Manual for Ballerburg SDL

Ballerburg SDL is free software and can be redistributed and/or modified under the terms of the GNU General Public License Version 3.

1. Objective of the game

Ballerburg is about two lords of castles pitted against each other, with the goal of defeating the opponent through targeted cannon shots. Players are able to obtain money from mining after buying shaft towers and from their people by levying taxes, and with these funds players may purchase e.g. new cannons and ammunition.

2. Game modes

There are different playing modes available in the game's settings menu, which can be brought up by pressing the Escape key. Ordinarily, the game is played between two human players. Another option is for one player to fight the computer. The computer can be set to be the player on the left or right hand side of the screen. It is also possible to let two computer- controlled players battle each other. Since it is possible to change playing modes mid-game, one can for example momentarily let the computer shoot for one's own side, or, if you're battling a computer-controlled player and the situation's dire, you might for instance momentarily switch modes to human vs. human and weaken the opponent by making bad decisions for him.

3. Player names and computer-controlled player

In the settings menu you can change the name of the human player. The name for the computer-controlled player can be changed under the label 'AI strategy'. Both settings can also safely be changed while a game is already running. The first player is always on the left side of the screen, and the second player is on the right side. The name of the computer-controlled player also stand for a certain strategy. The numbers next to 'AI strength' control the shooting accuracy of the computer players. The highest value 4 here means that almost every shot will hit its goal. The AI strategies differentiate into the priorities of the targets, i.e. some computer players shoot always at the cannons (if available), while some others rather try to hit the money of the opponent.

Oaf : No special target, just tries to hit the castle somewhere.
Yokel : First the money, then gunpowder/cannonballs, then the king
Boor : First the money, then cannons, then the king
Doofus : Money, gunpowder, cannonballs, shaft towers, cannons, king: Everything with the same probability
Fumbler : First cannons, then the king
Geezer : First the shaft towers, then cannons, then the king
Ruffian : Aims only at the king

Note that only Doofus, Fumbler, Geezer and Ruffian are able to buy shaft towers.

4. New game, choosing the castles

By clicking 'New game' in the settings menu, you can choose new castles for both sides and then start the new game by clicking 'OK'. Unless you've already extended the file with the castles, 'BALLER.DAT', you can decide between 9 different standard castles here. If both players are on the same skill level, you should of course select the same castles here, because the different castles have quite different strengths. If you choose smaller castles, the game normally won't last as long as with the bigger castles.

Here are now the values of the 9 standard castles:

Cannons Money Gunpowder Cannonballs People
2 400 180 12 200
5 500 180 12 270
5 500 150 14 270
6 500 190 12 300
3 500 120 6 220
4 500 120 10 240
6 800 120 12 500
3 500 120 9 500
1 1000 120 12 300

5. The battlefield: The mountain and the castles

After you've started a new game, the castles and the mountain will be drawn on the screen. Both, the position of the castles and the shape and height of the mountain are random (within certain limits). The castles consist of the following parts:

The active wind information indicates the active player. If the player still has a vane, a zoomed version of the vane will be shown in the box at the bottom of the screen together with the strength and direction of the wind.

6. Course of the game

After starting the game, the players take their turns until one of them wins. Within a turn, the player can do several things: After clicking on either the powder magazine, the cannonballs magazine or the treasure chamber, the properties of the player will be displayed along with the market where the player can buy various things (more on this topic can be found in the next chapter). By clicking on the throne room, the king will comment on your latest progress.

The round can be completed in two ways: In case you don't have a cannon anymore, or you don't have enough powder or cannonballs or just don't like to shoot, you can simply click on 'Done' at the bottom of the screen. In all other cases you should choose the cannon that you want to shoot with, select the angle and powder and then click 'OK' to fire a cannonball. More on shooting can be found in chapter 8.

7. Your properties and the market

When clicking on one of the three magazines, you get the properties and market dialog which is described here now: In the section titled with 'You have' your properties and the amount of your people are listed. By clicking on the corresponding arrows, you can also adjust the taxes here that you demand from your people. Higher taxes mean more money per subject. But beware, when you raise the taxes, some of your people might leave your kingdom. On the other side, lowering the taxes might render your kingdom more attractive again, so that a certain amount of people might immigrate again. But like in real life, there are no exact values for the amount of immigrants, emmigrants and the amount of money you earn, they fluctuate within certain ranges. And be warned: If you raise the taxes too much, your income declines again – which people are really interested in generating earnings if they have to give everything away again?

The second part of the dialog is used for the market. Here you can buy certain things and repair your castle. You can trigger one of the actions by clicking on the price of the corresponding entry. However, this is only possible if the entry is active. In case it is inactive, you either do not have enough money or one of the following reasons occurred:

Please also note that you can not buy more cannonballs and gunpowder than you can store in your magazines. If you try to buy more, you still have to pay the money, but you can not store the bought goods! The treasure chamber behaves in a similar way: If it is completely filled, all additional earned money will be discarded.

Buying a shaft tower is long-term capital investment. For each shaft tower, you earn approximately between 40 and 70 money units each round.

Now a word about laying bricks: When you choose this menu entry, you get 20 bricks (the remeaining are shown at the bottom of the screen) which you have to lay immediately. Please note that you can only extend the existing walls of your castle, i.e. you can not lay the bricks somewhere up in the air. Furthermore, don't even think of laying the bricks at your opponent's castle, e.g. to block the other's cannons – of course this is forbidden, you are only allowed to extend your own castle.

Please also note that the prices at the market vary each round. Goods that are very cheap in one round might become expensive in the next one. (I won't tell more about the price system here, so you can be surprised again and again how expensive those shaft towers can be when you just thought that you were ready to buy one...)

8. Shooting

After clicking on one of the cannons, you have to adjust the cannon angle and the amount of gunpowder. By clicking on the single arrows, you adjust the values with single steps, and by clicking on the double arrows you adjust the powder by three units and the angle by 10 degrees. Powder can be selected from 5 units up to 20 units (unless you have less than 20 powder units in your magazine, then the maximum limit will be adjusted accordingly). Using 5 powder units or something similar is hardly of any use – unless you would like to destroy your own shaft towers!?!

The angle can be adjusted in the range of 0 up to 180 degrees. Angles above 90 degrees (or even 80 degrees if you've got very strong opposing wind) are also only useful for self-destructive players.

When you are satisfied with your settings (did you take the wind into account, too?), then you should press 'OK' to fire your cannonball.

9. Striking

In most cases the cannonballs only hit the mountain or the walls of the opponent's castle. The effect is not too exciting; the cannonball creates a crater with a size proportional to the impact velocity. In case you hit the castle, there is also the chance that you killed some of the opponent's people.

Striking a cannon is more exciting; the cannon is destroyed with a big explosion. The same applies to the vane. If you hit the cannonball magazine or the treasure chamber, a certain amount of the content will be destroyed. In case you hit the powder magazine, the whole stock of powder will explode. And if you hit the king, you can congratulate yourself – in this case you've won the game!

The fine art of shooting is to destroy the shaft towers. This is a very difficult task. First, they are located right behind the mountain anyway, so that you need a big angle and a lot of powder to hit them. But additionally you often have to hit them multiple times until they explode. Here's a little hint: If you hit the towers from the side instead from the top, chances are higher that they will be destroyed.

10. Game options

In case two players are playing at the same level, there can be a dead-lock situation where neither player manages to hit the opponent's king. Especially when both players have a lot of people, shaft towers and lay a lot of bricks, it can happen that they get almost unbeatable and these games last forever.

To avoid such neverending games, there are some options in the settings menu which can be used to limit the duration of a party:

11. The end of the game

How can a game end? In the most likely case, one of the two kings gets hit by a cannonball. There is also the possibility that one of the kings surrenders. However, this is only the case if you do not have any cannons left, your treasure room is almost empty and your amount of people is also very low – so it is very unlikely that you can buy a new cannon in the near future. Finally there is the possibility that you run out of people. But this case only happens if you're imposing too high taxes for several rounds, so that all your people emigrate.