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causative

The road to expert

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These steps can be approached and mastered one at a time.  By the end of it, you should be able to have a strong economy as you go from age I to III.  Other aspects of gameplay matter too, such as specific builds, rushes, or tactics, but having a strong economy is the most important part.

  1. Don't fall into any of these early game traps:
    • Farms go adjacent to your CC or farmstead, as close as they will go.  I've seen many new players who put them a distance back.  Don't do that.
    • Don't use women for mining.
    • Don't use men for food gathering.
    • Use women or men for woodcutting.
    • Cavalry are for hunting chickens or other animals.  Only cavalry are good at this.  Hunting is a very fast way to get food unless the animals are very far from the dropsite.
    • If you have berries, build a farmstead right next to them and have some women harvest the berries.  It's twice as fast as farming.
    • Don't let your workers carry resources too far.  Put the storehouse right adjacent to the trees when they chop wood.  If your workers (except for hunting cavalry) are walking twice the width of a storehouse to return resources, they are walking too far.
    • Don't make a barracks until at least the end of age I.  A lot of noobs make a barracks way too early, or even more than one.  Your CC can produce enough soldiers by itself.
    • Don't make walls or wooden towers in age I either.  Good players generally agree not to use walls, anyway, and plus in age I it's just a waste of resources that the enemy can simply walk around.
    • Don't start mining anything until the end of age I.  You don't need it.
  2. Practice until you can have constant production of units from your CC (Civic Center) for the first 10+ minutes.  You should never let it be idle until you're in age III.  That means:
    • You need enough food income to produce women nonstop until population 50.  You can produce soldiers after that.
    • You need enough wood to make houses - and you need to make houses far enough ahead of time so that you don't get stopped by the population limit.
    • In alpha 20 at least, once you hit age III the plan should be to make lots and lots of champion units.
  3. Practice not harvesting resources you can't spend.  If you're ever thinking "I have more food than I need - but I wish I had more wood" then you need to transfer some workers from food to wood, and figure out some way to spend the food.  (Actually, you probably needed to transfer the workers two minutes ago, but late is better than never).  If you have 1000 of any resource in age I-II, you have way too much.
    • If you have extra wood, a good way to spend it is on economy upgrades.  The highest priority upgrade is berry gathering, then woodcutting, then farming, then mining.  You want economy upgrades as early as possible so you get the benefit for longer, except for the upgrades that are super expensive.
    • Adjust your typical build order so that you avoid having too much of the resource.  If, last game, you had way more wood than you could spend, then this game, don't put as many workers on wood so early.  And so on.
    • This more than anything else is the mark of skill.  You know you're doing it right when you have just enough of every resource you need, exactly when you need it, and little excess.
  4. Watch replays of good players!  A lot of people don't know where replays are.  From the starting screen, they are under Tools/Options.  If you spectate or play a game with borg-, The_Company, or nobody___, then after the game you will have a replay of an expert.  Switch to that player's perspective in the replay and follow what they do - what they build, when they build it, how many farms they make, when they get upgrades.  Then try to copy them in your next game.
    • If you're spectating a game with good players, you can switch to the perspective of the best player and watch them as they play, instead of going to the replay.
  5. Practice using Shift to queue up actions.  For instance, don't just tell your woodcutter to make a house - tell him to make a house, then shift-click back on the tree!  That way he will go back to woodcutting when he's done building the house, and he won't be idle.
  6. Work out exactly what you will do in the first minute.  This is a "build order."  For every civ, you want to put the cavalry on chickens and the women on berries, and the men on wood.  You also generally want your first batch of 5 women to chop wood, and the next 4-5 women to harvest berries.  The order in which you make a storehouse, a farmstead, get the berry upgrade, and make your first house can vary.
    • Britons and Gauls can build a farmstead at the berries, build a storehouse at the wood, and research the berry upgrade.  They will have plenty of time to get 75 wood and make their first house.
    • Most civs have houses that cost 150 wood and grant 10 population.  With these you can't get the farmstead, the storehouse, and the berry upgrade all at once, and still have enough wood for your first house.  You have to pick two of the three.  If wood is very close to your CC, you can get the farmstead and berry upgrade, and get the storehouse later.  If wood is far away, you need a storehouse, so you have to skip the berry upgrade to have enough wood for the house.  With these civs you will need to use 3-4 workers to make the house once you have 150 wood, so that it will be done in time.
    • Iberians and Mauryans occupy a middle ground since their houses cost 75 wood but they don't have the population bonuses of Britons/Gauls.  You can figure something out if you want to play these.  Mauryans have an elephant, which can do the job of a storehouse or farmstead and help build houses.
    • Ptolemies are weird.
  7. Batch Production.  This is one of the secrets that separates the good players from the experts.  borg- produces in batches of 5 almost all the time, and in batches of 10 when he has enough resources!  Even a batch of 15 can be worthwhile.  Batch production by 5 is 38% faster than producing single units.  Batch production by 10 is 57% faster.  Batch production by 15 is 72% faster.
    • You need more food to batch produce women this way.  That means more on berries (like 10), more hunting, or earlier farms.
    • You need to plan houses more in advance, too, so that you have 5 or 10 population open when it's time to produce.
    • Don't delay more than a few seconds to make a batch.  It's better to just be producing 1 unit if you don't have enough houses or food for a batch.
    • Some players have altered their javascript to let them batch 3 or 4 instead of multiples of 5.  This is cheating. 
  8. Use hotkeys for at least your production buildings, perhaps also other units.  Select your CC and press Ctrl-1, and now you can select the CC again just by pressing 1.  Your barracks can go on group 2.  This helps you to keep production going smoothly even if your attention is elsewhere.
  9. Be familiar with rushes.  There are many types.  The primary purpose of most rushes is to deny wood from the enemy by killing woodcutters.  The best way to learn how to do rushes is to watch replays of experts who rushed effectively.  I recommend not rushing until you have mastered the normal economy boom from age I to III.
    • Spartan Skiritai rush
    • Ptolemy camel archer rush
    • 3 minute cavalry skirmisher rush
    • Briton slinger rush
    • Roman swordsmen rush
    • borg-'s 10-11 minute champions
    • Not all rushes are "effective."  If the rusher killed 20 women but lost 10 cavalry and was driven away, that was probably not an effective rush, since 10 cavalry cost more than 20 women.  Check the attacker's and defender's economy scores and populations afterwards to see if it really worked.
Edited by causative
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10. Now, you can break some of the rules. lol

Anyway, now I have a real guide on at least how many women I should have.

A little question about #2. Is it okay for me if I send 1 woman for every 5 miners / lumberjacks?

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Women are almost as good lumberjacks as men - and they're a lot cheaper.  So you can have 90% women lumberjacks until you switch over to producing men.  The thing about women miners is that women give men a gathering bonus, so you can put just 1 woman on each mining spot to give the men the bonus.  But no more than that.

Edited by causative

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15 hours ago, causative said:

Women are almost as good lumberjacks as men...

Well, knowing this one would definitely improve my game. Thanks!

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Nice Guide Causative, 

I have a few point to add:
- When Hunting, use shift click and click behind the animal you want to hunt then click on the animal. That way the animal you hunt will "escape" in the direction of your CC --> faster gathering

- Have a control group for your guy making houses, it helps a lot

- When you get rushed, always keep in mind that your enemy has a bad economy so if you succeed you'll be ahead!

- You can make a lot of villagers kill with two spearman cav (they two-shot villagers, so one-shot with 2 cav). Just run and click "H" near a villager, they will one shoot her and you can move away.

- Watch Alekusu's video for build orders. Wait what?? :P
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjMIlqRx48mSLOQo98VygJQ
I'll make videos again from a21, my builds are a bit old now but there are many tricks in it

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Thanks for the guide.

  • Barracks in age 1 still makes sense if you have enough food and wood income, especially if you don't need quick age 2.
  • Shouldn't we reduce the wood gather rate of females from 0.7 to 0.5?
  • You forgot to mention early scouting, often done after the initial chicken. IMO sometimes it is even important to do it earlier. First of all to find berries in and near near your territory, so that you can avoid to build fields for some minutes. Secondly to check whether you can hunt there. Third of all to check where your enemy is, how many metal mines there are, whether they are close to the enemy. If they are, try expanding your territory with houses and barracks there (instead of placing houses just somewhere in your territory) and build a house wall around the exposed mines. This way enemy towers will hit the houses and not your miners and you can safely build a tower in front of the mine behind the houses. This often needs to happen in the first 2-3 minutes.

In team games you also need to figure out whether you're in the pocket position or on the frontline, which allies are on the front and might need early economic support to build towers before the enemy does.

Batch Production

  • we need more tooltips to show those numbers instead of having to look up the code to figure out how it works (= cheat?)
  • Some players have altered their javascript to let them batch 3 or 4 instead of multiples of 5.  This is cheating. -> In alpha 21 everyone can, it's a choice not a cheat.

Rush:

  • Killing units is great, but not killing can give you a substantial advantage too, if you can just make them walk around all the time / idle instead of gathering. With ptolemian you can't do much if there is a tower, but you can still force your enemy into building a tower in every single place of his territory and thus drain him economically.
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5 hours ago, niektb said:

the tooltips show the time it costs to train 5, 10 or more units (when holding the shift button)

But also keep in mind it is bugged when multiple building are selected and you batch train. The "time" cost should be the same as if you only select one building (the batches are train at the same time, but the tooltip things you are training them as one big batch and give wrong time estimate).

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elexis, I think the wood gathering rates are fine as they are.  If women were significantly worse at wood gathering than men, then most rushes would be impossible because people would make very few women and would have enough soldiers to defend.  I would consider that boring.

Edited by causative

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A little suggestion about #4. Watching AoE2 Commentaries can help to a certain extent. It's where I learned terms like "woodline", "shuttling", "raid", "rush", and a lot more.

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7 hours ago, causative said:

elexis, I think the wood gathering rates are fine as they are.  If women were significantly worse at wood gathering than men, then most rushes would be impossible because people would make very few women and would have enough soldiers to defend.  I would consider that boring.

I agree with that, the fact the women have a good wood gathering allows player to boom. And rush > boom so it terms of tactics it is good the way it is.

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I send my starting cavalry out to scout / hunt, put 1 or 2 women on butchering chickens. I don't think the chickens are a big enough food source to tie up my cavalry on, I think scouting is too important to delay.

 

I build a barracks just before I upgrade to age II, so it can be producing units while my CC is tied up with the upgrade.

 

 

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Your cavalry on chickens is a big, fast early food source - 400 food in 110 seconds.

If you watch borg-, he actually doesn't scout until quite late, and then at first he only scouts around the enemy base for potential places to attack.  Instead he uses his starting cavalry for chickens and then hunting.  Scouting is not that important early, as long as you have a forest.

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Though the OP is always subject to change (especially when each Alpha presents big gameplay-changing patches), scouting isn't something I would recommend to beginners... at least not immediately.

Learning how to boom your economy is a better priority.

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On 7/8/2016 at 3:55 PM, causative said:

Your cavalry on chickens is a big, fast early food source - 400 food in 110 seconds.

If you watch borg-, he actually doesn't scout until quite late, and then at first he only scouts around the enemy base for potential places to attack.  Instead he uses his starting cavalry for chickens and then hunting.  Scouting is not that important early, as long as you have a forest.

400 food is not that much, and how much longer does it take for women? My early scouting is more about hunting, really, the scouting of the enemy doesn't go beyond locating their border.

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Cavalry harvest chickens roughly 5x faster than women.  It's 400 food in 120 seconds for 5 women harvesting chickens, vs. 400 food in 110 seconds for 1 cavalry harvesting chickens.

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The important question is - what's the effect on overall food production? I did some testing to answer that question. On the Hyrcanian Shores map, which has lots of game and fruit, checked how long it took to get to 1000 food by each method. It took 119 seconds to reach 1000 food if the cavalry did chickens, 186 seconds if not. Much more difference than I thought.

One concern I had was the cavalry guy ran out of chickens quickly, stood around doing nothing because I was to busy with other stuff. But it saves so much time that's not really a problem. I tried doing it as an actual game, found that if I was ready for that he wasn't left idle for long. I gained a big jump in production over the AI when I put the cavalry on chickens, so I take back what I said before - it really is worth putting off scouting until after your cavalry has harvested the chickens.

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Thanks for the Women-for-Woodcutting tip. It helped me accelerate all the way to beating the Hardest AI (Alpha 20).
Of course, I still don't know how much Petra has improved after that.

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@sphyrth: According to Alpha 21 Changelog the Petra AI didn't improve extremely much till now. It could be that it will improve before the Alpha 21 release ofc... (that changelog shows the current changes since Alpha 20, and doesn't take into account the changes that are made between now and the A21 release)

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On 7/4/2016 at 1:45 AM, causative said:
    • You need enough food income to produce women nonstop until population 50.  You can produce soldiers after that.

Would you ever build 1 extra cavalry man early on - before the pop hits 50? So you'd have one for scouting, and one for hunting?

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I would not recommend building an extra cavalry just for scouting early on, simply because it's not that important.  After the chickens are done - which only takes 2 mins - most good players just scout with the starting cavalry.

borg- uses the starting cavalry for deer after the chickens, which gives some extra food and speeds up his lightning fast build a little.  Although, deer hunting is less important than chickens, because the gather rate is only like 1/3 as fast due to hunting and walk time (depending on how far away the deer are), with a net gather rate comparable to 3-4 extra women farmers, or 1-2 women berry gatherers.

Edited by causative
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On 10.7.2016 at 10:59 AM, causative said:

Cavalry harvest chickens roughly 5x faster than women.  It's 400 food in 120 seconds for 5 women harvesting chickens, vs. 400 food in 110 seconds for 1 cavalry harvesting chickens.

One can see the gather rates in the structure tree (main menu -> learn how to play -> structure tree).

Since its < 1 for women on fields, its actually more than 5 times as fast. Also there are diminishing returns for women on fields, which even further decreases the gatherrate for women on fields, if there are multiple on a single field. On the other hand, there are gatherrate upgrades for women but not cavalry. I guess the walking distance also needs to be taken into account.

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