Crappy Bronzing Revisited

The First Four Minutes

The first four minutes of the game are probably the most important. Your initial scouting will be able to tell you whether you have a decent spot, a bad or an extraordinarily good one. Based on what you discover by your 15th villager, you will know whether you are likely to have the initial advantage or whether you have to go defensive.
What are your goals during these first four minutes?

  1. To build your villagers nonstop, without having to wait for 50 food.
  2. To find a nearby forest, and a sweet spot if at all possible.

Keeping this in mind, this is how I do it:

a. At game start.
HC. Grab 2 villagers and BE at the edge of the fog. This way you uncover a little bit more of the map while you are building the house. Don’t build into the fog though – you might kill what might be your precious 3rd straggler tree.
Villager 3 explores towards the edge of the map, uncovering any water if he sees it. When the first house is halfway complete, grab Villager 2 and join Villager 3 in search for berries or shore fish near TC. Use waypoints so that you don’t have to control all three at once.
Previously, crappy bronzing had you build 2 houses at the start. Don’t – it’s more important that you find your berries earlier. Actually, thereal reason for my change of heart is that you might find a pocket of 2 or more shore fish nearby (see later). F4F11.
Villager 4 joins the party and also searches for fish/berries. Make sure you group your Villagers 1-4, so that if they are all searching in separate directions and one of them finds berries or fish, you don’t have to individually click on each of them and bring them to the food source. Just hit the group number and target a berry bush or fish.
From this point on, I will assume that you have not found a pocket of 2 or more shore fish close by. What follows is known as the granary-first start. If you find a pocket of 2 or more shore fish, go the next section (The 2 Fish Start).

b. Granary-first start.
You should have found your berries by now. Now, don’t build a Granary the moment you sight a berry bush. Let the berrymen start foraging first. Why? So that you can see how the berries are placed and then decide which is the best place to build the Granary. I remember many games where I quickly built a Granary and then found that I could have built it in a much better position. So only after you have seen the arrangement of the berries should you build your Granary. Occasionally, you also get two sets of berries and a little patience would have saved you having to build a second Granary.
So once you find the best spot to build your Granary, get Villagers 1-5 to build it, and start foraging. Don’t worry about losing food by foraging first – remember that your villagers do not lose their food while they are building your Granary.

c. Villager 6 Explores
Get Villager 6 to build a house and then send him exploring. Without fail – use your 6th villager to explore. I understand that if you find your berries late, you will need to put your first 6 villagers on berries to get a steady flow of villagers. However, a slight delay between each villager is a small price to pay for the chance of finding a sweet spot early (which saves you 120 wood). You can never have too much exploration during the first four minutes.
How should you/do you explore? Follow the water if you have found any. Your priority is to find a sweet spot, preferably fish/wood, failing that – 2 elephants/wood will also do. If you haven’t found one within reasonable walking distance from your TC (35 tiles or less – 1 tile = 1 small wall, 1 house = 2×2 tiles), then turn back – cut inland, make a sweep back around your TC and then start exploring the water’s edge in the other direction. 
If there is no water, follow the forest around, noting any elephants or gazelle near trees. Gazelle are really your food of last resort during Stone and Tool so see if you can find a better food source elsewhere. If you see water during your walk, follow it.
Use waypoints so that you don’t have to handhold your explorer all the time. Hotkey your explorer so that you can immediately centre on him when you need to.
Dealing with amorous wildlife. Lions and alligators sometimes want to get to know you a little better. The solution is to watch your explorer. If you are sufficiently vigilant, you should be able to avoid lion prides and if you get into a fight with one, you should be able to survive with a few hp left. Send your wounded explorer back to chop wood or whatever needs doing and replace him with a fresh explorer. This cuts down on lion attrition.
Keep your explorer moving. Try not to waste time by letting your explorer stand around. Every second standing still is a second of exploration lost. Use waypoints to keep your explorer moving while you are busy making new villagers or assigning them to tasks.
After the first house (5-8) you build, don’t build houses with your explorer. Only once you’ve found all the resources you need to bronze can you afford to slow down on your exploration. Remember, at this stage in the game, your priority is to find a sweet spot and other food sources.
Note the lay of the land and available resources. Try and discover the extent of your forest cover, and whether your immediate area, or wherever you plan to put your wood, is wallable. Note chokepoints and keep them in mind for future reference. Nearby stone or gold should also be noted.
Artifact exploration. If you find an artifact, assign it another hotkey and use it as a secondary explorer. Send it in the opposite direction to where your explorer is currently heading. Hug the coast where possible to find fish. Don’t send it looking for the enemy – the longer you hang on to the artifact, the more exploring it can do for you. Use it to find extra food – and explore the black areas of the map. Sending it to find the enemy is just plain silly – you’re just giving your opponent an extra explorer and on Standard victory conditions, you’re making it easier for your opponent to attempt an artifact victory.
Make full use of your artifact to explore first – and only when you’ve uncovered most of what you want of the map should you send it enemy hunting. Other strategies like Tool Blitzing and Tool Rushing require you to find the enemy quickly, but for Crappy Bronzing it’s more important that you locate resources first.
An alternate use for artifacts is to cover chokepoints. If you plan to wall an area, and there are a number of ways through which an enemy might get in, leaving an artifact at a particular chokepoint (shallows, passage through trees) will warn you if the enemy has passed that way. This way you don’t have to worry so much about an enemy sneaking through before you get your walls up and building military buildings inside your defences.

d. Villagers 7-15.
Villager 7 should cut a straggler near your TC. If you don’t put Villager 7 on wood, you’ll find that you may not have enough wood to immediately build a house with your 10th villager.
Villager 8 should go on berries as well, so that you have a total of 6 villagers on berries. Villagers 9+ should then be able to be produced nonstop. If you have 1 villager on shore fish near your TC and your food is coming in nicely, then you might consider putting your 8th villager on wood.
Villagers 9-15 should all go on wood. Remember to build houses with your 10th and 14th villagers. The moment you hit 120 wood, build a wood pit, at a sweet spot if at all possible.

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