Town Hall: You have no choice, you must have this building and cannot demolish it. This building gives you an overview of the town and dictates how many people you town can hold. As this building gets larger it also makes it easier for enemies to spy into your town. You should look to upgrade this building whenever you have growing population and the town hall is not big enough to hold them. There is no reason to upgrade the town hall otherwise.
Port: This building determines how fast you can load your trade ships in order to transport goods between your cities. Upgrading will make things a little faster, but don?t go crazy upgrading this building, there are better places to spend your hard earned resources. Level 10 is good for a small empire, and level 20 is sufficient for most large empires. Level 30 is for when you get bored upgrading other things.
Shipyard: This building allows you to build a navy. It is a cheap building to upgrade. Just keep it sufficiently upgraded so that you can build all of the ships you need. Upgrading further will allow you to build ships a little faster, but it?s not that important for most players, especially when you have a shipyard in every town.
Town Wall: This will help to protect your town from attacks. The town wall is really only useful if you have some military units behind it. A good general guide is that if you keep your town wall at close to the same level as your town hall, it should provide a stiff obstacle for invading armies.
All of the other buildings are optional. To make things a little easier we will consider them in groups. Each town has 11 free building spots for these buildings, so choose wisely.
There are two buildings that you can build that increase the happiness of your cities. As cities get happier the population grows. These buildings are very important to increase your population so you can collect taxes, hire scientists and put people to work in the mills and mines. Both of these buildings provide a small boost in happiness for building the structure, and a further boost for using it (filling the museum with CTs, or the tavern with wine).
Museum: This building increases your population by allowing you engage in cultural treaties with other players. When the other players artifacts are displayed in your town your citizens will become happier, and your population will grow. Most players consider this building essential in all towns.
Tavern: This building keeps the town happy by allowing you to serve them wine. This happiness will allow you to increase your population. Most players consider this building to be essential in all towns.
Cost Reducer Buildings
These buildings can help reduce how much you spend of a particular resource. They hold different values in different towns to different types of players. Cost reducers are particularly useful to players who obtain a lot of their resources from pillaging. In this case you don?t want a boost for your production, you want a reduction on your spending (spending other peoples things) so these buildings can come in useful.
Carpenter?s Workshop: This building reduces your spending of building material by 1% per level of the building, up to a maximum level 32 (or 32%). These can be useful as building material is one of the most widely used resources. Also, when upgrading large buildings later on, the building material required can be higher than fits in your warehouses, so carpenters can make it possible to build those buildings. Most players consider the Carpenters workshop to be a very useful addition to all towns.
Architects Office: This building reduces your spending of marble by 1% per level of the building up to a maximum of level 32 (or 32%). This is good because marble is the most expensive resource, and some buildings use it in large quantities (especially the museum, town wall and town hall). The architect is less common than the carpenter, but is still recommended by most players as a good addition to all towns.
Wine Cellars: Like the Architects Office, only for wine instead. These buildings reduce the amount of wine that you need to serve in the tavern. This is only really useful for players who need an overly large population to support a big army. These are equally useful in any town of any resource type. These buildings are more useful if you serve more wine per hour.
Opticians: Like the buildings above, but for crystal glass. This building should only be built if you are using the town to perform workshop upgrades, or if you are considering using the town for experiments later in the game, as this gives discounts on both. It also gives discounts on a select few military units
Fireworks test area: Like the above buildings, only for sulfur. This building is only really useful if you are a very military minded player. Build only one per empire and try and train all troops in that town where possible. This building is not recommended for most players.
Production Boost Buildings
The following buildings all increase the production of your mines and mills. The foresters can be built in all towns, but the luxury resource boosters can only be built in towns that are on islands with the correct resource. The buildings raise production by 2% for every level built. Level 15 (30% boost) is a perfectly attainable goal for a small player. The highest it is possible for most players to get these buildings is about level 25-30 (no more than a 60% boost). These buildings are more valuable the larger your mine is (and the more people you have working on it). Smaller players often have many of these buildings scattered throughout their empire, but larger players find difficulty making room for as many of them. These buildings are more important to players who rely on mining for most of their resources. Some players do not mine and get most resources from pillaging, while this is not often recommended, if you follow this path you should realize that these production boost buildings are not very useful to you.
Building Material (foresters): Can be useful, and as all resource booster buildings gives a good return on investment. Most players do not use these because they do not have a shortage of wood, however if you have a marble-heavy empire, then they may be useful to speed up your building. Can also be used to help donations to the mines.
Marble (Stone Mason): Marble is the most valuable resource, so this is the most popular of the production booster buildings. Frequently used by players as marble is often hard to buy on the market at reasonable prices (area dependent).
Crystal Glass (Glass Blower): Useful for heavy researchers, especially if you want to do experiments.
Wine (Winery): Useful to help your empire to expand with fewer wine islands (leaves more room for marble towns)
Sulfur (Alchemists Tower): Useful for heavy pillagers who want to be able to survive on only one sulfur island.
Academies: The only building that allows you to conduct research. Research is vital early on, so you will probably want a few of them in your first four or five towns. Once you have finished regular research consider what you plan to do with them. If you plan to tear them down, don?t build them too high in the first place. You can research in one of two ways, by assigning scientists to work in the academy, or by purchasing an experiment (once you have researched that option). Some players prefer to not research too much in order to leave enough population to assign to the mines. This is a valid strategy and can be used, but you will still need to do some research to make sure you advance in the game. Other players place a heavy emphasis on research early and sacrifice a little building in exchange for the research benefits getting to you a little quicker. The choice is yours, and depends on your playing style.
Warehouses: Warehouses are the only building that you are able to build more than one of in a town. They allow you to store more goods in the town in preparation for creating or upgrading a particular building. They also protect a small amount of your resources (6% of the warehouse capacity) which cannot be stolen by invaders to your town. When starting out 1 warehouse is sufficient, and will allow you t build up to a level 7 palace/GR that will allow you to expand to an empire of 8 total towns. All towns should have at least 1 warehouse.
Temple: The temple allows you the possibility of activating the miracle on your island. In the current version of the game (0.3.4) the miracles are still not widely used as the effects are not sufficient to entice players to give up their building spot. For a temple to be able to activate a miracle it takes effort from many players on the island, which also leads to the temples not being used frequently.
Hideout: This building makes it harder for others to spy on you, and also allows you to spy on others (depending on the level of their hideouts). The building can be upgraded to level 32, which is what most advanced players have, as this makes it practically impossible to spy on them. The consensus amongst larger players is that this building is compulsory. Without it other players can see exactly your troops and resources, and will steal them. Some alliances require members to maintain these buildings.
Workshop: This building is essential for newer players. This allows you to upgrade your military units. Build it on a crystal island with a crystal reducer for best effect. Once all upgrades are complete most advanced players tear down this building and replace with something more useful in the long run.
Trading Post: This will allow you to trade with other players that are near to you. There is only ever the need for one per island at most. The usefulness of this building depends on how active other traders are in your area, and how much spare you intend to trade on a regular basis. Some players do not use this building, some have just one per empire, and some have them in many towns. It varies widely depending on player style.
Barracks: This building is required to build land troops, but is not required to station troops in a town. Most advanced players have barracks in less than half of their towns, as rebuilding an army is not something that is typically done very often. Clearly the more active militant players will need more barracks. This building can benefit from the use of the sulfur reduction building.
Embassy: If you want to join an alliance you will need an embassy. Most players only have one. Leaders of alliances need many of these buildings, as they need one diplomacy point per player in the alliance. They also allow you to sign military and trade treaties with other players. This is not normally necessary, unless you need the military treaty in times of war, or you are an extremely active trader. Joining an alliance is highly recommended, so this building is considered compulsory by many players, but most players only build one, and keep it at a relatively low level.
Setting up the towns
So for each town let us go over for a beginning player what those towns might look like. There are 11 optional slots, with the others being already filled with the town hall, town wall, port and shipyard. Firstly there are buildings that are strongly recommended by most larger players for use in all towns. These are:
3. Spy hut
4. Warehouse (1 for now)
5. Palace (If this is a colony, this space will be taken by the Governors Residence)
That leaves five free spots. Most players will tell you that in the end everyone needs a carpenter and an architect in every town eventually, and at least some of your initial towns will need an academy, so let?s include them to.
So now there are three free spots. This is where some discretion comes in, and players differ. Here is a popular setup for a player with 4 towns, one of each resource:
Sulfur town: Barracks, Alchemists tower, Forester
Crystal town: Workshop, Optician, Glass blower
Marble town: Stone Mason, Forester, Trade post
Wine town: Winery, Forester, Embassy
This would provide a good level of resources coming in, and would cover the main bases for buildings that you will need in the future. You could even swap out some of the academies if you prefer for an extra resource booster or foresters somewhere. When you get this far, your thoughts should be towards expanding. Building those GRs and Palace levels are the best way to increase the size of your empire, your economic strength, your points and your military capabilities.