Mafia Wars, by Zynga, is one of the most successful Facebook games today. As implied by the name, while playing Mafia Wars you assume the role of a member of a crime family and climb the ladder of success within the game by performing illegal activities. By necessity, the game mechanics are rather simple and success in the game is often highly dependent on the attributes of your character.
Your character in Mafia Wars has five attributes: attack, defense, health, energy, and stamina. Each of these attributes can be increased, on a one for one basis, by spending skill points that are earned in various ways. Efficient assignment of these skill points can allow you to gain levels and in-game items quickly, while inefficient assignment of skill points will slow your in-game progress to a near halt.
There are three main ways to gain skill points in Mafia Wars. The most common way to gain skill points is by gaining a level. Every time you gain a level, you receive five skill points and the majority of skill points you receive in the game will come from leveling. You also gain one skill point every time you complete a level of mastery in a job. During early jobs you will gain a lot of skill points this way, but job progression rate slows down in the late game, so this becomes a slow source of skill point eventually. In addition, you can gain one skill point each day by completing a check list of activities. Finally, skill points can either be won in the lottery or purchased with reward points gained by spending real world money.
In order to efficiently spend the skill points that you earn, you need to understand the various attributes that comprise your character. Each attribute interacts with different mechanics in the game and each has varying efficiency.
The least efficient attribute to put skill points into is your health. Your health only matters when participating in fights and during the rare boss fight. Because you can use items during a boss fight, your health basically is mostly inconsequential. Due to the ease at which you can heal, health also has little impact on most normal fights. The one place where health is very meaningful is when trying to obtain the Bulletproof achievement. This achievement requires you to survive for one hour on the hit list, which is basically only possible with an incredibly high health value. It is worth investing a few points in this attribute early on to make boss fights slightly less frustrating, but mostly skill points are wasted on this attribute.
The attack, defense, and stamina attributes are all used for fighting and robbing. The attack and stamina attributes are used when you initiate a fight or rob someone and the defense attribute is used when someone robs you or initiates a fight against you. Stamina dictates how often you can perform these activities, while attack and defense dictates how well you perform during these activities. Due to the formula for fighting and robbing, the efficiency of the attack attribute is constrained by the size of your mafia. If you have a small mafia, points in attack are mostly worthless. If you wish to rob and fight, you will want to place about 40-50% of your skill points in attack and about 10% in stamina. If you do not intend to perform these activities, ignore these attributes. While defense protects you from these activities, for the most part being attacked or robbed does little harm to you, so defense is mostly unnecessary.
Finally, energy is generally considered the most efficient attribute to place skill points into. In fact, you can literally play the game by only ever assigning skill points to energy. Energy is spent to complete jobs and jobs provide the best money and experience point rewards in the game. Pure energy players often gain multiple levels in a single day and are the highest level characters in the game. Even if you do not choose to be a pure energy player, you should put at least 40% of your skill points in energy, unless you are firmly committed to being a pure fight player.
Generally, it is best to assign skill points earned each level consistently. Choose some pattern and stick with it. Skill points earned from completing jobs or check list are more sporadically earned and are best used to fill in weaknesses in the character or adjust your character when an underdeveloped attribute becomes useful. Always keep in mind that all assignments of skill points are permanent, though you can bank unused skill points and spend them at any time after receiving them.