Crappy Bronzing Revisited

Defending against Early Rushes

Checking Achievements is one way of preparing for early rushes. The problem is – you can’t be watching Achievements all the time, especially not when you’re HCing every 20s, assigning the newborn villager to a task, moving your existing villagers around and watching that oh-so-important explorer. Micromanagement already takes up all your time, even at 1.0 speed (those of you who insist on playing 1.5 and 2.0 are nutballs:) – to be totally efficient, you need all the extra time you can get). 
When then can you afford to sneak a precious second or two to take a peek at Achievements? The answer is really – whenever you can. But there are some particular times when you should take a look at Achievements, no matter what else you are doing.
Check Achievements whenever your opponent’s score jumps. As a general rule, if your opponent’s score is behaving in a strange way (like when it jumps suddenly), immediately sit up and take notice. Find out if it is due to your opponent having Tooled, having the Largest Army, a sudden increase in exploration or something more mundane like artifacts and ruins.
Check during your 12th, 14th, 18th villagers and after you click on the Tool upgrade. Checking during your 12th villager will warn you if your opponent has explored a large part of the map already (warning signal for an impending Villager Rush or Tool Blitz). Sometimes opponents find you early and watching exploration isn’t enough. Check Achievements during your 14th villager to see if your opponent stopped building at 12 villagers (Tool Blitz coming). Similarly, checking during your 18th villager tells you if your opponent has stopped at 16 (Tool Rush).
You usually have a slight breathing space when your Villagers are not doing anything new after you click on the Tool upgrade so make use of that time to study Achievements.
Between these enforced checks and checks whenever your opponent’s score jumps, you should usually have more than adequate warning of an opponent’s intention to rush you early.
I know an early rush is coming. What do I do now? Early warning of an approaching rush is one thing. Knowing what to do before that rush arrives at your front door is another.
a. Defending against a Villager Rush.
Villager Rushers run into your town with about 12-16 villagers at about the 5:30 mark, beat up your berrymen, move on to your woodcutters, and once out of targets, they’ll pummel your TC to dust.
The trick to defending against Villager Rushes lies in understanding the dynamics behind them. They usually have a poor or nonexistent economy because of having 2 or more explorers early and having to walk all the way from their TC to your town. Because of this, you only need to inflict equal casualties on your opponent to come out ahead. While your opponent is travelling all the way across the map to your town, your villagers remain productive. Villager Rushes are pretty much a do-or-die attack.
You also have the advantage of greater numbers at baseVillager Rushes work by beating up your Villagers in separate locations, thus achieving local superiority in numbers. For this reason, you shouldn’t stay and fight if outnumbered, or even in equal numbers – run the villagers under threat away. Regroup your entire population and only then engage in a battle royale. So long as you come out at least even in the fight, you’re ahead. If you inflict even slightly more casualties than your opponent does, you’ve pretty much won the game.
Running away to another base is generally not a good idea as the enemy will destroy your TC if they find no other targets. This will leave both of you in Stone, but your enemy will still have his TC. No, plan on defending your base against a Villager Rush.
Tooling if you are Villager Rushed is also a bad idea. You’re more likely than not to lose a fair number of villagers in the villager war. Which then would you rather have – 500 food to rebuild 10 villagers after the rush or no food when you hit Tool to build anything? Unless you can preserve your villagers during the rush (unlikely if the rush hits you at 5:30-6:00), Tooling simply puts you in a state far worse than your opponent. Don’t.
b. Defending against Tool Blitzes.
Tool Blitzes, like Villager Rushes are fairly uncommon. A Tool Blitz also requires 2 or more shore fish to be effective and that makes them even rarer. Probably the greatest weapon of the Tool Blitz is surprise – but by carefully watching Achievements, you can effectively negate this advantage.
Tool Blitzes depend on hitting you early (6:30) and hard – with the hammer of choice being the Axeman. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how many villagers you have – they are no match for Axemen with Leather Armour Infantry. So the only logical thing for you to do is to follow them into Tool, as soon as you note that your opponent has stopped building villagers.
Since sticking around and fighting is not an option (Tool Blitzers come at you with 3-4 Axemen at a time), you better start finding a place to run. An ideal spot is one that is easily wallable, or is located at some remote spot far away from your TC. Sweet spots, as always, are best.
Don’t even think of Bronzing. Your opponent will be all over your TC and it will be so much rubble before you even get the chance to start or complete the Bronze upgrade. There are no ifs or buts about this – there is no way you will get 800 food and 300 wood when your opponent walks into your town with 4 axemen at the 6:30 mark. Especially not when you are forced to relocate. Forget the idea of Bronze and do something more productive with your villagers and your time.
Switch priorities over to wood. As soon as you hit the Tool upgrade, leave perhaps 3-4 guys on food and put the rest on wood. Your aim is to quickly get 120 wood to start a new wood pit elsewhere and 100 wood for a dock.
Dock if you haven’t already. It doesn’t matter where you put the dock, so long as it is a little out of the way (so opponent won’t find it too quickly) and there are at least 2 fish. You don’t need a lake, an ocean or anything – what you need is SAFE short-term food to tide you over. You can always build a new dock, food pit or granary later.
Why a dock instead of leaving more villagers on berries? The answer is that you are already putting most of your people on wood, because you need to get a new wood pit ASAP. In addition, when you run and only have wood, you can still get food by building fishing boats. Fishing boats are also a lot harder to kill than fishermen and berrymen and you can build Scout Ships to defend your dock if need be, and again these cost only wood.
Don’t wait for the enemy to arrive. Preempt the enemy by moving your villagers to wherever it is you plan to put your new wood pit. This way, when the enemy arrives, they’ll waste a bit of time looking for you before they settle on beating up your TC, giving you more time to wall and prepare defences.
If you wait for the enemy to arrive before you flee, you also run the risk of the enemy following the general direction of your fleeing villagers and running straight into your new camp.
Wall the moment you hit Tool. Wall wherever it is you’ve placed your new hiding spot. Try and wall it out of range of Bowmen as well, if possible. Meanwhile, build as many fishing boats as you have fish.
Build an Archery. Scouts barely tickle Axemen so you want Bowmen – and quite a few of them. Look for and find the enemy base. Then counterattack the enemy by sending in your Bowmen.
Why attack the enemy base? Why not reclaim your own base instead? Well, if you aren’t going to be able to take back your town without significant casualties (quite normal if the enemy has 6+ Axemen and the odd Bowman or three in your town), don’t bother. From a strategic standpoint, your town is only so much dead wood – they are attacking an area of no strategic value.
Attack the enemy instead – and if there is to be a battle, let it be fought on enemy soil, not yours. As long as the enemy keeps his main force in your town, your attacking force remains unopposed. If they take troops away from your town to engage your forces, then your strategic gains are twofold – you have chosen the battlefield, and you have reclaimed your town.
From here on, you’re basically on your own. Good luck.
c. Defending against a Tool Rush.
All-out Tool Rushes come in three flavours – the Scout (most common), the Bowman (uncommon nowadays) and the combined Scout/Bowman (common) variety. Axemen are also occasionally seen, but are not the norm – because the longer your opponent allows you to gather resources, the easier it is for you to go Bronze. An Axeman’s main utility is to take down buildings, it is not as good a villager killer as either a Scout or a Bowman so the later an Axeman attack, the greater the chances of you bronzing. For this reason the enemy is more likely to want to focus on villager killing and will either go Scouts, Bowmen or both.
Defending against a Tool Rush is more tricky than defending against a Tool Blitz. For starters, guerilla warfare is highly ineffective against Scouts. In other words, if your opponent doesn’t commit to only Axemen or Bowmen, running is not an option.
Because you have to stick around and defend your base, you need to hit Tool reasonably early in order to Wall and/or build sufficient Tool defence to fight off the enemy. For this reason, if your opponent is Shang and you are not Shang yourself, you want to go Tool as soon as you find your opponent stops building Villagers. The reason for this is that Shang can still Tool very fast (7:30-8:10) despite having built more villagers and attempting to Tool with your usual 20 villagers will give them 2 minutes or more to wreak havoc on your defenceless Villagers. In fact, by the time you get your first Bowman up, there probably will be 4 or more Scouts running through your town (remember it takes 30s to train a Bowman and another 20s or so for a few villagers to build an Archery).
If your opponent is not Shang, you probably have a little more leeway. As a general rule I will build 2 more Villagers than my opponent and then Tool (opponent builds 16, I go 18; opponent builds 18, I go with my usual 20) – that way my economy is slightly stronger than the Tool Rusher’s when I hit Tool.
But wait – I hear you asking – isn’t Tooling with 2 extra villagers slower than if you simply Tooled immediately? After all, won’t you have to spend additional time gathering that extra 100 food you spent on villagers?
My answer to this is yes, it is slower – but not by much. The difference is around 30s (max), and even less if you are shore fishing. I have the mathematics to support this, but it is long (and rather tedious) so I don’t want to go into it. Just try it out in the scenario editor and note your Tool times with 16, 18 and 20 villagers. Empirical evidence should bear me out.
Building an extra 2 villagers against a non-Shang Tool Rusher is also a safe proposition for the following reasons:

  1. Even with 16 villagers, a non-Shang Tool Rusher generally needs to wait up to 2 minutes before they can hit the Tool button.
  2. What makes a Shang Tool Rush so strong is not only does Shang Tool faster, but whatever food savings it has goes into producing extra Tool units or upgrades. Shang get like a bonus 200 food when they hit Tool. This savings factor is not a problem with non-ShangTool Rushers.

Use your dock to make up any shortfall in villagers. If you tooled with less than 20, build as many extra boats as you have less villagers. This will somewhat compensate for your weaker economy. It will also provide you with a steady source of food to replace any villagers you lose in a rush. Remember that your opponent is likely to be doing the same (docking).
Wall in the moment you hit Tool. Guerilla warfare isn’t the best idea against any form of Scout. Since you can’t run, make it so you don’t have to. Don’t try and wait till you have 800 food, spend the 50 food on walls immediately – you won’t regret it, if only for your own peace of mind.
Build an Archery. Since you’re going to be on the receiving end of a Tool Rush you want the best unit available for Tool defence – Bowmen. This is why I think the idea of Slingers in Rise of Rome is pretty crazy – we’re going to see a lot of Scout-Slinger Rushes come November 5th. Unless those Scouts are toned down or if those Slingers move really slow (too slow to support Scouts) … I suppose you could build Axemen to kill the Slingers hmmmm … so I should build my Barracks at base … but I digress.
Cavalry lovers don’t worry – you can Bronze with just an Archery and a Stable. Build a Market later.
To B or not to B, that is the question. The answer depends on how quickly and easily you can wall in. Certainly, if you manage to wall in before the enemy arrives, go ahead and Bronze once you have the required resources. If you’re not going to get your walls up in time, abandon all thoughts of Bronzing.
One of the biggest problems I’ve noticed with many players is a one-track philosophy – “Go Bronze whatever happens.” Getting to Bronze is one thing, what you have when you get there is another. Unless you have some sort of economy when you hit Bronze, being in Bronze means zilch against a Tool Rusher who is all over your base and killing your villagers left-right-centre. Cavalry cost 80 food a pop unless you are Yamato, and even then 1 Cavalry is barely a match for 4 Bowmen. And this assumes you actually manage to mine any gold. Not to mention that before they died, those 4 Bowmen or Scouts would already have done some damage, while the enemy economy remains untouched. Not exactly a winning proposition.
Things are even worse if your civilisation is chariot-dependent. You’re going to need another 175 food for Wheel when you hit Bronze and added to the 80s it takes for you to research the Wheel, it gives your opponent nearly 4 minutes to do whatever they want in your town, including walling or towering your TC. There is nothing worse than being in Bronze but only being able to build Bowmen.
Given a choice, I’d much rather stay in Tool and have 800 food to spend – wouldn’t you? So now that we understand the consequences of going Bronze prematurely, let’s now take a look at the factors that will influence our decision.
Timing of enemy attack. Repeating what I said in the previous section, the guiding principle remains whether you can wall before your opponent reaches you. This begs the question – how will you know when the enemy will reach you?
Watch Achievements – taking particular note of Technologies and Largest Army. As I’ve said before in a previous chapter, the key to telling whether any opponent is planning to Tool Rush is an immediate expenditure on technology, followed by military – signifying an intention to abandon the chance for a Fast Bronze.
You need to watch Technologies because sometimes your opponent simply Tools just to build an unupgraded Scout to explore the map, with the intention of Villager Booming or simply Fast Bronzing. A Scout or Bowman without Leather Armour is easy enough to kill, and you can shoot straight for Bronze in this case.
The moment Largest Army goes up, the enemy is coming. If you haven’t successfully walled in by now – start building Bowmen
Don’t commit to Bowmen until you are certain the enemy is coming. You won’t need Bowmen if the enemy doesn’t attack or if you succeed in walling in. Saving these resources allows you to go straight for Bronze and increases your available resources when you hit Bronze.
Build as many Bowmen as necessary. If the enemy does come, build as many Bowmen as it takes to limit the damage caused by the enemy rush, all the while trying your best to complete your wall. Once your wall is complete, stop building Bowmen. In other words, don’t overdo it.
Once the initial rush is stemmed, take a breather and go Bronze. Unless you lost a lot of villagers, don’t build any more new villagers – build more boats instead. If you’ve got spare Bowmen with nothing to do, consider opening up a little gap in your wall and sending them off to see what the enemy is up to. Just remember to plug the hole.
Sometimes you have to fight a long Tool war, but if you did everything right, you should have the edge because the advantage usually accrues to the defender. Good luck.

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