I checked out 0AD again recently and was positively impressed. The game has improved by leaps and bounds. I really like your art and music. Congratulations!
After a few games against the AI, I started to wonder. I am playing a lot of other RTS games, such as Company of Heroes, Command&Conquer, Sins of a Solar Empire and Starcraft. 0AD seems very different.
Especially, it takes very long until the first combat occurs. For five to ten minutes, players have to build up their bases instead of rush or harrass each other. This makes the first phase of the game seem more like a city builder than a strategy game. 0AD seems to make the player turtle in the beginning until they can steamroll the enemy. Most other RTS games reward early harrassment of the enemy a lot more.
So I tried to analyse the core game mechanics to understand why rushing and harrassing are so difficult in this game and it takes so long to go on the offense. Here are my findings.
Soldiers are also workers: This means that when you use your Slingers and Hoplites to go on the attack, you lose resources. While your soldiers are marching to the enemy base (and back hopefully), his soldiers are chopping wood! So you are punished for attacking by losing resources. This is a flaw in the core game mechanics IMHO.
Town bell: Workers can be garrisoned automatically. This makes it impossible to successfully harass enemy workers. It is true that he loses resources while he is garrisoned, but so do you - your attacking men aren't working, after all!
The only good soldiers in this game are ones that aren't workers, because you don't lose resources when they are fighting. This is a large part of why cavalry is so powerful in this game. They are cheap and you don't lose income when they are away.
Defense towers are too cheap and too effective. By the time your men reach the enemy base, his men there will not only outnumber you (because he kept producing units while your army was walking), but any defense towers he has are going to further stack the odds against you.
As a result, the game largely discourages early fighting.
On top of that, the game also discourages expanding. In most RTS games, the player is forced to expand for resources pretty quickly. This means players have to take a risk, leave their starting area and expose themselves, thus inviting the opponent to harrass the expansion and creating "action". In 0AD, however, early expanding is a bad idea.
Your starting location contains large amounts of resources, even metal, inviting you to camp in your base during the early game.
The expansion building (agora) is very expensive.
The build radius from your first agora is large enough for you to reach several tree lines by simply building storage houses which are very cheap.
This encourages players to stay in their starting location for a long time instead of motivating them to expand and thereby become vulnerable.
The result is a very static early game where both players turtle in their base and build walls out of houses instead of expanding and harrassing the enemy.
That seems really lame.