They Are Billions took Steam by storm not too long ago and has been growing and evolving in Early Access ever since. Not content simply to master the regular game, however, some expert players have taken to making up their own personal challenges, like trying to survive using the least amount of defenses possible.
Unlike the usual base-building real-time strategy game, They Are Billions is about survival rather than conquest. Every few minutes during a match, waves of zombies will throw themselves at your city and try to infect and destroy everything inside. Winning requires surviving the final wave, in which the difficulty goes up exponentially as thousands more zombies flood the map. Having a large, well-defended base is key for this, but YouTuber ImKibitz has increased the challenge for himself even further by reducing his fortifications as much as possible prior to the assault.
In the above video, ImKibitz, whose first name is Cody, has his command center walled off on three sides while the fourth is mostly guarded by an impenetrable forest. In addition, he has 17 Thanatoses, 24 Snipers, a handful of Titans, and tons of towers protecting it. Of course, there’s also a swamp of electric wire fences encircling all of that just for extra measure. It doesn’t actually seem like all that much, but a base like this actually benefits from the added density since the overlapping range of defensive buildings like Shock towers and Executors will help them put out more damage than if they were more spread out.
As Cody notes, though, one of the most dangerous things in They Are Billions is a crashing economy. Without the right mix of resources, you won’t be able to grow, and without enough existing stockpiles, you’ll actually start to shrink. Each fighting unit in particular requires a certain amount of gold at regular intervals in order to keep them conscripted. Fall behind in your payments and they’ll ditch the settlement, leaving you and your Command center between a rock and a giant zombie horde. In preparation for that contingency, Cody also made sure to have plenty of gold stockpiled to help him last the duration of the wave.
The other biggest threat are spitters, fast-moving zombies who vomit acid that deals area-of-effect damage and have lots of range. Fortunately, Cody had a second set of double walls so that ranged enemies wouldn’t be able to hurt his more vulnerable, back-row units. As a result, his Thanatos mortar units are free to keep raining down fire from above. As a result, his command center made it through unscathed, even if the tiny base surrounding it was mostly obliterated.
Challenges like this are half the fun of the game, and partly responsible for its ongoing popularity throughout Twitch and YouTube. Long after you’ve managed to out-maneuver the zombie swarms on each standard difficulty, you can always try to beat the game with one arm tied behind your back—or just watch someone else do it. ImKibitz has done other challenges, like trying to defeat the last wave using only the game’s giant mech fighters, but I find the tiny base ones to be the most satisfying. It’s sort of like the tiny house movement: zombie survival edition, in which the usual RTS sprawl is replaced with a refined minimalism. The obvious appeal of tiny house is shedding as much of the material baggage in your life as possible. Minimalism in games is somewhat different, but figuring out how to simplify a strategy game into its most basic parts has a similar appeal.
Half the fun of They Are Billions is watching a small city take shape over the course of a match and then seeing if what you’ve created has been designed well enough to withstand a brutal onslaught. A super small base makes doing that even easier and more focused. Although you can technically micromanage battles in the game by shifting units around and producing more on the fly, most waves move too fast for that to be very helpful. Like watching a sand castle swallowed by the incoming tide, it’s more fun to simply sit back and see how long your handiwork can last.