Ikariam is a game that has an ancient flavor coating to it, but at its core, it is a micro-managing game of city expansion, alliances, residents you must keep happy, and resource managing, all in a multiplayer world. When you create a new account, you’ll be started out with one city with a population of about 40 (I don’t remember the exact number). You’ll want to start building buildings that will make your population happier, but don’t forget to protect it as well!

When you first start out, there are only a few buildings you can construct. To get more, you’ll need to build an Academy. Then you need to put some of your population into the Academy to research. There are four areas you can research: Seafaring, Economy, Science, and Warfare. Now sometimes, you’ll have to research one before you can go back to another, simply because they are interconnected. I mean, you can’t learn wine press in economy without first knowing how to dig a well from the science field. As far as I could tell, they are all logical dependencies too, not just made up to keep your levels equal.

There are no computer enemies in Ikariam, but there are plenty of other humans that could be either friend or foe. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do for protection. There’s a town wall you can build and upgrade that helps protect the town. You’re going to also want to build barracks so that you can train soldiers. If you’re like me and enjoy the science and town construction more than war, then I recommend you start making friends with the people around you. There are a very large number of alliances you can join. People in your alliance can help you with warfare, and day to day life stuff as well. There are even spies available that you can train to investigate other cities.

One thing I haven’t talked about is how you actually build stuff. There are 5 types of materials you need in your cities: wood, wine, marble, crystal glass, and sulphur. Wood is available for you to set people harvesting on all islands. Each island also has one of the other four materials. Obviously, you’ll need to get the other 3 materials somehow. You can hope that someone on a nearby island has then available (which I’ve noticed is rare, at least on the islands I’m on), or you can use the premium trader. The premium trader allows you to trade materials other than wood 1 for 1 for each other. Wood can be traded at a 2 for 1. You will have to pay 3 ambrosia to the gods for this benefit though.

Ambrosia is purchased with a plus account. In my experience, I never found people offering what I needed for trade, so I didn’t see any way around paying for it. Honestly though, ambrosia is relatively cheap. You can get 100 ambrosia for $14.95 (that’s the smallest amount). There are also bigger packages that are better deals. If you manage it well though, you’ll be able to build on 4 different islands so that you’ll have one of each resource without running out of ambrosia. Ambrosia can also be used to pay for premium advisors. They make it a lot easier to manage your resources. When you start to get a few towns, you’ll probably want to pay for them sometimes too. Also, another thing is that Ambrosia has a time factor attached to it. For example, for a 20% boost in harvesting building materials, it will cost you five ambrosia and it lasts for seven days.

On the whole, I’m really enjoying Ikariam. Because it is all real time, I can set my towns going, go back to my real job, and check in on my towns every so often. I will warn you that starting out is somewhat slow. Since it is real time, you can’t just hit space bar to skip years. You’ll have to wait on your population to build up, but it really doesn’t take too long. I recommend you go check Ikariam out. Given that it’s free, what do you have to lose? It is a great way to keep occupied during breaks at work without getting so addicted that you lose days of your life!