Elephants, Cats, and the Great Iron Wars! – Part I


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Elephants, Cats, and the Great Iron Wars! – Part I

By Leo Brum

[Editor's Note: We never received Part II...]

Note: Experts may also not care much about this, but that’s because their game ends most always in Bronze, so they only get to Iron in team games (or singles as the icing on the cake), where the guy that goes Iron never really needs to kick in, hehehe!… that’s what happens to newbies, once they grow big ;-) 
Most of my long games are against “builders” (guys that bronze in 13 minutes, still don’t want to attack until they have got that MEGA-SUPER-POWERFUL force), or good players, but as slow as me. In any case, BIG, EPIC BATTLES! That said, you could bet that, a little after we hit Iron, we are STUFFED. Yeah, stuffed with all kinds of Super-units. When you go Iron undisturbed, you really can amass a lot of wealth and use it to purchase those super-upgrades. Ok, so we got to that point where your side is bristling with super-units… WAIT! WHICH type of Elephant is better? That’s the beginning part of our theme for Today.

CASE 1: Your Opponent Has PRIESTS.

Go for EA, especially if you have Cats. Massive numbers of EA.
Against the Priests, use Chariots (NOT Chariot Archers – Chariots either kill the Priest, or cause “friendly” cat fire to kill the Priest, hehehe!…and they resist better to Archers and Towers).
Why EA?… If you have War Elephants, they simply turn back on Your cats and that’s not good. But you almost can ignore a stray EA ;-)

Case 2: Your Opponent is Strong in Cats but NO Priests

Use War Elephants all over the place (especially if you don’t have Cats).
Advance them from different directions (using waypoints) swinging their way onto the Cats.
If you have Priests (even those weaker varieties) send them in to cure the wounded Elephants.

Case 3: You have good Cats, but he has WE.

Ah, what the heck, ignore the Priests if they have less than say 10 priests.
Use 2 or 3 Chariots to deal with the priests.
Make EA (lots) and Cats (lots) but send the Cats BEHIND the EA.
The sole purpose of the EA here is to be a tough hindrance to WE. Your cats will get the WE down, if you have say 10 Cats.
WE fall faster than you think. Those 600 HP are only on paper. Look: 60 AP x 10 cats = 600 AP = enough for 600 HP every day of the week, now add those EA with Alchemy… Got that?…

Case 4: You don’t have Cats.

Well, what does this have to do with Elephants?… A LOT!… 
Suppose you are Phoenician, or Egyptian. You don’t have any cats, and 75 HP makes your ST really laughable. Not true! 
USE THE ST! research Engineering (a must!…) and Alchemy. Make MORE stone Throwers than you would make cats – but USE THEM!…
In numbers, they are as un-stoppable as Cats.
With proper backing or front-shield by EA, they do kick serious ass. 
I once won a game in late Bronze with Hittites, using plain bronze ST and CA (no engineering, no Alchemy, no ballistics)!… instead of going for a BROKE iron, I decided for a WEALTHY Bronze and wiped out my HA-full opponent, hehehe!… 
So, one last note: high damage and high-resistance units DO kick serious butt and don’t even think of trying to win an Iron-age battle without them. 
The ideal complement to Elephants (besides Cats…of course) is… Ballista Towers. But that’s for later in this Post.

A note about shallows (and narrow points in general)

Now, we’re talking invasion! Normally on the shallows, behind which the armies build!… 
Well, the shallows have good and bad points. 
Watch the situation carefully: Normally, the shallows are very BAD for War Elephants (congested traffic, they simply get killed BEFORE they get to the Cats!…). 
Another bad point with battles in the shallows: they favor the defendant. Why? 
Watch out before invading! Is he on a ELEVATION behind the Shallows.? With cats?… that would be suicide for you! Don’t invade such a layout.
You should also check this: is a forest right next to the shallows?… Another bad business: how are you going to negotiate those narrow passes with Elephants and cats?… As you well know, the pathing algorithm in AoE sucks big time… 
IF you have Heavy Cats here is a hint: attack ground on that forest!… You will thus open a wide path to your forces (and kill any ambushed enemy behind the woods, as a side benefit…).
Summary: Go through the Shallows whenever:
He’s not there waiting for you on top of a hill with his Cats. 
There are no forests just behind the shallows, or there are, but you can “clean” a pathway through them with Heavy cats (this is the “sweetest” invasion, I call it “threading on a carpet”) 
Otherwise, read on.

The “OTHER” Way and the Backdoors

Let’s face it: walls means squat against Cats.
Actually walls can give you danger, in iron wars – create a sense of security that has no correspondence with facts.
Also, you are probably defending / occupying a vast area, half of a Large map. 
So, what do you do?…

How to PREPARE for a Long War

Ok, so you are engaged into a long war. Every 15 minutes or so, you both get stuffed with food and wood and it all goes in a big battle – then it’s the same thing repeated until one of you breaks down – Gold is normally the answer!… 
First Step: Being WISE with GOLD: Have your PLAN before you even start Playing ;^) 
Yep, GOLD is going to win you this war… 
IN BRONZE: PLAN AHEAD, AVOID EXPENSE. 
In Bronze, get the Gold Mining upgrade ASAP.
In Bronze, DON’T get most of the gold-costly upgrades that you don’t need right now (Market / Gov. Center / Storage Pit). get one only if you need it. Badly.
In Bronze, ONLY build military units that you can dispose of at a ZERO GOLD cost (like: Chariots, Chariot Archers…), OR units that you WILL want to KEEP and UPGRADE in IRON. This includes Stone Throwers (EVEN if you don’t have Cats), Cavalry (the weakest option, but still feasible) and Academy (I wouldn’t).
If you are Minoan and a Bronze war is not raging, just Don’t spend any gold in Compies. They’re useless in Iron – and many little pieces are a BIG expense in gold.
STOP MINING GOLD AFTER YOU HAVE 1,200 in the bank!!!
The 400 extra are for the contingency that you suddenly have to build more Stone Throwers, or get some hot-shot upgrade at the last minute. If you can do with ZERO excess, even better. Never more than 300-400, though. PUT THOSE GUYS ON WOOD, or STONE: You’ll need that soon. This last point is NOT applicable to: Egyptian, Persian, Shang and Sumerian 
IN IRON – SET YOUR PRIORITIES RIGHT! 
FIRST THING!… Get Coinage. No buts, or Ifs: Get it FIRST thing!
This is NOT applicable to: Egyptian, Persian, Shang and Sumerian. 
If you have enough wood,build 2 markets (first) and maybe a 2nd. Gov. Center. 
Get the following upgrades IMMEDIATELY AS POSSIBLE (you should by now have all the gold upgrades, right?…)

  • All the STONE Upgrades AND Tower upgrades, including Ballista Tower :)
  • All the Wood Upgrades (all of them!)
  • All the Siegecraft-related upgrades (Siegecraft, Engineering, and Catapult). These are HIGH PRIORITY.

SOME Military Upgrades ONLY!…
Save yourself a lot of Gold. If you had the idea of going elephants, why bother? They only profit really from the Woodcutting upgrades and Alchemy, the rest is BS for elephants… Sum it up and check how many elephants you can build with that ;-) 
BUILD ONLY the Units you have a set purpose for!…
Save gold by giving minor roles to Food / Wood only units. 
Suggested Military Force: (if applicable)

  • 10-15 Cats / Hcats (see note later)
  • 15-20 Elephant Archers (OR War Elephants, see above for this choice)
  • 5 Chariots (essential!)
  • 5 Transports (or heavy transports) – essential!
  • 1 or 2 scouts (essential!…)
  • Some Priests, if you’re into that.
  • LOTS OF VILLAGERS (suggested MINIMUM is 35)

This goes way past 50. You do it by: 

  • Build the LOWLY ONES first.
  • Build the Archery Ranges, Stables and Siege Workshops IN GREAT NUMBERS!
  • Start amassing a force as soon as you get the Magical number of… 49 Units!….

SAVE the LOWLY ones! That Scout and those Chariots are your EYES AND EARS!… They are your INSURANCE (together with the Towers…).
If you are in Elephants & Cats, they are your ONLY FAST UNITS!

How to defend our vital space

Now, armed with the knowledge of your precarious situation, regarding the vastness of space to defend, you need some pointers on how to minimize the risks there. 
We will center our analysis on The Water Equation
If you are playing a game with no rivers, or water masses, just adapt what’s said here to the situation – remember, you will have MORE inways into his base ;-) as he we have into yours :(
Where to Place the Military?
You are focusing on POWER UNITS. This means that half of your forces are still a great force.
there you are!… 
Place ranged Units (cats, EA) on elevations, near the point(s) to defend AND the same in the critical pathways to your base. 
The latter will also serve as launching points for your final attack (what’s in his way is also your way ;-)
This way, you will have those slow units always around when you need them. Being close to his target, he cannot ignore them…
You will be surprised how many times I won with elevations… 
Place the other units, like War elephants, in the base under the cover fire of the units on top. 
When I say “place the forces” I mean: produce the forces on top of or near the hills: plant the buildings where you want the military to be. So that they pop up right where they are needed! you cannot spare the time to take slow units to action, you have to be ready on the spot.
You start doing this planning right in Tool, with your first Archery Ranges… 
Use your Chariots and Scout to avoid surprises 
Watch your Coast line!!!
The only way you can do that is by SCOUTING.
Sooner or later, that Sumerian guy is going to disembark a few Villagers there and build Stables and Siege Workshops in there!… Normally at the same time he tries a frontal attack, he will be landing somewhere on your estate!…
Scouting will give you early warning (maybe the bonus of killing all the disembark party and anything they have built before they actually produce units…).
Another thing this scouting is good for: to identify and eradicate cases of “resource stealing”!… 
But you will certainly be facing a tranny full of cats and elephants, most of the time! OR an OFFENSIVE TOWERING party of some 10 villagers!… Or Shipyards in your coast! there’s no telling of what the can do to you ;-) 
Besides scouting, you have the following… 
Preventive / Active Countermeasures against Invasion from the Backdoor 
1. Tower and wall all important resource spots 
This is the single most effective measure you can take to avoid peon-bashing.
You MUST allow for at least 15 tiles of distance between the wall and the nearest Villager at work. This avoids that a Cat fires and catches like 5 Villagers with one shot.
Place the Towers a lot to the INSIDE of the walls, at each other’s sight. Tower cross-fire is capital to their effectiveness. Also, Towers are supposed to be upgraded with the ages, or they are a waste. 
GET BALLISTA TOWERS, EVEN BEFORE HEAVY CATS. They are your Insurance. Ballista Towers are the one and only cavalry and Horse archer killer. They shred them like no other thing. Again, cross fire is essential. 
Tower Wood, Gold and Farms. Tower as much as possible in elevations near them. 
Oh, and remember to start mining Stone in…Stone? At least in Tool Age. 
One last comment: The wall is just to:
Make enemy Ha and Cav totally useless (Hahaha!…) 
Be a sentinel against Helepolis / Catapults (give you the time to take forces to the place — AND — get the peons to a safe place ;-) 
2. Mark EACH important group of peons with a number: 9, 8, 7… 
This is VITAL (especially if you do not have enough Stone for walls / towers!). 
At the first sign of trouble hit # and take them immediately to near your defended area!
Do this in the mini-map, using waypoints,if you need to avoid the enemy. 
You CAN afford to lose buildings, but peons take A LOT more time to get back: Are you already OVER the population limit?… Think well…. 
Also, this helps when you need to build a Tower or any building in a hurry – just press # away!… 
You must have a mental map of your resources – Gold, Stone and Wood – from minute 1. With this and the Villager group numbering scheme, you can instantly switch them from one resource to the other. especially useful when you’re attacked in South – move them to the resources in north and vice-versa ;-) 
3. Know your enemy well… and give him warm welcomes! 
The sneaky assailant will repeat the attacks, but will always do one thing: direct his attacks to your populated / resource spots. Knowing that, you can split your defense task force into the most likely spots and keep the faster units in a group in-between. Coupled with the numbered Villager groups and Towering, this is an INVINCIBLE tactic. Make sure you don’t miss the spot ;-) 
Above all, be prepared to face the offensive towering and the elephant basher. Both will first disembark their babies – later they will sneak in villagers to build Siege Workshops and “Elephant Factories”…
A good tactic is: Keep one War Elephant near EACH of his Siege Workshops and archery Ranges in YOUR territory (note: but DESTROY all Academies, Temples and Stables! Especially the Stables…). Just keep it waiting there. As soon as he trains a unit – kill it! That’s the way HE is gonna spend that gold for NOTHING, hehehe!… Make sure you know where they come out of the building! (Normally Southeast). Make a Scenario and produce units, to see where they come out, that helps. Very useful to have Cavs in bronze, waiting for innocent lonely CA or Compies… Cool.
This is installment #1 on a series, known as “Invite Useless Attacks from Your Enemy” ;-) 
4. Learn how to face strong attacks in your backdoor 
The FIRST thing to do is: Always keep a reserve of 500 Wood, 500 Food and 250 gold – NO MATTER WHAT. 
Why?… You MAY need to rebuild somewhere else, or draw those last few units that WILL make all the difference. Never deny this possibility to yourself!… 
This said, let’s talk about your town. 
What is your town?… 
Your Town is just dead wood.
So, he comes in from your backdoor with 5 cats and a few War Elephants. Your defense Force is nothing to look down, either. so you bravely advance to meet him, right? Wrong!. Let him tear down your City! 
By this time (you remembered, right?…) your GROUPED peons went somewhere else where they are safe and are useful in other tasks (gold, stone, wood…) and all you have there waiting for him is… WOOD. 
He will have to SPLIT his force to attack the wood…
Observe it, see how you can take advantage of it and ACT, not react! 
For example, He brings war Elephants and Cats. Since he puts the WE attacking your buildings, they are now in front of his Cats. Send one Chariot with waypoints to the back and waste a few cats (hehehe….) send 2 or 3 EA to meet his WE. When he pursues, attract him to the elevation where your other EA and Cats are!… 
Sneak in your priest and get yourself one of those babies… 
Of course, you have Towers, right?… Which means that, if he is attacking with Cavs or HA, he is not being efficient at all…
In defense (as in attack), (Counter-)Attack ONLY when you have a chance – you have a better/bigger force, OR you managed to split his force into weaker groups.
Above all, DO NOT DEFEND DEAD WOOD. 
You really don’t want to bother with buildings – if you have enough for a TC and a few houses, you’re Ok. You can get that wood back in no time at all (5 minutes and 25 Villagers, the Town’s up again! 
Meanwhile, he may have lost Irreplaceable Gold! 
One or other time, he will (too late!) realize that Attack is more expensive than defense 
To conclude this chapter on Defense: 
In Iron Age, Attack is only good if: 
You are the FIRST, by far!… 
He’s in a “resourceless” stage (can’t get replacements) 
YOU, not him, dominate the good spots (elevations, control of gold, etc…) 
Take due note of this, because we now move into the Attack / Counter-attack part of our guide – IN THE NEXT POST, this one too big already and I gotta go now.
Cya in a short while!…