I’ve been playing this a fair bit lately, on my tablet, and really enjoying it (available at the Google Play store for Android, not sure about the Apple version). It took me a few starts to get the method of playing without paying – the key is patience.
– For example, at level 10, both Education and Mass Transit become available as services, and when they do, the people will start clamouring for them. Odds are good, though, that you won’t have much gold when you bump into L10, so you end up having to listen to the Sims whine incessantly. Much better, I’ve discovered, to stop short of L10 (and L12, L14, L16, and L20) to make sure you’ve got enough gold, or keys, or whatever you need to make the next steps. In my case, this meant waiting four real-world days between stopping just short of L10, and finally upgrading to hit the promotion. In that time, I was producing as best I could, and selling everything valuable that I made.
– Selling products of your secondary industries is much more profitable than selling the products of your primaries – that is, if it comes from a factory, it will top out at a little over 100 gold to sell even if it takes three or four hours to produce, while if it comes from one of the commercial properties it can end up being worth several hundred in just half an hour. Vegetables are a particularly good thing to sell, maxing out at 160 gold per unit and taking only an hour’s production time (twenty minutes twice for seeds, twenty more for the veg). Nails are also a fairly concentrated form of money, taking only seven minutes’ production (two minutes for two metal, plus five more minutes for the nails). In order to get the best of Nails, though, you’ll want to play for a certain amount of time – otherwise your queue will empty, and your store will sit idle. In this way, I was able to build up from 15k gold to 120k, enough to buy both the Departments of Education and Transportation at once, and thus be able to get past the hump of L10. Similar choices at L12/14/16 led to profitable and effective play.
– Another tip for playing this one is to take advantage of the ability to move buildings around. If you place a new residential zone in a place that, say, has no Fire coverage, you have two approaches you can take: the expensive one (buy a new fire station!), or the cheap one (move the building so it’s covered by existing resources). This applies also to high traffic alerts – instead of immediately caving in and upgrading to a six-lane street, try swapping a couple of buildings around so as to spread the traffic load over separate streets. This can give you the time to earn the gold to be able to do the upgrade when it’s convenient for you, rather than at the demand of those ever-pestering Sims.
– Know the value of your goods. When you get an offer coming in, don’t sell unless you’re sure you’re getting more than you’d get in the market. That is, if you get an offer for four Vegetables and they’re offering 500 gold, tell them to get lost. if they’re offering 800 gold, take that deal!
– If you’re going to play for a little while, queue your secondary goods up in order of increasing time for production. This way, your short-time items will come up while you play, allowing you to keep the queue full with ease
– Lastly, let me recommend buying extra queue slots for your Farmers’ Market, your Hardware store and your Building Supplies store. I keep all three at four slots, allowing me to queue up a couple of hours’ production at a time, and meaning even when grinding as noted in the first tip above, I can keep the production ticking over without having to play more than every two hours or so. As part of this, keep your City Storage maxed out in size at all times.
I hope you enjoy playing as much as I do – and if you want to Friend me in the game, I’m Emily H, and my city is New Tottenham (just shy of 100k population atm, and L18).