Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Sooner or later (usually sooner) every Tiny Empires player will get a message that reads something like this:

The opportunity comes to sabotage an enemy of your choice. Use small arrows below. Will you pay a rogue 4,000,000 g to damage a few acres belonging to [Cereal Killer Miles Baran]?

The name in brackets changes-- you get a choice of five different people. The actual amount to pay varies, depending on land holdings. Usually it is between two to four times the price of an acre, though people with large amounts of personal acreage report lower prices, suggesting there are other factors at play. Whatever it is, though, it's a significant sum of money.

Why do it?

First, let's review what it is. For this huge sum of money, the target that you select from the dropdown list will be sabotaged and will lose a few acres of land. (Usually one to five.) Originally, that was all that there was to it, though the scenario is more complicated now (complications to be discussed later.) But how does this help you? Back to our original question... why? It seems so much easier to find good reasons not to do it... and the general consensus that I normally hear is "sabotage is stupid." So, unless someone is "stupid"... why is it done? It happens all the time. Here are some possible answers:


It happens. You think you're sending out a bribe, and instead it was a sabotage offer. I know of a friend who did that. She was sooo embarrassed- she IM'ed the person, apologized, and offered to donate the land back to them if they wanted. It was reported that the person in question was quite surprised by the offer.


According to this mindset, the goal is to be number one, regardless of what it takes. So if you have three more acres, or if someone else has three less, the outcome is the same: you win. This reasoning tends to fall apart when you consider that there are thousands of players. The money you spent on sabotage, if spent on buying land, would give you a lot more land in comparison to everyone else. Sabotaging one person may 'hold them back', but that's just one person- thousands of others are still gaining on you, unaffected by your sabotage. To someone with a very competitive nature, though, this reasoning may not be obvious, and may also pale in comparison to the emotional satisfaction of "beating them" that they get from sabotage.

Inter-kingdom rivalry

Back in the early days of Tiny Empires (meaning about a year ago, now), Lothlorien was the largest kingdom in the Empire. Avalon, however, was growing, and was looking to pass them. For a while, several Lothloriens openly, publicly, made Avalon a target of sabotage. For the record, the effort failed. Avalon became the largest kingdom, and remained that way for some time. However, it illustrates the larger principle: kingdoms may seek alliances or rivalries among one another. These alliances/rivalries are usually expressed by the monarchs in terms of whether or not players from the other kingdom should be sabotaged, among other things.

Personal animosity

Once I sent an IM to a friend, sympathizing with her on a sabotage that had just been done on her lands. She replied, laughing. She said she knew the woman who had done it in real life. What she said about that woman's lack of a life (first and second) doesn't bear repeating, but suffice it to say, my friend attributed it solely to personal envy and spite on the other woman's part, and in general had a low opinion of her. In all of the drama that takes place within and without the empire, it's not surprising when the randomly generated list contains someone you genuinely dislike and don't mind spending the money to hurt them. The reasons for the dislike are, of course, as numerous as the people involved.


For some people, simply 'buying land' just doesn't keep them interested. They want more buttons to push, more things to do, more 'fun'. Sometimes, their idea of 'fun' involves sabotaging others. It's more variety, and an enjoyable sidelight to the game. When confronted or condemned for their actions, these people treat those who object with scorn and ridicule, characterizing the objectors as "whiners" or "babies", etc... and justifying it by pointing out that the Emperor obviously intended for people to do it, or he wouldn't have put it into the game. The general advice they give is "grow up," though it may not be phrased that politely or cleanly.

If anyone else can think of any more reasons, feel free to add them. I think that covers about every situation I can think of. Now, in the interests of personal disclosure, let me take the time to answer two questions:

Have you ever been sabotaged?
Yes. In the more than a year that I've been playing, I have been sabotaged exactly once. (Now that I've publicly stated that, watch it happen again in the next week...) I lost four acres of land, and there was no clue as to who did it. My friends among the monarchs informed me that meant that whoever did it was a direct subject of the emperor- that those people got cheaper sabotage and that it was always anonymous.I suppose I should feel flattered that someone- likely a King or Queen (not all direct subjects were monarchs then) should take the time and money to single me out. But, it was long ago, and I'm sure long forgotten by whoever did it.

Have you ever sabotaged anyone?
No. Once I was seriously tempted, but I remembered a lesson that I've learned the hard way: the rotten, mean, nasty people that probably deserve it are also going to be a lot more mean and nasty to you, and will make you more miserable, than anything you ever do will them. (What I learned about the potential target later, his actions and career, only confirmed my earlier decision.)

Now, on to more details-- the complications of sabotage. (Note that this is purely technical, the personal drama I leave for the reader to decide.)

In the beginning, if you paid the money, you got results. The only thing that mitigated the damage was if the target had a castle built on their land (this is the million gold piece castle that you finish upgrading your housing to, if I recall correctly.) But then things became more complicated. A would-be saboteur now has two more things to consider:

1. If the target has allies who are online, they can 'fund an investigation' and bring the perpetrator to justice. If this happens, the person who paid for the sabotage pays for the lost land out of their personal holdings. Net result? A lot of money spent for sabotage, some money spent by allies, and the lost land is suffered by the person who spent all of the money on sabotage. Not necessarily a pleasant outcome, though I've been told at least once that "it was worth it." (see the 'personal animosity' section above as to why)

2. If the target has researched crime and is immune to it, they (and their direct subjects) will not suffer any loss from sabotage. This isn't something that is enforced by simply not having their name appear on the list of targets, nor is it something that the player hiring the rogue is warned about. You pay your money, the rogue tries, and fails. Net result? Money spent for sabotage with no damage done. So far, I haven't heard of a failed sabotage also resulting in the would-be saboteur's identity becoming known.

...and that pretty much sums up the sabotage scene. As to the question of is it worth it, I leave that to the reader to decide. People being people, the answer probably depends on whose name comes up in that list of targets...


Valentine Janus said...

First off, thank you for dropping me a note in-world the other night. :)

I don't sabotage, and I encourage my people to refrain. If my principality comes under concerted attack, I reserve the right to defend my lines with vigor. But on the whole I believe it pays to develop a reputation as loyal, honest, and a straight arrow. Sabotage does not help that. The other players in TE are people, not faceless computer NPCs.


Vulpine Eldrich said...

Absolutely they're people... which, sadly, can also explain the popularity of sabotage.

But I think most of us agree with you, sabotage isn't the best long-term strategy. Or, to put it more bluntly, is it even a good thing to do.

I suppose I should try to come up with a similar article on bribing next...

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