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Your first Town Center 

For good players, this may be basic stuff, but for some other players for which it is not.
If you start at "Noman Age", you should not just place the Town Center right where you are standing but scout the place first with your villager. This is done by making circles of an increasing radius and avoiding places where you cannot get through. Watch out for wood and food; these resources are the most important ones at the beginning. Forget about gold now, you will not need it for quite a while; stones are not very important either but convenient if you want to wall in later. When you have found resources, walk around that place to determine the best location for the building.


Starting with a Town Center

The most popular way to start a game is at the Stone Age (with a Town Center and three villagers). In this case, you will have to find food soon, because you have only 200 food, just enough for four villagers. The first building is a house, which should be built as soon as possible. However, do not build your houses around the Town Center. You can later use the Town Center as a Granary and build farms around it. Depending on what you find (animals or berry bushes) and on the distance of your first food source to the Town Center, you should build a Granary or a Storage Pit first. Also start chopping wood with one villager (choose the first tree near the Town Center).

 

Storage Pits

Make sure you place these buildings as close as possible to the resources. Always try to use one Storage Pit to gather two resources (animals and wood or gold and stones). This will save you 120 wood and free up some space for another building once the resources are gone. The Storage Pit is your first building after the Town Hall and the first house, if you can find animals to hunt. Make sure it is placed adjacent to a forest. Because hunting is faster than foraging, it is better to build a Storage Pit if you find berries and animals at the same time.

 

Granaries

When placing a granary, keep in mind that you should be able to build four farms around it after the berries are gone (see picture below). So do not place the granary directly at the coast or adjacent to other buildings. Beginners should keep in mind that only granaries can only keep the food of berries and farms.

 

Walls

Place your walls in a way to maximize the protection of your city. The picture shows how not to build it. The wall protects the left tower but leaves the right one vulnerable to infantry attacks. Instead place the wall one tile more to the right to protect both towers.
The second picture shows a good and relatively cheap defense: Place the walls in an L-shaped way as shown in the picture and put your archers or towers behind the wall. Even though the additional part of the wall is quite small, it increases the way that infantry and cavalry units have to go by pretty much. The enemy is attacking from the right lower corner as in the first picture. Note that the gate is two tiles wide to prevent your own units from getting stuck. Thanks to Torkild for his suggestion.

How to place openings in walls

1. Never place an opening until your going to use it. Keep your walls completely sealed up around your "city". Destroy them later (with the DEL key) when you are ready to leave with troops. (You get the stone back anyway).
2. When leaving your fortified area, never leave by the following two examples:

         

 

 

 

 

Groups of your units get caught up in my fact that (by the AI's limited foresight) they think they can go around the real opening to a perceived opening to the left and right of the real opening. Thus either slowing down their exit process, or stopping all together.

 

Anti-Elephant defenses

Larger units cannot pass EASILY through one-tile openings, I have found, and you can make a wonderfully selective membrane by placing single wall individually, with one space between each, at your entrance...

Let me make clear that its not a perfectly impermiable wall - elephants can with LOTS of clicks get through one at a time, so make it a two tiered defense.Like so, and it just makes a killing zone that few can get through - playtesting made my opponent so frustrated they prefered to hit against the side walls than face this maze. It should not hinder movement as much as it does, but it DOES....try it next game you play. One thing though - this blocks YOUR chariots and elephants too, so keep that in mind.

Repairing through walls

Building tactic - Villagers and priests can reach between the cracks in walls that touch at the corners (and sometimes even reach through walls that touch at the edges). This is handy for example if you wall in your island, you can still send ships into shore and have a repairman villager on the inside of the wall reach through the crack and repair the ship (outside the wall). Bad news - It also means enemy priests can reach across a wall and convert your tower. So think twice about putting a tower directly adjacent to an external wall. (It also means that you cannot get a villager to the external wall to repair it because the tower is in the way.)

 

Farms

Farms should be placed around a Granary or Town Center as shown in the picture to minimize the way that the villagers have to walk. Do not place the farm adjacent to the Granary but keep some space free between the Granary and the farms.

Note that if you build too many farms around a single Granary, you will not have enough free space where you can rebuild each farm, so you should build another Granary instead. Every farmer should have a direct free way to the Granary. In the picture, there are eight farms around the Granary, which is almost too much - six to eight farms are ideal. Do not forget to build towers and walls near the farms.


Other buildings 

Even though this should be clear, many players still place there buildings right next to each other. Clusters as shown in the picture are no uncommon sight. However, they will not only be a formidable blockade for your villagers and troops, but can also be knocked down easily by upgraded catapults with radius damage. The attacking player will be very grateful because he can wipe out multiple buildings at once.
Placing buildings usually just requires some common sense and thinking. Never just place the building where the villager is standing because you are too lazy to look for a better spot.

 

Hills and cliffs 

This is an entirely new element in RTS games that the former generation did not have. The damage of units firing from above is greatly increased (especially with catapults), as is their range. So you should never build your city in a trough but always on a hill or a plain.
If there are any hills or cliffs in any reasonable distance from your town, always build a tower or two there. Your tower will be able to scout a much larger area when elevated and you would also have an advantage in battle. Any elevated unit will have a 25% chance to do 3x damage on enemy units. To make sure the tower can stand undefended for a while, place some walls around it. Any missile attacking units may then be taken out while the grunts work on the walls.
Another important aspect is that you would have created a strategic point. Enemy units entering the area will naturally attack the tower and most will have great trouble destroying it. You will then have time to gather your forces for a counterattack.
If the hill is large enough you should also consider placing the most important buildings on top of it and put a wall around that part of the town, defending it heavily.


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