Age of Empires
Age Of Empires Is Warcraft with a bit of Civ thrown in, so most of the strategies that work in Warcraft apply equally well to Empires. The big difference is that you've got 12 tribes, each with different combinations of military units. Multi-player mode really is the bollocks, but before you leap in, you've got to get past a game Al that can demolish you in double-quick time by building and making decisions far faster than you. Fortunately, you've got three secret weapons: pause, save and slow down. Use pause to check your tree charts, save game in case you get slaughtered early on, and the game speed (+/-) buttons when you're in a scrap to reduce the Al's advantage.
Get rich quick
The key to AOE is build, build, build. Learn the keyboard shortcuts and use them all the time. For example, hit H then C to build a villager. Then build another and another... To create multiple buildings of the same type, hold down the shift key. It works on town centres too, if you happen to, ahem, accidentally destroy your own.
The most important resources are wood, food, gold and stone in that order. At the start, you mainly need wood and food, but by the time you reach the Bronze Age, you'll need a steady supply of gold too. Wood is always necessary for creating buildings, ships, siege weapons and some military units; stone is only needed for towers and walls.
Aim to grab your resources quickly but methodically. Start harvesting the area around your base immediately then explore further afield. As soon as you discover resources further away, switch production to these if you can. Just remember to protect the villagers, and station spare military units near any resources like gold or stone that you aren't yet mining. Build a storage pit next to each resource - the less time it takes the villagers to walk between source and storage, the better.
Animals are the most efficient source of food because hunting them uses no resources. Employ your spare villagers and military units to herd the animals towards storage pits. Berries are next best; farms are the least efficient as they always cost you wood.
Get as rich as you can as quickly as you can but don't upgrade too early. Aim to have at least 12 villagers, ideally 16-20, before your empire enters the Tool Age.
In the Tool Age, start mining stone and gold, and build towers and walls. Build a barracks and deploy some clubmen to defend yourself. It's a good idea to send some out to scout the area and kill any wandering lions. Keep churning out villagers and increase wood and food production as much as possible. Build a stable and get one or two scouts out there as soon as you possibly can to explore and harass. Add an archery range and get youself some archers too. On a map with water, ships should be a high priority, so build a port.
Study your tribe's chart thoroughly and decide which units you'll want. Siege weapons are excellent for attack; horse and elephant archers are brilliant, especially for defending weaker units. Cavalry are powerful in attack and defence, especially the heavies. They're your best hope against the siege stuff, too. Academy units like hoplites, phalanxes and legions should be the mainstay of your infantry, with archers to back them up. Improved and composite bowmen are cheap and effective. The best attacking army is probably four to six siege weapons, protected by academy infantry and a couple of elephant archers to soak up punishment. A group of heavy cavalry on top will let you cause havoc among villagers and counter almost anything the enemy can throw at you.
Chariots are ideal for hunting down troublesome priests. For some real damage, deploy a squad of war elephants. Keep some priests at the rear for healing your own troops and converting enemy units, along with a few villagers, who can build near your opponent's camp and churn out reinforcements. If you manage to get that little lot in the right place, virtually nothing can stop you!
How to win territory - and keep it
Don't bottle yourself in. You'll need to expand into - or dominate - at least a quarter of any map to be in a position to win. Besides, a well spread settlement isn't such an easy target. If the 50-unit limit is a problem, select useless units and press delete. Or when you get 49, build a dozen or more different ones at once and you'll beat the limit. Remember, you can have as many towers as you want, so use them. Just don't forget to keep mining stone. Construct several stables or academies close together. That way you can churn out three or four decent units at a time. Don't site buildings close together - leave 'motorways' through your base in each direction to stop moving units getting tangled up (AOFs individual unit Al routines are crap).
Group your troops into units, selected with the number keys. Put your infantry into one group, your archers into another and so on. This makes it easy to send cavalry after catapults, catapults after buildings and so on, instead of facing a confused melee you can't control. Don't mix slow and fast units in the same group. Some mixed types can work well, though - a few horse archers mixed in with your heavy cavalry gives them extra firepower. Try to put priests in groups of one so you can send them straight into action. It's a complete waste to have six priests converting the same enemy unit. Use the high ground. The 25 per cent chance of triple damage is a big boost to archery and siege units. Concentrate your firepower - target multiple units and kill them one by one. Two infantry units versus a tower is suicide, but ten swordsmen can bring it down with minimal losses.
Can't get through the trees? Flatten them with heavy catapult area fire. This is also a great technique for nuking your opponent's wood resources. Hee hee. Attack from two or three different directions in quick succession - that way the defenders spend all their time moving back and forward. Remember, a good scout is a dead scout. Always precede attack groups with one or two so you know what you're running into. Triremes (all kinds) are excellent for bombardment. They're quick and can't be clobbered in hand-to-hand combat. Use walls, towers and ranged weapons to set up a solid, semi-automatic defence so you can concentrate on building and attacking.
...And, er, curling up in a corner
The computer will come after you very early, trying to wipe out undefended villagers. Always protect them - either with military units, towers or walls. Take out attacking catapults first - they do more damage to your base than anything else. Combined cavalry and infantry are the best way to deal with siege weapons. Double or triple walls work well but you still need defence in depth. Siting towers near your town centre is vital. Don't be afraid to delete a couple of wall units when you need to exit in a hurry. Funnel attackers into kill zones with diagonal walls and more towers closer to the main entrance to your base.
Age Of Empires often described as the game Civilization 2 should have been, with attractive graphics, come-back gameplay and incredible attention to detail. Much of your time is spent in familiar territory - build a base, harvest resources, send out scouts to expand your grasp of the map, and then march off towards the red blips on your radar. However, the game goes beyond the ordinary by introducing four Ages - Stone, Bronze, Tool and Iron - through which your people mature and evolve, together with 12 of history's mightiest civilisations.
The game's interface feels very slick and fresh, and includes a full-featured help system. You can also assign multiple orders, and get your villagers to assist each other when building things. Like RedAlertthe game is instantly accessible.
Multiplayer is as good as singleplayer, with up to eight players able to sock it out over a network, Internet connection, modem or serial cable. An interesting and unique twist is the option to have two players controlling the same civilisation, and thus enter the realm of conflicting orders (and massive arguments).
During the first ten minutes, Age Of Empires feels like every other game in the genre. You're building things, collecting things, making things. Chances are you'll want to surgically remove it from your hard drive and march back to the shop for a refund. But don't. Stick with it. The game soon opens up, presenting you with scores of different units and options as your people mature and move through the four Ages.
Computer opponents tend to be on the strong side, meaning you have to rely on clever placement of guards, outposts and warships. You'll need every trick in the book to outsmart a Bronze Age enemy if you're stuck in the Stone Age.
Download Age of Empires
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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