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Basic Strategies

Ever since the days of StarCraft, there have been three basic strategies in real-time strategy games. Usually, players will use a combination as opposed to one specific strategy, but they'll normally pick one and try to do it as close as possible.

This section will cover what all three mean, how to do them, and what to expect from them. You could honestly read just the definitions below and probably figure out the rest for yourself, but this guide will examine all the civilizations to pinpoint which nation is best at which strategy.

All right, the definitions of the Basic Three:

  • Rushing: This is when a player tries to an attack quickly, either trying to cripple the enemy's economy early, or outright destroy them in the opening minutes.
  • Booming: This player establishes an economy and expands quickly to gather as many resources as he can. He uses his military buildings to constantly spit out units for one huge, full-scale attack.
  • Turtling: A form of booming, turtling is when a player plays complete defense. He saves his resources for a late counter-attack when the enemy has wasted troops and time.
Now onto the details…

Rushing

The Theory: In the opening minutes of the game, you put all your resources into getting the military setup correctly. You send a few units to attack the enemy, hoping to catch him before his defense is established. At best, you destroy him outright and win the match. At worst, you harass his economy and slow him down as you continue to gain resources.

Pros of Rushing:

  • By far the easiest one to attempt.
  • Setting up a rush yourself will counter an enemy's rush if they try the same thing.
  • Ends matches quickly.
  • Attacks happen on your terms.
  • If things look bad early, the rush can be aborted with little risk.
  • When executed properly, is an absolute thing of beauty. (I still wet my pants when I watch a video of the famous Six-Zergling Rush from StarCraft.)
  • Works great on small maps.

Cons of Rushing:

  • By far the hardest one to attempt properly. It will take practice to do this one consistently.
  • You are wide open for a counter-attack if you fail.
  • You'll be at a technological and economic disadvantage if you fail.
  • Taking too long (giving the enemy any time at all to set up a defense) will make a rush impossible.
  • Almost suicidal in team games.
  • If your opponent also rushes, you will be open. In fact, the chance of a mobility kill rises exponentially the quicker you rush.
  • Doesn't work well on large maps.

Age 1: Because the Barracks cannot be built until Age 2, you must hit Age 2 as fast as possible. This means your first 10 Settlers should all go to food. Make at most five more to put on wood, then upgrade to Age 2. Build maybe a House or two, but you must conserve your initial resources.

Age 2: The Barracks is your first priority. The Stable will offer good speed of units, but everything in the Stable is more expensive than anything in the Barracks. Once the Barracks is up, make at most 10 units, and send them to the enemy's base. Meanwhile, create a second Barracks and more houses. Use both Barracks to make units (around 15-20 total) and send them on too.

After that, you may have to switch gears to one of the other strategies. With luck, you'll have disrupted their economy enough that you can continue to send small pockets of units to keep them off-balance whilst continuing to build up your own army.

At worst, your units will be shredded, and you'll see they have an established defense. If that's the case, quickly gather an army, because you're weak to a counterattack. You need to focus on numbers, then upgrades, then hitting Age 3 and beyond.

Age 3: If you're winning by Age at this point, you can take a little time to send groups. However, they need to be slightly larger than what you've been doing, because the enemy by now has prepared his defenses better (if you've given him the time to). You are now losing ground, and the time you can actually rush is running out.

If the enemy has stopped your rush before, but has not sent a counterattack, he's probably turtling. Abandon the rush and focus on booming.

Age 4: If you're ahead by two ages, you can continue to send kamikazes. Back up any groups with at least one siege unit to help out with Outposts and other buildings. Focus this time on pure obliteration.

If the enemy is at Age 3, abandon the rush and start getting ready to boom.

Age 5: If you're still rushing at this point, you're doing something wrong. Save up your resources to build a large army or large defenses, and either boom or turtle from here on out.

Booming

The Theory: By focusing on economy early, you gain resources quickly. This leads to quicker advances in Age, plus more research. Meanwhile, you are training many military units. When you finally attack, you will do so with dozens of units with full upgrades that cannot be stopped.

Pros of Booming:

  • Gives you the most control over your colony.
  • When executed properly, no defense will be able to stop you. You are near-guaranteed victory, even against a turtler.
  • The longer the match lasts, the greater the chance you will succeed.
  • Against another boomer, you will still probably succeed if you made the attack.
  • Tends to beat rushers because your economy will be better established in the phases of the game—plus, rushers tend to be impatient and will make mistakes, especially as the game goes on.
  • Your defense is automatically established because of the number of units you are creating.
  • With a technology advantage, your units can survive being outnumbered.
  • Works on any sized map, although medium-sized maps are best.

Cons of Booming:

  • Extremely susceptible to a rush.
  • Susceptible to a faster boomer.
  • Incorrectly balancing your research with unit training will leave you more prone to being attacked.
  • Attacking before you have full upgrades will increase the chance your boom will fail.
  • Failing your boom opens your colony to a counter-attack.
  • Sending your whole army to attack leaves your colony open to be hit by another boomer or a rusher.

Age 1: The economy is the most important meal of the day. If you're expecting a rush, then you'll want to upgrade to Age 2 as quickly as possible. If not (because you're on a big map, or because you have teammates), then get about 20 Settlers total before going up. You'll want 10 on food, 5 on coin, and 5 on wood.

The British and Ottoman are excepted from this because of their unique powers concerning Settlers. For them, you should upgrade in age once you hit 15 Settlers, then either build Houses to get more or just kick back as the spawning kicks in.

Your Explorer meanwhile needs to look for trade routes, so he can set up Trading Posts. Upgrade those as you can, and trickle in whatever resource you need the most.

Age 2: Your Town Center should never stop producing Settlers. Create a Barracks and get a small defensive force as quickly as you can, but focus on also building a Market and buying its upgrades. Put 10 Settlers on every resource at least. Build Mills even if you're still hunting or gathering berries, because you'll want to research the Mill upgrades as soon as you can.

If your opponent rushes, start producing more military, because they're going to rush again. Also have your Settlers build a couple Outposts, especially near mines and such. Your focus must shift security first, because if your Settlers go down, you'll be handicapped.

If your opponent has not rushed yet, he may not be a rusher. If that's the case, continue working on your economy and don't worry about defense yet. Hit Age 3 as soon as you can.

Age 3: Build a Plantation, then put 10 Settlers working on it. Upgrade the hell out of it, then build a second Plantation and a second Mill. Keep everything fully staffed. This means you'll have at least 50 Settlers: 20 on food, 20 on coin, and 10 on wood. If you're the Ottoman, this may be a problem due to the Settler limit. If you decide to stay at 45 Settlers, then put 20 on food, 15 on coin, and 15 on wood. If you go to 70 Settlers, then assign 20 to each, and put the extra 10 on food or coin, whichever is lower.

Fully upgrade your Plantations and Mills, then look up your Royal Guard units. Upgrade them, and start making some. Also get an Artillery Foundry up, plus a second Town Center so your Settlers can retreat if you're attacked.

Age 4: If you still have not been attacked yet, your enemy is probably going to boom. Set up a few Outposts, but also get a second Barracks up if you haven't already. Start producing your Royal Guard units like mad.

When training units, try to train only those that cost food and coin; wood should be reserved only for your buildings, but sometimes it's unavoidable. If they cost wood, then you'll want to sell whatever resource is unneeded and buy the wood that way through your Market.

Age 5: Keep building Houses until you have the maximum population cap of 200. Fill that up with soldiers. Build some walls around your most sensitive buildings. Send the entire army into your enemy's camp, and upgrade your units fully as they travel. You may want them to stop just short of opponents camp to see what they're doing.

When you attack, send in about one-tenth of your army first to see how they respond. If the enemy sends their entire army to counter it, then try to swing around and hit them from the flank. Concentrate on taking out one enemy at a time. When the majority of the military is crushed, turn to the buildings that actually help them. Destroy Barracks, Town Centers, Stables, and so on. Leave Outposts for your siege units or simply leave them alone entirely.

Back home, keep producing units as yours are killed. Don't send them into battle, because if the enemy has decided to counterattack, you'll need to delay them long enough for your army to finish the job abroad. The worst thing you can do is pull your army out to send them back home for defense.

Turtling

The Theory: Establishing defenses and hiding is the order of the day. Your opponents waste time and resources by throwing their units at you. You gather resources and sit back, occasionally throwing the occasional attack. Toward the end, you launch an attack on the enemy's flank or other weak point with a medium-sized force. This either will be successful and cripple the enemy, or at least draw some more enemies into your defenses. This continues until you can send in a large army against them.

Pros of Turtling:

  • When playing against human players, you may frustrate them to the point where they resign. It's rare, but possible.
  • Defending a rush and immediately setting up your defenses as a "counter" will put you in a position where you cannot be killed until the late phases of the game.
  • When executed properly, only the most skilled boomers will be able to attack you.
  • You have the time to think and strategize depending on changing situations.
  • Works fantastically on large maps.

Cons of Turtling:

  • The best turtler will be beaten by boomers eventually… it's all a matter of time.
  • With money being poured into buildings and building upgrades, units themselves will be pretty weak.
  • No defense is perfect; you'll have a weak point, and if it's hit, you're doomed.
  • Extremely difficult to do in small maps.
  • Extremely difficult to do in team and free-for-all games.

Age 1: Turtling starts off similar to booming. Create 10 to 15 Settlers depending on whether you think you'll be rushed. However, unlike booming, you'll want to put equal numbers of Settlers on wood.

Age 2: Create a Barracks and around ten units, then send them against the enemy with the intention of taking out Settlers. Use your own Settlers to wall yourself in. Make a section of wall to surround your Town Center (remember to build a gate of course), and try to build more walls to surround yourself entirely. Continue to train Settlers, and keep their jobs balanced.

Build a Church as soon as you can, and research the upgrade to your walls. Build Outposts at the most likely point of enemy attack, but keep them evenly spaced because you'll want as much ground covered as possible. After your initial couple of attacks, stop attacking for now.

Age 3: If you haven't been attacked yet, you're probably facing a boomer. This is bad news, because the best boomer will defeat the best turtler. Either way, you need to be building up your force. Don't worry about your Royal Guard units if you can't afford them; what you need now is numbers.

Hopefully your population is at least flirting with 100 total. At that point, grab your army and attack. This is the perfect moment, when the boomer is still setting up his economy, and the rusher is scrambling to set up his. Target the enemy's Settlers and economic buildings, because simply sending their economy back to Age 1 may guarantee you victory in the long term. Continue to create units, but save up to hit Age 4.

Age 4: At this point, you've pretty much become a boomer. The difference is that you have been trying to damage the enemies' economy already, so you have not allowed them to be quite as powerful. Upgrade your units, then start upgrading and training your Royal Guard units. When you have a pseudo-full army, attack.

By attacking now, instead of Age 5, you may catch a boomer off guard and a rusher before his defense is fully established. Siege units will help you even more, and a good mix should at least damage his economy beyond repair. Even if you're beaten back, as long as you took 30 or more Settlers with you, you'll be in a great position.

Age 5: Now, you're a pure boomer. Build up your force, and try to kill them. If you're against a boomer, they will attack soon, so prepare for that. If your defenses are strong and you see the boom happening, get your troops around theirs, and send them straight into the enemy's home camp. Your defenses should hopefully at least delay them long enough that you can take their economy away. Remember that to win, you need to destroy every building (walls excluded). If it looks like they'll get you before you get them, send your army back and try to stop their army with yours.

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