The real-time strategy of Age of Empires IV encourages smart thinking and quick reactions as you marshal your forces to dominate your opponents. Yet Age of Empires IV’s tutorial mission will only take you so far.
Here are a miscellany of tips covering early build orders, basic hotkeys and tips on counters to keep in mind before you charge into Age of Empires IV’s skirmishes and multiplayer.
1. Harvest time
As soon a you start a skirmish, your priority is to order your resource-collecting villagers to start harvesting food from the sheep in front of you. A stockpile of 400 food is needed for upgrading to the Feudal age, and hunting provides food quickest (besides fishing). Food also lets you build villagers, which you should always be pumping out in order to expand your economy.
2. Feudal boom
One villager on gold should be sufficient for meeting the 200 gold requirement for aging up, while gathering wood will let you construct buildings. Build a couple houses so you don’t bump against the population cap. Support your resource gathering with economic drop-off buildings like the mill, lumber camp and mine.
3. Use your keyboard
Hotkeys and the keys on the left-hand side of your keyboard are really helpful for saving time. ‘H’ puts your town centre in the middle of the screen, while ‘F1’ shows all military buildings. You can create control groups by holding ‘Ctrl’ and pressing a number, and then select them by clicking that number.
This is handy for sorting your units into groups which are best for responding to specific threats, or for gathering them all together into one monster battalion. By default ‘,’ and ‘.’ cycle through idle military and economic units, which make them immensely useful.
4. Wall up
Building a simple wooden wall early on will help to keep your burgeoning town safe from raids. Try to make use of nearby natural barriers like forests and mountains. As you advance through the game, you can build magnificent walls from stone which are much stronger and easier to defend. Early outposts shielding your villagers can later be upgraded to guard towers.
5. Plan your town
Keep your early buildings away from your Town Centre so you can later make farms, where your villagers will have less walking distance to drop off their harvest. Unlike previous Age of Empires games, you can only use walls to block off parts of your base. Building new villager-producing town centres is a great way to get your economy up faster.
Make sure to use your scout to capture sheep and economic resources – gold, stone, wood, berries and huntable animals. If appropriately upgraded your scout can also bring back animals to the town centre. Killing hunts with your scouts can also help to resist opponents’ expansion into the map.
7. Make use of economic bonuses
It’s tempting to start producing military units as soon as possible, but it can pay to upgrade essential economic technologies like those in the lumber camp and mill first. Both military and economic upgrades typically ask for gold, which make them costly. Yet once acquired they start paying for themselves immediately.
8. Master your counters
While you can typically claw your way through battles by fielding more soldiers than your enemy, mastering unit counters is much more efficient. Cheap units like spearmen in enough numbers are great against heavy cavalry thanks to a specific anti-cavalry bonus. Meanwhile the archer is good against light infantry, and the crossbowman is capable against armoured units.
9. Civilizational bonuses
Pay attention to the bonuses offered by different civilizations. For example, the Rus focus on lumber. Hunting cabins placed near woods generate extra gold for them (so avoid chopping the trees), while their unique wooden fortresses give lumber camps a bonus yield. Rus can also field additional scouts on the map sooner, thanks to their ability to produce scouts from hunting cabins.
10. Play the point
There are different ways of winning Age of Empires IV battles, including vanquishing opponents’ key buildings, controlling all Sacred Sites and holding on to a wonder building for a certain amount of time. Don’t let the victory conditions slip your mind in a game that has become defensive: your opponents may be building a wonder behind an impenetrable network of walls.