I am very happy you liked the guide. To hear this from you means actually a lot, especially that I was referring to you a couple of times in this article :)

      At the moment I cannot afford to play Grepolis - way too many projects going on in my life.

      You know me, if I start playing I will go fight against a whole ocean alone. However, I will pay for it in my real life... I would love to be in a team with you again (and some other guys). Maybe in the future I will give it a shot again.

      I will contact you at some point. Life is good but working hard for it at the moment.

      Good luck in your 2nd Grepo life and hope to see you there again :)

      PS your comment forced me to re-read my guide again and as always I found some things that need correction, eh...