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Advanced Advisor Guide
By Dutch
Looking for tricks and tips to get the most out of your seven Advisors in Silk? This guide will give experienced players access to exclusive secrets that will give them the edge in hiring. Don't be fooled by the fact that hiring a useful caravan is easy... hiring an outstanding caravan is one of the great challenges of the game.
Hiring Advisors is one of the most subtle aspects of Silk: you’ll almost always benefit in some way from any hire the existing caravan members support, but that doesn’t make it the best hire. Once you start on the more difficult Destinies (the Warlord and the Rebel), and especially if you are shooting for 100% Mastery in any Destiny, you’ll want to make smart choices about who you hire.

This guide explains the benefits of different Advisor classes in terms of beneficial tactics, cultural advantages, ‘combos’ from having multiple Advisors of a class, and other useful tips.
Skill Levels
There are eight levels of skills in Silk, although in a typical game you won’t go much higher than Superior (5) or Incredible (6). The number of skill successes required to level up starts low (just one for Fair!) but increases exponentially. Higher skills have significant impact on trading, combat, rites etc. but an Advisor with an Excellent (4) skill is already very competent, and at Superior (5) can access almost all the tactics associated with a skill. There are a few tactics that require Incredible (6), and those that do are usually available at lower levels to Advisors of a specific culture.

0. No skill
1. Fair
2. Good
3. Very Good
4. Excellent
5. Superior
6. Incredible
7. Epic
8. Legendary
Guide or Pathfinder
When you start playing Silk, the Guide is essential, because the highest Wayfare skill controls how far you can see on the map, not to mention the foraging tactics that come from the Wayfare skill can be life and death. As you get more experienced, though, the Guide can be a lot less vital since you start to know your way about the Silk Road and are less dependent upon the map. Especially if either your Hero or Companion starts with Good Wayfare, you can last quite a while without a Guide.

However, there are a couple of things a Guide is vital for. Firstly, herms - the rock piles on the western paths of the Silk Road. Spirit affects all Skill checks in the game, so keeping it high is extremely important. Herms are so plentiful, and spread out so far in the wilderness, that having a Guide who knows the rituals for a herm is immensely useful (although be careful, as if you get a warning about digging for stones or some such, you might lose a lot of time doing it).

Anyone with decent Wayfare experience who is Roman, Parthian, or Kushan will know the ritual for a herm. However, a Han or Nomad Guide will need Superior Wayfare or higher to know what to do. As a result, never hire a Guide from these two cultures if you are travelling anywhere but the Takla Makan desert to the east.

Advisor Combos for Guides
Guides have special tactics with other Guides for foraging. This can be helpful for inexperienced players, but in the military game the size of the army determines foraging scale, and the second Guide becomes effectively useless. As a result, the Traveller is the only Destiny where a second Guide might be useful.

Far more valuable is the horse encounter combo for Guide and Drover (discussed below), which only works if you have Superior Wayfare and Superior Animals skills. As a result, hiring a Guide with anything less than Excellent Wayfare is probably a mistake, although since herms are a plentiful source of Wayfare experience you might get away with it outside of the eastern deserts.
Drover or Herder
For almost all Destinies, a Drover is important, but they are absolutely vital if you are trying to 100% the Warlord or Rebel, since while you can win those Destinies with infantry you will not get perfect Mastery without cavalry. Almost every storm, your Drover will suggest building a shelter for the animals... unless you have a huge surplus of horses, you will want to do this, as horses are the most valuable part of your caravan in the military game. Guards are cheap by comparison.

Depending upon your overall strategy, you might want to take a Drover as your Companion. Particularly in the Rebel, whose starting position is a long way away from convenient caravanserai, the Drover is a fine choice for the start of the game. A Warlord or Noble can wait to hire - but don’t hire someone who is only Very Good with Animals unless there’s no other choice.

Culture makes much less difference with Drovers (horses and camels are pretty much the same wherever you go!) so hire anyone you find with a good set of Skills and Animals at Excellent or Superior.

Advisor Combos for Drovers
You can only hire one Drover under normal circumstances, so there’s no special tactics for having two Drovers.

Once you have both a Drover and a Merchant, you have a solid and underused money-growing option at your disposal. In almost any lush valley anywhere in the world, the Merchant can buy Sheep and Goats cheaply (try to get 2 Goats for 1 Silver, and aim to get a little more than 1 Sheep per Silver e.g. 5 Sheep for 4 Silver). Then the Drover can auction them for a profit somewhere nearby - travel only short distances when cattle trading! You just need a Citadel with a cattle market or a Market Town, preferably one *without* the livestock you’re trying to sell. You can potentially double your Silver on a cattle drive - but without the Drover you’re doomed, and Superior Animals skills are highly recommended.

The mightiest Advisor Combo in the whole game might be the net tactic for horse-catching that is only available with both a Drover and a Guide, and can only be done when horses are in wooded areas. You need Superior Animals *and* Superior Wayfare but capturing horses with nets will yield you several at a time which makes a huge difference if you are playing a cavalry strategy. Just be warned that once you start using nets to catch horses, encountering horses away from forests will feel disappointing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Merchant or Trader
If ever there was a class that’s hard to deal with, it’s the Merchant. That’s because the way Silk deals with choices makes the bazaar extremely sensitive to the composition of your Advisors... you can only make trades the caravan is open to, and that can get tricky.

If you’re not trying for 100% Mastery or otherwise playing at an advanced level, then any Merchant will do. But bear in mind that all trades are affected by Trade skill, caravan Reputation, *and* the culture of the Advisor making the trade. That means a Kushan Guide with Good Trade skills might get you a better deal at Samarkand (where she’s a local) than your Han Merchant who’s ‘not from around here’. So the golden rule of the market is: check what you can get. You can always back out of a trade, and when you’re trading for anything other than Provisions, you want to explore multiple options.

When hiring a Merchant, think carefully about where you’re going to be trading a lot. The Noble typically does a lot of deals in the Kushan Empire, for instance, as well as in Han territory. A Roman Merchant is going to be a lot less useful than someone from the places you know you’re going to be trading...

Advisor Combos for Merchants
You can hire seven Advisors, and Merchants are one of the classes you can hire more than one of... should you?

If you are planning to do a lot of trading, multiple merchants might be worthwhile. But you can only hire an extra Merchant if you are in a caravanserai of the same culture as the new hire (e.g. a Parthian Merchant in a Parthian caravanserai) - expect to look inside a lot of tents if you plan to hire additional Merchants.
Legionnaire, Soldier, or Warrior
Strange as it may sound, no Destiny requires you to hire a Soldier. The Traveller and Noble can get by through parlaying with bandits if they wish, and both the Warlord and the Rebel are already Soldiers. Nonetheless, it’s highly likely you will hire a Soldier - and in the war game, quite possibly more than one.

The culture of a Soldier hire is exceptionally important when you are waging war. That’s because each will be able to recruit from the retreating forces whenever they’ve served with anyone on the defeated side... so if there’s a legionnaire in the caravan and you defeat a Roman cohort, you can offset any losses by recruiting from the retreating forces. Or, if they surrender without contesting arms with you (which happens in a number of situations) you can expand your forces without cost. That this can make a vast difference goes without saying - so make sure your Soldier hires are the right ones for your strategic plan (i.e. if you plan to fight Nomads a lot, hire a Nomad Warrior to recruit from their clans when you are victorious over them).

Be aware that you might not persuade a Soldier to hire another Soldier if you are at peace... but a Drover accompanying dozens of animals may get skittish and open the door to a second or subsequent Soldier. Otherwise, remember where the best Soldiers are and go there after declaring war.

Advisor Combos for Soldiers
Soldiers are another class who gain a trick or two when they reach a Superior skill, in this case in Warfare. As long as you have at least one Advisor with Superior Warfare, you can train any member of your caravan to fight. You only need to be Fair at Warfare (the lowest level) to count as a combatant for your side (although the best Soldiers count as many combatants each), and you only need one successful Warfare check (e.g. defending the camp at night) to go from no skill to Fair. So train everyone as soon as you can.

At war, having more than one Soldier in the caravan makes a vast difference in terms of the available tactics, but one in particular makes that second Soldier hire vital: half rations. The troops don’t like it, and Spirit will fall if you resort to it - but it can save you from starving to death, which is all-too easy with a few hundred infantry.

A third or fourth Soldier is not necessarily as useful - but if you’re fighting on many fronts, you can definitely gain the benefit of recruiting from another empire’s forces.
Ritegiver, Mobad, Mushi, or Shaman
It is possible to complete most of the Destinies without a Ritegiver, but life is certainly easier when somebody in the caravan knows their way around a temple. Culture plays a big part in what a Ritegiver can do - not only which shrines and temples they perform rites at, but also their tactics for parlaying. Getting safe passage at a hostile Citadel because your Ritegiver knows who to dedicate a feast too can be an enormous help, especially when you’re trying to avoid declaring war but are traveling with several hundred infantry. Settlements muster defenders when they get spooked, which happens when you have twice the number of defenders in your troop. Don’t be tempted to fight unnecessarily - with the right Ritegiver, you can avoid conflict easily, and without having to offer expensive bribes.

When a Ritegiver reaches Superior Rituals skill, they will have picked up a little of the rites from other cultures, which can make them extra versatile. Until then, expect a Roman or Kushan Ritegiver to be the most flexible hire, and a Han Mushi or Nomad Shaman the least - although as usual, if you are in the eastern deserts, the Han or Nomad will have more to offer. Just remember that everyone knows a little of their neighbours culture, and Kushan are in the middle and so know a bit about everything.

If you are at war, you can sue for peace with a Ritegiver and appropriate tribute at the right temple, but it’s expensive and much better to avoid declaring war in the first place. Still, it can be an effective campaign to make war on the Kushan to raid their horses and then offer a hundred Spice jars to the lion goddess (Star temple) for peace.

Also, be aware of the Temple of Helios, near where the Warlord starts, where you can sacrifice a horse for a huge leap in Kushan Reputation. Only a Kushan Ritegiver, or maybe a Roman, is willing to do such a thing, although an Advisor who is deeply experienced in Rituals may eventually consider doing it. Bear this in mind, because you need to make that sacrifice to 100% the Traveller, so make sure at least one Ritegiver in the caravan knows what to do and is willing to make the sacrifice.

Advisor Combos for Ritegiver
It’s easier to hire extra Ritegivers because anyone with Rituals can spot someone who knows stuff they don’t. Be warned, though, as they’ll let you hire, say, two Shaman if you’re not careful, and one of each culture is plenty. Pay attention with Ritegiver hires, as they’ll easily fill your spare caravan slots but you might do better hiring other classes.

If you want to make the most of Spirit or Reputation, consider one Ritegiver familiar with Greek-style temples (Roman or Kushan), either a Han Mushi or a Nomad Shaman, and a Parthian Mobad for the Fire temples. You can get by in Parthian lands without a Mobad, especially with someone from Kushan with Rituals experience, but if you expect to spend a lot of time in Parthia, having a Zoroastrian priest (Mobad) with you is helpful. For the Rebel, the Mobad (or a good Kushan Ritegiver) is essential. You simply can’t win without making the locals trust you, and that means a lot of feasts of burned oxen.
No game has a party system quite like Silk’s. Because you adopt Advisors for the entire game, your decisions have a long-lasting impact. However, it is incredibly forgiving on new players (especially if you are playing the Traveller) and you’ll never end up with a completely useless caravan. Still, the impact of sensible hiring can be vast, and the benefits are great enough that once you start taking the challenges seriously, you’ll want to hire the best caravan you can, not just the first people you meet.

As with everything in Silk, have a plan, and be prepared to change it. You might have originally wanted to get a Legionnaire and recruit Roman veterans into your ranks, but could you hire that Superior Nomad Warrior and travel all the way to the east to recruit a Nomad horde instead? You might have preferred a Nomad Shaman, but would a Han Mushi work out? Just don’t lose sight of who you already have, and how you are going to use your two ‘spare’ slots after you hire one of each class. Are you taking extra Ritegivers? Merchants? Soldiers? A second Guide? Seven choices Is all you’ll get, so choose wisely! And good luck.